Ranking starting pitchers is a very difficult task. Sometimes things come down to the simple idea of whether someone pitches in the NL or the AL, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the top five options are made up mostly of NL options. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid AL pitchers altogether, does it?
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
Madison Bumgarner is one of the best young pitchers in the game. I don’t think anyone would argue that fact. So far this spring, he is putting his full talents on display, with a 2.21 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 20 K over 20.1 IP. The strikeouts put him in a tie for third, behind Francisco Liriano (23) and Max Scherzer (21).
He has already proven to have elite control and last year suffered from a .322 BABIP. If he can maintain his strikeout ability (he was at 8.40 K/9 in 2011 and 7.97 over his minor league career), he truly could emerge as one of the elite. He’s a great buy in all formats, and you can see my 2012 projection by clicking here.
How impressive has Zack Greinke been this spring? Having thrown just 12.1 innings, he has 20 K to go along with a 0.73 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. He showed last season how good of a strikeout pitcher he could be in the NL, with a 10.54 K/9 over 171.2 IP, and right now it looks like he can maintain that type of mark.
It’s hard not to like a pitcher with that type of potential, wouldn’t you say?
We all know the talent that Stephen Strasburg has, but do not forget that he is going to face an innings limit and be shut down before the end of the year. If you are going to draft him, you need to be prepared with another option for late in the year (and his value in head-to-head formats will be lower).
Yu Darvish has struggled this spring, with a 3.00 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over his first nine innings of work. The problem is the control, having walked seven batters thus far. Having watched him pitch, it doesn’t appear like he is trying to nibble around the zone and is just trying to find his way in the major leagues.
I wouldn’t be concerned at this point, as he has the potential to be one of the top pitchers in the league.
Do you think that Jon Lester can return to dominance in 2012?
He struggled with his command late in the year (BB/9 of 4.45 and 4.55 over the final two months). The other two issues were wins (nothing that we can do anything about) and strikeouts (though he still posted an 8.55 K/9 and can easily improve upon that).
As I have said before, he’s a player I would definitely target.
Tommy Hanson is working his way back from injury, and thus far he is looking good this spring. Over 7.0 IP he has a 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and five strikeouts to one walk. It’s a small sample, but they are numbers you have to like seeing.
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: