The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Nos. 61-80
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 SP rankings, picking up where we left off at #61 with a former top prospect.
61) Taijuan Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 53)
The Taijuan Walker truthers were out in full force in the first-half of the 2016 season, but the excitement waned when he posted a 5.21 ERA over the season’s second-half. He had offseason surgery to correct an ankle injury, which gives reason to hope that he can replicate the excellent control he showed in the first-half, where he walked just 1.88 batters per nine innings. However, given his persistent home run problem, which will likely be exacerbated by his offseason shift to Chase Field, has the very real potential of derailing Walker’s fantasy value. Overall, Walker has shown long stretches of the potential that owners have been waiting for, but unless he curbs his home run problem, we will likely be left waiting.
62) Anthony DeSclafani, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 97)
There’s nothing elite in DeSclafani’s profile, but he has demonstrated an ability to pitch effectively in the major leagues in his first two seasons as a starter. He commands his pitches well, as indicated by his 14.8 K-BB percentage, which is in the same range of Cole Hamels, Jake Odorizzi, and Gio Gonzalez. There are still concerns within his profile however, as he does surrender a lot of home runs. His numbers last year were also skewed by a strand rate of 78.4 percent–seven percent above his career rate. His 2016 FIP and xFIP marks, 3.96 and 3.99 respectively, may indicate a more accurate expectation for his 2017 season.
63) Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
Like several other pitchers in this tier of the rankings, Pomeranz both thrilled and horrified his owners for long stretches of the 2016 season. The thrills came in the first-half of the season when Pomeranz posted a 2.47 ERA, along with a tidy 10.15 strikeouts per game mark. Things weren’t so good after the midseason deal that sent him to the Red Sox, however, as he surrendered a 1.83 HR/9 mark while with the Sox. At times last season, Pomeranz seemed to trade his sinker in favor of his cutter, which garnered better results. For whatever reason, he went back to his sinker in September and he posted a 6.61 ERA. It will be interesting to see what kind of pitch mix Pomeranz exhibits this year, as he could face stiff competition for a rotation spot if the surrounding starting options in Boston remain healthy.
64) Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 129)
Ray has elite velocity for a left-handed pitcher, which undoubtedly has played a major role in his strikeout rates that ran have ranged from very good to excellent, topped by his 28.1 percent punchout rate in 2016. Those strikeouts have fantasy owners very interested, but his potential ERA and WHIP numbers remain hard to invest in. It’s tempting to look at his BABIP and HR/FB rates from last season and assume he got unlucky, and while that may be true to an extent, Ray did permit the third highest rate of hard contact among all qualified starters in 2016. Ray also threw pitches in the strike zone at the 14th highest rate among starters, indicating that he could benefit from throwing out of the zone a bit more frequently.
65) Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 29)
Richards underwent platelet-rich plasma injections and stem cell therapy on his injured shoulder in an effort to avoid Tommy John surgery and the good news is that he is expected to pitch in 2017 as a key member of the Angels rotation. The bad news is that he is highly likely to face an innings limit, and his ability to pitch deep into games due to a pitch count could depress his fantasy value. His owners will have little more to do than hope his health trajectory follows that of Masahiro Tanaka, who also deferred Tommy John surgery. Richards has shown a consistent ability to generate swings and misses, as he has posted swinging strike rates of 10.8, 11.1, and 11.2 percentages respectively over the last three seasons, and he has always been able to limit the number of home runs allowed. His skills are indicative of a nice buy-low option right now, but investing too much in a risk this big is not advisable, and is reflected by his dip in the rankings this season.
66) Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Keller is a 2014 draftee who slid under the radar due to an injury plagued 2015 season, but he broke out in a big way in 2016. He’s now a household name who surpassed fellow Pirate Tyler Glasnow in Baseball America’s prospect rankings after spending most of the year in Low-A ball and posting excellent numbers across the board, mostly on the strength of an explosive fastball-curveball combination. He needs to continue in the development of his changeup, but given that he likely has at least two more years in the minors, he has plenty of time to do just that.
67) Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 100)
Bundy managed to stay relatively healthy for the first time since 2012, and while his performance was far from perfect, the 2016 season has to be viewed as an overall success. Bundy struggled as he pitched deeper into games–he surrendered a .633 slugging percentage to batters his third time through the the order–likely due to the fact that he hadn’t pitched in so long and that he was unable to throw his full arsenal of pitches. It remains to be seen if either of those things will change this year, but last year was very encouraging, as while Bundy managed to show that he didn’t forget how to pitch, he now has to prove for the first time in his career that he can maintain his health for a full-season as a starter.
68) Drew Smyly, Seattle Mariners (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 57)
Upon joining the Rays in 2014, Smyly has had a hard time keeping the ball in the park, and although in 2015 he was able to mask that issue with an 86.5 percent strand rate, in 2016 that mark plummeted to 67.7 percent, as both his strikeout and groundball rates tumbled. Over Smyly’s career as a Ray, his peripherals were indicative of a pitcher that was due for a bit of correction in his ERA, but his 2016 results could be an overcorrection. He’ll look to regroup as the newest member of the Mariners rotation, and moving to Safeco likely gives him a better chance to outperform his peripherals once again.
69) Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 128)
A lot happened to Shoemaker during the 2016 season–most notable of which was the unfortunate events of September 4–when he took a line drive to the head. He had offseason surgery, and all signs point to him making a successful return, though it is unclear what kind of psychological toll it will have on him when he steps back on the mound. Prior to the injury, Shoemaker put a rough start to the 2016 season behind him, and was able to align many of his totals with that of his breakout 2014 campaign.
70) Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 43)
Cobb was brought back to the mound slowly in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which is of little surprise given his organization. He logged only 43 total innings in 2016, 22 of which came in the majors, and the results weren’t pretty. Beside dashing the hopes of the ever-present stash-happy fantasy owners, his limited stat line means little–what matters is that he remains healthy and ready to pitch in 2017, and all signs point to that being the case. Cobb was excellent in both 2014 and 2015, and assuming he can replicate anything close to those performances, he should creep back up these rankings.
71) Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 71)
There was a fair bit of promise shown by Berrios in the minors, but it didn’t translate very over his debut in the majors. Berrios was blasted for an 8.02 ERA over 14 starts and 58.1 innings. It was far from an optimal debut, but there is still hope for Berrios, as he still crushed triple-A in 2016 (2.51 ERA, 29 percent strikeout rate in 17 starts), and he’s still quite young. Sometime soon, he ought to figure out how to translate his minor league success to the majors. Don’t give up on Berrios yet.
72) Matt Moore, San Francisco Giants (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 78)
Moore experienced a change of scenery in 2016, going from Tampa Bay and the AL East to San Francisco and the NL West. That change ought to help him a bit as he looks to find the promise he once had, and perhaps he showed a glimpse of what’s ahead in 2017 during his near no-hitter against the Dodgers in August. A different league just might do Moore wonders in unlocking the potential that he flashed earlier in his career as a Ray.
73) John Lackey, Chicago Cubs (Age: 38, Previous Rank: 52)
Lackey showed little signs of aging in 2016; in the second-half, he pitched 71.2 innings and managed a 2.76 ERA with a sparkling WHIP of 0.98. He also posted the best K/9 rate of his career since he was a 26 year-old. Lackey did so while pitching in front of a historically great defense, which certainly helped his cause, but the good thing is he’ll be largely be pitching in front of the same defense in 2017. The biggest question is, when will Lackey start to decline? It doesn’t seem like anytime soon, and he’ll likely continue to eat plenty of innings in 2017.
74) Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 27)
After a short 2015 campaign for Wainwright that was derailed by injury, he still didn’t quite look like himself in 2016. While his 4.62 ERA was the worst of his career by a fair margin, Wainwright was able to pitch nearly 200 innings after pitching only 28 in 2015. The longtime Cardinal ace will hopefully still accumulate innings in 2016, but his years of being in contention for the NL Cy Young are likely far in the rear-view mirror.
75) Colin McHugh, Houston Astros (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 65)
McHugh took another step in the wrong direction in 2016. After a stellar rookie campaign in 2014, and a fair, but not-as-good sophomore season, McHugh let owners down in 2016 with a 4.34 ERA. On the road, his ERA was nearly five, but at home he was able to post a 3.67 mark, and while perhaps McHugh’s success at home suggests he still has it, seeing his ERA drop from 2.73 in his rookie campaign, to a below-league average mark in 2016, may indicate that the league has adjusted to McHugh.
76) Robert Gsellman, New York Mets (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
The gazelle-man got rocked around in the PCL for a while in 2016, but he made a name for himself in his pro debut. After coming up at the end of August, Gsellman finished the year with a 2.42 ERA and a 23 percent strikeout rate in 44.2 innings. It’s tough to earn your place in the outstanding Mets rotation right now, but Gsellman is right there fighting for a spot–if he isn’t already seen as the fifth guy. He had arthroscopic surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in October, but there is plenty to look forward to from Gsellman in 2017.
77) Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 108)
The screwball-throwing Honeywell had a stellar 2016; after splitting time between the High-A and Double-A levels, he finished with a 2.34 ERA that included a strikeout rate of just over one per inning. Honeywell’s quality work jumped him up the prospect rankings, as he was ranked 31st overall by MLB.com, and should continue to prove himself as he gets closer to the majors.
78) James Kaprelian, New York Yankees (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Kaprelian started the year in High-A, where he posted a 1.50 ERA over just 18 innings. He was sidelined in April, and diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain on his throwing elbow. Kaprelian tried to make up for lost time by pitching in the Arizona Fall League, but he struggled a bit more in compiling a 4.33 ERA over 27 innings. Still, it’s good news he was able to return and throw, and he earned an invitation to spring training, where he will look to make up for more lost developmental time.
79) Jerad Eickhoff, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 169)
Eickhoff had a good first full-season in the majors, pitching nearly 200 innings on his way to a 3.65 ERA. The former 15th round pick continued to prove himself, and is already very comfortably in the Phillies rotation. We will have to wait-and-see if Eickhoff can continue to build on what he learned in his first full season, but his initial campaign flashed promise of a solid mid-rotation starter.
80) Kolby Allard, Atlanta Braves (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 141)
Allard pitched 87.2 innings in 2016 between Rookie ball and the Low-A level. Combining the two, he posted a 2.98 ERA, and he struck out nearly ten batters per nine innings. Allard is ranked as the 53rd overall prospect by MLB.com, and still has a tremendous ceiling as arguably the best prep pitcher of his draft class. The young lefty has plenty of hype, he just needs to remain healthy and get more innings under his belt in 2017.
Comments by Daniel Marcus and Dan Hogan