Last week I released my top 30 starting pitchers for 2020. I wrote a quick blurb for each starter explaining why they were ranked where I had them. You can see that post here. I dropped Mike Clevinger to 15 overall after the news of his offseason knew surgery came through. He’s probably going to miss the first month of the season, so his ceiling is probably 165 innings. I was very high on him coming into 2020 (early rank was seven overall) but I think he can still provide some value. Last season, he threw only 126 innings and finished as the 18th ranked starting pitcher per the Razzball Player Rater. It’s reasonable to project him for around 150 innings which slots him right around the 15th SP in my opinion. Let’s dive into the rest of my starting pitcher rankings for 2020.
2020 Starting Pitcher Rankings Table 31-50
|40||Hyun-Jin Ryu||Blue Jays|
|43||Eduardo Rodriguez||Red Sox|
|50||Shohei Ohtani (SP only)||Angels|
Mike Soroka is known for his power sinker. It generated a ton of ground balls and weak contact. That’s great but his strikeout rate was 7.4 per nine innings. That’s not quite what you’re looking for in a top-40 arm. Remember when I was discussing Clevinger in the introduction? Well, he had a 12.1 K/9 and 27 more strikeouts than Soroka in 50 fewer innings. This isn’t about Clevinger but you can see how valuable strikeouts are. Soroka does utilize a slider and an elite changeup that can be used as a second putaway pitch to improve his K%. With three plus-pitches, he could take the next step and become a top-25 SP. Zac Gallen and Max Fried are my top targets in this range. Of course, they have a ton of helium going into draft season, so I’ll have to pay up for them.
German Marquez is doomed thanks to Coors Field but his skills looked as sharp as ever in 2019. Maybe he was a tad lucky in 2018 but I believe he was unlucky last year. Can he tame Coors Field? That’s a tall task but I believe he should be even better on the road in 2020 than he was last year. If can post a low-3s ERA with a 1.10 WHIP and 10 K/9 on the road, he should provide enough value to warrant this rank. Shohei Ohtani likely won’t pitch in a Major League game until May. If he throws every six games, that’s 20-22 starts. Averaging six innings per start is asking a lot but that would be his ceiling in terms of innings pitched. So, I’m projecting him for 120 innings which caps his value. I think they will be very good innings but not quite Clevinger-esque. That’s why he slots in at 50.
Here’s what I said about Musgrove this week at FantasyPros: “Musgrove added about 0.5 MPH on his fastball last year, but the big adjustment was his increased usage of his changeup. The changeup became an elite offering for him, as he got hitters to chase the pitch outside the zone over 50% of the time! In addition to getting batters to chase, Musgrove can also throw the pitch for strikes and generate below-average contact on pitches inside the zone. He pairs the elite changeup with his established slider. Between the two-plus pitches for Musgrove, he should be able to bump his strikeout rate to the 23-24% range. Given his 68% first-pitch strike rate, I anticipate another walk rate well-below league average, keeping his WHIP below 1.20. For 2019, I project Musgrove for 11 wins, 3.80 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 160 strikeouts in 163 innings.”
– Max Freeze (Freeze Stats)
2020 Starting Pitcher Rankings Table 51-70
|53||Lance McCullers Jr.||Astros|
|61||Michael Kopech||White Sox|
|67||Dallas Keuchel||White Sox|
Griffin Canning has a rocking slider with a 21.7% SwStr rate in 2019. His curve and change are decent as well but he served up eight homers off his fastball. I think he’s going to strikeout over 25% of the batters he faces but could run into some issues with home runs and walks. He’s likely going to be a bit of a headache but has the ability to jump a tier. Can Masahiro Tanaka get his feel back on his splitter? That’s going to be the key to his success. If he can, we are looking at a top-35 starter but I am not as confident. I expect more inconsistent outings from Tanaka in 2020. Forget Mitch Keller‘s 7.45 ERA in 48 innings last year, his stuff was ridiculous. Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leaderboard had him pegged for about a 30% K rate and a 23% K-BB%. That’s entering the elite territory. He has everything I’m looking for is a breakout. He averages 95-96 mph on his fastball, has an elite putaway pitch, and a curveball that induced a ton of ground balls and weak contact.
Getting out of Baltimore and AL East is the best move for Dylan Bundy. He leaves one of the worst parks for home runs to a more neutral park in LAA. He also will avoid the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays multiple times per year. He brings a very good slider and changeup to the table, so he has a chance at a sub-4.00 ERA with a strikeout per inning. I’ll take a chance on that after pick 225. Kyle Gibson‘s slider has a 27.1% SwStr%! Oh, and his changeup has a 20.3% SwStr% with a 60% ground ball rate. Those two pitches alone should make him more valuable but he struggles to find the zone. That and both of his fastballs are just trash. He’s going to be a bumpy ride but could find his way to some very elite outings.
2020 Starting Pitcher Rankings Table 71-100
|93||Dylan Cease||White Sox|
Sandy Alcantara is getting a lot of love as a sleeper for 2020, but I just don’t get it. He was much better over the last two months of 2019 when he threw his sinker more often. His sinker is his best pitch but it’s not going to get a ton of strikeouts. His changeup is decent but his slider and fourseamer are bad. He’s kind of like a hard-throwing Marcus Stroman without the elite ground ball rate. Jame Paxton! UGGGHHHHHH! The injury/surgery basically puts him into the DO NOT DRAFT LIST. The timetable for his return has him coming back in May or early-June but I’d bet on late-June. I usually add a few weeks for rehab, he could basically be valuable for only three months of the season. That’s too much risk to take on. Now, Luis Severino is having forearm soreness. The Yankees need to already do some damage control with their rotation and we haven’t hit March yet. He will drop in my rankings but I can’t say how much just yet.
Josh James has electric stuff with questionable command and will be competing for the fifth starter spot in Houston. He was a popular sleeper heading into 2019 and it did not pan out. I need to see a little more out of his third pitch, his changeup, to see if he can make it as a starter. But, his fastball is legit and he flashed it with a 14.1% SwStr rate on it in 2019. Unfortunately, the numbers from the bullpen won’t translate linearly if he becomes a starter but I’m drafting skills not roles after SP75 overall.
You all know I love Tyler Beede. I talked about him on Benched with Bubba and wrote about his curveball in my underutilized pitches piece at Pitcher List. He actually has three pitches that generated a SwStr% over 15% and averages almost 95 mph on his fastball. He has the stuff to vault into the top-50 but he needs to reduce his fastball usage and throw his secondaries more often. I think Dustin May is a great breakout candidate but once again the Dodgers have 7-8 options to start games, so guessing how many innings May will get is a fool’s errand. Because of that, I can’t take the plunge on May in 12-team formats unless some favorable news coming out of Dodgers camp but in a 15-team format, he’s a great late-round flier.
Dylan Cease must work on his fastball command to become successful. He only threw it in the zone 43% of the time in 2019. That’s not good. It was also crushed when batters swung at it in the zone with a 189 wRC+ against it in 2019. That means he was missing his spots. Additionally, walks around going to be an issue, especially early on. His slider is good and the changeup has some potential, so he’s a late-round dart in 15-team formats.
2020 Starting Pitcher Rankings Table 101-152
|118||Nathan Eovaldi||Red Sox|
|125||Matt Shoemaker||Blue Jays|
|128||Nate Pearson||Blue Jays|
|130||Reynaldo Lopez||White Sox|
|133||Trent Thornton||Blue Jays|
|135||Tanner Roark||Blue Jays|
|136||Chase Anderson||Blue Jays|
|142||Martin Perez||Red Sox|
|143||Gio Gonzalez||White Sox|
If Austin Voth earns the fifth rotation spot for the Nationals, I will bump him up at least 15 spots. Here’s what I said about Voth two months ago.
“At age-27, he’s not a highly rated prospect but showed impressive skills in 2019 with a 17.8% K-BB% and a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings. His fastball wasn’t bad, but it’s his secondaries that get me going. All three of his secondaries, CU, CT, CH generated swinging strike rates north of 16.5%. The curve is the best of the bunch with a 38.9% strikeout rate. We are dealing with limited samples but hell, it’s after pick 250 and there is a top-150 ceiling here.”
In addition to Voth, here are some of my favorite dart throws after SP-100. Ross Stripling, Tyler Mahle, Patrick Sandoval, Austin Pruitt, Drew Smyly, Corbin Burnes, and Chad Kuhl. Kuhl missed all of 2019 with Tommy John Surgery and hasn’t thrown a pitch in a big-league game just yet. I’m skeptical but if he wins a starting spot out of spring training, I think he’ll be valuable once he gets his rhythm down.
Photo credit: Prospects Live