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2021 Fantasy Baseball Rankings (NL)

Expert Consensus Ranking (52 of 52 Experts) -

Rank Player (Team, Position) Overall Notes
1 Jacob deGrom (NYM - SP) 5 5.0
deGrom barely missed out on winning his third straight Cy Young Award last year, but it was yet another dominant season. For the third straight year, he came in with a WHIP under 1.00, an ERA under 2.50, and a strikeout percentage above 31%. deGrom is getting up there in age, but it's worth remembering that he has fewer miles on his arm than most pitcher entering their age-33 season, given that he didn't transition to pitching until late in his college career and missed significant time with injuries during his time in the minors. deGrom has shown no decline in his game, and should hopefully (finally) begin to pile on more wins this year pitching for a better team in front of an improved bullpen. He should be the first or second starting pitcher taken and is an obvious first-round pick.
2 Yu Darvish (SD - SP) 12 11.0 -1.0
After a career year in 2020, Darvish moves to San Diego in a trade that shouldn't affect his strong 2021 outlook all that much. Despite his advancing age, Darvish built on the gains he had made over the second half of 2019, finishing with a 2.01 ER, a 0.96 WHIP, and a 31.3% strikeout rate. Darvish's walk rate has declined to a level once thought unattainable for the veteran, a mere 4.7%, which was in the top 8% of MLB in 2020. Although he'll be entering his age-35 season, there's simply nothing in Darvish's numbers, metrics, or statcast data that points to a decline. If you are desperate to find a negative, it's a move from the weak-hitting NL Central to the much stronger NL West, but that's hardly a reason to avoid Darvish. Draft him as an easy top-10 starter, and more like a top-5 option.
3 Trevor Bauer (LAD - SP) 13 8.0 -5.0
Bauer capped off a Cy Young season by signing a massive deal with the Dodgers. There's no other way to describe Bauer's 2020 season other than utterly dominant. A 1.73 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP, and a 36% strikeout rate. Notably, the spin rate on almost all of his pitched jumped dramatically, and every single one of them was more effective than we'd previously seen. Bauer had an outstanding season in 2018 and followed it up with a sub-par 2019, so we shouldn't take for granted that he'll be the best pitcher in baseball for the second season in a row. But on the best team in baseball with a near bulletproof 2020 resume, he should be drafted as a top-five starter and a second-round pick.
4 Walker Buehler (LAD - SP) 14 14.0
Because the Dodgers wanted to closely watch Buehler's routine and workload, he got a late start to the shortened season, essentially using his first few starts as the end of his spring training. He also dealt with blisters late in the year. All that to say, Buehler's 36 2/3 regular-season innings are, for the most part, largely meaningless. He gave up a few more home runs and walked a few more batters than usual, and he won just a single game. But none of it matters. Value Buehler as you did after his 2019 season - as one of the true stud pitchers in the game. Once the big three of Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, and Shane Bieber are off the board, Buehler should come under immediate consideration, as the type of starting pitcher who can be your fantasy ace.
5 Aaron Nola (PHI - SP) 15 15.0
Nola bounced back from his disappointing 2019 campaign, and looked much closer to the 2018 breakout version of himself last year. His set a career mark in strikeout rate (33.2%, which ranked in the top nine percent in the league) and swinging strike rate (13.4%), and brought his walk rate down to just eight percent. Nola also got batters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone at a rate of 38.1%, far better than he had ever done in his career, and they made contact less than ever, at a rate of only 59.1%. The reason for the change was Nola relying far less on his fastball and more on his changeup, which kept hitters off balance and made both pitches more effective. Nola doesn't throw particularly hard, so his success relies much more on command and finding the right pitch mix, both of which he excelled at in 2020. If he can keep that going in 2021, and it's a good bet he will, he should be considered a fantasy ace.
6 Max Scherzer (NYM - SP) 16 16.0
Scherzer had a decent season for a mortal, but for someone with his career track record, it was a major disappointment. His 3.74 ERA was his highest since 2012, his 1.38 WHIP the highest of his career, and his 7.8% walk percentage his worst in a decade. Scherzer still struck out plenty of batters but entering his age-37 season and with a ton of mileage on his arm, it's only fair to accept that the old Scherzer is gone for good. But though he may not be a consensus top-three starter anymore, he's still perfectly capable of being a fantasy ace. After all, Scherzer's velocity hasn't declined much, and his 31.2% strikeout rate was tied for 10th among starters. Scherzer likely won't reach 200 innings pitched again and his ERA seems destined to remain above 3.00 going forward, but he's far from someone to avoid in fantasy drafts.
7 Jack Flaherty (STL - SP) 18 18.0
Flaherty ended up with a 4.91 ERA, but that hardly represents his actual performance, given that he allowed nine runs in a three-inning start in September. If you take out that outing, Flaherty had just a 3.13 ERA, and he didn't allow more than three earned runs in any of his eight other starts. Given that Flaherty's season was shorter than most due to the Cardinals' COVID-19 issues, it's fair to essentially throw out at that one abysmal outing, considering his other numbers were relatively consistent from 2019. Indeed, his swinging strike rate improved, as did his K/9 rate and ground ball percentage. With his devastating slider, Flaherty should still be considered one of the top pitchers in the real and fantasy game, and is capable of fronting a fantasy staff.
8 Luis Castillo (CIN - SP) 20 17.0 -3.0
Castillo turned in another excellent season last year, cutting his walk rate and striking out batters at a higher rate than he ever had in his career. His WHIP increased to a career-worst 1.23, but that was largely due to bad luck, as batters hit .232 against him despite an expected batting average of just .212. Nevertheless, Castillo kept runs off the board, largely because he was able to avoid home runs (just five in 70 innings) and limit free passes. Castillo is capable of fronting a fantasy pitching staff, though he's more of a low-end ace, and there are plenty of trade rumors following him around. But, given his reliable production and increased strikeout rate the past two seasons, he can be drafted with confidence.
9 Brandon Woodruff (MIL - SP) 21 21.0
There were some skeptics after Woodruff succeeded in 2019 based largely on one pitch - his devastating fastball - but he put those concerns to rest in 2020. His ERA (3.05) and WHIP (0.99) were incredibly strong, particularly when you consider that he struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings. Woodruff's fastball hits rests at 96 MPH and is one of the better pitches in baseball, but his slider and changeup both made strides last year. The Brewers are reportedly planning to add about 100 innings to their starter's workloads last season, so pencil Woodruff in for roughly 175 extremely strong frames. You can survive with him as your fantasy ace, though he's best as an incredibly strong number 2.
10 Blake Snell (SD - SP) 24 23.0 -1.0
Snell moves to the Padres fresh off a solid year, in which he pitched to a 3.24 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, with a memorable early exit in the World Series. Snell has a checkered injury history and has pitched just 157 innings over the past two years, so don't expect him to be a big innings-eater in 2021. And, although he'll escape the dreaded AL East, he'll get a downgrade in park and defense, which largely makes the move a neutral one. All that said, Snell has plenty of talent as he's shown throughout his career, and should be able to pile up wins and strikeouts pitching for a strong Padres team. Draft him as an SP2 with upside.
11 Josh Hader (MIL - RP) 28 27.0 -1.0
Hader wasn't quite as dominant as he had been the previous two years, largely due to a spike in walk rate and the slightest of declines in strikeout rate. But he still tallied 13 saves, third-best in baseball, and had a miniscule 0.95 WHIP. If you parse it closely, it was just a bizarre season for Hader, who didn't give up a run through his first nine appearances, but subsequently allowed four runs in an inning. He walked five batters in a game, but didn't allow a single walk in any game after that, a span of 11 appearances. In other words, there seems to be a lot of noise in Hader's "decline," which likely would have been ironed out over the course of a full season. Draft him as the top closer off the board with few concerns.
12 Corbin Burnes (MIL - SP,RP) 30 28.0 -2.0
Burnes's raw stuff was apparent to anyone who saw him pitch in 2019, but he simply couldn't stop giving up home runs (17 in 49 innings). The culprit was largely his four-seam fastball, which he threw more than half of the time and against which batters hit .425 with an .823 slugging percentage. In 2020, however, Corbin cut his four-seam fastball usage from 52.5% to just 2.5%. In its place, he relied heavily on a sinker and cutter, both of which worked better for the natural action on his pitches and which were highly effective. Considering that his slider, changeup, and curveball are also huge swing and miss pitches, Burnes's 36.7% strikeout rate from last year shouldn't be considered fluky. Even coming off a Cy Young-caliber season, there's still upside for the 26-year-old, and you should ignore entirely his 2019 disaster.
13 Stephen Strasburg (WSH - SP) 34 29.0 -5.0
Strasburg was limited to just five innings in 2020, with an injury that eventually required carpal tunnel syndrome. Although that's a minor surgery, the truth is that fantasy managers have very little data as to the impact and/or successful recovery rate after that surgery for pitchers. Strasburg's a tricky draft pick in any given year - he always provides strong value when he's on the mound, but has only topped 200 innings pitched twice in his career. Now entering his age-33 season, Strasburg will likely again provide excellent overall numbers assuming he is healthy. He looks great in the spring, though he's currently battling a minor calf injury, though it shouldn't keep him out for long. Draft him as an SP2, but anything more than 160 innings is gravy.
14 Kyle Hendricks (CHC - SP) 36 36.0
Hendricks is the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy pitchers in that he never gets the respect he deserves. He's had an ERA above 3.46 once in his career and he's never had a WHIP higher than 1.19. Yes, his strikeout rate is never going to help fantasy managers, but Dave Ross let him go deeper into games last year (Hendricks' 81 innings pitched were among the most in MLB), so he should make up for his lack of strikeout rate with some additional innings. The Cubs probably won't be a great team but the NL Central has mostly weak offenses, so Hendricks should find his way to enough wins to make a difference. Ignore the fact that he outperforms his expected metrics every year. Hendricks is a reliable, high-end SP3 for a fantasy team. Just be sure to take care of strikeouts elsewhere.
15 Edwin Diaz (NYM - RP) 37 38.0 +1.0
Diaz's overall numbers bounced back in a monstrous way last season. He dropped his ERA from a bloated 5.59 in 2019 to a 1.75, and upped his strikeout rate to a career-best 45.5%. He was among the league leaders in nearly every expected statistic (batting average, slugging percentage wOBA, and ERA), and he cut his HR/9 rate from 2.33 to just 0.70. Diaz's walk rate actually regressed, however, as he issued free passes to nearly five batters per nine innings. That's not often a recipe for success from a closer, but Diaz can survive at that rate if he continues to keep the strikeouts up and limit the long balls. In the end, Diaz does carry some risk given his history, but he should be drafted as one of the upper echelon closers in the game, if not a touch behind the truly elite options.
16 Sonny Gray (CIN - SP) 38 42.0 +4.0
Two dreadful starts late in the season severely hurt what was otherwise a strong 2020 campaign for Gray, though it was a bizarre year. His strikeout rate surpassed 30% for the first time in his career, while his walk rate jumped to 11.1%. He was also far more hittable, particularly his slider and curveball, which had been dominant pitches in 2019. But even if Gray simply repeats his 2020 season, his strikeout rate and decent ERA and WHIP should be enough to make him a borderline SP2 for fantasy leagues. He will likely begin the year on the IL after experiencing back spasms in mid-March, but the injury doesn't sound like it will keep him out for long. Considering we've seen much more than that from him in 2019, fantasy managers should have little hesitation drafting him.
17 Max Fried (ATL - SP) 39 31.0 -8.0
In many ways, Fried regressed during his 2020 season. His strikeout rate dropped, his walk rate increased, and his xFIP and SIERA jumped significantly. Nevertheless, thanks to his ability to limit hard contact (his 83.4 MPH average exit velocity and 23.8% hard hit rate allowed were among the best in MLB) led to a massive drop in BABIP allowed, and kept both his ERA and WHIP in check. It's hard to buy a pitcher without an elite strikeout rate whose underlying numbers don't fully support his gains. Nevertheless, Fried was an elite prospect playing on an excellent team, and is just 27 years old. Don't pay for last year's numbers, but don't run away from him in drafts either.
18 Zack Wheeler (PHI - SP) 40 40.0
Wheeler's first season in Philadelphia was a success, in that he had the lowest ERA of his career (2.92) and a strong 1.17 WHIP. But his strikeout numbers plummeted, as he struck out just 18.4% of batters. The whiff rate on all of Wheeler's pitches, other than his "show me" curveball, dropped significantly, despite the fact that his velocity remained the same. If Wheeler can again excel at completely limiting hard contact like he did last season (his 85.7 MPH average exit velocity allowed ranked in the top 10% in baseball), then he can probably get away with the lack of strikeouts. Otherwise, he's unlikely to repeat his 2020 success. Given the shortened season, it's a good bet that Wheeler's strikeouts will bounce back, and you can slot him in as an SP3 without much worry.
19 Charlie Morton (ATL - SP) 44 50.0 +6.0
Morton's 2020 numbers were poor, without question. He was limited to just 38 regular season innings because of a shoulder injury, and pitched to a 4.74 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. His velocity was way down early in the season (when he got hit hard) and trickled up after he returned, but he got back to his normal 95 MPH fastball in the postseason and totaled a 2.70 ERA. Now 37 and with the Braves, the question is whether fantasy managers can write off Morton's down 2020 season considering his sterling post-season, or whether his age and injury history means they should avoid him. In reality, the answer is neither. Morton should still have gas left in the tank considering his playoff run, but should only be drafted as a value, meaning no earlier than a low-end SP3. Grab him there, at which point the risk-reward balance should reach an equilibrium.
20 Jesus Luzardo (MIA - SP,RP) 45 47.0 +2.0
Luzardo's 2020 campaign wasn't terrible, but it certainly left fantasy managers wanting more. The strikeouts were there, but not quite at the level that was expected. He rarely went deep into games. And he was just more hittable than he ever was in the minors or in his brief time as a reliever in 2019. Luzardo throws four quality pitches and is working to improve his arsenal as we head into the 2021 season, so there's little reason to downgrade your opinion of him too much from where it was prior to the 2020 campaign because of one nine-start stretch. He's an incredibly high-upside pitcher who carries with him plenty of injury risk, and the combination leaves him as a solid SP3 for fantasy leagues.
21 Chris Paddack (SD - SP) 47 44.0 -3.0
Paddack followed up his stellar rookie campaign with a subpar sophomore season, as his ERA rose to 4.73 and his WHIP to 1.22, while his strikeout rate dipped below one per inning. Paddack's bread and butter changeup was as good as ever in 2020 (and even better than in 2019), but his usually outstanding fastball just fell apart. After batters hit .204 with a .391 slugging percentage and .275 wOBA against the pitch in 2019, they hit .308 with a .658 slugging percentage and .407 wOBA against it in 2020. Paddack added a cutter in 2020, and it's possible that the addition of the pitch impacted the way he threw his fastball, as the vertical movement of it fell significantly. Either way, Paddack has too much talent to see his ERA hover around 5.00. There's risk given what we saw last year, but it's baked into his draft price.
22 Ian Anderson (ATL - SP) 50 41.0 -9.0
After rising through the minor leagues, Anderson had an excellent debut season with the Braves in 2020, pitching to a 1.95 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with a 29.7% strikeout rate. He was even better in four postseason starts, allowing just two runs over 18 2/3 innings while striking out 24. Anderson led all starters in barrel rate (just 1.2%), and has an excellent fastball, curveball, and changeup. His control isn't elite, but his raw stuff and prospect pedigree suggest that his 2020 season was no fluke. Draft him with confidence as a No. 2 starter.
23 Dinelson Lamet (SD - RP,SP) 52 49.0 -3.0
Lamet had a dominant curveball in 2019 which he threw 31.7% of the time. Batters hit just .105 against it that year with a .193 wOBA. But Lamet ditched it entirely in 2020, and instead replaced it by greatly upping his slider usage, from 12.2% in 2019 to 53.4% in 2020. And somehow, his slider was even better than his curveball ever was. Batters hit 0.80 against it with a .120 slugging percentage and a .141 wOBA. It was, simply put, the best pitch in baseball last year. Unfortunately, Lamet's arm couldn't hold up to the stress, and he missed the end of the regular season and the playoffs because of an elbow injury. He underwent PRP therapy on his elbow in October and is progressing well, but the Padres' focus on adding starting pitching this offseason suggests that they are not expecting to have Lamet for the full season. Monitor his health this spring, but understand that even if he begins the year healthy, there are plenty of injury concerns.
24 Joe Musgrove (SD - SP) 54 60.0 +6.0
Musgrove has been a popular sleeper the last two seasons and now that he's been traded to the Padres, his ADP is surely going to rise. In 2019, Musgrove continued to improve as a pitcher, upping his strikeout rate and adding velocity. But his 2020 season looked like a step back, until he returned from the IL strong, including finishing his season with back-to-back scoreless outings while getting back some of the lost zip on his fastball. Overall, Musgrove's 2020 numbers suggest a breakout waiting to happen, as he built significantly on his gains in 2019, increasing his strikeout rate to 33.1%. His chances for wins should improve dramatically in San Diego, and he's a fine fourth starter with upside.
25 Zac Gallen (ARI - SP) 53 39.0 -14.0
Gallen has a hairline stress fracture of his right forearm at the radial head. He's reportedly going to be able to continue playing catch at a "low stress level" while recovering, though there's no indication of how much time he'll miss. When healthy, he's a solid SP2. He built on his excellent 2019 season with an even more impressive 2020 campaign. Not only did he drop his ERA slightly to 2.75, but he cut way down on his walks (10.8% to 8.6%), which led to a much-improved 1.11 WHIP. Gallen has a 28.5% strikeout rate in 152 MLB innings, and an excellent fastball, curveball, and changeup. There's just not much negative you can say about him when he's healthy other than he might again struggle for wins playing for a mediocre team in a good division. Because of the injury and surrounding uncertainty, you shouldn't draft him as anything higher than an SP4, but he should perform extremely well when he does recover.
26 Patrick Corbin (WSH - SP) 57 59.0 +2.0
Corbin had a disastrous 2020 season, during which he went 2-7 with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. His strikeout rate plummeted, and his velocity dropped significantly, with his fastball seeing a dip of almost two miles per hour. Corbin leans heavily into his slider, and he needs it to be pristine to be an effective pitcher. And although it wasn't a terrible pitch in 2020, the swinging strike rate on it dropped from 28.1% to 21.2%, and the whiff rate from 52% to just 38.2%. If the loss in velocity and effectiveness of his slider were entirely due to the oddities of the shortened season, then Corbin is going to be a major value in drafts this year. But if not, then his days as a "set it and forget it" starter are likely over. Monitor Corbin's performance this spring, particularly with his velocity. If it's back up to prior levels, then push him up your board significantly.
27 Julio Urias (LAD - SP,RP) 60 56.0 -4.0
Urias had an interesting season (other than his postseason, which was dominant). His numbers overall were very solid, with a 3.27 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. But his strikeout rate dipped dramatically as a full-time starter, and his SIERA (4.88) and xFIP (5.06) suggest he got lucky. But the bottom line is that Urias is excellent at limiting hard contact, and he's allowed just a .257 BABIP over the last two seasons, which should keep his ERA in check. The Dodgers' rotation is overflowing, so it's possible they continue to limit Urias's innings. But for now, he should be considered an SP3, and as his playoffs showed, there's plenty of room for growth with his strikeout numbers.
28 Pablo Lopez (MIA - SP) 62 65.0 +3.0
Despite his 5.09 ERA and mediocre strikeout rate in 2019, there was some buzz about Lopez heading into last season because of his outstanding changeup and his ability to keep his WHIP in check. He justified the expectations, cutting his ERA to 3.61 and striking out about a batter and a half more per nine innings than he had previously. He's still volatile, as he has seemingly random games where he lacks command with his changeup and gets hit hard. And he needs another pitch to complement his fastball and changeup. But if he can continue to develop either his curveball or cutter, he could be a true breakout candidate. Draft him as an SP4 with upside for more if his other pitches continue to improve.
29 Sandy Alcantara (MIA - SP) 68 61.0 -7.0
Alcantara continued to build on what was a pretty strong foundation heading into 2020. He lowered his ERA to 3.00 and his WHIP to 1.19, and improved in both his strikeout and walk rate while adding velocity. He pitched only 42 innings last year because of COVID-19 issues, but he dominated over the latter three-quarters of the season, pitching to a 2.30 ERA with 30 strikeouts over his final 31 1/3 innings. There's not a ton to dislike about Alcantara, and there's room for continued growth. Draft him as a fourth starter with upside for more.
30 Sixto Sanchez (MIA - SP) 70 64.0 -6.0
Sanchez built on his strong 2019 season in Double-A with an excellent seven-start stretch in the majors, during which he put up a 3.46 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Sanchez throws really hard (his fastball velocity is in the 98th percentile), but he doesn't put up a ton of strikeouts, either in the minors or during his stint in the majors last year. But his outstanding changeup (.148 BAA, .148 slugging against, .158 wOBA against) keeps hitters off balance, and allows him to avoid giving up too much hard contact. Combine that with his well above-average control and his almost comical ability to avoid giving up home runs, and you have a quality pitcher who can slide into the middle of your staff.
31 Carlos Carrasco (NYM - SP,RP) 72 54.0 -18.0
Carrasco suffered a serious hamstring strain in mid-March which is likely to keep him out 6-8 weeks. It's a devastating blow to the veteran who returned strong from his battle with leukemia in 2019 to post a 2.91 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 2020. There was plenty to like about Carrasco in New York, including that the Mets will provide him with a better chance at wins, their infield defense should be above average, and Carrasco will play in a more favorable park. But at this point, he's nothing more than a bench starter for your fantasy team given his injury.
32 German Marquez (COL - SP) 76 79.0 +3.0
If Marquez ever extricates himself from Colorado, you'd probably have a bona fide superstar on your hands. As it is, you have a very solid overall pitcher who won't really help you out tremendously in any category, but won't hurt you badly either. Marquez's control is above average, and although his strikeout rate has dipped in two consecutive seasons, he has the ability to miss bats regularly. His value rises in leagues with daily lineup changes as you can avoid him at home (career 5.10 ERA) and start him on the road (career 3.51 ERA). But, absent that, consider him a back-end of the rotation starter in deeper leagues.
33 Tyler Mahle (CIN - SP) 78 78.0
Mahle's solid 2020 season (3.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) will probably slip under the radar, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about him with a guaranteed spot in the Reds rotation. His strikeout rate jumped to 30% on the back of a 4.4% increase in his swinging strike rate, and he had just a .188 expected batting average against, top 10% in the league. The biggest change for Mahle was that he brought back a slider that he had shelved entirely in 2019, and batters hit just .180 against the pitch with a .249 wOBA. He could do well to cut down on his walks a bit, but still, as a fifth starter for your fantasy team, there's plenty of potential for profit.
34 Mike Soroka (ATL - SP) 79 76.0 -3.0
Soroka pitched in just three games last year before rupturing his Achilles tendon. He's progressing well but the best case scenario for him appears to be a late-April return. When healthy, he's someone who fantasy managers can rely on as an ERA and WHIP stabilizer, who should contribute plenty of wins. The strikeouts won't be there, however, and given that he's coming off a significant injury, the Braves will likely be extra cautious with him when he does start. All that to say, don't draft Soroka expecting much more than 100-120 innings out of him. If you do that, you'll likely be happy with your return on investment.
35 Marcus Stroman (CHC - SP) 80 86.0 +6.0
Stroman missed the entire 2020 season after battling a calf injury and then opting out, but he'll return to the Mets after accepting the team's qualifying offer. Stroman's strikeout rate jumped after his trade to the National League, but with a career 58.7% ground ball rate, he'll need the Mets' infield defense to be better than it was in 2019. The trade for Francisco Lindor should help, as should his reported development of both a new split changeup and four-seam fastball. Stroman has always had a decent floor, but now out of the AL East and with some tweaks to his arsenal coming, he possesses plenty of upside as a late-round draft pick.
36 Devin Williams (MIL - RP) 82 73.0 -9.0
You have to hand it to the Brewers - they produce relievers who put up historically great seasons. Williams wasn't just good in 2020 - he was truly beyond belief. A 0.33 ERA. One run and eight hits allowed in 27 innings. A 44% K-BB%. Williams has battled injuries for much of his career, but given what he did last year, he should be drafted among the elite fantasy relievers in the game. Even if he never gets a save chance with Josh Hader in front of him, his ratios make him more than worth it.
37 Will Smith (ATL - RP) 83 75.0 -8.0
Smith had a rough 2020 season, losing several weeks to a bout with COVID-19 and being far less effective than usual when he did pitch. His dominant slider just wasn't the same, as batters hit .263 (after never hitting better than .193) and tallied a .398 wOBA (after never totaling higher than .282) against it. But Brian Snitker appears to be willing to throw out Smith's poor season almost entirely. Although he hasn't named Smith the closer, he has professed his confidence in him, and there's been speculation from beat writers that Smith will ultimately win the role after a battle with Chris Martin and A.J. Minter. Draft Smith as the presumptive closer unless you hear otherwise from Braves camp.
38 Andrew Heaney (LAD - RP,SP) 88 89.0 +1.0
Heaney is a fine pitcher, but it feels like he has a lot more to him than his career 4.44 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. His fastball is hittable and he throws it often, and his curveball isn't quite good enough to offset the damage. He was outspoken about working this offseason to become less predictable, so hopefully that manifests itself in his 2021 performance. But there's no reason to draft him as anything but a pitcher who will give you decent strikeouts and mediocre ratios, hopefully as someone you can use on your bench and stream in the right matchup.
39 Zach Eflin (PHI - SP) 91 82.0 -9.0
40 David Price (LAD - RP,SP) 92 81.0 -11.0
Price was traded to the Dodgers along with Mookie Betts, but hasn't yet made a start with the team after opting out of the 2020 season. He'll be back for 2021, but his role isn't yet solidified according to reports, especially considering the extreme depth of the Dodgers' rotation. When healthy, even at his advanced age, Price is still a quality major league starter, with above-average strikeout and walk rates. The issue for Price is really health, as he's averaged only about 120 innings per season over his previous three years. His average draft position reflects the risk, and assuming he does end up in the rotation, he offers as much upside as anyone going in his range. There's still juice left for Price when he's healthy, so monitor reports out of the spring.
41 Dustin May (LAD - SP,RP) 94 90.0 -4.0
May has been named the Dodgers' fifth starter by Dave Roberts, a surprising twist given the presence of David Price and Tony Gonsolin. Given the Dodgers' depth and their history, it's unlikely that he'll remain in the rotation from start to finish, but if you haven't drafted yet, move him significantly higher on your board.
42 Amir Garrett (CIN - RP) 97 96.0 -1.0
Garrett cut way down on his walks in 2020 and had the best season of his career, striking out 37.7% of the batters he faced. He also retired the first batter he faced in every inning, and completely dominated against left-handed hitters. He's in the mix to be the Reds' closer with Lucas Sims and Sean Doolittle, and he's been vocal about wanting the job. He's probably the first reliever to draft out of Cincinnati until there's some clarity, but it's far from a sure thing that he'll be the everyday closer.
43 Elieser Hernandez (MIA - SP,RP) 104 114.0 +10.0
Hernandez was excellent in his six starts last season, tallying a 3.16 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP, and a 32.1% strikeout rate. But he allowed a lot of hard contact along the way, including a 91.8 MPH average exit velocity (bottom three percent in the league). He worked on his changeup this offseason in an effort to add a reliable third pitch (he threw his fastball and slider 94% of the time last year), and it has gotten rave reviews in camp. He's fourth in the pecking order of the Marlins starters, but if his changeup can be an effective pitch, he might be the one to provide the most value given his extremely modest ADP.
44 Freddy Peralta (MIL - SP,RP) 105 116.0 +11.0
45 Jordan Hicks (STL - RP) 101 91.0 -10.0
Hicks is likely to serve as the Cardinals' closer this year if he can show that he has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. He totaled 20 saves from 2018-2019 before hurting his elbow, and then opted out of last season, in part because of setbacks in his recovery. Early reports from the spring are promising, and it seems that the Cardinals want him and his 100+ MPH fastball to lead the way in the ninth inning. Monitor his health in the spring, but draft him late for now and expect saves so long as he is healthy.
46 Drew Pomeranz (SD - SP,RP) 119 93.0 -26.0
Pomeranz likely would have, at the very least, factored into the closer's mix for San Diego prior to the Mark Melancon and Keone Kela signings. After finally switching into a full-time reliever role last year, Pomeranz shined, with a 1.45 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, and a 39.7% strikeout rate. Although he may still be in line for save opportunities, the presence of Melancon, Kela, and Emilio Pagan muddy the waters. That's especially true given that Pomeranz is currently the only healthy and reliable left-hander in the bullpen. Pomeranz is worth a late selection until and unless Jayce Tingler declares that he's not an option for the ninth inning.
47 Tony Gonsolin (LAD - SP,RP) 117 113.0 -4.0
Gonsolin doesn't have a guaranteed spot in the Dodgers' rotation to start the season, and with the team signing Trevor Bauer, it's unclear just how much he'll start this season. His stuff doesn't blow you away, but he's got a 2.60 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in 86.2 big league innings. And there were gains last year, as he cut his walk rate down and upped his strikeout rate. Gonsolin is an ideal candidate to have on your bench, because if he does get a spot in the rotation, he'll be a popular waiver wire add, and he can add value as a reliever in the meantime. So draft him late, and likely reap the rewards.
48 Emilio Pagan (SD - RP) 113 110.0 -3.0
49 Anthony Bass (MIA - RP) 120 126.0 +6.0
Bass will likely be in the mix for saves with Yimi Garcia (and possibly Dylan Floro) after he signed a two-year deal with the Marlins. He lacks the typical strikeout stuff of most closers, but he's totaled 12 saves, a 3.54 ERA, and a 0.99 WHIP over the past two years. Bass is an extreme ground ball pitcher (62.3% ground ball rate last year), which is how he's able to survive without big time stuff. But Don Mattingly likely won't name a closer until the end of spring training, so draft Bass late for now, but have plenty of other bullpen options.
50 Giovanny Gallegos (STL - RP) 125 128.0 +3.0
Gallegos pitched well last year with the Cardinals despite seeing limited innings because of his difficulty in getting to the states in the middle of a pandemic. But he was effective when he pithed, and owns a career 3.06 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 31.6% strikeout rate. The Cardinals want Jordan Hicks to be their closer, but Gallegos will undoubtedly be in the mix should Hick prove ineffective or suffer a setback in his return from Tommy John surgery.
51 Jake McGee (SF - RP) 114 119.0 +5.0
52 Mark Melancon (ARI - RP) 128 118.0 -10.0
Melancon had another fine year as the Braves' closer, and now joins the back end of the Padres bullpen. It's unclear if he'll serve as the closer, a Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan also may have a claim to the role. Melancon is entering his age-36 season and his strikeout rate is mediocre at best. Although he is still performing well, his lack of pure stuff suggests that the wheels could come off at any moment. That said, he'll have plenty of value if he can earn the ninth-inning role, so monitor the reports out of spring, and draft him late until and unless he's officially ruled out for the role.
53 Daniel Bard (COL - RP) 134 112.0 -22.0
Bard comes into 2021 as the Rockies' presumptive closer, after he came out of a two-year retirement to pitch in the majors for the first time since 2013. Bard's control problems, which derailed his career, were largely solved, and his 3.65 ERA and 1.30 WHIP were more than passable for a Colorado closer. Mychal Givens remains, and Scott Oberg will try to pitch effectively after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery, but if Bard can maintain his control, he'll likely earn and hold the closer's job.
54 Madison Bumgarner (ARI - SP) 132 132.0
55 Taijuan Walker (NYM - SP) 136 124.0 -12.0
56 Trevor Rogers (MIA - SP) 145 142.0 -3.0
57 Josh Lindblom (MIL - RP,SP) MiLB 152 173.0 +21.0
58 Tejay Antone (CIN - SP,RP) 144 155.0 +11.0
Antone's role wasn't entirely clear at the outset of spring training, but he now looks destined for a starter's job, if he can stay healthy. With Sonny Gray and Wade Miley likely to begin the year on the IL, Antone should begin the year in the rotation, assuming he is healthy enough to do so. He's currently battling a groin strain, and his status is uncertain. When healthy, he's got a wipeout slider, enough to pile on the strikeouts, and has enough upside to be worth a late-round dart throw. Monitor his, Gray's, and Miley's health status closely heading into your drafts.
59 Trevor May (NYM - RP) 138 153.0 +15.0
60 Alex Reyes (STL - RP) 150 175.0 +25.0
61 Seth Lugo (NYM - SP,RP) 139 138.0 -1.0
62 MacKenzie Gore (SD - SP) 166 147.0 -19.0
63 Lucas Sims (CIN - SP,RP) 147 191.0 +44.0
Sims had a fine 2020, going 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA a 0.94 WHIP, and plenty of strikeouts. He'll be in the mix for the Reds' closer job with Amir Garrett and Sean Doolittle, though his early bout with elbow soreness this spring doesn't help him. Monitor the reports out of spring training, but he's a late-round speculative draft pick at best at the moment.
64 Caleb Smith (ARI - RP,SP) 151 144.0 -7.0
65 Logan Webb (SF - SP) 168 214.0 +46.0
66 Luke Weaver (ARI - SP) 161 193.0 +32.0
67 Brusdar Graterol (LAD - RP) 165 135.0 -30.0
68 Mitch Keller (PIT - SP) 164 161.0 -3.0
In his brief MLB career, Keller is the author of one of the unluckiest (2019) and luckiest (2020) seasons in recent memory. So, the best course of action is to essentially ignore his 69 major league innings and focus on his stuff and minor league career. If you do that, there's a lot to like. Keller has a mid-90s fastball to go along with an above average slider and curveball. Over more than 500 minor league innings, he had a 25.5% strikeout rate, a 3.12 ERA, and a 1.15 WHIP. He will likely struggle for wins on the Pirates, but he'll also get a long leash given the dearth of reliable options, and he should face mostly weak offenses in the NL Central. Keller likely won't be a star, but he'll probably outperform where you need to draft him.
69 Tyler Matzek (ATL - RP) 154 158.0 +4.0
70 Stefan Crichton (ARI - RP) MiLB 167 137.0 -30.0
Crichton filled in admirably for Archie Bradley after Bradley was traded last season. His strikeout numbers weren't particularly impressive, but he had a 2.42 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, and tallied five saves. He doesn't have prototypical "closer's stuff," but he's more than capable of getting major league hitters out. The Diamondbacks signed Joakim Soria to a one-year deal (and added Tyler Clippard, too), so Crichton seems unlikely to begin the year as the closer, even though it's an open competition at the moment. He's not worth anything other than an extremely late-round pick as a speculative ninth-inning option.
71 Brent Suter (MIL - SP,RP) 172 165.0 -7.0
72 Victor Gonzalez (LAD - RP) 173 130.0 -43.0
73 Jose Alvarado (PHI - RP) 163 213.0 +50.0
74 Adbert Alzolay (CHC - RP,SP) 175 178.0 +3.0
75 Anthony DeSclafani (SF - SP) 176 198.0 +22.0
76 Miles Mikolas (STL - SP) 182 204.0 +22.0
77 Merrill Kelly (ARI - SP) 177 200.0 +23.0
78 Tanner Rainey (WSH - RP) 179 209.0 +30.0
79 Kyle Gibson (PHI - SP,RP) 185 148.0 -37.0
80 Jose Quintana (PIT - SP,RP) 169 171.0 +2.0
81 Dakota Hudson (STL - SP) 191 300.0 +109.0
82 Blake Treinen (LAD - RP) 198 160.0 -38.0
83 Kyle Wright (ATL - SP) 200 230.0 +30.0
84 Adam Wainwright (STL - SP) 196 133.0 -63.0
85 Hunter Harvey (SF - RP) 195 181.0 -14.0
Harvey strained his oblique in spring training and was placed on the 60-day IL, meaning he's unlikely to contribute as the Orioles' designated closer, which was unlikely anyway with Brandon Hyde as the manager. Harvey had a ton of buzz heading into last season, but a strained forearm ultimately limited him to just 8 2/3 innings. He's got a dominant fastball that can reach triple digits, but his injury history has been a roadblock to him becoming a regular and reliable reliever. Hyde likes to go by committee anyway, and Harvey's injury should give him the chance to do just that again. Perhaps spend a last-round pick on Harvey, but better yet, leave him undrafted.
86 Alex Wood (SF - SP,RP) 202 239.0 +37.0
87 Adrian Morejon (SD - SP,RP) 201 233.0 +32.0
88 JT Brubaker (PIT - SP) 181 222.0 +41.0
89 J.B. Wendelken (ARI - RP) 204 168.0 -36.0
90 Will Harris (WSH - RP) 218    
91 Adrian Houser (MIL - SP,RP) 194 223.0 +29.0
92 Joey Lucchesi (NYM - SP) 190 254.0 +64.0
93 A.J. Minter (ATL - RP) 192 237.0 +45.0
94 Alex Cobb (SF - SP) 217 246.0 +29.0
95 Alec Mills (CHC - SP,RP) 223 143.0 -80.0
96 Steven Matz (STL - SP) 224 182.0 -42.0
97 Dylan Floro (MIA - RP) 227 304.0 +77.0
98 Pierce Johnson (SD - RP) 230 290.0 +60.0
99 Darren O'Day (ATL - RP) MiLB 226 207.0 -19.0
100 Rowan Wick (CHC - RP) 216 250.0 +34.0
101 Connor Brogdon (PHI - RP) 231 283.0 +52.0
102 Daniel Hudson (LAD - RP) 206 167.0 -39.0
103 Corey Knebel (PHI - RP,SP) 208 257.0 +49.0
104 David Peterson (NYM - SP) 212 202.0 -10.0
105 Duane Underwood Jr. (PIT - RP) 213 315.0 +102.0
106 Justin Topa (MIL - RP) 241    
107 Tommy Kahnle (LAD - RP) 247    
108 Tyler Rogers (SF - RP) 236 263.0 +27.0
109 Kevin Ginkel (ARI - RP) MiLB 233 281.0 +48.0
110 Genesis Cabrera (STL - RP) 222 288.0 +66.0
111 Wade Miley (CHC - SP) 303 258.0 -45.0
112 Codi Heuer (CHC - RP) 228 284.0 +56.0
113 Jeff Hoffman (CIN - SP,RP) 229 291.0 +62.0
114 Antonio Senzatela (COL - SP) 254 225.0 -29.0
115 Austin Gomber (COL - SP,RP) 283 219.0 -64.0
116 Miguel Castro (NYM - RP) 234 327.0 +93.0
117 Tim Hill (SD - RP) 252    
118 Craig Stammen (SD - RP,SP) 245    
119 Kyle Freeland (COL - SP) 263 218.0 -45.0
120 Chris Stratton (PIT - SP,RP) 239 292.0 +53.0
121 David Bednar (PIT - RP) 243 285.0 +42.0
122 Scott Oberg (COL - RP) 260 259.0 -1.0
123 Jarlin Garcia (SF - RP) 271    
124 Jacob Webb (ATL - RP) 274    
125 Bryse Wilson (PIT - SP) 321 260.0 -61.0
126 Eric Lauer (MIL - SP) 317 293.0 -24.0
127 Keynan Middleton (ARI - RP) NRI 269    
128 Austin Adams (SD - RP) 265    
129 Trevor Williams (NYM - RP,SP) 300 266.0 -34.0
130 Richard Bleier (MIA - RP) 275    
131 Justin Wilson (CIN - RP) 267    
132 Max Meyer (MIA - SP) MiLB   307.0  
133 Noe Ramirez (ARI - SP,RP) 282    
134 Brailyn Marquez (CHC - RP)   286.0  
135 Nick Lodolo (CIN - SP) MiLB   294.0  
136 Edward Cabrera (MIA - SP,RP) 284 256.0 -28.0
137 Austin Voth (WSH - RP,SP) 280 278.0 -2.0
138 Ryan Helsley (STL - RP) 258 303.0 +45.0
139 Nick Nelson (PHI - RP) 259 298.0 +39.0
140 Corbin Martin (ARI - SP) 290 264.0 -26.0
141 Ray Black (MIL - RP) MiLB 261    
142 Kyle Finnegan (WSH - RP) 262    
143 Josiah Gray (WSH - SP) 295 282.0 -13.0
144 JoJo Romero (PHI - RP)      
145 Hunter Greene (CIN - SP)      
146 Sean Newcomb (ATL - SP,RP) 285    
147 Miguel Yajure (PIT - RP,SP) 322 317.0 -5.0
148 Sam Howard (PIT - RP) 281    
149 Chris Devenski (ARI - RP) MiLB 289    
150 Ljay Newsome (STL - RP,SP) MiLB 292    
151 Luke Jackson (ATL - RP) 278 243.0 -35.0
152 Ryan Sherriff (PHI - RP) 301    
153 Angel Perdomo (MIL - RP)      
154 Ranger Suarez (PHI - RP,SP) 291    
155 Robert Stephenson (COL - RP) 272    
156 Heath Fillmyer (SD - SP,RP) MiLB 320    
157 Joe Ross (WSH - SP,RP) 325 249.0 -76.0
158 Luis Cessa (CIN - RP) 296    
159 Kodi Whitley (STL - RP) 313    
160 Seranthony Dominguez (PHI - RP) 302    
161 Yoan Lopez (PHI - RP) MiLB 314    
162 Ryan Weathers (SD - SP,RP)   308.0  
163 Tyler Beede (SF - RP,SP) 333 306.0 -27.0
164 Erick Fedde (WSH - SP,RP) 316 325.0 +9.0
165 Tyler Kinley (COL - 2B,RP) 318    
166 Mitch White (LAD - RP,SP) 286    
167 Huascar Ynoa (ATL - SP) 293    
168 Brad Wieck (CHC - RP)      
169 Carlos Estevez (COL - RP) 297    
170 Riley Smith (ARI - RP,SP) MiLB 327    
171 Jordan Yamamoto (NYM - SP) 326 236.0 -90.0
172 Jonathan Holder (CHC - RP) MiLB 304    
173 J.B. Bukauskas (ARI - RP,SP) 309    
174 Jhoulys Chacin (COL - SP,RP) 330    
175 Kyle Ryan (STL - RP) NRI 332    
176 Taylor Widener (ARI - SP,RP) 331    
177 Jon Duplantier (SF - SP,RP) MiLB 334    
178 Sam Coonrod (PHI - RP) 335    
179 Braxton Garrett (MIA - SP) 328 318.0 -10.0
180 Anthony Banda (PIT - RP) 343    
181 Nick Neidert (MIA - RP,SP) 347    
182 Evan Phillips (LAD - RP) 349    
183 Johan Oviedo (STL - SP) MiLB 350    
184 Wil Crowe (PIT - SP) 356