2012 Rankings: Top 60 Starting Pitchers (#1-20)

Ranking starting pitchers is often a difficult thing to do, as the difference between them could be razor thin.  The smallest of things, like whether they pitch in the American League or the National League, could ultimately make all the difference.  That said, let’s take a look at how the top starting pitchers shake out for me heading into the year:

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

Thoughts:

  • Everyone wants to see Strasburg ranked significantly higher than #15 but, with just 2012 in mind, it is impossible to do so.  He is going to be on an innings limit, likely in the 160 inning range.  That is likely going to mean that he isn’t going to be available to pitch in September, a major issue for fantasy owners.  Ride him to get into position to win your league, but you are going to need to have a suitable replacement to help finish the job.  Next year, when the innings limit is likely gone, he’s almost a lock to be in the Top 10 and possibly Top 5.
  • I know Justin Verlander was one of the elite pitchers in the game in 2011, but he wasn’t even in consideration for the top spot for me.  As I’ve already discussed (click here to view), there was some extreme luck at play (.236 BABIP, 80.3% strand rate), he pitches in the AL and the wins total (24) is not likely to be repeated.  He’s a great pick, but just be careful with how you rank him.
  • Is Felix Hernandez one of the best pitchers in the game?  Absolutely, but the wins potential is going to continue to hurt him.  We never recommend drafting for wins, but when pitchers are close it has to be a deciding factor.  Hernandez has won more than 14 games just once and, with a weak Mariners offense behind him, how likely is it that he surpasses that mark in 2012?
  • You may not think of Cole Hamels as a Top 10 pitcher, but he certainly deserves to be considered one.  I discussed it in detail recently (click here to view), but with elite control, strikeout potential and a new found groundball rate he is the total package.
  • Moving from San Diego to Cincinnati is going to scare some people off from Mat Latos.  That would be a mistake, however, as he has posted ERAs of 3.14 and 3.68 on the road the past two seasons.  Throw in the potential to strikeout more than a batter per inning, great control and now more chances for wins and he’s a pitcher I’d love to own.

***** Order the Rotoprofessor 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, complete with updates from January through the start of the season, for just $6! As an added bonus, if you purchase by 3/15 you will be entered to win a Michael Pineda autographed baseball! To place your order click here. *****

Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings:

Rotoprofessor Roundtable: Dustin Ackley or Jason Kipnis?
2012 Rankings: Updated Top 40 Outfielders (#21-40)

12 comments

  1. Lorenzo says:

    I find it fascinating you have Yu Darvish in the top 20 and not James Shields?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Shields just missed the Top 20 for me. While there is a lot of risk in Darvish, he does pitch in an easier division (which helps) and Shields has nearly as much risk involved.

      Keep in mind his .258 BABIP and 79.6% strand, as well as regular matchups with the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to own Shields, and it was great that he proved the strikeouts were for real, but he’s not going to replicate last year’s success.

    • Neight says:

      Pitching in an easy division isn’t a good enough justification to rank Darvish this high. What do you project for him to do this season?

      • Rotoprofessor says:

        We’ll get into Darvish soon, but I’m projecting him out with a 3.22 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. I think the league’s unfamiliarity with him will definitely work in his favor for 2012.

  2. bravos says:

    Matt Latos is deffinitly falling in espn drafts, got him in 10th

  3. Eddy says:

    I’d argue that many rankings don’t have Strasburg as high as you do. Not going to complain though, have him as a keeper in the last round and I’m loving every bit of it.

    Also concur on Latos. He is going to be a bargain left and right this year. One stat that I hope stays buried is his 1.96 ERA and 10.31 K/9 is Sept/Oct!

    • jmax says:

      Strasburg’s inning limit hurts him

      • Rotoprofessor says:

        It does, but I think he will be extremely productive for those 160 innings, where Strasburg + a replacement (even if it’s an R.A. Dickey) will outperform a lot of other options.

        In a head-to-head league, things would be significantly different, though

  4. Sawyer says:

    Really confused at the Weaver ranking. Gut instinct that he’ll drop off — or based on some underlying statistics from last year?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      He’s an under 8.0 K/9 pitcher and he actually enjoyed a lot of luck last season (.250 BABIP, 82.6% strand rate). It just feels like his 2009 season (3.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) could be a lot closer to reality for him at this point.

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