The Tough Ranks in the Top 50

I recently updated my Starting Pitcher ranks for July and as always, there was some difficult arms to place. Here are some thoughts on the tougher ranks:

#19 Patrick Corbin – After a velo spike to start the seasons (), Corbin has been sitting 89-91 over the last two months which was jarring to see as a velo dip can portend trouble, but he’s posted a 3.50 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in that time with ERA indicators that like him even more (2.82 FIP). He has a 21% K-BB rate during these 12 starts and appears to be just fine with the lowered velo. Since he’s more two-seam/sinker, the lower velo might actually be an aid in terms of movement. I eventually left him in his top-20 spot because he hasn’t done anything to be removed.

#22 Ross Stripling – I’m a big Stripling fan, but it’s still a little nerve-racking to slot a 28-year old swingman in the top 25. He’s just been so good. His ERA won’t stay at 2.27, but that isn’t necessary to maintain this spot. He’s been allowing some homers lately with six over his last five starts, but he still has 3.60 ERA and 30-to-2 K:BB ratio in those 30 innings.

#26 Jon Lester – I see the metrics, I understand the concern, and there’s no way I think he’ll maintain a 2.25 ERA, but I’m not sure he completely craters, either. The defense should protect a complete meltdown as they’ve no doubt been instrumental in the .216 AVG and 85% LOB rate we’ve seen so far. We saw a .209, 85% combo for 203 innings in 2016, but that also came with 25% K and 47% GB rates. He’s got 19% K and 38% GB rates this year. I just feel like you can’t really bench him right now, but I’m open to a quick adjustment if the bottom starts to fall out.

#29 Robbie Ray – How good is Ray? His ERAs the last three seasons are 4.90, 2.89, and 4.89 (in just 8 starts this year), but his FIPs have been much tighter at 3.76, 3.72, and 4.08. The strikeouts alone certainly protect his value to a degree, but he’s not the sub-3.00 ERA guy we saw last year nor am I sure he’s even a sub-4.00 guy. I remain perplexed by Ray.

#36 Rich Hill – The Blister God and his crusty skin can be a total pain in the butt to have on your roster, but when healthy, his skills are still very good. Of course, now he’s ailing with a neck injury from running the bases.

#37 Andrew Heaney – I had him as a Must-Start in the June rankings and I’m trying not to overreact to five starts of a 5.72 ERA, but I had to drop him. Two of those starts could’ve been skipped if you were curating him, but if you followed the MS advice I gave, you got tagged by the meltdowns in Seattle and Boston. I’m still starting him more often than not, but avoiding some top teams on the road might be best with him.

#38 Rick Porcello – Guys like this are the toughest for me. I’m not particularly interested in rostering Porcello because I just find his skillset to be so bland and unappealing, but I can’t ignore the fact that he’s a solid innings eating arm capable of stabilizing a fantasy rotation. I was fine riding out that early hot start and locking him into the lineup, but that’s why I like to update every few weeks because there’s no way I saw him a Must Start for the rest of the year back in May when he was rolling.

#39 Shane Bieber – Bieber came up as sort of a ready-made arm with incredible command and control. It’s been more control than command in his five MLB starts as he’s been hittable (11.0 H/9), but the 19% K-BB rate underscores a skilled arm. I don’t think a .378 BABIP is going to last, either, so I’m betting on Bieber maintaining all-formats viability even as his ERA meanders toward the mid-3.00s. I’m worried that I’m overrating five MLB starts, but I’m starting just about everywhere right now for the next month or so and I’ll reassess after that.

#41 Kyle Gibson – Justin offered me a lot of money and his beard to slot Gibson in the top 20. But I’m no richer, nor do I have a fancy beard, so clearly I turned down his deal. I grant that he’s not the 5.00 ERA arm we saw in 2016-17 with this sinker-slider combo so maintaining his 3.58 ERA is plausible. Another benefit for Gibson is the fact that the Twins have only faced Detroit and Kansas City a combined nine times so if the schedule lines up right, he should get several starts against both of those anemic offenses.

#44 Zach Eflin – This a guy who had a 13% K rate last year and now he’s amped his velo and essentially doubled the punchouts to 24% en route to a 2.97 ERA/1.08 WHIP combo through 64 IP. He was great at stifling walks before this year so adding velo and while also upping the usage of his slider and change has made him into a useful fantasy arm. There’s undoubtedly some giveback in these numbers, but with this skillset and plan of attack, I don’t see a meltdown.

#50 Freddy Peralta – Unsurprisingly, a lot of these tough ranks are the small sample standouts as I don’t want to overreact, but that’s why I tend to focus on 4-6 week periods with these ranks. Pitching is just far too volatile to feel confident about ranking guys for 3+ month time periods. For those concerned about Peralta’s fastball-heavy tendencies (79%) with a 91-92 mph heater, I’d highly recommend checking out some highlights or a couple of his starts. It makes more sense when you see him in action.

Who were your biggest question marks within my Top 50?

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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4 years ago

Great article! Two things:

1) Don’t forget to update the rankings with Desclafani!
2) At #31, obviously you’re in on the Pivetta breakout. How do you see him ROS? Do you think that the ERA comes down to where the FIP is?