Tampa Bay Rays Chris Archer: 2016 Strikeouts Leader?

Chris Archer had a career year in 2015. He posted career highs in multiple statistics. Can he continue to climb and become the best pitcher in the league in 2016?

The Tampa Bay Rays struggled both at the plate and on the mound last season, one 20-home run hitter and two 10-win pitchers. There were some silver linings to the season, especially with their ace. Chris Archer had the best year of his career in 2015. He posted some of the best numbers of his career and will likely improve on that this season. He has the skills to be a top-five starting pitcher in 2016.

Archer split time between the minors and majors in 2012 and 2013. He went 10-10 with a 3.47 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 137 strikeouts and 51 walks in 158 innings between those two seasons. He and the team agreed to a six-year extension in April of 2014. Chris Archer then had his breakout season. 

He made 32 starts and went 10-9 with a 3.33 ERA, 1.279 WHIP and 173 strikeouts. While he wasn’t the team’s ace with David Price still on the roster, all eyes were on the young pitcher. He made the most starts and pitched the most innings.

Even with the good season, fantasy owners were still hesitant on drafting Chris Archer. He was the 37th starting pitcher drafted in ESPN leagues with a 15th-round ADP. He easily outperformed his draft value as he finished as the 13th-best pitcher on the Player Rater. This was the season that put Archer on the map and made him a top-15 pitcher entering this season.

Chris Archer went 12-13 with a 3.23 ERA, 1.137 WHIP and 252 strikeouts in 34 starts. The starts, wins and strikeouts were all career highs. He finished fourth in the league in strikeouts and first in starts. He finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting.

While 12 wins isn’t a lot for a fantasy owner, T-35 in the league, he made 19 quality starts (at least 6.0 innings with three or fewer earned runs), T-29. I don’t expect Archer to win a lot of games this season. The team didn’t make a lot of improvements to the lineup to help support the starting pitchers. Archer got about 3.95 runs per nine innings, according to Sportingcharts.com.

Wins are not something you can predict for a starting pitcher, which is why more leagues should use quality starts as a pitching category, but that’s a topic for another day.

Chris Archer is currently my No. 6 starting pitcher, but that could change over the next couple of weeks. The lack of wins doesn’t bother me because of the leagues I play in. The 3.00-plus ERA is a little bothersome, but it’s mostly because of the power-hitting teams in the AL East. He strikes out a lot of batters, and having a pitcher reach 250 strikeouts takes some pressure off. He is a top-60 player and top-10 pitcher. Any owner should be lucky to have him.

Projections: 13-10, 3.10 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 250 strikeouts

Draft: Round 6