February 27, 2015
Dynasty League Positional Rankings
Top 175 Starting Pitchers
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 2015 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or only formats.
So many pitchers. Some young, some old. Any further introduction is unnecessary given the magnitude of this list. And yes, I probably have an incorrect player/team combination on here somewhere. You’ll survive.
And now, your top 175 starting pitchers in dynasty league formats:
This should be a shock to absolutely no one. Kershaw is the only pitcher worth taking in the first round of a dynasty draft (just like in a redraft setting), and he’s unlikely to fall off this perch for quite a while. If you own him, enjoy the ride.
At this time last year, Darvish was at the top of this tier, but a slightly down season and an injury nearly pushes him out of the top five. On the other hand, Scherzer and Sale finally bullied their way into the upper echelon of fantasy starters with excellent 2014 campaigns.
It’s a hot button debate as to which Tommy John recoveree you prefer in dynasty leagues, but I lean toward the guy who has shown that second gear—even if he’s sidelined for the first couple of months in 2015. Strasburg certainly has the talent to be the no. 2 pitcher on this list, but he remains overshadowed by his potential.
8) David Price, Detroit Tigers
It may look like I’m the guy pouring cold water on the Madison Bumgarner parade (lord knows he needs more parades), but it’s a very, very close cluster here. Price raised his strikeout game significantly in 2014, and should get a healthy amount of run support in Detroit. Greinke may not be a surefire ace in all leagues, but he’s extremely consistent and should win a boatload of games in Los Angeles this year. Hamels is still an elite pitcher, and the sooner he gets away from the poor win potential and defense of the Phillies, the happier his fantasy owners will be. Expectations should be kept in check for Harvey in 2015, but he should take his rightful place as an SP1 as soon as 2016. And don’t get me started on how underrated Jordan Zimmermann is.
This may feel aggressive on Cole, but bear in mind that I also ranked him seventh last year. Even if he doesn’t take much of a step forward from here, he’s a strikeout per inning fire baller, pitching in a great pitchers’ park. Kluber was a revelation in 2014, but I’m still not jumping in with both feet in dynasty leagues until I see this level of performance (mainly strikeouts) for another season. It’s really a shame that Cobb and Teheran will be pitching for teams with brutal offenses, as it’s likely to hold down their earnings in standard leagues. If you are in a QS league instead, they become a bit more valuable.
20) Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
This ranking is me getting excited about Arrieta and what I think he’s capable of going forward, but it’s also the beginning of a new tier. Before we get to riskier pitchers, both from age and injury standpoints, Arrieta stands above the rest of the 2014 non-Kluber breakouts.
21) Adam Wainwright, St Louis Cardinals
Without the elbow concerns, Wainwright would be nearly 10 spots higher, but we can’t completely ignore them here. He’s at the age where a severe elbow injury could suck out the remainder of his elite life. Shields gets the extra fantasy love for moving to San Diego, but watch out for what should be a pretty brutal defense there. Tanaka is a very interesting case, as he was so good in the first half and carries so much risk at this point. Without the injury, he’s likely about 10 spots higher, too, but there’s also the risk that the league gets a little more comfortable against him in their second and third looks. Gray is really fun to watch, but gets overrated in fantasy circles, mostly because of that game against Justin Verlander in the 2013 playoffs. Latos, on the other hand, gets underrated because he finally missed time last year (though he still had a 3.25 ERA).
Here’s the upside grouping. Wheeler and Gausman haven’t shown their true colors in the majors, but if they do, they could become SP2s in very short order. Samardzija has the stuff to do the same, but 2014 was his first year as a starter with a below league average ERA, he’s never won 10 games in a season and will have to fight U.S. Cellular at every turn this year. Wacha went from being overrated last year to almost underrated this year—and all it took was a pesky shoulder injury and a walk-off loss to lose the pennant.
The future’s so bright, you have to wear shades.
33) Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels
A lot more up-and-comers in this tier, as Richards, Stroman, and deGrom all ended 2014 in a far different place than they started it. They are all good bets to settle in as strong fantasy starters, but not quite in the elite group—though they all carry their own risks. Ventura has the stuff to strike more batters out than he did in 2014, but with the weak contact that he’s able to induce, maybe it’s not the worst idea to stick with what’s working. I’m still a firm believer in Miller rebounding towards SP2 status, but he’s going to have to work extra hard for it in Atlanta.
41) Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds
It’s extremely tough to rank Bailey at this point, given the uncertainty around him. After off-season flexor tendon surgery, he looks like he’ll miss at least a couple of turns to start the season—something that is tough to swallow for a pitcher who needs to rack up the strikeouts to get to his value.
42) Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
Lots of fun names in here. Walker could still be the guy we thought he could be, so don’t be turned off by his PCL numbers last year. Safeco is a little different of an environment. Cashner gets many excited, but he hasn’t quite the number of bats that a pitcher with his stuff is expected to. Paxton and Ross could be very strong values here if they stay healthy, and Wood is just not a good bet to hold up over the long run, despite his impressiveness.
The dichotomy here is fun. Carrasco is about as volatile as someone in this range gets, while Quintana is about as boring and steady. Which one you prefer certainly depends on the depth of your league, and how risky you’re feeling on draft day.
56) Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
There’s something disconcerting about seeing Cain and Verlander both outside of the top 50, but that’s where we are these days. The Verlander comeback train is already starting back up, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to trade him or trade for him. His value should only rise as Spring Training goes on, if the reports are going to sound this positive. Moore, Duffy and Corbin are three left-handers who could either be way up the list or way down it at the end of 2015—with Duffy being the only one who will start the season in a rotation.
It’s like you can’t swing a stick without hitting an injury-riddled southpaw. All three of these pitchers missed significant time in 2014, and will look to rebound their value in 2015. Lee is the enigma, as there’s little doubt he can perform at a high level if he’s on the mound. Minor and Holland check in with lower upsides, but they still hold still plenty of potential to return profit at this point.
70) Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians
It’s more pitchers! What, we’re not even halfway through? Salazar may have finally bottomed out, which now makes him a somewhat decent value, unlike last year. Weaver keeps tumbling down this list, just like his velocity, but he continues to defy physics as he gets older. The prospects here form quite a contrast, as you have your safer arms like Gonzalez and Wisler combined with your huge-upside arms like Glasnow and Harvey.
87) Carlos Martinez, St Louis Cardinals
The 2015 season will likely be the last big test for Martinez’s fantasy value going forward. He has a strong chance to win the last spot in the Cardinals’ rotation, but if he doesn’t start producing as a starter, he’s likely going to be fated to the bullpen for the foreseeable future. Of course, that doesn’t preclude him from holding plenty of value, as he certainly has closer stuff; it’s just a much tougher proposition.
88) Jake Thompson, Texas Rangers
Another tier of kinda-good major-league starters and prospects who could be strong, but not elite. On the prospect scene, watch out for Hoffman and Manaea in 2015, but for different reasons. Hoffman should return in the second half, and if he is flashing the same raw stuff he showed at East Carolina, he could move up the ranks fast. For Manaea, he has to prove he can hold the mechanical adjustments he made down the stretch last year that caused him to start pitching up to his ability consistently.
Yeah, I went there.
102) Henry Owens, Boston Red Sox
We’re outside the top 100, but it’s still a bit jarring to see McHugh this high up on a dynasty list. We’ll see how long his NBS (nothing but sliders) approach lasts before either hitters figure him out or his arm ends up in the hands of Luis Valbuena. Perez is unlikely to be back before the All-Star break, but he was showing real signs of improvement before needing surgery last year. The same can be said for Skaggs, though he’s expected back a couple of months after Perez.
110) Drew Hutchison, Toronto Blue Jays
The true test of the impact of framing in fantasy leagues is going to be demonstrated by Hutchison. Going from Dioner Navarro to Russell Martin should make a difference for the 24-year-old, but the unanswered question is just how much. Either way, he should be a cheap source of strikeouts going forward.
Singling these two out not because I took them both in a mock draft last night, but because they are two starters who should benefit in the short term from returning to the National League (okay, so the two are connected).
113) Reynaldo Lopez, Washington Nationals
McCarthy is injured too often to be truly underrated, but he should put up nice stats when he does toe the rubber. Hahn gets the Doug Thorburn bump, but he too has to stay healthy in order to warrant the excitement around him. You likely won’t find Shoemaker or Gallardo on any of my rosters this year, but the same cannot be said for Dickey, whose consistency shouldn’t be overlooked in deeper leagues.
125) CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
As much as I love a good comeback story, I’m far less optimistic about this one. Sabathia has put the “good weight” back on and is checking into spring training north of three bills. While that may give a hint of optimism, the combination of Yankee Stadium and his diminished velocity trends will hold us all back from doing anything unfortunate.
126) Eddie Butler, Colorado Rockies
Fun. Fun. Boring. Boring. Fun. Fun.
132) Jarred Cosart, Miami Marlins
Cosart and Kelly are setting out to prove that they can live up to their velocity readings and career ERAs (both comfortably under 3.50). Kelly will have a harder time due to his new environment in Boston, but both make for nice gambles here. Wilson was his usual quite good self for the first two months of 2014 before the wheels came off. It won’t cost you much at this point to see if he can stick those wheels back on. DeSclafani looks like he’ll edge into a rotation spot in Cincinnati this year, and he was throwing very well in the Arizona Fall League to end the 2014 season.
Hey, look, more pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery. Nova has been throwing off a mound, but is looking at a June or July return at this point—when he’ll try to put his awful and abbreviated 2014 season behind him. Fedde has his surgery the week of the MLB draft, and the impending return of his slider (one of the best rated secondary offerings in the 2014 draft class) will go a long way towards determining how excited dynasty leaguers get about him.
148) Yusmeiro Petit, San Francisco Giants
Lots of guys who might not make a rotation out of spring training here. Petit and Roark would be 40-50 slots higher, easily, if they were guaranteed the requisite innings to build up their value. As is, long relievers (or short ones without saves for that matter) aren’t of the most use here. Fortunately, they’re likely too good to languish in the bullpen forever. Eovaldi would have been a trendy sleeper had he stayed in Miami, but pitching half his games in Yankee Stadium will not help keep those ratios down. I want Garcia to be healthy so badly, but my will alone hasn’t been enough to keep him on the field over the last couple of seasons.
159) Hector Santiago, Los Angeles Angels
It’s a sad mess at this point, but these pitchers are all rosterable in deeper mixed leagues. Yes, even Cingrani.
Oh, the heart strings. They are tugged. Maybe next year, guys.