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Fantasy Baseball Top Starting Pitchers – Last 30 Days

After I went through the top starting pitchers over the last 30 days, I noticed quite a few veterans who were previously not highly touted coming into this year. I’ll try to stay away from the Max Scherzer’s, Justin Verlanders, and Walker Beuhler’s because we know they are great. And they are. Yes, Buehler has turned the corner, the slow start may have been lingering fatigue from several stressful playoff innings in 2018, but he looks every bit like an ace over the last month. A quick note on the Braves signing of Dallas Keuchel. I’m typically not a fan of Keuchel but given his extreme ground ball tenancies and landing in a great spot with the Braves, he could have some SP3/4 value in 12-team mixed leagues the rest of the way. I’ll be interested to see how his control metrics look because he has to keep walks down to be successful. The schedule for the Braves going forward is light and SunTrust Park is moderately friendly for pitchers.

Note: These numbers do not include statistics from last night.



Top Ranked Starting Pitchers - Last 30 Days

NameTeamWSOERAWHIP
Julio TeheranBraves2220.681.05
Hyun-Jin RyuDodgers4230.800.92
Lucas GiolitoWhite Sox5430.970.65
Jake OdorizziTwins4351.301.01
Max ScherzerNationals2471.361.06
Charlie MortonRays5421.460.78
Rich HillDodgers3381.501.07
Mike SorokaBraves4261.510.73
Sandy AlcantaraMarlins2241.691.00
Trevor RichardsMarlins3281.740.94
Pablo LopezMarlins2271.880.87
Adrian SampsonRangers5301.991.07
Dakota HudsonCardinals3201.991.14
Eric LauerPadres3222.030.97
Justin VerlanderAstros3422.230.61
Walker BuehlerDodgers3392.250.91
Mike MinorRangers2402.271.37
Zack GreinkeDiamondbacks2252.350.95
Brad PeacockAstros3332.431.08
Chris SaleRed Sox1642.450.79
Griffin CanningAngels1282.700.83
Lance LynnRangers3412.781.11
Kyle HendricksCubs5402.810.94
Stephen StrasburgNationals4352.910.94
Frankie MontasAthletics4372.931.08
Sonny GrayReds2302.931.23
Clayton KershawDodgers3282.971.11
Wade MileyAstros3353.091.23
Brandon WoodruffBrewers3363.380.91
Dylan BundyOrioles2303.381.13
Gerrit ColeAstros1443.411.00
Matthew BoydTigers1423.411.19
Blake SnellRays1363.411.28
Noah SyndergaardMets2343.601.05
Kenta MaedaDodgers3333.670.74
Robbie RayDiamondbacks3463.861.44

Robbie Ray (SP – ARI)
Ray doesn’t quite belong on this list but he’s piled up the strikeouts and compiled three wins over the last month. What’s interesting to me is that his walk rate over the last 30 days is under 10%. It’s 9.9%, but still, that’s an improvement for Ray. His FIP is a 2.81 and his strikeout rate is a robust 32.8%. One reason for his success recently is getting ahead of hitters. Over the last 30 days, his first-pitch strike rate is 63.8% but only 56.1% thus far in 2019. This is huge for Ray. He’s also throwing his slider more often which is great for his strikeouts. He’s been able to throw his curveball for strikes (Zone% 46.3% this year compared to 37.9% in his career). I’m monitoring Ray because if he can maintain a 64% F-Strike% and bump his zone rate over 40%, he could get back to 2017 results, or better! Maybe I’m biased for throwing Ray out there as the NL Cy Young winner in my Bold Predictions article.

Julio Teheran (SP – ATL)
Teheran is MLB’s ERA leader over the last 30 days. But, how? How about a .181 BABIP, and an 87.1% strand rate? Oh, and he hasn’t given up a home run over the last month! He has seemingly done the impossible. Based on his embarrassingly low 6.2% K-BB%, he’s due for some major regression. But how much and why am I asking so many questions? Well, his 3.52 FIP shows quite a bit of regression but his 5.26 xFIP and 5.47 SIERA show that he’s been one of the worst pitchers over the last month. Regression is going to hit Teheran hard, very hard. If you’ve owned him through this stretch, congratulations, now flip him for almost any player that could help your team.

Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
Am I just focusing on boring veterans here? Well, kind of, but, Lynn’s metrics are the opposite of Teheran’s. Lynn has been very good over the last month and his xFIP and SIERA are right in line with his 2.78 ERA. Plus, his FIP is way down at 1.75! A 28.6% K-BB rate will do that for you. Along with a nice boost in his strikeout rate, he’s also suppressed home runs. While the metrics are showing that his elevated strikeout rate should continue, I don’t expect the home run suppression to continue given his home park. That being said, Lynn looks like a nice option going forward. He’s throwing more strikes and increased the usage of his cutter/slider at the expense of his sinker. I have no issues with Lynn performing like an SP 4 the rest of the way.


Charlie Morton (SP – TB)
The 35-year-old has had a hell of a year and a hell of a second half to his career. He’s been fantastic and while his ERA-estimators expect some regression, they fall between 2.65 and 3.33. His velocity is starting to decline but he’s adjusted by throwing his curveball more frequently, introducing a slider, and reducing his fourseam/two-seam fastballs. This pitch mix change has resulted in a career-best strikeout rate of 30.2%. As with most pitchers who increase their usage of breaking balls, he may find himself in more deeper counts which could lead to additional walks. He’s held them at bay thus far. He’s also top 10 in the league among qualified starters in allowing the lowest quality of contact. I don’t fully trust his home run rate that’s almost been cut in half, so there should be some regression. Still, let’s enjoy this and I would expect something close to his xFIP of 3.33 the rest of the way. In this era, that’s a top 20 SP with an elite strikeout rate.

Mike Minor (SP – TEX)
Minor is another Texas Ranger and previously a boring veteran who is succeeding. The ERA and strikeout numbers are good but that WHIP stands out like a sore thumb. I’ll address the WHIP right away. He’s carrying an inflated .365 BABIP over the last 30 days. Obviously, that’s extremely high and won’t last but he’s managed to strand those runners 89% of the time. That explains the elevated WHIP and a low ERA. On the season, he’s carrying a .298 BABIP, so that seems just about right. So, does that mean I trust his current 2.52 ERA on the season? No, not quite. The strikeout gains are real given a 12% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) and 30% called strikes plus swinging strike rate (CSW%). Minor could be a trade candidate if the Rangers don’t compete this year. If he goes to a contender in a better park, he could provide top 30 value the rest of the way. If he stays in Texas, there will be a few long hot nights that are going to make you wish you kept him on your bench.

Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL)
Woodruff just stood up to the Astros in Houston and escaped with a no-decision. The Astros are missing a bunch of pieces but a WHIP of 1.00 and six strikeouts is pretty impressive. His fastball has been great and he slings it 95+ MPH. Prior to last night’s game, his pitch value is 14.2 on the fourseam and sinker combined (10.7 on the fourseam). In addition, his 12.2% Swinging strike rate and 40.1% strikeout rate off his fastball are among the best in the league. Here is Woodruff’s heatmap on fastballs when ahead in the count.

Some other pitchers who succeed throwing 95+ MPH with elevated fastballs are Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Walker Buehler is getting there as well. Having that foundation is strong and can sustain success. I might actually be buyiug high on Woodruff.

Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
Soroka saw some regression last night giving up 10 hits and five earned runs against the Pirates. Coming in he was carrying some crazy extreme numbers including a 17.6% infield fly ball rate, 58.4% ground ball rate, and a 2.9% HR/FB rate. In an era where the sinker is fading, Soroka throws a power sinker over 40% of the time and hitters have struggled against it. He’s getting ground balls almost 70% of the time on it! That’s Dallas Keuchel territory in terms of overall ground ball rate. Can he succeed pitching to contact though in this era or with hitters adjust? The ceiling isn’t as high with Soroka but I could see him with similar results to Kyle Hendricks as a best case scenario. Worst case, let’s not go there. I think he will be good but let’s not get carried away.


Dylan Bundy (SP – BAL)
Last year’s home run leader (in a bad way) has pitched well recently. His HR/9 over the last 30 days is down a respectable 1.23 compared to his ugly 2.13 HR/9 from last season. How is he doing this? Well, he’s throwing his changeup more frequently (10% more frequently) and while it was a negative pitch by pitch value last season, it’s neutral so far in 2019. It’s actually a solid pitch with a chase rate over 40%, a zone rate over 40%, and a SwStr rate over 16%, which is a Money Pitch per Nick Pollack of Pitcher List. The results were atrocious last year on the change with a 220 wRC+. He’s got it down to 102 wRC+ or essentially league average. He’s also managing to get ground balls nearly 60% of the time compared to 49% last year. So, the changeup is better and the slider is still very good. However, his fastball is awful and regression is coming in terms of BABIP. He won’t keep a .255 BABIP and home runs will always be an issue as long as he calls Camden Yards home. He will be better than last season but I still can’t fully buy in.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

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2019 Top 25 Starting Pitcher Rankings

Early 2019 Rankings for Starting Pitchers

Very little introduction here. Pretty straightforward, I rank my top 25 starting pitchers and follow up below with a blurb about some of the players and rankings. I touch on a few players that are left off and why. I plan on spitting out positional rankings as soon as the new year flips. On with it!

RANKPLAYERTEAM
1Max ScherzerWas
2Chris SaleBOS
3Jacob deGromNYM
4Justin VerlanderHOU
5Trevor BauerCLE
6Aaron NolaPHI
7Corey KluberCLE
8Blake SnellTB
9Gerrit ColeHOU
10Carlos CarrascoCLE
11Patrick CorbinWAS
12Luis SeverinoNYY
13Walker BuehlerLAD
14Noah SyndergaardNYM
15Clayton KershawLAD
16Stephen StasburgWAS
17German MarquezCOL
18James PaxtonNYY
19Zack GreinkeARI
20Mike ClevingerCLE
21Jameson TaillonPIT
22Zack WheelerNYM
23Jose BerriosMIN
24Jack FlahertySTL
25Mike FoltynewiczATL

I’ve been flip-flopping on Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale in the #2 spot. Sale’s skills are so far off the charts, that all he needs to do it reach 170 innings to provide the second most fantasy value per my projections. I have him at 182 IP and deGrom at 203 IP, so Sale gets the nod. If Sale could grace us with 200 IP, he’d be ahead of Scherzer, but Max is such a bulldog and has a badass name, so there’s that. If you search FanGraphs pitcher leaderboard for 2018, Sale doesn’t even show up because he only threw 158 innings. I guess you need 160 to qualify? If you’re wondering, Sale ranked 64th overall in innings pitched last season. However, his 237 strikeouts were good for 6th in MLB. You read that right, his 38.4% K rate laughed in the face of Justin Verlander, who finished 2nd at 34.8%.

I have a feeling that some of you are sitting there with your mouth agape looking at Trevor Bauer at number five overall. Here’s the deal though, Bauer ranked 4th overall in ERA and 8th is K% last season. Remember, he basically missed the last month+ with a stress fracture in his right leg. If we remove his short outings upon his return in late September, Bauer averaged 6.64 Innings per start. This is important for a lot of reasons but mostly because Bauer would have finished with around 215 innings and ranked 3rd or 4th in value for 2018. The average number of innings per start in 2018 was under 5.4, so yes, 6.64 is fantastic. Check out his Twitter and his work ethic, he’s always looking to improve. Me like Bauer!

I’m down a bit on Luis Severino, check out my player profile I posted a few days ago. Basically, Severino lacks a third quality pitch. Also, when he doesn’t properly elevate his 98 mph fastball, he gets punished. He also doesn’t possess a strong putaway pitch outside of his slider, that my friends can limit his strikeout upside. Sure, a K/9 between 9.5 and 10 is solid but because he’s grooving too many pitches, his ratios may take a hit. I like him, but he’s a back-end ace for me.

Yes, Walker Buehler is over Clayton Kershaw. I’m not going to wait until Kershaw completely breaks down to put Buehler ahead of him like those big box sites. This kid is for real and shouldn’t be limited to much of an innings cap (if at all) for 2019. We saw his skills and strikeout potential improve as the season roared on. Kershaw, on the other hand, is seeing his skills deteriorate and injuries have sapped his innings upside. Here’s the trend on Kershaw. K% last three seasons: 31.6%, 29.8%, 23.9%. The contact rates against him have jumped by 8% in that timeframe as well. It’s not just the strikeouts though, his homerun rate has spiked the last two seasons and has been firmly above league-average. Kershaw is a gamer and has a badass curve that he needs to throw more than 40% of the time to be successful. He will be fine, but not an ace.

Starting Pitchers who just Missed

The newly signed Tampa Bay Ray, Charlie Morton landed in the number 26 spot on my list. I very much wanted to put him in my top 25 but Morton’s win rate the last two season with Houston will not stand. Morton tallied 29 wins in only 55 starts with the Astros. Tampa is a good team but Morton has averaged just 157 innings the last two seasons and just turned 35. I love his stuff and that’s why he’s inside my top 30 despite the low innings projection.

A couple of boring low-strikeout guys Miles Mikolas and Kyle Hendricks are slotted at 27 and 28 because they have some very solid consistent skills. These guys have incredible control and regularly induce soft contact. Let’s play a little game of who is it? Who is the pitcher with the 5th lowest ERA since 2016? Did I give it away? Yes, it’s Kyle “The Professor” Hendricks. I don’t love the strikeout trend for Hendricks (hint: it’s going in the wrong direction), but he seems to defy the sabermetrics that I love so much. Mikolas is just a stud when it comes to control and pairs his elite slider with a solid 94-95 mph fastball. He keeps the ball on the ground which is muy importante when it comes to a lower strikeout rate.

I’ll get into guys like Rich Hill and Luis Castillo when I finalize my SP rankings and player projections, but both hover around 30 overall. Stay tuned.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

If you enjoyed this ranking and writeup, follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

Weekly Rundown – King Cron & Macahdo Man

HOT HITTERS
Willson Contreras is finally heating up. I saw somewhere that in only four games he jumped from a .230 average and .669 OPS to a .281 average and an .868 OPS. A reminder that we are still in the small(ish) sample portion of the season. I may be cheating a bit because I’m including his two-homer game on 5/11 but he’s got 3 HR, 5 runs, and 11 RBI in the last 7 games he’s played.

C.J. Cron has been on fire and is sticking it to his old team by hitting .353 4 HR, 6 RBI, and throwing in a steal in the last seven days. King Cron was never given a full time job with the Angels and he’s making the most of his playing this with the Rays. Nothing in his profile screams regression, he is swinging and missing a little less and hitting a few more fly balls. However, his hard contact is down a bit and his .325 BABIP might be a touch high, so keep expectations in check.

The often injured Michael Brantley is starting to turn heads again with 3 homers and 10 RBI while hitting nearly .400 this past week. His K% is a crazy low 7.1% for the season! He’s also hitting the ball harder and in the air a little bit more. Putting the ball in play as often as he does with above average exit velocity basically gives him a floor of .290-.300 average with moderate power. It all comes down to health with Brantley, but ride this one out while you can. Buy him at a reasonable cost knowing the injury downside.

Brandon Belt makes his second appearance on this rundown because he’s killing baseballs and has 4 bombs this past week. Does anyone remember when Belt and Freeman were coming up, they were being compared to each other. Well until now, Freeman made a joke of that comparison and we may finally be getting peak Brandon Belt. Better late than never I guess. This is real and I’m buying but health (concussions specifically) is the concern with belt.

Manny Machado is making people forget about his .265 BABIP from 2017 and is tied with Mookie for the league lead in home runs with 14 and leads in RBI with 42. He’s also walking more and striking out less. This is more of who Machado is than what he did in 2017, but I actually think his .344 average is unsustainable based on his profile. But anything can happen because his .265 BABIP in 2017 also shouldn’t have been sustainable. Either way, I think he’s a .300 hitter with 35-40 HR upside and should smash his previous career high RBI of 96.

Khris Davis is quietly going about his business bashing 3 HR and 6 RBI in the last seven days. It’s not that he’s even been that hot, he’s already got 13 bombs on the season. Owners might roll their eyes at his .233 batting average but that’s driven by a low BABIP (even for KD). This is guy is like clockwork, you can always count n 40 HR and 100 RBI. He’s striking out a little less this year and I think he’s got a shot at 45 HR and 110 RBI with a .250 AVG.

Nick Goodrum is hitting .444 with 3 homers and 7 RBI in the past week. Where did this come from? i don’t care because I like good rum! Goodrum is 26 years old with almost no MLB experience prior to this year. The power does seem developing as he had moderate power in the minors. He does swing and miss a lot and typically very aggressive. I expect the walk rate to drop a bit and the K rate to sit around 30%. Ride this hot streak but can cut bait once he cools off.

I’ll close with the current AL MVP Mookie Betts (I heart).  He’s decided to stop hitting home runs in favor of stealing bases. He has an incredible 7 steals in a six game stretch including 3 on Thursday night! I’m convinced that Mookie will go 40/40, I tweeted about it over a week ago. He’s that good, if Mookie wants to go 40/40, he will do it. Oh an he homered last night for good measure.

HOT Pitchers
Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in baseball since his trade to the Astros late last season. He reach 2,500 strikeouts last week by striking out Shohei Ohtani. That’s quite a milestone and I suspect he will reach 3,000 Ks by 2020. There’s not much more to say, if you grabbed Verlander outside of the top 10 SPs, good for you!

Charlie Morton (I promise these aren’t all Astros), has been damn good! If he wasn’t a high injury risk I’d rank him inside the top 12 overall for pitchers. Morton has gone 14 IP 2 ER 22 Ks in his last 2 starts. Yup, Morton is an Ace, deal with it. I don’t like the Win stat but it counts in fantasy and he’s 6-0. He might be a tad lucky in terms of BABIP and LOB% but he’s been unlucky with a 20%HR/FB. He’s also averaging 97.2 mph on his fastball, that’s up a tick from last year, he’s insane!

Luke Weaver started to have me a little concerned but he did turn a very good outing this past week and has only given up 1 ER in his last 12 IP. His SwStr% and contact against is very close to what he did in the 2nd half of 2017 so I’m starting to think the 10 K/9 was a bit overblown. He’s probably more of an 8.0 to 8.5 K/9 guy. His velo is up a tick and he’s inducing more IFFB, so that’s great but I’m not trusting him 100% of the time yet.

Andrew Heaney threw an absolute unexpected gem against the defending Champion Astros going 8 IP, 1ER, 4H, 1BB, 10K. That’s a pretty line and he gets the start today against the Rays and you should grab him for that start and hold him. His 21.4% K-BB is near elite and he’s been BABIP’d a bit with an unlucky LOB%. I expect his 3.93 ERA to drop and he’s a must own in 12 team leagues and deeper. There’s a big injury risk here and a possible innings cap, but ride this out while you can.

Kyle Freeland has quietly strung together a couple great starts with 13 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 11 K. Is he worth a pickup? Well, I kind of believe he is, do you realize he has a 3.17 ERA and a near 50% ground ball rate? His K% is up 7% from 2017 and his fastball’s pitch value is ranked 6th in all of baseball right between Morton and Nola. Remember, he was a highly touted prospect and went 8th overall in the 2014 draft. I still don’t trust him against good hitting teams in Coors but he’s worth a look on the road.

Freezeing Hitters
Mike Trout on the freezing hitter list, BLASPHEMY. It’s true though, Mr. Trout has gone 2 for his last 23 with 1 HR (last night) and 1 SB. Is anyone concerned? No, I didn’t think so. Trout will be just fine, maybe his feelings are hurt because there’s talk of Mookie as the AL MVP. As great as Betts has been, I’m still taking Trout ROS, he’s somehow making more contact this year, so we could see a career year from Trout this year. I’m sure no Trout owner is panicking, there’s no selling and or buying opportunity here, move along.

Paul Goldschmidt on the other hand is a whole different can of worms? Ball of wax? Situation, there we go. Goldy hasn’t only been struggling this past week, it’s basically been all season. I wrote an in depth article on Goldy, take a look here! Basically, he can’t hit at home, he can’t hit righties, he’s striking out more, and he’s not hitting the ball as hard. So, any Goldschmidt owner is not going to get a good return on their investments. I’d sell him for a top 25-30 player if you can. Check out my write up

Nomar Mazara was on the hot list last week and now has gone 5/26 with no homers and 1 RBI. I mentioned that Mazara had made some positive changes but still lacks significant power upside due to his limited fly ball approach. Nothing’s changed, it’s the ebbs and flows of the season and with his decent contact rate, he should provide a solid average with 25 or so homers this season.

Didi Gregorius is now on here for the second straight week. Where did all the Didi backers go? HELLO, ARE YOU THERE? He’s gone 1 for his last 17 and the Yankees have even starting sitting him for a game or two trying to get him right. I guess when you perform head and shoulders above your talent, this is what happens. I’m kidding obviously, but here’s what I see, the BABIP is extremely low, that’s going to come up. He’s still walking more and his K rate is fine. A HR/FB around 12-15% is what you should expect ROS. So is he goes .260-25-85 will you be disappointed as an owner?

Marcell Ozuna is 3 for his last 25 with no home runs. I also could have written about Altuve but I want to do a deep dive on Jose later this month or in early June. Back to Ozuna, with only 3 HR and 8 XBH this season gives me cause for concern. This was supposed to be a middle of the order power bat. Instead he’s hitting under 30% fly balls and has a 50% ground ball rate. He’s never been a big fly ball guy and he’s actually hitting the ball harder this year. I think his BABIP goes up and he can still hit 25-28 HR. I’d be buying his from a frustrated owner for cheap and holding if I was an owner.

Dee Gordon hasn’t stolen a base this past week and is only hitting .161 the last seven days. Obviously Speedy Dee (no one calls him that) needs to get on base to steal, and I don’t see anything that will prevent him from this in the near future. The suspension to Cano is a concern for runs but if Haniger, Seager, or Healy can step up in his place, I wouldn’t be all that concerned, you got him for steals and he will get you plenty of them. Stick with Dee.

Freezing Pitchers
Oh hi there Kevin Gausman! Just when he was giving owners some confidence in starting him, he rips your heart out. He’s given up 8 ER in his last 12 IP but it’s come with a .358 average against. That’s not sustainable. What is sustainable is Gausman being inconnsistent. I can’t recommend him unless you really want an ulcer. Watch, next time he’ll throw complete game shutout. That’s the Gaus-Man.

Sonny Gray owners need to cut bait if they haven’t already. His velocity is fine so there probably isn’t an injury but his walks are way up, hard contact is up, and his strikeouts are down. Long hot summer nights in Yankee Stadium are not going to be kind to Gray. Don’t let your ego get in the way, there’s a lot better options on the wire.

Danny Duffy may have had one too many Duff Beers before he gets on the mound to pitch. Sorry, that was a low blow. Duffy should not be owned, I hope owners have moved on from Duffy, there’s something wrong, his velocity is down (similar to last year when he struggled) and his slider is trash. There could be some human factors at play here. He may need a DL stint or some time off before we can think about even streaming him.

Ugh, Drew Pomeranz is not very good this year. HR are up, walks are up, ground balls are down (literally), and hard contact is up. I’m sure owners have moved on but he’s probably hurt. His velocity is down over 2 mph and his curve ball has been bad. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit the DL in the next week or so. He’s a safe drop.

Jason Hammel, how are you still in the league. Hammel hasn’t been effective since the first half of 2016 with the Cubs. He’s usually a first-half pitcher, and now, he’s not. Nothing to see here, don’t even think about streaming him.

So Chad Bettis has come back down huh? I think we all saw that coming. He can safely be dropped and forgotten about. I mean it, don’t even think about streaming him in the future, he’s not good. No strikeouts, too many walks, too many extra base hits. Leave him be.