From the 21st of January to the 20th of February, the writers at TDG will be taking you through our rankings position-by-position. As I mentioned in the primer, this year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having my personal rankings up on this site, like last year, these rankings for 2014 are of the consensus variety and being brought to you by all of the TDG staff. Everyone put a lot of work into this project, so we hope you enjoy the end result. And if you are looking for my personal dynasty league rankings, you can find them this off-season at Baseball Prospectus.
So we hope you enjoy the rankings package that we’ve put together here. And if you do, I hope that you will make a donation to show appreciation for the content you’ve seen here at the Dynasty Guru. You can do that through this link, or by clicking the “Donate” button on the top-right corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.
Now the next 35 best starting pitchers in dynasty leagues, starting with one of the players who was a highly questioned omission from the top-40:
41) Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Wacha’s explosion onto the scene was like a lemon you’re trying to squeeze into your drink – temporarily blinding, coupled with a lot cursing and stinging regret. Blinding because of how good he was, cursing because you passed on him, regret because you wanted him but he wasn’t supposed to be this good – but you knew about the Cardinals and their devil magic. Stinging because there’s lemon in your eye. Your good eye. You’re not going to let it happen again though, so help you, except what’s this – everyone is saying the same things as when he was drafted? He’s overrated, it was a small sample… who do you trust this time?
42) Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athetics (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 42)
A much debated pitcher, Parker has his supporters thanks to prospect pedigree and solid results at the big league level. He has his detractors thanks to a middling strikeout rate, injury history and – if we’re talking about 2013 – two bad months. Now, you can’t throw out two months of someone’s season and act like they never happened, but outside of April and September, Parker’s ERAs were as follows: 3.62, 2.08, 3.91, 2.23. The strikeout rate is a concern, but he had nothing on his changeup in April, and once he found it, he was significantly better – including in strikeouts. He’s 25 and a good bet to toss 200 frames in 2014 – we shouldn’t rule out a slight bump in strikeouts either.
43) Jonathan Gray, Colorado Rockies (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Drinking Coors should bother you more than Gray potentially pitching there. He’s got the potential for two plus-plus pitches, neither of which are a curveball – the most affected pitch in the thin air of Colorado. It’s hard to pin down when Gray will arrive, but we’ll likely know it when he does. He reached High-A last year, and the Rockies will likely do all they can to keep him from the offensive environs of the California League. Starting at Double-A is a possibility and from there it’s a short trip to the majors. Gray should miss plenty of bats in short order.
44) Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 74)
Archer is ready for a full season workload, his slider is so filthy it’s the next in line to lead the Vin Diesel/Ice Cube franchise, and he’s locked and loaded in the Rays rotation. So why the slide to the mid-40s? The lack of an elite strikeout rate. Despite the snuff film slide-piece, Archer relies almost exclusively on a two pitch mix, which means hitters have fewer options to choose from when identifying his pitches. Development of a third pitch, ideally a change up, would go a long way toward Archer missing more bats – and becoming a top 30 arm in the process. Change is difficult, but don’t put it past one of the most cerebral pitchers in the game today.
45) CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 12)
A precipitous drop in rankings for Sabathia who at 32 years old turned in the type of performance that we worried he had in store. He’s a large man, and fears of a steep decline were well known, and this down season followed one that carried concerns about his elbow. All that said, don’t panic too much on Sabathia. He’s experienced this type of decline before, only to rebound to his normal self. What’s that? You don’t remember? It was masked by his 19 and 21 wins, but his peripherals from 2009-10 aren’t far off of what he produced last year – excepting his hits per nine innings. It could be that he’s become more hittable as the notable number of innings has weighed on his arm, or it could be some back BABIP luck (2013 was 16 points higher than his career norm). It’s not a good trend no matter how you slice it but his death may be greatly exaggerated.
46) Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 167)
While he doesn’t lack for stuff, Iwakuma’s money maker is command that’s so sweet it’d put a Riesling to shame. He strikes enough batters out (7.3 per nine) to make him worth your while, but he really recoups his value with a WHIP approaching one, combined with 200+ innings. While he was an all out stud last season, it’s worth noting that we have less than two years of (MLB) data on Iwakuma, so some backsliding isn’t out of the question – and isn’t necessarily a reflection of his skill so much as variance within an unknown boundary.
47) Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 78)
Perhaps a balky back is penance for crimes long since forgotten, but no matter the reason for the back woes, it is his health that anchors him in the 40s (29 laptops will weigh a brother down). Buchholz showed ace-level stuff, not for the first time, but perhaps for the most extended period of time in his career, though it spanned only 108.1 innings. Buchholz’s habit of spraying suntan lotion on his arm, combined with sweat had the unpleasant side effect of injecting Jack Morris into our lives well ahead of the sanctioned hall of fame debate, a sin for which he surely cannot be forgiven. Whether you found Morris’ accusations to be a bunch of bullfrog or not, the key to Buchholz’s 2014 will be taking the ball 25+ times. If he does that, he’s sure to outperform his ranking.
48) Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 35)
Medlen took the ball for 31 starts and answered all questions about how he’d hold up as a starter, producing a 3.11 in 197 innings, yet he dropped in the rankings. He managed to stem the decline of his strikeout rate well, though he did see a small bump (all the way to 2.1) in walks per nine innings. Where he was most affected in his transition to start is in hits per nine innings, which jumped from 6.7 to 8.9. Listed at 5’10, questions about his ability to hold up over a full season are sure to continue, but it’s fair to expect a repeat of 2013 if he does.
49) Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 106)
For a brief moment, all was right with the world. For twenty and two-thirds innings, Robert Stephenson, he of the seven plus fastball was on the High-A Bakersfield Blaze. It might not have been quite as fitting as if Jonathan Singleton was there, but hey, we’ll take what we can get. His pit stop in Bakersfield was part of a three level trip that saw Stephenson end up a stone’s throw from the major leagues in Double-A. He missed bats at every level, and despite the express tour through the minors, it’s fair to expect Stephenson to spend the majority of 2014 at one level: Double-A. The Reds have a full rotation and depth in the upper minors, so there’s no reason to rush Stephenson.
50) Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 45)
Taillon reached Triple-A, even if it was only for 37 innings. Drafted before Gerrit Cole, he’ll reach the majors behind him, though it’s likely he’ll reach them this upcoming season. His statistics continue to belie the scouting report, as upper threes ERAs give way to a plus-plus fastball and potential for a plus-plus curve. The change up is firm and the command can be loose within the zone, which can lead to more hits than would normally be expected given the stuff. These are all things he can iron out, including at the major league level. Expect him to contribute meaningfully to the Pirates in 2014, with 2015 being the year that he matters in fantasy.
51) Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Salazar is dangerous, as your drool combined with his electric stuff is a no-no according to my elementary school science teachers. There’s a lot to like here, including true top of the rotation potential. It’s big stuff in a small package, and the size – as well as Tommy John in his history – leave us room to question how he’ll hold up over a full season. We should keep in mind too, that we’re going gaga over 52 major league innings. There’s good reason to get excited, but expecting a full season of what he did last year might be asking too much.
52) Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 62)
Similar to Salazar but without the starting gig or major league success, Martinez can touch triple digits with his fastball, and supplements it with a mid-90s two-seamer and a curveball that could cross a sickle. He didn’t produce in a brief major league trial (one start, 21 games) but he struck batters out and limited his walks, but suffered from a .345 BABIP. Martinez has #2 starter potential, both in real life and in fantasy with a fallback as a dominant reliever, who would be among the elite closers if he earned the position.
53) Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 143)
Corbin had solid year-end numbers propped up by a strong first half (2.35 ERA) though the air let out of the balloon in the second half (5.19 ERA). His home run rate skyrocketed in the second half, which explains the ERA, but doesn’t inspire confidence given the offensive environment he starts about half his games in.
54) Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 119)
We seem to have hit something of a “type”, as Ventura, Martinez, Salazar are all made from the same mold. Another small framed flamethrower, he harkens back to Agent J’s cricket weapon from MIB, which would work all the better if the Royals hadn’t traded Will Smith. Ventura has the same top of the rotation upside as the other two mentioned, and fits right in between them in terms of opportunity in 2014. The Royals have added veteran depth in recent weeks, but Ventura still represents a talent upgrade at the back of their rotation.
55) Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 196)
A more successful debut season than anticipated gives rise to hope for an improved sophomore campaign. Ryu was expected to have trouble his second and third time through the league thanks to a merely average fastball and a changeup first secondary arsenal. Despite the immediate success, questions remain. Can he repeat? How is his cranky elbow? Will the league catch on later than expected? Just what is he hiding in those cheeks? Here’s hoping 2014 brings answers to one and all.
With a decrease of more than five percent in his strikeout rate, Gallardo went from Milwaukee ace to fantasy liability. The right-hander failed to record a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time in his career, and a 1.36 WHIP had his owners shielding their eyes every fifth day. Gallardo collected only 144 strikeouts in 180 innings after four straight seasons of 200-plus, but he’s also had a 1.30 WHIP or greater in four out of the last five. We’ve been waiting and waiting for Gallardo to put it all together, but it hasn’t happened.
Commentary by Craig Goldstein and Alex Kantecki.