NL Starter Tiers — April 2014

Who’s ready for some tiers? National league pitchers have been hit particularly hard in the lead-up to the season, creating some interesting situations within the tiers. Where should you value Mike Minor now? What about Cole Hamels? A couple notes about tiers before we begin. You’ll notice this is the NL post, so you won’t see Justin Verlander ranked. Despite this, someone in the comments will say “where’s Justin Verlander, you idiot?” Don’t do this, don’t even do it ironically. The tiers should be viewed as tiers, not straight rankings. If I have Minor and Hamels in the same tier, but Minor is ranked higher in his tier, that doesn’t matter. Being in a tier means I perceive those players to have similar value. Finally, I’m going to rank players according to my favorite Game of Thrones characters (topical!). There will be no spoilers, I promise. On a final note, don’t even try to argue with the rankings of Game of Thrones characters. You will be wrong! Off we go.

Tyrion Lannister

Clayton Kershaw
Adam Wainwright
Jose Fernandez
Cliff Lee

Can’t go wrong with anyone here. Lee’s first start was somewhat worrisome, mostly due to the fact that he’s 35, but it’s one start. Let’s stay calm for now. Kershaw’s injury isn’t enough of an issue yet to drop him a tier.

Jaime Lannister

Stephen Strasburg
Madison Bumgarner
Zack Greinke
Matt Cain
Mat Latos

We’re already starting to run into some issues here. Injuries thinned out this tier, as both Hamels and Minor may have started the year here if both were healthy. Cain might look like a question mark this high given his down 2013, but I feel like he has enough of a track record to suggest he’ll get back to his lower-than-normal home run rates. Latos is expected back this week, so no major concerns there.

Bran Stark

Cole Hamels
Homer Bailey
Mike Minor
Jordan Zimmermann
Michael Wacha
Gerrit Cole
Gio Gonzalez
Julio Teheran
Shelby Miller

The injured guys start to show up here. Zimermann won’t give you strikeouts like most players in this tier, but he’s pretty likely to give you 190+ innings with a solid ERA. Both Wacha and Cole could rise dramatically, but they settle in nicely here for now. Miller seems to be an afterthought following his disappearing act in the playoffs. Despite that, he has a better track record than both Wacha or Cole. Don’t underestimate him, basically.

Arya Stark

Andrew Cashner
Francisco Liriano
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Johnny Cueto
Tony Cingrani
Zack Wheeler
Jeff Samardzija
Lance Lynn
Alex Wood

Every single player in this tier is a threat to move up in May. Liriano, Ryu, Cashner, Cueto and Samardzija all looked great in their first starts of the year — first two for Ryu, but you get the point. With Cashner, I had some concerns about a low strikeout rate last year. If that jumps, the sky is the limit. With Liriano, it’s a question of consistency. I’m willing to buy his performance a little more since it looks like pitching coach Ray Searage has figured him out. Ryu is not only throwing a new curveball, but his velocity was up during Sunday’s start. That could point to a breakout. Cueto has injury concerns, but should be above-average when healthy. Samardzija entered the year as a strong bounce-back candidate, and looked the part Monday. Cingrani will pile up strikeouts, but we’ll see if his fastball reliance comes back on him this time around. Lynn doesn’t seem exciting, yet he continues to post solid numbers. Wood shot up dramatically during spring, mainly because his job is guaranteed all year. People worry about his health due to unusual mechanics, but he could breakout if healthy.

Jon Snow & Ghost

A.J. Burnett
Ervin Santana
Tyson Ross
Doug Fister
Marco Estrada
Matt Garza
Tim Lincecum
Yovani Gallardo
Dillon Gee
Travis Wood
Bartolo Colon
Mike Leake
Wade Miley
Kyle Lohse

We’ve approached the tier where things start to get questionable. Based on what he did last year, Burnett’s ranking is far too low. While analysts were not happy he went to Philadelphia, there’s still a chance he retains the gains he showed in Pittsburgh. Fister is typically less of a question mark than most of these players, but various injuries have pushed back his debut. Estrada is a nice sleeper candidate, but the home run issues are still going to be present. Gallardo looked good in his first start of the year, but last season still scares me. Lincecum continues to be well liked by FIP despite a clear decline in skills. I’m scared, but would love to see a return to above-average numbers. I’m not big on either Wood or Leake. They lack upside, but are somehow more dependable than any other option here. Ditto for Lohse.

Cersei Lannister

Wily Peralta
Brett Anderson
Brandon McCarthy
Jon Niese
Trevor Cahill
Eric Stults
Ian Kennedy
Bronson Arroyo
Scott Feldman
Edwin Jackson
Dan Haren
Tim Hudson
Jhoulys Chacin
Jorge de la Rosa
Nathan Eovaldi

There’s still some upside here, but not much. Kennedy could benefit from his new home park, but I would rather give it a few starts before I buy in. Feldman is solid, but offers little strikeout potential and plays for a terrible team. Eovaldi has a blazing fastball, and not much else yet. Chacin was great last season, but injuries have already pushed his debut. Hudson is more dependable than this, and could move up in May. Haren frightens me, but is pitching in a better park this season. Peralta is a candidate to take a step forward.

Daenerys Targaryen

Tyler Chatwood
Juan Nicasio
Henderson Alvarez
Joe Kelly
Jenrry Mejia
Tanner Roark
Taylor Jordan
Jason Hammel
Wandy Rodriguez
Charlie Morton
Randall Delgado

You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Chatwood, Alvarez, Mejia and Delgado stand out as possible sleepers. The other guys need to show something in order to move up tiers.

Hodor/Keep these guys on your radar for now.
Jameson Taillon
Noah Syndergaard
Archie Bradley
Robert Stephenson

*Please let me know if I missed anyone. I will add them as soon as possible.

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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

48 Responses to “NL Starter Tiers — April 2014”

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  1. Leoz says:

    Criminally low ranking on the khaleesi:(

    +16 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • David says:

      Problem is that all of these characters other than Hodor would be Tier 1. They are “favorite” characters so the subjectivity reigns.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Phil McCracken says:

      Daenerys is a stuck up sh!t. Her storyline is boring, Emilia Clarke is a terrible actress and her book storyline is even more boring.

      -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Brian says:

    I’m assuming Masterson was left off of the list bc he is on Drogo level? (sorry, never made it past season 1)

    -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. John E Depth says:

    You idiot, Scott Feldman is in the American League!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. jake says:

    Hodor hodor?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Parker says:

    Didn’t take long for someone to ask for a pitcher not in the NL….and to not watch Game of Thrones since season 1? Man card revoked.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Farmer Ted says:

      Aaaaaaaand you get your man card revoked for invoking “man cards”.

      /turns in my man card

      +16 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • The Humber Games says:

        Not sure why people are so in love with this series, it’s basically a manly man soap opera.


        Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. DevilInLaw says:

    Where would you place Ervin Santana?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Chris Cwik says:

      I put him in the Jon Snow category. That might be too low for him, honestly. But I don’t know if I love his upside over the pitchers in the higher tier.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jackson says:

      I’s put him in the Cashner group. Atlanta was a great landing spot. Run support, bullpen help, soft division.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Rags says:


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  8. vslyke says:

    How much is my league going to make fun of me for taking a flier on Edinson Volquez?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. TimBrownU says:

    Cersei is the absolute worst

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Walking Dead says:

    Where is Alex Cobb, and Marlin Perez? These guys are on my Yahoo team league and I’m convinced they should be on the list.

    -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. PWR says:

    am I the only one that would rather have Gio over an injured Latos and Cain? he seems pretty equal to Greinke according to Steamer/Zips

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. PWR says:

    and Dan Haren that low? I thought this was fangraphs, where we don’t just look at ERA

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • dragnalus says:

      What fantasy league doesn’t have ERA as a category? Not to mention his FIP- the past two seasons has been worse than league average and his WHIP during those seasons was just barely at league average.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Bubba says:

    I’d rank Gio Gonzalez in the 2nd tier. Lots of K’s, innings, and on a good team, hopefully wins too.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. jfree says:

    Are the Lannisters really likely to be promoted by the end of April? And when will FG assign them a player id?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Walking Dead says:

    Kershaw is injureed/

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Andrew says:

      Dude, seriously? You comment four times on an article you didn’t read?

      “Kershaw’s injury isn’t enough of an issue yet to drop him a tier.”

      “You’ll notice this is the NL post, so you won’t see Justin Verlander ranked. Despite this, someone in the comments will say “where’s Justin Verlander, you idiot?” Don’t do this, don’t even do it ironically.”

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Walking Dead says:

    I need lots of feedback…Darvish or JoFer in a dynasty league? Darvish is better but 6 years older and has a few injury concerns.

    Is Darvish SO good that I don’t worry about the age difference/injuries? Or do I go JoFer.

    How close?

    -10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Isotopes GM says:

    How is Brandon Stark even on this list? Even Joffrey would be a better pick, at least he elicits SOME emotion from watching him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Emcee Peepants says:

    Would Gray and Butler in Colorado be “keep on your radar” guys? I could see one or both post all-star break.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. William says:

    Bran over Arya? How could you?

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. JV says:

    Jacob Turner?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. atoms says:

    How is Bran above Arya? Jaime #2? Daenerys at the bottom? Obviously Tyrion goes on top but the rest of your ranking is seriously questionable.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. The Foils says:


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  23. Dong Quixote says:

    Is Josh Johnson completely off the radar, or was he an oversight?

    Vote -1 Vote +1