Points leagues may seem like a slight variation from traditional 5x5 category scoring leagues but you must approach draft day with a very different strategy if you wish to truly compete.
All preseason long, RotoBaller has you covered with the latest rankings for all fantasy baseball league types. Here we present our points league rankings for the starting pitcher position, put together by analysts Nicklaus Gaut, Riley Mrack, and Pierre Camus.
Those new to points leagues should know that starting pitchers, especially front-end rotation arms, are far more valuable in most formats. Pitchers usually earn a point per IP, so even the middling innings-eater has value if he can serve up an occasional quality start or earn a few victories along the way. Also, some penalize as much as five points for losses while others don't. Yahoo! has made major adjustments to their scoring system this year, which has devalued starting pitchers extensively. As always, check your league's settings before drafting.Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!
Starting Pitcher H2H Points League Rankings
|73||9||Lance McCullers Jr.||SP||287||271||220|
Aces are aces any way you slice it. The top tier remains unchanged from our mixed-league roto SP rankings. The only question may be in regard to Justin Verlander over deGrom and Scherzer. The answer: volume. Verlander was the only pitcher aside from former teammate Gerrit Cole to reach the 300-K threshold. By contrast, deGrom reached 255 K and Scherzer had 251 K. While it's not practical to forecast win totals for pitchers, Verlander also earned 10 more victories than deGrom and there is a good chance he'll hold the advantage there again. All four of these golden arms are up for consideration as top-10 picks in fantasy drafts where points are tallied.
Shane Bieber actually finished ahead of Jacob deGrom in CBS leagues last year, thanks to 10 more innings pitched and a pair of shutouts. He clearly doesn't have the track record or hardware like some of the pitchers in our top tier, but he has shown impeccable command with a 4.7% walk rate in each of his first two seasons. If he can avoid the longball more often this season, he could solidify himself as an ace. If you choose a bat in the first round, Bieber is an ideal option on the way back.
This ranking for Mike Clevinger doesn't reflect recent injury news. It doesn't sound like he'll miss much time, with a window of 6-8 weeks projected for recovery. That said, he may have been ranked too high to begin with. He finished outside the top 30 SP in all points leagues last year and averaged out as 113th overall due to the fact he only pitched 126 innings. ATC projections for 2020 aren't significantly more bullish though, placing him 73rd overall (44th if you exclude the new scoring from Yahoo!). He ranked in the 89th percentile or higher in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, and K%, so a full 200 IP like 2018 should result in a top-10 finish. It should be noted that it was the only year he came close to that type of workload and it came in his age-27 season. If you don't have to pay a premium to obtain him, don't do it.
Jack Flaherty emerged in a huge way, posting second-half numbers that immediately put him in the conversation as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Over his last 99 innings, he posted a 0.99 ERA, 0.71 WHIP with 124 K. More consistency could (and should) lead to more than 11 wins and a higher QS count.
We all know the risks with Chris Sale. He averaged 205 IP per season between 2012-2017, including a league-high 214 1/3 innings in 2017, his first year with Boston. In the last two seasons, he's thrown 158 and 147 1/3 innings. The risk is greater in a scoring system where simply showing up on the field matters more for pitchers. He stands at 11th on our preseason rankings but I guarantee I'm more than hesitant to take him that high.
Clayton Kershaw's 178 1/3 IP was his highest mark since 2015. His whiff rate isn't quite what it used to be, but his four-seamer still has plenty of movement on it, even if the velocity is down. Kershaw's bread-and-butter is still the slider, which he's throwing more and more in place of a fastball to compensate for the dip in speed. He's learning to pitch past the age of 30 and has stayed on the mound enough to remain a low-end SP1, even in points leagues.
Questions about Aaron Nola's durability have gone away, as he has topped 200 innings for two straight seasons. He did see his ERA jump up a full run and a half from the previous year, however. A spike in BABIP, up to .295, and a 17.4% HR/FB rate that was seven points higher, could lead to speculation that he'll see positive regression this season. He was hit harder than ever before though, allowing a .395 xSLG and 39.5% hard-hit rate. He may take a small step forward and end up closer to his 2018 numbers, but it won't be a massive leap like some project.
Zack Greinke finds himself at the bottom of tier three in spite of the fact he was the third-highest scoring pitcher on CBS and averaged out to seventh across all major platforms last year. Is getting another year older going to make him that much less effective? He held a sparkling 0.98 WHIP and went over the 200-inning mark for a third straight year. While his 23.1 K% isn't elite and took another slight dip last year, so did his walk rate, down to 3.7%. He's the type of bargain ace that should be targeted within the first 50 picks.
It wasn't quite Flaherty-level performance, but Yu Darvish had a second half that inspired confidence for a return to his All-Star form. He produced a 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and an amazing 118-7 K-BB rate post ASB. Other than a tick off his cutter, he hasn't lost velocity on his pitches. 33 home runs allowed are concerning, but that places him in the same range as Bieber, Bauer, and Velander. The fact that he threw only 40 innings in 2018 plus another year of age are the main factors for his low ranking here. If he can stay on the mound most of the season, this could be another steal at his current ADP of 66 overall.
The good news regarding Noah Syndergaard is that he pitched a career-high 197 innings last season. The bad news is that it came with a career-worst 4.28 ERA and an 18.4% K-BB% that has remained stagnant the last two years after living around the low 20s previously. To some extent, he could simply see better luck if he pitches closer to his 3.83 xFIP and improves on a low strand rate of 69%. He may never again be an "elite" starter, but if he can total around 200 IP and K again, he's a solid SP2.
You may be shocked to hear that Lance Lynn was a top-10 SP in aggregated points league rankings across all major platforms, ranking as high as sixth in Yahoo! That might be one of the reasons they adjusted their scoring. Anyway, Lynn ate up innings, ranked seventh in strikeouts, and won 16 games. All that makes him a reliable source of points as usual. This is pretty much his M.O., seeing as how he started 29 or more games every full season of his MLB career (not counting 2016 when he was out injured). Lynn should be a higher target in points leagues.
Is Chris Paddack going to see his innings limited in 2020? Supposedly not, if you believe Padres beat writers. He had never thrown more than 90 innings in a minor-league season and was capped at 140 in his rookie season to prevent wear and tear after recovery from Tommy John surgery. If there are no restrictions on him, perhaps he can flirt with top-10 value based on last year's results: 3.33 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and a 21.4 K-BB%. It's debatable whether he needs to improve his curveball or develop a more effective third pitch when his changeup is so effective. Opponents hit just .190 off of it and it garnered a 29.2% whiff rate. Even a partial season from Paddack should be enough to pile up points aplenty.
Robbie Ray and his affinity for handing out free passes aren't as roto-friendly, but he should actually get bumped up a notch in points leagues. There's something to be said for consistency, after all. Ray posted an ugly 11.2% walk rate that was actually two points better than the previous year. It was second-worst among all qualified pitchers, behind only Dakota Hudson. He did make 33 starts, however, and is regularly among the leaders in strikeouts. Beware of league variation, though. Ray finished as the SP16 in Yahoo! but SP44 in CBS last year.
Teammates Mike Soroka and Max Fried finished right next to each other in terms of points production last year (SP30 and 31). The edge should go to Fried on draft day, however, since he produced a better strikeout rate and a lower xBA. There is some concern that Soroka will face negative regression based on lackluster Statcast numbers, which is legitimate because he outperformed his .264 xBA by 30 points and isn't a high-strikeout pitcher. He should still be a fairly safe option once you get past the likes of veterans Madison Bumgarner and Sonny Gray. Fried, on the other hand, could be undervalued based on his second-half growth.
We are all rooting for Carlos Carrasco after a bout with leukemia last season. He returned to a bullpen role in September with unimpressive results, ending the season with a 5.29 ERA over 80 innings. If he is able to go full-strength as a starter, there is no reason to think he can't once again be a top-20 starter for fantasy purposes. He was one of the top strikeout-earners in three of the previous four seasons and pitches in a division that, other than the Minnesota Twins, is one of the weakest offensively.
There is reasonable trepidation with Cy Young runner-up Hyun-Jin Ryu after his move to Toronto. His sparkling low 3.3% walk rate provides a high floor in points leagues. A new home in the AL East, however, is worrisome. Aside from facing the Yankees and Red Sox, he also has to deal with a more homer-friendly park in Toronto. As pointed out by Frank Ammirante in his recent evaluation of K-BB% fallers, Ryu could also rue the day he moved to artificial turf with an extremely young set of infielders as a ground ball pitcher, potentially leading to a higher BABIP. There's obviously a decline coming, which is why we've conservatively ranked him at SP40.
I've always had a soft spot for Jon Gray. He's a power pitcher stuck in Coors who actually has home/road splits in favor of the altitude. He was battered at times last year, unfortunately, posting a career-worst 43.6% hard-hit rate. His strikeout rate has slowly dipped for three straight seasons, making him more of a back-end starter than a mid-rotation arm for fantasy purposes.
Tier Seven and Lower
A brief blur on David Price would logically fit here, but are we sure he's really going to the Dodgers after all? Assuming the deal stands, Price would appear to have the benefit of a friendlier park based on reputation. In fact, Dodger Stadium had the second-highest HR Park Factor for right-handed batters whereas Fenway was 24th. The other concern is that the team doesn't stretch him out often throughout the regular season, since they've already declared their intention to go all-in for a World Series run. Given Price's checkered injury history, he may get skipped every so often.
It was borderline shocking for me to see Zac Gallen projected at SP168 in points this season based on Steamer, lower than guys like Marco Gonzales. He showed an effective four-pitch mix, limited hard contact, and struck out nearly 29% of batters in his debut. He's proven to have a higher ceiling than many initially thought and could keep being an underrated fantasy asset.
The great thing about Julio Urias, other than his strikeout rate and 24.7% hard-hit rate allowed, is the fact he slots at RP or SP. The not-so-great things about him include serious injuries and off-field incidents that have limited him to less than 84 innings over the last two seasons. He could be a great late-round pick, although we have no idea if he will be in the rotation at any point this season.
Andrew Heaney is also a health risk, but tier eight still seems low. Hean Dog's ratios weren't exactly best-of-show quality last year at a 4.91 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. His improving curveball could help him get back to his ground ball ways, if he is able to stay out there long enough.
Are we being too optimistic about Dylan Bundy just because he's not in Baltimore? He barely finished within the top 100 starting pitchers in terms of fantasy points, yet according to ATC projections, he's projected to finish within the top 50. Sure, if he throws his slider more, that would help. That and not leaving his fastball over the heart of the plate so much. Getting out of Camden and into Angel Stadium should reduce the number of taters allowed, but I'm being careful not to get overly bullish.
I'm targeting young pitchers Mitch Keller, Griffin Canning, and Kyle Wright wherever I can this season. The first two are already plugged into a rotation spot, while Wright has the talent to win one in Atlanta.
Reynaldo Lopez is the kind of pitcher that will never move mountains in roto leagues, but has back-end rotation value in points. He has a 19.4% K% and a 25-31 record for his brief MLB career, which is discouraging. He also has pitched over 180 innings each of the last two seasons and could earn more wins with an improved White Sox lineup behind him.
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