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

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

Chris Sale

4

Corey Kluber

5

Noah Syndergaard

6

Luis Severino

7

Madison Bumgarner

8

Stephen Strasburg

9

Jacob deGrom

10

Zack Greinke

11

Carlos Carrasco

12

Justin Verlander

13

Yu Darvish

14

Aaron Nola

15

Carlos Martinez

16

David Price

17

Chris Archer

18

James Paxton

19

Robbie Ray

20

Luis Castillo

21

Zack Godley

22

Dallas Keuchel

23

Jake Arrieta

24

Jose Quintana

25

Michael Fulmer

26

Jose Berrios

27

Masahiro Tanaka

28

Chase Anderson

29

Shohei Ohtani

30

Jeff Samardzija

31

Gerrit Cole

32

Sonny Gray

33

Luke Weaver

34

Jon Lester

35

Trevor Bauer

36

Garrett Richards

37

Lance McCullers

38

Alex Wood

39

Rich Hill

40

Jameson Taillon

41

Marcus Stroman

42

Danny Duffy

43

Kyle Hendricks

44

Johnny Cueto

45

Jon Gray

46

Jacob Faria

47

Mike Clevinger

48

Jordan Montgomery

49

Dylan Bundy

50

Kenta Maeda

51

Danny Salazar

52

Charlie Morton

53

Sean Manaea

54

Gio Gonzalez

55

Patrick Corbin

56

Blake Snell

57

Kevin Gausman

58

Lucas Giolito

59

Dinelson Lamet

60

Drew Pomeranz

61

Aaron Sanchez

62

Lance Lynn

63

Miles Mikolas

64

Michael Wacha

65

J.A. Happ

66

Anthony DeSclafani

67

Taijuan Walker

68

Reynaldo Lopez

69

Joe Musgrove

70

Brent Honeywell

71

Luiz Gohara

72

Joe Biagini

73

Eduardo Rodriguez

74

Jimmy Nelson

75

Carlos Rodon

76

Alex Reyes

77

Robert Stephenson

78

Josh Hader

79

Chris Stratton

80

Walker Buehler

81

German Marquez

82

Alex Cobb

83

Julio Teheran

84

Jake Odorizzi

85

Marco Estrada

86

Kyle Gibson

87

Mike Leake

88

Jerad Eickhoff

89

Zach Davies

90

Dan Straily

91

Tanner Roark

92

Mike Minor

93

Brad Peacock

94

Collin McHugh

95

Jake Junis

96

Sean Newcomb

97

Matt Shoemaker

98

Michael Kopech

99

Andrew Triggs

100

Parker Bridwell

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 Castilloas 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 Garrettetc.), 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.
Nick Pollack

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

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Comments


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.

Shalacken

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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?

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Carter

Why is Gio Gonzalez so low? Worries about his FIP? Otherwise seems crazy to put a likely top 5 NL Cy Young finisher with a sub 3 ERA and 6.4 bWAR behind pitchers like Carlos Rodón (4.15 ERA, 1.3 bWAR) and Charlie Morton (3.62 ERA, 1.8 bWAR)

Nick Pollack

Cy young votes and WAR don’t matter much to me for fantasy.

Strikeouts will always be helpful from Gio, but I just don’t believe that he can have another sub 3.50 ERA season again, especially as his walk rate climbed to 9.6%.

He had a lot go his way for that 2.96 ERA – .258 BABIP, 81.6% LOB rate – and I think drafting Gio will be paying for his 2017 career year (i.e. his ceiling) as opposed to infusing the questionable floor he carries.

Bateserade

Any chance Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams crack into the top 100? He’s a back end of the rotation kind of guy, but is young and showed improvement over his final 6 games of the season.

Nick Pollack

Not much of a fan of Trevor. He’s never had strikeout upside and a 8.1% walk rate will mean he’s more likely to be waiver wire fodder than have fantasy relevance.

The improvement in those last six games was mostly luck – 6.5% HR/FB, 88.7% LOB rate – and he allowed just 12.9% soft contact with a terrible 10.0% BB rate.

I’d rather chase other arms entering the season.

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