Not Your Grandfather’s Top 100 Starting Pitchers…
Back when I was just a young Jack, Grandpa-Donk would regale all us little Donks with tales of his extensive world travels. The old donk especially enjoyed visiting Mexico. On his first venture down south of the border, gramps experienced the full wrath of Montezuma’s Revenge. His exact words, “Coming out both ends for days”. But somehow, after that maiden voyage to the other side of the Rio Grande, G-Donk never again suffered the Hispanic Hershey Squirts.
This reminds me of the curious case of Francellis “Frankie” Montas. Last year Montas started 11 games from the end of May thru October. After posting three quality starts in his first three outings, Montaszuma’s Revenge hit abruptly, as Frankie managed only 2 quality starts over the course of his next eight outings. The Runs were plentiful, if you know what I’m saying.
This season Montas has come out with some solid logs. Game logs, I mean. Thru his first four 2019 starts, the one named Francellis has thrown 23 1/3 IP, boasting three quality starts, a 2.70 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, an increased K rate, decreased walk rate, and loads of fiber in his diet. One cause for optimism this go round, is the addition of a nasty splitter to his repertoire this year which opponents are batting a measly .143 against. The splitter complements an elite fastball which is up almost one full mile per hour from last season, now sitting at an average velocity of 96.6 mph, along with an above average slider. Mr. Montaszuma has also been getting ahead of hitters often in the early going with a lofty 63% first pitch strike rate. Make sure Montas isn’t available in your league, I can wait.
Here are some other guys who may have found the Metamucil…
Kevin Gausman (+28) – We’ve only been waiting around 12 years for Kevin Gas-Can to deliver on his potential. I’d be lying if I said I fully trust this guy, but we can’t ignore what Gausman’s done in his first three starts. Like Montas, KG is getting ahead of hitters regularly with a 60.6% first pitch strike rate and he’s seen a large boost in K rate from 19.1% to 31%, albeit against some mediocre opponents so far. Gausman has also increase his swinging strike rate from 11.3% to 14.9%, while using his throwing his splitter a whooping 33.2% of the time (21.9% in 2018). Monitor his next few starts closely, there’s a chance this breakout is real.
Madison Bumgarner (+3) – When I published the last edition of the top 100, Grey came trolling thru the comments saying I had MadBum ranked too high. Since that publishing, Bum has posted one very good outing and two mediocre outings, but I’m still very encouraged with what I’ve seen, and there’s some interesting data backing up my optimism. The increases in fastball and curveball spin rate this season are substantial and significant. All of the underlying numbers I care about are improved from last year as well. Bumgarner isn’t the kind of guy you want to make a habit of writing off. Buy low.
Julio Urias (NA) – I was down by the schoolyard last week and Julio stood me up, but he made up for it with a beautiful line at Miller Park this week. Urias is headed to the bullpen, but I predict it won’t be for too long. Kershaw and Hill are literally sneezes away from the IL. Urias is worth holding onto in all but the most shallow formats and should be useful even in a bullpen role.
Clayton Kershaw (NA) – His velocity is down another tick from last year, but we know Kershaw will show up whenever he can manage to put his socks on. I can’t in good conscience rank a healthy looking Kershaw below #15. As mentioned in the Urias blurb, I doubt this lasts, so enjoy it while it does. I’ll take the under on 130 IP and would be trying to sell if I somehow owned him.
Drew Smyly (+39) – Donkey is recommending a guy with a 7.80 ERA and a 1.94 WHIP, he’s officially lost it! Shut up random italicized voice! Walks have been an issue so far, but the 25.1% K rate has me aroused. He’s another guy that’s getting ahead of hitters at an impressive clip with a 69.3% first pitch strike rate. I’m not saying to go grab him in a 12-team league, but if you’re playing a deeper format then he’s worth a look.
Here are some guys who may be lacking fiber in their diets…
Yusei Kikuchi (-5) – The Kooch is killing me. I’m starting to think I shouldn’t have mortgaged my mom’s house to invest in Kikuchi Koozies. He’s struggled in the early innings (innings 1-3: 18 IP, 6.00 ERA, 1.66 WHIP; innings 4-6: 14 2/3 IP, 3.07 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) and I do think he’s still settling into the MLB scene, but I can’t deny he’s been tough to own so far. That said, the K upside isn’t huge and if you want to move on in shallow leagues then I won’t argue any longer. I’m still buying in deeper leagues, but I might be delusional.
Joey Lucchesi (-31) – Joey Bag O Donuts? More like Joey Bag O Sh*t! Amiright? The FIP and xFIP fairies are whispering that Lucchesi isn’t actually this bad. I do believe those fairies, but he’s also one of those two-pitch guys which really limits his upside. The K potential is fun, but I’m fine moving on for now in shallower leagues. In completely unrelated news, Grey has just fired me, again.
Edit: I wrote this blurb before Sunday’s nice start vs. the Reds, but my position still stands. I think there’s going to be plenty of ups and downs with Joey Bag O D’s.
Stephen Strasburg (-2) – I was all ready to trash Strasburg and then he had to go out and throw an 8 inning gem with 11 Ks in a rehab outing against the Marlins Low-A squad. Wait, I’m being told that wasn’t a rehab outing? That’s the Marlins MLB lineup? My bad.
Strasburg’s average fastball velocity is down a full mile per hour from last year’s average, but it’s in line with where he was when he returned from injury in August and September 2018. To my surprise, he actually had some beautiful numbers across 34 2/3 September innings last year (2.60 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 11.68 K/9). Now if anyone is buying this recent start against the Marlins as the real Strasburg then I’d sell him before you finish reading the rest of this article, but if you own him he’s probably just a hold at this point. I expect him to be mostly middle of the road with some gems and stinkers mixed in.
Jacob deGrom (NA)– I’m overwhelmed, there are just way too many Mets doctor jokes to choose from. Speaking of Mets doctors, I actually just got a call from my cousin Donkey Lips with some great news: the Mets have hired him on as the new head of their medical staff. He tells me deGrom’s hoofs are in great shape. In all seriousness, will anyone be surprised if deGrom needs Tommy John at this point? If the MRI comes back completely clean today then deGrom will slot back into my #1 spot when he returns, in spite of his early season struggles. deGrom, Scherzer, Bauer, and Snell are all really close for me right now, assuming they’re all healthy. Assemble the prayer hexagon.
Anyway, here’s my updated Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2019 Fantasy Baseball:
*Assumes they’re pitching this week
Injured: Jacob deGrom, Luis Severino, Mike Clevinger, Nate Eovaldi, Jimmy Nelson, Andrew Heaney, Alex Wood, Carlos Martinez, Marco Estrada, Wade LeBlanc, Danny Salazar, Taijuan Walker, Ryan Borucki, Edinson Volquez, Matt Moore (season), Matt Shoemaker (season)
On the Farm: Forrest Whitley, Alex Reyes, Jesus Luzardo, Jon Duplantier, Corbin Burnes, Sean Newcomb, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nick Pivetta, Touki Toussaint, Brent Honeywell, Mitch Keller, Joe Ross, Kyle Wright, Daniel Mengden, AJ Puk, Luiz Gohara, Justus Sheffield, Gio Gonzalez, Casey Mize
Unsigned: Dallas Keuchel
Find Donkey Teeth on Twitter @DonkeyTeeth87. Subscribe to his podcast: Ditka, Sausage, and Fantasy Sports on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs & Baseball Savant.