By Adam McGill
The starting pitcher position has slowly become the most valuable spot on fantasy baseball rosters, as there is a huge disparity between the fifth best pitcher in the MLB and the twenty-fifth best pitcher. Below is my latest off-season report for starting pitchers:
1. Roy Halladay, PHI – “Doc Halladay” has been the main gunslinger in fantasy baseball leagues. He never lets guys on base, as his 1.04 WHIP was fourth best in the league. The veteran is also the best in the game at lasting long into starts, with a league leading 8 complete games last season. He can win head-to-head matchups out right with his ability to post complete game shutouts and the big strikeout totals are just icing on the cake. Halladay is by far the best pitcher in the game, but the 34-year old only has a couple more CY Young performances left.
2. Clayton Kershaw, LAD – The kid is one of the best examples of why rushing a player through the minors could be a good idea. Kershaw has already racked up 186 strikeouts in 179.1 career innings, quickly becoming one of the best aces in the entire MLB. He has thrown at least 204 innings with just over 210 strikeouts in each of his last two seasons and can easily lead the front of any fantasy rotation. His youth makes the best pitching keeper in dynasty leagues and will only get better as he matures as a player.
3. Justin Verlander, DET – The 2011 AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award Winner had a career season. He finished first in the league in wins (24), innings pitched (251.1), strikeouts (250), ERA (2.40), WHIP (0.92), and winning percentage (.828). Verlander has matured into the most poised pitcher in the bigs and the scary thing is that he just got a lot more run support. Mr. Verlander say hello to your new insurance policy, Prince Fielder.
4. Cliff Lee, PHI – “General Lee” mowed down the competition again in 2011. He recorded 238 strikeouts in just over 232 innings last year, helping him post a sizzling 2.40 ERA and 1.03 WHIP on the year. Lee will post similar stats to the other names on this list and will likely come five to eight picks later.
5. Tim Lincecum, SF – “Big Time Timmy Jim” had a bit of a down year as far as fantasy goes. The “Freak” posted a human-like 220 strikeouts and had his lowest K totals since 2007 when he first entered the league. However, he is still the only player who has the repertoire to post 300 K’s in a single season.
6. C. C. Sabathia, NYY – Sabathia may be the most overweight pitcher in the league at 290 pounds, but the fire-baller knows how to throw a baseball. He had his best year with the Bronx Bombers in 2011, by posting a 3.00 ERA and 230 strikeouts. Sabathia has by far the best run support in the majors and the Yankees will always give a pitcher an extra couple wins per year by simply outscoring the opposition. Sabathia is primed for a career season in New York, and is being severely overlooked in some leagues.
7. Felix Hernandez, SEA – “King Felix” is the best pitcher in the game to never get run support. Hernandez had a sparkling ERA under 3.5, but the Venezuelan’s lack of run support only helped him to a 14-14 record last year. Other than his record, Hernandez has all the tools to be a fantasy ace. The 25-year old constantly reaches 200 innings and will always be in the top ten in strikeouts. At 6’3″ 230 pounds, Hernandez is very intimidating on top of the mound and is always in contention to win the AL CY.
8. Jered Weaver, LAA – Weaver posted a sensational 2.41 ERA in 2011 as he really established himself as an elite pitcher in the game. The west-coast native dominates the outside of the strike-zone and has no qualms about brushing back hitters in the box. Weaver does not get the attention of the Sabathia’s or Lincecum’s, but he still is a top ten fantasy option on the rubber.
9. Dan Haren, LAA – Haren along with Weaver will see a drastic change in their average run support with the addition of the league’s best hitter, Albert Pujols. Haren is an outstanding ground ball pitcher who relies heavily on his low-outside fastballs. He will throw over 200 innings again in 2012, but more importantly will again be among the league leaders in ERA and WHIP.
10. Cole Hamels, PHI – Hamels would be the ace of any other rotation, but unfortunately he happens to sit behind two first ballot hall of famers, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Hamels has a great breaking pitch to mix in with his fastball and the 28-year old has 1,091 strikeouts in just over 1,161 career innings. He will be a great number two fantasy pitcher who will put up number one numbers.
2012 MVP: Justin Verlander, DET
2012 Rookie to Watch: Matt Moore, TB
2012 Breakout Pitcher: Henderson Alvarez, TOR
2012 Bust: Zach Greinke, MIL
Best Source of Innings Pitched: Justin Verlander, DET
Best Source of Wins: C.C. Sabathia, NYY
Best Source of Strikeouts: Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Best Source of ERA: Jered Weaver, LAA
Best Source of Complete Games: James Shields, TB