2020 Rankings: Top 25 Starting Pitchers (Where To Rank The 2019 Breakouts, Any Surprises? & More)

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Spring Training is upon us, and that means it’s time to ramp up our preparation for our 2020 Fantasy Baseball Drafts. Let’s keep our “official” rankings on the site rolling, with even deeper rankings and more in-depth analysis available via our draft guide (click here for information on ordering the guide for just $8.25), with the Top 15 Outfielders. Who are the players worth targeting? Who could surprise? Who is destined to disappoint?

Let’s answer all of these questions and more as we get to the rankings:

RankPlayerTeamQuick Thoughts
1)Jacob deGromNew York MetsAfter back-to-back Cy Young Awards what's left for deGrom to prove? It turns out he may have been tipping his pitches in April (4.85 ERA), and once he corrected the issue he didn't have an ERA above 2.92 in any month after. Even if he's not your #1, he's clearly in the top tier.
2) Max ScherzerWashington NationalsWhen healthy Scherzer continued posting elite numbers, the problem was that he was limited to 27 starts (and missed time in the playoffs). Current reports have him fully healthy, but it's still something that needs to be monitored.
3) Justin VerlanderHouston AstrosWe keep waiting for Verlander to start slowing down, but he is showing no signs (including racking up 300 K in '19). There is some slight concerns in his luck metrics (.218 BABIP, 88.4% strand rate), but that just makes his first half 2.98 ERA a better expectation.
4) Gerrit ColeNew York YankeesHe signed a massive contract this winter (9 years, $324 million) and there will be questions as to whether or not he can live up to it in New York. While opponents need to make contact for it to become an issue, groundball rates of 36.0% and 40.3% the past two seasons, now pitching in Yankee Stadium, raises a small red flag.
5) Walker BuehlerLos Angeles DodgersThe Dodgers took it slow with their young ace in the spring, and that may have factored into his early season struggle (5.22 ERA). In 24 starts from May 1 through the end of the year he posted a 2.88 ERA while showing strikeouts (10.61 K/9) and control (1.83 BB/9) all season long.
6)Shane BieberCleveland IndiansBieber put his name on the map in '19, with a 3.28 ERA and 1.05 WHIP courtesy of a 10.88 K/9 and 1.68 BB/9. He's always displayed elite control, but now he's delivering swings and misses (14.0% SwStr%) while utilizing his secondary pitches more and more (he threw his fourseam fastball 45.73%). That has solidified his place among the elite.
7)Stephen StrasburgWashington NationalsCan Strasburg stay healthy? That's always been the biggest question, though Washington is betting on it after signing him to a 7 year contract. Last year he showed just how good he could be, as utilizing his sinker and curveball more led to a 51.1% groundball rate (to go along with strikeouts and control).
8)Patrick CorbinWashington NationalsA year after receiving a big free agent contract, Corbin lived up to the expectations with a 3.25 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 202.0 IP. He did it while showing all three skills we look for from a pitcher, and also improving his Hard% (34.5%).
9)Luis CastilloCincinnati RedsHad it not been for a late season swoon (ERA of 5.70 and 4.40 over the last two months), there would be a lot more chatter about Castillo being a potential Top 10 option. He showed strikeouts (10.67 K/9), control (3.73 BB/9) and groundballs (55.2%), and even as he struggled late in the year an improvement in his control (2.76 BB/9 in the second half) speaks to just how high his ceiling could be.
10)Charlie MortonTampa Bay RaysAfter breaking out in Houston it was fair to wonder if Morton could replicate the success while maneuvering through the AL East. He proved more than capable, with a 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 194.2 IP. With his skill set and believable luck metrics (.298 BABIP, 75.3% strand rate), the good times should continue.
11)Blake SnellTampa Bay RaysHe missed time due to injury (107.0 IP) and struggled when on the mound (4.29 ERA), though it was poor luck (.343 BABIP, despite a 34.8% Hard%) and not a regression in skills that caused the issues. Maybe he's not as good as he was in '18, but he should continue to be in the mix for a Top 10 spot.
12)Mike ClevingerCleveland IndiansClevinger's SwStr% rose to 15.2% in '19, and he's continued to throw strikes (2.39 BB/9 in the second half) and limit hard contact (33.0% Hard%). That's the makeup of a Top 10 starter, though he's often not considered so highly.
13)Carlos CarrascoCleveland IndiansRegardless of the results, the fact that Carrasco returned late in the year is promising after he was limited by injuries. Over his career he owns a 9.37 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 and 48.5% groundball rate, as he's consistently been among the better starters. As long as he's healthy (and that's a question) he should return to that status.
14)Frankie MontasOakland A'sHe was limited to 96.0 innings, but don't take that to mean that the breakout wasn't for real. He began using a split-finger fastball, which contributed to his 9.66 K/9, 2.16 BB/9 and 49.4% groundball rate. He should continue on the same path, which would allow him to maintain that success over a full season.
15) Eduardo RodriguezBoston Red SoxRodriguez has long been on breakout radars, but will this be the year he finally puts it together? He was throwing his sinker more in '19, which helped lead to an improved groundball rate (51.9%), showed improved control in the first half (2.81 BB/9) and consistently gets weak contact (28.7% Hard%). That's a lot of potential positives.
16)Noah SyndergaardNew York MetsIt's easy to be down on "Thor", after he posted a 4.24 ERA in '19 and particularly struggled at home (5.02 ERA). There should be an improved strikeout rate (12.5% SwStr%), as well as better luck metrics (.313 BABIP, 68.9% strand rate). He seems like an ideal bounce back candidate.
17)Michael SorokaAtlanta BravesAfter emerging in '19 behind elite control (2.11 BB/9) and enough groundballs (51.1%), Soroka also showed more strikeout potential as the season wore on 8.28 K/9 in July, 9.67 in September). More strikeouts could lead to fewer groundballs, but it's a trade-off that's worth it.
18)Aaron NolaPhiladelphia PhilliesIt was a somewhat disappointing 2019, as Nola posted a 3.87 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Opposing hitters were simply making better contact (Hard% went from 25.1% to 41.9%), and that could cap his upside. Still, while he's not likely as good as he was in '18 he also should be better than his 2019 marks.
19)Yu DarvishChicago CubsHis 3.98 ERA was underwhelming and while home runs are going to be a concern, last year's 1.66 HR/9 was extreme (especially given his improved groundball rate). He also showed improvement in his control while maintaining his impressive strikeout stuff.
20)Jack FlahertySt. Louis CardinalsFlaherty delivered on all of the hype in '19, with a 2.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 196.1 IP. Of course he benefited from a lot of luck (.242 BABIP, 83.3% strand rate) and home runs are going to become an issue. Don't forget he posted a 4.64 ERA in the first half before pushing him into the elite tiers.
21)Corey KluberCleveland IndiansInjuries limited Kluber to 7 starts in '19 and you have to wonder if that missed time will cost him his once elite control. He has Top 10 potential if he's right, so he could be a bargain in this range.
22)Andrew HeaneyLos Angeles AngelsThere are a lot of questions facing Heaney, whether it's his health, ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (1.89 HR/9) or capability of getting left-handed hitters out (.321/.374/.548). He needs to develop a third offering to keep opposing hitters off balance, and if he does he could far outperform this ranking.
23)Zack GreinkeHouston AstrosAcquired to protect them against the loss of Gerrit Cole, it will be interesting to see if Greinke becomes the latest pitcher to flourish in Houston. His strikeout rate fell after the trade, and he could prove to be more SP3 than the borderline SP1 some view him as.
24)Trevor BauerCincinnati RedsBauer struggled after his trade to Cincinnati (6.39 ERA, 1.35 WHIP over 10 starts), though it was more his luck running out. He was always a risk of having home run issues and his Hard% was elevated all season long (41.3%).
25)Clayton KershawLos Angeles DodgersKershaw still carries name value, though he's seen his Hard% take a meteoric rise over the past few years (27.4% to 36.1% to 41.9%) while his velocity has dipped (90.53 mph on his fastball in '19). There's a risk that the strikeouts fall (8.27 K/9 in the first half) and given his injury history that risk may outweigh the reward.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings:

PositionLast Updated
Catchers02/10/20
First Basemen02/13/20
Second Basemen02/18/20
Third Basemen02/21/20
Shortstops02/24/20
Outfielders03/06/20
Starting Pitchers03/09/20
Relief Pitchers03/03/20

8 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Roto P, looking forward to all your well advised insight this coming season! I’m in a 6×6 roto keeper league with OPS and QS where we keep 6 in the first 6 rounds. I have 9 potentials that are mostly ranked similarly. What 6 would you keep from K. Marte, Rizzo, N. Cruz, Donaldson, E. Rosario for hitters, and Greinke, Clevinger, Giolito, and Glasnow for pitchers. I also have a Rizzo for Merrifield trade offer on the table. Thanks, man!

  2. wow. Jack Flaherty..out of the top 15. But Snell..Verlander..with their injuries in there. Jack is ADP 21 in NFBC..right after Buehler and before Bieber. What is that you disagree with the ADP on? IT’s one thing to be different by 2,3, or 5, but you’re 11 off everyone else for elite pitching. I know his LOB% was quite high last year, but his k/9 of 10.59 and bb/9 of 2.52 is quite consistent. xfip you don’t like? a particular pitch?

    • Verlander’s injury just hit today, so they haven’t been adjusted yet.

      As for Flaherty himself, I’m obviously not going to go off everyone else’s ranking. Here’s my writeup from the Draft Guide:

      “There were big things expected from Flaherty entering the season and he delivered, posting a 2.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 196.1 IP. While he did show strikeouts (10.59 K/9) and control (2.52 BB/9), how much did luck play into his success? A .242 BABIP and 83.3% strand rate scream of a regression, and his 39.5% groundball rate (41.1% over his career) shows potential home run issues (1.15 HR/9 last season). His slider is a wipeout pitch (24.60% Whiff%), and that goes a long way towards his success, but a 4.64 ERA in the first half vs. 0.91 in the second speaks volumes. His first half showed far more believable luck metrics (.274 BABIP, 75.3% strand rate), and his 2.97 BB/9 is even more indicative of his future outlook (2.08 in the second half). It’s not to discredit his elite level second half, but you have to go in expecting results closer to the first half. “

      • gotcha..the LOB was high in overall. and the BABIP was too low..i will point out, 2018, 0.257 BABIP, 79.3% LOB..led to 3.34 ERA, despite having a higher bb/9 of 3.52. it’s possible he’s just been lucky for the last 350 IP i suppose. or possibly his arsenal is just better? his O-swing% has increased every year, his Z contract % has declined every year. that slider compiled with great sequencing..i just think it’s too much to weigh all his success on luck and their being regression coming..thanks though for the info!

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