The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty Starting Pitchers, Nos. 81-100
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 begin our next grouping of our starters with the main return in one of the biggest trades of the winter:
81) Sean Newcomb, Atlanta Braves (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 186)
Newcomb is one of the more polarizing prospects in the minors. His stuff is unquestionably nasty, but a BB/9 of six last season in Double-A isn’t great. Newcomb could become a front-end pitcher, but could also fizzle out due to control problems. At this point, it seems wise to pick the midpoint of those two outcomes–a high strikeout pitcher who may be a liability in WHIP. It’s not ideal, but there’s a good chance that Newcomb is at least a SP3 with room for much more.
82) James Paxton, Seattle Mariners (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 74)
Paxton burst onto the scene in 2013, and followed it up with a 3.04 ERA in 74 innings in 2014. He took a step back in 2015, with a 3.90 ERA and 4.35 xFIP. Paxton struggled to find the zone, and his K/BB ended up at a 1.93, which is not good. Entering his age-27 season, the excuse that Paxton is still learning is growing weak and there are significant concerns–despite the upside in his arm. If Paxton can improve his control, he could be a SP3. Unfortunately, his control has only trended backwards since reaching the majors.
83) Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 37)
Ryu has been great while healthy, the problem is that he hasn’t been healthy a whole lot. Ryu pitched to a 3.38 ERA and 2.62 FIP in 2014, along with an excellent 4.79 K/BB. He was injured early in the spring of 2015, when a shoulder issue (which sidelined him for some of 2014) cropped up again. It turned out that the issue was more serious than the team led on, and had even plagued him before coming stateside. Hopefully Ryu can make a full recovery from the injury and regain his SP2 upside, but shoulder surgery is a huge ordeal and not many pitchers make it back to previous levels.
84) Jake Thompson, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 115)
Thompson started off 2015 on a bad note, with a 4.72 ERA in Double-A in the Rangers organization that had evaluators scratching their heads and questioning his ultimate ceiling. Then, Thompson was shipped off to the Phillies, and managed to post a 1.80 ERA in 45 innings post-trade. It was a tale of two seasons to say the least, but it seems that Thompson’s ultimate value will lie in between these two performances. Thompson looks like (and probably will be) a mid-rotation innings eater. Although it won’t get anyone too excited, Thompson is a very solid pitching prospect.
85) Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 102)
Manaea is one of the more volatile pitching prospects in the minor leagues, carrying serious upside as well as a lot of risk. After sitting out most of the first-half of 2015, Manaea was traded to the Athletics from the Royals and was outstanding after making the move. Manaea’s two big concerns are his health and command–though he has done a bit to dispel the latter as a serious issue. Manaea’s seemingly always been injured, so health could be his biggest obstacle in preventing him from reaching his ultimate upside: a SP2 with great strikeouts numbers.
86) Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 69)
Kennedy, the winner of likely the least team-friendly contract this offseason, will look to improve after a disappointing 2015. Kennedy posted a laughable 1.66 HR/9 last season, despite throwing half of his games in San Diego, and that certainly didn’t help his 4.28 ERA. On the bright side, Kennedy had a 3.70 xFIP and a very good strikeout rate. Home runs can be a bit fluky, so there’s a chance he can see some real improvement next season with fewer balls leaving the yard. Still, it’s a risky profile to invest in, as Kennedy’s ratios are unlikely to be much better than average.
87) Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 78)
Stephenson can be Jekyll or Hyde while pitching, showing ace-level stuff and then reverting to disappointing performances. His raw talent is still among the best in the minor leagues, but the chances of Stephenson ultimately hitting his front of the rotation upside gets slimmer by the season. Stephenson’s command has been very faulty, and he’ll need to improve significantly if he wants to be more than a mid-rotation starter. If the command doesn’t improve at all, Stephenson may be destined for the bullpen, where he could be a shutdown closer. The elite upside is exciting, as is the proximity to the big leagues, but the risk in his profile is concerning.
88) Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 143)
Garcia is a maddening pitcher to own–as he’s essentially the Darren McFadden of baseball. The 29-year old is almost never healthy, but he’s fun to watch when right. Last year Garcia threw just 129.2 innings–but in his world that’s considered a relatively healthy year. His 2.43 ERA was surprising, and so was his 6.78 K/9. Garcia will be interesting to watch next season: a healthy year could come with great ratios, and an improved strikeout rate could make him a valuable player. Just don’t expect him to be healthy long enough to make a big impact.
89) Aaron Blair, Atlanta Braves (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 136)
Blair’s not the most exciting of prospects, but he can still be a very valuable player once he reaches the big leagues. Likely a mid-rotation starter, Blair should have solid ratios but lackluster strikeout numbers. He’s not a very high risk prospect, which makes Blair a solid investment despite his limited upside. He’ll likely reach the big leagues next season, and could be a solid SP4 for a long time.
90) Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Fulmer had a big 2015 season, once again becoming a noteworthy prospect with an uptick in stuff. He’s a risky player, with an injury history and delivery questions leading to a decent chance of him ending up in the bullpen. Fulmer’s likely to make the big leagues next season, and his upside is of a mid-rotation starter. His ceiling isn’t all that exciting, but Fulmer is close to the big leagues and his floor of a great closer makes him a solid investment in fantasy.
91) Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 121)
Entering his third full season as a starter, Gibson has thus far been the epitome of “meh” as evidenced by a 3.84 ERA and just 6.7 strikeouts-per-nine over 194.2 innings in 2015. Gibson’s sinker-heavy approach led to a 55 percent groundball rate and he enticed batters to chase on 35.7 percent of their swings, ranking sixth in the league (just behind Chris Sale). If he’s able to induce a few more swings and misses going forward and continues to use his changeup effectively, he has the potential to take a step forward in 2016 and beyond. At the very least, he’s going to provide 200 innings of #NotRickyNolasco, which is a net positive for both fantasy owners and Twins fans.
92) Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 75)
Arguably the most polarizing pitcher in the game, Bauer’s inconsistent performance continues to frustrate fantasy owners. In the first-half 20 of 2015, Bauer sported a 3.76 ERA with a respectable 1.22 WHIP over 105.1 innings. In the second-half, his trademark lack of control got, um, super terrible. How bad? His 5.73 ERA and 1.46 WHIP pretty much tell the entire story. Bauer was the only qualified starter to walk over four batters per game last year. On the other hand, Bauer’s pure stuff has remained intriguing, as he allowed less contact than the average starter and ranked 12th in the league in inducing soft contact at 21.4 percent. It has been said countless times before, but if Bauer can somehow find a way to limit the walks…
93) Wade Miley, Seattle Mariners (Age: 29 Previous Rank: 92)
Victimized by Boston’s atrocious defense, the gap between Miley’s ERA (4.46) and his Deserved Run Average (3.95) was wider than Hanley Ramirez’s range in left field last season. Relocating to Seattle and the spacious ballparks of the AL West should buoy his rate statistics going forward, making him a solid back-end of a fantasy rotation starter. He allows too much contact (9.2 H/9 in 832 career innings) and doesn’t strike out enough batters (7.0 K/9) to envision a breakout on the horizon, but the durability is worth the investment.
94) Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 46)
An enigmatic fantasy asset, Lynn cranked up his bizarre profile to stratospheric levels, throwing a fastball nine out of every 10 pitches, the highest rate of any starter in the majors last season. After a successful four-year run in the Cardinals rotation, his future is up in the air after undergoing Tommy John surgery this offseason. He’s the perfect under the radar speculative stash in deeper dynasty leagues. Check back in a year.
95) Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 55)
Opinions on Bradley varied greatly industry-wide over the past two years, and he looked as though he would prove doubters wrong by making the D-backs rotation out of spring training and turning in three quality starts in April. Then, he got hit in the jaw by a line drive that effectively derailed his rookie campaign. He’s still extremely young and will get an opportunity to prove he belongs again in 2016. He’s a nice low-risk, high-upside play if you believe in the secondary stuff continuing to evolve.
96) Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 141)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Hendricks is an Ivy League grad and it translates to him being a smart pitcher on the mound. However such bemusement shan’t be without merit (Sorry: he’s good and deserves the praise). In 2015, Hendricks increased his strikeout rate from 5.3 to 8.4, and did so while keeping his walk rate (2.2 BB/9) below league-average. Hendricks’ biggest challenge in 2016 could come from teammate Adam Warren, who Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon announced would compete for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. Even if Warren bumps Hendricks, all it would take is the annual Jason Hammel injury (or ineffectiveness) for Hendricks to be back in business.
97) Anthony DeSclafani, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 191)
The slider and curveball have improved substantially over the last year and give him a chance to become more than just “mid-rotation starter” fodder in Cincinnati. In 14 starts after the All-Star break, DeSclafani posted a 4.52 ERA (inflated by four starts in which he allowed five runs or more) but more importantly struck out 77 batters while issuing just 14 free passes over 83.2 innings of work. His win total and rate statistics will be adversely affected by contextual factors in the short-term, but the arsenal is legitimate and the underlying numbers suggest that there is significant potential down the road. There isn’t a more attractive long-term breakout candidate at this point in the rankings than DeSclafani.
98) Nathan Eovaldi, New York Yankees (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 122)
If it feels like Eovaldi has been on the precipice of a breakout campaign for years, it’s probably because he has. He’s done his best to crush the dreams of his industry touts in recent seasons, but it may all finally come together in 2016. Eovaldi became a better overall pitcher, raising his ground ball rate to 52.2 percent thanks in large part to the addition of a filthy splitter, which he threw nearly a quarter of the time last year. The fastball velocity (97.58 mph on average) is fun, but he’s finally starting to develop the secondary offerings that will elevate him to the next level. Stay tuned.
99) Henry Owens, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23 Previous Rank: 93)
Meet the new Jekyll and Hyde. No young starter gravitates between stretches of dominant performance where he flashes the mid-rotation stuff that made him a prominent prospect in the Red Sox system, and starts where he might as well be throwing live batting practice, quite like Owens. His final two starts best sum up his 63 innings at the major-league level last year. Against the Orioles he fired 7.2 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and one walk. Against Cleveland, he lasted just 4.1 innings, striking out four while allowing four walks and seven earned runs. If you enjoy immense risk combined with a ceiling that’s low enough that Jose Altuve has to duck to fit under it, Owens is your type of prospect.
100) Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 23, Previous Rank, 54)
At this point, Bundy’s pro career can probably be summer up with a sad face emoji. After being picked fourth overall in 2011, he routinely posted more than a strikeout per inning in the minors and even earned a cup of coffee in the Oriole bullpen down the stretch in 2012. Then the injuries. All of the injuries. Bundy has struggled to reclaim the prospect sheen that saw him rise to a top five prospect in all of the game, although he looked sharp in a 22-inning stint at Double-A in 2015. Out of options, it looks like Bundy might be headed to the Baltimore bullpen in 2016, at least for the time being.
Commentary by Ben Diamond and Mark Barry