David Price

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.

Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli admires his seventh-inning homerun off Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price. The Rangers are a win away from going to its second straight ALCS.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG — Back on the road in the playoffs, the Texas Rangers won again.

Colby Lewis outpitched All-Star David Price, Mike Napoli hit a go-ahead two-run homer and the defending AL champions survived a shaky night from the bullpen to hold off the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 Monday night in Game 3 of their postseason series.

The Rangers’ fourth straight division series road win matches the third-longest streak in major league history and gives Texas a 2-1 lead heading into Game 4 Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Texas won three ALDS games here a year ago, when it eliminated Tampa Bay in five games.

Rookie Desmond Jennings hit a pair of solo homers for the Rays, who kept it interesting by scoring twice off Rangers relievers before Neftali Feliz got four outs for his second save of the series.

Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, playing deep and guarding the line to prevent a double in the ninth, started an around-the-horn double play on Kelly Shoppach’s grounder to end it.

Price was the losing pitcher in two of Tampa Bay’s playoff losses in 2010 and welcomed the opportunity to try to redeem himself against the only AL opponent he’s yet to beat in his career.

The left-hander shrugged off a poor outing in his last regular season start to take a 1-0 lead into the seventh, thanks to Desmond Jennings’ fourth-inning homer off Lewis.

Beltre singled leading off the seventh against Price and took second a wild pitch. A crowd of 32,828 — the first sellout at Tropicana Field since opening day — fell silent when Napoli lifted a 2-2 pitch into the seats in left-center for a 2-1 advantage. Josh Hamilton extended the lead with a two-run single off reliever J.P. Howell.

As good as Price was early, Lewis was better in limiting the Rays to one hit over six innings. Jennings’ first homer was the only hit off the right-hander, who had worked 16 consecutive scoreless innings against the Rays up to that point — a stretch that began with a five-inning stint in last year’s ALDS and continued with an eight-inning performance to beat Price and the Rays on June 1.

But the Rangers bullpen nearly let a three-run lead slip away.

Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman singled to load the bases against reliever Darren Oliver in the seventh. Damon scored when pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez grounded out, and the Rangers escaped further damage when the second pitcher of the inning, Alexi Ogando, induced pinch-hitter Sam Fuld to hit a roller to second base.

The Rays weren’t finished. Jennings led off eighth with his second homer, trimming Texas’ lead to 4-3. Mike Adams walked B.J. Upton, who was caught stealing, and then walked Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce to get himself into trouble again.

The Rangers wiggled off the hook when Michael Gonzales struck out Damon. Feliz came on to fan Zobrist with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

Price lost at home to Cliff Lee and the Rangers twice in last year’s ALDS and was coming off a disappointing outing against the Yankees in which he allowed six runs in four innings of a game that the Rays needed to win to ensure they stayed alive for the wild-card berth on the final night.

Tampa Bay rallied from a seven-run deficit to grab the playoff spot on Longoria’s homer, but that didn’t stop questions about whether the Rays could count on him in a big game.

The 26-year-old lefty was 0-5 with a 5.40 ERA in eight career starts against Texas before Monday, yet insisted he didn’t lack confidence to get the job done in Game 3.

The Rangers had chances against him early, stranding runners in scoring position in the first, second and sixth innings. Michael Young lined to first baseman Kotchman, who made a diving catch to end the first. Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland grounded out after Napoli singled and stole second base in the second. Price escaped the sixth by retiring Hamilton and Young on groundballs.

With Lewis pitching, Rays manager Joe Maddon tinkered with the bottom of his batting order, stacking six consecutive left-handers behind righty-hitting Jennings, Upton and Longoria, who went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against the Rangers starter — once with Upton in scoring position after walking and stealing second in the fourth.