The List 8/30: Top 100 Starting Pitchers For 2021 – Week 23

Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Rankings for 2021 - Week 23.

It’s the weekly tradition here at Pitcher List where I rank the Top 100 Starting Pitchers in fantasy baseball and it’s time for Week 23 starting pitcher rankings.

Want an earlier update to The List? Join me on Mondays at 12:00pm EST as I live-stream its creation each week!

Have questions? My “office hours” are on Twitch 9:00 am – 11:00 am EST Monday – Friday + the aforementioned stream for The List.

As always, make sure to read the notes as many changes have good reasons behind them, and please consider that these ranks are based on a 12-teamer, 5×5 roto format. Adjust accordingly to your situation.

For those unaware:

  • Cherry Bomb = A volatile pitcher who is either super sweet or blows up in your face. There are few middle grounds.
  • Toby = A middling pitcher who you can’t decide if they do enough to stay on your team and give you the itch to drop every single day. Named after Toby from The Office.

Here are the rules for those wondering why a pitcher is or isn’t ranked here:

  1. If a pitcher is on the IL or out of the rotation and not confirmed for a start this week, they are pushed into the Fringe table.
  2. If a pitcher is in a rotation and not confirmed to start but has not been placed on the IL or officially removed, they remain on The List.
  3. These rankings are made as if I am drafting a team today for the rest of the season.
  4. This means the Top 40-50 picks are more for ROS, while the rankings after are more short-term focused.
  5. I will only incorporate a game played on Monday if the pitcher’s performance is completed before 2:00 pm EST.

 

Ranking Notes

 

  • This is your reminder to please read these notes as they’ll tell you plenty about why “someone moved up” or “why is he at #X?!”
  • Seriously. Read the notes.

 

  • This is the final week that The List will be presented as you know it. Next Tuesday (Labor Day on Monday) will be a ranking combined with the expected schedules for all rotations through the end of the year. Instead of a traditional 1-100 ranking, it will shift to a table that showcases how many Good/Neutral/Poor matchups each pitcher is expected to have + a tiered grouping. It’s been fun y’all :)
  • That said, this week heavily incorporated future schedules as well. Each pitcher’s expected matchups did not play a major factor inside the Top ~40 or so, but they did in the second half of the rankings, including some dramatic drops at the end. I’ll note those affected inside the notes below, but please keep in mind: This edition heavily considered expected schedule.

 

  • The top tier doesn’t change, despite Walker Buehler and Gerrit Cole each pitching at a level deserving of the #1 spot. With Buehler, there’s still a concern he’ll be limited in some capacity in September. For Cole, he’s been fantastic, but Scherzer has done it all year.
  • Zack Wheeler’s ERA has taken a hit lately, but moreso due to being left in too long (Careful, Icarus) and not as a product of his ability. He’s still fantastic.

 

  • The second tier welcomed back Carlos Rodóneven if his velocity was a tad on the lower end for 2021’s standards. I’d expect him to get back up to speed moving forward.
  • Speaking of getting up to speed, Sandy Alcantara blazed past the Reds on back-to-back starts, earning 23 strikeouts in the process. He has the Phillies next and he’s one more dominant start away from getting the AGA label back once again.

 

  • Look at Frankie Montasrising to #14 as he sits at the top of the third tier. The man has been on a tear and has no signs of slowing down. I could say the same for Logan Webb and Adam Wainwright right behind him and there’s zero reason you should stop starting any of them. I’m tempted to call it the “Márquez Rule” akin to his incredible run in 2018 that was more than a Vargas Rule but not deserving a legit AGA title.
  • Kevin Gausman falls to #18 as he lost his AGA tag this week. His splitter simply hasn’t been the same over the past month and change and while I believe he will get the splitty back before season’s end, I can’t overlook others who are having that success right now.

 

  • I didn’t lower Shohei OhtaniWebb and Waino went above him. I did slightly lower Charlie Mortonthough. He has a rough schedule ahead and he’s shown a bit of weakness against strong opponents – he’s only human. I wouldn’t stop starting him, but he gets dinged a few points.
  • Shane McClanahan doesn’t have a pretty schedule, either, pushing him slightly down a few spots in favor of Alek Manoah.

 

  • It’s about time I gave some more love to Nathan Eovaldi after his curveball was returned a whopping 41% CSW this season. Crazy! He only tosses it 18% of the time, but that new secondary offering has turned Eovaldi into a legit arm down the stretch.
  • Sorry Max Friedyou haven’t had your best slider and the schedule ahead isn’t the prettiest. I’d rather go with the others above who carry the same skill set but aren’t trending in the wrong direction.

 

  • Hey Marcus Stromanplease keep doing what you’re doing. The Mets have a wonderful schedule ahead and Stroman is feeling his slider + cutter. As long as that approach is intact, Stroman can soar through the finish line.
  • Our featured pitcher this week is Blake Snellwho tossed 122 pitches as he stomped the Dodgers, marking his fifth straight strong outing. The new fastball/slider attack has worked beautifully and it seems more stable with each start we see it. I hope we see it for a full month ahead.

 

  • Tier 6 is where things get interesting. Tarik Skubal had his four-seamer doing wonderful things last time out + his slider earned quality strikes in the zone. As long as those two pitches are working, his changeup is just icing at that point. Hopefully he can carry it through the end with a decent schedule in front of him.
  • The legend of Cal Quantrill grows, taking down the Red Sox over the weekend. He does get the Sawx a second time and while I’m not completely sold that the slider + fastball are enough for sustained long-term success, you can’t deny the run he’s been on.

 

  • After a mid-season lull from Kyle Gibsonhe looks to be back to his old tricks again, paired with a ridiculously good schedule ahead – @MIA, @MIL, CHC, @NYM. Just one more month Gibson, you can do this.
  • Ian Anderson returns to the list and sits inside the top 50 despite not earning a single strikeout across 5.2 frames against the Giants. I can’t imagine the dearth of punchouts replicating moving forward and his results should benefit your squads…after his next start in Coors.

 

  • I was conflicted on where to place Sean ManaeaIt’s been a downward spiral across the last month, however his start against the Yankees did come with a silver lining – he sat 93.3 mph on his sinker. The second half of the puzzle is locating his changeups and curveballs down and under the zone and if Manaea reclaims that command, he could make a major impact down the stretch.
  • Despite falling two spots, Sonny Gray could climb quickly if his new slider/cutter continues to produce. The Reds have a comfortable schedule ahead and it could spell a massive rebound for Gray.

 

  • Tier 7 is filled with fun, young names. Edward Cabrera made his MLB debut and left us wondering what comes next after striking out just two batters. The Marlins have few teams to fear ahead of them and Cabrera may be lodged into that rotation (six-man?) as they give him more experience in preparation for a 2022 rotation spot.
  • Carlos Hernández’s last pitches came via a surprise relief appearance on Friday, where he dominated once again with upper 90s heaters and a pair of whiff-heavy breakers. There’s plenty of potential here as long as the command doesn’t waver, and he’s set to face the weakest teams of any of his peers in Kansas City.

 

  • I gave a dip to Tanner Houck as he hasn’t come through on the volume nor strikeout front now that he’s fully entrenched in the Red Sox rotation. The skills are there – a 94/95 mph heater + a wipeout slider – it’s on him to put it together and put batters on their heels.
  • Now that the difficult starts are (mostly) behind him, it’s time to embrace Daniel LynchSeptember could show us plenty more whiffs on that slider + well-located heaters as he gets more comfortable inside the Royals’ rotation.

 

  • Tier 8 is a long one and is a mash of two ideas: Guys who aren’t in the best situations but have legit potential to be auto-starts + steady arms that should raise the floor of your teams.
  • Take Carlos Carrascofor example. He’s been struggling since returning from the IL, but had a moment where things clicked for him against the Giants. After tossing sliders in the first, he went changeup-heavy for the following six frames, finally giving us a glimpse of his former self. If Carrasco carries that changeup + finds his old slider, he can carve up lineups through September.

 

  • Zac Gallen isn’t having the easiest time in the Diamondbacks’ rotation. His four-seamer is helping him get outs, but his classic changeup and cutter simply aren’t what they used to be. I believe he’ll find both pitches over time, but the Dodgers and Houston await in mid-September and time is running out. We’re in a tough position and hoping Gallen figures it out.
  • It’s a large leap for Austin Gomberbut keep in mind that three of his next four starts are on the road + he’s embracing 30% fastball usage once again. That should work in his favor.

 

  • It hasn’t been fun watching Hyun Jin Ryu struggle with his repertoire over the past two months and after showcasing his best slider in ages against the Tigers, he relapsed against the White Sox. There’s a chance the slow ball does return and his opponents aren’t the most intimidating, but he deserved a large drop in the ranks.
  • The same goes for Kyle Hendrickswho’s battled his command constantly over the last few weeks, leading up to Sunday’s disaster against the White Sox (the White Sox are ruining everybody, aren’t they). It has always been a small margin of error for Hendricks and without that command, it’s hard for things to go his way.

 

  • Tier 9 is the ABBA tier: “Take a chance on me”. All of these arms are exciting in their own way, but we just don’t know how their skills will play out over the last month of the year. Take Aaron Ashbyfor example. His fastball clocks in at 95+ mph with a pair of strong secondaries he can throw for strikes, but we just don’t know how the Brewers will use him in the final weeks. Let’s hope he gets the starts he deserves.
  • Corey Kluber and Chris Paddack are both returning from the IL to start on Monday and we just don’t know how they’ll perform. The upside is clear, though they could hurt more than help in September.

 

  • Ranger Suárez and Jake Odorizzi sit inside the Top 75 as their schedules are as pretty as they get over the next few weeks. Suárez doesn’t bring electric upside, but he should be able to plod through weak teams to help, while Odorizzi could mimic his 2019 self and produce.
  • It was a magnificent start for Jesús Luzardo as he fanned eight after reducing his fastball usage to just 40%. It’s an approach that should work for the credentialed southpaw – it’s far and away his worst offering – and if Luzardo leans into it, we could see more success come his way.

 

  • I know it’s crazy, but Kyle Freeland has a new curveball and we’ve seen it dominate for two straight starts, including a bout with the Dodgers. It’s something to heavily consider against Texas ahead.
  • As I type this, Bailey Ober is looking like Bailey Oberizzi again, elevating four-seamers effectively against the Tigers. He’s now added the extra element of sliders down-and-away for a solid one-two punch and I’m intrigued for what’s ahead…just maybe not against the Rays next.

 

  • Don’t overlook A.J. Alexywho makes his MLB debut for the Rangers on Monday evening. He comes with a mid-90s heater he tends to elevate + a big yacker that falls to the bottom of the zone. It sounds like a BSB and who knows, maybe he electrifies Texas down the stretch.
  • Finally, I should mention Zach Plesac, who found his slider last time out, but still doesn’t have his 2020 changeup. He’s halfway back to his best self, though, and it could return across the next month.

 

  • It’s been tough enduring Eduardo Rodriguezbut his fastball simply isn’t enough to start him against the Rays twice + White Sox ahead. He really needs that changeup to return and there’s no hint of it coming back any time soon.

 

  • In the tenth tier, we move away from exciting potential to a little more stability. You know what you’re going to get from Nick Pivetta and Cole Irvinwhile Kwang Hyun Kim and Chris Flexen have showcased themselves as steady Toby types.
  • There was no official news at the time of publication about Jon Gray’s status moving forward after he was pulled with a forearm injury. I fear the worst and elected to pull him down to #84 – past the point where you’d be holding onto starters. Consider replacing his roster spot with a flier off the wire.

 

  • Tier 11 is Tier 9 but a full step down. Glenn Otto made his debut last week and displayed a fantastic slider that kept Astros hitters at bay. We don’t know if the fastball command will be good enough to let the slider overwhelm moving forward, but it was a great first impression.
  • Otto’s teammate Taylor Hearn makes The List as he had a decent start against the Angels on the horizon. I don’t think his overall ability speaks to an arm you should hold for an extended time, but there may be some value to be had there.

 

  • A pair of classic names find themselves just inside the Top 90 in Rich Hill and Chris ArcherHill has a luscious date with the Marlins ahead, while Archer just flexed a slider akin to his 2017 self. We’ll see how these arms pan out.
  • I gave massive drops to Tylor Megill, Anthony DeSclafani, Yusei Kikuchiand Patrick Corbin this week. Megill hasn’t had his changeup for a few weeks now and I worry he’ll be searching for the slow ball all September. Without that pitch, he’s not worth your time. Kikuchi and DeSclafani each have horrific schedules ahead of them and in concert with their recent struggles, I would abandon ship on both. And then there’s Corbin, who has the velocity and whiffs…but doesn’t get the results. Sigh.

 

  • In the final tier, we have a group of desperate options if you’re chasing streamers across the next two weeks. Bryse Wilson just tossed a gem and has three cushy matchups against the Cubs, Nationals, and Marlins after a gauntlet against the ChiSox. Paul Blackburn also has a trio of solid starts, Paolo Espino doesn’t get much volume, but may help in his beneficial matchups 9and just earned plenty of slider whiffs!), and Johnny Cueto is a certifiable Toby with a few good options.
  • Finally, there’s Alec Millswho has a start against the Pirates this week after going 8.1 frames strong against the White Sox. Hey, you could do worse.

 

Fringe Pitchers I Considered

 

All right, now that the notes are at the top and you understand where I’m coming from, let’s get to The List:

 

YOU SHOULD READ THE NOTES

 

RankPitcherBadgesChange
1Max ScherzerT1
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
2Walker Buehler
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
-
3Gerrit Cole
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
4Zack Wheeler
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
5Brandon Woodruff
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
-
6Robbie Ray
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
7Lance Lynn
T2
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
8Corbin Burnes
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
-
9Chris Sale
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-
10Lucas Giolito
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
11Luis Castillo
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+1
12Sandy Alcantara
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+7
13Carlos Rodón
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+UR
14Frankie Montas
T3
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Cherry Bomb
+2
15Logan Webb
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Streaming Option
+7
16Adam Wainwright
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
+5
17Lance McCullers Jr.
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-2
18Kevin Gausman
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-8
19Shohei Ohtani
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-2
20Charlie Morton
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-6
21Alek Manoah
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+3
22Shane McClanahan
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-2
23Joe Musgrove
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
+4
24Aaron Nola
T4
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
25Yu Darvish
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-2
26José Berríos
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Cherry Bomb
-
27Julio Urías
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
+1
28Luis García
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+1
29Nathan Eovaldi
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+7
30Max Fried
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
-12
31Huascar Ynoa
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
+1
32Dylan Cease
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
+9
33Marcus Stroman
T5
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
+11
34Alex Wood
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
-4
35Blake Snell
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
+7
36Tyler Mahle
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-3
37Josiah Gray
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Streaming Option
+2
38Framber Valdez
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-4
39Wade Miley
Injury Risk
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
+6
40Sonny Gray
T6
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
-2
41Germán Márquez
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Cherry Bomb
-6
42Taijuan Walker
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+9
43Tarik Skubal
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
+11
44Jordan Montgomery
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+12
45Cal Quantrill
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+8
46Kyle Gibson
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+27
47Sean Manaea
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Ratio Focused
-16
48Ian Anderson
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
+UR
49
T7
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Stash Option
+8
50Carlos Hernández
Strikeout Upside
Stash Option
+10
51Elieser Hernandez
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+7
52Daniel Lynch
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Streaming Option
+29
53Tanner Houck
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
-13
54John Means
T8
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Stash Option
-4
55Jameson Taillon
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
-9
56Zac Gallen
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
-19
57Carlos Carrasco
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Stash Option
+11
58Vladimir Gutierrez
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
-3
59Austin Gomber
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+16
60Zack Greinke
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
-13
61Zach Thompson
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+5
62Marco Gonzales
Toby
Ratio Focused
+3
63Steven Matz
Injury Risk
Cherry Bomb
Toby
+1
64Hyun Jin Ryu
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
-21
65James Kaprielian
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
-2
66Kyle Hendricks
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
-18
67Aaron Ashby
T9
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Streaming Option
+UR
68Corey Kluber
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
69Chris Paddack
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
70Jake Odorizzi
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+10
71Ranger Suárez
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
72Kyle Freeland
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
Stash Option
+12
73Jesús Luzardo
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Stash Option
+27
74Brady Singer
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+UR
75Luis Patiño
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+7
76Bailey Ober
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+16
77Zach Plesac
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Stash Option
-5
78
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
79Kwang Hyun Kim
T10
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
80Chris Flexen
Cherry Bomb
Toby
Ratio Focused
+8
81Cole Irvin
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
-4
82Nick Pivetta
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-8
83Jon Gray
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-24
84Eduardo Rodriguez
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
-22
85Glenn Otto
T11
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
86Eli Morgan
Strikeout Upside
Streaming Option
-
87Taylor Hearn
Toby
Streaming Option
+UR
88Rich Hill
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Streaming Option
+UR
89Chris Archer
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
90Matthew Boyd
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
91Tylor Megill
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
-21
92Anthony DeSclafani
Injury Risk
Cherry Bomb
Ratio Focused
+UR
93Yusei Kikuchi
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Stash Option
-26
94Patrick Corbin
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Stash Option
-23
95Tyler Anderson
T12
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
-16
96Johnny Cueto
Toby
Streaming Option
+UR
97Bryse Wilson
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
98Paul Blackburn
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
99Alec Mills
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
100Paolo Espino
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR

Labels Legend

Aces Gonna Ace
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low IPS
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
Stash Option

Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

2 responses to “The List 8/30: Top 100 Starting Pitchers For 2021 – Week 23”

  1. Mike Honcho says:

    On 8/27, big column…”E-Rod has nearly figured it out”. Then you drop him below into the bowels of the rankings.
    So is he a drop in 12 teamers or what???

  2. Dan says:

    Logan Webb has 7 straight QS. Doesn’t that earn him some purple?

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