Wednesday May 28th, 2014

Adam Wainwright has been stellar, allowing no earned runs and striking out 21 over his last 17 innings.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We're two months into the 2014 MLB season and a little more than one-third of the way through the fantasy regular season. That's as good a time as any to re-rank the top 80 starting pitchers.

FANTASY BASEBALL WEEK 9: Pitching report | Hitting Report | Prospect watch | Twitter chat highlights | Weekly planner | News & notes

The idea here is pretty simple. We know who players are at this point of the season. These rankings only have to do with what a pitcher's current stats are insofar as they're a representation of what he can do the rest of the year. Other than that, this is all about ranking all the fantasy-relevant starting pitchers for the rest of the season. If a pitcher is ranked 10th, that means I'd trade him straight up for everyone ranked one through nine, and no one ranked 11 through 80. A space between pitchers indicates the start of a new tier. Players whose injury status completely clouds their future, such as Cliff Lee, have been left off the list.

1. Clayton Kershaw

2. Felix Hernandez

3. Adam Wainwright

4. Yu Darvish

5. Max Scherzer

6. Masahiro Tanaka

7. Chris Sale

8. Stephen Strasburg

9. Zack Greinke

10. Johnny Cueto

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11. Julio Teheran

12. Sonny Gray

13. Jeff Samardzija

14. Madison Bumgarner

15. David Price

16. Corey Kluber

17. Jon Lester

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18. Hisashi Iwakuma

19. Garrett Richards

20. James Shields

21. Tim Hudson

22. Michael Wacha

23. C.J. Wilson

24. Anibal Sanchez

25. Alex Cobb

26. Jordan Zimmermann

27. Mike Minor

28. Dallas Keuchel

29. Scott Kazmir

30. Andrew Cashner

31. Cole Hamels

32. Justin Verlander

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33. Yordano Ventura (pending injury)

34. Hyun-jin Ryu

35. Ian Kennedy

36. Shelby Miller

37. Kyle Lohse

38. Gio Gonzalez

39. Gerrit Cole

40. Tyson Ross

41. Doug Fister

42. Marco Estrada

43. Lance Lynn

44. Homer Bailey

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45. Wily Peralta

46. Jesse Chavez

47. Jered Weaver

48. Mark Buehrle

49. Ervin Santana

50. Dan Haren

51. Matt Cain

52. Tanner Roark

53. Rick Porcello

54. A.J. Burnett

55. Tony Cingrani

56. Chris Archer

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57. Dillon Gee

58. Drew Hutchison

59. Jonathon Niese

60. John Lackey

61. R.A. Dickey

62. Phil Hughes

63. Jose Quintana

64. Jorge De La Rosa

65. Josh Beckett

66. Aaron Harang

67. Alfredo Simon

68. Alex Wood

69. Nathan Eovaldi

70. Jordan Lyles

71. Jason Hammel

72. Drew Pomeranz

73. Hiroki Kuroda

74. Matt Garza

75. CC Sabathia

76. Zack Wheeler

77. Justin Masterson

78. Tom Koehler

79. Jaime Garcia

80. Collin McHugh

Pitchers of the Week

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals -- Last week: 17 IP, 2 W, 21 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.41 WHIP

Wainwright was absolutely dominant in wins over the Diamondbacks and Reds last week. He notched a complete game, one-hit shutout against Arizona, striking out nine and walking no one. He followed that up with an eight-inning, 12-strikeout, five-hit performance in Cincinnati. He's now 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA, 2.26 FIP and 77 strikeouts against 16 walks in 81 innings this year.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros -- 17 2/3 IP, 2 W, 14 K, 1.02 ERA, 0.57 WHIP

The fantasy game has a new pitching star and his name is Dallas Keuchel. The Houston lefty picked up a pair of wins last week, nearly throwing complete games both times out. He allowed two runs on five hits in 8 2/3 innings in a win over the Angels, striking out eight and walking one. He went the distance in his next outing, striking out six and allowing four hits and an unearned run in besting the Mariners. His 2.55 ERA is not a mirage, evidenced in part by his 2.65 FIP.

Julio Teheran, Braves -- 15 IP, 2 W, 15 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.87 WHIP

Teheran tossed a complete game shutout in his first start of the week, fanning eight Brewers while allowing six hits and two walks. He held the Rockies scoreless across six innings in his second outing, giving up just four hits and a walk while striking out seven. His ERA is down to 1.77 to go along with a 0.94 WHIP and 61 strikeouts versus 19 walks in 76 1/3 innings.

Pitchers of the Weak

Justin Verlander, Tigers -- 11 1/3 IP, 3 K, 8.74 ERA, 2.47 WHIP

Verlander got knocked around by the Indians and Rangers in his two starts last week, allowing 11 earned runs and 22 hits combined. He walked six batters and struck out just three, giving him 50 strikeouts against 30 walks this year. His fastball velocity is down to an average of 92.1 mph this season, and he has a career-worst 15.8-percent strikeout rate.

Rick Porcello, Tigers -- 5 1/3 IP, 5 K, 13.50 ERA, 2.63 WHIP

We talked about the likelihood of a Porcello regression in this space last week, and it came in one fell swoop ins his last outing. He got roughed up for eight runs on 12 hits in a loss to the Rangers. There's nothing like an ugly start to sour any potential trade partners. There's a chance that his sell-high window has closed.

Francisco Liriano, Pirates -- 10 IP, 9 K, 9.00 ERA, 2.10 WHIP

Liriano didn't make it beyond the fifth inning in either of his starts last week, allowing 10 runs on 15 hits combined in outings against the Orioles and Nationals. He took the loss in both games, and is now 0-5 on the season with a 5.06 ERA, 4.10 FIP and 1.50 WHIP. His WHIP is the 11th-highest in the majors among qualified starters.

Dellin Betances has been electric out of the bullpen, amassing a 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings ratio.
Rich Graessle /Icon SMI

Buy, sell or hold

Buy: Dellin Betances, Yankees -- Betances is a setup man for the Yankees. He's not going to supplant David Robertson as the closer, and he isn't getting moved to the rotation. So why should fantasy owners, even those in shallow leagues, pay attention to him? Well, because he's putting up numbers that any owner can use, even if they come in small doses. In 28 1/3 innings, Betances has a 1.59 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 49 strikeouts. He is proving to be a beast in all three of those categories, and even if he only gets two or three innings in a week, he can make a major difference in your rates and strikeouts.

Sell: Jered Weaver, Angels -- In a lot of ways, Weaver is enjoying a bounceback season for the Angels. He's 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, stats that, on their face, would put him among the best pitchers in the game. Take a deep look at his peripherals, though, and you see plenty of holes that cannot be explained away. He's striking out fewer than seven batters per nine innings for what would be the third straight season. His walk rate is up to 7.3 percent, the highest it has been since 2009. His 9.1-percent HR/FB ratio would be the worst of his career over a full season. His average fastball velocity is down to 85.6 mph, and hitters have just a .215 BABIP against him. All the numbers scream that he's going to hit a rough patch. His owners would be wise to sell before that happens.

Hold: Yordano Ventura, Royals -- If you're a fan of young, exciting, hard-throwing pitchers, you might want to get some bubble wrap for your favorite player. Ventura allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks to the Astros on Monday, and was lifted in the third inning after hitting just 91 mph on the gun with his fastball. His average fastball velocity this year has been 96.7 mph, so it's awfully hard to imagine him topping out at 91 about 70 pitches into a start. There's concern about an injury here, but his owners should hold onto him until more information is available.

Rookie pitcher spotlight

Dominic Leone, RP, Mariners

Leone isn't going to become the Seattle closer anytime soon. Fernando Rodney has been effective in shutting the door in the ninth, though he does have a 10.6-percent walk rate and 1.58 WHIP. Even if he were to lose the job, Danny Farquhar would be next in line. Leone is running third, at best, for saves in the Seattle bullpen, but he has had a fine rookie year that deserves recognition.

The 22-year-old Leone had not appeared in a major league game before this year and, in fact, had never pitched above Double-A. He showed enough to make the team out of spring training, and has been a lockdown pitcher out of the bullpen for the Mariners all season. With a fastball that averages 94.3 mph and a cutter/slider combination that he mixes to both sides of the plate, Leone has been unkind to opposing hitters. They have managed just a .192/.275/.306 slash, and Leone has fanned 23 of them in 20 1/3 innings. When hitters have put the ball in play, more often than not it has been on the ground. His 55.3-percent ground-ball rate helps to explain why he has been so good this year.

While Leone is a setup man for now, his success could help the Mariners unload Rodney when the trade deadline draws near and teams in contention get desperate for bullpen help. If Leone moves up the pecking order at all, he'd be worth considering in deeper mixed leagues.

By the numbers

.350 -- Corey Kluber's BABIP. It's rather incredible that his stats are as good as they are when 35 percent of the balls he has allowed in play have found a hole.

5.4 -- Mark Buehrle's strikeouts per nine innings. Despite that, he's 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Strikeouts may be the surest way to success, and to a fantasy owner's heart, but a pitcher does not need to be a strikeout artist to be an asset in fantasy leagues.

1.50 -- The difference between Edwin Jackson's ERA and FIP. He had a large ERA-FIP spread last year, too, with middling results. It's certainly possible that the FIP models love him more than he deserves solely because of his ability to get strikeouts.

3 -- Pitchers with a ground-ball rate of at least 60 percent this year. They are Dallas Keuchel, Tim Hudson and Tyson Ross. Not surprisingly, all three rank in the top 30 among starting pitchers, and Keuchel and Hudson are both in the top 11.

2.5 -- David Price's walk rate, as he has issued just eight free passes to the 320 batters he has faced this season. The last time a pitcher had a walk rate of less than 3 percent for an entire season was in 2010, when Cliff Lee pulled off the feat while splitting the year between the Mariners and Rangers.

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