The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Nos. 81-100
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.
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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 one of the Braves’ many excellent pitching prospects.
80) Kolby Allard, Atlanta Braves (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 141)
Allard threw 87.2 innings in 2016 between Rookie-Ball and Single-A, combining for a 2.98 ERA and a K/9 that sat at nearly 10. Ranked the 53rd overall prospect by MLB.com, Allard has a tremendous ceiling and should continue climbing up these rankings with a healthy 2017.
81) J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays (Age 34, Previous Rank: 179)
Don’t let Happ’s shiny 20-4 record fool you, there’s not that good of a pitcher here. His peripherals, namely a 4.60 DRA and 3.92 FIP, say 2016 was more or less an average Happ year. In fact, the DRA figure was right in line with his career number (4.61). Now, if you expect him to win 20 games again in 2017, well, good luck. If you rationally expect him to performing to his career line, you are likely to get the reward.
82) Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 178)
Estrada’s profile shouldn’t work in Toronto…but it does. A high-spin fastball that induces an absurd amount of pop-ups looks to be the secret, and his 16.8 IFFB% was the highest mark among qualified starters, leading second-place Drew Smyly by 0.9 percentage points. While by no means an ace, Estrada should continue to be a perfectly serviceable SP3 for a couple more years, despite the seemingly lackluster stuff.
83) Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 197)
All he did in 2016 was re-secure a spot in the Nationals rotation in wake of the departure of Jordan Zimmermann, the guy ranked one spot below him on this list. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and bravery to expect him to repeat his 2016, but he’s capable of living up to tempered expectations, which is to remain a solid mid-rotation starter (yes, this tier is full of them).
84) Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 38)
With diminishing fastball velocity and a subsequent decrease in strikeouts, it appears that Zimmermann is right on the dark road Doug Fister has walked, two years behind his former rotation mate. Now on the wrong side of 30, it’s unlikely for him to regain the top-40 fantasy starter status he had a year ago.
85) Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 26)
In case you’re not convinced that J.A. Happ’s luck won’t last, see Wacha’s win-loss totals, in which the former Aggie went from an excellent 17-7 in 2015 to a pedestrian 7-7 in 2016. While his traditional numbers tumbled down, the peripherals stayed in line (K% went from 20.1 to 18.8, BB% from 7.6 to 7.4, and FIP- from 101 to 95). So you can conclude that his 2016 was somewhat a product of poor luck, namely a .334 BABIP and 64.7 LOB%.
86) Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 45)
Samardzija (of 2015) has come and gone, as his innocently awful results never lasted. In 2016, the erstwhile Notre Dame wide receiver bounced back from his nightmare 2015 to put respectable numbers across the board. No, you can no longer trade The Shark for Addison Russell, or any other top-30 prospect, but there are worse things you can do than having a reliable SP3.
87) Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
In his first full-season in the Brewers organization, the southpaw built upon his breakout 2015, striking out 30.8% of the batters he faced between Double-A and Triple-A. Though his surface numbers, namely a 5.22 ERA, plummeted after his June promotion, it was less concerning considering it was recorded in an environment equal to the face of the moon (Colorado Springs’ pitching staff collectively recorded a 5.07 ERA). Sure, there are people who point out his high walk rate, but don’t listen to them, because Haders gonna Hade Hade Hade.
88) Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 94)
Before undergoing Tommy John surgery in November 2015, Lynn was the epitome of consistency, peripheral-wise. His yearly strikeout rate from 2012 to 2015 was 24.2, 23.1, 20.9, 22.2%, respectively. In those years, his walk rate ranged from 8.3 to 9.1, and his FIP- from 88 to 91. While none of these numbers looks sexy, he was a reliable third starter. It’s not guaranteed that Lynn can reclaim those heights post-surgery, but he’s on the ideal TJ schedule and has very solid upside if he can fully recover.
89) Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 92)
If we ranked players based on the amount of drone-related injuries and political controversy he creates on social media, the former UCLA Bruin would hold his own ground above everyone else. Alas, we’re talking from a fantasy perspective and he is unimpressive, if not mediocre, in that realm. The upside is still there, but the results aren’t, leaving Bauer in a weird place.
90 Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 148)
Hard-throwing Astros farmhands are the Golden Retriever of pitching prospect breeds lately. Acquired by the Braves in exchange for Evan Gattis, Foltynewicz averaged 96.4 miles-per-hour on his four-seam fastball in 2016, the ninth-highest mark among starting pitchers who threw at least 200 pitches. More importantly, he shaved nearly 1.5 runs off his ERA to produce numbers of a decent mid-rotation starter. It looks like that’s what he’s going to be down the road, with an upside for even more.
91) Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 75)
The high point of Gonzalez’s season came in a meme from spring training, which gives you some sense of his value right meow. Never fully delivering on his ace potential, Gonzalez took another slide down the wrong side of the bell curve in 2016 posting the worst ERA he’s ever had in a full season by a wide margin and winning only 11 games. The good news is his peripherals show that the decline isn’t quite as steep as it appears. He lost another mile-per-hour off most of his pitches, but cut his walk rate down and maintained the same swinging strike rate while his actual strikeouts were a tick up from the previous year. Bad luck, poor bullpen support, and (most damningly) too many long balls led to an ERA that should, very likely, come back down to the 3.80 range in 2017. The clock is ticking on Gonzalez’s fantasy relevance, but if you’re in win-meow mode he represents a buy-low option at an SP3 for SP5 prices.
92) Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 60)
Heaney only started two games before being sidelined with forearm strain in 2016, but he didn’t actually have Tommy John surgery until July. This means that while he was out for essentially the entire 2016 season, the best case scenario for his 2017 return would be late after the All-Star break. Before the surgery he had mid-rotation starter upside despite a rough platoon split. If you have the room in your DL or bench to stash him for a season it’s a smart plan to buy low, as long as you can afford the risk that he doesn’t pitch again until 2018.
93) Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 189)
As an athletic lefty close to major league ready on a bad team, you might expect to see Garrett pop up on a lot of waiver wire watch write-ups later in 2017. You can buy now, probably at a discount, and stash him, but understand you’re getting a back-of-the-rotation starter whose questionable secondary pitches. Multi-sport players tend to be late bloomers, and teams LOVE athletic left handers, so he should get every opportunity to prove he’s a starter and if he can stick his fastball command could lead to sneaky decent WHIP and K’s in the long term.
94) Reynaldo Lopez, Chicago White Sox (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 122)
One might expect debuting in Double-A, finishing the season in the majors, a fastball that can hit 100 MPH, and being traded to the White Sox in the offseason would warrant a much larger jump up these rankings for Lopez. All of those factors do combine to make Lopez the kind of guy more than one person in your league will consider a sneaky sleeper pick, and he may very well be that. The risk isn’t just that he could end up in the bullpen, but also that his delivery and small frame will lead him to break.
95) Jose De Leon, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 72)
De Leon shot through the minors and up prospect lists before being sidelined with injuries in the first half of 2016, and that plus difficulty against major league competition in a September callup have pushed him down this list for the time being. His move to Tampa Bay should serve him well, as De Leon’s greatest strength fits right into the changeup-happy TB rotation. He still needs to figure out how to fool major league hitters the same way, and certainly Florida has a history of De Leon’s struggling with command against competition.
96) Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 137)
The nice thing about dynasty leagues: you can call someone a sleeper and then three years later when their breakout season finally comes you can still claim were right. Nova moved to Pittsburgh in August 2016 and immediately appeared to become a different pitcher, walking only three batters total across his 11 starts for Pittsburgh. This was the fulfillment of whatever promise he had shown in 2013, and a change in his approach means that the increase in strikeout rate could very well be real. Pittsburgh got Nova to throw more strikes, and subsequently he walked fewer batters and struck out more. Who knew. Don’t believe the 3.09 ERA he posted in Pittsburgh, but if he keeps the approach the WHIP and K’s should be real.
97) Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 113)
Tillman has bedeviled fantasy owners, and Orioles fans, for years. He’s either been a FIP-beater or played to his FIP, fluctuating up or down rankings based on the whims of the Orioles’ traditionally below-average outfield defense. He had a phenomenal first half to 2016 before shoulder issues placed him on the DL. Inconsistency plagues him, and while he’s likely to pitch for 175 IP barring any flareups to the shoulder injury, how those innings play is unpredictable. FIP-beating pitchers historically have the past catch up with them (cf. Matt Cain) but until that happens with consistency, Tillman has SP2 upside with fringe-starter as his floor.
98) Daniel Norris, Detroit Tigers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 76)
Norris has jumped around the 75-100 rankings on this list for long enough that it can be easy to forget he’s only 23 heading the 2017 season (though he does turn 24 in April). After spending more time in AAA in 2016 than in the majors, Norris projects to be a stalwart in the Tigers’ rotation as they come out of contention mode. He closed out 2016 throwing harder, and throwing more strikes; two tendencies that you want to see in a young pitcher who has shown the level of promise Norris has over the years. SP2 upside may be within his grasp, and this could be the last year Norris sits this low in the SP rankings.
99) Yohander Mendez, Texas Rangers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Mendez played every level between High-A and the majors in 2016, and jumped as high up prospect radars from deep-league sleeper to the best pitcher in the Rangers’ system. What Mendez lacks in SP1-2 potential he makes up for in present value plus the promise of a consistent innings-eater who can strike guys out and post a decent ERA despite playing in Texas. At only 22, Mendez will spend some time in 2017 figuring things out (or being figured out), so his present value may be a little rocky, but “potential reliability” is a phrase rarely associated with any pitcher (nevermind the equivocation) and there will certainly be flashes of brilliance along the way.
100) Cal Quantrill, San Diego Padres (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Quantrill’s perceived value in your league probably depends on the league’s age. In deeper leagues planning out their minor league drafts, Quantrill is the guy who had potential first-overall-pick upside with multiple above-average pitches who could rise quickly through the minors and hit the majors in a year or two. In new leagues or shallower keeper leagues, he’s coming off a Tommy John surgery in college who hasn’t thrown more than 4.5 innings in a start since he went under the knife in 2015 and has shown command issues. As long as he’s staying healthy, he has the ability to shoot up these rankings. There’s enough TINSTAAP risk to exercise caution, but Quantrill is very likely the best pitcher in the 2016 class.