The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty Starting Pitchers, Nos. 21-40
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Players are ranked where they played 20 or more games at during the 2015 season at their highest position on the defensive spectrum, e.g. Chris Davis played 30 games in the outfield, meaning he’s an outfielder for our purposes. We can’t assume that a player will have eligibility at a position in the future (so no Hanley Ramirez at 1b for these rankings) or that a player will lose eligibility at a position in the future. This should clear things up for all non-Javier Baez/Jurickson Profar players, and we’ll do our best to explain where those players are ranked when the time comes. All DH types, such as Evan Gattis and David Ortiz, appear on the 1B rankings, as we will not be doing a UTIL rankings list.
We start our next grouping of starting pitchers off with a hurler who continues to rise up the rankings after being left for dead as recently as 2013:
21) Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 49)
Owners who believed in Carrasco’s 2014 breakout were handsomely rewarded with another stellar year out of the the big right-hander. Carrasco slightly disappointed with an ERA of 3.63, nearly a full run above his 2.84 FIP. His WHIP and K/BB rates remained outstanding, making him more valuable in leagues that use ratios beyond ERA and WHIP. The one statistic holding him back the previous two seasons were wins. At first glance your instinct might be to blame the Cleveland offense, and I was inclined to do the same, until I perused his game log. He actually pitched quite poorly in the majority of his losses. He alternated between being nearly unhittable and extremely mediocre. The culprit seems to be his home/road splits as he was an absolute stud on the road and nearly unstartable (5.03 ERA) at home. This was a one-year occurance as he was actually better at home the previous season. Owners who give Carrasco the benefit of the doubt could get an ace at a discount if things go right, and a legitimate number two pitcher otherwise.
22) Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 4)
If Darvish’s recovery goes according to schedule, he could be back to turning in top ten seasons by 2017. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery is not the guarantee that some people assume (ask Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Daniel Hudson, Neftali Feliz, etc). Before his torn UCL, Darvish was a legitimate ace. He was able to maintain an ERA around 3.00 with a mostly good WHIP. His second season (2.83 ERA, 277 strikeouts) stands out as by far the best of his three, but the uncertainty regarding the cause and effect of his injured elbow clouds the regression he experienced in 2014. All said, the potential is here for a starting pitcher offering elite skills in every category relevant to starting pitchers. If you don’t mind the injury risk, buy low.
23) Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 16)
With two consecutive excellent seasons, Lester has been able to shake the slow degradation of his skills that appeared to be inevitable in Boston. Whether it is a result of a reinvigorated attitude, or the weaker lineups faced overall in the National League, dynasty owners shouldn’t complain. Lester offers a strong strikeout rate, a solid walk rate, and plays for possibly the best team in baseball. In short, there is very little downside to investing in Lester with the expectation that he returns the value of a solid number two pitcher.
24) Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 33)
Stroman offers tantalizing upside. He’s young, talented, and plays for a competitive team with an elite offense. On the other hand, he has a very short track record, is coming off a lost season due to injury, and that talented offense is aging by the day. Oh yeah, and he’s going to pitch a ton of games against the Yankees and Red Sox, along with the rest of the AL East each year. He strikes out enough batters (7.4 per game), limits walks (under two per contest), which should enable him to be a solid source of wins going forward.
25) Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 50)
Placing Giolito here, over several excellent, established pitchers might seem like a leap of faith. However, on the day that Clayton Kershaw is no longer the best pitcher in baseball, it’s quite possible that it is Giolito (or Jose Fernandez) that wrests that title from him. No other pitcher in the minors offers a combination as dominant as Giolito’s fastball and curveball. The only demerit for Giolito is the fact that he’s already had Tommy John surgery. His recovery from the surgery is not in question–he’s proven that he’s healthy–it’s merely that pitchers don’t generally recover from a second surgery. His risk profile is just a touch more worrisome than other top prospects that haven’t had the surgery. Giolito’s potential is sky-high and an owner in a rebuilding phase would be making the correct call in investing in him over the more established pitchers ranked below him.
26) Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 34)
Wacha has established himself as a very steady–if unspectacular–pitcher. He has virtually every contextual factor going for him: ballpark, lineup, run support, and league. Despite that, 2015 was a slight disappointment in comparison to his brief 2014 campaign. His ratios all took a step back, and he showed less dominance, as measured by strikeout rate. His win total was and will continue to be excellent due to the fact that he plays for the Cardinals. So what do we make of Wacha? Basically, a very bad September ruined his season stats, as during that month his ERA jumped to 7.88, his WHIP to 1.79, his strikeout rate dropped, and his walks increased twofold from his season-to-date. It’s dangerous to assume that the bad portion of a season will not repeat itself going forward, but in this case, it’s reasonable to assume that Wacha simply wore down, as his 181 ⅓ innings pitched far surpassed his previous career totals. If you’re counting on him as a number three starter you won’t be let down, and there’s a chance he’ll pleasantly surprise you by returning more than that.
27) Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 15)
When healthy, Wainwright has been a workhorse, filling up 200 plus innings with great ratios and counting stats. Of course, while he’s largely escaped trips to the DL due to minor injuries, he’s also missed (nearly) two full-seasons from catastrophic injuries. Fortunately, the injury that cost him last year was an achilles injury rather than a repeat of the arm injury that cost him the 2011 season. Entering his age-34 season, cracks will begin to appear on the facade that is Wainwright’s all-star caliber performance. However, he should remain a reliable source of wins and ratios even as his strikeout numbers tail off a bit. However, he doesn’t have a ton of margin for further decline as they’ve dropped from 8.2 per game in 2013, to 7.1 in 2014, to 6.4 over a very small sample in 2015. The next few years will probably look more like his 2007 season, which probably won’t carry your staff. For an owner in contention over the next few years, Wainwright makes an excellent investment–if the price is right.
28) Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 60)
You probably would have guessed that Liriano was older than 32. It seems like forever ago that he was a stud rookie, had TJ surgery, earned the nickname “Fran-sucko,” and was reborn in Pittsburgh under the tutelage of Ray Searage. He is still in his late prime, and after two excellent seasons, along with one good campaign among his last three, Liriano needs to be considered with other low-end number-two pitchers. He has been somewhat volatile–even since coming over to Pittsburgh–mainly due to his fluctuating walk rate. When it’s around 3.5 (or better) per game, he’s very good. When it’s around 4.5 walks per game, he’s average. Liriano will be an asset to your staff, though his occasional bouts with wildness will not be beneficial to your WHIP. Health permitting, Liriano seems a good bet to provide the value of a number three starter.
29) Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 35)
Richards experienced a breakout 2014 season after two years of middling results. While his 2015 was nothing to stick your nose up at, it failed to deliver on the promise of 2014, a season in which both his strikeout and walk rates improved by almost 50 percent from his career norms. Unsurprisingly, he regressed to somewhat of an average of the two, leaving him as an useful, but not elite option. Interestingly, the biggest difference in the two years was a very large change in pitch selection, going from a traditional fastball to a cut fastball. Regardless of the reason, hitters hit significantly better off him overall, and with a lot more power in 2015. While the promise of his 2014 season remains, it’s probably not something that should be expected. Counting on him to be an average number three starter is fine, but if you expect more than that, you might be disappointed.
30) Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 58)
Ross is an interesting pitcher who is probably less respected than he should be, due to toiling away in San Diego. He strikes out a lot of batters–nearly ten per nine innings–and gets a lot of ground balls. While the previous description fits that of a fantasy (and real-life) ace, Ross has never reached that level in part due to the lack of wins that the usually anemic Padres offense affords him, but also in large part to a surprisingly hittable fastball and poor walk rate. Simply put, if Ross can get to two strikes on a batter, his plus slider will put them away. However, he throws this wipeout pitch over 40 percent of the time, potentially increasing his risk profile. Faults aside, ten of his 12 losses came during games in which his offense provided him with two or fewer runs. He is a solid pitcher who will not disappoint you, as long as he’s not expected to perform as a number two pitcher in your lineup.
31) Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 20)
Tanaka has been yo-yoing between great performances and DL-stints since signing with the Yankees out of Japan in 2014. Tanaka’s managed to distance himself some from 2014’s partial UCL tear, but now surgery for a bone spur in his elbow puts his status to start the season up in the air. Despite his multiple injuries, Tanaka still can live up to expectations when on the mound. Although he didn’t look as dominant as his early-2014 performances in 2015, Tanaka’s 3.51 ERA in 24 starts dispelled some concerns. Tanaka has SP1 upside, but whether he reaches that ceiling will depend on his elbow’s health.
32) Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 64)
The owner of some of the nastiest strikeout stuff in the league, Salazar appeared to finally put it together in 2015. He has the talent to be one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game, though control troubles could prevent him from reaching that peak. Salazar had the 18th most pitches per start last year, but averaged just over six innings per start, which ranked him 34th in the league. Although Salazar isn’t without his warts, he can be very hard to hit. He posted a 3.45 ERA in 2015, and his 2.58 BB/9 was the lowest of his career. Salazar’s ratios may not rank among the league’s best, but the 26-year-old’s strikeouts can make up for that.
33) Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 36)
Urias is likely the best teenage baseball player on earth, and it’s not hard to see why. He was over six years younger than league average last season in Double-A, yet he dominated hitters to a tune of a 2.77 ERA. Now cemented as a consensus top-ten prospect, Urias is on the cusp of the big leagues. Triple-A may prove to be his first real challenge, as he was pounded at that level in two late-season starts last year. The only caveat to Urias at this point is his workload—his career high for innings is just 87.2. It’s nothing overly worrisome, but Urias may take a couple years to ramp up to a full season of innings.
34) Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 26 Previous Rank: 65)
Among big names like Masahiro Tanaka, Danny Salazar, and Julio Urias, Jake Odorizzi may not seem to belong. His numbers and upside make him surprisingly valuable. Odorizzi took a big step forward in 2015, cutting down on his walks and flyballs, which led to a career best 3.35 ERA. Odorizzi’s strikeouts did take a dive from a 9.32 K/9 in 2014 to 7.97 per game in 2015, but given the other improvements in his game, fantasy owners shouldn’t be too concerned. There’s a chance Odorizzi brings his strikeout rate back up next year, and if that’s the case, he can be a top-end pitcher. Even if that doesn’t happen, Odorizzi’s a good bet to be a SP3 for a long time.
35) Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 26 Previous Rank: 56)
Corbin lit the world on fire with a 2.35 first-half ERA in 2013, which included a visit to the All-Star Game, but a 5.19 ERA in the second half and subsequent Tommy John surgery had him written off by many. Corbin was back with a vengeance in 2015, pitching to a 3.60 ERA, 3.27 xFIP, and career high 8.26 K/9 over 85 innings. A .327 BABIP may have inflated his ratios a bit, so an improved ERA next year certainly wouldn’t be surprising. He may never repeat his early-2013 numbers, but Corbin still has the makings of a very valuable starter. Corbin may see his innings limited in 2016, but he should still have plenty of time to make an impact.
36) Steven Matz, New York Mets (Age: 24 Previous Rank: 114)
Everyone met the Matz last year, when he was called up after a 2.05 ERA in the minor leagues. He continued his dominance in the majors, pitching to a 2.27 ERA in 35.2 innings. Matz is still prospect eligible, which has allowed him to rank in the top-20 of most lists. Despite the gaudy numbers, fantasy owners shouldn’t get too ahead of themselves, though. The numbers scream ace, but scouting reports show more of a second or third starter. Matz also has some durability concerns, as he’s never thrown more than 140 innings in a season due to various ailments. It may not be appropriate to label Matz as “injury prone,” but he’s currently an injury risk. Still, it’s hard to ignore his track record of elite numbers, making Matz an obvious Rookie of the Year candidate.
37) Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 25 Previous Rank: 44)
The man that the Diamondbacks traded half their future for this offseason will have very high expectations to live up to this season. His performance shows that he’s up to the task, but his peripheral stats point to some concerns. Miller’s 4.07 xFIP last season isn’t exactly comforting, nor was his 2.34 K/BB rate, which ranked 59th in the majors. Miller’s track record isn’t great either, especially his 4.47 xFIP in 2014, but last year’s 3.02 ERA isn’t something to ignore. Miller was very good last season, and even if he doesn’t repeat 2015, he should be a solid performer going forward. Miller looks to be at least be a SP3, which is enough for fantasy owners…just probably not for the Diamondbacks.
38) Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 14)
After ranking 14th in last year’s rankings, Zimmermann did just about everything possible to tumble on the list. Not only was his 3.66 ERA a full run higher than his 2014 mark, but his strikeouts and velocity went down. To top it off, Zimmermann moved to the American League, further hurting his value. These aren’t the most optimistic signs, but we haven’t completely given up on Zimmermann just yet. As ugly as 2015 was for Zimmermann, his track record is outstanding. Although he may never repeat his stellar 2014 campaign, it’s not hard to see Zimmermann at least approach his previous levels. Entering his age-30 season, it’s not time to write him off just yet.
39) Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox (Age: 23 Previous Rank: 38)
Taken third overall in the 2014 draft, Rodon threw just 34.2 minor league innings before ascending to the big leagues. Rodon blew away expectations, as the 23-year old had an 8.98 K/9 and 3.75 ERA. If there’s anything to be worried about, it’s his 4.59 BB/9, which also contributed to his 4.03 xFIP. But given his rapid rise to the big leagues, fantasy owners shouldn’t be too worked up about last year’s control problems. It’s a flaw that can be ironed out by White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper with some development, which could mean big things for Rodon in 2016, and for the future. Oh and while you’re here, please enjoy Rodon’s slider.
40) Luis Severino, New York Yankees (Age: 22 Previous Rank: 142)
Severino, like Rodon, blew away expectations in his rookie year with a 2.89 ERA. Also, like Rodon, Severino struggled with control. Luckily, minor league numbers point to eventual improvement there, as his 3.18 BB/9 was higher than any mark he’s held in the minors. Severino also had trouble preventing home runs, and this issue stemmed from his control. Given his ability to keep home runs to a minimum in the minors (he didn’t give up a single home run in Triple-A), there’s a good chance that Severino can fix his two biggest flaws going forward. There are still lingering concerns over Severino’s delivery, which could make him a reliever in the long-term. However, it’s not something to be too alarmed about yet, and Severino could be a shutdown closer if it happens down the line.
Commentary by Jesse MacPherson and Ben Diamond