Starting pitcher is my favorite position to rank in fantasy baseball and in most leagues, it’s often the most critical one as well. You can put together a deep lineup with elite hitters but if that means you end up with only lower-tier starters or get hit by the injury bug then your team may be in some trouble.
No pitcher is safe from injury (see Madison Bumgarner in 2017), and like plenty of others I have lost my fair share to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Losing your ace can be enough to sink your team but that’s also where the depth at the position and the long season helps make fantasy baseball great. You are never out of it!
Below you will find my overall pitcher rankings, as well as starting pitchers (SP) and relievers (RP). Relievers are not only my least favorite position in fantasy, they also are nearly impossible to rank outside of the top 10 locks for saves. So many teams either employ some sort of committee at closer or don’t offer much clarity when it comes to defined roles these days.
If your league uses saves as a category, you should try and get at least one “safe” closer and maybe two or target a good setup guy late who could take over the role at some point in the season or assume it due to an injury or trade. The fantasy value for setup guys is starting to increase as teams are relying more on their bullpens rather than letting starters go deep into games. If these relievers succeed it’s a sneaky way to get strikeouts and improve your ERA and WHIP. (But be wary of the occasional blow ups too.)
As for the starter rankings, Shohei Ohtani makes my top 30 as he has experienced mixed results thus far in spring training. I am hoping he dominates this season, but because I can’t trust this will happen, he’s not in my top 20. There are simply too many established aces who have earned that status already.
Also be sure to take your league rules into account when drafting pitchers. If you have innings limits, start limits, nine pitcher spots vs. five pitcher spots, or something unique to the position, variables like that are critical to know before drafting. You don’t want to get a stockpile of pitchers and not be able to use them all due to weekly lineups or some other mandated limit.
Either way I hope these rankings help you build your tiers and with your draft prep for the 2018 season. These will change as spring training progresses and teams adjust their rosters.
— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.
(Madison Bumgarner photo courtesy of Getty Images)