2015 Starter RankingsTuesday, 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.
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Top 300 | RP | OF | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | C | DH
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2015 Starting pitcher Rankings
- 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.