THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2021 TOP 20 DYNASTY LEAGUE STARTING PITCHERS: PLAYERS TO AVOID
This is a companion piece to our annual Top 50 Dynasty League Shortstops series. The opinions below are our own and do not reflect the TDG consensus. Each of these players has fans among our colleagues.
Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves – Consensus Rank: 23
It hurts a bit to put a fellow Canadian on the ‘Avoid’ list, but ranking Soroka at #23 seems too high to me. His 2019 season was fantastic, with an incredibly low 2.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP at the age of 21 is impressive. His SIERA was much higher at 4.28, and almost identical to the 4.27 ERA Steamer projects him to have in 2021. He also had two very favorable luck indicators in a .280 BABIB (with a 51.2% ground ball rate) and a strand rate just under 80%. Also, a red flag for a ranking this high is his strikeout rate which is 7.2/9 in his brief major league career, but also only 8.0 in 370 minor league innings as well. Now factor in the torn right Achilles tendon- notably it’s his right tendon, which is also the foot he pushes off of and would generate velocity.
I like Soroka, don’t get me wrong, but this ranking would suggest he’s a good #2 pitcher on a winning dynasty league team, and I’d be more comfortable with him as a #3 or even better a great #4. There are other good young pitchers with similar ratios further down the list, Julio Urias (39), Zach Plesac (45), Pablo Lopez (55) stand out, and are players I’d rather have on my teams.
Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres – Consensus Rank: 33
Obviously, there’s an injury scare with Lamet. Shut down for the playoffs due to ‘bicep tightness’ for which he’ll receive platelet-rich plasma injections or (PRP), GM AJ Peller said early into the offseason that “It doesn’t seem like either situation is surgical,” referring to Lamet, and Mike Clevinger. Well, he was wrong on Clevinger, who had Tommy John surgery in November, and at that rate, he was acquiring several starting pitchers via trade (Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove) let’s just say that makes me worried about how sure they are he’s ok. If Lamet does have to go under the knife it would be his second Tommy John surgery, which is very difficult to come back from, and I’m far less likely to trust he’ll pitch in 2021 than I was when the season ended.
But wait, there’s more! Beyond a possible injury, Lamet had a huge 2020 season, his 69 innings, with a 2.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 93 strikeouts, are best described as “Nice.” His ERA might have hit a peak, as it was a career 4.37 prior to last season, and over 3.50 in the upper minors (Double-A and Triple-A). Dinelson is exactly the type of player who I feel benefited from the shortened season, where we saw a great twelve game run, but would have seen some regression across thirty starts. In fact, I would probably fade any two-pitch pitchers (fastball and slider for Lamet), whose ranking is propped up greatly by success last season.
David Price, Los Angeles Dodgers – Consensus Rank: 71
I’ve long been a fan of David Price, but the writing appears to be on the wall for him entering his age-35 season. David’s career stats are greatly helped by his regular turns in the rotation, and pitching deep into games, but those traits might now be a thing of the past. In the three seasons prior to 2020, Price averaged only 119 innings per year. He did not pitch at all last season, so my projections are he probably doesn’t get to 100 innings, and likely does not pitch into the 6th inning very often.
While true Price could still return good ratios and strikeout rates when he is on the mound, but the players ranked around him in our consensus rankings are pretty good too. Marcus Stroman (75) is a much better bet to top 150 innings this year. The Mariners firmly believe Marco Gonzales (82) had a breakout last season, Griffin Canning (87), and Brady Singer (90) should both have similar ERAs to Price but are far younger. A limit on Price’s innings would really hold back his value, and while he could still be a productive pitcher, I’d much rather go with one of the younger options in that range.