5 Players Who Will Lead the MLB in Strikeouts in 2014

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5 Pitchers Who Will Lead MLB in Strikeouts in 2014

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB season is only weeks away. It’s a new year for managers, batters and pitchers to try and achieve their ultimate goal: Win a World Series. However, in order for that to happen, the teams must have a dominant pitching staff in all facets.

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals last season. It was not only because David Ortiz was hitting the ball out of his mind, but it was also thanks to the clutch pitching of John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Jon Lester and their bullpen. It allowed them to overcome the Cardinals' attack. Most MLB fans appreciate when a pitcher can throw their fastball at triple digits, but that is not what the whole work of art is about.

Stepping on the rubber of the mound and being able to throw the ball and locate it from 60 feet into the catchers’ mitt is amazing. It is a skill that only a few are born with and possess. Whether it is the nasty curveball of Justin Verlander or the sinker that drops off the map of Justin Masterson, if the pitch is not located correctly, it's becoming a souvenir.

Strikeouts are possibly the hardest thing to get, next to a home run. However some pitchers do it with ease and move on to mowing down the next batter. These guys are a true rarity in the game today. Here are five pitchers who will lead MLB in strikeouts this year.

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5. Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Masterson has one of the best sinkers in the business. His weird windup makes it tough for hitters to find the ball along with his dominating 6-foot-6 presence. He sometimes throws the sinker too much and it gets him in trouble, but when he can spot it, it's hard to get a read on where it will land. Ubaldo Jimenez is now gone which makes him the “ace” of the team.

Masterson must take control of the staff and prove he is worthy of a big contract extension. He had a career high of 195 strikeouts last year and went 14-10 with an ERA of 3.45 in 32 games.

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4. Felix Hernandez

Felix Hernandez
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Felix Hernandez always seems like he is throwing gas to batters and striking them out. With one of the nastiest fastballs and sliders in the majors, Hernandez is always tops in strikeouts. Batters always get confused of where the ball is coming from due to how high his windup is.

He pitches like a Cy Young candidate every year but just never gets the run support. That will certainly change this year with the numerous trades made in the offseason. He managed 216 strikeouts last season and went 12-10 with an ERA of 3.04 in 31 games.

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3. Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Justin Verlander was the second best pitcher on the Detroit Tigers last season. The ace was Max Scherzer. Verlander didn’t have the worst season statistically, but performance wise, it wasn’t good. He has one of the best curveballs in baseball, but it was very hittable last year.

He also didn’t have his usual velocity boost in later innings as he has during his career. However, he still managed to get 217 strikeouts, which was seventh among all MLB pitchers. Verlander went under core muscle surgery last month. It could either hinder him even more or bring him back to one of the best pitchers in baseball. He went 13-12 with an ERA of 3.46 in 34 games last season.

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2. Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in MLB, and he certainly got paid like it, signing a sever-year, $215 million contract during the offseason. The two-time Cy Young award winner is now the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball. With one of the best slurves in the business, Kershaw is always a threat to have a no-hitter or perfect game. You’re probably wondering why he is at No. 2 than at No. 1. He is more of a finesse pitcher, who spots his pitches greatly, than a flame thrower as Jose Fernandez is. Kershaw had 232 strikeouts, which is second best to his career high of 248 in 2011. He went 16-9 with an ERA of only 1.83 in 33 starts. That is phenomenal.

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1. Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Fernandez was one of the biggest surprises in baseball next to Michael Wacha, Danny Salazar and Matt Harvey. His fastball and slider are already among the best in the league, and he is only 21 years old. He effortlessly threw the ball at 100 mph and would have hitters’ knees buckling with his slider. The National League Rookie of the Year had 187 total strikeouts and will certainly increase those numbers coming into this year. However, he must not go into the dreaded sophomore slump and must continue the hot streak. Fernandez was 12-6 with an ERA of 2.19 in 28 starts.