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Tier Rankings: Starting Pitchers

Drafting starting pitching is more complex than anything in fantasy baseball. Before you go any further, take a look at our fantasy draft guide for drafting starting pitchers.

We saw possibly the most dominating half of pitching ever from Zack Greinke, and injuries to perennial all-stars Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, and Jake Peavy. Rookies Tommy Hanson and Brett Anderson made big splashes, especially in the second half of the season and oldies Roy Oswalt and Carlos Zambrano could be on their way to fantasy oblivion.

Overall, there was a lot of movement amongst pitchers, but don’t worry because we got it all covered here at Baseball Professor with our 2010 starting pitcher tiers and rankings.

Tier One

Tim Lincecum (SF), Roy Halladay (PHI), Felix Hernandez (SEA), C.C. Sabathia (NYY), Zack Greinke (KC), Dan Haren (ARI), Adam Wainwright (STL), Justin Verlander (DET), Johan Santana (NYM), Chris Carpenter (STL), Jon Lester (BOS), Cliff Lee (SEA)

In our first tier you have your first-half wonder boy in Dan Haren and your second-half monster in C.C. Sabathia. Together they could be the best fantasy pitcher ever. … Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke and Jon Lester made leaps into the top tier in 2009, while Johan Santana battled injuries and saw his K-rate drop for the second year in a row. … You can take a look at our debate between Jon Lester and Cliff Lee here, but you really can’t go wrong with either pitcher. … Watch Chris Carpenter in your drafts because his injury history could drop him lower than it should.

Tier Two

Yovani Gallardo (MIL), Josh Johnson (FLA), Brandon Webb (ARI), Josh Beckett (BOS), Cole Hamels (PHI), Ubaldo Jimenez (COL), Wandy Rodriguez (HOU), Javier Vazquez (NYY), Tommy Hanson (ATL), Clayton Kershaw (LAD), Matt Cain (SF)

Yovani Gallardo was an elite strikeout pitcher in 2009, but he’ll have to improve on his 4.56 ERA after the All-Star break. … Hopefully we see nice bounce-back seasons for both Brandon Webb and Cole Hamels, and Matt Cain‘s peripherals point to a regression in 2010. … Ubaldo Jimenez and Wandy Rodriguez continue to be underrated commodities while Tommy Hanson and Clayton Kershaw showed a lot of promise last season and should build upon their successes. … A move to New York may not be the best thing for Javier Vazquez‘s fantasy value, but he should still be a good source of K’s, wins and WHIP.

Tier Three

Ricky Nolasco (FLA), Jake Peavy (CHW), Chad Billingsley (LAD), John Lackey (LAA), Scott Baker (MIN), Matt Garza (TB), James Shields (TB), Brett Anderson (OAK), A.J. Burnett (NYY), Edwin Jackson (ARI), Jered Weaver (LAA), Jair Jurrjens (ATL)

The third tier has high strikeout guys like Ricky Nolasco, Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett and some guys with great control like Scott Baker, James Shields and Brett Anderson. … John Lackey could have some trouble acclimating to the AL East and Fenway Park, but the improved defense behind him will help. … We saw Matt Garza up the strikeouts last season, and if he can lower his walks he could move into the next tier. … Chad Billingsley‘s second half ERA was 5.20, which could either mean he had serious injury problems or will be a huge sleeper in 2010; I’m betting on sleeper. … Another pitcher who struggled in the second half was Edwin Jackson who should have no problem adjusting to the National League.

Tier Four

John Danks (CHW), Rich Harden (TEX), Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS), Roy Oswalt (HOU), Kevin Slowey (MIN), Gavin Floyd (CHW), Scott Kazmir (TB), Clay Buchholz (BOS), David Price (TB), Carlos Zambrano (CHC), Max Scherzer (DET)

Here we have the high risk/high reward pitchers like Rich Harden and Daisuke Matsuzaka and young guns with high upside like David Price and Clay Buchholz. … Kevin Slowey is coming off major surgery, and his control will rely on how his repaired wrist holds up. … Age seems to be catching up with Roy Oswalt and Carlos Zambrano who both failed to pitch 200 innings in 2009. … Gavin Floyd is underrated in every draft, and his teammate, John Danks, could be a viable fantasy option if he can improve his control. … You can read what we think about Max Scherzer here.

Tier Five

Erik Bedard (SEA), Tim Hudson (ATL), Ben Sheets (OAK), Aaron Harang (CIN), Ryan Dempster (CHC), J.A. Happ (PHI), Jeff Niemann (TB), Hiroki Kuroda (LAD), Francisco Liriano (MIN), Jorge de la Rosa (COL), Wade Davis (TB), Johnny Cueto (CIN), Jonathan Sanchez (FLA), Derek Holland (TEX)

Erik Bedard and Francisco Liriano could have nice-bounce back seasons while Ben Sheets will have a nice situation in Oakland until he gets traded at the trade deadline. … Look out for Wade Davis, who could surpass Price in the Rays’ rotation. … Ryan Dempster should provide solid numbers for a guy drafted in the late rounds. … Johnny Cueto had a 2.17 ERA in the first half of 2009 and could finally put together a whole productive season. … Jeff Niemann struck out nearly nine batters per nine in the minors, which is the only thing lacking in his Major League repertoire. … If Jonathan Sanchez can ever get his control in check he could be a top-25 pitcher.

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About the author: George graduated with a degree in Journalism, but instead of walking at his graduation, he walked down the aisle at his wedding. He’s been playing fantasy baseball for over a decade and his interest and knowledge in the sport is as big and growing as his eyebrows are bushy…and growing. (@BaseballProf)

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