In past years you would have to act quickly if you wanted an elite pitcher. Welcome to the new world order, where pitchers rule supreme in what seems like an endless supply. Miss out on a top 10 guy; no problem, the players from 11 to 20 are only a step below. If you wait a little longer and miss out on the top 20, the next 10 will put up solid stable numbers. Even if you go outside the top 30 you’ll find guys like Yordano Ventura, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Mat Latos; players that will put up good numbers with the potential to perform like a top 30 pitcher. Once you’ve established your elite core group there is an endless supply of depth for the mid to later rounds to fill out your pitching staff along with a number of hot prospects still in the minors that could make their presence known at some point this season.
If it hasn’t sunk in yet I’ll spell it out for you, pitching is D E E P this year. This can lead to all sorts of scenarios and draft strategies. There will be articles telling you to load up on elite arms early and create a juggernaut and they would be correct. You may hear some tell you to stock up on hitters early and wait on pitching; guess what, they would be correct as well. There is no right or wrong draft strategy and any one of them can work if you stick to the plan, but that is a different topic for another day. Today is all about pitching.
Below are our top 100 Starting Pitchers for the 2015 season. If you feel we overlooked someone or would like to debate a players ranking, feel free to do so in the comment section below.
With the exception of the final few players and the occasional rogue ranking, all the players in the top 50 were ranked in the top 50. We were in total agreement on the top 3 which I’m sure might irk some Bumgarner, Price and Scherzer fans; they were the next 3 which you can place in your own order of preference. Looking down the list the list of talent is exceptional, if not unprecedented. While there is a drop-off in talent from one tier to the next; overall the players in the top 50 are all solid and worthy choices to build a team on. Still, there are some players in this group (or possibly from the next 50 on page 2) that some of us favor more than others, and a few that we may avoid for a variety of reasons. Who are they? Read on and find out (or just scroll down and click on page 2 if you’re only here for rankings).
Players that you would reach for in the draft
Tommy: Many default rank lists appear to rank SPs rather aggressively. For that reason, any of the top 8 SPs are worth reaching for in the top 3 tounds, but your team may be better served by waiting. Carlos Carrasco is an obvious target to reach for. Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda are two more undervalued pitchers worthy of a mid round reach.
Kevin: Clayton Kershaw is the number one SP for sure, but I’m so high on him that I’d take him after the first five or so bats are off the board.
Will: I have been high on Marcus Stroman from the get-go and now Stroman Candle goes out and adds a Roy Hallday-esque sinker to his repertoire? Forget about it! Going around the 12-13th round, I’ll go as high as the 9th-10th round. Next is Hisashi Iwakuma; with a SIERA below three, a K/BB rate over seven, a ground ball rate around 50% and a pitcher-friendly home park, Iwakuma will be about as consistently consistent as it gets. Finally Masahiro Tanaka who is a bit riskier coming off injury, but when healthy he was putting up numbers as good as anyone not named Kershaw. I might not reach too much, but I think there is enough pitching later to cover me if Tanaka goes on the shelf again.
Ron: I am reaching for at least one pitcher in the top 9 or 10 starting pitchers in my rankings. The deeper the league the more I am enticed to want to grab two of the top 9 or 10 from my rankings. The reason for this is that the middle tiers seem to be where the greatest depth is but there is still a big difference between the true aces in the game and the rest of the crop. I am still in support of going with a hitter in the first round, but give me Chris Sale, Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg in the second round and I will be perfectly happy. Following that up with Corey Kluber or David Price in the third round would form the kind of 1-2 punch I covet. Marcus Stroman will be on my roster if he is still there in my next pick immediately after the top 150 are off the board. Other upper middle tier arms I will likely make a point to roster are Gerrit Cole, Alex Cobb, and Tyson Ross.
Jim: Given the depth of the position there really are no pitchers I would reach for. There are a few players I like more than others that I would target though. I believe Gerrit Cole could end up being a top 20 pitcher. Yordano Ventura will easily outperform his current ADP and is someone I might take a round or two earlier. For some reason people are down on Mat Latos this year, but I love the consistency he has shown over the years and 2015 could be his best year yet given his new home address.
Players you will avoid drafting
Tommy: Sonny Gray is overrated. Avoid unless he falls. James Shields and Julio Teheran are two more pitchers whose ADP does not align with their skill level. All three of these guys are relatively safe, but their numbers are likely to regress and I think it is highly unlikely that they live up to their current draft position. The last name to avoid is Justin Verlander. When you draft him, you are paying for his name and his past accomplishments. He is likely to leave your team ERA and WHIP in ruins.
Kevin: I realize the high upside of guys like Matt Harvey, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jose Fernandez. However, given that two are recovering from major surgery, and two opted for rehab but could still end up needing surgery anyway, they are all big risks for 2015 redraft leagues.
Will: I don’t know how he keeps doing it? Kyle Lohse has outperformed his SIERA and xFIP numbers by at about half a run to a run in each of the past four seasons and has never posted a SIERA below four. You most likely won’t have a SIERA category in your league, but at some point that ERA will be around four. R.A. Dickey seems like a nice enough fella, but the American League just doesn’t quite agree with him and I don’t see that changing this season. Clay Buchholz is another one I’ll avoid. Do not expect 2010, and certainly not 2013, numbers from Clay. Let’s see, he doesn’t really strike guys out, and posted a 5.34 ERA in 2014. I may use SIERA a bit much, but only once has Clay had one below four and that was in 2007…when it was 3.91. Nothing really points to him turning things around any time soon.
Ron: The Sonny Gray hype is not for me. He is a solid source of quality starts but rarely gives you anything that resembles an ace. In re-draft formats I am also staying away from Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Yu Darvish, Adam Wainwright, and Masahiro Tanaka. I imagine one and possibly even two of these high-ceiling, injury concerns will work out okay but I do not like those odds.
Jim: Phil Hughes was a train wreck up until last season. I’ve read the Chris Carpenter references and how he was a mess before becoming Chris Carpenter, but I’m not going to jump on the Hughes bandwagon until he proves he can do it again. Same thing goes for Carlos Carrasco to a lesser extent. I see what he did last season but I also know what he did prior to 2014. In a keeper league I might be tempted to hold him, but in a redraft league I can find safer options. I’ll round out my one hit wonder theme with Scott Kazmir. The last time he produced an ERA below 4.0 was in 2008; 2014 was a good year and nothing more.