Michael Ajeto’s Top 100 Starting Pitchers

Michael Ajeto presents his first Top 100 Starting Pitchers list.

A little over a week ago, I presented my top 100 starting pitcher list at PitchCon. After my discussion with Nick (and some soul searching), I decided to tweak the top 40 of my list pretty significantly, with very little changing in the back 60. As is, I’m pretty comfortable with my list in terms of how I use it.

I should emphasize that. For the most part, I tried to capture how I feel about players — isn’t that the point, after all? — and so some players differ significantly from their ADPs. I have my biases just like everyone else, and so there are pitchers I gravitate towards, and pitchers I find myself not wanting to draft at all.

With that aside, I’m sure you’re mostly just here for the list. So here’s the list, with (dumb, arbitrary) tiers denoted by yellow highlighting.

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Top 100 Starting Pitchers

*List last updated 3/1/2021*

Allow me to explain my rankings!

The first thing that may set me apart from the field is my belief in (a) glue guys, (b) players that rely heavily on called strikes, and (c) speculative changes. To speak to the first point, I have not seen Kyle Hendricks ranked higher than #18, Zack Greinke higher than #27, or Marco Gonzales above #32. Marcus Stroman also fits this mold, as do Sixto Sanchez, Max Fried, and Zack Wheeler. They may be limited in the way of strikeouts, but they’re strong everywhere else, and they give you the ability to take more gambles on pitchers like Matthew Boyd or Andrew Heaney.

To my second point, I have grown to become more of a believer in players who post strong CSWs by getting a lot of called strikes, and not as many swinging strikes. Brady Singer is perhaps the most prominent example, but pitchers like Marco Gonzales, Zack Greinke, Sonny Gray, and Dylan Bundy make a lot of their money by getting hitters to take called strikes. It’s a skill! Because of this, I’m a believer in Zach Eflin, Singer (and you can find out why by reading my articles on them).

And then to my last point, there are certain changes that I buy. I’ll admit that I buy into Best Shape Of His Life anecdotes more often than I should, but that’s the nature of trying to get ahead on certain changes. To list a few, it seemed that Trevor Bauer consistently used a foreign substance for the first time in 2020. He’ll likely do so moving forward, and he should get plenty of volume, so I have him ahead of the field at #4.

More succinctly:

  • Corbin Burnes struggled with his command until he moved to his cutter towards the end of the year.
  • Joe Musgrove has a robust seam-shifted wake profile and threw his breaking pitches more than his fastballs for the first month ever in September. Watch that fastball velocity, too.
  • Tyler Mahle tightened up his arm action and added a fastball with plus ride to go with elite fastball command and good-enough secondaries.
  • Aaron Civale has a new split-change and should begin throwing his curveball more next year. He’s going to be slept on.
  • Elieser Hernandez has a pitch classified as a slider that has curveball velocity and cutter movement. Hitters can’t time it up, and his fastball has an elite (or near-elite) vertical approach angle. It may depend on a third pitch, but I love him.
  • Yusei Kikuchi could legitimately have ace potential if he cleans up his command. He sat 95 mph with his fastball, 92 mph with his cutter, and he has a plus slider that he should probably be throwing considerably more.
  • Brady Singer needs an out pitch. If he finds it, he’s a top 40 pitcher for me.
  • John Means‘ peripherals aren’t pretty, but if his fastball velocity holds, he’s going to get a lot of whiffs and pop-ups with it.
  • Spencer Turnbull still doesn’t get enough love. He needs to throw the sinker more, but I like his fastballs. (Yes, plural!)
  • Zach Davies started throwing changeups 41% — 41%! — of the time. His sinker is still, uh, not great, but he’s better now.
  • If Drew Smyly can ever stay healthy, he could be amazing. He gets hit hard, but he’s throwing his fastball harder than ever. He just needs to throw the curveball more.
  • Josh Lindblom was already underrated, and now he’s improved his fastball’s spin efficiency.
  • Nathan Eovaldi is sitting in the upper-90s in spring training. That’s…good.
  • I still believe in Luke Weaver! He said he lost his cutter, and has cleaned up his mechanics. He’s another flat vertical approach angle guy, and I’m a believer.
  • Mitch Keller had bad outcomes in 2019, and bad peripherals in 2020. He needs to fix his fastball, but for now, he needs to throw it less.
  • Chris Flexen could be the steal of the offseason…or he could just be okay.

Feel free to comment below, or reach out to me on Twitter.

Photos by Gregory Fisher, Kyle Ross, Frank Jansky /Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)

Michael Ajeto

Michael writes about the Mariners at Lookout Landing, as well as here at Pitcher List. You can follow Michael on Twitter @dysthymikey, or you can not.

  • Can we keep the Mahle hype on the DL until after my draft? I was hoping to get him in the 10th/11th but now may have to reach in the 8th/9th. Great list!

    • Michael Ajeto Michael Ajeto says:

      Ha! He’s definitely starting to climb up in ADP. I thought I would set the min at 133, but someone took him 126!

  • Avatar Brian Holcomb says:

    Love your rankings explanations—succinct and yet deep analysis!

  • Your bias towards certain players matches my bias towards certain players. I’m hoping they don’t match my league-mates bias too. Great list!

  • Avatar LeftyNation says:

    Where does Odorizzi move up to now that he signed a 2 year deal with Houston?

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