Fantasy Baseball: Early Top 20 Starting Pitchers for 2013 Roto Drafts

Jay Clemons@ATL_JayClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterSeptember 14, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: Early Top 20 Starting Pitchers for 2013 Roto Drafts

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    The following countdown touts my best early guess of the top 20 starting pitchers heading into fantasy drafts for 2013.

    (Stats compiled through Sept. 13.)

    This off-the-cuff brainstorm may be rooted in hard numbers, but it's also a soft measurement of where the market currently stands and where it'll be in mid-to-late March.

    For all we know, young guns like Dylan Bundy (Orioles), Jake Odorizzi (Royals), Matt Harvey (Mets), Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks) or teen prodigy Jose Fernandez (Marlins) could somehow force their way into the next countdown, thanks to a stupendous spring.

    But at this point, I prefer to lean on the following cast of savvy veterans, which includes a 23-year-old lefty who's primed for a big jump next season.

    Enjoy the show!

The Next Wave: Nos. 21-40

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    The Next 20

    21. Roy Halladay, Phillies
    22. Kyle Lohse, Cardinals
    23. Mat Latos, Reds
    24. C.J. Wilson, Angels
    25. Jeff Samardzija, Cubs
    26. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
    27. Kris Medlen, Braves
    28. Josh Johnson, Marlins
    29. Yu Darvish, Rangers
    30. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
    31. Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays
    32. Matt Garza, Cubs
    33. Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees
    34. Tim Lincecum, Giants
    35. Jon Lester, Red Sox
    36. A.J. Griffin, Athletics
    37. Brett Anderson, Athletics
    38. Ryan Dempster, Rangers
    39. Tommy Hanson, Braves
    40. Matt Harrison, Rangers
     

    Special Mention: Atlanta's Brandon Beachy (5-5, 2.00 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 68/29 K-BB) would likely have garnered a top-25 ranking if he hadn't suffered a season-ending elbow injury back in June. We'll see how things shake out in 2013 before assigning a new ranking.
     

    10 26-and-Under Sleepers To Watch

    1. Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks
    2. Matt Harvey, Mets
    3. Tyler Skaggs, Diamondbacks
    4. Jarrod Parker, Athletics
    5. Dylan Bundy, Orioles
    6. Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
    7. Tyler Cloyd, Phillies
    8. Shelby Miller, Cardinals
    9. Zach Britton, Orioles
    10. Nathan Eovaldi, Marlins

20. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 10-10, 3.68 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 165/73 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. The 23-year-old southpaw has produced five elite outings in the K-BB category this season, at  7/0 or higher.

    2. From June 3 to Aug. 19, Moore posted the following marks: 9-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 80/37 K-BB ratio.

    3. Since May 6, Moore has shaved his seasonal ERA from 5.71 to 3.68—a full two points.

    4. Moore could have the highest upside of any Rays pitcher next year, including David Price.

19. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 13-5, 3.56 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 166/38 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. While it's true that CC Sabathia is falling short of last year's output in wins, ERA and strikeouts, his WHIP and K/9 levels have improved—indicating that Sabathia isn't slowing down at age 31.

    2. When logging 30-plus starts, Sabathia is a prime candidate for 18 to 20 wins per season.

    3. Of his 24 seasonal starts (through Sept. 8), Sabathia has recorded nine outings of eight-plus strikeouts. For April (covering five starts and 35.1 innings), Sabathia had a 3-0 record and 38/9 K-BB ratio.

    4. Sabathia has surrendered two or less earned runs 10 times this year.

18. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Stats: 5-7, 3.36 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 174/27 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Cliff Lee has been virtually unstoppable since Aug. 15, going 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and absurd 44/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    2. Lee (174 strikeouts) has an outside chance at racking up 200 strikeouts for back-to-back campaigns. He could also finish the season with a sub-3.25 ERA.

    3. The 33-year-old lefty has notched six outings of nine-plus strikeouts—including two games of 12.

    4. Through Sept. 12, Lee has surrendered two or less earned runs 14 times.

17. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 14-8, 3.71 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 189/52 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Since Aug. 15, James Shields has these elite-level numbers: 4-1, 2.39 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 36/6 K-BB ratio and .180 opponents' batting average.

    2. Shields is this season's only MLB pitcher to collect double-digit strikeouts in three consecutive outings.

    3. Of his 28 starts (through Sept. 9), Shields has yielded three walks or less 25 times. In that span, he recorded eight-plus strikeouts 11 times.

    4. From July 31 to Sept. 9, spanning 61.2 innings, Shields is a perfect 8-for-8 in allowing three runs or less.

16. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers

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    2012 Stats: 15-8, 3.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 188/72 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Yovani Gallardo is on track to match or eclipse last year's output in wins (17) and K/9 ratio (9.1). He's also a good candidate for a fourth consecutive season of 200-plus strikeouts.

    2. From July 31 to Sept. 12, Gallardo won six straight decisions.

    3. Of his 30 starts this season, the Brewers ace has tallied eight-plus strikeouts nine times.

    4. Perhaps most impressively, Gallardo has allowed two or less runs 19 times this season.

15. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 14-5, 3.68 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 173/48 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Zack Greinke (4.15 ERA with the Angels) may not be enjoying his best season in the majors, but his overall numbers with L.A/Anaheim and Milwaukee are still pretty good.

    2. Greinke has a realistic shot at matching or eclipsing his personal best in victories (16). The same holds true for 190 strikeouts by season's end.

    3. He's on track to post five months of three or more victories, reaffirming that Greinke rarely falls into prolonged slumps. Plus, he averaged 32.4 strikeouts for the months of April, May, June, July and August.

    4. Greinke will be one of the most coveted free agents in baseball this winter. Upon choosing the right environment, the 28-year-old pitcher should reclaim his "elite" standing next season.

14. R.A. Dickey, New York Mets

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    2012 Stats: 18-5, 2.68 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 197/48 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. From May 22 to June 18 (covering six starts and 45.2 innings), R.A. Dickey had a 5-0 mark, 0.79 ERA, 0.64 WHIP and otherworldly ratio with walks and strikeouts (58/4).

    2. In that span, Dickey also cruised through five straight starts without surrendering one earned run.

    3. A prime candidate for 20 wins and 215 strikeouts, Dickey has already crushed previous career highs in victories, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, complete games and K-BB ratio.

13. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 16-6, 2.88 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 168/44 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. From May 12 to June 9 (covering six starts and 62.1 innings), Chris Sale had a 5-0 mark, 0.98 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 43-7 K-BB ratio.

    2. In that span, he also ranked second in wins, third in ERA, fourth in K/BB ratio, second in opponents' batting average (.150) and second in WHIP among starting pitchers.

    3. Of his 26 seasonal starts (through Sept. 8), Sale has 17 outings of allowing two or less earned runs.

    4. Sale has four games of double-digit strikeouts this year, including an absurd 15 against the Rays on May 28.

12. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 13-5, 2.96 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 175/40 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Matt Cain is on pace to match or eclipse career highs in wins (14), strikeouts (186) and WHIP (1.08); and his current ERA is almost in line with last year's career best (2.88).

    2. Of his 28 starts to date, Cain has yielded just two or less runs 17 times. With free passes, he's a scintillating 26-for-27 in allowing three or less walks.

    3. For the season, the Giants wunderkind has registered six-plus strikeouts 16 times, including 14 on June 13 against the Astros—otherwise known as Cain's perfect game.

11. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 17-8, 2.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 155/42 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Johnny Cueto has posted elite-level numbers in wins, ERA and WHIP for either of the last two seasons. In 2012, he's also on track for a highly respectable strikeout total of 170.

    2. As of Sept. 12, only six MLB pitchers can boast having 16 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and WHIP of 1.15 or below.

    3. Of his 29 starts to date, Cueto has surrendered two runs or less 19 times; and in that span, he has allowed three or less walks 26 times.

    4. Cueto, who turns 27 in February, may be scratching the surface of his immense fantasy potential.

10. Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 16-6, 3.77 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 220/55 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Max Scherzer has the inside track to becoming the MLB strikeout king for 2012, just ahead of fantasy dynamos Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez.

    2. Check out Scherzer's numbers in the last 30 days: 5-0, 1.05 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 52/7 K-BB ratio. Going further, the opponents' batting average is a paltry .172.

    3. With the Tigers, he shall remain a healthy lock for 15 to 17 victories through 2015.

    4. Of his 29 starts this year, Scherzer has recorded nine-plus strikeouts 13 times.

9. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 14-10, 3.32 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 175/41 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. In just two seasons as a full-time starter, Madison Bumgarner has already developed into a sound bet for 15 wins, a 3.30 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 190 strikeouts. That's a minimum goal.

    2. Of his 29 starts to date, Bumgarner has surrendered two or less runs 17 times. And in that span, he's a remarkable 27-for-28 in allowing three walks or less.

    3. Bumgarner has struck out eight-plus batters eight times this season, with double figures on four occasions. By extension, he seems like a good bet for 200 strikeouts in 2013.

    4. The Giants lefty has had a few clunkers along the way (normal for young pitchers). But he did maintain an ERA range from 2.80 to 2.83 from May 11 to Aug. 20.

8. Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 19-7, 2.93 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 191/68 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. Gio Gonzalez is on track for progressions in wins, ERA, strikeouts and WHIP for a second consecutive season—an impressive feat considering his 2010 marks with Oakland (15-9, 3.23 ERA, 171 strikeouts).

    2. Of his 29 starts to date, Gonzalez has yielded just two or less 18 times. And in that span, he's 24-for-29 in giving up three walks or less.

    3. From April 12 to June 21—spanning 13 starts and 81 innings—the Nationals southpaw boasts the following numbers: 9-3, 2.22 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 95/31 K-BB ratio.

    4. Gonzalez has 10 outings of eight-plus strikeouts this season. Of equal importance, he has shaved 39 percentage points off his ERA since July 19.

7. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Stats: 14-6, 3.03 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 184/48 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. At age 28, Cole Hamels has become a lock for 14 wins, 3.00 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 190 strikeouts, with limited variations from year to year. In fact, Hamels has an outside chance at 200 strikeouts and a sub-3.00 ERA this season.

    2. Of his 27 starts to date, Hamels has yielded just two or less runs 14 times. And in that span, he's 26-for-27 in allowing three walks or less.

    3. Hamels has notched six-plus strikeouts in all but five of his 27 starts this year.

6. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 17-5, 2.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 175/54 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. David Price is on track to match or eclipse his career highs in wins (19), ERA (2.72), WHIP (1.11) and K/9 ratio (8.7) this season. He also has a reasonable chance for 190 strikeouts and 20 victories.

    2. From June 19 to Aug. 21, Price was an immaculate 12-for-12 in allowing three runs or less, including four scoreless gems. He was unblemished in giving up three walks or less, as well.

    3. In that time span, Price also had a 7-0 record and notched seven or more strikeouts eight times.

    4. Price has eight outings of eight-plus strikeouts this season. He's also on the short list of MLB pitchers to log double-digit strikeouts in consecutive starts.

5. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 17-4, 2.74 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 130/39 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. In a season stalled by annoying injuries, Jered Weaver is still on track to match or eclipse career highs in wins (18) and WHIP (1.01). And his current ERA (2.74) will serve as his second-best effort of seven major league seasons.

    2. Weaver has eight full outings of zero runs allowed and four others with just one run surrendered.

    3. The Angels ace won nine straight appearances from June 20 to Aug. 6, yielding three runs or less eight times.

    4. Splits-wise, Weaver had an unblemished record for three months. His numbers in July: 6-0, 2.23 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 26/9 K-BB ratio.

4. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 15-6, 3.16 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 197/48 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. For 2013, fantasy owners should operate under the assumption that Stephen Strasburg won't be subjected to any pitch counts or innings-limit thresholds, courtesy of Nationals management (or the co-architect of Washington's roster, agent Scott Boras).

    2. But that doesn't necessarily guarantee better numbers for Strasburg, who's already a rock-solid candidate for 190 strikeouts and a sub-3.00 ERA during healthy seasons.

    3. Of his 28 seasonal starts, Strasburg surrendered just two runs or less 19 times. In that span, he also yielded three or less walks 24 times.

    4. In a regular season of 35 starts, Strasburg would have a chance at 22 wins and 245 strikeouts.

3. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 13-8, 2.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 212/54 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. For the season, Justin Verlander is 18-for-29 in surrendering two runs or less. Of the other 11 outings, the Tigers ace allowed only three runs four times.

    2. Of his last eight starts (Aug. 6-Sept. 8), Verlander has notched double-digit strikeouts three times.

    3. Despite three clunker outings this year, Verlander's ERA has never gone higher than 2.91.

    4. For the next few years, I'll pencil Verlander in for the following numbers: 18 wins, 2.67 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 230 strikeouts.

2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

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    2012 Stats: 13-8, 2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 199/50 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. As of Sept. 14, Felix Hernandez is one strikeout away from clinching a fourth straight season of 200 strikeouts. He's also on pace to secure a sub-3.00 ERA for the third time in four years.

    2. From June 17 to Aug. 27, spanning 109 innings, King Felix had the following numbers: 9-0, 1.40 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 110/17 K-BB ratio. It is easily the most dominant 14-start stretch of any pitcher this season.

    3. The 2013 Mariners should be markedly improved, meaning that Fernandez wouldn't have to be near-perfect every month for another shot at 19 wins (his 2009 tally).

    4. The Seattle ace has eight outings of eight-plus strikeouts this year. He's also on the short list of MLB pitchers with double-digit strikeouts in consecutive starts.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 12-9, 2.70 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 206/53 K-BB

    Reasons To Support This Selection

    1. For my money, Clayton Kershaw is the most comfortable lock for 20 wins, a 2.50 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 220 strikeouts in 2013. Quite simply, he's one of fantasy's most bankable assets.

    2. Kershaw will soon be owed another 20-victory campaign from the fantasy gods—thanks to a bevy of hard-luck outings this season.

    3. Of his 30 starts to date, Kershaw has surrendered just two or less runs 21 times—the highest total of any other pitcher in this countdown.

    4. In his last nine starts (July 29-Sept. 11), Kershaw has the following numbers over 66.1 innings: 5-3, 1.38 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 70/15 K-BB.

    As a result, he remains a candidate for back-to-back Cy Young Awards in the National League.