The season ended last week and as I promised (okay, one day late!), I’ve created a “Way-Too-Early” edition of The List to look ahead early at 2019.
A few things to note before you get the table:
- This is NOT final. I haven’t done my thorough research on everyone yet, of course, and plenty will change when Pitcher List 4.0 launches and I release my rankings in February. Trades, Free Agency, uncovering numbers, back-and-forth rhetoric, etc. all of these things will affect these ranks as I detach myself from the full season, for better or for worse. This is to get the debates started, not end them
- I wanted to add more than 100 – I could legit rank 150 at this point – but I think it’s better to keep in mind the guys you will actually draft instead of the waiver wire fodder/streamers that will exist in April.
- There will be more fine-tuning in the official rankings. This sounds like a repeat of #1, and it pretty much is, but I want to emphasize that if you feel that Jose Quintana should be ahead of Tyler Skaggs at this point, by all means. This is where I stand at this moment and I expect a good amount to change by February. It’s the problem with doing a fresh 100 ranking this early in the off-season.
Alright, let’s get to it. Here are the “Way Too Early” Rankings of the Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2019:
UPDATE: I don’t know how, but I accidentally left off Dereck Rodriguez and Jakob Junis from the initial List. Rodriguez would be placed at #72, with Junis at #79.
|32||J. A. Happ|
There is so much to talk about here. I didn’t get it all down here, and please reach out to me in the comments to talk further about some of these pitchers. I’m going to move away from the standard bullet points and just talk to y’all like a human instead. It feels right.
The Hype Is Gone
For as long as I’ve been making SP rankings, my favorite pitchers have normally been scattered around the #25-45 range. The exciting pitchers that I think are ready to break out in the season ahead after having struggles previously, making them better options than more conservative picks in their range. This year is weird. I’ve been hinting about it all season, how there are few true “Spice Girls” really working during the season, making it a terrible SP Landscape. It means that I’m really not excited at this point. Pitcher resembling the likes of Mike Clevinger, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Bauer, and Patrick Corbin are just not around this year. The closest I have is Nick Pivetta, which I know has already earned a ton of eye rolls. He’s the only clear case of high-upside stuff with the massive haze of doubt surrounding his consistency. It’s really annoying.
Draft Starters Early. Like Really Early
With this lack of faith in the middle-to-late sections, I have to do something I never do: I encourage early SP selections. I wouldn’t be shocked if I found myself grabbing someone like Gerrit Cole in the third round, then Patrick Corbin/Walker Buehler + Jameson Taillon/Miles Mikolas in the first 100 picks. Maybe even four. It’s wild, I know, and so against my mold that you should understand its gravity based on how I’m actively endorsing it. This could change as the off-season develops – I’ll be doing more digging of course and could find myself embracing arms that I didn’t expect, but it really seems like a dire SP pool. Wild after us touting how wonderful our cornucopia of starters was last season.
There’s Top And Bottom. No Middle
I’ve already had three notes on it, but I need to reiterate it. Once we pass the 40th or so starter, it gets sad and fast. In 2018, I was a fan of rolling with underowned arms like Reynaldo Lopez, Mike Minor, Derek Holland, and Joe Musgrove this year, but I never saw consistent Top 30 upside from them…maybe Reynaldo but the floor is still very scary. This means at this point I’m putting someone like Joshua James in the Top 50. It sounds blasphemous, but if he has a rotation spot (Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton [What’s his deal?!] are both free agents, while Lance McCullers may be a permanent reliever…?) this might be the pick of my drafts. He has the best shot of the Clev/Bauer/Corbin jump that I can find, better than Nick Pivetta as his draft stock will be lower.
The Question Marks That Are Dumb
Can Kyle Gibson be a strikeout upside Toby? Is Rick Porcello going to be like his first or second half? Is Anibal Sanchez’s cutter really the savior of his career? Has Atlanta turned Kevin Gausman around? CAN WE EVER TRUST MICHAEL FULMER TO BE HELPFUL?
These are good questions. Questions I don’t have the answers to yet, but the point I want to make is that save for Fulmer, none of them have such overwhelming upside that I’m going to chase it. You’re going to be shocked by Porcello’s low ranking, but it’s such a large tier that I’d rather chase a higher ceiling that Porcello’s possible floor – a floor that returned a 4.30 ERA this year.
Who is in the Rotation?
I elected to stick a good amount of guys near each other that have their rotation spots up in the air for 2019, like Lance McCullers and Carlos Martinez, two Braves starters in Touki Toussaint and Mike Soroka (Soroka’s ceiling/floor is higher given his command while still equipped with strong strikeout upside), the electric Josh James, FIVE Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers (Ross Stripling, Julio Urias, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, in that order), Michael Wacha is healthy and should fight for a rotation spot again, and even Jonathan Loaisiga who could be a Top 30 arm if he earns the fifth spot for the Yankees (unlikely but at this point worth the chase at his rank). Oh, and Jimmy Nelson is healthy now…right?
Who are the Tobys?
I had a really tough time in the 50s and 60s deciphering the line between guys I would recommend owning to stream (and eventually flat out own) last year like Joey Lucchesi, Derek Holland, Joe Musgrove, Kyle Gibson, Nathan Eovaldi, Mike Minor, Matt Boyd, and Andrew Heaney, and guys that produced well enough to earn their keep like CC Sabathia, Dallas Keuchel, Jake Arrieta, Kevin Gausman. Then what about Cherry Bombs like Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman, Dylan Bundy, and Zack Godley? I’m probably avoiding these four, but I have to acknowledge that there’s room for possible improvement for each.
I have little mini-tiers scattered around here. There’s the “This guy is injured but when will he return?” pitchers like Brent Honeywell, Alex Reyes, Jordan Montgomery, Drew Smyly, Caleb Smith, and Taijuan Walker. This is just here to say “yo, don’t forget about us when you’re big.” We won’t, but I’m going to put you at the very end because of that, in the order I expect you to go on draft day (if at all!)
Then there’s the “could be dope if he gets the innings” tier, which is kinda like the “Rotation” comment, but with more outside shots, so no Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Jonathan Loaisiga, or Joshua James here. That does mean Nick Kingham, Fernando Romero, Freddy Peralta, Julio Urias, and Sandy Alcantara all deserve a spot because of this. Remember, this is a terrible year for upside.
And don’t forget about the arms that showed off a ton of their floor in 2018, but hinted at the chance of being a stable arm for your team, if not comfortably Top 40. We’re talking Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards, Nick Kingham (I know guys, but the ceiling is still there and if it doesn’t pan out, the other options at his price would be easily replaced by the wire), Fernando Romero and Freddy Peralta. Let’s try to find as much as we can here instead of praying that Mike Fiers or Edwin Jackson can do it again.
I also stuck the three Miami Marlins pitchers together (Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara), while leaving Jose Urena for the end. He just doesn’t have the same upside.
There’s No Room For Mediocrity
There are a lot of names left off that I know will be drafted and find value on teams. I feel like there are 20-30 names through each year that start off the List at the beginning of the year and find their way on because they are doing good enough to be a Toby or a consistent streamer. However, most – if not all – fail to have Top 40 upside and are just not worth the chase. You can find it on the wire. Guys like Jake Odorizzi, Tyler Anderson, Matt Harvey, Mike Leake, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Williams, and Anthony DeSclafani, all get the axe because of this. Do I actually predict that Fernando Romero or Sandy Alcantara will have a better season than all of these guys? Probably not. But it’s worth it to chase instead of them in standard 12-teamers. Remember, there is such little gold out there this year that we’re trying to give ourselves the chance to mine the most as possible.
I’m having an extremely hard time understanding the Newcomb rank all the way down at 94. What’s your beef with him?
I’m probably a little too low on Newcomb, and my reasoning was that he’s just over the threshold of pitchers that I think could actually hurt more than help, making me chase high upside fliers instead.
I don’t trust in his secondary stuff. He got lucky with his changeup in the first half, then luck faded and he was detrimental to owners. His fastball is good, but not enough to carry his entire approach, while the walks will still be up, short starts, and a decent amount of hittability.
Thanks for this! Definitely interesting to see your take about actually going to the pitcher well early and often next year. I’ve had the same thoughts. Why overspend to draft the next Luis Castillo that everyone is talking about when you could spend a couple of bucks to take a similar bet on a Touki / Soroka type. I also think there’s a value to drafting the risky guys you’re not totally enamored with (so that it’s easier for you to drop them when a waiver darling starts to emerge).
It’s really weird for me to push it, but I just took three starters in my first eight picks in the mock draft because I just don’t trust that I can hit with enough guys after the ~#25th pick or so. And that includes Castillo.
Casty is up there because he possess the highest ceiling of bunch after the cliff, but he also comes with that horrid floor we witnessed to start the year. There is a sizable gap between him and Soroka/Touki/Josh James types, though, and it’s in his path to reaching that upside. Castillo has a much more believable climb than the rest of the pack, especially considering he’s showcased it *twice* now in the final two months of seasons.
It all comes down to price in drafts as you mentioned, though. If Castillo falls outside the Top 130 overall, I’ll be on board. I anticiapte around 100th overall, though, and that’s just too much to pay, especially when I can get Taillon/Wheeler/Mikolas at a round or two earlier.
A couple prospects that seemed to do OK are Pablo Lopez (TB) and Ryan Borucki (Tor). How far are they down on this list?
Pablo Lopez is here! At #75.
Borucki I’m not a fan of. Not enough to chase and a poor floor that makes him just the occasional streamer.
Dereck Rodriguez? No love for Pudge Jr.
You are 100% right. Totally dropped the ball on Dereck. One of those cases where I double checked if I was missing anyone and then he probably got overwritten somewhere.
I think I’d have him right around ~#75. Maybe a little higher. A solid Toby.
Thanks for the early content! Looking forward to digging in. Over the past year or so there has been a growing idea of nothing separating the middle tiers or “the glob”. That seems very ironic given the idea of improved analysis and advanced metrics. It has never been difficult to identify the top and bottom, so… where is the progress showing up? It generally just supports what was already common knowledge. I remain convinced that most of our new-age analysis doesn’t really illuminate anything that those who already knew… already knew, but it is a good way to approximate known quantities to those that lack context and experience to interpret that information. If analysis isn’t helping to stratify the middle, then I don’t know what it is doing. Well, I do, but I question its value in drawing future conclusions… which should be the value, right? In any case, I like your work Nick, because you don’t get wrapped up in the approximations which many mistake for absolutes. In other words, it is your opinion that I value. /rant
Question: Aren’t both Glasnow, Berrios, Heaney and Skaggs guys that can take the next step to very solid #2’s or low level #1’s?
Touki, James, Nix, and Foley all did me a solid and kept rookie eligibility by staying under 50 IP and 45 days on the active roster, which was nice. In my league, that means they can be kept for $2 instead of the standard $6 (rookies are base year + $1 versus all other players base year + $5). I’m thinking only Touki and James are worth keeping, but will see what Nix and Foley do in the spring and what their projections look like.
I spent a combined $113 last year putting together a rotation of Greinke, Ray, Martinez, Carrasco, Darvish, and Cobb only to get about $46 in value from the bunch. Never again!
Great job Nick! My plan was also to get pitchers early.. I won my league 2 years in a row .. both times with big contributions .. from the waiver (17castillo, buehler mikolas etc) I still doubt to go all in with pitchers next year hmm…
You surprised me a lil with bieber @58 and I was also bit higher on Minor..what are your thoughts? In my opinion Bieber throws too much strikes … Mayb .. if he pitch smarter I can are it..
Zack Eflin at #93 ahead of Alex Reyes at #95? Seriously? I’ll take my chances with Reyes regaining his health over a guy who had a 5.76 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP after the all-star break. Eflin had one good month, June, and was terrible the rest of the year. No thanks.
Question related to couple of LAA SP’s:
In AL Only 10-12 team roto-league (8 total keepers allowed), which would you rather keep – Heaney at $5 or Skaggs at $11?
Phil Hughes as your 14th round pick in the mock, however not on The List. Thanks in advance for your insight.
Ha! I should make a note in the post.
Joshua James isn’t in CouchManagers, so “Phil Hughes” is the placeholder.
Sorry for the confusion!
What do you think the plan is for Corbin Burnes in 2019 – will he be in the Brewers rotation and if so, would he crack the top 100? Also, think Mahle can recapture some of his early-2018 success in 2019? Thanks in advance.
Time for an update to your 2019 prelim ranks?
I won’t be updating my ranks officially until early February when the 2019 rankings come out.
There are some changes though! Kershaw will be hovering #10, for example.
The middle is the most interesting part and where most seasons will be won and lost. I know Sporer likes to talk about globs and such, but that is not what I would be promoting if I made a living doing analysis. The top and bottom is easy and your methodology doesn’t even matter much.
How would you adjust these rankings in a points league…for example guys like syndergard worry me because of the lack of volume