2019 Starting Pitcher Ranking Tiers (Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Mar 15, 2019

Where does an injured Luis Severino rank among starting pitchers?

It seems like strategy alternates each year with pitching. Should you take pitching early, or should you focus on hitting? I reviewed both strategies last month, but either way, there are a lot of starting pitchers available late in drafts.

I want two top-25 pitchers on my team, and then I’m going to grab guys from the later rounds to complete my staff.

Like I did with outfielders and relievers, I’m going to break more than 100 starting pitchers down into tiers to help you with drafts and player evaluation.

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Tier 1 – Old Faithful

I won’t take any of these guys in the first 10 picks, but they are as trustworthy as pitchers come. All will be over 30 years old by the end of the opening week.

Tier 2 – The New Era

The future top tier of aces — minus Kluber — is here. There are few concerns here outside of Kluber, but you could bring up a less-than-elite second half from Cole and Snell potentially reverting to his old lacking control.

Tier 3 – The Final Aces

I’m one of the highest on Taillon in the industry, and he’s my favorite arm of this group. There is a lot of injury risk and general bust risk in this group, but it’s the last tier of guys that I’d be OK with anchoring my staff.

Tier 4 – Just the Two of Us

These two belong in a tier of their own, and this is a perfect place to slot them. Before their injuries, I had Severino in Tier 2 and Kershaw in Tier 3. Both could be huge draft-day values.

Tier 5 – Due for a Letdown

I typically avoid pitchers who just signed a big contract, so I’m out on Corbin this year. I wouldn’t mind a few shares of Paxton and Flaherty, but the Flaherty tax is quite expensive this year.

Tier 6 – Boring With a Little Dash of Spice

This is a boring, but safe tier overall. Berrios and Castillo both have the potential to jump a couple of tiers if they can put it all together this year. Consistency is key for both. I’m out on Clevinger this year. Why draft him when you can wait and get Andrew Heaney or Tyler Skaggs for better value but the same production?

Tier 7 – The Extraordinary League of Gentlemen

This tier is very, very interesting. I’m out on Marquez as a top-20 pitcher, and I’m fading Bumgarner and Foltynewicz, especially with the latter missing Opening Day with an elbow injury. On a per-start basis, Hill is going to be a top-18 pitcher. You just can’t count on volume from him.

Tier 8 – Polarizing Players

There are a lot of polarizing names in this tier. Happ is as safe as they come, but he is underappreciated each year. Ray and Darvish have big bounce-back potential, and I wouldn’t mind a couple of shares of each. Pivetta and Bieber are everyone’s favorite sleepers and breakouts. Skaggs is everyone’s other favorite sleeper pitcher. Musgrove has the potential to put together a top-40 season this year. Keuchel, Porcello, and Hamels are just meh-type pitchers, but sometimes meh is OK.

Tier 9 – Bounce-Back Candidates

Quintana, Godley, and Gray look to rebound this season. I put it at Gray, Godley, and Quintana in order to reach their former peaks. For Rodriguez and Nelson, their production comes down. Glasnow has the best chance to be a top-10 pitcher in a couple of years out of anyone in the next few tiers.

Tier 10 – Uncertainty Throughout

There are going to be inning concerns throughout this tier, so know that going in. Kikuchi should top out around 150 overall or so. There are concerns with Stripling starting the season out of the rotation, but he’ll provide value in those 19 or so starts this year. Lester is the next Arrieta in terms of drop-off, so it’s fitting they are right beside each other.

Tier 11 – 50/50 Split

I think Strahm finds his way into the rotation. I’m fading the second-half performances from Freeland and Gausman. No thank you. Luzardo and Rodon have similar ceilings, but patience with Rodon to reach his is wearing thin.

Tier 12 – Roll of the Dice

Richards and Bundy both have elite strikeout pitches. Stroman is more valuable in points leagues, and I like Weaver as a potential post-hype breakout. He needs that third pitch still, which he has worked on implementing all offseason.

Tier 13 – Fade Hard

Rodriguez, like Freeland, is due for major regression. Boyd and Matz have limited breakout potential, but it’s still there.

Tier 14 – Question Marks

Urias will have his innings limited and is in a crowded situation. Lopez is a future lights-out closer who will have good stretches as a starter this year. Can Sanchez live off his cutter high in the zone again?

Tier 15 – I Don’t Want You In My Bloodline

This tier is filled with guys I want nothing to do with. Pineda is the best option here. If Peralta didn’t rely on his fastball so often and had an assured rotation spot, I’d buy in more.

Tier 16 – Streamer City

I’m in the Widener camp, seemingly alone. He has a chance to be up in early June and help your team in strikeouts. Sanchez, Holland, and Cahill are interesting, but all need health in order to maximize their fantasy value.

Tier 17 – No Ceilings

This is a fun tier. Paddack and Whitley have the chance to be this year’s Buehler and Flaherty. Soroka and Toussaint are battling for one spot. I’m out on both for this year. Toussaint is a future closer, so Soroka gets the nod long term for me. I’d grab Toussaint to start the year with Soroka hurt and look to flip him.

Tier 18 – The End of the Road

Estrada is in the perfect stadium for the way he pitches. Borucki had a nice run to close out the season last year. Velasquez could be helped by Philadelphia’s improved infield defense, similar to Pivetta and Zach Eflin.

Key Takeaways

  • I want two of my top-25 pitchers, but I won’t take Severino or Kershaw as my No. 2 starter. There’s enough inherent risk with pitchers as it is, so why take on more?
  • There are a lot of interesting and high-upside pitchers available in the middle and late rounds. I typically try to make those my No. 4-5 pitchers.
  • After the 12th tier, it gets messy. The younger guys are the only ones I really consider non-streamers.
  • Keep an open spot on your roster to stream pitchers on and off the waiver wire in good matchups.
  • Pay up for one ace, and take a break. Two top-25 guys is perfect, but you’ll be OK if you grab one ace and wait a bit until Tier 6 or 7.

2019 Catcher Rankings Tiers
2019 First Base Rankings Tiers
2019 Second Base Rankings Tiers
2019 Third Base Rankings Tiers
2019 Outfield Rankings Tiers

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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