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Dan Harris’s Updated Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Rankings (2020)

by Dan Harris | @danharris80 | Featured Writer
Jul 14, 2020

A firm rotation spot makes Zac Gallen a top breakout SP to target.

There’s no easy way to say this. Starting pitcher is nearly impossible to evaluate as we head into draft season.

As a fantasy player, the biggest things I try to avoid are variables. The analytical revolution provides even the most casual fantasy player with mountains of data which, while not always predictive, helps to better understand a player’s performance.

But no matter how much you have studied your starting pitcher rankings, and no matter how comfortable you feel with your evaluation of the position, there’s just no way to account for in the delayed season.

The delay, and the current pandemic, will of course have a massive impact on real and fantasy baseball. Players are being tested constantly for COVID-19 and players who are healthy now will almost certainly test positive during the season. Putting all that aside, the starting pitcher position is still a minefield.

Are starting pitchers, who had much of an original spring training, then were shut down, and are now ramping up quickly in an abbreviated summer camp, going to be limited in their innings in the early going? Are managers going to have quicker hooks at the outset because they’ll have expanded rosters and, with them, additional relievers? Are some starters going to piggyback their starts, with each throwing a few innings at a time?

Nobody knows the answer to these questions. Because of our lack of knowledge, I have taken the approach that I’m not going to let them factor into my rankings too much. So, although I’ve considered recovery from spring training injuries and the lack of impact of innings limits, my rankings are, for the most part, what they are.

As you’ll see below, I’m higher than the consensus on Zac Gallen, James Paxton, and Jesus Luzardo, among others. For Gallen, the only question coming into the season was the vague “he may not be in the rotation” rumor. That no longer seems to be a concern. With three plus-pitches and a schedule that will allow him to play in mostly pitcher-friendly venues, I’m comfortable drafting him as a borderline SP2.

I spoke about my love for Paxton with Alex Fast on a recent episode of the FantasyPros Baseball Podcast. He has the seventh-best strikeout rate among qualified starters over the last two seasons, and his massive increase in curveball usage during last season’s final two months explains his success over that span. I’m betting he sticks with it heading into this season and continues to thrive.

As for Luzardo, my guess is his expert consensus ranking has more to do with his positive test for COVID-19 than his projected performance. I have lowered him a few spots, but for now, I’m not taking drastic action. We’ve seen players test positive and already make it back to camp, and there’s been no word on the severity of his symptoms, if any. I view Luzardo’s ranking as cautious but representative of his upside, though I understand that not everyone would be as risk-tolerant as I am with regard to the young flamethrower.

As for pitchers I’m lower on, few jump out as significant in my mind. Mike Soroka, Zack Wheeler, and Hyun-Jin Ryu pitching exclusively against the AL East and NL East this season put a mild damper on their rankings. And I’ll just forever be willing to miss out on Robbie Ray’s eventual breakout season. I’d prefer to wait until he gets his walk rate below four per nine innings.

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Dan Harris is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyPros. For more from Dan, check out his archive or follow him on Twitter @danharris80.

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