It’s been over two months since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, ending the 2016 baseball season. But if you’re like most fantasy baseball owners, those two months probably feel like two years. Considering it’s still another month until Spring Training even starts, late January has to be the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s too late to reflect on last year, but next season is too far ahead to look forward to. Luckily, with a little help from The Dynasty Guru, the next month is survivable, as we’ll be ranking and commenting on a whole lot of players over the next six weeks.
The Dynasty Guru’s hard-working staff has spent countless hours crafting these rankings, and we hope you enjoy and continue to support our efforts 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.
You can view our rankings for previous positions, and the dates future rankings will come out, by clicking the link to TDG’s 2017 Consensus Dynasty Baseball Rankings splash page. With that, let’s continue our starting pitcher rankings, starting with a control artist who went from Cy to…ugh.
40) Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 11)
After winning the AL Cy Young in 2015, Keuchel took last season off. Metaphorically, of course. He battled injuries and poor performance, giving up more runs and home runs while pitching nearly 70 fewer innings. Despite his struggles, Keuchel still walked only 2.6 batters per nine innings and induced grounders at a gaudy rate of 58 percent. Sure, Keuchel might not recapture the dominance of his 2015 campaign, but he’s still really good and at 29 years old, he should be good for awhile.
41) Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 143)
Danny Duffy was ranked the No. 25 starting pitcher on ESPN’s Player Rater in 2016, and the results seem very real. He had the 12th best strikeout rate, and the 15th best walk rate among qualified starters. His 42 percent fly ball rate is a little scary, but Kauffman Stadium is a fly ball graveyard, so this is something we should applaud. Duffy also smoked radar guns with the sixth hardest thrown fastball in baseball. A pitcher’s age-27 season may be an odd age for a full-fledged breakout, but Duffy previously sported a sub-seven strikeout per nine innings rate and walk rates ranging from three to five per game. Duffy previously never had a K/BB better than 2.13, and last year he cranked out a 4.48 mark. His contact rates and chase rates also made huge strides in the right direction. The improvements look real; if he can keep firing in strikes, while maintaining his improved whiff and chase rates, he should be able to replicate his success from 2016.
42) Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 10)
Oh, how The King has fallen. After eight straight seasons of 200 or more innings pitched, seven seasons of a K/9 rate over eight, and seven seasons of BB/9’s lower than 2.68–disaster struck. If you were wondering how to have your worst ERA since 2007, combine your career worst strikeout, walk, and home run rates. His patented sinker has lost 3.5 MPH from 93.8 in 2010 down to 90.3 MPH last year, and his most thrown pitch had a .299 average against it. Hernandez still gets a ton of grounders, but he’s getting fewer chases, batters are making more contact, and he’s throwing fewer strikes than ever. If you have him, you are stuck, his value has plummeted over the past two years and you’re praying he finds a way to pitch with his diminished stuff. Good luck King Felix owners.
43) Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 24)
The diminutive starter came back from ACL surgery and pitched 204 innings. His 4.37 ERA isn’t ideal, but his 3.71 FIP and 3.41 xFIP both indicate he deserved better. Stroman’s home run rate increasing despite a 60 percent groundball rate is unusual. His plate discipline numbers have been a little strange as well. Batters are swinging more, and making less contact than ever. The problem is more granular; he’s getting more chases and batters are whiffing at a career-best rate, but within the zone he’s giving up more contact. If he can improve his batted ball profile, he can continue to give up contact in the zone–otherwise he needs to get more whiffs. Stroman’s in the prime of his career, and he could go either way with his background and peripherals.
44) Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 15)
Gray dealt with shoulder and elbow injuries in 2016, and saw his home run rate almost double, his hard hit rate grow by eight percent, and nearly all of his peripherals fell apart. A return to health could present a great buy-low opportunity for owners, as Gray has consistently been one of the best ground ball pitchers during his career. However, injuries limited his innings, velocity, and turned all of his soft grounders into very hard hit grounders. This makes Gray a hold for his owners; you’re praying he can get back to his old soft grounder ways, as he threw virtually the same amount of strikes as earlier in his career, but the results were worse in every measurable way. Exercise patience when those terrible March trade offers inevitably start rolling in.
45) Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 73)
Taillon’s previous rankings were based off of his glowing scouting reports, but he certainly did not disappoint in his rookie season. Taillon employed a Phil Hughes-like strategy, and while his below average strikeout rate wasn’t what dynasty owners hoped for, his 1.47 BB/9 gave him a superb K/BB rate of 5.00. Unfortunately, in his debut season, batters were swinging at Taillon’s pitches at a well-above average rate, and did so while making well-above average contact rates and hard contact percentages. While his raw ERA of 3.38 was shiny, his peripherals may indicate some cause for concern.
46) Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 58)
The report on Glasnow hasn’t changed, he’s racked up strikeouts for years now–while also piling up walk totals. In three minor league seasons, he’s never had a strikeout rate under 10.3 per nine innings, and he’s never had a walk rate below 3.5 per game. With the extreme stuff Glasnow possesses, he’s also produced extreme results. His career batting average against is under .200, but baserunners run wild against Glasnow if they do get on. If Glasnow can he manage his walks, he’s likely to reach his potential, if he doesn’t he could fail as a starter. The ceiling and floor remain very far apart, but the enticing upside will always make him intriguing to dynasty owners.
47) Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 34)
Odorizzi’s strikeouts and walk rates are both below average, and he gets hit unusually hard for a pitcher who has allowed a career .279 BABIP mark. He throws strikes at a below average rate, and he gets whiffs at a below average rate as well. Entering his age-27 season, his Pitch F/X stats indicate that another step forward probably isn’t happening for Odorizzi, as he likely is what he is at this point, a solid-but-unspectacular mid-rotation starter benefitting from pitching in a home ballpark suited to his profile.
48) Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 130)
On any other team, Gray would be significantly higher up this list, but there’s no getting around that he calls Coors home. Gray pumps heat, gets whiffs, but he also gives up walks, and has a typically above average BABIP. Such is life in Colorado. Gray’s batted ball profile is roughly league average–an achievement in Colorado–and his plate discipline numbers are very strong. The crazy part about Gray’s 2016 campaign? He was much better at home than on the road in almost every way. If Gray can harness what he’s used to learn how to survive at home and better apply it on the road, he could be the first legitimate dynasty Rockies SP2 we’ve had in a long time.
49) James Paxton, Seattle Mariners (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 82)
After dealing with multiple injuries to start his career, Paxton lowered his release point, and the high hopes many had for him became realized gains. His 8.7 K/9 and 1.79 BB/9 were very impressive, and a 48.1 percent groundball rate makes avoiding trouble significantly easier. While Paxton’s fastball reached 100 MPH in some starts this year, the reason he isn’t ranked higher is because previous to 2016, he had never thrown more than 75 innings in a major league season. The question with Paxton is most always health related–if he can reach 30 starts this season with similar results to last year, he’ll be looking at a significant jump in his rank in 2018.
50) Joe Ross, Washington Nationals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 74)
To say Ross took a step back in 2016 is a bit harsh. His first extended run in a big league rotation included a shoulder injury in July, which in itself may be enough to explain his slight decrease in overall production. His 19 starts weren’t a large enough sample size to dive too far into his batted ball info, but Ross threw plenty of strikes while getting whiffs at the same time, and if he can be healthier next year, he will likely reward his owners more handsomely that this ranking indicates. Buy now, or forever hold your peace.
51) Steven Matz, New York Mets (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 36)
Matz is overshadowed in the excellent Mets rotation, but when healthy, he is plenty exciting in his own right. Prior to the 2016 season, some in the fantasy community remained skeptical of Matz, but he showed growth in some of the most important metrics–groundball rate, K/BB percentage, and swinging strike rate. He became more elusive to hitters both in and out of the zone, and while it remains to be seen whether he can maintain that progress, last season was an impressive one. The injury concerns remain, as he managed just 132 innings last year, and his season ended in August. Matz is hoping to fully ready for Spring Training, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy for a full season before dynasty owners are going to buy in fully.
52) Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 185)
Kopech is soaring up this list thanks to his blazing fastball and impressive slider. He has fast tracked his way up prospect lists on the strength of these two pitches, but the development of his changeup will be a key to his long-term success as a starter. That changeup was on display a bit in the Arizona Fall League, as batters saw it almost seven percent of the time and it generated a 19 percent whiff rate. That small sample size is enough to create one more reason to be optimistic about Kopech. Of course, he was shipped from the Red Sox to White Sox this winter in the Chris Sale deal, and it will be interesting to see how the change of scenery affects him, as he does have some off-field concerns in the form a PED suspension, and a physical altercation with a teammate.
53) Anderson Espinoza, San Diego Padres (Age: 18, Previous Rank: 67)
Red Sox fans, shield your eyes. Espinoza was traded to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz in July last season and was quickly tabbed as San Diego’s top prospect entering 2017 by Keith Law, MLB.com, and Baseball America. His results in his first full-season didn’t match up to his 2015 season, but that is of little consequence given the upside in his profile. With health, Espinosa should continue to move up this list, and has the potential to be a mainstay in the upper tier of these rankings.
54) Francis Martes, Houston Astros (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 119)
The Astros have been very aggressive in Martes’ assignments since he joined the organization in 2014, as he spent much of the 2016 season in Double-A as a 20 year-old. His Double-A stint was mostly a success, as he used his power fastball and above-average curveball to strike out 9.41 batters per nine innings. This year, he is expected to spend most of the season in Triple-A, which will continue the trend of his aggressive assignments. He is one of the fastest rising prospects in the game, but there is some concern about his command and delivery, which he will need to resolve in order to make the upward trajectory of his career stick.
55) Yadier Alvarez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Alvarez was a $16 million signing out of Cuba during the 2015 international season. He didn’t debut until 2016, but he impressed once he did hit the field. His delivery is described as effortless by scouts, which allows him to throw at an impressive velocity. On the other hand, scouting reports also raise concerns about his mechanics, namely that he struggles to repeat them. His ranking is nearly entirely projection, which means he is both far off from the majors, and given the small amount we have seen on the field at this point, he is one of the riskiest players in this tier of rankings.
56) Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 36, Previous Rank: NR)
We’re just now getting a glimpse of what could have been for Hill if he could have maintained his health earlier in his career. Unfortunately, that never happened, save for the 2007 season. In 2016, Hill managed to pitch 110 really good innings, and is now signed to be a Dodger for three more years. Hill made his two pitch arsenal–a curveball and fastball–work to the tune of a 10.52 K/9 last season with an elite ERA and WHIP. There’s a lot of risk here–age, injury history, and limited repertoire–but he could be the short-term add needed for a championship contender in many dynasty leagues.
57) Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 85)
Manaea made his highly anticipated major league debut in 2016, and all things considered, it went quite well. He wasn’t able to translate his elite strikeout rate from the minors to the majors immediately, but Manaea ranked 15th among starters in swinging strike rate (min. 140 IP). As he adjusts to pitching in the majors, Manaea should be able to sequence his pitches better to maximize that swinging strike rate into more strikeouts. He also served up 1.24 home runs per game, a problem that never hampered him during his minor league career. These are issues Manaea has plenty of time to work through, and his results last year were pretty good–a 3.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP–even with the above mentioned issues.
58) Jason Groome, Boston Red Sox (Age: 18, Previous Rank: NR)
The Red Sox selection of Jason Groome with the 12th pick in the 2016 Draft is of some consolation to Sox fans concerned about the aforementioned trades that sent Espinoza and Kopech elsewhere this offseason. Groome was in the discussion to be the No. 1 overall pick, but somewhat vague signability and character issues caused him to fall into Boston’s lap. As far as his offerings; his fastball sits in the mid-90’s, and he pairs that with a strong curveball. He will probably play the 2017 campaign in short-season ball, where he had a very brief 2.2 inning pro debut in 2016. There’s a lot of upside here, but just as any other high-pedigree high school arm, he carries a lot of risk.
59) Michael Pineda, New York Yankees (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 55)
Pineda continues to baffle the baseball community. In 2016, he ticked his slider usage up and got excellent results, just as he did in 2015, and as he has for much of his career. However, he still couldn’t combine his effective slider with his fastball and cutter, which led to largely disappointing results. The theory that he could benefit from living out of the zone more often was tested in 2016, as his zone rate went down, but his home run rate rose to the highest of his career. At this point, it’s difficult to expect much to change for Pineda, but it’s also difficult to give up on him with his strong peripherals.
60) Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 42)
When Rodriguez isn’t injured or tipping his pitches, he’s looked like a pretty good pitcher. Unfortunately, the first-half of the 2016 season featured both injuries and poor performance; he battled a knee injury to start the season, and a 10.03 ERA in June. However, he reeled back in fantasy owners with a 3.24 ERA after the All-Star break. It’s tempting to say 2017 is a prove it year for Rodriguez, but he is still just entering his age-23 season. The Red Sox have a crowded rotation assuming everyone stays healthy, so there is a chance that Rodriguez is not a starter to begin the 2017 season, though that seems unlikely.