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,...

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 /]

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 Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

  • Avatar nrutko40 says:

    Any idea where you would put Otani if he made his way overseas?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      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.

  • Avatar Shalacken says:

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

    • Nick Nick says:

      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.

  • Avatar Bbboston says:

    What’s Clevinger’s upside? Just seems like he could have a #2 upside or more,…

    • Nick Nick says:

      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.

      • Avatar Bbboston says:

        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 Nick Pollack says:

          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.

        • Avatar The kraken says:

          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.

          • Avatar bbboston says:

            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.

          • Avatar bbboston says:

            Sorry…11.2 HW/9, but point basically still holds

  • Avatar Bbboston says:

    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?

  • Avatar Gregory C. says:

    Julio Teheran

  • Avatar Cliff says:

    Why do you have Duffy so low

  • Avatar Whipping Post says:

    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?

  • Avatar Robbie Egan says:

    Lance Lynn at 73 are you serious?

    • Avatar Dave Cherman says:

      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.

      • Avatar The kraken says:

        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.

  • Avatar Jake says:

    How is zack godley 15? Just wondering what im missing about the guy.

  • Avatar Paul D. says:

    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.

  • Avatar Carter says:

    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 Nick Pollack says:

      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.

  • Avatar Bateserade says:

    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 Nick Pollack says:

      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.

  • Avatar Michael Rapaport says:

    What about Goharra on the Braves?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      He’ll be inside the top 100 come my February rankings. I actually drafted him in the Pitcher List Mock Draft!

  • Avatar garbanzo says:

    Guys that seem overrated: Chase Anderson, Patrick Corbin, Alex Reyes & Matt Strahm.

  • Avatar FATBATMAN says:

    Looking forward to the FEB update! curious as to where Mikolas ,Ohtani ,land in your list.

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