1. Clayton Kershaw: Simply the best with no debate. The only question is whether you want to spend a first round pick on a starting pitcher.
2. Max Scherzer: Believe it or not, Scherzer is not that far behind Kershaw as he is more durable and has the same type of massive strikeout stuff.
3. Madison Bumgaerner: One day Bumgarner’s arm is going to fall off after all of these very high inning yearly totals but not yet. Punched out a career-best 251 batters last season.
4. Corey Kluber: Already has a Cy Young and was worthy of a second one last season. Rock solid and dependable ace.
5. Noah Syndegaard: There is always the worry that Syndegaard’s elbow will explode on any one pitch given the fact he throws harder on average than any pitcher in the game but on stuff alone this guy is a monster.
6. Stephen Strasburg: Same story as always: wonderful and dominant power pitcher but also as big an injury risk as you can get. We suggest you avoid him based on the latter.
7. Johnny Cueto: The numbers don’t lie here as Cueto consistently puts up miniscule ERA’s and WHIP’s but with a K rate that falls slightly below the aces listed above him.
8. Chris Sale: Has proved more durable the last few years and you can count on one hand pitchers who have such unhittable stuff. Keep in mind though Sale goes into the offensive haven that is the AL East and into the launching pad that is Fenway Park. Also Sale’s K/9 rate declined sharply last season as he admitted pitching more to contact.
9. Jake Arrieta: We told you to avoid Arrieta going into last season and that proved good advice as his ERA went from 1.77 to 3.10 and Arrieta lost his control in posting a gross 3.47 BB/9. There is legitimate concern that Arrieta is a major injury waiting to happen given his very high inning totals the last few seasons.
10. David Price: We like Price more than others given his massive strikeout totals but his 3.99 ERA left a lot to be desired last season. Be aware though that Price suffered some rough BABIP luck last season and has done very well in the AL East before.
11. Justin Verlander: Came back with a vengeance last season when us and many others wrote him of. Kudos to Verlander but we still get the feeling his arm is going to bounce soon after so many innings.
12. Jacob DeGrom: It was a frustrating year for DeGrom last season as he had an ulnar nerve repaired in his elbow but his 3.04 ERA and K/IP still show ace ability. He should be 100 percent for spring training and the slightly decreased draft cost will make DeGrom so much more of a bargain.
13. Jon Lester: There have been a ton of innings on Lester’s arm as well the last few seasons but he is holding up well coming off a career-best 2.44 ERA campaign. Keep in mind that Lester got a decent amount of BABIP luck last season and his adjusted ERA was a full run higher. Draft him as a 3.30 ERA guy.
14. Yu Darvish: Darvish came back from Tommy John surgery and immediately began striking everyone out like he did before. While his walks are always very annoying, Darvish looks ready to reclaim his fantasy baseball ace status.
15. Chris Archer: Go get him. Archer is a strikeout machine whose 4.02 ERA might scare some people. Don’t let that fool you as Archer had some poor BABIP luck and the 233 strikeouts and youth at the age of 28 show how potent he can be.
16. Carlos Carrasco: Few in the industry were more bullish on this guy than I was and for good reason. Now that he has gotten some previous control woes out of the way, Carrasco’s 200-plus strikeout ability puts him on the doorstep of ace status if he can figure out how to stay healthy which was his biggest challenge a year ago.
17. Carlos Martinez: You always have to worry about the shoulder as Martinez has had yearly problem with the joint but the numbers (3.01 and 3.04 ERA’s the last two years) are beyond impressive.
18. Kyle Hendricks: Already have talked at length about how Hendricks will be drafted too high this season as his 2016 was not as good as the surface numbers indicate. Hendricks got a great deal of BABIP luck last season and his K/9 rate was just slightly above average. More of a 3.20 ERA guy which is where you should have Hendricks penciled in when it comes to his draft spot.
19. Cole Hamels: Still pitched like an ace despite moving into an offensive haven that is Texas last season but keep in mind Hamels’ 3.45 BB/9 was a career-worst performance there.
20. Danny Duffy: Like with Carlos Carrasco, a curbed walk rate has allowed Duffy’s potent strikeout stuff to get launched. Get on board.