2018 Fantasy Baseball: PECOTA Projections– Starting Pitchers 1-20
We have reached the moment where we have finally gotten to the best starting pitchers on the market. It shouldn’t be any surprise that most of these guys are clumped on teams that are destined to be there in October. The old adage goes that great pitching beats great hitting. Many of these players will be the same as the previous list this offseason, but more players have gone off the free agent board, so there is far more certainty this time around.
20. Jake Arrieta— Philadelphia Phillies
PECOTA: 10 Wins, 3.91 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 154 SO
Admittedly, these numbers were crunched before he chose the Phillies. I’m not sure that it changes anything that much. He has gotten progressively worse the past two seasons since winning the NL Cy Young Award. The Phillies have penciled him in behind Aaron Nola and the numbers certainly back that up. A solid offense and bullpen should be enough to bring him some wins.
19. Masahiro Tanaka— New York Yankees
PECOTA: 13 Wins, 4.05 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 171 SO
It doesn’t seem fair. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians have four starters in the top 60. The Astros have five. If you are doing the simple math then it follows that a number of teams won’t have any. Tanaka is not quite an ace, but should be better than the numbers he put up last year. We see more pitchers from these teams because better lineups and better bullpens equal more wins. He’s not literally better than those below him, but geography plays into it.
18. Alex Wood— Los Angeles Dodgers
PECOTA: 10 Wins, 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 139 SO
We naturally assume managers of playoff teams must be the best in the business. I like to call it the Phil Jackson theory. Dave Roberts would probably be more successful if he weren’t mystified by the illusion of his own genius. Get out of the way and let the best five pitchers pitch every five days and let the best players play most days. Instead he has to fiddle here and fiddle there in order to show how smart he is. Leave Alex Wood alone and let him pitch.
17. Robbie Ray— Arizona Diamondbacks
PECOTA: 9 Wins, 3.51 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 211 SO
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that BP doesn’t think much of the Dbacks playoff chances. They have projected all of their starting pitchers so far to win exactly 9 games. Granted, we haven’t see Zack Greinke yet, but this is becoming redundant. Anyone that is projected to come in with more than 200 strikeouts in this environment is a keeper. To heck with wins.
16. Carlos Martinez— St. Louis Cardinals
PECOTA: 11 Wins, 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 183 SO
I took a lot of heat for putting Martinez too low earlier in the offseason. I admit, that was based on past performance. The PECOTA rankings are based on future performance. The combination of the two is probably the most accurate. I’m not sure how much bullpen support he is getting, so that has to tap the breaks on any unbridled optimism.
15. Justin Verlander— Houston Astros
PECOTA: 14 Wins, 4.24 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 194 SO
This seems a lot worse than he has done the past two seasons, but he is entering his mid-thirties. Power pitchers often hit a wall somewhere around that point and for someone that relies so heavily on an overpowering fastball, that decline could be precipitious. I’m guessing it doesn’t happen quite yet.
14. Aaron Nola— Philadelphia Phillies
PECOTA: 11 Wins, 3.43 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 176 SO
If the Phillies are to contend for a wild card it will be on the back of Aaron Nola. Yes, Arrieta will help and those new relievers will help too, but this team needs an ace and Nola is in the best position to be that guy. Most believe they will come up short, but he should make it interesting.
13. Chris Archer— Tampa Bay Rays
PECOTA: 11 Wins, 3.55 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 197 SO
Archer might as well be Exhibit A of the proof that wins are bogus. He has been one of the top ten pitchers in the AL in each of the past several seasons. At this pace, he will likely be one of the top ten pitchers in the next several seasons as well. He likely never will win even 15 games much less 20. Old-timers tell us that the best pitchers know how to win. Hogwash.
12. Yu Darvish— Chicago Cubs
PECOTA: 11 Wins, 3.74 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 183 SO
Some say he was tipping his pitches in the World Series. Some say they changed the ball which made it more difficult to control sliders. Both are likely true. Either way, odds are that Darvish will be Darvish again but even that hasn’t been nearly as good as Darvish five years ago.
11. Carlos Carrasco— Cleveland Indians
PECOTA: 13 Wins, 3.54 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 191 SO
The American League feels like fodder for five or six teams next season (depending on who you ask). Sleep on the Indians at your own peril. Sure, the Yankees and Astros look like juggernaughts, but they weren’t the ones reeling off 20+ wins in a row last season. Carrasco is a darkhorse Cy Young candidate. He isn’t their ace. Let that sink in.
10. Jacob deGrom— New York Mets
PECOTA: 11 Wins, 3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 192 SO
No one is beating the Nationals in the NL East unless the injury bug hits. The battle for second place will be a fascinating one. The Braves and Phillies are certainly better than they were, but don’t sleep on the Mets. They have new hitters and pitchers. deGrom is still arguably the best out of all of them.
9. Noah Syndergaard— New York Mets
PECOTA: 11 Wins, 2.89 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 187 SO
Syndergaard edges deGrom by a nose based on potential. If he is healthy for 30 starts there are few better and none more dominant. The numbers above represent the expectation that he might have only 25 healthy starts. Fantasy championships are won on well-timed risks. He might be a good one.
8. Zack Greinke— Arizona Diamondbacks
PECOTA: 12 Wins, 3.67 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 204 SO
Ah, we broke the nine win juggxrnaught. Greinke is too expensive for the Dbacks, but they will never get fair market value for him and they will never win without him. Thus is the folly of giving top of the rotation starters big time money. He probably has one or two great years left before he fades into mediocrity.
7. Luis Severino— New York Yankees
PECOTA: 13 Wins, 3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 195 SO
Severino represents a break for the Yankees. They used to just simply shell out a few more million than everyone else for their top end talent. Now, they are developing it. Severino and Aaron Judge represent the future. Couple them with Gary Sanchez and a group of talented infielders and this team is beginning to look like the late 1990s Yankees.
6. Madison Bumgarner— San Francisco Giants
PECOTA: 12 Wins, 3.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 187 SO
Baseball history is full of stupid injuries and Bumgarner’s belongs on that list. 2017 was a lost year in general for the Giants and they’ve reloaded anyway. Odds say that either the Dbacks or Rockies will take a step back. If both do then the Giants are in position to claim a wild card spot. They will need Bumgarner to be Bumgarner in order for that to happen.
5. Stephen Strasburg— Washington Nationals
PECOTA: 12 Wins, 3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 197 SO
Give a team two of the best five pitchers in baseball and a perennial MVP candidate and most would think they’d have at least one World Series title to their name. The Nationals haven’t even gotten out of the NLCS. Are they underachievers or is the game simply changing? Strasburg seems destined to win a Cy Young award if only his teammate would let him have one.
4. Corey Kluber— Cleveland Indians
PECOTA: 15 Wins, 3.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 221 SO
The list of multiple Cy Young award winners out of the Hall of Fame is a tiny one. Three of the last four guys on our list have all won multiple awards. Chris Sale arguably could have won last season. A late season swoon coupled with Kluber’s strong finish won out.
3. Max Scherzer— Washington Nationals
PECOTA: 13 Wins, 3.37 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 224 SO
All of the negative talk about competitive balance ignores the great selling point of baseball. With three Cy Young awards, Scherzer has cemented his place in baseball history. Watching him pitch is worth the price of admission whether they are playing the Dodgers or the Toledo Mudhens. Someday the Nationals will break through and go all the way. Maybe this year is their year.
2. Chris Sale— Boston Red Sox
PECOTA: 14 Wins, 2.96 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 255 SO
Miguel Cabrera won the MVP when he won the triple crown. Mike Trout was clearly the more valuable player that season and it wasn’t even particularly close. Last year saw a similar debate between Sale and Kluber. Sale put up some stupidly dominant numbers, but Kluber was the more valuable pitcher. Sale is likely the better fantasy prospect though because of all those strikeouts.
1. Clayton Kershaw— Los Angeles Dodgers
PECOTA: 15 Wins, 2.80 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 219 SO
Time will tell whether we are watching Sandy Koufax or Lefty Grove. Grove won 300 games and had more ERA titles than any pitcher in history. Koufax was the most dominant pitcher in baseball over a five year period. Koufax is one of the two. Time will tell which one.