Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers

The SportmeistersAnalyst IJune 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 02:  Dan Haren #15 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on June 2, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

By Derek of The Sportmeisters

Here we are.

After just about three months in the season, I thought I would bust out my preseason rankings and adjust them a bit to show how right or wrong I am.

Preseason Rankings

1. Johan Santana—New York Mets

2. CC Sabathia—New York Yankees

3. Tim Lincecum—San Francisco Giants

4. Roy Halladay—Toronto Blue Jays

5. Brandon Webb—Arizona Diamondbacks

6. Cole Hamels—Philadelphia Phillies

7. Jake Peavy—San Diego Padres

8. Dan Haren—Arizona Diamondbacks

9. John Lackey—LA Angels Of Anaheim

10. Josh Beckett—Boston Red Sox

11. Roy Oswalt—Houston Astros

12. Daisuke Matsuzaka—Boston Red Sox

13. Scott Kazmir—Tampa Bay Rays

14. Cliff Lee—Cleveland Indians

15. James Shields—Tampa Bay Rays

16. Carlos Zambrano—Chicago Cubs

17. Jon Lester—Boston Red Sox

18. A.J. Burnett—New York Yankees

19. Chad Billingsley—Los Angeles Dodgers

20. Francisco Liriano—Minnesota Twins

21. Justin Verlander—Detroit Tigers

22. Edinson Volquez—Cincinnati Reds

23. Rich Harden—Chicago Cubs

24. Felix Hernandez—Seattle Mariners

25. Chien-Ming Wang—New York Yankees

Current Rankings

1. Zack Greinke—Kansas City Royals

2. Roy Halladay—Toronto Blue Jays

3. Dan Haren—Arizona Diamondbacks

4. Johan Santana—New York Mets

5. Justin Verlander—Detroit Tigers

6. Edwin Jackson—Detroit Tigers

7. Jered Weaver—LA Angels Of Anaheim

8. Josh Johnson—Florida Marlins

9. Chad Billingsley—Los Angeles Dodgers

10. Johnny Cueto—Cincinnati Reds

11. Ted Lilly—Chicago Cubs

12. Yovani Gallardo—Milwaukee Brewers

13. Tim Lincecum—San Francisco Giants

14. Chris Carpenter—St. Louis Cardinals

15. Erik Bedard—Seattle Mariners

16. Javier Vazquez—Atlanta Braves

17. Matt Cain—San Francisco Giants

18. Mark Buehrle—Chicago White Sox

19. Derek Lowe—Atlanta Braves

20. Jake Peavy—San Diego Padres

21. Josh Beckett—Boston Red Sox

22. CC Sabathia—New York Yankees

23. Felix Hernandez—Seattle Mariners

24. Zach Duke—Pittsburgh Pirates

25. Matt Garza—Tampa Bay Rays

Wow, what a difference!

Let’s go over each player and why I have them ranked so high.

1. Zack Greinke—Kansas City Royals—8 W, 2 L, 5 CG, 2 SO, 97 K, 16 BB, 1.72 ERA, and 0.99 WHIP

So, there is someone good in Kansas City.

Greinke has overcome his anxiety disorder from early in his career to become one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. He has already thrown five complete games and has eight wins early in the season.

Greinke was not on my original Top 25, but I projected 13 wins and 186 strikeouts when I did my Top 250. It looks like I was way off as he should top 15 wins easily and also looks to top 200 strikeouts.

Keep him active in all formats, if you were smart enough to draft him.

2. Roy Halladay—Toronto Blue Jays—10 W, 1 L, 3 CG, 1 SO, 88 K, 12 BB, 2.52 ERA, and 1.02 WHIP

It seems like the only thing that Halladay knows how to do is win.

He has won 10 of his first 13 starts and has thrown three complete games. Fantasy owners are used to complete games from Halladay as he threw nine last year.

I originally had him ranked No. 4, behind Santana, Sabathia, and Lincecum.  But, so far, he has exceeded expectations.

Halladay has always been a fantasy ace and looks to continue to be one as he is on pace for 25 wins. While he probably won’t reach 25, 20 wins are not out of the question.

He is a must start at all times.

3. Dan Haren—Arizona Diamondbacks—4 W, 4 L, 1 CG, 83 K, 11 BB, 2.33 ERA, and 0.85 WHIP

Haren has been much better than his four-win, four-loss record suggests.

Arizona’s bullpen has blown three of his wins and his team has given him little to no run support in three others. He started the year 0-3, despite only allowing four runs in 19 innings.

Haren has been a fantasy ace and should wind up pitching well enough to win 15+ games, but watch out for the shaky Arizona bullpen blowing those games for him.

4. Johan Santana—New York Mets—8 W, 3 L, 91 K, 22 BB, 2.39 ERA, and 1.13 WHIP

The consensus No. 1 fantasy pitcher has been what you would expect so far this year. He has eight wins and 91 strikeouts with an ERA of just 2.39.

I originally projected 19 wins and 222 strikeouts, and he is currently on pace for 22 wins and 250 strikeouts. I expect the numbers to be closer to my projections, but, either way, Santana is a must start fantasy ace in all formats.

5. Justin Verlander—Detroit Tigers—7 W, 2 L, 2 CG, 1 SO, 106 K, 25 BB, 3.02 ERA, and 1.10 WHIP


While everyone else thought Verlander was spiraling downward toward being a one-year wonder, I thought he was due for a bounce back year and projected him 21st on my Top 25 with 16 wins and 182 strikeouts.

All he has done is win seven of his last nine games with a minuscule 1.10 ERA, and he leads the league in strikeouts with 106. He is on pace for 20 wins and 290 strikeouts, and, while he probably wont reach those numbers, I could see 18 wins and 250 strikeouts.

If you were smart enough to draft him (like The Sportmeisters) keep him active at all times.

6. Edwin Jackson—Detroit Tigers—6 W, 3 L, 1 CG, 65 K, 23 BB, 2.24 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP

Jackson is proving that his 14-win season last year in Tamps was no fluke.

He has won six of his 13 starts and has a 2.24 ERA, which is one of the best in the league. He has a very strong lineup behind him and could easily win 15 games at this pace.

Expect his ERA to land around 3.50, but keep starting him while he’s hot and look out for a possible keeper as he could be a future fantasy ace.

7. Jered Weaver—LA Angels Of Anaheim—6 W, 2 L, 2 CG, 69 K, 24 BB, 2.31 ERA, and 1.04 WHIP

Weaver has fully exceeded all expectations so far this year.

I had him projected on my Top 250 for 13 wins and 160 strikeouts. Right now, he is on pace for 16 wins and 190 strikeouts. He has a good lineup around him and should reach the 15-win mark.

Keep him active and enjoy the wins, plus his low ERA.

8. Josh Johnson—Florida Marlins—5 W, 1 L, 1 CG, 77 K, 20 BB, 2.73 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP

Johnson returned last year from Tommy John surgery to win seven games with an ERA of 3.62. He looked like an ace then and has followed that up with an ace-like performance to start this year.

He has five wins to just one loss and could have two more wins if it weren’t for Florida’s bullpen. He is on pace for just 13 wins, which is one less than my projected 14, but he has pitched well enough that he could wind up with 15 wins.

Keep him active and think about him as a possible keeper as he is only 25 and could be a fantasy ace for years to come.

9. Chad Billingsley—Los Angeles Dodgers—8 W, 3 L, 90 K, 38 BB, 2.73 ERA, 1.26 WHIP

Billingsley is fast becoming a fantasy ace this year.

He has eight wins, 90 strikeouts, and a 2.73 ERA. He is on pace for 20 wins and 235 strikeouts and looks to exceed my 14 win, 185 strikeout preseason projections. He has won his last two starts and has a strong lineup around him, especially when Ramirez returns, and should be started at all times.

Also, watch out for him as a keeper as he will be 25 in July and should be a fantasy ace for years after this.

10. Johnny Cueto—Cincinnati Reds—6 W, 3 L, 58 K, 24 BB, 2.33 ERA, and 1.05 WHIP

Cueto was the other rookie in Cincinnati last year, but this year he is pitching better than the better projected Edinson Volquez. Cueto has won six games, including his last two, and has a minuscule 2.33 ERA.

I had him projected for 10 wins and 180 strikeouts, and he is on pace to trounce that win total. If he can keep this up, expect 12+ wins, but also expect his ERA to eventually start to rise into the 3.30 range.

Keep him active while he’s hot, and he is another guy to watch as a possible keeper due to his young age and massive potential.

11. Ted Lilly—Chicago Cubs—7 W, 4 L, 63 K, 20 BB, 3.00 ERA, and 1.05 WHIP

Lilly was the forgotten man in the Cubs' rotation coming into the season, even though he won 17 games last year.

He has been the ace of that staff so far this year, winning seven games. He is on pace for 19 wins, which is more than my preseason projection of 16. He has been on fire recently, winning two of his last three starts and only allowing two runs in over 20 innings.

Keep him active while he’s hot.

12. Yovani Gallardo—Milwaukee Brewers—6 W, 3 L, 1 CG, 77 K, 32 BB, 2.88 ERA, and 1.10 WHIP

Looks like Gallardo has fully recovered from the knee injury that cost him almost all of last year. He has been a bit erratic through 12 starts, but has also been fantastic at times.

He has six wins, 77 strikeouts, and is on pace for 16 wins and 200 strikeouts, which is more than my 13 win, 177-strikeout preseason projection.

He has been good enough to be a must start, but watch out for the erratic starts as he has walked four batters in four of his last six starts.

13. Tim Lincecum—San Francisco Giants—5 W, 1 L, 95 K, 25 BB, 2.96 ERA, and 1.20 WHIP

Last year’s NL CY Young winner has started this season pretty well, but not great.

After his first two starts of the year, Lincecum was 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA. However, he righted the ship, winning two of his next three starts, and striking out 33 in 23 innings.

He has only had one bad game after that and hasn’t lost a decision since that second game. He has 95 strikeouts and is on pace for 265, but is only on pace for 13 wins. He should get more wins, probably around 15, but that is less than my preseason projection of 18.

Either way, he is an obvious must start fantasy ace.

14. Chris Carpenter—St. Louis Cardinals—4 W, 0 L, 1 CG, 34 K, 6 BB, 1.23 ERA, and 0.70 WHIP

Carpenter has looked like the guy who won the CY Young back in 2005. He would probably be higher on this list if not for the oblique injury that kept him out for a month.

Since he has returned, however, he has been lights out. He has only allowed six runs in 34 innings and had a complete game three hitter back on June 4.

His health will be something to watch, but as long as he’s healthy, he is a must start.

15. Erik Bedard—Seattle Mariners—5 W, 2 L, 65 K, 22 BB, 2.47 ERA, and 1.16 WHIP

Bedard has been solid, not spectacular so far this year.

However, solid is much better than he was a year ago. After last season’s debacle, I had Bedard projected for just 11 wins and 160 strikeouts. He is currently on pace to top both.

Watch his health as last year was mostly due to injuries, and watch his erratic starts, only going more than seven innings twice.

But, as for now, go ahead and start him as he has won three straight.

16. Javier Vazquez—Atlanta Braves—4 W, 5 L, 105 K, 16 BB, 3.31 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP

Vazquez has been much better than his 4-5 record would suggest.

He has 105 strikeouts and has been hurt by lack of run support. He has allowed two runs or less in four games that were no decisions or losses.

Keep him active right now as he is striking out at least five batters a game and hasn’t walked a batter in his last two starts.

17. Matt Cain—San Francisco Giants—8 W, 1 L, 2 CG, 59 K, 34 BB, 2.55 ERA, and 1.35 WHIP

Cain is on fire recently, winning six of his last seven games and only allowing 11 runs in 45.7 innings.

He has eight wins on the year and is on pace for 22 wins, which is 11 more than my preseason projection. While he won’t reach 22 wins, 16 isn’t out of the question as long as he continues to get run support.

18. Mark Buehrle—Chicago White Sox—6 W, 2 L, 50 K, 19 BB, 3.24 ERA, and 1.14 WHIP

Buehrle started off the season on fire, but has been a bit erratic as of late.

He won five of his first six starts with an ERA of 2.61. Since then, however, he has lost two games and had three no decisions, allowing four or more runs in three of those games.

Keep him active right now as he still isn’t walking batters and should win 14+ games.

19. Derek Lowe—Atlanta Braves—7 W, 3 L, 49 K, 25 BB, 3.44 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP

It looks like the move from LA to Atlanta has done wonders for Lowe.

He has seven wins and has only allowed four or more runs twice in 13 starts, not to mention only walking three or more in three games. He is on pace to win 19 games, but I would say 16 is more accurate and that is still three more than my original projection.

Keep him active as long as he’s pitching this well.

20. Jake Peavy—San Diego Padres—6 W, 6 L, 1 CG, 92 K, 28 BB, 3.97 ERA, and 1.19 WHIP

Peavy was almost traded to the White Sox earlier this year, but blocked the trade to stay in San Diego, for now.

Peavy is still on the trade block, and he isn’t doing much to help his cause. Still, he isn’t hurting himself either.

He is 6-6 this year, but has pitched better than the record shows. He is still among the league leaders in strikeouts and is still a must start in all formats due to his CY Young potential.

21. Josh Beckett—Boston Red Sox—7 W, 2 L, 76 K, 32 BB, 3.77 ERA, and 1.30 WHIP

Beckett started the season slow, but has picked it up lately, winning five of his last seven games. The most he has allowed has been three runs in two of those games and has at least five strikeouts in each game.

He plays for a stacked Boston team with a lights out closer and remains a must start in all formats.

22. CC Sabathia—New York Yankees—5 W, 4 L, 2 CG, 1 SO, 67 K, 29 BB, 3.68 ERA, and 1.13 WHIP

It looks like the transition to New York hasn’t been as smooth as expected.

While Sabathia hasn’t been bad, he hasn’t lived up to the huge contract yet either.

Don’t panic, however, as he will surely turn it around and remain an elite fantasy ace and is still a must start in all formats.

23. Felix Hernandez—Seattle Mariners—6 W, 3 L, 84 K, 25 BB, 3.06 ERA, and 1.28 WHIP

King Felix is on fire.

He has a 2-0 record n his last four starts, only allowing three runs in 28 innings. He has six wins and is on pace for 16, one more than my original projection.

He is playing well enough to be a must start, and is starting to show the potential that Seattle thought he had when they brought him to the majors at the age of 19.

24. Zach Duke—Pittsburgh Pirates—6 W, 4 L, 2 CG, 1 SO, 44 K, 20 BB, 3.07 ERA, and 1.20 WHIP

Duke busted onto the scene in 2005 with an 8-2 record and a 1.82 ERA.

However, since then he is a combined 18-37 with an ERA over four. This season has been somewhat of a resurgence.

He has been brilliant at times, but has also been terrible. He has allowed four or more runs in four starts, but has not walked more than two batters in any game all year.

He is a decent start right now, but watch him closely due to his track record.

25. Matt Garza—Tampa Bay Rays—4 W, 4 L, 68 K, 30 BB, 3.55 ERA, and 1.13 WHIP

Garza hasn’t been great recently, but hasn’t been terrible either.

He is 2-2 in his last seven starts and is 4-4 on the year. He has had 10 strikeouts in a game, but has also walked five batters in a game.

Right now, he isn’t a must start, but he is someone to stash on the bench as a wait and see and use for the occasional matchup start.

There are my rankings for the Starting Pitcher position after the first three months.

Any arguments or questions, feel free to email me at


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