The Top 100 Starting Pitchers For 2021 – The List 3/29 UPDATE

The Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2021.

What is happening!

I put out my initial Top 200 Starting Pitcher rankings back in the middle of February and another update just under two weeks ago and, to the surprise of few, we’re well due for another update.

The foundations of these rankings are the same as they were back then – Volume, early schedule, realizing you’re not drafting a best ball team, etc. – and please read that section of the Top 200 rankings again to grasp how to take advantage of this updated Top 100 to its fullest.

I’ve also published my Ultimate Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide For 2021 that outlines a lot of my philosophy when creating this List. I highly recommend reading that for your drafts.

In addition, I updated my SP Schedules article tables, which showcase the first four matchups for every starter in the majors. It’s incredibly useful and helped craft my rankings here.

This is the final update before the start of the season as we begin the weekly tradition of The List updates on Mondays, from now through the end of the season.

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

And always, make sure to read the notes as there are many changes that 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.

 

Ranking Notes

 

  • I have removed all pitchers who will start the season on IL, meaning there is a sea of Green. Please read the notes as they’ll explain so much.
  • Seriously. Read the notes.

 

  • Hey, it’s the notes! Few changes inside the Top 40, with the major moves coming from the removals of Zac Gallen, Carlos Carrascoand Sonny GrayRemoving them + Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard, Luis Severino gave a massive bump to many.
  • The biggest change was Stephen Strasburg falling into the fifth tier as I wasn’t encouraged by how he looked in his final tuneup today. He seemed off and I’d rather go with the other Top 25 guys that are looking ready to start the season (yes, including Zach Plesac’s homerun brigade).

 

  • In Tier 6, I elected to keep Sixto Sanchez in the same spot despite the news that he’ll be skipped at least once to start the year. We didn’t expect a 180+ inning workload in the first place and it changes nothing. Nothing.
  • I did give a sizeable boost to Julio Urias as the Dodgers are looking to give him a stronger workload as their #4 starter. That mixed in with the discussion with Eno and DVR on our Rates & Barrels appearance have swayed me to mid-30s.

 

  • Staying in Tier 6, I’m a little more cautious with Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillonelecting to push Pablo Lopez and Aaron Civale ahead of them. Barely, but Kluber isn’t quite as explosive as I wanted him to be by now, while the Yanks are already manipulating Taillon’s time. Very small, but I gave PabLo and Civale the push.
  • I’ve also added Tyler Mahle to this tier as his early schedule is lovely, giving him the chance to continue stretching out while possibly avoiding early laborious innings. In other words, the chance he can go five innings without needing 80 pitches is much needed for a guy that hasn’t gone deep a whole lot in seasons prior.

 

  • John Means took a small dip in Tier 7 as he’s not quite at the place I want him to be entering the season. Paired with a rough couple of matchups to launch his 2021 campaign, I’m a little more selective in adding Means.
  • Meanwhile, I feel a touch safer drafting Jose Urquidy who may throw fewer innings, but is a bit more stable given his deep repertoire. Just don’t blow up against Oakland, okay Urquidy?

 

  • Tier 8 explodes with green as we’re passed the oft-mentioned “injured value” tier. Nothing really changed here save for me recognizing that Ryan Yarbrough – a.k.a. The Fratty Pirate – has a solid schedule to start the season and the Rays will need him to engulf innings.
  • I’ve also pushed Drew Smyly ahead of Mike Minor as his velocity is still up + he has a better opening schedule. Not a major deal, just a…small…one.

 

Read this next section. PLEASE.

 

  • Okay, I really need to explain the final four tiers, to the point that I added that extravagant header. The final four tiers are sectioned as follows:
    • Tier 9 = Super fun tier of guys that could leap up The List during the year based on their ability, but kinda sketch now.
    • Tier 10 = Kinda fun, kinda boring arms that have solid early schedules and I’m looking to draft to help with a few quick starts
    • Tier 11 = More fun arms I like in the long run, but have horrible early schedules. Think of this as “I may love them on May 1st but watch from afar for now”
    • Tier 12 = I’m desperate for a starter the first week and these guys are facing weak opponents
  • So in short, I’m drafting 4-5 guys inside the Top 45 pitchers, then targeting fliers later, while ignoring Tiers 11-12 for the most part. Tier 11 = if you want to stash and I’m not blind to their upside.

 

  • H’ok, so Tier 9. David Price is going to be bouncing between starts and the pen and it bothers me immensely. If he gets a starting job, he’s Top 50 or higher, but that’s just not in the cards at the moment.
  • Matthew Boyd is jumping up as I’ve liked what I’ve seen thus far. Changeup is still there, slider looks back, and 92+ mph heaters. I think I’d take the chance and start him against Cleveland now and hold out for the Pirates after.

 

  • Yep, Freddy Peralta and Logan Webb are making massive entrances to The List. I didn’t believe it before, but Peralta’s slider is legit and now that he has a rotation spot, I’m paying attention. It may be a shaky first start, but I think he figures it out by the second or third. Webb has also impressed in the spring with a ridiculous changeup and gets a tasty schedule early. I want both of these guys everywhere.
  • I’m also interested in Tarik Skubal since he was given the lovely gift of CLEx2 and PIT across his first four starts. Not to say he’ll nail it, but the upside is certainly worth it given the weak lineups (plus the whiff-heavy A’s!).

 

  • If you haven’t seen it yet, I was stunned when I watched more of Adbert Alzolay today during The List livestream. While he may need some time to nail down the command, he’s too interesting to neglect now that he has a rotation spot. His mechanics seem a little cleaner as well.
  • I’ve also given a large jump to Trevor Rogerswho is lucky to miss the Rays and get the Giants instead. I’m not quite as in vs. the other three newbies, but he’s worth the shot as a late-round flier.

 

  • Tier 10 has some very helpful arms. Michael Pineda and J.A. Happ should not be overlooked as the Twins have a glorious DET, @MIL, @DET, SEA schedule to pop the 2021 champagne. Even Matt Shoemaker gets the Tigers, too, but he has to deal with the Red Sox and that gets him pushed to the final tier.
  • Carlos Rodon has had an impressive spring thus far and it may continue with a favorable situation in Chicago. Taijuan Walker could do well for the Mets, and Brad Keller’s first start against the Rangers may be fruitful.

 

  • Tier 11 is filled with your popular arms but man do their schedules give me hesitation. Consider them as pickups at the end of April. For example, Andrew Heaney’s is atrocious and gives me nightmares, with CWS, @TOR, MIN, @HOU. I don’t think I want to start him for any of it.
  • It continues with the rest of the tier, including hot topic Daulton Jefferies who is certainly appealing, but gets the Dodgers and Astros to kick off his rotation spot. That isn’t what you want.
  • In short, keep all of these names in mind after you get your early Happ or Pineda value as they could be showcasing skills that provide dividends once their gauntlet comes to an end.

 

  • Finally, there’s Tier 12 – the last place to look if you’re dying for something in the first week. Jake Arrieta has two starts against the Pirates but sadly, I just don’t trust that he does enough to take full advantage. The same goes for Martín Pérez who has a fortunate double date with the Orioles. I’m having second thoughts after he floundered the same opportunity last season.
  • And finally, don’t ignore Mike Foltynewicz and Chris ArcherWhile they may not be their former peaks, they could still be helpful given the right matchups. Hey, it could happen.

 

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:

RankPitcherBadgesChange
1Jacob deGromT1
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
2Shane Bieber
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
3Gerrit Cole
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
4Yu Darvish
T2
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
5Lucas Giolito
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
6Aaron Nola
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
7Walker Buehler
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
8Max Scherzer
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
9Trevor Bauer
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Cherry Bomb
-
10Clayton Kershaw
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
11Kenta Maeda
T3
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
12Luis Castillo
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
13Jack Flaherty
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
14Brandon Woodruff
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
15Blake Snell
T4
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
+1
16Lance Lynn
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
17Tyler Glasnow
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
+1
18Zack Wheeler
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+4
19Hyun Jin Ryu
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
+4
20Max Fried
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+4
21Kyle Hendricks
Aces Gonna Ace
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
+4
22Zach Plesac
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+4
23Corbin Burnes
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+4
24Stephen Strasburg
T5
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-4
25Charlie Morton
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
+4
26Patrick Corbin
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+4
27Chris Paddack
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+5
28Zack Greinke
Ace Potential
Quality Starts
+3
29Jose Berrios
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+4
30Sandy Alcantara
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
+4
31Lance McCullers
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
+4
32Sixto Sanchez
T6
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+4
33Jesus Luzardo
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
+4
34Pablo Lopez
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+6
35Julio Urias
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+9
36Aaron Civale
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
+5
37Corey Kluber
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
+1
38Jameson Taillon
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
+1
39Ian Anderson
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
+3
40Frankie Montas
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+3
41Joe Musgrove
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+4
42Dylan Bundy
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+4
43Tyler Mahle
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+6
44Jose Urquidy
T7
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
+7
45John Means
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+2
46Kevin Gausman
Ace Potential
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
+4
47Marcus Stroman
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
+6
48Shohei Ohtani
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+4
49James Paxton
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+5
50Jordan Montgomery
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Stash Option
+5
51Triston McKenzie
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+5
52Domingo German
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+5
53Dallas Keuchel
T8
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
+10
54Marco Gonzales
Quality Starts
Toby
+10
55Zach Davies
Quality Starts
Toby
+11
56Drew Smyly
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+14
57Mike Minor
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
+8
58Carlos Martinez
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+10
59Ryan Yarbrough
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+28
60Logan Webb
T9
Strikeout Upside
Streaming Option
+UR
61Freddy Peralta
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
62David Price
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-4
63Zach Eflin
Quality Starts
Toby
Streaming Option
+9
64Matthew Boyd
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+18
65Mitch Keller
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+6
66Tarik Skubal
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
67Brady Singer
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+7
68German Marquez
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-9
69Tony Gonsolin
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
+10
70Adbert Alzolay
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
71Trevor Rogers
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+23
72Michael Pineda
T10
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+19
73J.A. Happ
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+19
74Nathan Eovaldi
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+2
75Carlos Rodon
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
76Garrett Richards
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+21
77Taijuan Walker
Quality Starts
Toby
Streaming Option
+UR
78Brad Keller
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
79Andrew Heaney
T11
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-1
80Sean Manaea
Injury Risk
Ratio Focused
+1
81Yusei Kikuchi
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Toby
+7
82Justin Dunn
Strikeout Upside
Streaming Option
+UR
83Caleb Smith
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+10
84Chris Bassitt
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
-4
85Daulton Jefferies
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
86Elieser Hernandez
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
-2
87Dane Dunning
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-1
88Griffin Canning
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+10
89Cristian Javier
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-
90Daniel Ponce de Leon
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
91Casey Mize
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
92Dustin May
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
-2
93Jake Arrieta
T12
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
94Mike Foltynewicz
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
95Matt Shoemaker
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
96Chris Archer
Injury Risk
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
97Adam Wainwright
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
98David Peterson
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+UR
99Joey Lucchesi
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
100Martin Perez
Toby
Ratio Focused
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 Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm 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 pitching coach and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

  • Avatar TommyBoy1189 says:

    Wow no love for Bassitt? Seems like after he got over the “pain” of TJS he turned into SP2/SP3 upside type? Granted he doesn’t offer much w K%?

    And surprised to also see split b/w Gonso/May. Guess we’ll find out today after LAD sim game but appears May is closer to getting 5th spot. If that’s indeed the case does Gonso belong further down the ladder?

    Ultimately if Gonso relegated to pen would you drop him for any one of Domingo, Elieser, Singer or Peralta?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      That schedule is so rough early for Bassitt, that’s the problem. I don’t feel like he gives enough to endure the early pains.

      I feel that A) Gonsolin is plenty better for fantasy than May and B) Gonsolin has a better history of going longer into the games he does start. You may be right, though, Dodgeritis is the most annoying thing out there.

      I’d drop for Domingo German.

  • Avatar Thomas Bockenstedt says:

    Thoughts on Morejon? Is he someone that just missed tier 12?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      I added Morejon to the Fringe tier for you. I don’t think he has enough in the arsenal to make him worth the dive early in the season.

  • Avatar Anonymous Kraken says:

    Are Luzardo, Civale and Kluber really bonafide aces?

  • Where would Sonny Gray slot in once he returns from the IL?

  • Avatar Jmatt says:

    Sonny gray removed with no notes? Top 25 sp?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Sorry! I accidentally didn’t paste the Fringe Pitchers at first.

      He’s there and yeah, he’s hovering #20 when he returns.

  • Avatar Panic at the Dugout says:

    Do you like Odorizzi or Logan Webb better for this season?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Both are solid fliers, Webb will help out more early on.

      I think Odorizzi is a little safer, overall.

  • Avatar Barry says:

    Hello Nick,

    I drafted Framber late with hopes of good news to come. Webb 6 IP 1 ER today against the A’s starters. Love Webb’s early schedule. Make the swap or hold out a little longer on Framber. He is still listed as DTD so I can’t stash him on IL.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback

  • Avatar Upton Funk says:

    Where would Sonny Gray be on your list if not missing a start or two? (didn’t see him on the table with Gallen et al). Thanks!

  • Avatar Omar says:

    I’m old and my eyes don’t work so good, but I don’t see Framber on the List or on the fringe list. Where does he slot assuming full health.

  • Avatar Cheeks says:

    Hey Nick, What about Chad Kuhl?

  • Avatar CJ says:

    Removing the injured pitchers really hurts the utility of your rankings. Pre draft or post draft, fantasy is all about making decisions balancing short term vs. long term. Now it’s hard to evaluate a pitcher like Sonny Gray because I don’t know how much he’s “knocked down” because of a short term injury.

    Your analysis is the best but I think in general you should think more season-long with the rankings rather than short term tactics (like schedules, etc.) That stuff is only relevant to specific types of leagues.

  • Avatar Ryan says:

    Thank you Nick for doing this.

    At the risk of showing my age I remember the year Cliff Lee broke out in 2008 … he had a miserable spring training, his era was 5.68, guys were hitting everything … I know, I know, it sounds like don’t trust spring stats right? But, there was also something else going on – Cliff Lee was ecstatic. Despite getting hit hard every spring game Cliff Lee was very positive, even jubilant (for Cliff Lee) with what he was doing on the mound. While I cant say for sure what happened as statcast really wasn’t a thing, listening to Cliff Lee interviews after spring games it sounded like he throwing down the same pitch over and over and over. In the interviews he would talk about working on one pitch during a game. In short he was getting hammered because the batter knew exactly what was coming.

    And while I cannot say anyone this season is following this unorthodox approach, I feel like Casey Mize is the closest thing to it. I cant prove it, but when I watch Mize play I feel like he is skrewing around with stuff when he is on the mound during spring training, maybe not caring so much about getting hit. So yeah, the cliche stands, don’t trust spring results … BUT sometimes horrible results can tell a good story too. Not sure where Mize will end up at the end of the season but I suspect its upwards somewhere in the rankings. Just my gut suspicion.

    Thanks again!

  • Avatar Husky says:

    With so many potentially good pitchers coming back from injury in the next month, it would be REALLY helpful if there was a way to reflect where you would draft them now if you were drafting… maybe a extra column to the list to show this (sounds sacrilegious, I know…maybe there is a better way). Anyways, thanks for the incredible amount of work you and your cohorts put in, Nick… this site is lapping the field).

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