2017 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2017 Fantasy Baseball: AL Starting Pitchers A-M

The American League starters represent the end of our series of fantasy rankings. Of course, we will split them into two groups as we did with the National League starters. We will rank them within the group by comparing their three and five year averages in both the four and five category formats. Rankings will follow those results for the most part, but there may be some adjustments given current circumstances.

Chris Archer—Tampa Bay Rays (10.3 wins, 3.53 ERA, 1.219 WHIP, 219.3 SO, 19.3 QS) 

3 Year 4 Category- 7

3 Year 5 Category- 6

5 Year 4 Category- 9

5 Year 5 Category- 8

Archer is just a cut below ace status. We can throw wins out the window here as the Rays have seemingly returned to also ran status for the time being. Of course, you can’t completely discount wins as a fantasy owner, but people do put way too much stock in them. Besides, there are always rumors about him getting dealt for prospects and this season might be the year that happens. Rank: 7th

Carlos Carrasco—Cleveland Indians (11.0 wins, 3.17 ERA, 1.069 WHIP, 168.7 SO, 11.3 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 3

3 Year 5 Category- 5

5 Year 4 Category- 3

5 Year 5 Category- 6

The quality starts total is a bit disconcerting and represents the need for maturation on Carrasco’s part. It means he isn’t pitching deep into games yet. Otherwise, he’s as good a bet to take the next step as any pitcher on the list. He has a great staff around him and run support shouldn’t be an issue. Rank: 4th

Yu Darvish—Texas Rangers (11.5 wins, 3.30 ERA, 1.183 WHIP, 203.0 SO, 16.0 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 10

3 Year 5 Category- 12

5 Year 4 Category- 4

5 Year 5 Category- 3

Tommy John procedures and rotator cuff injuries are a dime a dozen these days and pitchers seemingly have no issues recovering. So, while his three-year totals took a bath, there is no reason why Darvish shouldn’t be the same dominant pitcher he always was moving forward. The only drawback might be a weaker team around him. Rank: 6th

Danny Duffy—Kansas City Royals (9.3 wins, 3.37 ERA, 1.214 WHIP, 134.3 SO, 12.3 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 13

3 year 5 Category- 14

5 Year 4 Category- 15

5 Year 5 Category- 16

Statistics are fascinating if we you want to travel down that rabbit hole. Averages are fun by themselves, but a look at the range between the best and worst can tell us so much more. Duffy ranks near the bottom of this list, but the distance between him the top guys is not very much. We could prattle on about statistics, but the practical point is that you can afford to punt pitching on draft day because it is easily the deepest position. Rank: 15th

Marco Estrada—Toronto Blue Jays (9.7 wins, 3.66 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, 141.0 SO, 14.3 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 12

3 Year 5 Category- 11

5 Year 4 Category- 10

5 Year 5 Category- 10

Estrada has been a revelation in Toronto as he has led the American League in hits allowed per nine innings for the past two seasons in a row. Those low WHIPs haven’t translated into huge wins or astronomically low ERAs but he is definitely better than the average bear. The question is how much run support the Jays will offer moving forward. Rank: 11th

Michael Fulmer—Detroit Tigers (11.0 wins, 3.06 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, 132.0 SO, 15.0 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 6

3 Year 5 Category- 7

5 Year 4 Category- 5

5 Year 5 Category- 9

When looking at a rookie pitcher, you usually look to the secondary numbers to see if their success can be replicated. Fulmer had a 3.76 fielding independent pitching (FIP) built on the strength of a .270 average on balls put in play (BABIP). In other words, we are predicting a regression to the mean. Still, if he gets even a 50 percent rate in quality starts he will have solid numbers across the board in a full season. Rank: 8th

Yovani Gallardo—Seattle Mariners (11.0 wins, 4.04 ERA, 1.392 WHIP, 140.0 SO, 16.4 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 18

3 Year 5 Category- 18

5 Year 4 Category- 14

5 Year 5 Category- 12

Fantasy sports don’t carry the same inherit risk as real sports. The Baltimore Orioles rolled the dice on him by signing him to a multi-year contract in spite of some shaky medicals. Now, the Mariners are rolling the dice. Unless we are talking keeper leagues, you can draft Gallardo on a one shot deal late in the draft and hope he returns to 2015 form. If he doesn’t, you haven’t ventured a whole lot. Rank: 16th

Kevin Gausman—Baltimore Orioles (6.7 wins, 3.81 ERA, 1.274 WHIP, 121.7 SO, 11.7 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 17

3 Year 5 Category- 17

5 Year 4 Category- 18

5 Year 5 Category- 17

Gausman turned in a full and healthy season for the first time last year. He still managed only nine wins in spite of a solid 3.61 ERA. The rest of the numbers were solid as well. Wins are so difficult to predict and they are the one statistic standing between Gausman and being a middle of the pack starter. If he’s available late in your draft you probably could do a whole lot worse as a late round flier. Rank: 18th

Sonny Gray—Oakland Athletics (9.5 wins, 3.54 ERA, 1.220 WHIP, 128.3 SO, 16.0 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 15

3 Year 5 Category- 13

5 Year 4 Category- 11

5 Year 5 Category- 11

So much of fantasy sports is predicated on recent performance. In this case of Gray, that means he would go undrafted. 2016 was a disaster for him. Yet, there are clues within the numbers that show that it may have been a blip on the radar. He had a 4.67 FIP and the highest BABIP (.319) in his career. A return to health and a return to even average luck alone would bring him to this ranking spot. Rank: 13th

Cole Hamels—Texas Rangers (12.4 wins, 3.22 ERA, 1.185 WHIP, 206.2 SO, 23.2 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 4

3 Year 5 Category- 3

5 Year 4 Category- 2

5 Year 5 Category- 2

It’s hard to imagine any deal working out better than the Cole Hamels trade worked out for the Rangers. They’ve won two divisional championships and he has been brilliant going 22-6 as a Ranger. He is still the same pitcher he has always been, so the luck that brought him those 22 wins is likely going to start swinging back the other direction. That’s not a bad thing, but it means you need to be careful not to overdraft him. Rank: 2nd

J.A. Happ—Toronto Blue Jays (14.0 wins, 3.67 ERA, 1.257 WHIP, 148.7 SO, 19.3 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 11

3 Year 5 Category- 9

5 Year 4 Category- 13

5 Year 5 Category- 15

Happ is the mirror image of Gray. He won 20 games last season, so some will be tempted to bet that he has taken another step forward. I can’t say it’s never happened at 33, but the likelihood is that 2016 represents the peak of Happ’s career. That’s not a horrible thing. Most pitchers never see 20 wins in their entire career much less one season. Just don’t bet on it happening again. Rank: 12th

Felix Hernandez—Seattle Mariners (14.7 wins, 3.16 ERA, 1.114 WHIP, 187.0 SO, 20.0 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 2

3 Year 5 Category- 2

5 Year 4 Category- 1

5 Year 5 Category- 1

This is usually when the stock brokers among us would shout out, “past performance is not proof of future results.” Yes, Hernandez has logged a lot of innings on that arm and he has all the markings of a guy that might be breaking down. Most prominent players have that one season where everything seems to return and 2017 might be that season for King Felix. The Mariners certainly hope that is the case. Rank: 1st

Hisashi Iwakuma—Seattle Mariners (13.3 Wins, 3.73 ERA, 1.147 WHIP, 137.3 SO, 16.0 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 9

3 Year 5 Category-10

5 Year 4 Category- 6

5 Year 5 Category- 4

2016 was quietly a really good season for Iwakuma. He turned in nearly 200 innings and won 16 games for the Mariners. However, that came with a 4.12 ERA and a 4.27 FIP. More importantly, he will be 36 in 2017. He has been pitching professionally since 2001. He was 107-69 in Japan before coming over. He’s 63-37 in the states. Maybe he has one more solid season left in him, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he continues on the decline. Rank: 10th

Dallas Keuchel—Houston Astros (13.7 wins, 3.32 ERA, 1.159 WHIP, 168.7 SO, 21.3 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 5

3 Year 5 Category- 4

5 Year 4 Category- 16

5 Year 5 Category- 14

Count me as one of the thousands that bet heavily on 2015 repeat last season. That was a classic overreaction, but betting heavily on the 2016 version would be an equally foolish bet. The truth is somewhere in between which is why the three and five year averages are so valuable. Rank: 5th

Corey Kluber—Cleveland Indians (15.0 wins, 3.02 ERA, 1.072 WHIP, 247.0 SO, 22.3 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 1

3 Year 5 Category- 1

5 Year 4 Category- 7

5 Year 5 Category- 5

There are those among you that would immediately flip King Felix and Kluber in the rankings. I don’t blame you. This is where I remind everyone that these rankings are largely based on past results and not future projections. In that world, Kluber would probably rank higher and we will get to that point eventually. Rank: 3rd

Francisco Liriano—Toronto Blue Jays (9.0 wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, 182.7 SO, 15.7 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 14

3 Year 5 Category- 15

5 Year 4 Category- 12

5 Year 5 Category- 13

Liriano has pitched for four teams in his career and each one thought they were going to harness all of that talent. He did have a 2.92 ERA in Toronto last season following the trade. Maybe they’ve discovered something. It is more likely that he will continue to be inconsistent, but maybe you can capture lightening in a bottle. Rank: 14th

Lance McCullers—Houston Astros (6.0 wins, 3.22 ERA, 1.365 WHIP, 117.5 SO, 9.0 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 16

3 Year 5 Category- 16

5 Year 4 Category- 17

5 Year 5 Category- 18

McCullers has 36 career starts. In many ways, he probably belongs in the knocking on the door series. In those 36 starts, he has a 12-12 record with a 3.22 ERA, 3.16 FIP, and 235 strikeouts. In a 162 game pace he would finish with 11 wins, 222 strikeouts, and 17 quality starts. If healthy, he should produce that, but he hasn’t been healthy yet as a big leaguer, so he represents a perfect risk/reward pick somewhere around the middle of the draft. Rank: 17th

Collin McHugh—Houston Astros (14.3 wins, 3.65 ERA, 1.236 WHIP, 168.3 SO, 17.7 QS)

3 Year 4 Category- 8

3 Year 5 Category- 8

5 Year 4 Category- 8

5 Year 5 Category- 7

We do three year averages for a reason. Now that McHugh has three years under his belt, we can begin to trust what we are seeing. He isn’t a dominant pitcher, but he is good often enough to be useful. The Astros also have a good defense and good run support behind him, so he plays up some. Rank: 9th

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2017 Fantasy Baseball, Knocking on the Door: AL Starting Pitchers