2018 Top 100 Starting Pitchers – January

I’ve updated my starting pitcher rankings with commentary on the top 100. Beyond the top 100, I grouped guys into tiers. These are the same tiers I used in the Fantasy Black Book (available now!) and different guys within those tiers are definitely comparable to guys found in the Top 100, but it just becomes difficult to differentiate so the Top 100 really focused on the guys I’m drafting/targeting right now.

If you like somebody in one of the lists better than someone I have in the 80-100 range, that totally makes sense. It’s very fluid there, just as it is in the middle grouping of the pitchers ranks (from around 30-75), which I’ve termed The Glob™.  This ranking outlines how I’m attacking The Glob™.

2018 Top 100 SPs & Comments
RK PLAYER TM COMMENT
1 Max Scherzer WAS Brief neck injury couldn’t stop him from a 5th straight 200 IP yr; skills & firm health earn top spot, even at age-33
2 Clayton Kershaw LAD Fewer than 30 starts in 3 of the last 4 seasons bring him back to the pack, but he remains unquestionably elite
3 Chris Sale BOS Ks returned and fueled a brilliant debut w/BOS; 214 IP, 36% K, and 2.45 FIP were all MLB-bests
4 Corey Kluber CLE You probably already forgot he had a 5.06 ERA thru 6 starts; had 1.62 ERA in 166 IP post-back inj.
5 Noah Syndergaard NYM Limited to 30 IP, but finished on the mound with velo & stuff intact; 1st good ST start will boost his 38.2 ADP
6 Madison Bumgarner SFG Like Thor, his ADP will crawl back up toward 2017 level (15 for Bummy, 18 for Thor) once ST kicks off
7 Jacob deGrom NYM B2B duds (15 ER in 8 IP) 2 mos. into season essentially account for the entire 0.50 ERA jump; a true Cy candidate
8 Carlos Carrasco CLE Finally reached 200 IP and was the stud we’d been waiting for; must avoid duds for that elusive sub-3.00 season
9 Justin Verlander HOU Maybe leaving the ALC – specifically CLE – will avoid yearly “Is JV done?” worries (10.16 1H ERA v. CLE since ’16)
10 Zack Greinke ARI Rebounded from ugly ’16 w/a great effort; perhaps humidor could bring the HR/9 back under 1.0 (1.2 w/ARI)
11 Carlos Martinez STL Added 3 pts to his K% and 10 IP, but also 0.60 to his ERA because of 12 more HRs allowed; a bona fide fantasy ace
12 Stephen Strasburg WAS Need a 2nd top 25 SP w/Stras due to inj. risk, but fewer workhorses enhances his per-inning excellence.
13 Yu Darvish FA I don’t think he’s fundamentally different after 2 ugly WS starts… assuming he finds a team, of course
14 Luis Severino NYY Elite breakout season was fully supported by skills so even some BABIP/LOB% regression shouldn’t crush him
15 Masahiro Tanaka NYY Curbing his fastball usage spurred summer surge (3.54 ERA in L16 starts) & playoff domination (0.90 ERA in 20 IP)
16 Aaron Nola PHI Added velo, enhanced his changeup, and had a fantastic season; has 16th-best K-BB% since ’15 (min. 300 IP)
17 Chris Archer TBR B2B 4.00-ERA seasons, but 3 straight 200+ IP & 230+ K seasons keep him one of the most desirable arms
18 Robbie Ray ARI Shaved fastball usage (-12%) and breakers shone brightly (.526 OPS, 38% K w/CB & SL); can’t see 85% LOB repeat
19 Jose Quintana CHC Spiked K% w/only minor SwStr boost, but facing SPs will help maintain some gains; underrated fantasy ace
20 David Price BOS Skills and velo as SP and RP were still there amid elbow troubles; fears could be overplayed & create draft value
21 Gerrit Cole HOU Minute Maid more comparable to PNC than you’d think in terms of favoring Ps; ingredients of an ace are here
22 Dallas Keuchel HOU Neck injuries limited IP (146) and now we’re 2 yrs removed from a 200-IP season for the 30-yr old lefty
23 James Paxton SEA As the 200-IP SP becomes increasingly rare, his IP concerns wane some; was a top-20 SP in just 136 IP
24 Jeff Samardzija SFG Can give back some of the 20% K-BB in exchange for fewer HRs (1.3) and get back under 4.00; 5 straight 200-IP yrs
25 Johnny Cueto SFG Blisters tanked season & sent HR sky-high (1.3 was 2x ’16); if healed, he’ll be back; ADP is 5-7 cheaper than ’17
26 Jake Arrieta FA A high-end hot potato whose outlook is clouded further by remaining un-signed; not a bad gamble after pick 100
27 Jon Lester CHC CHC BABIPs regressed as expected and he paired it w/velo dip & HR boost en route to +1.89 ERA; still a workhorse
28 Luis Castillo CIN Season looks like Carrasco’s 91-IP as SP in ’14 w/rock solid skills; HRs a little high, but his ceiling is fantasy ace
29 Garrett Richards LAA You won’t have to pay a price commensurate w/this rank, but I’m assessing skills, not purely guessing draft order
30 Lance McCullers HOU G-Rich, McCullers, and even Ohtani who’s next are Paxton starter kits in terms of high end ~160 IP seasons
31 Shohei Ohtani LAA I keep getting him in the 90s, but ADP is 73 and will only rise w/promising spring starts; I’ll be priced out in March
32 Jose Berrios MIN Delivered on post-hype status in ’17, but the market is back in (ADP 107); I see another level so I’m still buying
33 Taijuan Walker ARI Did curb ’16 HR rate that was blamed on inj., next step is something like his 3.49 ERA, but with full skills support
34 Chase Anderson MIL I wrote a profile on him when he signed his extension; adding Cain & Yelich marries well w/his FB tendencies
35 Zack Godley ARI Had a top-30 yr in just 155 IP; plan for some regression unlleesss that sweet, sweet humidor comes through…
36 Michael Fulmer DET Returning from the same ulnar nerve surgery deGrom had so monitor his ST work, but he should be fine
37 Jon Gray COL A 4.32 career road ERA has been more of an issue than Coors espec. after a skills-supported 3.13 home ERA in ’17
38 Danny Salazar CLE Every bit as good as the #28-31 group, but splitting them is “health confidence” ranking & I’m more wary of his
39 Lance Lynn FA Skirted career-worst HRs (1.3) en route to strong season; I see HR dropping more than his 4.82 FIP coming true
40 Michael Wacha STL Career-high 6 Shellackings (5+ ER start) left his ERA 0.50 shy of FIP as 15% K-BB was 4-yr best; still just 26 yrs old
41 Kevin Gausman BAL Oh great, he reeled me back in with a 2.70 ERA, 1.15 WHIP over his L14 starts w/an 18% K-BB & 91 Ks in 87 IP
42 Marcus Stroman TOR Outran poor IF defense en route to 3.09 ERA despite a 1.31 WHIP; could be tough again w/4 31+ yr old IF’ers
43 Dylan Bundy BAL Fast start lacked skills (12% K-BB), bills came due in middle 1/3rd (11%), SL emergence buoyed last 1/3rd (21%)
44 Charlie Morton HOU A season-altering buy late in drafts (ADP 392) who delivered a 3.62 ERA/1.19 WHIP combo; price still fair at 171
45 Jordan Montgomery NYY Only finished 6 IP in 41% of GS, but the great pen afforded NYY that luxury; has skills for 180 IP gem; buy!
46 Jameson Taillon PIT The fact that he could easily slot ~20 spots higher shows depth of The Glob™; had 19% K-BB in F7 GS after cancer
47 Trevor Bauer CLE Yet another SP who cut FB usage to fuel success: 5.59 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 54% FB in F18; 2.60, 3.63, 42% in L13
48 Luke Weaver STL I consider myself a big fan, but the market has blown past me (ADP 112); 7+ Ks in 6/10 starts (30% K in 55 IP as SP)
49 Sonny Gray NYY OAK work (3.25 FIP, 16% K-BB, 0.7 HR/9) masked NYY struggles (4.87, 12%, 1.5) despite similar ERA (+0.29 in NYY)
50 Drew Pomeranz BOS While inj. concerns are fair, he is 1 of just 27 SPs w/B2B 170+ IP seasons; 1 of 7 to add a 24% K in each, too
51 Danny Duffy KCR 81% LOB from ’16 sank as expected, but so did the HRs; injuries returned yielding sub-150 IP again (>150 just 1x)
52 Rich Hill LAD In a vacuum, Hill & Wood aren’t unlike the #28-31 group of lower-IP studs, but Hill is the ultimate hot potato at age-39
53 Alex Wood LAD Saw velo & skills decline over the summer leaving him shy of that group in raw talent; I’ve always been nervous about him even when he’s running well
54 Kenta Maeda LAD Teammates grouped by design as they’re similarly skilled health risks whose ultimate value depends on IP count
55 Gio Gonzalez WAS Obv. not a true talent 2.96 ERA, but he doesn’t need to be w/this rk; can add a run in ERA and still be top 50-60
56 Kyle Hendricks CHC My pessimistic rk in ’17 was right for wrong reasons (IP, not ERA), but 3.88 FIP backs my concerns; I remain leary
57 Alex Cobb FA Never recaptured splitter, resulting in GB% dip; plan for the 17% K we’ve seen since TJ & hope 23% of ’13-14 returns
58 Blake Snell TBR Career 3.83 ERA despite a 1.45 WHIP speaks to quality stuff amid command issues; 3.28 ERA & 24% K in L15 GS
59 Sean Manaea OAK Mostly healthy, but a 3-start run of 17.55 ERA added 0.58 to bottom line (3.79 in other 26 GS); market has cooled
60 Ervin Santana MIN Ran scalding hot in F11 (1.75 ERA, 4.22 FIP), over-corrected in June (6.03, 5.87), then solid in L16 (3.51, 4.17)
61 J.A. Happ TOR Another strong effort (3.53 ERA, 15% K-BB), but inj. caused 4-yr low in IP (145) and age (35) will tamp down cost
62 Cole Hamels TEX Wheels falling off or an off yr tanked by a 2-mo. injury? More the latter IMO & he’s priced to buy at ADP 234
63 German Marquez COL A 1.7 HR/9 in Coors mitigated 17% K-BB as RHB clubbed fastball (1.016 OPS); room for growth here & v. cheap
64 Julio Teheran ATL Just 1 yr of Suntrust, but LHB utterly obliterated him (1% K-BB); solid streamer w/upside if hm woes are cured
65 Tanner Roark WAS Had 3.90 ERA and 86 Ks in 81 IP in 2H; he’s logged 180+ IP in 3 of the last 4 seasons, too
66 Jake Faria TBR Solid 87-inning debut and doesn’t look at all that different than his teammate coming up next…
67 Jake Odorizzi TBR Too many HR and BB saw his ERA and FIP soar, but closed with a 3.47 ERA in his final 12 starts
68 Brad Peacock HOU No gtd spot, but 3 inj. risks and a 34-yr old in rotation will offer chances to carve out 110-130 IP w/~15 GS (+/- 5)
69 Dinelson Lamet SDP Needs something to get LHB out or volatility will remain; but swing-and-miss & RHB dominance lay a foundation
70 Patrick Corbin ARI Skills returned to ’13 level, but HR & BABIP kept the ERA higher; could be biggest humidor benefactor… if it exists
71 Rick Porcello BOS As hot as he ran in ’16, he was equally as cold in ’17; hard to peg for ’18, but I’d tab him for a low-4.00s ERA
72 Marco Estrada TOR Stress from personal issues kept him from proper sleep; figured it out in late-summer save 3 Shellackings
73 Joe Musgrove PIT New park should cut HRs (1.4 career) and better maximize the 15% K-BB we’ve seen so far; has K% upside, too
74 Aaron Sanchez TOR Blisters & broken fingernail destroyed season (4 DL stints); only had 12% K-BB in ’16 breakout despite great stuff
75 Mike Clevinger CLE Will struggle to consistently go 6+ IP if 12% BB doesn’t improve; cheap as he currently doesn’t have gtd spot
76 Tyler Chatwood CHC I see something like 140 innings of a 3.80 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 22% K rate. Useful, but not transformative
77 Chad Kuhl PIT Flamethrower rebounded w/3.38 ERA in L16, tallying 83 Ks in 88 IP; needs changeup refinement to truly breakout
78 Zach Davies MIL Wasn’t just a product of 17 Ws, but they masked an ugly 8% K-BB; still just 25 y/o & capable of another high-3.00s yr
79 Miles Mikolas STL Put up 19% K-BB in 3 NPB yrs w/’17 being the best (22%, 2.25 ERA, 0.98 WHIP); Colby Lewis comps make sense
80 Sean Newcomb ATL Enough potential to facilitate a bigger jump, but the walk rate keeps expectations in check; fanned 24% in 100 IP
81 Chad Green NYY Being stretched out as SP, but he’s a viable pick even if he doesn’t start as he can deliver 90+ IP of quality work
82 Jhoulys Chacin MIL Skills suggest the nearly 5 runs of difference (1.79 home, 6.53 road) is a mirage; he’s a true talent 4.00 ERA guy
83 Luiz Gohara ATL Probably deserved a better fate against righties as a .418 BABIP overshadowed his 19% K-BB in 102 PA
84 Brent Honeywell TBR Tore through Double- and Triple-A last year with a 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 30% K, and 6% BB in 137 innings
85 Jack Flaherty STL Quality heat (93 mph) misses bats and induces GBs while CB & SL do most of the work generating his strikeouts
86 Lucas Giolito CWS Found some confidence in AAA and carried into a solid MLB sample, though that 1.6 HR/9 needs some work
87 Alex Reyes STL Returning from TJ and will start in the bullpen after returning in May; keep expectations in check for the 23 y/o
88 Mike Montgomery CHC Might be stuck in the swingman role again (14 GS, 30 RP app.), but he can make an impact w/120-140 IP
89 Steven Matz NYM Has some swing-and-miss stuff & good control, but he’s now 27 with just 235 MLB innings under his belt
90 Reynaldo Lopez CWS Big velo, two reliable secondaries, no platoon split, and pedigree could foster a breakout for this 24 yr old RHP
91 Dan Straily MIA Cautionary tale re: parks fixing HR issues; stayed at 1.5 from CIN to MIA, though a horrific road rate played a role
92 Matt Shoemaker LAA Forearm strain ate his entire second half, but there’s still nice upside here if he’s healthy coming into ’18
93 CC Sabathia NYY Crafty southpaw has posted 328.3 IP of 3.81 ERA and 12% K-BB over the last two seasons
94 Felix Hernandez SEA Shoulder bursitis ate up 3 months of his season and a flood of HRs offset his K and BB gains
95 Trevor Williams PIT Quietly had a sharp finish to his season with a 3.49 ERA in his last 98 innings and gets half his gms in PNC Park
96 Walker Buehler LAD Likely opens AAA to tighten up the control & refine changeup; if he gets a shot, he could be a game-changer
97 Jharel Cotton OAK Unquestionably rough season, but there’s still an arsenal for success here if he alters his approach
98 Robert Stephenson CIN Rich secondary arsenal (.510 OPS, 38% K rate in 219 PA) generates plenty of whiffs and keeps hope alive
99 Michael Kopech CWS No incentive for the White Sox to rush him & burn svc. time as they’re not slated to contend just yet
100 Luis Perdomo SDP Addition of Freddy Galvis could be huge as he should turn more of that 62% GB rate into outs
Nathan Eovaldi TBR INJURY RISK
Tyler Skaggs LAA INJURY RISK
Vince Velasquez PHI INJURY RISK
Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD INJURY RISK
Jerad Eickhoff PHI INJURY RISK
Carlos Rodon CWS INJURY RISK
Kendall Graveman OAK INJURY RISK
Anthony DeSclafani CIN INJURY RISK
Andrew Heaney LAA INJURY RISK
Brandon Finnegan CIN INJURY RISK
Jimmy Nelson MIL INJURY RISK
Eduardo Rodriguez BOS INJURY RISK
Shelby Miller ARI INJURY RISK
Nathan Karns KCR INJURY RISK
Matt Harvey NYM INJURY RISK
Andrew Triggs OAK INJURY RISK
Anibal Sanchez FA INJURY RISK
A.J. Puk OAK PROSPECT
Tyler Mahle CIN PROSPECT
Erick Fedde WAS PROSPECT
Brandon Woodruff MIL PROSPECT
Mitch Keller PIT PROSPECT
Forrest Whitley HOU PROSPECT
Justus Sheffield NYY PROSPECT
Chance Adams NYY PROSPECT
Mike Soroka ATL PROSPECT
Kolby Allard ATL PROSPECT
Sandy Alcantara MIA PROSPECT
Jeff Hoffman COL POST-HYPE
Tyler Glasnow PIT POST-HYPE
Jose De Leon TBR POST-HYPE
A.J. Cole WAS POST-HYPE
Luke Sims ATL POST-HYPE
Daniel Norris DET LOTTERY TICKET
Jose Urena MIA LOTTERY TICKET
Tyler Anderson COL LOTTERY TICKET
Jakob Junis KCR LOTTERY TICKET
Adalberto Mejia MIN LOTTERY TICKET
Parker Bridwell LAA LOTTERY TICKET
Chad Bettis COL LOTTERY TICKET
Amir Garrett CIN LOTTERY TICKET
Ty Blach SFG LOTTERY TICKET
Mike Foltynewicz ATL LATE BLOOMER
Matt Moore SFG LATE BLOOMER
Martin Perez TEX LATE BLOOMER
Adam Conley MIA LATE BLOOMER
Junior Guerra MIL LATE BLOOMER
Marco Gonzales SEA LATE BLOOMER
Matt Boyd DET LATE BLOOMER
Rafael Montero NYM LATE BLOOMER
Brian Johnson BOS LATE BLOOMER
Brent Suter MIL PER INNING
Erasmo Ramirez SEA PER INNING
Trevor Cahill KCR PER INNING
JC Ramirez LAA PER INNING
Joe Biagini TOR PER INNING
Ivan Nova PIT BORING VET
Mike Leake SEA BORING VET
Jason Vargas FA BORING VET
John Lackey FA BORING VET
Mike Fiers DET BORING VET
Hisashi Iwakuma SEA BORING VET
Doug Fister TEX BORING VET
Andrew Cashner FA BORING VET
Jordan Zimmerman DET BORING VET
Jason Hammel KCR BORING VET
Chris Stratton SFG BORING VET
Edinson Volquez MIA BORING VET
Jeremy Hellickson FA BORING VET
Nick Pivetta PHI RAW SKILLS
Jesse Hahn KCR RAW SKILLS
Francis Martes HOU RAW SKILLS
Daniel Mengden OAK RAW SKILLS
Jake Thompson PHI RAW SKILLS
Robert Gsellman NYM RAW SKILLS
Dillon Peters MIA RAW SKILLS
Luis Cessa NYY RAW SKILLS
Mark Leiter PHI RAW SKILLS
Sal Romano CIN RAW SKILLS
Buck Farmer DET RAW SKILLS
Brett Anderson FA DO NOT DRAFT INJURY GUY
Scott Feldman FA DO NOT DRAFT INJURY GUY
Michael Pineda MIN DO NOT DRAFT INJURY GUY
Drew Smyly CHC DO NOT DRAFT INJURY GUY
Steven Wright BOS DO NOT DRAFT INJURY GUY
Julio Urias LAD DO NOT DRAFT INJURY GUY



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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. He is the purveyor of the SP Guide (on hiatus for '17). Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer, on Snapchat at psporer, and on Twitch at psporer24.

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dtpollitt
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dtpollitt

Love the commentary, too. Thanks Paul.