American League SP Tiers

You’ve read the consensus rankings, complained about them and have been no doubt counting down the minutes until the tiered rankings are released. Well, it’s your lucky day, as your final 2012 rankings sit below. Yes, my crystal ball is that good, it already knows how the season will play out.

Before I unveil them, there are two things I want to note. First, these are American League only rankings. No, I did not forget about Jonathon Niese. Second, these rankings differ slightly from my rankings from the consensus article. That is because I am continually updating my projections and rerunning my dollar values. Speaking of which, these tiers are strictly in descending order of projected dollar value based on my projections. The good thing about this is that I am able to divide the tiers much more easily, as I can simply make cuts where the dollar value gaps are, as opposed to arbitrarily breaking players up or guessing where there is a drop-off.

You’re the Best

Justin Verlander
CC Sabathia
Dan Haren
Felix Hernandez
Jered Weaver

As much as I talk about how overvalued Verlander is, he is still the best pitcher in the American League for fantasy purposes. Of course, even the best pitcher can be overvalued. Haren’s pinpoint control and resulting excellent WHIP (best projected of the group) vaults him into the third spot here. I think I value Hernandez a bit lower than most, which is interesting because of this group, I am projecting him to post the best ERA. However, his projected WHIP is second worst, and not surprisingly, he has the fewest projected wins. I thought Weaver was massively overvalued too, but when you continually post below average BABIPs, you have to start ruling out luck as the reason and assume it will continue.

Second to None

Jon Lester
James Shields
David Price
Michael Pineda
Matt Moore
Yu Darvish
Josh Beckett

The only thing holding Lester back from being in the first tier is his control and resulting WHIP. But given his historical skills, he can easily move into it. I am not expecting a repeat from Shields. In fact, my projections for him over the past few years have essentially been the same. His luck has simply bounced back and forth like a yo-yo. Even a 3.49 ERA (my projection) gets him here. Pineda’s down velocity is obviously a concern (though it appears to be slowly recovering), and especially for me since I own him in both of my leagues. But aside from that, I wasn’t as worried about his move as most others were and his win potential obviously skyrocketed.

Moore is near the top of my list of players I cannot wait to see how they perform this year. The ranking and projection is aggressive, but given his minor league performance and his repertoire, it is difficult to be any less optimistic, unless you fall back on the tired “but he’s a rookie!” argument. Darvish’s spring control problems are a bit worrisome, or could just be nothing. He probably has as good a chance of landing in the first tier as he does in the third tier.

Strong Enough

Brandon Morrow
Colby Lewis
Max Scherzer
C.J. Wilson
Jeremy Hellickson
Scott Baker
Chris Sale
Hiroki Kuroda

Please Brandon, can you make me look good for a change? You do not want to officially be diagnosed with Ricky Nolasco disease. Yes, C.J. Wilson is all the way down here. Below average control and a strikeout rate regression will lead to a poor WHIP, and luck regression means his ERA is heading north. Hellickson should improve his skills enough to offset an increase in BABIP (of which I am projecting a .275 mark). You already know I love Sale, and managed to draft him in my local league. Only a 160 innings pitched projection is keeping him this low.

Seeing is Believing

Derek Holland
Ubaldo Jimenez
Daniel Bard
Ervin Santana
Ricky Romero
John Danks
Gavin Floyd
Francisco Liriano
Justin Masterson

Ubaldo might be the first big downgrade. Apparently his velocity is down again, and though I stress that you should ignore spring numbers, it may be time to take notice when they are combined with a physical issue. Bard’s spring performance is also raising questions about how his transition into the rotation will go. His control has been awful and he hasn’t been striking out hitters at his normal rate. He may very well be working on things though, so I think it’s way too early to panic given the tiny sample size. Romero will need another healthy dose of BABIP luck to move into Tier 3. Liriano is looking like a prime candidate to be my first huge upgrade. Though I cannot seem to find specific mention of it, I believe his velocity is up, and he has posted an amazing 18/2 K/BB ratio in 13.0 spring innings so far. I ignore spring ERA (heck, I typically ignore regular season ERA), but I do pay attention to strikeout and walk rates.

I’m Not Okay (I Promise)

Doug Fister
Brandon McCarthy
Neftali Feliz
Jake Peavy
Henderson Alvarez
Philip Humber
Clay Buchholz

This group is filled with last season’s surprise breakouts, potential rebound candidates and young starters. Fister and McCarthy’s fantasy valued are capped by their blah strikeout rates, with the latter also backed by a weak offense. I was already pessimistic about Feliz’ outlook in the rotation, but now with right shoulder tightness, there is simply no reason to draft him unless everyone else feels the same way as me and you’re in an AL-Only league. I like Alvarez, but like the first two names, his fantasy value is limited by his history of weak strikeout rates.

Livin’ on the Edge

Tom Milone
Jeff Niemann
Felipe Paulino
Carl Pavano
Kevin Slowey
Josh Tomlin
Danny Duffy
Matt Harrison
Derek Lowe
Ivan Nova

Milone could be a cheap source of WHIP, while Niemann showed his best skills last year and could turn a nice profit if he wins the fifth starter spot. The two Royals pitchers have strong breakout and profit potential. Paulino simply needs some better luck on balls in play and a sub-4.00 ERA is there for the taking. Duffy’s new cutter might be all that he needs to shake off last season’s disappointing debut and live up to his minor league skills. Don’t let the 16-4 record and solid surface ERA fool you – Ivan Nova’s fantasy prospects are not very exciting.

The Great Disappointment

Bartolo Colon
Jason Vargas
Brian Matusz
Luke Hochevar
Brett Cecil
Rick Porcello
Jonathan Sanchez
Brad Peacock
Hisashi Iwakuma
Hector Noesi
Jarrod Parker
Jake Arrieta

Matusz is the potential gem here. His velocity has recovered this spring and his performance has backed it up. However, he is still an extreme fly ball pitcher in a park that inflates home runs, and he pitches in the AL East. Don’t get carried away by the sleeper hype, but he has a great chance to move up these rankings swiftly.

We hoped you liked reading American League SP Tiers by Mike Podhorzer!

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Congo Hammer
Congo Hammer

I feel like this is pretty high on Lewis, pretty low on McCarthy. McCarthy’s strikeout rate improved significantly (and walk rate declined) as the season went on, and he should have a better supporting cast, both offensively and defensively. Lewis is 32 with a 4.54 FIP, and I’d expect numbers closer to 2011 than 2010 unless his old velocity comes back… Scherzer’s upside dwarves Colby’s.

But maybe I’m just bitter for trading Colby and holding onto McCarthy. Well at least McCarthy has a good sense of humor.

Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow

What is a ‘congo hammer’ anyways?

For what it’s worth, I agree with you on Colby Lewis being overvalued here (not to mention Christopher Sale & Scott Baker). Ricky Romero stands out as one who has major profit potential lower on.


agree on Scott Baker, his elbow issues are pretty worrisome. I would bet anything on him going down with an injury at some point this season.