It’s the final day ranking Starting Pitchers, and I went a little overboard making sure you guys didn’t think I was forgetting any pitcher across the league. Before diving in, make sure to check out the Top 20 Starting Pitchers, Top 40 Starting Pitchers, Top 60 Starting Pitchers, and Top 80 Starting Pitchers, and take a sip of coffee as you digest the Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2016.
TIER 6: The Fun Stuff
81. James Paxton (Seattle Mariners) – I was to jumping on the Paxton bandwagon once again, until I realized there isn’t a spot for him in the Mariners’ rotation. They just picked up Nathan Karns and Wade Miley while resigning Hisashi Iwakuma, which means Paxton is most likely looking at a stint in the minors until someone gets hurt. It’s really annoying since Paxton is fully healthy and ready to bump his K rate with his overall nasty stuff. He’s an example of pitcher that I’m willing to ignore some of the numbers in favor of the eye test as he clearly has the makeup of a #3/#4 on your fantasy squad. I’m still ranking him decently high since there’s a chance he beats Karns out of camp, and he’ll be back in the bigs at some point where he should perform closer to 40s/50s. Still really frustrating though, and I feel like I’ve been waiting for the Paxton parade to arrive longer than the next Game of Thrones book. COME ON ALREADY.
82. Anthony DeSclafani (Cincinnati Reds) – I’ve heard a bit of hoopla surrounding Tony Disco entering 2016 and I can understand why people are getting excited – it all stems from a second half that looks under the hood a lot better than his 4.52 ERA would have you believe – 3.46 FIP, 3.33 xFIP, 3.41 SIERA and great K/BB numbers of 8.28 and 1.51. It wouldn’t be fair not to mention a startling 32.4% hard contact and a small 15.6% soft contact in that time as well, which makes me think his true ERA is closer to 3.70 instead of those sub 3.50 numbers. Again, this is all second half stuff and not a full season’s worth, but there may be something here. Enough so to put me into this The Fun Stuff tier, but not enough for me really to dance with the Disco.
83. J.A. Happ (Toronto Blue Jays) – Pros: Happ’s second half was astounding, and his final 12 games featured a 9.71 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, plus a 2.75 FIP/2.95 xFIP. Cons: He’s now in Toronto enduring the AL Beast, and his first half wasn’t anything special. I think I’m short-changing Happ a little, though I really don’t see him consistently being a solid starter on your staff. I’m willing to completely admit my ranking is lower than it probably should be as I’m ignoring the numbers and more going with gut on this one. Please don’t send me angry messages about Happ, though if it is any consolation I’m most likely retiring the “That Happened” blurbs during the regular season now that J.A. deserves a little more discussion.
TIER 7: The Filler (a.k.a. The Millionaire and his Wife)
84. Hyun-Jin Ryu (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Ryu missed all of last season after getting shoulder surgery, and…hey where are you going?? Wait a second! Don’t go running to the hills just yet. Yes, we know shoulder surgeries are a near death sentence for pitchers, but Ryu could be a valuable asset even he if he doesn’t return to his 2014 form. Seriously, I bet you guys don’t remember Ryu held a 2.62 FIP, 47.4% GB rate, 8.23 K/9 and 1.72 BB/9 in 2014. So let’s say at worst he needs some more time and comes back in May and performs a bit worse than 2014. Then you have a 7.50 K/9, 2.50 BB/9, and about a 3.50 ERA. You don’t want that at #84?
85. Brandon Finnegan (Cincinnati Reds) – Finnegan doesn’t have the major league credentials just yet, but he’s shown in the minors that he can strike out batters very effectively. The walks may be an issue, though his groundball tendencies are awfully appealing to clean up any messes he makes. He’s a dark horse upside candidate that I would be keeping my eye on as the season starts. Don’t put pressure on the guy, just pat him on the head when he succeeds and be happy about life because you know he’s in the world. I swear we’re talking about baseball guys and not fatherly advice. I swear.
86. Andrew Heaney (Los Angeles Angels) – He’s a lock in the Angels’ rotation, and I like him less than the guy who’s fighting for the final rotation spot ranked inside this same tier. Heaney is your typical boring finesse pitcher who doesn’t present much K upside, but won’t walk all too many batters, giving him decent ERA/WHIP value. I don’t see major strides being made in 2016 from the young southpaw, but he won’t screw you over like other guys this deep.
87. Josh Tomlin (Cleveland Indians) – Tomlin kinda came out of nowhere last season and struck out batters at a solid 22.7% clip, while walking just 3.2%. Crazy good. He needed a lot of luck though, including a whopping 90.2% LOB rate and a sublime .199 BABIP to manage a 3.02 ERA (4.42 FIP, 3.77 xFIP). He’ll most likely have the fifth spot in the Indians’ rotation, but it’s tough to put a lot of faith in him after he featured just a 13.6% soft contact rate in his 10 starts last season. He’s a bit of a gamble that could pay off, but the odds are not looking good.
88. Anibal Sanchez (Detroit Tigers) – It was a tough year for Anibal as he had a 16.0% HR/FB last season, but what made it so shocking was that he stayed under his career rate for two years prior, making the leap that much more distinctive. Even if he goes back to his career rate or even the league rate around 11%, it’s still going to be a 3.50 ERA season or so, and that’s if he figures it out. I’m not buying, even if he has K potential and a good walk rate.
89. Andrew Cashner (San Diego Padres) – So Cash finally had a K/9 north of 7.00 (8.04) last season, which I’m sure is getting some writers all ecstatic about the year ahead. Cool yer Jets like the Patriots always do [ :( ] and understand that Cashner always has a blemish on his starts. He had a .330 BABIP (30% hard contact rate), 3.22 BB/9 and a 11.5% HR/FB rate, which league average in 2015. We’ve been waiting for that magical season for so long and believe me when I tell you that it’s not coming, just like most of us on prom night. Man, this was a depressing blurb, sorry about that.
90. Marco Estrada (Toronto Blue Jays) – Ehhhhh most of you guys know I don’t like Estrada and his somehow suppressed HR/FB rate in gopherball friendly Rogers Centre. For real though, his 3.13 ERA was nearly two full points higher than his 4.93 xFIP. That’s crazy and I just can’t endorse y’all playing with fire like Katniss, especially when it’s paired with a sub 7.00 K/9.
91. Julio Teheran (Atlanta Braves) – Nope. Nope nope nope. Not going to fall for this one again (not that I did last year, but you get my drift), especially when what you’re hoping foris a 7.50 K/9, 2.50 BB/9 and sub 3.30 ERA. That’s if you’re lucky. On top of that, he also plays for the rebuilding Atlanta, which sounds like five seasons down the road on The Walking Dead.
92. Derek Holland (Texas Rangers) – Will Holland be able to replicate his 2013 season of a 7.91 K/9 and 2.70 BB/9 while pushing an ERA below 3.50? Maybe, but I’m not going to endorse chasing it.
93. Erik Johnson (Chicago White Sox) – I’m sure there are some of you who forgot who Erik is. That’s okay, he doesn’t remember you either. Johnson has gotten a handful of starts for the Chi Sox in each of the last three seasons, and he’ll finally get a firm role in the rotation in 2016. He’s not going to be a guy that razzles and dazzles, but I see him becoming a guy that can hold a stable floor.
94. Henry Owens (Boston Red Sox) – Read what was just said about Johnson and realize that Owens could be the very same thing. It may take a little longer for Owens to get there though.
95. Edinson Volquez (Kansas City Royals) – You do realize that Edinson had a sub 7.00 K/9 for the second straight season in 2015, right? And that he had a career low walk rate of 3.23 BB/9? Okay, just checking.
96. Nick Tropeano (Los Angeles Angels) – Who? Oh you know, that guy on the Angels that had a 9.08 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 with a 2.60 FIP last season. Whaaaaaaat. Well, it was in 7 starts (8 games) and just 37.2 innings, but you understand the upside Nicholas brings to the table. Well, he had one game of 11 Ks and didn’t eclipse 5 in any others…but that’s not the point! Watch highlights from said game and you’ll understand why his Changeup is mighty nice – we’re talking a 42.2% O-Swing to go with an excellent 20.7% whiff rate for the slow ball, which means that if he gets a spot in the rotation he could be a solid strikeout sleeper with a low walk rate in your league. Unfortunately that’s a pretty big IF since the Angels have about 8 arms gunning for 5 spots in the rotation. Just be on the lookout and he could be an early add if he gets some chances while C.J. Wilson recovers from injury.
97. Rich Hill (Oakland Athletics) – Who wants to take a big gamble on a 36-year-old who had 5 great starts after not even playing in the bigs for six years and now is signed for a full year in Oakland? But on the real, Hill’s September was incredibly good. So good that he’d be competing with Kershaw for the #1 spot if he held it for a full season. Problem is that he won’t, and guys just don’t appear out of nowhere to have full seasons of greatness at age 36. I don’t blame you for testing the waters for his first few starts, but get ready to jump ship as Nearer My God To Thee plays in the background.
98. Daniel Norris (Detroit Tigers) – I used to be super involved with Norris’ upside as his Changeup generates a beautiful 21.7% whiff rate that will keep the Ks afloat, but his inconsistency last season and history of high walk rates have me leaving him out of the “Party Time! Excellent! WoohooWoohoo” tier. He could put it together as he gets more playing time on the Tigers, so pay attention to him early if he’s looking hot. What if he isn’t looking hot? Well obviously ignore, jeez what kind of question is that?
99. Alex Cobb (Tampa Bay Rays) – Cobb is out as he heals following TJS in May of 2015, and he won’t return until sometime well into the season. Treat him as one of the better DL stashes around to snag near the end of your draft. Keep in mind, he’s not a JoFer type that is guaranteed to transform your team once he returns, so don’t keep him stashed if you need the DL spot in the season. I see him entering the 30s or so upon return, which should be a great addition for the second half.
100. Zack Wheeler (New York Mets) – Ditto for Wheeler. Wheeler got TJS last season and will be out until mid-season recovering. The Mets will surely be careful with their young pitcher, but I see him jumping up near the Top 50 when he gets back in the game. Cobb is a better pitcher so wait for Cobb to go, then go after Wheeler.
101. Ubaldo Jimenez (Baltimore Orioles) – I wonder how many ulcers Jimenez has caused in his day. He took a step forward last year, improving his GB rate dramatically, and reducing his walk rate to a career low…3.33 BB/9. The strikeouts are alive and well at a 20%+ clip, but he will drive you nuts day-to-day. His Ks alone make him a better gamble than most on today’s list, but hot damn I don’t want to deal with Ubaldo this year.
102. Chris Heston (San Francisco Giants) – I actually think Heston is getting hated on a little more than he deserves. He has a Two-Seamer that moves like the devil, helping him maintain an excellent 53.0% GB rate last season, and should produce at least a 7+ K/9 this season, with slight upside for more. Walks are the biggest issue, though his minor league numbers indicate he could bring it under 3.00. Heston’s going to be 28 playing for the Giants in an even year, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets more comfortable in the league during his second full season.
103. Trevor May (Minnesota Twins) – If he makes the rotation, which I don’t see happening, then he shoots up quite a bit in these rankings. He most likely will not do that, which is why he’s hanging out all the way down here, but if you’re in deeper leagues, it’s important to know his name if the time comes. He’s a quality K/BB pitcher whose floor is higher than most of the fodder you’ll be chasing on the waiver wire. So when it’s May and you’re looking for an extra starter with a guy on the DL, May may be the guy…maybe.
104. Jake Peavy (San Francisco Giants) – He’s kinda serviceable, though the strikeouts are fading from his career like a McFly Polaroid, and I’m not sure he can keep up a sub 3.75 ERA in the process. It’ll help playing for the Giants, and he could be a decent innings eater from time to time through the year.
105. Brett Anderson (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Anderson is a groundball machine, as he pumped 66.3% grounders last season, and had a top tier 25.3% soft contact rate. Problem is that he is severely lacking in the strikeout department (5.79 K/9) and has a major tendency to get himself injured. He can be a decent floor guy in deeper leagues if you need some help there, but that’s about it.
106. Jimmy Nelson (Milwaukee Brewers) – If there is someone down here that could surprise me it’s Nelson who was a significantly better pitcher during the minors. He now has a full season under his belt, and it’s possible he takes a step forward with his 50% GB rate and wipeout Slider. DIPS hasn’t liked him at any point, though with better command on his Fastball, he could turn heads quickly.
107. Rubby De La Rosa (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Rubby is an interesting case. He has two pitches that could carve up a lineup, yet only his Slider is a consistent beast for the Dback pitcher. His Changeup, despite a solid 17.0% whiff rate, allowed 11 HRs in just 138 PAs, leading to an atrocious .328 ISO. His Two-Seamer was atrocious (-12.9 RAA), though De La Rosa’s Four-Seamer got the job done, and Rubby could make strides if he can move away from his Sinker while keeping his Changeup in the park.
TIER 8: The Rest
108. Chris Bassitt (Oakland Athletics) – The Bassman had a pretty decent first seven starts to the year, but then tailed off in his final month, leaving a sour taste in owner’s mouths (does anyone else think that’s kinda a weird phrase?). This biggest worry is in his Slider, which was easily his most effective pitch, but only registered a 8.3% whiff rate – Drew Smyly gets more whiffs on his Fastball. The repertoire simply isn’t good enough to foresee a breakout year from Bassitt.
109. Dylan Bundy (Baltimore Orioles) – Bundy doesn’t have a spot in the rotation, but he’ll be on the team all year as the Orioles can’t send him back down to the minors (out of options). There’s a chance he’ll squeak into the rotation at some point, which means you may want to have your finger ready to pull the trigger. Keep in mind, injuries have plagued his entire minor league career, including TJS that cost him his 2013 season, and he only pitched 24 innings last season, with just 41.1 in 2014. Hard to imagine that he logs a significant amount of frames this season even if he finds his way into the rotation.
110. Taylor Jungmann (Milwaukee Brewers) – Jungmann is getting a bit overlooked this February as many are forgetting his hot introduction to the majors. In his first 13 starts, Taylor held a 2.23 ERA (2.84 FIP), with a 8.14 K/9 and 2.90 BB/9. He’s a lanky pitcher who hurls low Fastballs all day, throwing north-to-south and making all of his fall into the zone. He’ll keep the HRs limited to an extent (0.83 per 9), and I expect his 46.3% GB rate to rise this year. I’m not saying he’s going to come anywhere close to elite, but finding startable value past the 300th pick is beautiful.
111. Wade Miley (Seattle Mariners) – It’s pretty safe at this point to say that Miley’s 8.18 K/9 from 2014 was an outlier, and his ~7.00 K/9 numbers are here to stay. Safeco will only do him good after leaving Chase Field and Fenway, though the Mariners offense won’t do him any favors. If for some reason you need to depend on Cyrus take note: if Miley continues slipping there’s a chance he could be replaced in the rotation with Paxton and his 6’4″ self looming.
112. Adam Conley (Miami Marlins) – Don’t write off Conley so soon for being one of the Fish – he featured a better K/BB than most of the fellas in this tier. He was a little lucky to keep a 3.76 ERA last season, but playing at Miami Park inside the NL Easy should keep him outperforming his 4.21 xFIP.
113. Matt Moore (Tampa Bay Rays) – Man, remember when he struck out 11 Yankees in September of 2011? There were such high hopes for the young lefty in Tampa and it has been such a let down since. Walks have always been Moore’s weakness, while he strikeout numbers didn’t bounce back like many anticipated when he returned from TJS last season. There is still some upside to be had, and a full season in uniform could provide more value than his current #252 overall ranking dictates, though his inconsistencies have me looking elsewhere.
114. Ervin Santana (Minnesota Twins) – I think you’ll be a seeing a better Santana this year than we did last season, with upside hinting at his 2014 season. He’ll probably have a slightly under 4.00 ERA, 7.50 K/9 and hover around 3.00 BB/9. That’s alright, I guess?
115. Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins) – He was the belle of the ball for some last pre-season after setting the historical record for K/BB in a season, which in retrospect seems silly since it was as obvious of a career year as any. His walk rate was still incredibly low in 2015, but boy did those Ks drop and there wasn’t a single stat that liked him. Also me. I didn’t like him and still don’t. YOU SUPPOSED TO BE THE CHOSEN ONE! *Someone shuffles around behind me* I KNOW YOU’RE HERE TOO JOBA.
116. Mike Leake (St. Louis Cardinals) – Notices Leake at #66 on SP ECR. Hmmm, maybe it’s his K rate? 5.58 K/9, career 6.06 K/9. Ugh, walk rate? Sub 2.50 BB/9 Okay…what about his ERA? 3.70 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 3.93 xFIP. Hmmm, groundball rate? 51.8% Ahhh! Now we’re on to something. Soft contact rate? 16.5%. Are you guys drawn to his low walk rate and groundballs that much? He’s just a Fister clone, that’s it. That’s not fun outside of the rare stream when you need that weekend push to seal your ERA/WHIP and even then it’s a pretty hefty roll of the dice.
117. Hector Santiago (Los Angeles Angels) – The best thing Santiago has going for him is playing time, as he’s the leading candidate to take the fifth spot in the Halos’ rotation. Everything else, from his 3.59 ERA that is undermined by a 5.00 xFIP to his 3.54 BB/9 and 29.9% GB rate make him a tough pill to swallow through the season.
118. Archie Bradley (Arizona Diamondbacks) – If you’re not on the field, you’re not on my team. Kinda. Well, not all that true since stashes are a thing and pitchers aren’t out there every day and…WHATEVER. Bradley has an outside chance at making the snakes’ rotation, and even if he gets it I’m not so confident that he’ll make that big of a splash. Probably Top 70 worthy if he gets his time on the hill, which he’ll need some luck to get in the first place. I think we all prefered Milton over Archie anyway. Are you comparing board games to comics? So what if I am?!
119. Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians) – The walks, oh the walks. Bauer has flashed excellent upside at times, but he simply walks too many batters to promote confidence in his owners. I don’t see him turning the corner and changing his ways across a full season, which delegates him to “occasional streamer” territory.
120. Roenis Elias (Boston Red Sox) – There is more upside than meets the eye with Elias, since his Curveball and Changeup are some excellent pitches. The problem lies in his heater, which is struggling mightily. It only gets worse for the lefty as he heads to Fenway, leaving Safeco and the West Coast behind. There’s a chance he figures it out, definitely, though he could crash and burn very easily.
121. Chris Young (Kansas City Royals) – Somehow, and I really mean this with emphasis, somehow Young’s 86.6 MPH Fastball and 25.5% FB rate was able to outperform his peripherals by a long shot, producing a 3.06 ERA despite a 5.33 xFIP. He’s often been one to keep his HR/FB under league average (7.7% in 2015, 8.1% career), but his 4.52 FIP means there is more to his regression than keeping the ball in the park. When all you’re gunning for is a low WHIP/ERA (6.06 K/9), I would be treading lightly.
122. Jesse Chavez (Toronto Blue Jays) – Chavez is not much more than a streamer at this point, and has stayed the course each of the last three years. You could do a lot worse, but playing full-time in the AL Beast isn’t going to help his transition to Rogers Centre.
123. Chris Tillman (Baltimore Orioles) – You can’t spell win with Tillman. Man, I really liked that phrase last year, though he did actually go 11-11, which I guess is more of a testament to the O’s offense and not the effectiveness of Tillman. He had maybe one good stretch in the summer and that’s about it. He’ll probably improve slightly from last year, but you’re still starting at a 6.50 K/9 and an eRA over 4.00. Yay.
124. Matt Shoemaker (Los Angeles Angels) – Shoemaker is a quintessential Cherry Bomb. He has upside to straight up dominate one day, and then completely blow up in your face the next. Still, that upside alone would normally pull him out of triple digits, however the final spot in the Angels’ rotation is slipping through his fingers. Shoemaker will most likely be on the outside looking in come the start of the year, dropping his value immensely.
125. Kyle Gibson (Minnesota Twins) – Congrats to Gibson for getting out of the sub 6.00 K/9 rut last year while being soooo mediocre that it hurt, hovering right under 4.00 ERA and walking near 3.00 per 9. Gibson is the king of blegh. I may go back and look at how many times I called a pitcher “blegh” during the season and I wouldn’t be shocked if Gibson had the most. He’s just so…blegh.
126. Erasmo Ramirez (Tampa Bay Rays) – Erasmo managed to put up a sufferable season for those in the deepest of leagues, maintaining under a 4.00 for both DIPS and ERA, didn’t walk too many guys and wasn’t the worst K producer ever. He’s really boring though and I don’t know why I’m still talking about him. He has Snell’s breath on his back with Cobb texting him about his “super exciting return!!!”, and between Erasmo and Moore, I would be surprised if Ramirez is the one that sticks around, barring injury from someone else on the staff.
127. Danny Duffy (Kansas City Royals) – Why do I keep seeing his name pop up? Don’t people realize his 2014 season with a 2.53 ERA was completely based on luck and his 2015 finally had him coming down to earth? If you’re going to bet on good luck, why not go after someone who doesn’t have a sub 7.00 K/9 and doesn’t walk batters at a 9.0% clip?
128. R.A. Dickey (Toronto Blue Jays) – Don’t trust a knuckleballer. Seriously, I don’t know why he gets any love these days as he is so unpredictable and even in roto leagues the end results are worse than picking up a random pitcher off the wire and starting him instead. I mean, seriously. A 5.29 K/9?!
129. Jonathan Gray (Colorado Rockies) – Anyone who has followed this site knows how I feel about Colorado pitchers: Don’t waste your time. There may be moments that you’ll want to stream Gray outside of Coors, and I’m okay with that on rare occasions. There is no way I’d endorse drafting Gray though, that’s a pain I don’t wish upon any man.
130. Alex Wood (Los Angeles Dodgers) – He’s probably going to be in the pen and not in the rotation. As memories of 2014 fade away, it’s hard to imagine Alex making a major impact if even got that chance. Would Wood be good? He could, but it doesn’t mean you should let him join your hood. We good? We good.
131. Drew Hutchison (Toronto Blue Jays) – He has some K upside, but he calls Rogers Centre his home and allows hard contact err day every day. You don’t want none of this Dewey Cox!
132. Tom Koehler (Miami Marlins) – A friend of mine told me he picked up Koehler for a DFS league once because he saw his Curveball make the GIF Roundup and “it looked sweet!” Unfortunately, my friend didn’t realize Koehler registered a -12.0 RAA for his Fastball. Yikes.
133. Doug Fister (Houston Astros) – Y’all know I hate Dougie, as he’s a pure WHIP/ERA guy, which doesn’t pan out nearly as often you’d want to justify losing those Ks on a given night. Just forget about him. Yes, even you.
134. Tanner Roark (Washington Nationals) – I could be writing this list until 150 or so but I have to cut it off at some point. You really don’t want to hear the same old “he’s not good” thing for another 2000 words, do you? Anyway, I’m not-so-secretly hoping Roark loses his rotation spot to Giolito so we can all have fun enjoying an electrifying prospect take his shot at stardom. Seriously, who wants to watch a guy with a 4+ ERA and sub 6 K/9 instead? No one, that’s who.