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AL-Only Starting Pitcher Rankings & Projections

Talk about testing your process. Compiling my 2019 AL-Only Starting Pitcher rankings really forced me to dig through my projections several times. I can look at the projections and say they are on target, then look at the rankings and feel conflicted. Indeed I did go back and tweak a few pitchers, but if you want to win at fantasy baseball you can’t let perception run your team. If I believe in the math of the projections, then I need to trust them.

With all that said, these rankings are a start. Especially once Spring Training starts, I’ll be making adjustments in my projections and rankings as roles become more clear. The way rosters look right now is not the way they will look in late March.


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Pitching Strategy in 2019 AL-Only Leagues

I mentioned it in our Mixed League Starting Pitcher Rankings, but I’m definitely adjusting how I value starting pitchers for the foreseeable future. Starting pitchers are working fewer and fewer innings in general, which conversely means relievers are getting more innings, more strikeouts, and more wins. The top few aces (Verlander, Sale, Kluber) are the exceptions to the new rule and are more valuable than ever. Then there’s a second tier that pitches fewer innings, but still offers nice production. After that, it’s a big mess of mediocrity at best. At worst there is a huge group of pitchers that will actually hurt your team. I will be very selective in rostering pitchers ranked lower than or so. I’d rather take a high-strikeout middle reliever in most cases.

I’ve always used top middle relievers to exploit the ERA and WHIP categories to some extent. The current pitching trends have me looking at expanding that strategy and if other owners settle for the ugly underbelly of starting pitchers, they will have no shot.

Situations to Watch

So with all this uncertainty, I figured I’d run down some of the things I’ll be watching for this spring.

  1. The Houston Astros Starting Rotation – Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton are gone. Lance McCullers Jr. is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Right now Roster Resource has Collin McHugh, Josh James, Framber Valdez filling out the Astro rotation. At one point it looked like Brad Peacock might even return to a starting job. Then, of course, they’ve got Forrest Whitley, maybe the top pitching prospect in baseball, lurking in the minors. There’s even been some talk of using Kyle Tucker and other prospects to trade for a frontline starter. Every one of these pitchers I just mentioned has real talent and could be pretty valuable in AL-Only leagues. I’ll be watching this situation very closely all spring.
  2. The Tommy John prospects – A.J. Puk and Brent Honeywell were among the top pitching prospects in baseball prior to going under the knife. Early reports have been positive, but how is each team going to handle them? Will Tampa Bay use Honeywell as their bulk guy after an opener? How long will Puk pitch in the minors before he gets the call? If these two elite talents are back to where they were, they could produce huge value in AL-Only leagues.

Starting Pitchers to Target

I usually have a nice list of lower-ranked starting pitchers I like as sleepers. Not so much in this year’s American League pitching pool. Here are a few names down the list I might entertain though if things roll right.

As you can see I like Shane Bieber. I’ve got him at No. 17 which is probably higher than most anywhere you’ll see. That 4.55 ERA is misleading. He posted a 9.26 K/9 and a 1.81 BB/9. His xFIP was 3.30 and his SIERA was 3.45. He was undone by a somewhat low 69.4 LOB% and a fluky .356 BABIP.

Michael Pineda has never turned into what I thought he might, but he gets strikeouts, doesn’t walk many batters, and won’t kill you in the ERA department. If he’s looking decent in the spring I might take a late round flier.

Last year it was Ryan Yarbrough. This year I think it may be Yonny Chirinos. Chirinos could improve his control, but he’s very hard to hit. Whether he starts or follows the opened, I think he could be a very useful pitcher in AL-Only leagues.

Alex Cobb was horrid for the first few months of the 2018 season. Did you notice he had a 2.56 ERA in the second half? It’d be easy to jump onboard if he played for a better team, but Cobb might be one of that lower tier I might take a shot on. Hell, if he pitches well maybe he gets traded to New York or Boston after a month or two.

2019 AL-Only Starting Pitcher Rankings

RnkPitcherTEAMWKERAWHIP
1Justin VerlanderHOU152483.351.00
2Chris SaleBOS142282.980.94
3Corey KluberCLE152183.161.02
4Luis SeverinoNYY172183.281.06
5Blake SnellTB152233.311.05
6Gerrit ColeHOU142323.471.09
7Trevor BauerCLE132273.451.13
8Carlos CarrascoCLE132103.451.10
9James PaxtonNYY121923.271.05
10Jose BerriosMIN142043.661.16
11David PriceBOS151743.471.11
12Rick PorcelloBOS161873.851.18
13Masahiro TanakaNYY141843.811.13
14Charlie MortonTB131943.671.17
15Mike ClevingerCLE122013.791.20
16J.A. HappNYY131743.731.17
17Shane BieberCLE121653.551.20
18Andrew HeaneyLAA131934.201.24
19Collin McHughHOU101643.561.16
20Joshua JamesHOU121703.851.21
21Marco GonzalesSEA121633.781.24
22Eduardo RodriguezBOS131644.071.27
23Kyle GibsonMIN121743.991.30
24Nathan EovaldiBOS131253.881.18
25Mike MinorTEX91393.741.13
26Dylan BundyBAL101964.331.28
27Matt BoydDET101744.121.27
28Tyler GlasnowTB91694.091.27
29Michael FulmerDET91353.711.22
30Jesus LuzardoOAK91303.651.17
31Jakob JunisKC91724.221.26
32Reynaldo LopezCWS101714.231.32
33Yonny ChirinosTB101243.691.27
34Danny DuffyKC101604.301.37
35Tyler SkaggsLAA91494.081.34
36Mike LeakeSEA101303.951.34
37Mike FiersOAK101294.301.29
38Yusei KikuchiSEA91434.211.32
39Alex CobbBAL81283.961.27
40CC SabathiaNYY101324.241.34
41Marcus StromanTOR91383.921.37
42Lance LynnTEX91424.171.34
43Ivan NovaCWS101234.241.31
44Ryan YarbroughTB91444.231.35
45Tyson RossDET101284.161.37
46Ryan BoruckiTOR81213.931.34
47Jake OdorizziMIN91474.591.39
48Daniel MengdenOAK91044.201.34
49Brent HoneywellTB6853.521.17
50Brad PeacockHOU41023.681.13
51Jaime BarriaLAA91184.391.38
52Jordan ZimmermannDET81184.421.35
53Drew SmylyTEX71154.531.31
54Chris BassittOAK81084.211.39
55Trevor CahillLAA8974.211.36
56Matt HarveyLAA81254.521.39
57Forrest WhitleyHOU6713.771.23
58Frankie MontasOAK91044.431.44
59Brad KellerKC71184.181.43
60Michael PinedaMIN71044.491.38
61Felix HernandezSEA71154.521.39
62Daniel NorrisDET61314.451.43
63Aaron SanchezTOR81194.351.49
64Wade LeBlancSEA6964.471.31
65Ian KennedyKC71274.911.43
66Steven WrightBOS6724.071.31
67Justus SheffieldSEA5814.071.36
68Carlos RodonCWS71414.811.50
69A.J. PukOAK3593.481.20
70David HessBAL5984.511.41
71Matt ShoemakerTOR3724.051.28
72Jalen BeeksTB6754.391.43
73Danny SalazarCLE3754.201.32
74Clayton RichardTOR61054.411.50
75Yohander MendezTEX6854.631.45
76Lucas GiolitoCWS81355.091.53
77Sonny GrayNYY3654.071.33
78Fernando RomeroMIN4534.051.37
79Shelby MillerTEX61004.861.57
80Edinson VolquezTEX5814.421.50
81Domingo GermanNYY3394.181.25
82Jose De LeonTB3424.201.30
83Wilmer FontTB5595.131.44
84Josh RogersBAL5674.661.49
85Andrew CashnerBAL71114.931.57
86Carson FulmerCWS6755.381.58
87Matt MooreDET3654.671.48
88Jacob FariaTB2384.281.38
89Adalberto MejiaMIN4704.771.55
90Manny BanuelosCWS1154.481.41

Enjoying these 2019 AL-Only Starting Pitcher Rankings? For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!


Doug Anderson is a 10-year veteran of the Fantasy Sports industry. His work has appeared on RotoExperts.com, Yahoo.com, SI.com, and NFL.com, as well as in the pages of USA Today’s Fantasy Baseball Weekly and various other magazines. Doug has participated in both LABR and Tout Wars, the two preeminent expert fantasy baseball leagues in existence. Doug was formerly the Executive Editor at RotoExperts and is now Managing Editor here at FantraxHQ. You can follow him on Twitter @RotoDaddy.


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2 Comments
  1. bbboston says

    Couple of Questions:
    – You seem to have a worse ranking for Clevinger than most everywhere else I’ve reviewed to date. Why?
    – I could have sworn I saw a negative article on Heaney as a sleeper, yet your ranking is high?

    1. Doug Anderson says

      The article you are referring to was 5 Pitchers Who Will be UnderDrafted, meaning they won’t be drafted as high as they should. As far as Clevinger goes, I do like him. I wouldn’t argue with someone who ranked him higher. My rankings are strictly based on the projections. If the projections are good, then he’s in the right place. With that said for me there’s little difference in these rankings between pitcher No. 10 and pitcher No. 15. Their values are very close. When I do my full rankings I’ll include dollar values that allow us to get a better idea of relative value.

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