Starting Pitchers are the most volatile group in fantasy because of the injury factor. In 2014, we lost Patrick Corbin, Jarrod Parker, Kris Medlen and Luke Hochever to Tommy John surgery before the season even started. A.J. Griffin, Ivan Nova, Josh Johnson, Matt Moore and Jameson Taillon were all down for the season by the end of April. The following month Jose Fernandez reminded us that not even the biggest names can avoid the Tommy John reaper when he comes for you. Overall, 24 pitchers underwent TJ surgery in 2014. When you factor in the dead arms, shoulder and elbow strains, blister and hand lacerations, hamstring pulls, etc.., it’s enough to drive a fantasy manager to drink.
You will notice when you go through these rankings that a number of those names mentioned above were not ranked. That is not because we don’t like those pitchers, it’s just the simple fact that most of these players may not be ready to start the season. That may change as we get closer to the spring training, but for now they are only guys to keep on your radar and maybe take a late round flyer on. Enough of the small talk, you came here for rankings.
Joining me for these early rankings (along with where you can find them) are all the regulars, plus a special appearance from Ray Guilfoyle of fake teams who is filling for Seth Klein (@SethDaSportsMan) who is recuperating:
Doug Anderson (@rotodaddy) from Fantasy Sports Network
Timothy King (@TKing978) from The Sports Script and host of Fantasy Forecaster on Blog Talk Radio.
Chris Meyers (@FantsyChillpony) from David Gonos and contributor for Fake Teams.
Ray Guilfoyle (@faketeams) from Fake Teams.
Each week we will be bringing you our top (and bottom) players at each position for those baseball junkies who crave fantasy baseball all year round. Before we get to the rankings, lets take a look at this years free agent class. Brett Anderson, Scott Baker, Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Kevin Correia, Gavin Floyd, Jason Hammel, Aaron Harang, Josh Johnson, Kyle Kendrick, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Lester, Colby Lewis, Francisco Liriano, Paul Maholm, Justin Masterson, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brandon McCarthy, Franklin Morales, Brandon Morrow, Felipe Paulino, Jake Peavy, Wandy Rodriguez, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Max Scherzer, James Shields, Kevin Slowey, Carlos Villanueva, Ryan Vogelsong, Edinson Volquez, Randy Wolf and Chris Young.
There are several big names in this class, headlined by Scherzer, Lester and Shields who will fetch top dollar. Serviceable veterans like Peavy, Kuroda, Lewis, Masterson, Burnett, Hammel, Liriano Santana and Johnson should also have little trouble finding work both in real life and fantasy. The rest of the names will more than likely sign someplace; for the most part they are late round flyers and roster fill, but a few can gain relevance with a favorable signing. Yea, I know, enough of the talk, you want rankings.
The rankings below represent the top 75 (plus) starting pitchers for the 2015 season. If you don’t see the player you were looking for or think someone was omitted, feel free to inquire in the comment section below.
Of the top 12 pitchers, Wainwright has the biggest question mark on his back. I’m sure there are concerns about his arm and health here, he could move up or down as we get closer to spring. For the most part, all of the other players in the top 25 (minus a rogue ranking) belong where they are with the exception of Masahiro Tanaka. Like Wainwright, Tanaka has an injury cloud hanging over his head since he decided on rest and rehab over surgery. Tanaka is easily a top 20 pitcher and the classic risk/reward player, he could be a bargain on draft day or go down two weeks into the season. Just like Wainwright, check his health status prior to draft time and use your best judgment. If you can come out of the early rounds with one of the top 12 and add another from the next tier, you’ve got the makings for a solid staff.
Here is where the discrepancies start. Four players ranked in this group were not ranked inside the top 75. I’ll take ownership of my non ranking for Kazmir as I don’t think he come close to what he did last season, you can question the others on twitter. Three names stick out here, and we’ll start with Cliff Lee. He was a staple in the top 20 for years, but his injury combined with his age has frightened fantasy owners and experts alike. I’ll repeat what I said about Wainwright and Tanaka; reassess things as we get closer to spring, he could find his way back into the top 25 by then. Drew Smyly is next with ranking from 38 to 70. While we all agree he is a top 75, we have a difference of opinion on just how good he can be. The same thing goes for Mike Minor who ranked between 27 and 62 and was left off completely on one list. Minor is officially a box of chocolate, you don’t know what you’re gonna get. Verlander can be put in the same box as Minor, and both have the potential to be a real bargain (or bust) on draft day.
Overall this is a solid group filled with veterans and upside players who should add stability to the middle of your roster. Not everyone here is a guarantee to live up to their rankings, but the upside of these players compared to the ones in the next tier makes them worth a gamble.
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