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February 27, 2014

Dynasty League Positional Rankings

Top 175 Starting Pitchers

by Bret Sayre

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To read the previous articles in this series, follow the links below:

The Primer:
Because dynasty league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, where there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever and owners have minor league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETA’s down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or only formats.

Even with Matt Harvey’s elbow explosion, 2013 will go down as the year of the young pitcher breakouts. And that leads to a lot of new faces toward the top of this list. Of course, it’s not all wine and roses for all of these young players, as people are getting a little overexcited about some relatively small samples—but more on that later. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was were a number of “stable” and “low-risk” pitchers who took a tumble down this list in the last 12 months, which goes to show you that those words only mean so much when it comes to those who occupy the mound. In the prospect world, we have a few choice guys with front of the rotation upside, but many more of the strong number three starter variety. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as a many high-end dynasty rotations have been built using a Costco-sized group of number threes.

And now, your top 175 starting pitchers in dynasty formats

It may surprise some to see King Felix sandwiched in between the current aces and the future aces, but his consistency and track record speak for themselves. He has the whole package: the durability, the skills and the ballpark. We know what these other guys are. Fernandez and Strasburg could compete for Cy Young awards for years in the National League, but Fernandez gets the slight edge for both age and (fair or not) the injury association for Strasburg.

I love both of these guys. Wainwright has the skill set to continue his run of success well into his 30s and Cole has the stuff to be mentioned alongside Fernandez and Strasburg in short order.

More aces. Pitching is thick at the top in both redraft and dynasty leagues.

Here’s the thick no. 2 starter tier, before we get into the high-end prospects and major leaguers who either have too much risk or not enough upside to reach this point. Harvey would have been no. 5 on this list if he hadn’t gone under the knife, and even though I don’t think this changes his long-term value much, the lost year gives him a good hit. Consider me in the camp of people who aren’t losing sleep over Homer Bailey’s velocity—even if he gives a little of it back, he’s a better pitcher than he was three or four years ago. And also throw me in the camp of people who can’t figure out why more people don’t love Alex Cobb. Though with his skills, you probably knew I’d say that.

These are the three best fantasy pitching prospects in the game. Learn their names, for they will take you places.

These players are strong pitchers or prospects but don’t have enough to break into the tiers above. I’m still a pretty sizable believer in Jarrod Parker—he started off 2013 on a terrible foot, but had a 3.22 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in his last 24 starts of the season. This is a reasonable spot to have Michael Wacha, who opened a lot of eyes in the playoffs last season, but is still pretty easily the third best option in his own rotation.

You want risk? This group has it in spades. Two Tommy John recoverees, a big-time starter with a big-time injury history, and the undefeated legend from Japan who will have to contend with both major-league hitters and the short porch at Yankee Stadium.

There’s not much of a wrong order you can put these 16 guys in. Danny Salazar has a lot of hype, but has a lot to prove both in performance sustainability and health. Martin Perez gets knocked for being a “failed” prospect, but his strikeout rate improved as 2013 went on and he’s adding a cutter this spring. R.A. Dickey may seem awfully high for a 38-year-old coming off a down year, but he’s due for a rebound and you can’t put knuckleballers into boxes (or if you do, at least cut holes in it).

So many names. Josh Johnson and Ian Kennedy will get some helium as the season draws closer, but both should be nice value bounce backs in San Diego. Niese will get knocked down substantially if there’s anything even slightly disturbing in his MRI. I still believe in Trevor Cahill, even though he keeps giving me more reasons not to. Porcello is a guy to watch, especially with Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler now presiding over the middle of the infield.

Just because we’ve all been unsuccessfully waiting for Anderson to fulfill his promise doesn’t mean that we should give up all hope. Coors Field be damned, he still has the skill to do this.

Don’t question my love of Edwin Jackson, you’ll only get hurt. Duffy has the raw stuff to be a top-50 player on this list, but he can’t harness it the way he needs to in games to throw real innings. Add Chacin to the growing list of pitchers with injury concerns. I’m not a big Tyson Ross believer, as is obvious by this ranking, and he’ll have to show it to me again this year before I change my mind. Watch out for Sean Manaea—when this list comes out again next year, he could be dangerously close to the major leagues if he’s as healthy as the Royals claim this spring.

This is such a hedge here. We don’t know what’s going on inside of Garcia’s shoulder, but it’s not a prairie filled with unicorns dancing under rainbows. If he needs surgery, he’s practically off the list. If he were perfectly healthy, with returning velocity, he’d be on the verge of the top 50.

This is a lot of names. Some of them pitch better than others. Some even throw with their left hands. Three names in this group to keep an eye on: Brandon Maurer, Casey Kelly, and Taylor Jordan. All three are young and have more upside than they’ve been able to show in their brief major-league careers.

Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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