2021 Dynasty Baseball Rankings


WELCOME BACK!!! Despite a scorching hot stove (I can’t believe the player you’re thinking of did or did not sign with the team you thought they would!), these long winter months can be some of the darkest of the year (figuratively and literally). But fear not, restless readers. The Dynasty Guru is here to the rescue.

While you were quarantining and enjoying virtual holidays, our brave group of writers has been ranking, debating, re-ranking, re-debating, and re-re-ranking over 600 players for dynasty leagues. The fruits of our efforts will be filling January and February with the deepest, most thoroughly and painstakingly selected dynasty baseball rankings on the internet. We have top-40s, top-50s, top-125s, top-200s, and of course top-500s.

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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2021 consensus rankings by listing our top 50 starting pitchers in dynasty leagues.

1. Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 6)

Our worthy number one dynasty pitcher was the 2020 Major League leader in wins, ERA, strikeouts, pitching WAR, and the obvious choice for AL Cy Young. After posting an absurd 259 Ks in 214 innings in 2019, Bieber upped the ante increasing his K/9 from 10.9 to 14.2 reaching 122 K’s in 77 innings over 12 starts. On a well-beyond 300 strikeout pace over a full season, Bieber struck out no fewer than eight hitters in an appearance all year, although facing the Centrals, exclusively, didn’t hurt.

In 2019, Bieber had allowed 31 home runs, 19 of which came on the fastball. He dropped that pitch from 46% to 37% usage in 2020, and added a cutter that he used 16% of the time. He slashed the home runs allowed down to seven, with only two of them on the fastball. The pitch that took the biggest leap was the changeup, going from a .309 BA allowed in 2019 to a minuscule .063 despite a slight uptick in usage. Any questions in regards to Bieber repeating his 2019 are in the past. Turning 26 in May, he enters his prime by taking the throne as the SP Dynasty King, but a couple of veterans in the Big Apple still linger in the mix. (Bob Osgood)

2. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 1) 

Facing numerous tough lineups in the AL and NL East divisions, he did not dominate the short season, but the ’19-’20 numbers combined show just how dominant Gerrit Cole’s 2019 was. Over 45 starts in the past two seasons, Cole is 27-8 with a 2.59 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, a smokin’ 420 strikeouts over 285 innings, including a 32.1 K-BB% which leads all other starting pitchers by four percentage points (Scherzer, 28.2%). Moving into Yankee Stadium, Cole’s home runs naturally ticked up from 1.23 to 1.73 HR/9, but the 16 Expected HRs allowed were not far off from the 18 that he actually served up. Now entering his thirties, Cole’s fastball is still averaging 96.7 MPH with no drop off from previous seasons. With a better surrounding cast for wins than Bieber in Cleveland, and having had a year to adjust to pitching in the AL East, the case for Cole is there for last year’s number one to hang on for another season as the number one pitcher in redraft and in dynasty. (Bob Osgood)

3. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 2) 

With deGrom turning 33 this June, it’ll start to feel uneasy looking at your dynasty staff anchor at that age. However, deGrom isn’t a typical MLB 33-year-old. Compared to Cole, whom he is 27 months older than, deGrom has thrown 99 fewer major league innings (deGrom 1169, Cole 1268). Adding in the minor league innings, deGrom is still lower (deGrom 1492, Cole 1498).

Add in the fact that deGrom was averaging 98.6 MPH on his fastball in 2020 leading to 13.8 K/9, 2.5 higher than any other year in his career, and there are zero signs of slowing down. deGrom easily could’ve won his third consecutive Cy Young award had he been pitching in a different division, thanks to the unbalanced schedule. He just completed a three-year stretch where his ERA was 2.10, but his record was only 25-19. You’d have to think the Win/Loss luck turns around eventually, and with new ownership already spending, the Mets should be improved. With only 70 career wins, it would be nice to see deGrom cement his Hall of Fame case with a 20-win season or two. (Bob Osgood)

4. Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 3) 

Buehler had a bumpy 2020 regular season, first dealing with a slow start, followed by blister issues and when all was said and done, only threw 36 2/3 innings as the Dodgers took a big picture approach with Buehler, thanks to a six-game NL West division victory. A 3.44 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, alongside a .178 BA against doesn’t exactly reflect a “disappointing season” but fantasy managers expected more out of a pitcher who hovered near the first round in drafts last year, as Buehler finished the year with a 1-0 record. Holding Buehler back paid dividends for the Dodgers, as he delivered a 1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 14.0 K/9 over 25 playoff innings en route to a World Series title. Buehler held up through 182 regular-season innings in 2019 without issue. With the division more competitive than ever thanks to the Padres shopping spree, they’ll need to lean on Buehler for that inning output again, and he should be going off the board earlier than his current #7 SP ADP in early redraft leagues. (Bob Osgood)

5. Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 5) 

Flaherty’s 2020 was not ideal, but the staff at TDG generally feels that a mulligan is deserved due to a season that was even shorter and bumpier in St. Louis than anywhere else. Flaherty ramped up in March, waited three months, ramped up in July for an Opening Day start on July 24, waited four more weeks thanks to a COVID outbreak with the Cardinals, and then didn’t toe the rubber again until a 41-pitch performance on August 19. Flaherty’s velocity never wavered throughout the chaos, staying between 93-94 MPH throughout. He allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts, but a nine earned run disaster in Milwaukee blew up his then 3.08 ERA, which eventually settled at 4.91 over 40 1/3 innings. Flaherty’s Expected Stats actually say he got a bit lucky (.262 xBA, .328 xwOBA), but his Whiff% stayed in the 88th percentile (including a 49.5% Whiff% on his slider), so there is no reason to think he can’t return to the 196-inning, 231-strikeout season from 2019 when he was only 23-years-old. Flaherty is the 11th pitcher off the board in early redrafts. That is great value to me. (Bob Osgood)

6. Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 14) 

I admittedly had my doubts entering 2020 about Giolito. Going from a 6.13 ERA/1.48 WHIP with a bottom 10% K-rate to 3.41/1.06 with a top 10% K-rate is as drastic as breakouts get. Giolito’s Hit, HR, and K-rates all took additional steps forward, stamped by a no-hitter vs. Pittsburgh where he struck out 13 batters for the second straight outing. He upped his change-up usage from 26% to 34%, a pitch which opposing hitters batted only .157 against (down from .190 in 2019). Giolito does seem prone to a once-a-month blow-up outing, which keeps his ERA closer to the mid-3’s but the WHIP and K’s are a beautiful thing and the wins should be there on an ever-improving White Sox squad. My doubts have left the building.  (Bob Osgood)

7. Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 11) 

Castillo secured his place in bonafide acedom by making additional gains in an already stellar profile. A 97.4 MPH fastball that was up a tick complemented his elite change-up perfectly, along with a slider that allowed a .182 BA against as well. Exit velocity against Castillo was down to 86.0 MPH (87th percentile), and his launch angle against dropped from 9.6 degrees in ’18, to 5.9 in ’19, to 2.2 in ’20. Naturally, the result was a GB% that shot up to 58.4% while dropping his career 1.22 HR/9 down to 0.64 per 9 in 2020. An unlucky .329 BABIP suggests that his 3.21 ERA easily could’ve landed in the 2’s. Castillo’s 4-6 record was equally unlucky and his career record of 32-33 is flat out bogus. Draft Castillo with confidence in any and all formats as he enters his 28-year-old season. (Bob Osgood)

8. Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 13) 

In the past four seasons, Nola’s innings output has been 168, 212, 202, and 71 (in 60 games). After a bit of a blip in 2019 where Nola’s walks spiked from 58 to 80, leading to a 3.87 ERA (with most indicators over 4.00), he got his control back in check last year while also making the jump to an outstanding 12.1 K/9, sixth-best in MLB. Nola used all four of his pitches, the 4-seam, sinker, curveball, and changeup, between 21% and 27% of the time. With his curveball usage dropping from 35% to 27%, it allowed Nola to use the incredible pitch most effectively with two-strikes as the Put Away Rate on the curve exploded from 27% to 41%. Outside of the top-3, Nola is as close to a “safe ace” as you can find thanks to the innings and strikeout output, allowing for upside picks in your starting rotation later in the draft. (Bob Osgood)

9. Blake Snell, San Diego Padres (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 4) 

We know what the ceiling is with Blake Snell. It happened in 2018 and certainly could happen again: 181 Innings, 21-5, 1.89, 0.97. It happened when he struck out 18 Dodgers in 10 World Series innings, before, Kevin Ca….. eh, forget it. The problem is that everything since 2018 has just felt like it’s been handled with care. Arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in mid-2019, a cortisone injection in the elbow during Spring Training Round One in 2020, and a less concerning fractured toe early in 2019 have kept Snell on the shelf more than we’d like to see. The hesitancy to allow Snell to go more than five innings, totaling only 157 innings over 34 starts in 2019-2020 and going no more than 17 outs in any of his six playoff starts in 2020 maximized every inning that the Rays got out of Snell, before dealing him to San Diego this offseason. One of the most interesting questions in all of baseball for me entering 2021 is how aggressive the Padres will be with Snell and if his arm can still hold up for a 162-game season. Ideally, if I’m taking Snell as my #1 this year, I want to pair him with a Lance Lynn or Jose Berrios type who I know will throw close to 200 innings. (Bob Osgood)

10. Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 27)

No pitcher went from waiver wire fodder to stardom over the last 24 months like Brandon Woodruff. Those who felt confident rostering Woodruff as their #2 starter entering last year were rewarded with ace-like numbers across the board, highlighted by a 3.05 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 91 K’s over 74 innings in a league-leading 13 starts that somehow only resulted in three wins. The coin flip of a choice that I keep coming back to this draft season is with Aaron Nola. Combining 2019-2020 stats, the comparison is surprising, with the important caveat that Woodruff made 11 fewer starts than Nola due to his oblique injury in 2019:

Aaron NolaBrandon Woodruff
Exit Velo89.086.3

Woodruff used his 96 MPH fastball/sinker more than ever, 65% of the time, but continues to locate it well, while making significant gains with the changeup (.204 BA) and slider (.087 BA). The 11th round pick in 2014 is an unlikely but deserving addition to the top ten. (Bob Osgood)

11. Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 33)

Do you like FIP beaters? well, so far Gallen has been one of those guys. In his rookie year, Gallen had an ERA/FIP of 2.81/3.61 while 2020 was more of the same with 2.75/3.66. Looking at his expected FIP we can see maybe some glimpse of who is the real Gallen long term. In 2019 Gallen had 4.15 xFIP- a considerable difference with his FIP that year-then in 2020 he managed a 3.62 xFIP, almost the same as his FIP. So maybe Gallen isn’t the sub three ERA guy we’ve seen so far. Gallen doesn’t throw especially hard, with an average 4-seam fastball of 92.9 mph in 2019 and 93.2 mph in 2020, but the pitch works thanks to localization and an above-average spin rate. He offers some quality secondary pitches too, a changeup, used 19% of the time, and a curveball used 16%. Gallen is a great asset to have but never has pitched more than 80 innings, so watch out when that threshold approaches. (Marino Martinez)

12. Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 26)

We thought he had his breakout season in 2018 when Trevor Bauer had the great season we all hoped for many years, but then he slipped again in 2019. However, last year’s shortened-season was insane for him, definitely his best to date, posting a 1.71 ERA, 3.25 xFIP, 2.94 SIERA, therefore he may regress to human levels soon. But even with that projected regression, he is a volatile ace caliber SP. Bauer has only surpassed the 200 inning threshold one time in his career and pitched for an ERA below 4.00 twice, but if the Dodgers trusted him, why don’t you? (Marino Martinez)

13. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 23)

Kershaw regained some velocity back from his 4-seamer (+1.3 mph), but even with that peak in velocity, his old days will never come back again. With a .553 xSLG and .336 xWOBA expect fewer fastballs and more breaking balls from him. Maybe he is not the king anymore because of his back injuries, but he is a borderline top ten fantasy starting pitcher. (Marino Martinez)

14. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 12)

Back issues drained some quality from Scherzer in 2019, and last year he had some hamstring issues as well posting a 3.74 ERA /3.53 xFIP. This isn’t the Cy Young level we are used to seeing from him, but even so, he is an above-average SP. Last year was the worst for Scherzer in so many ways: for example, the highest exit velocity of his career against him 88.5 mph, also the worst xBA/xSLG/xWOBA .251/.430./304. If you want another red flag, he walked more than 7% of the batters he faced for the first time in his career. Contrary to Kershaw he maintains the same velocity every year but I have some advice for you; sell him now before he explodes in your hands like Verlander did last year. (Marino Martinez)

15. Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 35)

After a great turnaround of things in the second half of the 2019 season, Darvish continued with another CY caliber year, well half a year… okay, one-third of a year, walking just 1.66 batters per 9 innings and keeping the ball in the yard by allowing a minuscule 0.59 HR/9. I don’t know if the short season had something to do with it, but at 34 years old, Darvish registered the highest velocity in all his offerings, except the changeup and that was maybe on purpose. Less than two years ago, Yu was almost a waiver-wire option with the massive drop rate he had. If you kept him, congratulations, and enjoy the show. (Marino Martinez)

16. Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 21)

It’s hard to trust a two-pitch pitcher: it doesn’t matter how good those pitches are, it becomes more predictable every time. Glasnow depends heavily on his four-seam/curveball tandem, using the four-seamer 60% of the time, while the usage of his top-notch curveball was 34%. Last year he allowed a .660 SLG with his fastball alone and globally allowed a high 1.73 HR/9.  Those two are big regressions compared to the year before. Glasnow’s success is in great part thanks to that curveball generating an eye-popping 52.8 whiff% and inducing ground balls on contact. I think he needs to develop a third pitch in order to be a long term reliable starter. If he can take the next step with his changeup, he’ll be a bonafide ace. (Marino Martinez)

17. Max Fried, Atlanta Braves, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 32)

There’s isn’t much of a case to be made against the 27-year-old Braves lefty. Fried checks most of the boxes when you’re looking at the tangibles for sustained success against the league. The big step for Fried came in 2019 when he started using his slider more. This gave him a quality third offering, and made it much more likely he would be able to stick in the rotation for a team with many quality arms. The increase in slider usage carried over into 2020, though the K rate dipped a little. Still, with groundball rates posted above 50% for the last three seasons, the strikeout rate is perfectly acceptable. All-in-all, Fried is a stud and as much as a lock as a young pitcher can be. (Patrick Magnus)

18. Jesús Luzardo, Oakland Athletics, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 25)

There are few pitchers with the upside that Luzardo possesses. He throws three quality pitches with his slurve being his bread and butter pitch. The thing is just nasty. He can throw it with different breaks and different velocities. If you haven’t actually watched Luzardo pitch, do yourself a favor and at least check out some highlights. While Luzardo has the kind of talent you dream of for a young pitcher, there is, of course, a rather big red flag. He can’t stay healthy. At this point, he’s pitched over 100 innings once. The good news is that he’s making an effort to change his delivery and routine to try and remain on the field. The season he does he’ll be much, much, much higher on this list. (Patrick Magnus)

19. MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 18)

Seems like we’ve got a bit of a type for this portion of the list as this is our third straight young lefty with sky-high upside. The hype surrounding Gore has been building for an eternity, and we may finally get to see what he can do against MLB hitter this season. Gore has four offerings and quality control. Though he can get himself into a bit of trouble when nibbling around the edges of the zone. Still, Gore has been the consensus top pitching prospect for some time and with good reason. Now he will attempt to enter a loaded rotation and help a competitive team dethrone the mighty Dodgers. There will likely be growing pains for Gore as he makes the transition to the majors, but the profile here is that of a front of the rotation starter. (Patrick Magnus)

20. Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR) 

Was there a player who changed their perception more than Corbin Burnes in 2020? Burnes was all but left for dead in most dynasty leagues coming into last season, but put himself on the map by flat out dominating in the shortened season. The buzz surrounding Burnes now is that of a pitcher who has transformed himself into an ace. Had there been 162 games last year, it’s likely Burnes would be even higher on this list. The only thing holding him back in 2021 will be the number of innings he’ll pitch. Given that he’s had such small workloads the past few seasons, it’s unlikely he’ll pitch 200 innings in 2021. There won’t be much holding him back after that though. You could try acquiring him when he runs out of innings, but there won’t be much of a window from here on out. Burnes is entering elite territory and those who held on to him through the hard times are about to very glad they did. (Patrick Magnus)

21. Sixto Sanchez, Miami Marlins (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 54)

Yes, phenom is the correct term for Sixto. Already a heralded prospect who ranked 54 on our list last season, Sanchez was promoted and flaunted his 98 MPH+ fastball, but also a truly elite changeup. The changeup has been openly compared to Pedro Martinez’s, comes in 10 mph slower than his four-seamer, with lots of vertical and horizontal break. Fangraphs pitch value charts graded it 6.6 weighted runs above average, which is admittedly a long way from Pedro’s but still a nasty pitch.

The downside with Sixto is strikeouts fall behind the elite stuff. In his big league debut, he only managed to strike out 33 batters in 39 innings, or 7.6 K/9. This is right on track to his minor league success, striking out 294 batters in 335 career minor league innings, or 7.9 K/9. That is still serviceable, and Sixto induces plenty of ground balls (58%) and limits hard-hit balls (28.6%) meaning there should be plenty of seasons of great ratios, even if he never improves those strikeout rates. (Ken Balderston)

22. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 10)

It may seem like Chris Sale has been around forever, maybe because he was an All-Star his first year as a starting pitcher in the league, back in 2012. He continued to be an All-Star for the following six years finishing top 6 in the Cy Young voting every year. 2019 wasn’t as kind to him, as he was only able to make 25 starts and put up a 4.40 ERA. He also managed the second-highest strikeout rate of his career (13.3 K/9), a 1.09 WHIP, and a FIP of 3.39. You might look at Sale’s strand rate of 66.7% as a reason his actual ERA was a full run higher than some estimators. Now in his age-32 season with barely over 1,600 career innings, Sale will be looking to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. Obviously a huge hurdle, and the main reason he’s not ranked inside the top 20 on our list, and maybe even the top 10. (Ken Balderston)

23. Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 17)

Let me preface by saying these lists are a consensus of some very smart people, and while I don’t personally have Soroka ranked this high, I understand why he’s ranked here. Let me share some of the things he’s done very well. 2019 was his first full year in the league, at 21 years old, Soroka was an All-star, runner up to the NL rookie of the year, and finished 6th in the Cy Young award. He used excellent control of a 3-pitch mix to minimize walks (2.11/9), got 51.2% of the balls in play hit the ground, and limit the ball from being hit hard (36.3%), or over the fence (0.72 HR/9).  The traditional roto results? 13 wins, 142 strikeouts, 2.68 ERA, 1.11 WHIP. Twenty-one years old is very young for a pitcher to have that much success. To put it in perspective (and give a teaser to our top 200 prospect list) we have 6 pitchers ranked in the top 50 who will be 22 or older on opening day and have yet to even make their major league debut, let alone have as successful a rookie year as Soroka did.  (Ken Balderston)

24. Sonny Gray, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 46)

There was a time Sonny Gray was one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball, but that time has passed. He’s consistently put up good ERA and WHIP totals, except of course the time he spent with the Yankees, but is now also providing elite strikeout numbers (10.52 K/9 in ’19 & 11.57 K/9 in ’20). Sonny may ironically owe some of his strikeout success to his time with the Yankees. It was in 2018 he started using his curveball more (from 12.9% to 24.8 % in ’18, and a career-high 27.6% in ’20). The pitch has an elite spin rate approaching 3,000 rpm, and about 4 extra inches of vertical movement compared to the league average. This helped the pitch achieve a 30+ Wiff% and .270 wOBA last season, and was just as effective the previous year. The slider has similar success, but he uses it far less (16.2), mainly as a great complimentary pitch he uses against right-handed batters. Still only 31 years old, Gray should be effective for several years. Now with the elite strikeout rates, he’s someone you can count on as a #2 starter on a competitive dynasty team. (Ken Balderston)

25. Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 24)

I’ll admit I’m one of those who thought Berrios was primed for a breakout last season and was ‘disappointed’ by his roto line of 5 wins, 63 innings, 4.00 ERA, and 1.32 WHIP, with 68 strikeouts. Well, disappointed as I and others might be, that’s a very respectable stat line and still being 26 years old on Opening Day, why can’t that break outcome this year.

Berrios maintained a low barrel% last year (6.3%) which nearly matched his career mark of 6.2%. His xWOBACON was right around his career mark of .372. Basically, a lot was the same for Berrios in 2020, as it was in the first four seasons in his career. This is the kind of reliability that is attractive in a starter, especially one with a four-pitch mix like Berrios. He’s recently reduced his fastball usage and increased usage of his changeup, and the results are a career-high in fastball velocity at 94.3 mph. This is a noticeable increase and lends hope that the breakout season will finally be in 2021. (Ken Balderston)

26. Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 9)

It’s not a far fall for Paddack, but seeing his ranking fall from #9 last season to #26 this year sums up his situation. There was no apparent injury, but Paddack’s ERA rose from 3.33 in 2019 to 4.73 in 2020, while also seeing significant increases to his exit velocity allowed (87.8 to 90.9), hard-hit rate (32.5% to 47.4%) barrel% (7.1% to 11%). Also, known primarily as a fastball–changeup guy, Paddack’s curveball lost 150 rpm on an already low spin curve. Some reason for optimism includes his health, as mentioned there was no injury reported, which is supported by a slight increase in his fastball velocity. He also showed good command, walking only 4.9% of batters faced and maintaining a consistent swinging strike% of 11.1%. A look at his SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) I think tells the entire story. In 2019 it was 3.83, and in 2020 it was 3.91. This is to say Paddack is not as good as his 3.33 ERA in 2019 and is better than his 2020 ERA of 4.73. In fact, his career ERA of 3.74 is just below the SIERA indicators. At only 25 years old, Paddack holds plenty of value, he just might not be the ace we thought he was a year ago. (Ken Balderston)

27. Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 64)

Kudos to the Braves for selecting Anderson as an under slot pick #3 overall in the 2016 first-year player draft. Now 22 years old, he’s made six big league starts, and shown the ability to limit hard contact (86.7 EV, and barrel% of 1.2), his expected on-base average on contact (xWOBACON) was .270 or the top 5% in the league, and while his expected ERA was higher than the actual of 1.97, it was still impressive at 2.57. So those 6 starts were a small sample, no doubt about it. He also made four starts in the postseason, obviously against playoff-caliber teams.  In 18 innings he allowed a 0.96 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts or 11.6 K/9. These were pressure-filled starts, something that shows Anderson’s poise and character. When we’re looking at a small sample of 2020, it just backs the data up. Given hitters are consistently trying to hit the ball hard, even if it results in more strikeouts (i.e. not hitting the ball at all) I give preference to pitchers who limit hard contact. This embodies what we’ve seen from Anderson so far, and that he’s struck out almost 30% of the batters faced makes Anderson one of the more appealing young starters in the league. (Ken Balderston)

28. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 42)

A little bit older, and super reliable, welcome to the veteran tier of starting pitchers. I was… concerned when the Jays signed Ryu prior to the 2020 season, giving a (then) 33-year-old pitcher big money and asking him to not only change leagues but pitch in some of the toughest parks in baseball seemed like a stretch. None of this seemed to matter to Ryu, who did what he always does: limit walks (2.3/9), limit hard-hit balls (24.3%) kept the ball on the ground (51.1%) and in the yard (0.81 HR/9). He finished third in the AL Cy Young race and is in a great position of being the ace on a team with a fantastic offensive lineup. Is Ryu going to finish 3rd again in the Cy Young voting? Who knows, he was second the year before, and three years ago had a 1.97 ERA. The only thing holding Ryu back from being much higher on this list is his age, and there’s no sign of slowing down so far. (Ken Balderston)

29. Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 56)

Lynn has really broken out in recent years, with a 162 game average in ’19 and ’20 of 17 wins, 217 IP, 3.57 ERA, and 1.17 WHIP, finishing in the top 6 for the Cy Young award both years. The funny thing though, throughout his career, Lynn has put up 162 game averages of 14 wins, 196 IP, 3.57 ERA, and 1.29 WHIP. This is to say Lynn’s recent success should not be any kind of surprise. The one big change to Lynn’s game is his strikeout rate, which has been 10.3/9 the last two seasons but was only 8.6/9 through the prime of his career. One of the big changes to Lynn’s repertoire is his curveball, which has recently featured a WIFF% over 30%. Up until 2017, the curve was showing spin rates of about 2100 rpm. In 2018 that rose to over 2200, and last season up to 2600+. Also, he seems to have started using his cutter far more than his sinker, the latter being a pitch that is known to induce ground balls, but also a high contact pitch. These two changes are at least partly responsible for the increased strikeout rate, and there’s no reason to expect it to slow. (Ken Balderston)

30. Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 84)

It was a truly great season for Maeda, who produced a roto line of six wins, 2.70 ERA and 0.750 WHIP, 80 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings, while finishing second in the AL Cy Young award, ahead of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Lance Lynn who are ranked directly ahead of him on this dynasty list, despite all of them being about the same age.

Part of the success was a reduced usage of the four-seam fastball, and increasing his use of his slider and changeup, both of which have Wiff% over 30. Maeda has been effective at inducing weak contact but reached a career-low in exit velocity at 85.3 mph, which was in the 93rd percentile in the league.  There were many career lows, including walk rate (4%) and hard-hit rate (24.7%) but he’s also had seasons approaching these marks. This is the optimism that puts Maeda inside the top 30. Most of his time with the Dodgers, with whom he had spent his entire MLB career until this past season, was in flux between the starting rotation and the bullpen. It appears the Twins have given him a permanent spot in the rotation now, and Maeda has run with it. (Ken Balderston)

31. Nate Pearson, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 38)

If you were to ask me to build an ace starting pitcher it would look pretty darn close to Nate Pearson’s profile. He’s 6’6’’ with multiple plus pitches and after lighting the league on fire during the American League Wild Card game where he logged five strikeouts over two innings with zero hits allowed, you can see why there is plenty of hype heading into 2021. Despite posting mediocre stats throughout the bulk of the regular season, the big righty is expected to open the season in the Blue Jays rotation. I covered Nate Pearson in TDG’s Tripe Play this past September and my outlook on him hasn’t changed. He has tremendous upside, but a bleak injury history, and based on his makeup, one that isn’t finished growing. I’m targeting Pearson if I’m rebuilding, but otherwise, I’ll let another manager bear all the risk. (Greg Gibbons)

32. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 8)

Speaking of risk, we all know the tales of Stephen Strasburg including his dominant 2019 season in which in finished 209 innings with a 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts in route to a World Series ring and an MVP trophy. Fast forward a year and the outlook couldn’t be more different. As an encore to his electric season, Strasburg’s 2020 met its demise after only 5 innings pitched as he went down with a nerve injury that required season-ending surgery. While reports indicate that he’s fully recovered heading into spring training, fantasy managers will need to proceed with extreme caution. Luckily, his injury is not arm or muscle related, so a return to form is certainly in the cards. (Greg Gibbons)

33. Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 59)

Lamet took huge strides in 2020, staking his claim on a rotation spot and all but eliminating the notion that he was destined for a bullpen role. The 28-year-old led the Padres with a 2.09 ERA over 12 stats with 69.0 innings pitched and 93 strikeouts while posting career bests in a number of categories including strikeout rate and walk rate. By all accounts, the righty was an ace, thanks in part to a devastating slider and in the fastball velocity that ranked in the 95th percentile. Unfortunately, all his success came at the expense of his right elbow, as he went down in the latter part of the season with an injury. Having previously undergone Tommy John surgery, Lamet elected to rehab this offseason which leaves us with so many questions heading into 2021. Additionally, the Padres signed or traded for a number of starting pitchers and are rumored to be considering a six-man rotation, all of which only cloud the outlook for Lamet further. If he’s healthy, you have frontline starter upside. But that’s a big “if.” (Greg Gibbons)

34. Frankie Montas, Oakland Athletics (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 41)

The A’s righty followed up a stellar 2019 with a pedestrian 2020, managing only a 5.60 ERA over 53.0 innings with 60 strikeouts and 23 walks. Notably, he gave up more home runs in 2020 than he did in 2019, in about half the total innings. All of Frankie’s pitch metrics from this past season are average to below average and he saw his walk rate jump by nearly 4%. He simply didn’t meet the expectations fantasy managers had for him this season and there are plenty of questions as to whether he can handle the workload over a full 162 game schedule. Following his down season, he could be a pitcher to target, but unless it’s an extremely favorable deal I’m not going to be interested. (Greg Gibbons)

35. Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 40)

The Philly faithful were itching for some rotation help last offseason when the club decided to sign former-Met Zack Wheeler to a five-year deal. In his first season donning a new uniform, he didn’t disappoint. Over 71.0 innings, Wheeler posted a 2.92 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, both near-to or career bests. Interestingly, Wheeler’s strikeout rate and walk rate both took a dip, as he appeared to pitch more to contact and registered the highest groundball rate of his career. Luckily, he kept hitters off balance and avoided hard contact and barrels. While he was successful over the shortened season, Wheelers xERA was 3.64 so I expect some regression in 2020. Still, he can touch 98 with his fastball and with an uptick in strikeouts while limiting his walks and flyballs he could take another step forward. Wheeler is a good, but not great starter, but is one you can depend on heading into 2021. (Greg Gibbons)

36. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 15)

If you’re going to miss any season for Tommy John surgery, Thor picked the right year. The Mets 29-year-old hurler underwent Tommy John surgery last March and is not expected to return to the big club until mid-summer at the earliest. Upon his return, his innings will likely be limited in some capacity so it’s reasonable to conclude that we may not see Syndergaard back to 100% until 2022. Ouch. Regardless, his upside alone is worth waiting for but monitoring his outings and progress this season will take some patience, and if you’re contending that might be a difficult task. (Greg Gibbons)

37. Carlos Carrasco, New York Mets (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 56)

Traded to the Mets along with Francisco Lindor this offseason, Cookie Carrasco will slide right behind Jacob deGrom in the rotation. He fared extremely well in his parting season with Cleveland, logging 68.0 innings with a 2.91 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and an impressive 29.3% strikeout rate. The 34-year-old benefited from a career-high left-on-base percentage and with an xFIP of 3.65 and xERA of 3.78, I expect there to be some regression during 2021. Further, there may be a bit of a learning curve as he jumps to the National League for the first time in his career. Days of sub-3.00 ERA may be behind him, but all signs indicate he is healthy and should rack up a good portion of the Mets innings. (Greg Gibbons)

38. Dustin May, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 48)

Gingergaard moves up our ranks into a Top-40 spot after a solid 2020 campaign that spanned 56.0 innings with a 2.57 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 44 strikeouts. May stands 6’6’’ and has an electric arsenal featuring his two-seamer (or sinker) that reaches the upper 90’s with a gif-worthy amount of run. The elephant in the room with May is that he doesn’t strike out enough hitters (somehow). Even with his plus offerings, he’s generally pitching to contact and generating groundballs. In 2020, May benefited from a strand rate of nearly 90%, and coupled with an xFIP near 4.00, there is some possible regression in the cards for 2021, but with an increase in strikeouts, it’s not out of the question that May takes a step forward as well. The 23-year-old was expected to be a mainstay in the rotation prior to the Dodgers signing Trevor Bauer. Now, he’s likely to begin the season in the bullpen and the next starter up should the need arise. In the near-term, his fantasy ranking will probably take a dip, but I expect he’ll have plenty of opportunities to rejoin the rotation in the future. (Greg Gibbons)

39. Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 49)

Oh look, another top-40 starting pitcher who makes his home in Los Angeles. The 24-year-old seasoned veteran entering his sixth year with the Dodgers (debuted in 2016 when he was only 19), impressed this past season with a 3.27 ERA and 45 strikeouts over 55.0 innings but overall took a step back when compared to 2019. Despite his successes, fantasy managers are still clamoring for his big breakout, he having previously showcased the skills and upside that made him a phenom while still a teenager. Urias will have every opportunity for the foreseeable future to put a stranglehold on a spot in the Dodgers rotation and hopefully emerge as a high-end fantasy option. Similar to his counterpart Dustin May, strikeout totals were pedestrian in 2020, but with a step forward you could have something special. (Greg Gibbons)

40. Lance McCullers Jr., Houston Astros (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 60)

The Astros welcomed McCullers and his curveball back in 2020 following a missed 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. His return was solid, posting a 3.93 ERA with 56 strikeouts over 55.0 innings, but his batted ball data was some of the worst of his career, ranking in the lower half of the league in most categories. The righty appeared to be refining his craft on the mound in 2020, attacking hitters with his sinker and changeup more often than any previous season while still leaning on the curveball for strikeouts. McCullers’ durability issues are well documented, having never eclipsed 128.1 innings in a single season. Perhaps the combination of being healthy and a contract year in 2021 will be the motivation he needs. (Greg Gibbons)

41. Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 31)

Matt Manning is a very good pitcher. #analysis. Armed with a lethal fastball/curveball combination and decent command, he appears to be a lock for the Detroit rotation, although when that happens is anyone’s guess (See: Gore, Mackenzie). Regardless, he has the raw stuff to be a superb MLB pitcher, and that’s backed up by his stats from 2019: 11-5 record with 148 strikeouts across 133.2 innings and a 2.56 ERA (2.53 FIP). I wouldn’t count on more than 50 major league innings from Manning in 2021, but I also would not sleep on him as the next big thing in 2022. (Taylor Case)

42. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 43)

Good old reliable Kyle Hendricks. Back to his old tricks in 2020, he pitched himself to a 6-5 record and 2.88 ERA across 81.1 innings. As usual, the strikeouts per nine were quite low at 7.08, but there is just so much value to be had from a guy who can go out and grind for almost seven innings a game, on average. That number is likely to at least come down back to his career average of around six, but in today’s game where starters are pulled at the slightest hint of failure, Hendricks has proven to be a legitimate innings eater who can contribute to your team in at least three of the typical 5×5 Roto categories (ERA, WHIP, and Wins) and although strikeouts leave plenty to be desired, you can probably take the hit due to the previous gains noted. Now, the Cubs don’t project to be a powerhouse and Hendricks does turn 32 at the end of the year, so there’s an argument to be made for trading him now if your team is not ready to compete anytime soon. However, otherwise, he’s a set and forget type of pitcher for me. (Taylor Case)

43. Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 20)

Patrick Corbin struggled mightily in 2020, but I’m *this* close to just writing it off as a fluky 65.2 inning stretch. And why shouldn’t I? The two years prior to 2020, Corbin threw 200+ innings with excellent ratios and tons of strikeouts while compiling 25 total wins. I’m a little nervous about his decrease in velocity across the board, but my hope is that with a more regular build-up to the regular season, he can start tracking, once again, towards 3-4 category fantasy production. He will definitely be worth keeping an eye on come Spring Training. (Taylor Case)

44. Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 128)

What a breakout year 2020 was for this longtime fantasy tease. Bundy took the AL West by storm, compiling a 3.29 ERA across 11 starts (65.2 innings) along with a 9.87 K/9 and a sterling 1.04 WHIP. Yeehaw! I’ll admit it’s easy to get excited about those stats. For 2021, however, I think it’s fair to expect a little bit of regression, based on both career numbers and the fact that he played over half of his games in 2020 against teams with a 91 wRC+ or lower. I get it, we expect good pitchers to dominate the not-so-good teams, so in a way it’s a good thing. However, I’m just not yet fully sold on the sustainability of Bundy’s breakout across a normal 162-game season. (Taylor Case)

45. Zach Plesac, Cleveland (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 132)

I am fully on the Zach Plesac hype train. At the moment, he has really put it all together: he has three great pitch offerings including a nasty slider (42.7% whiff rate), can go deep into games (6.2 innings pitched per start in 2020), and is on a Cleveland team that continues to promote and develop pitchers extremely well. The Cleveland team as a whole may not be great, so may it be prudent to not expect many wins, but I think he should be able to outperform his teams offensive woes (plus, wins are unpredictable anyway). For some reason, most projection systems do not seem to buy his 2020 performance, but I would not be surprised if we see a sub-4.00 ERA, around 9 K/9, and a passable WHIP from Plesac moving forward. (Taylor Case)

46. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 22)

What is a dynasty manager supposed to do with Shohei Ohtani? No, seriously, how are you supposed to adequately evaluate his play? He took MLB by storm in 2018, flashed ace potential with his arm, and has easy 30/20 offensive upside. He truly could be the best player in fantasy baseball – period, full stop. Will he be, though? If you’re in a daily league, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take a chance on Ohtani in the hopes that he can stay healthy for even 120-130 games. However, in a weekly lineup league, I don’t see the appeal. In his three seasons in MLB, he’s missed almost 70 days due to injury, and it feels like none of his starts are carved in stone at this point.

Is it too hot of a take for me to wish that the Angels would strictly use his bat moving forward? Maybe so. But as this paragraph suggests, there are still plenty of questions surrounding Ohtani heading into the 2021 season and I very much would prefer to see some sustained health/production (on the mound or at the plate) before I jump back on board. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely rooting for him to stay healthy and contribute to the Angels on their quest for the playoffs this year. But while he’s easy to root for and has “best fantasy baseball player” potential, he might also have the most difficult future to predict in fantasy sports. (Taylor Case)

47. Luis Severino, New York Yankees (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 19)

Speaking of having more questions than answers…enter Luis Severino. The big right-hander’s absence sure has left a mark on the Yankees staff over the last few years. And while his presence may not be imperative in 2021 due to some key offseason signings in Kluber, and Taillon, you can bet that the Bronx faithful are awaiting diligently for his return to the mound. When healthy, Severino possessed an elite fastball/slider combo and the ability to go deep into games, which I’m sure is driving his dynasty value. Because of the noted additions the Yankees made, I find it hard to believe he pitches more than 70-80 innings in 2021, but now may be the time to trade for him if you have your eye on a 2022 title. (Taylor Case)

48. Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 65)

If you haven’t been paying attention, the Detroit Tigers have a nice little rotation in the works. With a 60-grade fastball, a nasty 55-grade slider and good extension from his 6’3” frame, a mid-rotation spot is Skubal’s for the taking on this young team. His dynasty price may have skyrocketed over the last six months, which may make him difficult to acquire in trades, but he’s still a target of mine. That 13.2 K/9 and sub-1.00 WHIP from 2018-2019 combined in the minors are just too enticing. He’s another player I will be keeping a close eye on in Spring Training, and in particular, his pitch mix. Yes, I know that those games don’t count for anything, but if we start to see a more balanced approach (fewer fastballs and more off-speed stuff) to keep hitters guessing, the sky’s the limit. (Taylor Case)

49. Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 28)

Now Casey Mize is the Detroit pitcher I’m really after this offseason, despite his 2020 stats. The former first-rounder may have had a tough time during his cup of coffee season, but I urge dynasty managers to hold on for another year or two. In my opinion, he is still the top pitching prospect in the Tigers system! By the accounts that I’ve read, he projects as a #1 or #2 starter, with above-average command, above-average fastball and curveball, and devastating, double-plus splitter that is something to behold. Shoulder injuries have held him back and there is certainly risk because of that, but if you roster Mize in one of my leagues, I’d be happy to take him off your hands. (Taylor Case)

50. Spencer Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 61)

Spencer Howard debuted in 2020 and came away with a 1-2 record, a 5.92 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. So…it could have gone better for the young flamethrower. However, there is still hope! Shoulder stiffness ended his season early (and casts some doubt on his long-term dynasty value), but before he got hurt, we got a glimpse of what he could become, even if it was in small doses. While Howard is more known for his high-spin fastball, he also showed us a nice little slider as well, as evidenced by an excellent 40.7% whiff rate. Hold out hope a bit longer, and hopefully, we get to see more of the Spencer Howard we saw in the minors. You know, the guy who struck out 281 batters in 211.1 innings in the minors. Yes please! (Taylor Case)

The Author

Bob Osgood

Bob Osgood

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