We made it folks. On Sunday, the news flashed a Chicago forecast without a temperature below 40 degrees on it. March brings warmer air, a clock change, a celebration with green, the anniversary of millions of vasectomies, and opening day baseball. With that last one in mind, I released my top 100 starting pitcher rankings. Rankings bring out a special brand of emotions among fantasy baseball addicts. I’m here to explain as many of my disputed rankings as possible before opening day. I am nothing if not transparent. I’ve detailed six pitchers below that I am significantly higher, or lower, than the market on. In addition, I have linked to every article with a blurb about pitchers in the top 100 that I have written and paraphrased my commentary from a Reddit thread. In the weeks leading up to opening day I will release my top 10 pitching values to complete the finding aces series, a revised version of the top 100, and further commentary on major discrepancies. Feel free to let me know where you would like to see more detailed analysis. I owe a few frequent commenters player blurbs and I haven’t forgotten, just give me a couple of weeks, looking at you Magoo.

Players I’m Higher On

Matthew Boyd – Am I the lone soul that already believes Boyd has broken out? Boyd has made 30+ starts for four years in a row, increased his K/9 every season, while maintaining a 2.75 BB/9. In the last two seasons, Boyd has an average xBA of .221, placing him in the top 15 of all MLB pitchers in both seasons. The strikeout rate spiked at 11.56 in 2019 by leaning on his slider. He strikes people out. He doesn’t offer free passes. He doesn’t give up many hits. Any normalization in HR rate, in a non-homer friendly ballpark, will lead to an SP3 season. I can only hope that Boyd gets traded for the win upside needed to become a true ace, but for now I see a projection of 190/10/220/3.9/1.17.

Caleb Smith – A very similar pitcher to Boyd, without the innings longevity record, or the minimal walk rate. He doesn’t give up a lot of contact, with an .230 xba or lower the last two years. Smith has an issue with the gopher ball. However, there isn’t enough discussion about the effects of Smith’s IL stint in 2019. In the starts for Smith prior to going on the IL (June 7), he was averaging 92.4 MPH on his fastball. His fastball had a 4.1 pVAL, and his slider held a 5.0 pVAL. Smith was issuing free passes at a rate of 2.72 BB/9. After the IL stint, his fastball velocity dipped to 91.3 MPH with a 2.2 pVAL. His slider effectiveness plummeted to a -7.4 pVAL. He walked batters at a 4.12 BB/9 rate. His post IL ERA spiked due to the change in walk rate, less horizontal movement on his slider, and more grooved pitches leading to a higher home run rate. Smith shares the same issue as Boyd playing for a poor team, but now healthy I see 170/8/190/4.05/1.20 in his 2020 campaign.

Dallas Keuchel – Conversely from the two blurbs above, there isn’t much to glorify about on Keuchel. His stats, splits, peripherals, and statcast data are all just average. Nevertheless, Keuchel throws a ton of volume. He has maintained either a sub-4.00 ERA, or peripherals that show a deserved sub-4 ERA each season since 2014. The White Sox are a sneaky team in a division with a couple of suspect offenses. Keuchel won’t win you your league on his own, but an SP7 who can provide 190/14/160/4/1.30 is useful. If you’ve taken several mid-round upside pitchers and need a floor at the end of your draft Keuchel is your guy.

Players I’m Lower On

Jesus Luzardo – The A’s say that Luzardo does not have an innings limit. This is a lie. He has never thrown more than 110 innings in a professional year. He is coming off a year plagued by a bad shoulder. He is being drafted in the 10th round. Luzardo’s velocity numbers and secondary stats from 2019 are quite deceptive as he threw all innings out of the bullpen. His fastball averaged 97 MPH which is incredible but will not continue as a starter. The sharpness of the secondary offerings will likely sink as well with longer appearances. The A’s are going to have a decision on their hands early in the season; transition Luzardo to the bullpen, skip a significant number of starts, or use him and lose him. The latter is the least likely decision an MLB team will deploy. Though, I would argue it would be the most effective, but my opinion in the matter holds zero weight. All these options hurt fantasy owners. Recall that Chris Paddack was a fringe SP2 in 2019 on the Razzball player rate in per game value, and a SP3 in full season value. This was in 140 innings, 30 more than Luzardo has ever thrown. Paddack walks less players, and Luzardo’s strikeout rate will likely regress towards Paddacks as a starter. Luzardo drafters are picking him at his peak value with a significant amount of downside risk. Drafters can deploy the exact same statistics in A.J. Puk 10 rounds later.

Madison Bumgarner – Barmgarner has outperformed his xBA and xSLG for 5 consecutive years. The gap between the expected statistics and real statistics has widened as time has worn on. There is a simple explanation for this “luck”: Oracle Park, where home runs go to die. Bumgarner did not move to a hitter’s park, with Chase Field deploying a humidor, but there remains a substantial gap in yearly home run rate between the two parks. Bumgarner continues to have a useful three pitch mix, but the effectiveness of his most important pitch, his cutter, decreased heavily in 2019. The year over year batting average against for the pitch increased from 0.214 in 2018 to 0.260 in 2019. The slugging percentage against followed with a spike from 0.364 to 0.455. It isn’t all bad with Bumgarner. He will provide volume, but the expected decrease in his ERA and WHIP could be a detriment on owner’s ratios. 200/12/180/4.3/1.25 is a realistic outcome in line with most projection systems.

Sean Manaea – Of all the pitchers I have more than 10 rankings below their ADP, Manaea is the pitcher I’m most confident in my ranking. Manaea has never thrown more than 160 innings in an MLB season, and is coming off major shoulder surgery. His peripherals have never shown an expected ERA under 4. Drafters are investing in Manaea based on a 5-start streak, in which he broke the 8 K/9 barrier for the first time in his career. In those starts he faced the Yankees (good), Tigers (bad), Rangers twice (bad), and the Mariners (bad)! In those same starts, Manaea averaged only 90 MPH on his fastball! Please stop drafting Sean Manaea! There is a realistic chance he isn’t even in the rotation by June. His projection in 160 IP can’t realistically be more than 10/140/4/1.2. Look at Kuechel! Look at Manaea! 8 rounds separate them! You can find Sean Manaea on the waiver wire.

Players Discussed Previously

Finding Aces II: Max Fried, Pablo Lopez, Yonny Chirinos

Finding Aces III: Marcus Stroman, Chase Anderson

Finding Aces IV: Brandon Woodruff, Dinelson Lamet, Ryan Yarborough, Dylan Cease

Finding Aces V: Noah Syndergaard, Robbie Ray, German Marquez, Chris Archer, Jose Quintana

Players I Discussed on Reddit

Mike Clevinger – If people think he can replicate what he did in 125 IP last year, and backfill the starts at the beginning of the year by all means they should take Clevinger. In Clevinger’s favor it is significantly easier to backfill starts knowing a player is sidelined on draft day. In my opinion, history shows he will have at least one additional IL stint during the year. This thought coupled with my belief he will not repeat his 2019 outputs in 125 innings led to a significantly lower ranking than the market. He pitched 6 games in 2019 against teams with winning records…6/21 against winning teams… I dont think he will ever get a schedule to skew as such ever again. Prior to 2019, his metrics show a 3.5-4 ERA pitcher with a 1.15-1.25 WHIP and 9.5-10 K/9. Even if he gets to 170 IP and regresses to those metrics, he is a 13/190/3.5/1.15 at maximum. Did Clevinger make a jump at age 28, or was he schedule aided? I don’t know, but I won’t find out on my team.

Zac Gallen – I don’t see what everyone else is seeing. He didn’t have a huge prospect pedigree. He was a 3.5-4 ERA/FIP/xFIP pitcher in the minors. He had great success in 2019, but a 4+ SIERA. My projection has Gallen ending up around 160/10/170/4/1.25. I expect that to be almost identical to Kenta Maeda. He certainly has the upside to make me look bad.

Luis Castillo – Strong year over year innings growth. Castillo likely will break the 200 IP mark in a healthy 2020. The team is significantly better, and offenses in division getting worse. The swinging strike rate is up. The strikeout rate is up. His walk rate followed that trend, but Castillo has shown an ability to have a sub 2.5 BB/9 before. If he matches his previous years walk rate the whip will sneak under 1.10. He generated a higher whiff percentage on slider than ever before but had higher slugging percentage than ever before. To me, this means the raw components of a plus third pitch are present, he just needs to make less mistakes with the pitch. Castillo is unique. He will likely never be a sub-3 ERA pitching at GABP, but I see 200 IP/15/220/3.4/1.10 with a chance for more if the third pitch develops further.

Stephen Strasburg – Last time Strasburg went over 200 IP in a single season (2014 – 215 IP) he hit the DL twice the following season with two seperate issues in addition to a spring training ankle injury. He threw 120 innings that season. In 2019, he threw 245 innings. I can’t swallow that pill. If he beats me, he beats me.

 
  1. Harley Earl says:
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    Just wondering, you’ve touched on a lot of guys here as aces but no mention of Jack Flaherty. Any particular reason or do you not consider Flaherty as an ace?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I absolutely think he is an ace. I’ve got him at #4 on my top 100 sp rankings. Somehow ended up in the same place as Grey, which has happened a lot this preseason I’m not sure if we reference similar data points when researching or what.

      Just a heads up. Everyone detailed in the finding aces series I dont believe are aces. The series is just about locating potential aces and those are pitchers I went into detail on.

      • nkentsmith says:
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        Wait, did you draft my pitchers or did I read one of your other columns without realizing it? Drafted Woodruff, Lamet, Cease, and Yarbrough among others in a Best Ball league.

        • Pat

          Pat says:
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          Love all of them. I dont celebrate injuries but when I saw the Snell news i was pretty happy for all the yarbs and yonny I’ve been collecting. I’m down on Lamet btw. Grey loves him and so does Rudy’s machine though.

      • Harley Earl says:
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        OK, my bad, I guess I wasn’t reading that into this stuff. Appreciate the response. Keep up the good work. Read you guys daily!

  2. Jack says:
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    If you had to trade one of Bieber late round, buehler late round or degrom 1st round who would you move? Points league so factoring wins and qs.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I’m assuming you are listing keeper values? I’d trade Degrom and wouldn’t think twice about it. The value on the other two at those keeper rounds is just to high.

  3. Jr says:
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    Manaea has shown increased velocity this spring, hitting 93 consistently with his four seamer and 85 on his slider (new grip.) Last year he was sitting at 90 and 80, respectively. If he’s made changes that have him throwing that hard, he could take a legitimate step forward this year. Would that change your feelings on him at all?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      It would make me slightly more interested, but I’d likely still be lower than consensus on him. In my opinion, one of the deceptive things about ST is that pitchers know they have an abbreviated pitch count and they can let it loose more than if they are trying to throw 100 pitches, or 6 plus innings. I’d be much more interested if he maintains the velocity increases as the pitch counts stretch over the next few weeks.

  4. Skip Mcgillicuddy says:
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    Does Fried’s hard contact rate concern you at all? In the starts ive seen Fried get clobbered, he cant find his curveball early. Hitters just sit dead on the fastball. Hopefully the emergence of the slider can be that extra weapon to compliment the fastball when his other offspeed pitches are lacking.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Not really. I view him similarly to Shane Bieber in that they give up so little actual contact (Top 25 in contact % in both 2018 and 2019) that they can consistently beat the hard contact allowed. I agree that Fried needs the slider though. However, I like that last year he had good initial success and then struggled all with the same pitch mix. Then in August/September/October he made an adjustment and started being more variable in the way he approached hitters. Extra sliders, extra sinkers, more curveballs than normal, etc. He constantly varied the mix to keep hitters off balance.

      • ozone ranger says:
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        Fried also has more than one curveball. He throws at least two, maybe three. He can throw a harder one for strikes and a slower one he dirts. The third I think is more slurve-ish. Might be what he calls his slider, which is still in the works. What he needs to become elite (like all pitchers need) is a changeup.

  5. Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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    This is great stuff, thanks! What are your thoughts on Julio Urias for this year and 2021+?

    Selfish context – I was offered $4 Urias (or maybe $6 Sonny, but unlikely now) for my $34 Scherzer in a 12 team keeper. I’m also keeping Bieber ($16) then 5 stud bats (Yelich $50 Acuna $29 Story $16 Eloy $7 Chapman $7). With pocket aces, I’d be swimming in the bargain bin to fill out the rest of my stuff, which might work in this 12 team weekly lineup league, but if Julio can be my next ace for the foreseeable future (and have a Paddack/Buehler year 1 impact this year), that could help my auction budget…

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I think he has everything necessary to be a top tier MLB pitcher for a long time. I also think the Dodgers are managing the innings intentionally because they have the intention of re-signing him and don’t want to suffer on the back end of that next deal. Few teams are afforded that convenience by having so many starters for so many years that they can manage a guy like Urias has been. I do believe they will still manage him this season to around 150 IP, but I also have a gut feeling that they aren’t going to run away with this division and if pushed they might need him to go more. I will say though just glancing at that roster you have to be a heavy favorite if you keep those top 3 hitter plus Max and Bieber, trading Max does introduce additional risk to winning this year. I’ll let you balance this year versus the future for yourself, but I do like Urias a ton.

      • Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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        Thanks, super helpful. I certainly have my sights set on a championship this year (just missed last year [wade miley singlehandedly lost it for me], won the year before).

        You summed up my dilemma well. The trade on its face seems pretty fair, just a question of needs vs building for the future I guess. Posts like yours and Grey’s make me feel confident about being able to fill out the rest of my rotation on a $1-$2 per spot basis without much risk. The auction format means that only 80-something or so SPs get drafted before the $0 reserve rounds (snake draft format).

        If I keep Max/Bieber, I definitely plan on sneaking Nate Pearson and Josh James for cheap in this draft (who I also love), so maybe those guys are who I target as my Urias-type bets.

        Anyway, thanks for your help!

        • Pat

          Pat says:
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          No problem! Thanks for reading and good luck this year.

  6. Earl says:
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    Am I crazy to think that Jake Odorizzi will be good as my SP4? I missed out by one pick on Lance Lynn and went for Jake instead. Decided on Odorizzi instead of his team mate Maeda for some reason lol.

    I have Flaherty, Gioloto and Frankie Montas as SP1 to SP3.

    Thanks

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I’ve got Odorizzi at #28 in my SP rankings. I’d be more than happy with him as my #4.

  7. Big Magoo

    Big Magoo says:
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    First of all, stop looking at me! It’s rude.

    Secondly, you don’t need to do a deep dive on someone like Musgrove on my behalf if you weren’t originally planning on doing so. I was just curious as to why you’d have him so close to players like Urias and Price. I know he’s been working on optimizing his pitch mix, but the Pirates are going to be horrible this year, which severely limits his win potential. Don’t really see him as a huge K guy or a ratio asset either. But I’m willing to listen if you have a specific reason for being bullish.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Haha. Just trying to touch on as many pitchers as possible pre-season in depth, and I do deep dive on everyone so I just have to transcribe that process from when I ranked them into article form. I think all are worth diving in on. Truthfully, Musgrove’s shoulder discomfort hit the news wire so I thought I’d let that marinate for a couple of weeks.

  8. Powdered ToastMan says:
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    Pat- thoughts on Uriquidy vs Boyd in AL only keep forever league? Boyd’s HR numbers scare me and I like Uriquidy potential. What say you?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I love Boyd. My concern would be that it’s a pretty high likelihood he gets traded and I dont know if that will be to an NL team.

  9. Sweet Panther says:
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    Pat, a good read, thx.

    13 team Keeper league 6×6 wins, era, whip, k’s, saves, holds.

    prefer Glasnow at rd 11 or Corbin at rd 16?

    2020 I assume Corbin, but long term, can Glasnow be a top tier Ace?

    I Also have Sale and Clevinger with McKay, Kopech and Whitley ready to bring up when on MLB rosters

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I’ll probably be in the minority with this response but I think I’d hold onto Corbin. I dont love his 2020 scenario coming off all of the innings, but I think he mixes better with Sale and Clevinger for today and at least he has shown the ability to go 200+ which I dont know that Glasnow is capable of doing. Corbin is 30 even if you get last years number only 1-2 more times in the next 5 years that’s probably as many peaks as Glasnow reaches plus a higher floor. Seems to me like mixing in Glasnow with both Sale and Clevinger is going to make you pretty volatile.

  10. Sweet Panther says:
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    Thx Pat, I agree, my team could be the S&P 500 with the added volatility

    Glasnow’s upside is so enticing or am I delusional ?

    Flip a coin…..

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      O no. That upside is there. Sometimes it just doesnt fit with the rest of the pitching staff construction though. I’ll add that Sale’s situation change from 6:30 when I typed that to right now makes the situation even hazier.

      • Sweet Panther says:
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        well, Sale might make it an easy choice now, what a butt monkey

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