Top 20 Starting Pitchers For 2011

This is an extremely rough first draft of my pitching rankings and faces a lot of changes as the offseason progresses (as well as being expanded significantly).  Keep that in mind as you look things over.

While the top pick is clear-cut, after that things are extremely wide open.  Especially from about 14 through 25 (though not all are shown on the rankings), there is likely to be a lot of movement because all of the pitchers are so closely bunched together.  Let’s take a look at how things currently stand:

  1. Roy Halladay – Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners
  3. Tim Lincecum – San Francisco Giants
  4. Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox
  5. CC Sabathia – New York Yankees
  6. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
  7. Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals
  8. Ubaldo Jimenez – Colorado Rockies
  9. Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
  10. Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels
  11. Francisco Liriano – Minnesota Twins
  12. Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee Brewers
  13. Cliff Lee – Free Agent
  14. Josh Johnson – Florida Marlins
  15. Chris Carpenter – St. Louis Cardinals
  16. Clay Buchholz – Boston Red Sox
  17. Mat Latos – San Diego Padres
  18. Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies
  19. Tommy Hanson – Atlanta Braves
  20. Zack Greinke – Kansas City Royals

Just Missed: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants; Roy Oswalt, Philadelphia Phillies; David Price, Tampa Bay Rays; Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels; Ricky Nolasco, Florida Marlins

  • For as good as Ubaldo Jimenez was for the first two months of the season, he had some real struggles (at times) after that.  There’s no doubt that he’s entrenched himself as one of the elite starting pitchers in the game, but his .273 BABIP could really regress.  We’ll touch on him again in much more detail, but I wouldn’t over-draft him based on his early season performance.
  • Where Cliff Lee ultimately lands will help determine exactly where he belongs on these rankings.  His spot is probably the most in flux at this point.
  • Surprised at Mat Latos’ presence?  His performance at Petco Park alone (2.59 ERA) gives us a lot to like.  When you add in his strikeout upside (10.6 minor league K/9) and solid control and there is reason to believe he could develop into a SP1 this season.  He emerged last season and should continue to be one of the better options available.
  • Is Zack Greinke going to be traded or not?  For now he’ll hang on at the bottom of these rankings, after he struggled in 2010, but if he gets traded to a contender his value will increase significantly.  If he doesn’t, he is likely to find himself off the list completely.
  • Wainwright or Kershaw?  Kershaw or Wainwright?  That’s certainly going to be an interesting debate as the offseason progresses.
  • Yovani Gallardo has the stuff to be among the best of the best, if he could only put it together for a full season (5.77 ERA after the All Star Break).  His overall numbers are nothing to complain about (3.84 ERA, 200 K), but there is so much more that could.

What are your thoughts on these rankings?  Whose too high?  Whose too low?

Make sure to check out our early 2011 rankings:


  1. you got gallardo way too high…poor second half pitcher, high whip, doesnt pitch deep into games….why josh johnson so low?

  2. Rotoprofessor says:

    Mike, like I said, these are very much in flux and are not going to be close to the final rankings come February/March. Gallardo is one of those pitchers who could easily fall a few spots, but I don’t think he’ll go below 15 honestly. His 2nd half BABIP was extremely inflated, so a little bit more luck and the numbers look significantly better. He’s one pitcher we will be taking a significantly closer look at soon.

    As for Johnson, I’m not sure considering him one of the best SP2, and almost a SP1 is that low. A beneficial strand rate (79.2%) certainly helped contribute to his 2010 numbers, as did a career best K/9. He was nearly a strikeout per inning better then the rest of his career, and I’m not sure I’m a believer in that mark or not.

    He’s one of those guys that is a lock for Top 15 and can probably be placed anywhere from 8-15, depending on your view of him.

  3. Kyle Johansen says:

    Michael, I agree with you. I’d put Johnson above Gallardo and Cliff Lee ahead of both of them. You really can’t argue at all with the top 10 though.

  4. Kyle Johansen says:

    Can you expand on the reason for why David Price just missed?

  5. TY says:

    I think its an easy choice to take Wainwright over Kershaw. You look at 19 and 20 wins from wainy and he plays on a better team, K rate per 9 is just below Kershaw and BB/9 is a full walk better… sure kershaw is young and getting better and better and COULD outperform wainy, but until he DOES actually do that, i’m taking wainy… I doubt you can go wrong either way.

    I love Latos but a 130 inning spike? I dont know, i’m thinking he’s a risky pitcher this year.

    Tommy Hanson 202 innings 3.33 era 173k’s 7.7 K/9 (dropped from 09)
    David Price 208 innings 2.72 era 188k’s 8.1 K/9

    only thing i see that hanson gets the nod is his BB/9 dropped and is a full walk lower than price… other than that Price has to be on the list and ahead of hanson, why the love for hanson, and not for the Cy Young runner up….?

  6. fantasybridesmaid says:

    TY I’m in complete agreement about Latos. Loved him in ’10, but even the Padres wished they could have thrown him fewer innings. I’ll pass on him until later and let someone else assume the risk. I hope I’m wrong about him, though.

  7. Rotoprofessor says:

    Price was probably the last pitcher I cut from the list, so I would take the difference with a small grain of salt at this point.

    One factor is the league, as when pitcher’s are close, the NL pitcher gets a slight edge, just due to not having to deal with the DH/harder lineups. I think the Ks are close, Hanson likely has a better WHIP (as you stated) and Price also had a bit of luck on his side (.279 BABIP, 78.5% strand rate)

  8. microwave donut says:

    Buchholz is too high, In fact I don’t think he belongs anywhere near this list.

    The 2010 ERA looks shiny, but it came with a low K rate (6.2K/9), a high walk rate (3.5 BB/9), and a .265 BABIP. His 79% strand rate is also totally unsustainable, especially for someone that doesn’t strike anyone out.

    He’ll still get you some wins, but the Red Sox offense isn’t what it used to be. Buchholz is more like a #4 fantasy starter than a #2.

  9. microwave donut says:

    Also I’d Lee is too low, Johnson too. Those two carried fantasy team’s ratios last season. Wainwright would be #3 or 4 if I were listing.

    Kershaw too high, Liriano and Gallardo also a little high. I love the K’s with all those guys though.

  10. Andrew says:

    Dan Haren is a top 20 SP. The peripherals didn’t change much last season, only the results.

    Too high: Kershaw and Buchholz. Kershaw still has shaky command relative to these other top SPs, and Buchholz was a mirage last year based on xFIP.

  11. Rotoprofessor says:

    As I’ve said, those bottom few are all within a fraction of each other and will probably change with the next pass of these. It is just a fine line.

    As for Buchholz, a lot of the ranking has to do with an expected increase in strikeouts. If you look at his minor league track record he is significantly better then a 6.2 K/9. An increase in Ks will offset a fall in the luck metrics.

    Is he a little too high? I could see that stance, but I do think he is right there in the mix with the group from 15-25 (which, as I’ve said, can certainly be ranked in almost an infinite number of ways).

  12. Mike says:

    Felix should be number 1. Id rather have him then 2 of any of these guys on this list. How can you put halladay before him when hes 24 and the only pitcher to have an era under 2.5 in consecutive years since like 1950. On top of that hes most likely going to have more wins then last season (19 the year before) and his era progressively has gone down the last 3 seasons. My bold prediction (which isnt that bold) is that King Felix will have an era under 2.00 this season and show why he really should be number 1 on this list.

  13. Mike says:

    *the only pitcher to have an era under 2.5 in consecutive years since like 1950 that is under 25 years old*

  14. Josh says:

    I would have put Wainwright ahead of Kershaw. Kershaw’s command is still shaky, and Wainwright will give you a lot more innings. I would have left off Buchholz; the peripherals weren’t that good. Although I agree with you that he’ll miss more bats as he matures. Lee should be at least 2 spots higher. Gallardo is a little too high. Liriano is a ticking time bomb. I would have left him off as well. Haren and Price should have made the cut. Maybe Santana, too. Scherzer’s 2nd half warrants a look.

  15. Ian says:

    I’d take Price or Haren over Buchholz this season. Mat Latos has no business being in the top 20. Other than that, solid list. Drafting pitchers, especially the first 10-15 on the board often comes down to preference.

  16. Chuck says:

    Agree Felix deserves the top spot…

  17. Fresh says:

    Come on now, this list is a bit ridiculous, how can you not have Josh Johnson, David Price or Oswalt in the top 20? Give me a break.

    Here the top 10:
    C Lee
    J Johnson

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