Today, we continue our series of previewing the 2016 season from a Fantasy Baseball perspective. Today, we will be focusing on the Fantasy Starting Pitcher Rankings. These rankings will be broken down into two parts. Today, we will be covering the Top 40 Starting Pitchers and the next article in this series will spotlight the Pitchers ranked 41-80.
Fantasy Starting Pitcher Rankings Part 1
1-Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw may have not won the Cy Young Award last season but he is still the most valuable pitcher from a Fantasy Baseball perspective headed into 2016. He’s coming off a season where he struck out 301 batters. If it wasn’t for the second half from Jake Arrieta, Kershaw would have led the NL in ERA for the fifth consecutive season. As it stood, he had to settle for only leading the NL in starts, complete games, shutouts, innings pitched, strikeouts, FIP and K/9.
2-Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
3-Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs
4-Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox
Scherzer had a strong first season for the Nationals as he had a 2.79 ERA and had a K/9 above 10 for the fourth consecutive season. Arrieta had some good luck to get 22 Wins and a 1.77 ERA (.246 BABIP) but is still poised to have a very strong season. Sale had a higher ERA last season (3.41) but this was more of a product of bad luck (.323 BABIP). His FIP was much stronger (2.73) and he had a 11.82 K/9.
5-David Price, SP, Boston Red Sox
6-Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
7-Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets
8-Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
Price will be in his first season playing for the Red Sox after helping get the Blue Jays to the ALCS down the stretch run. Bumgarner has seen both his K/9 and BB/9 rates improve the last couple seasons. deGrom proved his strong debut was for real as he showed even more improvement in 2015. Harvey had a strong bounce back from Tommy John surgery as he posted a 2.71 ERA/3.05 FIP.
9-Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
10-Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
11-Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians
12-Carlos Carrasco, SP, Cleveland Indians
Fernandez pitched well in 11 starts last season (2.92 ERA/2.24 FIP). The big question is whether he can stay healthy and how many innings he is allowed to pitch. Archer saw a strong increase in strikeouts last year (8 K/9 in 2014 & 10.70 K/9). If he can decrease his walks, he has potential to be in a higher tier. A 9-16 record and an ERA that was 0.52 above his FIP obscured the fact that Kluber had another strong season last year. Carrasco was a strong source of strikeouts (10.58 K/9 last season) but a higher HR/FB rate led to a 3.63 ERA (FIP was 2.84).
13-Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals
14-Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
15-Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets
16-Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
17-Tyson Ross, SP, San Diego Padres
Strasburg had a strong season (2.81 FIP & 10.96 K/9 rate). However, the question remains of whether he can stay healthy. Greinke had an off the charts season on the surface (19-3 1.66 ERA). However, underlying stats indicate that his .229 BABIP made what was a solid season look like a borderline Cy Young season as he had a 2.76 FIP and a 8.08 K/9 rate. Syndergaard had a strong rookie year (3.24 ERA/3.25 FIP) and 9.96 K/9, if he can give up less home runs (14.3% HR/FB rate), this would help him take his game to the next level. Cole had his best season in 2015 (19-8 2.60 ERA). However, he has a lower K/9 celing than Syndergaard. Ross was a strikeout (9.73 K/9) and ground ball machine last year (61.5%), the only downside is control (3.86 BB/9).
18-Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
19-Jon Lester, SP, Chicago Cubs
20-Dallas Keuchel, SP, Houston Astros
21-Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Hernandez wasn’t terrible last year but he had his highest ERA (3.53) since 2007 and his lowest K/9 rate (8.52) since 2010 but this seemed to fall below the radar as he still managed to win 18 games. Lester had a 3.34 ERA/2.92 FIP in his first year with the Cubs. With the Cubs looking very strong this year, this should help him win more than 11 games. Keuchel is coming off a Cy Young Award season. He had a similar FIP to Lester (2.91) and a modest K/9 rate (8.38). Liriano has a higher ERA than the two guys above him but provides more strikeouts (even if his walk rates are higher as well)
22-Cole Hamels, SP, Texas Rangers
23-Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Athletics
24-Johnny Cueto, SP, San Francisco Giants
25-Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers
26-Michael Pineda, SP, New York Yankees
27-Danny Salazar, SP, Cleveland Indians
28-Raisel Iglesias, SP, Cincinnati Reds
29-Marcus Stroman, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
30-Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
This will be the first full season for Hamels with the Rangers. Gray looks very strong on the surface (14-7 2.73 ERA) but had a higher FIP (3.45) and a very modest strikeout rate (7.31 K/9). This will be Cueto’s first season with the Giants. While it is a good sign that this is an even numbered year, he’s coming off a season where he had his highest ERA (3.44) since 2010 and his lowest K/9 rate (7.47) since 2012. Darvish is coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s pitched well in his first few seasons however there is still the concern of how many innings he will be pitching.
Pineda’s 2015 season looks scary on the surface (4.37 ERA) but pitched much better than that (3.34 FIP) and he had a reasonably strong K/9 (8.74). Salazar had a slightly higher FIP (3.62) but was an elite strikeout option (9.49 K/9). Iglesias is unlikely to win many games due to playing on an expected to be terrible Reds team but he will give you strikeouts (9.82 K/9) and he was better than his 4.15 ERA indicated (3.55 FIP). Stroman should have more win opportunities playing for the Blue Jays but he has yet to be a strikeout pitcher at the big league level (7.36 K/9 career). Wainwright missed much of last season due to injury. While he had been pitching strong the last several years, his K/9 rate did regress some in 2014.
31-Jeff Samardzija, SP, San Francisco Giants
32-Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals
33-Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox
34-Lance McCullers, SP, Houston Astros
35-Carlos Martinez, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
36-Collin McHugh, SP, Houston Astros
37-Garrett Richards, SP, Los Angeles Angels
38-James Shields, SP, San Diego Padres
39-Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
40-Kyle Hendricks, SP, Chicago Cubs
Samardzija is coming off a terrible season with the White Sox. However, a move to the National League to a more pitcher friendly park could help move him in the right direction. Ventura had a 4.08 ERA (but a 3.57 FIP), his ERA should come in around 3.50 with at least 8 K/9. Quintana’s win total has been staggered at nine due to playing for some poor White Sox teams but this has concealed the fact that he’s been very good the last two seasons. McCullers had a strong rookie season (3.22 ERA, 9.25 K/9), the one thing preventing him from being in a higher tier is a high walk rate.
Martinez is similar to McCullers where he had an excellent ERA & K/9 rate but needs to work on giving up less walks. McHugh did win 19 games but had a higher FIP and lower K/9 rate than he had in his 2014 breakout season. Richards also showed similar trends in 2014 (high win total but regression in actual performance). Despite playing at Petco Park, Shields had a 17.6% HR/FB rate and a 4.45 FIP. While he had a career high in K/9, he also had a career high BB/9. Odorizzi had a 3.35 ERA/3.61 FIP but saw a regression in K/9 last season. Hendricks was better than his 3.95 ERA indicated (3.36 FIP) and playing for the Cubs does give him an opportunity for an inflated win total.