What is up people! It’s Monday afternoon for most of you, and that case of the Mondays has you thinking about the next worst thing in your life. No, not the death of your dog, Peaches. Yes, that’s it! The state of your fantasy baseball pitching roster! It’s beer thirty somewhere, so crack a cold one, and let’s explore the exploding world of starting pitching in the third installment of the Top 100 Starting Pitchers series!

August 10-16, 2020

Now, I think it’s wise to take a pre-emptive stance to say that, yes, Razzball is indeed a fantasy baseball site. We all get a bit nipply when we watch those sexy heaters from Dustin May and the worship-worthy, knee-dropping curveballs from Adrian Houser. But, we’re in the business of helping your fantasy team, and there’s a never-before-seen crisis facing starting pitching in 2020. As Jay Jaffe notes over at FanGraphs, starting pitchers are facing about 10% fewer batters this year, which has the associated effect of the average starting pitcher completing 4.75 IP before giving way to the expanded bullpens. Hopefully you can see the trajectory of this line of thought: a starting pitcher cannot get a win if they leave before 5IP. So, the starting pitchers who are out there churning innings and wins are rapidly becoming more valuable in fantasy baseball, regardless of how GIF-worthy their pitches are. If wins are part of your league–and especially if quality starts are part of your league–you need to be looking at starters who are throwing a lot of innings, and who play for good teams. This sentiment extends to all those prospects who are being called up to MLB this week: will they pitch enough to be eligible for a win?

So, as we leave the world of small sample size and enter the world of trends, you’ll find yourself surrounded by pitchers that were in the “Draft 2 of these guys” tier of my Top 100 list and who justify Grey’s yearly monocle-grabbing treatise: “Draft pitchers late.” We are 25% of the way through the season, and here are the biggest SP values in the Top 20 of the player rater now: Dylan Bundy, Zach Plesac, German Marquez, Frankie Montas, Anthony DeSclafani, Marco Gonzales, and Chris Bassit were all in the 40-100 range of my pre-season list. They’re joined by Randy Dobnak, Alec Mills, and Merrill Kelly, who were basically rostered only in the deepest of leagues. So, math majors know that 10/20 of the current Top 20 pitchers who were picked up in the last rounds or off the waiver wire. Perhaps most stroking to my ego, I urged people to stay off of the “consensus” top pitchers and aim for Shane Bieber, and those who did that have received the top pitcher in MLB through the first quarter of the season. You’re welcome [bowing motion].

News and Notes

Mike Soroka — You probably know by now that Soroka tore his achilles tendon this week, and he’s done for the year. If you’re in a dynasty, he’s a great target.

Justin Verlander — Verlander is not progressing in trying to solve a forearm issue. I asked you to drop him in redraft, and this is definitely the point where you need to cut him if he’s still occupying an IL slot. My suspicion is that he’ll return next year to close out his career on his own terms, so he’s worth a dynasty league stash if an owner has dropped him or will part with him for cheap.

Josh James — In the pre-season, Grey and Coolwhip were all over Josh James, and with good reason. Mostly pitching in relief in 2019, James had an un-Belieber-ble 14.5K/9, but that isn’t translating into starting success in 2020. In two appearances over 7IP, James’ velocity was down nearly 2MPH to 95, and his command was absolutely wild, to the tune of 14BB/9. James’ ERA and FIP were above 10, and–AND–James was the one who was lucky with a .230BABIP. Astros manager Dusty Baker sent James to the back of the bullpen, where James will undoubtedly have his arm preserved. But, with Roberto Osuna out, there’s a chance that 14.5K/9 James becomes a significant part of the Astros’ pen. If you’re a James owner in a deep league, you might want to hold on tight for a week just to see how the bullpen situation unfolds. Otherwise, cut James in redraft and consider him a candidate for holding in dynasty leagues.

Zach Plesac —  Has been so, so, so good this year that he just had to go out and party. He was banished from being around the team on Sunday and will be required to quarantine for a few days before the team decides what to do next. The Cleveland Spiders learned from the Marlins and Cardinals that going to the club just isn’t a great idea right now. Plesac might miss a start, but he should be owned in all leagues anyway.

Brandon Woodruff — How is this guy not in the top 15? Because Alec Mills has somehow allowed 5 hits all year. Woodruff has excelled this year, and is 24th in IP right now. Michael Simione notes that Woodruff has been using his changeup more, and batters are whiffing at it nearly 30% of the time. Here’s an excellent opportunity to chase Woodruff before more owners catch on to his greatness. That said, the Brewers haven’t been the pinnacle of offensive production this year.

Matt Boyd — More like Matt Blech, amirite? OK, Boyd had been a cheap source of IP and Ks for a few years, which made him a prime candidate to grab in 2020. With 11k/9 and even racking up 9W on an awful Tigers team in 2019, Boyd seemed like he could be a late round ace in 2020. Instead, he’s lost control of his slider–a pitch he throws 32% of the time–and its value has plummeted from 9 runs saved/year to -2 runs saved/year. What’s interesting about Boyd in 2020 is that batters aren’t hitting him harder, they’re just hitting more squarely and driving the ball throughout the park. Almost no batters are making soft contact, and he’s seen a huge increase in line drive hits allowed. The last straw, though, is that he’s lost the swinging strikes and his K/9 has dropped from 11 to 7. That’s enough signals to point to something being wrong, so it’s time to move on from Boyd if he’s on your roster. He’s turning 30 this year, which means he’s not the most intriguing dynasty stash.

Yusei Kikuchi — Who’s got the 9th best FIP, a top 30 K/9, and a hasn’t given up a homer yet this year despite facing Houston and Colorado? You say Yusei! Kikuchi-san has really turned it around this year. He hasn’t notched a win yet thanks to the less-than-stellar Mariners hitters, and he’s been fantastically unlucky. If he’s on the wire in your league, grab him and be patient for the positive regression to happen.

Alec Mills — We can’t let another week go by without addressing the elephant in the room: Alec Mills is a top 20 SP on the player rater. He’s been incredibly lucky and he pitches on a Cubs team that has been smacking the ball around. Mills can barely strike anybody out–4.85K/9!–and his SIERA is four times higher than his actual ERA. In layman terms, he’s been incredibly lucky and you shouldn’t be rostering him. If you have him, trade him for whatever you can get. If somebody tries to pawn him on you, run away.

Touki Toussaint — The 24-year old just passed from prospect to everyday status this year, and he’s been throwing fire. With a 13.5K/9 and a 3.27 FIP, he’s seen some unlucky games so far that have pitted him with a ERA above 6. His park adjusted ERA is 2.54, and he has Acuna, Swanson, and Freeman providing runs. Go get him in redrafts, and because he just lost his rookie status in dynasty, you may find some inattentive owners who are just looking at the 6.00 ERA and want to trade him for a prospect. Take advantage of them.

Jordan Yamamoto — Yamamoto was puzzlingly sent to the “alternate site” to begin the MLB season, despite being one of the top rotation candidates for the Marlins. Yamamoto has three plus pitches, is only 24, and had a K/9 above 9 last year despite making the jump from AA straight to the majors. Now that the Marlins have 17 players on the IL and are literally pitching minor leaguers–and somehow winning–Yamamoto is back in the rotation for now. Yamamoto didn’t look good at all in his first start, and the Marlins are not hitting well, so I wouldn’t consider him more than a dart throw in deep leagues for now.

Madison Bumgarner — There’s something wrong with MadBum and the coaches believe the solution is to just keep marching him out there and let him get shelled. He’s lost 3MPH on his fastball–it’s down to 88MPH!–and everything we know about his storied career ratios means nothing in 2020. That’s a quick descent to dart throw territory.

Joey Lucchesi — The Padres optioned Lucchesi, despite hitters hitting the jackpot against him to the tune of a .500+ BABIP. He’s off the chart for this year, but stash and snare him in dynasty.

Robbie Ray — Ray’s lost control of the ball. He’s throwing as hard as ever, but he’s walking batters a ton, and when batters make contact, they’re shelling him. There’s nothing in the peripherals saying that he’s unlucky. He was always going to give up walks and hits, and unfortunately, that’s all he’s doing right now. Dart throw.

Luke Weaver — There must be some sort of contagious vertigo going around the Diamondbacks because the usually control-focused Weaver has nearly as many BB/9 as his wild teammate Robbie Ray. Same thing as above: velocity is there, but there’s no control. Dart throw.

Lance McCullers McCullers was famous in Summer Training for his projections being .10 WHIP away from being nearly identical to Bieber. But, McCullers also hadn’t pitched since 2018. And, he’s lost velocity, and his curveball–a pitch he throws 30% of the time–is getting parked. Until he gets his stuff together, he’s a dart throw.


Rank Name PrevRk Notes
1 Shane Bieber 2
2 Gerrit Cole 1
3 Jacob deGrom 3
4 Max Scherzer 5 Hamstring injury, will make next start
5 Sonny Gray 10
6 Patrick Corbin 7
7 Chris Paddack 12
8 Luis Castillo 9
9 Yu Darvish 13
10 Lance Lynn 13
11 Trevor Bauer 16

Tier 2

Rank Name PrevRk Notes
12 Aaron Nola 13
13 Jack Flaherty 5 Cardinals on hiatus
14 Carlos Carrasco 31
15 Brandon Woodruff 26
16 Mike Clevinger 7 First start next week
17 Zack Greinke 19
18 Tyler Glasnow 13
19 Clayton Kershaw 15 Return from IL
20 Lucas Giolito 17
21 Kyle Hendricks 27
22 Walker Buehler 29
23 Zac Gallen 23
24 Hyun-Jin Ryu 24
25 Jose Berrios 18

Tier 3

Rank Name PrevRk Notes
26 Aaron Civale 42
27 Dinelson Lamet 33
28 Kenta Maeda 31
29  Stephen Strasburg 16 Up to 6IP
30 Adrian Houser 47
31 German Marquez 37
32 Zack Wheeler 32
33 Zach Plesac 48
34 Dylan Bundy 51
35 Julio Urias 38
36 Max Fried 36
37 Spencer Turnbull 55
38 Frankie Montas 43
39 Andrew Heaney 42
40 Chris Bassitt 58
41 Charlie Morton 9

Tier 4

Rank Name PrevRk Notes
42 Jake Odorizzi 31
43 James Paxton 41
44 Rich Hill 55 IL return
45 Anthony DeSclafani 64
46 Ross Stripling 63
47 Blake Snell 33
48 Kyle Freeland 82
49 Merrill Kelly 99
50 Ryan Yarbrough 43
51 Randy Dobnak 100
52 Marco Gonzales 77
53 Jesus Luzardo 49
54 Sean Manaea 48
55 Griffin Canning 50
56 Jon Lester 80
57 Dallas Keuchel 62
58 Dustin May 55
59 Nathan Eovaldi 71
60 Mike Minor 63

Tier 5

Rank Name PrevRk Notes
61 Masahiro Tanaka 97
62 Yusei Kikuchi 73
63 Jon Gray 68
64 Corbin Burnes 93
65 Nate Pearson 75
66 Kyle Gibson 83
67 Sandy Alcantara 58
68 Josh Lindblom 95
69 Mitch Keller 74
70 Kevin Gausman 70
71 Tommy Milone 76
72 Zach Eflin 84
73 Mike Fiers 65
74 Garrett Richards 66
75 Christian Javier NA
76 Antonio Senzatela NA
77 Johnny Cueto 67
78 Dylan Cease 71
79 Yonny Chirinos 81
80 Framber Valdez NA

Tier 6

Rank Name PrevRk Notes
81 Matthew Boyd 45
82 Pablo Lopez 96
83 Matt Shoemaker 66
84 Brady Singer 92
85 Madison Bumgarner 33
86 Justus Sheffield 86
87 Robbie Ray 40
88 Adam Wainwright NA
89 Lance McCullers 46
90 Taijuan Walker NA
91 Luke Weaver 56
92 Spencer Howard 94
93 Steven Matz 62
94 Kolby Allard NA
95 David Peterson NA
96 Tyler Mahle NA
97 Tyler Chatwood NA
98 Rick Porcello 98
99 Brad Keller NA
100 Joe Musgrove 49
  1. Coolwhip says:

    Good stuff dude. Too expand on Josh James and why he’s gargaggio right now… I wrote the hype piece on him during Spring Training 1.0 when it looked like he had made a big step forward in his command. And had even been interviewed talking about that was his focus in the offseason. Then come Spring Traing 2.0: Summer Camp as it led into the season. It looked like barfed up all that hard work in the offseason and reverted back (maybe even worse than) where he was before and couldn’t pitch a strike to save his life. So right now he’s complete garbaggio and as dead to me as Jesse James, and equally criminal to ratios.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      [fans self] Whew, that was a hot taek!

      There you go, Razzball readers, the hype man himself has backed off of James! Onward to new hype: Tyler Chatwood! I mean, Yusei Kikuchi!

  2. Umpy 70 says:

    hey guys, i know these ranks are for the rest of this season. Are their any rankings for dynasty leagues? How do I value howard/gore etc moving into next year?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      I think you watch their usage carefully this year, and for fantasy purposes, keep your fingers crossed.

      As Jay Jaffe points out, pitchers are getting injured frequently this year. For whatever reason, some teams are throwing caution to the wind and bringing out their most prized prospects–Nate Pearson, Spencer Howard, etc–in a year where they didn’t really *need* to. For fantasy purposes, most leagues do 50IP as the limit for “rookie” status, and thereafter, you need to roster the player or cut them. By this point, there’s very little chance that the prospects hit that 50IP limit in 2020, but it makes it tough to plan for 2021 in my opinion. Just like Touki Toussaint crossed the “rookie line” in basically every fantasy format this past week, what do you do about a player that’s giving you a 6.00 ERA? Do you cut, trade, or roster? That’s up to every individual manager.

      But the further one thinks ahead, the less certain projections become. I’m a fan of examining FanGraphs’ prospect ratings, and looking at performance in the minors.

      Gore looks more like a lock to show up this year, but like Howard and Pearson, he’s probably going to get knocked around a bit to start off. Rare is the starting pitcher who comes in and Randy Dobnak’s their way to glory.

      So, keep an eye on their usage, and their pitch values, and if you’re seeing something you like, hold like there’s no tomorrow. If you’re seeing concerning signs–decreased velocity, reliance on one pitch, extreme luck–then you may want to consider that in your dynasty plans.

    • Coolwhip says:

      You can look at the work by our prospect writer by searching “The Itch” at the top of the page, you can find his rankings that way or the Prospects link at the top of the page

  3. Umpy 70 says:

    Thanks man! I’ve been rebuilding in my keeper league for the last few years, this year is already a write-off, but i’ve managed top 3 bats (12 teams, 25 man roster) but my pitching has

    buelher, berrios, howard, gore, houser and the rest waiver bums moving forward. Trying to compete next year, so wondering how that ranks up.

    Would you move an expensive talent like stanton for pitchers like lamet and Woodruff? Or am I selling too low on stanton

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Ultimately it’s your team, but waiver wire grabs will be great this year going into next year. You’ve got three great pitchers there, and that’s more than enough for a proper team. Buehler is low on my list because he got an extremely late start in stretching out for the 60-game season. For me, I monitor Stanton’s injury for now. He never really plays 100% of the time, but it’s hard to deny him when he’s on the field.

  4. Dan says:

    Can you give more insight on the rankings of Dobnak and Marco Gonzales?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Dobnak is nothing sexy, but he’s inducing a ton of ground balls and soft contact. The result is: IP! He’s extremely efficient because he’s not K’ing anybody and he’s not walking anybody. But, when SP are scarce on W/QS, Dobnak is a guy who will get those. Twins are starting to heat up with their bats, too.

      Gonzales is about the same, with a touch more K. Hitters are taking him harder (hehe!) than Dobnak, tho, so he’s probably a bit more unsustainable.

  5. thorbs says:

    Nice writeup – loving the tiers!

    Couple Qs about pitchers – you still have Minor ranked pretty confidently, are you waiting for another start or two (i.e. if he can’t beat Seattle, eeee) to see if the velo comes back?

    Other one was about Verlander in a dynasty league. I’ve got him and am consistently in contention. Been offered some combination of:

    Solak or Hampson
    A late first round pick pick or Carroll/Alek Thomas/Jeter Downs/JJ Bleday

    Would Solak and Carroll be selling low in dynasty? I’m really unsure of how to value JV given his track record, but also the groin surgery, lat strain, tricep issue and new delivery make me wonder if time has finally caught up with him.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      With Minor, I’m looking at his 3.67 FIP and his pitches are sitting around league average value. His velocity has dropped a little bit, which is not great. That said, all the advanced metrics point toward positive regression, and he’s got the track record to back it up.

      With Verlander, I truly think he makes it one more year. Naysayers can always naysay, but statistics say that Verlander should make it one more year and then be done. So, if people are offering you good MLB talent or prospects that fit your needs–or that you can flip–then, honestly, I take it. It looks like Verlander won’t really pitch again this year, and if he does, there’s every chance he pulls a Kluber and looks awful. So, I think the best dynasty value for Verlander is probably now-ish. What you trade him for, that’s up to you and what you think is best for your team construction.

      • thorbs says:

        Cheers, keep up the great work!

  6. Banksy says:

    Keep forever… i have bumgarner and robbie ray. Should i be dropping for likes of marco gonzales, gausman, toukie

    I also have woodruff, corbin, glasnow, odorizzi cristian vazquez and corbin burnes

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      I mean, in a keep forever league, Touki should be owned. Ray and MadBum look like something’s flawed about them–not just for now, but like, a long time flawed.

    • Slimcompoop says:

      I’d think about losing Bumgarner for Gonzales…

  7. Harley Earl says:

    I had Ray in a keeper league from the draft (No, I would never have kept him). It took all of one start for me to know he sucks. His numbers have always sucked. Too many walks. He’s over-rated. I cut his ass immediately and moved on.

    Glad I did. I got Zach Plesac in his place. Now if Plesac will just stick to protocol, I’ll be alright!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      2020 not-too-unrealistic scenario:

      Zach Plesac tests negative after three days. Comes to play again. Tests positive on day 8. Bieber, Carrasco, and Civale come down with C19 shortly thereafter. Tribe goes full Marlins and puts out speedskaters and displaced postal workers on the field.

      Randy Dobnak wins Cy Young with 8 wins and 20K on the year.

      • Harley Earl says:

        man anything can happen this season. My boy Flaherty has now missed four starts counting the latest postponement!!

  8. Primetime says:

    drop Heaney for Toussaint?

    What about Framber? Thoughts on him?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      I think you stay with Heaney. They’re each due for a positive regression, meaning that their ERA is way higher than how they’ve been performing. Heaney has more of a track record, honestly. Touki has the edge on Ks, but otherwise, the rest of the season projections favor Heaney by a significant margin. However, a lot of that is due to more confident projections on Heaney.

      Framber’s doing what Josh James should have done. Valdez has dramatically cut his walks, and he’s throwing basically two pitches to great success. The Houston batters have been lagging…due to the lack of trashcans?…but he’s a fair dart throw option.

  9. scoboticus says:

    Which 1 would you sit p this week?
    Maeda @ Mil
    Bassitt @ LAA
    Kikuchi @ HOU
    M Kelly vs SD

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Padres are the best hitting team in the league right now and Kelly isn’t the master of missing bats. I sit Kelly.

  10. Saint says:

    Obviously didn’t start Ray in Colorado, but after that predictable start I will be dropping him for Touki in the morning. I don’t see Touki on the list. Is that because of his start @NYY tomorrow?

    Also, pick him up and start him there or bench and wait until next start?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Oh, you’re absolutely right, Touki got left off accidentally. You know what happened, is I was moving Tyler Glasnow and accidentally left him in no man’s land while I adjusted all the other rankings. Got to the dart throws and realized I had left off Glasnow, so I got distracted and forgot Touki as I fixed that error.

      Touki’s a dart throw in the 80s/70s right now.

      Streamonator says Touki is pitching against New York Yankees tomorrow. Woof. If you want to pitch against Aaron Judge right now, be my guest.

      Otherwise, Streamonator says the next start is against the Marlins, which is [inserts sassy GIF] niiiiiiiice.

  11. Frank Rizzo says:

    Great list and helpful baseline. Thanks. Only thing I don’t follow on is Montas. Couldn’t/shouldn’t he be 10-15 spots higher based on what he’s doing and his potential?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Things are going pretty well for Frankie so far, but he’s also a tad lucky. BABIP about .240, SIERA at 4.25, and he’s lost 1MPH on his fastball compared to last year. That’s not wild luck, but it’s also not time to dub him Sir Frankie Fastball. So, that 30ish range feels pretty good right now. It’s hard to put him toward the top of the tier right now when 80% of the hits off of Montas are Medium/Hard hits, so, that’s why I’m keeping him down a bit. Thanks!

  12. ThE sHiT says:

    Would you start Minor v Seattle today? His Ks and walks seem to be in line with last year, 12 ER on 16 hits seems high, maybe his luck can normalize?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Depending on scoring, I’d give him a start. SEA made a mess of Gibson yesterday, which was totally out of line with their recent performances. But SEA hasn’t been a strong hitting team overall, and Minor is basically doing his thing, so I go with 70% likelihood of an acceptable outcome.

      • ThE sHiT says:

        Thanks for the reply. Its 5×5 roto regular scoring. Behind in Ks and Wins, have good ratios. Dropped Yarbrough this morning, so kinda also looking for an SP who is slightly better than a streamer (if he doesnt get rocked today) that i can keep in my rotation and start usually (unless terrible matchup)

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:

          Yeah, it’s not a bad dart throw. Minor is sitting on the good side of exit velocity against him and batters are getting lucky so far. Minor’s expected ERA is 3.97, which is more than acceptable for a streamer. That said, the Rangers aren’t hitting well either (I threw out SEA starter Dunn last night to great effect) so Minor could throw a quality start and lose by virtue of weak support.

  13. Poogy says:

    I see Sonny Gray right up there with the super elite. How confident are you with him sticking up there? Is there anything different that he is doing this year that you know of creating these high k rates? I’m asking because I’m thinking about trading for him. Thanks!!!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      All peripherals on Gray point to “buy.” Every bit of performance is in line with expectations, and if anything, he’s due to be a bit better. He’s throwing his slider a ton and it’s not hitting as well as it usually does. If his slider gets back to career norms, we could be seeing top 5 performance. But right now, he’s K’ing a ton of batters and actually cut his walks a bit. It’s important to note that batters are also hitting him harder than in previous years, which has resulted in a career-high HR/FB%. That said, the biggest increase in the hits against him are those pitches which are outside the strike zone, so, there’s a good chance we see positive regression on that HR/FB%. He’s a good target right now.

  14. LenFuego says:

    I assume McCullers would go shooting up this list after that tour-de-force performance yesterday. How high?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      That’s a tough one. To be fair, I was probably high on McCullers to begin the year, but so were a ton of other minds far smarter than me. Perhaps it’s unfair to drop him to the dart throws, but, here we are in 2020.

      Yesterday, McCullers took a no-hitter into the 7th against the San Francisco Giants, a team which has been middle of the pack in terms of offensive performance. Now, I personally lost a couple dimes on that game in DraftKings, because McCullers was getting shelled in his previous outings.

      Last night, though, McCullers struck out 5 out of 23 batters he faced. The rest put the ball in play, and 85% of those balls were grounders. That’s about a 30% higher rate than his career average. Looking at the Statcast metrics, 14/17 of those balls were hit hard, and 3 of them were hit *really* hard. 9/17 of those hits had a greater than .300 expected batting average, so McCullers finished the game with a ludicrous .059 BABIP. In short, he got lucky and had great defense behind him. He threw his knuckle curve more often than usual, and that probably was what helped initiate more ground balls.

      Do I buy on him right now? No, not really. Will I probably eat crow on that statement? Possibly. McCullers has great upside, but for now, I wouldn’t boost him much higher than the 60s next week.

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