We continue our February rankings with the 2017 starting pitcher fantasy baseball rankings (part two). Kyle Bishop covered the big names yesterday, so today I'll be looking at the later tiers. This is where you find the sleepers who will help you win your league.
As you may know, this round of rankings features input from Bill Dubiel, Brad Johnson, Jeff Kahntroff, Nick Mariano, Kyle Bishop and me, Harris Yudin.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers, Part Two (February)
|Ranking||Tier||Player||Position||Brad||Kyle||Nick||Bill||Harris Y||Jeff||Auction $|
|122||14||Jose De Leon||SP||429||311||473||473||327||331||1|
|133||14||Rubby de la Rosa||SP||380||428||482||1|
Starting Pitcher Rankings Analysis: The Tiers
By now, most owners have already selected three or four pitchers, so it’s time to look for upside. Two of my favorite pitchers this year are Kevin Gausman and Carlos Rodon. Both pitchers have one major flaw that have kept them from making the jump to the next level — command for Rodon, keeping the ball in the park for Gausman — and both have the stuff to get over the hump and break out in 2017. Anthony DeSclafani (3.28 ERA, 3.50 K/BB across 123.1 IP in 2016) is also a breakout candidate.
Questions surround several other pitchers in this tier. Drew Pomeranz was dominant in San Diego, but endured some struggles upon his move to Boston (4.59 ERA), so there is a fair amount of risk that comes with drafting him in mixed leagues. Garrett Richards is not only coming off a major injury, but also took a step back across the board in 2015. He remains incredibly talented, but is almost 29 with just one full season under his belt. I’m more likely to take a flier on Richards than on Pomeranz.
The most interesting name here is Sonny Gray. After finishing third in AL Cy Young voting in 2015, he labored through an incomprehensibly poor 2016 season, but the consensus among our rankers seems to be that the 27-year-old will bounce back and maintain mixed-league viability.
Vincent Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Joe Ross and Tyler Anderson all eclipsed 100 innings for the first time in their respective careers last year, and will look to move forward in their second full seasons. Adam Wainwright and Francisco Liriano suffered rough 2016 campaigns and appear to be on the back end of their careers, but could still bounce back with decent performances this year.
Three former Rays — Drew Smyly, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson — have something to prove in 2017. Smyly will be pitching in a new home park in Seattle, and will look to replicate his 2015 success. Moore will need to find his pre-injury form — and sustain it over the course of an entire season — if he wants to hold onto any mixed-league value. Finally, Hellickson must show that his 2016 resurrection was not a fluke in order to regain the trust of fantasy owners. I am most encouraged by Smyly, who is just 27 years old and showed a lot of promise down the stretch in 2016.
Of course, the news of Alex Reyes’ impending Tommy John surgery drops him far down this list.
Here you can find a bunch of promising prospects and a couple of guys who once were top prospects but now come with some concerns. Blake Snell has off-the-chart stuff and can become a hot commodity in mixed leagues if he can limit his free passes. Joe Musgrove and Luke Weaver, on the other hand, possess above-average control and should only improve in 2017 with some added experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, Taijuan Walker saw his FIP skyrocket up to 4.99 in his age-23 season, and while he’s still young — and clearly our rankings suggest that we all still have at least an ounce of faith — time is running out for him to figure it out. Additionally, Alex Cobb missed nearly two full seasons and was dreadful in limited work late in 2016. Two consecutive seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA before the injury provides Cobb with a lingering sense of optimism, but it’s never a guarantee that a guy who has missed this much time will rediscover his top form.
While I do see Jharel Cotton’s potential, it appears my colleagues are much more excited about the 25-year-old’s first full season in the big leagues. He can rack up strikeouts in bunches using a solid fastball-changeup combo, but lacks a strong breaking ball, and major league hitters could begin to adjust.
Alternatively, I appear to be the only who hasn’t given up on Michael Wacha. While I never expected the Cardinals to remove him from the staff, the Alex Reyes injury essentially locks up a rotation spot for Wacha. He is still just 25 years old, and while his 5.09 ERA is far from enticing, a 3.91 FIP and an unusually high BABIP indicate that his 2016 season is likely the outlier. I’m willing to take a chance on Wacha if his price drops on draft day.
I can’t write about this tier without including Bartolo Colon, who, despite joining a new NL East team, has shown no signs of slowing down and remains a reliable, deep-league option.
I’ll start this off by saying I am extremely concerned about Steven Wright’s major fall from grace in the second half (5.06 ERA, 2.68 before All-Star break), and would not take a shot on the 32-year-old this early.
On the other hand, Dylan Bundy belongs in a better tier. The former top prospect got his first chance in the majors last year, posting a respectable 4.02 ERA and managing one of the lowest hard hit percentages (28.0%) in the league.
In retrospect, Chris Tillman probably isn’t a top-250 player and should be moved down on my list— especially considering he may begin the season on the DL with a shoulder injury. Finally, Jordan Zimmermann endured the worst season of his career at age 32, and none of us really expect him to return to form in 2017.
Ervin Santana, Ian Kennedy and Gio Gonzalez have all been inconsistent over the last three years, each posting a sub-4.00 ERA twice in that span. All three pitchers can be used in deeper mixed formats, but lack the upside of many of the guys higher on this list.
Tyler Skaggs displayed some real potential late in 2016 after nearly a two-year absence. His 22.8% strikeout and 3.95 FIP are legitimate causes for excitement heading into 2017. Additionally, Mike Montgomery showed some nice things between roles and teams in 2016, and should be the frontrunner for the Cubs’ fifth rotation spot. In he were to win the job out of spring training, the 27-year-old southpaw could begin to appear on mixed-league radars.
Luis Severino is the most intriguing guy here. He followed up a spectacular rookie season with a 5.83 ERA and a demotion to the bullpen in 2016, but emerges as a post-hype sleeper one year after being drafted as a top-40 starting pitcher. Last year, Severino actually improved upon his strikeout and walk rates and lowered his HR/FB ratio, so there is reason for optimism regarding the soon-to-be 23-year-old.
As for the rest of this tier, Tyson Ross stands out, as well. The 29-year-old started opening day for the Padres but missed the entire rest of the season with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Now with the Rangers, he could return to top form and once again become a must-own in all formats if he can stay healthy. Furthermore, Brandon McCarthy has thrown just 63 total innings over the last two years and has heavy competition for Los Angeles’ No. 5 rotation slot, so I’m surprised to see him ranked in the top 250 for anybody.
The deepest tier features a wide array of arms. Most of these pitchers hold some value simply because they should take the ball every fifth day, accumulating wins and strikeouts in the process. Otherwise, C.C. Sabathia and R.A. Dickey could still be somewhat productive, but are on their way out and could wind up losing their jobs. Mike Foltynewicz and Zach Wheeler each received a vote of confidence inside the top 300, but both will need to earn rotation spots before fantasy owners can fully trust them in mixed leagues.
Most important in this group are Jose De Leon, Lucas Giolito and Jose Berrios. All three have limited major league exposure, each one struggling in his first stint in the big leagues in 2016. Additionally, all three pitch for teams unlikely to make a real playoff push. Still, they are top prospects with immense talent and potential, and, at the very least, make for solid keeper/dynasty-league draft selections.
As with most positions, there’s not much to like about the bottom tier. Whether it’s a pitcher past his prime, a veteran who have never made much of an impact, or a young pitcher with very limited upside, it’s hard to get excited.
One name to keep an eye on is Matt Wisler. A 5.00 ERA for the Braves last year is quite unappealing, but he actually improved upon his 2015 numbers in FIP (4.85), xFIP (4.71), K% (17.1%), BB% (7.3%), BABIP (.279) and GB/FB (1.05). Still just 24 years old, Wisler will have to fight for a rotation spot, but if he does earn one of the five slots, he could be an intriguing NL-only option.