Below are THE BACKWARDS K 2016 FANTASY BASEBALL STARTING PITCHER RANKINGS (#1-30). Included for each player is “The Backwards K Quick Take” and a self-produced player projection for 2016.
***Please note the following:
- The player’s names are color coded to signal different tiers at the position.
- The rankings reflect standard 5×5 roto scoring settings (W/SV/ERA/WHIP/K) with position eligibility requirements as 10 total games played at a position in 2015, or 5 total games started at a position in 2015 (i.e. Yahoo! settings).
- The numerical order is not necessarily a suggested order to draft them in, but it is the order that is calculated based on each player’s listed projections, unless noted otherwise.
- Noted in some players’ “Quick Takes” is if they gain or lose notable value in points leagues that factor penalize hitter strikeouts and reward hitter walks.
- Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) – The Backwards K Quick Take: The best in the business…by a lot. I wouldn’t argue against anyone who wanted to take him #1 overall in fantasy. No other words are necessary. 2016 Projection: 21 W/7 L/1.98 ERA/0.89 WHIP/287 K/43 BB in 236 IP
- Max Scherzer (Nationals) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Scherzer’s first season in the NL went as well as it could have in large regard. Scherzer induced a swing% of 73.5% when his previous career best was 70.6%. Scherzer induced a swinging strike% of 15.3% when his previous career best was 12.6%. A big reason for the increase in swings and swings and misses was a rebound to his 2012 velocity levels after seeing his fastball lose 1.4 MPH from 2012 to 2014. But he also kind of controlled his own fate in some regard by being able to get ahead in the count early and often as he threw first pitch strikes 71.3% of the time when his previous career best was 64.5%. There’s no doubt that Scherzer is a top 5 pitcher at worst in any rankings, but some regression here and there should be factored in for his 2016 season, and if he loses any velocity then that will also play a role. Nonetheless, he still ranks in a tier all to himself behind Clayton Kershaw. 2016 Projection: 17 W/9 L/2.85 ERA/1.01 WHIP/259 K/50 BB in 224 IP
- Carlos Carrasco (Indians) – The Backwards K Quick Take: In all honesty, I thought that Carrasco was going to have a big breakout season last year in his first full year as a starting pitcher in the Majors, but his modest 3.68 ERA will tell you it was not quite breakout stats. But the thing is that all his underlying stats were simply amazing and his season was really blemished by a poor first half where he had some bad luck with a questionable defense behind him. The Indians’ defense for the first few months was one of the five worst in the Majors, but they significantly improved in the second half, much in part to calling up defensive wizard Francisco Lindor to man shortstop. It is evident in Carrasco’s splits where he had a .339 BABIP before the All-Star break and a .242 BABIP afterwards. But all signs point to Carrasco being a legitimate ace and better than last year’s roto stats would indicate. He has an amazing pitch arsenal, he’s on the right side of 30 years old without a lot of mileage on his arm, and he’s the real deal. I’m calling for a Cy Young type of season from Car-Car who most definitely should go vroom-vroom this time around. 2016 Projection: 16 W/8 L/2.49 ERA/1.01 WHIP/233 K/47 BB in 202 IP
- Jake Arrieta (Cubs) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Arrieta went on seemingly an improbably second half run where he had a 0.75 ERA and 0.72 WHIP to lead him to earning the NL Cy Young Award. Naysayers will point to that and say he’s in for huge regression and that his 2015 overall performance was a bit fluky. Well, I am going to say that I am a full on believer in Arrieta’s performance and I don’t think he’s going to blow away in the Windy City just yet. Do I think he will have an ERA under 2.00 again? No. Can he come pretty close? Most definitely. Last year, Arrieta had the 2nd lowest hard% at 22.1% and the 5th highest soft% at 22.8%, and this is something that he began to trend towards in 2014 as well when he perfected his hybrid slider-cutter (slutter). Well, guess what? Last year he mastered another pitch — the sinker. Sinkers obviously get groundballs a lot because of the sinking action that makes it difficult for hitters to get the barrel of the bat underneath the ball, and it’s a pitch that Arrieta threw about 40% of the time in the first half of the season. However, in the second half he used the sinker upwards of 50% of the time. The heavy sinker usage garnered a 63.6% groundball rate in the second half, much of which was soft or medium contact. Groundballs that aren’t hit sharply usually go for outs as long as there’s a solid infield defense, which the Cubs do have. If he proceeds with that same type of pitch distribution then best of luck to all y’all hitters. One point of concern with Arrieta would be injury though, as he did miss time in 2014 with a right shoulder strain and he also had right elbow issues back in 2010 and 2011. Couple that with his high total of 248.2 IP from last year (regular season plus post-season) when his previous career high was only 176.2 IP from 2014, and there could be a decent chance of an injury here. As such, I project Arrieta for 28 starts — yet his numbers for those projected starts are still dominant enough to be top 5 ranked stats. If he goes a full season, then he’s the #2 guy behind Clayton Kershaw. 2016 Projection: 17 W/5 L/2.13 ERA/0.99 WHIP/191 K/46 BB in 185 IP
- Chris Sale (White Sox) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Early last season, Sale felt that he could skate by with using primarily a fastball/changeup approach, but after awful results for the first month he finally began to realize that he needed to reincorporate his slider. From there on out, it was mostly smooth sale-ing for the lanky lefty, at least regarding things that were under his control. He did give up a fair share of home runs, but mostly to blame for his career worst 3.41 ERA was some bad fortune that his defense significantly contributed to. The White Sox defense ranked dead last in the Majors in many defensive metrics and it left Sale with a .323 BABIP, which was abnormally high for a pitcher with good avoidance of hard contact and a general neutrality to groundballs/flyballs. The Sox defense can at least be considered to have some moderate upgrades this year as they added stud center fielder Austin Jackson and a solid third baseman in Todd Frazier — however, Brett Lawrie at second base and an aged Jimmy Rollins at shortstop (if he begins the year as a starter) could be problematic. At the very least, it probably can’t get any worse than last year for Sale defense wise. He’ll also have a better offense supporting him this year after having one of the worst in the AL last year, so a better win-loss record can be forecasted to go along with him piling on the strikeouts. Though he’s never been serioulsy injured, there is at least some concern for future injury with his rather violent delivery, but for now he has to be considered a top pitcher. 2016 Projection: 15 W/10 L/2.84 ERA/1.03 WHIP/254 K/46 BB in 208 IP
- Madison Bumgarner (Giants) – The Backwards K Quick Take: I was not one of them, but there were many people who thought that Bumgarner would break down or at least be less effective after completing 270 innings combined between the regular season and post-season in 2014. But he proved with a career best season last year that he is a true work horse in that sturdy frame of his (6’5″/235 lbs.) and should not be doubted, especially when he hasn’t had any serious type of injury yet (knock on wood). Entering just his age 26 season, more of the same should be expected from the man they call Mad-Bum. 2016 Projection: 16 W/9 L/2.87 ERA/1.05 WHIP/220 K/45 BB in 213 IP
- David Price (Red Sox) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Price finds himself in some new Red Sox digs this year after having a career best season by most accounts (even better than his 2012 Cy Young season) splitting time between the Tigers and Blue Jays. I’d expect Price to have a little bit of a worse season pitching in the same division as the Blue Jays (now that he opposes them) and with just some other small regression in certain areas like LOB% and HR%. But the Price is still right with the new Red Sox ace and he can be counted on for another strong season. 2016 Projection: 17 W/9 L/3.05 ERA/1.09 WHIP/222 K/44 BB in 221 IP
- Jose Fernandez (Marlins) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Fernandez returned from Tommy John surgery in mid-season last year and appeared to be in top form. One extremely encouraging sign was that his fastball averaged nearly one full MPH more than his 2013 Rookie of the Year season. Even further removed from the operation now, this could be a gigantic season for the 23-year old. It’s a bit difficult to say how many innings that the Marlins will let Fernandez pitch though, especially if they are out of contention in September. He managed 89.1 IP last year and his career high was 172.2 IP in 2013. I don’t imagine him being permitted to throw much more than his career high if the Marlins have nothing to play for, so that does limit the ceiling on Fernandez some. But if he’s able to give 28 starts and 180 IP, his ratios and strikeout total should be good enough to still rank him very highly in the season’s final list. 2016 Projection: 14 W/8 L/2.48 ERA/1.01 WHIP/223 K/44 BB in 180 IP
- Dallas Keuchel (Astros) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Keuchel had a Cy Young Award winning season last year using his heavy groundball tendencies and weak contact inducing skills to weave his way towards a 2.48 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Keuchel was 2nd in the Majors in groundball rate (61.6%) and 1st in soft% (25.2%). In the end, that left him with a .269 BABIP. You might think well, that’s a pretty low BABIP for a groundball pitcher to have. But it really isn’t all too low as long as that pitcher is avoiding hard contact, which is in fact a skill and not just some lightning bolt of luck. So while I would expect Keuchel’s BABIP to regress upwards some this year, I really am not predicting it to skyrocket. The crafty lefty just has the ability to induce weak contact. The area where he could regress more in is his strikeouts. He experienced a 5.6% jump in his K% that shot him to heights that he had never seen before. But Keuchel eats up a lot of innings, so even if he has a decline in his strikeout rate his strikeout total will still be solid. Personally, I want strikeouts out of my fantasy ace, so I likely wouldn’t draft him as a SP1, but the projections say he can be one. 2016 Projection: 17 W/9 L/2.82 ERA/1.09 WHIP/185 K/52 BB in 220 IP
- Corey Kluber (Indians) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Like his teammate Carlos Carrasco, Kluber was the victim of some suspect defense that the Indians were providing for their pitchers in the first half of last season. Kluber had a .327 BABIP before the All-Star break and then a .251 BABIP afterwards, with the improvement in the latter half coinciding with the Indians putting defensive wizard Francisco Lindor up the middle at shortstop. Kluber was also very unfortunate to have a record of 9-16 despite a 3.49 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 9.93 K/9. I don’t have any factual proof of it, but I’d say that’s one of the worst win-loss records ever recorded for a pitcher with stats like Kluber’s. Don’t let the perception that Kluber had a down year fool you. He wasn’t as good as his breakout 2014 season, but he also wasn’t as bad as the numbers would leave you to believe. He should get back to teaching the AL a lesson in Klubotics. 2016 Projection: 16 W/10 L/3.06 ERA/1.10 WHIP/232 K/47 BB in 218 IP
- Matt Harvey (Mets) – The Backwards K Quick Take: In his first season back from Tommy John surgery after an extended recovery time, Harvey held up very well as he made 29 regular season starts and 4 post-season starts for a total of 216 IP. He was the same Harvey that we saw pre-Tommy John, but it is worth noting that he did seem to kind of battle a dead arm phase and tire out from August onward as there was a noticeable dip in his velocity. Can he make it through another season with no serious issue? I would be lying if I said I had no skepticism whatsoever. At the least, I project him to miss a couple starts, but when he’s on the mound I envision him being rather effective. 2016 Projection: 15 W/9 L/2.85 ERA/1.06 WHIP/208 K/41 BB in 196 IP
- Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Strasburg was a huge first half disappointment last season as he sat with a 5.14 ERA at the break. But that ugly first half seemed as if it was directly caused by some injuries that he was trying to manage, which ultimately led to his mechanics getting out of whack as he tried to compensate. He required two DL stints in the season with neck stiffness and a strained oblique, but once returning from that second DL stint he was a monster among little boys with 57 K/5 BB and a 1.24 ERA in 36.1 IP in the final month of the season. It’d be easy to say that if he’s healthy then he’s going to be one of the best in the league, but the problem is that he has a bit of an injury history so how likely is it that he does stay healthy? I’ll cautiously put him down for 30 starts, but maybe the Nationals end up pushing him since he’ll be a free agent in the off-season — they might want to squeak every last strikeout out of him before he’s off for greener pastures. 2016 Projection: 14 W/8 L/2.97 ERA/1.05 WHIP/221 K/38 BB in 190 IP
- Gerrit Cole (Pirates) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Cole has turned into a rock solid pitcher, but he is leaving more to be desired in the strikeout department. It’s noteworthy that Cole’s slider is the pitch that generates the most whiffs for him and he upped his slider usage 7-8% from the 2014 to 2015, yet his K% remained virtually unchanged. So there might possibly be some more strikeout potential in that arm that he’s not tapping into, but I wouldn’t say it’s certainty. The unknown of what his upside could be doesn’t make Cole too attractive to me as a potential ace to lead a fantasy squad, but he does seem to have a solid floor. 2016 Projection: 16 W/9 L/2.92 ERA/1.14 WHIP/208 K/52 BB in 208 IP
- Noah Syndergaard (Mets) – The Backwards K Quick Take: The man they call Thor wielded a quite the powerful hammer curve and a rocket fastball. More of the same can be expected from him in 2016 with potentially even some improvements as his HR/FB rate was a bit inflated, so that could come down a bit if he gets some better command on his pitches. There will be one glaring concern though with Syndergaard for the season and that is potential injury risk. Last year, between AAA, the MLB regular season, and the MLB post-season, Syndergaard logged 198.2 IP while his previous career high was 133 in 2014. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if Syndergaard didn’t throw with so much force and if he’s had no sign of arm injury prior. However, he threw the hardest average fastball out of any starting pitcher last year and he had a flexor pronator strain in his right elbow early in the 2014 season while in the Minors. So while I’m very optimistic about what his results will look like when he does take the mound, there needs to be a certain amount of caution exercised as Thor may not turn out to be any type of Iron Man. If he manages to go 30+ starts though, then top 10 SP potential is clearly there. 2016 Projection: 2.96 ERA/1.06 WHIP/208 K/43 BB in 190 IP
- Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Last year I waited and waited for Greinke’s ERA to start ballooning towards 3.00, but it just never did. It’s somewhat of an oddity given that he wasn’t striking out batters at a high rate and his batted ball profile wasn’t suggestive of a BABIP anywhere near the vicinity of .229, especially when his career mark was over .300. Greinke is a pretty cereberal pitcher, so pitch sequencing and winning the mini games of chess between batters could have helped play a role in Greinke besting what his peripherals indicated, but I just don’t see it happening again. He moves to Arizona where the hits and runs are more abundant than they are in Los Angeles, so that’s another knock on him. Overall, I would just feel really uncomfortable drafting him as he would really have to get his strikeout rate back up to over one per inning to be attractive for his expected draft cost. 2016 Projection: 16 W/9 L/3.04 ERA/1.11 WHIP/193 K/44 BB in 208 IP
- Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Upon suffering a torn ACL in Spring Training of 2015, Stroman was deemed all but done for the whole season. But the young kid rehabbed hard and eventually made it back to the active roster in September and pitched in the post-season as well. He wasn’t as good as his 2.72 ERA in 7 regular season plus post-season starts would indicate, but he certainly has the potential to be. The small sample size ERA was much lower than his FIP and xFIP, but he also wasn’t really striking batters out at just 5.44 K/9 in those innings. But I would attribute the low strikeouts to rust after the 6 month layoff as he likely wasn’t going full throttle, as exhibited by over a 1 MPH dip on his fastball from the previous year. But with even more time to build strength in that rehabbed leg, he should be all systems go this season. Stroman is the owner of a 10.74 K/9 in 186 Minor League innings, so that is a glimpse at how Stroman can be much better than the 5.44 K/9 last year. I wouldn’t expect him to come close to that Minor League mark — I wouldn’t even expect him to strikeout a batter per inning. But I envision him to be somewhere around 7.50-8.00 K/9 and he is very adept at inducing groundballs and softer contact. He profiles similarly to Sonny Gray and those are the type of numbers that I expect from Stroman. 2016 Projection: 3.06 ERA/1.15 WHIP/176 K/50 BB in 208 IP
- Garrett Richards (Angels) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Richards broke out in 2014 but had his season cut a little short after tearing his ACL. He returned from the injury at the start of the 2015 season, but it appeared to be something that held him back for the first half of the season — he wasn’t really pushing down on the pedal as hard as he could and it could have played an issue into his mechanics as well. The strikeouts just weren’t there in the first half at 6.98 K/9, but he rediscovered it in the 2nd half at 8.25 K/9 as he likely got more comfortable with his leg. Overall for the season, his velocity was down about 1 MPH from 2014, but he’s shown up in Spring Training this year pumping it up to 100 MPH at times. This is certainly something I can get behind. Also, like Jake Arrieta and like Dallas Keuchel, a skill that Richards has shown is the ability to induce groundballs and avoid hard contact. Along with the two Cy Young winners from last year, Richards ranked in the top 6 in both groundball rate and soft%. That’s some pretty elite company to be amongst. Then factor in that the Angels revamped the left-side of their infield with the best defensive shortstop in the game, Andrelton Simmons, and a decent third baseman in Yunel Escobar, and this could be a banner year for Richards. If he maintains his weak groundball inducing skills and adds to his strikeouts with the velocity jump he’s showing, then Richards would all of a sudden be a super sleeper for the AL Cy Young Award this year. 2016 Projection: 15 W/10 L/2.95 ERA/1.15 WHIP/193 K/67 BB in 208 IP
- Felix Hernandez (Mariners) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Hernandez’ velocity has slowly been on the decline this decade and it appears that King Felix may be relinquishing his crown. He still would make for a solid #2 fantasy SP, but he’s not someone I would build a staff around anymore as the decade’s worth of 30 or more starts per year appears to be catching up to him. 2016 Projection: 15 W/11 L/3.19 ERA/1.15 WHIP/204 K/58 BB in 214 IP
- Jon Lester (Cubs) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Lester has logged 9 straight seasons in a row with at least 31 starts and 191 IP. That is definitely workhorse status right there and there’s little reason to think that he won’t continue to have success in the National League. With an improved offense behind him this year, he’s almost guaranteed to post better than his 2015 record of 11-12. 2016 Projection: 14 W/10 L/3.20 ERA/1.16 WHIP/202 K/52 BB in 205 IP
- Chris Archer (Rays) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Archer hit the bullseye in 2015 with a very large strikeout rate as he pumped in a mid to upper 90’s fastball with a killer slide and occasional changeup. Archer made a slight change in his release point, which might have been the primary impetus to his breakout season. However, he did tail off in the second half of the season as he struggled with his control, which is mildly concerning given his vast control issues from the Minors. I don’t think that he improves or even reaches his 2015 level of performance because I expect his control to continue to be an issue at times, but he still remains a solid pitching option. 2016 Projection: 13 W/10 L/3.20 ERA/1.18 WHIP/214 K/65 BB in 198 IP
- Sonny Gray (A’s) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Gray has outpitched his peripherals for two years straight now thanks to some seemingly lucky BABIP marks, but we have to remember that he pitches in a friendly home park that has spacious foul grounds and he induces a lot of groundballs that avoid hard contact. Gray’s soft hit rate is actually not that special, but his medium hit rate at 55.7% the last two seasons combined is one of the highest in the Majors. With that being said, he probably still has been rather fortunate to post such low BABIP’s, so I think some upwards movement is in store there. Gray will probably continue to be just above average in K/9, but he’s solid enough otherwise to be a decent #2. 2016 Projection: 15 W/10 L/3.11 ERA/1.19 WHIP/178 K/66 BB in 213 IP
- Jacob deGrom (Mets) – The Backwards K Quick Take: DeGrom completed a feat that few believed he could by improving as a sophomore last year after his surprise rookie season in 2014 was out of left field. But in my opinion, there’s certainly reason for skepticism that he can make it the trifecta and improve yet again. First of all, in Spring Training, deGrom has been sitting in the low 90’s (91-93 MPH) with his fastball after averaging 93.5 MPH with it in 2014 and then a big jump to 95.0 MPH last year. Obviously the big jump last year was great and was likely a causal effect toward his success, but deGrom is a player who has already had Tommy John surgery in his career back in 2010 as a Minor Leaguer and then he pitched 216 innings last year (regular season plus post-season) when his previous career high was just 178.2 IP from 2014. So the fact that he’s showing a big velocity loss is a bit alarming. It is just Spring Training and he may not be ramping it up just yet, but it still is noteworthy. Also, last year he lived off a .271 BABIP, which was definitely low for what his batted ball profile looked like. At the very least, I think that deGrom should see a semi-significant decline in production, especially in the strikeout rate if his velocity doesn’t scale back up. At the worst, and I hate to even speculate it, but a serious arm injury could be in store. 2016 Projection: 13 W/9 L/3.14 ERA/1.12 WHIP/181 K/40 BB in 185 IP
- Francisco Liriano (Pirates) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Liriano has really found a home in Pittsburgh and has rejuvenated his career and he likely has Ray Searage, Pirates pitching coach, to thank. Last year, Liriano induced groundballs over half of the time and he was also very good at inducing soft contact at a 25.2% mark, which was dead even with that of Dallas Keuchel. There were only two pitchers last year who ranked in the top 10 in K% and soft%: Jake Arrieta and Francisco Liriano. And this wasn’t even just a one year thing either, as he basically was the exact same pitcher in 2014. Liriano may not have a stellar WHIP because of his walks, and he may not get a lot of wins because he works deep into counts and gives up those walks, but he’s very skilled and probably a bit underappreciated. 2016 Projection: 13 W/9 L/3.11 ERA/1.20 WHIP/198 K/69 BB in 183 IP
- Johnny Cueto (Giants) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Everything was going swell for Cueto as a Reds pitcher last year, and then he was traded to the Royals and the fantasy world thought okay, now he’ll get some wins too! But he just never could get things going in Royal blue and he posted an ugly 4.76 ERA with a losing record for the champs. He’ll look to get back on track as he found his way back to the NL and to pretty much the best landing spot he could have asked for in San Francisco where it’s a winning team and a spacious home ballpark. The initial thought is that he’ll get back to dominating, but I think there’s some durability concerns to consider with Cueto. He’s missed significant time in a couple seasons earlier in this decade, and last year he experienced a subtle drop in velocity that shouldn’t go unnoticed. If he stays healthy though, the home park factors should help to disguise any decline in skill or velocity — it seems like at least a moderately risky proposition to me though. 2016 Projection: 14 W/9 L/3.13 ERA/1.14 WHIP/164 K/52 BB in 196 IP
- Cole Hamels (Rangers) – The Backwards K Quick Take: After 9.5 years of stifling National League hitters, Hamels joined the ranks of the American League and learned that it might be a little bit harder to rack up the strikeouts and prevent runs in the league with the DH. But the good news is that his velocity was higher than ever last year. Overall, I’d expect a very similar season to last year with the upside for some more given that he’s not showing signs of slowing down. 2016 Projection: 15 W/11 L/3.60 ERA/1.21 WHIP/193 K/58 BB in 212 IP
- Tyson Ross (Padres) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Ross is essentially a right-handed version of Francisco Liriano. He doesn’t quite induce soft contact like Liriano does, but is primarly a fastball/slider pitcher (with one wicked slider) who can have control issues and not go too deep into games, yet strikeout a ton of batters and get a ton of groundballs. Yep, that’s basically what Liriano is. However, the difference between them is that Ross plays on a team that had a poor defense last year and an offense that didn’t score many runs. The defense let him down to contribute to his high .320 BABIP and the offense left him with a losing record for the third straight season despite his strong ERA, FIP, and xFIP numbers. The Padres rid themselves of several poorly rated defensive players, so that should help Ross get back to a BABIP level that he’s more accustomed to. However, one other thing that can also hurt Ross is his inability to prevent SB, which could just cause extra stress and pressure on him in any given inning. But Ross is a good source of strikeouts and should be good enough in the ratios departments to be useful. 2016 Projection: 13 W/10 L/3.11 ERA/1.23 WHIP/197 K/71 BB in 191 IP
- Justin Verlander (Tigers) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Verlander landed on the DL for the first time in his career last season with a triceps injury to start the season. Once he came off the DL, he was just horrific for the first month. But once he fought off the rust and got even stronger, he was able to locate his pitches better and he ended up posting a 2.27 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 8.24 K/9 over his final 14 starts. Not surprisingly, his velocity still remains down from the prime of his career, but it at least seems like he is now learning to adapt at a lower velocity to understand that he can still beat hitters with smart pitch sequencing and location. We can’t expect Verlander to necessarily be the model of health and durability that he once was, but if he’s anything close to what he was in those final 14 starts of 2015, then he’ll give a fine return on invesstment. 2016 Projection: 14 W/10 L/3.30 ERA/1.18 WHIP/177 K/56 BB in 205 IP
- Carlos Martinez (Cardinals) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Martinez enjoyed a breakout season in 2015 but he enters 2016 with some question marks surrounding the health of his pitching shoulder. The fact that he exceeded his previous career high in innings pitched by approximately 75 innings might have something to do with that. But interestingly, despite what seemed like a second half breakdown last year once he got a little past his previous career high in innings, Martinez’ velocity actually gradually rose as the season went on until it was complete. Martinez has an electric arm and induces groundballs very well. His command and control can be an issue at times, but the upside that he possesses is not matched by many other 24 year old pitchers. Health will be key, but he should stand to post very similar numbers to last year if the shoulder doesn’t affect him. 2016 Projection: 13 W/9 L/3.02 ERA/1.20 WHIP/185 K/62 BB in 179 IP
- Taijuan Walker (Mariners) – The Backwards K Quick Take: Walker was a breakout stud of Spring Training in 2015 and while it all didn’t directly translate to the regular season, there were some parts that did…eventually. Walker got off to an absolutely horrendous start to 2015 by owning a 7.33 ERA after 9 starts. But then he figured something out and posted 51 K/3 BB and a 1.68 ERA in 48.1 IP over his next 7 starts. He would the go on to be rather inconsistent for the remainder of the year, but a strong K/BB ratio stuck with him the rest of the way, which is the biggest takeaway from his season. He gets in trouble with the long ball, so if he can learn to curb that then he can be a pretty dangerous pitcher with the type of K/BB ratio that he displayed for most of the season. Expect some more growth out of Walker this year. He’s got the look of a future ace. 2016 Projection: 12 W/11 L/3.52 ERA/1.16 WHIP/186 K/47 BB in 195 IP
- Danny Salazar (Indians) – The Backwards K Quick Take: A 10-start glimpse at Salazar in 2013 gave the fantasy world a tingly feeling at what could possibly become of this young righty. But 2014 didn’t end up going too well for Salazar as he spent time in the Minors due to struggling in the Majors with his command. Salazar’s 2015 exemplified more of what Salazar is capable of, but still there’s a yearning for more as his command still gets lost at times, which results in home runs. But he showed some interesting changes as he threw his split-change much more in lieu of some slider usage. His split-change has always generated more whiffs than his slider, so that helped his K% a little. And his split-change also has induced more groundballs throughout his career, so his GB% jumped from 34.4% to 43.9%. Overall, those changes could evolve into some extra goodness for Salazar, but I will safely project him to finish 2016 with a very similar line to last year. 2016 Projection: 12 W/10 L/3.47 ERA/1.19 WHIP/196 K/56 BB in 185 IP
UNDERVALUED STARTING PITCHERS (#1-30) TO TARGET (Based off positional ADP):
OVERVALUED STARTING PITCHERS (#1-30) TO AVOID (Based off positional ADP):