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Bernie On The Scene: Starting Pitcher Rankings

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

In this edition of "Bernie On The Scene" I rank pitchers from both leagues.

In my opinion, ranking and selecting pitchers is a bit more problematic.

According to a report I heard from Baltimore Orioles organizational pitching coordinator Rick Peterson, more than 50 percent of major league pitchers have been lost at one time or another to some type of arm/elbow/should injury. That's a staggering figure. The industry has paid close to $1.5 billion dollars in money paid out regarding pitcher's arm injuries.

Peterson and the Orioles have a very sophisticated pitching regimen and protocols in place to provide state of the art care and preventive measures regarding the physics and anatomy of the arm. The work of noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews is at the center of their research.

My reason for writing this: just like a major league organization, you can't have too much pitching on your fantasy roster. Count on someone getting hurt. Be prepared to replace him.

I look for several factors when I select fantasy pitchers. Here are my guidelines and the components around which my rankings are based:

1) I look at recent injury history and the nature of the injury. It has been my experience that in today's medical world, elbow injuries are easier to diagnose and treat than shoulder injuries.

As a scout, we were always much more concerned about a pitcher with a shoulder injury than one with a forearm strain or elbow issues. Of course, that will vary from pitcher to pitcher.

RotoWire's Jeff Stotts is extremely knowledgeable about arm injuries. I suggest you read his work closely and trust what he says. He's an expert.

The most common treatment of elbow conditions is ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, or Tommy John surgery. Dr. Frank Jobe, who probably belongs in the Hall of Fame, created the procedure. The normal recovery time from the surgery is 12-to-16 months, depending on the patient.

It is important for you to know which pitchers are returning from injury - not just Tommy John surgery.

2) I closely evaluate where the pitcher fits in his team's rotation. The slot in the rotation is not totally indicative of the pitcher's ability or inability. Often times pitcher's slots are determined to break up a string of right-handed or left-handed pitching or to put an off-speed pitcher following a flame-thrower. A fifth starter will likely get fewer starts than the others.

3) I look at the quality of the defense behind the pitcher. Poor defense yields runs. Yes, many of those are unearned. But it gets the pitcher out of the game earlier than necessary.

4) I look at the pitcher's ability to pitch under pressure. There are those pitchers that want the ball any time, anywhere. There are those that don't. Find out who they are.

5) Of course I look at the pitcher's team's ability to score runs for him. Think of Matt Cain, for example. He went through times when he got no run support. Or Felix Hernandez.

6) Finally, I look at a pitcher's home park. He will likely pitch half his games there. A pitcher's park could help provide better results in all categories except strikeouts. The park won't help if the guy can't pitch. Period.

So, here are my 2013 starting pitcher rankings. In some cases, I make comments.


1. Clayton Kershaw - secondary pitches set him apart now.
2. Justin Verlander - amazing endurance, command, velocity.
3. Stephen Strasburg - pitching a full season = watch out.
4. David Price - now in a class with the big, big guys.
5. Felix Hernandez - a better offense could mean some wins.
6. Matt Cain - give him the ball in tough games. He's a winner.
7. Cole Hamels - gets the opening day call in Philly. 'Nough said.
8. Jered Weaver - some velocity decline, but looking for K's.
9. Gio Gonzalez - has become a winner on a winning team.
10. Yu Darvish - More experience - he harnesses all eight of his pitches.
11. R.A. Dickey - now pitching on a winner, but in tough division.
12. CC Sabathia - wins could be tougher to achieve.
13. Adam Wainwright - all the way back - knows how to pitch.
14. Madison Bumgarner - could command and ability to pitch.
15. Chris Sale - tall, slender downhill pitcher with ability.
16. James Shields - ace of a new staff adjusts to new league.
17. Max Scherzer - this is his year, as well as his team's.
18. Kris Medlen - I don't think last year was a fluke. Good team.
19. Aroldis Chapman - chicken, fish? Starter? Reliever? Velocity.
20. Johnny Cueto - Always concerned about pitching in Cincinnati.
21. Mat Latos - see above about park factor concerns.
22. Zack Greinke - yes, I'm concerned about his elbow.
23. Yovani Gallardo - solid arm, but loses command at times.
24. Cliff Lee - he could stand a little more run support.
25. Jordan Zimmermann- should continue to improve.
26. Ryan Vogelsong - every year we doubt him. I don't.
27. Jon Lester - surprising rebound for Red Sox lefty.
28. Brett Anderson - if he stays healthy, this guy's a winner.
29. Roy Halladay - it doesn't look good, but he's Halladay.
30. Hiroki Kuroda - I'm not one of the doom sayers.
31. Brandon Morrow - inconsistency still an issue.
32. Jake Peavy - pitched with no run support last year. Again?
33. C.J. Wilson - right club, division hitters are really tough.
34. Matt Harvey - a budding star with a full repertoire.
35. Doug Fister - we've seen great and mediocre. Which is he?
36. Matt Moore - we're waiting.
37. Ian Kennedy - I think he's more 2012 than 2011.
38. Josh Johnson - yes, injury issues are a real concern.
39. Jeff Samardzija - bad club hurts his wins.
40. Alexi Ogando - I've always been a believer. Now has 3 pitches.
41. Tommy Milone - right team, right time, right guy.
42. Jon Niese - command and control, not much velocity.
43. Trevor Cahill - his home park hurts.
44. Anibal Sanchez - showed his stuff in playoffs.
45. Matt Harrison - now the “ace” of the staff.
46. Brandon McCarthy - if he's healthy, he's a winner part 2.
47. Jarrod Parker - inconsistent, but he's got a fine arm.
48. Derek Holland - who is this guy? If you know, tell me.
49. Wade Miley - I believe in his command.
50. A.J. Burnett - no pressure, no problems.
51. Jason Vargas - a much under - appreciated pitcher.
52. Lance Lynn - right team, good arm.
53. Wei-Yin Chen - pitches to contact - has command.
54. Tim Lincecum - This his hard for me to do. A great guy.
55. Erasmo Ramirez - I really like his chances.
56. Jaime Garcia - if he can stay healthy, he's better than this.
57. Josh Beckett - the man is on a mission to reinvent himself.
58. Dan Haren
59. Edwin Jackson
60. Shaun Marcum
61. Marco Estrada - liked him more before I saw him in spring.
62. Wily Peralta - don't sleep on this guy.
63. A.J. Griffin
64. Kyle Kendrick
65. Hisashi Iwakuma
66. Rick Porcello
67. Alex Cobb
68. Clay Buchholz
69. Tommy Hanson
70. Ervin Santana
71. Mike Fiers
72. Chris Tillman
73. John Lackey
74. Edinson Volquez
75. Bruce Chen
76. Jeremy Hellickson
77. Bronson Arroyo
78. Robbie Ross
79. Henderson Alvarez
80. Ross Detwiler
81. John Lannan
82. Miguel Gonzalez
83. Patrick Corbin
84. Wade Davis
85. Phil Hughes
86. Jeremy Guthrie
87. Ryan Dempster
88. Felix Doubront
89. Ubaldo Jimenez
90. Brandon Beachy - much higher, but still recovering.
91. Shelby Miller
92. Chris Archer
93. Ricky Nolasco
94. Jason Marquis
95. Barry Zito
96. Ivan Nova
97. Kevin Correia
98. Jake Westbrook
99. Joe Saunders
100. Bruce Chen
101. Homer Bailey
102. Drew Smyly
103. Mike Minor
104. Cory Luebke - much higher, but still recovering.
105. Johan Santana
106. Hisashi Iwakuma
107. Paul Maholm
108. Dillon Gee
109. Jorge De La Rosa
110. Andy Pettitte
111. Zach McAllister
112. Hyun-Jin Ryu
113. Clayton Richard
114. Justin Masterson
115. Nathan Eovaldi
116. Joe Blanton
117. Vance Worley
118. Ricky Romero
119. Lucas Harrell
120. Wade LeBlanc
121. Gavin Floyd
122. John Danks
123. Bud Norris
124. Wandy Rodriguez
125. Henderson Alvarez
126. Julio Teheran
127. Blake Beaven
128. Jhoulys Chacin
129. Jeff Niemann
130. Jose Quintana
131. Jacob Turner
132. Scott Feldman
133. Juan Nicasio
134. Brett Myers


The Padres just don't have any luck. Last year their pitchers went down. This year they have already lost third baseman Chase Headley. Any hand injury causes long-lasting issues. Be careful with him

Well, the Yankees took my suggestion and did more than look at Brennan Boesch. He's now a platoon outfielder for them.

Unless you've watched a game or two at Coors, you have no idea how it impacts pitching. And hitting. I don't know how a Rockies pitcher can be successful over time. I'm also fearful for visiting pitchers in Coors. Watch the schedule carefully.

There are a few words that describe the condition of the 2013 Yankees as they enter the season. Let me state a few: Juan Rivera at first base.

IMO, the Blue Jays have a number of holes that will be exposed. I do not consider them a lock to win that division.

I think I asked you to remember the name Michael Wacha. This week's name to remember? Khris Davis, OF, Brewers. He just has no place to play with Ryan Braun on the club.

Scouts in Florida are raving about the Mets' Matt Harvey. I've been raving about him from the first time I saw him.

I'm raving about Wily Peralta. The guy has a very loose arm and the ball explodes on the hitter.

Does Kyle Lohse have some kind of communicable disease I'm unaware of? What's up with that? You mean Brett Myers has a gig and Lohse doesn't?

Next week I'll write about relievers. Then I'll wrap up my spring training experiences with an article featuring my general thoughts about each club.

Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and on in the Voices section.