Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Pitchers might be the trickiest players to handle in a 60-game fantasy baseball season.
Will the limited number of appearances and short buildup to the campaign make it impossible for pitchers to make a major mark on your team? Or will the unique circumstances widen the gap between elites and the others, therefore driving up the cost of the top tier?
Either way, the impact of a sleeper starting pitching should be massive as always. After listing our top-50 rankings for rotisserie leagues, we’ll spotlight three of the top sleeper arms worth your attention.
Top 50 Roto Rankings for 2020
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
3. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves
4. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
5. Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
7. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
8. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
9. Gerrit Cole, SP, New York Yankees
10. Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Houston Astros
11. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
12. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets
13. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
14. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
15. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
16. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
17. Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
18. J.D. Martinez, OF, Boston Red Sox
19. Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians
20. Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros
21. Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
22. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
23. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
24. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres
25. Starling Marte, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
26. Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
27. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
28. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals
29. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
30. Jack Flaherty, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
31. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
32. Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets
33. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
34. Gleyber Torres, SS/2B, New York Yankees
35. Manny Machado, 3B/SS, San Diego Padres
36. Shane Bieber, SP, Cleveland Indians
37. Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
38. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
39. Nelson Cruz, DH, Minnesota Twins
40. Luis Castillo, SP, Cincinnati Reds
41. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
42. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves
43. Yordan Alvarez, DH, Houston Astros
44. Ketel Marte, OF/2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
45. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs
46. Patrick Corbin, SP, Washington Nationals
47. Jonathan Villar, 2B/SS, Miami Marlins
48. Max Muncy, 2B/1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
49. Eddie Rosario, OF, Minnesota Twins
50. Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Sleeper Pitchers To Target
Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres
The bar for modern starting pitchers to stand out in strikeouts is way up, and Dinelson Lamet still cleared it with ease in 2019—his first season after Tommy John surgery.
If the 27-year-old had any rust from the lengthy layoff, he did a great job of hiding it. His 4.07 ERA wasn’t elite, but it was fine, especially when his peripherals were even a shade better (3.91 FIP).
The big head-turner, of course, were the 105 strikeouts Lamet tallied across 73 innings, giving him a whopping 12.9 K/9. Even with less-than-stellar walk (3.7/9) and home run (1.5/9) rates, his profile looks promising for 2020.
As Jarad Wilk wrote for the New York Post, the deeper you dive into his advanced numbers, the more glowing his outlook gets:
“Lamet’s 12.95 strikeouts per nine over his 14 starts ranked third among starters who threw at least 70 innings, finishing behind Cole and Chris Sale. His 33.6 percent strikeout rate ranked sixth, ahead of Lucas Giolito and deGrom. He also held opponents to a .223 average, which ranked in the top 25, and a 14.1 percent swinging strike rate, which was in the top 15 (ahead of Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg and Charlie Morton).”
If any starter makes the leap from sleeper to star in 2020, Lamet seems the likeliest candidate.
Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins
Between the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching depth and Kenta Maeda’s workload-based contract incentives, he could never get fully stretched out in L.A. His first season with the Dodgers was the only one in which he appeared solely as a starter and cleared 155 innings.
An offseason move to Minnesota should give the 32-year-old the chance to finally show the type of fantasy contributor he can be. Considering his statistical company, he might have fantasy-ace upside.
“From 2017 to 2019, Maeda was one of only seven pitchers with at least a 25% strikeout rate with no greater than 7.5% walk or 33% hard-contact rates allowed,” ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft noted. “The other six? Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Luis Severino and Stephen Strasburg.”
Maeda is an all-categories contributor, even if he doesn’t dominate any single area. With career marks including a 3.87 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 9.8 K/9, he’ll strengthen any fantasy rotation he joins, especially if Minnesota lets him loose as a full-time starter.
Luke Weaver, Arizona Diamondbacks
The difference between a coveted fantasy contributor and an overlooked sleeper sometimes comes down to reliability.
That’s never been a strength of Luke Weaver’s, making it not at all surprising to see the fantasy community gloss over him to instead fixate on his teammate, Zac Gallen.
The interest in Gallen is warranted, but Weaver was arguably just as good when he pitched last season: 2.94 ERA with a 3.07 FIP, 1.07 WHIP and 9.7 K/9.
The only catch with those numbers, though, is they came in just 64.1 innings. The 26-year-old suffered a sprained UCL and strained flexor mass on May 26; he’d only pitch once more in the campaign with a morale-boosting two-inning stint in late September.
Weaver, who debuted in 2016, has just 297.1 innings pitched to this point. He maxed out at 136.1 in 2018, and his next-highest total was last season’s.
The health risks are obvious, but with an average draft position of 188, per FantasyPros, the cost is minimal and the possible payoff is massive.