Alright folks, this is it! My last positional ranking post for 2019! The only thing left to do is to publish my top 300 rankings followed by my projections. If you want to see my positional rankings table, here it is! Back to pitching. The landscape surrounding pitching is changing. The number of pitchers who reached to 200 inning plateau has declined in four of the last five seasons. Here are the number of pitchers to reach 200 IP since 2014: 34, 28, 15, 15, 13. In my personal projections, I’ve got only three pitchers with over 200 innings pitched this year. Yes, you heard that right. That might be a little conservative, but not that many pitchers average 6.5 innings per start or more. That being said, I have seven pitchers projected between 195 IP and 199.2 IP. I believe they all have a great shot at reaching 200 innings. Then again, there will always be someone like James Shields to reach to the 200 inning plateau that you would not expect (he threw 204 innings last year). I promise you, this is the last you will hear of James Shields in this post. Here we go!
Starting Pitcher Rankings for 2019
|63||Collin McHugh||HOU||SP, RP||6|
Tier 1: No surprises here. There’s one statistic for a pitcher that I believe trumps all others. That’s K-BB%. These fellas were all in the top 4 last year in that statistic, with the other being Verlander. I flip-flopped Sale and deGrom but they are so close. Sale has the most insane metrics but has either worn down at the end of the season or missed time to injury the previous two years. Otherwise, he’d be number one but I have him projected for about 180 innings. Based on Standard Gain Points and my projections, 180 innings of elite-Sale is more valuable than 210 innings of deGrom.
Tier 2: The only reason Verlander is not in tier 1 is because of his age. He just turned 36 and as much of workhorse Verlander has been in his career, his age just concerns me a teeny bit. I love Bauer as I think he’s taken the step into superstardom. The difference between Bauer and Cole is razor thin but I’m going to lean towards the more cerebral pitcher in Bauer. Three Indians in the top nine is pretty interesting but I could not drop Carrasco any lower after digging in. Carrasco was eighth in the league in K-BB% last year and was unlucky in terms of BABIP at .315. His skills took a leap forward last year and now has 180+ innings in three of the last four seasons. I’ll touch on Buehler. He’s the real deal. He could be in the top five as early as next year. His elite fastball is an extremely strong foundation and I see a little Verlander in him. Like, a shorter version of Verlander without the insanely hot wife.
Tier 3: Maybe Corbin regresses a little after his massive breakout in 2018 but then again, his peripherals point to the opposite. His slider is arguably the best in the game and with the addition of his slow-slider, he’s rocking those breaking balls at a 50% clip. Moving to Washington with potentially a better ball club should provide help in terms of his win total, and I don’t see the strikeouts going away. This tier is filled with veterans who are either on the decline or struggle to stay healthy for a full season. It’s also filled with some newcomers whose skills could push them into tier 2 by the end of the season. My favorites in this group include Clevinger, Marquez, Wheeler, Taillon, and Berrios. I’m not as high on Flaherty as some other analysts because of his 9.6% walk rate. He also struggled with the home run ball a bit in 2018. The reason he maintained such solid ratios was his elevated strand rate. I think there is some regression with his ratios and project a slight decrease in strikeout rate. I still like him, but there will be people in the draft room who like him more than I do.
Tier 4: speaking if regression, Folty is due for quite a bit of it and not in a good way. His breakout was fantastic, but there are warning signs everywhere. His swinging strike rate was relatively low compared to his 27%+ strikeout rate. He still struggles with walks and was fortunate to keep his BABIP near .250. Maybe he can keep up a 27% K rate with a league aver SwStr rate, I don’t know? That being said, Atlanta provides a nice floor for Folty and he still possesses high-end skills which is why he remains in my top 30. Yes, that’s Madison Bumgarner down at 33. His fastball has been a train wreck, er, ah dirt bike wreck since 2017. His ratios have been saved by the confines of AT&T Park but now on the last year of his deal the and Giants in rebuild-mode, Bumgarner could be moved before the All-Star Break. Going almost anywhere else will hurt his ratios and his value. Even if he stays, his strikeout rate has gone the way of the Dodo. I didn’t think I was completely in on Pivetta but there he is at 35. There’s too much to like with Pivetta. Remember that K-BB% I was talking about? Pivetta was 16th in the league last year one spot behind teammate Aaron Nola. If Pivetta can suppress BABIP a little bit and increase his strand rate, he’s a top 25 SP.
Tier 5: This is my favorite tier! I absolutely love Heaney and Bieber this year! Bieber had a near-20% K-BB% but a crazy-high BABIP and low LOB% killed his ratios. I expect some moderate regression there (the positive kind). I just hope he doesn’t fall into the Michael Pineda mold where he throws too many strikes and gives in to hitters too often. Here’s my Heany take, I did a deep dive on him and really like what I saw. I would love to grab two aces in the first three rounds and just wait on pitching until much later grabbing Heaney and Bieber back-to-back around picks 130-140. To be honest, I will end up with at least three pitchers from this tier. The best part about this tier is many of these guys are going well after pick 200 in drafts, so you won’t have to reach. The more I look at the pitchers I have ranked 35 (Pivetta) through Skaggs (Tier 6), the more I want to wait on pitching. As I just mentioned , I still want two aces as a strong foundation but feel that there is a ton of value after pick 150 for starting pitching. Josh James and Joe Musgrove are a couple guys I already own in dynasty leagues. James has an extremely high strikeout upside while Musgrove has a chance to put it together this year and finish inside the top 30 for SPs. The Dodgers have a ton of talented pitchers and all of them would be higher if they were guaranteed 175+ innings. I’ll pick and choose, I like Maeda and Ryu (see next tier).
Tier 6: As it turns out I like this tier as well. There’s quite a bit more risk here but it’s a nice combination of upside and floor picks. 59-61 includes three very talented starting pitchers with a lot of questions. Obviously, Whitley and Luzardo are rookies, so there’s a ton of risk there. However, other than maybe Alex Reyes, no other rookie starters have the upside of these two. Nelson missed all of 2018, so how will he respond? I’m cautiously optimistic, but won’t be picking him inside of the top 200. After that, he’s a solid pick.
TIer 7: Earlier this offseason I had buried Joey Lucchesi because of his two-pitch arsenal. However, thanks to Jason Collete’s 2019 Pitch Tracker, I found out he’s adding a cutter to his repertoire! This is more exciting than it sounds. His fastball is not great and his change/curve (churve?) is actually a pretty solid pitch. If he can supplement his fastball with a cutter that he can throw for strikes, that’s a boon to his value. The cutter would move in the opposite direction of the fastball which would play nicely off one another. Anyways, I expect Fulmer to bounce back a bit this year, he still has very good velocity and a solid slider to pair with his four-seamer. Of this entire group, I actually like Matz the best. He doesn’t have a standout pitch but throws four pitches with relative effectiveness. Sometimes four decent pitches are better than two great pitches. He feels like he could be on the verge of a breakout as his strikeout rate jumped to 27% in the second half last year.
Tier 8: This is a big tier, huh? Mike Soroka was shut down for discomfort in his shoulder, so I dropped him to the bottom of this tier. He might end up off the list depending on what happens during spring training. Keep an eye out for any updates on Soroka going forward. I really can’t give up on Bundy. I know he gave up over 40 homers last year but he has two elite level pitches in his slider and changeup. He just needs to throw his fastball less often and possibly get out of Baltimore. I’ve always been a sucker for Velasquez, he threw a career-high 143 innings last year and managed a 25%+ K rate. If you’re surprised to see Derek Holland here, don’t be. He’s back in San Francisco where even Madison Bumgarner can put up solid ratios. That was shot at Bum, you guys. A Bum shot. OK, back at it. Trevor Richards has an insane changeup but that’s it. He’s like the super poor man’s Luis Castillo. He’s got a piece but needs something else. Urias and McHugh are much too talented for this tier but when you play for a team with eight starting pitchers, it’s difficult to lof 150+ innings. Besides, Urias is coming off a devastating injury and the Dodgers have already come out saying his innings will be monitored.
Tier 9: I prefer Woodruff over Corbin Burnes for this year. Woodruff has 85 MLB innings under his belt and has already taken his lumps so to speak. Maybe he’s not the 26% K rate guy we saw last year because as a starter, those numbers won’t translate. I still think he can maintain solid ratios while limiting home runs thanks to an elevated ground ball rate. I like Luke Weaver as a bit of a bounceback in 2019 because his skills remain intact. While he outperformed his strikeout rate in 2017, he still has upside. Urena, Wacha, and Duffy are like super boring. That’s OK when you’re this deep. Sometimes stability is exactly what you need after you’ve taken risks on the likes of Tyler Glasnow and Jesus Luzardo. Oh, then there’s Marcus Stroman. I won’t be drafting him as long as he stays in Toronto with that extremely fast turf and poor infield defense. Get him on some real grass with a few legitimate defenders on the infield to put his ground balls to use and I might be back in.
Tier 10: Touki and Kingham are my favorites of this tier. Is that why they are at the top of the tier, Max? Why, yes it is! Anyways, there are questions as to whether or not both will be in their respective rotations because Atlanta has 12 pitching prospects, all of which are close to the majors. Kingham on the other hand just did not perform well last year. They both have the skills to get strikeouts and the potential to be either a #3 or 4 as early as this year. They just need the opportunity. I might actually move Touki up if Soroka will not be ready for opening day. Same goes for Gohara. I like Cahill, his changeup is gross, but in a good way. The problem is that you’re only going to get about 100 innings out of him. Yarbrough is not getting 16 wins this year, I can tell you that but coming into the game in the 2nd inning has its advantages. I don’t trust Chase Anderson even though he’s outperformed his peripherals for the second straight season. I do not want to be the one holding the bag when the bottom drops out.
Tier 11: This tier is for your 15-team and deeper leagues. It’s pretty ugly down here. I’ve only thrown Manaea in here because he’s “reportedly” ahead of schedule. Originally, it was thought he may miss all of 2019 following shoulder surgery. Reports are now saying it’s possible he returns after the All-Star break. This is like Jimmy Nelson last year but with a later timeline. If the Athletics contend, he could see bullpen action in August and possibly a few starts in September. He’s probably not worth a stash, but we are pretty low in the rankings. The few pitchers I’d take a flier on include Jhoulys Chacin, Jamie Barria, Ryan Borucki, Domingo German, and Corbin Burnes. Chacin has a hell of a slider and with its increased usage, it could carry him throughout stretches of the season. The Triple-Bs and German are young upsidey arms without guaranteed starting roles. Barria has the most experience of the group and he does have a bit of strikeout upside despite what his numbers say.