2018 Starting Pitchers - Early Points League Rankings and Tiers

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As we move closer to the 2018 baseball season, at RotoBaller we have released our top 450 players for points leagues. We have been dissecting the tiers of each position, showing fantasy owners where to find value in their draft. While this list will only go through the top 10 tiers of starting pitchers, there are still players with value beyond these groupings.

There were some serious injuries that plagued pitchers in 2017, as five of the top seven pitchers in our rankings were under 30 starts last season. That being said, it is important to have at least one ace on your team in points leagues, so do not think that you can wait until the fourth or fifth tier to find your SP1. As you will also see, as the tiers drop, the amount of players on the tier go up, showing just how top-heavy the league is with pitching.

This article will not only show the tiers of starting pitchers, but also my personal favorite pitcher in each tier (in italics). This is not to say that it is the BEST pitcher in each tier, but the one that I think will outplay their ADP.  Make sure you also bookmark our 2018 fantasy baseball rankings homepage - showing staff ranks and analysis columns for mixed leagues, AL/NL only leagues,2018 prospects, dynasty leagues and more. Let's get to it!

Editor's Note: Our friends at RT Sports have best ball leagues with no in-season management. Just draft your team, and that's it! Use your phone for this casual draft by getting emails or texts when you're on the clock. Sign Up Now!

 

2018 Fantasy Baseball Points League Rankings: Starting Pitcher (January)

Ranking Tier Player Name Pos Nick Bill Chris Kyle R.
1 1 Clayton Kershaw SP 4 6 4 8
2 1 Max Scherzer SP 6 11 14 10
3 1 Corey Kluber SP 8 16 18 16
4 1 Chris Sale SP 9 20 17 18
5 2 Madison Bumgarner SP 14 23 30 22
6 2 Stephen Strasburg SP 18 30 27 25
7 2 Noah Syndergaard SP 29 28 33 29
8 2 Jacob deGrom SP 27 36 39 31
9 2 Luis Severino SP 22 40 38 42
10 2 Zack Greinke SP 33 42 51 39
11 2 Carlos Martinez SP 41 43 45 40
12 2 Yu Darvish SP 39 46 46 41
13 3 Justin Verlander SP 35 48 54 46
14 3 Carlos Carrasco SP 38 49 60 47
15 3 Chris Archer SP 47 67 69 59
16 3 Robbie Ray SP 62 70 65 57
17 3 James Paxton SP 42 76 81 64
18 3 Aaron Nola SP 64 74 73 67
19 3 Dallas Keuchel SP 51 88 88 73
20 4 Jake Arrieta SP 63 81 98 79
21 4 Masahiro Tanaka SP 70 96 109 85
22 4 Rich Hill SP 91 90 91 92
23 4 Jose Quintana SP 115 82 82 91
24 4 Lance McCullers SP 92 108 95 83
25 4 Alex Wood SP 83 99 103 96
26 4 Gerrit Cole SP 100 104 120 86
27 4 Jon Lester SP 103 110 114 106
28 5 Marcus Stroman SP 130 94 121 107
29 5 David Price SP 86 124 130 112
30 5 Jose Berrios SP 109 116 116 114
31 5 Kyle Hendricks SP 132 101 110 118
32 5 Luis Castillo SP 71 148 139 121
33 5 Sonny Gray SP 126 115 124 116
34 5 Zack Godley SP 69 146 145 122
35 5 Michael Fulmer SP 82 135 158 125
36 5 Luke Weaver SP 108 155 141 131
37 6 Danny Duffy SP 173 118 118 132
38 6 Shohei Ohtani SP/OF 211 120 107 142
39 6 Johnny Cueto SP 177 123 138 143
40 6 Jameson Taillon SP 124 154 174 135
41 6 Gio Gonzalez SP 162 144 154 150
42 6 Jonathan Gray SP 160 162 160 #N/A
43 6 Danny Salazar SP 141 176 180 152
44 6 Garrett Richards SP 127 187 192 147
45 6 Jimmy Nelson SP 222 161 149 167
46 6 Jordan Montgomery SP 186 181 173 161
47 6 Drew Pomeranz SP 189 174 171 169
48 6 Trevor Bauer SP 150 197 195 162
49 6 Dylan Bundy SP 212 175 164 175
50 7 Mike Clevinger SP 194 184 185
51 7 Brad Peacock SP/RP 137 215 219 186
52 7 Charlie Morton SP 157 210 207 192
53 7 Kenta Maeda SP 187 196 200 188
54 7 Aaron Sanchez SP 172 177 242 184
55 7 Lance Lynn SP 201 200 197 194
56 7 Cole Hamels SP 258 158 188 202
57 7 Alex Cobb SP 242 163 231 205
58 7 Carlos Rodon SP 194 216 228 207
59 8 Tyler Chatwood SP 267 184 181 218
60 8 Patrick Corbin SP 153 244 247 208
61 8 Taijuan Walker SP 228 205 216 209
62 8 Jeff Samardzija SP 192 218 234 225
63 8 Alex Reyes SP/RP #N/A 230 209 220
64 8 Chase Anderson SP 148 260 264 232
65 8 Kevin Gausman SP 205 243 246 219
66 8 Eduardo Rodriguez SP 224 235 230 235
67 8 Sean Manaea SP 191 267 268 237
68 9 Rick Porcello SP 237 257 250 263
69 9 Michael Wacha SP 254 229 283 247
70 9 Jake Odorizzi SP 289 224 256 251
71 9 Ervin Santana SP 244 255 261 268
72 9 Julio Teheran SP 229 281 273 262
73 9 Jacob Faria SP 281 251 255 #N/A
74 9 J.A. Happ SP 232 270 281 273
75 9 Blake Snell SP 280 268 265 252
76 9 Felix Hernandez SP 259 325 333 203
77 10 Anthony DeSclafani SP 355 289 293 196
78 10 Lucas Giolito SP 276 292 285 287
79 10 Zach Davies SP 313 273 275 279
80 10 Tanner Roark SP 266 298 306 291
81 10 Jerad Eickhoff SP 308 291 295 288
82 10 Steven Matz SP 260 323 317 296
83 10 Vincent Velasquez SP 263 303 332 #N/A
84 11 Collin McHugh SP 360 288 292 299
85 11 Reynaldo Lopez SP 261 340 337 305
86 11 Dinelson Lamet SP 269 #N/A 356 312
87 11 Marco Estrada SP 285 326 329 313
88 11 Junior Guerra SP #N/A 320 318 321
89 11 Chris Devenski SP/RP 322 314 323 322
90 11 German Marquez SP 345 313 305 325
91 11 Daniel Straily SP 340 318 319 #N/A
92 11 Luiz Gohara SP 315 334 325 331
93 11 Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 427 290 294 314
94 11 John Lackey SP #N/A 328 334 335
95 11 Josh Hader SP 426 297 289 340
96 11 Jake Junis SP/RP 312 364 #N/A #N/A
97 11 Ivan Nova SP 352 319 348 342
98 11 Matt Harvey SP 323 #N/A 366 343
99 12 Tyler Glasnow SP 320 #N/A 365 349
100 12 Brandon Woodruff SP #N/A 349 342 351
101 12 Mike Montgomery SP 333 #N/A 373 344
102 12 Michael Foltynewicz SP 346 355 351 #N/A
103 12 Jhoulys Chacin SP/RP 327 #N/A 370 355
104 12 Matt Shoemaker SP 338 #N/A 375 354
105 12 Adam Wainwright SP 336 #N/A 374 359
106 12 Tyler Anderson SP 339 #N/A 376 362
107 12 CC Sabathia SP 344 #N/A 379 365
108 12 Wei-Yin Chen SP #N/A 350 381 369
109 12 Ian Kennedy SP 413 356 345 374
110 12 Robert Stephenson SP 364 363 392 380
111 12 Adam Conley SP #N/A 365 393 375
112 12 Zack Wheeler SP #N/A 371 401 376
113 12 Nate Karns SP #N/A 367 397 386
114 12 Doug Fister SP #N/A 368 398 387
115 12 Matt Andriese SP 410 335 405 388
116 13 Matt Boyd SP #N/A 369 399 389
117 13 Carson Fulmer SP 371 #N/A 402 392
118 13 Daniel Norris SP #N/A 372 403 394
119 13 Amir Garrett SP 373 #N/A 406 396
120 13 Tyson Ross SP #N/A 375 408 399
121 13 Sean Newcomb SP 378 #N/A 412 401
122 13 Andrew Triggs SP 382 #N/A 418 406
123 13 Jaime Garcia SP #N/A 384 421 411
124 13 Mike Fiers SP #N/A 385 423 413
125 13 Shelby Miller SP #N/A 386 425 416
126 13 Jharel Cotton SP 390 #N/A 431 423
127 13 Brent Honeywell SP 392 #N/A 435 422
128 13 Julio Urias SP 397 #N/A 441 425
129 14 Wade Miley SP #N/A 397 442 432
130 14 Miguel Gonzalez SP 402 #N/A 448 440
131 14 Trevor Cahill SP 411 #N/A 454 443
132 14 Jason Hammel SP 412 #N/A 455 445
133 14 Matt Moore SP 415 #N/A 457 447
134 14 Tyler Skaggs SP 436 #N/A 465 435
135 14 Robert Gsellman SP 431 #N/A 462 444
136 14 Josh Tomlin SP 434 #N/A 464 453

 
 
Tier 1

Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale

Keep it simple here folks; these are the four best pitchers in baseball and I would not hate drafting any of these pitchers in the first round of deeper leagues. Kershaw has won three Cy Young awards, and still has an ADP in the first round, but he has only pitched 30 games once in the last four seasons. Scherzer and Kluber are the reigning Cy Young award winners and, while Sale has not won a Cy Young award, he is the all-time leader in K:BB ratio and struck out 308 batters in 2017.

Even though Kershaw, Scherzer, and Sale are sexier picks, I would take the more reliable Kluber a little later in the draft. Kluber has pitched at least 200 innings in each of the last four seasons and, while his innings pitched totals have dropped in each season, he has a 2.83 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 10.3 strikeouts per nine over that time period. Even though he was 9-16 in 2015, he won 18 games in the other three seasons and has 15 complete games over the last four seasons as well.

Tier 2

Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Stephen Strasburg, Jacob deGrom, Luis Severino, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Carlos Carrasco

This is an interesting group of pitchers, as one of the first five pitchers in this tier could easily outscore multiple pitchers in the first tier. That happens frequently, as there can be a small difference between tiers, but Bumgarner, Syndeergaard, and Strasburg are just so talented that they may knock off one of the top tier pitchers. Each have injury questions as well, with Bumgarner and Syndergaard missing a majority of the 2017 season, but may be just too tough to look away from the injury problems and scoop them up as your SP1. While deGrom and Severino have a drop off from the big three of this tier (and Greinke, Verlander, and Carrasco have a drop off from deGrom and Severino), this is a strong group of SP1 targets.

The bell of the ball of this group is still Bumgarner who, 2017 aside, has been one of the more reliable pitchers in baseball. Bumgarner only made 17 starts last season after an ATV injury and was only 4-9 with a 3.32 ERA for the season, the second-worst ERA of his career. That being the case, the Giants are considerably better on offense with the additions of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, putting Bumgarner in a better spot for wins, and the 28-year-old had made at least 31 starts in each of his previous six seasons. He averaged 16 wins, a 3.00 ERA, and 214 strikeouts from 2011-2016, numbers that would work very well for an SP1.

Tier 3

Yu Darvish, Carlos Martinez, Chris Archer, Robbie Ray, James Paxton, Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta

As we move on to pitchers that may be better suited as SP2, we find some of the more consistent pitchers of the last three seasons. Yu Darvish, Chris Archer, and Jake Arrieta may not be top of the line starters all the time, but each will be 200+ inning pitchers that will help in wins and strikeouts. James Paxton, Robbie Ray, and Carlos Martinez are younger pitchers that have found their way over the last couple seasons, but each still have room to improve.

While he has only just shown that he could be an impact pitcher, Aaron Nola is still the best value in this group. Nola might have the lightest resume of all of the pitchers in the third tier of our rankings, but he is also the youngest in the group and flashes 10 strikeout per nine potential. While his career 3.94 ERA in 356 2/3 innings is not too attractive, he does have a 3.20 FIP over the last two seasons and posted a 1.20 WHIP last season. There is a lot of upside for the former first round pick, even if he does not have win potential in Philadelphia.

Tier 4

Dallas Keuchel, Jose Quintana, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Masahiro Tanaka, Lance McCullers, Kyle Hendricks, Gerrit Cole

As we move to a group that is better suited for the lower tier of SP2 and, more comfortably, SP3, this list is headlined by a former Cy Young award winner in Dallas Keuchel. While this group is teeming with potential, Keuchel is the best pitcher, even though injuries saw his 2017 successes cut short. In fact, three of the starting pitchers from the World Champion Astros reside in this tier, while two of the pitchers from the runner's up Dodgers (Rich Hill and Alex Wood) are found in this group. Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana each feature from the Cubs, who will help with wins, and Masahiro Tanaka looked like he was turning the corner at the end of the season with the Yankees.

It is cheating a bit to pick a former Cy Young candidate that was just traded to the reigning World Champions, but Gerrit Cole is the best bet to hit value in this group. Cole struggled in 2017, allowing 33 home runs and posting a 4.26 ERA after an injury plagued 2016 season, but he was 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA in 2015. While it may be asking a lot for Cole to regain his 2015 form, he did regain his strikeout form in 2017 (8.8 per nine) and did top 200 innings pitched (203) for the second time in his career. It might be asking a lot of Cole to be an ace at the top of your rotation, but a 200 strikeout pitcher on a team that is projected to lead baseball in wins is something that you should sign up for everyday.

Tier 5

Jon Lester, Jose Berrios, Marcus Stroman, David Price, Sonny Gray, Danny Duffy, Shohei Ohtani, Luis Castillo, Zack Godley

As we move to the middle of the pitcher rankings, there are a good amount of high upside pitchers, as well as two veterans that have put up good numbers in the past. This is also the point where we get to Shohei Ohtani, who is only listed as a starting pitcher on this list, even though CBS Fantasy will count Ohtani's hitting and pitching statistics as one player. The Angels will hope that Ohtani pitches as well in the states as he did in Japan, but he is just one of a few strikeout pitchers in this group.

A 2017 Rookie of The Year candidate that has huge strikeout potential and command of three pitches? Give me Jose Berrios all day as an SP3. While Nola appears on this list as a good player to own in Tier 3, Berrios could have similar potential in Tier 5 coming off of a 2017 season where he struck out 8.6 batters per nine. Walks are an issue for Berrios, 83 in 204 career innings, but he only allowed 131 hits in 145 2/3 innings last season, keeping his WHIP at a respectable 1.23. He needs to pitch a full season before you can be totally sure about him, and he only topped six innings pitched in one September appearance, but pitching in a pitcher's park like Target Field will only help the 23-year-old.

Tier 6

Johnny Cueto, Luke Weaver, Michael Fulmer, Gio Gonzalez, Danny Salazar, Jon Gray, Jimmy Nelson, Jameson Taillon, Drew Pomeranz, Garrett Richards, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Cole Hamels

As we move into players that can be acquired in the 10th round or later, this is the most congested grouping in our rankings. There are some veterans in this group, but a majority of the players here are young, making them too good to be picked too late and too inexperienced to be picked too early. Volativity is ripe in this group, but strikeout potential is high, making each of these pitchers a nice addition at the end of a rotation.

Luke Weaver has hit few road bumps in his young MLB career and that short term success makes me want him on my roster in 2018. Weaver may only be 9-8 with a 4.56 ERA in 96 2/3 career MLB innings (over 2016 and 2017), but he also has struck out 117 batters and had a respectable 1.26 WHIP last season. Obviously, he is not a finished product, but his strikeouts are real and he saw his hits per nine drop from 11.4 in 36 1/3 innings in 2016 to 8.8 in 60 1/3 innings last season. He is also 25-11 with a 1.99 ERA in 275 1/3 minor league innings (striking out 8.8 batters per nine) and dominance like that cannot be ignored.

Tier 7

Jeff Samardzija, Kenta Maeda, Lance Lynn, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, Jordan Montgomery, Alex Reyes, Kevin Gausman, Aaron Sanchez

As we move deeper into the rankings, there is a noticable drop in the caliber of pitchers. This group begins with safe veterans like Samardzija, Maeda, Lynn, and Morton/Peacock before moving to younger pitchers with less experience. Montgomery may have the highest upside of this group, particularly considering that the Yankees will win a lot of games and he has strikeout potential, but there is no promise that Montgomery will work more than five innings per start.

Alex Reyes missed the 2017 season after Tommy John surgery, but may have broken camp as a starter with the Cardinals last season and is set for a big 2018 season with St. Louis. Before going down with injury last season, Reyes was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 46 innings for the Cardinals in 2016, making five starts and striking out 52 batters. When you combine those numbers with the fact that he struck out 449 batters in 334 1/3 minor league innings, there is a lot of reason to think that he is the next big thing on the mound. Control may see Reyes go to Triple-A Memphis to start the season, he has walked 203 batters in 395 innings between the minors and majors, but he could be a steal a la Luis Severino this late.

Tier 8

Alex Cobb, Taijuan Walker, Carlos Rodon, Eduardo Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin, Mike Clevinger, Chase Anderson, Ervin Santana, Julio Teheran

This might be the last group of pitchers that can be trusted on a start by start basis, but most of these players mainly just filling a roster spot. Depending on where Alex Cobb goes, he should earn the right to be the best player in this tier, but Santana is coming off of a strong 2017 and Walker/Corbin have the opportunity to pitch for a good Diamondbacks team. Rodriguez and Clevinger each play for competitive teams as well, putting them in a good spot for wins, and Teheran improved a lot in the second half last season.

The deeper you get in the draft, the more you want a lottery ticket that will cash in; Carlos Rodon might be just the guy to win you a fantasy championship with his strikeout potential. If you are looking to buy for strikeouts late in the draft and whiffed on Reyes, Rodon (383 strikeouts in 373 2/3 career MLB innings) may be your guy. Much like Reyes, though, Rodon has walk issues (3.8 walks per nine in his career) and his WHIP has struggled as well because of walks (career 1.41 WHIP). The former 3rd pick of the 2014 draft is also dealing with a shoulder injury that could see him miss the first month or so of the season, but he is a player worth stashing in the later rounds.

Tier 9

J.A. Happ, Sean Manaea, Jake Faria, Zach Davies, Michael Wacha, Blake Snell, Dinelson Lamet, Rick Porcello, Lucas Giolito

In the second to last tier, there are some bigger name pitchers, namely 2016 AL Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello, but these are mainly options that fantasy owners will bet on for upside and bounce back. Lamet, Snell, Faria, and Manaea are each younger pitchers that could turn the corner in 2017, with Snell's strikeout potential as the most appealing trait. Happ also is in a position to make a real impact, as he was 20-4 in 2016 and struck out 8.8 batters per nine in 2017, the second-best total in his career (9.0 in 2012).

The most interesting player in this tier, though, is Lucas Giolito. Acquired by the White Sox in the deal that sent Adam Eaton to Washington, Giolito has been a top-10 prospect in each of the last three seasons. In his first season with the White Sox system, Giolito was up and down, posting a 6-10 record and 4.48 ERA in 24 starts for Triple-A Charlotte, but a 2.38 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 45 1/3 innings for the White Sox. Giolito only struck out 6.8 batters per nine in the majors, but his 9.6 strikeouts per nine in 497 2/3 minor league innings show that he can make an impact for Chicago.

Tier 10

Michael Kopech, Walker Buehler, Tyler Chatwood, Reynaldo Lopez, Junior Guerra, Steven Matz, Jake Odorizzi

This is the last tier of guys that I would draft in a 12 or 14-team league and, to be honest, that is stretching it in some cases. With Kopech, Buehler, and Lopez, you see three of the top prospects in baseball and, while the upside is there, Lopez and Kopech play for a White Sox team that may struggle to contend and Buehler does not have a clear opportunity to start in Los Angeles. Chatwood has success at Wrigley Field in the past, but he has really never shown that he is worthy of holding for long periods of time, potentially making him better as a streamer. Odorizzi and Guerra might be better as streamers as well, but they are safer pitchers that are decent to hold in deeper formats.

Then there is Matz, trying to bounce back from the disaster that was 2017. Dealing with an elbow injury that led to surgery, Matz was 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts for the Mets, posting a 1.53 WHIP and 2.53 K:BB ratio. That being said, Matz was 13-8 with a 3.16 ERA in his first two seasons (168 innings pitched) and his 8.7 strikeouts per nine make him a very interesting play for his strikeout potential as well. There is real SP3 potential here if he is able to regain his form from his first two seasons and that is too good to pass up this late in the draft.

 

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