Where Pitching Has Come From

The general assessment of the 2019 season thus far is that pitching studs have disappointed while a throng of underrated arms have come to save the day. But is that true? We know the likes of Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Nola have fallen well short of expectations and gems like Mike Soroka and Matthew Boyd have picked up the slack. What does the whole picture look like, though?

I used the NFBC average draft position for the Main Event as a starting point and then compared that to where the pitchers are in our Auction Calculator.


Let’s start with the studs. Guess how many of the top 20 drafted starters are still there thus far according to the Auction Calculator?


It’s eight. I think the shocking part is where the rest sit right now. There’s another four in the top 50, but the remaining eight have an average rank of 87 with Mike Clevinger not even making it on the list thanks to just two starts before hitting the injured list. Maybe we just shouldn’t have drafted Cleveland Indians.

They had four starters drafted in the top 16: Trevor Bauer (6th), Corey Kluber (8th), Carlos Carrasco (11th), and Clevinger (16th). Only Bauer is in the top 40 on the Auction Calculator at 36th. Carrasco is 90th, Kluber is 143rd, and Clevinger, as previously mentioned, isn’t ranked because he hasn’t pitched enough. They had another starter drafted in the top 30 and he’s actually panned out. Shane Bieber was drafted 28th and sits 35th on the AC.

Here’s the entire top 20 by ADP:

Top 20 by ADP
Player ADP AC
Max Scherzer 1 11
Jacob deGrom 2 38
Chris Sale 3 19
Justin Verlander 4 1
Gerrit Cole 5 10
Trevor Bauer 6 36
Aaron Nola 7 97
Corey Kluber 8 143
Blake Snell 9 27
Noah Syndergaard 10 63
Carlos Carrasco 11 90
Walker Buehler 12 15
Jack Flaherty 13 56
Patrick Corbin 14 47
James Paxton 15 71
Mike Clevinger 16
Stephen Strasburg 17 8
Jameson Taillon 18 92
Jose Berrios 19 14
Zack Greinke 20 7


Time for another guessing game! Guess how many of the top 20 starters so far were drafted inside of the top 50 SPs.

You might be surprised.

Or maybe not because you know it’s at least eight.

We’ve seen 13 of the top 20 come from the top 50 starters drafted. These guys have all panned out:

Top 20 by Auction Calculator
Player ADP AC
Justin Verlander 4 1
Hyun-Jin Ryu 45 2
Lucas Giolito 141 3
Charlie Morton 30 4
Jake Odorizzi 109 5
Mike Soroka 131 6
Zack Greinke 20 7
Stephen Strasburg 17 8
Luis Castillo 31 9
Gerrit Cole 5 10
Max Scherzer 1 11
Yonny Chirinos 117 12
Matthew Boyd 82 13
Jose Berrios 19 14
Walker Buehler 12 15
Tyler Glasnow 41 16
Frankie Montas 123 17
Mike Minor 95 18
Chris Sale 3 19
Kyle Hendricks 36 20

Charlie Morton, Luis Castillo, and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been amazing. All three were drafted within the top 45 starters and have returned top 10 value, including Ryu all the way up at #2. The rest of this group is carrying a lot of the load for the perception that pitching has come out of nowhere this year.

Matthew Boyd and Mike Minor both started their breakouts in the second half of last year and have put it all together this year. We might have seen Jake Odorizzi’s surge coming if we’d have known the Twins were going to limit him to two times through the order. He allowed a .627 OPS the first time through and .659 the second time last year, but it surged to 1.159 the third time. He has sub-.500 OPS totals the first two times through this year and has been limited to just 50 PA facing someone a third time, yielding a passable .724 OPS.

Yonny Chirinos has bounced between standard starting and following an opener en route to a very nice 69 innings of work. He’s only allowed more than three earned runs twice this year, only one that was a true flop (2.3 IP/6 ER at TOR). The other was a 5.3 IP/4 ER against the Twins, but he did fan seven batters. He’s added to his awesome line already today with a 6 IP/2 ER gem against Oakland with seven strikeouts and one walk.

Frankie Montas had his backers, but even they are surprised by his strong start. He seems to be finally putting it together with his previous strikeout ability returning to go with the newly found control we saw from him last year. Montas has a 25% K rate and 6% BB rate, both career bests, thanks in part to the development of a new splitter that he’s using 18% of the time. Fewer fastballs and a reliable third pitch have turned him into a big-time starter.

Mike Soroka was awesome in a 26-inning sample last year, but that’s a whopping 26 innings and he wasn’t a candidate to be in the rotation to start the season because of shoulder soreness. He came up for what was believed to be a spot start on April 18th, but he hasn’t left the rotation since en route to an excellent 1.38 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 65 innings. Ben Clemens wrote a fantastic article about Soroka’s dominance yesterday, so check that out.

The biggest surprise of the year so far is undoubtedly Lucas Giolito. He was a draft day afterthought. Soroka and Giolito going 131st and 141st among pitchers means they were going 430th or later overall. Giolito was only picked in 14 of 38 Main Events. I didn’t even rank him in April or May and now he’s 28th in my June rankings.

Those standouts are definitely impressive but I’m not sure it’s that different than previous years.


Of the guys sitting 21-50 among starters on the Auction Calculator, 14 were still drafted within the top 50, 10 more were drafted 51-100, four others were drafted outside top 100, and two were undrafted altogether (more on the undrafted group later). The average difference among these 14 is 10 spots lower than their ADP. In that group of 14, only three have outperformed their draft spot: Cole Hamels (40th ADP, 37th AC), Kenta Maeda (42nd, 28th), and Chris Paddack (44th, 22nd).

David Price has been a perfect match, being drafted as the 25th starter and ranking as the 25th-best starter so far. Here are the other six drafted within the top 25 from this group: Jacob deGrom (2nd ADP, 38th AC), Bauer (6th, 36th), Blake Snell (9th, 27th), Patrick Corbin (14th, 47th), German Marquez (22nd, 40th), and Clayton Kershaw (23rd, 29th).

Here’s the entire group for those interested:

SPs 21-50 by Auction Calculator
Player ADP AC
Domingo German 80 21
Chris Paddack 44 22
John Means UND 23
Brandon Woodruff 60 24
David Price 25 25
Brad Peacock 59 26
Blake Snell 9 27
Kenta Maeda 42 28
Clayton Kershaw 23 29
Zach Davies UND 30
Caleb Smith 91 31
Wade Miley 99 32
Zach Eflin 76 33
Luke Weaver 70 34
Shane Bieber 28 35
Trevor Bauer 6 36
Cole Hamels 40 37
Jacob deGrom 2 38
Julio Teheran 73 39
German Marquez 22 40
Robbie Ray 29 41
Rich Hill 56 42
Matt Shoemaker 129 43
Max Fried 112 44
Spencer Turnbull 147 45
Masahiro Tanaka 33 46
Patrick Corbin 14 47
Jordan Lyles 159 48
Joey Lucchesi 46 49
Trevor Richards 86 50


There are six starters in the top 100 on the Auction Calculator that weren’t even drafted in a single Main Event. Who wants to play another guessing game?

:sees everyone raises their hand:

OK, let’s do it! How many of the six undrafted guys can you guess? Here are some clues for you: five are from the AL, four are from the AL West, and the lone NLer is a soft-tossing righty who was a top 60 starter just two years ago.

The best of this bunch means business!

:uproarious laughter from the crowd as they get the amazing pun:

You’ve no doubt guessed that it is indeed John Means atop this list! The 26-year old Baltimore lefty has a 2.60 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 66 innings and even has six wins, as many as Max Scherzer (4) and Chris Sale (2) combined! Not only was he undrafted, but I’d imagine that a lot of fantasy players – even hardcore ones – didn’t know who Means was coming into the season. He sits 23rd on the Auction Calculator so far.

The AL West group includes Griffin Canning (58th on AC), Chris Bassitt (59th), Ariel Jurado (61st), and Adrian Sampson (73rd). And the lone National Leaguer is Zach Davies (30th).

In the end, we have a mixed bag. I think our perception about where pitching has come from has been a bit skewed by the outliers on each end, but I’m not sure this year has been different from most years. The general volatility of pitching will always foster some major surprises while injuries will annually cut down a few big names. We’ll check in again down the line.

We hoped you liked reading Where Pitching Has Come From by Paul Sporer!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

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

newest oldest most voted

Clearly someone needs to tell Paul about the Curves and the Speeds.