The Tippy Top of Pitching, Looking at the Top End of Starting Pitching going into Next Year
As the run totals have mounted this year and with an increase in injuries it looks like getting top starting pitching in drafts next year has never been more important. When I think about the top pitching options I look for three categories: innings, strikeouts, and ERA below 4. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top pitchers this year.
There are currently 13 pitchers that project to hit the 200 strikeout mark this year: Sale, Scherzer, Archer, Kluber, deGrom, Severino, Nelson, Greinke, Samardzija, Carrasco, Carlos Martinez, Darvish.
Darvish, Carrasco, Severino, and Archer are at risk of not hitting the 200 IP mark. To shorten that list further, Samardzija has an ERA over 4.
This leaves our list with Sale, Scherzer, Kluber, deGrom, Nelson, Greinke, and Carlos Martinez.
That is seven starters who will finish the season with 200 innings, 200 strikeouts, and a sub 4 ERA. Of those players, Scherzer, Kluber, and Grienke are over 30 years old. So they are hitting the points in their careers where regression could start to either creep in or run in.
Moving into next year we can see that the grouping of ace pitchers with some upside, or at the very least who aren’t at risk of age regression, is very small. Sale, DeGrom, Nelson and Martinez. Four pitchers. I am willing to grow this list to six, adding Severino back in. He is just 23 years old, and you can project him to exceed both 200 marks next year. I would also add Kershaw, who has lacked health in recent years, but has maintained his dominance.
Why is this important? If you think about a 12 team redraft league next year, it’s very possible that two of these pitchers could be off the board in the first round (Sale and Kershaw). So if you miss out on those two, you have four pitchers left, less than one per team. So lets rank the remaining four:
Here is why I rank these the way I do:
1) Martinez – Martinez plays for a stable organization, who typically is able to put a solid team on the field each year. Martinez has displayed an elite k/9, and there is some optimism that his ERA could come down further as his HR/FB is substantially higher than in years past. We will give him a boost for playing in the NL. Keep in mind Matheny has a tendency to leave his starters in too long which could lead to a higher ERA, but that is his biggest negative moving forward.
1a) deGrom – deGrom has had some injuries this year, as has the entire Mets team. The plague of injuries that has hit the Mets causes me to put a slight downgrade on deGrom. He has been an ace for a few years now, has an elite k/9, and has had a spike in hr/9 this year. So there is hope.
2) Severino – He is the youngest and therefore the most likely to regress. He also pitches for the Yankees and in the AL East, both negatives in park factors. Keep in mind that Severino has elite skills, but he is a three pitch pitcher. He throws a slider nearly 35% of the time, so there is risk in his game.
3) Nelson – Nelson’s career year has been fueled by his career low 2.43 walks per 9, a full two walks less than last year. With playing his home games at Miller Park, it will be important that he keep those walks down moving forward if he is going to return a similar value.
In years past, many people have felt like waiting for pitching has been the way to go. Next year, I don’t see this being the trend. With ERA’s going up around MLB, building a solid rotation is harder than ever. It will be interesting to see where these pitchers ADP places them. But, I know in my drafts, I will be looking to get two of these guys early.