Preliminary 2020 Rankings: Top 15 Starting Pitchers (Where To Rank The 2019 Breakouts, Any Surprises? & More)

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As you view these rankings keep in mind that they are extremely preliminary and will change as we continue our evaluations and projections for 2020. They will also be expanded here on the site, with even deeper rankings and more in-depth analysis available via our draft guide (click here for information on pre-ordering the guide for just $8.25).

With that said, let’s get to the rankings:

RankPlayerTeamQuick Thoughts
1)Jacob deGromNew York MetsAfter back-to-back Cy Young Awards what's left for deGrom to prove? It turns out he may have been tipping his pitches in April (4.85 ERA), once he corrected the issue he didn't have an ERA above 2.92 in any month after. Even if he's not your #1, he's clearly in the top tier.
2) Max ScherzerWashington NationalsWhen healthy Scherzer continued posting elite numbers, the problem was that he was limited to 27 starts (and missed time in the playoffs). Current reports have him fully healthy for Spring Training, but it will be something that needs to be monitored.
3) Justin VerlanderHouston AstrosWe keep waiting for Verlander to start slowing down, but he is showing no signs (including racking up 300 K in '19). There is some slight concerns in his luck metrics (.218 BABIP, 88.4% strand rate), but that just makes his first half 2.98 ERA a better expectation.
4) Gerrit ColeNew York YankeesHe signed a massive contract this winter (9 years, $324 million) and there will be questions as to whether or not he can live up to it in New York. While opponents need to make contact for it to become an issue, groundball rates of 36.0% and 40.3% the past two seasons, now pitching in Yankee Stadium, raises a small red flag.
5) Walker BuehlerLos Angeles DodgersThe Dodgers took it slow with their young ace in the spring, and that may have factored into his early season struggle (5.22 ERA). In 24 starts from May 1 through the end of the year he posted a 2.88 ERA, and he showed strikeouts (10.61 K/9) and control (1.83 BB/9) all season long.
6) Chris SaleBoston Red SoxIt's fair to be concerned about Sale, after he was limited to 147.1 IP in '19 due to elbow issues and posted a 4.40 ERA when healthy. However he continued to show strikeouts (13.32 K/9), control (2.26 BB/9) and should improve upon his luck (66.7% strand rate). Reports have him healthy heading into Spring Training, so don't ignore him.
7)Shane BieberCleveland IndiansBieber put his name on the map in '19, with a 3.28 ERA and 1.05 WHIP courtesy of a 10.88 K/9 and 1.68 BB/9. He's always displayed elite control, but now he's delivering swings and misses (14.0% SwStr%) while utilizing his secondary pitches more and more (he threw his fourseam fastball 45.73%) has solidified his place among the elite.
8)Stephen StrasburgWashington NationalsCan Strasburg stay healthy? That's always been the biggest question, though Washington is betting on it after signing him to a 7 year contract. Last year he showed just how good he could be, utilizing his sinker and curveball more led to a 51.1% groundball rate (to go along with strikeouts and control).
9)Mike ClevingerCleveland IndiansClevinger's SwStr% rose to 15.2% in '19, and he's continued to throw strikes (2.39 BB/9 in the second half) and limit hard contact (33.0% Hard%). That's the makeup of a Top 10 starter, though he's often not considered so highly.
10)Patrick CorbinWashington NationalsA year after receiving a big free agent contract, Corbin lived up to the expectations with a 3.25 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 202.0 IP. He did it while showing all three skills we look for from a pitcher, and also improving his Hard% (34.5%).
11)Luis CastilloCincinnati RedsHad it not been for a late season swoon (ERA of 5.70 and 4.40 over the last two months), there would be a lot more chatter about Castillo being a potential Top 10 option. He showed strikeouts (10.67 K/9), control (3.73 BB/9) and groundballs (55.2%), and even as he struggled late in the year an improvement in his control (2.76 BB/9 in the second half) speaks to just how high his ceiling could be.
12)Charlie MortonTampa Bay RaysAfter breaking out in Houston it was fair to wonder if Morton could replicate the success while maneuvering through the AL East. He proved more than capable, with a 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 194.2 IP. With his skill set and believable luck metrics (.298 BABIP, 75.3% strand rate), the good times should continue.
13)Blake SnellTampa Bay RaysHe missed time due to injury (107.0 IP) and struggled when on the mound (4.29 ERA), though it was poor luck (.343 BABIP, despite a 34.8% Hard%) and not a regression in skills that caused the issues. Maybe he's not as good as he was in '18, but he should continue to be in the mix for a Top 10 spot.
14)Carlos CarrascoCleveland IndiansRegardless of the results, the fact that Carrasco returned late in the year is promising after he was limited by injuries. Over his career he owns a 9.37 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 and 48.5% groundball rate, as he's consistently been among the better starters. As long as he's healthy he should return to that status.
15)Frankie MontasOakland A'sHe was limited to 96.0 innings, but don't take that to mean that the breakout wasn't for real. He began using a split-finger fastball, which contributed to his 9.66 K/9, 2.16 BB/9 and 49.4% groundball rate. He should continue on the same path, which would allow him to maintain that success over a full season.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

2 COMMENTS

    • Yes, not that you should have to draft them ahead of Flaherty but I believe the performance will be better. That’s not to say that I don’t love Flaherty, but his .242 BABIP and 83.3% strand rate last season are good indications that a regression is coming.

      We’ll dive deeper into Flaherty in the next few weeks, as there’s a chance he’s overdrafted (even though he remains a SP2)

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