2018 Starting Pitchers - Early Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings

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Welcome back to the early edition of RotoBaller’s 2018 fantasy baseball rankings! As a reminder, this round of rankings comes to you courtesy of Pierre Camus and Jeff Kahntroff, in addition to yours truly. Today, I’ll be taking a look at how we ranked starting pitchers.

As you peruse the info below, keep in mind that there are likely to be some significant changes between now and March. Trades, free agent signings, injuries, and a host of other complicating factors will dictate just how much our opinions shift.

And in case you missed them, you can find our hitter rankings and analysis columns for catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop and outfield.

Editor's Note: You can find even more of our staff's initial 2018 fantasy baseball rankings for other formats including dynasty leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues and more.

 

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Starting Pitchers (January)

Ranking Tier Player Position Kyle Pierre Jeff
1 1 Clayton Kershaw SP 7 10 3
2 1 Max Scherzer SP 13 12 15
3 1 Corey Kluber SP 15 16 16
4 1 Chris Sale SP 24 18 18
5 2 Madison Bumgarner SP 21 28 20
6 2 Noah Syndergaard SP 26 31 28
7 2 Stephen Strasburg SP 37 29 30
8 2 Jacob deGrom SP 40 36 40
9 2 Luis Severino SP 41 50 36
10 2 Zack Greinke SP 47 34 49
11 2 Yu Darvish SP 44 51 57
12 2 Justin Verlander SP 50 59 43
13 3 Carlos Carrasco SP 46 53 55
14 3 Carlos Martinez SP 55 45 59
15 3 Robbie Ray SP 70 56 64
16 3 Chris Archer SP 77 55 63
17 3 Aaron Nola SP 58 86 75
18 3 James Paxton SP 89 69 72
19 3 Jake Arrieta SP 78 80 99
20 4 Jose Quintana SP 90 90 81
21 4 Dallas Keuchel SP 105 110 87
22 4 Rich Hill SP 119 119 74
23 4 Alex Wood SP 88 94 145
24 4 Kyle Hendricks SP 150 95 89
25 4 Lance McCullers SP 135 124 88
26 4 Jon Lester SP 92 123 138
27 4 Shohei Ohtani SP/OF 118 97 141
28 5 Jose Berrios SP 107 101 153
29 5 Masahiro Tanaka SP 101 103 165
30 5 Gerrit Cole SP 102 91 180
31 5 Danny Duffy SP 159 107 107
32 5 Johnny Cueto SP 108 139 140
33 5 David Price SP 113 116 164
34 5 Marcus Stroman SP 144 71 178
35 5 Sonny Gray SP 175 126 98
36 5 Gio Gonzalez SP 186 108 143
37 6 Zack Godley SP 93 249 97
38 6 Luis Castillo SP 136 173 135
39 6 Luke Weaver SP 139 155 156
40 6 Jimmy Nelson SP 249 113 100
41 6 Michael Fulmer SP 153 131 207
42 6 Jon Gray SP 128 158 217
43 6 Drew Pomeranz SP 208 160 139
44 6 Dylan Bundy SP 232 168 108
45 6 Jordan Montgomery SP 172 #N/A #N/A
46 6 Jameson Taillon SP 173 189 166
47 6 Danny Salazar SP 143 201 188
48 6 Tyler Chatwood SP #N/A 180 #N/A
49 6 Cole Hamels SP 189 170 183
50 7 Archie Bradley SP 129 234 #N/A
51 7 Mike Clevinger SP 165 #N/A 215
52 7 Kenta Maeda SP 127 206 238
53 7 Trevor Bauer SP 217 162 194
54 7 Lance Lynn SP 257 136 189
55 7 Garrett Richards SP 132 283 170
56 7 Charlie Morton SP 179 257 159
57 7 Brad Peacock SP 152 251 202
58 7 Jeff Samardzija SP 193 161 258
59 7 Taijuan Walker SP 204 209 223
60 8 Alex Reyes SP/RP #N/A #N/A 213
61 8 Alex Cobb SP 271 199 184
62 8 Eduardo Rodriguez SP 222 219 222
63 8 Carlos Rodon SP 227 225 214
64 8 Dinelson Lamet SP 256 217 200
65 8 Kevin Gausman SP 273 182 227
66 8 Aaron Sanchez SP 211 240 232
67 8 Patrick Corbin SP 215 #N/A 241
68 8 Jake Faria SP 242 227 224
69 9 Ervin Santana SP 248 247 210
70 9 Jake Odorizzi SP 219 #N/A 254
71 9 Rick Porcello SP #N/A 243 231
72 9 Chase Anderson SP 202 258 260
73 9 Sean Manaea SP 183 279 269
74 9 Blake Snell SP 235 268 229
75 9 J.A. Happ SP 221 288 230
76 9 Zach Davies SP 315 192 242
77 9 Julio Teheran SP 264 232 267
78 10 Michael Wacha SP 236 273 259
79 10 Collin McHugh SP 259 #N/A
80 10 Anthony DeSclafani SP 260 #N/A #N/A
81 10 Hyun-Jin Ryu SP #N/A 261
82 10 Jerad Eickhoff SP 296 #N/A 228
83 10 Lucas Giolito SP 287 237 #N/A
84 10 Josh Hader SP #N/A 264 #N/A
85 11 Tanner Roark SP 265 #N/A #N/A
86 11 German Marquez SP #N/A 254 294
87 11 Chris Devenski SP/RP #N/A 275
88 11 Dan Straily SP 279 #N/A #N/A
89 11 Junior Guerra SP #N/A #N/A 280
90 11 Steven Matz SP 267 295 #N/A
91 12 Felix Hernandez SP 275 291 #N/A
92 12 Marco Estrada SP 309 #N/A 257
93 12 John Lackey SP #N/A #N/A 285
94 12 Luiz Gohara SP #N/A #N/A 287
95 12 Vince Velasquez SP 283 #N/A 296
96 12 Ivan Nova SP 310 #N/A 272
97 12 Reynaldo Lopez SP 291 #N/A #N/A
98 12 Brandon Woodruff SP #N/A #N/A 297
99 12 Mike Foltynewicz SP 323 #N/A 286
100 12 Ian Kennedy SP 305 #N/A #N/A
101 12 Robert Stephenson SP 314 #N/A #N/A
102 12 Jakob Junis SP/RP 316 #N/A #N/A
103 12 Wei-Yin Chen SP 319 #N/A #N/A

 

Tier 1

Remember two years ago, when it seemed like aces ran 20 deep? Yeah, not so much these days. The four in this tier are as close to unimpeachable as it gets, though. Despite missing significant chunks of the past two seasons with back injuries, Clayton Kershaw remains our consensus top pitcher. He’s just that good. Case in point: Over the last five years, Kershaw has a 1.95 ERA. Our consensus #2, Max Scherzer, sits at a 2.87 mark over the same span. Of course, he’s also averaged nearly 220 innings per season while posting a similarly elite strikeout rate and leading MLB with 89 wins during that time. Corey Kluber and Chris Sale have been just as durable and consistently excellent.

Tier 2

Even if you miss out on the Four Horsemen, you can grab any of the guys in this group and feel reasonably confident in them as your ace. Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard missed most of last season, but are obviously elite talents. Strasburg has thrown more than 183 innings only once in eight MLB seasons, but managed 175 last year in what was his best performance to date. Jacob deGrom saw his ERA rise by a half-run for the second straight year, but remained among the best SP anyway. Luis Severino recovered from a poor showing in 2016 to emerge as one of the game’s best young arms. Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, and Yu Darvish all have lengthy track records of success and are coming off solid seasons.

Tier 3

Anyone who has read my prior work knows how I feel about Aaron Nola, and it’s gratifying to see him ranked appropriately after being disrespected last year. I’d still take Carlos Carrasco and Martinez over him, but there’s not much of a gap. Robbie Ray, Chris Archer, and Jake Arrieta have their share of question marks, but each is capable of putting up an ace-caliber campaign. So is James Paxton if he can ever stay healthy, which is a fairly gargantuan “if.” Rounding out the top 20 SP is Jose Quintana, who posted the worst ERA of his career in 2017 but has been a model of reliability for most of this decade.

Tier 4

The fact that we’re already dealing with a high degree of uncertainty underscores the difficulty of handicapping the current pitcher market. Dallas Keuchel rebounded after a down year in 2016, but he also didn’t crack 150 innings. Neither did Kyle Hendricks, who’s essentially the NL version of Keuchel. Meanwhile, reaching that IP threshold would be a miracle for Rich Hill, and Alex Wood only barely cleared it himself. Lance McCullers hasn’t topped 125. The innings you do get will be high-quality, but the lack of volume is obviously an issue. It’s safe to assume you’ll get volume from Lester, whose 180 innings last season represented the lowest total of his career, but his ERA nearly doubled from the prior season and he posted his worst WHIP in a decade. Then there’s Shohei Ohtani, whose draft-day cost will almost certainly exceed where we’ve ranked him.

Tier 5

This group includes a trio of former aces whose performances slipped last year. Masahiro Tanaka posted the highest strikeout rate of his career, but a complete inability to prevent home runs led to his ERA ballooning to 4.74. David Price and Johnny Cueto battled injuries all season long and weren’t anywhere close to form when they did pitch. Gerrit Cole and Danny Duffy took steps back that their small-market clubs couldn’t afford. Jose Berrios and Sonny Gray put nightmarish 2016 campaigns behind them with solid efforts in 2017. Finally, suffice it to say I am not here for Gio Gonzalez being a top-40 pitcher this season. Those ratios last season were a mirage, my friends.

Tier 6

I’ll gladly take Zack Godley and Luis Castillo over most of the guys in the previous tier. While each obviously has a limited sample of MLB performance, their skills demonstrated considerable upside. Pierre is outside his mind ranking Godley so low. I’m also not sure why neither of my colleagues even bothered to rank Jordan Montgomery. It’s true that there have been rumblings about the Yankees looking for another starter, but as of right now he’s in the rotation and coming off a quality rookie season. They must have gotten him confused with Jimmy Nelson, who is likely to miss significant time after suffering a torn labrum last fall but garnered a top-30 SP rank from both of them anyway.

Tier 7

Our opinions of these pitchers are fairly divergent, with the exception of Taijuan Walker. I’m higher on Kenta Maeda and Garrett Richards, and fading Lance Lynn and Trevor Bauer. I’ve made this point elsewhere, but I honestly don’t see that large of a gap between Maeda and his teammate Rich Hill – at least not enough to justify the drastic difference in draft cost. My ranking of Richards is admittedly bullish for a guy who’s only thrown 62 innings over the last two seasons, but the profit potential is immense. Lynn’s surface stats looked fine last year, but they masked a drop in strikeouts and a doubling of his HR/9. As for Bauer, a strikeout surge didn’t do anything to help his typically middling ratios; he’s still never posted an ERA below 4.00 or a WHIP under 1.30.

Tiers 8 – 12

A few quick hits to close things out:

  • If his velocity gains from 2017 carry over, Chase Anderson could be one of the biggest bargains in fantasy this year.
  • Still trying to figure out how Rick Porcello won a Cy Young in 2016.
  • It doesn’t surprise me to see that nobody else ranked Anthony Desclafani after he missed the entire 2017 season. He’s likely to go undrafted in most leagues, but don’t forget about him.
  • I won’t forget about Luiz Gohara next round, either.
  • Good to see folks have finally realized that Julio Teheran is garbage.

 

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