Before the 2017 season begins, we will rank our top 15 fantasy players at each position for you. We might provide a projection. We might not. But take some notes, and if you’re lucky this will have you ready for the exam on draft day 2017. Today we look at pitchers – even though we kind of have grown to hate pitchers in this wicked game.
The Doc Gooden Division
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
How can you not put him at number one? There is a health risk grade on Kershaw this season for the first time ever, but he avoided back surgery, so that should tell us something about the severity of the true injury last season. His track record since 2012 has been impeccable, and until the injury occurred last season he was the number one overall player in the game of fantasy baseball by a lot. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, and he’ll get it from people on draft day.
2. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Had 218 easy K’s in 184 innings last season with a sparkling 2.60 ERA. We’re going against the grain putting him this high, but that’s the way we are. He has the kind of upside that truly reminds us of a generational guy like Dwight Gooden; a ceiling that has no limits. A conservative projection system will still see him at 220 strikeouts and a sub-3.00 ERA. Please Thor, keep that arm healthy. Please.
3. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Mad Max is a Bull. A bull with two different-colored eyes, in fact. He’s as fun to watch pitch as anyone in baseball and capable of a 15 strikeout night every time he takes the bump. But the first thing that should be said about Scherzer is at some point; all those innings and all that mileage is going to catch up with him. No one is teflon in this game forever, and Scherzer will be 32. Should still be a lock to reach 200 innings and almost 250 strikeouts, which means what the Hell is there to worry about; for now. But the sun will set fast.
The Pedro Martinez Division
4. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
So I don’t know why, but there are times that he’s the most frustrating 18-9 pitcher in the game. There are times when I absolutely want to fucking choke this guy. But then there’s about six or so weeks where Corey Kluber seemingly doesn’t allow a run, strikes out 11 every game and walks no one. He is Jekyll and Hyde, which is why he’s just into that second tier. But look at the names below him. We’re giving him mass respect, and it’s going to come on the heels of proving that he was a true horse in that postseason run last year. It had to happen for him to take the step into the next echelon.
5. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
So tired of this dickwad, and he’s only entering the age 27 season. He’s starting to compile Hall of Fame numbers and his strikeouts have been over 200 each of the last three seasons. Seems immune to any type of arm harm; which is probably because he plays for the evil Giants who have everything go right for them. If we have to go through another season of hearing about his hitting though; we’ll put a revolver to our head.
6. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Alright, it’s time to broach the subject of something here. He’s not that special anymore. I mean, he’s still Chris Sale. But he was different last season. He missed fewer bats. He felt more human. There were days he gave you absolutely nothing. There was at-bats he had no answer to finish a guy off. We actually don’t think the move to Boston serves him all that well. Do something to earn our respect and show us you’re one of the elite again. Win 20, or have a 2.30 ERA, or strikeout 270 again. If you can’t do that, you belong about right here.
The John Smoltz Division
7. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Seemed more human this past season but still great – just not subhuman as he was in 2015. Control seemed to falter a bit with a career high in WP and BB/9 that rose dramatically. Being on a great team and still having great stuff makes him worth this spot.
8. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Will be 30 years old and career year should be upcoming if he stays healthy and makes 35 starts. It’s a contract year, and he hasn’t had an abundance of mileage on his arm the past three seasons due to injury. His K/9 is always there and his walks are always in check. He has a great chance to be in the top five at season’s end if you aren’t concerned with his health grade.
9. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
Un-exciting top ten guy. He’ll be 33 which is hardly old, but at some point guys just seem to find struggles at that age. His career low WHIP last season seems to say he’s otherwise. We feel like; he’s safe but at best he’s about the 9th or 10th best guy. Low tendency to rise. More of a chance he slips out of the top ten than performs better than things went last season. Maybe that issue of holding a runner at first continues to show itself in a weird storyline? We’re still saying we would take him over about 100 other guys.
10. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Verlander will be 34 and is trending towards a Hall of Fame career. Think about that for a minute. He still has impressive velocity considering all the mileage on the arm and knows how to pitch. He’s weathered enough storms and adjusted enough times that you know this is how he’s always going to be – very dependable.
The Steve Avery Division
11. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants
Guy is an absolute horse who does not get enough respect and seems to contend for a Cy Young semi-annually. Has nice K-upside, pitches in a pitcher’s dream park for a team that is always in the mix. Incredible durability and has never had trouble going 200 innings and then some. Doesn’t miss starts. You are paying for stability.
12. David Price, Boston Red Sox
We don’t really like him for multiple reasons but you can’t argue with the math. First year in a new city could have been responsible for some of the issues. Seemed to struggle going late into games, and it wasn’t explainable. Lock for 200 innings and strikeouts, but his peripherals will determine if he’s inside the top 10 or just outside again.
13. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
So, owning this guy will drive you batshit crazy. Last year, he was seemingly cruising along like the best pitcher in the game this side of Clayton Kershaw. He signs his contract and gives basically nothing the rest of the season. I have a theory that it’s tough to win with a pitcher like Strasburg in fantasy or real-life. You never know what you’re going to get. You are tantalized by the upside. He’s still just made one postseason start – a measly five innings against the Giants in the 2014 NLDS. Take if at a value spot; if you must, but don’t feel too bad if you miss out.
14. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Would be a lot higher on the list if not for health questions of his arm that plagued him down the stretch. Age, health history, and talent should trump concerns. Would like to see what he could do if he can reach 200 innings. Career K/9 at 9.2 is enticing, and pitches in a great home park.
15. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
Slow-heartbeat, looks like a school-teacher, and has always been a good pitcher. Only got respect and notoriety last season, but has really good stuff and always has. Could only be scratching the surface on what he’s capable of – reminds us a little bit of a Greg Maddux type. Like his propensity to rise rather than fall despite some thinking that last season was an aberration.
Best of the Rest: Chris Archer, Carlos Carrasco, Rich Hill, Zack Greinke, Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Martinez, Danny Duffy, Kenta Maeda, Felix Hernandez, Michael Fulmer