The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty Starting Pitchers, Nos. 41-60
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 pitcher who would have ranked much higher with a clean bill of health coming into 2016:
41) Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 66)
Martinez was tabbed by many as a breakout ace last year, but others had doubts his small frame would hold up over a full season. Both sides were right; the flame-throwing Dominican was dominant when on the hill, but eventually succumbed to a shoulder strain in late September. One of the major differences for Martinez was his strikeout rate versus lefties nearly doubling–from 11.1 percent in 2014 to 21.6 percent in 2015. He’s matured quite a bit as a pitcher, and if his shoulder holds up, Martinez could be the heir-apparent to Adam Wainwright’s throne in St. Louis. Talent alone would rank Martinez much higher on this list, but shoulder injuries are much scarier than your standard elbow injury, see Brandon Webb and Mike Minor as recent examples.
42) Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 107)
The electric left-hander took baseball by storm in the first-half of 2015, combining mid-90’s heat with a wipeout slider. Rodriguez had a 1.14 WHIP at the All-Star break, and looked to be one of baseball’s best young starters. He faltered a bit in the second half, seeing many of his peripherals deteriorate, leaving him with a pedestrian 3.85 ERA and 1.29 WHIP at season’s end. The stuff is filthy, and with a bit of development, E-Rod could become one of the best left-handed starters in the game.
43) Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 21)
Much like Martinez, Cobb’s name is thrown around in the ‘borderline ace’ conversation while he’s actually healthy. The right-hander works down in the zone, employing a hard, heavy splitter, a knuckle-curve, and a 93 MPH sinker. As such, Cobb kept the ball on the ground over 55 percent of the time in 2013 and 2014, and benefits from one of baseball’s finest defensive outfields when he doesn’t. Despite missing the entirety of 2015, Cobb isn’t expected back until the second-half of 2016, and while his tattered injury past is tough to overlook, the Rays have the pitching depth to allow them to take their time with Cobb’s return.
44) Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR, 183 in 2013)
Following up his future teammate, Snell vaulted up prospect rankings in 2015, making his way from High-A to Triple-A–and impressing at every stop. The projectable lefty features a fastball capable of touching 97 MPH, and his 30 percent strikeout-rate hints at the type of gaudy strikeout numbers that he is capable of providing owners with. While Snell made huge strides last year, his command and control are still a work in progress. If he can keep the walks under control, he stands a chance to become a bonafide ace in the near future. However, Matt Moore is a cautionary example of a Tampa power-lefty who still hasn’t worked out all the kinks, even going into his sixth big league season.
45) Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 30)
The Shark is back in The Bay, joining his fourth organization in three years. Samardzija’s a perfect fit in San Francisco, with his two best seasons coming in 2012 and 2014. Even in a world without superstition, the former Notre Dame wide receiver brings a 94 MPH heater into the vacuous confines of AT&T Park, one of the best destinations dynasty owners could have hoped for. His strikeout rate should bounce back with his return to the senior circuit, and hey, the Giants felt he was worth nine percent of a billion dollars, so there’s reason to believe he’ll reward steadfast dynasty owners over the next few years.
46) Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 29)
There’s a lot to like about Gausman: he sits at 95 MPH with his fastball, he has a very good swinging-strike rate, and he had a walk rate under six percent last year. He was recently covered at TDG here, but I’d like to add a few things to Frank Sides’ analysis.
Gausman defied platoon splits in 2015 and actually dominated left-handed hitters, while posting fairly average numbers against righties. His best pitch, against both righties and lefties, is his fastball up in the zone, which he left belt-high a bit too often last year, making him one of just five pitchers to surrender more than two home runs per game against right-handed hitters. While his off-speed and breaking stuff are both very good when down out of the zone, he leaves them hittable too often to consistently induce weak contact. Gausman truly has all the makings of an upper-echelon starting pitcher, it’s just a matter of time before he puts it all together.
47) Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 52)
Quintana, AKA “Señor Dependiente,” is coming off three consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings pitched, and he’s struck out at least 175 batters each of the past two years. The crafty lefty’s fastball velocity has remained steady, at a little over 91 mph, while his ERA has settled comfortably into the 3.30-3.50 range. His free passes have been trending down while his strikeouts have remained right around 20 percent, making him essentially an updated version of Mark Buehrle. While he doesn’t have the upside of many others in his tier, Quintana comes with about as little risk as any pitcher in baseball.
48) Zack Wheeler, New York Mets (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 28)
It’s incredible to think a pitcher of Wheeler’s caliber can be the fifth-best in one organization, but with Mets, it’s possible. Tommy John returners typically see a coinciding lack of control in their first stint back, which doesn’t bode well for Wheeler, who has never been referred to as a “Rembrandt.” However, the 6-foot-4 inch righty showcased a mid-90’s fastball and a power slider when healthy, and should return to posting excellent strikeout rates by the end of 2016. With a bit of development, Wheeler could turn into a true number-two starter, and his ceiling is something like a Corey Kluber.
49) Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 173)
The 6-foot-3 inch right-hander absolutely fits the bill of a major league horse. Reyes features a thick, powerful lower-half, where he generates tremendous power, putting his stuff in the same realm as Thor’s. His fastball flirts with triple digits on a regular basis, and he has a solid curveball to go with it, striking out over 36 percent of hitters in both High-A and Double-A in 2015. While the double-digit walk rates are a concern, Reyes was one of the youngest players in the Southern League last year, and his talent is unmistakable. He is one of only a handful of prospects with true ace potential, and though his off-field habits have him on the shelf for 50 games, Reyes’s stuff could play in the big leagues right now.
50) Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 106)
The brightest spot from a dismal 2015 Phillies team, Nola exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations in his first taste of the big leagues. Despite relatively average stuff, the 2014 first-rounder pounds the zone with plus command and induces weak contact with a solid four-pitch mix. He made thirteen starts in the majors in 2015, posting a surprisingly solid 21.4 percent strikeout rate. He doesn’t have the upper-90’s fastball or the dynamic, ace-like stuff dynasty owners covet, but Nola stands a good chance to become a staple in the Phillies rotation for years to come.
51) Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 70)
Kazmir was the one the Dodgers eventually tendered after swiping right on nearly every other big-name free agent pitcher this offseason. Entering his age-32 season, and with another less-than-stellar finish to a season added to his ledger, ending up with Kazmir could feel like settling for both the Dodgers and dynasty teams. The glow has begun to fade, as Kazmir has put up two straight seasons with clear second-half declines, coming off of stellar starts. In 2014, he pitched to an ERA of 5.42 in the second-half, while in 2015 his ERA rose from 2.49 to 3.86 after the All-Star break. The Dodgers have enough options in their rotation to keep from overextending him, which should reduce the risk of another extreme drop off in productivity come July, particularly with his move to the National League. He may not be the sexiest option, but he’s a worthy SP3 in most formats and should be able to help for the next few years.
52) John Lackey, Chicago Cubs (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 88)
Lackey had a great 2015 season, staying healthy while posting a career-best 2.77 ERA and his highest strikeout total since 2007. Some might call it devil magic, but the secret to his success was an absurdly-high strand rate. The baserunners he allowed just didn’t advance, and all the surrounding peripherals point to a Lackey who is exactly the same as he was in 2014, when he was still very good–but not capital-G Great. The good news is that his repeated performance, while remaining healthy, for the past three seasons minimizes some of the injury-risk concerns. He enters 2016 as one of the oldest starters in the National League, and by the time his contract in Chicago is done in 2017, he could carry the title. There are a lot of things with Lackey that normally turn off dynasty owners, but for the value he has been able to consistently provide, he’s a quality starter on any contending team.
53) Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 48)
Some say the pitching prospect is a myth–that there’s no such thing as them. They’re stories we tell ourselves, stories of plus-plus fastballs and SP1 upside and multiple average–or better–pitches. Just think of the ceiling if he can put it all together in that park! Walker is no longer a pitching prospect–that much is true. However, he was the youngest pitcher to throw over 160 innings in 2015. Were Walker still a prospect, his upside might continue to inflate his value. Now that he’s had a bad season and a just-okay season under his belt, the luster has started to fade. He’s not a pitching prospect–they don’t exist. Walker is a very young, quality starter, with plenty of time left to continue and develop. That might be just as mythical, and even more exciting.
54) Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 35 RP)
There may be no bigger value bump this year than Iglesias, who went from the back-half of the reliever rankings in 2015, to just outside the top-50 as a starter on this year’s list. He heads into 2016 as a trendy sleeper, capable of striking out more than a batter per inning and holding down the walks. He may be on an innings limit in 2016, and as a Red he’s unlikely to be a big asset in the wins category. Don’t expect quite as big of a rankings jump next year unless he converts to a power-hitting shortstop, but this ranking represents a strong belief that he can serve as an SP2-type for years to come.
55) Michael Pineda, New York Yankees (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 84)
Hitters have a very hard time against Michael Pineda’s slider, which he throws a lot. They hit for a .222 average against it and struck out 30 percent of the time against it in 2015. Pineda throws his slider nearly 35 percent of the time. However, when he was not throwing his slider, he was considerably more hittable. His fastball fooled no one, and the defense behind him did a very poor job in converting the contact generated into outs. One gets the sense that with better luck–or the right adjustments to his fastball–his fantasy-relevant stats will fall in line with his peripherals. If that happens, Pineda is poised to take a huge jump forward.
56) Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 31)
Let’s take a moment to praise Ventura’s hat game, which is among the most on-point in the majors. That flat brim, tilted slightly to the side, conveying the confidence, brashness and hot-headedness that ultimately resulted in his near-demotion early in the season. Ventura’s performance did not match his hat game for most of the season–the swagger was a bad look in much of the first-half when he wasn’t striking as many batters out. By the end of the season, and especially down the stretch, though, he earned the right to be cocky, striking out over ten hitters per game in September and October. He’s still a few adjustments away from his pitching reaching the level of his hat game, but he still has time to figure it out.
57) Drew Smyly, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 107)
Smyly didn’t pitch much in 2015, but when he was on the mound, he showed flashes of the breakout some of us have been predicting for years. He strikes hitters out at an absurd rate and doesn’t walk a ton. He does have an above-average tendency to allow flyballs, which is great for allowing Kevin Kiermaier highlights–but not always the best for your fantasy team. Still, while the flyball rate might limit his upside a hair, the real concern is health. If healthy and allowed a full season of innings, Smyly could be a key piece to any team’s rotation for years to come.
58) Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 86)
At 6-foot-8 inches tall, the ‘The Glas’ is more than half-full (oh God, I’m so sorry). With a plus fastball, a plus curveball, and great velocity on both, Glasnow has good enough control to rank as one of the best starting pitching prospects around. Until the control and command gel more, the upside is more mid-rotation than ace, but the strikeout potential is elite, and he should make the majors sooner than most other top pitching prospects on this list. He can help any team now, but he may not be a true difference-maker right away.
59) Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 22)
Though he’s the Braves’ de facto ace by attrition, Teheran took a step back in 2015–thanks to a brutal platoon split. Against righties, Teheran performed much the same as he had in his elite 2014 season. Against lefties, which slugged .507 against him, he was barely rosterable in most formats. Unless he makes some real adjustments to his approach against southpaws, they will continue to do damage to his ERA. If you’re able to limit to starting him against favorable lineups, Teheran can mimic his 2014 production and provide top SP2-quality results at a discount. If you’re in a league with weekly lineups, his platoon problems knock his value down. The Braves won’t provide him with many opportunities at getting a win, and their defense is a step behind where it was in 2015, which won’t help his ERA overall.
60) Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 80)
Heaney was all over the place in 2015, starting his major league career strong before his strikeout-to-walk ratio fell from 9.5 in July to 2.11 in August. The inconsistencies, plus the massive righty platoon split, have knocked down his value. Still, he’s in the majors now and projects to be a solid mid-rotation starter for the Angels for years to come. The Angels may not want to admit it, but they can afford to let him continue to figure things out at the Major League level, and once he does, an ERA around 3.50 with 175 or more strikeouts and a WHIP around 1.25 is a very realistic scenario.
Commentary by Matt Pullman and Tyler Baber