In last week's column, we took a trip around the diamond to look at some of the overachieving hitters of 2016. Let's now head to the mound to complete our All-Value team. Hopefully, you own at least one of these pleasant surprises. But if you don't, please don't beat yourself up too much. Who could have predicted this?
SP Rick Porcello - The no-brainer choice as the ace of this staff, Porcello's second year in Boston has certainly gone better than his first season with the Red Sox, when he posted a 4.92 ERA and 1.36 WHIP to go along with a 9-15 record. Through 31 starts this season, the 27-year-old righty is 21-4 with a 3.08 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. This AL Cy Young Award favorite went for a grand total of $1 in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction. But before viewing Porcello as an elite fantasy option for 2017, note that he posted a sub-4.00 ERA in only two of his previous seven seasons. As far as his long-term outlook goes, I remain skeptical.
SP J.A. Happ - If Porcello is the ace of this rotation, Happ, the only other 20-game winner in the Majors heading into the final week of the season, is the clear-cut #2. There was a time when much was expected from Happ, but a career full of inconsistency relegated him to "failed former top prospect" status. Well, at 33 years of age, he's enjoying a career-best season. But will I be anxious to own him in fantasy leagues next year? No, not really.
SP Aaron Sanchez - First, he pitched well enough in spring training to earn the fifth spot in Toronto's rotation. Then, he pitched well enough through the season's first four months (11-1, 2.71 ERA) to challenge for the title of staff ace. The Blue Jays have made a conscious effort to limit the 24-year-old's workload in recent weeks, and Sanchez hasn't been quite as sharp since the beginning of August. But there's a lot to like about any pitcher who registers a 3.12 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through 28 outings in his first season as a full-time big league starter.
SP Kenta Maeda - No one really knew what to expect from Maeda in his rookie season. But it didn't take long for the Japanese import to make his mark, as he pitched to a 1.41 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in April. There have been some bumps in the road for Maeda (5.04 ERA in May), but all in all, his 2016 campaign can be described as an overwhelming success. Perhaps most impressively, his strikeout rate has remained steady throughout, consistently hovering right around a whiff per inning. Consider him a safe third or fourth starter in mixed leagues for 2017.
SP Rich Hill - Injuries have been a recurring issue for Hill throughout his career, but when on the field this season, the 36-year-old southpaw posted exceptional numbers, including a 2.05 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 rate. Assuming that the impending free agent continues to serve as a starter in 2017, he could once again outperform his draft day price tag, which should be reasonable thanks to his injury history.
CL Roberto Osuna - Remember when Drew Storen was the favorite for saves in Toronto? Storen, the owner of a 5.70 ERA, is currently pitching in middle relief for the Mariners. Meanwhile, Osuna has emerged as one of the game's most reliable stoppers, notching 34 saves in 37 chances to go along with a 2.42 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 rate. And two bucks was all it took to purchase him in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction.
So, those of you in the "don't pay for saves" crowd can point to Osuna as another example as to why your draft approach is the correct draft approach.
But that's a debate for another day.