There are a lot of question marks when it comes to pitching each year. We have are set tier of aces that we can rely on for innings, barring any sort of injury of course. There are also plenty of younger names. Guys like Chris Paddack, Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty, and Shane Bieber are climbing those rankings. Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale were once locks to be be one of the first few arms off the board, and that just isn’t the case anymore. With the evolving use of bullpens, and teams more reluctant to spare young arms, there are a lot of talking points.
|67||Lance McCullers Jr.||HOU||191.86||$4||112.6||10.0||3.57||1.25||123.3|
Tier One (1-10)
A pair of New York aces headline the rankings, which should come to no one’s surprise. Gerrit Cole will transition from Houston to New York, and sure a slight bump in ERA will occur, but not by much. Cole’s strikeout potential is higher than any other arm. Cole leads the league in K% over the last two seasons, sitting at 37%. He has a 0.96 WHIP in that span, and 2.68 ERA. Jacob deGrom ranks 4th in K% over the last two seasons, and leads the league in ERA by a half a run. Sitting at 2.05 over the last two seasons with elite control, a suppressing home rate, and stellar innings consistency, deGrom is one of the first two arms off the board. If you are playing in a fantasy league that tallies wins, then Cole is going to have an edge.
Max Scherzer turns 36 this year, and is coming off a season where he had 172 innings. He had over 200 innings in each season since 2012. I still believe Scherzer can post elite numbers and be a 190+ inning guy. There also is some small risk. Justin Verlander will be 37 by the start of the season. He has been consistent in innings, and has 590 strikeouts over the last two seasons.
Some young names have crept into the top ten. Walker Buehler is a former first round pick, who has been dominant so far in the majors. He has a 2.2 BB/9 in this career, and a career 3.32 xFIP. He is striking out 28% of hitters faced, and has an electric fastball. Another name with elite control is Shane Bieber. He has a career 1.7 BB/9 and 10.3 K/9. There are still some home run issues, but one encouraging note from 2018 to 2019 is that he improved against left-handed hitters.
Tier Two (11-20)
A couple interesting names in this range that have the chance at finishing as a top fantasy arm. Luis Severino is a bargain in drafts for me. The projections are a little less on his innings, but not far off from where he was in 2017 and 2018. Severino projects for about 180 strikeouts with room for more. Yu Darvish is in the same boat, minus the prior injury. Darvish was a bit unlucky last season, and also cut down his walk issues. He still had a 2.8 BB/9, but he had seven walks in the entire second half, pitching 81 innings. While he won’t post those type of command numbers, he looked like the Darvish of old.
It took a bit longer than some expected, but Lucas Giolito took a major jump. He had a 24% strikeout to walk ration, a 1.06 WHIP and ERA estimators backed up his 3.41 ERA. He started throwing his changeup more, which had a 41% whiff rate and his slider also had over a 40% whiff rate. Giolito gained two MPH on his fastball as well. Another young name is Chris Paddack, who San Diego took it easy a bit with, limiting him to just 140 innings. He had 153 strikeouts and a 0.98 WHIP in that span.
Noah Syndergaard has been frustrating in fantasy. He has excellent control, a strong fastball, yet his ceiling just hasn’t hit. He had over 200 strikeouts still, but a 4.28 ERA and ten wins wasn’t attractive. The issue here is you will likely be able to get Syndergaard type numbers a few rounds later. Clayton Kershaw has been trending downwards in fantasy production the last few years. You are still getting a strong arm with slightly above average strikeout and walk numbers, with an ERA hovering around 2.75-3.00. Not bad indeed.
Tier Three (21-30)
The injury bug has already hit a few, and Mike Clevinger is looking at missing the next 6-8 weeks with a torn meniscus. This also means he will need to take some regular season time to get back up to full speed. The innings will go down, but Clevinger can still be a fantasy force once the summer hits and beyond. The ADP is going range as some will still draft ahead a bit to make sure they grab a high upside arm. There is enough pitching depth to do so. Tyler Glasnow has the most upside in this range, although Trevor Bauer is close. His 2019 was cut short, but he had an 11.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. A 2.94 xFIP and 1.78 ERA was also a massive improvement. Glasnow had a 50% groundball rate to pair with his 33% strikeout rate. Sign me up.
Corey Kluber moved to Texas over the offseason, and is coming off a season where he missed most of it due to injury. There is probably going to be a tick down in strikeouts, and the ERA is going to be around 3.50-4.00. I do believe there is still a strong season or two left for Kluber, but could hit a slow start in 2020. His former teammate, Carlos Carrasco missed most of 2020 for different reasons, as he was diagnosed with cancer. Carrasco was having an unlucky season, and the strikeouts were still there. His return value for his ADP and auction price is solid.
Tier Four (31-50)
We finally saw a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez season, where he went 19-6, throwing over 200 innings with a 3.81 ERA. He had a 25% strikeout rate and 8.7% walk rate. Rodriguez projects for much of the same, but I wouldn’t bank on 19 wins again. I think the floor is pretty safe here with Rodriguez as a top 40 pitcher, however there are names a little lower that can match his numbers. Madison Bumgarner is headed to Arizona, and I don’t expect much of a drop off in production. He is a stable innings eater who has had some freak injuries lately. Zac Gallen and Robbie Ray are also in this range, as Arizona stole a strong pitching prospect from Miami. Gallen and Ray have more strikeout upside.
David Price heading to Los Angeles is a positive fantasy move for me. Out of the AL East is a plus, even though he had his success at Fenway Park. Getting to face a pitcher a few more times, and also pitching in stadiums like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco are all bumps. Price is a strong SP2-SP3 this season. Andrew Heaney is someone who showed great strikeout stuff, and I am banking on him to continue that in 2020.
Mike Foltynewciz had a strong second half, after having an injury riddled first half where he struggled while healthy. He allowed a .269 wOBA in the second half with a 2.65 ERA. His strikeout rate jumped 4% and hard-contact dropped about 9%. Out of most of these names, Frankie Montas is the one I could see finishing higher than his ranking come the end of the year. A very strong fastball with newly developed off-speed pitches, the PED suspension is what drove back his ADP in my opinion, otherwise we would be drafting him much higher.
Tier Five (51-70)
Depending on how your fantasy format uses Shohei Ohtani, his ranking could be higher. However he isn’t going to throw until a few months in, but we should get 100+ innings out of him. Ohtani has just a 51 inning sample size, but had a 3.53 xFIP and 29% strikeout rate. Sean Manaea missed most of the 2019 season, but is one of the many Oakland pitchers that are ranked inside the top 75 for pitching. Manaea has had a somewhat average fantasy career, but still has another level he can get to. James Paxton is expected to miss a few months, and this drops his fantasy rankings significantly. There is also no assurance that he returns from injury in usual form. I am fading right now.
Chris Archer is another second half name I am keeping an eye on as he ditched his sinker in the second half and showed better improvement. Still a bit unlucky in the BABIP department, the strikeouts were up and the walk rate went way down. At his ADP I will buy back in. The Angels have a few values, as Dylan Bundy and Griffin Canning have plenty of strikeout upside. Both can be strikeout per inning arms, and pitching in LA is a big move from Baltimore for Bundy.
Tier Six (71-90)
There is actually plenty of name value in this range, but nothing screams safety for me. Anthony DeSclafani is someone I like for late round strikeout potential. He struggles against lefties and gives up a ton of home runs, but the strikeouts are there. Steven Matz is a better late round guy who had horrendous home/road splits. Matz is going to be over a four ERA but will have more strong starts than not. Another starting arm that landed in Texas was Kyle Gibson. He projects for the most innings and strikeouts in this range, and I don’t mind grabbing him for the backend of your fantasy rotation. The same goes for Marcos Gonzales, who is a quality starts guy pitching in a friendly Seattle ballpark.
A.J. Puk is a guy who can throw more than his projected innings, but coming off a major arm injury the A’s will be careful too. Puk has a ton of strikeout potential, and I am buying in. He has an elite fastball, and major wipeout secondary pitches. Pitching in Oakland is also a plus for the ERA, but the foul grounds do take away some strikeouts.
Tier Seven (91-110)
We are starting to get to names that come with a higher ERA than we would like, but there are some starters who will be usable in the right spot. The first name would be Mike Fiers, who will eat 17- innings and have some decent games. He will likely be a double-digit wins guy too. Fiers projects to be more of a rotational piece where you can take him out in specific matchups. Rick Porcello is the same guy, although going from Boston to New York will help a bit. The wins will drop off, but Porcello will eat innings and have some decent starts at times. Jon Lester has fallen off, and he fought it for a long time. Lester projects to be a mid to high four ERA guy with average strikeout stuff. Unfortunately for a guy who was once a strong mid round value, he is now a back end draft guy you are just hoping strings together some decent starts at times. Names like Yonny Chirinos and Ross Stripling won’t log hefty innings, but are excellent guys who can even out some stats for you if you have a few high ERA names.
Tier Eight (111+)
These are names that range from being late round dart throws to not being drafted at all. Spencer Turnbull was a named I dove into a few times last season. He had a 22% strikeout rate, and had a very good first half. He over performed a bit, but had some strong games that kept me intrigued. Turnbull has a solid slider, which had a 32% whiff rate last season. His best bet would be to ditch the sinker completely. If you are looking for strikeouts super late, and can take the ERA hit that comes with it. Jakob Junis is hovering around 150 strikeouts this season. He throws that slider 30% of the time, which had a 38% whiff rate last season. Unfortunately his fastball gets teed off on. His teammate Danny Duffy is in the same boat, but it s more about him just eating innings than anything. You will likely find better names throughout the season to pick up in comparison to drafting these names late.
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet
- Fantasy Baseball Sleepers & Late Round Values
- MLB Closer Depth Chart
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closing Pitching Rankings
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball Top 40 Catcher Rankings
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball 1st Base Rankings
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball 2nd Base Rankings
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Rankings
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball SS Rankings
- 2020 Fantasy Baseball 3B Rankings