I’ve ranked my Top 200 starting pitchers for 2021 fantasy baseball and we’re on to 61-80, where we start trying to find the late value in drafts. Check out all of our rankings in the navigation above and let me know on Twitter, inside our Discord, or in the comments below how you feel.
I should note that from Tier 7 onward, players will not have projections. In essence, all of these players would, for the most part, have a projection that is below what you want for a 12-teamer. That’s the nature of it — we’re past the point where clear value is present, so you’re going to take the injured security or the risky plays that could work out.
Tier 7: The Sure(ish) Thing
61. Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox) – This tier is the moment where you might as well grab an injured starter with a ton of upside over the rest of the pool. The guys below this tier? They have limited upside and could be dropped from your team within a week of the season. You’re better off getting legit value that’ll come at some point during the year & set yourself up to make a decision to drop them from your IL spot later in April/May. With that said, Sale is the clear leader of the tier as he’s a Top 5 SP when healthy. Seriously, the guy pitched with a torn elbow and still had 218 strikeouts in just under 150 frames. The thing with Sale and the other two is we don’t know when that will be and I very much understand if you want to push this tier further down. Sale, specially, had a setback with his neck that pushed him back at least a month already. I guess that means August or so? It’s worth it to stash and make the decision in-season but if you know yourself and want to make that IL choice now, by all means, skip this tier.
62. Luis Severino (New York Yankees) – Severino should also return sometime around the All-Star break and he’ll instantly be of value, maybe of a few innings per game to start off, but you’ll be thrilled. He won’t hurt you, I promise. And that’s really it, read the Sale blurb to understand what’s up here.
63. Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets) – Syndergaard is the third of the bunch as his ability is a little more in question than the other two. He has the stuff, but the approach has been out of whack, you know? Anyway, if you miss out on the other two, Syndergaard should still work. Just don’t overdo it and get more than one of these — you simply won’t have room on your bench/IL spots.
Tier 8: Early Shots
64. Drew Smyly (Atlanta Braves) – Who better to lead off this insanely long tier than Smyly, who finished the season with a ten strikeout effort against the Padres. It was an ultra small 26.1 inning sample, but it came with a 38% strikeout rate, 1.10 WHIP, and two extra ticks of fastball velocity. His curveball missed plenty more bats as well, and his cutter was fly like apple pie. He’s been quoted to say he feels like a kid again and it makes you want to believe Smyly is finally removed from his soggy arm and ready to dominate. If he comes out slinging heaters like nobody’s business, hold until it stops. If it’s back to his 91/92 self without whiffs on his curveball, move on to someone else.
65. Mitch Keller (Pittsburgh Pirates) – I look at Keller for 2021 and I feel the same things I felt last year, save for a touch fewer innings. He velocity picked up in September after returning from an oblique injury. His fastball was 94/95 in the final two games and I’d expect that to return for the full season. The question is if his slider + curveball can take the step forward we want to see and if I were a betting man, I’d believe Keller pulls it off during the year. He’ll likely get the Cubs twice to start the year and it may be worth your while to start Keller in both. Make sure the velocity is there in the spring, first.
66. Zach Davies (Chicago Cubs) – I don’t quite buy that Davies can be more than a Toby through the season – last year’s run seemed more like a Vargas Rule than a true breakout. Davies got into a major rhythm with his changeup, bumping its usage to ten points to a whopping 41% clip. Can he keep up its usage while holding a near .200 BABIP and 20%+ SwStr? Probably not. Does he get the Pirates back-to-back against #65 Keller? Sure does. You want those two starts and then you can see where you’re at after. Who cares about what happens with Davies in August? Get that production in April.
67. Tony Gonsolin (Los Angeles Dodgers) – I originally had Gonsolin in the fifties with his excellent slider and splitter paired with a fastball that works, but with the Trevor Bauer signing, Gonsolin is likely the #6 or even #7 SP in Los Angeles and it sounds like a HIPSTER to me. Dang, I really think that if he got out of Los Angeles, he’d turn into something like Zach Plesac overnight. For now, you can certainly be rewarded rostering Gonsolin, but we have no idea when he’ll pitch and for how long in those games. It’s maddening and frustrating to say the least. I can see Gonsolin snatching a secure role the moment an injury arrives, but then what happens when they return? MORE MADNESS. I have him and Dustin back-to-back here as it’s hard to distinguish who will get the opportunities, but I’m giving
Zappa Gonsolin the nod given his higher strikeout ability. #Dodgeritis, man.
68. Dustin May (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Take that ramble for Gonsolin and apply it to May, but with fewer strikeouts and an unrefined approach. Sinkers are pretty to look at, but don’t return whiffs and without a major secondary pitch to get chases, May is aiming to be Spider-Man each year. That’s not a bad thing, but the ceiling is capped until that breaker starts missing more bats or he somehow transforms into a four-seamer arm. I highly doubt the latter given the Dodgers’ affinity for effective sinkers, so save your roster spot for something else with more clarity and production.
69. Jake Odorizzi (Free Agent) – So 2020 was bad and we didn’t completely believe in 2019. So what? Odorizzi will likely land with a team that needs innings and Odorizzi will give them something like 160 or so. And they’ll help you out because that four-seamer is crazy good at the top of the zone. It’s like PETA thinks the top edge of the zone is fur with how red it is. Odorizzi threw over 1,000 four-seamers in 2019 and they returned a 15% SwStr and a 59 wRC+. That’s crazy talk. Sure, his secondaries need work, like a splitter that is wildly inconsistent and a curveball that just doesn’t do a whole lot but maybe we’ll see that cutter take shape again and become a strong pitch inside the zone. After all, he likely won’t have another blister and take a liner to the chest and have a back injury while struggling to ramp up properly given it’s a pandemic again, right?
70. Zach Eflin (Philadelphia Phillies) – Some are going to see Eflin’s 28%+ strikeout rate with a 3.50 SIERA and salivate at his low ADP. Here’s the problem: Eflin’s success relies a bit too heavily on a curveball that you can’t expect to be there consistently through the season. He increased his curveball usage t o13% overall, but only half of his starts featured the pitch over 10% of the time. You just can’t depend on it to be there. And that 28%+ strikeout rate came with an overall 10.2% clip. You know that ain’t sticking around. Meanwhile, Eflin’s H/9 has never been below a 9.00, a product of a hittable fastball and a slider that just doesn’t fool enough batters. But hey, maybe he can be a Toby with surprise strikeouts every so often. The biggest problem? He’ll get the Braves and Mets in his first three starts. Do you want to start Eflin for any of those? No? Then is he worth the stash for three weeks? I wouldn’t say so. Sorry Ajeto, I just don’t think this one will work out.
71. Domingo German (New York Yankees) – The fifth spot in the Yankee rotation is up for contention, though it seems pretty clear it’s Domingo’s to lose. After they lost Severino in 2019, Domingo turned into their lost ace across his first 15 starts with a 3.37 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 27% strikeout rate. Well la-di-da, ain’t that lovely. His success was fueled by a curveball he threw over 37% of the time and returned just a .189 BAA and 20% SwStr rate while finding the zone at a 48% clip. It’s a really good pitch. His other two offerings aren’t quite as good – his four-seamer is a bit average at 94 mph while his changeup has its moments but is overall just there — and it does open German up for a low floor when he can’t get the strikes he needs from the deuce. I think once the Yankees announce Domingo as their #5 + he’s not getting crushed in spring training, you’ll see German’s stock rise significantly, so you may as well get in while you can. The floor is lower than the 4.04 ERA he provided in 2019, but the ceiling certainly makes this gamble worthwhile to kick off the season.
72. Michael Lorenzen (Cincinnati Reds) – There’s a decent amount of hype surrounding Lorenzen this off-season as he looks clear to seize a rotation spot for the Reds entering 2021. The dude had a 14.5% SwStr and faces the Pirates to start the year. I feel like that’s all you need to know at ranking #72. His four-seamer registered at 96 mph in the two starts he made last year and both his slider and changeup missed a ton of bats with a 24% SwStr rate. That’s the hype. The issue is his cutter and sinker were both hit hard, making his repertoire lack that signature pitch he can confidently locate in the zone. He also doesn’t have the stamina as a starter compared to others inside the Top 100, but you know what, that’s okay. Draft him and let him loose for that first start against Pittsburgh, then make your assessment. This could be a huge swing play for you and it cost you close to nothing.
73. Eduardo Rodriguez (Boston Red Sox) – I really hope Eduardo is alright. After missing 2020 with a heart-problem as a side-effect of COVID-19, we’re back where we started this time last year with E-Rod and I feel the same way — I didn’t trust his late surge in 2019 and without a clear #3 pitch taking shape, Rodriguez will be maddening as you hope his fastball/changeup combo works on a given day. Remember, his 2019 returned a 3.81 ERA saved by a late four-game stretch with a 1.33 WHIP. We also have no idea how last year’s events have shaped him, making Rodriguez a player you draft, see how they shape up in spring + the first week, and go from there. As with everyone from here on out, don’t hesitate to jump ship early. The ceiling is too far away and he doesn’t have a ladder.
74. Brady Singer (Kansas City Royals) – Singer is really good at getting called strikes. His sinker has plenty of movement and darts across the zone and batters often elect to settle for a deeper count. He does struggle putting them away, though, and I’m not sure Singer’s slider does enough to keep up his 23% strikeout rate from his 2020 debut. Meanwhile, I expect the .260 BABIP to rise given the sinker/slider punch that results in few flyballs and it creates the blueprint for a Toby. The good news is Singer gets the Tigers early and you can take the chance there while getting a peek at his 2021 self. Maybe there’s something in that first start that suggests we should keep holding him and suddenly you have found money. There are worse ways to set up your early season through your draft.
75. Garrett Richards (Boston Red Sox) – Oh Garrett, maybe this is it! The season we’ve been chasing since 2014 where you can go 160 frames and carry ratios + strikeouts we want. Surprisingly, the Padres didn’t push Richards down the stretch despite his free agency fate, but I’m willing to make the same assumption with the Red Sox who simply don’t have anyone else to turn to. It means I’m expecting a 5+ IPS that could hint at six full frames if he gets into rhythm. And that’s the real question – is Richards going to have a feel for his repertoire? His slider is ole trusty and will keep his head above water, but he didn’t flex much else last year. That big curveball could show up for more called strikes and we could see a return of his cutter darting in the opposite direction of his heater. There’s too much volatility to rely on Richards all season, but with a possible early pairing of the Orioles back-to-back to kick off the year, I find myself heavily considering Garrett to close out drafts.
Tier 9: I Want To Like Them
76. Marco Gonzales (Seattle Mariners) – I’ve said a lot of things about Gonzo this off-season and I’m sticking with them — he’s a Toby and I don’t draft Tobys. It’s just not what’s in your best interest. Marco has a plenty of things going against him — a six-man rotation that should stick for Seattle, a 175-inning limit across their starters, and a ridiculous 2020 sample that looks like a Vargas Rule more than a legit breakout. No, he’s not going to flirt with a 1.00 WHIP or 3.00 ERA again. His skill set didn’t change enough to suggest his 23% K rate is going to stick — his SwStr grew .5 points to a 8.4%. Eight. Point. Four. Percent. Simply put, his stuff does not warrant a sub 8.00 hit per nine nor the strikeouts and it makes for a boring ratio arm who isn’t a lock to actually help you in ratios. Remember, in a 12-teamer, you don’t want a starter who has an ERA around 3.90. But it comes with volume! Not when he pitches for the Mariners (sorry Wins), is in a six-man, will have fewer strikeouts, and has an innings cap. It just doesn’t add up. We should be treating him like he was after his 2018 season — a year that looked more believable under the hood and it resulted in a worse 2019. This isn’t the bet to make.
77. Andrew Heaney (Los Angeles Angels) – I have a feeling this is the year for Heaney, but I just can’t do it. I JUST CAN’T. His home run issues haven’t gone away and I believe it’s a product of his side-arm delivery that makes it difficult to put his pitches where he needs to. That fastball should be elevated and when it does, it makes his changeup and curveball oh-so-magical. It’s why he’s likely to dance around a 25% strikeout rate once again. But, sadly, that ERA is more than likely going to balloon above 4.00 despite a solid WHIP (the man hasn’t held a 1.30 WHIP or worse across the last three seasons) because he can’t keep the ball in the yard. Maybe the deadened ball will save him, but he has other hurdles to evade. Heaney has just one season above 110 innings to his name. One! It’s hard to expect him to survive a full workload this year, even if the Angels go six-man. I also feel like I have to acknowledge that you won’t likely start Heaney for his first two turns against the White Sox or Jays — both strong offenses — and you’re going to be in a six-month Charleston leaning into his starts before darting away. I already take enough Aspirin as it is, Andrew.
78. Cristian Javier (Houston Astros) – That first start was something else. Eight strikeouts across five frames against the Dodgers where he was missing bats with elevated heaters and a luscious breaker that stole plenty of strikes. After that it was … fine? He failed to strike out more than six batters in any other game, while climbing to the sixth just three times in nine starts. His repertoire doesn’t instill a ton of confidence, either. His fastball velocity would touch 94 mph, but constantly would fade as he traveled through the game. His breaking ball is exciting and I think it can be more than it was last year, but it’s not quite that pitch to elevate him into must-start territory. We haven’t seen a whole lot of Javier yet and 2020 is weird ‘n all, so the jury is still out about how good he actually is, but I’d preach caution whenever possible.
79. Chris Bassitt (Oakland Athletics) – I wish I could look at Bassitt’s ratios over the last few years and tell you I believe it will stick. The man hasn’t held a WHIP above 1.25 since 2016 while keeping his ERAs under 4.00 and strikeout rates above 20%. Lovely! Thing is, he does it all with a sinker. Seriously, he’s mixed in four other pitches regularly and they are all incredibly meh — it’s why he’s failed to hit a 10% SwStr for a season (just .1% off last year!). And that there lies the problem: Bassitt can only go down. He gets a stupid high CSW% on that sinker, but I just don’t believe it to be a pitch that makes him invulnerable to disaster consistently through the year, returning a low ceiling for a 12-teamer. It screams TOBY with the floor certainly in a place that harms your squad. He’ll likely get the Astros and Dodgers to kick things off as well, which just icing on the steak. Yeah, you don’t want that icing. It’s a tough call drafting Bassitt and I’m in the camp to sit it out if you can.
80. Nate Pearson (Toronto Blue Jays) – I wrestled with Pearson’s ranking and ultimately I think Pearson could be the player that jumps my ranks the fastest if he’s given a clear shot out of spring training and succeeds early. I’m skeptical that his arm injury isn’t an issue through the season, while it’s hard to expect legit volume from a guy who hasn’t pitched more than 110 frames in any year across all levels. On the chance he does have a 150+ IP season, Pearson could be a difference-maker with an upper-90s heater and a slider that should speak to an overall strikeout rate around 25%. The very brief glimpse we had of Pearson displayed more volatility in both pitches than I’d like to see, especially without another secondary pitch I could be confident in for the long haul. I’m willing to wager this doesn’t quite work out for the year, but hey, feel free to see how it looks early and go from there.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)