March 31 update: A few starters — Sonny Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez, Robbie Ray — have been or will be placed on the IL before Opening Day. None of those guys should miss more than a couple of weeks, so they haven’t moved in the ranks.
Sixto Sanchez and Deivi Garcia won’t open this season in the big leagues, but I’m not going to overreact to that. I moved Sanchez down just a few spots, to No. 36, while Garcia moved down from No. 84 to No. 99. In that range, the separation between pitchers is small.
One player who has moved somewhat significantly is David Price after he lost out on the Dodgers’ No. 5 rotation spot to Dustin May. Price has gone from No. 66 to No. 74, next to his bullpen mate Tony Gonsolin. May remains at No. 53 as I expected him to win that gig all along.
March 26 update: There are a bunch of starting pitchers already dealing with bumps and bruises, but two pitchers have more concerning injuries. Zac Gallen suffered a hairline fracture in his right forearm while batting earlier this month. This is a reminder that we aren’t expected to have the designated hitter in both leagues this year. There is no word on Gallen’s recovery timetable, but it seems like he will miss several weeks of action. I have moved him from No. 14 to No. 34.
Secondly, Carlos Carrasco suffered a hamstring tear that will keep him out for up to two months. Carrasco was already dealing with elbow soreness, so there are just a bunch of red flags here right now. He has been moved from No. 19 to No. 55.
It sounds like Sonny Gray will open the season on the injured list because of his back pain, but he shouldn’t miss too much time. I dropped him just a couple of spots.
Framber Valdez’s fractured finger doesn’t need season-ending surgery. It’s still unclear as to when he will return to the mound, but that’s a bit of good news.
Kwang-hyun Kim has been lowered a handful of spots, down to No. 90, since his back injury will cause him to open the season on the injured list.
Spencer Turnbull has been placed on the COVID-19 injured list. It’s unknown when he’ll pitch again, obviously, so he has been removed from the top 100.
Stephen Strasburg and Zach Eflin are expected to be ready for their first scheduled start of the regular season despite some recent maladies.
March 17: Nate Pearson aggravated his groin injury this week, so I have dropped the Blue Jays rookie yet again, from No. 70 to 77.
Mets pitcher Carlos Carrasco was shut down for a little bit after experiencing some elbow soreness. He did make it through a bullpen session Tuesday, so perhaps this is much ado about nothing, but I did drop him just a few spots in the ranks.
March 9 update: One of biggest stories in baseball this month is the finger injury suffered last week by Astros starter Framber Valdez. Will the broken ring finger on his pitching hand keep him out for a couple of months or the whole season? That important bit is unclear right now. Regardless, he will be out for a long while, so I have moved Valdez from No. 29 to No. 58.
The Astros found a suitable replacement for Valdez as they signed veteran Jake Odorizzi. The 31-year-old was an All-Star in 2019 while with the Minnesota Twins. He really struggled in the shortened 2020 season, but from 2014-19, Odorizzi averaged 165 innings and 160 strikeouts per year with a 3.88 earned run average. He enters these rankings at No. 90.
And in other Astros news, a bunch of pitchers, including starter Cristian Javier, are currently away from the team due to health and safety protocols, according to manager Dusty Baker. Javier is at No. 64 in my ranks, but this bears watching.
Blue Jays rookie Nate Pearson likely won’t be available come Opening Day after he suffered a right groin strain earlier this week. The fire-baller has gone from No. 65 to No. 70 in these ranks.
Other moves: I’ve gotten a little aggressive on Shohei Ohtani, considering what he has shown early in spring training. He has been boosted from No. 68 to 55. Braves starter Mike Soroka has dipped from No. 42 to No. 46. It sounds like David Price might pitch in relief at times this season, so I have pushed him down just a tad, from No. 52 to No. 57.
Starting pitchers in fantasy baseball should be viewed in the same manner as running backs in fantasy football: there are not many reliable, top-end options, and all of them carry considerable risk because of the inherent nature of their job. Even the likes of Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole are not impervious to sudden arm troubles. But they are first-round picks in many leagues because they have been able to put up tremendous numbers while staying relatively healthy for multiple seasons.
The goal for fantasy managers should be to select 2-3 starters who offer that best combination of production and reliability before filling out their rotation with more boom-or-bust hurlers. As always, there are a bevy of pitchers who carry that tag into this season; some of them will doom your team while others will be league-winners. Choose wisely.
A true arms race took place between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason. The Padres struck first in December by trading for 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who was joined by 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish 24 hours later. They also acquired Joe Musgrove from the Pirates in January. The Dodgers responded by adding last season’s NL Cy Young recipient, Trevor Bauer, in February. Darvish and Bauer look like elite options this year while Snell is more of an SP2 in fantasy. Musgrove is a mid-round selection.
Lance Lynn is the White Sox’s newest ace after he was traded by the Rangers. His past two seasons, his age-31 and age-32 campaigns, were the best of his career. A true workhorse, Lynn finished among the top six in the AL Cy Young voting in 2019 and 2020.
Carlos Carrasco was sent from the Indians the Mets in what is generally regarded as the Francisco Lindor trade. Although he turns 34 years old this month, it’s tough to disregard Carrasco’s successful 2020. He registered a 2.91 ERA and struck out 82 batters in 68 innings.
Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon have thrown one inning combined since the end of the 2019 season, but both men are now healthy, and the Yankees are depending upon them turning back the clock a bit to when they were rotation stalwarts. Kluber and Taillon are enticing, high-risk, high-reward picks in this year’s starting pitcher pool.
Three aces — Chris Sale, Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard — are deep in their rehab after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. There is hope that all of them will play in 2021, but it’s likely that none of them will debut before June.
The Nationals are being very cautious with Max Scherzer, who suffered a sprained left ankle in early February. There doesn’t seem to be any concern regarding his regular-season status.
Mike Soroka, who ruptured his right Achilles tendon in August, has been throwing off a mound since January, but it’s unknown if he will be ready to go come opening day. The good news is the Braves’ righty hasn’t had any setbacks in his recovery.
Top 100 SP rankings
Starting pitcher rankings 2021
|1||Jacob deGrom||New York Mets|
|2||Gerrit Cole||New York Yankees|
|3||Shane Bieber||Cleveland Indians|
|4||Walker Buehler||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|5||Trevor Bauer||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|6||Yu Darvish||San Diego Padres|
|7||Luis Castillo||Cincinnati Reds|
|8||Lucas Giolito||Chicago White Sox|
|9||Aaron Nola||Philadelphia Phillies|
|10||Brandon Woodruff||Milwaukee Brewers|
|11||Jack Flaherty||St. Louis Cardinals|
|12||Max Scherzer||Washington Nationals|
|13||Clayton Kershaw||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|14||Lance Lynn||Chicago White Sox|
|15||Blake Snell||San Diego Padres|
|16||Jose Berrios||Minnesota Twins|
|17||Kenta Maeda||Minnesota Twins|
|18||Tyler Glasnow||Tampa Bay Rays|
|19||Kyle Hendricks||Chicago Cubs|
|20||Hyun-jin Ryu||Toronto Blue Jays|
|21||Corbin Burnes||Milwaukee Brewers|
|22||Max Fried||Atlanta Braves|
|23||Sonny Gray||Cincinnati Reds|
|24||Stephen Strasburg||Washington Nationals|
|25||Zach Plesac||Cleveland Indians|
|26||Zack Wheeler||Philadelphia Phillies|
|27||Zack Greinke||Houston Astros|
|28||Jesus Luzardo||Oakland Athletics|
|29||Ian Anderson||Atlanta Braves|
|30||Patrick Corbin||Washington Nationals|
|31||Chris Paddack||San Diego Padres|
|32||Charlie Morton||Atlanta Braves|
|33||Zac Gallen||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|34||Lance McCullers Jr.||Houston Astros|
|35||Sixto Sanchez||Miami Marlins|
|36||Joe Musgrove||San Diego Padres|
|37||Julio Urias||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|38||Pablo Lopez||Miami Marlins|
|39||Shohei Ohtani||Los Angeles Angels|
|40||Tyler Mahle||Cincinnati Reds|
|41||Dylan Bundy||Los Angeles Angels|
|42||Kevin Gausman||San Francisco Giants|
|43||Sandy Alcantara||Miami Marlins|
|44||Dinelson Lamet||San Diego Padres|
|45||Triston McKenzie||Cleveland Indians|
|46||Marcus Stroman||New York Mets|
|47||Frankie Montas||Oakland Athletics|
|48||Marco Gonzales||Seattle Mariners|
|49||Corey Kluber||New York Yankees|
|50||Jose Urquidy||Houston Astros|
|51||German Marquez||Colorado Rockies|
|52||Jameson Taillon||New York Yankees|
|53||Dustin May||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|54||Aaron Civale||Cleveland Indians|
|55||Carlos Carrasco||New York Mets|
|56||Framber Valdez||Houston Astros|
|57||Andrew Heaney||Los Angeles Angels|
|58||Dallas Keuchel||Chicago White Sox|
|59||Chris Bassitt||Oakland Athletics|
|60||Mike Soroka||Atlanta Braves|
|61||Zach Davies||Chicago Cubs|
|62||John Means||Baltimore Orioles|
|63||Cristian Javier||Houston Astros|
|64||Eduardo Rodriguez||Boston Red Sox|
|65||Zach Eflin||Philadelphia Phillies|
|66||Jordan Montgomery||New York Yankees|
|67||Michael Pineda||Minnesota Twins|
|68||Sean Manaea||Oakland Athletics|
|69||Griffin Canning||Los Angeles Angels|
|70||Drew Smyly||Atlanta Braves|
|71||Brady Singer||Kansas City Royals|
|72||Nathan Eovaldi||Boston Red Sox|
|73||James Paxton||Seattle Mariners|
|74||David Price||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|75||Tony Gonsolin||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|76||Nate Pearson||Toronto Blue Jays|
|77||Dane Dunning||Texas Rangers|
|78||Mitch Keller||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|79||Matthew Boyd||Detroit Tigers|
|80||Elieser Hernandez||Miami Marlins|
|81||Michael Kopech||Chicago White Sox|
|82||MacKenzie Gore||San Diego Padres|
|83||Brad Keller||Kansas City Royals|
|84||Tarik Skubal||Detroit Tigers|
|85||Adam Wainwright||St. Louis Cardinals|
|86||Justus Sheffield||Seattle Mariners|
|87||Ryan Yarbrough||Tampa Bay Rays|
|88||Kwang-hyun Kim||St. Louis Cardinals|
|89||Jake Odorizzi||Houston Astros|
|90||Noah Syndergaard||New York Mets|
|91||Chris Sale||Boston Red Sox|
|92||Luis Severino||New York Yankees|
|93||Casey Mize||Detroit Tigers|
|94||Robbie Ray||Toronto Blue Jays|
|95||Yusei Kikuchi||Seattle Mariners|
|96||Domingo German||New York Yankees|
|97||Mike Minor||Kansas City Royals|
|98||Madison Bumgarner||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|99||Deivi Garcia||New York Yankees|
|100||Taijuan Walker||New York Mets|