Fantasy Baseball starting pitcher rest-of-season rankings tiers

You want to talk about the ultimate fool’s errand? Try ranking fantasy starting pitchers. We’re chasing a butterfly here. No matter how big the net and how sharp the focus, anything we decide today will look, on some level, silly in just a few days.

But we trudge forward. It’s a game about a game, and it’s fun, most of the time.

What you see below is how I would arrange the starting pitchers if I were entering a new draft today. Use it to evaluate your team, consider pickups and drops, grade trade offers — it’s up to you.

My salaries are unscientific in nature, meant primarily to show how I rank the players and, more specifically, where the clusters of talent are. Your list will look different, of course. That's why we have a game.

I did not price anyone on the injured list; I’m no doctor, and the level of injury optimism is highly variable from fantasy manager to fantasy manager.

I’ll link to previous shuffles at the bottom, with their publish dates. Now, let’s get to the mound.

The Big Tickets

$37 Spencer Strider

$35 Shane McClanahan

$33 Gerrit Cole

$32 Framber Valdez

$31 Zac Gallen

$31 Luis Castillo

$30 Joe Ryan

$29 Shohei Ohtani

$28 Kevin Gausman

$28 Corbin Burnes

I'd love to know how Strider's one minor-league season played out this way: 3-7 record, 3.64 ERA over 22 games. Granted, he did strike out 14.6 batters per nine, coincidentally his rate for this season in the majors. Score one for two-pitch pitchers, showing that if those offerings are dominant enough, a third pitch isn't needed. Strider also enjoys the backdrop of the NL's most talented roster.

Valdez isn't a strikeout wizard like most of these other aces, but he has solid control and induces ground balls by the bushel. That's always a recipe for success. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of 12 turns, and his only miss was an eight-strikeout game. Consistency is lovely when you find it at this position.

Maybe it’s a game of arbitrary endpoints, but Burnes has rebounded somewhat after two terrible starts to open the year. His past 10 starts break down as such: 60.1 IP, 43 H, 19 ER, 23 BB, 60 K, 2.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP. We still have to note that his strikeout rate, walk rate and velocity are worse than his established levels, but I can’t drop him from the first tier yet, not when recent results are encouraging.

Legitimate Building Blocks

$27 Max Scherzer

$26 Cristian Javier

$24 Marcus Stroman

$24 Merrill Kelly

$24 Logan Webb

$23 Aaron Nola

$22 Nathan Eovaldi

$22 Clayton Kershaw

$22 George Kirby

$21 Zack Wheeler

$20 Chris Bassitt

$20 Yu Darvish

$20 Logan Gilbert

$20 Justin Verlander

$19 Zach Eflin

$19 Mitch Keller

$18 Sonny Gray

$17 Triston McKenzie

$16 Jon Gray

$16 Hunter Brown

$16 Joe Musgrove

Stroman's 2.39 ERA doesn't match his 3.68 xERA, but this would be the fourth straight year he has beaten that metric, so perhaps it's part of his profile. Stroman helps himself with a juicy ground-ball bias and plus control, and he's one of the smartest pitchers around.

Nobody expected Eovaldi to pitch like the ace the Rangers are paying Jacob deGrom to be, but it's not like Eovaldi hasn't been elite before. He led the American League in FIP two years back, finishing fourth in Cy Young voting, and his mildly depressed strikeout rate isn't that big a deal when you combine it with elite control (1.6 BB/9). Swapping Fenway Park for Globe Life Field is a win; Fenway is the second-friendliest yard for offense, while the Texas park slots 16th, right around league average.

Kershaw would be a first-tier guy if he were likely to pitch a full season. The Dodgers are a load-management type of team, feeling that they’re already in the playoffs, so Kershaw figures to skip a few starts in the dog days of summer and maybe take a phantom trip to the injured list. I still savor every Kershaw start, mindful that he’s not going to pitch forever. I just wish we still had Vin Scully to add his poetry to the pretty pictures.

I could use a McKenzie splash on a key team of mine, so perhaps the modest rank is my own emotional hedge talking. McKenzie was a lawnmower in his MLB debut last weekend, and while you don’t want to oversell one start, it’s encouraging that his initial velocity (93.0 mph) was a tick higher than his career average (92.4).

Talk Them Up, Talk Them Down

$15 Tony Gonsolin

$15 Sandy Alcántara

$13 Tyler Wells

$13 Bryce Elder

$12 Shane Bieber

$12 Michael Wacha

$12 Taj Bradley

$12 Eury Pérez

$12 Pablo López

$12 Tyler Glasnow

$12 Domingo German

$11 Bobby Miller

$11 Logan Allen

$11 Tanner Bibee

$11 Lucas Giolito

$11 Luis Severino

$10 Bailey Ober

$10 Drew Smyly

$9 Freddy Peralta

$9 Andrew Heaney

$9 Jesús Luzardo

$9 Dylan Cease

$8 Dane Dunning

$8 Alex Cobb

$8 José Berríos

$8 Andrew Abbott

$8 Michael Kopech

$8 Charlie Morton

$7 Bryce Miller

$7 Anthony DeSclafani

$7 Kodai Senga

$7 Nestor Cortes Jr.

$6 Michael Lorenzen

$6 Kyle Gibson

$6 Hunter Greene

$6 Blake Snell

Believe it or not, I toyed with pricing Bieber even lower. His velocity is at an all-time low, and his swinging-strike rate has cratered. His off-speed pitches still grade positively, but he has had a negative fastball grade for three years running. Walks up, strikeouts down, line drives up; there is no positive spin to this story. Oh, yes, the Guardians' offense isn't much help, either.

I never doubt that Glasnow will be useful when he’s healthy, but I never expect him to be a smooth health ride for more than a month at a time. The Baby Giraffe has made it past 88 innings exactly one time in his career. Know what you’re signing up for. ... Senga has been more like Jenga, a maddening puzzle that can come unraveled at any moment. He has alternated good start and bad start over his past six, struggling with control in the three bad turns. For him to be the pitcher the Mets expected, he needs to get more swing-and-misses on borderline pitches and put-away offerings. His chase rate is in the bottom third of the league.

We knew Alcantara would be a regression candidate after a Cy Young season built on volume, but life with the Miami defense has been more jagged than expected. Some bad luck is built into that 5.02 ERA, but it’s not the full explanation — his xERA is 4.02. I’m thinking Alcantara can have an ERA in the mid-to-high 3s the rest of the way, and his career 1.15 WHIP feels like a reasonable target.

Bargain Bin

$5 Louie Varland

$5 MacKenzie Gore

$5 Brandon Bielak

$5 Miles Mikolas

$5 Brayan Bello

$4 Ben Lively

$4 J.P. France

$4 Griffin Canning

$4 Josiah Gray

$4 Jack Flaherty

$4 Lance Lynn

$3 Aaron Civale

$3 Tommy Henry

$3 James Paxton

$3 JP Sears

$3 Edward Cabrera

$3 Dean Kremer

$3 Mike Clevinger

$3 Kyle Bradish

$3 Jordan Montgomery

$2 Julio Teherán

$2 Yusei Kikuchi

$2 Zack Greinke

$2 Martín Pérez

$1 Kyle Freeland

$1 Hayden Wesneski

$1 Rich Hill

$1 Braxton Garrett

$1 Kyle Hendricks

$1 Patrick Sandoval

$1 Trevor Williams

$1 Tanner Houck

$1 Matt Boyd

$1 Roansy Contreras

$1 Johan Oviedo

$1 Tylor Megill

$1 Clarke Schmidt

$1 Taijuan Walker

$1 Adam Wainwright

$1 Reid Detmers

$1 Jameson Taillon

$1 Grayson Rodriguez

$0 Noah Syndergaard

$0 Graham Ashcraft

$0 Alek Manoah

Manoah has been the most destructive pitcher this year, torching ratios over 13 disastrous starts. He has the most walks in baseball, he has had problems with homers, and his strikeout rate — which wasn’t great last year — is also down. Forget the forced-hold talk, he’s an obvious cut now. The Blue Jays will likely send him down or consider an IL stint soon, give Manoah some regroup time. But I can’t imagine him being back in the circle of trust this year, for them or for us.

Editor's note: Since this story's publishing, Alek Manoah was optioned by the Blue Jays to the Florida Complex League.

Currently Injured — Ineligible for Ranking

Eduardo Rodríguez

Justin Steele

Dustin May

Jacob deGrom

Drew Rasmussen

Jeffrey Springs

Max Fried

Chris Sale

Brandon Woodruff

Julio Urías

Tyler Mahle

Wade Miley

Vince Velasquez

Luis Garcia

Seth Lugo

José Urquidy

Alex Wood

Kenta Maeda

Nick Lodolo

Cal Quantrill

Previous Shuffles

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