The Top 100 Starting Pitchers For 2020 – MLB Delay Edition

Nick Pollack's Top 100 Starting Pitchers have been updated.

This is a crazy time we’re living in. I’ve never made a version of The List before with so much uncertainty, but here we are, at the end of March, reading tea leaves to figure out when (or if?!) baseball will be played in 2020. Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

I’ve updated my Top 100 ranks since I made these at the start of February with most ranking shifts coming from the MLB delay, but a good handful are a product of a change of heart. Let’s get to it and make sure to check out the notes below.

1Gerrit ColeT1-
2Jacob deGrom-
3Max Scherzer+1
4Justin Verlander-1
5Walker Buehler
T2
-
6Shane Bieber
T3
+2
7Mike Clevinger-1
8Stephen Strasburg+1
9Jack Flaherty
T4
+1
10Patrick Corbin+2
11Charlie Morton+6
12Clayton Kershaw+3
13Luis Castillo+1
14Yu Darvish-1
15Lucas Giolito+4
16Chris Paddack+8
17Blake Snell-6
18Corey Kluber
T5
-2
19Aaron Nola+1
20Zack Wheeler+1
21Zack Greinke+1
22Zac Gallen+1
23Sonny Gray+8
24Tyler Glasnow+1
25James Paxton+36
26Carlos Carrasco
T6
-8
27Madison Bumgarner-1
28Lance Lynn-1
29Noah Syndergaard-1
30Frankie Montas-1
31Trevor Bauer-1
32Brandon Woodruff-
33Mike Soroka-
34Jose Berrios-
35David Price
T7
-
36Jesus Luzardo+3
37Kenta Maeda+3
38Shohei Ohtani+9
39Carlos Martinez-3
40Matthew Boyd+1
41Julio Urias
T8
+10
42Max Fried-5
43Luke Weaver-1
44Andrew Heaney-
45Lance McCullers+15
46Kyle Hendricks-8
47Joe Musgrove-4
48Sean Manaea-3
49Dinelson Lamet-3
50Robbie Ray-2
51Mike Foltynewicz+5
52Mitch Keller-3
53Caleb Smith-1
54Jose Urquidy-
55Jake Odorizzi+2
56Mike Minor+2
57Eduardo Rodriguez-7
58German Marquez-3
59Hyun-Jin Ryu-
60Dylan Cease
T9
+3
61Jordan Montgomery+19
62Alex Wood+19
63Garrett Richards+1
64Masahiro Tanaka+1
65Sandy Alcantara+1
66Adrian Houser+3
67Josh Lindblom+21
68John Means+14
69Griffin Canning-16
70Dylan Bundy-
71Michael Kopech
T10
-4
72A.J. Puk-4
73Josh James-11
74Taijuan Walker+UR
75Joey Lucchesi-3
76Dallas Keuchel-3
77Cole Hamels+UR
78Yonny Chirinos-4
79Ryan Yarbrough-4
80Marcus Stroman-4
81Anthony DeSclafani-4
82Zach Plesac
T11
-4
83Aaron Civale-4
84Spencer Turnbull-
85Wade Miley-
86Justus Sheffield-
87Nathan Eovaldi-
88Kevin Gausman+1
89Rich Hill+UR
90Chris Archer-
91Asher Wojciechowski-
92Jon Gray-
93Dakota Hudson-
94Johnny Cueto-
95Homer Bailey-
96JA Happ-
97Jordan Lyles+1
98Chad Kuhl+1
99Steven Matz+1
100Chris Bassitt+UR

 

 

Ranking Notes

 

  • Chris Sale and Tyler Beede are gone because of TJS. It makes a huge impact on the ranking numbers, so keep that in mind. Luis Severino was removed last time, so no extra (+1) there.
  • …and so does James Paxton jumping into the Top 25 as he has now been given enough time to heal before the season starts.
  • Blake Snell, Justin Verlander, and Mike Clevinger took a lot of energy to consider here. I’m worried Clevinger rushed back too soon from surgery, so he gets docked just one spot behind Shane Bieberbut I’ll assume he’s good to go for the limited season. Verlander got the same treatment with Scherzer, as there is still some risk that his lat injury will stick around. I am worried that Snell’s injury will flare up again during the year, though, as no surgery took place. A lot more risk there, so he drops.
  • Let’s tackle the major shifters due to a shorter season: Lance McCullers‘ innings are not an issue anymore. Shohei Ohtani will be healed and ready to go. Jesus Luzardo and Julio Urias jump a bit since their likely 140 IP limits will be hard to hit in a shorter season. Chris Paddack had a 180 IP limit that will not matter. Charlie Morton has less time for his likely injury, so I gave him a significant boost. Cole Hamels will be back from his injury and serve as a solid Toby like Dallas KeuchelLastly, I wanted to drop Griffin Canning further with his elbow injury, but the current status is he’ll be ready when we play, so I didn’t lower him too far. Still worth the lottery ticket.
  • I’ve been impressed by the velocities of Jordan Montgomery, Alex Woodand Taijuan Walker all sitting above 92 mph. The former two make for excellent late grabs to see how the season starts, while I’m down for Walker as a deeper flier.
  • There was a lot of buzz about John Means improving his breaking stuff, vaulting him above the other Tobys. The same goes for Josh Lindblomwho showcased an impressive repertoire in the spring and is worth a dart throw before diving into the shrugs of arms in the bottom quarter of the ranks.
  • It looks like AJ Puk and Michael Kopech will not start the season in the rotation. If you have the room, go for it as they could be impact arms, but it may be a bit frustrating, especially in a shortened season where each productive inning means more.
  • I found myself favoring Mike Foltynewicz a bit more in drafts while stalling on Kyle Hendricksresulting in a rise and fall, respectively. Folty is a sturdy option among a sea of upside takes and very close to Hendricks, with a slightly different balance of ceiling and floor.
  • I’ve had a massive turnaround on Sonny Gray and I wasn’t giving him enough credit in February. The main argument against was expected regression from his slider and curveball (which still may come!), though learning that he improved the pitches when Bauer came over and introduced him to slow-motion cameras made me reconsider if I was being too harsh. In the end, he carries a similar ratio floor to Bumgarner with plenty higher strikeout ability, so I raised him to #23.
  • I’m a touch worried about Carlos Carrasco‘s array of health problems, so I lowered him to the mid-20s as I found myself not wanting to take his risk over other similar arms.
  • There’s a lot of hype around Max Fried for this season with his excellent slider and while I really hope it does pan out, there’s a heavy amount of risk associated with taking him inside the Top 40. With better overall arms having more security entering the year, I dropped him into the early 40s.
  • Josh James is still battling for a fifth spot in the Houston rotation and could easily miss out, making me hesitant to chase him in the later rounds. The same goes for Austin Voth as Joe Ross is more than likely to steal the fifth spot in Washington. Sadly, I’m not a fan of chasing him in drafts. EditRich Hill was somehow removed at #89, leaving Voth on The List. Hill has been added (he should be healthy by the start of the year and provides intriguing early upside!), forcing Voth, without a spot in the rotation, off The List.
  • I found myself still staying away from Eduardo Rodriguez as I don’t trust that he’ll be a steady producer throughout the year. He’s still Top 60, but there are too many serviceable arms to go after instead.
  • There are rumors that Spencer Howard could start the year in the rotation and he likely deserves a spot on The List because of that. I wanted to wait until I heard more as it’s just a rumor at this point, with Kopech and Puk much more in the discussion up to now than Howard. I have no problem with anyone stashing Howard for now though as a last pick in the draft.

Photos by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@FreshmeatComm on Twitter)

 

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Rotographs contributor. Worked with CBS Sports, Grantland, Washington Post, and SB Nation. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum.

  • Avatar Mike D says:

    Nick my man—it’s Mike D, Joey O and Robs friend from the CBS league. Question-I’m deciding between Castillo and Kershaw in our league for a keeper. Any reason you moved Kershaw ahead of him? Stay gold Pony boy.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Mike! Great to see you man, hope the kids are well.

      Good question about Kershaw vs. Castillo. It’s a result of three things:

      – A shorter season = less time for Kershaw’s back to flare up
      – I’m *slightly* buying into Kershaw’s reported velocity increases after visiting driveline
      – He’s much safer for production if you’re going for an SP among the first 15 off the board.

      Castillo is still a bit capped ceiling wise to me as his fastball command just isn’t going to be consistent enough as a slinger – he gets on the side of the ball and can’t pinpoint it like his elite peers. Without that foundation, I see Kershaw as a better early play for a productive season.

      Now in your keeper league…that’s absurdly close. I’d say it depends more on now vs. later, though Kershaw could have a good more left in the tank if his velocity is indeed back to normal. I doubt Joey would make y’all submit keepers until we’re closer to the start of the season, hopefully we know more about the changes Kershaw’s made before then.

      In all honestly, though, I’d trade one of them away for a hitter instead. There were always too many good starters available on the wire in that league :-P

      • Avatar Mike Davidson says:

        Good stuff, Nick, kids are great, thanks a lot my friend. My guy was telling me Kershaw, I was surprised to see so many people having Castillo ranked over him…glad to see you guys doing so well with the site, keep it up!!! Hope you are staying safe, and see you at some point in Bk!!!

  • Avatar Jake says:

    Caleb Smith at 53 is insane. Rank is clearly based on some emotional attachment and undercuts your arguments that you rank based on facts rather than feelings. Just be honest with your audience about that.

    • Avatar Derek says:

      What a goofy comment. Why don’t you instead provide reasons why Caleb Smith isn’t 53

      • Avatar Jake says:

        What’s goofy about it? Why don’t you take a look at his performance, surface and underlying, and tell me why he should be. I can’t see a good argument for it other than some type of subjective “I believe…” or “If he does…” or “He has theoretical upside because..”

        • Avatar Derek says:

          I don’t mean to speak for the omnipotent Nick Pollock, but here goes.
          It’s goofy because instead of assuming that Nick looked at the numbers and came to a different conclusion than you did like he said he did, you assume it’s because it’s emotion. Do you have evidence that it’s emotion?
          Caleb Smith, in his healthy starts, had a 3.5 ERA, a 32 percent K rate, 3 effective pitches, and a great home park.

          • Avatar Jake says:

            He missed one month which was June. Came back in July and pitched 81 innings in the second half. Pitched more innings in the second half than the first, so tough to argue he was hurt then if he pitched more innings, and he produced a 5.42 ERA/1.41 WHIP and 1.99 HR/9. He has been consistently horrible the last two years away from home (that will continue to account for half his starts going forward btw and don’t see why it would change). Carries a career 9.7% BB, and a 1.7 HR/9. Career marks of 4.66 ERA/4.87 xFIP/ 4.44 SIERA. If you, or Nick, want to isolate those 70 first half 2019 innings out of 250 career innings (28%) to justify this ranking, then be my guest. That is still insane imo, and I can only see an explanation for it that is based on emotion, or some other subjective/gut feeling, because I don’t see it in the numbers except under a cherry picked sample size. There are way more bad performance innings sandwiched around the good ones you want to highlight.

            • Avatar Derek says:

              Now we’re having an intelligent conversation instead of using ad hominem, do you see how this works?
              It’s super easy to argue that he was pitching hurt. Total amount of innings means nothing. Here’s an excerpt from Cole Hamels, who had a 3 ERA going into the ASG, came back too soon, and had a 5.8 ERA ROS: ““I rushed back,” Hamels said. “I thought I’d be able to generate my pitches just by being out there. I thought I could just make it work. Unfortunately, my arm got tired. I basically ran before I could walk. I was never able to catch up.”” If you think pitchers don’t get rushed back or pitch through injury, you gotta open your eyes a little. His swinging strike rates cratered, velocity decreased, home run rates spiked, he was basically terrible right after he came back from injury through the rest of the season. If you think that’s a coincidence, I don’t know what to tell you.
              He’s been bad away from home because he has a home run problem. In the first half, it was like 1.3 HR/9. Which is not great, but not horrible. In the second half, it exploded. Which is horrible. If you’re going to have a home run problem, Marlins Park is the place to have it, and he has been really good at mitigating hits. He also has a walks bugaboo, that was again worse in the second half than the first. He’s not going to win an ERA title, but you’re drafting him as your 6? With a ~28% K rate? That’s fine, right?
              His career numbers are irrelevant. 9 of those games came out of the pen for the Yankees in 2017, and literally the majority of the innings in his career he was pitching hurt. As soon as we started to see the real Caleb Smith, he got hurt.
              If you want to call me a cherry picker, and you want to say Caleb Smith is bad because he was bad out of the pen with the Yankees in 2017 and bad immediately after injury this year, cool. But the numbers are there for him to be a number 6 for your fantasy staff. A 28% K rate, a 3.8 ERA, and a 1.22 WHIP is perfectly attainable.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Hey Jake,

      I completely understand if you’re not a fan of Caleb Smith – many aren’t. I’m not one to base my rankings on feel or “I like the guy” or anything close to it.

      The first run of rankings features a detailed breakdown of each pitcher, outlining why I have them where they are. Here’s the article for Caleb Smith (https://www.pitcherlist.com/the-top-60-starting-pitchers-for-2020-fantasy-baseball/) and I hope you don’t mind me pasting in his blurb here:

      “It’s a joke by now, but you case you didn’t know, I like Caleb Smith. Am I saying that you should be drafting him in all leagues? Maybe not, but we’re at the point where it’s about chasing upside, and Smith displayed tangible talent last season before he succumbed to a hip injury. His fastball sat 92+ mph through his first eleven starts before hitting the IL after the 12th, then hovered 91 mph the rest of the season. During that time, his swinging-strike rate was 15.6%. His ERA was 3.10 with a 3.43 SIERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 34% strikeout rate.

      Yes, you can take many small samples and get excellent results, but those whiff numbers with higher velocity before an injury hit?! That just screams like a chance you should be taking out of the gate at a point in your draft when it’s not a win/lose situation. You’re not drafting him as an anchor: He’ll be your fifth, sixth, or maybe even seventh starter who could hold a 30%+ strikeout rate. GO FOR THIS. His dominance is based on a three-pitch mix of elevated fastballs and a slider/changeup combination that each miss bats over 16% of the time and hint at the Money Pitch metrics. It’s there, the upside you want at a time dedicated to chasing it.

      The biggest knock on Smith has been his HR rates, which ballooned to 1.94 last season, and now he doesn’t have as much of a luxury in his home park as Miami moved in its fences. But let’s say he falls down to a 1.45 HR/9 for the year; that seems reasonable. That is what he had during his first eleven healthy starts.

      One final fact: He had at least eight strikeouts in all but two of those first eleven games. One was a horrid one-strikeout game; the other was seven. Chase the health out of the gate. If he’s above 91 mph, this could be a steal past SP pick #50.

      Nick’s Reluctant Projection: 4.20 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 27% K rate in 160 IP”

  • Avatar J.C. Mosier says:

    Great thanks to you and your staff for helping us through these sports-less times!

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Thanks J.C.!

      Stay safe and healthy – we’re going to be well alive here at the site through the delay and here’s to hoping baseball returns soon!

  • Avatar Turp says:

    If Josh James was guaranteed a rotation spot, how would that affect his ranking?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      He would be pushed to around the late 50s/low 60s or so.

      I worry that his control will turn him into a low IPS arm and give you a headache each time he’s out there. I really hope I’m wrong.

  • Avatar Dave says:

    Nick,

    What was the reason for Chris Archer falling out? He had a good (abbreviated) ST and I’m not aware of an injury.

    Thanks

  • Avatar D says:

    Ryu down at the end of Tier 8 looks like he could provide a ton of profit. I’d take him up with those tier 6 guys, and if I can grab him as SP 59 I’d be thrilled.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      It really is all about your 12-teamer philosophy.

      I see Ryu as someone that will not replicate the sub 3.00 ERA season, while he’ll be closer to a 20% strikeout rate than 25%, and the Toronto defense + turf + AL Beast is going to force his ERA and WHIP to move toward decent but not great levels.

      I think he’ll outperform the #59, but I’d rather take a chance on the guys in front of him who could make a larger impact on your squads than Ryu. It’s all about weighing upside/floor and at this point in drafts (getting your SP #5 or so), I’m chasing ceilings in 12-teamers.

  • Avatar Jon Gray's Broken Toe says:

    Great ranking for the website’s namesake!

    Question regarding James Paxton. Here is some of the background information regarding the surgery I read at mydailynews.com:

    “University of Pennsylvania spinal surgery expert Dr. Michael Murray said there is a 90% chance that with a good rehab, Paxton will return to full strength by the end of the 2020 season. He also said the pitcher and the Yankees have to be very cautious about that process.

    “When you get a herniated disc, what happens is there’s a crack or a tear of that outer lining of the disc, the annulus,” Murray said, “and the problem is when you take the herniated disc out, if you don’t allow that crack to heal, and you don’t take the pressure off it for a while, you can get a re-herniation.”

    Paxton had a chunk of his back taken out… AND he is going to play while his back continues to strengthen! The article also spoke about Tiger Woods as a worst case scenario… Tiger Woods had several herniated disc injuries (starting with only one) and eventually needed spinal fusion. Going forward, I see Paxton having perennial back issues … the Todd Helton or Jim Thome of pitchers. He will have back issues for the rest of his life.

    When you rank James Paxton at 25, have you taken the same type of health assumptions as I have stated above, or are you taking a more aggressive position on Paxton’s healthy back?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Hey! Great question.

      I have ranked Paxton a bit lower given that he is constantly a health risk. The assumption right now is that he’ll be the #2 SP for the Yankees out of the gate, but as you said, there’s reason to still be cautious.

      If he plays 100% through the year, he’s easily a Top 20 starter, so I’ve docked him some points here.

  • Avatar Edward says:

    Just curious. If Howard secures that 5th spot where would you rank him? And Pearson?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Hey Edward!

      I’d have them both hovering the late 50s and early 60s.

      I haven’t formed a full opinion of them yet – I often do when they have their first real appearance in the majors so I can properly scout them (it’s not the same watching them vs. minor leaguers).

  • Avatar Mike H. says:

    Michael Kopech at 71 is borderline criminal – not to mention the fact that his ranking is FALLING as the site gets updated. He’s EASILY a top 20 pitcher (arguably top 10 – even 5 if you ask me). Obviously there is the health concern but he seemed pretty damn healthy to me in ST slinging 101 mph heaters over the corners. With the shortened season I don’t see him not making the starting rotation out of the gate and if he does he’s a bonafide ace.

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