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Welcome back, RotoBallers. I have covered impact prospects in dynasty leagues by position over the next several weeks, and have already coveredcatchersfirst basemensecond basementhird basemenshortstops, both AL and NL outfielders and National League starting pitchers. Today I'm bringing you my top 20 American League starting pitchers - dynasty prospect rankings for 2018 dynasty baseball leagues.

As discussed in the National League starting pitchers article, the crop of rising pitchers is too deep to have just one list of 20 or two lists of 10. There are so many up-and-coming arms that could be incredibly valuable for dynasty owners down the road. Plenty come with risk, but most of the names on this list will be expected to occupy at least a No. 3 starting rotation spot in their team’s rotation.

So without any further ado, here is the dynasty positional prospect rankings for AL starting pitchers.

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

Top 20 AL SP Prospects for 2018 Dynasty Baseball Leagues

1. Shohei Ohtani (LAA, NA)
Stats: NA
ETA: 2018
There was likely little doubt as to who would claim the top spot here. Ohtani is viewed as one of the best players to come from Japan to the United States in a very long time, and his arm appears to be the best ever to traverse the globe. Ohtani joins the Angels with a live arm that is major-league ready, packing a triple-digits fastball with plenty of movement and a devastating splitter that could already be the best splitter in baseball. He adds a high-80s slider that has proven to be a wipeout pitch and can mix in an average curveball and changeup that give him one of the most diverse, unhittable repertoires in baseball. In leagues where his hitting stats will also count with him, he is an elite prospect the likes of which fantasy baseball has not seen. There is some injury concern at the moment with him and there’s a chance down the road he will have to pick hitting or pitching — likely the latter — but he is only 23 years old and has too much upside to be passed on in any dynasty league.

2. Forrest Whitley (HOU, AA)
Stats: (from A) 46.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 34.4% K%, 10.8% BB%, 4.3% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
Whitley has made enormous strides since being drafted out of high school in 2016. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound right-hander has spotless control that has just continued to improve with every level he has reached and a lethal array of pitches that has allowed him to strike out consistently over 30 percent of the batters he has faced. Though he can’t reach back with his fastball like Ohtani or Michael Kopech can, Whitely still can touch the upper-90s with some of the most movement of any fastball in the minors, making it a plus-plus pitch for him. He also deploys a hard-biting curveball that has the potential to join Lance McCullers’ hook as some of the best in baseball. He also adds in a pair of other above-average offspeed pitches with a mid-80s, wipeout slider and a changeup that has proven to be a reliable weapon against left-handed hitters. Whitley has done everything he needed to do to reach the top of the list, and he would be if not for Ohtani. His repertoire is outstanding and his control has taken drastic strides forward. He looks like a future No. 1 or 2 starter in the majors and should be able to start showing that talent later this season.

3. Brent Honeywell (TB, AAA)
Stats: 123.2 IP, 3.64 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 29.1% K%, 5.9% BB%, 10.0% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
Honeywell has always had one of the deepest arrays of pitches in baseball. But every season, it seems to get more and more electric to the point now where it appears he has five average or better pitches. His velocity doesn’t wow, but his low- to mid-90s fastball features tons of late life that mixes well with his plus, sinking changeup. He adds in above-average curveballs and sliders to keep hitters off balance. But what makes him such a lethal weapon is his screwball. No other pitcher throws one currently and it is truly one of the best pitches in the minors and not just a flashy pitch. In addition to his swing-and-miss stuff, he controls his arsenal about as well as anyone in the minors and gives himself an incredibly high floor. He might open up the season in Triple-A, but only for the Kris Bryant treatment and should be in the majors before April is over. Honeywell has the chance to be a gifted starter near the front of the rotation, if not at the top, and should be owned in all leagues.

4. Michael Kopech (CWS, AAA)
Stats: (from AA) 119.1 IP, 2.87 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 31.8% K%, 12.3% BB%, 5.2% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
The next two starters — Kopech and Puk — have by far the worst control of any starter in the top five. However, they both come with fiery arsenals that allow them to dominate hitters despite inconsistent control. Kopech is right up there with Alex Reyes and Hunter Greene for the easiest 100 mph fastballs in the game, and Kopech is probably the hardest thrower of the three. It makes it even more unfair then that he has tons of late life to it, making it the most dangerous fastball in the minors. If he doesn’t go to his fastball for strikeouts, his upper-80s slider is another explosive pitch for him and has the chance to be a plus-plus pitch (it is already a plus pitch). The changeup has progress to be made, but a low-90s changeup is unfair no matter what way you look at it. Kopech’s control will hamper him if he does not improve it, but he did walk only 6.9 percent of batters in his last 10 games pitched of the season. If he can keep it that low, he becomes a No. 1 starter with stuff good enough to be among the league-leaders in strikeouts on an annual basis.

5. A.J. Puk (OAK, AA)
Stats: 64.0 IP, 4.36 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 30.8% K%, 9.0% BB%, 4.1% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
Like Kopech, Puk has all the pitches needed to be a true ace in the big leagues. The towering 6-foot-7 southpaw sits in the upper-90s with his fastball and unleashes an upper-80s slider that consistently grades out as one of the best sliders in the minors. He also has a curveball and changeup that don’t jump off the page, but both could be average or better offerings with refinement. The control was what prevented him from becoming a 1:1 pick in the 2016 draft, and while it is still not quite where the Oakland Athletics would like it to be, it has not hindered his ascension through the minors. With his stuff, he already can be a No. 3 starter in the majors. If the control regresses, his size and explosive array of pitches could send him to the bullpen. But if it improves, he could be a No. 1 or 2 pitcher in the Athletics’ rotation with the chance to provide fantasy owners with elite strikeout numbers.

6. Triston McKenzie (CLE, A+)
Stats: 143.0 IP, 3.46 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 32.8% K%, 7.9% BB%, 11.5% HR/FB
ETA: 2019
It is tough to find many 20-year-old prospects as developed as McKenzie. The right-hander is not a flame-thrower like the two players above him on this list, but he locates the pitch well and shows plenty of movement on it. He adds a plus curveball that is a serious weapon for him, as well as a promising changeup that give him three above-average or better offerings. What makes him so special at such a young age is his exceptional control and intelligence on the mound that help him dominate opposing batters. As he continues to grow into his 6-foot-5 frame, he should add more velocity and could become one of the best pitchers in baseball with velocity added to already promising pitchability.

7. Brendan McKay (TB, A-)
Stats: 20.0 IP, 1.80 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 28.8% K%, 6.9% BB%, 15.8% HR/FB
ETA: 2019
The 2017 year was the year of the two most hyped two-way players becoming eligible to be selected by Major League Baseball teams. Ohtani is extremely exciting because it looks like he will do both in 2018. But the Rays are going to allow McKay to both hit and pitch until he proves he cannot. Now how well that works out awaits to be seen, but owners should be excited about his potential as either a first baseman or starting pitcher. Should he stick in the rotation, he has a low- to mid-90s fastball and a cutter that went from an ornament to a legit outpitch for him. McKay also mixes in a plus curveball that was his top pitch to turn to at Louisville and a changeup that now looks like at least an average pitch. McKay is one of the most interesting prospects in all of baseball, and dynasty owners should be happy if he ends up as a first baseman, starting pitcher or both.

8. J.B. Bukauskas (HOU, A-)
Stats: 6.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 24.0% K%, 16.0% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB
ETA: 2019
There is a lot of reason to believe Bukauskas is destined for the bullpen. He is only 6-foot, has a blistering fastball and wipeout slider combination with a changeup that needs improvement. He just seems like he fits that reliever mold. However, many said the same thing about Lance McCullers and the Astros just stuck with him in the rotation. Part of the reason they’re willing to stick with him as a starter is his control, which is above-average for someone of his age, especially those with that high-octane repertoire. Bukauskas has shown enough dominance at UNC to prove he can handle the workload and will get a chance in 2018 to prove that he can handle an even heavier workload against professional hitters. He is in the right organization for fantasy owners and if he remains a starter, his strikeout upside out of the rotation is too high to pass up on in dynasty leagues.

9. Justus Sheffield (NYY, AA)
Stats: 93.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 20.3% K%, 8.2% BB%, 13.6% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
Sheffield is almost like a left-handed Bukauskas. He is short at only 5-foot-10, but he packs a big punch in his shorter stature. The southpaw throws an mid- to upper-90s fastball and spins a hard, wipeout slider that has served as his top outpitch. His changeup is much more developed than Bukauskas’ and is a solid, above-average offering. His control wavers from outing to outing and he needs to improve that consistency when he continues to climb the ladder. When it’s all said and done, if both Bukauskas and Sheffield are starters, Bukauskas’ stuff is more explosive and will miss more bats. But Sheffield has plenty of value as a future No. 3 starter in the majors with the chance to miss plenty of bats.

11. Alec Hansen (CWS, AA)
Stats: (from A+) 58.1 IP, 2.93 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 34.5% K%, 10.5% BB%, 9.4% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
The knock on Hansen has never been on his stuff. It has always been his control. He throws hard (mid- to upper-90s fastball with sink) and mixes in a hard-biting curveball. His changeup and slider also can be average or better pitches. But what has helped boost Hansen’s stock has been his fast-improving control that has allowed him to stay in the rotation and avoid bullpen talks. His stuff upside is that of a No. 2 pitcher if he continues to show improvements with his control, but it will also allow him to at least be a No. 4 starter with strikeout upside and inconsistent starts.

11. Franklin Perez (DET, AA)
Stats: (from A+) 54.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 24.3% K%, 7.3% BB%, 6.9% HR/FB
ETA: 2019
The Detroit Tigers revamped their farm system in 2017, and the acquisition of Perez in the Justin Verlander deal was one of the first major steps towards improvement. He immediately became their top prospect and shows a ton of promise at a young age of 20. Perez already has a complete, well-rounded repertoire with a mid-90s fastball and a 12-6 curveball that serves as his top out-pitch. He rounds that out with a plus changeup and average slider. And while Perez has not always generated the highest strikeout rates, he shows exceptional control of his pitches and should be able to avoid walking himself into trouble. Perez has a chance to reach Detroit this season, and dynasty owners should be excited about his future as a reliable No. 2 or 3 starter in their rotation.

12. Alex Faedo (DET, NA)
Stats: NA
ETA: 2019
Puk was the first Florida pitcher to lose his status of a 1:1 candidate with a rough season and Faedo was the second. Despite the fact Faedo dominated in the College World Series, injuries and a rough beginning to his junior season with the Gators prevented him from going first overall. His time at Florida has helped polish him and give him a strong array of pitches with a mid-90s fastball with late life and a plus-plus slider — seemingly a staple of Florida pitchers — that will keep hitters off-balance. His changeup has some work, but it is at least an average pitch for him. He is not going to be a future ace, but he has what it takes to rise fast through the minors and be a future No. 3 starter in the big leagues.

13. Matt Manning (DET, A)
Stats: 17.2 IP, 5.60 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 32.9% K%, 13.9% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB
ETA: 2020
The third straight Tigers pitcher to land on this list, Manning probably has more upside than either of his two predecessors. His fastball/curveball combination is extremely lethal and is probably the best one/two punch of the three (Faedo’s fastball/slider combination is right there with him). The changeup lingers behind and is not quite a quality third offering yet, but it could be what makes him the best pitcher in the system. His control is also the worst of the three, and he still has plenty of work to do on improving it. Manning has the chance to be a No. 2 starter in the majors or even an ace if he is able to perfect his changeup and drastically improve his control, but he also comes with a lot of risk of going to the bullpen if he can’t correct his issues.

14. Jesus Luzardo (OAK, A-)
Stats: 18.0 IP, 2.00 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 28.2% K%, 5.6% BB%, 8.3% HR/FB
ETA: 2020
Luzardo did not pitch much in 2017 after recovering from Tommy John surgery, but his first chance to show his stuff off to scouts in professional baseball proved the Washington Nationals got a steal on him when they grabbed him in the third round of the 2016 draft. He touched the upper-90s with his fastball, a pitch that he commands well and puts plenty of sinking movement on. His secondary offerings require some work, but scouts praise his above-average changeup and a curveball that could make strides with a few more years of development. But perhaps what stands out more than anything about Luzardo is his feel for pitching. He shows pinpoint control and knows how to get batters out even when his stuff is not at its best. Though he still has work left to be done, Luzardo could reach the majors quickly for someone of his age (20) and could improve his stuff to the point where he’s viewed as a future No. 2 starter.

15. Jayson Groome (SP, A)
Stats: 44.1 IP, 6.70 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 29.2% K%, 12.6% BB%, 20.0% HR/FB
ETA: 2019
Groome had a rough 2017 season, but off-the-field issues and a few injuries were the primary cause behind his struggles. Though the numbers were not promising, Groome still demonstrated why he a high first-round selection in the 2016 draft by showing off a diverse array of pitches that, when working, can miss plenty of bats with pinpoint location. Groome’s best offering is his plus curveball that works well with his low-90s fastball (scouts believe it should be a mid-90s fastball by the time his development is done). His control wavered throughout the season, but scouts believe he will iron that out with time. It is important to remember he is not even 20 years old yet and still has plenty of time to develop into the No. 2 starter scouts believe he can become.

16. Chance Adams (NYY, AAA)
Stats: 115.1 IP, 2.89 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 22.3% K%, 9.3% BB%, 7.3% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
Everyone outside of scouts seem to love Adams. He has always posted outstanding numbers, yet is consistently underrated by scouts. Part of the reason he has been so lowly rated is because of the concern scouts express about him: his stuff has not been that electric. However, he started to flash more promising stuff in 2017 when he posted his best season to date. He has an above-average, mid-90s fastball that relies more on movement than velocity and a slider that can be a plus pitch. His curveball is only average and the changeup is still getting better. Adams controls his pitches well, and as evidenced by Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees have shown they can turn slightly above-average stuff into a mid-rotation starter. Adams is valuable for a high floor and decent ceiling, with the chance to be a No. 3 starter in the rotation if he improves his stuff.

17. Dane Dunning (CWS, A+)
Stats: 118.0 IP, 3.51 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 26.4% K%, 7.1% BB%, 15.8% HR/FB
ETA: 2019
The third piece of the return in the Adam Eaton trade, Dunning has steadily shown that he has what it takes to join Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in a big-league rotation. Unlike those two, he has made his living in the minors by being more of a pitcher than a thrower, utilizing a solid repertoire with exceptional command and control rather than trying to overpower hitters. He has a sinker that will miss bats and generate groundouts that has started to touch the mid-90s. His offspeed stuff is not thrilling, but an above-average slider and changeup give him enough offerings to keep hitters off balance and strikeout batters at the lower levels of the minors. Likely ticketed for a trip to Double-A, 2018 will be a season for him to continue to improve his secondary offerings and demonstrate that he can dissect hitters at the higher levels of the minors.

18. Tanner Houck (BOS, A-)
Stats: 22.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 2.54 FIP, 25.5% K%, 8.2% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB
ETA: 2020
Houck was inconsistent to say the least in his final season at Missouri. At times, he showed why scouts viewed him as a potential 1:1 candidate in the 2017 draft. At others, he showed why he was not viewed as a legitimate 1:1 candidate. He never blew hitters away with speed, but his hard sinker was one of the best college fastballs in the draft because of the movement and deception he had on the pitch. He lacks a true secondary pitch he can lean on when he needs outs, but scouts are convinced the slider has the chance to become that pitch. His hard stuff and inconsistent delivery have many unsure if his future is as a starter or reliever. Should he make the necessary improvements by developing true secondary pitches and improving his command, he could be a No. 3 starter with immense strikeout upside.

19. Jose De Leon (TB, MLB)
Stats: (from AAA) 12.0 IP, 6.75 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 25.9% K%, 11.1% BB%, 11.1% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
The prospect shine has continually worn off of De Leon as injuries have limited his chances to show his stuff over the past several seasons. When healthy, De Leon has plus-plus control of a solid repertoire with a lively mid-90s fastball and an elite right-handed changeup. His slider is only average right now, but scouts believe it can get better. If De Leon is healthy, he has the makings of a No. 3 or 4 starter. But he needs to prove he can stay on the mound.

20. Stephen Gonsalves (MIN, AAA)
Stats: (from AA) 87.1 IP, 2.68 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 27.3% K%, 6.5% BB%, 6.6% HR/FB
ETA: 2018
With the exception of Houck, every pitcher in the bottom five of this list are starters who thrive despite less than stellar repertoires and just locate extremely well. No one better exemplifies that than Gonsalves. The Twins’ southpaw has the worst array of pitches of any starter on this list, yet he has found about as much minor-league success as any pitcher throughout his career. His fastball sits in the upper-80s and low-90s with movement. His curveball and slider are both average or slightly below-average, while his changeup is his best offering overall. He locates his pitches well, but his mediocre repertoire caps his upside at a No. 4 starter. But his ability to pitch instead of throw gives him a solid floor that owners know they will at least be receiving a sure-fire bet as a starting pitcher.

 

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