Updated: Oct 20
This was a major headache, to say the least. Fantasy owners have literally no idea how teams will handle the shortened season. Do they go to a four-man rotation? Do they only let starters go four innings? No one knows what teams like the Dodgers or Rays will do given their history for thinking outside of the box. Below is based on a shortened season and some of my assumptions as to how teams will handle certain players. As for NFBC ADP, I took the Online Championship NFBC ADP from April. This ADP was before we knew for a fact there would be a shortened season and since then there have been barely any drafts to really look at. Some discrepancies below can certainly shift once the amount of games is announced and MLB releases a schedule.
Jacob deGrom has been the best pitcher for the last two seasons and shouldn’t slow down. Gerrit Cole was arguably the best pitcher last year, but the new scenery puts him just below deGrom. Look at this as 1A and 1B.
Walker Buehler has been rising in the ranks for me as of late. At age 25 he has probably one of the deepest arsenals in the game, look for him to take another step forward this year.
Shane Bieber takes number five because last year he was extremely efficient on a per inning basis and had one of the highest pitch counts in the league. Going deep into games will set pitchers apart this year. My love for Castillo shows here as he has the rare combination of producing weak contact and a ton of whiffs. Walks Schmalks. Yes, Flaherty is a little low and yes I still question that fastball.
Charlie Morton might be a little surprising here with his injury history and a shortened season. The guy is a straight-up stud when on the mound and has one of if not the best curveballs in the game. Chris Paddack is a little low because I still want to see that third pitch from him. Any of these pitchers are interchangeable and that is why they are grouped into the same tier. You can make an argument for any of them.
This is becoming “glob” territory. Kenta Maeda pops up on literally every list, every single one. He has all of the makings of a breakout and with the Twins mediocre rotation, they should be using him as often as possible. The Trevor Bauer hate comes from his suspect fastball and the decline in his slider last year. Kyle Hendricks is and always has been super consistent. Something all fantasy teams could certainly use in a shortened season. Corey Kluber drops in rankings since he is notoriously a slow starter, coming off an injury, and is with a new team.
Mr. Dinelson Lamet has literally one viable pitch. I have been down on him all offseason. Julio Urias has a ton of talent but I highly doubt the Dodgers let him go deeper than five innings which hurts his value. Madison Bumgarner has some scary home/away splits and while he is 30 years old his arm is probably closer to 35. Rich Hill will be healthy and ready to go. I know he is an injury risk, but his ERA since 2014 is an impressive 2.92. If he is on the mound you are getting great production.
Caleb Smith had a great first half and just wasn’t the same after his injury, if healthy he can provide great value in 2020. Dylan Cease needed to work on his fastball command and in spring training he seemed to be targeting low and away. His command looked much better when doing so and he could be taking the next step. Miles Mikolas took a step back last year and it was clearly due to his slider. If he can add back some velocity and throw it more often we can see a mid three ERA pitcher. Kyle Gibson should have performed a lot better last year. He had two pitches with a 20.0 SwStr% (only a handful of other pitchers did this) and the new stadium could help.
Now, this is a big “glob.” Reynaldo Lopez added some velocity in 2019 but was still pretty erratic. He now has Grandal behind the plate and if he works some magic with Lopez, watch out. Josh James and Joe Urquidy lose value to me. The Astros could easily play with their pitch counts and I could see them only go five innings max (if they are in the rotation). Wade Miley had that terrible last month in 2019. Besides that, he was a very good pitcher all year and now joins the Reds where he could certainly excel. A.J. Puk will be healthy to start the season and certainly should make the rotation. But how far will he go in games? As most know I am a big Spencer Turnbull fan as he has a deep arsenal with a ton of potential. Like Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez pitched well until he was injured and I expect a decent rebound.
Austin Voth added some much-needed velocity last year and certainly impressed. Trent Thornton has a curveball that lead the league in RPM’s. He is also working on a new pitch that looks filthy. Mackenzie Gore hasn’t been confirmed in the rotation and even if he is, how deep do they let him go? Garrett Richards has some bounceback potential but the injury risk is very high. Michael Kopech might not even see the big leagues this year. Even if he does it might be in the bullpen.
Nate Pearson will likely not see the majors in 2020. I am not a fan of Jordan Yamamoto, I see mediocrity all over him and really hope they give Elieser Hernandez a shot. Watch his slider if you ever get the chance. As for Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes, both move up significantly if they make the rotation. Dustin May is amazing but there are so many arms to feed. Brendan McKay showed flashes in 2019 but it’s the Rays and who knows how they utilize him. Merrill Kelly made strides last season with increased velocity, unfortunately, he seems to be the odd man out of the rotation.
That does it for my top 150 starting pitchers. My overall strategy when it comes to drafting pitching is pushing their overall value down. Hitters play every day where pitchers only throw every five. If you look at the top ERA leaders through 50 games last year there are shocking names in the top 20 like Minor, Lyles, Turnbull, Eflin, and Davies. I will be looking to target late round pitchers who have high pitch counts and potential to accumulate more stats. As always thanks for reading!