MMO Fantasy Top 10: Starting Pitching

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I enjoy researching starting pitching for any reason whatsoever, so looking into them for fantasy purposes was more fun than anything else. Today brings about a top ten list for the starting pitchers out there – and unfortunately, will not feature many surprises. The best starting pitchers out there are fairly well defined at this point, but I still dove into ESPN and Yahoo! rankings just to make sure I was not off base here. I had to check in with Xtreem on this one, but the five fantasy categories for pitchers were Wins / ERA / K / WHIP / Saves …and obviously, saves don’t apply here.


I think ESPN and I were basically sharing a brain here – but Yahoo wasn’t far off since the only major difference was their pick of Wainwright over Jered Weaver, really. I’ve got the same top 10 down as ESPN, but I differ slightly in the order I chose.

10. Zack Greinke (16 / 3.44 / 220 / 1.14) – Greinke is definitely one of the top pitchers in the game right now, but his stats always come with a little bit of confusion and disappointment. Although some saber stats have shown that Greinke could be the victim of some severe bad luck, his ERA will likely always be a little higher than you hope from a fantasy ace. He might be on the back-end of the “fantasy ace” category, but Greinke moves back to the NL this year after getting a huge pay-day, which should help his numbers overall, especially his strikeouts. If all goes well, he could easily surpass the amount of wins projected, as everyone decided to go a little conservative here.

9. Cole Hamels (13 / 3.05 / 210 / 1.12 )  – I hate to admit it, but Cole Hamels has been consistent and he has been a pretty solid pitcher across all categories. I think Weaver is going to edge him out in wins and ERA so I have him ranked slightly above him here, but do not get down on Hamels. See, outside of the wins category, Hamels comes with less risk than those who are scared away by Weaver’s declining strikeout rate and as strong a track record as anybody here. Just be careful not to start him against the Mets…

8. Jered Weaver (19 / 3.02 / 175 / 1.12) – I like Jered Weaver, and I think you should too. The Angels are stacked this year and look like they could really win a lot of games – and Weaver has to be a huge part of that. People worry about his declining strikeout rate, and honestly, it is a perfectly valid criticism. You could very well be rolling the dice with Weaver, but even in a “down” year last year, he won 20 games to the tun of a 2.81 ERA.

7. Cliff Lee (14 / 2.98 / 212 / 1.04) – Cliff Lee is an outstanding pitcher and the fact that he won only 6 games last year is enough to confuse the greatest minds. Of course, if you look deep, it becomes as simple as Lee not getting much run support – although he was superb across the board yet again. A year older, a year wiser for Lee…he might decline just a little, but his unique combination of stuff, poise, and experience position him to bounce back from an anomaly in the win column to post another excellent year.

6. Matt Cain (18 / 2.94 / 195 / 1.10 ) – Consistency is a common theme for the pitchers on this list, and Matt Cain is quite obviously no different. It is really hard to find a knock against Matt Cain…in fact, the only thing you can hold against him is perhaps his inability to break that 20-win plateau, and it really isn’t his fault. Cain may not seem flashy at times, but he is definitely a smart pick. He gets it done across the board in every category and can be counted on for a solid start almost every single time out there.

5. David Price (20 / 3.01 / 220 / 1.14) – Some people worry about David Price because of the division that he pitches in and they claim that he will be hard pressed to win games. My counter argument is simple – watch this man pitch. He is a monster on the mound, and his stats in the second half of last year back that up more than any colorful adjectives that I could pull out of thin air here. In 15 starts, he won 9 games and 14 of them were quality starts – all to the tune of a 2.20 ERA / 0.98 WHIP / 108 strikeouts. The craziest thing about all of it? David Price might actually not be done improving yet.

4. Stephen Strasburg (15 / 3.00 / 230 / 1.10) – This is a conservative projection for one reason only, and it has been discussed – Strasburg may be on another type of innings limit going into this year. As ESPN notes, if they follow the Zimmermann model, Strasburg would be scheduled for a little over 190 innings this year – which is great, but you have to temper your expectations. That being said, once he is off the leash, Strasburg may just lead the MLB in strikeouts for years to come so his potential in limited innings can still make a fantasy owner’s mouth water. Just tread carefully here and do your research.

3. Felix Hernandez (15 / 2.98 / 225 / 1.07) – Oh Felix, if only you played for a better team, you might have been one of the fantasy favorites for years. Do not get me wrong – Felix Hernandez is arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball today, but fantasy wise, it does not always translate over. A lack of run support, not so perfect defense behind him, bad luck…yeah, Hernandez has seen it all and still continues to offer a desirable stat line. Drafting King Felix puts you in an area where you join the rest of his owners and do the same thing each year…just hope that Seattle at least puts it together for his starts.

2. Clayton Kershaw (17 / 2.74 / 228 / 1.06) – Do I really need to convince you to go out and pick up Clayton Kershaw? I thought not. With RA Dickey gone and Strasburg still on a potential innings limit, the National League belongs to Kersh. He can just do what comes natural and perhaps waltz his way to a Cy Young. Mind you, what comes natural to Clayton Kershaw is a miniscule ERA and a ton of strikeouts, along with one of the best WHIPs in the game. There is no stat for dominance, but man, I am sure he leads the league in it.

1. Justin Verlander (21 / 2.70 / 241 / 1.09) – If you manage to snag Justin Verlander for your fantasy team, thank your lucky stars and whatever god you pray to, because you struck fantasy gold. Any format that isn’t NL-only will find Verlander at the top of their overall boards as most likely the first pitcher to go. ESPN said it best – “Workhorse, thy name is Verlander.” Outside of success in the standard categories for starting pitching, he will also rack up a considerable amount of innings pitched. I honestly do not think there is anything I could say here that you have not already heard about Justin Verlander.

So a few things to note:

  • Yahoo is higher on Adam Wainwright than I am, and so is ESPN for that matter, where he was ranked #12. I do think he has a quality year ahead of him, but I think I’m going to pass on him for now.
  • 75% of experts rank RA Dickey at his ADP or higher (63). All I can say is that there is a lot to think about when drafting RA Dickey for the 2013 season, and I do not think I am equipped to provide an unbiased opinion on him. Another player who’s ADP is worth watching is Aroldis Chapman…he could start or he could pitch the later innings out of the bullpen – and he has undeniably filthy stuff.
  • Yu Darvish and Matt Moore are both being ranked outside of the top 10 for starting pitchers, but could provide top-5 strikeout potential without hurting you in any other stat significantly. Tim Hudson still rocks as a cheap source for wins.
  • As for some sleepers, the Mets have two bonafide ones in Jon Niese and Matt Harvey. Jon Niese is getting some respect this year, but he could be in for an even better season than projected. Josh Johnson, Jon Lester, and Dan Haren could all be in line for excellent years as well.

I hear that Xtreem has prepared his piece on the closers for later this week, so you all can look forward to that.