[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.

Notes:

Gerrit ColeJeff 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 OhtaniLooks 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 HillHill 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

Rk Name PrevRk Notes
1 Jacob deGrom 2
2 Shane Bieber 5
3 Walker Buehler 6
4 Max Scherzer 4
5 Gerrit Cole 1 Pitch count limit
6  Stephen Strasburg 7
7 Patrick Corbin 8
8 Luis Castillo 9
9 Yu Darvish 12
10 Chris Paddack 13
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.

Rk Name PrevRk Notes
12 Mike Clevinger 16 Injury recovery
13 Charlie Morton 21
14 Tyler Glasnow 14
15 Jack Flaherty 3  Innings Limit
16 Trevor Bauer 22 Pitch every 4th day?
17 Zack Greinke 19
18 Jose Berrios 18
19 Clayton Kershaw 15
20 Aaron Nola 17 Covid quarantine
21 Lucas Giolito 10 6-man rotation
22 Blake Snell 29 Cortisone shot in elbow in May
23 Zac Gallen 23
24 Hyun-Jin Ryu 24
25 Sonny Gray 20 Pitch Limit

Tier 3: Blair’s Flare-Ups

DRAFT, DRAFT, DRAFT! Razzball favs that are lower elsewhere

Rk Name PrevRk Notes
26 Brandon Woodruff 26
27 Eduardo Rodriguez 27
28 Lance Lynn 28
29 Mike Soroka 37
30 Jake Odorizzi 30 Sleeper
31 Kenta Maeda 40 Sleeper
32 Zack Wheeler 32
33 Kyle Hendricks 39
34 Corey Kluber 34
35 Julio Urias 38
36 Max Fried 36 Sleeper
37 Carlos Carrasco 33
38 Dinelson Lamet 31 Sleeper 
39 Madison Bumgarner 42
40 Robbie Ray 35 WHIP way high
41 Marcus Stroman 41 Sleeper

Tier 4: Coolwhip’s Last Desserts

Last tier for good WHIP and ERA. K/9 falling after this tier

Rk Name PrevRk Notes
42 Andrew Heaney 46 Sleeper
43 Frankie Montas 43 Sleeper
44 Luke Weaver 45
45 Jesus Luzardo 45 Grey’s rave
46 James Paxton 46 Surgery recovery & Pitch Limit
47 Adrian Houser 52
48 Sean Manaea 48
49 Matthew Boyd 49
50 German Marquez 51
51 Ryan Yarbrough 59 Sleeper
52 Joey Lucchesi 52
53 Brendan McKay 60 Grey’s rave
54 Mike Foltynewicz 54
55 Joe Musgrove 55 Sleeper
56 Caleb Smith 63 Coolwhip’s rave
57 Lance McCullers 57
58 Aaron Civale 65
59 Shohei Ohtani 25 Pitching once/wk
60 Yonny Chirinos 64

Tier 5: JKJ’s Nightcaps

You gotta draft somebody from here, but will it make you sick tomorrow?

Rk Name PrevRk Notes
61 Carlos Martinez 56 Covid quarantine
62 Zach Plesac 62
63 Mike Minor 44
64 Anthony DeSclafani 68
65 Dustin May 73 Outlook
66 Garrett Richards 66
67 Johnny Cueto 67
68 Jon Gray 61
69 Jordan Yamamoto 69
70 Kevin Gausman 70
71 Mike Fiers 84
72 Pablo Lopez 72
73 Rich Hill NA Injury Recovery, Injury risk
74 Mitch Keller 81
75 Dallas Keuchel 75
76 Steven Matz 76
77 Chris Bassitt 77
78 Sandy Alcantara 74
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.

Rk Name PrevRk Notes
81 Jose Urquidy 71 Covid quarantine
82 Alex Wood 88
83 Dylan Bundy 85
84 Marco Gonzales 94
85 Zach Eflin 78
86 Justus Sheffield 86 6-man rotation
87 J.A. Happ 93 Pitch Limit
88 Kyle Gibson 82
89 Jeff Samardzija 89
90 Jon Lester 90
91 Anibal Sanchez 91
92 Gio Gonzalez 92 6-man rotation
93 Jacob Junis NA
94 Griffin Canning NA Injury Recovery
95 Josh Lindblom 95
96 Miles Mikolas NA Injury Recovery
97 Julio Teheran 93 Covid quarantine
98 Rick Porcello 98
99 Nathan Eovaldi 99
100 Kwang-Hyun Kim 100

 

Out of the top 100: Jose Quintana (#83; injury), David Price (#53; Not playing), Masahiro Tanaka (#87; injury), Dakota Hudson (#96; HR/WHIP liability), Reynaldo Lopez (#97, 6-man rotation)

 
  1. Stat Man says:
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    Dodgers have come out to say the same things about their SP as the Cards where the first 2-3 turns in the rotation will be limited innings. Why didn’t you ding Buehler as you did Flaherty?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Missed that one!

      With Price leaving the rotation, we may see more work for other pitchers, but you’re absolutely right.

  2. Harley Earl says:
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    Jack Flaherty isn’t the only starter that’s going to be limited to 3-4 innings. I’ll bet you a full-on Benjamin that 80% of MLB starting pitchers will be limited to 4 innings or less to start the season.

    They’ll all have had essentially three weeks to get stretched out, similar to spring training, which lasts for six weeks. They will add an inning a week. Only the old faithfuls like Scherzer and Verlander or going to go out there and throw 5 innings or more to begin the season. Flaherty isn’t any different than anyone else. I’ll stick with him and throw your advice in the can.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Hot take!

      • Harley Earl says:
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        It’s ok to disagree with me, you don’t have to be politically correct. I don’t mind a little banter.

        I just don’t see a whole ton of pitchers starting out at 5+ innings, so Flaherty is still valuable. Might make long relievers more valuable at least in the first half the season but even those will be faded as starters get stretched out.

  3. Crabman says:
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    Does C. Rodon make your list if healthy for the season?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Steamer projections have him down for 4 starts with a high WHIP. At this point, definitely doesn’t crack the Top 100.

      That said, streaming pitchers for matchups will be key this year, so pull the trigger on favorable matchups!

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