If you've completed any competitive fantasy baseball draft in 2021, you know the hunt for starting pitching is very real. And it's only going to get pushed up more in NFBC leagues and any other place where fantasy sharks swim the waters.
Part of the reason? Predicting starting pitchers in 2021, following a shortened 2020, is a pain in the ass. How will the unusual 2020 season affect 2021 arm health? How much stock should we put in 2020 gains or signs of decline? The questions are seemingly endless and the answers are seemingly non-existent, which is part of the reason so many people are snagging known commodities very early in drafts.
After digging through around 200 starting pitchers, projected rotations, and more, I present my first crack at SP ranks for the 2021 season with 169 - NICE - starting pitchers. Below the images, you'll find a link to download the list in .PDF form. I did my best to keep up with news, projections, and the changing landscape. But I am human with a full-time job and a 10-month-old son.
I ranked Bieber ahead of deGrom because I think Bieber is a slightly better bet to throw a full-season workload. It took a while for him to build up, but once Buehler did he fired a nearly unhittable fastball.
Dustin May is where I'll differ from probably anyone ranking pitchers. The Dodgers are, obviously, really good at what they do and while most organizations are seemingly moving away from sinkers, they led the league in them. I liked what I saw - both visually and in the data - from May's 2020 curveball changes. While it's only a 14-game sample, he's only given up more than two earned runs in a start just once in his career - his first career start when he gave up three runs against San Diego.
Perhaps I'm putting too much into 2020 with Framber Valdez. I think the Astros trio of Valdez, Urquidy and Javier is among the toughest to rank. Urquidy battled COVID - we think? - but his stuff looked different. Javier's relief profile scares me some. Valdez at least seems like a bet to log a lot of decent innings, which holds value in 2021.
This group of pitchers contains a mess of boom-or-bust vibes, guys coming off Tommy John, another major injury or 2020 opt outs, and exciting but largely unproven young arms.
Elieser Hernandez is one of the toughest guys to rank. He was outstanding in 2020, but didn't pitch deep into games when he did pitch, which was part of a very small sample. I'll give the Marlins, and him, the benefit of the doubt.
There are more relief vibes with Pearson than people want to admit, but it's possible he's pitched his way into the top 30 next year. The stuff and profile are that good. I did get burned majorly last year, and I admit that factored in.
If Quantrill looks like he's going to grab a spot in the Cleveland rotation, I'll probably try to have him on each of my rosters and have no issues pushing him a little higher than this spot.
Wacha is fascinating, especially in Tampa Bay. His stuff ticked up last season and he enters a better pitcher development environment. And the money Tampa Bay spent on Archer makes me even more intrigued.
I know targeting Pirates is a good way to lose fantasy baseball leagues, but Brault was quietly solid last season with some changes to the pitch mix.
A lot of prospect names round out the list, but there are some intriguing arms like Bubic, Lorenzen and Fleming. I've been a Bubic homer since seeing him up close in college, and his brutal schedule overshadowed the lefty holding his own. It's going to be tough to quit Nick Pivetta if he shows gains with his new, shortened arm action. I can get drunk off that profile.