Clayton Kershaw

With the hitters out of the way, lets take a look at starting pitchers.

Which starter should go off the board first?

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – Not only did Kershaw post a 1.83 earned run average and go 16-9 with a National League-leading 232 strikeouts last season, but he has been of the most impressive pitchers in the MLB over the last three seasons. Kershaw has averaged 17 wins over that span and could win 20 this season as the Dodgers are a World Series contender.

Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?

CC Sabathia (NYY) – The Yankees ace had a terrible year last year as he finished just 14-13 with an unusually high 4.78 ERA. Early on in 2013, we all thought he would pick it up eventually, but he never did. Cue 2014. Sabathia has apparently lost weight and is feeling better than ever. I expect him to be the pitcher the Yankees and fantasy owners need him to be.

Don’t sleep on this guy

Ubaldo Jiménez (BAL) – After the All-Star break last year, Jiménez posted a 1.82 ERA while going 6-5. He also posted a 2.82 ERA over his last 28 starts last season. He finished the season with 194 strikeouts and has now earned a new contract with a capable Baltimore Orioles club. Currently, he is ranked in the 60-70 range among most fantasy pitcher big boards, but I could see him finishing in the top 40.

Bound to bust

Gerrit Cole (PIT) – He is up and coming, but I jdon’t think he is quite the fantasy stud the rankings out there say he is. Maybe in 2015, but as far as this season goes, there is no way he should be picked ahead of guys like Zack Greinke, David Price or Gio Gonzalez. I’ve seen him ahead of those guys on some rankings and can’t help but scratch my head. He may have a decent season, but he will not live up to such lofty expectations.

My Pre-Rankings: Starters

  1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
  2. Adam Wainwright (STL)
  3. Yu Darvish (TEX)
  4. Stephen Strasburg (WSH)
  5. Felix Hernandez (SEA)
  6. Jose Fernandez (MIA)
  7. Max Scherzer (DET)
  8. Justin Verlander (DET)
  9. Madison Bumgarner (SF)
  10. Clif Lee (PHI)
  11. Zack Greinke (LAD)
  12. David Price (TB)
  13. Chris Sale (CWS)
  14. Mat Latos (CIN)
  15. Gio Gonzalez (WSH)
  16. Cole Hamels (PHI)
  17. Matt Cain (SF)
  18. Anibal Sanchez (DET)
  19. Julio Teheran (ATL)
  20. Gerrit Cole (PIT)
  21. Jordan Zimmerman (WSH)
  22. Michael Wacha (STL)
  23. Alex Cobb (TB)
  24. Matt Moore (TB)
  25. Mike Minor (ATL
  26. James Shields (KC)
  27. Jon Lester (BOS)
  28. CC Sabathia (NYY)
  29. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)
  30. Homer Bailey (CIN)

I’ll leave you with this...

This is the deepest position in fantasy baseball, but don’t wait too long. A lot of people tend to focus on hitters before pitchers, but pitchers are just as important. If I’m drafting, I want to get at least one elite pitcher (in the top 12), but I would like to get two of those guys. Just like in real baseball, pitchers can win you a championship.

Recently, Adam has given his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper/breakout, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.

Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander among top fantasy starting pitchers for 2013

Many avid fantasy baseball managers stress the importance of loading up fantasy rosters with big hitters in the early rounds of the draft, but in my opinion, many of them overlook the value of snagging a few starting pitchers in the early rounds. Don’t get me wrong, you should by all means build your team around a few hitters that you know will consistently produce for you all year long, but having a few top-notch pitchers can really carry a team throughout the season and especially down the stretch when many of your sluggers might be battling fatigue and injury. Here are my top three fantasy starting pitchers:

 1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 Some might be surprised to see Kershaw at the top of the list, but after posting 14 wins last year on a Dodgers team that struggled to consistently score runs, if he stays healthy he can easily record anywhere from 17 to 20 wins. Last season Kershaw recorded 229 strikeouts and led the MLB in ERA. Fantasy owners can expect him to continue to improve on these numbers as he heads into his sixth season in the majors. One thing to consider before drafting Kershaw is that he was bothered by a hip injury last September, but honestly this should not scare anyone out of drafting him in the early rounds as he is only 25 years old and is typically not injury-prone.

 2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

Verlander is more than just a talented starting pitcher; he is durable and consistent. These are two qualities that fantasy owners always want to hear associated with their top draft picks and Verlander embodies both of them. Since 2006 he has started 30 or more games in each season and in that same span he is averaging right around 17 wins and 220 innings pitched per season. All that together is the definition of consistency. He is also coming off a two-year period in which he won the American League Cy Young Award (2011) and then finished second in voting (2012). Overall Verlander is a great pickup because you can count on him to produce consistently and you can be sure that he will have plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers.

3. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

I know it may seem odd that I am actively endorsing Strasburg as the third starter off the draft board after his last season was cut short by Nationals management in early September, but last year when he pitched he was as productive as any fantasy pitcher in the league. In just 28 starts last season, he recorded 15 wins, 205 strikeouts and 159.1 innings pitched, not to mention a pretty solid ERA of 3.16. If Strasburg is able to pitch for an entire season, fantasy owners should definitely expect these numbers to improve. Another thing to consider is that after being cut off in the middle of a hotly contested playoff race last season, Strasburg will most likely start this season with a chip on his shoulder and be ready to prove to everyone that he is durable enough to pitch for an entire season.

Some avid fantasy players may wonder why Felix Hernandez didn’t make the cut for this list and the main reason for that is the worry that the Mariners will not be able to provide enough run support for him to post the kind of numbers he is capable of. Last season Hernandez started 33 games and posted an ERA of 3.06 but because of a lack of run support, he only ended up with 13 wins the entire season. Moreover, fantasy owners must be careful when drafting starting pitchers in early rounds and must be aware of each starter’s particular situation. But after all factors have been considered, drafting a pitcher in an early round can actually end up being very beneficial for fantasy owners. 

King Felix retains humility despite signing mammoth deal, contract shows sign of the times

February 13, 2013, will forever be enshrined in history as the day that King Felix finally took his place atop baseball’s pitching throne.

When Felix Hernandez put pen to paper Wednesday, he made history by becoming the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history by agreeing to a seven-year, $175 million extension with the Seattle Mariners. But this deal was much more than a rich man getting richer.

However outrageous the number might seem, this deal rewarded a humble, hard-working man who’s one of the greatest athletes the city of Seattle has ever seen. His humility was on full display when tears streamed down his face after witnessing the celebration the Mariners threw for him. Emotionally overcome, Hernandez merely uttered, “Wow,” and proceeded to hold his head in his hands. For not only was the Mariners organization celebrating a great player’s decision to re-sign with it, but also the decision to remain loyal to his team. His team has finished last in the AL West for the past three seasons, but it is also the team that gave him opportunity.

"I'm doing this because I love Seattle," King Felix stated. "This has been my life. This has been my family."

In sports today, that combination of talent, humility, and loyalty is hard to come by and should not go unnoticed.

The ironic, almost alarming, part of this deal is that had Hernandez waited two more years for his previous contract to expire, he would have set himself up perfectly to watch MLB front offices fight to pay him over $200 million for his services. Now, Hernandez has most likely set up Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game, to sign a deal worth over $200 million as his current, two-year, $19.5 million contract with the Dodgers expires after this season. Also ironic is the fact that Kershaw is very quiet and humble in his own right, so after next season, the two highest-paid pitchers in the history of the league could also be two of the most humble the league has ever seen.

Some could ask the Mariners to justify spending such a lavish amount of money on one player, especially during such a critical economic time period. In my opinion, sports contracts, especially
baseball deals, began to get out of control in 1999 when Kevin Brown signed his seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers. But, not even 15 years later, that price has more than doubled with Alex Rodriguez’s $252 and $275 million respective Ranger and Yankee deals. With Kershaw set to sign a deal that will most likely eclipse $200 million next season, instances of athletes signing eye-popping deals will soon develop into the norm. So, where does this rapid inflation stop?