This is the weekly Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld Baseball in on a quick staff discussion. It's water cooler talk ... that we've decided to publish. Look for it every Tuesday.
Drew Silva: In last week's edition of the Rotoworld Fantasy Roundtable, we offered up our early Top 10 hitters for the 2016 season. Now let's rank some starting pitchers.
A reminder to our readers: this is nothing more than a rough draft, a thought experiment. I'll take the plunge first ...
1. Clayton Kershaw
This year's National League Cy Young Award is probably going to his teammate, Zack Greinke, but the strikeouts and overall track record keep Kershaw at the very top of my list of fantasy starters heading into 2016.
2. Zack Greinke
Greinke is almost certainly going to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract this winter, but I don't see the deep-pocketed Dodgers letting him go after such a tremendous 2015. He'll remain in a pitcher-friendly home environment for the foreseeable future.
3. Max Scherzer
Scherzer has faded in the second half, but the 31-year-old right-hander boasts the strikeout rate, the durability, and the pitcher-friendly home park to dominate pole to pole in 2016.
It's been a somewhat frustrating 2015 for the defending World Series champions, but Bumgarner has remained studly. He is sporting the highest strikeout rate of his career and he's only 26 years old. There's been no indication of his recent heavy workload having any sort of negative effect.
5. David Price
Price is going to be a big-ticket free agent this winter and his draft stock for 2016 could fluctuate depending on where he lands. Going back to Toronto might scare some people off because of the amount of homers hit at Rogers Centre, but he's actually been better for the Blue Jays than he was with the Tigers.
6. Chris Sale
Sale is currently rocking a ridiculous 12.0 K/9 through 187 2/3 innings this season. Maybe the White Sox won't be such an overall disappointment in 2016.
7. Matt Harvey
Harvey is going to get better and better as he moves away from Tommy John surgery. There should be no innings-limit drama next year.
8. Jake Arrieta
Arrieta has proven that his 2014 was no fluke and now seems to challenge for a no-hitter every other time he takes the mound. He currently leads the majors in wins, and the Cubs' overall roster is improving by the hour. I'd rank him higher if I was a little more bold.
There have been some concerning outings from King Felix throughout the summer, but would it shock anyone if he bounces back in a big way next season? There is a lot of mileage on that arm, but he's not yet 30 years old.
10. Gerrit Cole
I debated a number of different names for this final spot in my top 10 -- Jose Fernandez, Jacob deGrom, Sonny Gray, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, Johnny Cueto, Chris Archer, Corey Kluber -- but Cole gets the love based mostly on hunch. He just turned 25 years old and the Pirates have shown they carry staying power.
D.J. Short ...
The undisputed best pitcher in the game. Do we really need to overanalyze this? Next.
2. Max Scherzer
The second half hasn't been as good as the first, but overall his strikeout and walk rates are better than they were last season. I'm expecting big things with another year in the National League. Hopefully he gets some more run support.
3. Chris Sale
I know, I know. Sale has a career-high 3.55 ERA so far this season, but his amazing secondary numbers say that he has deserved a heck of a lot better. Having a lousy defense behind you will do that. I'm not sure it's possible to get him at a discount, but he's someone I'll be targeting.
4. Zack Greinke
Hasn't shown the kind of strikeout upside as Kershaw, Scherzer, or Sale, so that's why he's here. Dude has a 2.31 ERA over his three seasons with the Dodgers. It makes all the sense in the world to opt out of his contract and find a huge deal on the open market, but I'm hoping he stays in LA.
Bumgarner likely won't be pitching into October this year, but otherwise we have basically seen a carbon copy of what he did last season. Actually, his strikeout and walk rates are slightly better. He makes half of his starts in one of the game's most pitcher-friendly ballparks. A safe pick.
6. David Price
This is a little tricky since I don't know where Price will be pitching next season, but he has proven that he can still be great anywhere. That being said, moving to the National League would make him even more attractive in drafts next spring.
7. Jake Arrieta
It's safe to say we can stop speculating about whether his breakout is for real. With improved command and his nasty slider/cutter, Arrieta owns a 2.23 ERA with a 9.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 over 54 starts dating back to the start of last season. That Cubs offense should continue to provide plenty of run support.
8. Matt Harvey
Harvey has been excellent in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and he should be even more useful to fantasy owners next season with no workload restrictions.
I expected King Felix to be higher on my list, but the shaky second half has pushed him down a little bit. Also, there's just so much great pitching right now. Hernandez is trending a bit in the wrong direction, but I couldn't let him slip too far.
10. Jose Fernandez
I was very close to putting Gerrit Cole here, but I'm going to take a chance on Fernandez's upside. The 23-year-old owns a 2.21 ERA over his first 44 starts in the majors and is nearly unbeatable at home. There are some health questions here and I wonder how hard the Marlins will push him next season, but he's too good to keep out of the top 10.
Ryan Boyer ...
There's no debate about who is at the top. Kershaw remains the best and most reliable ace on the planet.
2. Max Scherzer
His ERA has been up since the All-Star break, but so have the strikeouts. I think there are multiple viable candidates for this spot, but Scherzer is the best bet after Kershaw.
3. Jake Arrieta
The guy has a 1.99 ERA over his last 37 starts. The lineup backing him is going to get better and better.
I was a tad worried about Bumgarner going into the season given last year's big workload, but he's gone out and had arguably his best season.
5. Jacob deGrom
DeGrom has a 2.53 ERA and 328/79 K/BB ratio over his first 316 1/3 frames in the majors. I see no reason to think he can't keep it up.
6. Chris Sale
Sale might be the second-most talented pitcher in the league after Kershaw. Here's hoping the White Sox will offer better defense and run support in 2016.
7. Zack Greinke
He's been a bit lucky to post the ERA he has this season, and he doesn't provide consistently gaudy strikeout totals. However, Greinke seems likely to stay with the Dodgers next season and is extremely reliable.
8. Matt Harvey
Fantasy owners won't have to worry about an innings limit next season.
9. David Price
Price could very easily work his way up this list based on where he winds up signing over the winter.
10. Gerrit Cole
I think there's still some upside left in Cole. The strikeout rate is below one per inning this season, but I could see him upping it considerably.
Matthew Pouliot ...
2. Max Scherzer
The recent numbers have been surprisingly disappointing, but his stuff is still as good as ever and I’d expect his 2016 to look more like his first half from 2015. His swinging-strike rate this year is about 20 percent better than his career average.
I don’t know that I’ll stick with this one, but Fernandez has looked as good as ever while on the mound this season. On talent alone, he’s No. 2 on this list. However, he’s probably the weakest bet of anyone here to top 200 innings.
Bumgarner’s big workload in 2014 hasn’t stopped him from posting the best strikeout and walk rates of his career this year.
5. Chris Sale
There haven’t been any injury scares from Sale this year, just some odd inconsistency. Really, though, the big reason his ERA is in the mid-3.00s is the White Sox defense.
6. Jake Arrieta
Arrieta still looked like an injury risk going into this year, and I’m a little worried about the possibility of more arm problems going forward. He throws a lot of breaking balls.
7. David Price
He’d be a couple of spots lower if he stays with Toronto as a free agent or a couple of spots higher if he heads to the National League.
8. Gerrit Cole
Cole missed time with shoulder fatigue and a lat strain last year, but there have been no such issues this time around. He’s still not going to match the top guys strikeout for strikeout, but he should only continue to improve as a pitcher.
9. Corey Kluber
The Indians entered this season looking like the AL’s worst defensive team, but they’re finishing it as one of the best. That’s enough to keep Kluber in the top 10 for now.
10. Zack Greinke
Greinke is almost certainly going to opt for free agency, and if he leaves Los Angeles, he probably won’t land in the top 10. If he stays, he could move up a couple of spots from here.