Fantasy Baseball 2018 Sleeper: SP Miles Mikolas

The Cardinals signed Miles Mikolas to a two-year deal after spending three years in Japan. Can he bring that success in his second stint in the MLB?

The St. Louis Cardinals had some openings they needed to fill this offseason. While the price of some players was too high, the front office decided to look overseas for their additions. That’s how they landed on Miles Mikolas. He hasn’t pitched in the MLB since 2014 but improved his game while pitching in Japan.

Mikolas pitched in 37 games, 10 starts, in his first stint in the majors. He pitched for the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers and finished with a combined 5.32 ERA, 1.423 WHIP, 6.1 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.

Mikolas did not do a good job of keeping the ball on the ground, 44.0 ground ball rate, 34.3 fly ball rate and 1.7 HR/FB rate. He also did not induce a lot of swings-and-misses. He averaged a 7.6 swinging strike rate and 83.6 contact rate in his 91.1 career MLB innings. Safe to say that if Mikolas was pitching, you’d be able to rack up a few hits in the game.

Not wanting to give up, Mikolas joined the Yomiuri Giants in the Japanese League. In the three seasons he pitched in Japan, Mikolas looked like a completely different pitcher. He made 62 starts and averaged a 2.18 ERA, 0.994 WHIP, 8.0 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 with a 31-13 record.

Unfortunately, Fangraphs does not calculate stats for the Japanese League. Though, you can easily see that he was throwing more strikes, keeping the ball out of the strike zone and keeping the ball on the ground. Mikolas allowed just 28 home runs in 424.2 innings. He gave up 12 in 91 innings in the majors.

While teams don’t hit as many home runs as they do over here, Mikolas worked in his “stuff” and ability to get batters out. The six teams in the JPL hit just 718 home runs. The Yankees, Astros and Rangers hit 716. Luckily, Mikolas will be pitching in the National League Central.

The Brewers led all NL Central team with 224 home runs but had a .249 average. The Pirates finished 29th overall with just 151 home runs and a .244 average. If Mikolas has the same control and location like he did in Japan, he will be one of the better comeback stories, like Eric Thames and Josh Hamilton before him.

Still just 29 years old, Mikolas has a lot left in the tank. Steamer projects a 4.12 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 111 strikeouts and 26 walks over 120.0 innings. Mikolas won’t be worth drafting in standard mixed leagues. However, in deeper or NL-only leagues, he is worth a flyer. I’d take those numbers for my fifth starter in that format.