The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Starting Pitchers, #51-80
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.
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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 one of the better teenage arms in the minor leagues.
51) Sixto Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Sixto has done everything you want a young pitching prospect to do. Peep that 18% K-BB% while throwing up a 2.66 FIP between Low-A and High-A in 2017. The beautiful thing about Sanchez is that as a Phillies pitching prospect, as soon as you’re ready you should get a shot. There’s essentially nothing after Nola and maybe Eickhoff, and Sanchez should be ready to debut sometime in 2020. (Jim Melichar)
52) Taijuan Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 61)
Will the humidor also suppress walks? Because Taijuan takes this last-name-as-a-verb thing pretty seriously. We’re looking at an SP who should be pitching through his prime years now, with an annual line in the 3.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 150-160 strikeout range as a safe floor for the 25-year-old. There’s a chance that he starts coming into his own over the next couple seasons and shrinks the WHIP while boosting the rest of his fantasy stats in the process – I’m just not counting on it. (Jim Melichar)
53) Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 67)
It could be said that Dylan Bundy doesn’t so much have a performance problem so much as he has an experience problem. Bundy book-ended Tommy John surgery with 166 total innings in the minor leagues before making 32 starts over the past two seasons. Over his time in Baltimore, he’s actually maintained a decent enough 8ish K/9 while bringing the walk rate down to a manageable 2.71 BB/9 in 2017. Homers have been a little bit of an issue, but that’s hardly a surprise as a pitcher who throws half his games at Camden Yards. Bundy managed to hold righties to a .220/.282/.392 triple slash line last year with lefties delivering slightly more damage. The fastball is still low-to-mid-90s and both the slider and changeup generate swing-and-misses frequently enough for him to sustain his success and build upon it. (Jim Melichar)
54) Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
I feel like a writer for a financial blog that needs to state his biases before writing a Jimmy Nelson profile. Hi, I’m Jim, and I’m a lifelong Brewers fan. It’s been 35 years since my last World Series. I was five years old. I can only remember it insofar as one of the first few weeks of Kindergarten, my teacher put a Brewer logo on the calendar and tried to tell us the significance of it. Somehow I have approximately zero other memories from my fifth year of life, but I’ve retained that. I guess I was destined to be a baseball-o-holic.
Jimmy was on his way to a full-on m-f-ing breakout last year when I watched him somewhat jokingly pretend like he was going to stretch a single into a double (he wasn’t) and then got caught in no man’s land and awkwardly dove back into first base. I saw the grimace. I saw him go back out and try to (and finish) the next inning and then I saw the Brewers playoff chances die. But I’m telling you, if the shoulder comes back 100% he’ll make a 10 spot leap in these rankings next year, at a minimum. I’m a believer, Brewer fever! (Jim Melichar)
55) Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 89)
Oh sweet Jesus TDG, what have you done? You’ve given me Nelson and Bauer back-to-back. Are you trying to kill me? Trevor Bauer has a trackman system at his home and works on tunneling and other nerdy pitching shit in his basement. I can’t tell you how much I love him. He’s ranked 54 slots too low for me. 54! But seriously, there’s no way this guy won’t succeed. I don’t care how much you don’t like his “Jay Cutler face”, or how unapproachable he seems. The dude loves pitching and loves owning hitters. Remember the run-in with Avisail Garcia?
“I decided to remind him of the rules of the game. Three strikes, you’re out. You can go sit back in the dugout.” – Trevor Bauer
This is when I knew I loved Trevor Bauer. I love personality. I love shit talking (when it’s backed up). If he can reign in the walks a little he’s going to make a leap to the elite. Remember, he jumped to the 10 strikeouts per nine last year. (Jim Melichar)
56) Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 24)
Sanchez, in my opinion, is one of the most overrated pitchers in baseball. He’s over-ranked here. I promise you. While only 25, he has more blisters than deserted island survivor without shelter and sunscreen. He has a track record of walking everybody, striking out less than most, and generally being slightly better than average in 2015-2016 due to his ability to suppress home runs. Eventually he started blaming the new balls for his struggles (and blisters) in 2017. I don’t see a ton of upside, but if he can’t control the blisters I do see a ton of downside to making him part of your core pitching staff in a dynasty league. (Jim Melichar)
57) Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 18, Previous Rank: NR)
Remember that time Hunter Greene’s fastball dipped down to 95mph? Neither does he. There is just one guarantee with Greene: the hype is going to outpace the results. Make him part of your long-term plans, just don’t plan on him making an impact before 2022. Nothing wrong with the aggressive ranking on the teenager, but it’s also necessary to temper your expectations. Even with the second overall pick. (Jim Melichar)
58) Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 165)
Soroka looks like one of those low-ceiling, high-floor prospects. He’s got an above-average fastball, but not a plus offering to his name. He’ll probably be a quick-moving prospect who debuts in Atlanta in early 2019 due to his ability to suppress walks and home runs. I guess it’s even possible we see him in 2018, but for now, you’re holding him as a potential plus asset in your ratio categories down the road, though likely not as a strikeout monster. (Jim Melichar)
59) Mackenzie Gore, San Diego Padres (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
The third overall pick from the 2017 draft dominated Rookie-Ball after signing with the Padres last year. It’s not the fastball that’s going to blow everyone away, but instead the plus change and plus curveball. When you watch Gore pitch, he hearkens back to an earlier era with a sky-high leg kick and a long loopy delivery on the curve. Again, I’m not a prospect evaluater, but it looks fun as hell to watch him throw. We don’t know where he’ll end up, or how long it’ll take to find out, but he has the beginnings of a heck of a pitcher. (Jim Melichar)
60) Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 86)
Here’s the deal with the Shark: if you think his strikeout explosion from last year came out of nowhere and it’s going to go away as quickly as it arrived, I’d caution you against that thinking. After noting that he started to ditch the slider late in 2016 in favor of resurrecting the curveball from earlier in his career, I researched how he was using said curveball. It turns out he was trying to exploit the same areas of the strike zone with it to generate the swing-and-miss that his slider began to lack. Early in the 2017 offseason, I projected Samardzija for 200+ K. He’s a workhorse that’s going to make all his starts, usually go seven innings and have every chance to qualify for those wins and quality starts. The issue that crept up on him last year despite pitching in San Francisco was the dingers. Honestly, I’d expect him to regress back much closer to the 3.60 xFIP and put up those tasty strikeout numbers for the foreseeable future. He’s a guy I love to own at his price. (Jim Melichar)
61) Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 91)
Gio has been equal parts darling and punchline in his career, which is odd for a guy who owns a 3.64 career ERA and an 8.76 K/9. At age 32, his ranking right next to the Shark seems completely warranted. He’s probably a slightly poor man’s Samardzija with a better ability to suppress home runs. Because of that ability to suppress home runs, he’s mostly a lock for a 3.65-3.75 ERA despite the fact he may run higher than normal WHIPs due to his lofty walk rates. At his age we’re probably starting to run the risk of a Gio implosion season, but for now you could do much worse in terms of risk to reward assets. (Jim Melichar)
62) Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 36)
Giolito’s stock has been all over the place in recent years, but the one wart that surfaced last year was the huge walk rate in Triple-A. I currently have no idea which way this stock is going to go, but I’ve been told by an anonymous contributor from TDG that “it’s basically the final scene from Thelma and Louise”. I can’t even follow up that mental picture so I’m dropping the mic on Giolito. But I’ll just leave this here. (Jim Melichar)
63) Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 41)
What a difference a year makes. I sold high wherever I could last year on Duffy because we knew his health was a ticking time bomb. The health issues came back, the strand rate regressed back to normal and the K/9 came back down a little. He’s now firmly cemented himself back into the “meh” territory after teasing everyone with an age 28 maybe-breakout. With the Royals in a rebuild and Duffy continuing to favor the sinker to induce groundballs instead of trying to blow people away with the four-seamer, I’m less likely to get jacked about Duffy as a fantasy asset. (Jim Melichar)
64) Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 33)
Honestly, this tier of players was great to write up because I feel like this is where the value is at. You’ve got guys who could be the 100th ranked starter at season’s end… or the 18th ranked SP. Gausman is clearly one of these players. Something feels inherently wrong in citing half-splits for starting pitchers, considering it’s an already small sample size getting smaller, but damn it he was great in the second half after making adjustments and riding that slider. 18.6% K-BB! The only real issue was the walks and the higher-than-average strand rate. If the second half stuff is for real, we’re talking about an easy top-40 dynasty asset. If not, you’ll find him right here in the mid-60s again next year with a rehash of his teasing us. Gausman and Bauer have a very similar feel to them and I feel like we’ll get at least one of them to go the right direction and make the leap this year. (Jim Melichar)
65) Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 63)
More fun than describing Pomeranz or citing his stats is an enthralling “auto-correct” tale. I wish I’d have done a screen grab, but in the summer of 2016 a league-mate and I were discussing Drew and I quickly murdered his name in my iPhone and it auto-corrected to “Dr Weapon”. This has been the only way we’ve referred to him since that day. “Hey, is Dr. Weapon on the mound tonight?” “Did A.J. Preller really fake Dr. Weapon’s medical records?” “Did Dr. Weapon really only go 4.2IP and screw me out of a win despite K-ing 12 dudes and giving up 2 ER?”
Yup, this is our life as fantasy baseball owners. If Drew Pomeranz, er, Dr. Weapon, has a super power, it’s definitely the ability to constantly strand 80% of runners. How is he doing this year-to-year? I have no idea, but expect a wild ride on the train that is Drew Pomeranz, collecting those tasty Ks while praying the LOB% monster doesn’t come back to collect what he’s due! (Jim Melichar)
66) Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 35)
Rodon has failed thus far to deliver on the lofty expectations placed upon him after the being drafted third overall by the White Sox in 2014. Rodon has spent the majority of his development following the draft in the Major Leagues. Part of the reason he was rushed to the majors is that Rodon effectively had two MLB-ready pitches: his fastball and slider.
Beyond the challenge of developing in the big leagues, Rodon has been plagued by multiple injuries that have limited his time on the field. In 2017, Rodon missed approximately three months with a bursitis issue and eventually was shut down for the remainder of the year. Rodon is an extreme risk/reward player with the floor of reliever and the ceiling of SP2. (Patrick Magnus)
67) Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 57)
So far, Manaea has been unable to bring his dominant strikeout success to the big league level. In the minors, he consistently averaged approximately 11 strikeouts per-nine innings, but in the majors he has failed to average eight (although he’s come quite close). Manaea has also failed to keep his walks in check, a common, but challenging, adjustment for pitchers.
The first half of 2017 was what Manaea owners dreamed of. He posted strong K/BB numbers in the first half of the season with a 15.2% K-BB% ratio. During that period, he struck out a whopping 24% of the batters he faced, posting a 3.56 FIP and respectable 1.21 WHIP. But the second half of 2017 was what Manaea owners’ nightmares are made of. His K-BB dropped to 8.5% while his FIP ballooned to 4.86! Ugly, gross, and bad numbers. If you can deal with Manaea’s inconsistencies, then snag him in your league and practice patience.(Patrick Magnus)
68) Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves (Age: 22, Previous Rank: N/A)
Oooooeee! Another Braves prospect with a blazing fastball. The 6’4″, 220-pound right hander throws mid-to-high 90s and boasts an arsenal that includes a curve, slider, cutter, and change-up! His curve and slider have gathered much praise with potential for both to become plus pitches. There were murmurs of him going number in last year’s draft, but the Braves scooped him up at pick five.
Obviously, since Wright was drafted last year, there’s not exactly a proven track record to draw upon. However, he did pitch 17 innings and accumulated 18 strikeouts…so that’s nice? This commenter is a rather big fan of his mechanics, as they look easily repeatable. Wright has a number 2 starter ceiling, with the potential for more.(Patrick Magnus)
69) Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 26)
I have loved Salazar forever, and I have had my heart broken many times. His upside is tantalizing. All those strikeouts, all those beautiful, beautiful strikeouts. Since first arriving in the majors he’s struck out 686 batters in 587 innings. That’s a 27.8% lifetime strikeout rate… but, wait, only 587 innings? Tragically Salazar has been unable to pitch 200 innings in the majors. Since throwing a career-high 185 innings in 2015, he’s built up quite the resume of injuries:
|06/07/2016||Right Shoulder Fatigue|
|08/02/2016||Right Elbow Inflammation|
|09/09/2016||Right Forearm Tightness|
|06/04/2017||Right Shoulder Soreness|
|08/21/2017||Right Elbow Inflammation|
The Indians also just revealed that he could start the season on the disabled list. His ability, no matter how tantalizing, is worth little if he can’t stay on the field.(Patrick Magnus)
70) Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 22, Previous Rank: N/A)
The only person who might more sick of hearing about Ohtani than me might be Brendan McKay. While I don’t know the man personally, I can only suspect he might be thinking “Pitcher and batter? Wait till you see me.” The number four pick out of the 2017 draft won the John Olerud Award as the best two-way player in college baseball. While McKay sits at 70 here on our pitching rankings, he’s also a power-hitting left-handed first baseman.
He was dominant in his small sample of 20 innings pitched in Low-A, but it will be interesting to see if he continues to pitch once he reaches Double-A and beyond. His fastball velocity is only in the high-80s or low-90s, but is effective because of his ability to locate. Scouting reports indicate that his curveball is a plus pitch and that he’s also working on his change-up as another secondary offering. There should be much hesitation on counting on McKay as a future pitcher for your dynasty team, but it would sure be fun if he was able to continue being a two-way player in the majors.(Patrick Magnus)
71) Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NA)
Lamet was a popular waiver wire claim in 2017, as many San Diego Padres players often are. Odd name and unpopularity aside, Lamet was a useful fantasy option last year… but is he an asset for your dynasty team? Like many of the players ranked in this area, he’s got the potential. The most alluring thing about Lamet is his ability to strike batters out: in 2017 he posted 10.09 strikeouts per nine, which was more of the same for the rookie. In the minors, he failed to post a K/9 below 10 only once.
Have I mentioned that Dinelson Lamet is a strange, no good, very bad name? Beyond that, though, he has another problem… an inability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Batters were able to put the ball in the air and out of the park consistently against Lamet. If he can improve that, he could be much higher on this list next year. (Patrick Magnus)
72) Alec Hansen, Chicago White Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 167)
The second round pick from the 2016 draft went from A-ball to Double-A last year, seeing three different levels of competition. The White Sox have invited the tall righty to spring training. I’d expect him to begin the year at Double-A and maybe get a cup of coffee, depending on his performance over the course of 2018. His fastball is most likely MLB-ready, but he must continue to hone his secondary offerings. Hansen’s strikeout-rate of 12.2 per-nine innings won’t translate without better secondary offerings, something that Hansen himself is aware of.
Don’t take my word for it though, the talented and well named Adam Lawler wrote an in-depth analysis of Alec Hansen in our Chicago White Sox Triple Play article. It’s must-read.(Patrick Magnus)
73) Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 67)
Another pitcher whose health has hindered development, Rodriguez was in the midst of yet another bipolar season in 2017 before being shut down a knee injury. He throws gas in the mid-90s from the left side of the mound and has a great secondary in his slider, but has been unable to develop his changeup. Hence, thus far in Rodriguez’s career, he has been unable to have sustained success.
Knee injuries have plagued E-Rod in his career, and they should not be dismissed. I’ve watched a lot of Rodriguez over the course of his time with Boston, and it appears that often his struggles are followed by the announcement of an injury. Staying healthy is a skill, and he may not be meant for a starting role. Without the ability to throw a large amount of innings, E-Rod may be pen bound sooner than later.(Patrick Magnus)
74) Justus Sheffield, New York Yankees (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 151)
Patrick’s Baseball Name Grade: A
Sounds like he’s a police officer on a sitcom. I like it.
A lefty, throws mid-to-high 90s, and has the potential for a total of 3 plus pitches? Sign me up. There’s some concern about the development of his changeup to compliment his fastball and slider, but he’s been successful with it thus far in the minors. He performed well in his 93.1 innings in Double-A, although he was not as dominant as he had shown in prior levels. Sheffield ended his year with a 7.91 K/9 and a earned run average of 3.18. Sheffield’s season was cut short due to injury, but he was healthy for the AFL and among the best pitchers this fall, striking out 22 batters in 20.1 innings with just three walks and a .84 WHIP. The Yankees could be giving this young lefty the call sometime this year. (Patrick Magnus)
75) Jordan Montgomery, New York Yankees (Age: 25, Previous Rank: N/A)
Montgomery finished seven in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017. After earning the fifth starter’s role for the Bronx Bombers, Montgomery went on to post a 3.88 ERA with an 8.34 K/9 and under 3.00 BB/9. Using a four-pitch repertoire that stars a hard curveball, Montgomery uses an extreme, over-the-top arm angle which can curb some home run issues that could come from pitching in Yankees Stadium. Montgomery’s swinging-strike rate was an impressive 12.2%, though it’ll be something to monitor as his curveball’s below-average spin rate could mean ‘Gumby’ overachieved. Montgomery should hang onto the fifth starter role going into next season, though depth around him, along with his home park and mediocre velocity, increase his risk. (Patrick Magnus)
76) Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 31)
The Atlanta Braves “ace” was not so ace-like in 2017. Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park would not appear to a favorable environment for pitchers, as the Braves pitching staff posted a 4.72 ERA. Let’s take a look at how Teheran finished up the year.
Those are some ugly numbers, and the damage, as suspected, (mostly) came at home. Beyond his home and away splits, Teheran also has harder time against righties than he did lefties (.338/.319 wOBA). Thus, you have a pitcher that might provide sneaky value in daily leagues, but those of you dreaming on the ace upside of the young pitcher might be better off looking into Atlanta’s farm than the top of their current rotation.(Patrick Magnus)
77) Franklin Perez, Detroit Tigers (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 168)
The former Astros pitching prospect was sent packing to Detroit when the Astros acquired Justin Verlander for their postseason run and eventual World Series title. The Tigers’ new prospect quickly leapt to the top of a rather bland farm system. Perez throws a fastball in the low to mid-90s, along with a changeup, curveball, and developing slider. Most scouting reports predict Perez to end up a third starter, but further development of his pitches could get him closer to number two status. Perez hasn’t put up a full season’s worth of innings yet, a risky note to monitor. Still there’s enough promise here with his repertoire that you can look past that. Perez is most likely a year away from the majors, and is worth a keeping an eye on in 2018. (Patrick Magnus)
78) Charlie Morton, Houston Astros (Age: 34, Previous Rank: N/A)
The Astros’ version of Charlie Morton was a heck of a lot better than the Pirates’ version. Much is made about his increase in velocity last year, but his curve was actually his best pitch, ranking as the third-best curve in the majors according to Fangraphs. Morton’s late breakout party was accompanied by a 3.62 ERA, 3.46 FIP, and 18.3 K-BB%. By all accounts, Morton’s 2017 season appears to be very real. However it’s a bit unfortunate that it’s come at age 33, and one has to wonder how much longer his continued increase in velocity can last. While not the complete key to his success, I would argue that his curve became more effective in part because of the increased velocity. Currently slotted as the Astros’ fifth starter, he’s worth owning if you’re planning to compete in the next year or so. (Patrick Magnus)
79) Mike Clevinger, Cleveland Indians (Age: 27, Previous Rank: N/A)
The 27-year-old got his second break at the majors last year and faired significantly better than he did previously. This was in large part due to a rather large increase in his strikeout rate. When looking over Clevinger’s overall numbers in 2017, his 10.13 K/9 jumps off the screen. That is an awfully strong mark and makes Clevinger and interesting option for fantasy players. However, his walk rate was also quite high at 4.44 per nine; based on his repertoire, I’d guess both his walk-rate and strike-out rate were heavily influenced by his secondary pitches.
Clevinger’s fastball has about league-average velocity but tends to generate more ground balls than usual, and it’s his slider that drives the whiffs. However, he also throws his slider out of the zone often, and the hitters which lay off help to inflate his walk rate. Clevinger is an interesting option for dynasty leagues, as his name value currently lags behind his fantasy value. (Patrick Magnus)
80) Jake Faria, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 24, Previous Rank: N/A)
Faria popped up on most people’s radar last year, and he rewarded them with a pretty good rookie debut. He provided his owners with decent ratios over his 86 innings in the majors, though he started to falter towards the end of the year following a decrease in fastball velocity. Faria’s fastball velocity was already league-average, and if he can’t maintain that, there’s a chance he’s ranked significantly lower next year. His changeup appears to be his biggest swing-and-miss pitch, while his curve generates more pop-ups than most. The curve concerns me, as the high pop-up rate may not be sustainable. Although Faria plays in a nice home park, which may help his ratios, I do not see too much upside here. (Patrick Magnus)
Rather than praise Bauer for his approach, I think about how much better he should/could be. He is obviously doing things wrong. This is a healthy guy with a FB in the mid 90s and a plus CB who was a top draft pick. He really hasn’t gotten much out of the opportunity that he was given. Dude is his own worst enemy. I am much more inclined to believe that he is doing things wrong than right given the results. Bauer was arguably the top pitching prospect in the game at one point… hardly a guy exploiting advantages and fine-tuning his craft.