The first round of my 2011 fantasy baseball rankings have arrived. I spent some time deciding where to start, which should have been a no-brainer.
There is a reason that pitchers are designated "1" in the scorebook. They're just that important.
Last week, I took a more broad look at the upcoming season, and gave my top 10 overall players. Now, it's time to get into the more serious position-by-position rankings.
While pitchers sometimes don't garner as much respect as they deserve when it comes to fantasy value, a solid starter or two can really anchor your rotation and win you some of the often forgotten pitching categories.
Sure, they only pitch once a week, but a complete-game shutout can sometimes win two categories in any given week.
On the flip side of that coin, a particularly bad outing can cause you to lose your matchup. A bad week by a hitter can usually be covered up by the output of other position players.
Therefore, consistency is key. If you look at my list, that is exactly what you will see. The top pitchers on my list not only put up gaudy numbers when it comes to wins, strikeouts, and innings pitched, but they also rarely find themselves getting shelled by opponents.
Roy Halladay (ranked No. 9 overall), for example, only gave up five earned runs or more five times last season in 33 starts. That's pretty impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that he lasted 5.2 innings or more in all of those starts, and only allowed five runs or more twice from June 15 to the end of the season.
Nothing will kill your pitching numbers more than getting pulled in the first inning after allowing five or six runs.
Tim Lincecum, who lead the National League in strikeouts last season, was consistent also. Except for August, where he struggled and struggled mightily, putting up an 0-5 record.
Lincecum allowed 22 earned runs in just 25.1 innings pitched. He only pitched into the seventh inning once and put up an ERA of 7.82. Fantasy owners who toughed it out were rewarded in September, however, when he posted a 1.94 ERA and helped the Giants to a 5-1 record in his starts.
That's quite a turnaround, and something that fantasy owners want to look for when they're drafting.
One noticeable feature of my rankings is that three of the Phillies' four aces have made my top 15. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are obvious choices. Cole Hamels, on the other hand, may turn some heads.
I am predicting big things from Hamels this season. I know that you can't make a solid judgment from spring training, but if his performance is any indication of things to come, his numbers could be right up there with Halladay and Lee. Right now I have him ranked 11th, and I think he is good for 17 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA.
Hamels has also been striking out a lot of hitters this spring. I was shocked to see that he averaged 9.11 strikeouts per nine last season.
Speaking of strikeout rates, look for Mat Latos to have a big year. He was arguably the surprise of the 2010 season, much like Zack Grienke (who I think will bounce back in Milwaukee) was the year before.
Pitching in Petco is fantasy gold. He will be able to keep the ball in the park, and more importantly, his strikeout numbers will likely stay high. I understand that a lot of hitters will have better scouting reports on the 23-year-old righty, but he pitches in the NL West, and I still refuse to believe that any team in that division, except for the Dodgers, can hit. And the Dodgers can only do it when they want to do it...
Here is a look at the rest of my top 15 starting pitchers along with their statistics from last season:
|1. Roy Halladay (PHI)
|2. Tim Lincecum (SF)
|3. Cliff Lee (PHI)
|4. Felix Hernandez (SEA)
|5. CC Sabathia (NYY)
|6. John Lester (BOS)
|7. Mat Latos (SD)
|8. Justin Verlander (DET)
|9. Chris Carpenter (STL)
|10. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL)
|11. Cole Hamels (PHI)
|12. Josh Johnson (FLA)
|13. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
|14. Zack Greinke (MIL)
|15. Dan Haren (LAA)
Don't forget to sign up for our FanDuel $25,000 Grand Slam event, taking place on April 1. I recommend signing up now, as you will be able to edit your team up to the first pitch.
Matt Mullin is a sports producer at Philly.com. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @matt_mullin.