A GAWKers Look at the Top 75 SP

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. This time last season I wrote about my process  for evaluating SP in a piece titled “Let the GAWKing do the Talking“. While GAWK may not be the strongest acronym in a game filled with them, the process is one I proudly stand by. GAWK encompasses all the pitching skill sets that I value when it comes to evaluating potential production. For those unfamiliar with last seasons post here’s a brief recap:

  • G stands for GB%. While GB% does add to the danger for hits allowed the decrease in HR should easily make up for it. In addition higher GB rates lead to more Double Play potential and ultimately less stressful innings on the pitcher.
  • in Association with
  • W stands for walks. For this exercise I use BB/9 as the measuring stick. Pitching against MLB lineups is difficult to begin with having options that don’t add their own fuel to the fire can be a relief. Less walks leads to more IP. More IP leads to going deeper in games, which effectively helps your chance to earn a Win. What at one point was an overlooked statistic on my part has now become the statistic I gravitate to first.
  • K naturally stands for the strikeout. Along with being a stand alone category, the strikeout is the most secure way to ensure run prevention.

In order to gauge where a player rates in these areas, one must find what league average for a SP is. In 2016 the major league K/9 average was 7.75 K/9, BB/9 was 2.96, and GB% was 44.3% .After finding this data I try to find something of a decent sample size. In years past, taking 30-50 IP sample sizes into account have had me all hot and bothered for the likes of TJ House and Bud Norris, certainly not my brightest moments.  This season I used a 100 IP game minimum. I then compare players statistics to the league average and establish plus skills, league average, and potential trouble areas.

For GB% I considered anything rounded up to 49% or beyond to be elite. GB rates below 40% were deemed to be problematic. For BB% I used anything rounded to 2.55 or below to be elite. A BB% above 3.2 or above would be deemed problematic by me. I found myself having trouble defining elite totals in K%. In all I reviewed about 150 SP of which 12 featured a K/9 above 10, 12 more had a K/9 total above 9. With only 24 names out of 150 I decided to include the 13 SP who finished between 8.99 and 8.50 among the elite options. SP with a K/9 below 7 were considered problematic options.

In a standard 15-team 9 pitcher format, at any given time around 75 SP are being used in active lineups. In today’s installment I’m taking the GAWK approach in evaluating the top-75 SP options using NFBC ADP. Are certain options being over-drafted? Who is being under-drafted? Perhaps these questions and more will be answered as we inch ever so closer to Opening Day.

The Trifecta
Clayton Kershaw (1), Noah Syndergaard (5), Carlos Carrasco (15)
Steven Matz (42), Aaron Nola (57)

Five pitchers produced elite totals in all three areas last season. Kershaw deserves top overall pick consideration in my opinion. From strictly a skill set standpoint Thor should seriously be considered as the second best SP option. The GAWK process has long been a fan of what Carrasco has to offer. As of this point it’s faith has not been fully rewarded. Matz and Nola both offer immense upside for their current ADP. Oddly enough, this entire group has health concerns of some sort heading into the season. If those concerns become unwarranted a 30 start season will very likely produce Top 10-15 type production.

The Meatloaf Bunch
Madison Bumgarner (3), Chris Sale (4), Corey Kluber (6), Jon Lester (8), David Price (12)
Jacob deGrom (18), Kevin Gausman (37), John Lackey (40), James Paxton (51)

Bumgarner, Sale, Kluber, and Lester don’t require much of a sales pitch. Some may question both Price and deGrom after less than expected production last season, but the underlying skills would suggest these concerns are unwarranted. Gausman and Paxton are both on the edge of becoming top-notch options. John Lackey doesn’t excite anyone on draft day, but he still makes for a serviceable SP 3.

The Leftover Meatloaf
Johnny Cueto (11), Kyle Hendricks (16), Michael Fulmer (32),Dallas Keuchel (36)
Jameson Taillon (38), Marcus Stroman (39), Ivan Nova (74).

To get a gauge in how much K potential is valued in Roto, look no further than the ADP of this group compared to the last. This group relies on excellent control and high GB rates. Could this skill set be more volatile? Cueto is the only name in the group with sustained success. Hendricks put up Cy Young caliber numbers last season, while Fulmer took home AL ROY honors. Stroman’s career has been more of a roller coaster at this point, while Ivan Nova’s could be best described as a train wreck.

Ultimately  I still find myself targeting this entire group. Cueto’s is a nice consolation option if you bypass the Aces. Hendricks and Fulmer will regress, but I feel both offer a very nice floor. I really like both Taillon and Stroman to emerge this season as I expect both K totals to become better than league average. The move to the NL could also propel Nova beyond the league average for K/9 resulting in a final pitcher ranking among the top-30. I look for a big bounce back in 2017 for Keuchel.

The One-Trick Win Ponies
Yu Darvish (9), Chris Archer (13), Kenta Maeda (22), Rich Hill (29)
Carlos Rodon (52), Michael Pineda (58), Collin McHugh (75)

Darvish’s status among this group is hanging on by a thread. Combine the injury issues and workload concerns and I feel he’s miscast as a top-10 SP option. I’m all on board with Chris Archer this year, but will not deny the 3 BB/9 has also miscast his ADP. Maeda’s BB/9 is right on the line that I consider to be elite. Still, I find myself concerned that he doesn’t have a sophomore swoon of sorts this season. Injuries pump the brakes somewhat on Hill, but both his BB/9 and GB% are on the good side of league average. In shallow leagues I love his value. Both Rodon and Pineda have favorable rates across the board when compared to league average. I’ve been burned less by Rodon at this point, so he’d be my preference of the two. Overall I would prefer to wait 20 picks and select McHugh. People all to often forget just how valuable 180+ IP of quality can be.

The One-Trick Place Ponies
Masahiro Tanaka (20), Zack Greinke (21), Jose Quintana (25), Rick Porcello (26)
Sean Manaea (44), Jeff Samardzija (53), Jerad Eickhoff (54), Anthony DeSclafani (61)
Taijuan Walker (63), Matt Shoemaker (64), Joe Ross (67)

Again the perception of non-elite K totals is quite evident in ADP.  Tanaka, Greinke, Quintana, and Porcello could all push 200 IP of quality work. However, I’m not in love with any of their ADP’s. I could get 200 IP with Jeff Samardzija 30 SP later. Samardzija could be one of my favorite draft day starters in terms of safe profit compared to ADP. I could say the exact same thing about Matt Shoemaker, minus the workload. I’m beginning to feel Manaea will disappoint owners this season. Overall the numbers could be ok, but I see a potential roller coaster type season. Eickhoff, DeSclafani, and Ross all seem similar; talented, but the talent is limited. Walker has the standout pedigree off the bunch and ultimately his ADP in 2018 will either be 25 picks earlier or later. Got a coin?

The One-Trick Show Ponies
Aaron Sanchez (23), Tanner Roark (35)

Wouldn’t touch either near their high draft spots of 74 and 91 respectively. If either approach their latest draft spots of 137 or 191 my heart would be very happy.

No Trouble To Be Found
Gerrit Cole (28), JA Happ (50), Adam Wainwright (62)

Not exactly the brightest group in terms of skills, but they don’t do anything to hurt their case either. I’ve never liked Cole as the Ace he’s been priced at in 2015 and 2016, but seeing him at 28 offers intrigue. Happ is the type of SP that I begin to believe in once I see his accomplishments in this type of context. I really like Wainwright’s ADP this season. Feels like a veteran SP who needed a season to adjust to the new him. Despite his troubles, the underlying skills would also suggest he wasn’t that bad

Superstars You Say?
Max Scherzer (2), Jake Arrieta (7), Justin Verlander (10), Stephen Strasburg (14)
Carlos Martinez (17) Cole Hamels (19), Danny Duffy (24)

Your front-line starting pitchers are supposed to offer you a sense of security. First and foremost, a track record of overcoming limitations matters to me. So despite Scherzer’s HR issues I still wouldn’t hesitate to draft him as the 2nd SP overall. A shot at 300 K is certainly worth the potential of an ERA in the 3’s. Verlander fits the same mold, but I would hesitate in selecting Verlander to be the sole ACE of the staff. My Cub fandom/bias could be showing, but I’ll take another run with Arrieta. Control was clearly his lone issue last season, and that in itself showed no signs for concern in the year prior.

Strasburg has some of the same concerns as Scherzer, but without the track record of handling a workload. Carlos Martinez features a lofty walk rate, but currently doesn’t have the K rate to offset the concern. With his +GB rate, Martinez is just one bad BABIP season from posting an ERA north of 4. I have the same concerns for Hamels and his escalating walk rate. The price of Duffy has me willing to take a chance given certain circumstances.

2nd Tier SP with Cliff Fall Potential
Julio Teheran (27), Danny Salazar (31)

In a vacuum I like them both. The K potential for Salazar is 230, and Teheran does enough to limit the potential fly ball damage. Problem is the ADP suggest both are being targeted as SP 2, in which case my excitement begins to fade. I’m not sure Salazar ever posts an ERA below 3.25, and the threat of a 4.40 season is alive and well. Teheran lacks the top-10 upside for me and is just one year removed from an ERA north of 4.

The Next Wave Of Overhyped Fantasy Options?
Julio Urias (41), Lance McCullers (47), Vince Velasquez (49), Drew Pomeranz (56)
Robbie Ray (59), Drew Smyly (60),  Blake Snell (66),  Dylan Bundy (72)

Urias at 41 is certainly an overpay. I feel his future is bright, but I don’t see him cutting his 3.62 BB/9 by over 1.00 before he turns 21. I realize McCullers stuff is “filthy”. I understand the value in nearly 12 K/9 as a SP, but I also wonder if even 140 IP is obtainable if he’s unable to surpass 5-IP routinely.  Velasquez’s control isn’t spot on, but it serves as Maddux like with the majority of this group. The marginal control combined with the stellar K/9 makes Velasquez the lone SP I’d target from this group.

Robbie Ray falls under the same umbrella as McCullers. I’ll happily saddle others with the unsightly ERA and WHIP. At 66th and 70th respectively I’d roll the dice on both Snell and Bundy. I’m not exactly sold on either, but I could see both having top-50 upside even with the walk and fly ball tendencies. I’m not willing to take a flyer on Pomeranz. Control issues combined with other internal options have me looking elsewhere. I’ve always been a Smyly supporter, but last season can only be described as disastrous. His skill set, however, is in the same mold as Scherzer, Verlander, and Duffy. Take that skill set with the 60th SP and I’m willing to take a chance.

The Remainders
Matt Moore (45), Jake Odorizzi (46), Sonny Gray (55)
Marco Estrada (65), Ian Kennedy (68), Hisashi Iwakuma (73)

As the 45th SP off the board I’m not in love with where Moore is going. I do believe the full-time move to the NL will improve his K rates. Will that improvement reach the point to where he’s able to hide the walk and fly ball issues? I wouldn’t pay that price to find out. Odorizzi at 46th is over-paying. It’s not often a SP gets the “He’s a better real life pitcher than a fantasy pitcher.” title, but I’m begging to believe that to be the case. The xFIP of Sonny Gray ultimately caught up to him, leaving him looking more like Sonny Corleone after his demise. I see some improvements; he has the workhorse thing going for him, but at 55 with more attractive options – I’ll target other options. Estrada has pulled this feat off for two consecutive seasons now. I still can’t sell onto others poor control with a fly ball mix. I’d much prefer to live with Kennedy’s fly ball woes three picks later. Iwakuma offers plus control, but the K’s dropped off the planet last year. You’re not investing much at 73rd overall; still the wealth of potential options that lie beyond the Top 75 is much more interesting.


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Josh Coleman

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Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.

2 thoughts on “A GAWKers Look at the Top 75 SP”

  1. Nice write-up (meaning I agree with almost all of it, and maybe that it’s even correct).

    I especially liked that you incorporate the idea of value (caps on IP, likelihood of going deep into games), which other writers don’t mention very often. I realize many of them may be taking those factors into account, but uncertainty about it adds complexity to figuring out to interpret their preferences/rankings.

    Have you re-ranked the above list of SPs or broken them into tiers based on your analysis of where you would feel comfortable picking them? I’d find that very interesting and helpful.


  2. Many thanks. The Staff SP rankings come out tomorrow. I have yet to set tiers up on paper but like you I find them to be valuable. Personally when drafting Im more apt to draft based on tiers than rankings. Case in point when I did my rankings I honestly felt that SP 50 and SP 75 were the same guy. Dave Holler released his SP tiers on this site earlier this week maybe that could give you some insight. As far as where and when to take them the only advice I can give you is that which I’m sure you already know. Each draft is its own animal. If you want a player grab them. Better to be early than miss out. I find ADP sheets to be useful guides and if it’s a player I want I’m willing to go 2-3 rds earlier than the ADP.

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