Preliminary 2012 Rankings: Top 20 Starting Pitchers

Before we get into the rankings, let me put in a little disclaimer. These are extremely preliminary rankings for 2012 (prior to my projections being done) and have a lot of room for movement as the offseason progresses. They are done just on the surface, so as you look at them keep that in mind (and all numbers are prior to yesterday’s game):

  1. Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
  2. Roy Halladay – Philadelphia Phillies
  3. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Tim Lincecum – San Francisco Giants
  6. CC Sabathia – New York Yankees
  7. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners
  8. Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies
  9. Zack Greinke – Milwaukee Brewers
  10. Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels
  11. Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox
  12. Dan Haren – Los Angeles Angels
  13. Ian Kennedy – Arizona Diamondbacks
  14. Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee Brewers
  15. James Shields – Tampa Bay Rays
  16. David Price – Tampa Bay Rays
  17. Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals
  18. Matt Cain – San Francisco Giants
  19. Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants
  20. Michael Pineda – Seattle Mariners


  • It has become a foregone conclusion that CC Sabathia will opt out of his contract and at least test the free agent waters.  Will he head out of New York?  It feels unlikely, though once a player is free to sign anywhere you really never know what is going to happen.  Where he lands will impact his ultimate value, so time will tell.
  • Tim Lincecum had a “down” year, posting a 2.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 220 K over 217.0 innings of work.  It’s horrible, right?  Assuming the Giants address their offensive issues in the offseason, Lincecum will have more opportunities for wins.  When you couple that with his other numbers you get a Top 5 pitcher.
  • It was an amazing 2011 campaign for Jered Weaver, though that’s not to say that there wasn’t luck involved in it.  He posted a .250 BABIP and 82.6% strand rate, meaning there’s a good chance that his 2.41 ERA and 1.01 WHIP regresses.  Considering his strikeout rate also regressed back to his career norm (7.56 K/9), keep his potential value in check.
  • Dan Haren’s strikeout rates while in the AL over the past two seasons (it was partial in 2010) have been 7.18 and 7.25.  Obviously it isn’t going to downgrade him significantly, but it is something that is worth noting.
  • While James Shields enjoyed a tremendous bounce back campaign in 2011, does anyone truly believe that he can replicate it?  There was a bit of luck involved (.258 BABIP, 79.6% strand rate), but what was most important was that he backed up his improved strikeout rate with an 8.12 K/9.  There are going to be trade rumors all offseason long, so those are worth following.  If he ends up in the NL then his ranking will improve a few spots.  Otherwise, consider him a SP2.
  • For the third consecutive season Matt Cain posted a BABIP between .252 and .263.  At this point it’s safe to say that it’s no longer luck related and that it is his skill level.  Pitching in the weaker NL West, it’s easy to consider him a solid SP2.
  • Stephen Strasburg is going to be an interesting pitcher to value as we head into 2012.  He’s going to be subject to an innings cap, which is going to limit his potential value.  However, he showed in limited opportunities in 2011 that he can be among the best options in the league.  It’s hard not to include him in the Top 20 pitchers, though his spot in these rankings need to be considered fluid.
  • Under normal circumstances Josh Johnson & Tommy Hanson would be locks for the Top 20.  However, coming off of injuries that cost them large chunks of time, they are falling just short for now.  That could change during the offseason, but they will likely remain low-end SP2/high-end SP3.

Make sure to check out all of our preliminary 2012 rankings:


  1. big o says:

    aw , come on .
    it’s never to early to go out on a limb .
    michael pineda will be a top 12 performer .

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Ha! We’ll get to my wild predictions soon enough! I don’t think it’s impossible to think Pineda is going to be a Top 12 pitcher, though wins may limit him a little bit. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  2. Evan says:

    I’m interested in what you think about Adam Wainwright’s chances to regain some kind of foothold in the top 20. If he’s ready for the spring, do you think he bounces back or has a SP3/4 kind of year?

  3. TY says:

    evan… i think wainys an interesting case, i think he’ll be a solid value to take a shot at…. isn’t it amazing the cards are in the world series, up 1-0, and their ace has been OUT all year? unreal

  4. Rotoprofessor says:

    I agree that Wainwright has tremendous potential, but I also wouldn’t draft him in the Top 20 SP. He’s really unpredictable right now as far as what he will produce. If I can get him in the middle rounds, though, he’ll be well worth it.

    • Marky Mark says:

      In about mid-August of the 2010 season, I picked up Ellsbury off the WW, stashed him on my DL for that season and made him a keeper heading into 2011.

      In about mid-August of the 2011 season, I picked up Wainwright off the WW and stashed him on my DL for the season. I’m not sure what I’ll do with him yet, but if I can get even 75% of those results this time around, I’ll be happy.

  5. Sawyer says:

    A couple of guys who had good years and should be stretched out to more innings next year. Zimmermann and Latos. Yeah, wins might be the only issue. Although — how does Strasburg coming off Tommy John rank above these two??

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      It’s really close between all of them. If Strasburg hadn’t shown that he could produce at the end of the year he would be significantly lower on the rankings. However, we all know how good he is and he showed that he was healthy. That’s a good mix.

  6. jmax says:

    I agree on Strasburg being a bit overhyped. His talent is obvious but I’m interested to see how he fairs after hitters see him more frquently.

  7. Al says:

    Pretty interesting to see two teams with 3 pitchers and two teams with 2 pitchers. That’s half of the Top 20 on only four teams! The only pitcher I wonder about is Ian Kennedy. I realize he has gotten it done a couple of years in a row, but for some reason I don’t think of him as an ace.

  8. ClayHenry says:

    Don’t sleep on Zimmermann… he will be underrated going into the 2012 season.

  9. Mark T says:

    Why does no one give my
    Oooohhh Ricky Romero some LOVE?
    225 innings
    178 ks
    15 wins 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

    Hello in the AL BEAST?!?

    Are we kidding better stats overall for fantasy than Pineda, Bumgarner, and Gallardo…

  10. dean says:

    My first thought when reading the list was: Wow, there’s a HUGE drop-off after the Tier one arms. In whatever order, the top six is static in my books. After that you’ve got a significant issue – at least one – with each of them. Check that – for 2012, I’d throw Hamels in the Tier 1.
    The rest each have that one “what if” worry and that separates them completely.
    That said, as a 2012 list, you’ll see Madison and Strasburg finishing top 10 without a question in my mind Bum-G finished with a flurry…including the bump in K’s, and Strasburg was essentially announcing what was coming given that his publicly-stated primary goal was to build arm strenght…which equals very little offspeed.
    Missing: Romero from T.O.: even as a bluejay, this guy is every bit as good as Pineda, Shields and Haren…if he got out of the AL East he’d immediately contend for a Cy. His stuff is filthy.
    Biggest Fumble: NO JOSH JOHNSON. He’s on pace to be back well ahead of spring training, and he’ll be on a mission. His stuff rivals Kershaw and while he got injured, he was nearly back THIS YEAR…
    My list:
    1. Kershaw
    2. Verlander
    3. Doc
    4. Lincecum
    5. Hernandez
    6. Hamels
    7. Josh Johnson
    8. Lee
    9. Strasburg (already factoring in a short season due to innings limit, otherwise w/b 5th
    10. CC
    11. Weaver
    12. Greinke
    13. Kennedy
    14. Lester
    15. Haren
    16. Price
    17. Cain
    18. Romero
    19. Gallardo
    20. Sheilds
    21. Pineda

    And there’s a very good chance that Jordan Zimmerman would crack this iist. K’s. Control. Low era. Keeps guys off the pads…just no wins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *