A (Very) Early 2021 Starting Pitcher Preview

Written by: Carlos Marcano (@camarcano)

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Looking within the vacuum of the 2020 season, I’ve created starting pitcher tiers using speX. If you are not familiar with speX, it is a Simple Pitching Estimator indeX, an aggregate indicator of sorts comprised of other stats, namely CSW, (K-BB)/IP, SIERA, and real FStrike%, weighted and scaled so the higher, the better. It has descriptive and predictive values.

Please be aware that 2020 numbers by themselves aren’t enough for proper forecasting, and this is simply a starting point. Also, remember that the higher speX, CSW, (K-BB)/IP, and real FStrike%, the better; SIERA works the opposite way. The cutoff I used was 40 IP during the shortened 2020 season.

I’ve divided the best starting pitchers from the past season into different tiers, which are viewable below. Each tier possesses pitchers with similar, stellar (2020) peripherals, meaning relative value and ADP (and pre-2020 track record) become a vital part of evaluation. In this exercise, if two pitchers are in the same tier, the best selection in terms of a higher ROI is the one with a higher ADP too.

The best of the best, no need to add too much about them, just that either choice of Bieber or deGrom as the first SP taken from the board should be fine.

My favorite pitcher this year, Darvish, didn’t make it to the upper echelon by these measures, but he is still an elite option, of course.

A lot of people don’t give Maeda the credit he deserves and his durability is always in question, but his success this year is just a confirmation of his capabilities. Also, the #2EarlyMocks ADP for him—49.2—is very fair in my opinion.

Will Glasnow live up to the hype? Is a pitcher of his kind (ceiling-over-floor, two-pitch arsenal) able to survive when batters adapt to his stuff? With the right-hander’s skillset and raw stuff, it’s just a matter of consistency.

My favorite tier for two reasons: one, it kind of shows Cole and Bauer (with juiced ADPs) could be passed over for other, cheaper options. Secondly, this data suggests you can wait for Nola and Lamet (health pending) and your ROI should be better. Word on the street is our Justin Choi has an interesting article on Nola headed your way in the near future….

Might we see another late-draft season ADP bump for Clayton Kershaw? Anything higher than his current 31.3 ADP would make him less appealing, relative to the other names in this tier. 

Kevin Gausman was my most gratifying pick early this season; re-signing with San Francisco and its comfy pitcher ballpark was a great thing for his value. Although some might be worried about the sustainability of his gained velocity, I just want to remind you that that gain trend started timidly in 2019. I’m still all in with him moving forward.

Corbin Burnes was taken at a 65.7 ADP, the 23rd pitcher off the board; that should be a crime and that’s all I have to say about it.

I’m hesitant to draft Luis Castillo at his #2EarlyMocks 28.6 ADP while having Plesac and Bundy at 80.3 and 97.9 respectively. I still believe Castillo has the highest ceiling, but I feel comfortable with the others’ floor.

Greinke keeps proving to be a solid and well-priced option and Eovaldi is intriguing, although health will always be a concern. His 270 ADP certainly makes him an appetizing option in 2021 drafts.

This tier offers the biggest variance in terms of ROI and will almost get you some SP4, SP5 guys that will produce SP3, and even SP2 numbers.

My personal choices are: Mahle, Carrasco, Paddack, Lindblom and Ryu (185, 80, 102, 366 and 74 ADPs respectively).

You can check for yourself the complete list below and see why I am not too excited about Max Fried, Julio Urías and Dustin May for next season although this could change as we get closer to the next year.

Follow P365 MLB Analyst Carlos Marcano on Twitter! @camarcano

Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365

All statistics from Stathead, Baseball Savant and Fangraphs

Featured image courtesy of photographer Jim Mone and the Associated Press

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