I knew this year would be tough for Starting Pitcher rankings, and 2020 isn’t here to disappoint. On top of a lot of pitchers only tossing 2-4 innings per start, there are postponements abound. The Marlins and Phillies in particular are already way behind schedule. Some of their pitchers have yet to take the mound! I ranked Spencer Howard since he was getting the call before all the postponements, but who knows when he debuts at this point.
I’ve tried not to go too overboard with the rankings adjustments since it’s only been two starts for a lot of these guys. I don’t want to overreact too much. Most of the movement this week comes from debuts and injuries. In fact, I’m going to focus solely on the Newcomers on the list since there are so many. There’s no shortage of interesting guys to discuss, so let’s get into it before Manfred cancels the season.
The Starting Pitcher Barometer
- Nate Pearson, TOR (SP42) – Pearson debuted last week and it was a strong one. Despite his baby face, he has a hulking 6’6″ 250 lb frame. That should help him pile up innings, which he has been unable to do in the minors due to injury (one of which was a freak comebacker that broke his forearm). He has a 96 MPH fastball with a huge slider, as well as a changeup and a curve. He was primarily fastball/slider in his debut, ripping through five shutout innings against the Jays, yielding just two hits with two walks and five K’s. He’s up to stay and should be owned in all formats as a starter who should net at least a K per inning. Pretty strong first name on that guy, too.
- Spencer Howard, PHI (SP63) – As I mentioned in the intro, Howard gets the call for the Phillies in the near future. He has a strong four-pitch mix with solid command. That gives him solid #2 starter upside. Stash away and get your hopes up!
- Merrill Kelly, ARZ (SP65) – Kelly didn’t make my list Week 1 because of his lackluster 2019. He put up a 4.42 ERA with a meager 7.76 K/9 last year, but through two starts he has a 2.63 with an 11:1 K:BB ratio through 13.2 IP. I’m not too excited, though, since there isn’t some intriguing change in pitch mix. He at least warrants a spot in the back-half of the list, making for an opportunistic streamer.
- Tyler Chatwood, CHC (SP76) – It’s hard to scrub the taste of Chatwood’s 8.25 BB/9 from 2018 out of your mouth, but grab hold of your steel wool. Chatwood has a 0.71 ERA through his first 12.2 innings with a 19:4 K:BB ratio. He’s gone away from his four-seam in favor of a sinker-heavy approach. He is also using his cutter a career-high 27.2% of the time, which has a tasty .091 xwOBA on 49 pitches. I’m not going too far just yet as his xwOBAcon would actually be the highest of his career at .423, so don’t go sprouting a full Chat-Woody just yet.
- Kyle Freeland, COL (SP85) – Was someone just talking about pitch mix changes? Hark! Freeland finds himself weaseling into the back-end of the list thanks to a vastly changed approach. It was necessary after he put up a 6.73 ERA over 104.1 IP, which was nearly the same as his 6.81 ERA. That ain’t great. His heater allowed a .357 wOBA in 2019, so he is wisely moving away from it through two starts. He has dropped his FB% 17% so far, opting for more curveballs. He has increased the spin rate on that pitch to 2411 RPM. The xwOBA on his curve from 2019 was *gulp* .477 on 108 pitches. To this point over 28 pitches, the xwOBA sits at .235. The EV has also fallen from 91.3 MPH to 85.2. This is clearly a positive development. Unfortunately, he still pitches for the Rockies. That makes him inherently hard to use in standard mixed leagues.
- Yusei Kikuchi, SEA (SP86) – Kikuchi understandably wanted to make some changes after his disastrous 2019 season. He’s rocking a 3 MPH increase in his fastball, as well as debuting a new cutter in place of some sliders. The cutter has a sterling .170 xwOBA with a -17 degree launch angle over 72 pitches. I’ll need to see some continued success before I buy in all the way, but you have to speculate on him in deep leagues.
- Zach Plesac, CLE (SP93) – I wasn’t a believer in Plesac after his successful 115.2 IP stint in 2019. He posted a 3.81 ERA, but his 5.13 SIERA was downright startling. He absolutely dominated the White Sox in his 2020 debut, jacking his slider rate up to 32.7%. His stuff is far from overwhelming, so despite the eye-popping debut, I remain dubious that he will be an impact fantasy starter. He’s worth a look at the very least in deep formats, though, as he should have a rotation spot for the near-term.
- Kris Bubic, KC (SP99) – The Royales With Cheese brought up another enticing starting pitcher prospect to follow up Brady Singer. Kris Bubic gave up two earned runs over four innings with one walk and three K’s against the White Sox in his debut. He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but his changeup is a very solid offspeed offering. He isn’t likely to miss a ton of bats, so he’s best left for deep league streaming for 2020.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
[table “42” not found /]
Fell Off The List
Corey Kluber (injury), Jose Urquidy (role/injury), Alex Wood (role), Carlos Rodon (performance), Wade Miley (performance), Mike Foltynewicz (DFA’d), Freddy Peralta (role), Miles Mikolas (injury), Jeff Samardzija (performance), Homer Bailey (injury), Reynaldo Lopez (injury).