Wow, quite a bit has changed since Opening Day back in late-March. We are just under two months into the season so a starting pitcher rankings update was well overdue. I also included my relief pitcher ranking updates as well. In the blurbs below, I’ll cover the pitchers who have seen significant movement since opening day. If a player has been injured, they, of course, have dropped in the rankings. I won’t cover them as it’s obvious why they have fallen. There are some pitchers who are intriguing and have shown skills changes (both good and bad) discussed below. Note: The ECR +/- is based on FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings, not my previous ranks. Click here for my preseason rankings.
Caleb Smith (SP – MIA) +73 and Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA) +93
Yeah, Smith has been unbelievable this year. I had him ranked just inside the top 100 (99th) at the start the season and now he’s inside the top 20! To my credit, I did rank him as the top Marlins pitcher followed by Richards and Lopez. Smith has earned a 28.5% K-BB% which ranks fourth in all of baseball! All of the ERA estimators have him regressing closer to an ERA near 3.00, but given his skills, that puts him inside the top 20 overall for SPs. Lopez has jumped over Richards as the Marlins second best option. His 5.06 ERA does not indicate how good he’s been. He has a 1.17 WHIP, an 18% K-BB%, and his ERA estimators have him closer to 3.65. I’ve bumped him up to 56th overall but could be higher if he didn’t pitch for one of the worst teams in the league. The same could be said for Smith (who could be top 15). Smith is long gone but Lopez may still be available in 12-team leagues.
Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW) +95
How fitting. Giolito just threw a complete game shutout against the Astros striking out nine batters. He’s been an absolute beast this year. I thought about bumping him up even more but feel that he’s safe in the upper-30s. Clearly, I was not in on Giolito coming into the season after a disastrous 6.13 ERA in 2018. He’s doing everything right. His K% is up to a whopping 12%, his walk rate is down over two percent, and he’s given up just three homers in 52 innings! That home run rate probably won’t stick but his improvements look somewhat legit. He dropped his sinker usage and is throwing his changeup more. Increasing his FB velocity has helped as well. He’s getting ahead of hitters and has a career-high zone rate. Now for the not so great. I don’t want to completely throw cold water on Giolito but he doesn’t quite have elite swing and miss stuff and when the weather heats up in Chicago, he’s in for some regression. Still, I think he’s more of 24-25% K rate pitcher with a home run per nine innings. I’d put him closer to a 3.50-3.60 ERA with near a strikeout per inning.
Matt Boyd (SP – DET) +33
Based on FantasyPros Expert Consensus, my rank was on average 28 spots higher than the other experts. I guess you could call this one a victory for me but then why do I only own one share? Sad. I loved what I saw with his slider last season and he was one of my favorite weekly streamers. He really was just one step away from being very good which is why I boosted him in my preseason ranks. Well, he’s taken that next step and looks a lot like Patrick Corbin from last season. Other than very little run support, Boyd looks like a great SP2/3 this year with some upside. The AL Central is full of mediocre and poor offensive clubs (sans Minnesota), so I don’t see much regression in Boyd’s numbers.
Chris Paddack (SP – SD) +44
The rookie sensation has been fantastic in the early going. He’s got the stuff, he’s got command, and he’s got control. It will be interesting to see how the Padres handle him. He’s rumored to get only 140 innings this year but he’s starting every sixth day. At his current pace, he would be shut down with about three weeks remaining in the regular season. That kind of sucks for head-to-head leagues but should be just fine for roto leagues.
Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD) +16
Kershaw might not be the best pitcher in baseball but he’s doing the best with his declining velocity and skills. He’s throwing his breaking balls nearly 60% of the time but it does appear to be working. His control and command are elite and should be a top 15 starting pitcher if he remains healthy. Let’s just hope his back issues stay away for four more months.
Luis Castillo (SP – CIN) +15
Everywhere you look, people are calling for regression with Castillo and we saw some of that against the Brewers on Wednesday but his quality of contact against has been elite. Per BaseballSavant, his xwOBA is .249 which is just insane. My boo from last offseason is off to a hell of a start and has now essentially been an ace over the last calendar year. Here are his numbers since May 24th, 2018:
182.2 IP 12-9 3.25 ERA 1.08 WHIP 193 Strikeouts
That’s what I call a borderline ace. His changeup has been the best in the bigs this year. He’s close, but not quite there. His zone rate is dangerously low and it’s really bumped his walk rate. If he can dip his BB% to 8-9%, he’s going to be a monster.
Nick Pivetta (SP – PHI) -55
Ouch Nicky P. Was Pivetta a sleeper if everyone loved him coming into the season? Unfortunately, K-BB% isn’t everything. Quality of contact and location of pitches in the zone are extremely important. Pivetta may be recalled soon as he’s pitched well in Triple-A, I’m just no running to the waiver wire to add him save for deep leagues. He’s walking more batters and his BABIP is low in the minors. In over 315 innings in the bigs, his BABIP is .335. He just won’t succeed if those numbers continue.
Kyle Freeland (SP – COL) -65
Outside of injury or demotion, Freeland is the biggest faller from my preseason ranks. Coors Field is a bitch, amirite? Freeland has already given up 12 home runs this year after giving up 17 in all of 2018. We all knew regression was coming but no one expected this much. He’s still struggling with walks and the juiced ball has really hurt his home run rate. But, he’s also turned into a fly ball pitcher with his fly ball rate over 40% (up 6%). He’s not likely this bad but given him limitations with strikeouts, he’s not rosterable in 12 or even 14-team leagues.
Miles Mikolas (SP – STL) -43
I had him at 24 in my preseason rankings as I believed his stuff could induce more swings and misses and therefore net more strikeouts. That has clearly not been the case. It figures that a pitcher who pitches to contact would get bitten by the juiced ball. Duh. As strikeout rates continue to rise, Mikolas’ K rate is falling. Mikolas doesn’t appeal to me as a fantasy player in this era. I missed on this one.
Ross Stripling (SP – LAD) -35
Well, we knew the risk going into the season with Stripling and other Dodgers starters. There’s a ton of skill and depth in that rotation but also a lot of uncertainty in terms of health. It’s difficult to rank Stripling any higher even though he’s been very successful as a starter. As a bullpen arm, he falls outside the top 100 but as a starter, he’s a top 40 option. In deep leagues, hold him, in shallow leagues, he’s a clear cut.
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