Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings: Starting Pitcher Tiers, Sleepers, Draft Strategy

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Putting together SP rankings for 2021 feels like even more of a fool’s errand than usual. Not only are last year’s stats moderately helpful at best and completely useless at worst, but the increased likelihood of injuries and strict innings limits after every starting pitcher threw so few innings last year is even higher than normal. That won’t stop fantasy baseball owners from thinking they can spot the “sure things” in the top tier and the “must-have sleepers” in the middle tiers, but no matter what your usual draft strategy is, one thing is certain: Depth is going to be crucial at this notoriously volatile position. 

The top 10-15 pitchers in our rankings are similar to the top 10-15 you’ll find on most sites, though not necesarily in the same order. We like Blake Snell a little more and Jack Flaherty a little less, but po-tay-to/po-tah-to. These players will all likely go in the first four or five rounds. After that, things can go in a variety of directions.

For instance, we’re not nearly as high on Zac Gallen as most sites despite the young righty impressing over the past two seasons. Gallen is still a high-K hurler who can at least be a No. 2 on any staff, but we’re just a little worried about his lack of experience and home park. Shouldn’t we also feel that way about Corbin Burnes or Jesus Luzardo, both of whome are ranked ahead of Gallen? Yeah, we should, but we like Burnes’ slightly higher strikeout potential and Luzardo’s home park a liittle more. You might disagree. So be it. There are going to be a lot of similar examples at this position.

Even though we mentioned increased injury risks, you shouldn’t let that impact your selections too much. Obviously, a player like Dinelson Lamet (biceps, elbow) is more of a risk and you don’t want to draft him too early despite his top-10 talent, but even already-injured SPs, such as Chris Sale (elbow) and Luis Severino (elbow), who might not return until around midseason, could have just as much value as SPs who seem spry and ready at the start of the season. All injury risks can quickly become potential values if they’re falling too far.

You can go a variety directions when drafting, but it’s not recommended you load up on too many pitchers early. You still likely want at least one ace and a solid No. 2, but filling out your rotation with late-middle or late-round picks — then being a vigilant streamer once the season starts — can work just as well as drafting five pitchers in the first 12 rounds. Getting a mix of “stable” veterans and a few high-upside younger pitchers is usually smart. Focusing on strikeouts — the most repeatable stat — is really the only thing you can rely on. 

Every other pitching stat is subject to a high level of variance, so it’s also important to study the advanced stats. Unsustainably high or low BABIPs — which could be even more misleading after such a short season — need to be scrutinized more closely, while wins are almost not even worth looking at or trying to project beyond elementary analysis of “pitchers on better teams have a better chance of getting wins.” (Duh)

Ultimately, SP is a journey into the great unknown every year, and no matter who your pitchers are after draft day, be prepared to stream and play the matchups. When it comes to pitching, that’s the only strategy you can count on employing every year.

We’ll be updating these pitcher rankings as needed throughout the spring, so check back for the latest player movement. 

Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings: Starting Pitcher Tiers, Sleepers, Draft Strategy

Rankings based on 5×5 H2H leagues with Ks, ERA, WHIP, Wins, and Saves as pitching categories. 

Position eligibility based on Yahoo’s default settings

RankPlayer (throws)Age (as of 4/1)TeamTier
1Shane Bieber (R)25Indians1
2Jacob deGrom (R)32Mets1
3Trevor Bauer (R)30Dodgers1
4Gerrit Cole (R)30Yankees1
5Yu Darvish (R)34Padres1
6Max Scherzer (R)36Nationals1
7Luis Castillo (R)28Reds2
8Walker Buehler (R)26Dodgers2
9Blake Snell (L)28Padres2
10Aaron Nola (R)27Phillies2
11Lucas Giolito (R)26White Sox2
12Brandon Woodruff (R)28Brewers2
13Clayton Kershaw (L)33Dodgers2
14Sonny Gray (R)32Reds2
15Jack Flaherty (R)25Cardinals2
16Stephen Strasburg (R)32Nationals2
17Zack Greinke (R)37Astros2
18Kenta Maeda (R)32Twins3
19Corbin Burnes (R)26Brewers3
20Hyun Jin Ryu (L)34Blue Jays3
21Tyler Glasnow (R)27Rays3
22Carlos Carrasco (R)34Mets3
23Jesus Luzardo (L)23A’s3
24Zac Gallen (R)25D-backs3
25Zach Plesac (R)26Indians3
26Patrick Corbin (L)31Nationals3
27Kyle Hendricks (R)31Cubs3
28Dinelson Lamet (R)28Padres3
29German Marquez (R)26Rockies4
30Charlie Morton (R)37Braves4
31Marcus Stroman (R)29Mets4
32Zack Wheeler (R)30Phillies4
33Chris Paddack (R)25Padres4
34Jose Berrios (R)26Twins4
35James Paxton (L)32Mariners4
36Ian Anderson (R)22Braves4
37Joe Musgrove (R)28Padres4
38Max Fried (L)27Braves4
39Cristian Javier (R)24Astros4
40Triston McKenzie (R)23Indians4
41Kevin Gausman (R)31Giants4
42Zach Eflin (R)26Phillies5
43Framber Valdez (L)27Astros5
44Lance Lynn (R)33White Sox5
45Marco Gonzales (L)29Mariners5
46Frankie Montas (R)28A’s5
47Tony Gonsolin (R)26Dodgers5
48Dylan Bundy (R)29Angels5
49David Price (L)35Dodgers5
50Pablo Lopez (L)25Marlins5
51Sixto Sanchez (R)22Marlins5
52Aaron Civale (R)25Indians5
53Eduardo Rodriguez (L)27Red Sox5
54Corey Kluber (R)34Yankees5
55Julio Urias (L)24Dodgers5
56Andrew Heaney (L)30Angels5
57Chris Bassitt (R)32A’s5
58Josh Lindblom (R)33Brewers5
59Tyler Mahle (R)26Reds5
60Shohei Ohtani (R)26Angels5
61Griffin Canning (R)24Angels5
62Dallas Keuchel (L)33White Sox5
63Lance McCullers (R)27Astros5
64Mike Soroka (R)23Braves5
65Chris Archer (R)32Rays6
66Dane Dunning (R)26Rangers6
67Jose Urquidy (R)25Astros6
68Spencer Turnbull (R)28Tigers6
69Sandy Alcantara (R)25Marlins6
70Dustin May (R)23Dodgers6
71Jordan Montgomery (L)28Yankees6
72Chris Sale (L)32Red Sox6
73Deivi Garcia (R)21Yankees6
74Adbert Alzolay (R)26Cubs6
75Justus Sheffield (L)24Mariners6
76Michael Pineda (R)32Twins6
77Drew Smyly (L)31Braves6
78Sean Manaea (L)29A’s6
79Noah Syndergaard (R)28Mets6
80Luis Severino (R)27Yankees6
81Michael Kopech (R)24White Sox6
82Brady Singer (R)24Royals6
83Elieser Hernandez (R)25Marlins7
84Mike Minor (L)33Royals7
85Caleb Smith (L)29D-backs7
86A.J. Puk (L)25A’s7
87Mitch Keller (R)24Pirates7
88Jameson Taillon (R)29Yankees7
89Zach Davies (R)28Cubs7
90Adam Wainwright (R)39Cardinals7
91Yusei Kikuchi (L)29Mariners7
92Luke Weaver (R)27D-backs7
93Tarik Skubal (L)24Tigers7
94Matt Boyd (L)30Tigers7
95Nathan Eovaldi (R)31Red Sox7
96Ryan Yarbrough (L)29Rays7
97J.A. Happ (L)38Twins7
98Brent Honeywell (R)26Rays7
99Taijuan Walker (R)28Mets7
100John Means (L)27Orioles7
101Steven Brault (L)28Pirates8
102Kwang Hyun Kim (L)32Cardinals8
103Madison Bumgarner (L)31D-backs8
104Nate Pearson (R)24Blue Jays8
105Merrill Kelly (R)32D-backs8
106Danny Duffy (L)32Royals8
107Kyle Freeland (L)27Rockies8
108Robbie Ray (L)29Blue Jays8
109Domingo German (R)28Yankees8
110Vince Velasquez (R)28Phillies8
111Keegan Akin (L)26Orioles9
112Jose Quintana (L)32Angels9
113Jake Arrieta (R)35Cubs9
114Jon Gray (R)29Rockies9
115Joey Lucchesi (L)27Mets9
116Rich Hill (L)41Rays9
117Spencer Howard (R)24Phillies9
118Brad Keller (R)25Royals9
119Anthony DeSclafani (R)30Giants9
120Miles Mikolas (R)32Cardinals9