Not your Grandfathers top 100 starting pitchers…
It’s been a rough month for Grandpa-Donk. The old Donk isn’t supposed to be climbing ladders in his advanced age of 90, but the garage roof needed to be tarred and he felt he was the only donkey for such an urgent task. You guessed it, gramps fell off the garage roof, but somehow he escaped with only a broken wrist. A couple weeks later, while in a cast, G-Donk decided to use that same hoof to hammer some nails into his barn. This resulted in a second trip to the veterinarian for the stubborn old jackass.
Clayton Kershaw reminds me a little of Grandpa-Donk. I mean, minus the senility, reckless abandon, and tail. Kershaw suffers from a herniated disc in his lumbar spine (lower back). While I’m not a doctor, I have been called “Dr. Donkey” several times; and I think that’s qualification enough for me to assert that, while the symptoms may subside, a disc herniation will not heal without surgery. Mr. Kershaw has had no back surgeries.
All of this is to say, I trust Clayton Kershaw to stay healthy about as far as I can throw him. Which isn’t far, because I’m a donkey, I can’t throw anything. While Kershaw has looked very good so far this season, and I do have him ranked at #10, I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before Kershaw finds himself on the shelf for another two month stin,t or worse. If I happened to own him, I’d sell him for any arm in my top 20. You should be able to get a useful piece added on if you’re forced to settle for one of those back end top 20 names.
Here are some other guys who I do trust to keep climbing the ladder…
Mike Foltynewicz (-1) – Grey suggested in one of this daily write-ups last week that Folty isn’t healthy. As a well known, highly respected doctor, I’m reluctant to admit my prognosis is still pending. While it’s a bit concerning that the fastball velocity is down a couple ticks from last year, I’m still cautiously optimistic and speculate he’s still rounding into form. Minus a few bites, The Foltwich has looked pretty tasty to me in his first two starts. He’s only walked one batter in 10 2/3 IP, plus he’s throwing lots of first pitch strikes (61.2%), and getting swinging strikes at the same rate as last year when he dominated (10%). I highlighted Folty’s slider usage in the top 100 preseason edition, and he’s throwing even more in the early going this season (30%). If the price is right, I’m willing to gamble on Foltynewicz for his top 20 upside over the rest of the season.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (+22) – Maybe trust isn’t a word I should be using in the same breath as Ryu. This guy’s health is more questionable than the bubble boy. That said, Ryu has been an absolute beast since the beginning of August 2018, sporting a 2.15 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a 9.41 K/9 across his last 88 IP. He’s walked only 7 batters during this stretch! There’s a legitimate argument for Hyun-Jin Ryu as a top 10 pitcher right now.
Matt Strahm (+17) – I hoped Strahm’s velocity would come back as we got further into the year. It hasn’t, but Strahm is getting the job done even with his low 90s fastball. The strikeouts are even starting to pile up of late. Can we just keep increasing the number of eggs in his diet and see what happens?
Anthony DeSclafani (+25) – Another guy here that we shouldn’t fully trust since he hasn’t reached 125 IP in any of the past three seasons. But right now he’s enjoying success on the legs of his increased K rate and swinging strike rate. Streamonator also recommends taking Disco out for a dance this week as he’s set to face off against the Giants twice.
Mike Soroka (+51)– I was standoffish on Soroka a couple weeks back due mainly to all the pitching competition in Atlanta, but he’s already rising to the top of the pecking order down there in The ATL. I asked Ralph on the Razzball podcast this week if Soroka could be a Bieber type this year with his elite fastball command and developing slider. Ralph replied that he thinks Soroka could be even better than Bieber. As the President of the Donkeys for Bieber Fan Club, I’m not ready for such bold statements yet but there’s a lot to like here and Soroka has earned himself quite a bit of leash after four impressive outings. He’s still available in a surprising amount of leagues, make sure yours isn’t one of those leagues.
Here are some guys I’d like to push off the garage roof right about now…
Carlos Rodon (NA) – The FIP and xFIP fairies are whispering that there should be some positive regression in Rodon’s future, but I don’t want any part of him until he strings a few quality starts together. Even then, I think I’d rather just let him be someone else’s headache. Rodon isn’t a rookie, but he has all the other token qualities of a notorious roofier: he lures you in with all that sexy strikeout potential, then suddenly you awaken in a bathtub full of ice minus one kidney and plus 8 earned runs on your ERA.
Edit: Rodon is now injured and may need Tommy John.
Freddy Peralta (-26) – See: Rodon, Carlos
Edit: Freddy isn’t hurt like Rodon, at least not right now.
Brad Keller (-34) – I was drawn to this young arm in the preseason due to an impressive 2018 2nd half led by improved slider effectiveness. Unfortunately, the gains Keller saw in the 2nd half haven’t seemed to stick. His first pitch strike rate, swinging strike rate, and ground ball rate have all faded in the early going with his walk rate increasing. Helen Keller, I mean Brad Keller, has been searching for the strike zone at times this year. I’m not fully writing him off long term, but for now it’s time to move on even in some deeper formats.
Anyway, here’s my updated Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2019 Fantasy Baseball:
Injured: Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Jameson Taillon, Luis Severino, Mike Clevinger, Chris Archer, Nate Eovaldi, Jimmy Nelson, Carlos Rodon, Derek Holland, Jordan Zimmerman, Andrew Heaney, Alex Wood, Carlos Martinez, Marco Estrada, Wade LeBlance, Danny Salazar, Taijuan Walker, Ryan Borucki, Edinson Volquez
On the Farm: Forrest Whitley, Alex Reyes, Jesus Luzardo, Jon Duplantier, Zac Gallen, Casey Mize, Corbin Burnes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nick Pivetta, Touki Toussaint, Brent Honeywell, Mitch Keller, Kyle Wright, Daniel Mengden, AJ Puk, Luiz Gohara, Justus Sheffield, Bryse Wilson
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.