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2020 Offseason Starting Pitcher Rankings (Part 2) - Fantasy Baseball Mixed Leagues

We continue with our analysis of the early 2020 fantasy baseball starting pitcher rankings by looking at the middle tiers. To read part one, click right here.

After a record-setting year for offense and a sense among the industry that 2020 likely won't be dramatically different, being able to navigate the ever-murkier waters of starting pitching will continue to be of prime importance. Looking at last year's earnings at the position, stark tiers quickly reveal themselves, with two players earning over $40, followed by five players who earned over $20, and 13 who earned over $10. That's only 20 pitchers total who earned double-digit dollars in 12-team leagues, followed by a big mess of players who didn't. Now that's what I call murky.

Let's dive back into our pitching ranks and take a look at the players who are bound to be part of fantasy rotations but may come with some baggage in 2020.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Draft Kit, premium rankings, projections, player outlooks, top prospects, dynasty rankings, 15 in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research. Sign Up Now!


Starting Pitcher Ranks - 5x5 Mixed Leagues (December)

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season.

Ranking Tier Player Position Nick Nick G Riley
1 1 Gerrit Cole SP 8 7 11
2 1 Justin Verlander SP 12 10 15
3 1 Jacob deGrom SP 15 13 10
4 2 Max Scherzer SP 14 18 19
5 2 Walker Buehler SP 25 21 24
6 2 Jack Flaherty SP 28 24 31
7 2 Shane Bieber SP 27 31 36
8 2 Mike Clevinger SP 39 25 33
9 2 Blake Snell SP 40 26 41
10 2 Stephen Strasburg SP 29 36 46
11 2 Chris Sale SP 34 49 37
12 2 Clayton Kershaw SP 43 41 49
13 3 Charlie Morton SP 58 45 65
14 3 Patrick Corbin SP 62 64 57
15 3 Luis Severino SP 50 67 69
16 3 Zack Greinke SP 53 83 52
17 3 Aaron Nola SP 56 48 87
18 3 Luis Castillo SP 47 59 91
19 3 Yu Darvish SP 72 61 64
20 3 Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 76 77 54
21 3 Tyler Glasnow SP 84 74 66
22 3 Lucas Giolito SP 59 99 72
23 3 James Paxton SP 91 70 70
24 4 Shohei Ohtani DH/SP 74 68 100
25 4 Chris Paddack SP 95 95 73
26 4 Corey Kluber SP 64 126 77
27 4 Noah Syndergaard SP 78 110 94
28 4 Jose Berrios SP 83 118 99
29 4 Brandon Woodruff SP 116 102 103
30 4 Mike Soroka SP 119 133 79
31 4 Carlos Carrasco SP 131 106 112
32 4 Dinelson Lamet SP 154 91 118
33 5 Trevor Bauer SP 132 144 114
34 5 Zac Gallen SP 122 146 123
35 5 Sonny Gray SP 139 159 96
36 5 Madison Bumgarner SP 137 165 119
37 5 Frankie Montas SP/RP 158 124 145
38 5 David Price SP 134 172 132
39 5 Max Fried SP 155 128 159
40 5 Lance Lynn SP 128 136 186
41 5 Eduardo Rodriguez SP 126 162 188
42 5 Masahiro Tanaka SP 152 175 163
43 5 Jesus Luzardo SP 165 153 173
44 5 Robbie Ray SP 167 194 138
45 5 Zack Wheeler SP 168 201 134
46 6 Mike Minor SP 157 206 157
47 6 Carlos Martinez SP/RP 188 196 150
48 6 Kyle Hendricks SP 161 198 179
49 6 Matthew Boyd SP 171 178 194
50 6 Caleb Smith SP 176 184 183
51 6 Domingo German SP 187 190 167
52 6 Sean Manaea SP 166 182 198
53 6 Marcus Stroman SP 169 227 169
54 6 Luke Weaver SP 179 223 174
55 6 Julio Urias SP/RP 184 187 210
56 6 Andrew Heaney SP 189 155 240
57 6 German Marquez SP 191 217 189
58 6 Mike Foltynewicz SP 210 243 175
59 7 Dustin May SP 221 211 212
60 7 Lance McCullers Jr. SP 213 208 251
61 7 Kenta Maeda SP/RP 235 234 206
62 7 Cole Hamels SP 229 277 170
63 7 Ryan Yarbrough SP 231 203 258
64 7 Jose Urquidy SP 211 246 264
65 7 Miles Mikolas SP 263 260 199
66 7 Jake Odorizzi SP 223 267 235
67 7 Brendan McKay SP 247 238 243
68 7 Dallas Keuchel SP 245 282 217
69 8 Seth Lugo SP/RP 254 241 296
70 8 Dylan Cease SP 240 #N/A 304
71 8 Dakota Hudson SP 297 #N/A 250
72 8 Griffin Canning SP 246 262 318
73 8 Michael Kopech SP 268 250 313
74 8 Joey Lucchesi SP 294 292 255
75 8 Mike Fiers SP 269 271 311
76 8 John Means SP 360 294 204
77 8 Jon Gray SP 282 #N/A 294
78 8 Joe Musgrove SP 327 #N/A 252
79 8 A.J. Puk SP 334 #N/A 249
80 8 Yonny Chirinos SP 367 284 227
81 9 Zach Plesac SP 293 297 298
82 9 Garrett Richards SP 298 299 #N/A
83 9 Jose Quintana SP 228 296 372
84 9 Steven Matz SP 258 264 376
85 9 Mitch Keller SP 283 291 324
86 9 Ross Stripling SP/RP 295 276 335
87 9 Chris Archer SP 276 279 353
88 9 Rich Hill SP 296 269 347
89 9 Anibal Sanchez SP 277 289 348
90 9 Diego Castillo RP/SP 308 #N/A #N/A
91 9 Reynaldo Lopez SP 312 #N/A 309
92 9 Nate Pearson SP 373 256 #N/A
93 10 Chad Green SP/RP 322 288 352
94 10 Homer Bailey SP 326 #N/A #N/A
95 10 Jon Lester SP 375 #N/A 281
96 10 Brent Honeywell Jr. SP #N/A #N/A 331
97 10 Adrian Houser SP 356 #N/A 308
98 10 Nathan Eovaldi SP/RP 447 #N/A 224
99 10 Pablo Lopez SP 355 #N/A 320
100 10 Sandy Alcantara SP 380 #N/A 305
101 10 Casey Mize SP 350 #N/A 340
102 10 MacKenzie Gore SP 392 #N/A 299
103 10 Jordan Lyles SP 390 #N/A 303
104 10 Jeff Samardzija SP 412 #N/A 286
105 10 Ian Anderson SP 353 #N/A #N/A
106 10 Anthony DeSclafani SP 389 #N/A 321
107 10 Wade Miley SP 381 #N/A 329
108 10 Johnny Cueto SP 357 #N/A #N/A
109 10 Forrest Whitley SP 358 #N/A #N/A
110 10 Tyler Mahle SP 362 #N/A #N/A
111 10 Merrill Kelly SP 370 #N/A 358
112 11 Cal Quantrill SP 371 #N/A #N/A
113 11 Alex Young SP 453 #N/A 289
114 11 Josh Lindblom SP 385 #N/A 364
115 11 Julio Teheran SP 384 #N/A 366
116 11 J.A. Happ SP 377 #N/A 375
117 11 Jordan Yamamoto SP 376 #N/A #N/A
118 11 Jakob Junis SP 383 #N/A #N/A
119 11 Matt Strahm RP/SP 428 #N/A 342
120 11 Aaron Civale SP 491 285 #N/A
121 11 Sixto Sanchez SP 391 #N/A #N/A
122 11 Michael Pineda SP 413 #N/A 370
123 11 Marco Gonzales SP 393 #N/A #N/A
124 11 Trevor Richards SP/RP 433 #N/A 360
125 11 Kyle Gibson SP 457 #N/A 337
126 11 Rick Porcello SP 399 #N/A #N/A
127 12 Alex Wood SP 401 #N/A #N/A
128 12 Freddy Peralta SP/RP 402 #N/A #N/A
129 12 Matt Manning SP 407 #N/A #N/A
130 12 Zach Eflin SP 490 #N/A 330
131 12 Deivi Garcia SP 410 #N/A #N/A
132 12 Drew Pomeranz SP/RP 415 #N/A #N/A
133 12 Randy Dobnak SP/RP 421 #N/A #N/A
134 12 Alex Reyes SP/RP 513 #N/A 336
135 12 Logan Webb SP 429 #N/A #N/A
136 12 Anthony Kay SP 430 #N/A #N/A
137 12 Tyler Beede SP 439 #N/A #N/A
138 12 Kolby Allard SP 441 #N/A #N/A
139 12 Brad Keller SP 444 #N/A #N/A
140 12 Brad Peacock RP/SP 445 #N/A #N/A
141 12 Adam Wainwright SP 452 #N/A #N/A
142 12 Chase Anderson SP 455 #N/A #N/A
143 12 Joe Ross SP 456 #N/A #N/A
144 12 Dylan Bundy SP 458 #N/A #N/A
145 13 Jose Urena SP 460 #N/A #N/A
146 13 Mike Montgomery SP/RP 463 #N/A #N/A
147 13 Jake Arrieta SP 464 #N/A #N/A
148 13 Drew Smyly SP 467 #N/A #N/A
149 13 Spencer Turnbull SP 471 #N/A #N/A
150 13 Collin McHugh SP/RP 473 #N/A #N/A
151 13 Andrew Cashner RP/SP 477 #N/A #N/A
152 13 Trevor Williams SP 478 #N/A #N/A
153 13 Chris Bassitt SP 481 #N/A #N/A
154 13 Vince Velasquez SP 483 #N/A #N/A
155 13 Michael Fulmer SP 484 #N/A #N/A
156 13 Jose Suarez SP 485 #N/A #N/A
157 13 Yusei Kikuchi SP 489 #N/A #N/A
158 13 Asher Wojciechowski SP/RP 495 #N/A #N/A
159 13 Martin Perez SP 499 #N/A #N/A
160 13 Eric Lauer SP 500 #N/A #N/A
161 13 Kevin Gausman SP 502 #N/A #N/A
162 13 Corbin Burnes SP/RP 503 #N/A #N/A
163 13 Tanner Roark SP 506 #N/A #N/A
164 13 Mike Leake SP 507 #N/A #N/A
165 13 Tony Gonsolin SP 508 #N/A #N/A
166 13 Taijuan Walker SP 510 #N/A #N/A
167 13 Elieser Hernandez SP/RP 515 #N/A #N/A
168 13 Gio Gonzalez SP 516 #N/A #N/A
169 13 Ivan Nova SP 517 #N/A #N/A
170 13 Zach Davies SP 519 #N/A #N/A


Tier Four

I already didn't like Corey Kluber in 2020 and his recent trade to Texas Rangers certainly didn't improve my outlook. It's easy to just write off Kluber's 2019 as a lost season, with the veteran suffering a broken forearm after being hit by a comebacker in May, but prior to his injury, the right-hander was already having a rough start to his year, posting a 5.80 ERA and just a 22.6% K-rate in 35.2 innings. And while Kluber was worth 5.5 WAR in 2018, he did struggle some after posting a 2.02 ERA through his first 12 starts in May and June, putting up a 3.45 ERA over his last 130.1 innings. This might have had something to do with Kluber's formerly elite cutter getting smashed after having only a .235 wOBA against it in the first half of 2018. That number jumped to a .368 wOBA in the second half and a .347 wOBA in his short 2019 season. If Kluber is now going to have an average cutter to pair with his ever-trashier fastball, it's hard for me to get behind him being a top-20 option in 2020.

We're all definitely sure Noah Syndergaard is still a top-25 pitcher?

2018: 154.1 IP/3.03 ERA/1.21 WHIP/3.55 SIERA/24.1% K%

2019: 197.2 IP/4.28 ERA/1.23 WHIP/4.02 SIERA/24.5% K%

Syndergaard earned $5.70 in 2018 and $(4.40) last year. Parentheses mean negative. These are just facts.

Let's cover one more pitcher who's been mediocre in a perfectly consistent way the past two years. Jose Berrios had a 3.68 ERA in 200.1 innings a year after having a 3.84 ERA in 192.1 innings in 2018, with remarkably similar lines across the board. Berrios was also slightly worse in notable categories, with his 23.2% K-rate down two points over the year previous, while carrying a 4.28 SIERA that was up from a 3.80 in 2018. On the fantasy side, Berrios earned $3.90 last year, finishing as the #36 pitcher according to the Fangraphs auction calculator, after earning just $1.70 the year prior. I get that he's still only 25-years old but I'm having trouble seeing where a big improvement could come from, considering the aforementioned similarity of his career thus far, along with a pitch-mix and velocity that have also both stayed near-constant.

Ending the tier on a positive note, how about the man with one of the coolest sounding names in baseball, Dinelson Lamet? A great example of how injuries can make fantasy players forget about previous promises of a breakout, Lamet missed all of 2018 after having Tommy John surgery in the spring, returning this season to make 14 starts for the Padres and going 3-5 with a 4.08 ERA over 73 innings. That was nothing to write home about but keep in mind that prior to TJ-surgery, Lamet entered 2018 as a popular breakout pick, with a 216 ADP in NFBC, after striking out 139 batters in 117 innings in 2017. Getting back to the majors in early July, Lamet got right back to doing what he does best; striking fools out with extreme prejudice, with 105 of the 313 batters he faced going down to his primo whiffery. That was good for a 33.6% K-rate - a five-point increase from his mark in 2017 - and Lamet also dropped to a 9.6% walk-rate, from an 11.1% mark in 2017.

He'll need to continue to improve on his control if he wants to take the next step to stardom but seeing a drop in his walk-rate after TJ-surgery is certainly a positive sign. And one final piece of cheese to entice you; Lamet's nasty curveball (which may just be a different version of his nasty slider) has a 22.8% SwStr that trails only Blake Snell for the highest mark among starters who threw at least 300 hooks in 2019. The only thing I dislike about the 27-year-old right-hander is that his stock is rising too fast, as he currently sits at a 111 ADP in NFBC Champions leagues in December.


Tier Five

Remember when Madison Bumgarner was one of the best pitchers in baseball, both on the field and in fantasy? But alas, 'twas a dirtbike that did MadBum in, and the big left-hander with the big twang just hasn't been the same since injuring his AC joint in 2017. Bumgarner was at least back to being the workhorse in 2019 that he was when he pitched over 200 innings from 2011-2017, finishing with the year with 207.2 innings pitched, but his previous stuff didn't come with the innings. Bumgarner's 24.1% K-rate was his highest since 2016 but that's still down from the 27% rates that he was running in 2015-2016 and his 4.15 SIERA was the second-highest of his career and was over a run higher than what he had during the prime years of 2014-2016.

Having recently signed a five-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bumgarner now moves out of the friendly pitcher-confines of Oracle Park, where the home-cooking has been much more kind to the veteran hurler, as he posted a .261 wOBA at home versus a .349 wOBA on the road in 2019. After earning just $4.6 in 12-team leagues in 2019 (good for the #40 pitcher and #192 player overall) and being projected by Steamer to barely be a top-75 starting pitcher in 2020, I'm having a hard time putting any sort of trust in Bumgarner, even though he's been one of my favorite players ever since he and his now-wife gave each other prime horseflesh for their wedding gifts.

An elite eater of innings (and possibly ham), I believe in the Lance Lynn-aissance after the former Cardinal went full ham in his first full year at his new home in Texas, going 16-11 with a 3.67 ERA over 208.1 innings and posting a 6.8 fWAR that trailed only Gerrit Cole and Jacob Degrom. Dig a little deeper, though, and a picture of a different pitcher than the previous six years starts to emerge. Lynn went from a 22.4% K-rate and 9.2% walk-rate for his career to a 28.1% K-rate and 6.7% walk-rate in 2019, while increasing his swinging-strike rate from 9.3% to 12.5% in 2019.

As is often the case with large changes in a pitcher's performance, Lynn saw significant changes to his pitch-mix and fastball velocity in 2019, as he had in years previous. Throwing primarily a sinker, cutter, and curveball to go with his fastball, Lynn dropped his sinker usage to 17% in 2019, after it sat at 33% in 2018 and 43% in 2017. The sinker was replaced by a nine-point increase in the use of his four-seamer and a four-point increase in his cutter. Add that to an average fastball velocity of 94.7 mph that was up from 93.8 mph in 2018 and 92.4 mph in 2017, and I'm getting more on board for a repeat performance in 2020.

I get Robbie Ray as a strikeout play, with the 28-year-old lefthander having been a K-machine his entire career. You can basically pencil him in for about a 31% K-rate and 12 K/9 but I just can't stomach the 1.35 WHIP that's probably coming too. Ray was fantastic in 2017, posting his normal strikeout rates and a 2.89 ERA, but barring a large amount of batted ball luck, or a dramatic improvement in skills, I can't really squint and see that ERA ever coming back, given the state of his ERA evaluators as of late.

2018 - 3.93 ERA/4.31 FIP/3.77 xFIP/3.89 SIERA, 1.35 WHIP

2019 - 4.34 ERA/4.29 FIP/3.76 xFIP/4.02 SIERA, 1.34 WHIP

Kind of feels like Ray is going to have an ERA over four, right? And I also find it concerning that his fastball velocity dipped for the second year in a row, averaging 92.4 mph in 2019, after it averaged 93.7 mph in 2018, and 94.2 mph in 2017. Given all these negative markers, I have a hard time believing that Ray will earn you a fantasy profit at his current 147 ADP in NFBC Champions leagues.


Tier Six

Matthew Boyd is another guy who will likely be doing some swift rising up my ranking, as the 28-year-old made big strides in 2019 and seems poised for a big breakout in 2020. On a terrible Tigers team, Boyd went 9-12 over a career-high 185.1 innings, posting a mediocre 4.56 ERA. However, his 3.61 SIERA was almost a full run lower and Boyd also gave up 1.89 HR/9 - his highest mark since throwing 57 innings in his 2015 rookie year - a number that was buoyed by an 18.2% HR/FG, after he ran rates under 13% for the previous three years.

Putting those numbers aside, the biggest reason to I'm believing in a big Boyd breakout is the 30.2% K-rate in 2019 that was up from an 18.2% K-rate for his career prior. How'd he do it? This seems to be a classic example of pitcher saying, "maybe I should stop throwing my worst pitches and throw my best ones instead", with Boyd almost completely junking the sinker he had started using heavily in 2017-18. He threw it 24% of the time in 2017 - with a 6.50 xFIP and a .395 wOBA against - and 15% in 2018, resulting in an even worse 7.20 xFIP and a .458 wOBA. The sinker then dropped to 4% in 2019, with Boyd's slider ascending to his primary secondary pitch, with a career-high 36% usage.

But the old slidepiece didn't just get its usage upped, Boyd also altered its movement and the pitch now has almost double the horizontal movement as it did in 2018. The differences in results on the pitch were stark, with the slider's swinging-strike rate jumping four points to 19.8% and it's whiff-per-swing rising from 30.9% in 2018 to 41.8% in 2019. That may not be Patrick Corbin-levels of nastiness but the SwStr% is the 15th-highest among starters who threw at least 20% sliders in 2019 and his whiff-per-swing ranked ninth.  And giving further regard to my positive outlook on him, it certainly didn't hurt that his average fastball velocity went back up to 92.1 mph after sitting at 90.5 MPH in 2018. Boyd has a better team surrounding him 2020, a more effective pitch-mix, an increase in velocity, and an increasingly nasty slider. Sign me up.

I hear you Oakland fans; you want to believe that the 29.2 innings you got out of Sean Manaea at end of 2019 after he returned from shoulder surgery will be a harbinger for similar success in 2020. Manaea was lights out in his five starts in September - going 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and a 27.5% K-rate - but when looking under the hood, I'm finding few reasons for him sustaining those levels of success. Beware the peripherals!

2016 144.2 20.9% 6.2% 0.281 33.6% 13.7% 75.0% 3.86 4.08 3.96 4.04
2017 158.2 20.2% 8.0% 0.318 33.3% 10.6% 69.6% 4.37 4.10 4.53 4.51
2018 160.2 16.5% 4.9% 0.247 37.5% 12.3% 75.2% 3.59 4.26 4.32 4.46
2019 29.2 27.5% 6.4% 0.194 47.1% 10.7% 100.0% 1.21 3.42 3.98 3.86

One of these years is not like the other; one of these years does not belong. For me, it looks like Manaea's 2019 success was driven by some small-sample chicanery, with his .194 BABIP and 100% strand-rate jumping off the page and a career-high hard-hit rate certainly not helping his case. Optimistically thinking, perhaps his bump in strikeout-rate had something to do with a change in pitch-mix upon his return and could return in some fashion next season?

Manaea did come back throwing his slider 31% of the time (up from previous years in the 13-17% range) and decreasing his changeup usage to 15% (down from 24-31% previously) while increasing his fastball usage seven points to 63%, compared to 56% in 2018. However, his average fastball velocity also decreased for the third year in a row and now sits at just 89.8 mph, down from the 92.9 mph he averaged in his 2016 rookie season. Like Ray before him, I think you're likely getting around a 4.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP for Manaea in 2020 but unlike Ray, you're not getting a mess of strikeouts to go with it. His 167 ADP in December NFBC Champions leagues is just far too rich for me.

That's it for Part Two of our starting pitching rankings analysis. Check back soon for Part Three, where I'll dive for values in the lower tiers of arms.

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Is Lamar Jackson Worth a First Round Pick?

RotoBaller fantasy football analysts Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano discuss the idea of taking Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round of 2020 fantasy football redraft leagues. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure... Read More

Why Lamar Jackson Should Be a First-Round Pick in 2020

Sometimes I like to make noise and some headlines if I can. That is why I host shows six days a week on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio representing RotoBaller. If I can get people buzzing about a topic, calling in or responding on social media with passion and vigor, I am having fun. But whenever I... Read More