2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers

Philadelphia Phillies all-star pitcher Roy Halladay wins his 20th game as pitcher for the Philadelphia Philies during the Philadelphia Phillies-Atlanta Braves game in Philadelphia September 21, 2010. UPI/John Anderson

All 2011 Fantasy Articles | 2011 Position Rankings

There seems to be two types of fantasy owners when it comes to drafting starting pitchers:

Fantasy Owner #1: Hello Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum or Felix Hernandez in the early rounds. I’m going to draft at least one stud early and wish the dopes that wait to grab pitchers in the middle to late rounds good luck. Hope they like playing Russian Roulette.

Fantasy Owner #2: While the morons are grabbing supposed studs in the first couple of rounds, I’m loading up on offense since it’s more predictable than figuring out what starters won’t have Zack Grienke-type 2010 campaigns. I’ll grab my pitchers in the middle rounds and be just fine.

No matter which fantasy owner you are, the No. 1 factor when it comes to drafting pitchers is understanding how the scoring system is set up in your league. If you play in a rotisserie league, then you’re probably fine employing Fantasy Owner #2’s philosophy and then making adjustments throughout the year depending on what you need (i.e. trading away saves for strikeouts, or speed for wins and ERA).

On the flip side, if you’re in a head-to-head league where you know a pitcher like Halladay can be the difference between winning and losing a couple of categories, then you may want to think about nabbing a starter early. Again, it’s all about understanding how the scoring is set up in your league.

If you fall into the mindset of Fantasy Owner #1, then you’re well aware of what guys like Halladay, “The Freak,” “King Felix,” Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia bring to the table. Thus, we won’t waste your time waxing poetically about what those starters can do for your team.

Instead, we’ve compiled a group of pitchers that will be available in the middle or late rounds that are skilled in a couple of important categories: Innings, strikeouts and ground balls. Why those categories you ask? We like to keep things simple around here, so here’s our basic philosophy when it comes to pitchers: The more innings they pitch, the more likely they are to pick up wins. The more hitters they strike out, the less the ball is in play where a number of different factors enter into the equation (i.e. defense, the type of park it is, whether or not the shortstop is looking at the hot chick in the third row behind the dugout instead of getting into the correct position, etc.). Finally, the more ground balls that a pitcher can induce, the less likely he is to give up home runs or extra base hits.

With those three factors in mind, here are several names you’ll want to keep an eye on in the middle rounds.

Francisco Liriano, Twins (14-10, 191.2 IP, 9.44 K/9, 0.331 BABIP, 53.60%)
Seeing as how he’s going in the seventh round of most 12-team leagues, don’t wait too long to draft Liriano if you want him. There are rumors that he may get traded to the Yankees, which may only up his fantasy value (assuming owners aren’t scared off by whether or not he can pitch in the Bronx Zoo) so again, don’t fall asleep on him come draft day. His strikeout and walk rates were outstanding last year, but the return of the ground ball has us most excited about his potential this season. After having Tommy John surgery over three years ago, Liriano is back among the elite.

Max Scherzer, Tigers (12-11, 195.2 IP, 8.46 K/9, 0.297 BABIP, 40.30%)
Innings are always a concern with Scherzer but strikeouts never are. After the Tigers sent him to the minors in the middle of the season, Scherzer returned to punch out a batter per inning over his final 23 starts while keeping his ERA below 2.50. He’s a health concern, but if he can avoid the DL there’s a chance he could rack up 190 Ks and 15 wins.

San Francisco Giants Jonathan Sanchez pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on September 28, 2010. Sanchez got the win as the Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 4-2 to take a two game lead in the NL West. UPI/Terry Schmitt

Jonathan Sanchez, Giants (13-10, 193.1 IP, 9.54 K/9, 0.252 BABIP, 41.50% GB%)
You bet your ass there’s some concern about a) the fact that he pitched a month longer last year as the Giants won the World Series and b) the fact that he’ll be a tad overvalued on draft day. But he was one of the hottest regular season finishers of 2010, finishing 10th in ERA (2.61), 26th in WHIP (1.16) and third in strikeouts (101) among pitchers with 75-plus innings after the All-Star Break. You may see his ERA raise from 3.07 last year to around 3.60 this season, but he could also rack up 215 strikeouts and 10-15 wins while sporting a WHIP in the low 1.20s. Not bad for a guy you can get in the 13th round of a 12-team league.

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros (11-12, 195 IP, 8.22 K/9, 0.303 BABIP, 47.90% GB)
Thanks to the piss-poor team that the Astros have fielded around him, Rodriguez might not win more than 12 games this season. But don’t let that keep you from drafting a guy that had a 2.11 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.70 punch-outs per nine innings in 14 starts after the All-Star Break last season. Too bad he didn’t pitch for a better team because he’d probably find himself rated higher than #25 in our rankings.

Chad Billingsley, Dodgers (12-11, 191.2 IP, 8.03 K/9, 0.301 BABIP, 49.60% GB)
So he’s not the ace the Dodgers expected him to be: that has nothing to do with fantasy baseball. Whether the guy is a solid No. 2 or No. 3, or the ace of a staff, that’s not your concern. Billingsley produced a career-best 49.6% ground ball rate and held left-handers to .252. His WHIP (1.28) and ERA (3.57) probably won’t drop significantly (or at all) this year, but we expect him to compile 10-15 more strikeouts and maybe another win or two.

Colby Lewis, Rangers (12-13, 201 IP, 8.78 K/9, 0.275 BABIP, 37.90%)
You’re right – Lewis doesn’t fit our profile as a ground ball pitcher. As a starter in Arlington, he’s prone to giving up the long ball but he fits our other categories nicely. After pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 2008 and 2009, Lewis returned last year to throw over 200 innings for the AL champion Rangers. He also racked up nearly nine Ks per nine innings and kept his ERA below 3.75. Expect similar numbers this year and perhaps a handful more wins.

Ryan Dempster, Cubs (15-12, 215.1 IP, 8.69 K/9, 0.294 BABIP, 47.40% GB)
Dempster certainly isn’t flashy and at 33, his numbers are starting to decline. But he’s posted three consecutive 200-inning seasons and his 8.69 K/9 ratio was his best in any season in which he qualified for the ERA crown.He’s someone that could slide into the late rounds and therefore, present a ton of value as you’re looking to fill your final rotation spots. You may have to play the matchup game with him more than other pitchers we’ve listed, but you could do worse than a guy that will keep his ERA below 4.00 and rack up 190 Ks and 10-15 wins.

Others to Watch: James Shields (Rays); Ian Kennedy (D’Backs); Edwin Jackson (White Sox); Ted Lilly (Dodgers); Gio Gonzalez (A’s); Shaun Marcum (Blue Jays); C.J. Wilson (Rangers).

Seattle Mariners’ pitcher Felix Hernandez (L) jokes with Erik Bedard during their game against the Texas Rangers at SAFECO Field in Seattle on September 19, 2010. The Mariners beat the Rangers 2-1. UPI Photo/Jim Bryant.

Starting Pitchers 2011 Fantasy Rankings:

1. Roy Halladay, Phillies
2. Tim Lincecum, Giants
3. Felix Hernadnez, Mariners
4. Cliff Lee, Phillies
5. CC Sabathia, Yankees
6. Jon Lester, Red Sox
7. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
8. Tommy Hanson, Braves
9. Justin Verlander, Tigers
10. Zack Greinke, Brewers
11. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
12. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
13. Dan Haren, Angels
14. Mat Latos, Padres
15. Josh Johnson, Marlins
16. Cole Hamels, Phillies
17. Main Cain, Giants
18. Jered Weaver, Angels
19. David Price, Rays
20. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
21. Roy Oswalt, Phillies
22. Francisco Liriano, Twins
23. Max Scherzer, Tigers
24. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers
25. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
26. Matt Garza, Cubs
27. Ted Lilly, Dodgers
28. Shaun Marcum, Brewers
29. Brett Anderson, A’s
30. Tim Hudson, Braves
31. John Danks, White Sox
32. Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers
33. Jonathan Sanchez, Giants
34. Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks
35. Colby Lewis, Rangers
36. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox
37. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins
38. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
39. Brett Myers, Astros
40. Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies
41. Johnny Cueto, Reds
42. Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays
43. Phil Hughes, Yankees
44. Madison Bumgarner, Giants
45. Trevor Cahill, A’s
46. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
47. Josh Beckett, Red Sox
48. Ryan Dempster, Cubs
49. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays
50. C.J. Wilson, Rangers
51. Brian Matusz, Orioles
52. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
53. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks
54. Edinson Volquez, Reds
55. Jair Juerrjens, Braves
56. Bronson Arroyo, Reds
57. Wade Davis, Rays
58. James Shields, Rays
59. Johan Santana, Mets
60. Anibal Sanchez, Marlins

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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