There are two schools of thought when it comes to fantasy baseball starting pitchers. The first states that you should grab some quality starters early in your draft (or use keeper spots for holding onto them). The second theory states that starting pitchers are way too inconsistent and therefore you should ignore pitchers until late in your draft. The best strategy probably lies somewhere squarely in the middle of the two. Whichever approach you take when crafting your fantasy baseball roster, you will want to at least grab one of the following top tier fantasy baseball starting pitchers. After all, under standard 5×5 fantasy baseball rules, half of your statistical categories will be determined by your pitchers.
1) Roy Halladay (PHI) -
The reason many fantasy owners forsake starting pitchers until the later rounds is due to the fact that pitchers can be wildly inconsistent from year-to-year. Then there is Roy Halladay. He is the most consistent elite pitcher in the game. He is also the best in the business. Money in the bank.
2) Cliff Lee (PHI) -
If you can’t get Halladay, you don’t have to look very far for the second best fantasy baseball starting pitcher. Doc’s teammate Cliff Lee was possibly the best pitcher in the game after June 1st last season. A poor start to the season had some fantasy owners panicking early but with his peripherals in line, there was no real reason to doubt him. Expect another great season in 2011.
3) Tim Lincecum (SF) -
His 4 year LOW in strikeouts was the 220 he put up last season. Both his WHIP and ERA were better in 2011 over his 2010 numbers. With any run support at all, he could easily put up 20 wins. He’s a fantasy stud.
4) Justin Verlander (DET) -
Topping many experts’ lists for 2012, there is no doubt the Tigers ace had a monster season last year. However, he has traditionally struggled in April and last year was the first his ERA was below 3.37. The strikeouts have always been there and once he puts up back-to-back monster years, he’ll move up the list. For now, he’s just behind the big boys. (Read about Justin Verlander’s girlfriend here.)
5) Felix Hernandez (SEA) -
So long as you temper your expectations in regard to Wins, “King Felix” is a good bet to deliver some great fantasy stats in 2012. His ERA rose by over run from 2010 partially due to a 40 point increase in BABIP as his xFIP remained steady. Seattle can’t be much worse than they were in 2011, so a few more Wins wouldn’t completely surprise. Get him.
6) Clayton Kershaw (LA) -
Deemed the best pitcher in the NL by the BBWAA in 2011, Kershaw has always had nasty stuff. His only issue in the past was his control. He cut a whopping 1.49 BB/9 off his numbers from 2010. Can he keep that control intact? Possibly. However, until we see it consistently, Kershaw falls just shy of the top of the list.
7) C.C. Sabathia (NYY) -
A free agent, where C. C. Sabathia ends up will affect his fantasy value. If he stays in the Bronx, the prolific Yankees offense will lead to another monster Win total (19, 21 and 19 over the past 3 seasons). If he lands elsewhere, expect him to continue to amass innings and strikeouts with his usual aplomb. He’s about as reliable as they come.
8) Dan Haren (LAA) -
Haren is reminiscent of Greg Maddux in the sense that he is about as exciting as a bowl of Jell-O, yet he continues to put up great stats year-in and year-out. Discounting the first half of 2010, Haren has been rock steady with his ERA and xFIP over the past 4 seasons. For some reason, he has never put up big Win totals despite amassing huge innings year after year. He’s very good but not quite elite.
9) Jon Lester (BOS) -
Picked by many to be a top 3 starting pitcher prior to 2011, Lester always seems to fall just short of the best in the business. He is yet to put up a season ERA under 3.00 and higher Win totals are expected from a pitcher with his stuff and Boston’s offensive punch backing him up. Draft him at the low end of the top ten starting pitchers and you’ll do just fine.
10) Madison Bumgarner (SF) -
On June 21, 2011 Bumgarner faced the Minnesota Twins in an interleague game and gave up 8 ER while retiring only 1 batter. It was one of the worst performances in fantasy baseball history. All young pitchers will take their lumps. Bumgarner rebounded to be one of the best control pitchers in the game in the second half last season (19 BB after the break). He’s primed to break out big time in 2012. Watch for it.
When considering fantasy baseball starting pitchers for 2012, if you are able to solidify your roster with one of these top ten pitchers, you will find the remaining depth at the position is favorable in building around your staff ace. Save taking chances for the later rounds and grab a keeper for the front end of your rotation and you’ll give yourself a better chance at locking up half of your 5×5 stats. Good luck in 2012!