Way-Too-Early Top 100 Starting Pitcher Rankings For 2021

Let the 2021 fantasy ranking debates begin.

Our beloved and fleeting 60-game season has already ended and it’s time to look ahead to the (hopefully) full 162-game slate of 2021.

These rankings are going to be wildly different come February as injuries arise, rehab becomes clear, transactions are made, and – most importantly – I personally take the time to dive deeper into each of these players.

Don’t let that stop you from joining the discussion! Let’s start talking about the Top 100 starting pitchers for 2020, here with a focus on 12-team roto leagues.

 

Ranking Notes

 

  • It’s Jacob deGrom, Shane Bieber, and Gerrit Cole. These three shouldn’t be in contention for the top tier as you know you’re going to get 200+ innings with elite strikeouts and ratios. It’s that simple.
  • I really don’t have an issue with anyone changing the order here. They are all so dope. Did you know deGrom had a 21.6% SwStr this year? CRAZY.
  • I stared at Tier 2 for ages. This is madness and I feel weird shrugging this much before we’ve left the Top 5. Yu Darvish is the clear winner here with 2019’s second half getting reinforced with his 2020 campaign.
  • I imagine many are surprised at Trevor Bauer at #5, but the dude was simply incredible. All the other guys below? Not as incredible. We were treating 2018 as the outlier season, but maybe it’s 2019…
  • Here I was saying that I would be lowering Max Scherzer relative to others and he’s #6. That’s what I get for not taking into account the actual SP Landscape! Even with his injury concerns, his ability is as proven as all the others and he can still muscle 200 frames, unlike Clayton Kershawwho still hasn’t tossed 180 innings since 2015. Love that new velocity, though.
  • I put out this Top 10 prematurely over the weekend and I feel bad to have shifted it after giving it more thought. Dinelson Lamet is out given the injury dings he’s going to get, Walker Buehler gets lowered given the Dodgers will likely baby him with blister issues (not to mention, his overall lack of consistency in each of the last two seasons), and Aaron Nola‘s incredible curveball + changeup across 200 innings grant a comfortable #7 spot.
  • There’s a bit of worry around Luis Castillo – y’all know I love him and I’m very familiar with his fastballs’ volatility. It speaks to a great strikeout rate, but a lower ceiling in ERA/WHIP department, pushing him close to #15.

 

  • Tier 3 = the Risk tier. Justin Dunn Dunn Dunn…I figure Stephen Strasburg is the best of the lot, so he gets the first spot, with Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow each being a bit risky since they don’t get the “workhorse” treatment on the Rays like their peers.
  • And what is the deal with Mike ClevingerThis spot is going to likely change by March, but even if he’s “fully” healthy, he’s still in this tier with his injury history.

 

  • I’ll stop disrespecting Hyun Jin Ryu now as he leads off Tier 4. I don’t expect the near 30% strikeout rate, but he’s the floor guy for your full season. Zack Wheeler has a touch of that with strikeout upside, but he’s not higher given the question of if he’ll ever unlock that potential.
  • Corbin Burnes in down at #27 since his fastball command isn’t as good as the bottom line suggests and I know I’m going to get comments about Max Fried at #29, but he doesn’t have the same strikeout ability while his command isn’t elite. He’s solid, not top of the line.
  • There’s also Corey Kluber who tossed one inning and called it a season. I hope he’s back and healthy, which could make him the steal of drafts, and I had to bake in the chance he misses significant time. Again.

 

  • Tier 5 is a stressful tier. It has a ton of fun names, but they all come with haze that often sits inside the 30s. Will they transition into proper studs or will they fall quickly and be a late April drop? I sat for a while about Chris Paddack and at the end of the day, if I had to bet on his fastball returning to 2019 form or continuing to disappoint like this year, I’d wager a full off-season gets the pitch back on track.
  • I’m also excited about the return of Jameson TaillonI wrestled with where to place him and it may be too high, though with almost two years to recover, I imagine he’ll be a strong arm early. He fell to the end of the tier as I expect some innings cap, but I’d want to grab him everywhere.

 

  • It’s hard to really back the Dylan Bundy train as it all seems so…chaotic. His fastball velocity dropped in his final start and his entire approach hinges on his slider missing tons of bats while his fastball doesn’t get clobbered (Yes, curveballs for strikes too and hoping his changeup is excellent is a plus). I’m not sure he’s quite solidified yet to pull it off for six months and you may be rostering a HIPSTER out of the gate.
  • Frankie Montas was a challenge as well, but like Paddack, I’m willing to wash away a bit of this season in favor of a full recovery for 2021.

 

  • Tier 6 is the super-duper fun tier where Nick grabs way too many in drafts and ultimately holds most for too long, destroying his season. But seriously, here’s where you’ll find the exciting names that could propel forward, while you won’t feel so bad throwing them back to the wire if they don’t work out. For example, I’m a big believer in John Means‘ new velocity, especially after pairing it with better changeup command in September, and he’ll likely be a target of mine in drafts come March.
  • Ian Anderson is a safe pick in my book, with a solid repertoire that should speak to good ratios throughout the year. Think a Toby that could hold a 25% strikeout rate on a winning team. Sign me up.

 

  • I wonder what the paths ahead are for Tony Gonsolin and Michael KopechIf both are inserted into the rotation for a full year, they could provide Top 40 value, if not higher.
  • I still don’t love Framber Valdez‘s sinker, but I adore his curveball. It’s enough for me to put him inside the Top 55 and let’s hope he can stay hot again.
  • Will Tyler Mahle be able to grab a consistent rotation spot in Cincinnati? His embrace of the BSB with an improved slider makes me a fan if he gets the frames.

 

  • Now we have Tier 7 – The Solid Toby tier, lead by Chris Bassitt who held a 2.22 ERA this season. I don’t expect that to continue, but he should be a benefit to your squad through the year.
  • I wasn’t sure if Mike Minor fit here and he may be moved to the 70s later on, but I think that really depends on where he lands. A good fit may outline a solid Toby for you.

 

  • Tier 8 is the point where you may as well stash a possible ace. I don’t know now what the status of Mike Soroka or Chris Sale will be in February/March. I figured I might as well place them here and we’ll talk about it in 2021. Sound good? Good.
  • I stuck MacKenzie Gore here as well as we’ll have a better idea of his involvement with the Padres come spring. Here’s to hoping he gets a rotation spot early.
  • There’s also James Paxton and Eduardo Rodriguez here as well as I don’t know how their injuries will carry over yet into 2021.

 

  • Tier 9 we have the late-round fliers that you may want to consider out of the gate for their upside, but it could really fall on its face. Jose Urquidy should be a solid bet but still may not provide a whole lot for you to chase. Mitch Keller was a hot topic entering this year and now with his injuries behind him, he should be an interesting play for next year.
  • Marcus Stroman appears here as I have no idea where to put him. There was some excitement entering this year with his cutter improving in September 2019, but then injury struck, he opted out, and yeah. Really hard to gauge, so I put him after the stashes as he could a quick drop in April or take that step forward and repeat a solid ERA with decent strikeouts and WHIP.
  • I really hope Spencer Turnbull cuts his sinker out of his repertoire for 2021. That would be super cool.
  • Daniel Ponce de Leon surprised us with an electric finish to the season and his ability to throw curveballs for strikes could carry over to this year.

 

  • Take Tier 9 and make me less confident, that’s Tier 10. We have your Cherry Bomb poster child in Michael Pinedathe pendulum nature of Matthew Boy and Zach Eflinwho some days suddenly has a great curveball.
  • Will Andrew Heaney ever get his changeup and curveball in order? I SURE HOPE SO.
  • Dean Kremer and Tanner Houck are also here as interesting young options that we got a small taste of at the end of last year. I don’t think of them too highly, but they could develop further and make for solid plays.

 

  • And lastly, there’s Tier 11, which houses streaming options to consider, or decent Tobyin deeper leagues. Yes, it hurt to put Sean Manaea down here, but he really hasn’t shaped into the sturdy arm we wanted.
  • I know Zach Davies had a crazy good year with that changeup, but I just don’t buy that it’ll stick through all of 2021, let alone be there again in April. I hope so, but I just don’t buy it.

 

  • Okay, I know I left off a lot of pitchers – it’s really hard to do just 100! – allow me to break down as many as I can think of and why I didn’t add them here.
    • Ross Stripling – Unclear role in Toronto + hasn’t had his curveball working for a bit.
    • Brendan McKay Will he get a clear role to start? Will he be good?
    • Trevor RichardsCool to see the BSB in full action late in the year, but it’s not enough.
    • Brent Honeywell – I have no idea how he’ll look or be ready to go in the spring and will the Rays even let him get a chance?
    • JA Happ – One of the last ones I removed. He’s a risk with his four-seamer elevating effectively in spurts. It’s hard to trust his September run.
    • Martin Perez – Toby at best. Not for me.
    • Cole Hamels – Where will he end up? Will he be healthy enough to make an impact?
    • Jon Lester – Think Lester but worse.
    • Danny Duffy – Almost put him there out of respect, but in the end, he’s not a target for drafts.
    • Casey Mize – He looked rough at the end of the year and I wouldn’t have faith that he’ll have it together to make you confident for his first few starts.
    • Dylan Cease The man had a 17.3% strikeout rate. SEVENTEEN POINT THREE PERCENT. That was supposed to be his good part.
    • Dane Dunning – I know many like him, but in the end he’s a super late flier. I don’t see a whole lot in his stuff that speaks to me feeling ultra-confident in him.
    • Carlos Rodon – Very tempting, I wonder how the White Sox will play it out in the spring. Always a volatile one, though, that Rodon.
    • Adam Wainwright – I know, I know, this year was bonkers. I just can’t buy that his curveball will be that good again
    • Adrian Houser – It was a disappointing season as his sinker wasn’t good enough to carry the lack of depth in his repertoire. Maybe it locks in along the way, but he’ll have to deal with “Camp Counseling” first and that’s a bummer.
    • Carlos Martinez – I really wanted to put him as 101, but in the end, I worry that Martinez just is too volatile to trust in 12-teamers. Unless he has elite velocity and works his slider/changeup well, I wouldn’t trust a hot start.
    • JT BrubakerHad a few nice starts at the end of the year, but he’s capped with a good slider and sinker that can be BABIP’d. Decent streamer, that’s it.
    • Brad Keller – Velocity decreased and his breaking ball wasn’t what we wanted it to be.
    • Kris Bubic – Not a bad streamer, but still too raw to consider.
    • David Peterson – Nearly made it on The List, has interesting upside with that slider, but I’m curious if it can actually stick during a full year.
    • Elieser Hernandez – Great slider and nothing else. I wonder if he can put it together for a long stretch.
    • Justus Sheffield – He can certainly be a TobyI wonder if he’ll get enough consistency with his changeup and slider + I’m not a fan of his sinker.
    • Taijuan Walker – There just isn’t enough stuff across his repertoire to make me think he can pull off 2020 again.
    • Griffin Canning – The raw stuff is there, but his injury history + general volatility makes him a rare upside stream and nothing more.
    • Anthony DeSclafani – He was incredibly shaky this year and while I expected to have him here, he’s likely just a streaming option to start the year and less of a guy I’d expect to stick on the roster all year.
    • Shohei Ohtani – I’m anticipating that he isn’t pitching as the Angels move him to be an exclusive hitter given all of his arm trouble. I could be completely wrong here and would slot Ohtani around the 40s given the heavy injury risk. Man, I’d love to see a full season of Ohtani on the bump.
    • Nate Pearson – Man, I’d love if he starts again next year. I have concerns that the Jays would play it safe with his elbow injury and stick him in the pen or even hold him back to start the year. Please be wrong…please be wrong…
    • Spencer Howard – It wasn’t fun watching him struggle with his changeup and slider this year. It’s a wait-and-see if anything dramatically changes out of the gate before drafting him in 12-teamers.
    • Keegan Akin – His stuff isn’t enough to trust in a 12-teamer early in April.
    • Randy DobnakDoes he even start next year? His strikeout rate is super low as well, a pick is too much investment for a low return.
    • Homer Bailey – No idea where he ends up and if his return from injury features his old self.
    • Jake Odorizzi – He had a blister to the end the year and now heads to Free Agency. Yeah, he probably deserves a spot here, but look at the end of this list now, all of these names deserve a spot, and so do many inside this fringe list! I guess if he signs with a good ball club, he’s around the 70s or so. For the sake of not making too many edits, Odorizzi stays off for now, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he has a prominent spot come February.

 

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
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
5Trevor Bauer
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Cherry Bomb
+2
6Max Scherzer
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-2
7Aaron Nola
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
8Lucas Giolito
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+5
9Walker Buehler
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+UR
10Clayton Kershaw
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-1
11Kenta Maeda
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
12Zac Gallen
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-
13Luis Castillo
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
14Dinelson Lamet
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
+5
15Brandon Woodruff
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+13
16Stephen Strasburg
T3
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
+UR
17Blake Snell
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
-2
18Tyler Glasnow
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
-2
19Jack Flaherty
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
-1
20Lance Lynn
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-10
21Carlos Carrasco
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+1
22Sonny Gray
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-16
23Mike Clevinger
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-6
24Hyun Jin Ryu
T4
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
+12
25Zack Wheeler
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-1
26Zach Plesac
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+7
27Corbin Burnes
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+16
28Corey Kluber
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
+UR
29Max Fried
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
-3
30Charlie Morton
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Playing Time Question
-
31Zack Greinke
Aces Gonna Ace
Quality Starts
-6
32Jesus Luzardo
T5
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
-12
33Kyle Hendricks
Ace Potential
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
+6
34Chris Paddack
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-11
35Patrick Corbin
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-8
36Sandy Alcantara
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Playing Time Question
+12
37Sixto Sanchez
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-5
38Frankie Montas
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+21
39Lance McCullers
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
-5
40David Price
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
+UR
41Dylan Bundy
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-10
42Julio Urias
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-13
43Jose Berrios
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
-8
44Aaron Civale
Aces Gonna Ace
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
-23
45Jameson Taillon
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
46Ian Anderson
T6
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
+1
47Pablo Lopez
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-9
48John Means
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
+12
49Kevin Gausman
Ace Potential
Quality Starts
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+2
50Tony Gonsolin
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
-
51Joe Musgrove
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
+UR
52Tyler Mahle
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Streaming Option
+2
53Framber Valdez
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-4
54Michael Kopech
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
55Jordan Montgomery
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Streaming Option
Stash Option
-18
56Deivi Garcia
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-
57Triston McKenzie
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
-13
58German Marquez
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-5
59Chris Bassitt
T7
Strikeout Upside
Toby
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+12
60Masahiro Tanaka
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Ratio Focused
-15
61Dustin May
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Ratio Focused
-21
62Dallas Keuchel
Toby
Ratio Focused
-20
63Kwang Hyun Kim
Toby
Streaming Option
+14
64Mike Minor
Ace Potential
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
+10
65Mike Soroka
T8
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
Stash Option
+UR
66Chris Sale
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Stash Option
+UR
67Luis Severino
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Stash Option
+UR
68Noah Syndergaard
Aces Gonna Ace
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Stash Option
+UR
69MacKenzie Gore
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Stash Option
+UR
70James Paxton
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
71Eduardo Rodriguez
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
72Jose Urquidy
T9
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
+UR
73Mitch Keller
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
74Marcus Stroman
Strikeout Upside
Toby
Ratio Focused
+UR
75Spencer Turnbull
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-7
76Brady Singer
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Ratio Focused
Streaming Option
+18
77Daniel Ponce de Leon
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
78Seth Lugo
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
-21
79Drew Smyly
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
+UR
80Caleb Smith
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
81Ryan Yarbrough
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
+UR
82Luke Weaver
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Quality Starts
Cherry Bomb
Ratio Focused
+2
83Yusei Kikuchi
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Toby
Streaming Option
-20
84Domingo German
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
85Zach Eflin
T10
Toby
Streaming Option
-24
86Michael Pineda
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-4
87Andrew Heaney
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-22
88Matthew Boyd
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
-22
89Rich Hill
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
-20
90Robbie Ray
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
-5
91Garrett Richards
Ace Potential
Injury Risk
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-3
92Madison Bumgarner
Injury Risk
Toby
Ratio Focused
+UR
93Marco Gonzales
Toby
Streaming Option
-18
94Cristian Javier
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Cherry Bomb
-30
95Dean Kremer
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
96Tanner Houck
Strikeout Upside
Playing Time Question
+UR
97Tarik Skubal
Ace Potential
Strikeout Upside
Low Ips
Playing Time Question
Cherry Bomb
-11
98Josh Lindblom
T11
Strikeout Upside
Cherry Bomb
Streaming Option
-8
99Sean Manaea
Injury Risk
Ratio Focused
-29
100Zach Davies
Toby
Streaming Option
-27

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

(Graphic by Justin Paradis – @FreshmeatComm)

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

27 responses to “Way-Too-Early Top 100 Starting Pitcher Rankings For 2021”

  1. Avatar Firtree baseball says:

    Great article! You are the only one who truly appreciates Gallen.
    A few pitchers I was hoping would be back on the list:
    James Paxton, Domingo German, Caleb Smith, David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      MAN! I can’t believe I left off those guys, I thought I did my due diligence!

      Added them all. They deserve a spot and my ignorance for a moment outweighs any stubbornness to justify not updating it.

      Thanks Firtree!

  2. Avatar RMR says:

    No mention of pearson or howard. Assuming that means they’re way down the list for you even among the guys who didnt make it?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Hey! I should add them to the notes.

      I’m expecting the Jays to be safe with Pearson given the arm issues –> bullpen. I really hope I’m wrong here!

      With Howard, it’ll take a moment for me to feel comfortable starting him after looking so poor with his slider and changeup this year. I’d say he’s a wait and see arm vs. someone to trust out of the gate.

  3. Avatar Justin Jabali says:

    Thank you for the list, it really helps with keeper selections for next year. I’m stuck between Woodruff and Fried. Why do you think Woodruff is top 15 if you don’t mind me asking?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Hey Justin!

      Max Fried’s inefficiency with his repertoire led him to go 6.0+ innings in just 4 of his 10 starts (I’m ignoring his final one). I believe strongly in Woodruff’s fastball(s) as a better foundation, carrying a similar ceiling with a better floor.

      • Avatar Jon Gray’s Broken Toe says:

        I love your work and approach Nick!

        I am a big Max Fried fan. Based on what I have read from you and others, going into 2019 Fried had a plus plus curve and a great fastball. The curve didn’t tunnel too well though. Coming out of 2019 emerged a league average to plus slider. My head is stuck on the notion now that due to his tunnelling issues, Fried’s best pitch has basically become his third pitch. That sounds bad… but it’s an amazing strategy. Fried tries to get folks out with fastball-slider and if that doesn’t work the curve comes out later in the count. Now that batters don’t get a good look at the curve early in the count, the tunnelling issue isn’t so much of a big deal anymore. We saw this approach work wonderfully in 2020.

        I say this because I think this strategy is leading to the inefficiency you noted. However this isn’t the kind of strategy that has a low ceiling – if Fried’s skills improves in any shape or form, he gets better. Now hoping for an improvement is not a strategy, but unlike other pitcher he can improve in any facet and his strategy will reap the rewards – whereas most other guys need to work on one thing … control, a better third pitch etc. To use a poker analogy, Fried has so many “outs” to improve the odds of him moving ahead of other pitchers are in his favour.

        For me the only thing stopping him from being a top ten pitcher In 2021 is play off wear and tear.

        • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

          Thanks man!

          I’m not sure I see it the same way you do with Fried. In a given game, he’s hoping that either his slider or curveball can be the #2 pitch to earn strikes/whiffs. His curveball is more erratic than his slider and even when the slider does step forward, his fastball command goes in and out. It makes for a low overall IPS relative to the elites, while his strikeout rate and overall SwStr can’t get over the hump either.

          Fried’s skills could certainly improve, the one area that’s hardest to grow is overall command, though, and if I were to bank on Fried taking a step there, it would be unfair to not give that bump to many others around him.

          There’s a chance for essentially all pitchers within the top 40 to turn into a Top 10 arm, FWIW, and I have Fried this low given that he has a harder path to get there.

  4. Avatar Sean says:

    No mention of Marcus Stroman?

  5. Avatar LetsGoFish says:

    Any thoughts on Ohtani?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      I don’t expect him to pitch next as he transitions into a hitter given his arm troubles.

      I’d LOVE to be wrong about this, but given his array of arm trouble, it seems like that may be where the conversation is going.

      Good point, though, and I’ll add a note for him if he does return.

  6. Avatar WMB says:

    Chris Bassitt => Rodney Dangerfield

    Last 3-4 years of stats stellar, and yet no respect.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      His ceiling is capped with an approach that is sinker heavy (read: low strikeouts with a sub 10% SwStr) and I don’t like the fact that he’s ultra reliant on that pitch without much else standing out in his repertoire.

      He’s yet to hold a SIERA under 4.40 for a season and while his 2.29 ERA is lovely this year, banking on an 86% LOB rate and 8.6% HR/FB rate may come back to bite you in a longer season.

      Bassitt is essentially a solid Toby, though, and while he’s welcome on my fantasy squads, I’d prefer to take a gamble on strikeout arms that could return the same ratios. I’m willing to bet you’ll find a handful of arms off the wire to replicate Bassitt during the year if you really need it.

  7. Avatar Mario says:

    Could you please compare Means with Kikuchi and why you are very optimistic on Means but not Kikuchi? Both have big velo gains from left side, while one pitches in Baltimore/AL East and the other in Seattle.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Kikuchi’s command was all over the place and led to a ton of volatility. He needs his cutter to earn whiffs + get his four-seamer up and it was rare to see both.

      Means also had turmoil, but after a ton of rhythm interruptions, including a 12-day gap between starts following his father’s passing, he was locked in by the end.

      In short, I see Means’ late-season games as more sustainable for 2021 while Kikuchi is more of a work in progress.

  8. Avatar Izzy says:

    No mention of Odorizzi, Akin, Dobnak? Are they worth consideration?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Just added them all to the fringe! Thanks Izzy. So many pitchers in the fringe…

      Odorizzi is the biggest one to consider, though with his recent injury history (albeit, a blister at the end) + his FA winter, I do wonder how much value he’ll actually have next year. Could certainly be in the 70s or so in February if it all goes well.

  9. Avatar Scoops O'Malley says:

    Why don’t you just give us a top 200, Pollack? What else do you got to do in your Stat Bunker?

  10. Avatar Dont Watch baseball i suck says:

    I’ve been reading your articles for the past 3 years and always look forward to them. I remember you used to always somewhat hate on Bieber saying his fastball was too hittable and he’d be throwing meatballs down the plate. Judging by his ranking, that opinion has changed? Is his fastball better or is his pitch mix better?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      That’s super touching, thanks man!

      Yep, Bieber has commanded his fastball better to nibble more often, but he also drastically changed his approach to through fewer of them, while improving his secondary pitches massively. His curveball has become a major whiff pitch, he added a super-effective cutter, and his slider still misses a ton of bats.

      All of it has turned him into this beast.

  11. Avatar Justin says:

    Max Fried just dominated the Dodgers. Is he going to stay at 27? He looked like an ace.

  12. Avatar Steve says:

    If we assume innings are going to be lower, based on the fact that most threw between 60-75 innings, would this not increase the value of the guys coming back from major injuries? Specifically the big 3 guys? If they can get to 90-100 innings, they won’t be that far off from the leaders…

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