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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