Monday, October 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers

Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

After delineation, deliberation, and anticipation, here are your 2014 Philly.com Fantasy Baseball rankings.

For the last few weeks, we've been breaking down your best options at each position.

Here's what we've covered so far:

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | RP

Today, relief pitching:

 

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

2013: 16 W, 236 IP, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 232 K, 52 BB

Kershaw's the best, bar none. In every league, he should be a first round choice and in leagues that are heavy on pitching stats, you can make a strong case he should be the third player chosen overall behind Trout and Cabrera. He had one of the best seasons for any pitcher over the last 30 years, becoming one of only three pitchers to amass 230+ innings, 230+ strikeouts, and an ERA less than 2.00, joining Pedro Martinez and Doc Gooden. Might be tough to expect another season that crazy as pitchers are so volatile, but you should rest easy that Kershaw is the best.

 

2. Yu Darvish, Rangers

2013: 13 W, 209.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 277 K, 80 BB

Darvish has a lack of wins, a high walk total, and an ERA near 3.00. So why does he deserve to be second overall? His 277 strikeouts, that’s why. He’s going to fan a ton of batters – 498 K’s in 401 career innings - which makes him incredibly valuable in all formats. And he’s only 27 years old.

 

3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

2013: 19 W, 241.2 IP, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 219 K, 35 BB

If Kershaw hadn’t been so incredible last year, more people would have been talking about the ridiculous season Wainwright had. And if he fanned just a few more batters, he’d be 2nd overall instead of Darvish. But alas, Wainwright is an awesome fall back option that will get a ton of wins, innings, and won’t walk anyone.

 

4. Max Scherzer, Tigers

2013: 21 W, 214. 1 IP, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 240 K, 56 BB

The 2013 AL Cy Young winner is another K-machine. Plus, playing for the Tigers means lots of victories. The only problem is that piling up all those K’s normally keeps the innings down, which in some points leagues can be worth up to 3 points. Nonetheless, he’s now in the elite group and probably won’t last past round 2.

 

5. Cliff Lee, Phillies

2013: 14 W, 222.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 222 K, 32 BB

Just another fantastic outing from Lee in 2013 that will go relatively unnoticed because of how bad the Phillies were. That likely won’t change much in 2014, but what could be of more help is a move to a playoff-caliber team at the deadline. That should help Lee’s win total. As we know well here in Philly, he’s as consistent as they come. You could make the case that in some category leagues Lee’s consistency might vault him higher than someone like Darvish who walks many batters and doesn’t quite get the innings.

 

6. Jose Fernandez, Marlins

2013: 12 W, 172.2 IP, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 187 K, 58 BB

Talk about bursting onto the scene. Fernandez turned in a rookie year for the ages, but again, went unnoticed because it’s South Florida and no one gives a hoot about baseball. Fantasy owners took notice, however, as the mostly-undrafted pitcher got better as the season got older. The only issue might be his innings as later in the year, if the Marlins continue to be the Marlins, they may limit the workload on his arm. If that looks to be the case, maybe look for a trade mid-June. But I’m drafting him high regardless.

 

7. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

2013: 8 W, 183 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 191 K, 56 BB

 Strasburg had offseason surgery to remove loose bodies in his elbow, meaning he pitched through an injury for much of last year, yet still put up nice stats. I think he takes a big step forward with 15+ wins and ERA under 3.00 and a big strikeout total because he’s all grown up and shouldn’t be on a leash.

 

8. Felix Hernandez, Mariners

2013: 12 W, 204 IP, 3.04 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 216 K, 46 BB

 It wasn’t quite the same dominating King Felix in 2013, but it wasn’t bad either. For the fifth straight season he struck out more than 200. And he actually set a career best K/9 rate. The issue is the velocity and innings. According to Fangraphs, he’s losing about a mile-per-hour on his fastball. That bears watching.

 

9. David Price, Rays

2013: 10 W, 186.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 151 K, 27 BB

 Price dealt with an arm injury last year and missed more than a month, which made it a very un-Price-like 2013. When he returned, he was the same old Price, but the overall numbers aren’t quite the same. His K/9 rate was the lowest since 2009, but he curbed his walks, which could be a solid sign for this season. Price seemingly has been around forever, but he’s just 28.

 

10. Chris Sale, White Sox

2013: 11 W, 214.1 IP, 3.07 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 226 K, 46 BB

 The lanky lefty had better numbers across the board in 2013 than he did in 2012, but finished with six fewer wins, a product of a decimated White Sox club. I’m a big fan of Sale for this season as he’s really hitting his stride toward becoming one of the elite pitchers in baseball. If the White Sox can be slightly better, that may go toward getting him a few more victories, which helps majorly in points leagues. But he’s a stud in all categories.

 

11. Madison Bumgarner, Giants

2013: 13 W, 201.1 IP, 2.77 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 199 K, 62 BB

 What is keeping Bumgarner from the elite tier is his high walk rate and lower K-total. The good news is, he’s only 24 and still has time to take the next step. His fast start last year made it appear he was headed that way, but he slowed down by May and then picked it back up after the all-star break.

 

12. Justin Verlander, Tigers

2013: 13 W, 218.1 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 217 K, 75 BB

 Verlander had offseason surgery, but has thrown well during spring and will be ready to rock. But which Verlander will it be? He has been a workhorse over the last few years, could that be catching up to him?

 

13. Homer Bailey, Reds

2013: 11 W, 209 IP, 3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 199 K, 54 BB

 Bailey has no-hit stuff every time out, proven on July 2 against the Giants. But he’s relatively inconsistent, which makes him a bit maddening.

 

14. Zack Greinke, Dodgers

2013: 15 W, 177.2 IP, 2.63 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 148 K, 46 BB

 Greinke gets to pitch in the comfy confines of Dodger Stadium, but overall last season, he didn’t K a ton of batters and spent some time on the DL, keeping his innings down. But he managed 15 wins in a shortened season, and playing for a loaded Dodger team should help that once again in ’14.

 

15. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees

 I’m all in on Tanaka. He’ll have to face off against some great teams in the AL East, but he has the goods to stay competitive. He’ll get a high win total playing for the Yankees, but the ERA may suffer due to the likes of the Rays, Red Sox, and Orioles.

 

16. Anibal Sanchez, Tigers

2013: 14 W, 182 IP, 2.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 202 K, 54 BB

 Sanchez joined the ranks of the best with his best season in the majors. He finished fourth in the AL in Cy Young voting due to his double-digit K/9 rate and extremely low hits-per-nine. He’s a great No. 2 option on any fantasy squad.

 

17. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

2013: 11 W, 195 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 192 K, 76 BB

 Gio joined the NL East in 2012 and scored a league-high 21 wins. That number dipped to 11 last season due to an elevated hit total and 8 more homers. I see something in between. Probably a 15 win season with 200 K’s and a ton of walks.

 

18. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

2013: 19 W, 213. 1 IP, 3.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 161 K, 40 BB

 Zimmermann led the NL in wins, but what keeps him from the upper echelon is the lack of strikeouts. But he’ll tear up innings and doesn’t walk anyone.

 

19. Matt Cain, Giants

2013: 8 W, 184.1 IP, 4.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 K, 55 BB

 Cain’s ERA spiked to it’s highest total since his rookie season and the eight wins were also a career low. But his K/9 and BB/9 were pretty much the same as the previous year. Hmm. I’d say there will be a turnaround in store for Cain.

 

20. Michael Wacha, Cardinals

2013: 4 W, 64.2 IP, 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 65 K, 19 BB

 Perhaps I’ve jumped on the bandwagon too quickly, but I love what I saw from Wacha at the end of the year and would be willing to nab him higher than others. He needs some work, but his ceiling is super high. I’d be willing to take the risk.

THE REST:

21. James Shields, Royals

22. Shelby Miller, Cardinals

23. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers

24. Hisahi Iwakuma, Mariners

25. Jered Weaver, Angels

26. Mat Latos, Reds

27. Gerrit Cole, Pirates

28. Doug Fister, Nationals

29. Cole Hamels, Phillies

 Hamels would obviously be in the Top 12 if he hadn’t come down with shoulder issues. He’ll miss a month but it might take him another to get acclimated.

 

30. Jeff Samadzija, Cubs

31. Alex Cobb, Rays

32. Jon Lester, Red Sox

33. Julio Tehran, Braves

34. Zack Wheeler, Mets

35. Sonny Gray, A’s

Gray had an excellent playoff series against the Tigers, putting him on the map. He plays in one of the largest parks in baseball, which should help keep the numbers down. I’m a fan.

 

36. Justin Masterson, Indians

37. A.J. Burnett, Phillies

 How much is left in the tank? Burnett had a couple of solid seasons with Pittsburgh, but can he continue at age 37? Watch for a sapped win-total due to the team, but he’ll give you a good amount of strikeouts.

 

38. R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays

39. Matt Moore, Rays

Moore took a liner to the face but is expected to be OK for the regular season. He’s a tantalizing talent, but walks too many batters right now.

 

40. Andrew Cashner, Padres

41. CC Sabathia, Yankees

42. Mike Minor, Braves

43. Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees

44. CJ Wilson, Angels

45. Danny Salazar, Indians

46. Tony Cingrani, Reds

47. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox

48. Chris Archer, Rays

49. Lance Lynn, Cardinals

50. Matt Garza, Brewers

51. Ivan Nova, Yankees

52. Jake Peavy, Red Sox

53. Dan Straily, A’s

54. Dan Haren, Dodgers

55. Chris Tillman, Orioles

56. John Lackey, Red Sox

57. Marco Estrada, Brewers

58. Ervin Santana, Braves

59. Francisco Liriano, Pirates

60. Rick Porcello, Tigers

 Now check out the rest of our rankings:

Catcher | First base | Second base | Third base | Shortstop | Outfield | Relief pitchers

Contact Pat on Twitter: @PatGallen_975

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