My fantasy baseball pitcher rankings originally would have been updated before this point. But since March 26 was supposed to be Opening Day, we figured why not share some updated rankings now?
In particular, the top of the pitcher rankings has seen some shake-up because some big-time arms have since been ruled out for the season (and longer). Within the last couple of weeks, SP studs Chris Sale and Noah Syndergaard became non-options in redraft leagues after their teams announced each would need Tommy John surgery. In their place, I've added some young guns that have my attention.
But the loss of those two studs makes the sorry state of pitching even worse this year. Which brings us to two schools of thought: 1) Get yourself a good pitching staff in order to pick up major ground on your rival owners. 2) Minimize the quality of your pitching targets since nearly everyone is going to have poor pitching. As I said when I first revealed my pitcher rankings, both of these strategies are right and both are wrong. But given the current landscape, I now find myself leaning heavily toward the latter.
I still have Zac Gallen about five spots higher than the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR, see below). And I still like Lance Lynn far less than the ECR. I have two main reasons for my pessimism when it comes to Lynn – he had a sizeable jump in workload last season and 2019 was a career year. I'm expecting a drop in his stats, not an improvement.
Speaking of drops, unless new injury questions arose (such as Justin Verlander moving down a few spots because he could still miss a start or two after undergoing groin surgery on March 17), I basically refused to move any pitchers down. However, Griffin Canning's drop resulted in guys like Brendan McKay and Dustin May moving ahead of him. Speaking of risers...
Dustin May, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
May is like a lot of my SP risers. He's young and has electric stuff but might start the season in the minors or the bullpen, thereby limiting his value. His injuries earlier this preseason might delay his timetable even more, but I think I originally had him too low, so I gave him a little boost. I have a thing for guys that can control SIX different types of pitches, even if only three are plus-offerings right now. To be honest, I am more intrigued by the guy I have one spot behind him.
Mitch Keller, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Keller had an absolutely miserable 2019. His ERA was a whopping 7.13 and that alone will hopefully keep him off your opponents' radars. But keep him on yours. Before he got promoted to the bigs, he struck out 47 batters in 38.1 innings and recorded a 3.05 ERA at Indianapolis, in a league where the lively ball inflated the average ERA to 4.90.
To call Keller's lack of luck last year historical is no exaggeration. As most of you hopefully know, a typical BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is around .300. Keller had a mind-boggling BABIP of .475 last year, by far the highest of any pitcher since 1900 (min. 40 IP). Check out this article over at The Ringer for a more thorough analysis of Keller's history-making campaign.
Of course you can be a bad pitcher and have a lousy BABIP. But Keller wasn't a bad pitcher. He had a K/9 rate of 12.2, putting him below the likes of Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer, but above Robbie Ray and Justin Verlander. His FIP was a sparkling 3.19, which is even better than Cy Young contender Stephen Strasburg. I'm not expecting Keller to compete for a Cy Young, but there's a reason Keller is one of my three highest risers.
Josh Lindbloom, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Making even a greater jump than Keller in my rankings is Lindbloom. Lindbloom is a popular sleeper, but I wasn't sure what his status would be over a month ago. He now looks to be a fixture in Milwaukee's rotation as the Brewers SP4 with Eric Lauer having some impingement issues. I would make Lauer's loss your gain.
But there is one player who made a big splash in my updated rankings and that is Jordan Montgomery.
Jordan Montgomery, SP, New York Yankees
Like it or not, any Yankee pitcher should be on your radar, especially those who will be regular starters. And with Luis Severino (underwent Tommy John surgery in late February) out, Montgomery should be the primary beneficiary.
After getting pounded in his first outing this spring training, Montgomery bounced back with five strikeouts in four perfect innings. And this might not be the last time I move Montgomery up.
I will continue to make changes between now and Opening Day, whenever that might be. But for those wondering, I added some other players to my rankings as well like rookie Nate Pearson. But I need to see at least a few more outings from him before I move him up. But I did move Julio Urias up into my top 50.
Want to know who else I like and/or moved up in my pitcher rankings? Hit me up on Twitter (@MarkStrausberg).
— Rankings by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.