Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered Pitcher Rankings

Ah, pitchers. Do you pick the great ones high? Do you find value in younger pitchers with a chance at success? Lots of innings last year – does that show they are healthy or that they will break down? This is certainly a fickle bunch and that is why most fantasy leagues don’t have numerous pitchers leaving the board early. In points leagues, with infinite pitcher starts, a solid group of Ps will certainly help your cause. Also, where pitchers only hit the field once every 5 days, position players shoot for 162 outings. That being said, a bullpen staff ready for use makes more sense than a bunch of position players. But everyone has their opinions. Personally, I’ll take fliers on pitchers that are good that had down years in ’08, and I’ll never pay for saves – but that’s just me. Here’s my rankings.

Starting Pitchers – I’m not writing about all these guys, there’s 70 of them, but I will tier them out for you and if some guy has something useful to be said, I’ll say it.

Tier 1

1. Tim Lincecum – Tim is my favorite pitcher to watch. He has Gumby flexibility and some dirty whip on that fast ball. He’s basically unhittable.

2. C.C. Sabathia – He has pitched 500+ innings over the last two seasons, but he is a beast. He could be the top starter chosen.

3. Johan Santana – He might be more consistent and a bigger guarantee for a good season than any other pitcher.

4. Cole Hamels – Great young pitcher on a great team. He’s tough to hit, ask the Rays – and everyone else in the post-season for that matter.

5. Jake Peavy – Probably the most competitive pitcher in the game, and he’s got great stuff. But he will find 16 wins tough in San Diego.

6. Roy Halladay – If you’re in a roto league that gives a complete game stat – this guy will win that stat for you more than any other pitcher in the game. I think (not sure) he had more complete games than all the other guys in this top 10 combined.

7. Brandon Webb – He’s a great pitcher and always manages a lot of wins, and I’d take him as my #1, but I think his upside is lower than most of these guys. Still, he’s a 1st tier guy.

Tier 2

8. John Lackey – Consistently good -hurt early last season but came back to pitch well and hasn’t logged a ton of innings.

9. Dan Haren – Great in the first half, then trade him, because his value won’t get any higher.

10. Francisco Liriano – Could make himself into a top-tier pitcher, he has that stuff.

11. James Shields – As solid as they come, Shields doesn’t get ace status, but he probably is the ace over Scott Kazmir in that staff.

12. Cliff Lee – Last years numbers a fluke, maybe in some senses, but this guy had been a very good pitcher prior to ’08.

13. Roy Oswalt – A rough start to the year got Oswalt down, but he came back and put up solid stats. He’s a crafty vet, no doubt about it.

Tier 3

14. Yovani Gallardo – I love this kid’s game, and if he can stay out of the way of freak injuries he’ll be a top 10 pitcher in 2009.

15. Joba Chamberlin – Many will wonder about his innings. Many will wait to draft him for that. I will draft him and love his output for 180 innings. Thank you very much.

16. A.J. Burnett – It’s very possible that Burnett’s arm falls off. But if he produces numbers like he did last year, he’ll win 16-20 games in New York. That lineup is dirty.

17. Josh Beckett – You could steal Beckett this season, or you could waste a relatively high pick on a guy that will be hurt often.

18. Felix Hernandez – Is this the year that Hernandez starts pitching and stops throwing? Even as a thrower he’s top 20.

19. Ervin Santana – Everyone was waiting for Santana to put it all together, and now that he did, everyone doubts he’ll keep it attached. We’ll see, but this kid has good stuff and had good K to BB ratios. That’s a good sign.

20. Chad Billingsly – Great stuff, walks people – but he’s a solid 15 game winner option with good Ks in L.A.

Tier 4

21.  Daisuke Matsuzaka – Walks galore, but one of the lowest Averages against amongst starters. Not too efficient, throws a lot of pitches, but that hasn’t seemed to hurt him too much.

22. Scott Kazmir – Scott was hurt early, came back to pitching great, then faded toward the end of last season. I think he had one of the worst stat seasons of his career, and should be back to better this season. That means he should be a deal on draft day.

23. Zack Grienke – Tough to take a Royal pitcher? Nan. This kid has great stuff, everyone wanted to trade for him, the Royals were smart to hold on to him.

24. Jon Lester – Maybe this is even too low for Lester. He was the ace in Boston – and you have to love his resilience.

Tier 5

25. Scott Baker – Better than advertised, I promise.

26. Adam Wainwright

27. Rich Harden – Harden is hoping for 26-30 starts. That right there shows you his healthy upside, missing about a month of the season at best. Ha.

28. Ricky Nolasco – Won’t get love in drafts, but look at all of this guy’s numbers – especially toward the end of the season where he was striking people out and walking nobody.

29. Matt Cain – Because this guy’s luck has to turn around some year. He’s a very good pitcher with solid stats but his team won’t score runs when he pitches. Maybe this year they do.

30. Derek Lowe –

31. Ted Lilly –

32. Carlos Zambrano – Underrated? Overrated? Not sure – I like Big Z but he doesn’t do much besides win.

33. Matt Garza – Could be a steal here.

Tier 6

34. Edinson Volquez – Which one is the real Edinson? The first half or the second half? Did Dusty Baker overuse the youngster? We’ll see in ’09 but he could be a steal.

35. Max Scherzer – This is a guy I will target late. What dirty stuff he has.

36. Javier Vasquez – Atlanta seems to do good work with old pitchers coming to play for the Braves. Javier has it in him for sure.

37. Josh Johnson –

38. Gil Meche – Great numbers down the stretch, is a steal here.

39. Erik Bedard – Bedard has an injury filled season then goes from top 10 to bottom half of my top 70 – and I have him ranked higher than most. He could be the biggest steal on draft day.

40. Kevin Slowey –

41. David Price – Some think Price will be hittable early. Some don’t think he’ll pitch many innings. I think he gets up to 170 innings and wins 15 games. This kid has IT.

42. Brandon Morrow – He might be my favorite young starter in Seattle. He can be unhittable at times and doesn’t seem to be the headcase that many other M starters are.

43. John Danks –

44. Clayton Kershaw – Hooray for upside late in drafts! I like Clayton’s game.

45. Hiroki Kuroda –

46. Randy Johnson – Old but productive. Look at his numbers down the stretch and tell me he’s not worth a flier.

47. Chris Young – Steal.

48. Aaron Harang –

49. Ryan Dempster –

50. Justin Duchscherer –

51. Johnny Cueto – I love watching Johnny pitch – the first 5 innings anyway.

52. Justin Verlander –

53. Chris Volstad –

54. Chien-Ming Wang

55. John Maine –

56. Jair Jurrjens –

57. Justin Masterson –

58. Jeremy Guthrie –

59. Fausto Carmona – Can he really be as bad as he was last season? So much talent there, he might be worth a shot late.

60. Ubaldo Jimenez – Me baldo, you baldo, I’ve always had a big place in my heart for this kid and he really improved in the last half of last season.

61. Oliver Perez –

62. Wandy Rodriguez – Good at home, bad on the road – sure, but despite having one f the worst first names every, this guy is fantasy worthy in mixed leagues.

63. Chris Carpenter – Upside is Chris Carpenter, downside is, who cares, you picked him in the last round.

64. John Smoltz- If you can DL a couple people right off the bat, Smoltz is easily a guy I’d make a go at. There’s no guarnataee but then again, there never is.

65. Armando Galarraga –

66. Mike Pelfrey –

67. Andy Sonastine –

68. Jared Weaver –

69. Paul Maholm –

70. Gavin Floyd –

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered Closer Rankings

I hate spending high draft picks on closers- that’s why I’ll never have the studs on this list. I like to take chances on closers and only rarely does that hurt me. That being said, there are some sure things on this list that you won’t have to pay too much to get – here are my relief pitcher rankings.

Relief Pitchers

Tier 1

1. Jonathan Papelbon – Great. Young.

2. Mariano Rivera – Awesome. Old.

3. Joe Nathan – Consistently dominant.

4. Brad Lidge – Strikeout machine, perfect last season in saves. Will be good again in ’09.

5. Joakim Soria – Better than advertised – offense should be better in ’09.

6. Francisco Rodriguez – Despite all the hate, and talks of his demise, he’ll be good in New York.

Tier 2

7. Jose Valverde – All he’s going to do is get 40+ saves, strike out 10 or 11 per 9 innings, and let you not worry one second about your save guy.

8. Brian Fuentes – He comes into a great situation on a very good team that plays a lot of close games. Fuentes is a solid saves artist.

9. Jonathan Broxton – He’s as much of a power strike out closer that you’ll find, and the Dodgers will give him plenty of save opps.

10. Carlos Marmol – Marmol was the dirtiest closer in Chicago last year, even though he pitched in the 7th and 8th innings. He’ll be solid in that spot this season.

11. B.J. Ryan – He struggled a bit after a tough injury, but this guy will get his stuff back and he’s a  crafty save artist indeed.

12. Kerry Wood – Wood had a nice first season as a closer, and should get plenty of chances to do work in Cleveland.

13. Bobby Jenks – Chubby face, and body, but a good player that consistently gets between 30-40 saves.

Tier 3

14. Trevor Hoffman – Out of San Diego means more save chances for Hoff – he may be old, but I see at least one more good year in him.

15. Heath Bell – Taking Hoff’s spot in San Diego, I’m not the only one that expects a solid closer career out of Heath Bell.

16. Matt Capps – He may close for the Pirates, but he’s good when he gets his chances. He has better numbers than anyone in this tier.

17. Francisco Cordero – Cordero has a safe closer job – there’s not a ton of people out of the top 15 that you can say that about.

Tier 4

18. Huston Street – Top 10 upside, but the guy has sand in and around his va-j-j and that could cause an infection that limits his chances to close all year long. Ridiculous. He’s allergic to air I think. At least it’s more fresh in Colorado.

19. Brian Wilson – San Francisco save machine? This guy definitely is that. Despite an ERA and WHIP that left something to be desired last season, Wilson accumulated 41 saves. He was worth what you paid, and that will happen again this year.

20. Chad Qualis – I like Qualis. I think he keeps the job in Arizona – the Diamondbacks probably play better this season, and this kid could get 35 saves in ’09.

21. Frank Francisco – He’s got dirty powerful stuff and he’s the closer in Texas. He’s in a hitters park but if you can’t touch his pitches how can you do much damage with them?

22. Joey Devine – I’m not even sure Devine gets the closer nod, but he’s had some great numbers coming out of the bullpen and if he gets the chance it’s probably his to keep.

23. Matt Lindstrom – Nothing is great about Lindstrom except the Marlins will probably play in a lot of close games, he’s their closer, and he’ll probably gather 30 saves.

24. Brandon Lyon – I’ve never been too impressed with Lyon, but then again, there’s not much that says closer about him except for the fact that he does a good job closing games. Cheap saves anyone?

Tier 5

25a. Rafael Soriano – I like Soriano to emerge at some point for the braves, as their closer – I think he’s the better option, but…

25b. Mike Gonzalez – This guy is the closer coming in I reckon, and while things might change, he did do a fine job getting the job done in the 9th toward the end of last season.

27a. Chris Perez – I like Perez, and all his youth and skill, to take the closer job in St. Louis – but Tony LaRussa is crazy and he could try to give the job away to….

27b. Jason Motte – I don’t think he’s the best option to close games for the Cards, but if he gets the gig he’ll get you some cheap saves.

29a. George Sherrill – Sherrill was a tale of two seasons, most definitely – he was a great option for fantasy owners in the first half before struggling down the stretch – was it his shoulder woes or is that what you’re getting?

29b. Chris Ray – Before his injury woes, Ray was a very effective closer – will he beat out Sherril in his first season back?

30. Fernando Rodney – Who knows, he’s got the best stuff in the Detroit bullpen, there’s a chance he gets the job when Lyon is unimpressive.