The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Nos. 41-75

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.

56) Mark Appel, Houston Astros (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Drafted first overall out of Stanford in the 2013 draft, Appel tossed 38 innings across two levels (mostly low-A) with little-to-no trouble. The 22-year old could skip a level and start 2014 in Double-A, with a chance of seeing major-league time by season’s end. Appel doesn’t have the highest fantasy ceiling, but he’s a low-risk option who should turn into a very nice No. 2 starter. If you’re looking for a pitching prospect to deliver a quick punch to your big-league roster, Appel should be high on your list.
57) Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 81)
Giolito could have been the top pitcher in the 2012 draft if not for a UCL injury suffered during his senior year in high school. He underwent Tommy John surgery after the Nationals selected him with the 16th overall pick in 2012, and he earned a late-season promotion to short-season Class A in 2013. Giolito could eventually re-gain his ace potential, but it could be another three years until we see him at the major-league level.
58) Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 41)
Will he stay or will he go? Samardzija has been the subject of trade rumors since before last offseason. The right-hander is scheduled to hit the open market after 2015, so there’s a good chance he’s on another team by mid-season. Since converting from reliever to full-time starter in 2012, Samardzija has posted a 4.10 ERA/3.67 FIP/3.42 xFIP across 61 starts. He cleared 200 innings for the first time in 2013, striking out 214 in 213 2/3 innings. The Shark is good for 200 Ks, but his erratic performance from start to start prevents him from being a true No. 3.
59) Kyle Zimmer, Kansas City Royals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 75)
Zimmer dominated the competition in 2013 (in mostly high-A ball), striking out 140 batters in just over 108 innings of work. He finished the season in Double-A, where he struck out more than 13 batters per nine (although in a extremely small sample size). He has the ceiling of a No. 1/No. 2 and could find time in Kansas City’s rotation as soon as a 2014 with another fast start in Double-A. Zimmer can be an annual 200-strikeout artist in his prime with a plus-plus curve and a fastball that can reach 99.
60) Martin Perez, Texas Rangers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 139)
Perez is still a baby at age 22, but the Rangers will need their young southpaw to put on his big-boy pants with Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando returning from injury. The lefty had a nice season in 2013 (10 wins, 3.62 ERA), but a lack of strikeouts limits his ceiling in the short term. Perez needs to start missing more bats to justify a top-60 ranking. He currently has a 6.04 K/9 in Texas.
61) Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 99)
It’s hard to nit-pick someone who can grow a beard like Cashner, but his first season as a full-time starter was somewhat underwhelming (facial hair not included). While Cashner did record a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, missing were all of those glove-busting strikeouts we came to expect from the hard-throwing righty from back in his reliever days. In addition to finishing the year with a below average K-rate, Cashner’s velocity dropped by three ticks, from 97 to 94. The 27-year-old is getting a lot of pre-season love, but I’d be careful not to over-invest.
62) Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 129)
Following a freak Christmas injury, Liriano settled for an adjusted two-year pact and didn’t disappoint, putting in his best effort since 2010 with the Twins. Back was a devastating slider and a groundball rate over 50 percent, leading to a 3.02 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 161 innings. The NL Comeback Player of the Year would likely be higher if not for a consistent track record of driving us all crazy.
63) Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 89)
Chris Tillman, at 6-foot-5, cannot be a comfortable at-bat for opposing hitters. The lengthy right-hander picked up 16 wins last season, posting a 3.71 ERA with 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in over 205 innings. Tillman was the victim of the long ball, allowing 33 home runs in 33 starts, and that’s a problem that’s haunted many Baltimore starters in the past. He is the Orioles best starter, but his fantasy value is closer to that of a No. 4 than a No. 3.
64) Matt Garza, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 44)
Garza returns to the NL after a half-season in the AL that he’d like to forget. The veteran right-hander allowed 12 home runs in 13 starts following a mid-season trade to Texas, but things don’t figure to get much better in homer-friendly Miller Park. Garza does have a 3.45 ERA in the NL compared to a 4.01 ERA in the AL, but questions about his health cut into his long-term value.
65) C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 36)
Wilson topped 200 innings for the fourth consecutive season, winnings 17 games to go along with a very solid 3.39 ERA. His ground ball and line drive rates are trending in the wrong direction, but he’s still in that respectable 20-21 percent strikeout range. He’s an OK back-of-the-rotation starter for fantasy purposes, with a BABIP that’s always finding the helpful side of .300. His velocity is diminishing, however, and at 33, we’ve probably witnessed Wilson’s best.
66) Ubaldo Jimenez, Free Agent (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 221)
Since breaking out with the Rockies in 2010, Jimenez has been one giant headache. Until last year. A resurgent Jimenez struck out 25 percent of batters and posted a sub-3.50 ERA for just the second time in six years. He did show more control, but his walks-per-nine was still approaching four. Is Jimenez back? I’m not willing to bet on a guy with control problems and a swinging strike rate that’s well below league average.
67) Ervin Santana, Free Agent (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 135)
Like Jimenez, Santana is a free agent wondering where he’ll next call home. Baltimore has emerged as a front-runner, but I’d be very worried about his HR/FB rate if he does end up there. Last year, Santana was very average for Kansas City, losing more games than he won, although he did it with a smile and a 3.24 ERA. He showed much better control, but he doesn’t offer any upside in the strikeout department. I see Santana falling down this list significantly in subsequent seasons.
68) Derek Holland, Texas Rangers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 66)
That Holland only dropped two spots post microfracture surgery on his left knee is somewhat alarming, but he is coming off a career year in which he topped 200 innings for the first time with a career-best 3.42 ERA. The setback hurts (he likely won’t be back until the All-Star break), but the injury should at least lead to a nice discount for those owners looking for starters.
69) R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 39, Previous Rank: 19)
A year removed from winning the NL Cy Young, Dickey is in danger of becoming dynasty-league extinct. In his first season in Toronto, the knuckleballer’s ERA rose from 2.73 to 4.31, his strikeouts dipped from 230 to 177, and his home runs increased from 24 to 35. He performed much better in the second half, however, so we could see him pitch closer to his post-All-Star break ERA (3.56) than his first-half one (4.69). He won’t turn 40 until after the season, but pitching in the AL East is a different animal than doing it in the NL. Without elite Ks, there’s little appeal here.
70) Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 53)
Skaggs was acquired in the three-deal that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona and Adam Eaton to Chicago. He was Baseball America’s No. 13 prospect two years ago, but last season he struggled with mechanical issues. The Angels believe they can “solve” Skaggs, and moving him from Chase Field to Angel Stadium is a good start. At age 22, his velocity is already a concern, so it could serve you better to buy in now and not later.
71) Alex Meyer, Minnesota Twins (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 85)
Meyer only made 13 starts in Double-A following a shoulder injury, but he bounced back with a 10.80 K/9 rate and added 26 more innings in the Arizona Fall League. Meyer is a freakish 6-foot-9 and his body type/command/shoulder injuries have led to mixed opinions on his long-term role. He could strike out over a batter per inning as a starter, but his WHIP could very well suffer. As a reliever, he’s a potential top-five closer.
72) Ivan Nova, New York Yankees (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 144)
Nova took giant strides in 2013, posting a 3.17 ERA across 20 starts with 104 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. The biggest improvement came from a 53.5 percent groundball rate, which would have ranked ninth highest among starters if qualified. Following an early-season injury, Nova ditched the slider and pitched to a 2.69 ERA in the second half. While the strikeouts suffered, Nova cut his HR/FB rate in half and maintained a 7.5 percent walk rate from the previous year.
73) Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 132)
Cingrani appeared in 23 games (18 starts) with a 2.92 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 120:43 K:BB ratio in 104 2/3 innings. The electric lefty enters 2014 with a likely spot in the Reds’ rotation, but you must take the good with the bad; control is an issue and we really don’t know if he can hold up over the course of a full season (he ended last year with a back injury). I’m expecting an up-and-down year.
74) Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 218)
Masterson led the league with a 58 percent ground ball rate, helping lead to one of his best seasons yet. A giant spike in his strikeout rate (from 17.6 percent to 24.3 percent) was the biggest development, as he started using his slider more and more. At No. 74, Masterson represents a nice discount. He finished 2013 as a top-30 starter. An improved infield defense can go a long way to getting him back there.
75) Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 26)

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.

11 comments on “The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Nos. 41-75

  1. ck12 says:

    Seems like folks are sleeping on AJ Griffin. He showed good numbers last year – above average WHIP and solid K-rate – and I’d be surprised if the HRs given up didn’t regress a bit closer to league average, meaning it’s reasonable to expect his ERA to end up around 3.40 or so. Has shown he can hold up and succeed at the MLB level across 200 IP and he’s only 25 years old.

    • Luke Chatelain says:

      The knock against Griffin is that he is a fly ball SP who gives up at least league avg HR/FB. But really helps him out a lot. I’m not sold on him as a upper echelon guy but there is value here. SP is really deep huh?

  2. Dave says:

    Nova to me seems to be flying under the radar. And his writeup above could itself be used as a case for why he should be ranked higher. Unlike the Salazar paragraph, I’m not reading any reasons for skepticism, and I too struggle to find a counter argument better than “well he couldn’t really be that good.”

    • Sometimes the writers highest on a certain player are the ones writing the comments. That’s the beautiful thing about consensus rankings.

      • Dave says:

        Would love to hear from both a supporter and a detractor on each player. I mean, not to create more work for you guys or anything😉

    • Luke Chatelain says:

      I actually really like Nova as well as a late round no-risk guy. He got a bit lucky with his LOB and HR/FB % but even if those regress closer to his career norms you are looking at a sub 4 ERA with decent Ks.

  3. DDOG says:

    Agree on Griffin. The Dynasty rankings favor young talent with a little positive MLB experience, but seems to minimize stability or consistent success in the rankings. I am grateful for the work done, but I am always looking to win my league this year.

    Griffin could be a solid James Shields type for many years.

  4. Sean says:

    Obviously someone had to not make it, but I’m a bit surprised to see Butler not crack the top 75 when Gray is 43rd. I know Gray is a lot shinier coming out of the draft, but I think the difference will be smaller than people realize.

  5. Tony says:

    Good…keep undervaluing Eddie Butler. I grabbed Wacha and Springer cheap last year, and Butler is going to be that undervalued gem again this year.

  6. Jeff says:

    Based on the year Cingrani had, I think he’s ranked too low on this list. 73 for a dynasty league? His stuff is way too good to be ranked that low. If this list had input from multiple people, why didn’t anyone tell you to bump up Cingrani higher than 73?

    • Jeff says:

      For example, look at he 10 guys ranked directly above Cingrani and I think most would agree he’s under-ranked on this list.

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