Jake Arrieta: Top 5 Pitcher in 2016?

Starting pitching, just like quarterbacks in fantasy football, is ridiculously deep. If you miss out on the top five to 10 guys, don’t worry. There is plenty of depth at the position. You can draft a good pitcher late or end up picking one up off the waiver wire later in the season. The former is what happened to Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta. He was drafted in the middle rounds of most drafts. Now, he’s the No. 2 pitcher in the league. The question is, where do you draft him next season?

Jake Arrieta was an average back-end rotation guy during his three-plus seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. He finished with a 20-25 record, 5.46 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 7.0 K/9. He has crushed those numbers in 61 starts with the Cubs.  

Since being traded to Chicago at the 2013 trade deadline, Arrieta has a 2.48 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 9.1 K/9. This season is undoubtedly his best season, and it’s only the beginning.

He has 17 wins, with a good shot to reach 20, 2.11 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 in 183.0 innings this season. Not too bad for an 11th-round pick.

Speaking of the draft, Jake Arrieta was drafted behind Gio GonzalezJulio Teheran and Jeff Samardzija. While no one expected the latter to struggle the way he has, Arrieta has outperformed all but one pitcher this season, Los Angeles Dodgers No. 2 pitcher Zack Greinke.

Many people say this is very similar to the year Corey Kluber had last season. Kluber finished with 18 wins, 2.44 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in 235.2 innings. This year, he has just eight wins, 3.41 ERA, 1.033 WHIP and a 9.8 K/9. While the WHIP is a little better, he isn’t striking out batters at the same rate or getting the run support to even reach double-digit wins.

Looking forward, I don’t think Jake Arrieta will fall as far as Kluber did this season. Arrieta is on a better team (who thought you’d be saying that about the Cubs?) and has better stuff. He is walking less batters and giving up less fly balls to opposing batters. Arrieta has a 2.16 BB/9 and 0.44 HR/9 while Kluber has a 1.71 BB/9 and 0.85 HR/9 this season. 

When I make my 2016 rankings, I will have Jake Arrieta in my top five among starting pitchers. He will be behind Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer. There are a lot of really good pitchers to choose from to round out the top 10.

The Cubs score an average of 4.55 runs per game when Arrieta takes the mound this season. According to Sportingcharts.com, that is good for 44th in the league. Kershaw is 60th, Greinke is No. 62, Sale is 35th and Scherzer is No. 66. So, even the greatest of pitchers don’t win all of their games.

Jake Arrieta has a young lineup with so much potential to give him run support. The win potential, increased fastball velocity, and the possibility of compete-game shutouts among other things make him a certified top-five pitcher for next season. I would draft him in the fourth round after the four guys I previously mentioned.