Welcome to part two of my rankings of the best starting pitchers in the SSG OOTP league for the 2020 season. In case you missed it earlier this week, I already revealed numbers 20-11 in part one. Today we press on and talk about the top 10.
10) Joe Ross (27), SSG Mariners 2019 (with SSG Giants and Mariners) – 33 GS, 172.2 IP, 3.65 ERA (126 ERA+), 1.11 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 3.65 FIP, 4.5 RA9-WAR
The Mariners ended an 18 year playoff-drought last season. Their starting pitching certainly wasn’t their strength, but Ross and King Felix Hernandez (who just missed the top 20) are a solid 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation entering 2020.
9) Tim Hurst (25), SSG Reds 2019 – 32 GS, 184.0 IP, 3.38 ERA (139 ERA+), 1.11 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 3.87 FIP, 4.6 RA9-WAR
Hurst and Moscot were very close numbers wise, but what set Hurst apart were his age and his WHIP; everyone is going to give up their fair share of homers at the Great American Small-park, but if you can keep guys off base otherwise, you can really limit the damage.
8) Gerrit Cole (29), SSG Angels 2019 (with SSG Pirates and Angels) – 34 GS, 180.2 IP, 3.24 ERA (143 ERA+), 1.16 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.70 FIP, 5.7 RA9-WAR
“We made the trade for Cole with the assumption that we’d be able to resign him. Resigning Trout was our first priority, and once we got that done, we still had the money to keep Cole around. We checked on the numbers before making the deal, and knew we’d be able to keep both by letting some others walk, such as Matt Carpenter and Carlos Santana. The option always existed for us to just let him walk, but there was no one in FA even close to the talent of Cole, so instead of overpaying in a bidding war for a lesser pitcher, we paid one of the top pitchers in the game to be just that. To think that Cole is our likely Opening Day starter on a team with last year’s Cy Young winner in Steven Matz and one of SSG Baseball’s most consistently dominant SPs in Garrett Richards, we were able to have a Big 3 rotation, the likes of which we’ve never had in Los Angeles.”
– Mike Lowe, SSG Angels GM
The Angels paid a hefty price to the Pirates in the form of 3 good prospects last July, especially considering Cole was due to hit free agency 5 months later. However, the Angels were able to get Cole to sign to what I consider to be a very team friendly deal; $132 million is a lot for only 4 years, but it means that they won’t have to pay him anything at all after those short 4 years are over, and they will probably get the rest of his prime. Cole gets a lot of money for his best years, and he gets to play with one of his hometown teams. It’s a win-win, and the Angels won a lot last year, getting to the World Series for the second time in 4 years.
7) Brian Johnson (29), SSG Mets 2019 – 31 GS, 182.1 IP, 2.52 ERA (182 ERA+), 1.00 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 3.62 FIP, 7.1 RA9-WAR
Johnson was everything you could hope for in a rule 5 pick and more last season. He doesn’t have dazzling stuff or velocity but he was able to confound hitters in the NL East all the same. However, The Mets’ front office is hesitant to put big expectations on Johnson in 2020.
“We liked what we saw from Johnson in AAA with the Red Sox organization and felt we needed a good left arm in our starting rotation. We for sure did not expect the production we got from him last season and certainly do not see him continuing that kind of season numbers but we do see him still being an important part of our rotation. He may have more like a 10-8 record kind of season with an ERA of 4. That is what we expected when we got him.”
– Kevin Sweeney, SSG Mets GM
6) Chris Sale (31), SSG Blue Jays 2019 – 27 GS, 154.0 IP, 3.45 ERA (137 ERA+), 1.07 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 3.39 FIP, 4.3 RA9-WAR
Sale leads the best rotation in baseball heading into 2020. He bounced back from his worst career season in 2018 (the only season since 2012 that he didn’t make the All-Star team) and once again put up Cy Young caliber numbers–in fact, he finished in the top 3 in voting for the award for the second time in the last 3 years. His biggest issue has been staying healthy, but the Jays’ front office believe their rotation has not only great pitchers at the top but also a lot of depth.
“Last season our top prospect Jose Amaya made his debut and was very solid for a first time pro. Look for him to make a substantial jump this year and potentially catch those three guys in terms of production. Also, Adam Conley was acquired from the Marlins and looks to provide quality innings at the back of the rotation. In terms of the big three [Sale, Bumgarner and Stroman], what more can I say? They are the lifeblood of this team.”
– Jason Arnett, SSG Blue Jays GM
5) R.J. Hansen (29), SSG Phillies 2019 – 34 GS, 193.0 IP, 3.26 ERA (142 ERA+), 1.12 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 3.49 FIP, 6.1 RA9-WAR
Hansen’s numbers in 2018 and 2019 were eerily similar; his WHIP was 1.11 and 1.12 respectively, his K/9 was 10.0 and 10.1, his BB/9 was 3.2 and 3.4, his HR/9 was 0.8 and 0.7, his ERA+ was 141 and 142, and his BABIP was .270 and.268. A BABIP that low would usually suggest a lot of good luck, but since they were basically identical in the past 2 years it probably shows that he is the real deal. Among projected starting pitchers for the upcoming season for the Phillies, Hansen was the only qualified one with an ERA+ above 108. The front office is optimistic about their staff heading into the season, though.
“Last year we were second in the NL in runs scored (first in non-Coors teams!) and 5th in runs allowed, so we had some room to improve our pitching. We had the core in place though and didn’t need to make any big splashes so we went out hunting for deals, and traded for SP Austin Brice and signed SP Henderson Alvarez. Brice led his AAA league in pitching WAR last year but hasn’t been able to make that success translate to the majors yet. My scout absolutely loves him though. Alvarez is not flashy but has put together some solid inning-eating seasons. Together with SP Tristan Dailey, who is the #41 prospect, there could be three new members of the rotation, and we could make a big improvement there. Everything always looks best right before Spring Training though!”
– Andrew Seitz, SSG Phillies GM
4) Tim Cooney (29), SSG Braves 2019 (with SSG Cardinals and Braves) – 33 GS, 204.2 IP, 2.81 ERA (165 ERA+), 1.06 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 3.48 FIP, 7.6 RA9-WAR
Cooney dazzled as a 27 year old rookie in 2018. His first half of 2019 was even better and the Braves sent a 5-prospect package to St. Louis to bring him to their rotation in June. He continued to excel and now he’s got two great seasons under his belt. He led the NL in quality starts (23) and he was second in innings pitched and pitcher’s WAR (5.7).
3) Steven Matz (29), SSG Angels 2019 – 34 GS, 197.1 IP, 2.69 ERA (172 ERA+), 1.13 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 3.62 FIP, 7.3 RA9-WAR
“Matz surprised us last year, honestly, and he’s been far better than we even envisioned him being when we made the deal with Colorado. I envisioned Matz as a #3 starter, and a nice lefty option who’d be cheap for a number of years. I guess in a weird way, that’s exactly what he is, but a far better #3 option than we ever envisioned. The rest of our starting rotation consists of Derrek McGriff who broke out for us last year, and Braden Shipley who we acquired from the Diamondbacks bullpen as we felt he’d be a strong candidate to rejoin a MLB rotation.”
– Mike Lowe, SSG Angels GM
Matz is the beginning of the top tier of starting pitchers right now. Despite a couple of good seasons previously, Matz was an All Star and Cy Young for the first time in 2019. He was an easy choice for the best in the AL right now. He led the junior circuit in ERA, H/9 (7.48), and quality starts (24).
2) John Gant (27), SSG Mets 2019 – 31 GS, 199.2 IP, 2.52 ERA (182 ERA+), 0.95 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 3.44 FIP, 8.0 RA9-WAR
“When it comes to Gant we have seen this type of season coming for a long time. I have no reason to believe he won’t have a similar season but would love to see our bats help him out and limit the losses he got last season.”
– Kevin Sweeney, SSG Mets GM
The Mets bet big on Gant after his awesome start in 2019, signing him to a 7-year extension in May. He did not disappoint through the remainder of the season. His arm doesn’t light up the radar gun, but he put up excellent numbers in every area; he was first in the NL in WHIP, second in ERA and H/9 (6.90), third in BB/9, and eighth in K/9.
1) Clayton Kershaw (32), SSG Dodgers 2019 – 32 GS, 221.2 IP, 2.92 ERA (156 ERA+), 0.98 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 2.92 FIP, 7.9 RA9-WAR
He’s the most decorated player in the game today: 9 All-Star selections; 2 Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, a World Series Title, a 2 MVPs, and 8 Cy Young awards (including 7 straight). He’s led the NL in innings pitched in 3 of the last 4 years, strikeouts 4 of the last 5 years, and pitcher’s WAR 7 of the last 8 years (including 6 straight). Despite being over 30 he has yet to see any kind of decline. He’s been a Dodger for all of his 12 year career, but 2020 is a contract season. He could become the highest paid player ever next winter, and he will be worth every penny.
This was a long one but thanks for sticking with me. Here are the updated team rankings based on where they had players in our lists so far:
- SSG Phillies (#1 SS, #1 3B, #3 2B, #5 SP, #5 and #9 RP, #9 C)
- SSG Nationals (#2 and #7 RP, #3 3B, #4 1B, #8 2B, #9 SS, #13 SP)
- SSG Rockies (#2 2B, #2 SS, #6 1B, #8 3B, #12 and #14 SP)
- SSG Blue Jays (#1 RP, #2 1B, #6 #15 and #17 SP)
- SSG Dodgers (#1 SP, #3 C, #4 SS, #6 and #10 RP)
- SSG Mets (#2 and #7 SP, #7 3B, #8 C, #9 2B)
- SSG Reds (#2 C, #9 #11 and #18 SP, #10 SS)
- SSG Mariners (#2 3B, #5 C, #10 2B, #10 SP)
- SSG Tigers (#1 1B, #5 and #6 3B)
- SSG Diamondbacks (#1 C, #4 2B, #16 SP)
The defending American League champion SSG Angels finally cracked the rankings this week with 2 starting pitchers. This leaves the SSG Royals, Marlins, Brewers, Yankees, Athletics, and Rays as the only teams unrepresented so far. There’s just one week and one list left: the outfielders, which will be presented as the top 30 of all three outfield positions. Thanks for reading.