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2012 Tiered Positional Rankings: NL Starting Pitchers

For the sake of keeping this piece from being three miles long, I'm breaking the starting pitchers down into NL and AL tiers. Don't worry, this doesn't mean it's analysis for NL- and AL-only leagues alone. It's just for easier sifting purposes over the course of two articles.

Something to remember, as you peruse these rankings. Starting pitchers contribute to a maximum of four out of five categories, unlike the very best of their hitter brethren. This is why less of your budget goes to pitchers at auction, and also why you'll see very few five-star caliber pitchers -- if any -- on the list. A starter needs to be absolutely ridiculous to have five-star value, and while there are a few of those arms every year, they also rarely repeat.

If you missed a position, or the explanation for the tiered ranking system, you can check out the first base, second base, third base,shortstop, catcher, left field, center field, and right field rankings.

Four-Star ($20-29)

Halladay, Roy SP PHI
Kershaw, Clayton SP LAN
Lee, Cliff SP PHI

Clayton Kershaw, for all of his awesomeness in 2011, didn't earn $30 in fantasy value. Slotting these three pitchers in as four-star guys capable of maybe popping out a $30 season is a lot safer than actually valuing them as $30 pitchers. Kershaw doesn't have a great lineup behind him, but he does have a park that helps him, and he's so ridiculous that the lack of offense should make $20-29 an easy task for him.

Three-Star ($10-19)

Lincecum, Tim SP SFN
Hamels, Cole SP PHI
Wainwright, Adam SP SLN
Kennedy, Ian SP ARI
Hudson, Daniel SP ARI
Greinke, Zack SP MIL
Gallardo, Yovani SP MIL
Strasburg, Stephen SP WAS
Cain, Matt SP SFN
Carpenter, Chris SP SLN
Johnson, Josh SP FLO
Latos, Mat SP CIN

There are a lot more three-star types at starting pitcher -- something to remember when the rush to grab the Daniel Hudsons and Matt Cains of the world start. These guys exist in droves, even if they are more special in real life. Lincecum is a borderline four-star pitcher, but because Wins are a thing, it's hard to guarantee him a spot there. Cole Hamels was a Cy Young candidate last year, but didn't crack $20 in value. He'll need to be even better (or squeak out more wins) in order to cross that line. Adam Wainwright has four-star potential, but coming off of Tommy John surgery, it's fair to be a little safer with him than that.

Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson are very good starters, and if Arizona scores runs for them, they'll be even better fantasy hurlers. Zack Greinke would have easily been a four-star starter last year if leagues used FIP instead of ERA, but they don't, so here he is. He's excellent, but I'm leery of putting him in the absolute elite given the Brewers are probably weaker, and there were some worries about his mechanics at the end of the year.

Stephen Strasburg will have his innings capped, but if he strikes out 11 per nine over 150 innings, you won't care much about that. Carpenter lacks the Ks, but makes up for it in innings. Josh Johnson's season depends on health, and Mat Latos will be productive, but might miss Petco a little.


Garza, Matt SP CHN
Hanson, Tommy SP ATL
Luebke, Cory SP SDN
Lilly, Ted SP LAN
Hudson, Tim SP ATL
Beachy, Brandon SP ATL
Bumgarner, Madison SP SFN
Marcum, Shaun SP MIL
Nolasco, Ricky SP FLO
Santana, Johan SP NYN
Zimmermann, Jordan SP WAS
Rodriguez, Wandy SP HOU
Sanchez, Anibal SP FLO
Cahill, Trevor SP ARI
Stauffer, Tim SP SDN
Jurrjens, Jair SP ATL
Garcia, Jaime SP SLN
Dempster, Ryan SP CHN
Cueto, Johnny SP CIN
Buehrle, Mark SP FLO
Gonzalez, Gio SP WAS
Billingsley, Chad SP LAN
Worley, Vance SP PHI
Volquez, Edinson SP SDN
Vogelsong, Ryan SP SFN
Leake, Mike SP CIN
McDonald, James SP PIT
Jackson, Edwin SP WAS
Blanton, Joe SP PHI
Chacin, Jhoulys SP COL
Norris, Bud SP HOU
Zambrano, Carlos SP FLO
Capuano, Chris SP LAN
Dickey, R.A. SP NYN
Harang, Aaron SP LAN
Guthrie, Jeremy SP COL
Bailey, Homer SP CIN
Minor, Mike SP ATL
Wolf, Randy SP MIL
Burnett, A.J. SP PIT
Niese, Jon SP NYN

This is where you can boost your chances for wins and extra strikeouts without killing your ERA or WHIP. Let others overpay for this type of pitcher, as there are plenty of them to choose from. This is just one of the two leagues, after all, and the list is huge. I love Cory Luebke -- he has the potential to be a three-star pitcher, easy, but the Padres may not score enough runs for that to happen this year. Tommy Hanson is a three-star guy if he's feeling healthy, but between last year's injuries and this year's concussion, I don't mind letting him go elsewhere, either. Johan Santana is the kind of pitcher with four-star potential, never mind three, but he needs to be on the mound to do that. And I won't believe that until I see it, and I won't see it until after draft day.

You'll notice a theme here: lots of pitchers who get hurt and miss time, or strike out hitters but walk plenty, or have good stats but are on bad teams. You'll get 2-2.5 categories out of these guys, so don't pay for them because they're productive in reality.


Lohse, Kyle SP SLN
Gee, Dillon SP NYN
Arroyo, Bronson SP CIN
Collmenter, Josh Swing ARI
Saunders, Joe SP ARI
Richard, Clayton SP SDN
Maholm, Paul SP CHN
Wells, Randy SP CHN
Westbrook, Jake SP SLN
Karstens, Jeff SP PIT
Zito, Barry SP SFN
Narveson, Chris SP MIL
Pelfrey, Mike SP NYN
Correia, Kevin SP PIT
Moscoso, Guillermo SP COL
Happ, J.A. SP HOU
Lannan, John SP WAS
Moseley, Dustin SP SDN
Nicasio, Juan SP COL
Volstad, Chris SP CHN
Lyles, Jordan SP HOU
Morton, Charlie SP PIT

If you're drafting these guys in standard, you're likely doing it wrong. They have question marks surrounding them, so they are better served as waiver guys, or AL/NL-only material. They aren't necessarily bad pitchers, but an average hurler in reality isn't an average pitcher in fantasy. You need fewer players, so the averages have all moved up. Throwing $1 at them to fill out your pitching staff is one thing, but don't set yourself up to rely on them.