Holy rookie starters! I swear, there are more rookies debuting on the mound in 2020 than there are jokes about dongs on this site. After hearing much conversation about rookie starters and seeing some of the love-at-first-sight that is happening in some fantasy circles, it got me to thinking: of all the rookie starters out there, how do they all stack up from now through the rest of the season? Our very own everywhereblair has already been providing you with awesome updates to Razzball’s starting pitching rankings each week, but I thought I’d take it a step further as one of the prospect gurus and hone in on the first-year hurlers. These are solely rankings for the rest of the 2020 fantasy baseball season, although I plan to have updated dynasty rankings on these same names in the near future. Warning: my rankings do not directly translate to how everywhereblair has the top 100 starters ranked, therefore this article is not doctor approved.
Yes — Luzardo’s most recent start had its ups and downs. He got the bottom-line results (6 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 7K), but also missed over the plate with his fastball on occasion while attempting to pitch in, thus speeding up the Texas bats. The slider has looked excellent and he’s spotted it well low and away to LHH, but sometimes I wonder if he just starts it on the left side of the plate, prays, then lets it sweep accordingly. Regardless, he’s more consistent and reliable than a lot of other of these names (*cough* Mize *cough*) and his 3.74 ERA should stick given the underlying metrics. Barring injury, Luzardo is guaranteed to have a spot in the rotation down the stretch and will be working into the sixth and seventh innings of games while providing healthy strikeout numbers.
Did Hobbs fall of his rocker? No — well, it has been awhile since I’ve been outdoors… and I mean, I’m 75% sure my new friend Toby is totally real, but now that you mention it… Right, um. I haven’t lost my mind yet and, in fact, I’ve been high on Sixto for some time now — even more so after seeing his stuff play in his first MLB start.
98 mph FB away
85 mph CB away
91 mph CH away
Here are all three overlayed with a bonus color-coded version w/ ball trails. pic.twitter.com/OReMUtpzmE
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) August 23, 2020
If Sanchez gets regular starts out of the Miami rotation through the end of the season, it’s my bold prediction he’ll return the best ROS fantasy production of any rookie starting pitcher. With five quality pitches that he can locate effectively, Sanchez should excel immediately and it’s only a matter of time before the K/9 numbers begin creeping closer to 10 per nine innings. If he can get into an early groove where the rest of the league is working to adjust to his arsenal before Sixto is forced to adjust back, he could very well be a league winner and the top performer on this list.
3. Dustin May
As the most effective rookie starter so far this season, May has quickly become a heartthrob across the fantasy community thanks to an eye-popping arsenal highlighted by his upper 90s “sinker.” His 2.79 ERA and 1.17 WHIP have been useful across all formats and there’s been consistency via two earned runs or fewer in each start, but he still only has 20 strikeouts in 29 innings and both his xERA (4.38) and xFIP (4.28) indicate there could be some regression in the final month. I’m not betting against May or urging readers away from him — rather I am explaining why he is at No. 3 on this list while reiterating that fantasy owners continue to be more smitten with May due to his sexiness than maybe they should be. Think Britney Spears vs. Britney Spears’ voice.
It’s tough to not love McKenzie given the situation he has in Cleveland. Like with Sanchez, I’m fearful to rank McKenzie so highly when he’s made just one MLB start and could even see a reduced role once Francona & Co. brings the Coronavigilantes back into the fold. Still, we’ve seen rookie Indians starters emerge from seemingly nowhere mid-summer and provide excellent ROS value in the past, so I’m pretty comfortable relying on Triston with a little help from the Steamonator. For what it’s worth, Grey likes Triston a tad more than Sixto for this year, but I’m also higher than just about everyone on the budding Miami ace.
5. Casey Mize
It’s the tale of two Caseys: Mr. Mize and Dr. Zime, the latter of which pretends to be the 2018 No. 1 overall MLB draft selection, but really isn’t. The same way Zima pretended to be beer but really wasn’t. In start number one, Mr. Mize tossed 4 1/3 innings with three earned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts, marking the first time since Stephen Strasburg in 2010 that a pitcher struck out seven or more while walking zero in their Major League debut. In start number two, Dr. Zime served up another three earned runs (four total) on five hits, but only lasted 3 1/3 frames with only two strikeouts against two walks. There’s a pretty bonkers ceiling out there somewhere involving the right version of Mize for ROS in fantasy, but he’s a bit more susceptible to blow ups compared to someone like Sanchez or May.
Personally, I’ll only see Javier as a quality streaming option for the rest of the season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have value in the right matchups. Javier has struck out five batters in three straight starts, however he went less than four innings in two of those outings. I would be surprised to see Javier maintain his 3.55 ERA and 1.07 WHIP at their current levels, although he has been eliciting relatively weak contact and the command (3.2 BB/9) has at least been better than anticipated. I just don’t see him potentially powering you up the standings in September the same way I do the names in front of him.
Howard hasn’t exactly raised eyebrows in his first three career starts, owning a 6.17 ERA and 2.06 WHIP after facing the Braves, Mets and Blue Jays. On top of that, he has yet to get through the fifth inning and even be capable of qualifying for a win, so his relatively low ownership (9% ESPN, 17& Yahoo) doesn’t surprise me. Still, he’s punched out 11 batters in 11 2/3 innings while adapting to the steep learning curve, so I truly believe he could provide some decent streaming value down the stretch in the right spots. Don’t forget that Howard arguably already has three plus pitches (FB, SL, CH) with the opportunity to add one more in the form of his curveball while maintaining the ability to throw in the upper 90s. Howard is still much sexier as a dynasty or deep keeper target, but he remains one of the more enticing rookie starters as we advance into September.
8. Ian Anderson
Not to overreact to one start, but Anderson fired six innings against the Yankees in his MLB debut on Wednesday, allowing just one earned run on one hit while striking out six. His lone blemish came via a solo homer to Luke Voit, who has morphed into the type of supernatural slugger you can only find in a Matt Christopher novel. Sure, Anderson nearly no-hit the Yankees in a seven inning game in his debut, but he’s also a top 50 prospect and a former No. 3 overall pick. Despite the small sample size, I can’t have him any lower on his list, as he’s a dart throw that could save fantasy pitching staffs down the stretch.
9. Tarik Skubal
In the Sixto article I linked to earlier, I also went over Skubal and explained why I’m in on Detroit’s third-ranked pitching prospect. 2020 started off pretty rocky for Skubal, the same way it has for me, and you, and your family, and Bob Barker, and the old lady next door… well, pretty much everyone but our dogs. After starting the season on the IL for “undisclosed reasons,” he debuted against the White Sox and coughed up four earned runs on seven hits across two innings, only striking out one. In his second start, he bounced back and struck out five while giving up one earned run on three hits over 2 1/3 frames versus Cleveland. The trend is obviously moving in the right direction, but will he be able to provide any usable fantasy value in the final month? I think Detroit will stretch him out more throughout September to develop him and prepare him for 2021, but he’s still highly susceptible to blowing you up on a given week and not trustworthy as of yet. There’s enormous strikeout potential here (13.2 K/9 in the Minors), but you shouldn’t trust him for anything other than an attractive Steamonator start.
10. Brady Singer
Singer has a sinker-slider combination capable of handling a lineup for a turn or two, but he isn’t quite at the point where he can be deployed as a legitimate fantasy asset just yet. Although he started off the season with a decent four-start stretch, his ERA and WHIP sit at 5.16 and 1.35 on the year, respectively. Singer also isn’t providing a ton of strikeouts (8.2 K/9) and has walked three-plus in four straight starts (3.6 BB/9). Even utilizing him in seemingly safe matchups as a streamer seems risky to me. I wouldn’t trust him to provide much more than a hearty chuckle as your surprise guest at Karaoke night.
11. Logan Webb
Fun fact: I haven’t been able to trust a Webb since Brandon fell off the face of the Earth and broke my heart. As for Logan here, he’s actually had some of the best bottom-line results of any rookie starter in baseball: 3.29 ERA, 1.35 ERA and 8.6 K/9. No one’s talking about him, but his numbers come with a 3.13 FIP and he could be serviceable as a streamer. Then again, he draws the Dodgers at home before he travels to Coors for his next start.
12. Justin Dunn
Like all the names on this list, Dunn is still learning how to pitch at the Big League level and figuring out what kind of starter he’ll profile as in his career. While he’s gotten the best of Texas twice in his past three starts, he also got lit up by the Dodgers in LA — as many do. With a mere 15 strikeouts in 21 innings, Dunn isn’t doing enough to warrant looking past his ugly 5.57 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Avoid unless Steamonator tells you to do otherwise.
13. David Peterson
To this point, I’ve ignored most of the other rookie starters who are dealing with injury or have recently been optioned to alternate training sites. The reason being is because if a guy is not pitching currently and misses even one-to-two starts (Tony Gonsolin, Mitch Keller, etc.), that basically makes him irrelevant for this list seeing as there are only 30 or so games remaining. However, there’s word Peterson could rejoin the rotation soon and he was solid in his first four starts, throwing 5+ innings in each outing with 3 ER or fewer. If he does indeed get back out there, I’ll believe in his 2.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP enough to stream him. Best case scenario: he returns in the next 5-7 days and should be bumped up to No. 10 on this list.
14. JT Brubaker
From my good friend The Itch: “Pirates RHP JT Brubaker first caught my eye when I saw him hitting 97 in his first start. The results have been inconsistent for Pittsburgh’s 2018 minor league pitcher of the year, but he’s got an impressive assortment of off-speed pitches and has been getting better each time out.” In case you didn’t know, I actually suffer from severe thalassoharpaxophobia, which is the fear of Pirates. The fear of owning a Pirate is called, ownapirataphobia, which scares me even more. Brubaker was okay against the Brewers last time out (4 IP, 2 ER, 4H, 6K, 1 BB), but has yet to go more than four innings in any start. I’m interested in dynasty formats — not so much in redraft.
15. Ryan Castellani
I’m not exactly clapping my castanets wildly when I hear Castellani’s name. Which is a good thing, because I keep my castanets packed in behind the TP in the bathroom cabinet and they’re very hard to get to. He’s incredibly lucky to have a 3.54 ERA and 0.98 WHIP through four starts and I expect to see those numbers regress drastically after he goes up against the Padres and Dodgers. When it comes to Castellani, I’m breaking out my slide whistle and keeping the castanets fresh for when Sixto pitches.
16 – Honorable Mention: Nate Pearson
It looks like Pearson’s fantasy value is all but shot for redraft leagues. He was unreliable when he was actually healthy and after being diagnosed with a flexor strain in his pitching arm, I doubt we see much more from him this year. Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he returns in September and provides a strong start or two. For that reason, he’s stuck at No. 16. If he was healthy, he would be ranked in between Javier and Howard on this list.
Outside Looking In: Adbert Alzolay, Brandon Bielak, Kris Bubic, Daniel Castano, Wil Crowe, Robert Dugger, Dane Dunning, Josh Fleming, Tony Gonsolin, Matt Hall, Mitch Keller, Humberto Mejia, Adrian Morejon, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Kyle Wright
Not Considered at Any Point: Patrick Sandoval
As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.