Initial 2016 Starting Pitcher Rankings & Projections

The start of the 2016 season is quickly upon us so it’s time to start talking about baseball again. Below you’ll find my top 131 starting pitchers. The rankings are based on NFBC style leagues with 12-teams.

These are my projections for each player and I do not take into account replacement level performance for players who may not make 29-30 starts. For example, I only project 150 innings for Patrick Corbin. He had a TJ surgery in 2014 and only threw 100 innings last year. It’s unlikely the Diamondbacks ask him to throw more than 150-160. When my full projections come out I’m going to forecast 200 innings for Corbin. 150 of which will come from him and the other 50 will come from a replacement level pitcher. Corbin is ranked 97, but that will improve once I add 40-50 innings to his projection.

The starting pitcher position is very top heavy with a lot of high upside pitchers who could be in the top tier at the end of the season. Clayton Kershaw is in a tier all by himself. He provides 22 percent more than Max Scherzer, my number two starter. After Kershaw there are six pitchers who make up the next tier. This tier have pitchers you want to have. If you don’t grab one you’ll have to use more of your middle round picks to get more pitchers (assuming it’s a snake draft).

Gerrit Cole is going ninth, but I have him 18th. Cole is a really good pitcher, but his numbers/effectiveness dropped after the first two months of the season. His slider usage almost doubled, which is concerning. Pitchers who throw sliders put more stress on the arm and the fact he went on the DL in 2014 with a shoulder strain has me somewhat worried he may not throw 200-plus innings again.

I’m not worried about Adam Wainwright’s ability to throw 200-plus innings despite his injury last season. He went on the DL with a torn left Achilles in the left knee. I expect vintage Wainwright. I’m only projecting 170 strikeouts because the strikeout rate decreased substantially in 2014.

Carlos Carrasco was unlucky with the HR/FB rate and suffered in general from a poor Indians defense. If he played for a good defensive team like the Pirates his ERA would have been almost a run better. I love pitchers who strikeout batters, limit walks and generate a lot of ground balls. Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela are vast defensive upgrades over the players last year. Eventually Carrasco is going to take a step forward and I think 2016 will be that year.

When I look at Jeff Samardzija I think 2015 and 2014 are both outlier seasons that do no reflect his true talent level. If I were to guess which season is more likely to happen again I would say 2014 because I’m sure Giants Pitching Coach Dave Righetti will ask him to revert back to the pitch usage prior to joining the White Sox. My biggest criticism about Samardzija before the 2015 season was despite the premium velocity lower tier batters that he should eat up are able to square him up too often. Righetti historically has been a great coach for teaching pitchers to not allow home runs so I’m optimistic Samardzija could have a bounce back in 2016.

I have no idea why a lot of fantasy prognosticators are so down on Gio Gonzalez. I get it. It was probably the worst season of his career in regards to ERA and WHIP, but all the advanced statistics indicate he performed as well as the two previous seasons. The fastball velocity was stable and last year he generated more ground balls than ever. Gonzalez doesn’t have the ideal profile of a starter I want to own (specifically the high walk rate), but he’s going to have a lot of great matchups against the NL East and should have 190-plus strikeouts.

I do not understand the love for Garrett Richards. He pitched 207 innings, but he only had 176 strikeouts. He’s currently going as the 29th pitcher in NFBC drafts while Jose Quintana is going 17 pitchers later, which is insane. If you compare their numbers last year they provided the same numbers. Some may think Richards has a better opportunity for wins, but I do not believe that is the case. The Angels lineup outside of Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun is a Triple-A lineup. Richards had an incredible 2014 season, but last year he didn’t show the same rate statistics, which makes me hesitant to think he could return to the 2014 for.

I Would Not Be Shocked If He Finishes Year As Top 10 Starting Pitcher:

I’m cheating here but I love Noah Syndergaard. If you read my DFS articles you know I loved him all of last year too. What’s not to love? He strikes out batters at a 27.5 percent clip, doesn’t walk batters and generates a lot of weak contact. If he pitched a full year he would have had the fifth best hard hit rate allowed. He’s currently going as the 15th starting pitcher in NFBC drafts. Therefore, he’s going to be on all of my teams. My only reservation about the Mets in general is their bullpen. After Jeurys Familia there a lot of question marks. Mets pitchers are going to lose more wins than they should with the current bullpen.

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Initial 2016 Closer Rankings & Projections

The start of the 2016 season is quickly upon us so it’s time to start talking about baseball again. Below you’ll find my top 32 closers. The rankings are based on NFBC style leagues with 12-teams.

Someone is going to have 48-50 saves. The thing is, I have no idea who it’s going to be. However, from my research the best predictor is pitchers who pitch on teams that earn a lot of wins. For example, there’s a reason why Mariano Rivera averaged 40 saves every full season he played.

When I made my projections I looked at two things: 1) how good will the team be? 2) how likely will he keep the job all year?

I projected Trevor Rosenthal to have the most saves. He’s more 45 and 48 saves the past two years respectively. He did rank as my top closer because hes a WHIP liability. My number one closer is Wade Davis. Davis has been one of the best relievers the past two seasons and he’s on a team that should have a lot of low scoring leads at the end of the game. If I were to bet who has the most saves at the end of the year it would be Davis.

With Jake McGee getting traded means Brad Boxberger will be the Rays closer. I loved Boxberger entering 2015 because he struck out 42 percent of batters. Last year that decreased 15 percentage points and the walk rate soared to almost 12 percent. McGee will get every chance to be the closer all year because there aren’t any other good options in the bullpen.

I know Mark Melancon had 50 saves last year, but I’m worried about his prospects this year. He no longer misses a lot of bats and relies on generating weak contact to get outs. The Pirates are among the leaders in baseball in defensive positioning, but that doesn’t mean he could struggle and possibly lose the closer role. The odds of him losing the role are low, but they’re not as low as the other relievers being drafted at his ADP.

I Would Not Be Shocked If He Finishes Year As Top 10 Closer:

I ranked three Brewers relievers as the possible closer. Will Smith is the best reliever, but since he’s left handed probably will not get the job. If he was able to throw 65-70 innings he could easily have 100 strikeouts. Just because the Brewers are not expected to be good, do not forget Francisco Rodriguez had 44 saves two seasons ago.

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Initial 2016 Outfielder Rankings & Projections

The start of the 2016 season is quickly upon us so it’s time to start talking about baseball again. Below you’ll find my top 81 outfielders. The rankings are based on NFBC style leagues with 12-teams.

The first thing that stands out is Mike Trout is my fourth outfielder and I do not believe it’s going to change. In fact, it’s possible he falls a couple of spots as we get closer to Spring Training. The Angels lineup is Trout and Kole Calhoun and a bunch of replacement level players. Daniel Nava and Todd Cuningham are slated to be everyday players. If Albert Pujols misses a lot of time I have doubts if he can score 100 runs. The Angels lack OBP atop the lineup so Trout is going to have a lot plate appearances with no runners on-base. Most importantly, his stolen bases have decreased year-over-year since 2012. If steals less than ten bases I wouldn’t be shocked. Trout is seen as a sure thing and I get it; he’s one of the top 2-3 players in baseball. However, he may not steal bases and his accounting statistics may be suppressed by the players around him.

When drafting Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton you’re rolling the dice health-wise. Braun had back surgery in the offseason and said, “The only surprise is the rehab is a little longer than I was anticipating, just a couple months of rehab. Other than that, everything was as expected.” (source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). The Brewers are not going anywhere next year and he’s owed $105M for the next five years. If he has any type of nagging injury the Brewers are going to play it safe and not play him. Stanton missed half of the season with a fractured wrist. He injured the wrist swinging and missing. At the time of the injury he led the majors in home runs and RBI (27 and 67 respectively). He’s only played more than 123 games in two of six seasons.

Adam Jones’ batting average was career low last year, which concerning. However, his hard hit rate suggests he had some bad luck with BABIP. He missed the last two weeks of the year with back spasms. Maybe back issues were the reason why he only had four stolen base attempts (all of which came in the first two months of the season). Either way, it looks like the days of 14-plus bases are gone. The resigning of Chris Davis will help Adam Jones in runs scored.

Among all qualified hitters last year Billy Burns had the lowest hard hit rate and the highest hard hit rate. Despite those numbers he hit .294 and stole 26 bases. The A’s fan in me is trying hard to not think of Jemile Weeks. If you forgot, Weeks had a great rookie season that was entirely BABIP fueled and was never good again. Both are/were speed-first switch hitters without a lot of power. I watched a lot of Burns and I think the hard hit numbers do not tell the whole store. I’ve seen his home runs and the doubles in the gaps; he has the enough power to keep pitchers honest. The A’s are going to give him every chance to be the leadoff hitter. I projected 35 stolen bases, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he steals 40-plus.

I’m only projecting 480 at-bats for David Peralta because he’ll probably be platooned against lefties. However, Peralta can flat out hit. Against right handed pitching he had the 17th best hard hit rate. He only has 171 plate appearances against lefties and I wished the Diamondbacks gave him a chance to play every day to see if he can hit lefties or not. He’s going to hit fourth behind AJ Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt so he’s going to have a lot of plate appearances with runners on-base.

I love Michael Conforto, but my biggest question is: where will he hit in the lineup? Based on the current roster I expect him to bat seventh, which means he’s not going to have many RBI opportunities and little run scoring opportunities. After Yoensis Cespedes leaves after 2016 I think Conforto will bat fourth in 2017. Conforto’s power is legitimate, but I don’t know how many men will be on-base when hits those home runs.

Based on the early NFBC ADP data I’m not going to own Miguel Sano. His power is legitimate, but my question is at what cost will be the power come from? It’s hard for me to project more than a .240 batting average for a player who strikes out 35.5 percent of the time. The bottom line with Sano is there’s a really wide set of outcomes. He could struggle immensely the first five weeks of the year and he could be back in triple-a. He could also have 18 home runs and a .270 batting average after the first two months.

I Would Not Be Shocked If He Finishes Year As Top 10 Outfielder:

Christian Yelich has been incredibly consistent every year in the majors. Last year he went on the DL twice: a right knee contusion in August and a lower back strain in April. Despite his home run totals he makes a lot of hard contact. Last year he finished 18th, right behind Nolan Arenado. He has a career 17.7 percent HR/FB rate on the road compared to 4.3 percent at home. He’s only 24 years old and I wouldn’t be shocked if finishes the year as a 20/20 player with a .290-plus batting average.

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