Top 20 Starting Pitchers For 2019 For Fantasy Baseball

What is happening!

We launched Pitcher List 4.0 today and officially pulled back the curtain for the 2019 season. As is tradition, today marks the beginning of our preseason rankings, with the first week featuring my personal starting pitcher ranks, working our way to our first official edition of The List. Enjoy today’s Top 20 Starting Pitchers, followed by 20 ranks each day, concluding with a massive Top 200 Starting Pitchers article over the weekend. Yes, Top 200. Because why not.

Update: The Top 40 Starting Pitchers, Top 60 Starting PitchersTop 80 Starting Pitchers, and Top 100 Starting Pitchers have been released.

 

Tier 1: Triple-Threat Triad

 

1. Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals) – I can see a bit of a debate here, and what you should know out of the gate is how I approach starters in drafts. If I’m going early, it’s all about the floor—200+ innings, sub-3.00 ERA, 30%+ K rate, etc. I want to feel as secure as possible in a starter if I’m grabbing him in the first three-four rounds, and I’m willing to sacrifice a little ceiling for that. With Mad Max, you get everything you want. Sure, Jacob deGrom had a better ERA last year, but Scherzer has performed at this level for longer than deGrom, and that holds plenty of weight. Don’t let deGrom’s career year make you take a risk you shouldn’t take.

2. Jacob deGrom (New York Mets) – I remember when it was a shock to rank deGrom above Noah Syndergaard, and now it may surprise some that I’m buying into deGrom as the No. 2 option entering 2019. Chris Sale is the sexier arm, but deGrom’s volume for two straight years at 200 frames, with a repertoire that supports a 2.50 ERA and sub 1.00 WHIP makes him the better floor option. The fact that his four-seamer—a pitch he throws over 40% of the time—registered a 16% swinging-strike rate is mind-blowing for a starter, especially when he also had another pair of pitches (slider and changeup) that each registered above a 15% swinging-strike rate. The man has options galore, as long of a leash as you want, and pristine command. He’s destined for 15-20 wins despite last year’s personification of Roy Sullivan, especially as the offense has improved. He’s a legit ace.

3. Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox) – I expected to have Sale at No. 2. The man is dope and makes you feel dope, carrying the ceiling of 300+ strikeouts, a 2.00 ERA, and sub-1.00 WHIP for a winning ballclub, while deGrom comes with expected regression after his Cy Young season. I simply have hesitation paying full price on Sale (don’t say that out loud) when there are enormous fears for his innings in 2019. Even with deGrom’s injury history, I’m more concerned about Sale’s playing time in September as the Sox could easily baby him once again like they did last season. Given the same innings, I want Sale, and unfortunately, that’s not the case. I still anticipate 180 innings or so, and that keeps him in the top tier, just not the overwhelming volume of deGrom.

 

Tier 2: B-Listers

 

4. Justin Verlander (Houston Astros) – This second tier is up for debate, though I feel strongly that the first three should be valued higher than the rest. If you have major qualms with these, that’s fine like dope sand. I expect them all to go a round or two between each other, making me likely to wait until one or two are left to grab one, but if I have to take one early in the third or late second, I’m taking Verlander. His velocity stayed up at 95 mph, his slider improvement we saw in the second half of 2017 stuck for a full year, and his curveball looked like the hook of old. I’m all for questioning old starters if I begin to get a whiff of the wheels falling off (You can smell that?!), but there’s nothing here setting off alarm bells. More so, the other pitchers in this tier have questions of their own, and Verlander’s age (35) seems like the least concerning of the bunch. He has the durability to escalate to 200 frames again and even hint at 250 strikeouts after last year’s ridiculous 290 mark. This is the right move.

5. Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians) – If you’ve been following Pitcher List for a bit, you’ll know that we did a good amount of mocks this offseason. One of the bigger surprises to me was the lack of trust in a Bauer repeat following his incredible 2.21 ERA, 31% K rate, and 1.09 WHIP. He tinkers too much. He’s never thrown 200 innings. It’s just one year! All of these things are blegh to me. A man tinkers when he doesn’t trust performance is at its peak. I think a 2.21 ERA and 31% K rate is peak enough. A total of 200 frames never happened prior to 2018 because the Indians never let him do it as A) They had other options and B) Bauer simply wasn’t doing well. Bauer averaged 6.2 frames last year as a starter, not including the 1.1-inning game he got hurt in and his following DLH game. (For those wondering, his ERA, K rate, and WHIP were near identical even excluding his relief appearance and these 5.1 frames.) The man was closer to seven full innings than six, which would have resulted in about 220 frames had he not gotten a comebacker to the foot. The man is built for 200+ innings. Speaking of which, dating back to July 27, 2017, through the game before his injury—yes, returning to the second half of his previous season—Bauer holds a 2.29 ERA, 30% K rate, and 1.13 WHIP. In other words, Bauer has been doing this for a season-and-a-half, presenting a notable line in the sand (hey, another sand reference!) when he switched from a cutter to a loopier slider. So what? So what? It’s a pitch that held a 21% swinging-strike rate last year, helping boost his overall swinging-strike rate four points to an excellent 13.3% mark. The biggest concern is the 0.46 HR/9 and 6.2% HR/FB regressing, but that’s fine, I’ll take a 2.75 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 200 IP, and 30% K rate any day. The man has hit his plateau, and keep your smile hidden as your leaguemates let him fall to the fourth.

6. Gerrit Cole (Houston Astros) – One of the best parts of making rankings every year is being wrong. Like really wrong. As the hype surrounded Cole when he became an Astro, I was one of the dissenters, which meant anyone listening to me never drafted Cole in a league. My bad, y’all, my bad. I’m not one to stick to my guns blindly (more on that later), and I’m all for grabbing Cole, but maybe slightly later than others. I’m not going to take away his hot start, but there should be a discussion about those initial six weeks of the year when he called Scherzer to tell him a new sheriff was in town. A discussion about them where we say, “What if they didn’t exist?” Wow Nick, riveting. Those 24 games post-ultra dominance returned a 32% K rate, 6 IPS, 1.15 WHIP, and 3.45 ERA. That’s still dope. Well, like Carlos Carrasco dope and a far cry from the “what-if-prime-Carter-Capps-threw-seven-innings-per-game” dope. I think this is a lot closer to the real Cole, as his HR/9 stuck at 1.00 with a near 9% walk rate. That walk rate seems about right when—get this—Cole doesn’t have a strong third pitch. GASP. His curveball goes in and out, with a rare changeup that’s good but not consistent enough to trust often. Yes, his fastball is the A’s knees (Oakland’s hitters buckle so often), and that is great ‘n’ all, but for someone in a lot of Top Fives, I need that emergency option when something isn’t working. That lack of third option paired with a six-week peak that may be creating an illusion of a higher ceiling across a full year, and I have to lower Cole more than I expected.

7. Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians) – I want to say that the three above are in their own mini-tier to me. From here through Luis Severino, go with your gut ultimately, but we’re called Pitcher List, and that means I gotta make a list. With Kluber, I’m worried. I’ve seen him go as high as the No. 3 SP in mocks, and I think we’re overlooking the possibility of a big decline for Klubs in 2019. That’s a little weird to say after a sub-3.00 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP, and 26.5% K rate season with 200 IP for the fifth straight season, but hear me out. Kluber’s style has been “fastball bad, cutter/curveball dope” for a while, but it’s getting near that precipitous point where he just may not be able to get over it like he used to. As he moves almost exclusively to sinkers, its velocity has fallen consistently through the years, dipping to sub-92 mph consistently in the second half. He throws the pitch 40% of the time (at least not 60%!), and allowed a horrid .295 BAA, with batters making contact over 92% of the time. In other words, batters don’t miss the pitch and make great contact against it constantly. Meanwhile, his supreme dopeness that is his curveball/slider/breaking ball/thing? It dropped its swinging-strike rate over eight full points in 2018, though it still sits at a pristine 20% clip. Maybe his changeup gets more usage and works, while his cutter keeps doing ridiculous things and life is fine. Declining velocity with a signature breaking ball missing fewer bats is sure to make me have concerns for a soon-to-be 33-year-old, yet Kluber still demands Top 10 status. His cutter/breaker combo will still be crazy-good, and while it could be an ERA closer to 3.50 than 3.00, you’re still getting a solid floor with Kluber in 2019.

8. Blake Snell (Tampa Bay Rays) – No. 8 belongs to Snell, even with his concerns of massive regression (1.89 ERA vs. 3.30 SIERA) and innings cap, as the Rays love to turn to their pen early for Snell, especially when he returned from injury in the final two months last year. Still, I think Snell’s skill set of his fastballs with breakers down is as beautiful as it gets, especially when he has a solid changeup in his back pocket as a fourth option. His strikeout rate should still hover around 30% with stellar ratios—he just won’t have a Cy Young repeat. That HOTEL with a .241 BABIP and 88.0% LOB rate was seriously dumb, but adding a full point to his ERA still means a happy owner. You’ll notice larger warts on the next five guys, and a cataclysmic regression isn’t in the cards with his shift on the rubber and pitch-mix shakeup. Snell will be one of the best southpaws in the majors for a long time.

9. Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets) – Each year there’s a new feel of Syndergaard. I loved him immensely during and after 2015, was slightly low after 2016, then my whole BABIP argument had me avoiding him in 2018. Is there much cause to feel otherwise entering 2019? Kinda? Enough so that among this mini-tier I feel more confident with Syndergaard’s flaws than the others. The crux of last year’s argument was that Syndergaard is a thrower not a pitcher, i.e. he doesn’t work his pitches effectively around the zone but instead hurls it to the plate and gets results based on their velocity and movement. It’s not exclusive, but he’s missing the craft of someone like Scherzer or Sale, and it prevents him from taking that leap we all expect. That lack of polish returned a .320 BABIP (high again!) and 24% K rate, a strikeout mark that seems exceptionally low for his 13.6% swinging-strike rate. Assessing Thor for 2019 presents two questions: Do I expect him to be healthy, and do I expect him to make adjustments to squeeze out all his potential? For the first, I think you have to expect some headache, but 180 innings should be fine. The second is obviously trickier, but I’d take this gamble over the others behind him. Syndergaard hasn’t had the smooth development time thus far to tinker properly and figure out his approach. After watching deGrom excel with four-seamers last year, I think we’ll see fewer contact-heavy and BABIP unfriendly sinkers with more swing-and-miss up in the zone, with sliders/curveballs down and changeups to counter everything. That’s the craft we want, and his BABIP was elevated based on his lack of time getting to figure it out. It’s in there, his injury scare and tumultuous 2018 are behind him, and if he’s falling into the late third/early fourth, he’s worth it, but I’d hold off for other options if it means I have to jump earlier.

10. Aaron Nola (Philadelphia Phillies) – I love Aaron Nova Nola. Our shirt is one of my personal favorites (Live Every Day Like It’s Nola Day), and I’ve been rooting for him since he was called up in 2015. I call him Easy A because he’s just that fun to root for. Unfortunately, I think this is the year I need to be low on Nola. I know, SACRÉ BLEU! That’s French for “THAT’S YOUR BOY, BLUE!” and it seems so wrong. But listen, I’m not allowed to be emotional, I have to hide them better than Michael Pineda’s pine tar as I need to give you the most objective ranks possible. And those ranks see an arm that is relying too heavily on grounders (51%) in a terrible infield defense, held a 3.40 SIERA as his HOTEL of .251 BABIP, 82.5% LOB and 10.6% HR/FB suggest closer to a 3.00 ERA, if not worse. Then his 27% strikeout rate is great and he could repeat it, though his overall repertoire suggests it’s his peak, without a level of 30% in his future. Maybe it’s 27% again, maybe it’s 25%, but then we’re looking at a 3.15 ERA, 25% K rate and 1.10 WHIP at…wait. How many innings? Nola hit 212 frames last year, though there is injury concern like a decent amount of arms here (first season above 170 IP!), and those anticipating another 200 are going to be a little disappointed. I love Nola (duh) and think he’s still an ace on the hill. I just think we saw a career year and not a plateau.

11. Luis Severino (New York Yankees) – Are you decided on Severino? I’m not. Sorry, through all of these long, long nights without baseball, trying to predict Severino’s 2019 year has kept me up the most. We know he can be as elite as they come, boasting a 1.98 ERA, 30% K rate, and 0.95 WHIP in his first 18 starts. That was with a 6.6 IPS! Then his slider started to falter, leading to a seven-game stretch that often ends veterans’ careers—11 HRs and a 7.50 ERA in 36 innings. That’s nearly double the amount of long balls Severino had allowed in the first 118.1 frames he threw last year. Funny story, though, Severino was actually kinda amazing after those seven starts: 3.89 ERA (but a 2.13 FIP!), 30% K Rate (just like before!), and 1.22 WHIP. I looked more into his slider and fastball and changeup, and while I was expecting to see bigger indications of poor whiff rates, bad sliders, or lower velocity, what I found was…kinda nothing. The more I dug, the more I started to believe this was smoke and mirrors. Now do I see a sub-3.00 ERA season from Severino? I think it’s certainly possible. I also see his 3.30 ERA from last year and a near 30% K rate with a 1.14 WHIP and bounce like a bobblehead. It’s not a bad gamble to chase a 2017 + first half 2018 repeat from Severino, as it really was a ghastly seven-game stretch—the first real adversity as a prime starter and now he’s on the other side!—that held back Severino from universal advocacy.

12. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) – I feel like Ms. Imbruglia talking about Kershaw, and I think a lot of you are sounding Aussie and standing 5’3″ as well debating one the greatest pitchers of all time for 2019. Wanna know what makes me so torn? It’s a mixing pot of tugging collars—a fastball that has declined in velocity for the third straight year to a horrid sub-91 mph mark, a massive 10-point drop in swinging-strike rate on his slider, and, duh, his nagging back that is sure to force Kershaw out for an extended period of time for the third straight season. All of these issues would be OK if Kershaw’s command was right in line with where it used to be…but it wasn’t. If you watched his playoff starts, you’ll remember his fastball missing locations, his lack of precision on sliders, and a massive wave of mortality for a legend in the game. It was scary. Uncomfortable, like hearing Raffi drop an F-bomb. What’s wild is that Kershaw, among all the blegh, was still dope for your team in 26 starts and 161 innings. Yes, with all his disappointment, Kershaw returned a 2.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 24% K rate. It could get worse if he’s forced to throw his slider as a strike pitch instead of a playing it off an 0-1 painted heater, but it’s been suggested that with health, Kershaw should reclaim some velocity and command, bringing back stud numbers when he’s on the hill. Slotting him here at No. 12 is understanding that chance—just grab the guys ahead of him and rest easier.

UPDATE: With the recent news of Kershaw’s shoulder woes early in Spring Training, I’m moving Kershaw down to #19 between James Paxton and Stephen Strasburg.

13. Carlos Carrasco (Cleveland Indians) – I’d be surprised if I found myself with shares of Carrasco for 2019. There’s nothing inherently wrong about owning him, though for the most part, I’d rather just wait the few rounds to grab one of the youngins in the third tier. Would I be upset with a 3.30 ERA, 28% K rate, 1.15 WHIP in 2019? Not at all! Those are great numbers…across 30 starts. Carrasco is also a major Cherry Bomb, in that over one-third of his starts came in under six frames. That volatility mixed with a capped ceiling (no season under a 3.15 ERA as a full starter) means I’m taking him after the rest of the exciting aces. It’s a boring blurb—I know—but there isn’t much more to say. Y’all know his fastball is bad, and maybe he continues to lower its usage and maybe pulls off that ridiculous year. That would be cool ‘n’ stuff, but it’s just not something I’m betting on when it’s my pick on draft day.

 

Tier 3: Four Score

 

14. Walker Buehler (Los Angeles Dodgers) – We have a tier of youth(ish), and if you have any problems with their order, that’s cool. I took ages to sort this one out, and this is what I settled on for whatever reason. Get the right value in your drafts (cough *Jameson Taillon and Mike Clevinger* cough) and call it a day. Anyway, how many starts will Buehler make in 2019? His inherent skill set is well deserving of a No. 14 rank (if not higher!), but I just can’t put my finger on how many starts Buehler will make. #Dodgeritis is a real thing because nightmares come true, which means we’ll most likely deal with Buehler missing starts here and there in order to keep his workload down, even if his 137.1 regular-season frames get expanded to 177 including the minors and playoffs. That means he can hit 200 this year! Ha! No way the Dodgers do that. It’s just not what they do, as much as I want to believe that. But 180 innings? Now that sounds right and wonderful. I love that Buehler’s approach begins with an amazing four-seamer, as you’ll see that the heavy majority of aces feature an elite four-seamer (Scherzer, Sale, deGrom, Verlander, Cole, etc.). Buehler still needs to take a step forward with either his slider or curveball to miss bats, but I can see that adjustment coming this year as his curveball and cutter find the zone more often, allowing his slider to take a different role as an O-Swing machine. Pair that with solid command and control, and what do you know, you have an arm that could even scratch the Top Five if he hits 200 frames. It just won’t happen this year, sadly.

15. Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Maybe I’m too high on Taillon, as I don’t quite believe he has the ceiling of Clevinger or Patrick Corbin (or even Zack Wheeler!) behind him. However, his floor is firmly elevated, as his command is phenomenal. It has been for a bit, but his repertoire was lacking with just a curveball to keep batters of his pair of heaters. Now with a dope slider that I’ve talked way too much about this offseason (14% swinging-strike rate, 50% O-Swing and 47% Zone rate!), Taillon has the tools to walk few, strikeout 25% or more, and go deep into games. Think sub-3.00 ERA, sub-1.15 WHIP and 200 frames with a K per inning (or slightly under). He doesn’t have that 30% strikeout upside, but those ratios have a much better chance at excellence. In the days of few sturdy 200-inning pitchers, Taillon is a rare gem.

16. Mike Clevinger (Cleveland Indians) – Speaking of 200-inning arms, Clevinger hit that number on the nose in 2018 and has zero reasons to miss the mark in 2019. As we expected, he pulled his walk rate down from a nervous 12% mark to 8.3%, turning his “just missed” fastballs to nibble strikes. Seriously, his four-seamer zone rate raised 4.5 points, with his O-Swing jumping 5.5 points—that’s a lot of new strikes! It’s helping him go deeper into games, while setting batters up for strikeouts, and as long as he doesn’t sputter with his breaking pitches in the opening weeks, he could push 200+ strikeouts again easily. There’s a bit of shakier floor here than Buehler and Taillon given he has the worst fastball of the lot, but armed with a slider and curveball both over an 18% swinging-strike rate, Clevinger hints at a higher ceiling. You want this.

17. Patrick Corbin (Washington Nationals) – Some will have him above Carrasco, some past the No. 20 mark, and I understand both arguments. Like a good moderator, I’m here to split the difference. The ceiling is clear, fueled by a slide piece that ranks among the best in the majors, earning an unreal 51.6% O-Swing, as it induced a near 30% swinging-strike rate. It was stupid good, especially considering it was thrown over 1,300 times. Jeeeeeeez. Corbin was able to put his heater on the inside corner to right-handers, helping set up the pitch constantly, and it worked oh-so well. There was worry in May as Corbin’s velocity dropped dramatically from 92/93 to 89/90, yet Corbin powered on, holding a 3.38 ERA and near 30% K rate when the velocity dipped and after his dominant April. Velocity questions aside, Corbin’s lack of a strong third pitch (even if he’s squeezing everything out of his slider by intentionally lowering its velocity on occasion) makes him susceptible to a disappointing 2019. If he loses the feel of that slider even just a bit, you’re looking at an SP3 or so. That’s still great, and he should perform well in the NL Easy(er), though I’d rather ride the growth of Buehler/Taillon/Clevinger than a double-down on Corbin.

 

TIER 4: Damaged Goods

 

18. Zack Wheeler (New York Mets) – I really wanted Wheeler in the third tier. He certainly has the talent for it, and his IPS was ace-like when he clicked last season, Wheeler threw at least seven frames in 12 out of his final 16 starts. WhoaIt was built on the foundation of an excellent four-seamer up in the zone, while his three-headed secondary beast of sliders, split-changeups, and curveballs held their own to push Wheeler through starts constantly. He fanned at least seven in 11 of those starts, despite none of his secondary pitches carrying a swinging-strike rate above 15%. As I mentioned with Buehler, I love when a pitcher’s No. 1 pitch is a four-seamer, which goes to show how Wheeler succeeded despite not having that big breaker. So why isn’t he in the third tier? Because I have to carry heightened concern of injury—Wheeler tallied just 87.1 innings total in his three prior seasons, amassing nearly all of them just in 2017. It’s not as high of a concern as the next three (while producing close to the same numbers!), which has me at the top of this tier, just a slight step down from the other youts.

19. James Paxton (New York Yankees) – If you haven’t watch Paxton pitch, you’re missing out. Heavy heaters high-and-tight, a devastating cutter into ankles, and a knuckle curve that falls off the table outline Big Maple as he often overpowers batters left and right. His 3.76 ERA last year was plenty more elevated than we wanted…and I believe he deserved, boasting a 2.96 SIERA. His 1.10 WHIP and 32% strikeout rate (14.3% swinging-strike rate!) made him comparable to the elites; it’s just that blasted 1.30 HR/9 that did him in, and I understand the worry that it won’t fade, moving from Safeco to Yankee Stadium. I’m willing to wager it will actually decrease closer to 1.00 for the year (I think his home runs were a product of mistake pitches that would be long balls anywhere and correctable, and a lefty at Yankee Stadium nullifies the short right-field porch a bit), which means a 3.00 ERA with that WHIP and K rate are certainly attainable. The problem is how 200 frames are not. Paxton’s 160 innings in 2018 were a career high, as he’s battled with injuries every year of his career, and it would be foolish to imagine 2019 as an exception. Still, his innings will be of elite quality when he’s on the bump, which alone makes him a solid No. 2. It’s a weird floor when you’re anticipating fewer innings, but I prefer the confidence I have starting Paxton over those ranked lower.

20. Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals) – It makes sense to group the three enigmatic volume pitchers together, right? They all have ace-like ceiling; it’s just about weighing that elite ability with expected playing time. Strasburg doesn’t excel at either end, though, making him my least favorite of the trio. With Wheeler, we know his repertoire, built on a fantastic four-seamer and solid secondary pitches. Paxton has a three-pitch mix that overwhelms batters constantly. But Strasburg? Well, it’s a bit muddier. It used to be a strong four-seamer backed by a big curveball, with his changeup getting chases late. But last year, his four-seamer was horrible. Seriously, Strasburg’s heater returned a -8.8 pVal after dominating in previous years, giving up more long balls and raising its BAA to a bleeeegh .280. With his slider taking a step back as well, Strasburg got enough from his dope changeup and curveball to return a 3.74 ERA, but, man, was it constantly stressful. That’s not including the injury-laced June 8 start, followed by the horrid July DLH that sent Strasburg back to the DL, and 2018 was a bit of a mess. I’m painting Stras as a worse pitcher than he actually is—he’s more like a 3.30 ERA/1.12 WHIP arm with a 28% K rate—but it won’t be a smooth road. That means a lot of middling starts with a lot of injury concern (just one season above 150 IP in his last four!), and I’d prefer to sit this one out. He’s not the sturdy No. 2 you’re looking for.

(Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

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


Scott

No way I would put wheeler and Tailon above Flaherty. His ceiling is much higher thsn either of them. Further, I prefer him to a broken down Strasburg too.

Scott

Amy preview of where Greinke falls on this list? I’m already surprised by some of the guys you have above him.

theKraken

The difference between Scherzer and DeGrom in 2018 was a lower HR rate for DeGrom and that’s it… and a higher K rate for Scherzer. I’ll take Scherzer’s skill set all day long and I think it is clearly superior. I know I am alone in believing that HR rate is not worth a ton, but it certainly can vary a ton based on a game or two. If that regresses at all, then the gap gets wide quickly. There is also the small matter that DeGrom has only pitched at that level once over a full season. I don’t think they are that close… well, I don’t think there is a coherent debate where DeGrom is on top. I always get a chuckle that in the era of sabermetrics DeGrom’s best selling point was his ERA and it won him a Cy Young award. Don’t get me wrong, hes good.

AJ

“I always get a chuckle that in the era of sabermetrics DeGrom’s best selling point was his ERA and it won him a Cy Young award.”

In the era of sabermetrics, DeGrom had a better FIP, xFIP, DRA, bWAR and FWAR than Scherzer in 2018. That’s why he won the Cy Young.

Joe Barbuto

Thoughts on keeping Flaherty (Keep-Forever League) vs. gambling and letting him go for a shot at Paxton in the 4th Round instead? Thanks

Joe Barbuto

12-Team Points League, can keep up to 4 Players max (projecting 35-40 Total guys will be kept) and Keepers automatically serve as your First Picks (4 Keepers = your Picks Rounds 1-4). Keeping Turner/Kershaw/Rizzo, Flaherty would be my 4th Rounder and Paxton isn’t being kept. Basically asking does Jack’s Keep-Forever value vault him over Paxton in Ranks for Drafts this year?

Thanks for the insight and for the amazing material…never disappoints!

Nick

Got it!

I’d throw back Flaherty as you should have better options in the fourth round of a 12 teamer, even in a keeper.

theKraken

I think these rankings are money. Not to say that they won’t look terrible in twelve months because you can’t really prevent that, but I am in agreement with your generally consistent and accurate evaluations. Of all of these guys I am probably lowest on Taillon, but the enthusiasm is easy to understand and you could pick a worse guy to root for.

Ted

I just acquired Clevinger this offseason. I have the option to extend him for 2 or 3 years. At 2 years he is $11 per season, at 3 he is $16 per. I have Scherzer for 1 more year and Bauer and Snell for 3 more. There’s only 13 pitchers that earned more than $15 based on our league settings and Clevinger was at $13.
I guess it is a question of do you foresee him taking a big enough jump that he is a top 12 earning pitcher going forward?

Nick Pollack

If you have Bauer and Sell already at 3 years, I think you’re okay being conservative at two years from Clevinger.

I think he has the potential of jumping into the Top 10 for next season, but I think the cost of $15 over three years is too much for you.

Chin Music

I just traded for Clevinger in a keeper league. Straight up for Daniel Murphy. It was offered to me, and I accepted without haggling.

Nick Pollack

Ha! Well, since Nola is at #4 in NFBC and I’ve been known for my Nola love, I imagined I’d get a good amount of pushback.

Glad you’re on the same page as me!

Dominic Lozano

kinda surprised you left off folty, not to mention he has a very reliable defense behind him along with good bats to get him some support. last year was his breakout year and for still being relatively young and still an electric fastball I feel like the best is still yet to come

Nick Pollack

I’m diving into Folty tomorrow in the Top 40, and it’s hard to buy into his strikeout rate when it came with a low 10.3% swinging-strike last season.

I’d be happy owning Folty, there are just too many other arms that are plenty safer for 2019.

Paul

In auction leagues, would there be any impact on any of the rankings? Obviously every draft/auction is different but curious about how chasing someone like Buehler (top of a tier) vs Carrasco (bottom of a tier) would be approached in auction compared to draft.

Frank

Great stuff Nick. Any chance you or someone else on the staff will write an article ranking the rotations of each team? That would be cool to read.

My take is that the White Sox and Padres have two of the worst five rotations in all of baseball yet the public thinks these teams will be competitive this year due to their bright futures. Any thoughts?

Brad

Nola’s the #5 SP off the board according to NFBC’s ADP since Jan 1st. His floor is fantastic (4 + p-Val offerings), but I’m a gambling man and would be cool with waiting a little longer for Cole, Snell, Carrasco, or Bauer.

Random observation: Nola’s shape of his pitches haven’t all that much from 2017. The extra 1/2 inch of horizontal movement on the fastball did catch my attention, though.

AJ

Ugh, unfortunately, I’m in complete agreement on Kershaw + Stras. I’m shopping for a #2 starter behind deGrom in a 14 tm keeper, and only 4 guys on this top 20 will be available. I may just opt for two #3s at this point since I don’t pick high enough to get Scherzer, and I’m not even considering Kershaw or Stras. The only other option would be Carrasco, but he seems maddeningly inconsistent. Looking forward to the next piece where hopefully there will be some more guys available.

Bbboston

Suggested Article:

Ranking positional scarcity on a 1-10 scale for each type of leagues do discuss optimal punt positions and strategies for each.

By way of example, AL only SP ranking – 4. Text might read: “Lock down 1-3 top twenty SPs and go heavy on high K% MRs, because beyond your top twenty guys, there’s few safe SP options out there to safeguard your era/whip”.

Silvy

I’m going into the season with Ray, Berrios and Freeland. Am I all set with these 3 aces or should I trade a bat for another one. Thx for your time Nick.

Kyle

Great stuff Nick! I’ve been following PL since last season and it is the most thorough and entertaining baseball content I’ve seen out there. So keep up the amazing work!
That being said, I’m in a keeper league and I’m having difficulty in choosing between Nola and Snell. Who do you see regressing more this upcoming season?

Nick Pollack

Hey Kyle,

Thanks for the kind words, glad to see you back!

That’s incredibly close. A little safer with Nola though the ceiling is higher with Snell. If you need to be a little conservative, I’m fine going with Nola.

Nate

I do a drinking game where I take a shot every time I read Nick using “dope” (…as an adjective of course).

Dangerous game.

John

Respect your opinion more than most, if not all, other analysts so I have a question I don’t quite understand about your list. Please help me understand. You tinker with it weekly so what exactly am I supposed to use it for as a reader/fantasy player? I can’t really go acquire say, Kluber over Kershaw if the list only reflects current evaluation and if Kershaw goes CGSO on Opening Day he leapfrogs to #4 overall. With so much tinkering tell me how to utilities this list to make future decisions. It doesn’t seem like it’s being used to plant your flag on someone and say go get Noah and hold he’s #9 because in two weeks he can be #19. Thanks!

Nick Pollack

First and foremost, thanks! Those are kind words.

About The List during the year, I should note that the Top 20 rarely moves in the first few weeks for the exact reason you’re giving – two weeks early on doesn’t change things for the full year.

That said, there’s a good amount of criticism about the fluid nature of The List week to week and there is good reason for it.

When creating a Top 100 list weekly, I have three options:

1) Ignore the season numbers and stick to my guns, barely moving anyone per week until I re-do them around the section half
2) Make few adjustments each week, only moving players dramatically instead of a few spots when I’m 100% sure they deserve to be inside the Top 30 instead of outside the Top 50.
3) Make a decent number of small adjustments each week across all of The List to prevent shocking jumps or falls that would anger readers. “You had him at 19 last week and now he’s 44?! After just one bad start?!”

After five years of The List, I found #3 to be the very best way of handling it. Player values change fluidly through the year, especially past the Top 30 where the rankings of SP arms are so close together. The very best way to keep a strong List each week is to make small moves indicating trends, allowing someone who was outside the Top 50 (like Corbin last year!) to make his way into the Top 20 step-by-step and not suddenly at the end of May. “Yep, I liked what Corbin was doing all along!”

It’s an incredibly hard thing to do and I know I don’t always get it right. Of course I don’t. That tinkering you mention, though, won’t happen with the top ranks for a while, and even then, I don’t adjust all too often unless I feel it’s just.

Syndergaard will not fall to #19 in two weeks. He won’t be out of the Top 10 unless he gets hurt or is showcasing dramatically lower velocity. Something needs to be vastly *different* from what we perceive of him now.

I hope that helps clear things up John.

TheDustmite

Nick,
Kudos to you for having the stones to put Bauer where he belongs…too many people ding him because they don’t like his personality or make-up…I really hope the market keeps him where he is. I don’t want to have to draft him in the second round of NFBC mains.

Jarrod

Hi, 260$ auction dynasty league, I have 2 more years with Kluber ($24), Severino ($1), Bauer ($15) and I have Buehler and Flaharty for 1 year at $15…. Should I also keep German Marquez for $15/1 year or see whats left later on in the draft for less? If I kept Marquez, I’d have 6 of your top 30 pitchers, 4 of them being in your top 14…..Can you give me 3-4 names you’d target that you think would be available?

Cameron Kirkpatrick

12 team, standard 5×5 keeper league. I gave up Yelich this off season for Benintendi & Buehler, to go along with deGrom, Betts and Lindor.
I LOVE Buehler. he could make my team viable for years to come.

Ray Gadd

Play in a 10 team league that went nuts last year! The guy that won in 17 drafted 7 pitchers with his first 7 picks. 5 starters and top 2 relievers. So in 18 when he started, everyone panicked. Seven teams took pitchers with their first pick. At pick 8 I got Betts and coming back got Machado. The winner in 18 drafted 4 pitchers in a row. The same guy in 17 did the same thing again in 18 and took the 7 pitchers. It thins out REAL fast.My ? is. If it starts again this year do I join the party or stay away? Thanks

Nick Pollack

Hey Ray!

Definitely not, we get a lot more comments these days than in the past and it can be hard to track them all down – especially when they are posted a month after the initial article. Sorry for the delay!

I would say that SP has heightened value in shallower leagues as productive bats are still on the wire in 10-teamers.

I think you can still win without that aggressive of a strategy, but don’t completely ignore it if the draft swings heavily in SP favor and you’re left with Darvish as your #1 arm.

As long as you secure one (or maybe two?) Top 20 starters, you should be fine.

Phil Dungey

Great stuff, Nick. I’ve had PL bookmarked for a long time but I’ve wasted too much time on other sites. I’m in a 10 team 4 player keeper league – 2 of my 4 are Scherzer and Snell. I have a 1st round pick at #10, so if it turns out that I want to draft a SP, who do you recommend out of Nola, Buehler, Carrasco, Syndergaard, Taillon, Clevenger? (No Kershaw for me.)
Thanks! Keep up the great work.

Barton Zeller

Its very interesting that you have not listed one Cub pitcher as a keeper, and yet Vegas contends that they will win over 85 games. What with no 15 game winners

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