The World Series has not begun and I have already compiled a list of the top 150 starting pitchers for the 2020 fantasy season for one reason: I couldn’t wait. There are 30 MLB teams and the typical rotation is five pitchers, so simple multiplication produces 150 pitchers.
This does not mean that each team is represented five times on this list. Spoiler alert: there are five bonus pitchers at the end of this list—if you call them a bonus. Teams such as the Astros are represented nine times at the expense of other teams like the Royals, who have their only representative outside of the top 100.
One of the reasons for the disparity is that this list is geared to rotisserie leagues with the ability to stash players on your bench. Thus, you’ll see pitchers that will likely start the year in the minor leagues ranked ahead of some that are entrenched in MLB starting rotations. Without further ado:
2020 Starting Pitcher Rankings
Tier 1: The Elite (1-4)
This is your big four. All of these pitchers have an extremely high ceiling and stellar track record. I believe Cole has the highest ceiling and also the highest floor, regardless of where he lands. I believe the starting pitcher landscape has more risk in lack of track record than regression due to age. I do not downgrade Verlander and Scherzer much at all due to their age in comparison to 2019 breakout performances. We have seen several SP2s entering the season over the last several years completely flop after only one season of pitching at an SP2 level.
Tier 2: Walker Buehler (5)
Buehler is in a tier of his own. With an increasing workload, he is the only pitcher I believe can vault into the top tier.
Tier 3: The Near-Elite (6-10)
Flaherty was the closest player to the Buehler tier and is the clear standout here. All of these pitchers I am extremely comfortable having as my SP1 and have varying levels of risk and upside. Strasburg is also a clear second for me in this tier, while the other three pitchers are essentially interchangeable in terms of how I would value them.
Tier 4: Elite Upside (11-15)
Here you have Paddack through Snell for a range of five starters with truly elite upside, yet carry a little more injury risk or innings limit risk. Paddack is so good he essentially belongs to Tier 3, but he only has one year in the books, does not strikeout batters at the clip those others pitchers do, and may face somewhat of an innings maximum. There may be safer pitchers in tiers below than Glasnow, Severino, Sale, and Snell, but their upside combined with what they have proven to date makes them more valuable to me.
Tier 5: Uncomfortable “Ones” (16-22)
If I’m drafting a pitcher from this tier as my best pitcher, I want to combine him with another from this tier or one just below. I’m not entirely comfortable with them. This is a tier from 16-22 (Morton through Nola). You can expect a K/9 > 9.0 from all of them, but there has been a mixed bag from these pitchers in the last few years. The best value could be Kluber, and Bauer probably has the highest upside if he rebounds.
Tier 6: Clayton Kershaw (23)
Kershaw performed well but is declining in skill and always has the ailing back to consider. If he stays healthy, he is a low variance play nestled right in between tiers 5 and 7.
Tier 7: The Already Drafted (24-28)
This tier will probably already be drafted once I start thinking about them. In my opinion, these are some name brands that could be overdrafted. I see the low K/9 on some of these pitchers contributing to a low floor compared to others in this range. I believe Greinke is on a declining path and will be drafted based on name brand. Berrios and Thor underperformed compared to their ADPs this year and could do it again. Soroka and Gallen are stuck in this tier and could both be drafted without much value to gain. Soroka I believe I have ranked in line with consensus but I may be higher than most on Gallen. If Soroka can strike out more batters, he could leap two tiers.
Tier 8: Sky-High Upside (29-32)
Lamet, Woodruff, Luzardo and Kopech all have enormous ceilings and should set career highs in innings pitched if they stay healthy. Health is a huge risk here, but I am putting my chips in the middle on these four pitchers as SP3s at a minimum. They are already building up steam in early drafts so you will need to reach on these players and I have no issue doing so.
Tier 9: No Risk, No Rewards (33-36)
This rounds out the SP3s for me. Darvish, Ohtani, Carrasco, and Heaney. These pitchers have injury risk without the elite upside. I do not believe any of these pitchers have the ability to pitch 200 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA. They have the ability to be excellent, but also may not be very useful for a prolonged period of time. Heaney is a big sleeper of mine.
Tier 10: Low Variance Plays (37-43)
Foltynewicz rounds out this tier and one can argue he has a low floor, but I’m buying his second half in 2019. The rest of this tier can be very good, but won’t have SP1 upside. They have SP2 upside. Boyd is the only player with K/9 that can be outstanding and his other statistics were below average.
Tier 11: Hyun-Jin Ryu (44)
I did not know what to do with Ryu. He has above average injury risk and outperformed his peripherals. I’m low on Ryu. I think I just like giving Dodgers their own tiers. They make good bookmarks. I’ll stop using Dodgers as dividers from now on even though the first two players in the next tier are Dustin May and Julio Urias.
Tier 12: Something Flashed (45-60)
This tier is a mixed bag that is typified by high K/9 pitchers, young upside, excellent peripherals, the chance of repeating historical excellence, and high upside. I find that in general I’m higher than most on these pitchers except for Tanaka and Lynn.
Tier 13: The 13 Young Guns (61-73)
How I play roto shakes up these rankings. Basically anyone below this tier I am not very interested in whatsoever in a typical 12-team league. After my top 60 pitchers (5 SP per team on average), I’d rather stash some extreme upside then waste roster space on known commodities that will not help much at all. Even if I’m only able to get four pitchers in my top 60, I’d rather make up my innings later in the season playing the waiver wire in a rotisserie league or streaming in a head-to-head format. These 13 pitchers I believe could be huge difference-makers for a good chunk of the season. They may sit on your bench or in a minor league spot for months, but the payoff could be huge. I prefer them in 12-team leagues over what is left over.
Tier 14: Interesting Assets (74-78)
These pitchers I would roster over the 13 youngsters in deeper leagues with more than 12 teams, as they have some intriguing upside and are not known commodities.
Tier 15: Relievers? (79-82)
McCullers, Puk, Reyes, Maeda. I think they are relievers. They really fall into tier 13, but the relief pitcher risk puts them below tier 14.
Tier 16: Low Ceilings (83-87)
In a rotisserie league I’m just not interested in these pitchers because I know they are going to dilute my strikeouts too much for what benefits they bring elsewhere. Do not draft, but I’ll entertain as streamers in head-to-head leagues or if I need to fill innings near the end of the season if ratios are a concern in a roto format.
Tier 17: K/9 assist (88-94)
This is the last tier of pitchers I would consider drafting as an emergency in a standard size league if for an extreme reason I missed on pitching.
Tier 18: Young Guns Part Two (95-100)
Tier 13 but for deeper leagues with a splash of openers.
Tier 19: Streamers (101-113)
Two-start streamers, innings eaters.
Tier 20: Young Guns Part Three (114-128)
Tier 13 for super deep leagues.
Tier 21: Sunday Best (129-147)
Best available starters on a Sunday if you are desperate in a head-to-head league.
Tier 22: SP envy (148-150)
Relievers who wish they were good enough to start and may get the shot in the event of injury or under performance.
Tier 23: Bonus 5
These five pitchers are here just so you know I did not forget about them. They should be negative values.