There’s one big question on everyone’s mind: what type of balls will 2020 bring? Will they be wrinkly? Sweaty? Blue? People are wondering about the baseballs, Donkey. Oh right, baseballs, thanks random italicized voice!
Let’s face it, we have no idea what next year’s balls will look like. Hopefully they aren’t engorged, lumpy, or discolored, but we just don’t know. And we won’t know for certain until early April 2020. What we do know is, regardless of how salty next year’s balls taste, there will be a bunch of pitchers drafted early who get hurt or just flat out stink (see: Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell, Carlos Carrasco, Jameson Taillion, & Luis Severino from 2019) and there will be lots of pitchers drafted late, or not drafted at all, who sneak into the end of season top 25 starting pitchers (see: Lucas Giolito, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Sonny Gray, Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Mike Soroka, Domingo German, & Jake Odorizzi from 2019). Grey has almost fully brainwashed me over at his Fade Top Pitchers School of Philosophy and Sexuality. Yes, it’s just as weird as it sounds over there.
Top Pitchers to Fade Next Year 101
Gerrit Cole – I’m currently participating in a 2EarlyMock for 2020. Not only did Cole go #5 overall in my draft, but he also settled in with a final ADP of #11 across all six of the 2EarlyMocks. Don’t forget, Cole’s a free agent after this season. While he’s an ace no matter where he lands, there’s at least a little reason for hesitation if he doesn’t resign back in Houston. Charlie Morton carried his Astro’s magic over to his new home in Tampa but we don’t know if that applies to all former Astro resurrections. And as Grandpa-Donk always says, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Find cheaper pitching.
Max Scherzer – It’s always tempting to pay up for that organic hormone free whole milk instead of the free chunky milk you find on the street which might be spiked with roofies. If there’s one ace I could be convinced to take early, it’s the one with one blue eye. Like a fine wiener, Scherzer seems to only get better with age. This will now be five straight seasons of sub-3.00 ERA and 200+ strikeouts, but his streak of 200+ innings will finally come to an end at an incredible six straight. Mad Max’s ADP came in at #12 in the 2EarlyMocks which is out of my price range for a 35 year old arm.
Shane Bieber – Discovering Biebs is my claim to fame. He was signing karaoke in a dive bar down the street from the barn where Grey lets me live. In my preseason rankings the young ace slotted in at #19 overall. Please don’t look at where I ranked Marquez and Kikuchi. At this point it may seem like I was low on Biebs, but I was actually the highest on him out of all 57 experts participating in the Fantasy Pros rankings competition this year and Bieber finished the preseason as the 49th pitcher off the board in NFBC drafts (#138 overall). Unfortunately, Bieber clocked in at an ADP of 29 in the 2EarlyMocks and he’ll be yet another arm out of my price range in 2020. Time to scour the karaoke bars for the next big thing.
Milk On Sale
James Paxton – Big Maple was the first arm I drafted onto my 2EarlyMock team all the way down at pick 93. It’s a crazy value considering the numbers he’s posted over the past month: 3.34 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 38 strikeouts across 29 2/3 innings pitched. He did finish with an ADP of 80 in those mocks and I’m afraid that price will only continue to rise, but I’ll be monitoring closely.
Hyun-Jin Ryu – The second pitcher I selected in my 2EarlyMock, Ryu also seems like an absurd value at pick 118. It’s true his last four starts have been terrible, you can’t trust him to stay healthy, he’ll turn 33 next year, and he becomes a free agent this off season. Wait, why do I like him again? Oh that’s right, over his previous 224 innings prior to his four most recent starts Ryu had posted a 1.64 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP. That’s a large sample of incredible numbers, don’t lose sight of them because of a few sub-par weeks.
Brandon Woodruff – Woodruff was in the midst of a real breakout prior to his oblique strain in mid-July. The K-rate was up, walk rate was down, and swinging strike rate up. The wood is rising for Woodruff. At 26 years old, he’s a perfect candidate to make the jump into ace territory. I’ll be watching closely to see where the ADP settles, he’s only been selected in three of the six 2EarlyMocks so far with a preliminary ADP of 110, but also a wide range of 68-136.
Anyway, here’s my top 50 starting pitchers for 2020, yell at me in the comments if I’m forgetting anyone:
Others in the conversation: Kolby Allard, Michael Kopech, Elieser Hernandez, Ross Stripling, Trevor Richards, Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Danny Duffy, Alex Young, Nathan Eovaldi, Cole Hamels, Anthony Desclafani, Eric Lauer, Zach Eflin, Adam Wainwright, Jon Lester, Chris Archer, Brad Keller, Marcus Stroman, Mitch Keller, Michael Pineda, Lance Lynn, Zach Davies, Drew Verhagen, Steven Brault, Cal Quantrill, Dylan Cease, Jordan Yamamoto, Joe Musgrove, J.A. Happ, Jake Junis, Mike Montgomery, Chase Anderson, Marco Gonzales, Tony Gonsolin, Forrest Whitley, Jalen Beeks, Adam Plutko
Find Donkey Teeth on Twitter. Subscribe to his podcast under The Razzball Podcast feed on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs & Baseball Savant.