Monday, February 10, 2014

Fantasy Baseball: Top 5 Pitchers

I'm not in the mood to hear "it's almost spring".  Give me a break, we're due another snowstorm in Jersey on Thursday morning.  But as pitcher & catchers get ready to report in sunny Florida, those of us dealing with a terrible Northeast winter can at least look to the joys of Fantasy Baseball returning, with most league signups already taking place.

There will always be a lot of questions heading into a Fantasy Baseball season, because after all, it is just a fantasy league.  But there's always too damn much to have to analyze if you want to find success.

There was a bit of a change in tide with pitchers in 2013.  Sure, Clayton Kershaw is still filthy-good, he was just even filthier last year, but we saw Justin Verlander slip a bit from the top of his mountain. So with one of the giants falling back to the "ant hill", who should you be looking to draft in 2014?  Here's my Top 5 pitchers for your Fantasy preseason...

1) Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.89 ERA, 232 K's)
That was easy.  Obviously Kershaw is your top dog if you want to go all-in for your pitching staff this season.  He will cost you a first round pick (and it will likely have to be a top first round pick), but in the end you'll be getting some dominant consistency, at least if history proves to be reality this season.  Kershaw is the best of the best heading into this season though.

2) Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.84 ERA, 219 K's)
While it was too easy to pick a No. 1, it's really tough to pick a No. 2.  Wainwright's 2013 season saw him only walk 35 batters while striking out 219.  That's insane.  Sure, he struggled early for a bit in 2012 (this after being away for a full season), but he showed that he is still the same beast that is Adam Wainwright last season, and possibly a beast that has more to tear down.  The Cardinals ace should once again be on point in 2014.

3) Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19 ERA, 187 K's)
This is a questionable one.  It's easy to think "sophomore slump" is more likely than asserting himself as a Top 3 pitcher in baseball, but if you watched Fernandez only a handful of times last season, it's hard to not think he will be one of the best.  Despite being on the pitiful Miami Marlins, Fernandez found his way to 12 wins in 28 starts, and more notably went 7-1 in his final 10 starts.  In that time he also lowered his ERA to 2.19 on the season.  Not too shabby for a kid who only turned 21 last July.  How does he handle a full season and bumping his innings total up from 172?  Wait and see, but Fernandez having a great year may be a good bet to make.

4) Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.83 ERA, 277 K's)
Maybe he should be No. 2.  But even YU know it's hard to put him there.  Overall, his 2013 was great... hell, better than great.  The downside to his year comes with how it finished.  Going 1-4 after August 12 won't leave a good taste in anyone's mouth.  Yes, two of those losses had a lot to do with his offense not helping him at all, but he wasn't as dominant as he was in the first half of the season.  No. 4 is still pretty good based on an entire league, but it's tough to give him the nod to go much higher after showing some minor flaws as 2013 winded down.

5) Stephen Strasburg (8-9, 3.00 ERA, 191 K's)
Strasburg's 8 wins last season looks terrible.  His 9 loss season looks even worse.  He was better than that, and he knows that.  Part of this placement for Strasburg is because I feel he will be out for blood this year.  Not literally... well maybe literally... but after a disappointing season for the Stras and for the Nats, you would have to assume they will come out firing on all cylinders, or at least trying to.  And his numbers (aside from the wins) are nothing to shy away from.  For the most part, the guy was ON IT last season, the timing just wasn't there.

I'm Sorry: Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer.  Poor Felix, he's on a terrible offensive team and can't even get me to give him as a nod as a top 5 pitcher.  And Max should want to kill me because he's a Cy Young winner who had 21 wins and 240 K's last season, but I can't say for sure he'll better than these five next season.

I'm Not Sorry: Cliff Lee and Madison Bumgarner.  You guys are great, but need to be more consistent.  You know, like you used to be.

What are your thoughts?  Sound off below.  And also make sure to listen to Matt Dahl Radio's Draft Day podcast, being released on March 10th.

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