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Behind the Numbers: Pitcher Rankings

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

This is the final installment of my preseason rankings. Publishing these lists is always a fun exercise, as it usually generates a healthy dose of disagreement as well as an unhealthy dose of "you're an idiot" type of comments.

To sum up the below,

One guy I'm higher on than others: Max Scherzer

...and one I'm less high on: R.A. Dickey

Starting Pitchers

1. Justin Verlander, DET - Flip a coin between him and Kershaw. I just feel Verlander's a slightly safer bet.
2. Clayton Kershaw, LA - You know you're good when a second place Cy Young finish constitutes a down year.
3. Stephen Strasburg, WAS - Could easily be #1 next year, but I'd like to see 200 innings first. 200 strikeouts appears to be his floor. Ceiling = 250?
4. David Price, TB - Expect another run at a Cy Young, but will he finish the year in Tampa Bay? Might depend on the team's position in the standings on July 31.
5. Cole Hamels, PHI - Took K/9 from 8.1 to 9.0 year over year. Also 31-33 starts in each of the last five years.
6. Cliff Lee, PHI - I'm pretty confident that he'll win more than six games this year.
7. Yu Darvish, TEX - First year in the U.S. went about as well as could be expected. Now that he's comfortable, expect further progress this year.
8. Felix Hernandez, SEA - Declining velocity, elbow issues this spring…yes, I'm at least a little worried.
9. Matt Cain, SF - Not sure he's going to take a HUGE leap this year, but I think he's a top-10 pitcher now.
10. Max Scherzer, DET - The best pitcher in the game…with different colored eyes that is. Seriously though, I love the strikeouts and the fact that he posted a 3.14 ERA after April. This ranking is aggressive, but I have to do this based on how many teams in which I already own his services.
11. James Shields, KC - I guess you could say that the trade out of the AL East would help, but at this point NOT facing the Yankees and Red Sox might be a negative.
12. Adam Wainwright, STL - Looks like he's fully back.
13. Jered Weaver, ANA - Drop in his K/9 from 9.4 to 6.8 since 2010 probably means we've seen his best. ADP has him as the #8 SP, but I don't see him that high.
14. Kris Medlen, ATL - Will the team let him go from 138 innings to 200+? Figure he clocks in around 180-190 IP.
15. Madison Bumgarner, SF - Increased GB% from 46% to 47.9% but 11.7% of flyballs went for homers versus 6.2% in 2011. If he can lower that to around 9%, ERA should clock in around 3.15.
16. Gio Gonzalez, WAS - 3.4 BB/9 vs. 4.1 the year before. If he can continue to make progress there, he could be a top-10 pitcher. I'm not worried about the Biogenesis drama here.
17. Chris Sale, CHI - Awkward delivery is a concern, but he should be good for another solid season.
18. Roy Halladay, PHI - Velocity dipped 1.4 mph on average last year and he's shown little velocity so far this spring. I might be overrating him here.
19. Johnny Cueto, CIN - Cut his walks, increased his strikeout rate, and topped 200 innings for the first time ever. He's arrived.
20. Ian Kennedy, AZ - Dip wasn't totally unexpected, so he might be a value pick this year.
21. R.A. Dickey, TOR - This is lower than a lot of other rankings. Maybe I'm upset he stole Kershaw's Cy Young award, but I don't have a good feeling about his move to the AL nor his pitching yet this spring.
22. CC Sabathia, NY-A - 200 innings were his lowest total since 2006. Missed time with a sore elbow and showed diminished velocity. So this is why many pitchers of days gone by flamed out after many years of high innings counts…
23. Zack Greinke, LA - PRP injections are nothing to worry about right? The Dodgers have $147 million reasons to hope that is the case. Maybe he's a bargain now, but I can't see drafting him in the top-20.
24. Aroldis Chapman, CIN - This one is tough. Chapman has the pure stuff of a top-10 starter, but will he actually start? I think he does, but look for an innings limit here - 160? Still, that could come with 200 strikeouts.
25. Yovani Gallardo, MIL - As durable and consistent as they come. I'm just not sure he has a big step forward in him, particularly considering his BB/9 went the wrong way last year - 3.6 from 2011's 2.6.
26. Jeff Samardzija, CHI - Big, strong, has a fastball that averages 95 mph, and he's 28. What's not to like? Has top-15 talent, but I'd like to see him hit 200 innings first before we move him up too far on these rankings.
27. Jordan Zimmermann, WAS - Love him, but a little concern that he's already dealing with a dead arm.
28. Dan Haren, WAS - When Dan Haren is your #4 starter, you have a strong rotation. Very encouraging that he's already touched 93 this spring after diminished velocity last year.
29. Mat Latos, CIN - Not exactly shocking that his HR rate went up with the move out of Petco to the GAB. He's probably never going to be a top-15 pitcher, but he and Cueto give the Reds a solid 1-2 punch.
30. Jon Niese, NY-N - Walk rate was cut in each of the last two years. I think he has another step forward in him.
31. Brandon Morrow, TOR - Has the stuff to post an ERA in the low 3's with 200 strikeouts, but at this point is anyone confident he can make 32 starts in a single season?
32. C.J. Wilson, LAA - Maybe offseason elbow surgery will help reverse the regression last year in his strikeout and walk rates.
33. Homer Bailey, CIN - He's coming into his own, though I'm not sure he'll ever be the #1 starter we hoped for when he was drafted.
34. Hiroki Kuroda, NY - Showed little, if any, regression last year, but how much longer can he pitch at this level?
35. Matt Moore, TB - Probably ready to take a huge step forward in his age-23 season. He's their future ace.
36. Ryan Vogelsong, SF - Not spectacular, but should be solid again.
37. A.J. Burnett, PIT - Getting up there in years, but he's made 31+ starts in each of the last five years and he misses bats.
38. Josh Johnson, TOR - NL East to the AL East isn't a good thing for pitchers, but if he's healthy, he can be a top-15 guy. If he falls enough in your draft, jump on him.
39. Tim Hudson, ATL - As long as his back holds up, he should post his usual solid numbers, though sans the strikeouts.
40. Mike Minor, ATL - 7.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 could improve a little this year, but he'll never be an ace. That's okay though.
41. Doug Fister, DET - As good a #4 starter as there is. Love that his K/9 improved from 6.1 to 7.6.
42. Brett Anderson, OAK - Comes with a bit of risk, but the upside is pretty solid if you can grab him later in your draft.
43. Jake Peavy, CHI - Just when I thought his career might flame out, Peavy posts his first 200+ IP season since 2007. No reason to think he'll regress.
44. Jarrod Parker, OAK - As a former top prospect another year removed from Tommy John surgery at age 24, the upside is pretty big here. It sure doesn't hurt that he'll have the Astros in his division this year.
45. Anibal Sanchez, DET - Strikeout rate dropped back to prior levels after a 2011 spike, but at least he's put health concerns in the past with three straight seasons of 31+ starts.
46. Jon Lester, BOS - I think he's embarrassed due to Chickenbeergate, so I'm expecting a major improvement this year.
47. Derek Holland, TEX - Upside exceeds the results he's shown so far. Those are the guys you take a chance on.
48. Edwin Jackson, CHI - Jackson seems like the type of guy who will be more relaxed now that he finally has his long-term deal.
49. Josh Beckett, LA - Sub-3.00 ERA in LA, and though we've probably seen his best year, it's easy to see him improving on 2012, perhaps dramatically.
50. Tim Lincecum, SF - Short hair, avoided fast food this winter, wears glasses he doesn't need, and he's in his walk year. I could see the case for 15-20 other guys making this list over him, but I'm buying a comeback here.

Just missed: Matt Harrison, TEX; Lance Lynn, STL; Alexi Ogando, TEX; Wade Miley, AZ; Trevor Cahill, AZ; Chris Capuano, LA; Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA; Matt Harvey, NYN; Wandy Rodriguez, PIT; Ryan Dempster, BOS; Jeremy Hellickson, TB; Ricky Nolasco, MIA; Tommy Hanson, LAA; Brandon McCarthy, OAK; Tommy Milone, OAK; Matt Garza, CHC (injured)

Not yet, but soon: Shelby Miller, STL; Tyler Skaggs, ARI; Gerrit Cole, PIT; Trevor Bauer, CLE; Dylan Bundy, BAL

Relievers

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL - As easy a pick for the #1 reliever as Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano are for third base and second base, respectively.
2. Jason Motte, STL - Thriving now that Tony La Russa isn't around.
3. Jonathan Papelbon, PHI - As much security as anyone.
4. Mariano Rivera, NYA - Rivera's swan song should rival that of fellow future HOFers such as Chipper Jones.
5. Sergio Romo, SF - He may look illegal, but he's also very good.
6. Joe Nathan, TEX - A 10.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in his first year in the AL was a shocker. He's still got it.
7. J.J. Putz, AZ - Almost as good as the Putz of old these days. David Hernandez will have to wait until at least 2014.
8. Rafael Soriano, WAS - Sorry Drew Storen owners, one of which is myself.
9. Jason Grilli, PIT - A 13.8 K/9 at age 35 marked this sixth straight season in which that ratio increased. It's tough to say he won't regress, but at this point, I like him enough to have spent $21 on him in the RotoWire Staff Keeper League.
10. Fernando Rodney, TB - Rodney's name screams "REGRESSION!", but he was simply too good last year to expect a huge drop-off.
11. Greg Holland, KC - He just "looks like" a closer, but if there's a slip-up, guys like Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera are waiting.
12. Tom Wilhelmsen, SEA - The ex-bartender who replaced Brandon League heads into his first season as an established closer. Peripherals were solid at 9.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, so he should have no problem holding off Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps.
13. Jim Johnson, BAL - 51 saves and a 5.4 K/9 don't usually go together. Still, expect more one-run Orioles games and another 40 or so saves for Johnson.
14. Chris Perez, CLE - He's a bit erratic and if the Indians struggle out of the gate, Perez is a prime trade candidate. Vinny Pestano would likely take over.
15. Glen Perkins, MIN - Solid, but Jared Burton is the guy you want to keep an eye on as a potential in-season option.
16. Joel Hanrahan, BOS - Has the stuff, but can he handle the Boston fans when he blows back-to-back saves?
17. John Axford, MIL - Incredibly overrated. Jim Henderson is an interesting setup man given his 13.2 K/9 last year.
18. Grant Balfour, OAK - Pitched like an elite closer last year, but Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle could see saves this year.
19. Rafael Betancourt, COL - Let's face it - the Rockies are going to finish in last place in the NL West this year. That makes Betancourt a prime trade candidate come July. That makes Matt Belisle and Wilton Lopez interesting.
20. Jonathan Broxton, CIN - If Aroldis Chapman isn't starting, he's closing. That in and of itself makes Broxton a huge risk. Draft accordingly.
21. Ernesto Frieri, LAA - Ryan Madson might be the guy here once he's healthy and throwing like he used to. Still, Frieri notched a 13.4 K/9 last year and should open as the closer. How he does in April likely determines his role for the balance of 2013.
22. Addison Reed, CHW - His stuff, including a mid-90s fastball, will help his 4.75 ERA to improve dramatically. He has top-10 closer stuff.
23. Steve Cishek, MIA - Ryan Webb and Jon Rauch are plans B and C. ‘nuff said.
24. Huston Street, SD - It's pretty easy to see Street either getting hurt or traded this year. Luke Gregerson and/or Dale Thayer should be monitored.
25. Brandon League, LA - $22.5 million? Really? That contract pretty much guarantees he opens as closer, but Kenley Jansen is the team's best reliever. Ronald Belisario may be the second best option over League.
26. Bobby Parnell, NYN - On target to close Opening Day with Frank Francisco ailing. Parnell improved his BB/9 from 4.1 to 2.6 last year, so he may be a bit of a sleeper option.
27. Carlos Marmol, CHI - Fujikawa may very well end up with more saves than Marmol, possibly via a Marmol trade (Detroit?) or a Marmol meltdown.
28. Casey Janssen, TOR - Dealing with a sore shoulder and not guaranteed to be ready for Opening Day. Sergio Santos is a major threat to save more games than Janssen.
29. Jose Veras, HOU - There are no other options, so I guess we need to look beyond his 4.9 career BB/9. Mediocre closers on bad/terrible teams can have plenty of fantasy value (remember Jose Mesa?), but this could be a revolving door.
30. Bruce Rondon, DET - If you're drafting in late March, Rondon could either be in the top-10 on this list due to his 100+ mph fastball or he could be off the list because he can't find the plate. He's been pitching better lately, but Phil Coke or a host of other Tigers' relievers could be the team's closer come Opening Day.

Setup men to watch: Kenley Jansen, LAD; Wesley Wright, HOU; Sergio Santos, TOR; Frank Francisco, NYM; Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle, OAK; Kyuji Fujikawa, CHC; Ryan Madson, LAA.

Next week we'll look at some sleepers and busts - guys that I'm targeting and avoiding in my drafts so far this month.

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