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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

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Weekly Rundown – When Wil Myers Ever Slow Down?

Welcome to a special edition of Weekly Rundown with the All-Star break coming up this week. There’s actually nothing special about it except I gush over Jose Ramirez. Just as we all predicted, he’s tied for the league lead in homers and the Phillies are in first place. Does anyone realize than Franky Lindor has 85 runs already! How about Scooter Gennett leading the NL in batting average with Nick Markakis right on his heals. That seems about right. Nope. It’s baseball.

HOT Hitters
Welcome back Wil Myers! Myers is on a homer binge as he’s blasted 6 HR in the last 7 days and has chipped in with 2 steals, he’s been the top player over the past week. Is it just me or has Myers put up more production since coming off the DL than Hosmer has all season? I’m kidding obviously, but Hosmer has really had a boring season hasn’t he? I’ll touch on him later. Anyways, Myers has got his groove back and is no longer swinging at garbage outside the zone as much and in return has got a 50% hard contact rate over the past week. Remember, Myers is a 30-20 type player, so he could rip off double digit homers and steals the rest of the way.

Brett Gardner is playing baseball everyone! At nearly 35 years old, he’s still putting up some solid numbers as he’s popped 4 dingers and stolen 2 bases this past week. Get this, in the last two weeks, Gardner has a 12.9% walk rate with a 9.7% strikeout rate to go with a minuscule 2.7% swinging strike rate and a 100% zone contact rate (yes, he has not had a swing and missed in the zone since June 29th). Now, the rest of his batted ball profile leaves something to be desired, but as long as he’s making contact and getting on base, he will have value.

Whoa Starling Marte has hit a couple home runs and stolen 6 bases while hitting .407 in the last eight days. I’ll admit, I did not expect Marte to bounce back so well offensively, especially in the power department. But, here we are and Marte has 11 HR and 24 steals. Yup, those are stud type numbers. Actually, it basically matches Trea Tuner’s output to date. The issue is that Marte rarely plays 150 games, a total he’s reached once in his career. So, personally, I’m selling high. Now that he’s killing it going into the break, maybe you can flip him for a top 10 SP or a top 25 hitter.


Carlos Gonzalez has shown some life hitting three home runs, driving in 9 runs and hitting .450 this week. Now, the Rockies have been at home for a good portion of these numbers, but it’s still impressive. Unfortunately, I’m not buying this. He’s stockpiling stats at home but his IFFB% is up, his soft contact is up, and he’s swinging more but pitchers are throwing him less strikes. He’s also doesn’t run much anymore, so you aren’t getting value there. Oh and then there’s the Home/Road splits. He’s hitting .320 with 7 homers at home, good for a .409 wOBA but is hitting .243 with 3 homers good (bad) for a .280 wOBA on the road. Obviously, ride this out until the break, maybe you can flip him. He’s kind of a hitting streamer, but only at home from here on out.

We are past the 81-game mark and therefore Brian Dozier has started to go nuts. This dude has blasted 49 home runs in the second half the last two seasons! To put that in context, he’s hit 43 home runs in the first half of the last THREE seasons. Dozier basically turns into Aaron Judge in the second half. As I look at his profile, I’m not predicting 20+ homers in the second half this time around, but wouldn’t be surprised if he rips off another 15 with a handful of steals. That’s good for a top 35 player the rest of the way.

Mike Trout or Jose Ramirez, rest of season, who ya got? It’s seems crazy, but it’s not. Ramirez has four more home runs this week to tie him with Just Dong Martinez on the season, and has added a couple steals over the past 7 days. He’s driven in 10 runs over that time and there’s literally no stopping him. The best part about Jo-Ram’s transformation which began in 2017 is that he’s improved hard contact and increased his fly ball rate without sacrificing his already elite plate discipline. He’s actually improved on O-Swing the past three seasons. Oh and his .296 batting average could be unlucky with his .272 BABIP.

Hot Mentions: Alex Bregman has 4 HR and 8 RBI; Justin Smoak 4 HR and 7 RBI, Mookie Betts hitting .552 with 11 runs and 8 RBI this past week

HOT Pitchers
Do I have to lead with Chris Sale every week? No, but he’s striking everyone out and has allowed 1 ER in his last two starts. He’s struck out 24 batters in his last 13 IP, that gives him five straight games with at least 11 strikeouts. I think I’m bumping Sale up to number one overall for SPs in my All-Star break rankings coming out in a few days. Sale is kind of a machine. A really tall, rail-thin baseball slinging machine. At some point in his career he may breakdown, but I’m not betting against him at this point. No fire sale here.

Kyle Gibson just won’t go away. He’s grabbed a couple wins along with 18 Ks in his last two outings and this looks legit. Gibson is breaking out at age 30! I know, that’ seems late to be stuck with acne, but I digress. Look, Gibson has improved on his strikeout rate but he’s also throwing less strikes. As a result, the walks have jumped up. His hard contact against is up this year but the HR/FB is down. I’m not completely sold that he can keep this up. Walks + hard contact does not mix well. He’s 12-team viable, but as a back end starter.

Is Ross Stripling an Ace? I’m asking for a friend. Check out this post from @Smada_bb from yesterday basically comparing what Stripling has done in the first half compared to the best pitchers in the game. The answer is yes, he’s an ace. His strikeout rate is great, he doesn’t walk anyone, induces nearly 50% ground balls and an above average IFFB%. Sure, the LOB% isn’t going to stick at 90% and I do think the strikeout rate dips just a bit. Even still, he’s probably a 2.75-3.00 ERA pitcher with a great WHIP and solid strikeout rate. So, yeah, that’s a borderline top 10 SP.


I finally get to pour myself a nice glass of Jameson and discuss Taillon with you. He just came off a 10 K outing and has 16 over his last two starts. His 2.87 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in that time frame is more than solid. It’s all the slide-piece that he’s added. He’s had nine games started since the addition of the slider and here are the results: 3.29 ERA 1.19 WHIP 24.6% K%, 6.4% BB%, 11.2% SwStr, and a 3.07 FIP. MMM, that’s smooth, just like my favorite Irish Whiskey. I’m exciting for this development, but I still think Taillon is capped around a top 30-35 starter the rest of the season. That’s helpful, but I wouldn’t sell the whole barrel (get it) for him.

Zack Goldey has turned in a couple nice starts and even threw a scoreless inning in between this past week+. He’s given up only 2 ER in his last 13 IP with 16 strikeouts. Godley teased us earlier this year looking like he was getting back to last year. The problem is his cutter. It’s not good this year like is was in 2017. It’s way to hittable (if that’s a word), contact is up 8% against it and he’s given up an OPS of 1.015 when throwing the pitch. His control is off as well, so the walks are an issue. I’m not trusting this from Godley. You hurt me before bro, I won’t let you do it again.

Freezing Cold Hitters
I mentioned Eric Hosmer in the Wil Myers blurb and here he is! He’s been trash this past week netting 3 hits in 35 at bats without a homer or steal. I think Hosmer is the new example I use for Ground and Pound. I’ve been wanting to dig into Hosmer’s profile because I need a good dry heave. He’s upped his strikeout rate by 6%, swinging out of the zone more than league average and it’s backed up with an elevated 12.1% swinging strike rate. Here’s the kicker, he’s hitting the ball on the ground 62% of the time! That’s worse than Yelich, like way worse. Now he’s hitting under .250 with a .305 BABIP. Sure, he probably brings that up to .275 but with under 20 HR, he’s not worth much in terms of fantasy. No thanks.

Anthony Rizzo has just never got on track this year. He’s two for this last 23 without a home run. His power numbers are down but his season has been partially salvaged by driving in 60 runs. Really proving the the RBI stat is super meaningful. A .242 average and 12 HR is not going to cut it. Who does he think he is, Eric Hosmer? Rizzo has been unlucky with his .243 BABIP, especially with a solid 25% line drive rate, that does not compute. His hard contact is down, which is concerning because his fly ball rate is also down. Unless he changes his approach, we might have to expect a modest 20 homers from Riz this year. The average should rebound some and he will drive in over 100 runs, so there’s that.

Speaking of Chicago First baseman, Jose Abreu has been awful with only 1 hit this past week and a pathetic OPS of .100! Come on man, it’s the second half, you’re supposed to go nuts. Abreu has me more concerned than Rizzo. His hard contact is way down, like 6% down and his IFFB% is up. He may be pressing because his O-Swing is trash right now. He’s got to correct that by not chasing at bad pitches. If he’s not pressing, then he’s hurt. Either way, I cannot recommend him as a buy in the second half.

Trea Turner is hitting .138 this past week but has somehow managed 4 runs! “Thanks Anthony Rendon for driving me in whenever I’m on base.” That was Turner to Rendon after one of their games. Turner hasn’t stolen a base this week and I’m beginning to think he won’t sniff 50 SBs this year. Trea will be fine just as the Nationals heat up. He won’t reach the heights we hoped for but owners will be happy with Trea at the end of the season. Would I take Marte over Turner right now? Not a chance.

Hey Chris Taylor, maybe your 2017 was a bit of a fluke. It’s his lack of contact that’s the problem. He’s actually swinging outside the zone less but is whiffing more. His zone contact is nearly 5% below league average. That’s not good. I think he could still hit 20 homers but is only 4 out of 9 on the bases. Without a significant speed component to his game, he’s just another guy who is eligible at a bunch of positions. Best case scenario, he goes 20-10 with a .265 average.


Freezing Cold Pitchers
Mike Foltynewicz has been beaten around recently with 10 ER in his last 12.2 IP along with 4 homers! I’m willing to look the other way a bit because he came off the DL three weeks ago, but he was due for a little bit of regression prior to the injury. I am encouraged because his swing strike rates in the last three games have all been higher than his season rate of 10.6%. If Folty can prove that he can maintain his elevated strikeout rate, he’s a top 25 SP. A this point, I need to see a couple more starts before making a recommendation on buying or selling.

Dylan Bundy’s roller-coaster season continues as he’s allowed 10 ER in his last 7.1 IP with 5 walks and only 5 Ks. I recently rage dropped Bundy in my H2H 12-team mixed league. He’s too sporadic for H2H leagues and gives up far too many homers. His only plus pitch is his slider and when his control is off, you’re bound to get stuck with a 5-6 ER outing. A 1.74 HR/9 just isn’t going to play. I love the swing and miss stuff and believe in his upside, so I’d hold in 15-team leagues and deeper. Here are his earned runs given up in his last 7 games: 5, 5, 2, 4, 0, 0, 3. He also has two 7 run outings as well. Ugh, frustrating.

Tyson Ross was a pretty cool story for the first two months. Since then, he’s sporting a 5.91 ERA with only 29 strikeouts in 42.2 IP. Ross looks toast and probably needs the break more than anyone. Maybe he should take a couple weeks off on the DL. If he doesn’t, he is going to be a pitcher I look to stream against. Even if he does hit the DL, I can’t trust him again this year. Move along everyone.

Matt Boyd is another long-shot coming into the year. He showed some promise over the last year+ and with the addition of Chris Bosio as the pitching coach, I figured either Boyd or Norris would see some improvements. I don’t know what happened to Norris. He’s probably living in a van down by the river, literally. Boyd at least looked great for a couple months. He still wasn’t getting strikeouts. Turns out hes more or less the same guy he was last year. A low-end streamer. I guess Bosio isn’t some magic pitching genius. Oh well.