The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty Starting Pitchers, Nos. 21-40
Congratulations on surviving another off-season. Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to spend the next month traveling across the positional landscape, labeling players with numbers that correspond to their value. It’s the very definition of freedom. A ton of hard work was put into these rankings, and will continue to be put in as we bring you just an ungodly amount of information over the next month. We hope you enjoy the product we’ve created, and if you’d like to show appreciation for that work you can do so through this link, or via the donate button on in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.
Speaking of appreciated, it’s about time this Rays pitcher started getting some attention, as he’s gone underappreciated for far too long:
21) Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 38)
Cobb shot up this list again in 2014, despite missing six weeks with a strained oblique that limited him to 27 starts. He established a new professional career high with 166 1/3 innings pitched and posted a 2.87 ERA with a 3.23 FIP, very similar to the 2.76 ERA and 3.36 FIP that he posted in his breakout 2013 campaign. Cobb used a top notch changeup and good command to induce ground balls at a 56.2 percent clip and strike hitters out 21.9 percent of the time, good for just over eight per nine innings. He did so while keeping a walk rate below seven percent, which was good for a career low WHIP of 1.14. None of Cobb’s numerous injuries over the years have been elbow or arm related except for his thoracic outlet surgery that he had in 2011, and if he can stay off the DL and make 35 starts in 2015, he’s a good bet to keep climbing up the rankings.
22) Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 28)
The Braves wisely locked up Teheran long term last winter, and he rewarded them with a stellar sophomore season in 2014. Teheran’s work load jumped up from 185 2/3 innings in his rookie year to 221 innings in 2014 and saw him match his 14 game win total from 2013. Teheran lowed his ERA from 3.20 as a rookie to 2.89 in 2014, but his FIP of 3.49 indicates that he may have benefitted from pitching in front of the best defensive shortstop and right fielder in baseball. He walked less than six percent of the hitters he faced in 2014, as he did in his rookie season, leading to a 1.08 WHIP, which was good for 12th overall among starters in 2014.
23) Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 21)
Despite having a first name that some people insist upon pronouncing like a terrible horror movie about a haunted doll, Sanchez has established himself as one of the more reliable second tier pitching options over the last five seasons. He did have two separate non-arm related injuries that resulted in DL stints and limited him to 21 starts and 126 innings in 2014, but when he was on the mound, he was effective, pitching his second consecutive season with a FIP under 3.00 as a Tiger. Sanchez’s strikeout rate dipped a bit from the career high 9.99 per nine inning mark that he posted in 2013 to 7.29 per nine in 2014, but he also lowered his walk rate to a career low 2.14 per nine and suppressed home runs (0.29 per nine) at the best rate of his career in 2014.
24) James Shields, Free Agent (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 30)
Shields’ durability has been well documented this offseason, and for good reason, he’s pitched eight consecutive seasons of more than 200 innings, but he hasn’t found a buyer willing to meet his asking price so far this winter. Pitching in front of one of the majors best defenses in 2014, Shields’ ERA outperformed his FIP yet again (3.21 ERA vs. 3.59 FIP) although his strikeout rate dipped for the third consecutive season to just over seven per nine innings. Shields’ new home ballpark and new defensive squad behind him could move his ERA closer to the 3.50-4.00 mark over the next couple of years, but a move to the National League could mitigate some of the decline that will come as he enters his mid-thirties.
25) Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 23)
Slated to be the Nationals fifth starter heading into 2015, Gonzalez missed a month with shoulder inflammation that limited him to 158 2/3 innings in 2014. Gonzalez’s command has been the determining factor in gauging his effectiveness throughout his career, and he posted the lowest walk rate of his career (3.18 per nine) in 2014, and his 24.8 percent strikeout rate marked the second best total of his career. His ERA of 3.57 was his highest since 2009, but his 3.03 FIP was the second lowest of his career.
26) Mat Latos, Miami Marlins (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 20)
Latos missed half the season in 2014, first recovering from offseason knee surgery, then missing most of September with a sore right elbow, earning him a ticket out to town to Miami this winter. He is under the Marlins control for just 2015, so he may not enjoy the benefits of spacious Marlins Park for long, but the move from Great American Ballpark should help his numbers in the interim. Latos struck out batters at the lowest clip of his career in 2014 and has experienced elbow pain each of the last two seasons, so it remains to be seen if he will be able to stay away from stitches – both in his elbow, and the rapper, while in Miami.
27) Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Arrieta thrived in his first full season as a Cub working with pitching coach Chris Bosio, posting career best numbers in virtually every statistical category. His ERA of 2.53 was actually higher than his 2.26 FIP number, and his 9.59 K/9 mark was just a tick up from the 8.56 strikeout per nine rate that he posted with the Orioles in 2012. Arrieta doubled the usage of his slider in 2014, cutting his extra base hit rate allowed to almost half of his career total. Arrieta also kept the ball inside the friendly confines in 2014, allowing 0.29 home runs per nine innings, down almost a home run per game from a 1.21 career mark heading into the season.
28) Zack Wheeler, New York Mets (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 29)
Despite pitching to a slightly higher ERA (3.54) in 2014 than his rookie year of 2013, in which he finished with a 3.42 mark, Wheeler showed improvement on virtually all of his peripheral numbers in 2014. He struck out batters at a higher rate, walked them at a lower rate, allowed home runs at a lower rate and bumped up his groundball rate over ten percent compared to 2013. Wheeler’s WHIP total took a beating as he walked almost four per nine innings in 2014; command certainly being an area that he needs to show improvement in to take the next step forward as a pitcher.
29) Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 31)
Gausman was a part of the Baltimore rotation for twenty starts in 2014, where he pitched 113 1/3 innings in the big leagues (to go with 45 innings in the minors) and showed flashes of the front of the rotation promise that made him the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. If Gausman can strike out more hitters than the 18.5 percent rate he totalled in 2014, he could establish himself as a fantasy ace in short order. Even if he doesn’t, he should settle in nicely as a SP2 for years to come.
30) Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 58)
Samardzija’s third full season in the rotation saw him establish new career highs in innings pitched (219 2/3), ERA (2.99) and FIP (3.20), as well as walk rate (1.76 per nine, down from 3.29 in 2013). The Shark also induced ground balls at a 50.2% mark, another career high. His improving ground ball proficiency should come in handy as he makes the trip on the red line from the north side to the south side of Chicago in 2015.
31) Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 54)
Ventura took the Royals fifth starter job out of spring training, and ran with it, posting a 3.20 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 183 innings of work. The only issue for the 23-year old flamethrower is finding a way to curtail the walks (3.39 walks per nine innings). If he can get his inflated walk rate under control, he has a chance to join the elite tier of starting pitchers, because opposing hitters have an extremely tough time hitting his mid-90’s heat (.240 opponent batting average last season). One of the most exciting young, live arms in baseball, Ventura’s stock should only continue to rise after a dominant post-season performance during Kansas City’s World Series run.
32) Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 40)
“Thor” continued his mythical rampage through the minor leagues last season, carving up hitters at Triple-A Las Vegas in the process. Syndergaard averaged over a strikeout per inning (9.81 K/9) and despite the fact that he posted a 4.60 ERA, his 3.70 fielding independent percentage (FIP) suggests that he may have fallen victim to the extreme hitting environments of the Pacific Coast League than anything else.
He has the potential to end up as the true centerpiece the New York Mets acquired when they dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays two years ago. Syndergaard has nothing left to prove in the minors, and is knocking on the door to the big leagues as we enter 2015. The Mets rotation is overcrowded at the moment, but if they find a way to jettison some of the veteran flotsam taking up space (most notably Bartolo Colon), a future rotation headlined by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard should give Mets fans reason for optimism.
33) Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 84)
Fantasy owners looking for the next breakout ace should look no further than Stroman, who emerged as a full-time starter with the Blue Jays after getting called up in May, finishing the season with a 3.65 ERA (2.84 FIP), 1.17 WHIP, and 111 strikeouts in 130.2 innings.
The former Duke Blue Devils’ arsenal evolved late last season with the emergence of a brand-new, mid-90’s two-seam fastball (sinker), to complement his un-godly slider, four-seamer, changeup and curveball. It’s extremely rare for a 23-year old pitcher to possess the perfect storm trifecta: strikeouts (7.65 K/9), pinpoint control (1.93 BB/9) and a heavy groundball tilt (54.8 percent).
For a guy who is only five-foot-nine, Stroman’s stuff is downright filthy. In case you needed another reason for optimism, the arrival of catcher Russell Martin, one of the best pitch framers in baseball, should only improve his numbers. I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription, is more Stroman.
34) Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 41)
The breakout star of the Cardinals memorable World Series run in 2013, Wacha was derailed by injuries last season, missing nearly three months with shoulder issues, which caused a dip in strikeout rate (7.91 strikeouts per nine innings in 2014 as opposed to 9.05 in 2013). Wacha was still effective in the 19 starts he did make, compiling a 3.20 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP over 107 innings of work and all indications are that the Cardinals 2012 1st Round selection will be fully healthy to start the 2015 season.
Wacha’s blistering fastball is dominating at times and his secondary pitches are really starting to develop as well. Don’t let last year’s injury problems scare you off, he’s among the best young arms in baseball, and has the potential to take a huge step forward if his arsenal continues to improve.
35) Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 159)
The easiest way to go from relative obscurity, outside the top 150 pitchers on this list a year ago, to a top 40 option, is by posting a 13-4 record with a 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 164 strikeouts in 168.2 innings. A brutal knee injury cut short his stellar breakout campaign and may delay him in spring training as he recovers, but there is no denying the legitimacy of the numbers he put up last season.
The fastball velocity has always been there for Richards, but the reason he was absurdly good in 2014 was because he did several things better than nearly every other pitcher in baseball last season. It all started with the strikeouts for Richards, who saw his strikeouts per nine innings jump from 6.27 in 2013 to 8.75 (by far the highest rate of his career) in 2014. While his walk rate remained stagnant, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) dropped to .264, and he simply stopped giving up home runs altogether, posting the lowest home run to flyball ratio (3.9 percent) of any starter in baseball last season. At only 26 years old, Richards has established himself as the Angels clear-cut ace going forward.
36) Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 18, Previous Rank: 108)
Urias more than held his own pitching in High-A Rancho Cucamonga against much older competition, posting a 2.36 ERA with a 1.11 WHIP and 11.19 K/9 over 87.2 stellar innings last season. It’s not absurd to think that the international free agent signee out of Mexico could be in the big leagues before his 20th birthday, but right now he has less than 150 career innings in the Minors, and has yet to reach Double-A.
With an arsenal comprised of a mid-90’s fastball and three above average breaking pitches, the southpaw has the upside of a future ace, and is one of the most coveted pitching prospects in dynasty leagues as evidenced by his ranking on this list, which will only continue to climb as he accelerates towards Los Angeles.
37) Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 55)
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke may overshadow him in Los Angeles, but Ryu has quietly established himself as one of the most valuable pitchers in fantasy baseball over the past two seasons. The only concern with Ryu right now is his ability to stay healthy.
He missed time last season with hip and shoulder issues and with his body-type, he may continue to have injury problems as he gets older. Ryu compiled a 3.38 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP and 139 strikeouts in 152 innings of work (26 starts) for the Dodgers last season and should continue to be a reliable fantasy option going forward. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t concerned about his long-term durability, but when he’s healthy he’s proven that he’s among the best in baseball right now.
38) Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Rodon has the potential to follow in the footsteps of fellow White Sox southpaw Chis Sale with a rapid ascension to the Majors after being selected in the 1st Round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of North Carolina State. Rodon managed to reach Triple-A late last season after signing and will likely start the year marinating in Charlotte until a permanent rotation spot opens up.
There is no question, however, that the left-hander possesses top of the rotation type stuff, and will have a major impact once he arrives in the Windy City. If you’re looking to compete right now in a dynasty format, Rodon is one of the most attractive pitching prospects on this list to target because of his close proximity to the big leagues.
39) Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 46)
One of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, Iwakuma has pitched in the shadow of King Felix since coming over from Japan, but has managed to cement his status as one of the “kings of command” over the past three seasons. Iwakuma posted an absurdly low 1.06 walk rate last year, the second-lowest mark in baseball behind Minnesota’s Phil Hughes, and owns a stellar 3.07 ERA and 1.09 WHIP for his career.
Iwakuma got a late start in 2014 due to a finger injury and was his usual self in the first half once he returned, but his stuff seemed to fade down the stretch, and his ERA ballooned to 7.61 over five starts in September. How he pitches in 2015 will reveal whether his late season struggles were a blip on the radar or a precursor to a downturn in performance. Iwakuma’s track record says to trust him for now and he should remain one of the safer veteran pitchers in dynasty formats.
40) Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
deGrom wasn’t on anybody’s radar coming into last season, but ended up as the clear-cut choice for N.L. Rookie of the Year. After getting the call in early May, he posted a 2.69 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 140.1 innings. The huge jump in strikeouts once he reached the Majors was the most unexpected development for deGrom last season, who had never been a big strikeout guy in his three-plus minor league seasons.
If you’ve watched him pitch, you know there doesn’t appear to be anything fluky about his meteoric rise, but fantasy owners should remain cognizant of the fact that he was not a heralded prospect coming up in the Mets system. His prominent ranking on this list is an indication that we think his breakout was for lack of a better term, “legitimate.”
Commentary by JJ Jansons and George Bissell