This week…was a project. I had to miss last week (although I did get to run into Johan Santana and Rod Carew at Target Field…you know, NBD) so there was a lot to catch up on this time out. I also have to qualify that with only a handful of weeks left in the season, you can take these ranks to be more fluid than in the past. The vast majority reading this are in standard 10-12 team mixed leagues. In those leagues, you can pretty much stream plus matchups with anyone outside of the top 60 and worry less about the actual ranking. Take full advantage of the Streamonator. Pick on the worst offensive squads in baseball – the White Sox, Orioles, Mets, Royals, Padres, Marlins, and Tigers are punching bags. Even the Reds, Giants, and Twins have been bad over the second half thus far, and sure aren’t going anywhere fast.
We have unfortunately lost Johnny Cueto for the season with Tommy John, and we’re still a ways off from the return of Stephen Strasburg, Carlos Martinez, Yu Darvish, or Michael Fulmer. Oh, and another qualifier: the Rays are making this list harder for me to make with this whole “Opener” business. I obviously have Blake Snell on the list, but I’m gonna go ahead and treat their long relievers that actually go fiveish innings as starters. Yonny Chirinos and the newly acquired Tyler Glasnow make the list, though their roles are somewhat murky. Fantasy-wise it’s actually a bit of an advantage for these guys as far as accumulating wins. Fewer starters than ever in MLB are going 5+ innings to qualify for the win; with the Opener taking care of the first inning, all the other guys have to do is toss four innings to qualify for the dub. There’s a lot of new blood on the list this week, so rather than spending time with some of the risers and fallers, we’ll peep the newbs. That’s as cool as my slang gets, by the way.
- Tanner Roark, WSH (SP63) – You may recall several weeks ago as I cursed Roark’s stupid beardy face and banished him from the list. My anger was well founded, since over the span of 49.1 innings from May 31st-August 13th, Roark posted a 7.11 ERA/1.93 WHIP. HOWEVAH (Stephen A. Smith voice), since July 25th, he has allowed just four runs in 29.2 innings with a 27:2 K:BB ratio. The key? He has simply shifted where he stands on the rubber, and is getting the location and sink he needs to be successful. As far as I’m concerned, we can return to valuing Roark close to the way we did before his awful stretch.
- Clay Buchholz, ARI (SP85) – Full disclosure: I have disowned Clay Buchholz. I will never roster him again, no matter what. He has sucked me in year after year over the course of his career, and it typically resulted in disaster. Either he got blown up for a 4.50+ ERA (’08, ’12, ’14, ’16, ’17) or suffered long-term injury (every year except ’10, ’14, ’16). I want no part of this ride. Speaking of such things, he’s back off his recent trip to the DL, and he’s got his ERA down to 2.67 over 11 starts. No matter how much I hate Clay, I have to rank him. The 14.8% K-BB% is decent but uninspiring, limiting his ceiling. He has also allowed a 37% hard contact rate, and all of his ERA estimators have him regressing by at least a full run. His changeup has been excellent this year though with a 2.77 pVal, and has a great velocity gap of 13 MPH from his fastball. He gets the Padres next, and I believe enough to endorse that stream.
- Trevor Richards, MIA (SP86) – I’ve been a bit of an unbeliever of Richards, but he’s been solid enough to earn a spot on the top 100. A 3.98 ERA over 17 starts deserves a spot on the list, and he’s striking out nearly a batter per inning. There’s the good – now let me tell you why I’m not very interested. First, he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher who has only a 0.73 HR/9. He’s been great at limiting homers throughout the minors, so perhaps this is some innate HR limiting superpower. More likely, his 42% hard contact rate will catch up to him, and more balls will leave the yard. I also don’t see the strikeout rate holding. He is netting just 9.8% whiffs and 31% chases outside of the zone, both very pedestrian numbers. Combine that with a 3.98 BB/9 and I just can’t get too jacked for Richards.
- Ryan Borucki, TOR (SP87) – Despite Borucki having no pedigree (475th pick back in 2012) or any fanfare upon his call-up, he has given us a terrific 2.81 ERA over his first 48 innings (8 GS). While I have to give him his due and give him a spot on the list, I’m not convinced Borucki is a very impactful fantasy arm. This is going to sound a lot like the Richards analysis…because it is a lot like the Richards analysis! Borucki was quite adept at limiting homers in the minors, and has a microscopic 0.19 HR/9 to this point. That’s a 1.9% HR/FB. You can file that under “unsustainable”. His xFIP normalizes the HR/FB% and puts his ERA at 4.55. While Borucki has better control than Richards, his strikeout rate is far worse at 6.00 K/9. His swinging strike rate of just 6.7% confirms that the low K-rate is here to stay. Even if the HR regression doesn’t catch up to Borucki the rest of the way, his ceiling is lower than the one in Peter Dinklage’s condo because of the K’s.
- Tyler Glasnow, TB (SP90) – Unlike Richards and Borucki, Glasnow is a low-floor, mega-ceiling option. It feels like we’ve been waiting on Glasnow to put everything together forever, yet he’s just 24 years old. Glasnow was inconsistent out of the pen in Pittsburgh, with an 11.60 K/9 but 5.5 BB/9 and 4.34 ERA/1.45 WHIP. The Rays have started him twice in a row and appear set to stretch him out as a starter. He’s allowed just two runs on four hits over seven innings with Tampa, striking out 14 while walking just 1. Wow. He hasn’t adjusted his arsenal since the move though, and without a third pitch I’m still not convinced he’s a good starter. If the Rays have finally found a way to harness his control at least, that alone will go a long way towards him being a viable fantasy option. He’s definitely worth the flier in deeper formats and remains a must-own in dynasty leagues.
- Tommy Milone, WSH (SP91) – A Quad-A pitcher if ever there was one, Tommy Boy actually had me going there for a bit with his first two starts for the Nats. He gave up just four runs in 12 innings with a 15:0 K:BB rate, but those starts came against the Mets and Marlins. The Braves came to town and knocked him around for seven runs in six innings in his third start, fully wet-blanketing most of the optimism I had. He still hasn’t walked a batter, for what that’s worth, and there is a notable change to dig into here. Milone has scrapped the cutter that had just one MPH of separation from his fastball and was terrible last year. Instead, he’s tossing a slider at 78 MPH around 13% of the time. It’s getting a solid 17% whiffs, and his o-swing% has erupted to 47%. Unfortunately his fastball is terrible, and he’s going to be homer-prone because of it. You can stay away unless you’re in a deep mixer.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
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