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2016 Fantasy Baseball: NL Starting Pitcher Projections

Rating position players was relatively easy. Runs above replacement tends to work pretty well and you only needed 20 players at each position. Grading out pitchers is considerably more difficult. Additionally, most teams carry at least five starters, and when you add in the standard 12-team league then you have yourself 60 starters. That seemed a little unwieldy, so I decided to break them up into AL and NL starters. They are all still part of the same universe, though.

We are still utilizing runs above replacement from our three different sources. It doesn’t translate to pitching perfectly, but it doesn’t translate to hitting perfectly either. This is why we have included the over and under system at the bottom. The general idea is to determine whether a player is likely to produce more or less than his projection.

  1. Clayton Kershaw— Los Angeles Dodgers (60.2)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 48.0 47.4 55.6 51.6
BR 65.0 60.0 65.0 63.3
FG 59.8 60.8 71.2 65.6

You know you are in the presence of greatness when you are a Clayton Kershaw owner and you come away disappointed. He was the third best pitcher in the National League in 2015 and that was disappointing for Kershaw owners. He is quite simply the modern day Sandy Koufax. Verdict: Under

  1. Max Scherzer— Washington Nationals (53.8)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 42.4 47.2 51.9 48.9
BR 64.0 58.0 62.0 61.0
FG 52.7 45.1 55.3 51.5

It says a lot when you can perform this well on a team that ended up being a huge disappointment. Scherzer ended up being worth the money in his first season in Washington. As is always the case, the tale will be whether he has the staying power: Verdict: Under

  1. Zack Greinke— Arizona Diamondbacks (43.7)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 19.8 30.8 34.9 31.0
BR 34.0 37.0 78.0 57.0
FG 29.8 38.0 51.2 43.2

Unlike the other two, Greinke doesn’t have a history of consistent greatness. He occasionally produces numbers that overwhelm you, but most of the time he is merely good. There’s nothing wrong with good, but this is awfully high to pick good. Verdict: Under

  1. Jake Arrieta— Chicago Cubs (42.7)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP -3.6 31.8 42.6 31.3
BR 3.0 43.0 74.0 51.8
FG 1.2 41.6 62.1 45.1

The former Horned Frog has dominated for two consecutive years and likely is the National League version of Dallas Keuchel. You look at him and think he shouldn’t dominate like this, but he was the best pitcher in baseball last season from August 1st forward. Verdict: Over

  1. Jon Lester— Chicago Cubs (38.3)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 26.5 38.9 38.1 36.4
BR 33.0 46.0 29.0 35.3
FG 31.9 47.5 44.3 43.3

Now, we all have a glimpse of why the Cubs are the runaway favorite in the National League this next season. Lester was very good last season and still people considered it a down season. There will be a number of fantasy players that sleep on him this season and the smart owner can take advantage. Verdict: Over

  1. Madison Bumgarner— San Francisco Giants (34.9)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 25.6 22.5 27.7 25.6
BR 34.0 35.0 44.0 39.3
FG 33.9 34.6 45.0 39.7

Bumgarner has the reputation for being the best October pitcher in recent memory. That works against fantasy owners here. If you buy into that reputation and you will end up being disappointed because the regular season production never lives up to that lofty level. Verdict: Under

  1. Jacob DeGrom— New York Mets (34.3)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 20.8 31.8 27.4
BR 27.0 42.0 36.0
FG 30.0 45.6 39.4

Mets fans of a certain age will remember Generation K. Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher, and Jason Isringhausen were supposed to lead the Mets to the World Series. Now, the Mets have a quartet of pitchers that have actually accomplished that. DeGrom might be the best of all of them. Verdict: Over

  1. Johnny Cueto— San Francisco Giants (30.4)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 2.6 24.3 22.4 19.7
BR 12.0 54.0 37.0 38.5
FG 7.0 40.6 36.8 33.1

The NL West will likely be the most entertaining race in the National League. They may not have the best teams there, but the pitching staffs of the top three teams will be fun to watch. Cueto was a very interesting signing. He has been inconsistent, but when he’s on he’s just as good as anyone. This is a great ballpark for him too. Verdict: Over

  1. Gerrit Cole— Pittsburgh Pirates (28.9)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 13.2 14.0 38.8 26.3
BR 12.0 11.0 41.0 26.2
FG 21.8 20.7 47.6 34.3

No one ever doubted Cole’s talent. After all, he was the number one overall pick in the draft. Sometimes it just takes pitchers a little longer to get it. Cole clearly got it last season and he looks like he will be one of the top five pitchers in the National League moving forward. Verdict: Over

  1. John Lackey— Chicago Cubs (28.2)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 15.8 17.0 27.4 22.0
BR 31.0 13.0 51.0 35.0
FG 22.8 21.6 33.0 27.5

One of the more enjoyable things you can do is sign a top free agent off of your chief rival’s team. The Cubs did that when they nabbed Lackey from the Cardinals. Lackey is not an ace in any regard, but he is a solid pitcher on a great team. Sometimes that can go a long way. Verdict: Under

  1. Tyson Ross— San Diego Padres (26.6)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 7.0 13.2 36.8 24.0
BR 12.0 21.0 29.0 23.5
FG 17.1 28.8 39.4 32.2

Don’t be a slave to wins. It’s a fool’s errand. Ross offers everything but wins and you never know what the future will hold there either. He could be dealt or he could be lucky. Focus on what he gives you. He’s not elite, but he’s closer than you think. Verdict: Over

  1. Stephen Strasburg— Washington Nationals (26.3)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 15.7 24.4 22.5 22.0
BR 28.0 30.0 19.0 24.2
FG 29.7 38.7 29.9 32.8

Dusty Baker has left a trail of broken arms behind him about a mile long. He should probably be in jail for assault on pitchers rather than in another dugout, but such is life. The good news is that these gambits usually work out in the short term. Strasburg probably isn’t a good bet in dynasty leagues though. Verdict: Over

  1. Adam Wainright— St. Louis Cardinals (26.1)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 41.9 32.6 6.8 21.3
BR 53.0 51.0 6.0 29.8
FG 56.2 42.0 7.4 27.1

Wainright missed most of last season with a leg injury. That is not nearly as troublesome as an arm injury. He came back to pitch in the playoffs and performed well. You hate to put a lot of pressure on one guy, but if the Cardinals are going to be a playoff team, they need Wainright to come up big. Verdict: Over

  1. Gio Gonzalez— Washington Nationals (25.5)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 30.7 14.8 23.0 21.6
BR 27.0 20.0 26.0 24.2
FG 28.7 27.9 33.4 30.8

It’s easy to crack on Dusty Baker and make snide remarks. He is probably the modern day version of Billy Martin as a manager. Martin had off the field issues that Baker doesn’t have, but both were known for turning teams around quickly. That turnaround normally fades. Gonzalez will likely be a big part of that turnaround. Verdict: Over

  1. Wei-Yin Chen— Miami Marlins (24.7)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 14.1 15.6 26.3 20.7
BR 20.0 21.0 39.0 29.8
FG 18.2 22.8 26.0 23.6

We’ve seen this before. The Marlins appear to be going for it in some form or fashion. The contract Chen got was one of the biggest of the offseason. It’s hard to take issue with Chen personally. He’s not an upper echelon arm, but he will fit nicely behind a healthy Jose Fernandez in the rotation. How long will he be in Miami? That’s another question. Verdict: Over

  1. Noah Syndergaard— New York Mets (24.1)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 10.1 12.6
BR 20.0 25.0
FG 27.8 34.8

As we saw with the Generation K folks, predicting the future with young arms is obviously difficult at best. 2015 might be the beginning of a brilliant run or it may never get any better than that. Syndergaard certainly looks like an upper echelon arm, but we can never know until it happens. Verdict: Over

  1. Matt Harvey— New York Mets (23.6)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 39.1 0.0 17.9 15.5
BR 44.0 0.0 39.0 26.8
FG 53.1 0.0 39.0 28.4

We could treat 2014 as if it never happened, but injuries are always part of the story and a part of the risk of drafting a player. That being said, nobody in their right mind would pick Harvey this low. The question is how long you can afford to wait to nab him. Verdict: Over

  1. James Shields— San Diego Padres (22.5)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 25.8 24.2 11.0 17.9
BR 43.0 36.0 18.0 28.2
FG 36.6 29.5 10.9 21.4

There has always been a mythical difference between a number one starter and an ace. Shields is usually the poster child for that difference. It’s not his fault the Padres paid him like an ace. He actually slots well after Tyson Ross in the rotation. A bounce back season is even a probability, but he isn’t the ace that their fans had hoped for. Verdict: Over

  1. Scott Kazmir— Los Angeles Dodgers (22.4)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 23.5 15.4 16.7 17.4
BR 14.0 21.0 32.0 25.3
FG 24.7 28.6 21.8 24.6

If you remove the Anaheim years from Kazmir’s record you see a consistently inconsistent pitcher. His stuff will tantalize you at times and you think he’s turned a corner. Then, he will fire a string of five inning outings together where he doesn’t give up a lot of hits but always seems to throw 20-25 pitches an inning. As long as the expectations are low he could surprise you. Verdict: Under

  1. Francisco Liriano— Pittsburgh Pirates (21.9)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 20.7 4.3 23.3 16.5
BR 27.0 14.0 26.0 22.2
FG 29.0 16.9 32.8 26.9

This is the point in the draft where fantasy players must choose between steady pitchers and pitchers with considerable risk and reward qualities. Liriano has been tragically mediocre and surprisingly good in recent seasons. The question is which one will show up in 2016. Verdict: Over

  1. Shelby Miller— Arizona Diamondbacks (20.9)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 19.3 1.3 23.1 15.2
BR 30.0 14.0 34.0 26.7
FG 22.0 5.0 31.3 20.9

A big deal was made of the deal that sent Miller to the Dbacks. After all, he is coming along with Zack Greinke, so they are establishing themselves as contenders. Unfortunately, the sabermetric numbers aren’t as good as the numbers most people pay attention to. He’s better than the projection, but not by much. Verdict: Over

  1. Alex Wood— Los Angeles Dodgers (19.9)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 14.1 20.4 10.8 14.6
BR 10.0 31.0 22.0 23.0
FG 14.3 23.0 23.9 22.0

Wood and Miller were both Braves at this point last season. It kind of goes to show what happens when teams try to rebuild. Some call it tanking, but I’m not sure the Braves are in the same category. They are loading up on younger talent and cash for the opening of their new park. Wood will help the Dodgers get back to the playoffs. Verdict: Over

  1. Jeff Samardzija— San Francisco Giants (19.3)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 22.3 14.1 8.4 12.6
BR 10.0 35.0 6.0 16.3
FG 24.5 36.4 25.4 28.9

Mediocrity comes in all shapes and sizes. Samardzija definitely showed he was durable last season, but the numbers weren’t there. All ships rise with the tide and the pitching tide is higher in San Francisco because of the spacious confines of AT&T Park. He might be a decent mid round selection. Version: Over

  1. Carlos Martinez— St. Louis Cardinals (18.7)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 1.9 13.8 25.5 17.7
BR -2.0 3.0 36.0 18.7
FG 2.6 11.7 30.7 19.7

Like many young pitchers, Martinez took awhile to get his legs under him, but when he did he became one of the frontline starters in the league. There is no reason to believe that this won’t happen again and if it does the Cardinals could end up going back to the playoffs in the toughest division in baseball. Verdict: Over

  1. Jose Fernandez— Miami Marlins (17.9)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 26.0 6.9 18.4 15.8
BR 52.0 9.0 14.0 18.7
FG 35.4 13.4 17.9 19.3

Fernandez really isn’t injury prone necessarily. Like Matt Wieters, his arm injury had him miss parts of two seasons. He’s been dominant before and after the injury, so there is no reason to believe he won’t grossly outproduce these numbers. Verdict: Over

  1. Bartolo Colon— New York Mets (17.6)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 24.9 11.0 8.3 12.0
BR 50.0 4.0 10.0 14.7
FG 34.7 25.5 23.7 26.1

If Colon had pitched as well in his thirties as he has in his forties he would automatically be able to punch his ticket for Cooperstown. As it stands, the Mets are hoping they can coax one more good year out of the ageless wonder. Even still, they have a quartet of young starters that will take the pressure off. Verdict: Under

  1. Michael Wacha— St. Louis Cardinals (17.1)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 9.3 14.3 12.2 12.4
BR 15.0 12.0 28.0 20.5
FG 11.0 17.3 21.3 18.3

Wacha came up with a fanfare. As a rookie, he was nearly unhittable in September and October. Everyone naturally assumed he would go onto superstardom. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, but he began to turn a corner last year and should outproduce this projection next season. Verdict: Over

  1. Julio Teheran— Atlanta Braves (16.8)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 17.5 8.7 4.6 8.1
BR 29.0 34.0 15.0 23.7
FG 22.5 29.1 10.4 18.7

If it hadn’t been for his down season last year, Teheran would likely be wearing a different uniform this season. It’s hard to take a starter on a bad team too seriously, but we have to remember that wins are only a small portion of a pitcher’s fantasy value. Verdict: Under

  1. Jason Hammel— Chicago Cubs (15.8)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP -1.4 9.9 18.0 12.1
BR 3.0 28.0 17.0 18.3
FG 5.5 14.7 22.5 17.1

He’s not brilliant, but he is also the Cubs fourth starter. He probably would be a fifth or sixth fantasy starter. He might last all the way through the draft and if he does he could be an excellent waiver wire grab. Verdict: Over

  1. Jaime Garcia— St. Louis Cardinals (13.4)
2013 2014 2015 ADJ
BP 1.7 1.5 12.2 6.9
BR 4.0 2.0 35.0 18.8
FG 5.6 3.5 25.0 14.6

Winning more than 100 games requires skill, but it also requires a good deal of luck. The Cardinals had a number of players step forward last season and Garcia was one of them. Most fantasy owners will place Kenta Meada somewhere on their list and deservedly so. Garcia does come with more upside than some of the guys above him. Verdict: Over

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