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Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL TOP 20 STARTING PITCHERS

We move on from the outfielders to the extremely deep starting pitching fraternity for 2014 fantasy baseball.  In this era of the pitcher, this group is by far the deepest in the game and it makes drafting your first starter earlier than the fifth round foolish.  In fact you can are that every one of the top 20 and maybe even deeper are staff aces. 

1.  Clayton Kershaw:  Hip was no problem last season which was only worry.  Scary what Kershaw has already accomplished.  Could go down as one of the best ever if he stays healthy.
2.  Max Scherzer:  Remember it was me who screamed to the rafters to draft Scherzer last season and he goes and wins the Cy Young.  He has finally arrived as a monster strikeout ace.  Just a tad worried about violent delivery.
3.  Adam Wainwright:  Always loved Wainwright.  Came all the way back from Tommy John surgery last season in putting together best season.  Striking out 219 batters so his stuff is as potent as ever.
4.  Felix Hernandez:  The safest and most durable top ten pitching investment.  You can write in stone 220 K's with a low 3.00 ERA and around a 1.11. 
5.  Yu Darvish:  Striking out guys at a rate we haven't seen since Randy Johnson.  Body holding up just fine to rigors of MLB season and is getting even better which is scary.
6.  David Price:  No matter where Price ends up, he is a pure ace in his prime.
7.  Stephen Strasburg:  K rate dropped a bit and Strasburg had yet another DL stint but his stuff as good as anyone's in the game.  Still he is a sizable injury risk who I am leery of drafting.
8.  Jose Fernandez:  What this kid did as a 20-year-old rookie in pitching to a 2.19 ERA and 0.98 with 187 K's in 172.2 innings was as good a debut as I have seen in my lifetime.  I will honestly say I think Fernandez has the best and most fluid stuff in all of baseball already.  Go hard on this.
9.  Cliff Lee:  The lefty continues to churn out outstanding seasons as he reaches his upper 30's.  Gets most of his K's on deception and movement and not his fastball so Lee can hold onto his numbers for another season or two. 
10. Madison Bumgarner:  Along with Scherzer, I told you to go just as hard after Bumgarner.  This is why I won both of the Experts Leagues by a landslide.  Price no longer enticing as the rest of the fantasy baseball community has come to realize how incredible talented the guy is. 
11. Chris Sale:  Showed no signs of his past elbow trouble or a bounce off a 2012 Verducci Rules violation.  Big time strikeout guy who is as good as any pitcher but again history of elbow trouble is a bit of a red flag.
12. Cole Hamels:  Told you to all to buy low on Hamels after he "struggled" the first half of last season.  That was due to poor BABIP luck which fixed itself in the second half as Hamels pitched like an ace again.  Very safe investment who will come cheaper than he should.
13. Justin Verlander:  The former number 1 overall pitcher drops more than a little off 2013's disturbing season.  The strikeouts were still very good but the hit rate shot up and the walks as well.  I have said before the last three seasons that Verlander's heavy workloads will eventually take a toll.  This season will determine if he is going the C.C. Sabbathia route.
14. Zack Greinke:  Started slowly but yours truly's favorite ace was nearly unhittable in the second half.  Remains in a major pitcher's park and the K's have every right to shoot back up over 200.
15. James Shields:  Got no run support in K.C. but Shields is as durable as they come and is a major strikeout weapon.
16. Gio Gonzalez:  Was cleared in the Biogenesis mess and had another good season but not like 2012.  Walks rear their ugly head once in awhile but Gonzalez is a rock solid SP 2.
17. Mat Latos:  Career-year for Latos last season after he finally figured out how to pitch in April.  Numbers very consistent and he makes for great SP 2.
18. Jordan Zimmerman:  If you want an ERA/WHIP asset, this is your guy as Zimmerman's ratios are as good as any starter's the last three seasons.  Just don't look for more than 160 K's.
19. Matt Cain:  Homers were a huge problem for Cain which blew up his ERA.  However the rest of his rate stats were right in line so if he gets that under control than Cain will be back to his usal ace-self.
20. Homer Bailey:  Has firmly established himself as a 200-K ace after years of figuring out how to pitch.  Great value starter this season.
21. Anibal Sanchez:  I bet you didn't know this guy led the American League in ERA with a 2.57 mark.  Once an injury-marred mess with the Marlins, Sanchez has graduated into a solid low end SP 1.  The injury worry is always there and you would rather he be in the National League but the numbers speak volumes.
22. Shelby Miller:  Lost in the Jose Fernandez-Matt Harvey hype was the terrific rookie season put up by this power dynamo.  Anyone who throws up a 3.06 ERA as a rookie has our attention and the Cardinals' excellent development of starters lessens worry of a sophomore slump.
23. Gerrit Cole:  I will do everything I can to make sure Cole is on every one of my teams.  Ask anyone and they will tell you Cole has dominance written all over him with his 100-mph fastball and terrific secondary stuff.  Comparisons to Justin Verlander are all I need to hear.
24. Michael Wacha:  The theme in the rankings here are guys who are the top young pitchers in the game who all point to future ace-status.  Wacha was a monster in the heat of a playoff run and than into the postseason.  Top notch stuff here as well like his rotation mate Miller and Cole. 
25.  Mike Minor:  This was one sleeper who came through big for me last season.  Minor had all the signs going into 2013 that he would be upper level such as a tiny walk rate, low hit rate, and solid strikeout stuff.  Just a home run tendency is all that levels him on occasion.
26. Alex Cobb:  Cobb was on his way towards becoming an ace-like pitcher last season until he took a comebacker off his head that gave him a concussion.  The strikeout rate was better than I thought it would and like in St. Louis, Tampa Bay pitchers come out firing on all cylinders. Great potential value here as Cobb's missed games last season will keep his price lower.
27. Tony Cingrani:  Like with Cole, I am going all-in on this lefty too.  Cingrani has big time strikeout stuff like the rest of his young brethren and all that is keeping his ranking from getting out of control is the fact Dusty Baker stubbornly kept him in the minors longer than he needed to be.
28. Hisashi Iwakuma:  I have spoken more than a few times about how Iwakuma's 3.16 ERA last season was helped quite a bit by a lucky BABIP and strand rate.  Up the ERA to around 3.40 and the rest is repeatable. 
29. Francisco Liriano:  Following in A.J. Burnett's footsteps, Liriano turned into an ace after coming over from the American League.  With the Pirates picking up his option, Liriano is set to reprise his 2013 run.  With the fantasy baseball community always leery of his inconsistency, Liriano should be nicely priced.
30. A.J. Burnett:  Still not signed but expect Burnett back with the Pirates soon enough.  Unbelievably had his best K rate ever at 36 last season so there is no way Burnett is retiring.
31. Julio Teheran:  Like with Homer Bailey, it took some time for Teheran to find his way at the MLB level.  His explosive stuff showed up in force however for the Atlanta Braves and more of the same is on tap for 2014.
32. Chris Tillman:  Came back from fantasy baseball purgatory by throwing up a 3.42 second-half ERA last season and won 16 overall.  We hate the AL East but Tillman was a buzzy prospect when he was coming up the farm ladder so the pedigree was always there.
33. Matt Moore:  The ride can be wild at times as Moore seems to get into one giant funk a season but overall this strikeout machine has more upside to tap into.
34. Jered Weaver:  Weaver pitched well when he came off the DL last season but you must keep in mind this is a vastly different pitcher than his 220-K days a few years earlier.  The fastball has lost ticks that show no signs of coming back so Weaver now gets by on deception and movement.  No longer an ace and is actually more of an SP 3 now.
35. Zack Wheeler:  Love the potential here as Wheeler has the 98-mph fastball and rocket stuff to pile up the K's.  Reminds me of Moore though in that Wheeler has control issues which need to be ironed out.
36. Johnny Cueto:  Can't seem to stay healthy the last two seasons but the story is the same here,  Cueto has a decent enough K rate and terrific ratios when on the mound.  Price getting very affordable.
37. Kris Medlen:  Medlen came back down to earth last season as his K rate sank and his WHIP shot way up given the rigors of having to pitch a whole season.  Price Medlen on what he did last season and not in 2013 and you will be fine.
38. Chris Archer:  Yet another Tampa Bay starter who come up firing missiles.  Archer only has to smooth out a very high home run rate to make a Cobb-like 2013 run. 
39. Jeff Samardzjia:  Was a popular sleeper in 2013 who was solid the first half but than crashed and burned in the second half.  Strikeouts are always above-average but Samardzjia's mechanics were an absolute mess at times last season.
40. Yovani Gallardo:  Been telling you for years to avoid this overrated mess and Gallardo outdid himself in 2013 by losing a bunch of K's and continuing with his high-WHIP and ugly control ways.
41. Clay Buchholz:  In 16 starts Buchholz was unhittable in posting a 1.72 ERA while showing an uptick in his K rate.  However Buchholz is developing the label of bring injury-prone and he did benefit from a lucky BABIP last season while the K rate was in outlier territory.  Lots of regression could be on the way this season.
42. Sonny Gray:  This might seem high but this is a hedge bet on my part in projecting Gray to continue the eye-opening run of starts he made the second half of last season.  Gray was a former first round pick so he had the pedigree to back up the results when he struck out more than a hitter per inning. 
43. Hyun-Jin Ryu:  Ryu was a terrific value play in his first MLB season after coming over with little fanfare from Japan.  Good control pitcher with solid enough K rate to stay a SP 3.
44. Matt Garza:  Love the arm but not the health.  Garza needs to stay in the NL to keep his optimum value as he has struck out a batter per inning there.
45. Justin Masterson:  It has taken me awhile to come around on this guy but there is no question Masterson tuned it up last season in vastly increasing his K rare to strike out 195 in 193 innings.  Love that ratio.
46. Lance Lynn:  Two seasons in a row now Lynn has been a first half stud and a second half dud.  The new Dan Haren of the late year fade.
47. Tajuan Walker:  This kid is going to be something else.  Universally considered to be the top pitching prospect in the minors, Walker will begin 2014 in the rotation where he will show us what all the fuss is about. 
48. Patrick Corbin:  Had a lot of BABIP help early on but Corbin fought off the regression by increasing his K rate as the season went on. 
49. Derek Holland:  Has to deal with his awful home ballpark but Holland continues his upward trajectory as he moves into the region of SP 3's.
50. Tim Lincecum:  Among the toughest pitchers to grade out.  Was the worst pitcher in baseball when you factor in expectations in 2012 and started off 2013 on that same path before putting finishing strong.  The strikeout ratio is around 1 per inning which is a drop from his CY Young days but still very good.  As long as you project him as an SP 3 than you will be all right.
51. Ubaldo Jimenez:  Turned his career around after it looked like his arm had lost its power.  Upped the K rate to his old levels in 2013 and the 3.30 ERA was nice.
52. Jake Peavy:  Remains in the AL with the Red Sox so once again Peavy's home ballpark is an issue since he gives up home runs.  Health never optimal either.
53. C.J. Wilson:  Wilson is underrated as he never misses a start and strikes out a nice load of batters.  However a rough walk rate shoots up the WHIP some seasons. 
54. Hiroki Kuroda:  Use him until August and than sell high or bench him as Kuroda clearly tired after a tremendous first four months last season.
55. Doug Fister:  Making his move to the National League into a major pitcher's park boost the already solid Fister.  Just don't expect much more than 150 K's.
56. Jon Lester:  Nice comeback season by Lester who was never as bad as his 2012 numbers.  However the K rate from his 2010 days is never coming back. 
57. C.C. Sabbathia:  Could rebound like Lester did as Sabbathia can't possibly pitch any worse than he did last season.  However his arm is not what it used to be given all the innings he has pitched.
58. R.A. Dickey:  It was obvious that the numbers were going to go up significantly for Dickey in going from New York Mets land to Toronto and their home run ballpark.  SP 3 or 4 is where Dickey should be where he stays at.
59. Jonathan Niese:  Classic SP 4 as Niese has decent ratios but not a great K rate.
60. Marco Estrada:  So much potential here as Estrada strikes out a batter per inning with a great walk rate and nice hit rate.  However Estrada has to keep the baseball in the ballpark to realize his potential this season.
61. Randall Delgado:  Has Braves lineage which is interesting since that system has a great knack for developing pitchers and a live arm.  Could have the breakout this season that Julio Teheran had last season.
62. Josh Johnson:  After swearing off Johnson correctly for the last two seasons, ready to jump back in after he signed with the San Diego Padres.  Johnson upped the K rate last season and now that he is out of the American League, could turn back into an SP 3.
63. Ian Kennedy:  I knew all along his 2011 season was an outlier fluke but Kennedy is also not as bad as his numbers suggest the last two years.  Now goes to San Diego and their giant ballpark.  Very solid rebound candidate who will come cheap.  I am buying.
64. John Lackey:  Finally starting earning his contract with Boston last season in a solid comeback campaign.  Nothing flashy year but Lackey can help as an SP 4.
65. Dillon Gee:  Put up a great 2.74 ERA and 1.08 WHIP the second half of 2013 which was second-best in the game.  Strikeouts are not Gee's things but ratios useful.
66. Travis Wood:  Finally overcame injuries to unleash his always interesting potential.  Like with Gee though, Wood won't help with the K's.
67. Kyle Lohse:  Basically the pitcher's in this grouping have good ratios and poor K rates.  Best used in non-innings capped leagues.
68. Jose Quintana:  Quintana took a small step forward in his development last season in posting a nice 3.51 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.  Hate the ballpark though.
69. Joe Kelly:  Can't ever ignore a Cardinals starting pitcher.  Even one who has a very shaky K rate. 
70. Jarrod Parker:  Had about as bad an April as you can have last season and than rallied to finish with a 3.97 ERA which is saying a lot. 
71. Jacob Turner:  Classic case of a guy whose stuff only works best in a pitcher's park like in Miami.  Only striking out 106 in 160.2 innings a giant negative.
72. Ervin Santana:  This guy's career has been one big roller coaster.  Things pointed up in 2013 with a career-low 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP but Santana's K rate is losing steam and no one trusts him to replicate those ratios.
73. Dan Haren:  Stays in pitcher's park with the Dodgers which is key and even though his overall numbers were ugly last season, Haren put up a 3.52 ERA and 1.01 WHIP the second half as he started to feel healthy again. 
74. Jeremy Guthrie:  Seems to always scratch out decent enough numbers to remain interesting.
75. Ivan Nova:  Has always had the arm but not the head to excel but last season showed positive signs all the way around.  Upside at a very cheap price.
76. Wade Miley:  A younger Kyle Lohse.
77. Hector Santiago:  I am intrigued by the K/IP ratios Santiago has put up since coming into the majors and he now moves to a nice pitcher's park in Los Angeles.
78. Jeff Locke:  First half All Star, second half banishment to minors.  Which Locke will we see in 2014?
79. Bud Norris:  Arm can be impressive at times but Norris' control always seems to ruin his bottom line.
80. Tim Hudson:  One of the most underrated pitchers of his generation, Hudson still generating groundballs and solid ERA's.
81. Jake Westbrook:  The wily veteran still is putting out solid seasons but leave him alone in inning capped formats.
82. A.J. Griffin:  Soft-tosser has had two nice seasons in a row with regards to his ratios.
83. Brandon Morrow:  Steep ball for perennial power tease.  Stuff is diminishing with all his injuries.
84. Andrew Cashner:  I am intrigued again given the San Diego digs and the strikeout stuff. 
85. Bartolo Colon:  No one trusts how Colon is pitching like an SP 2 but in Citi Field he stands a good chance for another solid WHIP and ERA.
86. Miguel Gonzalez:  Nothing to add here that I haven't already said about most guys in this tier. 
87.  Bronson Arroyo:  You know you will get 220 innings here with solid ratios and shaky K rates. 
88. Eric Stults:  The ballpark helps Stults put up results better than what he really is.
89. Jhoulys Chacin:  Was a decent sleeper back in 2012 but Chacin took awhile to reap benefits.  Still can't get excited drafting any pitcher who plays his home games at Coors Field.
90. Corey Kluber:  Reminds me of Dan Straily with the impressive minor league strikeout numbers. 
91. Ricky Nolasco:  Finally useful again last season after years of horrid pitching.  Remains in nice ballpark with the Minnesota Twins.
92. Mike Leake:  Again another guy who is useful in spurts but whose K rate is ugly.
93. Scott Kazmir:  No way I trust Kazmir to stay healthy off a decent comeback season with the Cleveland Indians. 
94. Brandon Beachy:  Don't forger about this guy who in the first two months of 2012 was the best pitcher in baseball.
95. Danny Salazar:  Young kid with some power stuff.  Watch him.
96. Yusmeiro Petit:  Opened some eyes again with a close no-hitter attempt.  Arm is still lively.
97. Alex Wood:  Will be given a shot to build on nice second half performance. Got to always keep tabs on Atlanta Braves pitching.
98. Rick Porcello:  Was a buzzy prospect for years but ultimately the lack of K rate makes Porcello an SP 5 at best.
99. Daniel Duffy:  Always liked this kid who can rack up the K's but the control is horrendous.
100. Mark Buehrle:  Getting old and the stats are slipping.
101. Johan Santana:  Will get a shot from someone and worth monitoring as he pitched well before the latest surgery.
102. Matt Harrison:  Put up two decent seasons from 2011-12 but the bottom fell out in 2013 as injuries and BABIP adjustment showed what Harrison really is.  Which is only an SP 5.
103. Jeremy Hellickson:  Good luck trusting this guy in any one start.  Could get 7 inning of 1 earned run or 8-earned run two inning bomb.
104.  Brett Anderson:  Have been an Anderson apologist for years but no more now that he calls Colorado home and can't stay in one piece.
105. Felix Doubront:  Runs hot and cold but Doubront held his own as an SP 5 in a tough division.
106. Ryan Dempster:  Horrid season in 2013 could portend more bad to come as Dempster ages.  Should have stayed in the NL.
107. Scott Feldman:  Another guy who had the chance to stay in the NL but didn't which pretty ruins his middling value.
108. Josh Beckett:  Could be ready for April but Beckett's body started betraying him years ago and now his stuff is grossly diminished.
109. Trevor Cahill:  Ratios not the worst in the world but you strike out more guys.
110. Trevor Bauer:  Arm earned lots of hype in the minors but control about as bad as you can get. 
111. Paul Maholm:  Don't even think about it.
112. Phil Hughes:  Taking a flier on Hughes not the worst idea in the world since he now calls Target Field home which minimizes his biggest weakness which is home runs against.
113. Wandy Rodriguez:  Has been a lock SP 5 for years and nothing has changed. 
114. Aaron Harang:  Actually threw pretty well at times the last two seasons but fact he doesn't have job as of this writing shows there is not much excitement around the guy at this stage of his career.
115. Wily Peralta:  Started generating some excitement as he put some big time K games together last season but the overall results were still ugly. 
116. Jaime Garcia:  No thank you.  Even if he pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals.
117. Martin Perez:  Another guy you could take a flier on but the ballpark seriously limits the upside.
118. Tommy Milone:  Like with San Diego pitchers, an Oakland pitcher like Milone's numbers look better than he really is.
119. Jason Vargas:  Useful when he pitches at home only.
120. Nathan Eovaldi:  If soft-tossers who won't destroy your ERA and WHIP are concerned, than this guy is for you.

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