The royal we already went over all the hitters for 2017 fantasy baseball rankings.  That’s not the “royal we” as that term usually implies.  It was me writing it alone while wearing a Burger King crown.  I refuse to draft a top starter where they are usually drafted.  Unlike hitters, you need six starters, depending on your league depth.  Simple math tells us there’s plenty of starters to go around.  Simple Math also says, “Stop putting words in my mouth!”  In most leagues, there’s a ton of pitchers on waivers that can help you — all year.  Not just in April, and then they disappear.  With the help of the Stream-o-Nator, you can get by with, say, three starters while streaming the rest.  There’s also the fact that three stats by starters are difficult to predict due to luck.  Wins, ERA and WHIP are prone to shift due to which way the ball bounces and whether or not the guys behind the pitchers can score runs.  Finally, the best starters can give you four categories.  The best hitters can give you five categories.  As always, where I see tiers starting and stopping are included and my projections.  Anyway, here’s the top 20 starters for 2017 fantasy baseball:

1. Clayton Kershaw –  This is a new tier.  This tier goes from here until Sale.  I call this tier, “Security blankets are for bouncers who are chilly.”  This is a refresher for noobs, which I believe is spelled with two zeroes.  I’ve gone over this before, but it bears repeating like a hairy gay man from San Francisco who stutters.  If you own Kershaw or any of the guys in this tier, you’re drafting scared.  You’re scared to go into the season without a number one starter.  You’re afraid that if you don’t have an ace you’ll never find a starter off waivers or your later picks won’t pan out.  You’re chicken, as Biff would say, because there’s more pitchers than Michael J. Fox can shake a stick at.  The only people that draft a top starter want a security blanket.  They want to feel like they’re pitching staff is safe.  They want to feel nuzzled like a bug in an alpaca rug.  If you would’ve owned Kyle Hendricks, Tanner Roark, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Pomeranz, Danny Duffy and David Price last year, your ERA would’ve been 3.15 in 1173 1/3 IP.  And that would’ve been in spite of your top pitcher drafted, David Price!  Without Price, your ERA would’ve been 2.94!  Sure, I’m cherrypicking guys from last year…Just like you could’ve cherrypicked any of them off waivers in your league or drafted them way later than the top 20.  Not one of the guys I mentioned I told you to avoid either, except Price.  In some leagues, you could do fine NOT drafting ANY starters.  Yes, I brought out the caps.  I’m not only talking about H2H leagues where you can carry only relievers.  I’m talking 10 or 12-team roto leagues where you can stream starters.  Maybe you own one starter and stream five spots.  Maybe you own two guys and stream four spots.  Maybe you drink seven cups of coffee and stream all day.  Even if you want to draft an entire rotation and hold them (or try to), you don’t need a guy from this tier.  There’s plenty of options later to fill out your rotation so you’re competitive in leagues where you can’t stream.  I’m not suggesting you Reggie Roby starters.  I’m telling you to Reggie Roby top starters.  Concentrate on your hitting while these guys are being drafted.  As for Kershaw, he’s great, yadda3. 2017 Projections: 19-6/2.44/0.95/261 in 222 IP

2. Max Scherzer – At 32 years of age, he got better.  His best K-rate of his career and his highest fastball velocity on average at 94.3 MPH.  Too bad The Freak nickname was wasted on Lincecum.  Since Scherzer grew up in a house that watched a lot of Jeopardy!, and since the host of Jeopardy!, whose name won’t be spoken until he grows back his mustache, is French Canadian, maybe we should call Scherzer “Le Freak.”  Maybe that’s too much explanation for a nickname.  I don’t know, these are not questions but ponderings.   Or as his manager, Dusty Baker would say, “It’s the ninth inning, can you throw a few more?”  2017 Projections:  18-7/2.51/0.96/270 in 225 IP

3. Madison Bumgarner – I realize that I can’t say every year that Bumgarner is going to break down due to innings, then eventually take credit for predicting it when he finally does after being wrong about him breaking down for three straight years.  That doesn’t exclude me from using that as rational for avoiding him.  If Bumgarner was regularly being underdrafted, I might even draft him myself, because his numbers don’t scream that the end is nigh.  By the way, if you ever go into the nude hosiery business, you should call them, Nigh Highs.  I won’t be manufacturing pantyhose any time soon, so you can have the name.  2017 Projections:  17-9/2.78/1.04/232 in 218 IP

4. Chris Sale – Here’s what I said this offseason, “Red Sox made a huge splash yesterday trading away Yoan Moncada, Luis Alexander Basabe, Victor Diaz and Michael Kopech for Chris Sale.  Red Sox must be appealing to Bernie Sanders with their rotation: two lefties named Sale and Price.  Dave Dombrowski sure does love to trade away his top prospects.  Dombrowski buys 10 copies of Baseball Prospectus every year, crosses out the ‘u,’ and barters them for two cartridges of Nintendo Baseball Stars.  Dombrowski used to have four young kids, until he traded them to a Mormon family for an honors student three months from graduating high school.  Dombrowski dreams of finding the Fountain of Youth so he can trade it for a veteran fountain.  I’m not going to compare Sale to Price even if the Jew in me wants to talk wholesale.  Price had concerning stats going into last year and is older.  Of course, some of Price’s concerning stats were a lower K-rate and a falling velocity on his fastball, which are two warning signs with Sale too.  Okay, maybe I will compare the two.  Sale’s fastball velocity went from 94.5 MPH to 92.8 MPH, while relying on it 7% more of the time.  You’re a big-time Razzball noob — Razzboob? — if you think I’m going to suggest you draft an ace, and Sale is no different.  I’m not about to say he’s going to fall off, but declining velocity, K-rate and rising xFIP is not an ace I’d be excited about.”  And that’s me quoting me!  2017 Projections:  18-8/3.31/1.08/244 in 225 IP

5. Noah Syndergaard – This is a new tier.  This tier goes from here until Lester.  I call this tier, “2500 Jokes To Start A Toast!”  The first joke is, “They said I needed to give a toast tonight, so I brought a loaf of bread.”  The 2nd toast is, “Pumpernickel.”  Third toast, “Some poor sucker drafted an ace.  What a joke!”  This tier is another tier of pitchers I won’t be drafting, but, unlike the first tier, and this is where my logic gets twisted, I don’t like this tier.  Yes, I didn’t want to draft the first tier, but I did like them, i.e., I liked them, but didn’t like them.  If I were to draft a top tier ace, I would’ve drafted from the first tier.  This tier is filled with guys that I wouldn’t draft even if I drafted top SPs, i.e., I don’t want them and I don’t like them.  As for Syndergaard, “She’ll let you in her house….If you come knockin’ late at night…. First class used to be a better seat, but now, eight-pound-head kid, it’s a better life….Except for those two in the front row talking about getting engaged while they fight…..”  Sorry, I see Syndergaard and I immediately think Secret Garden by Springsteen (Jerry Maguire remix, of course).  So, do I love that Syndergaard has a bone spur in his elbow?  No.  Do I plan on drafting him?  Nuh-uh.  So, it doesn’t really matter if I rank him 5th or 23rd.  2017 Projections:  16-7/2.67/1.05/235 in 203 IP

6. Jake Arrieta – I can’t find positives in Arrieta’s line, and almost dropped him out of the top 20, but it’s lip service where he’s ranked.  I don’t want him.  He lost a mile on his fastball, which he threw 10% more because he lost the feel for his slider.  He had a 3.68 xFIP and his walk rate went up from 1.9 to 3.5.  Um, that’s awful.  Oh, yeah, he’s also going to be 31 years old.  Yeah, Arrieta’s trash, but I guess you gotta rank him somewhere.  2017 Projections:  17-10/2.98/1.06/196 in 205 IP

7. Jon Lester – Look at his last four years:  3.75 ERA, 2.46 ERA, 3.34 ERA, 2.44 ERA.  We’re in an odd year.  It’s all Saberhagenmetrics.  Okay, it’s not all Saberhagenmetrics.  His BABIP was artificially low last year, and his xFIP was 3.47.  His K/9 dipped below 9 for the first time in three years and his walk rate went up.  A lot of his value last year came from 19 wins, which likely won’t change much with the Cubs, but even if it falls to 16 wins and 3.50 ERA, it’s not nearly as interesting.  Don’t draft him and put yourself in a hole.  A hole?  Yes, you are.  Now avoid.  A void?  Yes, another name for a hole!  2017 Projections:  16-9/3.35/1.10/206 in 210 IP

8. Justin Verlander – This is a new tier.  This tier goes from here until Cueto.  I call this tier, “I have illusions of drafting these guys, maybe they’re delusions, or is it allusions?”  I’m writing this post in January, and I don’t know where most are ranking or drafting anyone.  If Verlander (or Kluber or Cueto or Darvish) is (are) available, then I’ll grab him (one of them).   I believe that Verlander is back to a dominant ace he was:  9+ K/9, 2.80-3.10 ERA, having the baddest bitch there is:

Verlander doesn’t make me vehemently disgusted, which I’m surprised about, but I don’t know what vehemently means so maybe.  Does it mean opposite of disgusted?  Because then I’m vehement, which is my favorite type of after dinner mint.  Verlander is 34 years old so I’m not paying a huge cost to get him, but, if he’s around for the right price, I’m in.  My guess is, he’ll be gone before I have a chance for him.  2017 Projections:  15-10/3.31/1.05/220 in 217 IP

9. Corey Kluber – When the rain just stops, you can open a window and see a rainbow.  That rainbow is Kluber farting, because all he does is beautiful.  Kluber is so special, he makes the word ‘pubes’ sound less gross because it sounds almost like Klubes.   If you’re not sure about Kluber, then you likely didn’t watch the playoffs.  Or ever see a rainbow.  Or hear the word pubes.  2017 Projections:  17-10/3.36/1.08/229 in 220 IP

10. Yu Darvish – There is a legit chance I own Darvish, and on multiple teams.  I believe this, and I don’t think I’m completely deluding myself.  I think there’s a real possibility to grab him.  I hope so, because if anyone can go from a starter outside the top ten to the number one pitcher drafted next year, it’s Darvish.  Yeah, I said it.  I think Darvish can replace Kershaw next year as the first pitcher off the board.  I legit think there’s a chance here for Darvish to have a 2.50 ERA and 250 Ks for the 250 double-double with no decimals!  Darvish does have a certain air of Giancarlo to him too.  In other words, everything needs to come together for Darvish health-wise and it never seems to happen that way.  Here’s hoping this is the year!  2017 Projections:  15-5/3.04/1.15/239 in 201 IP

11. Johnny Cueto – You say to me, “Unkie Grey, what does a pitcher look like that goes to the NL West?”  I say, “Cueto went from 3.44 ERA to 2.79 and 7.5 K/9 to 8.1.”  You say, “Unkie Grey, what about Samardzija?”  I say, “I’m not your uncle, kid.  Get out of here!”  2017 Projections:  16-10/3.04/1.11/192 in 210 IP

12. Carlos Carrasco – This is a new tier.  This tier goes from here until Martinez.  I call this tier, “Slowly remove the hand from under your bun and click yo’ mouse.”  It’s time, guys and five girl readers.  We’ve waited long enough now.  You can start drafting to your heart’s desire.  Actually, not true.  Draft one of these guys.  In the days that follow, I’ll have a pitchers’ pairings post to help you draft an entire staff.  By the way, the only people who have ever said ‘in the days that follow’ in real life have been boring professors.  Borfessors?  As for Carrasco, in a freak accident last year, he broke a bone in his hand.  This doesn’t concern me at all.  If anything, it could be considered a good thing because it shut him down early and he didn’t need to throw more innings in the playoffs.  I’m in on the guys in this tier hard, and I don’t think I’m being daft.   Though, Grey being daft is actually always a possibility.  “Did he tell us to draft Brett Lawrie six years in a row?”  “Grey being daft.”  “Did he really rank Price all the way down there?”  “Daft.” “Did he really use hydrogen peroxide after he shaved?”  “Dafter shave.”  This is something I see just about every year.  Players (hitters too) break out and no one drafts them like they should.  Instead, people will either draft guys they know — Price — or guys that just had a career year — Porcello.  I think there’s a certain element to drafting that people don’t want to look stupid.  You’re in a draft with your friends, or at least people you pretend to like, and it’s your turn to draft.  You then draft Price in front of Carrasco because you’re afraid of being mocked by people not as smart as yourself.  I don’t know, it’s a working theory.  If Carrasco pitches 220 IP, he will be a top 5 starter.  2017 Projections:  15-9/3.28/1.13/192 in 190 IP

13. Chris Archer – How’s that Texas expression go?  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice and I can’t believe I’m drafting Chris Archer again?  While living through the massacre that was Archer last year, and it was a massacre — only thing that was missing was a wall with redrum written in Puig’s blood — I figured there was no way I’d draft Archer again.  I was out, as they say.  I don’t know who they are but they’re succinct.  Now, the wounds have healed and I’ve come to kiss the ring of a guy that has a 10+ K/9.   May the regress he made last year not lead to further regrets this year.  Turn of a phrase points!  2017 Projections:  13-12/3.33/1.17/225 in 200 IP

14. Carlos Martinez – Ya know, this tier of pitchers was good last year.  Sure, Archer’s ERA mucked up your team, only with an F, but he was still a top 40 starter last year.  C-Mart, on the other hand (or feet, if you prefer), was a top 20 starter last year.  That some people don’t realize that is not my fault.  The garbage overflowing in my bathroom waste bin is my fault, according to Cougs, but that’s all I’m taking credit for here.  2017 Projections:  15-10/3.17/1.19/193 in 205 IP

15. Jacob deGrom – This is a new tier.  This tier goes from here until Strasburg.  I call this tier, “Avoid.”  I’m sorry, but this tier name is so self-explanatory it makes my teeth hurt.  My teeth hurt when I read truth.  Weird phenomenon, it’s called truth decay.  Truthpaste is the only cure.  Flossing helps though.  So, nothing against the Mets and their starters, but when I Google a pitcher’s name in January and I read, “Arm is feeling better, he can almost put on his own pants,” I get worried.  DeGrom has already undergone a Tommy John surgery (2010) and had ulnar nerve surgery in September, which has a timetable of three to six months.  He has one setback in April and he’s not going to be pitching all year and then ESPN will have a 30 for 30 in ten years called, “Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey:  Why Mr. Met Has A Teardrop Tattoo.”  2017 Projections:  13-10/3.12/1.15/191 in 194 IP

16. Stephen Strasburg – He has a partial tear in his elbow.  It’s a pronator tendon that’s torn.  WebMD says, “Pronator tendon is used mostly by pitchers and people who are calling someone a jerk-off, using the masturbator motion.”  If you think it’s a good idea to draft Strasburg, I’m using my pronator tendon to motion in your direction.  Strasburg has a torn elbow tendon; he has Dusty Baker as his manager; Strasburg can’t learn to throw lefty by April.  As the saying that no one’s heard before goes, if you draft, you R daft.  2017 Projections:  12-9/3.55/1.10/190 in 163 IP

17. Danny Duffy – This is a new tier.  This tier goes from here until Cole.  I call this tier, “Buckle up, I’m creating turbulence.”  I didn’t forget Kyle Hendricks, Greinke, and scores of other guys.  They’ll be in the top 40.  Actually, if you see a top 20 starter list with Greinke, you should find a new source.  I’m not saying you have to use my rankings, but you really have to second guess anyone that puts Greinke in the top 20.  People will see my rankings and they’ll get turned off.  Let them go.  You know why they’re turned off?  They’re scared.  They don’t know these guys.  ESPN hasn’t put them on the cover of their magazine so they must not be top twenty starters.  Sorry, man and five womans, Duffy is this good.  His K/9 and walk rate last year were 9.4 and 2.1.  Pitchers don’t last that long.  Most of them, at least.  Sure, some have long, Hall of Fame careers, but most have three to four years where they’re dominant.  Duffy entered that time last year and will continue it into 2017.  2017 Projections:  13-10/3.45/1.15/201 in 195 IP

18. Kenta Maeda – This ranking is actually not that crazy for most ‘perts.  This is crazy because of who I am, because of how I roll.  (I really should have staged readings of my posts.  Bryan Cranston could make these words sing.)   I could see a lot of people ranking Maeda high.  Likely not higher than, say, Tanaka, but that’s why they’re stunods and I’m not.  So, why am I being aggressive on Maeda while everyone else is too instead of zigging where they’re zagging?  Or am I zagging and they’re zigging?  Are we both zigging?  Any hoo!  Maeda has the twelfth best swinging strike rate.  If a guy is getting swings and misses, it’s hard to hit them.  This should excite you.  If they’re doing it in the NL West, it should further tingle your nuggets.  If they’re doing it at 28 years old with a 2.6 BB, you should be on the ‘Yes, please,’ train going to Dirty-Thoughts-About-Your-Arm-Ville.  2017 Projections:   15-7/3.39/1.13/198 in 195 IP

19. Danny Salazar – A bit of a leap of faith here.  Salazar had a forearm strain at the end of last year, which is often a precursor for, “I’m so effin’ effed, my fantasy pitchers are all hurt!”  For a second, we should consider how the pitchers feel when they get hurt.  Meh, who cares.  Salazar’s forearm strain was considered mild, which, again, I wouldn’t trust.  Don’t trust injury news ever.  However, and this is a Gilbert Grape’s mom-sized however, Salazar returned in the playoffs, and looked fine.  Plus, that was five months ago, so I think Salazar dodged a bullet.  I can understand getting cold feet with him, but put on some slippers and draft him!  2017 Projections: 14-10/3.44/1.15/201 in 180 IP

20. Gerrit Cole – We’re giving Cole a bye on his previous season.  I don’t know why a 95 MPH fastball guy was only a 3.88 ERA guy while striking out only 7.6 guys per nine innings, but I’m overlooking it.  (Not true, I know why.  Or at least have a reasonable guess.  He was hurt.  He had inflammation in his elbow.  No, this isn’t good, but– Wait, can we get out of this parenthesis so I can just talk to you?  Thanks.)  Elbow pain is bad, but six months of rest and he supposedly has no ligament damage.  Like I said, he was still throwing 95 MPH, so I’m assuming a bit here, but he couldn’t have been that bad off.  His command was wonky and that seemed to be his biggest issue.  So, he couldn’t locate anything and he still had a 7.6 K/9 and a 3.88 ERA?  Sounds better now, right?  2017 Projections:  15-10/3.45/1.14/188 in 193 IP

To continue the starter rankings, click –> top 40 starters for 2017 fantasy baseball