After doing all the top 20 lists for hitters in our 2009 fantasy baseball rankings, we now move onto the top 20 starters.  I will go more in-depth on starters and strategy on drafting starters later into the 2009 fantasy drafting season, for now I want to say one thing counter to everything I’ve said before.  Up until this point, I’ve always said to wait on pitching.  You need to stack up your hitters first.  I still believe this to be true.  I still don’t want to take a starter prior to the fifth or sixth round.  With that said, everyone has a place to be drafted.  If you see Johan falling into the third round, you grab him.  You don’t want to avoid grabbing a starter just because you went into the draft saying you weren’t going to take one until the 6th round.  As Darwin might have said, “Adapt, snitches!”  Today, we turn our attention to the top 20 starters.  The top twenty starters will need to go to top 40 because there’s so many of them.  For a broader picture, check out our 2009 Fantasy Baseball Player Rater.  There’s also a list for the players with multiple position eligibility.  Finally, Rudy took out his hair pic, spread out a stick of pitch count butter and smacked down a stunning piece on risky pitchers for 2009.  Anyway, here’s the top 20 starters for 2009 fantasy baseball:

1. Johan Santana – See our top 10 for 2009 fantasy baseball for Johan Santana’s projections.

2. Tim Lincecum – See our top 20 for 2009 fantasy baseball for Tim Lincecum’s projections.

3. Jake Peavy – It’s insane that I even needed to write how Jake Peavy is a 2009 fantasy sleeper.  If Peavy’s on the board in the 4th round, your job as a fantasy baseballer (<–my Mom’s term) is to draft him.  Sabatahia’s not in front of Peavy.  Lots of Sabathia’s value will be derived from Wins.  Don’t bet on Wins.  Ever.  2009 Projections:   15-6/2.95/1.10/205

4. CC Sabathia – Everyone and their mother’s mothers are ranking Sabathia high for 2009.  Frankly, I don’t like to follow mother’s mothers.  They’re slow and they’re always pinching cheeks.  Let’s jump in our DeLorean for a second and look at last year.  Santana, Peavy and Webb were the first three off the board.  Sabathia’s ADP was 53.  Now, Peavy and Webb fall a bit in ADP and Lincecum and Sabathia move up.  Honestly, it’s six of one, half dozen of another here.  If you see Peavy being undervalued for the new hip guy to draft — Sabathia, ignore CC and go Jake.  Before last year, Sabathia’s ERA was never under 3.00 for a full season.  I don’t think he’s going to be under 3 in 2009.  Yes, Sabathia was the pitcher to have in 2008, that doesn’t mean he’s the one to have in 2009.  So tell your chi to chill.  2009 Projections:  18-7/3.20/1.10/200

5. Cole Hamels – I’m a big fan of Hole Camels, maybe it’s my undying love for strikeout pitchers.  But it’s that same love that has me slightly concerned.  Hamels’s K/9 dropped a bit in 2008 for the 2nd year in the row.  Maybe he’s trying to figure out how to give up less home runs (and it’s working if that’s true).  Either way, he was still effective.  That does not mean he’ll be on any of my teams in 2009.  2009 Projections: 16-9/3.30/1.10/195

6. Brandon Webb – This is a new tier.  This tier goes down to Lackey.  I call this tier, “Guys I’d be more than happy to have as my number one pitcher, but they’re not quite as good as the first five starters on this list.”  As for Webb, I’m legitimately worried about him.  So much of his value is derived from good Win karma.  Some year he’s going to only win 15 games and you’re not going to enjoy owning Webb as much.  2009 Projections:   16-10/3.30/1.20/180

7. Dan Haren – Here’s the first pitcher on this list I have a legitimate shot at owning in leagues in 2009.   Wins aside, guess who had more value in 2008, Haren or Webb?  Obviously I’m asking the question because it’s Haren.  He beat Webb in WHIP and Ks and practically tied him in ERA.  I could easily see Webb barely in the top 20 at the end of the season and Haren in the top ten.  Recognize!  2009 Projections:  16-7/3.40/1.15/195

8. Roy Halladay – Now we’re back to pitchers I probably won’t own.  Halladay had his best K/9 since 2001.  Frankly, this is distressing (as distressing as fantasy baseball can get).  He left a lot more guys on base in 2008, too.  This is extremely troublesome (as troublesome… well, you get it.).  I wanted to drop Halladay down even further to warn people properly on Halladay, but, the thing is — and there’s always a thing, even if these metrics revert a bit, he’s still solid.  2009 Projections:  16-6/3.50/1.10/165

9. Roy Oswalt – I’ve been trying to get a read on what youse think about Oswalt.  Are you believing he’s the ace, 12 to 6’er that he was when he was posting sub-3 ERA and 20 wins?  Or do you know he’s now more of a pitcher than an overpowerer and he has to work a lot harder?  I hope you’re in the latter camp.  2009 Projections:  15-9/3.75/1.15/150

10. Josh Beckett – If I were you, I’d look at this list and read my comments and think this, “Grey upgrades players coming off mediocre years and downgrades players coming off excellent years.  And where the eff is Cliff Lee?!”  That’s not a completely accurate assessment, and there’s no need to cuss.  I ranked Lincecum high and he’s coming off a great year, but there should be much more weight put on 3-year averages than just this general, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”  Sure, I downgraded Halladay and boosted Peavy more than most ‘perts.  Okay, I’m down on Sabathia and up on Beckett… Which brings me to your Red State Jeter, Josh Beckett.  If you were disappointed by Beckett’s 2008, it’s understandable, but don’t hold it against him for 2009.  2009 Projections:  16-10/3.75/1.20/175

11. John Lackey – His men left on base in 2008 worries me a bit, but his low walks and K/BB ratio always tantalizes me.  I really believe he’s going to win a AL Cy Young one of these years.  That’s not faint praise. (“Hey, I really like the way you fell on that beanbag when you passed out.”  That’s faint praise.)  2009 Projections:  16-11/3.60/1.22/175

12. James Shields – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here to Ervin Santana.  I call this tier, “Guys who could conceivably be my number one pitcher.”  Shields gets no love, taking 2nd billing to Kazmir in the majority of drafts.  Guess who had better numbers last year?  Again, it’s pretty obvious, because this is under Shields.  In a year that Kazmir stayed relatively healthy, something he doesn’t normally do, Shields still outperformed him.  Usually starters come into their own in the third year, in 2009 Shields will be in his third full year.  As Minnie Pearl may have said, “Hee-haw!”  2009 Projections:  15-9/3.50/1.14/165

13. Chad Billingsley – It’s the Year of the B.   I’ve changed my sock three times in the last hour, but I just can’t stop gushing about Billingsley.  Some time last year, I predicted a NL Cy Young for Billingsley in 2009.  Billingsley cut his BB/9, raised his K/9, lowered his home runs and he wasn’t particularly lucky… Oops, there goes another sock.  2009 Projections:  16-6/3.35/1.33/200

14. Scott Kazmir – This is a new tier. This tier goes from Kazmir to the end of the list.  I call this tier, “Guys I don’t want at all, but others seem fine drafting them.”  Kazmir is still too unreliable heath-wise for me to own him.  2009 Projections:  15-7/3.65/1.30/180

15. Rich Harden –  The last time Harden got above twenty starts in a season he needed two years to recoup.  Beane didn’t trade him because Harden doesn’t have the skills.  He traded him because in the Major League stage production of Unbreakable, Harden’s Mr. Glass.  2009 Projections:  12-4/2.75/1.10/160

16. Daisuke Matsuzaka – Take three tablespoons of WHIP, a 1/4 cup of BABIP and a pinch of BB/9 and you get a guy whose ERA is going to rise and Wins are going to fall.  Blech.  Or as they say in Japan, “Goodbye Kitty.”  2009 Projections: 14-7/3.90/1.30/160

17. Cliff Lee – You win, Cliff Lee!  You win!  Are you happy? You made me put you in the top 18.  Begrudgingly. You’re going to get burned by Cliff Lee in 2009.  You, the one with the hair on your head that plans on drafting him.  You will get burned.  I prefer Jar-Jar Jurrjens, but I needed to rank Lee somewhere.  So here he is.  2009 Projections:  15-10/3.75/1.22/150

18. Carlos Zambrano – Read again all of the positivity I wrote for Billingsley then invert it.  2009 Projections:  14-9/3.90/1.30/150

19. Edinson Volquez – Member last year when I told you to grab Volquez?  Those were the days.  Hand and hand, Volquez and I frolicked through the local dog park.  Volquez said he wouldn’t ever let me down and I believed him. We laughed, we shared stories, we overcame some rough stretches like a 4.60 Post-All-Star Break ERA.  Now, we’re done.  2009 Projections:  12-8/4.00/1.33/175

  1. big o says:

    one of your best .
    not that i agree with each of your rankings .
    still , nice work .

    question :
    the whip (and era , even) that you predict for billingsley shows no improvement over 07 and 08 stats , where’s the up-side ?

  2. jeff says:

    Where do you rank Jon Lester?

  3. You go through more socks than a prison inmate. Nice work Grey.

    Given my new strategy of waiting on arms, it seems unlikely that I will own any of these guys, with the exception of Volquez who I am keeping as a 20th round pick for ’09.

  4. Ian says:

    I remember reading something (rotoworld, maybe?) about Kazmir doing some extra conditioning this off-season to try and avoid the injuries. Do you take any stock in this? Adding muscle or gaining/losing weight could affect parts of his game other than his health, too.

  5. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    I haven’t yet found someone to give good solid evidence on why Cliff Lee can’t repeat last season? Was the whole season a fluke? Has his arm exploded? Does he suffer from an overabundance of Cy Young pride?

    He had like three bad starts last year. The fantasy baseballer world wants to know. I want to hear something like, “Cliff Lee will regress this year and have less value than Roy Oswalt, because…” etc.

  6. T Edge says:

    Okay, I’ll bite: did Felix Hernandez die in a plane crash? I know his walk rate was way up last year, but he also had a ridiculous number of NDs on top of a few tough losses. Unless you’re projecting an injury, he seems like he could match the 12 wins and 175 K’s. The ERA was half a run better than Volquez’s projected 4.00 and his WHIP wasn’t far off.

  7. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:

    I assume there will be a 21 through 40, yes? Or even 21 through 60?

    Remember, my strategy this year vis a vis* pitching is draft junk, junk, junk, and junk.

    Grey, please rate my junk.**

    *Additional strategy: Step-up use of “vis a vis.” Also, “persuant.”

    **This is the 5th time in human history these five words have been spoken, though not always in this order. Discuss.

  8. Tony says:

    @T Edge: “king” Felix is tough to own, he’s on a crap team, maybe this is his “break out break out year” but after taking him last year and suffering thru him pitching stellar games for 5 innings then having total meltdowns i won’t be owning him.

    I think what most people are saying/thinking about Cliff Lee is he won’t get you value back for where you have to take him. Personally He should have a better offense behind him this year (being from ohio and a huge cleveland fan) but him repeating that season? Not likely…. dont know how to back it up Cubs, but its just a hunch

  9. Grey

    Grey says:

    @big o: Upside is he’s 24 going on 25 in 2009, so he’s still peaking. My projections are conservative (unless noted). Billingsley has those numbers in the bag and make do better on them whereas someone like Oswalt can reach his projections or do worse.

    @jeff: Lester will be in the top 40 starters coming later today or tomorrow.

    @Fman99: Hehe…

    @Ian: In one word, no. In more words… Rather than seeing his health last year as him turning the corner, I see it as he was healthy last year, so chances are he’s not going to be healthy this year.

    @IowaCubs: There’s a post coming later today about Cliff Lee.

    @T Edge: I like him a lot for this year, and he’s #21 that’s coming later today or tomorrow.

    @Baron Von Vulturewins: Later today or tomorrow. Ergo, it’s coming.

  10. Freak says:

    Something’s coming, something good, if I can wait!
    Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
    But it is gonna be great!

  11. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    @Grey: Thanks, man. I love doing mock drafts and posing the same question about Lee. The responses I get from guys there are great…

    IowaCubs: “Why is Cliff Lee falling to the 9th round”
    Pie’s Mixed Nuts: “b/c he sucks.”
    RedSUKSballs: “Yeah… totally gonna suck this year”
    IowaCubs: “Why does he suck?”
    Pie’s Mixed Nuts: “b/c he can’t repeat, okay jerk?”
    Scuffed Balls: “I only drafted him cuz it was on auto.”
    Brett’s Illegal KY’d Bat: “I heard he had a gd year bc of yer mom.”
    Twisted Testicles: “LOL!!!!!!!!”
    Pie’s Mixed Nuts: “LOL… GO AHEAD AND DRAFT HIM JERK”
    IowaCubs: “Can’t he repeat like 90% of last year and still be ok?”
    Scuffed Balls: “LOL”
    Pie’s Mixed Nuts: “lol… you should be in my league…lol”
    Brett’s Illegal KY’d Bat: “LOL”
    RedSUCKballs: “that’s funny”

  12. Grey

    Grey says:

    @IowaCubs: Ha! Okay, you win. I’ll try to work that into the post.

  13. Shogun says:

    Grey: Around the Kazmir tier, do you start passing on these guys and hoping to steal a Joba/Jobacum/Price/Kershaw/Gallardo in the slightly later rounds?

    Also, do you think Phil Hughes can put together a decent year? Does he even have a chance at making the rotation (sorry, I haven’t been following the Yankees’ moves this off-season)? He’s right up there with Alex Gordon in terms of mantasy disappointments.

  14. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    @Baron Von Vulturewins: other combinations…

    Please rate my Grey junk.
    Rate junk my Grey please.
    Please Junk my Grey rate.

  15. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Shogun: Not sure if you intended to write “mantasy” but I think there’s a Glossary definition in there somewhere.

    I skip the 15 through 20 starters and begin to draft guys again at #21, which will be coming later today or tomorrow.

    All signs suggest Hughes isn’t going to be in the rotation in 2009.

  16. @Shogun: I don’t see how Hughes makes the rotation… he’s got Wang (heh), CC, AJ, Pettitte and Joba ahead of him. They could put Joba back in the pen but I suspect Hughes starts the year in the rotation in AAA, until AJ Burnett breaks his vagina again.

  17. Tony says:

    @Grey: i was thinking the same thing grey, 15-21 are scary, voltron is my only one i’d gamble on, and if i have to gamble in the 9th round? I don’t think he’ll be on my team.

  18. Shogun says:

    @Grey: I definitely intended to write “mantasy” there–it’s when you’ve got such a man-crush on a player that you have to have him on your fantasy team, even if you know he probably can’t live up to the hype right away (like Bruce, Jay last year).

    @Fman99: Thanks for the info on Hughes. What a disappointment he’s been.

  19. Baron Von Vulturewins

    BaronVonVulturewins says:

    @IowaCubs: “Please rate my grey junk” is the one I’d least like to hear spoken in my presence.

    @Grey: Maybe it’s the Super Bowl ending (Blitzburgh!), or the fact that it’s like 55 degrees in NYC today, or the fact that LATER TODAY we can read about pitchers 21-40 aka Me Bread ‘N’ Butter, me darlings, me wee ones, but my fantasy interest for ’09 has increased fourfold.

    The hibernation is officially over.

  20. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Shogun: Rudy and I tried to figure out mantasy’s root, use in a sentence and part of speech and it ended up not working for us. Feel free to continue to use it to try to convince us otherwise.

    @BaronVonVulturewins: You’re getting Cliff Lee later today (at noon my time) and 21-40 later tonight for tomorrow morning. Glad to hear your enthusiasm is building.

  21. sean says:

    @grey: re: oswalt: the guy can only pitch max-effort for so long before he breaks down. He’s started 32 or more games for the last five seasons and has thrown over 1600 innings in his career. Normally this would be a sign of durability, but it just makes me wonder how much gas the little guy has left in the tank.

    The one good thing from an injury standpoint, though, is that he throws the big overhand curve instead of dropping down to throw his breaking pitches. Still, I tend to avoid him because I feel like he’s one uncle charlie away from the DL every time he pitches…

    All told, he’s a guy I’d love to have on my real team but a guy I try to avoid in fantasy

  22. Baron Von Vulturewins

    BaronVonVulturewins says:

    @Grey: I do not want Cliff Lee later today or at any point in 2009.

    I do look forward to reading the post, though.

  23. cockyphoenix says:

    hahaha Mr. Glass–I just called him that last week arguing with a Cubs fan.

    It’s good to see someone else esteem Peavy above CC. What do you think about Kevin Slowey? He’s one who’s looking like a bargain in the mocks I’ve done. I guess he’ll probably show up in the top 40 after posting a K/BB over 5 last year

  24. Grey

    Grey says:

    @sean: That video was new to me (though not to over 22 million other people apparently). Nice!

    @cockyphoenix: I like Slowey but he needs to be teamed with a strikeout staff. His K/BB is great, but that’s because he doesn’t BB anyone or K anyone, for that matter. He’s a 4 ERA, 1.20, 130 K guy.

  25. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: Nice work Grey, this is excellent.

    Just curious, since these guys I assume won’t be in your top 40 yet. How would you rank these young hotshot pitchers in terms of earliest to break out and be a top 20 pitcher.

    Any guy I’m missing

  26. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: Joba, Gallardo, Scherzer and Price are all in the top 40. Kershaw’s just outside of it.

  27. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: Wow, already?

    I would think they’d be a year away.

  28. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: When you remove some schmohawks like Verlander, it becomes easier.

  29. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: So I should look to trade a $27 Halladay late in the year for a $5 Jobacum and keep dominating pitching stats for years.

  30. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: If you can pull it off, probably.

  31. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: Assuming one of these guys is underperforming in 09 that is. Otherwise noone will trade any of them.

  32. Shogun says:

    @Grey: Bummer. I thought I’d finally made the glossary.

  33. Team Ram Rod says:

    Still can’t decide btw Ziggy, price or F. Lopez. I need to stop thinking about this and go get drunk, yeah Whiskey!

  34. AL KOHOLIC says:

    hippo i have jabbathe hut and gallardo,volquez,phillips,davis,kemp and hamilton,might let davis go so torro will pay 35 bucks for him

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