Top 100 Starting Pitchers – Fantasy 2017
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These rankings are for your standard 5×5 rotisserie leagues, enjoy!
Updated April 21st, 2017. Overall Rankings can be found here.
‘Movement’ column signifies the change in rank at this position, from the last update (April 1st, 2017).
My thoughts preseason…
The rate at which pitchers fall prey to the injury bug exceeds that of your typical position player. That makes the decision to draft a starting pitcher with a pick in the first three rounds even more difficult to execute on a successful basis. When this decision is made and it doesn’t work out, you’re left with a severe deficiency on the offensive side, and as I stressed in one of my recent fantasy banter articles, there is a much lower chance you make up for that loss later in drafts.
Look at my my top ten pitchers for 2017. How many of those arms do we have above average confidence in with regards to health for the coming season? For me it’s really only two or three of the crop (Bumgarner, Cueto, and to some extent, Chris Sale), but the rest possess so much upside if they stay healthy, ranking them any lower makes players you wouldn’t take above them come into the picture.
So what is the balance?
A tactic that I believe a lot more should exercise in rankings, moving the top tier of pitchers down in overall rankings. In the first two rounds, or top 24 picks, NFBC ADP has six starting pitchers off the board. Once our top 400 is released, we will only have one pitcher ranked in the first two rounds. Clayton Kershaw. By pushing down the top tier of pitchers in favor of position players allows for a balance of these two areas of thought.
Focus then turns to who exactly to start your crop of pitchers with, and who else to target later in drafts.
I’ll turn my attention away from some guys I have covered in the past – most notably James Paxton, who I talk about here and here – to raise some awareness for other arms I’m more than happy to have on my fantasy staff.
Danny Salazar is the 30th pitcher off the board according to NFBC. I have him about nine spots higher at 21st overall. The Indians pitcher has amassed 55 starts over his last two seasons with an average of about 160 innings. Salazar has consistently sat around a mid 3s ERA, but the characteristic I’m focusing on is the 11% swinging strike rate and 10.55 K/9 that he maintained last season. Salazar’s April, May, and June each brought with them opponent averages below .220 and slugging percentages below the .320 mark. That is pure dominance for a player who also possesses one of the best pitches in all of baseball. It’s always been a matter of health, but there is a limited number of pitchers who can make their way into the top 12 discussion with simply an increase in innings. Kluber’s workload from last year is making me hesitant for his production through the 2017 season, and the Indians will have to rely on Salazar and his battery-mate Carlos Carrasco for quality innings. I’m willing to take the chance and say Francona is betting on the right arms.
Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are two pitchers that have prospered under the tutelage of the Ray Searage and are poised for big steps forward in 2017. Taillon possess some of the best control in all of baseball, with the sixth lowest walk percentage among pitchers with 100+ innings of work in 2016. Another pitcher with a similar approach, but different pedigree if Rick Porcello of the Red Sox. ADP has Porcello as the 26th SP off the board, while Taillon lags behind at 38th. My rankings have the two flipped, as even with the much shorter track record, Taillon sits in the National League with a better SIERA (Fangraph’s Skills Indepedent ERA) metric to his name, along with the cheaper price on draft day. While I often shy away from pitchers with K/9 below 8 in constructing the early stages of my staff, I believe there is room for some uptick in his swinging strikes, especially as he migrates to a new changeup grip for the 2017 season.
Glasnow on the other hand is somewhat post-hype prospect who came onto the scene in 2016 with rough control problems. He made two drastic changes coming into this Spring, including the shortening of his stride and a focus to increase his changeup use with an altered grip. His first spring outing saw fantastic, albeit inflated results, but the ceiling for Glasnow is sky high as he progresses into his 6’7″ frame if the command can improve. NFBC has him as the 76th overall pitcher off the board, which will likely increase as his Spring continues, more to where I have him sitting at 69th overall. While the value was better a few weeks ago, I don’t think there are many arms with better upside for this season past the 20th round, even if he starts in the minor leagues.
Jake Arrieta is a pitcher being drafted as an ace with his 33rd overall price tag, but possesses some clear signs of regression that push him down to outside of the top 15 on my list. The season the Cubs’ ace put together in 2015 is something I don’t think will come close to resurfacing. His walk rate doubled from 2015 to 2016, with a 4% fall in overall strikeouts, and put together 4.5+ ERAs for the months of July and September to close out his regular season. With how many games the Cubs are projected to win, there surely is value even if Arrieta regresses to the 3.5 ERA I think he will fall to, but to trade a top three pick for for a pitcher who has fallen off from his peak of years past seems like a clear overvalue to me. I’m much more willing to target a player like Salazar, deGrom, or Archer over Arrieta for the coming season.
On of the more obvious regression candidates for the 2017 season is Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. The run support he got last season was the highest we have seen since Curt Schilling got nearly 7 runs per start in 2004. With the loss of David Ortiz, and overall offensive production that should fall off from the prior season, Porcello is looking much more like a high 3.75 ERA pitcher with good control, but value based on a stat like wins, that is extremely tough to project. He is reluctantly my 42nd overall pitcher as opposed to NFBC data which has him 26th on the list.
Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Keith Allison for the shot of Thor.
Statistics via Fangraphs.com.