Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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2015 Starter Rankings

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

As has become an All-Star break tradition, here’s a peek ahead at some very, very preliminary 2015 player rankings. I’m only concerned with next year here, so these aren’t true keeper rankings; if I were factoring in 2016 and beyond, some younger players would be listed quite a bit higher. As always, I’m going position by position (trying to account for next year’s position eligibility) and including a top 300 overall.


This winter’s free agents are listed without teams. Players facing option years are listed as “opt” in the team column.


Follow us at @Rotoworld_BB and @matthewpouliot on Twitter.


Click to see other preliminary 2015 rankings:

Top 300 | RP | OF | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | C | DH


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Friday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on Friday. Here's the FanDuel link.


2015 Starting pitcher Rankings


1 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 1
2 Adam Wainwright Cardinals 7
3 Felix Hernandez Mariners 5
4 Madison Bumgarner Giants 6
5 Stephen Strasburg Nationals 3
6 Max Scherzer   8
7 Yu Darvish Rangers 10
8 Zack Greinke Dodgers 17
9 Cliff Lee Phillies 2
10 David Price Rays 9
11 Chris Sale White Sox 13
12 Cole Hamels Phillies 21
13 Julio Teheran Braves 26
14 Sonny Gray Athletics 32
15 Johnny Cueto Reds 30
16 Jordan Zimmermann Nationals 18
17 Matt Harvey Mets NR
18 Justin Verlander Tigers 4
19 Doug Fister Nationals 22
20 Garrett Richards Angels 113
21 Jeff Samardzija Athletics 37
22 Alex Cobb Rays 12
23 Michael Wacha Cardinals 15
24 Mat Latos Reds 25
25 Homer Bailey Reds 19
26 Gio Gonzalez Nationals 23
27 Mike Minor Braves 27
28 Matt Cain Giants 14
29 James Shields   16
30 Andrew Cashner Padres 31
31 Jon Lester   34
32 Yordano Ventura Royals 71
33 Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers 28
34 Gerrit Cole Pirates 24
35 Chris Archer Rays 36
36 Anibal Sanchez Tigers 42
37 Corey Kluber Indians 60
38 Hisashi Iwakuma Mariners 52
39 Masahiro Tanaka Yankees 20
40 Tyson Ross Padres 57
41 Lance Lynn Cardinals 46
42 Archie Bradley Diamondbacks 89
43 Derek Holland Rangers 86
44 C.J. Wilson Angels 39
45 John Lackey Red Sox 45
46 Scott Kazmir Athletics 81
47 Taijuan Walker Mariners 96
48 R.A. Dickey Blue Jays 29
49 Dallas Keuchel Astros 126
50 Jose Quintana White Sox 58
51 Jake Arrieta Cubs 151
52 Marcus Stroman Blue Jays 158
53 Alex Wood Braves 48
54 Andrew Heaney Marlins 165
55 Jesse Hahn Padres NR
56 Kevin Gausman Orioles 115
57 Jered Weaver Angels 44
58 Carlos Martinez Cardinals 95
59 Jose Fernandez Marlins 11
60 Tim Hudson Giants 61
61 Trevor Bauer Indians 205
62 Zack Wheeler Mets 65
63 Francisco Liriano   41
64 Charlie Morton Pirates 76
65 Rick Porcello Tigers 55
66 Drew Smyly Tigers 62
67 Ian Kennedy Padres 40
68 Kyle Lohse Brewers 85
69 Mike Leake Reds 66
70 Tony Cingrani Reds 33
71 Nathan Eovaldi Marlins 83
72 Kris Medlen Braves NR
73 Clay Buchholz Red Sox 35
74 Tyler Skaggs Angels 125
75 Ervin Santana   47
76 Yovani Gallardo opt 79
77 Danny Duffy Royals 127
78 Jason Hammel   141
79 Tim Lincecum Giants 70
80 Henderson Alvarez Marlins 88
81 Jon Niese Mets 109
82 Jake Odorizzi Rays 140
83 Wily Peralta Brewers 117
84 Wade Miley Diamondbacks 67
85 Patrick Corbin Diamondbacks NR
86 Matt Garza Brewers 72
87 Josh Beckett   123
88 Dylan Bundy Orioles 282
89 Odrisamer Despaigne Padres NR
90 Justin Masterson   56
91 Jake Peavy   63
92 Phil Hughes Twins 94
93 Shelby Miller Cardinals 51
94 Dan Haren opt 53
95 Danny Salazar Indians 38
96 Jeremy Hellickson Rays 84
97 Rubby De La Rosa Red Sox 279
98 Jarred Cosart Astros 167
99 Drew Pomeranz Athletics 157
100 Jimmy Nelson Brewers 185
101 Brandon McCarthy   90
102 Roenis Elias Mariners 280
103 Dillon Gee Mets 82
104 Alex Meyer Twins 240
105 Michael Pineda Yankees 119
106 Drew Hutchison Blue Jays 108
107 James Paxton Mariners 118
108 Bartolo Colon Mets 74
109 Jesse Chavez Athletics 137
110 Mark Buehrle Blue Jays 104
111 Noah Syndergaard Mets 212
112 Tanner Roark Nationals 135
113 Robbie Erlin Padres 101
114 A.J. Burnett opt 69
115 Henry Owens Red Sox 314
116 Jonathan Gray Rockies 257
117 Jason Vargas Royals 112
118 CC Sabathia Yankees 54
119 Jarrod Parker Athletics NR
120 Marco Gonzales Cardinals NR
121 Edwin Jackson Cubs 91
122 Erasmo Ramirez Mariners 68
123 Travis Wood Cubs 93
124 Matthew Wisler Padres 190
125 Alfredo Simon Reds 135 RP
126 Wei-Yin Chen opt 99
127 Jorge De La Rosa   142
128 Chris Tillman Orioles 100
129 Carlos Rodon White Sox NR
130 Marco Estrada Brewers 64
131 Ubaldo Jimenez Orioles 106
132 Gavin Floyd   128
133 Felix Doubront Red Sox 92
134 Brett Anderson opt 111
135 Joe Kelly Cardinals 132
136 Allen Webster Red Sox 192
137 Kyle Gibson Twins 134
138 Collin McHugh Astros 298
139 A.J. Griffin Athletics 59
140 Brandon Workman Red Sox 77 RP
141 Brandon Beachy Braves NR
142 Dan Straily Cubs 43
143 Edwin Escobar Giants 317
144 Rafael Montero Mets 168
145 Tom Koehler Marlins 156
146 Jeff Locke Pirates 121
147 Matt Moore Rays 49
148 Miguel Gonzalez Orioles 73
149 Robbie Ray Tigers 266
150 Ricky Nolasco Twins 110
151 Cory Luebke Padres NR
152 John Danks White Sox 87
153 Hiroki Kuroda   50
154 Ivan Nova Yankees 75
155 Aaron Sanchez Blue Jays 245
156 Jaime Garcia Cardinals 97
157 Chase Anderson Diamondbacks NR
158 C.J. Edwards Cubs 273
159 Daniel Hudson Diamondbacks 234
160 Chad Billingsley opt 139
161 Anthony DeSclafani Marlins 290
162 Trevor Cahill Diamondbacks 103
163 A.J. Cole Nationals 275
164 Bud Norris Orioles 163
165 Casey Kelly Padres 210
166 Anthony Ranaudo Red Sox 276
167 Jhoulys Chacin Rockies 130
168 Eddie Butler Rockies 207
169 Trevor May Twins 259
170 Martin Perez Rangers 122
171 Jeremy Guthrie Royals 147
172 Tommy Milone Athletics 80
173 Josh Johnson opt 78
174 Tyler Glasnow Pirates NR
175 Jose Berrios Twins NR
176 Brad Peacock Astros 173
177 Daniel Norris Blue Jays NR
178 Jesse Biddle Phillies 201
179 Jameson Taillon Pirates 194
180 Luke Jackson Rangers 357


Starting pitchers


  • Just three of the top 60 pitchers here are free agents this winter: Scherzer, Shields and Lester. There’s still a fair amount of talent behind the big three, though, in Liriano, Ervin Santana, Hammel, Beckett, Masterson, Peavy, McCarthy and De La Rosa. Of the pitchers with options, Gallardo and Chen figure to be back with the Brewers and Orioles, respectively. Haren has a $10 million player option to stay with the Dodgers that he might well exercise unless he finishes strong.


  • It’s not ideal, but nine Padres crack the top 180, along with eight starters apiece from the Athletics, Cardinals and Red Sox. Cashner and Ross are probably the locks for the San Diego rotation, with Hahn not far behind. I’m guessing Kennedy will be gone, probably before the trade deadline. I’m also getting more optimistic about Despaigne, who showed his best velocity to date in his start against the Dodgers last time out. So, if a veteran joins those four (Cashner, Ross, Hahn and Despaigne), then the Padres might not have any room for Erlin, Wisler, Luebke and Kelly. But Erlin, Luebke and Kelly are all rehab cases anyway; they just all had too much upside to exclude.

Interestingly, the Padres also hold a $4 million option on Josh Johnson’s services after he underwent Tommy John surgery. I imagine they’ll decline it, though that’s not a bad price at all for a lottery ticket.

  • The uncertainly and crowding in the Cardinals rotation made those rankings tough calls. Wacha would be in the top 15 if not for this year’s stress reaction in his shoulder. It could prove to be a completely isolated incident, and since there aren’t any known rotator cuff or labrum issues, he still has a good chance of being an elite pitcher next year. However, given the way we’ve seen the stress reactions/fractures recur with McCarthy, I did have to ding Wacha’s ranking a bit. So, he’s No. 23. I also have Carlos Martinez at No. 58, which is pretty high for a guy who might wind up back in the pen. But he has such a high ceiling that I couldn’t see putting him any lower than that. If Wacha and Martinez join Wainwright and Lynn in next year’s rotation, it’d leave just one spot for Miller, a possibly healthy Jaime Garcia, Kelly and prospect Marco Gonzales.


  • The Red Sox rotation is completely up in the air, what with Lester and Peavy in free agency and Lackey’s status uncertain. Lackey’s contract calls for him to earn just $500,000 next year because of a term added at the onset of his five-year, $82.5 million deal relating to him missing time with an arm problem (he didn’t pitch in 2012 following Tommy John surgery). Lackey figures to be a very unhappy camper if the Red Sox actually ask him to pitch for the major league minimum, so something will have to be worked out, perhaps a two-year extension that would bring his salary back up.

Plus, beyond the veterans, the Red Sox have a whole bunch of youngsters that are worthy of chances, even if there’s only one elite prospect (Henry Owens) in the bunch. I ranked them: Rubby De La Rosa, Owens, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo, with Matt Barnes missing the cut. The Red Sox also have Buchholz and Doubront under control and they’ll make a bid to retain Lester, so it’s hard to tell just how much room there will be for those young arms.

  • Four teams have just three starters in the top 150: the Dodgers, Indians, Phillies and Rockies. The Dodgers are in the best shape of those teams, what with their three being Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu. They might also have Haren back, and they can re-sign Beckett if they want, though they may aim higher. I was tempted to include 17-year-old phenom Julio Urias in the top 180 based on the possibility that he could be ready next summer. Zach Lee wasn’t given a lot of consideration, though.


  • I put Harvey at No. 17 for now. He was performing like a top-five pitcher pre-surgery, but we’ll have to see how he looks next spring before he sees that territory again.


  • Tanaka got something of a placeholder ranking at No. 39. Depending on how his rehab goes in the coming weeks, he could require Tommy John surgery that would sideline him for all of 2015. He’s the lone Yankee in the top 100 here, with Pineda at No. 105 and Sabathia at No. 118. The rehabbing Nova, who figures to miss at least the first month or two of the season, is at No. 154.


  • Rodon, at No. 129, was the lone 2014 draft pick to crack the list here, though consideration was given to the Phillies’ Aaron Nola and the Giants’ Tyler Beede.


  • Kuroda is listed at No. 153 because I’m assuming this will be his last year in MLB, whether he retires or simply heads back to Japan. If he did decide to come back, he’d still crack the top 100, but not the top 50 or 60.


  • No current Japanese players made the rankings, though I did consider including right-hander Kenta Maeda. The 26-year-old is hoping to be posted this winter, and he could be a fine middle-of-the-rotation guy in MLB.

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
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