The top 80 starters for 2021 fantasy baseball is around the 225th overall mark in your drafts to about the 275th point. This is your late fourth thru the beginning of the sixth starters. This is just about it for 12 team leagues, though the last tier in this post is still in 12-team league territory, so you’ll have to wait until the next post to finish off that tier. Grey knows how to keep ’em coming back! Here’s Steamer’s 2021 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Hitters and 2021 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Pitchers. Rudy’s downloadable War Room is available to early subscribers to our Razzball Tools. As always, where I see tiers starting and stopping are included with my projections. Anyway, here’s the top 80 starters for 2021 fantasy baseball:
NOTE: All 2021 fantasy baseball projections are based on a 162-game season, and will be until we hear definitively there will be less games.
NOTE II: All my rankings are currently available on Patreon for the price of a Starbucks coffee, if you get one of those extra grande frappuccino jobbers. Don’t wait for the rankings to come out over the next month, and get them all now. Also, we’re giving away spots in the RazzSlam to ten Patreons.
NOTE III: Free agents outside the top 100 are not yet written up or projected. They are approximately ranked, obviously subject to change.
61. Corey Kluber – This tier started in the top 60 starters for 2021 fantasy baseball. This tier ends at Urquidy. I called this tier, “Flavor town.” As for Kluber, here’s what I said this offseason, “Signed with the Yankees, after throwing 20 pitches in a scout look-see. I gotta tell ya, to trust Kluber for more than 120 innings of worthwhile pitching, I would’ve wanted the scout look-see to be about four months long and see him throw about fourteen-hundred pitches. Guess that would take the mystery out of it. Kluber’s thrown 36 2/3 IP across the last two years, so the Yankees signed James Paxton, Part 2: The Pax de Résistance to Health. If you think I’m going to be owning Kluber in any leagues, you really don’t know me as well as you thought, and that’s after hiding in the bushes outside my house for the last nine months for a glimpse. Gonna have to step up your game, I see you!” And that’s me quoting me! 2021 Projections: 8-6/4.08/1.21/123 in 121 IP
62. Cristian Javier – Life’s too short for me to figure out why everyone is drafting Javier about twenty spots before here. My guess is y’all a bunch of hoo-ahs for strikeouts and upside, and you’re standing on the edge of your desk screaming, “Hurt me, Javier! Make me rue this day, and every day I roster you.” 2021 Projections: 8-9/4.23/1.31/129 in 126 IP
63. Jose Urquidy – Sounds like I want to pinch his cheeks whenever I say his name. “No, Urquidy,” cheek pinch. Last year he did nothing to warrant a ‘you’re a cutie’ though, with lots of garbage thrown. Yo, trash day was Tuesday, get that shizz out of here. Might’ve been an injury, might’ve been something else, but as I’ve tried to instill in you from Day One. If you have questions, not worth owning for answers unless the price is so cheap. 2021 Projections: 10-11/3.92/1.08/129 in 151 IP
64. Sean Manaea – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Dunning. I call this tier, “Broken emergency anchor glass.” This tier is usually filled with safe number five starters who you can get cheap and they anchor your staff. In the past, this was a condom tier. Something that could glue the team together. A Dollar Store condom, so there was some risk, but the wrapper says it’s safe. Not this year. No one is safe. These guys are the closest guys I can find to anchor your staff, but the emergency glass is broken and the anchor is hanging out on the floor. You can see I’m very familiar with ships, thinking anchors are behind emergency glass. Usually this tier is cheap, older guys. I’m going to do my best to find safer guys, but I purposely put actual ‘safe’ guys earlier this year (Bassitt, Means, Stroman, etc.) because safety will be harder to come by and Dollar Store condoms can’t be found. As for Manaea, what’s the opposite of a Statcast darling? Unbeloved by Moni Torrison? Okay, that. Manaea is a poor man’s Dustin May with an actual rotation spot. Call him Sweeping-Dust-Under-Rug-In May? Sure, that. He’s kinda reliant on a “lucky” BABIP. Doesn’t quite need a .194 BABIP like he had in 2019, that produced a 1.21 ERA, but a .247 BABIP in 2018 that produced a 3.59 ERA? Yeah, that would help. You’re hoping for that, and a 50% GB rate, and 1.5 or lower BB/9. Two things he did last year. He’s not as safe as a porcupine-skin Dollar Store condom, but he’s gonna have to do. 2021 Projections: 10-8/3.71/1.10/144 in 154 IP
65. James Paxton – Signed with the Mariners. “I’m coming home…I’m coming home…Tell the world I’m coming home…” That’s Skylar Grey, which is different than Looking-Skyward Grey, which is me at my 3rd best angle. I’ll let you decide which are my first two. Outside of a horrendous 2020, Paxton hasn’t ever been bad bad, and, honestly, no one had a good 2020, so you get a pass…you get a pass…*Oprah screaming*…everyone gets a pass! Paxton still had a 11.5 K/9, usual low-3 BB/9 and he’s actually a huge steal this late if he can stay healthy, but that is his bee in his bonnet, isn’t it? Due to health concerns and a six-man rotation in Seattle, Paxton’s ranked here, but could be a sneaky upside guy vs. the relative ‘safety’ of this tier. 2021 Projections: 9-9/3.91/1.24/147 in 132 IP
66. Framber Valdez – Already gave you my Framber Valdez sleeper. It was written without a care in the world. UPDATE: Frickin’ frack, Framber’s finger fractured. He pitched after it happened, so will be assuming it’s not too terrible. Haha, I’m lyin’ to myself! Now now NOW! Calm down, Grey, it’s gonna all work out. *turns abruptly to mirror* Is it? So, this isn’t great news, but it’s early enough, and it was his ring finger on his pitching hand, but our writer, Coolwhip, looked at his grips for me (because I was too panicked), and it seems Framber only uses that finger 10% of the time with his change, which isn’t a good pitch for him. He’s primarily a sinker/curve guy. I reranked him, placing him in an area where I’d still draft him, but obviously this isn’t the ideal stuff you want to see. Unless you’re a demented ess oh bee. You a demented ess oh bee? Hmm…? Are you? Tell me! Sorry, I’m amped up. Speaking of which, kinda, he will need to ramp up to game-shape after returning in May, so I’m conservatively projecting him to return end of May, early-June. 2021 Projections: 10-7/3.39/1.09/137 in 121 IP
67. Jake Odorizzi – FREE AGENT 2021 Projections:
68. Griffin Canning – Kinda wanna just link to my last year’s sleeper on Canning. Wouldn’t that be uncanning? Linking to old sleepers worked for Stroman and I’m not trying to make all this content canned’ing. Don’t think I’m capable of doing more puns? I canning and I will! Seriously, folx, don’t forget to tip your waitresses. I just gave one a tip on how to open a pickle jar using the counter top. Canning’s 2020 wasn’t a step forward for his peripherals, but at least he was on the field, and if he can continue to do that, he should be no worse than a number five starter — think 9 K/9, 3 BB/9, 4.15 xFIP, which means with some luck he rolls a 3.00-something ERA. 2021 Projections: 8-9/3.97/1.26/142 in 141 IP
69. Brady Singer – A 24-year-old pitcher who just exceeded rookie eligibility and the next guy is a 26-year-old rookie who has thrown 34 IP in the majors. Super safe stuff! All I can say is people are drafting guys like Triston McKenzie way before this and others who are way riskier. Brady Singer, excuse me…Here’s a story…of a pitcher that I said this about last year, “I’m gonna have to dig in on this Singer in the offseason like I’m Simon Cowell and Clive Davis sending shovel emojis back and forth to each other and understanding what they’re talking about without any context. My quick takeaway is Singer looks like a borderline number four fantasy starter.” And that’s me quoting me while kinda predicting me! This is more of a five starter spot, but I’m going on what he did vs. what he can do. He’s a three-ish pitch guy with everything setting up the slider. The safety comes in with an incoming 2.5-ish BB/9, a 50+% GB rate and a solid pitchers’ park. 2021 Projections: 8-10/3.81/1.14/133 in 141 IP
70. Dane Dunning – Here’s what I said this offseason, “Went the other way in the Lynn trade. Any pitcher who steps into that giant grill they call a park in Texas is suddenly interesting. A Dunning turn of events! Dunning gets it, uh, done with a 92 MPH fastball that feeds four other pitches, nomnomnom. Most notably, an 82 MPH slider that produced a .135 AVG and 43.5% whiffs. In the minors, he regularly produced a 10+ K/9, and struggled at times with his command, but tightened it after some work. Last year was an okay 34 IP, but he’s a great endgame flyer right now in all leagues, even if price tag sucks helium from this trade. My biggest concern is how does he go from not throwing in 2019 to 34 IP last year to 150+ IP this year. You trying to give Tom Verducci an aneurysm?” And that’s me quoting me! 2021 Projections: 7-9/3.89/1.16/141 in 132 IP
71. Triston McKenzie – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until the top 100 starters for 2020 fantasy baseball. I call this tier, “I’m using the milkrowave.” Is using the microwave fun? No. Is it fun to use the microwave and call it the milkrowave? Yes, undeniably. That’s this tier. Guys who are likely just using microwaves, but it’s late and I’m enjoying myself by pronouncing it milkrowave, making these guys fun. As for McKenize, already gave you my Triston McKenzie fantasy. It was written while splishing and a splashing. 2021 Projections: 7-3/3.76/1.12/98 in 84 IP
73. Adbert Alzolay – This is a tip of the ol’ cap to the commenters this offseason who have been pushing me to look at Alzolay. They promised me if I looked at him it would be like lounging in a hot bath, telling my bubbles, “Alzolay, take me away.” I wasn’t disappointed. How’sever, we do have a hater in our midst. Prospect Itch said, “If 2020’s stretch run is any indication, Alzolay’s best self is a dynamite reliever with a nasty new slider that pairs well with a sinker he’s started using as his primary fastball. He might be higher on the list if I knew the Cubs were going to keep him in the bullpen, but I’m worried he’ll remain a back and forth, multi-inning type who struggles to find a role that can help us in fantasy. As is, he lacks the command to turn a lineup over multiple times, at least he’s not Grey who lacks all.” What the heck, my dude? I see what Itch means on the command, and it’s why I decided to put him after a few other prospects. Alzolay looked great in 21 1/3 IP last year (2.95 ERA, 12.2 K/9), but his (5.5 BB/9) is not going to look great if the Cubs give him 100+ IP. Also, I might’ve just ranked a middle reliever. 2021 Projections: 6-7/4.34/1.38/104 in 91 IP
74. Mitch Keller – I saw his BB/9 last year was 7.5 and I laughed myself to sleep. Later, when I woke, I had no pants on, and I was standing on train tracks. What happened and does anyone know a good private eye? So, the sample was small, and Keller could still materialize into a solid starter, who is then traded to another team for someone like Kyle Gibson. When it will all click is anyone’s guess like a lot of this tier. I wouldn’t put money on Keller’s breakout coming this year, and because I have no faith in the Pirates, if he broke out, I’m not sure I’d trust him next year either, but we’re in that sexy flyer section, so let’s just say he’s capable of 9+ K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 3.50 xFIP. 2021 Projections: 7-9/4.33/1.37/117 in 127 IP
75. Michael Pineda – Full disclosure alert! I ranked him in three different tiers before landing him. At one point, I put him in the top 60 starters for 2021 fantasy baseball, while saying not to draft him, then I moved him into the top 80 saying the same, to avoid, then I landed him here — a very late tier that’s saying he’s fine to draft. A hedge for all hedges? Sure. Yes. But whatever. You’re drafting Pineda confidently? Puh-leez. He could be a 4.70 ERA pitcher, or he could be a low-3 ERA pitcher if you hit your head and imagine it. Nah, he was last year a 3.38 ERA pitcher in a walloping 26 2/3 IP. Of course, his allure is, as it’s always been, nice Ks and few walks. It is unfortch he gives up five homers per game. I will call you Michael Phileda Hughes. Maybe “Rob Manfred Presents: Baseball, The Deadening” will help him. 2021 Projections: 8-8/4.13/1.18/135 in 141 IP
76. Justus Sheffield – No Justus…no peace! No Justus…no peace! No Justus…no peace! Which is what I chant outside the door at your house during the last rounds of your draft. If you could slide a beverage through the mail slot, it would be appreciated. Yes, I’m still here and thirsty. Nothing with too many bubbles. I have a sensitive colon. So, Sheffield kinda broke out last year — 55 1/3 IP, 3.58 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 4.27 xFIP, 7.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 51% GB rate, literal joke plate discipline numbers and there’s a reason why he’s not ranked higher. I guess there’s good news that he threw a lot of first pitch strikes, and what is this Little League? Okay, I gave you the FIP number, because he might suppress homers with better command. Hey, it’s late and I could see the flyer. 2021 Projections: 9-12/4.12/1.28/126 in 142 IP
77. Luke Weaver – Was going over last year’s rankings prior to this year, and here’s one that got influenced a lot by what was going on last year at this time. Here’s what I wrote last year, “One major strike against Weaver is the Cardinals gave up on him. The Cardinals don’t give up on good pitchers. The Cardinals make good pitchers out of bad pitchers, then give those bad pitchers away to be bad again on another team. It’s the Cardinals way. That and Yadier Molina singing, ‘Tradition…Fielder on the roof of my Corolla…tradition!’ That’s how that song goes. Weaver had an iffy first full season with St. Louis in 2018 — 8 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 4.45 FIP. Luckily, that looks like the outlier. His last year — 9.7 K/9, 2 BB/9, 3.07 FIP — matches up with his great partial seasons with St. Louis in 2016 and 2017. He now has a 9.3 K/9, 3 BB/9, 3.88 FIP in almost 300 career innings with a 94 MPH fastball and a newly added cutter. He didn’t limit hard contact as much as I’d like and he could be homer prone. He should be able to throw 170+ IP, even though he just threw 64 1/3 IP, but I’d guess he comes closer to 140 IP. With just about everyone in this tier, I nearly wrote a sleeper for him, and ra-ra-ah-ah-ah, so you can see I’m pretty gaga for him.” And that’s me quoting me! So, what happened last year? He was massively unlucky in every way. If his 52 IP from last year was in a normal year, I would’ve been screaming buy low. Maybe he’s not a 9.5 K/9, 2 BB/9, but he’s also not a 6.58 ERA guy. 2021 Projections: 7-8/4.14/1.28/135 in 141 IP
78. Caleb Smith – He was one of the players who contracted the plague, so I’d just chuck out his previous year. Doesn’t mean anything. *doing a mental rewind, going back to previous year’s thoughts on Caleb, briefly coming across Zac Gallen, thinking they’re the same, rewinds past that* Okay, back in 2020 preseason, I didn’t want anything to do with Smith, but his price was way higher than this. If I’m remembering correctly without doing another mental scrub, Smith was being drafted as a 3rd to 4th starter. Now, he’s an afterthought? I’m adding extra f’s to my pfft just for you. 2021 Projections: 8-10/4.22/1.25/141 in 136 IP
79. Jameson Taillon – Here’s what I said this offseason, “Traded to the Yankees for a bunch of prospects who will either be bad or be traded away by the Pirates for more prospects in a never-ending cycle. Absolutely ridiculous what’s going on in Pittsburgh. The Pirates’ payroll is, “Hey, we get those stimulus checks yet?” The Pirates’ social media team has a “Thanks for being a great teammate” tweet in the drafts for every player. The Pirates are the guy who hears they’re charging $10 at the door, so he brings his own solo cup and pretends he was inside already. I’m 100% convinced if you gave the Pirates the option to sit out a season without fans in the stadium, they would agree. Who is pitching for them this year? At least one member of the Pirates’ rotation this year is going to be a scarecrow stuffed with hay. Any hoo! I keep liking Taillon and he keeps testes’ing me. He should enter Spring Training with no restrictions following Tommy John surgery, which is what is always said prior to a clamping down of restrictions. If I had a dollar for every time a guy was due back in April who then had a setback and didn’t return until July/August, I’d be a ten-dollaire. The Yankees, honestly, might get 200 IP combined from like five of their starters.” And that’s me copying and pasting me! 2021 Projections: 8-3/4.21/1.29/108 in 119 IP
80. Dustin May – Last year, The Human Carrot had a 2.57 ERA, and I think there’s gonna be a season where he throws 180+ IP with an even lower ERA. May will be the ace of the Dodgers at some point. Thus far, he’s not generating strikeouts like his stuff reads. His sinker is clocked at 98 MPH, and should be a good morning/good night, but is instead a good morning/I’ll make you some coffee to start your day/oops, we’re out of coffee, but I can get you a Sanka. It’s nasty, but not lights out. I’m not Dave Duncan, but sinkers induce weak contact vs. get Ks. His sinker Whiff Rate was 11.4%. You don’t need a degree from the College of Fantasy Baseball at Charleston to know that’s not great. He has ~19 inches of horizontal movement on that pitch, which is like watching the sunset at 7 frames per second. My supposition is if he lifts his 4-seamer, his sinker will induce more Ks, but supposing makes a suppository out of you and me. Even if the Ks don’t come, you don’t need carotene to see The Human Carrot is special. Full disclosure! May was ranked and projected higher until the Dodgers signed Bauer. Gonsolin took the hardest hit — I wrote a Tony Gonsolin sleeper, and now I’ve removed him from my top 100 starters; he will appear as a reliever in the top 500 overall — but May took the 2nd hardest hit. A ground ball pitcher like May out of the bullpen piggybacking with Urias sounds like someone’s giving The Human Carrot a ride on their shoulders, but it might just come to fruition — is a carrot a fruit? Hmm… Keeping in mind that Price, Kershaw, or Urias will get hurt or have a phantom injury, so May will see time in the rotation too. Remember, in March guys don’t seem like they have a shot at the rotation, but you get to June and it’s May time for two months and, well, that’s confusing–You get to June and it’s May time? Is that a riddle? All I’m saying is the season is long, and I’d bet anyone an imaginary $5 that May will be as valuable as a top 80 starter. 2021 Projections: 9-4/3.03/1.05/92 in 107 IP