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:
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.
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.