Young starting pitchers continue to make their presence known this year. Since the last NL pitcher rankings, owners have seen Tyler Skaggs, Michael Wacha, Gerrit Cole and, soon, Zack Wheeler reach fantasy-relevance. And that’s just in the National League. Some of those players will play major roles on championship-winning teams this year. How should they be valued? Let’s turn to the rankings. This month, I’m using Iron Chefs for the tiers. So, please allow me to introduce a veritable pantheon of baseball giants.
Iron Chef Michael Symon
Wainwright joins Kershaw in the elite tier this month. Wainwright can post a nice strikeout rate, and has refused to walk anyone this year. We’re now in June, and Wainwright is on pace for the seventh lowest walk rate since 1900. That’s pretty incredible. There’s no reason to worry about Kershaw. He’s as consistent as they come.
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto
Tier two gets a bit smaller this time around. Harvey deserves to be in this position based on how he’s performed this year. Slightly better control and a little more experience is the only thing that separates him from the other National League rookie phenoms. Lee and Bumgarner are good, and remarkably consistent. Tough to ask for much more from either of them.
Iron Chef Bobby Flay
Admittedly, I had no idea Bailey was performing so well. It took a couple of seasons, but Bailey has finally lowered his walk rate, and increased his strikeout rate enough to be considered a near elite starter. Strictly based on stats, he should be in the second tier, but let’s see if the strikeout rate holds before moving him up too much. Miller is in a similar situation. The stats say he’s better than this tier, but it would be nice to see it a little longer. I haven’t been a big Ryu supporter all year, but it’s time to start buying into the performance. He’s outperformed the scouting reports thus far. Strasburg would be higher if health weren’t a question. Latos is consistently good, but rarely elite. Samardzija’s strikeouts make up for a slightly elevated walk rate. He’s still homer-prone, but Minor has limited walks and home runs better this season. He’s taken a big step forward this year.
Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian
The only thing missing from Zimmermann’s game is strikeouts. It could be a result of his approach on the mound, as he’s shown an ability to strikeout batters more in the past. It seems like he could be more interested in going deeper into games, as opposed to striking out hitters. Whatever he’s doing is working, so it’s hard to complain. Cain, Hamels and Gonzalez have all struggled more than expected, but you shouldn’t give up hope yet. Cain and Hamels are having home run issues, but have still maintained solid strikeout and walk rates. Gonzalez’s walk rate has gone backwards, and he’s not a top tier guy when he walks four hitters per nine innings.
Iron Chef Jose Garces
Most of this tier is comprised of dependable, lower strikeout guys like Feldman, Hudson and Leake. Haren and Estrada have strong walk and strikeout rates, but have both been killed by homeruns. It could be that their stuff just isn’t good enough to fool major-league hitters right now, and not just bad luck. Jon Niese needs to get healthy before he moves any higher. Based on his numbers, he should be lower on this list.
Iron Chef Marc Forgione
Jackson has a horrible strand rate, which has overshadowed his solid 3.39 FIP. He’ll get better. Chacin and de la Rosa have been surprising this year, but their home run luck will regress, and de la Rosa is a big injury risk. Cahill has gone backward, his strikeout rate is unacceptable and his walk rate is not great. That’s a bad combination. Stults does enough good things to be useful. It doesn’t hurt that he pitches in Petco.
Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli
This is the bottom of the barrel in shallower leagues. You probably don’t want to rely on these guys, though you might consider them for spot-starts. All can pitch effectively, but probably won’t over a long period, and lack upside.
*Alex Guarnaschelli is only down here because she hasn’t had enough time to establish herself yet. Let’s look at some pitchers who could still establish themselves this year for the final tier.
Keep an eye on those guys. They could still play a big role on their clubs this year.