We checked in last night at some position players who have done a lot in 2018 to boost their earning capacity in their first trip through arbitration. Now, we’ll turn to the hurlers. Remember, as MLBTR arb guru Matt Swartz has divined, the touchstones for pitchers are innings, ERA, and accumulation of outcome-based stats — i.e., wins for starters. Swartz also frequently cites strikeouts as a factor in analyzing comparables.
Changes in the game may start to shift the arb earning metrics. But there’s still reason to believe the above-cited factors will continue to drive the process for the time being. Here are ten starting pitchers whose big seasons set the stage for strong 2019 salaries:
- Aaron Nola, Phillies: It has been a dominant season for Nola, who has racked up 16 wins through 193 2/3 innings of 2.42 ERA pitching to this point. That adds to an already-impressive compilation of stats at this early stage of his career. It doesn’t seem he’ll capture the Cy Young vote, despite numbers sufficient to support a case, but even a top-three finish would bolster his arb resume.
- Luis Severino, Yankees (likely Super Two): He hasn’t held up the pace all season long, but Severino is still carrying very appealing overall numbers — including those of the type that play well in arbitration. In 179 1/3 innings, he has a 3.46 ERA with 17 wins and 207 strikeouts. He has cracked 200 K’s now in consecutive seasons.
- Sean Manaea, Athletics (likely Super Two): A shoulder injury diminishes Manaea’s future outlook and could keep him on the shelf for all of 2019. But other than robbing him of his final five starts, it doesn’t detract from a strong set of arb stats. He has reached 160 2/3 innings with a 3.59 ERA and compiled a dozen wins. Though he doesn’t get many strikeouts, Manaea also provided his agents with an ace in the hole when he spun a no-hitter earlier this season.
- Matthew Boyd, Tigers (possible Super Two): If he can notch another win, Boyd will reach a ten-spot. But that’s not the only point in his favor from a surprisingly solid statistical line. Boyd is likely to finish with over 175 frames and could yet draw his ERA to below the 4.00 line; regardless of exactly how things turn out, he’ll be sturdy in both departments. And he has already topped 150 strikeouts. All told, he’s done a ton to advance his case after entering the season with an unappealing stat line. Of course, he’ll have to cross his fingers that 2.136 days of service is enough to qualify as a Super Two.
- Jon Gray, Rockies: The candidates from this point forward all have some major warts. In this case, it’s an ugly 5.07 ERA that doesn’t match Gray’s strong peripherals. He’ll be dinged for that, no doubt, but also rewarded for tallying double-digit wins and over 160 innings with more still there for the taking.
- Vince Velasquez, Phillies: He’s a big strikeout threat, but Velasquez has missed a few starts and his results don’t match his peripherals. Still, 139 innings of 4.53 ERA ball, with eight wins and 156 Ks, ought to play fairly well — particularly if he can pad that line over the final few outings of the season.
- Tyler Anderson, Rockies: Pitching at altitude doesn’t help, to be sure, but Anderson’s 4.82 ERA isn’t going to be viewed with much favor. He also has only six wins. Still, he’s up to 162 1/3 innings and will be compensated for that fact alone.
- Jose Urena, Marlins: Almost an exact match for Anderson, except with the benefit of a pitcher-friendly park, Urena hasn’t been wildly impressive but is in line to get paid. He’s thrown precisely as many frames as Anderson and worked to a 4.21 ERA with a paltry seven wins.
- Steven Matz, Mets: It hasn’t always been pretty, and the home runs are a problem, but Matz is currently through 140 frames with a 4.18 ERA. Though he only has five wins, the southpaw could yet end the season with 150 punchouts.
- Junior Guerra (likely Super Two): Guerra gets the final spot over a few similarly situated hurlers because he has done so much to help himself this year. After a rough 2017 season, the late-blooming hurler’s future was in doubt. But he has taken the ball for 26 starts and two relief appearances, throwing 137 2/3 total innings of 4.18 ERA ball. He’s only sitting on six wins and 132 strikeouts, but the bottom-line results are solid.
- Honorable Mention: The Tigers’ Michael Fulmer is another likely Super Two, but he is headed in the wrong direction after generally quality work to open his career. In terms of outcomes, Mike Montgomery of the Cubs certainly deserved a nod, but he has only compiled 111 2/3 innings to this point and his 3.87 ERA is accompanied by only 74 strikeouts. It’s the opposite situation for Orioles righty Dylan Bundy, who’ll almost certainly end up with over 160 innings with more than a strikeout per frame but is also surrendering more than five earned runs per nine owing to an out-of-control home run rate.