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Mound Musings: Top 100 Starters for 2012

David Regan

David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year.

Before I get to this week's Musings, you just don't kick Clayton Kershaw out of a game. It's just not done. Gerardo Parra is a punk, and umpire Bill Welke will get his ... By the way, the only two Dodger pitchers to win the Triple Crown before Kershaw wins it this year? The first one is obvious - Sandy Koufax (three times). Second? - Dazzy Vance.

As we wind down toward the end of the season, this is going to be the first in the Mound Musings Season-Ending Trilogy. Including this piece, expect the series to wrap up 2011 as follows:

Mound Musings Episode I: 2012 Top 100 Starters

Mound Musings Episode II: 2012 Top 50 Relievers

Mound Musings Episode III: Title TBD, but rumors have it being some sort of sabermetric-type piece.

Before we get to the names, a bit of a disclaimer. I hate making these lists. Invariably they generate a lot of comments, which is good. At the same time, you are all smart and have great feedback, often leaving me wondering what I was thinking ranking Player A ahead of Player B. So, this time I'm not going to stress about it. Put the list out there and hopefully engage in a healthy dialogue.

First up though, a preliminary four-team parlay card. These pay 12:1 at my local casino:

Baltimore -5.5 at Tennessee - I would have guessed 7.5 before I saw this.

Carolina +10.5 vs. Green Bay - Yes, I'm buying into Cam Newton, perhaps too early.

Dallas -3 at San Francisco - Should be a Dallas blowout. 27-13.

Denver -4.5 vs. Cincinnati - Kyle Orton will be much better with one game under his belt.

Back to baseball ...

The TOP 100

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
- (9.1, 2.0) - 25 wins likely plus elite ratios - he was an easy No. 1.

2. Roy Halladay, Phillies
- (8.7, 1.2) - Not old, but how much longer can he pitch at THIS level?

3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
- (9.7, 2.2) - Was in the mix for No. 1, but will the offense be there to support him?

4. CC Sabathia, Yankees
- (8.7, 2.2) - He'll opt out of his deal and re-up with the Yankees, continuing to pitch at an elite level.

5. Cliff Lee, Phillies
- (9.0, 1.8) - Obviously a great signing by the Phillies. Should have another three great years left.

6. Jered Weaver, Angels
- (7.9, 2.2) - K-rate keeps him out of the top-five, but barely. Best in his family, though.

7. Dan Haren, Angels
- (7.3, 1.2) - With that BB rate, he's a mini-Halladay. Only one No. 2 starter in baseball is better.

8. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
- (9.0, 0.0) - Only question is how many innings he's allowed to pitch next year? 180? 220?

9. Cole Hamels, Phillies
- (7.9, 1.9) - Could be team's third $20 million-plus starter.

10. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
- (8.7, 2.6) - Still a beast, but 3.30 ERA for him is a down year.

11. Zack Greinke, Brewers
- (10.4, 2.1) - Slow start, but he's been among the best in the last three months.

12. David Price, Rays
- (8.8, 2.3) - Yankees already salivating at the thought of Price in pinstripes, but he'll have another great year for Rays in '12.

13. Tim Lincecum, Giants
- (9.4, 3.6) - May have already peaked, but should still have several very good years left.

14. James Shields, Rays
- (8.4, 2.3) - Career year may lead to some team making an offer the Rays can't refuse.

15. Jon Lester, Red Sox
- (8.6, 3.4) - Walk rate needs to improve, but still has Cy Young potential.

16. Madison Bumgarner, Giants
- (8.6, 2.2) - Might already be team's best starter, but I'd like to see a repeat before he hits top 10.

17. Matt Cain, Giants
- (7.3, 2.4) - K/9 keeps him down this "low," but he's become quite reliable - injury risk is relatively minimal.

18. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks
- (7.9, 2.3) - Should hit 20-win plateu by year's end. Doesn't profile as a classic No. 1, but hard to argue with these results.

19. Josh Beckett, Red Sox
- (8.0, 2.4) - Has put last year's disaster behind him, though still has the occasional nagging injury.

20. Tommy Hanson, Braves
- (9.8, 3.2) - Bumped down a bit due to the injury this year, but when he's on, he's among the best.

21. Michael Pineda, Mariners
- (9.2, 2.9) - Tired a bit down the stretch due to workload in the first half; could be a top-10 guy quickly with his stuff.

22. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
- (8.5, 2.6) - One rough patch this year, so could be a Cy Young candidate some day if consistency continues to improve.

23. C.J. Wilson, Rangers
- (8.2, 2.9) - He's going to get PAID this winter. Best RP to SP conversion I can recall in some time.

24. Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks
- (6.9, 1.9) - Incredibly consistent No. 2/3 type starter.

25. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
- (Tommy John surgery) - Not sure he returns at an elite level, but all signs point to 100 percent health next spring.

26. Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians
- (8.8, 3.7) - Has been disappointing for the Indians; look for him to be more comfortable/successful next year.

27. Josh Johnson, Marlins
- (8.4, 3.0) - Beast when healthy, but just 60.1 innings in 2011.

28. Mat Latos, Padres
- (8.3, 3.1) - Slow start, solid over second half and could put it all together next year.

29. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
- (7.2, 2.2) - Two-year extension for this workhorse. No longer a Cy Young candidate, but solid No. 2? Yes.

30. Matt Garza, Cubs
- (9.1, 3.1) - Can be dominant at times, though with his stuff I see him as a bit of an underachiever.

31. Ervin Santana, Angels
- (7.1, 2.7) - Gets overlooked thanks to Weaver/Haren, but no-hitter this year wasn't a huge surprise.

32. Johnny Cueto, Reds
- (6.0, 2.7) - xFIP of 3.86 leads me to think he won't win the ERA title, but still a breakout year.

33. Brandon Beachy, Braves
- (10.4, 2.5) - Not sure he sustains that K/9 over the long haul, but he's secured a rotation spot in a deep and talented pool of young pitchers.

34. Vance Worley, Phillies
- (8.0, 2.8) - Might be pitching better than any No. 5 starter in history. Let's see how he does over 180 IP next year, but Phillies have a keeper.

35. Shaun Marcum, Brewers
- (7.1, 2.6) - Has proven that an upper-80s fastball is good enough.

36. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays
- (7.4, 3.5) - 3.82 xFIP to 3.01 ERA, but still thriving in tough AL East.

37. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
- (7.3, 2.4) - Don't see him ever fronting a rotation, but as a solid No. 3, he's hard to beat.

38. Jair Jurrjens, Braves
- (5.3, 2.6) - Gets hurt stepping over a pebble it seems; when healthy, he's excellent. Trade bait?

39. Doug Fister, Tigers
- (5.9, 1.7) - Making this trade look really good for the Tigers. Good enough to flirt with sub-4.00 ERA for the next few years.

40. Gio Gonzalez, Athletics
- (8.9, 4.2) - Can be electric and walk five batters all in the same game. Not sure he ever is a 2.5 BB/9 pitcher, but love the K's.

41. Gavin Floyd, White Sox
- (6.8, 2.0) - Has had a couple really ugly games. Overall has shown he's a strong No. 3 starter.

42. Max Scherzer, Tigers
- (7.7, 2.6) - Expected more strikeout potential, but at least he's remained healthy.

43. Justin Masterson, Indians
- (6.7, 2.4) - Tons of groundballs plus few walks equals success. More of a 3.50 ERA pitcher than current 3.03 mark.

44. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins
- (6.5, 1.9) - I'm a Nolasco owner, so feel my pain related to his inconsistency and declining K-rate. Control still excellent.

45. Anibal Sanchez, Marlins
- (9.2, 2.8) - From a torn labrum to this sort of success, he's been a nice surprise. Now if they can just get him some runs and a consistent closer.

46. John Danks, White Sox
- (7.3, 2.6) - Just six wins, but has generally pitched well. No huge leap this year by any means.

47. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
- (6.9, 1.7) - Nice first year back from TJ surgery. Should get closer to 180-plus innings next year.

48. Derek Holland, Rangers
- (7.1, 3.0) - A few clunkers, but four shutouts along the way. Consistency is coming.

49. Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers
- (7.1, 2.3) - Question here is whether Frank McCourt can afford to pay him again? Sounds like he wants to come back, and he hasn't lost anything this year.

50. Tim Hudson, Braves
- (6.5, 2.5) - Hasn't lost a thing it seems, as he'll approach 220 innings this year. You could say he's an injury risk for next year, but who isn't?

51. Roy Oswalt, Phillies
- (5.9, 2.3) - Team will either pick up his option or do what STL did with Carpenter - two-year extension.

52. Javier Vazquez, Marlins
- (7.5, 2.6) - Just needs to stay in the NL, plain and simple. I see him back in Florida.

53. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers
- (7.4, 4.0) - Really tailing off in the second half, but still expecting a solid 2012.

54. Trevor Cahill, Athletics
- (6.5, 3.7) - Relatively disappointing follow-up to last year's mirage of an 18-win season.

55. Alexi Ogando, Rangers
- (6.7, 2.3) - 5.20 ERA and far less control since the All-Star break. Is he just tiring in first year as a starter or will he move back to the pen next year? I think it's the former.

56. Ryan Dempster, Cubs
- (8.6, 3.3) - A solid presence in a season of turmoil for the Cubs. Expect another solid season in 2012.

57. Randy Wolf, Brewers
- (5.5, 2.9) - Not a big K guy, but wins and ERA should be healthy assuming Brewers have a decent offense next year again.

58. Jonathon Niese, Mets
- (7.9, 2.5) - Throwing harder this year and BB/9 down from 3.2 to 2.5. He has John Danks type upside.

59. Mark Buehrle, White Sox
- (4.8, 2.0) - Free agent is probably going to re-up in Chicago where he'll throw another 200-plus innings.

60. Scott Baker, Twins
- (8.2, 2.2) - Elbow injuries are a concern, but has greater than a 3:1 K:BB for his career.

61. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
- (6.9, 3.2) - He's tailed off a little, but really not that much. I'm not sure he'll be this good next year, but don't undervalue him either.

62. Edwin Jackson, Cardinals
- (6.9, 2.8) - Don't think the Cards will be able to afford him, but he should be fine wherever he goes.

63. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
- (5.8, 3.1) - 3.1 BB/9 is a surprise given his sub-2.0 marks in the minors, so expect improvement.

64. Matt Harrison, Rangers
- (6.1, 2.9) - So HOW good is the Teixeria trade now that Harrison has broken out? He's a solid No. 3/4.

65. Matt Moore, Rays
- (ugly debut as a RP) - Could be a top-20 guy for all I know, but it depends on when he makes the rotation for good. Smart thing would be to delay debut until around June 1.

66. Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies
- (7.3, 4.1) - Hate the walks, but love the 56.1-percent GB%. Comes in handy in Coors Field.

67. Drew Pomeranz, Rockies
- (solid first start) - Guessing he makes the team out of spring training, but he'll have to earn it. No guarantees.

68. Colby Lewis, Rangers
- (7.4, 2.6) - Not as good as last year, but Rangers still likely will bring him back.

69. Ivan Nova, Yankees
- (5.5, 3.1) - A 15-3 record? Crazy. He's not that good, but right now he's probably the favorite for Game 2 of the ALDS. Should be a lock to be part of the team's rotation next year.

70. Mike Minor, Braves
- (8.2, 3.0) - Barring a poor spring, he should be a part of the team's 2012 Opening Day rotation. He's a No. 3 long term.

71. Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays
- (10.4, 3.4) - 9.47 ERA in last five starts, but it's hard to overlook this K/9 rate. Maybe he's just tiring.

72. Erik Bedard, Red Sox
- (8.7, 3.1) - Nice numbers in (for him) a relatively healthy year. He's on the downside of his career, but if he can manage 180 innings, the numbers should be there.

73. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox
- (6.5, 3.4) - Back injuries are troubling, but I still believe.

74. Rick Porcello, Tigers
- (5.1, 2.2) - Like the 14 wins and solid walk rate, but it's time to face facts - he won't be striking out 150 guys any time soon.

75. Zach Britton, Orioles
- (5.7, 3.5) - Great start, poor middle and hopefully a strong finish. Eventually he might be a solid No. 3/borderline No. 2, but is it in 2012? Not so sure there.

76. R.A. Dickey, Mets
- (5.8, 2.2) - Knuckler hasn't been as good this year, but he can eat innings with the best of them.

77. Jake Peavy, White Sox
- (7.4, 2.0) - Would love to predict a return to elite status, but just don't see it. A major operation is probably more likely, but he's been pretty good at times, so consider him a relative sleeper.

78. Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks
- (5.9, 1.9) - Funky delivery has mostly worked, so consider him a solid bet to make 30 starts for the team next year.

79. Cory Luebke, Padres
- (9.7, 2.4) - Not an exciting guy in terms of stuff, but may I present Petco Park.

80. Paul Maholm, Pirates
- (5.4, 2.8) - Solid offseason trade candidate, so watch where he goes. He is what he is - decent WHIP and ERA, not a ton of K's.

81. Brandon McCarthy, Athletics
- (6.5, 1.4) - Can he stay healthy enough to make 30 starts next year? Not so sure, but when he's 100 percent, he's pretty good.

82. Josh Tomlin, Indians
- (4.8, 1.1) - Elite control, but when you have a 4.8 K/9, the struggles will be there from time to time.

83. Kyle Lohse, Cardinals
- (5.1, 2.1) - One more year on his STL deal, so he'll be back despite the inconsistency. 2011 was a nice bounce-back year.

84. Philip Humber, White Sox
- (6.3, 2.0) - Has reignited his career in Chicago, but struggles in the second half leave him slightly up in the air in terms of his 2012 role. Chris Sale is nipping at his heels, but I still think he'll be a part of their rotation.

85. Bud Norris, Astros
- (8.7, 3.4) - BB/9 has improved from 4.5 to 3.4 over last year, so he should settle in as a solid No. 3. Wins probably won't be there, however.

86. Charlie Morton, Pirates
- (5.6, 4.0) - Elite 59.1 GB% is the key to his success. Just needs to work on that control, but I'm fairly optimistic.

87. Derek Lowe, Braves
- (6.7, 3.5) - Braves seem likely to offload him this winter to make room for young arms.

88. Bronson Arroyo, Reds
- (5.0, 2.1) - Too much of a flyball guy for that ballpark, but at least he's consistently healthy.

89. Randall Delgado, Braves
- (5.9, 4.1) - I think he opens as the team's No. 5 starter next spring and though he doesn't have Teheran's upside, he could have Minor's.

90. Chris Narveson, Brewers
- (7.2, 3.4) - Solid No. 4/5 type after seemingly failing as a former top prospect with the Cardinals.

91. Wade Davis, Rays
- (5.1, 3.0) - Has had some solid starts over the second half, but could Matt Moore push for his job?

92. Homer Bailey, Reds
- (6.7, 2.1) - Still believe there's too much talent here to ignore.

93. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles
- (5.4, 2.8) - 16 losses thanks to the offense and Kevin Gregg's ineptitude, but he's a solid innings eater.

94. Jeff Niemann, Rays
- (6.9, 2.3) - 29 in February and has yet to throw 200 innings in a big league season, but he's solid.

95. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
- (8.1, 3.1) - Fully expect that he'll be traded. That should bump his value up. How much depends on landing spot (Yankees?).

96. Chris Sale, White Sox
- (10.0, 3.1) - Should return to the rotation next year, which could bump him up this list several notches.

97. Mike Leake, Reds
- (6.6, 1.9) - Won't ever be a big K guy, but he should have a nice career. Just hope it's in the big leagues, not the California Penal League.

98. Felipe Paulino, Royals
- (8.4, 3.6) - No starter is averaging more on his fastball than Paulino, and if he can continue to refine his control and secondary offerings, the Royals will have something.

99. Jason Vargas, Mariners
- (5.5, 2.8) - Has taken a step back this year, but still love the ballpark and his handedness.

100. Luke Hochevar, Royals
- (5.9, 2.8) - 1.29 WHIP is an improvement over 1.46 pre-2011 mark. Will never live up to No. 1 overall pick status, but he's serviceable.

Uncertain status

Neftali Feliz, Rangers - Could be converted to starter role.
Jake Odorizzi, Royals - Team's top pitching prospect, but probably opens in Triple-A.
Arodys Vizcaino, Braves - Trade bait
Wily Peralta, Brewers - Competes with Narveson?
Aroldis Chapman, Reds - Who knows ...

Probably part of a Top-150 list (in no particular order)

Phil Hughes, Yankees - Maybe should be on list but isn't. Deep thought there.
Rich Harden, Athletics
Fausto Carmona, Indians
Carl Pavano, Twins
Julio Teheran, Braves - Rank would be around 60 if he makes Opening Day rotation.
Guillermo Moscoso, Athletics
Chris Capuano, Mets
Brett Anderson, Athletics - SHOULD be OK after Tommy John, but we'll see.
John Lannan, Nationals
Jerome Williams, Angels - Great story, but need to see more.
Jeff Karstens, Pirates
Kevin Slowey, Twins
Francisco Liriano, Twins- Crystal ball says he's about done, but crystal ball could be wrong.
Zach Stewart, White Sox
Manny Banuelos, Yankees - Great upside, but will Yankees use him as a starter often next year?
Dellin Betances, Yankees
Brett Myers, Astros
John Lackey, Red Sox
Johan Santana, Mets - Wouldn't touch him right now, but could rise up list quickly.
Bruce Chen, Royals
Brett Cecil, Blue Jays
Brian Duensing, Twins
Joe Saunders, Diamondbacks
Ted Lilly, Dodgers - Seems reliable, but I prefer younger pitchers with upside.
Jonathan Sanchez, Giants
Tim Stauffer, Padres
David Huff, Indians
Aaron Harang, Padres
Danny Duffy, Royals
James McDonald, Pirates
Mike Pelfrey, Mets
Jordan Lyles, Astros
Randy Wells, Cubs
Kevin Millwood, Rockies
Dillon Gee, Mets
A.J. Burnett, Yankees
Nick Blackburn, Twins
Ross Detwiler, Nationals
Bartolo Colon, Yankees
Freddy Garcia, Yankees
Edinson Volquez, Reds
Alex White, Rockies
Tyler Skaggs, Diamondbacks - Love this kid. Reportedly could compete for rotation spot in spring.
Jarrod Parker, Diamondbacks
Eric Surkamp, Giants
Brad Peacock, Nationals - Brad "The Bird" Peacock?
Travis Wood, Reds
Brian Matusz, Orioles
Martin Perez, Rangers
Liam Hendriks, Twins

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

Follow @vtadave on Twitter.