News on the upcomung 2020 is pretty fluid. As of right now, Memorial Day seems to be the target date to start the season. Obviously, a 162 game season is highly unlikely. Will it be 144 games? 120 games? 100 games? We have no idea. All of the projections you see are based on a 162 game season. We have already published all of the position players at that point, so we will continue with the pitchers at the same rate. Some pitchers projected to start the season on the shelf. They might be ready on time now. Others might take longer the ramp up.
As a reminder, we are taking five popular projection systems and develop an aggregate for the five major categories. For starting pitchers that means four major categories. Projecting starting pitching rankings is difficult at best. Forecasting wins alone is pretty daunting and since that’s 25 percent of their value, that makes this a pure guessing game. Good luck to those with drafts in the next couple of weeks.
Gerrit Cole–New York Yankees
Projections: 16 wins/3.15 ERA/288 K/1.030 WHIP
The 300+ million dollar man parlayed two brilliant seasons into the richest contract for a pitcher in history. It’s impossible to say whether it will pay off for him and the Yankees. Some thought he should have won the Cy Young award last season and others thought he should have pitched in Game 7 of the World Series. Yankee Stadium is a worse pitcher’s park than Minute Maid Park was and the defense behind him likely won’t be as strong, so regression is inevitable.
Max Scherzer–Washington Nationals
Projections: 14 wins/3.18 ERA/260 K/1.019 WHIP
Scherzer has likely already punched his ticket into Cooperstown. Multiple Cy Young winners usually find their way there and he probably still has two or three more good years in him before he starts the downhill slide. The Nationals won’t be as good with Anthony Rendon on Los Angeles, but they should at least be competitive in a deep NL East.
Jacob deGrom–New York Mets
Projection: 14 wins/2.95 ERA/248 K/1.043 WHIP
Between deGrom and Scherzer, no one else has touched the Cy Young award in the NL since 2915. deGrom has won the last two. He’s done so with very few wins to his name. Thank God the BBWAA has figured out that wins are not the best indicator of pitcher success. In leagues that replace wins with quality starts, deGrom might vault past Scherzer and come pretty close to Cole.
Justin Verlander–Houston Astros
Projection: 14 wins/3.29 ERA/234 K/1.033 WHIP
As the world turns. Verlander came down with a lat strain that threatened to delay his start in the season. So, his projection numbers dipped. Then, everything was delayed until almost June. How does one account for all of these changes? Verlander solidified his Hall of Fame credentials last season with his second Cy Young award and third no hitter. He is obviously a lot closer to the end than to the beginning, but does he have one more dominant season left in him?
Walker Buehler–Los Angeles Dodgers
Projection: 14 wins/3.34 ERA/217 K/1.094 WHIP
Buehler came into his own last season in a very quiet and dominating season. With the delay in the start of the season, he and Julio Urias might play more prominent roles in the upcoming season. The Dodgers are probably the most talented team in baseball and have the deepest rotation and lineup. They will likely still treat both youngsters with kid gloves, so neither will have the volume stats you look for on top of your rotation.
Stephen Strasburg–Washington Nationals
Projection: 14 wins/3.47 ERA/226 K/1.146 WHIP
The Nationals put all of their eggs in the Strasburg basket this offseason. He was the World Series MVP, so I guess that makes sense. No one in baseball has a better top three than Scherzer/Strasburg/Corbin. Is it enough to get them back to the World Series? Will Strasburg continue to stay healthy? It has been his Kriptonite up to this point.
Jack Flarehty–St. Louis Cardinals
Projection: 13 wins/3.38 ERA/226 K/1.118 WHIP
Who lost to the Nationals in the NLCS? It seems so long ago that we almost forgot it was the Cardinals. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna in the offseason, so it is hard to see them getting back to this point, but they have talent and if it all comes together they could make another run. Flaherty is not a sexy choice, but he has been really good for two seasons now.
Shane Bieber–Cleveland Indians
Projection: 14 wins/3.62 ERA/217 K/1.118 WHIP
The Indians are a fascinating team. On the one hand, they have been in subtraction mode. They jettisoned Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber for seemingly peanuts and yet they still have the best pitching in the AL Central. They also might sign Francisco Lindor long-term. Or they might trade him. It’s hard to get too excited about any of the Indian pitchers until we know what’s going down there.
Clayton Kershaw–Los Angeles Dodgers
Projection: 14 wins/3.43 ERA/188 K/1.112 WHIP
Kershaw tumbles down the list because of durability concerns. In a truncated season that might not be nearly as big a deal as we thought. In some drafts he might vault up into the top five based on histroically low WHIPs and low ERA numbers. The only number he is low in is strikeouts and that’s based on a low innings projection.
Charlie Morton–Tampa Bay Rays
Projection: 13 wins/3.42 ERA/204 K/1.178 WHIP
There was a considerable stratch last season where the top three pitchers in the AL were all members of the 2018 Astros. Morton is the one that got away. The Astros had durability concerns that did not appear last season. Morton has made noise abour retiring when his contract is up. In a shortened season he might be a good percentage bet to keep his performance right where it has been.
Aaron Nola–Philadelphia Phillies
Projection: 13 wins/3.68 ERA/219 K/1.216 WHIP
The first month or so were rough last year, but otherwise he has been a top ten pitcher the last two or three years. The Phillies are loaded with offensive talent and if they stay healthy he could get as much run support as any pitcher in the game. Bullpen support might be an issue though.
Lucas Giolito–Chicago White Sox
Projection: 13 wins/3.84 ERA/220 K/1.192 WHIP
Giolito finally came of age last season. We have seen this before. Young teams can gel at any moment and go from the second division to the playoffs seemingly overnight. The White Sox might be one of those teams. It could be 2020 or 2021, but they are coming. A lot depends on him repeating his 2019 season.
Chris Sale–Boston Red Sox
Projection: 8 wins/3.19 ERA/141 K/1.011 WHIP
One of the newer strategies in fantasy baseball is the idea of going with fewer starters and more dominant relievers. When you combine the shortened season with his injuries, he may only give ypu 80 to 100 innings, but they will be top notch innings. Admittedly, this is probably way to high for him based on his uncertain health, but consider it a risk/reward bet.
Zack Greinke–Houston Astros
Projection: 14 wins/3.98 ERA/182 K/1.170 WHIP
If you look at his stuff, he shouldn’t be in the top group of pitchers. Every spring people worry about his velocity, but he continues to get guys out. He won’t be a heavy volume strikeout guy anymore, but he should do better than the ERA projections above. People are betting on regression, but they have been betting on that for nearly five years.
Mike Clevinger–Clevaland Indians
Projection: 12 wins/3.55 ERA/193 K/1.173 WHIP
Like Verlander, Sale, and others, the extra time off will end up benefitting Clevinger. He might start the season on time where before he was destined to miss a good portion of the season. That’s why the projection systems have him this far down.
Author’s Note: The Hall of Fame Index Part II will still be available on Kindle on Opening Day (March 26th) even if the teams won’t be. Paperback versions are available as well. Keep your baseball fix alive with some quaility reading and order your copy now.