Way Too Early Rankings: Starting Pitcher by Brad Johnson December 7, 2016 With the calendar turned to December, the “Way Too” portion of the title feels incorrect. Still, we have a series to finish so let’s get down to business. This is the seventh of eight volumes in the Way Too Early Rankings collection. Pre-Order the complete edition now – it makes a great stocking stuffer! You can find outfielders and links to the rest by following a link. As a reminder, these rankings represent my first reactions rather than a truly rigorous approach. I’ve used an absolutely objective technique called mental math to compile the lists. I’m assuming a standard 5×5 format. The purpose of this exercise is two-fold: to get an early start on 2017 rankings and to crowdsource missing or misranked players. That’s where you come in. Let your thoughts and feelings be known in the comments. As we’ve done in previous editions, we’ll break this into digestible chunks. Starting pitcher is the deepest and most difficult position to rank. I’ll be focusing written analysis on the players who most interest me. There’s a very high likelihood some players have slipped through the cracks. I think we’ll have a lot to talk about in the comments. The Top 25 Player Rank Clayton Kershaw 1 Max Scherzer 2 Chris Sale 3 Noah Syndergaard 4 Yu Darvish 5 Madison Bumgarner 6 Stephen Strasburg 7 Corey Kluber 8 Jake Arrieta 9 Justin Verlander 10 Carlos Carrasco 11 Aaron Sanchez 12 Johnny Cueto 13 Jon Lester 14 David Price 15 Chris Archer 16 Kyle Hendricks 17 Masahiro Tanaka 18 Jacob deGrom 19 Jose Quintana 20 Felix Hernandez 21 Gerrit Cole 22 Rich Hill 23 Carlos Martinez 24 Cole Hamels 25 Let’s focus on the potentially divisive choices. Darvish has a very real home run problem, but he also strikes out everybody. While most of the top 25 starters have at least a chance to post a sub-3.00 ERA, Darvish has a steeply uphill battle due to the homers. I’ll still take the strikeouts over the alternatives. I’m assuming Strasburg is/will be healthy based on what I’ve heard. If he’s not, he’s much lower on the list. Similarly, Tanaka, deGrom, Hernandez, and Cole are health risks I’m mostly overlooking for the moment. Like Carlos Santana finally playing the way he was supposed to in 2016, Carrasco is going to pitch to his potential one of these season. Or maybe he’s missed his opportunity. The breaking stuff is incredible. I suspect I’ll catch some flak for my Hill pick – in both directions. He doesn’t pass the Ace smell test for many fantasy owners, yet he was also the 14th most valuable pitcher last season while throwing only 110 innings. The Next 25 Player Rank Rick Porcello 26 Zack Greinke 27 Michael Fulmer 28 Marcus Stroman 29 Kenta Maeda 30 Jon Gray 31 Danny Salazar 32 Lance McCullers 33 Julio Urias 34 Matt Harvey 35 J.A. Happ 36 Julio Teheran 37 James Paxton 38 Aaron Nola 39 Matt Shoemaker 40 Robbie Ray 41 John Lackey 42 Jeremy Hellickson 43 Dallas Keuchel 44 Tanner Roark 45 Kevin Gausman 46 Adam Wainwright 47 Drew Pomeranz 48 Jeff Samardzija 49 Steven Matz 50 I suspect a future revision might push Porcello to the 15-20 cohort. My justification for placing him 26th relates to his high win total. It accounted for half of his value above average in 2016. A little regression in the wrong places could push him back down into the league average category. You’ll notice this collection is all over the map. Some of these pitchers will be 2017 heroes. Others will ruin seasons. It’s uncommon to see a Rockies pitcher this high on the list, yet Gray did enough last year to justify a bullish outlook. I’m also hopeful we’ll see big things from Urias, Paxton, and Ray. There’s an awful lot of downside in that trio which prevents them from being ranked higher. Rebound candidates include McCullers, Harvey, Nola, Keuchel, Wainwright, and Samardzija. Boring high-floor vets include Happ, Teheran, Shoemaker, and Lackey. Another 25 Player Rank Marco Estrada 51 Sean Manaea 52 Jameson Taillon 53 Jason Hammel 54 Alex Reyes 55 Garrett Richards 56 Carlos Rodon 57 Taijuan Walker 58 Joe Musgrove 59 Raisel Iglesias 60 Luke Weaver 61 Francisco Liriano 62 David Phelps 63 Brandon McCarthy 64 Sonny Gray 65 Alex Cobb 66 Jerad Eickhoff 67 Steven Wright 68 Mike Leake 69 Junior Guerra 70 Hisashi Iwakuma 71 Tyler Anderson 72 Danny Duffy 73 Vince Velasquez 74 Lance Lynn 75 In many ways, this group is much more exciting than the 26-50 crowd. We have some impressive young pitchers, most notably Taillon, Reyes, Rodon, Weaver, and Velasquez. Other quality hurlers like Manaea, Musgrove, Eickhoff, and Anderson might get overlooked. My inclusion of Iglesias obviously depends on him starting. He’s been talked about as a closing option for the Reds. They’ve yet to announce which way they plan to deploy him. As a rebuilding team, there’s no pressure on them to decide before the season. Regression is likely to take a big bite out of Estrada, Phelps, Wright, and Duffy. The latter pair felt the sting late in 2016. Estrada is the most likely to see no ill effects, hence his much higher ranking. The Marlins hope to use Phelps as an Andrew Miller-style reliever. Richards, Liriano, McCarthy, Gray, Cobb, and Lynn are wild cards. All but Liriano missed most of 2016 with injuries. As for Liriano, he morphed into a top 30 pitcher once he was reunited with Russell Martin. Who knows if that was signal or noise? A Lot More Player Rank Ivan Nova 76 Anthony DeSclafani 77 Drew Smyly 78 Jake Odorizzi 79 Archie Bradley 80 Blake Snell 81 Yordano Ventura 82 Jordan Zimmermann 83 Mike Montgomery 84 Jharel Cotton 85 Trevor Bauer 86 Matt Moore 87 Joe Ross 88 Michael Pineda 89 Michael Wacha 90 Eduardo Rodriguez 91 Dan Straily 92 Jimmy Nelson 93 Shelby Miller 94 Bartolo Colon 95 Rubby de la Rosa 96 Patrick Corbin 97 Nick Tropeano 98 Robert Gsellman 99 Luis Severino 100 Tyler Skaggs 101 Seth Lugo 102 Daniel Norris 103 Ervin Santana 104 Collin McHugh 105 Gio Gonzalez 106 Zach Davies 107 Ian Kennedy 108 Jaime Garcia 109 Josh Tomlin 110 Chad Kuhl 111 Wei-Yin Chen 112 Alex Wood 113 Clay Buchholz 114 Homer Bailey 115 Brandon Finnegan 116 Dylan Bundy 117 Chad Bettis 118 Ariel Miranda 119 Chris Tillman 120 Tyson Ross 121 Christopher Devenski 122 That’s a lot of names including several where I really deviate from the consensus. A few are simply misranked, and I’ll make those adjustments as I internalize more information about them. I anticipate a mob with pitchforks over my placement of Pineda. He had a 3.30 xFIP and a 3.40 xFIP because he throws a fantastic slider and doesn’t walk hitters. The problem is that he’s a reliever. His cutter – the only fastball he throws – is terrible. Beyond terrible. Maybe it plays up in the pen. He could probably benefit from throwing fewer strikes, but what he really needs is a major league viable fastball. I doubt he’ll find it as a starter. People really like Odorizzi. I used to be one of them. Maybe there’s another breakout in there, but I see him as a high floor, low ceiling core piece. There’s no point drafting those ahead of players with gamebreaking upside. Some of my favorites from this section include Montgomery, Cotton, and Gsellman. The Cubs seem committed to starting Montgomery – enough so that they freed Hammel. Cotton is one of those guys scouts always poopoo even though he performs well at every level. That now includes a stop in the majors, making it harder to overlook his potential. Gsellman would be a top 75 arm if he wasn’t the sixth or seventh pitcher in the Mets rotation. The Leftovers Player Miguel Gonzalez CC Sabathia Ricky Nolasco Tyler Chatwood Ubaldo Jimenez Martin Perez Christian Friedrich Mike Fiers Matt Andriese Kendall Graveman Wade Miley Edinson Volquez Adam Conley Matt Garza Nate Karns Mike Foltynewicz Scott Kazmir Doug Fister Kyle Gibson Tom Koehler Tyler Duffey R.A. Dickey Wily Peralta Jake Peavy Ross Stripling Bud Norris Derek Holland Colby Lewis Matt Boyd Chris Rusin Andrew Triggs Colin Rea Chase Anderson Anibal Sanchez Daniel Mengden Nathan Eovaldi Adam Morgan Alec Asher Yovani Gallardo Luis Perdomo Reynaldo Lopez Clayton Richard Ross Detwiler Matt Wisler Hector Santiago Ryan Vogelsong Andrew Cashner Bryan Mitchell Jose Urena A.J. Cole Luis Cessa Phil Hughes Scott Feldman Williams Perez Steven Brault Cody Anderson Brad Peacock John Lamb Zach Eflin Zach Neal Kris Medlen Mike Clevinger Brock Stewart Jeff Hoffman Logan Verrett Robert Stephenson Jake Thompson Cody Reed Jose Berrios Aaron Blair James Shields In no particular order, here are more guys who pitch baseballs. Foltynewicz is supposed to rank 80th. I’ve already done way too much work to go back and fix everything.