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March 1, 2016

Fantasy Three-Year Projections

Starting Pitchers, Part Two: 51-125

by J.J. Jansons

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As was pointed out in previous editions, positional three-year rankings are perhaps most useful for keeper-league owners, but they can serve a number of purposes for dynasty-league owners as well, particularly those who are in (or approaching) contention and not knee-deep in the perpetual rebuild that many owners seem to enjoy. If your contention window is now and you’re wondering who to keep and who to deal, the three-year rankings are for you, as they won’t feature any prospects who are just legally able to vote.

It’s especially important to note that these rankings are decidedly not the consensus rankings of the BP Fantasy Staff; they are the rankings of the selected author.

Ben Carsley outlined the direction for these rankings in last year’s edition, and I’ll copy below with the years updated to make sense for this year’s version:

The formula is simple: most of the weight is placed upon projected 2016 performance, with a substantial drop in weighting potential 2017 performance and then another drop in how 2018 output is valued. Finally, remember these are themed around positions, so losing eligibility is a big deal within the confines of this particular exercise.”

Yesterday, we took a look at starting pitchers Nos. 1-50, today we take a glimpse at pitchers Nos. 51-125:

51) Wei-Yin Chen, MIA
52) John Lackey, CHC
53) Collin McHugh, HOU
54) Gio Gonzalez, WAS
55) Scott Kazmir, LAD

None of the mid-rotation names above are particularly sexy, and while they all should provide value over the next three years, I just wouldn’t be looking for any of them to be more than a SP4. Even with the fences being moved in at spacious Marlins Park, Chen should be helped by the change of leagues. In his four seasons with the Orioles (2012-2015), he turned in cFIP totals of: 102, 100, 96, and 97, respectively, so projecting him to suddenly morph into more than what he is at this point is probably not a good idea. Although Lackey was a top 20 starter in 2015, his DRA of 4.13 equaled his 2014 performance and he’s only signed for the next two seasons. McHugh’s strikeout rate dropped from 25.4 percent mark he posted in his breakout 2014 to 19.9 percent in 2015, and he wasn’t helped by a 51-point jump in his BABIP. His 2015 performance was still good enough to place him in the top 30, but if his strikeout rate dips further, it could put his fantasy value into perilous territory. Gonzalez pitched much better over the second-half of 2015, but he also allowed a ton of hard contact, which contributed to a .341 BABIP, and his highest ERA (3.79) and WHIP (1.42) as a National. Kazmir pitched much worse (again) over the second-half of 2015, but he did make 29 or more starts for the third consecutive season and his move to Dodger Stadium should help mask his decline.

56) Kenta Maeda, LAD
57) Joe Ross, WAS
58) Kevin Gausman, BAL
59) Luis Severino, NYY
60) Aaron Nola, PHI
61) Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS
62) Andrew Heaney, LAA
63) Vincent Velasquez, PHI
64) Zack Wheeler, NYM
65) Lucas Giolito, WAS
66)
Tyler Glasnow, PIT
67) Daniel Norris, DET
68) Jose Berrios, MIN
69) Anthony DeSclafani, CIN
70) Jerad Eickhoff, PHI
71) Kyle Hendricks, CHC

This is the grouping from which I want to do my buying over the next three seasons, as it features plenty of upside—but also plenty of the risks that accompany an investment in young pitching. Maeda looks the part of a solid mid-rotation starter, but I have my doubts on whether he makes 30 or more starts in each of the next three years, and that’s reflected in his ranking (and his contract). Ross and Gausman are slated to take giant steps forward this season, but there will likely be bumps in the road for each on their way to a full-fledged breakout in 2017 that could see each become a top-30 option at the position for years to come. Severino and Nola were very similar in value as they debuted in 2015, and I see their values resembling one another over the next three. Severino will likely strike out more hitters and win more games, but Nola’s better command will enable him to walk fewer batters than Severino. On the other hand, he’ll struggle to accumulate wins as Philly tanks/rebuilds.

DeSclafani is one of the few to have a rotation spot locked up in Cincinnati and was very impressive down the stretch in 2015 for a bad Reds team, vastly improving his strikeout rate as the season went on and cutting his walk rate in half over the season’s second half. Rodriguez, who posted a cFIP of 97, and Heaney (cFIP of 100), will both look to improve on their lackluster strikeout totals from 2015 in an effort to avoid another up-and-down season in 2016. The talent is there for both to reach SP3 status, but fantasy owners that expected more might need to dial back their expectations a bit. The Phillies are going to give Velasquez every opportunity to hold down a rotation spot, but he’s pitched 100 or more innings in a season exactly once, which came in 2013. As much as I like his long-term prospects, expectations should be tempered for his 2016 performance as he’s not likely to pitch enough innings to make a huge impact.

Wheeler is slated to return to the mound in July, as if the Mets need any more help in their rotation. His talent would easily place him inside the top 30, which is where I feel he’ll end up in 2017 and beyond, but he’ll be handled very carefully in 2016—suppressing his value on this list. I don’t envision any scenario in which Mike Rizzo and company summon Lucas Giolito prior to this year’s Super 2 cutoff and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he doesn’t get the call until rosters expand in September. He’s going to be a fantasy monster, I don’t have much doubt about that, but I don’t see it happening in 2016. Glasnow should be up after the Super Two cutoff, but after pitching 124 or fewer innings in each of the last two seasons, the Pirates will likely handle him very carefully when he does arrive. His 13 percent walk rate in eight Triple-A starts to finish 2015 indicate that he probably could use more seasoning in the minors.

Norris thankfully has a clean bill of health heading into 2016, but he’s simply going to have to do a much better job in limiting the free passes to be more than a back-end rotation option. The stuff is there, but it’s probably going to take a few more years to harness it—if he ever does. Berrios was one of the Twins five best rotation options in 2015, but spent the entirety of the year in the minors and is stuck behind Tyler Duffey and Tommy Milone (and possibly Trevor May) to begin 2016. Eickhoff was very impressive in his first eight major league starts and has a rotation spot locked up to begin 2016 as a result. I like him much more than PECOTA does, and despite the spelling of his first name, I’m a believer in his ability to be a solid SP4 with a bit of upside, assuming he’s able to maintain the strikeout rate (22 percent or higher) that he showed at each level—including the majors—over the last two seasons. Hendricks was much better in 2015 than his 3.95 ERA suggests, but he’ll have to fend off Adam Warren for his rotation spot to begin the season. Hendricks averaged less than six innings an outing, which led to only eight wins in his 32 starts, and I don’t feel Joe Maddon will let him stick around to face the order a third time very often, which will likely limit his win and strikeout totals as a result.

72) Ian Kennedy, KC
73) Mike Leake, STL
74) Kyle Gibson, MIN
75) Mike Fiers, HOU
76) Wade Miley, SEA
77) Clay Buchholz, BOS
78) Andrew Cashner, SD
79) Nathan Eovaldi, NYY
80) Marco Estrada, TOR
81) Jason Hammel, CHI

This tier features pretty well-known quantities that are capable of providing stability in deeper leagues, but the only pitcher that I’d be enthused about owning in this tier is Kyle Gibson, who would rank much higher had his second-half (5.22 ERA) in 2015 been closer to his first-half (2.85 ERA). Gibson didn’t actually pitch that much worse after the All-Star break, as his BABIP rose 44 points, and his 3.88 DRA for the season was good for 43rd among starters, finishing just ahead of Jon Lester.

82) Jaime Garcia, STL
83) Hyun-jin Ryu, LAD
84) Matt Moore, TBR
85) James Paxton, SEA
86) Trevor Bauer, CLE
87) Rich Hill, OAK
88) Jon Gray, COL

Hard pass. I’d much rather let somebody else deal with the headaches that the pitchers in this grouping will bring in 2016 and beyond. I don’t have any real idea as for what will happen this season for these guys—let alone the next three years—and would only roster these guys if they come cheap. Very cheap.

89) Julio Urias, LAD
90) Sean Newcomb, ATL
91)
Jorge Lopez, MIL
92) Francis Martes, HOU
93)
Archie Bradley, ARI
94)
Robert Stephenson, CIN
95)
Sean Manaea, OAK
96) Jose De Leon, LAD
97)
Marco Gonzales, STL
98)
Jake Thompson, PHI
99)
Cody Reed, CIN
100) Blake Snell, TBR
101)
Michael Fulmer, DET
102)
Jameson Taillon, Pirates
103)
Braden Shipley, Diamondbacks
104) Aaron Blair, ATL
105)
Colin Rea, SDP
Archie Bradley may seem out of place with this grouping, but he’s currently behind Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray for a rotation spot in 2016 and will likely need to make up for the innings he lost due to injuries in 2015 while in the minors, limiting his value for the upcoming season. Colin Rea and Aaron Blair are the most likely of this grouping to see extended big league action in 2016, but their limited upside keep them behind the flashier names ahead of them. It’s certainly possible that a few of these big-names like Urias, Newcomb, or Snell could see time in a big league rotation in 2016, but I feel that the names in this tier will make their fantasy bones in 2017 and beyond, limiting their value for this exercise. Bret Sayre will have plenty of information regarding the long-term values of this grouping when his dynasty rankings run later in the week.

106) Nathan Karns, SEA
107) Tyler Duffey, MIN
108) Jimmy Nelson, MIL
109) Edinson Volquez, KC
110) Erasmo Ramirez, TB
111) Derek Holland, TEX
112) Jon Niese, PIT
113) Rick Porcello, BOS
114) Josh Tomlin, CLE
115) Ervin Santana, MIN
116) R.A. Dickey, TOR
117) Martin Perez, TEX
118) Hector Santiago, LAA
119) Matt Wisler, ATL
120) Brandon Finnegan, CIN
121) Chad Bettis, COL

Karns is a pitcher that I’m high on, and would rank much higher on this list if he was assured of a rotation spot. He could be on the outside looking in when the season starts. However, he’s just one injury to Iwakuma or Paxton away from jumping in. After struggling in his major league debut, Duffey was impressive over his 10 big-league starts, but I’m not entirely convinced that the Twins won’t move him to the bullpen at some point. Jon Niese will get the Ray Searage treatment in 2016 and he’s done better with worse. I haven’t given up on Matt Wisler long-term, but 2016 (in his age-23 season) isn’t going to be the season that he puts it all together. Finnegan’s ranking is reflective of my feelings about his likelihood of staying in the rotation over the next three seasons.

122) Lance Lynn, STL
123) Jesse Hahn, OAK
124) Robbie Ray, ARI
125) Joe Kelly, BOS

Plenty of great stuff to be found in this tier.

Notable omissions: Anderson Espinoza, and every other Low-A pitcher that won’t see the majors until 2018 or later

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

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