Pitching. When do you draft it? Should you wait? Is it at a premium? Is it so deep that it doesn’t matter when you start? Starting pitching starts more debates in the fantasy community than any other position. Pitchers are more injury prone than hitters, and they also seem to be more prone to larger changes in their stats from year to year. However, pitching still consists of half of the categories in most rotisserie leagues, and their points are generally similar in points leagues as well so you can’t ignore this group of players. I like to have two to three guys that I know I can absolutely count on, and then try to work the roster from there. I could easily go much further on the rankings, but at least below is the top fifty starters in fantasy.
Are you preparing for your draft? Have you already drafted? Need trade advice? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer you within 18 hours. Also, you can follow me on Twitter @fightingchance for updates, news, and maybe a laugh or two……but no promises on the last one.
1. Steven Strasburg, Washington Nationals
15-6, 3.16 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 197 Ks (28 starts)
The big uproar last year was whether or not the Nationals would shut this guy down as it seemed they had the inside track to the World Series if they did. Well, to the chagrin of his fantasy owners they did just that and shut him down in September. Strasburg was pretty awesome while he was active and had nearly 200 strikeouts in just 159 innings. Fast forward to 2013 and a new season is about to start. A season without questions of whether he will pitch all year or not. I understood Washington’s concern of having him go from 44 innings in 2011 up to 200 in 2012 considering he just had Tommy John Surgery. But a guy going from 159 innings even up to 220 shouldn’t be an issue. He is one of the more dominant pitchers in all of baseball and still very young. I know that Verlander and Kershaw have dominated fantasy baseball the past couple seasons, but I think this is the year that Strasburg is the number one guy.
2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
17-8, 2.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 239 Ks (33 starts)
It’s pretty tough to put this guy at number two considering all he has done for the last four years. His 17 wins last year were his fewest over that time span, he has struck out between 219 and a whopping 260 hitters every season, and his ERA has never gotten to 3.50. If you had to have any concern with him (and this is nit picking) is that he is 30 years old and has pitched at least 200 innings in the regular season alone for the past six years. There could be some wear and tear and a slight injury concern, but again that is me stretching to try to come up with something negative to say. Verlander is dominant. Nasty. Unhittable at times, and easily should be either the first or second pitcher selected this year on draft day. He’s going to go early, but if you don’t have a hitter you really like in the early rounds, grab this guy.
3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
14-9, 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 229 Ks (33 starts)
His wins took a pretty decent step back, but Kershaw led the National League in ERA for the second consecutive season, and his strikeouts remained well over 200 for the third straight season. He will turn 25 right before the season starts, which begs the question “can he get even better?” Kershaw is just entering his prime and while I don’t know how much better he can get, he still should remain one of the best. I couldn’t fault you for taking him as the first pitcher of the draft, but I still do think there are a couple better options. Although with all of the money spent and acquisitions the Dodgers have made, it makes total sense that Kershaw could win twenty games again. He’s something special.
4. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
20-5, 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 205 Ks (31 starts)
We overhype so many players these days that it’s nice to see when a guy actually lives up to all of the craziness that surrounds him as a young player. Price was supposed to be the next big thing in 2007, and you know what? He is! The 2012 Cy Young Award winner was impressive in every way last year, and he has been absolutely awesome in his three full seasons, even though he had a losing record in 2011. He is smack dab in the middle of his prime, and I see no reason that this guy won’t win at least 16 games and strikeout 200 batters again with a sub-3.00 ERA. He didn’t get a lot of love during drafts last season, but I bet that won’t be the case in 2013. If you want him, you better act fairly quickly.
5. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
13-9, 3.06 ERA, 1.14, 223 Ks (33 starts)
For years it seemed like just a matter of time before this guy was a Yankee. They wanted him badly, and you had to figure that Seattle wasn’t going to pay him. Well to everyone’s surprise the Mariners opened their pocketbook to the tune of $175 million for King Felix and whether it is a good thing or not, he is going to be in Seattle for a long time. He has been stuck at the 13-14 win plateau for the past three seasons, but Felix always helps you in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts even if he isn’t the league leader in wins. I think that the Mariners will be a little better this year and he should get 15-16 wins for you. There’s no doubt that he will again be one of the best, and you can count on Felix to lead your fantasy pitching staff.
6. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
20-5, 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 142 Ks (30 starts)
Weaver won twenty games for the first time in his career in 2012, and his ERA was under 3.00 for the second consecutive year (and in 2010 it was 3.01). He doesn’t walk a lot of batters and with Josh Hamilton now in the mix, their offense should be even better. The only thing that is weird about Weaver is that his strikeout totals have been all over the map. The 142 he had last season were his lowest total since 2007. In the last five years his strikeouts were (From 2012 down): 142, 198, 233, 174, and 152. So, what will it be in 2013? I’d say he’s probably good for 175-180, although obviously he probably won’t win 20 games again. He still should be in the 16-18 range though, and should again be one of the better pitchers in baseball. He has been a consistent force for four years and 2013 should make it five.
7. Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
21-8, 2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 207 Ks (32 starts)
The natural progression of a pitcher that goes from the American League to the National League usually gives them better numbers when they go to the National League city. That is what happened with Gio Gonzalez although his stats weren’t significantly better. It certainly goes to show how a terrible team can affect your win-loss total as Gio did jump five wins moving to the Nats. He is 27 years old and should be in his best seasons. His name was linked to performing enhancing drugs last month, but it appears that it was in error. I can see Gonzalez contending for the Cy Young Award again this season and should again be one of the best pitchers in fantasy baseball.
8. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees
15-6, 3.38 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 197 Ks (28 starts)
For some reason Sabathia doesn’t seem to be mentioned with the top, top, top pitchers in fantasy baseball and I’m not sure why. Before last season he had at least 19 wins each season with the Yankees, and he has struck out 197 batters or more for six straight seasons. The only drawback you can say about Sabathia is that he doesn’t have the greatest ERA, in fact it hasn’t been under 3.00 since 2007 when he went from Cleveland to Milwaukee. I still view him as one of the best and although I hate the Yankees, to me he is still someone that you can count on to be the ace of your fantasy pitching staff.
9. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
16-5, 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 193 Ks (32 starts)
For years Cain has been a great pitcher who always let a bad inning ruin an entire start for him and it always kept him from getting a good number of wins. He seemed to grow out of that last year as his win-loss record was spectacular and he continued to keep up the good strikeout rate. For the third time in four years his ERA was under 3.00 and he has struck out more than 175 hitters for the fourth time in five years. Somehow the Giants win a bunch of games and Cain should again win at least 15 games. I think he has crossed the bar to one of the better pitchers in fantasy baseball.
10. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
17-6, 3.05 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 216 Ks (31 starts)
Early in his career he was followed by inconsistency, later on he was overshadowed as the Phillies brought in aces like Halladay and Cliff Lee, well with those two guys showing signs of wear, Hamels appears now to be ready to be the man for Philadelphia. It was probably his finest season as a pro which is nice considering he got the big contract before last year. Hamels has great command of his pitches and is always among the leaders in strikeouts. The Phillies should bounce back in the win department, but even a struggling team didn’t hurt Cole’s stats. It seems to me he doesn’t quite get the due he deserves, but don’t miss him, Hamels is one of the best.
11. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
17-8, 3.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 192 Ks (29 starts)
Believe me people, I know he faded down the stretch big time, but you can’t say it was completely a surprise when the guy’s innings increased by 121 from the season before. However, he did pitch the entire season and didn’t lose any time to injury. Now that he’s been through one complete season as a starter, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be able to do it again in 2013. The White Sox have also said that they have no intention of limiting him. Sale was fantastic in every way last year. A great win total, a strikeout an inning, and since he has good control, not a lot of walks to hurt your WHIP. Some might skeptical of him repeating, but I am not one of them.
12. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
16-9, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 221 Ks (29 starts)
I compare Darvish’s 2012 to my own prowess in the bedroom. There was a super fast start (won his first four decisions), a great finish (won his last four decisions), but most of the middle was just decent at best. He showed a great ability to strike batters out as he collected six or more K’s in his final 12 starts and finished the season with an impressive total. I think with a season under his belt in America he will only settle in more, and as he should be the Opening Day starter for the Rangers, I believe he can keep his win total up as well. Darvish should continue to be one of the best in the American League and could lead your fantasy team.
13. R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 230 Ks (33 starts)
Throughout his career I always thought Dickey’s major contribution to fantasy baseball would be the jokes that we were able to make about his name. Never did I see a Cy Young Award in his future. But that was exactly what he earned in 2012, and make no mistake about it, he deserved it. I thought Gio could have gotten it, but I can’t fault giving it to Dickey. He’s a hard throwing knuckleballer (as far as knuckleballers go), and he led the National League in strikeouts. He was dominant for quite a stretch last season as he had back to back one hitters and three complete game shutouts in four starts in June. There is some risk here as a pitcher from the National League heads to the American League, not to mention he is 38 years old. I have to admit that I am a little wary on his success, and will probably let someone else draft him this year. I’ll take a guy in his 20s a little lower on the list.
14. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
16-9, 3.66 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 204 Ks (33 starts)
Gallardo is often overlooked when people talk about the best pitchers in baseball, and I guess he isn’t in the top echelon, but he isn’t far off of it. His ERA and his WHIP are a little higher than those that sit at the top of this list, but he has consistently been around 15 wins and he has struck out 200+ batters in four straight seasons. He is by far Milwaukee’s best pitcher now and although it seems like he has been around a long time, he only just turned 27. The Brew Crew are likely going to struggle this season to win games, but I believe that Gallardo will be immune to that. I really expect his numbers to be quite similar in 2013, and is a low end first starter, but if you can get him as your second you did a damn good job.
15. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
6-9, 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 207 Ks (30 starts)
If anyone was left out to dry more by their team than Cliff Lee, please let me know! His run support was awful a lot of the time and he didn’t win his first game until ‘Merica’s birthday on July 4th. However, if you look at the rest of his stats, you have to wonder how that happened! Lee was still very good despite his win loss record, and I believe that although he is 34 years old, he will be a quality starter again this season. I think he might slip a little farther in drafts than he should but is still one of the top 20 in fantasy baseball. His ERA has been under3.25 for five years and he has struck out over 200 in back to back seasons. Not too many guys can say that.
16. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
19-9, 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 170 Ks (33 starts)
After years of promise, potential, and inconsistency, Cueto finally put it together for a full, injury free season and showed why the Reds have had such faith in him for the last five years. Cueto was fantastic, not only in his command, but his command of the game and the mound. He didn’t let little things ruin an inning and a game for him. He cut down his walks, he upped his strikeouts, and he nearly won 20 games. Cueto just turned 27 and should be in the middle of the best stretch of his career. Will he win 19 games with an ERA under 3.00? Unlikely, but he still should have another very fine season and is a fantastic number two in your fantasy pitching rotation.
17. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
16-11, 3.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 191 Ks (32 starts)
You are watching a budding star in the making! Bumgarner’s wins have increased each of his four seasons in the majors. Unfortunately, his ERA has also risen each of those seasons, but even 3.37 is something you can live with. He has awesome control as he walked just 49 guys in 208 innings, and that helps keep his WHIP in a great place. He struck out 191 batters for the second consecutive season, so there’s no reason that he can’t get up to 200 in a year. He will turn just 24 years old in August so there is a great chance that we haven’t seen the best of Bumgarner quite yet. I have him ranked here, but I wouldn’t fault you at all for jumping up and reaching for him earlier than this. I think there’s a good chance he will outperform this ranking.
18. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
14-13, 3.94 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 184 Ks (32 starts)
He missed all of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, but Waino didn’t miss any starts in 2012. Does that explain his slow start? Yeah, I think it could. He was much better in the second half of the season, and the Cardinals are hoping that even more time farther away from surgery will yield even better results from Wainwright. Maybe even back to the 2009-2010 days. When he is at his best he can be among the top five to six pitchers in all of baseball, but you have to wonder if at age 31 he can reach those levels. I don’t think he will be the best, but he can win between 16-17 games and get back to striking out over 200 with an ERA in the low 3.00s. I think he will be a good fantasy bargain this year and is an awesome second starter on your team.
19. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
11-8, 4.49 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 132 Ks (25 starts)
A lat injury cost Halladay two months of the season, and due to the fact that he is going to turn 36 years old in May, a lot of people seem to have written off Halladay as one of the elite but I’m not ready to do that yet. Sure, he wasn’t great even when he did pitch in 2012, but the entire season was an utter disaster for the Phillies last year and pretty much all of their players. I believe that Halladay will return to form this season and although he might not be a 20 game winner, he still should be one of the top few guys in the league.
20. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
15-5, 3.48 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 200 Ks (34 starts)
After being on again off again in his time in Kansas City, Greinke seemed to find a pretty good home in Milwaukee as he won 31 games the last two seasons against just 11 defeats. And for the third time in four years he also broke the 200 strikeout barrier. Despite the fact that he said he would play for the worst team if they paid him the most, luckily for Greinke one of the best teams decided to open the pocketbook for him, upping his chance for him to have a good win total. His ERA isn’t always the best, but he’s a great strikeout pitcher and has had at least 28 starts for five consecutive seasons. The more I write about him, the more I am liking Zack Greinke.
21. Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
16-7, 3.74 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 231 Ks (32 starts)
For a couple of years now, Scherzer has been threatening to become a very reliable fantasy pitcher. Some seasons he walked too many guys, some he allowed too many runs, but he was always a pretty decent strikeout pitcher, but you knew there was a chance for him to be more. Well, in 2012 I think he showed how much more he could do. He’s gotta get that ERA down another half point or so, but his 231 strikeouts were among the league’s best. He pitches for a team that is perennially in the playoff hunt, so his 15+ win seasons should continue. He’s close to being a top 15 performer, and if he can just improve a little more he will be there. Watch to see what kind of start he gets off to, but I think this is a guy you can target a little past the top level guys and get a good return on your investment.
22. Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves
10-1, 1.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 120 Ks (12 starts)
Let me start out by saying I don’t like this guy and I don’t trust him this year. Many times I will find myself getting behind the guy that we didn’t think was going to be this good, but the hype around Medlen’s last two months was just too much for me. Yeah, he was freakin awesome I can’t deny that. But he is the belle of the fantasy ball and is everyone’s pick to be this great and powerful pitcher again in 2013. I’m here to call it a fluke! Am I saying he doesn’t even belong in the rotation? No. But I can also see a scenario where he has a .500 record, and ERA around 3.50 and strikes out 150 batters in a full season. Buyer beware as far as I’m concerned with Medlen. When everyone likes someone this much, something generally goes wrong.
23. James Shields, Kansas City Royals
15-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 223 Ks (33 starts)
The Royals continue to try to work their way back to respectability, and they took another step towards that by acquiring some pitching this offseason, the biggest of which is their new Opening Day starter in Shields. Now, I have never been a fan of Shields, even when he was lighting the world on fire in 2011, but I will say a couple of good things about him. You can’t question his durability. He has made exactly 33 starts for five straight seasons and has had at least 30 for six years. He has become a great strikeout pitcher with over 220 in the past two seasons. And he keeps his teams in the game. I think he will keep his strikeouts up, which helps his fantasy value, but I think he won’t win more than 15 games and his 3.52 ERA is probably a good bet to where it will be again.
24. Jordan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
12-8, 2.94 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 153 Ks (32 starts)
They may have Strasburg and they may have Gio, but fantasy players need to remember that the Nationals also have another very good pitcher, and that’s Jordan Zimmerman. He has had his share of health concerns as well, as he has already endured Tommy John Surgery in his short career. However, over the past two seasons Zim has been better about taking the ball and not missing a turn and his numbers were pretty darn good. Any time you can get a sub-3.00 WHIP, you have to be excited about that, and while you’d like to see him win a few more games and strikeout a few more guys, I think that will come. Washington is one of the better offensive teams in baseball, and Zimmerman always missed more bats in the minors than he has with the big club but more K’s are on the way though.
25. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
9-14, 4.82 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 166 Ks (33 starts)
After a really solid and consistent four years, Lester fell off the map with the rest of the Red Sox last season as he had career worsts in almost everything since becoming a regular part of the Boston rotation. His ERA was well over a full run more than it had been in four seasons, and his strikeout total was the lowest since 2008. I have confidence that Lester (and the Sox) are going to bounce back this season, so since he won’t be selected among the top pitchers in baseball, I think you have yourself a real gem a few rounds later in Lester. His ERA is usually about 3.25, he has struck out 220+ batters in two different seasons, and his team isn’t bad. Check out Lester two to three rounds later than he went last year.
26. Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers
18-11, 3.29 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 133 Ks (32 starts)
Harrison followed up his first full season with an even better second full season, and outside of the strikeouts, posted some pretty good numbers. He does let a few too many guys reach base, which explains a little higher WHIP, but overall he is a solid pitcher. He won’t be 28 until the last month of the season, so he is just entering his prime. He does pitch in a hitter’s park, but he does also have a great offense behind him. He isn’t the flashiest guy in the world and he will likely go overlooked, but should be a very solid contributor again this season.
27. Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds
14-4, 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 185 Ks (33 starts)
This guy is one of my faves! I always have picked him every year, even suffered through his 9-14 season in 2011. He was always hampered by lack of run support in San Diego, and then I was worried about him in the small ballpark in Cincinnati. He proved me right as he gave up 25 home runs, up nine from the year before, but Latos was still awesome last year and had good numbers across the board. I still think he has the capabilities to strikeout 200 guys and I see no reason why he can’t win 15-17 games. He hasn’t done any of that so it could be my man crush talking, but Latos is a hell of a pitcher.
28. Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks
15-12, 4.02 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 187 Ks (29 starts)
You knew he wasn’t going to win 21 games again and have an ERA under 3.00 again, but this was a little bit farther drop than I expected. Kennedy still won a solid 15 games and had a good number of strikeouts, but the ERA and WHIP really went up in 2012. I don’t think Kennedy is the guy who was as good as he was in 2011, but I also don’t think he was as average as he was last season either. Arizona probably won’t contend this year, but I still see Kennedy winning 17 games with a 3.25 ERA, and 190 strikeouts.
29. Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics
13-8, 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 140 Ks (29 starts)
Parker may be the best of the young arms the Athletics are turning out this season, and certainly looked like a veteran in many of his starts last year although he struggled in the playoffs. To gain that much experience in your first season though will only help him down the stretch, and pitching in one of the biggest parks in the Majors doesn’t hurt either. I like his upside and think he will be a very good contributor this season. He isn’t an elite strikeout guy but he should at least get to 165 Ks this year and is a solid third pitcher for your staff.
30. Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees
16-11, 3.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 167 Ks (33 starts)
Kuroda always has had some pretty decent stats. He was never a top player, but if you checked out his ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts they were all in an area where he was helping fantasy players. I was never a fan, and part of it was his win-loss record, and part of it was to me he was just “blah”. Then Kuroda went to the AL East to play with the Yankees and I mostly wrote him off last year. Well, it’s funny what a little run support can do for you, as Kuroda had a career best 16 wins. To no one’s surprise given that home ball park, he gave up far too many home runs, but he was a battler all season long and had a very successful year. He is 38 years old, and it doesn’t appear as if the Yanks will provide him with quite as much run support this year. I’m not saying he will be bad, but I’m not expecting a repeat of 2012, and can see his stats taking a decent dip backward in 2013. A solid number three for your squad, but you shouldn’t expect more than that.
31. Matt Harvey, New York Mets
3-5, 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 70 Ks (10 starts)
There might not be a pitcher that I feel more strongly about than Matt Harvey. From what I have seen, from what I have heard of him, from what I have read, I like everything there is about Harvey right now. Even as the Mets were freefalling last season, Harvey came to the majors in late July and just started mowing down batters like it was his job! Well, I guess it is his job, but you know what I mean. The kid has electric stuff, and those 70 whiffs last year came in just 59 innings. He is so damn confident, and is already acting like a veteran. Yeah, the Mets are probably not going to win a ton of games this year, but I am hopeful that they will at least stay around 75 wins in 2013, and Harvey will be a big part of that. He will turn 24 years old a week before the season starts, and I think he has a chance to be a very good pitcher as soon as now!
32. Tommy Hanson, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
13-10, 4.48 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 161 Ks (31 starts)
After three straight solid seasons, Hanson dealt with injuries and fatigue last year and had by far the worst season of his brief career. Even though he wasn’t at his best last season, Hanson still struck out nearly a batter an inning and still managed to have a winning record with 13 victories. He was inexplicably traded for Jordan Walden and will now be pitching in the American League, but for a team that on paper should be one of the best. Hanson is going to drop in fantasy drafts this season, but I think that will be a mistake. I like him as a prime bounceback candidate for 2013.
33. Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
16-11, 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 144 Ks (29 starts)
As we hit Memorial Day last season, Miley was 6-1 and looking like he was on his way to a dominating season. The summer was fairly kind to him and he kept his stats in a good line, but he fell off at the end and had a rough September. I’m going to chalk it up to running out of gas at the end of the season, even though his innings didn’t take a significant jump from 2011. Still, young pitchers can flame out as the weather starts to cool. I still like Miley for 2012, and he won’t be called upon to be the ace of the staff. He isn’t a dominant strikeout pitcher, but most of those are gone by the time you would call Miley’s name in a draft, and those that are left either can’t keep the ball in the ball park, or have huge injury concerns. He is just 26 years old, so there is still room for him to improve, but overall he’s a nice pitcher, not spectacular, but nice.
34. Josh Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays
8-14, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 165 Ks (31 starts)
Johnson has been a tease for fantasy owners for the majority of his career. Early on he showed us exactly what he is capable of, and then he has had a difficult time staying healthy ever since. However, three of the last four seasons he has been able to make 28 starts or more, so the injury bug hasn’t bitten him as hard lately. Johnson has electric stuff, and has the capabilities to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has strikeout an inning potential, and being on a newly retooled Blue Jays team can’t hurt. Of course he is going to have to pitch against tough offensive teams in the AL East, but he is capable of handling it. If Johnson is able to start every fifth day he will be a major bargain to fantasy teams, and I see last season’s struggles as a team thing. The Marlins were perhaps bigger disappointments than the Red Sox. He has a new lease on life and I believe will have a strong season, if he is able to make 25 starts in 2013.
35. C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
13-10, 3.83 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 173 Ks (34 starts)
I have to admit, that ever since I first saw him in Texas, I didn’t understand the CJ Wilson love. Of course then he goes out and wins 16 games with a sub-3.00 ERA and 220 whiffs in 2011 and I guess I understood more. But I’ve never been on his bandwagon, and have never had him on my fantasy teams. And after a subpar first season for the Angels, it hasn’t given me any more of a reason to start believing in him. I’m not saying he’s bad, but I just don’t see me drafting him, and I don’t see him getting to the levels that he did in that awesome year two seasons ago. The Angels were kind of a mess last year, and with even more firepower in their lineup, they look to be tough to beat. So, while Wilson may collect a couple more W’s, the hit at ERA and WHIP is just a little more than I like.
36. A.J. Griffin, Oakland Athletics
7-1, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 64 Ks (15 starts)
Griffin started the season in AA and ended it pitching for the A’s in the playoffs, not a bad 2012 for the young stud. Griffin has some pretty spectacular stuff, and didn’t look overwhelmed at all during his time in Oakland. He’s not a top notch strikeout pitcher but he’s been pretty close to one per inning throughout his career both on the farm and in Oakland. There’s some uncertainty with him in the fact that he’s only 82 innings in the major leagues, but I like what I have seen from him so far and I believe he will be very solid this season even though it’s obvious he’s not going to go 14-2.
37. A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates
16-10, 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 180 Ks (31 starts)
After an awful three years in New York, Burnett had all but fallen off of the fantasy radar. But it’s funny what a trip to the National League, as well as getting out of New York will do to improve a guy’s performance. Burnett was like a brand new man again and renewed himself as a reliable fantasy pitcher again and got his ERA under 4.00 for the first time in four years. He just turned 36 years old, but I think that you will be able to count on Burnett again. He’s obviously not a star, but a good solid guy who hopefully will stay healthy and take the ball every fifth day.
38. Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays
10-7, 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 108 Ks (21 starts)
Morrow has long been a favorite of fantasy baseball pundits all over the tv, radio, and internet and the main reason for that is his electric strikeout rate. In 648 career innings he has 693 whiffs, which is fairly impressive. The problem with Morrow is that he has never been on a very good team, he walked too many guys, and he has had some injury problems. Well, the Blue Jays took care of that whole bad team problem this offseason, and last year he had a fantastic year with control. Unfortunately last year he also only made 21 starts due to injury. In my mind he is still a bit of a question mark, and even with all of those strikeouts, I still don’t think I want to trust him any more than with the third spot in my pitching rotation, although I would feel much more comfortable if he was my number four guy. Chances are if you follow my advice, Morrow will have already been selected when you are thinking of drafting him, but there’s nothing that says that you have to follow what I say!
39. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
11-11, 3.81 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 175 Ks (31 starts)
The Rays traded away James Shields with the confidence that other pitchers, like Matt Moore would improve considerably. Moore won’t turn 24 until the middle of June, and he is one of the more exciting young pitchers in baseball. He has been a dominant strikeout pitcher, and has electric stuff. People were thinking that he was going to be a huge breakout star last year, but I think they might have been a year early. Moore has all of the stuff to be an ace, and the only thing he needs now is experience. I would definitely look to add Moore in drafts this season as he has huge potential.
40. Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
9-13, 3.86 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 167 Ks (31 starts)
I’ve never quite understood all of the fascination with Anibal. He is a good pitcher. His ratios aren’t bad, but his win-loss record has always been spotty at best. He is an inconsistent strikeout pitcher, but at times he can be incredible. He was no different after being traded to the Tigers than he was for the Marlins, and I’m not sure that I believe he will be any different in 2013. I think he will frustrate you, make you want to drink, but at times reward you greatly. As a fourth starter he will be very good, but I have a feeling he will be going earlier than that in drafts. If you can get him in the right spot I would suggest him, but if it’s too soon I wouldn’t stretch too far.
41. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
5-5, 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 122 Ks (68 appearances)
I don’t think right now that you can 100% say that Chapman will be a starter this season, but right now that is the plan in Cincinnati. Chapman was incredibly dominant last season as the closer as the numbers above reveal. He can seemingly strikeout any one at will as he had those 122 Ks in just under 72 innings! If he is able to complete the transition to starter he will be one of the ultimate wild cards. Can he take his success as a reliever to a starter? Will he have to change his approach and not strike out as many guys? Will the Reds let him throw all season since he had just 71.2 innings last year, or will they shut him down late in the season a la Stephen Strasburg last season? There are many questions surrounding Chapman this season, and if he doesn’t end up starting of course he is one of the better closers in baseball. But I think the guy is worth the risk to draft, as his upside may be as high as almost anyone right now, and that is an exciting thing to own on your fantasy team.
42. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
10-15, 5.18 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 190 Ks (33 starts)
Speaking of a prime bounceback candidate, what do you think is going to happen with Tim Lincecum in 2013? It got so bad last year for Lincecum that he was sent to the bullpen! Clearly it was a career worst in every single category for Lincecum, but he has already been assured a spot in the starting rotation. I’m still concerned about injuries considering he’s never really had one and he’s pitched 200 innings in four of the last five seasons. He is still an elite strikeout pitcher even when he sucks at everything else. I can’t promise he will go back to his Cy Young winning ways, but at worst I still think he is going to be a heck of a lot better than he was last season.
43. Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers
10-10, 3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 137 Ks (26 starts)
Fister? I don’t even know her! OK, now that we got that out of the way we can talk baseball. After having a solid season for the Mariners, Fister was granted a way out of a rough situation and was traded to the Tigers. He had a solid yet unexciting first year in the Motor City, with his best attribute being his control. He has never walked more than 37 batters in a season and his WHIP of 1.19 is very good. His ERA has been good and very good the past two seasons, and I expect him to continue to fly under the radar but give you solid production. He might drop a round or two more than he should and is a very solid third or very good fourth starter for your squad.
44. Erasmo Ramirez, Seattle Mariners
1-3, 3.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 48 Ks (8 starts)
Ramirez didn’t spend a lot of time in Seattle last season but he certainly made the most of his opportunity. He had a very solid minor league career, until he got to the upper levels. He is going to struggle with the fact that Seattle isn’t a very good team, but I do think they are improving. He is a decent strikeout pitcher and he won’t turn 23 until May. His control is fantastic and his WHIP will definitely be an asset to your pitching staff. I like Ramirez and think he will be a bit of a surprise this year.
45. Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals
7-7, 3.92 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 98 Ks (20 starts)
Shoulder injuries cost him part of 2012, but when Garcia was in there, well he wasn’t bad. Last year wasn’t exactly the type of year you fly your flag on if you are Jaime Garcia, but his previous too mostly full seasons were both what gives him fantasy consideration. He plays for a pretty good team, in a pretty average ballpark. He isn’t a great strikeout pitcher, but he gets his fair share. Jaime battles though, and he will almost always keep his team in the game. He doesn’t walk a lot of batters and he usually goes fairly deep into ball games. He’s off to a so-so start this spring, but I’m telling you once the games start to count, Garcia will be a solid pitcher.
46. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays
10-11, 3.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 124 Ks (31 starts)
Hell Boy was raising plenty of hell when he was in the minor leagues, and averaged nearly a strikeout an inning. Something happened on his way to the majors though, as now he is nowhere near that number. The kid still pitches to a pretty damn good ERA, and a slightly less good WHIP, but somehow he lost his ability to miss bats. It also cost him a chance at a winning record in 2012, as did his inability to keep the ball in the yard. I am still a firm believer in Hellickson, I mean come on the kid will only be 26 years old in April. The Rays will be a contender this year, and they will need him to take a step forward and win 13-15 games, which I think he is capable of.
47. James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates
12-8, 4.21 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 151 Ks (29 starts)
McDonald had a hell of a first half as he was 7-3 with an ERA under 3.00 through the month of June, but I just wasn’t buying it and even got into a season long argument with a friend of mine that he was going to collapse before too long. And although he was 5-5 in the months of July, August, and September, his ERA in those months was 5.97, 4.45, and a whopping 12.75! I believe that McDonald will bounce back this season, and while he is not going to duplicate the first half of last year but the good news is he shouldn’t duplicate the second half either. Pittsburgh should contend for the NL Central title, and he has a shot to win 13-15 games and hopefully keep his ERA around 3.50. He won’t strikeout a guy an inning, but his 151 whiffs came in 171 innings, and I think that’s a ratio you can live with. In the mid to late rounds, McDonald is a guy you can live with.
48. Brett Anderson, Oakland Athletics
4-2, 2.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 25 Ks (6 starts)
He will be the Opening Day starter for the A’s, which I think more has to do with the number of years he has been with the team than his ability compared to the others, but Anderson worked hard to come back from Tommy John Surgery and deserves the honor. Anderson hasn’t gotten to 30 starts since his rookie season three years ago, so the injury risk continues to be high. He has burned me on more than one occasion which might be why he is ranked so low. When he is on he is a very effective pitcher, although he isn’t a big strikeout guy. The Athletics also have one of the most spacious ballparks in baseball which can only help Anderson’s case as well. He won’t be your typical ace of a staff, but Anderson can be a solid addition to your fantasy pitching staff, he just shouldn’t be near the top.
49. Dan Haren, Washington Nationals
12-13, 4.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 142 Ks (30 starts)
Let me begin by saying that I’ve never really been a fan of Dan Haren. It could have started with him being traded for Mark Mulder (for those who remember him), a trade that didn’t work out so well for my beloved Cardinals. However, he just always put too many guys on base for me, and many years had trouble with the long ball. He did strikeout 200 guys for three straight seasons, but his ERA has also only been under 3.30 three times in a ten year career. He dealt with a hip problem last season, which I guess you can chalk up to these subpar numbers that he had last year. However, now he goes back to the National League, and plays for perhaps the best team in that league. He also slots in the fourth spot in that rotation, both of which are good factors. Will he bounce back? I’d say the probability is pretty good of that. I just wouldn’t bet too high of a draft pick on a guy that is 32 years old, and threw 200+ innings seven straight seasons before starting to deal with injuries last year. There is some risk here.