Ranking starting pitchers is often a difficult thing to do, as the difference between them could be razor thin. The smallest of things—like whether they pitch in the American League or the National League—could ultimately make all the difference.
That said, let’s take a look at how the top starting pitchers shake out for me heading into the year:
- Roy Halladay – Philadelphia Phillies
- Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
- Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies
- Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
- Tim Lincecum – San Francisco Giants
- CC Sabathia – New York Yankees
- Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners
- David Price – Tampa Bay Rays
- Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies
- Zack Greinke – Milwaukee Brewers
- Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox
- Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels
- Dan Haren – Los Angeles Angels
- Mat Latos – Cincinnati Reds
- Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals
- Matt Cain – San Francisco Giants
- Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee Brewers
- Tommy Hanson – Atlanta Braves
- Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants
- Yu Darvish – Texas Rangers
Everyone wants to see Strasburg ranked significantly higher than No. 15 but, with just 2012 in mind, it is impossible to do so. He is going to be on an innings limit, likely in the 160 inning range. That is likely going to mean that he isn’t going to be available to pitch in September, a major issue for fantasy owners.
Ride him to get into position to win your league, but you are going to need to have a suitable replacement to help finish the job. Next year, when the innings limit is likely gone, he’s almost a lock to be in the top 10 and possibly top 5.
I know Justin Verlander was one of the elite pitchers in the game in 2011, but he wasn’t even in consideration for the top spot for me. As I’ve already discussed (click here to view), there was some extreme luck at play (.236 BABIP, 80.3% strand rate), he pitches in the AL and the wins total (24) is not likely to be repeated. He’s a great pick, but just be careful with how you rank him.
Is Felix Hernandez one of the best pitchers in the game? Absolutely, but the wins potential is going to continue to hurt him. We never recommend drafting for wins, but when pitchers are close it has to be a deciding factor. Hernandez has won more than 14 games just once and with a weak Mariners offense behind him, how likely is it that he surpasses that mark in 2012?
You may not think of Cole Hamels as a top 10 pitcher, but he certainly deserves to be considered one. I discussed it in detail recently (click here to view), but with elite control, strikeout potential and a newfound ground-ball rate, he is the total package.
Moving from San Diego to Cincinnati is going to scare some people off from Mat Latos. That would be a mistake, however, as he has posted ERAs of 3.14 and 3.68 on the road the past two seasons. Throw in the potential to strikeout more than a batter per inning, great control and now more chances for wins, and he’s a pitcher I’d love to own.
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: