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“The Mad Professor” There be Dragons… Starting Pitcher Rankings 2019, #21-41

Hi Campers—

Sorry to miss you all last week.  I could not get my act together as I had a plane to catch and midterm stuff to deal with.  Now then…

This week we go prospecting for SP value as we move from the top 20 to the second tier of 20.  Before jumping in, a quick methodological note: The 5×5 and 4×4 dollar values in this (and forthcoming) articles are solid.  But, whereas last week’s projected stats were based on a 200 IP projection, I use more accurate projections based on projected IP. Again, I use the Fangraphs 5×5 auction values to rank because they are from the more common standard league.  But, insofar as Shandler has developed a set of stats that more accurately measure a pitcher’s value, I include them and then use an average just to give perspective.

In some instances the relative differences are quite stark. There is nearly a $10 difference in the values for numerous players.  Shandler’s 4×4 system generally increases the pitchers’ values.  Nonetheless, the pattern does not hold for Ryu, Bieber and Maeda.

We see a lot of risk involved in this tier with stars who are getting old (Greinke), uncertain breakouts (Marquez), injuries (Price, Darvish, Bumgarner, etc.) and, I believe, one Rodney Dangerfield candidate (Mikolas).

Table 1: Average Dollar Values


rank Player Team Fangraphs




21 Rich Hill Dodgers  $   16.00  $   20.80  $   18.40
22 German Marquez Rockies  $   13.60  $   23.20  $   18.40
23 Charlie Morton Rays  $   13.50  $   20.90  $   17.20
24 Jack Flaherty Cardinals  $   13.20  $   20.60  $   16.90
25 Zack Greinke Diamondbacks  $   13.00  $   22.90  $   17.95
26 David Price Red Sox  $   12.90  $   19.10  $   16.00
27 Yu Darvish Cubs  $   11.30  $   12.10  $   11.70
28 Andrew Heaney Angels  $   11.00  $   14.60  $   12.80
29 Masahiro Tanaka Yankees  $   10.70  $     9.50  $   10.10
30 Madison Bumgarner Giants  $     9.90  $   19.90  $   14.90
31 Jameson Taillon Pirates  $     9.80  $   18.90  $   14.35
32 Zack Wheeler Mets  $     9.50  $   16.60  $   13.05
33 Joey Lucchesi Padres  $     9.50  $   17.90  $   13.70
34 Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers  $     9.20  $     6.60  $     7.90
35 Shane Bieber Indians  $     9.10  $     5.60  $     7.35
36 Mike Foltynewicz Braves  $     9.10  $   19.10  $   14.10
37 Jose Quintana Cubs  $     9.10  $   18.20  $   13.65
38 Miles Mikolas Cardinals  $     8.60  $   13.30  $   10.95
39 Dallas Keuchel F.A.  $     8.50  $   21.70  $   15.10
40 Luis Castillo Reds  $     8.40  $   13.30  $   10.85
41 Kenta Maeda Dodgers  $     8.20  $     4.60  $     6.40


Once you discount those risks, the question always remains:  how does spending some $40 for a top 20 pitcher square with spending about the same amount for two and possibly three of the guys we discuss in this tier?  If we look at the projected stats, we can start to answer that question—while asking a few more.

Table 2: Fangraphs Stat Projections

rank Player Team IP W ERA SO WHIP WAR
21 Rich Hill Dodgers 159 11.1 3.61 175 1.18 3.2
22 German Marquez Rockies 190 13.3 3.89 207 1.24 4.1
23 Charlie Morton Rays 152 10.6 3.5 169 1.23 3.7
24 Jack Flaherty Cardinals 164 11.5 3.69 180 1.24 3
25 Zack Greinke Diamondbacks 201 14.1 3.85 188 1.22 3.3
26 David Price Red Sox 194 13.6 3.95 187 1.23 3.2
27 Yu Darvish Cubs 139 9.7 3.76 158 1.21 3.5
28 Andrew Heaney Angels 178 12.5 3.97 171 1.22 2.5
29 Masahiro Tanaka Yankees 153 10.7 3.92 148 1.2 3.5
30 Madison Bumgarner Giants 203 14.2 3.93 183 1.24 2.3
31 Jameson Taillon Pirates 190 13.3 3.89 179 1.26 3.5
32 Zack Wheeler Mets 171 12.0 3.85 172 1.26 2.8
33 Joey Lucchesi Padres 169 11.8 3.78 171 1.27 3
34 Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers 126 8.8 3.67 120 1.21 3.1
35 Shane Bieber Indians 139 9.7 3.86 124 1.19 3.6
36 Mike Foltynewicz Braves 192 13.4 4.02 202 1.28 2.6
37 Jose Quintana Cubs 186 13.0 3.88 176 1.29 2.8
38 Miles Mikolas Cardinals 198 13.9 4.04 160 1.24 2.8
39 Dallas Keuchel F.A. 196 13.7 3.69 155 1.32 3.2
40 Luis Castillo Reds 173 12.1 4 171 1.26 2.9
41 Kenta Maeda Dodgers 125 8.8 3.87 131 1.2 3


Who do I like at these prices/rankings?  Marquez is young, has a tremendous skill set and managed to pitch superbly in Colorado.  He and Flaherty had solid breakout seasons last year.  But, both will leave owners worrying about whether 2018 was an outlier.  Still, both can deliver strikeouts.  Based on these projections, you would get nearly 400 strikeouts for the price you’d pay for Scherzer’s 200+. For these prices, both are potential big value prospects that will threaten to finish among the top 15 SP.

Rich Hill and Charlie Morton have always managed to deliver quietly solid production.  They are not getting any younger, though.  Hill is 39.  He has not cracked 140 IP in the last three years thanks to DL stints.  Any reason to think that he will get better with age?  This is one of those situations where nature says “do not touch” unless you can get him much cheaper, much later.  Dunno how he got this high in Fangraphs. Someone needs to call the home office.

The 35 year-old Morton averaged about 150 IP with Houston in 2017 and 2018.  For 2019, he has moved to the much tenser confines of the AL East. I suspect his performance will dip as he has to deal with the Yankees and Red Sox much more frequently.  Also, there is no reason to think he won’t make his annual visits to the DL.  He also can return value—but much later and cheaper.

Morton and Hill remind me of Major League’s Eddie Harris.  They’ve managed to get it done.  But, they are not as dependable as Harris.  If you recall, Harris and Cerrano both rely on religion to get things done.  Harris relies on Jesus.  Cerrano relies on Jobu.  If you draft either of these guys, you probably want to pray to both gods, keep a stock of cigars and rum to get you through the season, and go out of your way NOT to mess with either god.

Pedro Cerrano Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

Eddie Harris You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior instead of fooling around with all this stuff.

Roger Dorn Shit, Harris.

Pedro Cerrano Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.

Eddie Harris You trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?

As you ponder whether Jesus could hit the curveball, let’s move on to Greinke and Price—two aging aces who once were your #1 SP.  Greinke’s been as consistent as they come.  With Price, one wonders whether that post-season recovery and surge can move him back up towards the top of the #2 SP rankings. Both have lost velocity and are as likely to deliver mediocre performances this year as they are to overachieve.  At these prices, I’d bid with a bit more confidence on the younger Price.  In both cases, one wonders whether these two will push the 180 IP mark, given the increasing use of setup men.

Some folks see Yu Darvish as a potential bargain. I would simply stay away from him unless I can get him for single digits.  As I noted in my Booms and Busts piece, I think he poses great reward as a pitcher at back of the rotation prices.  He clearly owns the skills.  Do you want those skills in an SP for only 130-140 IP?  I wonder if you can’t do (and sleep) better by picking up a younger rising star at these prices.  With the wealth of pitching available and lots of value to be had for $5 or less, paying double digits for Darvish seems like a terrible risk that will require you to increase that stock of cigars, Job,  Jesus and rum….

Heaney (27)  and Bieber (23) are younger, solid SP.  Heaney stands to play a more solid role with the Angels than Bieber does in the 5th SP spot for Cleveland.  Both boast a 9-ish k/9 rate.  But both have only one 100+ IP season under their belts.    So, they offer potential for value and growth.  Heaney is more of a lock in the Angels’ rotation since he is likely to be listed as their #1 or #2 SP.  In Cleveland, Bieber and Clevinger will be jockeying for he #4 and #5 spots.  If he’s #5, he will be a less dependable source of stats unless Cleveland goes to a real five-or six-SP rotation (and maybe works in more middle relievers).  As well, it’s important to keep in mind that the ever-injured Danny Salazar looms on the Indians’ SP depth chart.  My guess is that he’s more of a threat to Bieber’s IP than Clevinger.  Nonetheless, both are solid value.

All things considered, I’d spend my money on Tanaka at these prices.  Tanaka has been injured every year that he’s been in the MLB.  Nonetheless, he has delivered consistent, solid performances across the SP stats.  He’s no longer the ace of the Yankees staff.  But, the Yanks will score runs and Tanaka will not give up many. As well, with the Yankee’s bullpen depth, they can afford to manage Tanaka’s IP and maybe avoid the wear and tear that seems to catch up with him every year.  Start a couple of bidding wars on other SP and see if you can get Tanaka cheap.

I’ll pause at this point to note that I harbor only respect and sympathy for Los Angeles.  Boston beat them at baseball and football last year.  Hope the Dodgers dudes are still abiding…  Speaking of Los Angeles, two SP who have given me fits are Ryu and Maeda.  Both have superior stuff.  But, Ryu likes the DL and Maeda just can’t seem to stay in the starting rotation.  Both throw more than a K per IP.  They don’t give up many runs.  But, you can’t count on them.  The word on Ryu is that he’s a good bet to have more days on the DL than IP in any given season.  Nuf said.

I like the younger, less injury-prone Maeda a lot even if you can’t count on his securing a spot in the starting rotation. If he does, I think he’s good to push 180 K.  If he does not, he’ll be a spot starter who will also cover middle relief work and generate 100+ K.  In this respect, he falls into that growing category of valuable pitchers who qualify as both SP and RP, but may do as much middle inning work as they do opening or closing.  As a result, they are likely of be a good source of vulture W while delivering K and helping your ratios.  At this price, Maeda is a solid investment for an SP spot if you stream or a P or RP slot.


Three guys I like at these prices are Lucchesi, Foltynewicz and Taillon. They are young, strong and, I think, poised for breakout seasons.   Foltynewicz has established himself as he #1 (or #2) in the Atlanta rotation.  Atlanta is solid and will threaten to take the NL East.  He’s pitched 124, 154 and 183 innings in the last three years.  He’s 27—a breakout year.  He’s a solid investment at this position and dollar value.

Lucchesi is only 25.  He had a solid 130 IP season in 2018.  He does give up a lot of HR.  But, he also gets to strikeout pitchers as an NL guy.  As San Diego’s projected #1, he will log a lot of IP.  He’s a solid #3 SP on your staff and could show #2 numbers if he develops better control.  Meanwhile, Taillon is also following a solid IP trajectory of 104, 133 and 191 in the last three years.  He averages just under 9 k/9 and his K have increased with his IP. Yet, his BB have not.  He has a solid GB%. I think he’s a solid investment who could also deliver #2 SP value at #3 prices.

In the same vein, I also really like Luis Castillo.  He’s young (26), delivers solid K/9 and has had a lousy supporting cast in Cincinnati (which kinda compares to Taillon’s in Pittsburgh).  The Reds have added some one-year batting rentals that may make the team appear to be competitive.  They will, at least, help Castillo in the W column while he adds to his K totals.  I think Castillo and Taillon will be overlooked/undervalued because they work for teams that just aren’t going to compete.  So, snap them up.  They may not deliver W.  But they will help your K, ERA and WHIP.

You know that Jose Quintana is the only MLB SP whose name starts with Q?  He is about as consistent as they come.  He won’t hurt.  But, he never really helps that much, does he?

What’s up with Keuchel?  His K’s were down in 2018.  But, he’s an extreme GB SP.  Hey, he’s a free agent too.   He’s not Phil Neikro, Hoyt Wilhelm or Wilbur Wood.  If you don’t understand that last sentence, go ask your dad to pull out his old baseball cards.  He is getting no respect right now.  So, you can’t risk any more than a buck on him.  But, if you can afford to do that, he will be an innings-eater that will not hurt you.  He’s simply looking for too much money, given the nature of the free agent market right now.  Still Keuchel has been the sort of SP you would have wanted on a real team even though the has never been a great help to your fantasy team,  He manages his pitch counts, puts a lot of balls on the ground, and has generally been an effective MLB pitcher.  Alas, his holdout makes him even less valuable to your fantasy team.

I think Mikolas is a solid investment. He came from Japan, delivered, quiet, but solid and consistent results, and works for the St. Louis baseball Cardinals who’ve added a new 1b named Goldschmidt. He is not your top SP.  But, at this price, he’s a solid deal.  Snap him up.  Good selection and variety of pitches.  Consistent return on investment.  Buy.

I’ll finish with Wheeler.  He works for the Mets.  I’d almost stop there.  But… he has superb stuff.  But you can’t pitch from the DL.  If he avoids injuries, he’s a potential top-20 SP.

I find the second 20 to be the most difficult to sort.  You have rising stars, aging aces and demi-studs who like the DL.  If any of these guys can put it together, they have top-20 SP potential.  Among all these guys, I’d go with youth and strength all the time.

Next time, I’ll look at SP # 42-62 and beyond.  There will definitely be higher risk and much higher reward there.  We will be discussing the guys who are more likely to make your team than break it.  Till then…

The Prof abides

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 21st, 2019 from 8pm – 9:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk,, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the A.L. West.

Be sure to check out our Sunday night show February 24th from 8pm to 9:45pm EST. They will cover the N.L. West.

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday February 24th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #140 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk,, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. West.

Our guests this week is are Kyle Klinker, and Bilal Chaudry. Both Kyle and Bilal are veteran owners in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and have won several titles between the two of them.

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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