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:
[table id=1 /]
- 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 Syndergaard. Then 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 Castillo, as 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 McCullers, and Garret Richards, to questionable production from Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Quintana, and Marcus Stroman. And, 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 Salazar, we 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 Santana, and 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 Garrett, etc.), 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.