2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Debating early pitcher rankings and ADP

We use Slack to communicate internally, and now we're going to use it to communicate with you guys. Every Wednesday through the offseason and into the season, we're going to have Scott White and Heath Cummings discuss (and maybe debate, a little) their rankings. We're talking pitchers this week. Here is the full (lightly edited) transcript of our chat: 

chris.towers: Alright guys, we talked hitters last time around, let's focus on pitchers today. Clayton Kershaw is still the No. 1 pitcher for both of you, but how far as the gap between him and No. 2 for you? How about between Kershaw and No. 5?

heath.cummings: The gap between 1 and 5 is huge ... but then again, so is the gap between 4 and 5. That's why I have (for the first time ever) four pitchers in my top 12 players in points leagues.

(I guess that's another way of saying the gap between 1 & 2 (or even 4!) is not very big at all)

Double parentheses, FTW

scott.white: He's no longer in a tier of his own, and it's not that he's any less awesome. But three of the past four years now he has missed significant time with the same back issue. There's a trend developing that you have to bake into the projection, and it's enough to shrink the gap between him and Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber.

Those four, though, are a step above everyone else.

chris.towers: Chris Sale and Max Scherzer both having 300-strikeout (or close) seasons in their recent rearview mirror certainly helps narrow the gap.

So, there isn't much disagreement between you two at all in the top 12, really. And I'm not interested in where you agree. I'm interested in making you squabble. So... Dallas Keuchel is 17th for Scott in H2H, and 12th for Heath.

Scott ... Why do you hate Dallas Keuchel?

heath.cummings: I've always been a big Dallas Keuchel guy

scott.white: Not how I remember this conversation last season.

I guess my issue with Dallas Keuchel is that he keeps missing large chunks of the season with injury. And while he pitches deep enough into games to be an ace when healthy, he invites more contact than most aces, exposing him to more risk.

Really, though, it's more a matter of me liking the 16 guys ahead of him more, not disliking Keuchel.

chris.towers: He's thrown 168 and 145 innings each of the last two seasons, for the record. Two seasons with 200+ innings in his career.

Which is to say: Not the strongest track record for a guy whose best selling point is probably safety.

scott.white: If that's his best selling point, there's a bigger problem.

chris.towers: Well, it is, right? He's not a big strikeout guy, so you probably need him to pitch 200 innings to be worth a top-12 ranking. That's probably not true of, say, Chris Archer, Carlos Martinez or Stephen Strasburg, right?

heath.cummings: The thing about safety is that it doesn't exist at SP. Keuchel doesn't have huge K upside, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have big upside. He has enormous innings upside & has a sub-3 ERA in three of his past 4 seasons.

scott.white: I would say Keuchel's big selling point is limiting hard contact that prevents the big inning that keeps his ERA down, all while consistently throwing seven-plus innings. But now I'm arguing for him, so where have we gotten?

chris.towers: OK, we'll switch to a player Heath is lower on that both Scott and the consensus: Jake Arrieta. He's 22nd in the FantasyPros consensus, 18th for Scott, and 29th for Heath. Heath, talk people out of Jake Arrieta.

heath.cummings: I am terrified of Jake Arrieta

chris.towers: It's the beard, isn't it?

scott.white: No, Heath's all-in on the beard. Growing one of his own. Of the three of us, I'm the beardless wonder.

heath.cummings: I'm scared of ranking him too high. I'm scared of ranking him too low. I'm scared of where he's going to end up.

chris.towers: He's currently pitching for Baseball Athletes of America.

I think Arrieta shaved the beard. Need to confirm. Might be why he's un-signed.

What specifically scares you about Arrieta?

heath.cummings: Mostly, he's an average strikeout pitcher that doesn't look like he has elite control any longer and he's only topped 200 innings once in his career.

chris.towers: Coming off consecutive seasons of a 3.10 and 3.53 ERA, btw. Pretty good. More innings than Keuchel's managed over the last two seasons, to boot.

heath.cummings: If he was on a good team with a good park and a good defense? He could move as high as 24. I probably have him closer to his floor than his ceiling.

scott.white: Heath's points are all fair, and I don't imagine I'll have too many shares of Arrieta myself this year, but he begins a stretch of pitchers that all have enormous questions to answer and is among the most proven of that group. Plus, I can't get around the fact he had a 2.26 ERA over his final 14 starts last year thanks to what seemed like a conscious adjustment, compensating for his diminished stuff with more ground balls.

heath.cummings: At what point do we start considering the possibility that some of these Boras guys just may not be on rosters on Opening Day?

chris.towers: That feels like a discussion for an entirely different chat!

But if you're drafting in February, it's certainly a question worth asking -- we've heard rumbles.

Heath has to run shortly, so we'll go with some rapid-fire fill-in-the-blank questions for the rest of the chat.

No. 1: Which pitcher outside of your top-10 has the best chance of jumping into the top five?

scott.white: Probably James Paxton. Basically just an innings issue keeping him out.

heath.cummings: In H2H? Noah Syndergaard. He could be No. 1.

scott.white: Ah, shoot. I have Syndergaard 12th. Heath is right. You set the bar too low, Chris!

chris.towers: I am contractually obligated to point out: Paxton threw 171 2/3 innings in 2016, and his time on the DL came because he was hit by a line drive comebacker.

Which pitcher outside of your top-20 has the best chance to jump into the top-10?

I think Scott may have already answered this one.

scott.white: Nope, Paxton is 20th! So after him ...

chris.towers: Godley.

heath.cummings: Jose Berrios

chris.towers: It's Godley. We know it's Godley. *extremely Jan Brady voice* Godley Godley Godley

scott.white: It's between him and Gerrit Cole, who I think the Astros are going to work their data-mining magic on.

chris.towers: Gerrit Cole probably throws his fastball too much. No team threw their fastballs less than the Astros last season. Seems like a good match!

Who is the best bounceback candidate at starting pitcher this season?

heath.cummings: Does Madison Bumgarner count?

chris.towers: Let's avoid injured guys.

Performance only.

scott.white: David Price is the knee-jerk response because he has the most upside of the bounce-back candidates, but for the cost, I think Johnny Cueto is the better investment. He was messed up by a blister all year.

Wait, does that count as injury?

heath.cummings: Most pitchers that were bad also had an injury at some point

scott.white: Any takers for Cole Hamels? No? No? Didn't think so ...

chris.towers: This is a perfect example of why I could never own more than one cat.

heath.cummings: But I'll say Masahiro Tanaka. He had a 3.52 SIERA last year  

chris.towers: OK, let's talk relievers. Very quickly. No explanations, just names

chris.towers: Who is the closer for the Mets on May 1?

scott.white: Jeurys Familia

chris.towers: Who is the closer for the Marlins on May 1?

scott.white: Brad Ziegler

heath.cummings: Who pitched on April 30?

Who is due up in the 8th?

chris.towers: Aug. 1?

scott.white: Let's get crazy and say Drew Steckenrider.

heath.cummings: I guess what I'm saying is, I buy that they're actually going to use their relievers in a more analytic-friendly way

chris.towers: Who is the best SPARP?

(Starting Pitcher As Relief Pitcher)

scott.white: Best SPARP is Mike Minor, who we've seen be a top-30 starting pitcher before.

heath.cummings: Joe Musgrove

chris.towers: And last one: Who is the closer you will have the most shares of?

heath.cummings: Raisel Iglesias and Brad Hand. They are very good.

scott.white: It's looking like Wade Davis because people are worried about the COL next to his name. Bottom line is it won't be somebody I pay up for.

chris.towers: Makes sense. There's less dependable depth at closer than ever before, it seems.

Any final thoughts?

heath.cummings: YAY HUMIDOR

chris.towers: BOO HUMIDOR

heath.cummings: weird

scott.white: I used to be on an island with my Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Zack Godley love, but I have a feeling the whole industry is about to catch up.

Also, Danny Duffy and Dylan Bundy aren't getting enough respect.

chris.towers: I've always said Danny Duffy was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Royals.

scott.white: You've never said that. 

Fantasy Writer

Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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