Top 100 2019 Starting Pitcher Rankings
Consensus? Is that what we’re supposed to have here? The first iteration of our 2019 Starting Pitcher Rankings has very little consensus once you get past the big names. As you peruse the rankings below you’ll no doubt wonder how there’s so much difference in the rankings for certain pitchers. We wondered the same thing, so we went straight to the horse’s mouth. Let’s see what our rankers have to say about this big mess of starting pitcher rankings.
If you’re like us, you can’t wait until spring to get the 2019 fantasy baseball season started. Well, you don’t have to. Leagues are already forming at Fantrax.com, so head on over and get your league started today.
Baseball is changing, and in turn, it’s changing the fantasy game. To be a bit more specific, there are two trends that are changing the way I’ll be drafting pitchers in 2019.
The first trend is that starting pitchers are going less and less deep into games. This isn’t affecting the studs too much, but it is affecting everybody else. Starting pitchers pitching fewer innings is happening concurrently with a huge increase in the amount of strikeouts all across baseball over the last few years. These strikeouts are being spread out among all pitchers, but with No. 3, 4, and 5 starters throwing fewer innings, they aren’t getting as big a boost.
You put these two trends together and you have a top tier of starting pitchers that is more valuable than ever, while all the other starters are losing value in relation. In fact, with a growing number of middle relievers with serious strikeout potential, the divide between even middle tier starters and good relievers is growing much closer.
The effect of this is an incredibly top-heavy set of 2019 starting pitcher rankings. I’ve always prided myself on being able to build a good pitching staff with one ace and then smart selections much later in a draft. With a shrinking middle class of pitchers, my strategy has to change. I’m now looking at grabbing two ace-type pitchers in the first four rounds to build a solid base in ERA and WHIP. Then I’m building a strong offense with maybe a couple smart pitching buys along the way. But rather than take a risk on the hoard of ratio-killing starters in the last five rounds, I’m going to fill in my fantasy staff with high-strikeout, low-WHIP relievers. I want to dominate those two categories and finish in the upper third in saves. I think the way strikeouts are being spread out among pitchers will allow my two aces and a couple strong relievers (think Brad Peacock, Jose Castillo, Matt Strahm) to finish toward the middle of the pack in strikeouts.
In fact, I dislike the middle tier of starting pitchers so much, I’d rather have the upside potential of a Yu Darvish, Jesus Luzardo, or Brent Honeywell, than a dance with just about any pitcher outside the top 40 or so. Hell, if you took pitchers 51 thru 100 and drew names out of a hat, I would argue much. They’re all one big bag of maybe.
So my basic take on pitching this year is quality over quantity. I’m probably gonna have fewer innings pitched than almost every other owner in my leagues, but they will be quality innings with high K/9 and low WHIP and ERA numbers. I’ve always been that way to some extent, but I am running faster than ever away from innings-eater types. I want my innings eaten in a healthier way. Less filling, tastes great!
I think the way we draft pitching in 2019 is going to dictate to a huge extent how our fantasy teams do… well, duh, it always does Doug. But this year I think there’s going to be a great deal of variance in how people approach it. I’m very interested to see what Eric and Nathan have to say. You can learn more about all of us further down the page below the rankings.
Enjoying these 2019 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!
Eric Cross: Fantasy pitching is a fickle beast. Everyone seems to attack it differently in drafts and all claim that their way is the right way to go about it. Personally, I like to keep a 70/30 hitters to pitchers split in the early going. That can fluctuate based off what players are available at the time, but generally, I like to grab my ace in rounds three or four, my SP2 in rounds 5-6 and my SP3 in rounds 8-10 with my first closer coming right around that area as well. Pitching help seems to always be there throughout the season, even if it might get a little shallow at the end of drafts. There always is a handful of pitchers that crop up through the season that end up as top-30 or so options. Also, and this one is more of a personal preference, I never go after guys with a K/BB of less than 2:1. Literally never. I’ve rejected trades due to this personal rule. Wild pitchers cause more headaches than they’re worth and usually hurt your staff in the long run.
Nathan Dokken: In digging through our early 2019 starting pitcher rankings, it’s obvious premium pitching is going to be harder to find than ever. Even many names within the top 20 have plenty of concerns. Guys like James Paxton, Stephen Strasburg, and Noah Syndergaard have extreme durability issues, but fewer starters overall are giving you good innings in bulk. Just 13 starters gave you 200-plus innings in 2018, compared to 28 as recently as 2015. That pushes up guys like Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, who regularly provide a ton of innings. You’ll want to go very early on the elite starters in points leagues, particularly.
There’s a noticeable drop off in talent after the top 35 or so. Once you get to the forties, to me there is a very large tier of starters that lasts all the way into the sixties. Some of these guys can and will break out, but at this point, it’s just a heap of mediocrity. There are some interesting rookies that could make a big impact in Jesus Luzardo and Forrest Whitley, and what the Braves decide to do with their rotation will be impactful. We’ve had plenty of internal debate here at Fantrax between Touki Toussaint and Mike Soroka. I’m firmly entrenched in Camp Soroka, but who knows what that rotation will look like when Opening Day rolls around. Anyway, taking a step back and looking at overall position strategy, I’m going to get at least two and maybe three top 30 starters in standard mixers, and then wait a very long time and let everyone else wade through the mediocrity.
Early Top 100 Starting Pitcher Rankings for 2019
A little note on these rankings. They are always a work in progress. We’ll be tweaking them regularly and especially as Spring Training progresses. These rankings are to get us started thinking about the starting pitcher pool for 2019, and maybe spark some early discussion. There, you are now free to move about the cabin and nitpick the fact that I had Zach Eflin at 74 when he should have been at 92… or was it 52?
Thank you for reading our early 2019 starting pitcher rankings. Next week we’ll take a look at the closer rankings and then dive headlong into 2019 fantasy baseball.
Meet your rankers:
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.
Eric Cross has been writing for FantraxHQ since March of 2017 and recently became the lead MLB writer and prospect analyst for FantraxHQ. He also wrote for FantasyPros from June 2017 to September 2018. In the past, he also covered NFL and NBA for Fantrax. Eric was accepted into the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association) in March of 2018. Find him on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask away with all your baseball and prospect questions.
Nathan Dokken is a member of the FSWA and has been featured on numerous radio shows, podcasts, and magazines. He is the host of the Nasty Cast and Fantrax Dynasty Baseball podcasts, and his written work can be found at Razzball and Fantrax HQ. He is on Twitter @NathanDokken.
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