We are now more than one-third of the way through the 2019 season. While nobody is saying that the fates of players and teams are firmly etched in stone -- certainly fans of the Colorado Rockies are feeling much better about things today than they were a week ago, for example -- the truth is that we have a much better idea today about who is or isn't for real than we did back in April.
That makes it a perfect time to check in on my "Rule of 7" for starting pitchers, a shortcut to determining the current snapshot of who qualifies to be among the pitching "elite" in the points-league format. To remind you, the requirement to join the club is an ERA of 3.50 or less and a K/BB rate of 3.50 or more for the season. At any given time, the number of starting pitchers who qualify for the "Rule of 7" tends to settle in the neighborhood of 20-25 names.
Through Saturday's action, there were 21 healthy pitchers who qualified (with a minimum of eight starts) including the following "obvious" names, who are all rostered in at least 90 percent of ESPN leagues: Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, German Marquez, Masahiro Tanaka, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Jose Berrios, Matthew Boyd, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Blake Snell, Kyle Hendricks, Chris Paddack, Clayton Kershaw, David Price and James Paxton.
It would not exactly be groundbreaking advice to suggest you add these pitchers to your fantasy rosters -- if that were even possible, which it is probably not without having to resort to blackmail or some other nefarious tactics. However, where the "Rule of 7" is useful is by identifying the not-so-obvious names who pass muster in my artificially created "shortcut stat."
Last time we checked in on this club, I pointed to five names as being under-rostered members worthy of adding to your fantasy team from the waiver wire, based on their having gotten past the club's bouncer: Caleb Smith, Yonny Chirinos, Sonny Gray, Jordan Lyles and Vince Velasquez.
Yes, Smith (82.2 percent rostered) is the only one of this quintet who is currently a member of our club. However, Chirinos (43.3) fails to qualify only due to his having started just six games. As a member of the Rays, that distinction is a bit misleading. He's actually averaging more than five innings of work over his 12 total appearances. Gray is barely out of the mix with a 3.54 ERA and Lyles needs only to increase his 3.05 K/BB a little bit to get in. I stand by those prior recommendations.
Velasquez was the lone bust of the group, but in fairness to him, he went on the IL with a right forearm strain in early May and has been used only in relief since his return. Injuries often wreak havoc on pitchers, and it's easy to simply cut all ties with "damaged goods." However, taking a chance on a pitcher who may well still bounce back is often worth the risk. That's why you should look to stash the likes of Tyler Glasnow (82.6 percent, forearm strain, due back in July), Zach Eflin (45.5 percent, back strain, could return later this week), Luke Weaver (36.6 percent, right forearm, late July return if all goes well) or Trevor Williams (24.0 percent, right-side strain, has resumed throwing).
This time around, we have six names to consider grabbing before they end up joining the rest of the "no-brainer options" who reside on rosters in nearly every fantasy league. They are three current members of the club: Max Fried (80.3), Frankie Montas (69.7) and Matt Strahm (36.5), as well as a trio of pitchers who are currently stuck behind the velvet ropes simply due to having not quite reached the minimum-start threshold. That latter trio is Rich Hill (75.7), Griffin Canning (20.3) and Felix Pena (5.5).
Remember, membership has its privileges and, generally speaking, choosing to roll with members of the "Rule of 7" club has its rewards.
Top 300 rest-of-season rankings
The following list reflects AJ's rankings for points leagues, going forward. Note that this is different from a ranking of how each player has played thus far in 2019. For a ranking of performance to-date, check out the ESPN Player Rater.