26. Julio Teheran – Braves: His K metrics have been solid but not spectacular; he’s exceeded a K/9 of 8.00 only once. His GB rate below 40% also makes him susceptible to the HR. A move to a better team could certainly help his value, but you’re not looking at a top-10 or even top-20 SP annually. However, the volume of quality will net you a top 25-30 option who may give you those occasional seasons of elite production.
27. Julio Urias – Dodgers: I would expect some bumps along the way to stardom for Urias. He’s likely to be handled like the queen’s fine china. It will be rare that Urias makes it much past the fifth or sixth inning for a while. Otherwise, he has all the makings of a future fantasy linchpin and if you find yourself playing for a season or two down the road, Urias is one to deal for.
28. Marcus Stroman – Blue Jays: In the second half of 2016 he was striking out a batter an inning and his ERA was in line with his 2014 rookie season. The walk rate is already bordering on elite, the GB% is over 60, and the FB% is a non-factor. We may be ranking him in the top-20 in a year or two.
29. Jameson Taillon – Pirates: Taillon was terrific in his surprising debut after missing the 2015 season. He has shown solid control and a decent strikeout ability. There is number-two starting pitcher potential, but I’m sure most hesitate to rank him as such until they see him at least repeat last season.
30. Danny Duffy – Royals: The K growth in 2016 was an exciting development for fantasy owners. It also tends to create an inflated buying opportunity. The lack of GB are especially problematic for Duffy who has a career HR/9 of over 1.00. Good control minimized the damage in 2016 (BB/9 of 2.10, career mark 3.34), but any regression could balloon the ERA into the 4.00 range. I like the 2016 growth, but I want to see another season of it before I’m investing long-term.
31. Alex Reyes – Cardinals: Reyes possesses electric stuff that embarrasses even the best of hitters. The more he polishes his game and gets his pitch count under control, the better Reyes will become. There’s room for tons of growth here, but also a chance Reyes can’t make it as a starter and gets transitioned to a Dellin Betances type role. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
32. Michael Fulmer – Tigers: Stellar debut, and even though his ERA and K/9 worsened in the second half, his BB/9 nearly halved. He’s a solid pitcher with a ground ball tilt, and his age makes him a strong keeper investment.
33. Kenta Maeda – Dodgers: What he did last year was incredible, a K%-BB% of 18.0 while allowing the 13th lowest Hard Hit rate among all SP. Maeda could end up a lot higher on this list if he could just pitch a little deeper into games.
34. Kevin Gaussman – Orioles: We’ve been waiting forever for Baltimore to take the kids gloves off and for him to make good on his immense talent. Another guy in a terrible park, but he had a great 2nd half where his ERA was a smidge over 3.00 and he averaged about a strikeout per inning. That’s really valuable and there’s room for improvement.
35. Matt Harvey – Mets: This is either a conservative ranking or much too high. Prior to his injury Harvey was easily a top-20 pitcher. Unfortunately, not many pitchers have successfully come back from this type of surgery. His value will vary greatly from owner to owner.
36. James Paxton – Mariners: Paxton tore up opposing hitters in the second half last year, with the 8th best K%-BB%, and the 3rd lowest FIP. His added velocity couldn’t make up for his terrible misfortune in LOB% and BABIP. Major breakout alert!!
37. Lance McCullers – Astros: Injury concerns will continue to cloud McCullers’ potential. He has the upside of Yu Darvish. Unfortunately with McCullers both the shoulder and elbow are red flags. Be grateful for whatever amount of innings he can duct tape his arm together for.
38. Rick Porcello – Red Sox: Typically when a SP emerge into Cy Young consideration the draft day price becomes inflated. I get the feeling that Porcello’s 2016 fortunes will become the narrative to the point his 2017 price will be that of value. I don’t expect him to be in the Cy Young conversation for years to come, but at the same time is it foolish to expect a 27-year-old arm to improve annually? So if one could improve on a K/9 beyond 7.50, with sub 2.00 BB/9 and a GB rate of 50% for his career, wouldn’t that be of interest? I may not expect top-10 production, but the metrics themselves offer plenty of safety.
39. Steve Matz – Mets: I feel like Matz is a little overrated because of the ace-level arms he’s lumped together with on the Mets. He’s good when healthy, but hardly a game changer. When he’s able to take the mound I’d put him in the Marcus Stroman class of pitchers. Unfortunately there are health concerns that get in the way of that being a real possibility over the course of a full season.
40. Lucas Giolito – Nationals: Giolito had a nice debut with 4 shutout, one-hit innings, but it went to hell after that as he posted a 6.75 ERA (8.21 FIP) in 21 big league innings. I am still all-in on the arm; I just think the command issues may play havoc for a year or two (and we’re only ranking 5 years).
40. Sonny Gray – Athletics: Have always found him to be overrated and am curious to see if everyone jumps off the bandwagon after a bad, injury plagued year. He’s only 26 and I expect a full bounce back skill wise. My only concerns are the awful defense behind him and the poor lineup to support him.
42. Felix Hernandez – Mariners: Is King Felix done, or can he bounce back? He’s only 30, and prior to last season we saw 10 injury free years. Still, the decline in strikeouts, increased walk and rising contact rate can’t be ignored. I think everyone will agree he is no longer a top-20 option, but he could still be a useful number 3/4 starter.
43. Aaron Nola – Phillies: Ignore the bad ERA from 2016. This was an improvement over his rookie year, with gains in K/9 and GB%. A high BABIP ruined his ERA and WHIP, but he has a bright future as long as the UCL remains a strain and not a tear.
43. Taijuan Walker – Diamondbacks: The long ball is the only thing that keeps him from being ranked in the top-30. Maybe a shift to Arizona and the spacious NL West parks will help him. Otherwise, he has a solid skill set that could quickly turn a profit with a bit of luck.
45. Vince Velasquez – Phillies: The K potential is very enticing and his BB/9 of 3.09 was a pleasant surprise for his first extended look at the MLB level. Velasquez is a RH hard throwing FB pitcher making him susceptible to HR (1.44 HR/9 in 2016). This issue will make the walk prevention all that more important. I see a potential path to a top-15 SP, but that may be 5 years down the road as Velasquez will likely not hit 200 Innings until 2018 – that’s assuming good health along the way.
46. Blake Snell – Rays: 98 Ks in 89 innings is pretty sexy. He also pitches in a great park. The 1.62 whip is concerning, but I think we can expect his command to take steps forward in the coming years given his pedigree.
47. Jake Odorizzi – Rays: He’s established himself as a reliable arm, but I feel that 2015-16 is about all we can expect from him. I don’t see another level in his future, but then again, as a #3 SP you don’t need more than what he’s doing, and he should be a reliable producer.
48. Carlos Rodon – White Sox: Don’t let that 4.04 ERA fool you, Rodon was one of baseball’s best in the second half last year. After the break he had a 3.45 ERA to go with a 25.3% K rate and an improved 7.2% BB rate. He did all of that at 23 years old. Good GB rate, high K’s, soft contact, solid BB rate; all the ingredients are there.
49. Dallas Keuchel – Astros: While the 2016 surface stats weren’t ideal, the metrics were still pretty solid. His acceptable K/9 of 7.71 was better than his career mark. The walk rates were right in with his career marks. home runs were his undoing in 2016; his 1.07 HR/9 was double his 2 year average from 2014-2015. Keuchel keeps the ball on the ground, employees good control, and will K enough batters to make it a plus skill. Those metrics build a rather high floor for years to come.
50. Drew Pomeranz – Red Sox: What a difference a league and ballpark change make, eh? Pomeranz will not find himself a target of mine. Look no further than the jump from a 2.47 ERA in the first half to the 4.59 ERA he posted in the second half where he spent most of his time in Boston.