We’ve officially reached the calm before the storm. With just a month and a half to go, the National League starting pitcher tiers have finally started to settle in. Once September rolls around, and teams start calling up prospects, it all goes to hell again. While the trading deadline has passed in most fantasy leagues, there’s still a chance to take stock of potential keepers, or cut dead weight for a potentially better player on the waiver wire. With Breaking Bad being such a topical subject, the tiers will be a ranking of the best characters on the show. Please keep in mind the players are tiered. If Homer Bailey and Shelby Miller are in the same tier, that means I value them about the same. It doesn’t mean whichever player is listed first is better. Enjoy.
Tier 1: Walter White
The top tier remains unchanged in August. All four players have above-average strikeout rates, and have limited walks at exceptional rates. There’s not much else to say here.
Tier 2: Jesse Pinkman
The last six players in this tier are new additions. It’s tough to deny Hamels and Gonzalez entry based on their previous numbers. Minor has a strong track record, and has shown improvement during his second season. Liriano and Burnett are enigmas, but you can’t discount what either has done this season. Moving forward, there’s probably a better chance Burnett stays in this tier, but Liriano has higher upside if he can stay healthy. What Fernandez has done is pretty incredible. At age-20, he has the fourth lowest FIP in the NL. His innings limit will hurt him, but he’s a tier-two guy until he’s shut down.
Tier 3: Gus Fring
There are still some strong pitchers in this tier, but all have their warts. Aside from Lynn and Samardzija, all the other guys have decent, but not elite, strikeout rates. Both Lynn and Samardzija have issues with walks, leading to their ranking in tier three. Chacin finally jumps up the board, but it’s tough to trust his new-found ability to limit home runs. Zimmermann was rated too low months ago, and has struggled since the All-Star break. He’ll stay here unless he can bounce back strong.
Tier 4: Saul Goodman
Now we’ve hit some pitchers with big questions. Cain, Medlen, Lincecum and Haren are all underperforming veterans, though Haren has shown flashes of effectiveness lately. Most of the other players in this tier have below-average strikeout rates, and don’t have exceptional control. Cingrani is the exception, and could move up higher as long as he’s in the rotation to stay and his innings aren’t limited.
Tier 5: Mike Ehrmantraut
This tier is more of the same. Lower-upside pitchers who have so-so peripherals. It should be noted that Miley and Lohse have been much better after rough stretches. Gee fits in that category as well. Maholm will return to the rotation Thursday, and still has limited value in mixed leagues. Cueto hasn’t progressed much since his injury, and is a big question mark. If he comes back, he still will be useful. But his return is somewhat of a question.
Tier 6: Hank Schrader
Delgado and Wheeler are unproven rookies who could be great in future seasons, but have taken a few lumps as rookies. The rest of the tier is comprised of veterans having awful years. The only reason they are being held at this point is hope that they’ll turn things around. It’s worth noting that all four of those veterans will probably be great buy-lows in 2014.
Tier 7: Skyler White
We’re starting to hit the bottom of the barrel. These players are better left on the waiver wire, but can be used in a pinch in mixed leagues. Rodriguez, Cahill and McCarthy probably have the highest upside, for what it’s worth.
Tier 8: Badger and Skinny Pete
If you have to depend heavily on these guys, you probably are fighting to stay out of last place.
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