Top 100 Starting Pitchers For 2018: Way-Too-Early Edition

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Before you look at the massive table below, please note one thing.

These rankings are going to be…okay.

It’s not that I didn’t spend a ton of time crafting them, they just won’t be on the same level of the ones I will be posting at the start of February, as I’ll have plenty more time to do individual research. Not to mention rotations being established, trades, free agency signings, hidden injuries, etc. It’s going to be different, though this will serve as a foundation for me to build on as I give my full pre-season rankings in a few months.

Nevertheless, check out the notes below as I give a basic outline to my thoughts for approaching this table. I’m looking forward to debating the names here to help refine the list in the late winter.

Let’s get to it:

Rank

Pitcher

1

Clayton Kershaw

2

Max Scherzer

3

Corey Kluber

4

Chris Sale

5

Madison Bumgarner

6

Stephen Strasburg

7

Luis Severino

8

Jacob deGrom

9

Zack Greinke

10

Noah Syndergaard

11

Justin Verlander

12

Carlos Carrasco

13

Yu Darvish

14

Aaron Nola

15

Zack Godley

16

James Paxton

17

Chris Archer

18

Carlos Martinez

19

Jake Arrieta

20

Luis Castillo

21

Robbie Ray

22

Luke Weaver

23

Michael Fulmer

24

David Price

25

Dallas Keuchel

26

Jose Berrios

27

Sonny Gray

28

Masahiro Tanaka

29

Alex Wood

30

Chase Anderson

31

Jon Lester

32

Rich Hill

33

Jose Quintana

34

Lance McCullers

35

Garrett Richards

36

Jameson Taillon

37

Gerrit Cole

38

Trevor Bauer

39

Patrick Corbin

40

Brad Peacock

41

Kyle Hendricks

42

Marcus Stroman

43

Danny Duffy

44

Danny Salazar

45

Aaron Sanchez

46

Collin McHugh

47

Charlie Morton

48

Jon Gray

49

Mike Clevinger

50

Jordan Montgomery

51

Alex Reyes

52

Johnny Cueto

53

Carlos Rodon

54

Gio Gonzalez

55

Eduardo Rodriguez

56

Jacob Faria

57

Sean Manaea

58

Dinelson Lamet

59

Kenta Maeda

60

Dylan Bundy

61

Jeff Samardzija

62

Lucas Giolitio

63

Reynaldo Lopez

64

Kevin Gausman

65

J.A. Happ

66

Michael Wacha

67

Taijuan Walker

68

Drew Pomeranz

69

Jimmy Nelson

70

Alex Cobb

71

Steven Matz

72

Robert Stephenson

73

Lance Lynn

74

Cole Hamels

75

Felix Hernandez

76

Ervin Santana

77

Tanner Roark

78

Vince Velasquez

79

Matt Shoemaker

80

Blake Snell

81

Jeff Hoffman

82

Jakob Junis

83

Trevor Cahill

84

Carson Fulmer

85

Andrew Triggs

86

Chris Stratton

87

Matt Strahm

88

Dan Straily

89

Jake Odorizzi

90

German Marquez

91

Sean Newcomb

92

Amir Garrett

93

Zack Wheeler

94

Joe Biagini

95

Jerad Eickhoff

96

Andrew Heaney

97

Zach Davies

98

Jason Vargas

99

Ivan Nova

100

Adam Wainwright

Notes

  • Let’s talk tiers. I elected not to add to them simply because the transitions get fuzzy after the second and third, but I’ll mostly spell them out here in the notes. I see the top four ending at Chris Sale as definitive, with the second tier stretching from Madison Bumgarner to Noah SyndergaardThen it gets messy really quickly as Verlander, Carrasco, Darvish all have warts, and even as a major Aaron Nola supporter, I wrestled plenty if he deserved his current #14 rank.
  • The third tier stretches to about Arrieta/Castillo/Ray territory, which I’m sure is going to raise plenty of eyebrows. I’m a huge believer in Luis Castillo, as I can see the Reds letting him throw 190+ next season, with a stellar Fastball/Changeup combination, superb command, and a Slider that could develop further to be the devastating breaking ball to push him among the elite.
  • The fourth tier…is enormous. I still have faith in Luke Weaver for a full season despite his final two starts of the year (great! A discount!), but is he really that much different than drafting Danny Duffy at #43? There are so many question marks, from the health of Alex Wood, Lance McCullersand Garret Richards, to questionable production from Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Quintanaand Marcus StromanAnd, of course, we don’t know if characters like Trevor Bauer or Brad Peacock are going to be able to maintain their 2017 success through a full 2018 season.
  • Starting at Danny Salazarwe have a fifth tier of health risks and role questions mixed with high risk/reward players. Are Mike Clevinger and Jordan Montgomery going to blossom with as starters for the full year? Can Alex Reyes be the dominant starter we wanted him to be after coming back from TJS/are his limiting innings worth it? Will Lucas Giolito, Dylan Bundy, and Dinelson Lamet pick up where they left off in the second half? Even with these questions, I favor chasing these upside arms over the higher floor options that are found in the 60/70s.
  • The sixth tier begins right around Alex Cobb with plenty of arms that I would be surprised to own. Felix Hernandez, Ervin Santanaand Tanner Roark are sure to get drafted in your leagues, but they are most likely replaceable off the wire and you’re better off chasing lottery tickets out of the gate. I don’t believe Alex Cobb’s season is repeatable, and who knows if Steven Matz will be healthy, let alone productive in those innings.
  • The sixth continues with plenty of names I think will get more hype as we creep closer to the Spring. Trevor Cahill’s Curveball could return and be a sleeper pick on the Royals, Matt Strahm could be a starter for the Padres and provide shocking value, Chris Stratton could be a backend starter for your 12-teamer in AT&T park, and Carson Fulmer showed signs of his upside during his time in the ChiSox rotation this past September.
  • The last tier starts around Dan Straily and are still upside arms that could work out over a year (Joe Biagini, Zack Wheeler, Amir Garrett, etc.), but aren’t as exciting or as clear in their path to upside to make them the sneaky targets at the end of your draft.
  • There were plenty of names that had to be left off – there are so many more possibly relevant starters than you’d imagine – and February’s rankings will go past the 130 mark to make sure no relevant names go untouched.
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Nick Pollack

Founder
Founder of both PitcherList.com and PitcherGIFs.com. Rotographs and Washington Post contributor and has worked with CBS Sports, Grantland, and SB Nation. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum.

30 Responses to “Top 100 Starting Pitchers For 2018: Way-Too-Early Edition”

  1. nrutko40

    Any idea where you would put Otani if he made his way overseas?

    Reply
    • Nick Pollack

      I haven’t much of a clue just yet – I figure there will be much more to work with come February – but let’s throw in a hypothetical ranking of 45/46. It turns into upside central at that point.

      Reply
  2. Shalacken

    If Jimmy’s shoulder was never hurt where would he find himself on this list? Basically, who does his talent compare to?

    Reply
    • Nick

      He’d be easily inside the Top 20.

      It’s too bad, though. I worry he won’t return until late in the year and I question if he’ll be the same talent when he pitches again.

      Reply
  3. Bbboston

    What’s Clevinger’s upside? Just seems like he could have a #2 upside or more,…

    Reply
    • Nick

      KI think #2 upside is asking too much of his command.

      #3/#4 is really what we should hope for and is definitely attainable for 2018.

      Reply
      • Bbboston

        Nick,

        Humor this argument for a second…..

        Not sure where I heard or read this, but I remember someone saying hat Clevinger “threw everything “crooked””. For a guy like that, that’s s huge complement….basically saying it’s very hard to square up his pitches. I think he was already showing much better command, but is maintaining his B.B./9 rate due to avoiding throwing meatballs over the plate… put another way, the guy is throwing walks more out of choice now, than due to a lack of command. I don’t know for sure, but I think we just witnessed a true breakout pitcher this year and next year he’ll be the third best SP on Cleveland. I understand his ranking today, but I believe he’ll be 15+ from there by mid-year next year; potentially 20+ by end of next year and no one will be talking about his command, though his B.B./9 will be only negligibly better.

        Reply
        • Nick Pollack

          I wouldn’t make the jump to 15+ for Clev, but I do think a spot inside the Top 25 is within his reach…though he shouldn’t be ranked or drafted as such.

          There’s still volatility here and while I want to own him next year, it’s hard to ignore his floor as a pitcher who hurts more than helps.

          Reply
        • The kraken

          Those are some awfully rose colored glasses. I dont think there is much chance that nobody will be talking about his command. If he shaves off a full walk he will be amongst the worst in the majors among starters. As those walks deteriorate, so will the ks. This will be his third season as a breakout guy now. Its more like a last chance as a starter IMO. It could happen though.

          Reply
          • bbboston

            Guys,

            What does it tell you when MC has a 4.4 bb/9 and a 10.1 WHIP. To me, it says he’s trading walks for hits, but the WHIP remains very attractive. Couple that with a 10+K/9 and I’d say that’s a very attractive pitcher.

          • bbboston

            Sorry…11.2 HW/9, but point basically still holds

  4. Bbboston

    Question: in American League only, what pitcher(s) do you feel have the highest realistically achievable upside, from where they sit in The rankings today?

    Reply
    • Nick Pollack

      I’d say Garrett Richards, though it will come with some limited IP count.

      Reply
  5. Gregory C.
  6. Cliff

    Why do you have Duffy so low

    Reply
  7. Whipping Post

    Any chance the Brewers give Hader a shot in the rotation or is he looking more like a power arm from the pen? If he makes the rotation, do you think he makes the top 100?

    Reply
  8. Robbie Egan

    Lance Lynn at 73 are you serious?

    Reply
    • Dave Cherman

      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2520&position=P

      3.43/4.82/4.75/4.85. That’s Lynn’s ERA/FIP/xFIP/SIERA. As you can see, the only number that suggests he was a good pitcher is ERA. He allowed his highest HH% since 2012, he stranded a career high 79% of hitters and a .244 BABIP vs a career .297 rate. Strikeouts were down, walks were up, first pitch strike rate was below average, chase rate was below average. Everything screams that he’s more likely to be a near 5 ERA starter than a 3.5 ERA starter.

      Reply
      • The kraken

        The only one that suggest he was good is the only on based on reality. The others are estimates. His whip is solid too which is based on reality. Not saying he is great not many on this list are . He deserves a break on his command – it was his first year back from tj.

        Reply
  9. Jake

    How is zack godley 15? Just wondering what im missing about the guy.

    Reply
    • Eddie

      Godley cost me my playoffs. Guy just didn’t have it late

      Reply
    • Nick Pollack

      He induces some of the worst contact in the majors with a 26.3% strikeout rate spells path to elite.

      Also has a whiff rate above 13% with a 60% F-Strike rate and I think Godley is just going to get better in 2018.

      Meanwhile, the names behind him all have their issues as well. I see Godley as having a higher chance of producing that major breakout year.

      Reply
  10. Paul D.

    Do you think Peacock can be this year’s Robbie Ray? Seems like he took off once he was put in the rotation. I can see the hype growing all offseason.

    Reply
    • Nick

      No, he’s going to be 30 with a long track record of injury. Great season but not in ray’s class

      Reply

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