As we continue our journey, there are so many things that are up in the air. No one knows when the season will begin, how many games there will be, and how all of this will effect injured pitchers and how it will affect pitchers with innings limits. All of the projections have been based on a 162 game schedule and they will continue to be based on that for the time being. 5 categories is really a misnomer for starting pitchers. There are really only four categories for them.
We are taking five common projection systems and developing an aggregate projection to rank these starting pitchers. Of course, individual situations will change how these pitchers may get ranked. For instance, we already included Chris Sale who has had season ending surgery. Others with innings limits could shoot up the rankings because those limits are not as crucial.
James Paxton–New York Yankees
Projection: 11 wins/3.80 ERA/172 K/1.194 WHIP
Paxton was likely going to be back somewhere between mid May and early June. Now, that might mean he comes back at the beginning of the season. So, he could be part of the second group of starting pitchers. Health has always been the issue with Paxton. A shorter season probably is great for him.
Brandon Woodruff–Milwaukee Brewers
Projection: 11 wins/3.86 ERA/181 K/1.231 WHIP
Woodruff is one of those names that’s kind of coming out of nowhere this year. He came on the scene last year and big things are expected of him this time around too. The Brewers will certainly hit for him and they have a better than average bullpen as well. He isn’t a top end starter like some of the innings limit guys, but he should be a solid third or fourth fantasy starter.
Sonny Gray–Cincinnati Reds
Projection: 11 wins/3.84 ERA/185 K/1.239 WHIP
Gray was 15-16 with a 4.51 ERA as a Yankee. He is 55-44 everywhere else with an ERA under 3.50. That includes a 2.87 ERA last year in Cincinnati. He won only 11 games, but their offense looks like a monster this year, so even if he produces an ERA like above he should still be a pretty good middle of the rotation arm for your fantasy team.
Zack Wheeler–Philadelphia Phillies
Projection: 11 wins/4.02 ERA/183 K/1.241 WHIP
In three our of the last four seasons, Wheeler has had a FIP of 3.55 of lower. The Mets were the worst defensive team in the NL according to defensive runs saved. Things can only get better from here. Projection systems often take actual ERA and estimate it from there. A 4.02 ERA makes sense in light of the 3,98 ERA he had last season and the fact that Citizens Bank Ballpark is a better hitter’s stadium than Citifield. Still, the FIP indicates he could be significantly better.
Corey Kluber-Texas Rangers
Projection: 11 wins/4.06 ERA/170 K/1.217 WHIP
Let’s make two assumptions. First, let’s assume Kluber is completely healthy. Second, let’s assume that his home ballpark will be neutral. Even then, you are trying to imagine success for a guy on a terrible offense and a lackluster bullpen. Kluber himself will produce decent numbers with those two assumptions in three out of the four categories.
Kyle Hendricks–Chicago Cubs
Projection: 12 wins/3.98 ERA/148 K/1.223 WHIP
It shows you how far the Cubs have dipped that Hendricks is easily the Cubs’ number two starter. He likely won’t be a sexy fantasy pick given the low K rate, but he will keep you in it as a third or fourth fantasy starter. There’s not a whole lot of difference between guys once you get to this point in the rankings.
German Marquez–Colorado Rockies
Projection: 12 wins/4.24 ERA/191 K/1.248 WHIP
One of the great questions with any Rockie are the home/road splits. Marquez is 20-13 with a 3.72 ERA away from Coors Field. That comes with a 18-11 record and 5.01 ERA at home. The strikeout and walk rates are similar. So, you could conceivably pick him later and just platoon him with another pitcher. He still strikes out nearly a hitter an inning, so even 10-12 starts in a shortened season could be worth it.
Hyun Jin Ryu–Toronto Blue Jays
Projection: 11 wins/3.95 ERA/158 K/1.228 WHIP
Yes, he was one of the top five pitchers in the NL last season, but the reality is that the Blue Jays paid number two starter money for maybe a top three starter in a rotation. Buying credibility can be expensive when you are trying to become competitive again. He’s not a bad guy to have, but don’t overpay based on last season.
Andrew Heaney–Los Angeles Angels
Projection: 10 wins/4.07 ERA/170 K/1.199 WHIP
The Angels desperately need Heaney to be good. They have enough mediocre pitching to be somewhat competitive, but they really don’t have any good pitching outside of Heaney. If he can go six strong innings every fifth day it might be enough to get them into the wild card conversation.
Matthew Boyd–Detroit Tigers
Projection: 10 wins/4.28 ERA/193 K/1.212 WHIP
Free Matt Boyd. He was on the trade block all season last year and they couldn’t pull the trigger. He was on the block all winter and they couldn’t pull the trigger. If they could find a taker for him he could vault halfway up the board depending on his destination. He led the league in dingers allowed last season. If he gets any fielding support behind him and if the league stops using the juiced ball he could take a major step forward.
Frankie Montas–Oakland Athletics
Projection: 11 wins/3.92 ERA/159 K/1.269 WHIP
Out of sight and out of mind. Montas was 9-2 last season before getting clipped by a positive drug test. The 2.63 ERA is probably not realistic as other teams will have a scouting report on him and he has a career 3.85 ERA. That’s what the computers are basing their projections on.
Robbie Ray–Arizona Diamondbacks
Projection: 11 wins/4.16 ERA/219 K/1.333 WHIP
Ray is one of those maddening pitchers every team seems to have. If he would only throw strikes consistently he would be one of the best pitchers in baseball. As it stands, he is difficult to hit, but his higher walks rate keeps his WHIP higher than just about everyone else in this group. If he could get his WHIP down to 1.2 then he would likely be in the second group of pitchers.
Marcus Stroman–New York Mets
Projection: 11 wins/3.82 ERA/151 K/1.316 WHIP
By the time you get to this point in the rankings, everyone has holes in their game. Stroman doesn’t miss as many bats as the other guys on the list. The problem with that for him is that Mets suck defensively. Every year is a new year and that could change, but as of now you have to be concerned.
Jesus Luzardo–Oakland Athletics
Projaction: 9 wins/3.74 ERA/139 K/1.217 WHIP
Luzardo is a guy that should shoot up the board given that they will likely have a shortened season. He might be limited to 120-130 innings, but every pitcher might be limited to that kind of an innings count. His innings are likely to be better than most other people’s innings.
Dinelson Lamet–San Diego Padres
Projection: 9 wins/3.94 ERA/172 K/1.262 WHIP
Lamet is another pitcher with a likely innings limit. So, you have to decide whether his 120-130 innings are more valuable than another pitcher’s 150. I’d imagine that will be true in some cases. Still, he probably shouldn’t be much more than a third fantasy starter.
Author’s Note: The Hall of Fame Index Part II will be available in all formats on Thursday. You can order a paperback version now. Paperbacks are going for 14.99 while digital versions are going for 5.99. Catch up on your reading while you are sitting in quarantine or waiting for baseball to return.