Fantasy Baseball 2012: Starting Pitcher Weekly, Tiers and Draft Strategy

John RoeContributor IIIMarch 20, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 07:  Roy Halladay #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies tosses a rosin bag in his hand against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Five of the National League Divisional Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 7, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Welcome to the very first edition of Starting Pitcher Weekly for 2012!

Throughout the season we’ll look at pressing issues like upcoming pitching match ups, two-start pitchers, waiver wire possibilities and injuries. 

But there will be plenty of time for that.  After all, baseball is grueling marathon of a season that can seem to run on forever at times, and there isn’t too much pressing in spring training when it comes to starting pitching. 

The guys in competition for the Royals fifth rotation spot aren’t getting drafted anyway… so who cares?

Instead today we’re going to discuss the tiers and overall selection strategy of starters for your draft.

In a standard 12 team league, roughly 75 starting pitchers are going to come off the board with selections ranging from first rounders to end of the draft fliers.  These pitchers create six distinct tiers just like we would have at any other position. 

Below is my view of the tiers of starting pitchers heading into draft season.  The tiers were developed through the use of dominance factor, which can be found at the following URL if you would like more information:

Tier 1: Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee

Tier 2: CC Sabathia, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, David Price, Jared Weaver

Tier 3: Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, James Shields, Brandon Beachy, Matt Cain, Matt Latos, Michael Pineda, Ian Kennedy, C.J. Wilson, Madison Bumgarner

Tier 4: Josh Johnson, Matt Moore, Matt Garza, Adam Wainwright, Cory Luebke, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Morrow, Chris Carpenter, Josh Beckett, Anibal Sanchez, Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Hudson

Tier 5: Ricky Romero, Ubaldo Jimenez, Max Scherzer, Colby Lewis, Tim Hudson, Jaime Garcia, Shaun Marcum, Jordan Zimmerman, Wandy Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Daniel Bard, Derek Holland, Hiroki Kuroda, Ervin Santana, Ted Lilly, Doug Fister, Neftali Feliz

Tier 6: Gavin Floyd, Johnny Cueto, Ryan Dempster, Brandon McCarthy, Jhoulys Chacin, Bud Norris, Vance Worley, Scott Baker, John Danks, Edwin Jackson, Justin Masterson, Ricky Nolasco, Jeremy Hellickson, Alexi Ogando, Chad Billingsley, Jonathon Niese, Tim Stauffer, Mike Leake, Erick Bedard, Chris Capuano, Trevor Cahill, Ryan Vogelsong, Mike Minor, R.A. Dickey, Homer Bailey, Jonathan Sanchez

Now that we have a good starting layout of tiers, it’s time to talk about a winning starting pitcher draft strategy. 

ST PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 23:  Pitcher Brandon Morrow #23 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on September 23, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Everyone needs to first understand how a tier system works in a draft.  The assumption is that through variability within a season, players within the same tier are more or less interchangeable. 

We’re drafting stats not names and at the end of the day Brandon Morrow and Matt Garza should give you pretty much the same amount of production regardless of which one you pick because they are both Tier 4 starters.

The second thing to pay attention to is tier availability.  Tier 1 has a total of four names and these guys go early, often times in the first round.  Obviously, an owner must sacrifice upper tier offensive production to acquire these players making them high risk selections.

Basically if he doesn't win the Cy Young—you blew it with the pick.

However, you’ll notice that as we proceed through the tiers each level has more and more names until we reach Tier 6 which is overflowing with interchangeable arms.  With larger pools within a level comes increasing draft variability.

For instance in Tier 3 there are 12 players available.  These players will range from round three through round seven.  And based on our assumption that they are all basically the same player, the round seven selections will be the steals of the draft for that tier.

The same thing can be said for any of the levels.  To maximize the value of your draft day selections, avoid being the first owner to jump into a pitching tier.  The players left at the end of the level are just as good, and your offense will get a major boost in the rounds in between.

At the end of the day, selecting a stellar pitching staff really isn’t that difficult.  It just requires a bit of patience and the discipline to stick to your plan.  Follow this simple strategy and you’ll be off to a great start for league bragging rights this coming season.

Have a great season!  Until Next week…