Starting Pitcher Ranking Update

For a full primer on the process behind these rankings, check out episode 458 of The Sleeper & The Bust.

I decided to go a different route than the traditional 1 to whatever listing and went a step beyond the tiered rankings which allow for more nuance than just a numbered ranking, but still feel inadequate to tackle the many challenges of in-season pitcher management. I do still have tiers, but they are much different tiers and so they aren’t just talent-based groupings. They are more about usability in the fantasy game.

I have five different levels for active arms and then injury and minor league groupings for those we’re waiting on. We always talk “rest of season” when looking at deals and pickups, but I think we have to be more short term than that, especially with pitching. This doesn’t mean I’m wildly shifting rankings and my outlook on pitchers after every start, but rather I’m acknowledging that the landscape is going to shift so much throughout the six month season that trying to focus beyond a month or two is foolhardy.

The tiers are as follows:

Must Start – Should be pretty obvious, but these are the guys who always start. Again, it isn’t just the very best guys. There are second and third tier arms in terms of market value that I’d start every time out. They don’t have an obvious split or weakness that would give you a better chance at picking off their poor starts. Some of them could be “No Coors Field”, but it’s predominantly set it and forget it.

Usually Start – If “No Coors Field” is 30/70 with the MS group, it’s more like 60/40 or 70/30 with this group. You have to have a reason not to start them right now in most formats. You might feel like you can spot them properly, but we’re just not that precise in identifying when a solid arm will falter. These guys are good enough to thwart any opponent even on something less than their best day. Yes, Jason Vargas is in this group. I know he was just roughed up in the Bronx by the Yankees. He still had a 10% swinging strike rate and has been below that mark just once this year.

Spot Start – Flawed talents. A lot of these guys are on the cusp of or have been in the Usually Start tier, but currently you’re looking to curate their starts a bit where you can. They could also be a US tier arm here temporarily. Pay very close attention to gamelogs of pitchers, get a feel for how they arrived at their bottom line numbers. Not all ERAs are created equally and that’s why it’s not a talent gauge at all.

Could Start – I know many of you are dealing with some brutal pitching staff conditions right now after drafting a rotation you thought would be a strength (had one guy show me his Thor, Bumgarner, Paxton DL… yes, seriously), so you might find yourself in this tier a little more than you’d like. There is some talent to be and plucking the right two-start week could really set you up. This is essentially the Spot Star tier for single leagues or super-deep mixers (16+ teams).

Don’t Start – You don’t want to be here. This is when you start looking at middle relievers as the better option. You’ll see what I mean.

Injured – I find it hard/worthless to rank injured guys. I just think the outlook on injured players varies so much person-to-person that you can’t really use an injured player’s ranking for anything. I will identify the tier I’d put the injured guy in when healthy, though.

Minors – These guys aren’t in the majors. You needed that explanation, didn’t you?

I know I personally had to re-calibrate my short-term/long-term balance, so hopefully this the first step toward that. Going forward, I’m looking to update every four-to-five weeks, so late-June for the next update.

OK, let’s get to the groupings. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below, but I’d also encourage you to come out to my chat on Friday at 2 PM Central to discuss further. Please focus less on the number and more on the grouping they’re in. I’ll have another piece with thoughts on several arms coming soon, plus next week’s podcast with Eno will dive into these and his big rankings changes thus far.

Mid-May SP Ranking Update
# Pitcher Level
1 Clayton Kershaw MS
2 Chris Sale MS
3 Max Scherzer MS
4 Yu Darvish MS
5 Stephen Strasburg MS
6 Zack Greinke MS
7 Dallas Keuchel MS
8 Carlos Carrasco MS
9 Justin Verlander MS
10 Gerrit Cole MS
11 Jacob deGrom MS
12 Lance McCullers MS
13 Johnny Cueto MS
14 Jon Lester MS
15 Carlos Martinez MS
16 Chris Archer MS
17 Michael Fulmer MS
18 Michael Pineda MS
19 Rick Porcello MS
20 Marcus Stroman MS
21 Jose Quintana MS
22 Marco Estrada MS
23 Aaron Sanchez MS
24 Jake Arrieta MS
25 Jake Odorizzi MS
26 Danny Duffy US
27 Julio Teheran US
28 Masahiro Tanaka US
29 Alex Wood US
30 Michael Wacha US
31 Eduardo Rodriguez US
32 Ivan Nova US
33 Kyle Hendricks US
34 Rich Hill US
35 Tanner Roark US
36 Luis Severino US
37 Taijuan Walker US
39 Kenta Maeda US
38 Lance Lynn US
40 Matt Shoemaker US
42 Andrew Triggs US
43 Ervin Santana US
44 John Lackey US
45 Sean Manaea US
46 Dylan Bundy US
47 Gio Gonzalez US
48 Mike Leake US
49 Jason Vargas US
50 Jesse Hahn US
51 Danny Salazar SS
52 Robbie Ray SS
53 Charlie Morton SS
54 Jeff Samardzija SS
55 Drew Pomeranz SS
56 Matt Andriese SS
57 Julio Urias SS
58 Zack Wheeler SS
59 Vince Velasquez SS
60 Brandon McCarthy SS
61 Dan Straily SS
62 Nate Karns SS
63 Zack Godley SS
64 Chris Tillman SS
65 Jordan Montgomery SS
66 Jerad Eickhoff SS
67 Sonny Gray SS
68 Chase Anderson SS
69 Alex Cobb SS
70 Adam Wainwright SS
71 Kendall Graveman SS
72 Joe Biagini SS
73 Luis Perdomo SS
74 Kevin Gausman SS
75 Daniel Norris SS
76 Matt Moore SS
77 Matt Harvey SS
78 Miguel Gonzalez SS
79 Jose Berrios SS
80 Scott Feldman SS
80 Wade Miley SS
81 Derek Holland SS
82 A.J. Griffin SS
83 Mike Foltynewicz SS
84 Hyun-Jin Ryu SS
85 Tyler Anderson SS
86 Zach Davies SS
87 Patrick Corbin SS
88 Erasmo Ramirez SS
89 Jimmy Nelson SS
90 Trevor Bauer SS
91 Jeremy Hellickson SS
92 Robert Gsellman SS
93 Antonio Senzatela CS
94 Tyler Chatwood CS
95 Kyle Freeland CS
96 Hector Santiago CS
97 Matt Boyd CS
98 Joe Musgrove CS
99 Jason Hammel CS
100 Ty Blach CS
101 Jesse Chavez CS
102 JC Ramirez CS
103 Ariel Miranda CS
104 CC Sabathia CS
105 Jhoulys Chacin CS
106 Mike Fiers CS
107 Ricky Nolasco CS
108 Matt Cain CS
109 Chad Kuhl CS
110 Josh Tomlin CS
111 Jordan Zimmermann CS
112 Edinson Volquez CS
113 Clayton Richard CS
114 Mike Clevinger CS
115 Eddie Butler DS
116 Martin Perez DS
117 Tim Adleman DS
118 Tyler Glasnow DS
119 Nick Martinez DS
120 Jaime Garcia DS
121 Nick Pivetta DS
122 Alex Meyer DS
123 R.A. Dickey DS
124 Bartolo Colon DS
125 Kyle Gibson DS
126 Andrew Cashner DS
127 Jose Urena DS
128 Phil Hughes DS
129 Ubaldo Jimenez DS
130 Tom Koehler DS
131 Yovani Gallardo DS
132 Bronson Arroyo DS
133 Mike Bolsinger DS
134 Dylan Covey DS
135 Tommy Milone DS
136 Zach Eflin DS
137 Trevor Williams DS
138 Jered Weaver DS
139 Chase De Jong DS
Corey Kluber INJ/MS
Noah Syndergaard INJ/MS
Madison Bumgarner INJ/MS
David Price INJ/MS
James Paxton INJ/MS
Cole Hamels INJ/MS
Jameson Taillon INJ/MS
Trevor Cahill INJ/US
Jon Gray INJ/US
J.A. Happ INJ/US
Steven Matz INJ/US
Aaron Nola INJ/US
Junior Guerra INJ/US
Tyler Skaggs INJ/SS
Carlos Rodon INJ/SS
Brandon Finnegan INJ/SS
Collin McHugh INJ/SS
Ian Kennedy INJ/SS
Felix Hernandez INJ/SS
Drew Smyly INJ/SS
Francisco Liriano INJ/SS
James Shields INJ/CS
Wei-Yin Chen INJ/CS
Hisashi Iwakuma INJ/CS
Brett Anderson INJ/DS
Joe Ross AAA
Jharel Cotton AAA
Blake Snell AAA
Chad Green AAA
Luke Weaver AAA
Adam Conley AAA
Jacob Faria AAA
Amir Garrett AAA
Brent Honeywell AAA
Jose De Leon AAA
Adalberto Mejia AAA
Rookie Davis AAA

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Tyson Ross?


injured DUH


Obviously just wondering what his injured ranking would be…. felt like maybe he was just overlooked.


I briefly considered Ross during my league’s draft and decided that between the TOS surgery, move from the NL to AL and move from a great pitcher’s park to a great hitter’s park made him not worth it. Worse yet, he’s going to come back right as the weather heats up and the ball really starts flying in Texas.