[places soapbox on ground, stands tall]
Starting pitchers are more important this year. But you should still take hitters first. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
For most fantasy league formats, you are chasing wins in 2020. Thus, WAGNOF (Wins Ain’t Got No Face). With starting pitchers, you’re looking for #1/#2 starters on good teams, who will pitch a lot of innings and contribute to Wins, ERA, WHIP, and K. Relievers with great K/9–even middle relievers–will help immensely with ERA, WHIP, and K. But wins? Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Whereas wins used to the be the domain of starters (and Twins’ middle relievers), we’re already getting reports of top pitchers having inning limits and pitch counts. So, we’ll be seeing a lot of wins going to middle relievers, which makes it much more difficult to predict that category (unless you’re a lifelong Twins fan, holla!). If you don’t believe me on this, then take the advice from three-time Trout Fishing Champion Grey Albright. If you’re in a league that uses Quality Starts, the top three tiers of pitchers are even more valuable because you’ll be relying on pitchers who stay in games AND who don’t give up earned runs. The coronavirus and the style of play in 2020 placed a high scarcity on pitchers who meet these requirements. That said, crafty managers can combine mid-tier pitchers with relievers who provide elite ratios and make an effective pitching staff that will win leagues. So, let’s teach you to be a crafty manager.
Right now, we know that the New York Yankees are going to start the season with a 60-pitch limit, the St. Louis Cardinals are limiting starters to 3-4 innings, and the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners are using a 6-man rotation. This affects Gerrit Cole, Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito, and Sonny Gray the most. Because innings are so limited in 2020, missing the opportunity for wins in at least 2-3 games is like losing 20% of their productivity. Furthermore, one bad inning–not just from these pitchers but from ANY pitcher–can blow your ERA and WHIP. As such, keep in mind that these rankings reflect opportunities for optimal scoring in your 2020 fantasy teams; the rankings don’t speak to a pitcher’s real life skill.
Gerrit Cole: Jeff Zimmerman pointed out that the Yankees will start out their pitchers slowly, which for fantasy purposes could shuffle the top tier of pitchers immensely. If you’re a devoted Razzball reader, you already weren’t drafting Cole because you’re focusing on hitters at that ADP (about #5 overall right now). If Cole gets pulled after 60 pitches in his first two starts, you’ve missed out on 20% of his overall production. Pitchers like deGrom, Bieber, and Buehler have no stated limits or restrictions right now. With Bieber going at #25 overall–but ranked #2 on this list–you’re looking at a great target for for first SP.
Jack Flaherty: We love Flaherty’s stuff but Cardinals management has stated they expect their starters to be ready for 3-4 innings at the start of the season. Razzball is particularly high on Flaherty (opening at #3 overall!), but if he has an innings limit, then you’re looking at a loss of 10-20% productivity as well. With many other pitchers not having a stated innings limit while producing similar numbers, you may want to look elsewhere for your SP1.
Shohei Ohtani: Looks like he’ll be pitching only once per week. In an 8 week season, that puts him 30-40% behind other starters in terms of IP and chances at Wins. With a potential maximum of 8 starts, one bad outing could crush his year. He suffered the biggest drop of the week with that news.
Rich Hill: Hill says he’s healthy at 100%. But it’s the Twins, it’s Rich Hill, and it’s the coronavirus. Draft at your own risk. There are plenty of non-injury candidates who will put up similar numbers without risking a stint on the IL.
Covid quarantine: Four pitchers on the list are entering Covid protocols at the start of camp. They will likely miss some time. The most notable is Aaron Nola, who will probably miss a start. Before the news, I had Nola at #13; now I have him down with Giolito to round out the top 20. Along with Nola, Carlos Martinez, Jose Urquidy, and Julio Teheran are under protocol. Friendly real-life reminder: players are not required to share their personal health history with the media. As fantasy writers, we work with the information available, and the players may be affected in ways we don’t know or understand. Wear a mask, be a hero.
Tier 1: Grey’s Sunday Buffets
Overpriced in most leagues, but fill up your IP, W, K, WHIP, ERA
|5||Gerrit Cole||1||Pitch count limit|
|11||Justin Verlander||11||Surgery Recovery|
Tier 2: Donkey Teeth’s Dreamers
You dream about your W, K, ERA, WHIP after drafting your first SP here.
|12||Mike Clevinger||16||Injury recovery|
|15||Jack Flaherty||3||Innings Limit|
|16||Trevor Bauer||22||Pitch every 4th day?|
|20||Aaron Nola||17||Covid quarantine|
|21||Lucas Giolito||10||6-man rotation|
|22||Blake Snell||29||Cortisone shot in elbow in May|
|25||Sonny Gray||20||Pitch Limit|
Tier 3: Blair’s Flare-Ups
DRAFT, DRAFT, DRAFT! Razzball favs that are lower elsewhere
|40||Robbie Ray||35||WHIP way high|
Tier 4: Coolwhip’s Last Desserts
Last tier for good WHIP and ERA. K/9 falling after this tier
|45||Jesus Luzardo||45||Grey’s rave|
|46||James Paxton||46||Surgery recovery & Pitch Limit|
|53||Brendan McKay||60||Grey’s rave|
|56||Caleb Smith||63||Coolwhip’s rave|
|59||Shohei Ohtani||25||Pitching once/wk|
Tier 5: JKJ’s Nightcaps
You gotta draft somebody from here, but will it make you sick tomorrow?
|61||Carlos Martinez||56||Covid quarantine|
|73||Rich Hill||NA||Injury Recovery, Injury risk|
|79||Josh James||79||Coolwhip’s rave|
|80||A.J. Puk||80||Injury risk|
Tier 6: The Itch’s Hangover Cure
Grandma’s old world recipe for making it through the day.
|81||Jose Urquidy||71||Covid quarantine|
|86||Justus Sheffield||86||6-man rotation|
|87||J.A. Happ||93||Pitch Limit|
|92||Gio Gonzalez||92||6-man rotation|
|94||Griffin Canning||NA||Injury Recovery|
|96||Miles Mikolas||NA||Injury Recovery|
|97||Julio Teheran||93||Covid quarantine|