The starting pitcher and relief pitcher positions are the only ones that aren’t dominated by young stars in their early-20s like most of the other positions are. Three of the top four starting pitchers are north of 30 years old, while three of the top five relievers are 29 or older. There’s nothing wrong that. Most pitchers are usually able to maintain an elite level of production further into their 30s than hitters can. I guess the moral of the story here is not to shy away from older pitchers in their 30s.
The Top Dog
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yeah, he has a bad back that acts up every now and then. So what? Until it starts affecting his performance or causes him to miss significant time over multiple seasons, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The man has a 2.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 9.9 K/9 in his career. What more do you want from the guy? Plus, he made Shohei Ohtani look like a little league hitter a couple of weeks ago. Kershaw has pitched 21.1 scoreless innings with 23 strikeouts this spring and looks poised for another great season. Having just turned 30, we should get to witness several more seasons of Kershaw dominance.
Guys like Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, and Corey Kluber are right on his heels, but for now, Kershaw still holds onto the top spot.
On the Rise
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
Nola has been a personal favorite of mine for a few years. He’s not going to blow you away with a high 90s heater, but he still throws in the low-90s with great command and control of his entire arsenal, including one of MLB’s best curveballs. Every time I watch him pitch, he reminds me of a young Roy Halladay.
Nola had his best season yet in 2017, finishing with a 3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, and 12 wins. All of which were career-bests for the 24-year-old right-hander. He might never crack the elite tier, but Nola has the arsenal and upside to remain a near top-10 option for many years to come.
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
It’s amazing what a talented pitcher can do once he harnesses his control. You might look at Snell’s 4.04 ERA and 1.33 WHIP from 2017 and be slightly underwhelmed. “What’s so special about that?” Great question, glad you asked. The answer is nothing. However, when you take a look at his numbers over the second half of the season, you’ll see just how good Snell has the potential to be.
Snell cut his walk rate literally in half, and the rest of his numbers got better as a result. Learn to control your pitches, kids. It’s all about control and command. Snell now enters the top-50 of these rankings and has the potential to rise even more if he continues to limit the walks like he did late in 2017.
On the Decline
Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
Pitchers like Michael Fulmer might be highly valuable in real life, but not so much in the fantasy world. Fulmer has recorded a 3.45 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over his first two Major League seasons, but that has come with a lackluster 6.8 K/9. It’s not like he’s out there throwing mid-80s “salad,” as Dennis Eckersley would say. Fulmer averaged around 96 mph on his fastball and also throws a high-80s slider. Both pitchers were above-average offerings for him last season, according to FanGraphs. However, his swinging strike rate was still only 9.3%, which ranked 79th out of 134 pitchers with over 100 innings last season.
Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates
Remember everything I said about Snell above? It all applies here with Glasnow, with the difference being that Glasnow has yet to harness his control enough to become an effective Major League pitcher. He was able to get by in the minors even though he had a 4.2 BB/9, but that type of control doesn’t usually get you far in the Major Leagues. Through his first 17 starts and five relief appearances, Glasnow has recorded a 6.75 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 6.2 BB/9, and 8.4 K/9. The upside here is still enormous, but unless he improves his control, he may never be able to live up to the hype.
Keep An Eye On …
Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers
Remember when Urias was a universal top-five prospect? That was only a couple of short years ago. Well, Urias now faces a long road back after undergoing anterior capsule surgery during the middle of last season and won’t be back until later in the 2018 season. The surgery he underwent is a complex one, but all indications are that it went well. Still, shoulder injuries are harder to come back from than elbow injuries, and there’s no guarantee that Urias ever comes close to being the pitcher he was before the injury.
Starting Pitcher Rankings
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Relief Pitcher Rankings
Thank you for reading another edition of Dynasty Dugout here on Fantrax. I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.