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“The Mad Professor” The Prof Back in the Saddle: SP Busts and Steals from 2018

Well, first:  HOW ‘BOUT DEM PATRIOTS?  I heard the Patriots parade was delayed until the Red Sox parade clears out.  My editor complained that the opening to this article was not quite on topic.  BWAHAHAHAHA!

Don’t like it?  Cut my salary in half!


So, I’m tasked with reflecting on who made my day and who ruined my life in 2018 (at least with regard to SP).  “Busts and Steals” is a pretty subjective category.

For starters, and in the interest of transparency, I did figure, “what the hey.” (see also Guido the Killer Pimp in Risky Business…).  I’m out of sorts a bit.  I spent a week in Cuba.   A polar vortex has been messing with my life, the Governor of my state (Virginia) may or may not still be the governor of my state as you read this, and our fearless leader Corey is just as good looking as ever (A note from your gentle scribe.  Read that last point carefully.  Draw your own conclusions…). And the Patriots won.  But, seriously folks…

Oh, right…So, in the interest of transparency, I asked a bunch of colleagues who I kinda respect (because they do steal draftees away from me on occasion) who they thought were the biggest booms and busts. from 2018.

The people we work with…

What a freakin’ bunch of Yahoos.  No, seriously.  I’m talking Gozzi- and Iannone-caliber Yahoos (and they are older than me…).  The modal answer was “everyone on my team.”  Mierda.  If I wanted that kinda lameness, I’d hang out with the 37 candidates already declared for the 2020 Democratic nomination.  #Seriously?  Is mom still ironing all the big boy pants?

A couple of these guys actually gave this some thought and offered some good feedback. For busts, I’m looking for folks who fell to earth from Olympus (and who have a chance still to deliver good value despite risk). For steals, I’m looking at folks who had meteoric rises.  Question is whether they are for real or were flying a bit too close to the sun and are gonna pay for it.  For starters, let’s think about the following 2018 boom/steals candidates.  There are others, no doubt.  But, I’ll focus on these:

  • Patrick Corbin
  • Miles Mikolas
  • Blake Snell
  • Trevor Bauer
  • Aaron Nola
  • German Marquez

With regard to the big busts from 2018, lemme offer:

  • Yu Darvish
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Noah Syndergaard

Let’s start with the busts.

Darvish would seem to be the most obvious SP bust (from All-Star to nearly 5.00 ERA). He has always been injury-prone and has never really been the same since that deer-in-the headlights post-season outing a couple of years ago.  Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster had him at $16.  This year, Darvish has lost his shine, rolling in at a cool $8.  Fangraphs has him at $11.60.  Reading the prognosticators, folks wanna love this guy.  But, he has not cracked 200 IP in several years and he’s now 32. (Fangraphs data: 12-team,  mixed 5×5 league projections.  Roster includes 2 C, MI, CI, U, 5 OF, 6 SP, 3 RP,10 bench).  Darvish has fallen from grace.  He could be a good back of the rotation pickup this year.  But, unless he resurrects in spring training, he will be a high-risk SP this year.  Good news is that he won’t be on anyone’s bust list this year.

While he wasn’t trash at the level of Darvish, Bumgarner had career lows in nearly every statistical category.  I love this guy.  Seriously.  Anyone who throws at Yasiel Puig, survives and then invites him to dance is someone I want in my foxhole.  Nonetheless, he has not pushed even 150 IP since 2016. Shandler gives him a $14 tag for 2019. Fangraphs says $10.10.  A potentially rewarding low bid here.  But, let your buddies pay for hope.


Finally, OK, Syndergaard wasn’t a total bust.  But, he is now cursed with unlimited potential.  He was supposed to be a top 3 Cy Young finisher and ended up with only 154 innings, the lowest K/9 of his career, the highest WHIP, and the second highest ERA. Many probably took him before deGrom and paid a lot more for him.  Thor is a stud—no question.  But will you pay #1 SP money for him in 2019?  He still owns the skills.  But, health has made him a costly liability the last two years.  Shandler has him at $20 for 2019.  Fangraphs has him at $18.70.  Bid him up and hope your buddies take the bait.  He’s quality, but risky.


Name  2018$ Team W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP ERA WAR
Madison Bumgarner 26 Giants 6 7 21 129.2 7.57 2.98 0.274 3.26 1.4
Noah Syndergaard 19 Mets 13 4 25 154.1 9.04 2.27 0.32 3.03 4.2
Yu Darvish 16 Cubs 1 3 8 40 11.03 4.73 0.293 4.95 0.2


In terms of steals, all of the following overachieved.  But, based on their 2018 dollar values, some were bigger steals than others. Looking and dollar and WAR values, Marquez, Snell and Corbin all paid huge dividends.  Snell had the skills.  Corbin was a bit of a surprise despite a lot of fanfare about the potential for his breakout season.  Marquez came out of nowhere. Mikolas was not even on people’s radars.  Nola was no surprise.  But he clearly exceeded expectations.


2018 Steals
Name Shandler Team W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP ERA WAR
Aaron Nola 18 Phillies 17 6 33 212.1 9.49 2.46 0.251 2.37 5.6
Blake Snell 5 Rays 21 5 31 180.2 11.01 3.19 0.241 1.89 4.6
Trevor Bauer 11 Indians 12 6 27 171.1 11.5 2.99 0.301 2.26 6
Miles Mikolas not there Cardinals 18 4 32 200.2 6.55 1.3 0.279 2.83 4.3
German Marquez 3 Rockies 14 11 33 196 10.56 2.62 0.311 3.77 4.5
Patrick Corbin 6 Diamondbacks 11 7 33 200 11.07 2.16 0.302 2.61 6.3


So, are these guys for real?  Nola is now established as a legit MLB and fantasy #1.  Shandler has him at $25 going into 2019 Fangraphs has him a bit lower at $19.80.  Granted, the Fangraphs data are based on a specific set of parameters.  So, let’s also look at relative rankings:


Name Fangraphs SP ranks Fangraphs $ value
Aaron Nola 14 $19.80
Blake Snell 10 $25.20
Trevor Bauer 13 $20.70
Miles Mikolas 41 $8.80
German Marquez 22 $13.90
Patrick Corbin 15 $19.40


Snell and Bauer are serious Cy Young threats in 2019.  It will be interesting to see how Corbin adjusts to playing at sea level, in humidity, without a humidor, and in the NL East.  In terms of pitches per IP and AB, he is an incredibly efficient pitcher who delivers Ks (more about that stuff in my breakdown of the SP rankings).   Clearly worth the investment.

Marquez remains in the Coors field stratosphere.  I think this is what tempers his value going into 2019.  But, his 2018 second half was legitimate and he’s only 24.  Mikolas, meanwhile, remains the Rodney Dangerfield of this gang.  The good news is that he is, at least, a recognizable Rodney Dangerfield this year. He’s a GB pitcher with a legit K/9 that pushes 9.  That’s not bad for a nobody.  As you look at these guys and ponder their 2018 season, all seem like legitimate investments—especially in comparison to the studs in recovery noted above.  For the same money, I’d pay for these younger guys.  No history of injury, solid, breakout caliber seasons, and, in some cases, no respect.  At these prices, Mikolas and Marquez remain steals.

In closing…a perennial bust to think about…

OK.  I’ve shown too much patience with and possible love for Taijuan Walker.  He remains a thorn in so many fantasy coaches’ sides.  He never delivers…for long.  Nonetheless, in the last two years, he has shown flashes of the stud he is supposed to be.  But, he ended up getting TJS last year.  He would not be the first pitcher to right the ship after TJS.  My guess is that he will be extraordinarily cheap (undervalued would be too kind in light of his underachievement).  Baseball Forecaster has him at a generous $4.  Fangraphs is less charitable at -$3.40.  Nonetheless…we always look for value in the $1 rounds.  He is on the 2018 scrap heap.  If Spring Training goes reasonably well, this perennial bust might, finally, deliver.

Till next week…  Happy Truck Day…

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D RobertsEJ Garr, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 7th, 2019 from 9pm – 10:30pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the 2019 fantasy baseball season. For the next three weeks we will be breaking down the American League divisions. Our Sunday night show which runs from 8pm – 9:30pm EST will handle the National League starting Sunday February 10th. You can listen live on blogtalk,, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the American League East.

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 10th, 2019 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #136 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Join us for our first Sunday night show of 2019. We will be breaking down the National League divisions over the next 3 Sundays. You can listen live on blogtalk,, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. East.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with and a frequent guest on our Sunday night shows.

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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