Fantasy Rankings 2012: Starting Pitchers Pt. 1
Now on to the pitching side of things. Starting pitching is so incredibly deep this year, that it really is going to affect my drafting strategy. Any one of these top 15 guys could be considered an ace on your team, and there is enough depth in the position to form a nice staff around them.
I will start off by saying that I value a good hitter over a good pitcher on draft day. There seems to be a lot more good pitchers that appear mid-season than there are hitters that come out of nowhere. Ryan Vogelsong last year comes to mind. So, with that in mind, I rarely reach for a pitcher unless I think there is a lot of value in the pick. For example, if Verlander or Halladay somehow makes it to me in round 3, then I think there is a lot of value in that pick and I might take him.
Looking at ADP, most of the guys in the top 15 are going to cost you one of your first 4 picks. That is a tough choice to make. Pitchers also tend to be more injury-prone. And losing out to injury on your 3rd round pick when you could have had Josh Hamilton or Jay Bruce would really suck. In the top 15, I like Greinke or Bumgarner the most based on ADP alone. If I could wait until the 6th round and get Bumgarner, then I think it might be better to use those first 5 picks on hitters. But again, this all goes back to how I value pitching.
So I guess I should let you make the decision. Here is how I view starting pitching in 2012:
1) Clayton Kershaw (15.55) – He won the NL pitching Triple Crown in 2011, cut his walk-rate by a one full walk/9, and was a work-horse pitching 233 innings. Don’t forget the 1.06 K/IP. He is only 24, and is still getting better.
2) Roy Halladay (14.99) – At age 35, Doc is showing no signs of slowing down. His 2011 was pretty much the same as his 2010. He plays for a team that will win a lot of games, and thus he will come close, if not eclipsing, to the 20 W’s that you are hoping for. Walks nobody, strikes out a ton, and plays for a good team. Winning.
3) Justin Verlander (8.65) – Verlander’s 2011 was simply amazing, and yet I still have a hard time drafting him ahead of the other two. A 0.92 WHIP in 251 IP roughly accounts for an eighth of your IP in leagues that max out at 1600 IP a year. That’s invaluable. The reason I have him 3rd is that he tends to be an on or off pitcher. If he gets on a roll, he is easily the best in the game, but he also has his down-streaks. If he really is going in the first round, I say wait for the previous two guys mentioned.
4) Cole Hamels (31.42) – He’s going to strike out close to a batter every inning, has a great K:BB ratio, and only had a 0.99 WHIP in 216 IP last year. I think a lot of people undervalue him because he is the 3rd best SP on his team. But if he is really being drafted behind Lincecum and Hernandez, then that’s crazy.
5) Cliff Lee (20.16) – Lee could easily be flopped with Hamels. He is 5 years older, which is why I slot him after. That said, his delivery is so easy and repeatable that he should age fairly well. He went 7-1 with a 0.93 ERA over his last 10 starts. Amazing.
6) Felix Hernandez (26.96) – His name is going to have him drafted higher than I would care for. He was more hittable last year due to a high BABIP-against. When that normalizes, he will be closer to a 3.00 ERA and his WHIP will be closer to 1.10 than the 1.22 it was last year.
7) Tim Lincecum (24.46) – His K:BB ratio slipped last year, which is concerning. However, I feel it is probably due to the fact that he was probably trying too hard to strike out batters and win games on his own. He has zero support from a horrible offense. This year they add Melky and Pagan and then get back Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey. I think it will be a better year for the Freak.
8) David Price (38.42) – Going from 19 wins in 2010 to only 12 in 2011, made Price a huge disappointment last year. I fear this is going to be a common fluctuation due to the division he plays in. He still has great K-numbers, and took a big step forward with his K:BB ratio in 2011. If the Rays can avoid that first-half slump, then he might get started off on the right foot.
9) Jered Weaver (33.45) – A huge improvement in ERA last year, was off-set a bit by a big drop in K’s. Because he was such a workhorse (235 IP), he still managed 198 K’s. His low ERA was likely due to his .258 BABIP, so look for a regression back towards a 3.00 ERA in 2012.
10) CC Sabathia (30.78) – 40 wins over the last 2 years, he is probably your best bet for 20 Wins in 2012. His K-rate spiked last year to levels we haven’t seen since 2008 (8.72). CC in one word: Consistency.
11) Matt Cain (60.83) – His 7.19 Hits/9 was 3rd best in the NL, and he posted a career-best 2.88 ERA last year. The Giants offense looks to be greatly improved over what they were last year. At an ADP of 60, he will come at a much cheaper cost than others on this list.
12) Zach Greinke (49.79) – His K/9 was 10.54 last year. Read that last sentence again. And again. His 3.83 ERA was a bit higher than his xFIP of 2.56 shows. I think his ERA creeps closer to 3.00 and that K/9 dips a small bit closer to 9. Still should be considered an ace on any fantasy staff.
13) Dan Haren (42.89) – After his 2011, he wont be drafted as low this year. His K/9 did slip last year to 7.25. But it actually is directly in line with what he did in Oakland before moving to the NL. Because he is a workhorse, he will likely approach 200 K’s, but fall just a bit short.
14) Jon Lester (51.86) – He simply wasn’t as good as he normally was last year. His 3.47 ERA wasn’t due to a high BABIP or anything. He just allowed more hits than he normally does, and didn’t strike out as many as he normally does. He is a good bounce-back candidate, but you won’t get much of a discount on draft day because of his name recognition.
15) Madison Bumgarner (75.79) – With 23 quality starts last year, he will be the 3rd beneficiary of the Giants improved offense. Many believe his slider to be the best in the game. He threw it over 30% of the time last year, more than in years past. That is concerning from an injury-perspective, but he is young and likely won’t sustain that rate. Like Hamels, he will be overlooked on draft day because he is the 3rd best SP on his staff. At an ADP of 75, he is easily the best value that I see among the elite SP.
There you have it. The next 15 SP will be coming up next. Like I mentioned earlier, SP is a pretty deep position this year. That should be taken into consideration on draft day.