Tier 1: Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander
Tier 2: Walker Buehler, Stephen Strasburg, Jack Flaherty
Tier 3: Shane Bieber, Aaron Nola, Clayton Kershaw, Blake Snell, Chris Sale, Charlie Morton, Patrick Corbin
Tier 4: Luis Castillo, Mike Clevinger, Zack Greinke, Chris Paddack, Noah Syndergaard, Lucas Giolito
Tier 5: Yu Darvish, Tyler Glasnow, Jose Berrios, Brandon Woodruff, Trevor Bauer, Mike Soroka, Corey Kluber, Sonny Gray, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu
Tier 6: Kyle Hendricks, Dinelson Lamet, Shohei Ohtani, Eduardo Rodriguez, Frankie Montas, Madison Bumgarner, Lance Lynn, Robbie Ray, David Price, Zac Gallen
Tier 7: Max Fried, Matthew Boyd, Sean Manaea, James Paxton, Lance McCullers, Julio Urias, German Marquez, Kenta Maeda, Matt Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Andrew Heaney, Masahiro Tanaka, Jon Gray, Dallas Keuchel, Joe Musgrove, Caleb Smith, Mike Minor, Jesus Luzardo
Starting pitching leads off with a big four of Cole, deGrom, Scherzer and Verlander. This group will be drafted between the mid-first round through the early second round. The tier 2 troika, led by Walker Buehler, will fly off draft boards starting in the mid second round.
Injury scares have already made an impact on the board, with both Blake Snell and Chris Sale dropping to tier 3 as a result of reported discomforts. The tier 3 group will get their names called in rounds 3 and 4.
Luis Castillo starts us off in tier 4. This group is fairly dependable, and doesn’t present a major drop from tier 3 – but they don’t possess the Cy Young upside that many of the tier 3 folks do.
Tier 5 may be my favorite group, as several high upside pitchers reside among this tier. Tyler Glasnow, Jose Berrios, Brandon Woodruff and Mike Soroka all have ability to provide tier 3 value. I recommend targeting this quartet in rounds 7 through 10.
Starting pitching has great depth yet again this season, as solid options such as Kyle Hendricks, Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray reside all the way down in tier 6, and upside plays such as Matthew Boyd, Sean Manaea and Jesus Luzardo, among others, in tier 7.
Pitching strategy differs greatly based on league setup. In leagues which allow for daily lineup changes, you should focus less at the very top of the rankings and more so on quantity with the mid-tier group. To expand on this, you’ll want to procure a stable of good pitchers in tiers 4 through 6, which you’ll draft once you build the core of a strong offense first. You’ll also want to dip into the tier 7 group and beyond, snagging a few rising prospects and keeping an eye on the wire. Leagues with daily lineup changes result in more innings pitched, which lessen the value of the highest end pitchers.
For leagues with weekly lineup changes (meaning you set your lineup for the week), you’ll want to snag a few more high tiered guys, while still adding a few pitchers in the mid tiers so that you can take advantage of pitchers with two-start weeks. In short, high end pitching has more value in weekly lineup leagues, since less innings are pitched each week.