Gerrit Cole is the undisputed ace for the New York Yankees, who’ll be looking to continue his run of dominance in 2021.

Jim McIssac

There's a consensus top trio this year, and unless you're drafting with a bunch of amateurs, they will all be off the board by the end of Round One.

For my money, you cannot go wrong with any of the three-headed-ace monster.

THE TOP THREE

Jacob deGrom

Gerrit Cole

Shane Bieber


Each of these pitchers posted sub-1.00 WHIPs, sub-3.00 ERAs, and over 8 quality starts. Bieber and deGrom vaulted over 100 Ks in the shortened season, and Cole nearly got there with 94. While other pitchers that will go later had similar numbers, these are the guys in the best position to repeat/exceed their performances.

If you are dead set on going for a starter early, or if one happens to fall to you in the back half of the first round, I wouldn't think twice about selecting these workhorses. (As someone who's relied on streaming pitchers after going offense-forward in past drafts, I think building a strong rotation from the jump provides peace of mind for the homestretch and playoff push).

THE REST OF THE TOP TEN

The drop off from the top to the next group is not as steep as many might imagine, especially as pitchers continue to use advanced analytics, such as spin rate, to perfect their games. With the added talk of a deadened baseball, which allows a better grip, I think it's safe to assume a lot of the following dudes will be well worth a pick at their projected draft slots. However, I want to issue a buyer beware for a couple.

Yu Darvish

Trevor Bauer

The enigmatic Twitter presence had a career year of career years in 2020, earning him a much sought after Cy Young. He parlayed his success into a massive contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which pays him $38 million in 2021 and includes player opt outs after each season that could tack on $2 million, if exercised the first season, or $15 million for the second (maybe don't get too used to Bauer in Dodger Blue is all I'm saying).

Don't get me wrong, his only full season in Cincinnati was obviously spectacular. 100 Ks, 1.73 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 9 quality starts will get teams to smash their piggy banks. However, this is a guy, who has only two seasons of an under 4.00 ERA. The first was in 2018. How did he follow that up? A hefty 5.09 between his time in Cleveland and Cincy.

The change of scenery is worth mentioning here, as well. The NL Central looked like the dredges of baseball for most of last season. The Cubs were the one team to finish truly over .500, and they fell in the first round to the Miami Marlins, the Cards jumped in and out of quarantine so much that they didn't even play a full season, the Brewers went the way of Christian Yelich (who suffered with no video replay) and the Pirates were officially the league's worst team, posting a mere 19 wins.

Remember these are THE ONLY teams that Bauer pitched against last season, due to COVID rules. Facing even slightly stiffer competition from intra-divisional rivals, like the Padres, and across the league will undoubtedly have an effect and not a positive one. Throw in MLB's vendetta against sticky stuff, and I think it's very possible we see a much more average (by his own standards) season from Bauer.

Max Scherzer

Walker Buehler

Trust me, I'm not just picking on Dodgers pitchers here. Buehler possesses the raw skill and tools that most starters would kill for if given the chance. There are really only two red flags going into his fourth season.

First, the Dodgers historically have employed extreme caution about wearing out the young hurler's arm. They tend to ramp him up slowly, and he's never cracked 200 innings over a full regular season. (He and Giolito are the only two in the top ten not to sniff 190).

Now, he's coming off a shortened season in which a record number of pitchers experienced injuries, and he put up a total of only 60 innings. He only had one start go over six innings, which explains his one quality start. Usage alone might be reason enough to go in a different direction in the second round.

The other reason for concern is his paltry output this spring. Take this all with a grain of salt, but he's sporting an 8.10 ERA in his five exhibition starts, and a decreased velo on his fastball is to blame. Normally, he's sitting around 96, as opposed to the 93-94 that he's currently rocking. Do I believe that he'll build up and regain his form at some point? Absolutely.

But how long are you willing to wait for a top pick to find his juice? A month or two might be the difference between making or missing the playoffs.

Lucas Giolito

Jack Flaherty

Luis Castillo

VALUE IN THE 11 TO 20 RANGE

These five guys will almost definitely fall into the fourth and fifth rounds, giving you an opportunity to bolster your rotation without breaking the bank. We run the gamut from established number ones to aging wunderkinds to a Cy Young-winner and World Series stand-out to a bevy of ascending aces.

These are pitchers that will offer a little more volatility than their higher-ranked brethren for a variety of reasons that range from age to injury to stuff not matching production:

Aaron Nola

Blake Snell

After winning the Cy Young, Blake Snell dealt with "loose bodies" in his left shoulder that required surgery in 2019 and had some lingering soreness in 2020 that led to a decrease in innings and productivity. However, his effectiveness down the stretch this past season and into the playoffs is noteworthy, especially his sterling Game 6 start against the Dodgers coupled with his early hook that may have spelled the end of his time in Tampa.

His trade to the Padres represented the first of many dominoes to fall in San Diego's direction, and it appears as if it will pay big dividends for them. Snell had a clean bill of health coming into Spring Training, and the results reflect that with no earned runs to his name and a 0.75 WHIP over nine and a third innings pitched.

Sure, those stats are all meaningless until they aren't, but seeing Snell looking healthy and dangerous could mean a full-on return to form for the former top pitcher in the AL.

Clayton Kershaw

Tyler Glasnow

Brandon Woodruff

Stephen Strasburg

Zac Gallen

Kenta Maeda

Corbin Burnes

Lance Lynn

Early in his career, Lance Lynn was a consistent third or fourth starter, who predominantly threw sinkerballs to induce soft contact and groundouts. It led to a success at the major league level that's impressive but hardly enviable. The glory in being a dependable guy that manufactures outs is almost always twinged as a little backhanded.

It came to a head when before the 2018 season; he was a free agent that had to wait until camp to get an offer. That's when two things changed that put him on an entirely different trajectory. First, he began to pitch from the 3rd base side of the rubber, which allowed him to drive harder through his lower body and generate more power behind his pitches. Second, he returned to a pitch that he abandoned as a member of the Cardinals organization: the four seamer.

These two tweaks have taken him from free agency afterthought to trade chip for a team with championship aspirations. Over his last two seasons in Texas, he has proven to be a different "D" word: Dominant. He's led the league in innings pitched, tied for first in starts with Aaron Nola, and tied for fifth in strikeouts with Max Scherzer. That's the kind of company Lynn deserves to mentioned in and drafted amongst. He'll be, dare I say, a pitcher to depend on.

DMX on the Madison Square Garden marquee

Madison Square Garden

For many managers, their playoff prospects are dark and hot as hell heading into the final week of the fantasy basketball regular season.

But before you can compete to be grand champ, you need to stop, drop, shut your duds down and open up the waiver wire for your last gasp this regular season. Here are some names you should be looking for to give you that push you need.

Rest in peace, DMX.

Booms

Kyle Anderson Forward Memphis Grizzlies

The former UCLA star might have taken the tale of the tortoise and the hare a little too seriously, but the "slow and steady" mantra has given him a successful NBA career and impressive fantasy numbers. For the past week, Slow Mo has averaged 16.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting, seven rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.3 made threes, two steals and one turnover a game.

Anderson has been a consistent contributor throughout the season and it's tough to see his numbers take a hit even when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns at the end of the month. If you haven't rostered him yet, it would be a huge mistake.

Jalen McDaniels Forward/Center Charlotte Hornets

Staying on the court has been a problem for McDaniels this season, but the absence of Gordon Hayward has forced the Hornets to look for other options on the court and the second-year player has been one of the beneficiaries. In the last three games, the San Diego State product averaged 16.3 points on 62.5 percent shooting, two made threes, five rebounds and 3.3 assists. He even threw in 1.3 steals and one block per game.

Hayward is expected to be out for at least three more weeks. Until he's back, expect McDaniels to continue his more proactive approach on this team.

Miles Bridges Forward Charlotte Hornets

McDaniels isn't the only one who has taken advantage of Hayward's injury. Bridges has cranked his game up a notch, averaging 21.7 points on 60.5 percent shooting, three made threes, six rebounds and one steal in the last three games. He may have even had the dunk of the year, posterizing Clint Capela on Sunday.

Until Hayward is back, Bridges will get a lot more freedom to operate and that means more fantasy contribution in the coming weeks.

Reggie Jackson Guard Los Angeles Clippers

Depth has not been a problem for the Clippers the last few seasons, but it has been trouble for fantasy managers looking for consistent contributors on that team. Rest and injuries haven't slowed the Clippers' winning ways this week because Reggie Jackson stepped up for them and gives fantasy participants a short-term high performer to lean on for the week.

In a week where Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Paul George missed time, Jackson thrived, averaging 17.3 points on 61 percent shooting, three made threes, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 turnovers in four games.

With Beverley out with a fractured hand and Rondo/George/Kawhi undoubtedly taking games off to save themselves for the playoffs, Jackson may not be a bad desperation option in standard fantasy and worth tracking in daily fantasy formats.

Busts

Tim Hardwaway Jr Guard/Forward Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks' recent success has not translated into numbers for all players. Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of them.

The Michigan product averaged 12 points on 37.5 percent shooting, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games last week. He did make two three-pointers per game in that span, but that is like threading a silver lining on a used rag.

Hardaway is still the third scoring option on the team, so he will get more chances to increase his production, but this week was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of fantasy managers.

Derrick Rose Guard New York Knicks

Rose has found a home with the New York Knicks, but his role has not been kind to fantasy managers. We all know the former MVP can still score, but head coach Tom Thibodeau hasn't asked him to do much else.

In the last four games, Rose has averaged 14.3 points on 43.1 percent shooting, 0.8 made threes, 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. That kind of one-dimensional play is a killer of many fantasy teams looking for a more diverse portfolio of contributions.

If you need a boost in scoring, Rose isn't a terrible option to consider, but if you need anything else, you should leave him on the waiver.

Lou Williams Guard Atlanta Hawks

Like Rose, Williams isn't asked to do anything other than score at this point in his career. But even in the past week, he can't even do that at an elite fantasy level. Only averaging 11.8 points per game, 1.8 made threes, 2.8 assists and basically non-existent in every other category in fantasy sports.

It's safe to say that Lemon Pepper Lou's effectiveness as a fantasy star is gone.

Jusuf Nurkic Center Portland Trail Blazers

Okay, I know Trail Blazers have been trying to ease Nurkic back into the lineup and giving him restricted minutes. However, with the fantasy managers looking for that final push to the postseason, there might have to be an executive decision on whether Nurkic needs to be played or pitched.

Teams firmly in playoff position can hold out for him to be used properly again, but other managers won't be able to stomach another week of missed games and low-end production.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

USA Today

For college basketball, the madness is over. For the NBA fantasy managers, the madness is just beginning.

We are two weeks away from playoffs, and people are scrambling for solutions to their team's problems. Take a look at these waiver wire picks and see who will give you that final push you need to get into the postseason and avoid the humiliation of whatever fantasy punishment you may face.

Keep reading... Show less

Shane Bieber faced off against the Dodgers in Spring Training. He bested Trevor Bauer, allowing only two runs, and striking out nine

Getty Images

Welcome to the Mock Draft lab.

This is where we are running experiments, crunching the numbers, and proving hypotheses, so you can reap the rewards of our hard work. The rules for this exercise were simple: Take the best pitcher in each round without reaching more than 10 spots away in either direction. (This kept us honest and realistic as to who would be available and prevented any major overpays for talent.)

Keep reading... Show less