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The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Starting Pitchers, #21-50

It’s been a slow off-season. Like, a really slow off-season. With the hot stove frigid, fantasy baseball players haven’t had many ways to quench their thirst, unless they’ve thrown themselves head-first into football, basketball, or hockey. January and February can be some of the darkest months of the year (figuratively and literally), but fear not, restless readers. The Dynasty Guru is here to the rescue.

While you were celebrating the holidays and ushering in the New Year, our brave group of writers has been ranking, debating, re-ranking, re-debating, and re-re-ranking over 600 players for dynasty leagues. The fruits of our efforts will be filling January, February, and even some of March with the deepest, most thoroughly and painstakingly selected dynasty baseball rankings on the internet. We have top-50s, top-125s, top-200s, top-500s (of course!), and even ultra-deep prospect rankings.

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.

So I hope you enjoy the package that the TDG team has put together here. If you like it enough, and just can’t seem to wait for us to roll out the rest of our content, you can donate a minimum of $10 to receive exclusive early access to the entirety of our ultra-deep dynasty rankings. That includes Bret Sayre’s Top 500 for standard leagues, Tom Trudeau’s Top 500 for OBP leagues, Jesse Roche’s Top 200 prospects, and our entire rankings series in downloadable form. For more information, click here.

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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2018 consensus rankings by continuing to look at the league’s top starting pitchers in dynasty leagues, kicking it off with a young Twin with tons of upside.

21) Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 71)

Berrios’ big league debut in 2016 was a bit of a disappointment- 58.1 innings of 8.02 ERA ball with a K/9 of only 7.56. However, he made great strides between 2016 and 2017. He pitched 145.2 innings, raising his strikeout-to-nine to 8.59, lowering his ERA to 3.89, and earning 2.8 WAR (up from -.04 WAR in 2016).  In addition to getting some BABIP regression (from .344 to .289), Berrios lowered his homerun-to-flyball ratio (from 16.2 to 9.1) while maintaining a groundball rate just under 40%, and brought his left-on-base percentage up from 59.7% to around league average (70.8%).  Given that a fair number of his peripherals were around league average, I expect Berrios to be closer to his 2017-self going forward. (Ian Hudson)

22) Lance McCullers, Houston Astros (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 34)

McCullers is entering his fourth season with the Astros. His third was his career high in innings with 118, and a xFIP of 3.17. It was also a year of decreased fastball usage (43% in 2016 to 40.4% in 2017) and increased usage of his secondary offerings, primarily the changeup (7.5% in 2016 to 11.9% in 2017). McCullers has been quoted as saying he wants to increase usage of his change-up this year- if he is able to commit to that plan and maintain a multi-pitch arsenal, he should jump up this list yet again. Assuming, of course, he can stay healthy, something that has hindered him throughout his professional career. (Ian Hudson)

23) Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 25)

It appears that whatever was plaguing Greinke in his 2016 season was resolved. His second year in Arizona treated him much better than his first- he rebounded back up to over 200 innings, a strikeout-per-nine rate of over 9, ERA just over 3 and 5 WAR. What more needs to be said: he’s back, right? Well, he’s entering his age-34 season and saw a down-tick in velocity across the board last year. Father Time could finally be catching up to him, but I’m sure that’s what everyone was saying going into 2016. (Ian Hudson)

24) Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 18)

This Astros rotation is getting a little nasty. The fourth pitcher in our top-25, Gerrit Cole is also one of the more frustrating. This will be his fifth season in the majors, but it still feels like he’s “figuring it out.” With a four-pitch mix that includes a mid-nineties fastball and a high-eighties change-up, there has been plenty to dream on. 2017 was as close to his ace-level 2015 as he’s gotten (200+ innings, just short of 200 punchouts, xFIP of 3.81), his career highs in home runs allowed (31), walks (55), and home run-to-fly ball rate (15.9%) belies a bit of a command issue. This could be due to his increased usage of his change-up and curveball (15.3% combined usage in 2016 to 22.8% combined usage in 2017). If you are optimistic by nature and think he will get more comfortable with his off-speed offerings, you should expect him to improve his control and thus re-establish himself as an ace in the making. If you are pessimistic by nature, then 2017 is probably who he is, and you should let someone who is optimistic have him because that’s more fun. (Ian Hudson)

25) Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 43) 

Going into the 2017 season, we said that “Stroman’s in the prime of his career, and he could go either way with his background and peripherals.” Well, 2017 appeared to have been a step forward for him- his peripherals remained largely similar and he managed to drop his ERA from 4.37 in 2016 to 3.09 in 2017. The only peripheral that was markedly different–and one that gives me the most pause– is his strand rate. His LOB% in 2017 was 78.1%, a huge jump up from 2016 (68.6%). Because his strikeouts & strikeouts-per-nine did not similarly jump, I think he’s due for a bit of a regression. That means that his 2016 numbers are probably closer to who he is. Still a very good pitcher-Stroman is the presumed Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays–but I wouldn’t expect an ERA this close to 3 going forward. (Ian Hudson)

26) Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 28)

Tanaka is entering his fifth season in pinstripes (the Ratuken Golden Eagles’ unis are a red and white combo) on the back of a mixed-bag 2017. He increased his strikeout-to-walk  and strikeout rates by about 5% in 2017 (20.3% and 25.8%, respectively as compared to 16% and 20.5%, respectively, in 2016), but at the same time he dropped his LOB% by about the same amount (71.5% down from 76.4%).  He also let his home-run-to-fly ball rate jump from 12% to 21.2%. For him to take a step forward, he would need to control the long ball while maintaining his increase in strikeouts. Depthcharts and Steamer’s projections seem to think that he will not maintain the whiffs, so depending on your preferred projection model, temper your expectations. (Ian Hudson)

27) Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 150)

COME ON, MORE ASTROS??? Last year we said “He could fly up this list if he’s dominating at a full-season affiliate to end 2017.” Well lookee here, Whitley started 2017 as a River Bandit (Houston’s A Ball affiliate), and finished it as a Hook (their Double-A squad). Across his levels he maintained a strikeout per nine rate of over 13, left on base percentage of over 75%, and an xFIP at or below 3.09. He is making quick work of his lower-level competition, and it’s earned him glowing projections: in addition to a 130 spot jump on our list here, Baseball Prospectus has him as the #23 prospect on its recently-released 101. As J.J. Cooper at Baseball America pointed out, in the last 20 years, only three prep pitchers taken in the first round got to Double-A in their first full season: Forrest Whitley, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. If you’re not contending right now- buy. And if you are contending… probably don’t sell because this kid will be something special. (Ian Hudson)

28) Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 16)

Reyes was primed to light up 2017 until Tommy John came knocking. Given what we know about recovery from Tommy John, it’s fair to essentially write-off his 2017 and reset to the end of 2016 when gauging our expectations. Reyes dazzled to close out 2016- 46 innings of a 10.17 strikeout-per-nine and a 1.57 ERA. Now, these aren’t really sample sizes to make any sort of real analysis on, but they are in line with what we expect out of a prospect as hyped as Reyes. Throw in the fact that there were no setbacks in his recovery and you’re looking at a pitcher who is primed to dominate this year and fly into the top 20.  (Ian Hudson)

29) Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)

Castillo was absent from this list last year, which now looks like a mistake. His first professional season saw him pitch just shy of 90 innings for an abysmal Reds team, and the results were fairly impressive- ERA of 3.12 (xFIP only a touch higher at 3.41), strikeout-per-nine of 9.87, strikeout rate of 27.3%. He had a home run to fly ball ratio of 17.2% and a left on base percentage of 80.1%, however. As Jeff Sullivan notes, Castillo did add a fourth pitch into his repertoire mid-season last year, and that certainly didn’t hurt his success. But he may find a ceiling on his success as hitters get more used to seeing that sinker, and as that LOB% drops back down to league average. In short- temper expectations. (Ian Hudson)

30) Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 48)

For a starting pitcher in Coors, Gray isn’t as terrifying as one would think. He’s entering his fourth season with a career strikeout-per-nine of 9.51, a home run to fly ball rate of only 11.8%, and xFIP of 3.57. What’s interesting to me is that his career xFIP is better at home (3.36) than away (3.78). All of his other peripherals are fairly mixed between home and away, so it’s not as though you need to worry about only playing him away. He is who he is no matter where he pitches. A stress fracture in his foot caused him to miss a couple months of his 2017 campaign, but he showed no ill effects upon his return. His numbers do not indicate any reason to anticipate any more huge leaps forward (barring some sort of drastic change of his pitch usage), so draft him for his floor. And don’t be afraid to start him wherever. (Ian Hudson)

31) Sonny Gray, New York Yankees (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 44)

After a disastrous 2016-season, Sonny Gray looked like his old self for much of 2017 with an ERA of 3.55 and the second-best strikeout rate of his career a 22%. At 28, he offers dynasty owners at least a few years of prime production. However, Gray also showed showed some warning signs. His overall FIP was elevated at 3.90 and was much worse after his trade to New York at 4.87. His .305 xwOBA is in line with the above-average season-long FIP. Gray has generally been a strong source of wins and ratios for fantasy owners. However, in the hitter’s park that is Yankee Stadium, owners may have to settle for merely above-average ratios and a lot of wins. (EJ Fagan)

32) Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 52)

The Red Sox may regret losing Michael Kopech in the Yoan Moncada trade. He has always thrown heat, but is now coming off a breakout season, mostly in Double-A. Kopech struck out 30% of the batters he faced with a 2.88 ERA and similar FIP. He is one of the five best pitching prospects in the minor leagues. He’ll likely spend some time in Chicago in 2018, but look for the White Sox to limit his inning before turning Kopech loose in 2019. For what it’s worth, KATOH also thinks that Kopech is the best pitching prospect in baseball. (EJ Fagan)

33) Jake Arrieta, Free Agent (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 8)

Arrieta is a high-variance starting pitcher, which is a weird thing to say about a veteran Cy Young winner. His results have trended down in recent years, with a 1.77 ERA in 2015, 3.10 in 2016, and 3.53 in 2017. His 4.16 FIP in 2017 is definitely concerning, although Statcast is less concerned given a .295 xwOBA. Your evaluation of Arrieta will depend on how much information you expect the trend line to convey. Will he continue to decline, or will Arrieta play his lower-30s at a mid-3 ERA level of production? Worse yet, fantasy owners don’t yet know what team will Arrieta. If he ends up in an American League hitter’s park (such as New York), his fantasy value could take a dive. (EJ Fagan)

34) Brent Honeywell, Tampa Rays (Age 23, Previous Rank: 77)

Multiple prospect evaluators have ranked Honeywell as the best pitching prospect in baseball. He’s got a great fastball-splitter-changeup combination that hitters struggle to pick up and good command. Honeywell has brought it in the minors too: he spent almost all of 2017 in Triple-A with an ERA of 3.82, but much stronger sub-3.00 FIP. The downside might be his home team. The Rays are in the American League East, won’t provide a lot of run support, and have a history of pulling starters early in games. Also, he and Chris Archer don’t seem to get along. (EJ Fagan)

35) Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age 27, Previous Rank: 125)

Alex Wood is hard to rank. If we knew that Wood would have the opportunity to make 33 starts for the next few years, he might be ranked might higher than 35. Wood was elite when he pitched in 2017, with a 2.72 ERA, 3.32 FIP, and 151 strikeouts in 152 innings. The problem is that the Dodgers are likely to shuttle him between the disabled list, bullpen, and rotation going forward, and Wood wore down pretty badly late in the season. (EJ Fagan)

36) A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics (Age 23, Previous Rank: 124)

If you just look at ERA, owners of AJ Puk are likely to be disappointed. Puk’s first full season yielded at 4.03 ERA across 125 innings, including a 4.36 ERA at Double-A. However, he struck out nearly 35% of the batters he faced, yielding a 2.30 FIP despite a fairly high walk rate. Evaluators think that his command will improve, allowing for a potentially elite fastball/slider combination from the left side. Puk’s strong college pedigree and solid home ballpark also decreases risk for fantasy owners. KATOH loves Puk as well, ranking him the 4th best pitching prospect in baseball. (EJ Fagan)

37) Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Age: 30 Previous Rank: 65)

The Angels are going to use a six-man rotation this season. Normally, this would decrease the value of all pitchers involved, as they will pitch less and have fewer two-start weeks. For Garrett Richards, however, it might be a blessing in disguise. No one doubts Richard’s talent. He has a career 3.53 ERA and was excellent in limited action in 2017. But he missed most of the 2016 season with an elbow injury and most of the 2017 season with a biceps injury. The additional rest afforded by a six-man rotation could help keep him on the mound and off the disabled list. An improving Angels offense and defense should also help Richards going forward. At #37, you’re buying on Richards, as he could potentially return top-10 value. However, be aware that Richards is older than he seems. 2018 will be his age-30 season. (EJ Fagan)

38) Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 127)

Buehler is all about stuff. Out of the bullpen, he was touching triple-digits on the fastball along with a killer low-90s slider. He was also successful as a starting pitcher in his full-season debut, but experts seem to be betting on a long-term future as a relief pitcher. The problem for dynasty owners is that if he indeed does pitch out of the bullpen, he has no clear path toward saves with Kenley Jansen entrenched. If your league counts holds, Buehler could be an elite producer. Otherwise, fantasy owners should hope he starts. (EJ Fagan)

39) Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age 22, Previous Rank: 66)

Keller continued his steady climb through the minor leagues in 2017, with a 3.03 ERA and a strikeout per inning over 113 innings. However, both the strikeout rate and control were significantly worse than his previous seasons. Keller is still a strong prospect, but other names on this list have improved sufficiently to surpass him. Pittsburgh is a great home park for Keller, and the team knows how to develop pitching, but any league that counts wins should be wary of the team’s rebuild. It might not be a bad time to sell high on Keller. (EJ Fagan)

40) Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers (Age 25, Previous Rank: 29)

Fulmer has quietly become one of the best young pitchers in the American League. Since his unexpected promotion in 2016, Fulmer has put up a 3.45 ERA and .302 xwOBA. However, his low strikeout rate and current team limits his fantasy value. Fantasy owners can hope for a trade to fix the latter, but Fulmer’s future likely looks a lot more like Marcus Stroman than a true ace. (EJ Fagan)

41) Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 23)

Hendricks has remained essentially the same pitcher the last three years. His strikeout and walk rates went in the wrong direction in 2017 but were still close enough to his ’15-16 levels that it’s not a cause for concern. The additional context that his strong second half sabermetrically matched his previous levels suggests he is going to remain a solid, if unspectacular, fantasy starter for the foreseeable future. You can expect around 175 innings, an ERA in the low to mid 3’s, a WHIP around 1.15, 160 total Ks, and about 15 wins on a strong Cubs team. He won’t win you a category, but he’s got a strong base of fantasy value and is a great pitcher to target if your early picks are high upside guys that are fraught with risk. (Kyler Jesanis)

42) Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 173)

Luke Weaver has one of the widest potential outcomes in this range, and his ranking here indicates such. Weaver has been great while on the mound, but could be getting an injury prone tag: in 2017, he threw a career-high 138 innings… not exactly an inspiring total, even for someone in the minor leagues. There is also reason to doubt the strikeout totals he has shown in the majors so far. That said, he reminds me of Jacob DeGrom, in that DeGrom never struck out a large number of guys in the minor leagues but has consistently struck out over a batter an inning in the majors. There is a wide variety of outcomes here for Weaver, but I think he can have a fantasy career resembling a middle-class Carlos Carrasco… someone who can strike out a touch under 10 per nine with solid ratios. (Kyler Jesanis)

43) Luiz Gohara, Atlanta Braves (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 169)

Having Gohara and Weaver next to each other makes sense, as they both are high upside/high risk picks. Whereas Weaver’s downside is an oft-injured SP5 who never lives up to the hype, Gohara’s floor of a reliever occurs if he doesn’t develop a third pitch. Gohara had a rapid rise throughout he minors last year and showed the potential to be an elite strikeout SP2. He finished the year with a positive showing in the majors. Since I compared Weaver to an Indian, I might as well do so here. Gohara to me reminds me of Danny Salazar: he has two elite pitches that can dominate batters and boost a fantasy team’s strikeout totals, though the thin repertoire could cause struggles by the third pass through the order, especially harming start-to-start consistency. There is upside for more, as Gohara has plenty of time and opportunity to work on his changeup with a rebuilding-ish Braves team, but I think (non-2017) Salazar is a good median outcome for what he becomes. (Kyler Jesanis)

44) Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 12)

Lester had a down 2017. He lost velocity on his fastball, threw the fewest innings since 2007, had his second highest ERA in the same timeframe, and generally did not look very good. As someone older with a lot of miles on him, there is ample reason to suspect that this is the beginning of the end for Lester. Don’t get out your shovels just yet, as I think there is still reason for optimism and he’s capable of more than a dead cat bounce. Before he went on the DL in early August, Lester still had maintained his strikeout rate from previous years, hitters still chased his pitches off the plate at the same rate, his SW/STRK and zone contact rates were stable… in short, most things looked the same for Lester. The main differences for Lester were a career high HR/FB rate combined with a career-low pop up rate and higher than typical walk rate. If the dingers lower back to his career norms, you still have a strong pitcher, even with the loss of velocity. He is still as likely as anyone to get to 200 innings with a decent amount of strikeouts and ratios. Don’t give up on him yet; Lester has a little more left in the tank as an across-the-board contributor. (Kyler Jesanis)

45) Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 130)

Somebody get this man a double cheeseburger. The lanky fiend is a strong fantasy pitching prospect: he’s put up elite numbers, has remained healthy, thrown a high number of innings, and moved up prospect lists. McKenzie has two plus pitches, though the third remains below average for now. He reasonably projects as a high strikeout starter, and if he develops a third pitch he can be a fantasy ace despite having a lower fat percentage than 2% milk. McKenzie is young and isn’t far away from becoming an elite pitching prospect. He’s the best arm to invest in that hasn’t made it to Double-A yet. (Kyler Jesanis)

46) Zack Godley, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)

Zack has some godly features. One of the best pieces of news for his fantasy value was that the Diamondbacks are going install a humidor at Chase Field. Godley burst on to the scene in a big way in 2017, and while his track record isn’t long, nothing about his season suggests good fortune. He has all the makings of being a quality fantasy starter for the foreseeable future. He has a fastball that induces grounders at elite levels, along with an absolutely dominant curveball and strong cutter than have some of the best whiff rates in the majors. That’s a fantastic combination… combine that with weaker contact off the bat because of the humidor and you’ve got a strong fantasy starter on your hands. There’s upside for more, as he struck out an elite 28% of batters he faced in the second half. Invest. (Kyler Jesanis)

47)  Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 38)

Snell had a rough start at the beginning of 2017, resulting in him getting demoted. He returned and looked like a stud, however, and remains a strong dynasty target. In the second half, he pitched 77 1/3 innings with a 3.49 ERA and a FIP to match and boosted his K%-BB% by over 10% from his first half. He finished well and is going into 2018 with momentum. You’re gonna get some good strikeout totals, and perhaps a better WHIP than you’d expect if his newfound control sticks. He’s still got long-term upside and good present value. (Kyler Jesanis)

48) David Price, Boston Red Sox (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 10)

Price had a bad year on the field last year, and an arguably worse one off of it. He complained of elbow and forearm issues for most of the season and finished in the bullpen with only 74 innings. Our own Adam Lawler wrote a great piece detailing why you should jump ship on Price. I generally argue to give guys with a track record a second chance, as everyone is likely to have a bad year at some point. I think, given where he is ranked now, that the Price is Right and it’d be wise to gamble on a bounceback. We can’t guarantee that he’ll be healthy, and we have to take every spring training quote with a grain of salt, but Price has recently said that his elbow is good to go. When he pitched last year with his hurt arm, he still struck out 22% of hitters and had a FIP of four in his 11 starts. That’s pretty good all things considered. A player that is only 32, and from 2010-2016 averaged over 200 innings as an elite fantasy starter, is someone I would give a mulligan to. (Kyler Jesanis)

49) Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 11)

So remember what I said about giving guys with a track record a second chance? Cueto deserves a mulligan as well. Unlike Price, though, there isn’t an obvious cause for optimism. Cueto lost velocity on most of his pitches. He had some injury problems, specifically with blisters, but was pitching poorly before those came about. He had a delayed start to the year as he took care of his father back home and got to spring training late, but there isn’t another narrative that supports a bounceback to previous levels. That said, everyone has a down year at some point. A player that is only 32, and from 2010-2016 averaged over 200 innings as an elite fantasy starter, is someone I would give a mulligan to. (Kyler Jesanis)

Inside Out

50) Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 45)

Give me a shot of Jameson, and wait as I dress up in a suit and put my Taillon because this guy is worth going out for. It’s easy to forget that during the 2017 season, Taillon struggled with substantial off the field medical concerns. The physical, mental, and emotional toil to deal with following a cancer diagnosis and treatment had to take its toll on Taillon. Imagine doing that while dealing with the grind of an MLB season and working to perfect your craft? I personally think it’s entirely understandable he didn’t take a leap forward from his promising 2016. I expect that breakthrough to happen this year, and the Pirates do as well. There is more talent beneath the surface of his mediocre numbers. (Kyler Jesanis)

The Author

Ben Diamond

Ben Diamond

Ben is an annoyingly enthusiastic fantasy baseball player and Yankees fan, and he writes about those passions at Baseball Prospectus and The Dynasty Guru. There's a 95% chance he's ranting about Michael Pineda right now.


  1. […] 2018 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: TheDynastyGuru.com continues their rankings of the top 200 starting pitchers for dynasty/keeper leagues with #21-50. […]

  2. GoGo
    February 26, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Too many prospects. Do you know how fast i would trade Keller and Gohara for Price?

    • February 26, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      That’s interesting. What makes you say that?

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