Does anybody else remember the Adventures of the Gummi Bears? It was on the Disney Channel back in the day and it was THE Saturday Morning jam. Medieval, personified bears, that bounce like kangaroos. Where do I sign up, right? In one of the sloppiest and more unconnected openings in Razzball history, starting pitchers are nothing like Gummi Bears. No, they are not my Saturday Morning jam. They’re my Saturday Morning job, digging into numerous deep dives, for hours on end, trying to figure out which players are trending where. The results of these Saturday Morning exercises are below. As a reminder these rankings are for 5×5 roto with value focused on rest of season value for 2018. So, a player like Michael Kopech is ranked for his value over the entirety of the 2018 season. Not just the next month. In previous seasons, this post was a weekly ranking with a pitching profile included. This year we will continue the weekly pitching profile, but once a month we will update the rankings. Because honestly, how much can happen in a week? One or two starts? So there’s changes coming for 2018, but they’re slight, and you’ll still get the same quality profiles, notes, and ranks. You might also get a cupcake or a venereal disease, but no telling which one. The expiration dates will just be a little longer. On the rankings not on the cupcakes or your fresh batch of herpes.
Here’s my Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2018 Fantasy Baseball.
- I’m back for another season of ranking Alex Wood in the top 10. He may not be there now, but two good games, and it’s coming.
- We here at Razzball helped get the engine started on the Luis Castillo Hype Train this off-season. Both Grey and I have covered Castillo, here I discuss him on my Fantrax Video series, while Grey wrote a riveting sleeper post. It’s easy to see what we like; Castillo already had elite velocity, a plus changeup, and a swing and miss breaking ball. But it was the addition of a two-seam sinking fastball that put him over the top for me. If you don’t know the story of the two-seamer, read Grey’s post or watch the video. As it stands, Castillo has two pitches with SwStr% rates of 15% or higher in his slider and change, a four-seam fastball that averages 98 MPH, and a a sinking fastball with a 76% ground ball rate. Wins will be hard to come by, but I sincerely believe that Castillo has the skillset to navigate the treacherous waters of his home park.
- Of course, I’m yet another Trevor Bauer fan from the world of fantasy writers. He’s a favorite of our Imperial Leader Sénor Albright, and has generated buzz around his transition from a cutter to a slider over the final 12 starts of the 2017 season. Upon making the change to his repertoire, Bauer’s Bb% dropped 50% over that period, to a more than acceptable 6%. He still maintained his K% north of 25%, and for the first time in his career, outpitched his peripherals. He’s had solid control this spring, but has also allowed 5 homers. Not something I’m going to read into too much. Shutup, and draft Bauer.
- One of the more unexpected breakouts of 2017 was the Brewers’ Chase Anderson. The veteran righty had always hinted at mid-rotation upside, but homer issues long plagued Anderson. Following a rough beginning to the season, Anderson changed his sequencing and what followed was a great run in his final 16 starts. While there was a significant amount of luck involved in Anderson’s line (.228 Babip, 87.5% strand rate, 4.00 xFIP), he did a great job of utilizing his greatest strength, his 5 pitch arsenal. Over that time, Anderson started to elevate his four-seamer, as well as throw his curveball and cutter more, which lead to usage rates of 10%+ on all five of his offerings. The ability to change speeds, eye levels, and generate swinging strikes with three different pitches make me optimistic Anderson can limit some of the forthcoming regression.
- Is it the “late-career” Jered Weaver-esque fastball velocity that leads many of us to write off the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks? This is one of those times, where you ask a question you already know the answer to. We as a community tend to not value players with Hendricks’ skillset of contact suppression. Every year we question when he’ll come back down to earth, but every year he turns in a strong ERA. There’s other factors at play boosting Hendricks value for me as well. First he’s on a good team, so those Ws that might be elusive for a player who’s skills we like better, like say, the aforementioned Castillo, won’t be so elusive for Hendricks. The other factor is the Cubs strong defense, this is the perfect complementary group to back a pitch to contact type. BTW despite low velocity, Hendricks’ fastball has earned pitch values on Fangraphs of 13.8 in 2016, and 10.8 in 2017. Meaning his FB actually graded out higher than Max Scherzer’s, Luis Severino’s, and Gerrit Cole’s to name a few. So perhaps, Velo ain’t everything.
- Are you worried about Shohei Ohtani yet? Rooting for his demise? Either way you’re overreacting.
- Were the blisters to blame for Johnny Cueto’s awful 2017? Or are the skills deteriorating? I tend to fall into the former and not the latter, and here’s why. Not only did Cueto try and pitch through blister issues until he couldn’t, he also had possibly the worst outfield defense in baseball. ON the other side of the coin, Cueto’s fastball betrayed him, his changeup lost movement, and his slider didn’t find the zone with the same regularity. It’s tough to prove that a loss of feel due to blisters is behind Cueto slippage last season, but it’s obvious he was struggling with command, and there’s a logical explanation. Perhaps the blisters are just masking a drop in ability year over year, and there’s always the strong chance the blisters return. So Cueto ain’t out of the woods just yet. Regardless of those factors, Cueto is one gamble I’m willing to take this year.
- Sound the alarm because I am back in on Lucas Giolito. After watching two of Giolito’s recent spring starts, it’s obvious with the newly adjusted arm slot, has led to a rediscovery of the movement on his fastball. The results have been great this Spring, as he boasts a 17-4 K/BB, a .169 BAA, a 2.04 ERA, and a 0.85 WHIP. Granted it’s Spring, but it’s a positive sign, and my first hand scouting gives me reason for optimism.