There are a couple Top-40 starting pitchers who could pass for Top-60-ers. However, there are quite a few that could supplant some of those guys in the Top-20.
It’ll be fun to see how this tier plays out over the course of the 2010 season. You definitely want to own a couple of these guys.
These rankings are based off ADP listings. The comments will tell you if the ADP is right on, or right off. The projections are there, too. They usually complement the comments.
21. Cole Hamels — This tier goes to Nolasco. If it had a name it would be Strikeout Aces Who Could Easily Finish in the Top 20. Hamels seems undervalued by a bit this season. Take advantage. He’s working on a new pitch this spring, a cutter. Remember he’s just two years removed from a 14/3.09/1.08/195 season in 227 innings pitched. Projections: 15/0/3.70/1.20/185
22. Ubaldo Jimenez — Like Hamels, I like Ubaldo more than a couple pitchers in the top 20. He’s an ace and, like Hamels, will be 26 this season. Projections: 15/0/3.70/1.35/190
23. Ricky Nolasco — At one point had 22 Ks to 0 BBs in 20 spring innings. That’s putting him in position to make everyone forget about that awfully fat 5.06 ERA from last year. Projections: 15/0/4.00/1.25/190
24. Wandy Rodriguez — This is a new tier, it runs to Garza. They’re still aces, just not quite as strikeout heavy. Wandy will be 31 in January so he’s still in his prime. Last season’s 14/3.02/1.24/193 was superb. I’m afraid he comes back to earth a bit this season, but it hasn’t stopped me from targeting him. Projections: 10/0/3.80/1.30/170
25. Matt Garza — He’s really coming into his own, and he’ll be 27 this season. Some people believe it’s a magical age. Projections: 10/0/3.90/1.35/170
26. John Lackey — This is a new tier, it’s a one-man tier. However, if this wasn’t an ADP-based list, I’d include Brandon Webb and Roy Oswalt in it. I don’t want anyone from this tier. 2007 was the last year Lackey pitched 200 innings. I doubt that the Boston air will suddenly make him healthy. Projections: 15/0/3.90/1.30/165
27. Chad Billingsley — This is a new tier, we’ll call this tier “heck, yes!” It goes through Brett Anderson with a couple blips in between. We went from Lackey, who I won’t own, to Billingsley, who I’d gladly overpay for. His ERA will come down from last year and his Ks will go up. Projections: 15/0/3.60/1.30/180
28. AJ Burnett — He’s 33, but has been healthy for two years in a row. he’s not going to run short in the wins or Ks categories as long as he keeps that up. Projections: 15/0/4.30/1.40/185
29. James Shields — Shields is a workhorse, posting 215 or more IP for three consecutive seasons. He also had 184, 160 and 167 strikeouts. My research tells me his ERA and WHIP will be better than they were last season. Projections: 15/0/3.90/1.20/170
30. Brandon Webb — See the tier instructions for John Lackey. Webb is two years younger than Burnett, but we’ve been all but guaranteed he’ll miss the first month of the season. If a hitter misses a month, that’s not too bad, but a pitcher who misses a month is a different story. There’s currently no timetable for when he’ll able to throw off a mound. He’ll need three weeks in the minors to build up arm strength after he’s cleared to throw. If he had a warning label it would read: Pick in the top 40 at your own risk. Projections: 10/0/3.50/1.30/140
31. Jered Weaver — He’s working on two new pitches in the spring, but he hasn’t been at all effective with them. Most people speculate he feels so good with his fastball and curve that he doesn’t mind experimenting with his “cutter-slash-slider.” I agree. Last season was his first with 200 IP (211). He’ll do it again. Projections: 15/0/4.00/1.30/170
32. Jair Jurrjens — Any pitcher who has a preseason MRI on their shoulder involves some serious risk. However, he has been throwing the ball. Last season he looked primed to turn into an ace pitcher. If you’re in a dynasty league, pick Jurrjens as a keeper. He doesn’t get as many strikeouts as I’d like, but he turned 24 in January so he’s got a few years to develop a few more Ks. Projections: 15/0/3.50/1.30/150
33. Max Scherzer — With Detroit now, Scherzer will turn 26 in July. He gets more than a K per inning and should see his innings rise in 2010. Projections: 10/0/3.95/1.35/190
34. Scott Baker — Like Jurrjens, Baker’s not going to win strikeouts for you. Last season he only had 162 in 200 innings. He’ll be 29 in September, so it’s likely we won’t see a significant jump in that category. This is a little high to pick Baker. Projections: 10/0/3.90/1.25/150
35. Brett Anderson — Only 22, Anderson has looked outstanding this spring. He won’t be a K per inning pitcher, but compare his numbers to Garza and Wandy and understand that I think these predictions are a little low. Projections: 10/0/3.85/1.25/160
36. Roy Oswalt — This new tier goes to the end of the top 40. I don’t want anyone in this tier except, maybe, Edwin Jackson at No. 40. Oswalt will be 33 in August. Last season was the first he did not reach 200 IP since 2003. His ERA in 2009 was the worst of his career. He won’t be as bad, but he won’t be confused with the top-20 pitcher he once was. Projections: 10/0/3.85/1.25/150
37. John Danks — My notes on Danks include the word overrated, two question marks and a period. The period follows overrated, meaning he is overrated. The question marks mean, even though he’s only 25 I don’t know if he’ll ever be better than these predictions. Projections: 10/0/4.15/1.35/150
38. Ted Lilly — At age 34, Lilly’s sore knee in February hindered his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. He’ll likely miss the first month. If those aren’t enough red flags for you, pick him five picks earlier and invite me to your league. Projections: 10/0/3.75/1.20/150
39. Ryan Dempster — What we’ll get is a Dempster closer to his 2009 performance (3.65/172) than his 2008 (2.96/187). He’ll be 33 in May. Projections: 10/0/3.85/1.35/160
40. Edwin Jackson — Why would I think about picking Jackson? He’s still got a little post-hype sleeper on him. Let’s not forget that Jackson debuted at age 20 with the Dodgers. He’ll be 26 for most of the season. Maybe last year’s outstanding 13/3.62/1.26/161 in 214 innings was him entering into his prime as a pitcher. If that’s the case these predictions are low and he’ll be more like a top-30 pitcher, than a top-40 one. Projections: 10/0/4.00/1.40/140
The bonus round will return after the top 100 pitchers in 2010. However, I know and respect your insatiable appetite for fantasy baseball knowledge. Get your fill by using our 2010 Fantasy Baseball rankings page and our Fantasy Baseball Strategy and Advice archive.