Rankings – SP

Top 80 SP for 2016

1) Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw came close to beating his unreal 2014 last year. He upped his K rate to an absurd 33.8%. That number is mind blowing. He did that over 232.66 IP. There isn’t a better SP in fantasy and Kershaw is truly something special. I don’t advocate drafting an SP early, but Kershaw is the clear exception.

2) Max Scherzer
3) Chris Sale
4) Madison Bumgarner
5) Jake Arrieta

Scherzer was fantastic last year and the only thing that hurt him was his 14 wins. With how good he was last year, it’s amazing that he only won 14. His K/BB was 8.12 which beat Kershaw by 0.95. His FIP and xFIP were 2.77 and 2.88 respectively which fall right in line with his 2.79 WHIP. Scherzer is a strikeout machine (30.7 K% last year) and has shown great durability (200+ IP the last three years) which is why he leads this group.
Sale is just as good as Scherzer, but I do worry about the durability and wins which is why he is behind Scherzer. The wins aren’t all Sale’s fault and this figures to be an improved team from last year so there is some hope that the wins tick up. Otherwise, Sale is a stud in Ks, ERA and WHIP.
Madison Bumgarner is about as consistent as it gets and he is coming off of one of his better performances. He had a career high 12.5% swinging strike rate and a career low walk rate (4.5%). He is somehow only 26 years old and there’s no reason to think he’ll suddenly see a decrease in production.
Jake Arrieta was unbelievable last year…literally. The 1.77 ERA simply is not repeatable. He is still an awesome pitcher, but he had a 2.35 FIP, 2.61 xFIP and a 2.75 SIERA. His .246 BABIP was the 3rd lowest in the majors for qualified starters. His 80% LOB% was the 4th highest in the majors. What I’m getting at is that Arrieta is likely to regress. Even with that regression he’s still a top 5 SP, but in all likelihood we see something closer to his great 2014 than his otherworldly 2015.

6) David Price
7) Corey Kluber
8) Matt Harvey
9) Gerrit Cole
10) Carlos Carrasco

I have little to no concerns about David Price moving to Boston after how he performed in Toronto. He’s pitched in the ALE for a long time and this should be no different. His 2.78 FIP and 3.24 xFIP don’t paint a rosy picture for him being able to reproduce a 2.45 ERA, but he’ll give you strong ratios, great Ks and likely a big win total on a much improved Red Sox team.
Don’t let the 3.49 ERA push you off of Corey Kluber. He was every bit of good in 2015 as 2014 but had some terrible luck. He had a 2.97 FIP, 3.05 xFIP and 2.98 SIERA. He increased his swinging strike rate to 12.9% as well. Now that the Cleveland defense is much improved, I would expect Kluber to improve his ERA dramatically. Do not fall into the ERA trap with Kluber.
I hope everyone is ready for a full season of Matt Harvey as he should be off of any inning limits. Harvey was great last year and considering it was his first full season after TJ, it’s even more impressive. His peripheral stats were great with a 3.05 FIP, 3.24 xFIP and 3.23 SIERA. Harvey should be a four category stud.
The back end of this tier is probably where I’ll grab my first SP and Cole is one guy I will target with that pick. He burst onto the scene in his first full season with a 2.66 FIP, 3.16 xFIP and 3.23 SIERA. He has shown the ability to generate a lot of Ks, not walk many batters and limit the home run ball. Cole is 25 and we might not have seen his best quite yet.
Carlos Carrasco, oh how I love you. I have Carrasco pegged to win the Cy Young this year so I was surprised I couldn’t find a way to bump him up this list. The one worry I have is that he’s never eclipsed 200 IP. He’s never even eclipsed 185 IP. That is literally my only concern. Carrasco was nasty at the end of last year. His 3.63 is a complete farce. He dropped a 2.84 FIP, 2.66 xFIP and 2.74 SIERA. It’s ok if the blood rushes to the pant region. He backed that up with a 29.6% K rate and a 5.9% BB rate. All of this with nearly three months of a terrible defense. The sky is limit for Carrasco this year and he could easily finish the year as a Top 5 SP. Not joking.

11) Stephen Strasburg
12) Zack Greinke
13) Jacob deGrom
14) Felix Hernandez
15) Chris Archer
16) Jose Fernandez

A lot of people will consider Strasburg’s 2015 a failure with his injuries and 3.46 ERA. His underlying numbers paint a completely different picture. He had a 2.81 FIP, 2.69 xFIP, and 2.76 SIERA to go along with a 29.6% K rate and 5.0% BB rate. All of those are amazing. Considering that Strasburg has every incentive in the world to pitch well this year considering he’s a free agent at year’s end and it’s easy to talk yourself into him. Injuries will always be a concern with Strasburg, but if others shy away it’s a perfect opportunity to get a top SP at a discount. This will be a good year to own Strasburg.
Zack Greinke was awesome last year but there isn’t a chance he reproduces. He is still a fantastic picture, but his 1.66 ERA was backed up with a 2.76 FIP, 3.22 xFIP and 3.27 SIERA. The .229 BABIP against and 86.5 LOB% both point a picture of a lucky season. Even a regressed Greinke figures to have a sub 3 ERA, but he just doesn’t K enough guys to be in my top 10.
I was way wrong about Jacob deGrom. I never thought he could do what he’s done, but after two years it’s safe to say I missed badly. deGrom is absolutely an elite SP. His career FIP is 2.69 and career xFIP is 2.97. The only concern with deGrom is innings. He hasn’t quite made it to 200 yet.
I’m worried about Felix Hernandez if that isn’t evident by this ranking. There is some positives from last season. Mainly the 15.3% HR/FB was Hernandez’s highest mark since 2006. It’s likely that he had an unlikely HR stretch which caused his inflated 3.72 FIP. His xFIP was only 3.33 (xFIP normalizes HR rate to a league average). 3.33 is still a great mark but it’s a far cry from the Felix of the prior three years. I think we still have another year or two of top 15 to top 20 production, but time is running out.
Chris Archer, code name Duchess, was downright filthy last year. At times he was nearly unhittable He has two elite pitches in the changeup and slider. The CH generates whiffs on nearly 32% of swings last year and the SL was at nearly 39%. This culminated in an elite 12.8% swinging strike rate. Archer’s jump to a 29% rate seems completely legit looking at how good his CH and SL were. Archer will be a hot commodity in drafts this year but he’s likely worth the high pick.
Fernandez was great when he pitched last year with a 2.24 FIP, 2.62 xFIP, 29.8 K% and 5.3 BB%. He should be just as good this year. The only thing holding him back from being ranked higher is the innings limit. I haven’t seen a definitive number yet, but unless the Marlins are in the heat of the wildcard race, there will be no reason to push Fernandez. 160 IP of Fernandez will be very good, but his upside is limited.

17) Jon Lester
18) Noah Syndergaard
19) Johnny Cueto
20) Dallas Keuchel

Syndergaard was fantastic last year and his xFIP (2.91) and SIERA (2.95) suggest that his 3.24 ERA could get even better. The sky is limit for the 23 year old. Cueto had a rough year last year, but he’s going to a great ballpark for what he does. He should have a pretty good defense behind him as well. Cueto lacks the K upside, but should make up for it with great rate stats and a bunch of wins. Cueto will have to burn me twice before I’m truly out on him. Dallas Keuchel upped his K rate to 23.7% which makes his future of sub 3 ERAs more of a reality than a dream. He’ll be hard pressed to repeat a sub 2.5 ERA, but he’s still a top 20 SP.

21) Michael Pineda
22) Francisco Liriano
23) Adam Wainwright
24) Sonny Gray
25) Danny Salazar
26) Masahiro Tanaka

Pineda won’t be ranked this high in many places, but I am all in. Pineda hasn’t put many guys on base since he started with the Yankees and that’s a great skill. Last year his swinging strike rate was a great 11.9%. The one thing holding Pineda back was terrible luck and a mediocre defense. Pineda had a .332 BABIP against and a 68.6% LOB%. Pineda was tied for the 5th highest BABIP and his LOB% was the 10th lowest among SPs with at least 160 IP last year. It’s easy to see that his 4.37 ERA was the result of some bad luck. His 2.95 xFIP and 3.09 SIERA paint a very nice picture for the future. Injury concerns will always be there, but the upside is an elite SP on a pretty good team.
Liriano and Wainwright are both getting up there in years, but both are worthy of a high draft pick until they prove otherwise. Sonny Gray exceeded his peripherals by quite a bit last year. He had a 3.45 FIP, 3.69 xFIP and 3.8 SIERA. None of those backup his 2.73 ERA. We do know that there are guys who consistently outperform their peripherals, but Gray doesn’t have the sample size for us to safely conclude that. I’d be cautious for now. Danny Salazar is the one guy outside of the top 20 who I think can finish in the top 10 for SPs. If he makes even minor improvements in K rate and BB rate it could lead to a big year. He’s always had a bit of a problem with HRs (career 12% HR/FB). It would be nice to see him take a step forward there as well. Either way Salazar is a K machine with major upside. Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t quite as good in his second MLB season but he was still valuable. It’s easy to think that the injury has something to do with that. He’s not without risk but he also has the upside of his 2014 season.

27) Cole Hamels
28) Garrett Richards
29) Marcus Stroman
30) Michael Wacha
31) Jeff Samardzija
32) Tyson Ross
33) Carlos Martinez

Garrett Richards’s velocity took a step back last year (95.7 avg fastball) from his 2014 number of 96.4 mph. This likely explains his K rate drop from 24.2% to 20.4%. I don’t read into spring training number much, but Richards appears to be lighting up the gun again. He actually had a better swinging strike rate in 2015 (11.1%) than in 2014 (10.8%). If he can continue to make strides there and gets a bump in velocity, he could be just as good as his insane 2014. It’s hard to make much of Stroman’s 27 innings in 2015. It wouldn’t surprise me if he struggles a bit to start the year. He doesn’t have elite K upside, but he should provide above average rate stats at the very least. Michael Wacha’s best pitch is his changeup. For whatever reason, his usage decreased last year even though he had a 30.6% whiff per swing. It’s almost inexplicable why he threw the pitch less. Wacha was also downright awful in the closing months. He had a 16.1% BB rate in September and October. His peripherals definitely didn’t back up Wacha’s ERA and he’s a risky pick, but he does have upside if you tolerate the risk.
My argument for Samardzija is pretty simple: better park, better defense and better team. I’d count on those things equating to a bounce back. Don’t be scared away by his 2015. Tyson Ross has been fantastic the last few years and if the Padres could ever get him some wins, he’d be ranked much higher. He’s still a WHIP risk, but he’s a big time K guy (25.8% last year) and should post an ERA around 3. Lots to like with Ross.
Carlos Martinez is not without risk. His injury last year is worrisome, but those willing to take the risk could be rewarded with a top 20 SP. Martinez dropped a 3.21 FIP and 3.28 xFIP so his 3.01 ERA might have been a bit lucky, but he is a sub 3.5 pitcher at this point. He generates a lot of Ks (24.4%) with a nearly unhittable changeup (42.8 whiffs per swing in 2015) and a very good slider (32.35 whiffs per swing). If he can drop his BB rate a point or two, he could vault up this list.

34) Jake Odorizzi
35) Jose Quintana
36) Taijuan Walker
37) Raisel Iglesias
38) Patrick Corbin
39) Gio Gonzalez

Jake Odorizzi dropped his BB rate to 6.6% last year which gave him the best ERA and WHIP of his career. His FIP, xFIP and SIERA were a bit higher than his ERA, but we might see a boost in K rate which could keep his ERA under 3.5. Quintana, Iglesias, and Gonzalez were all covered previously. Taijuan Walker had some ups and downs last year but finished with a respectable 22.2% K rate and a 5.7% BB rate. His one real struggle was with the HRs. He gave up a 13% HR/FB which is terrible. His xFIP was 3.82 and I think it’s safe to say that he pitched to that rate last year and was unlucky which lead to the 4.56 ERA. Walker is an SP I’m buying this year. Patrick Corbin was great last year in his first season back from Tommy John. Now fully recovered, he could be even better. His 3.35 FIP, 3.27 xFIP, and 3.44 SIERA suggest that his 3.6 ERA was slightly inflated. He had the highest K rate and lowest BB rate of his career in the small 85 IP sample. If we forecast a bit of regression over a larger sample, it still puts him at or even better than his great 2013.

40) Justin Verlander
41) Yordano Ventura
42) Jordan Zimmermann
43) John Lackey
44) James Shields
45) Steven Matz
46) Julio Teheran
47) Yu Darvish
48) Luis Severino
49) Kyle Hendricks
50) Drew Smyly

I’m not very high on Jordan Zimmermann mostly because I think the move to the AL could be rocky for him. He’s still as consistent as they come but something bothers me about him having to face an extra real hitter every time through the lineup. Julio Teheran was never the elite SP that people seemed to draft him as last year. He is a good SP but he falls firmly outside of the top 30. Teheran wasn’t great last year because his BB rate spiked to 8.7% and his HR/FB rate jumped way up to 13%. Both of those numbers are bad. He didn’t see a velocity drop and his movement stayed fairly similar. One place where he saw some change is with vertical release point. After having three very consistent seasons, his release point fell nearly three inches. Maybe this hurt some of his deception or maybe it hurt the overall effectiveness of his pitches. It’s hard to say with certainty. I would bet on a small bounce back with Teheran.
Darvish is an interesting stash. When healthy, he’s a top 10 SP. It’s widely known that control comes back after velocity for TJ pitchers. Darvish relies on incredible movement and consistent release points (everyone remembers that gif from a few years back). It’s likely that he struggles to get that back at least to start. He’s a good stash but don’t expect him to immediately return to his past ways. Severino was fantastic on the surface last year, but the underlying numbers aren’t very kind. The 8.6% BB rate and 17.3% HR/FB are both recipes for disaster. It’s highly unlikely that his HR/FB is ever that high again, but if he can’t drop the BB rate, he’ll struggle to be a real contributor in the ERA department. The future is bright for Severino, but I have some apprehensions for this year. Hendricks and Smyly were both covered previously. I love both quite a bit.

51) Rick Porcello
52) Collin McHugh
53) Kevin Gausman
54) Scott Kazmir
55) Hisashi Iwakuma
56) Carlos Rodon
57) Wei-Yin Chen
58) Andrew Cashner

Rick Porcello was covered previously and I think this is finally the year that he has a good season. Is this the year that Kevin Gausman finally breaks out? Is it even the year the Orioles finally keep in him the rotation full time? It’s hard to definitively say yes to either of those, but he was quite good last year outside of the HR/FB rate. If he can maintain the K and BB rates and keep the ball in the yard (no easy feat in Camden), he could finally see that ERA that we’ve all been waiting for. Kazmir and Iwakuma both concern me. Kazmir because his diminished velocity in spring training and Iwakuma because of the injuries he fought last year. I can foresee a scenario in which neither pitches more than 120 IP.
Carlos Rodon is filthy and the only thing holding him back is his BB rate. Considering he is only 23 years old, there is plenty of time for him to improve in that regard. Maybe it’s not this year, but Rodon has a very bright future. Wei-Yin Chen is headed to a much better ball park in the better league for SPs. We could see a tick up in K rate and a tick down in BB rate which could give him a very good WHIP and ERA. He’s not great in Ks, but that’s my only knock now that he’s in Miami.

59) Shelby Miller
60) Lance McCullers
61) Mike Leake
62) Mike Fiers
63) Wade Miley
64) Eduardo Rodriguez
65) Jimmy Nelson
66) Aaron Nola

Continue to gamble on Shelby Miller at your own peril. Andrelton Simmons is gone and his career xFIP is 4.08 which is significantly higher than his career ERA of 3.22. Miller doesn’t strike out enough guys and walks too many to maintain a sub 3.5 ERA. Wade Miley is a late flyer I like a lot this year. He’s nothing special but he’s finally moving to a park that won’t hurt him. He stays on the mound (190+ IP every year since 2012) and has a career xFIP of 3.8. There might not be significant value but it should be steady production.
I like Jimmy Nelson a lot and it’s not exactly easy to defend that position. He was about league average last year (ERA- of 101) as he saw both his K rate and BB rate increase. If Nelson can return to his 6.1% BB rate in 2014, there is some upside. He doesn’t pitch in a great park so it’s hard to be too optimistic, but he’s still young enough to improve and easy to cut if he’s struggling. Aaron Nola would be ranked much higher if he was on another team. It’s doubtful that he wins double digit games which hurts him in a standard league. Nola might go through some struggles this year, but his 3.58 xFIP and 3.66 SIERA from the 77.66 IP last year are very promising.

67) Anthony DeSclafani
68) Jason Hammel
69) Joe Ross
70) Robbie Ray
71) Jaime Garcia
72) Anibal Sanchez
73) Ian Kennedy

DeSclafani is a good pitcher but I don’t totally buy into the hype. I’m cautiously optimistic but he will need to make significant improvements if he’s going to be much more than a top 50 SP. Joe Ross was great in 76.66 IP last year with a 3.42 FIP, 3.62 xFIP and 3.66 SIERA. He should be a full time starter on a pretty good team. As long as he can maintain the K rate, he’s a valuable late round add. The only thing holding Robbie Ray back is the BB rate. He does everything else you want from your SP. He’s a good late round gamble just to see if he can drop the BB rate.
I’d like to rank both Jaime Garcia and Anibal Sanchez higher, but neither has proven to be healthy recently. There is a lot of risk for both of these guys which is why they are ranked so low.

74) Phil Hughes
75) Jerad Eickhoff
76) Trevor Bauer
77) Nathan Eovaldi
78) Kenta Maeda
79) Alex Wood
80) Erasmo Ramirez

I covered Eickhoff already and he’s one of the few Phillies who could be a fantasy asset this year. Trevor Bauer is an old love of mine. There is immense potential in his arm but he can’t get his BB rate under control. I love everything else about his game, but a 10.6% BB rate is just hard to stomach. I’ll have him in a couple leagues just in case, but at this point, he needs to prove it before he’s drafted any higher. The Eraser had his best year since his first 59 IP stint in 2012. Not a coincidence that he also had his best swinging strike rate since his debut. His 3.75 ERA was right in line with the rest of his numbers and I would expect him to put similar numbers moving forward.

Intriguing Non-Ranked Guy: Rubby De La Rosa, Ari

Rubby De La Rosa was absolutely pummeled by lefties last year, surrendering a triple slash line of .312/.382/.567 in 87.33 IP. That’s really my one big knock on RDLR. He still walks a few too many batters (7.8% in 2015), but he can generate some Ks (18.5% last year). His swinging strike rate was 11.1% which is pretty good. RDLR has two good pitches in his changeup and slider. The CH generated swings and misses on 35.34% of pitches and the SL checked in at 33.64%. His ERA last year was a terrible 4.67 but his xFIP was 4.1 and his SIERA was 4.19. There is plenty of upside here and if RDLR can get the platoon problems figured out, he suddenly becomes a valuable SP. Don’t give up on Rubby quite yet.

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