Listed below are the positional rankings put together by Ryan Boyer, Nate Grimm, Nick Nelson, Matthew Pouliot, D.J. Short, Dave Shovein and Drew Silva. There are ultimately going to be some disagreements, presenting an opportunity for the writer to explain why they’re higher or lower on that player than the rest of the group.
Dave Shovein had Jake Arrieta 10. The composite ranking was 7.43.
For the past few years I have been one of the most ardent supporters of Arrieta. There are serious concerns about the 31-year-old right-hander heading into the 2017 campaign, however. While he has been unbelievable in his time with the Cubs, Arrieta logged a massive 248 2/3 innings during his Cy Young Award winning 2016 season, an increase of nearly 100 innings from the previous year. Could that be part of the reason for his slight fall-off in 2016? Arrieta saw his velocity dip nearly a full mph, from 94.6 to 93.7 on his average fastball. He also nearly doubled his walk rate (9.6% from 5.5%) while getting fewer strikeouts. His issues worsened as the season progressed, registering a 4.44 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 83/41 K/BB ratio over 99 1/3 innings in his final 16 starts. He was able to regroup and pitch well in the postseason, but still it added an additional 22 1/3 innings to an already large workload. He's entering his walk year and will surely be motivated to pitch for a new contract, but I have my doubts that he'll even be able to replicate the success he found in 2016. Pay close attention to his velocity during his final spring starts, as it could be an indicator of things to come. He's still a top-15 starting pitcher on by board, but not someone that I'm willing to trust as the ace of my fantasy staff this season. - Dave Shovein (@DaveShovein)
Matthew Pouliot had Kyle Hendricks 9. The composite ranking was 16.29.
It took a .250 BABIP and an ERA a full run lower than his FIP to make Hendricks a top-10 fantasy starter last year. Those facts would seem to make it crazy to bet on him again. I’m doing just that, though. That Hendricks’ ERA was so much lower than his FIP wasn’t a fluke; it was a product of pitching in front of the game’s best defense in Chicago.
Hendricks: 2.13 ERA, 3.20 FIP
Jon Lester: 2.44 ERA, 3.41 FIP
Jake Arrieta: 3.10 ERA, 3.52 FIP
John Lackey: 3.35 ERA, 3.81 FIP
Jason Hammel: 3.83 ERA, 4.48 FIP
And that Cubs defense isn’t going anywhere. The team is taking a downgrade in left, since Kyle Schwarber is healthy again, but center field looks like an upgrade, what with Albert Almora taking over for Dexter Fowler, and Javier Baez is due to get more playing time in the infield. I think those Cubs starters will keep beating their FIPs, and Hendricks is pretty good regardless; he’s a modest groundball pitcher with a fine walk rate and an above average strikeout rate. He also seems like a great bet to stay healthy, as he hasn’t had any problems to date in his career and he’s not at all a max-effort guy in his delivery. I don’t know that he’ll finish this year as a top-10 SP again – he’s not going to match the top guys strikeout for strikeout – but once durability gets factored in, there aren’t 10 better bets on draft day. – Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)
Ryan Boyer had Rick Porcello 42. The composite ranking was 27.71.
I think Porcello has legitimately improved. He’s upped his strikeout rate to a respectable number while at the same time maintaining his elite control. He’s also going to have a terrific offense backing him again, so the right-hander should have no problem compiling wins. However, what can’t be disputed is that Porcello was incredibly lucky last season. He had a .269 BABIP that was 38 points lower than his career mark. He had a 74.3 percent LOB rate that was 4.2 percent higher than his career mark. He had a 9.3 percent HR/FB rate that was two percent higher than his career mark, and that was particularly fortunate since he induced the most flyballs of his career by far last season. He also had a walk rate (3.6 percent) that was easily the lowest of his career. All of the above numbers are likely to regress to at least some degree. Porcello is currently being drafted as the No. 26 pitcher and just outside the top-100 overall in NFBC leagues, which is too high for my liking. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)
D.J. Short had Julio Urias 54. The composite ranking was 40.86.
I didn’t expect to be the low one on Urias, but here we are. Listen, I like Urias just fine. Despite a bit of a rough introduction to the majors last year, he ended up finishing with a 3.39 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 34 walks over 77 innings. Pretty impressive for a teenager. I think he’s going to be valuable in fantasy leagues this year, but growing pains are possible and the Dodgers are going to be careful about his workload once again. He threw 122 innings last year between the majors and the minors, so we’re not talking about a guy who is going to get close to 200 innings. The Dodgers are already mapping out a plan to get him through the year, which will likely include him starting the year in extended spring training. My ranking list is built on who I would draft leading into Opening Day. Urias won’t be placed on the disabled list if he’s sent to extended spring training, so fantasy owners are likely looking at having a dead roster spot for a bit until the Dodgers call him up. I’d just rather have more flexibility on my roster early on in the season, which is why I put him behind a handful of guys I’m sure he’ll be better than if all things were equal. - D.J. Short (@djshort)
Drew Silva had Tanner Roark 33. The composite ranking was 55.71.
I’m wondering why Roark isn’t getting more late-round love in fantasy drafts this year after he put up a 2.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 172 strikeouts in 210 innings (33 starts) last season for the Nationals. Max Scherzer was obviously the ace of the Washington rotation in 2016, but Roark was in many ways the stabilizer as guys like Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez fought through injuries and ineffectiveness. That’s probably why Roark picked up some down-ballot Cy Young votes at the conclusion of the regular season. The 30-year-old right-hander has put up sub-3.00 ERAs in the past and his career ERA through 573 1/3 major league innings is a shiny 3.01. His career WHIP is 1.146. We saw a jump in strikeout rate last season and another step forward in that department this season would make Roark a sure-thing top-30 fantasy starter. I have him ranked 33rd right now. Some of our writers decided not to rank him at all. There are worse ways to spend an 18th-22nd round pick. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)