I am not a ranker.

I never put players in an official order before writing at Razzball. Last year, MB asked me to provide flex rankings for football. This year, Donkey Teeth asked me to provide top 100 pitcher rankings for baseball. Now all I do with my life is rank players!

My typical draft prep revolved around locating a targeted set of pitchers throughout the draft, and conversely identifying pitchers I had no interest in. The strategy was to draft as many targets as possible and fill in the cracks where my pitching staff was showing weakness to construct a balanced pitching staff. Though I am providing a top 100 list, it remains of the utmost importance to embrace pitching staff construction over drafting based on raw rankings.

What is Pitching Staff Construction?

Grey touches on overall pitching thoughts and provides a tool for not overspending on pitching in his Pitchers’ Pairings article. Additionally, Rudy touches on the distribution of draft capital towards pitching in his LABR Mixed Draft Review. Simply put, pitching staff construction is putting together the appropriate combination of pitchers to deploy your draft strategy. My overall pitching draft strategy is as follows:

  • Draft a floor combination to remain competitive (75th-80th percentile) in all the starting pitching categories (wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP).
  • Take upside pitchers late in order to finish in the 85th-90th percentile in those same categories.
  • Be capable of starting 7SP/2RP in weekly leagues to remain competitive in the counting stats.
  • Stay as risk neutral as possible within the first 5 starters. For every high upside top 50 pitcher, follow it up with a safer option.
  • Pitchers drafted after the first 5 SPs should have a specific purpose:
    • High upside pitchers I’m willing to drop early in the season.
    • Pitchers with an outside chance of making the rotation but would be high dollar FAAB/waiver candidates early in the season.
    • Week 1 or 2 streaming candidates
  • Use as little draft capital as possible to accomplish these goals

Keep in mind, your draft strategy may be completely different based on philosophy and league type. You should adjust the pitchers that comprise your staff to meet that strategy.

How Does This Effect the Top 100 Rankings?

Utilizing the top 100 rankings as a sliding scale based off the pitchers you have already selected, and/or the pitchers you intend to target in the future will make it more effective. For example, I have Mike Soroka ranked higher than the NFBC ADP by a wide margin. Soroka is going to be on a winning team and provide strong ratios. However, he is not going have an 8+ K/9. Soroka’s likeliest outcome in a full season of pitching is around 150 strikeouts. If Clayton Kershaw was my SP1, who may not get to 200 strikeouts himself, Soroka wouldn’t fit well as an SP2. This can be rectified by drafting a high strikeout SP3 such as Robbie Ray. If the owner does not like Robbie Ray, or the glut of high strikeout SP3 options, they can select a pitcher such as Trevor Bauer who invites ratio risk but has 250 strikeouts in his range of outcomes. The rankings are fluid.

Common Themes in My Rankings

  • Age Aversion – In the past decade, there have been 8 pitchers over the age of 35 with a 4+ WAR season. 3 of those pitchers did it in 2019: Charlie Morton, Zack Greinke, and Justin Verlander (has done it twice in 2018 and 2019). This recency bias is driving the belief that it is common for older pitchers to have a high level of success, but history does not support this idea. This is the driving force behind lower rankings for Max Scherzer, Verlander, Greinke, and Morton.
  • Injured Player Downgrades – Picking pitchers is hard. They have significantly more risk than position players, primarily due to increased injury risk. My view is that picking already injured pitchers is just adding additional risk to an already difficult task. Readers will notice that pitchers who have already suffered an injury in spring training, or in the off-season, are typically downgraded heavily.
  • Players Coming Off Tommy John – Typically, I avoid most pitchers coming off tommy john surgery. It introduces a few extra components to the player evaluation in a negative sense: mental barrier, likely innings limits, and a short pitch count leash early in their return.
  • Lower on Prospects – Prospect pitchers can provide a shot term shot in the arm to fantasy pitching staffs, but often these pitchers come with high game to game variance and innings limits.
  • Boost for Winning Teams – There has been an outcry aimed at the scarcity of steals in fantasy baseball, but wins are becoming just as scarce. We can increase our opportunity for a boost in the wins category simply by selecting pitchers from the likeliest teams to win games. It is a scarce stat that we can control.

What Format Are These Rankings Modeled For?

The rankings were built for 12 team roto leagues with daily roster moves. Please note that this is the first version of the rankings. They will receive a finalized pre-season update on March 16th prior to most of the drafts leading up to opening day. I’ll be back next week to discuss major discrepancies between myself and NFBC drafted players that I haven’t hit in prior articles.

The NFBC Rank is based on Online Championship drafts from February 1st to present.

Here are my top 100 pitchers for 2020:

My Rank NFBC Rank Player Team
1 2 Jacob deGrom Mets
2 1 Gerrit Cole Yankees
3 5 Walker Buehler Dodgers
4 6 Jack Flaherty Cardinals
5 4 Max Scherzer Nationals
6 7 Shane Bieber Indians
7 12 Luis Castillo Reds
8 3 Justin Verlander Astros
9 11 Chris Sale Red Sox
10 10 Blake Snell Rays
11 13 Patrick Corbin Nationals
12 8 Stephen Strasburg Nationals
13 18 Yu Darvish Cubs
14 15 Chris Paddack Padres
15 16 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers
16 14 Lucas Giolito White Sox
17 17 Aaron Nola Phillies
18 23 Brandon Woodruff Brewers
19 20 Tyler Glasnow Rays
20 25 Jose Berrios Twins
21 21 Noah Syndergaard Mets
22 30 Mike Soroka Braves
23 27 Corey Kluber Rangers
24 24 Trevor Bauer Reds
25 19 Charlie Morton Rays
26 22 Zack Greinke Astros
27 31 Zack Wheeler Phillies
28 38 Max Fried Braves
29 34 Lance Lynn Rangers
30 28 Sonny Gray Reds
31 54 Jake Odorizzi Twins
32 40 Eduardo Rodriguez Red Sox
33 33 Frankie Montas Athletics
34 29 Carlos Carrasco Indians
35 36 Shohei Ohtani Angels
36 9 Mike Clevinger Indians
37 42 Hyun-Jin Ryu Blue Jays
38 44 Kyle Hendricks Cubs
39 43 Robbie Ray Diamondbacks
40 45 Matthew Boyd Tigers
41 41 Julio Urias Dodgers
42 48 Kenta Maeda Twins
43 47 David Price Dodgers
44 37 Zac Gallen Diamondbacks
45 32 Jesus Luzardo Athletics
46 50 German Marquez Rockies
47 35 Madison Bumgarner Diamondbacks
48 26 Luis Severino Yankees
49 59 Joe Musgrove Pirates
50 58 Marcus Stroman Mets
51 39 Dinelson Lamet Padres
52 62 Masahiro Tanaka Yankees
53 57 Andrew Heaney Angels
54 52 Carlos Martinez Cardinals
55 67 Caleb Smith Marlins
56 76 Anthony DeSclafani Reds
57 61 Griffin Canning Angels
58 73 Dylan Bundy Angels
59 55 Luke Weaver Diamondbacks
60 46 Sean Manaea Athletics
61 51 Mike Minor Rangers
62 64 Mitch Keller Pirates
63 79 Yonny Chirinos Rays
64 68 Ryan Yarbrough Rays
65 65 A.J. Puk Athletics
66 81 Dallas Keuchel White Sox
67 63 Joey Lucchesi Padres
68 49 Lance McCullers Jr. Astros
69 85 Dylan Cease White Sox
70 71 Jon Gray Rockies
71 60 Jose Urquidy Astros
72 53 James Paxton Yankees
73 56 Mike Foltynewicz Braves
74 69 Adrian Houser Brewers
75 84 Josh James Astros
76 99 Kyle Gibson Twins
77 82 Ross Stripling Dodgers
78 91 Johnny Cueto Giants
79 96 Julio Teheran Angels
80 107 Homer Bailey Twins
81 94 Jose Quintana Cubs
82 95 Alex Reyes Cardinals
83 104 Domingo German Yankees
84 77 MacKenzie Gore Padres
85 116 J.A. Happ Yankees
86 83 Michael Kopech White Sox
87 70 Sandy Alcantara Marlins
88 75 Garrett Richards Padres
89 101 Pablo Lopez Marlins
90 165 Wade Miley Reds
91 74 Chris Archer Pirates
92 NR Chase Anderson Blue Jays
93 103 Alex Wood Dodgers
94 72 Aaron Civale Indians
95 122 Jordan Montgomery Yankees
96 80 Brendan McKay Rays
97 86 Steven Matz Mets
98 66 Dustin May Dodgers
99 88 Reynaldo Lopez White Sox
100 97 Josh Lindblom Brewers
 
  1. craig ertrachter says:
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    Hi,

    Love the list. I’m in a 10 team pts keeper league. The short version is I’m keeping Cole and Buehler and will have first pick in the 8th round. Who would you target?

    Thanks

    Craig

    • Cram It says:
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      Who’s to know who is available?

  2. craig ertrachter says:
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    Safely, your top twenty are gone by then. Either kept or early picks

    • Cram It says:
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      So target the 21st?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Cram it is right. This is a little difficult without knowing who was kept and I dont play points leagues much, but I’ll list off the hitters I’m higher on than consensus from like mid 2nd to mid4th and you can see the pitchers I’m higher on above. I’m higher on Rendon, Yordan, Keston Hiura, Ketel Marte, and Javy Baez. I would assume Baez will be my highest owned player from the front ends of drafts (maybe Moncada). I think Baez still has a 220 R + RBI/40/20/.290 season at some point in his career. I’m assuming low walks hurts him in points formats.

  3. Bterry says:
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    I want to draft two of bauer, nola, syndergaard, and castillo in every draft as my co aces this year. They all seem high risk and high reward at their draft slots. Hoping i can spend my 6/7 round picks to lock down a decent staff. Who else do you think fits that high upside / high downside mold? Looking around rounds 5-9

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Personally, I think the floor is higher on Zach Wheeler than most. He and Noah’s floor seem to be almost identical. Typically, I dont love taking pitchers on new contracts in the first year, because I’ve always had the philosophy that they can’t possibly have a normal offseason, but Wheeler signed so early that I have to imagine he had a normal offseason. I think he could realistically hit a ceiling at 15/210-220/3.4/1.15, floor at 12/180/4/1.25… could be more on both ceiling and floor ends but I’d imagine those would be low percentage outcomes.

      • Bterry says:
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        Good call. Throw him into the mix too and i may be able to snag him a roundish later than these guys. Always nice to have a failsafe for when your guy gets sniped.

  4. joe says:
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    FYI: Kyle Gibson is a Texas Ranger now.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Embarrassing! Old habits I suppose. I could blame this on a rogue copy and paste error, but instead I’ll take it on the chin!

  5. Big Magoo

    Big Magoo says:
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    Nice list, Pat. Not too far of from my own rankings, with a few exceptions. I’m not too concerned about Clevinger’s knee, and I’m extremely concerned about Sale’s health issues. Would almost do a straight swap of those guys. And if you’re factoring in win potential, having Urias and Price outside of the top 40 and Musgrove inside of the top 50 is a bit of a head scratcher. I’ll be checking in for your explanations/reasoning in part 2. Good read.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I’ll try to touch on all of this for you!

      • baby seal says:
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        A+ comment from my boy Magoo!

        My biggest gripe is how low you have Morton, but makes sense w/ the aging factor. I think his aging/injury “risk” at ADP is fully baked in, with plenty of upside for profit, and has recently shown he is past the injury issues of old.

        I was initially off Morton too for the same reason. Give it another look. I think Morton is worth it there due to the cost, whereas Sale/Sherz/Verlander have no discount for the same issues, and not enough of a skill gap for the large difference in ADP.

        Cheers!

  6. FBV says:
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    Mariners? Hello? Mariners?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Didn’t realize it until you said something. I dont think I’ll catch many Seattle games this year.

  7. Jack says:
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    I have degrom as a round 2 keeper, Bieber 27th and buehler 23rd. Thinking of trading one for a stud hitter. Considering rounds which would you trade of the three.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Degrom and I wouldn’t think twice about it.

  8. Chucky says:
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    Pretty bold with JV at 8. I like bold. Have you taken into account the loss of Grandal’s framing expertise as it relates to his Milwaukee departure as it affects Woodruff at an ‘early’ 18?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I refuse to be the guy left holding the bag on JV. If he beats me so be at. You have to draw some lines in the sand. I did account for Grandal departure. I think it pretty far down the spectrum of things I’m going to put much stock into. It matters, but over the course of the season I just think Woodruffs talent will get enough fringe calls that it won’t move the needle. I’m much more concerned the Brewers might just stink.

  9. Cheese says:
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    What do you like about Odorizzi and not like about Clevinger?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      For Odorizzi: I love that he is pitching in a terrible division on a good team. He has done it before and shown 160-180 innings consistently. He has a varied arsenal and picked up velocity to almost a 93 MPH average. Everything is showing last year as repeatable.

      To put it simply on Clevinger I think another injury is coming and I’m not paying for 120-140 innings of him anymore than 110-130 of Urias.

  10. Harley Earl says:
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    Question. Why does everyone hate Ryu? When healthy, he’s proven to be among the top 10 pitchers in baseball. Yeah, I know he’s had injuries. But he’s coming off his best season yet, played the whole year without issue, was third in the Cy Young vote and everyone acts like he’s got the Coronavirus.

    I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s accurate. And frankly I hope he sticks it straight up every expert’s ass!

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I’m slightly higher than consensus. Though, I think there is a small margin for error in the ratios for an 8 K/9 pitcher that probably can only be projected for 150-160 innings. I have no problem taking him but you are right he isn’t a priority for me and couldn certainly rub my nose in it.

  11. Danny says:
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    Thoughts on shun yamaguchi?

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      If he makes the rotation I’ll be interested in seeing him pitch. I won’t have him initially anywhere.

  12. Steve Z says:
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    Why so low on McCullers ? Innings limit ?

  13. Primetime says:
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    10 team keeper league k/9 league. We keep 7 guys. Normally 21 pitchers are off the board.

    I have Bieber, Nola, kershaw.

    On the fence about keeping Glasnow over kershaw or trading Glasnow for a 5th rd pick which would pick 44.

    Thoughts

Comments are closed.