Fantasy Baseball Preview 2014: Pitchers

I’m nearly 30-years-old and single. Some might call me a commitment-phobe. Others might call me smart.

In my entire life I can count the girls on one hand I would call actual “girl friends.” Although almost every single male in my high school graduation class is on their first or second marriage, I’m in no rush. I’m waiting. Which is exactly what you should do when it comes to pitching in fantasy this year.

Go ahead and have your fling with that one special pick early-on, and then wait for the big one. And don’t even get me started on closers. As ESPN’s Matthew Berry says, “Never pay for saves!” Ergo we’re just focusing on starters here at Crave.

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Catchers

Fantasy Baseball Preview: First Base/DH

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Second Basemen

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Third Basemen


Cy Young Tier

The very best in fantasy baseball.

1 Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

Without a doubt the best pitcher in baseball, had a ridiculous 1.83 ERA last year — one of the best single season performances in history. However, I won’t have him on any of my teams because no pitcher is worth a first round pick, especially when the pool is as deep as it is this year. He’s great, but don’t overpay. 

2 Yu Darvish – Texas

3 Adam Wainwright – St. Louis

This may be a homer pick, but Wainy is not only great, but as reliable as they come. He looked as good as ever last year, leading the league in wins and finished second in the league in K/BB ratio. The Cardinals will be in the hunt for another World Series this year and Wainwright is their leader in what is a fairly average division.

4 Felix Hernandez – Seattle

Some are worried about the tread on the tires as King Felix struggled a little bit with a strained oblique last year. He still finished with a 3.04 ERA and 216 Ks. Remember he’s still only 27-years-old in a pitcher-friendly park.

5 Cliff Lee – Philadelphia

He just continues to get it done. He finished 2013 first in the NL with a 7 K/BB ratio, second with 222 Ks and fourth with a 1.01 WHIP. His ERA was 2.87.

6 Max Scherzer – Detroit

Scherzer finally showed us why he was a top prospect for years. He was flat out the best pitcher in the American League. He finished third in MLB in swing and miss rate (27.9%) which means what he’s throwing is no joke. Guys can’t hit him.

7 Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox

The kid has the tools to win a Cy Young. The wins category might hurt him a little, but he’s a lock for over 200 Ks and an ERA around 3.00 or under. Ignore those who say his delivery makes him an injury liability. 

8 Jose Fernandez – Miami

What Jose did last year was historic. We’ve literally never seen a 20-year-old pull of what we did — a 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 187 Ks over 172 2/3 innings. He was even better down the stretch, going 7-1 with a 1.34 ERA in his last 11 starts of ’13. He’s the next big superstar. 


Bob Gibson Tier

Still among the best in the game, drafting here ensures great consistency and reliability.

9 Stephen Strasburg – Washington

Slight injury risk here, but he did pitch through minor pain in 2013 and was still phenomenal. An ERA under 3.00 with well over 200 Ks is highly likely.

10 Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco

He’s had a sub 3.40 ERA for three years straight and is still only 24-years-old. Scary.

11 David Price – Tampa

Price struggled out of the gate in ’13 and everyone panicked. However, after he returned from a lengthy DL stint he tossed a 2.53 ERA and an 0.96 WHIP over 18 starts, proving he must have been pitching through an injury and the minor blip-dip wasn’t the start of a decline.

12 Justin Verlander – Detroit

Verlander was very sub-par for Verlander last year — but guess what, he was still damn good. Although his velocity dipped a little bit, he finished last season strong, posting a 0.39 ERA in the playoffs. He had core-muscle repair surgery in the off season and should be 100 percent over Spring Training. Watch closely, but a bounce back from Verlander is very likely. He’s just too good. 

13 Zack Greinke – Los Angeles Dodgers

He loves the NL and in a pitcher-friendly park Greinke is a lock to have another year of a sub 3.30 ERA.

14 Jordan Zimmerman – Washington

He’ll get you a solid ERA and WHIP with an average K rate but he also hardly walks batters.

15 Matt Cain – San Francisco

Cain, who at one time was the luckiest pitcher in baseball analytically, had some regression to the mean last season. Every sabermetrician will tell you Cain still has the same skill set but simply had some bad luck in 2013. Still take him expecting an ERA a little over 3.00 and a great WHIP.

16 Homer Bailey – Cincinnati

17 Matt Latos – Cincinnati

You just read what I wrote about Bailey — Latos is just as good only a little more consistent, slightly lower ceiling than Bailey most likely however. 

18 Anibal Sanchez – Detroit

Can’t lie, I’ve whiffed on Sanchez. Never been a fan. But there is no way to ignore last year’s numbers. He had an ERA under 3.00 for the first time in his career, and the man is 30 years old. Late bloomer? Regardless, the numbers say he’s no fluke. 

19 Cole Hamels – Philadelphia

Hamels is still elite but comes with some risk this year due to an injury he’s currently battling. Word is he won’t be ready for Opening Day so tread carefully. 

20 Gio Gonzalez – Washington

Awful April last year but following his slow start had a 2.97 ERA and 1.23 WHIP after May 1.

21 Mike Minor – Atlanta

Assign each Braves pitcher a side, roll the dice and take who comes up on top. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if any of Atlanta’s starting five leads their team in all major categories. They have the best rotation in the majors. Minor seems to be most people’s favorite; he’s young, is a lefty, and had a 3.21 ERA last year.

22 James Shields – Kansas City

Had a terrific 3.15 ERA while keeping his walks and home runs down.

23 Bargain Alert! Michael Wacha – St. Louis

Everyone went wacha for Wacha after he won the NLCS MVP last year. He was nearly unhittable for almost a month. He’s elite. He’s very good. But don’t over-pay for a kid who might have an innings limit put on him by the end of the season.

24 Kris Medlen – Atlanta

Just another solid Braves pitcher with a high ceiling. The FanGraphs ZiPS computer has him at a 3.31 ERA this year.

25 Bargain Alert! Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh

Analysts love this guy. He’s big. He’s strong. He has control. He had a 3.22 ERA last year. He’s in the NL. Buy him now while you can still get him. 

26 Bargain Alert! Alex Cobb – Tampa

If not for taking a line drive to the head last year, Cobb would have been in the discussion for a Cy Young Award. 

27 Bargain Alert! Shelby Miller – St. Louis

The Cardinals rested him during the playoffs last year, but don’t forget he was projected to be even better than Wacha. 

28 Julio Teheran – Atlanta

29  Bargain Alert! Doug Fister – Washington

Has been under the radar for the most part in the American League behind King Felix and Justin Verlander the past few years. This guy should see his numbers go up moving to the NL. [ESPN]: Since the date of Fister’s first MLB start in 2009, he has the majors’ fourth best walk rate (4.8 percent) and walks-per-nine ratio (1.81), as well as the highest swing rate on non-strikes (38.4 percent) and the second-best called-strike rate (38.4 percent), behind only Lee. Yup. I like him.

30 Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels

Although he has great control and should still be solid, his velocity keeps declining and experts are saying they wouldn’t be shocked to see his numbers take a big dip this year as well. 

31 Hisashi Iwakuma – Seattle

Iwakuma had a little bit of luck last year sabermetrically, but the main reason I’m not taking him is because of his lingering injury. Tread carefully but missing out on just a few weeks — if that’s the case — might not be so bad for having a solid Seattle pitcher on your roster. 


Jack McDowell Tier

Although not always an All-Star, these guys could show flashes of greatness and are worth starting on many teams.

32 Sleeper Alert! Sonny Gray – Oakland

[FanGraphs]: In 12 appearances including 10 starts, Sonny Gray did all the things you want to see out of a potential fantasy workhorse. He struck out over a batter per inning (9.42 K/9), kept the walk rate under control (2.81 BB/9), and threw ground balls over 50 percent of the time, all while wielding a 93 mph fastball. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP all stood below 3.00, which is about as sure a sign of dominance as there can be…. I love this kid. The only reason he’s this low is because of the small sample size we’ve seen. 

33  Bargain Alert! Jeff Samardzija – Chicago Cubs

Trade rumors are swirling so he could be with a new team by Opening Day. There are a few NL teams I would be excited to see him on (L.A., Pittsburgh, New York, San Diego) — any AL team would scare me. He strikes guys out at an alarming rate but can be inconsistent. 

34 Masahiro Tanaka – New York Yankees

The Yankees gave this Japanese import one of the biggest contracts in MLB history, but Brian Cashman stated he expects Tanaka to pitch like a No. 3, knowing it will take some time for him to adjust to MLB hitters. 

35 Sleeper Alert! Tony Cingrani – Cincinnati

Throws serious heat and has potential to be future ace. Will get you a lot of Ks.

36 Matt Moore – Tampa

Once an elite prospect, he had a solid season in 2013 but the underlying numbers suggest some slight decline considering the drop in Ks and spike in walks. You could still do much worse for a No. 3 starter. 

37 Sleeper Alert! Danny Salazar – Cleveland

I love any kid that can throw 100 mph and still have some control. An innings limit and small sample size keep him fairly reasonable. 

38 C.J Wilson – Los Angeles Angels

Just above average pitcher but if you play him with the right matchups could benefit your team.

39 Bargain Alert! Matt Garza

Milwaukee Pick No. 209 for a guy who will probably get you a 3.70 ERA at the very worst? Yes please. 

40 Johnny Cueto – Cincinnati

Elite but often injured. High risk/high reward. 

41 Patrick Corbin – Arizona

He was an All-Star last year yet people aren’t buying. The numbers tell us he doesn’t over-power anyone but last year wasn’t a complete fluke. 

42 Lance Lynn – St. Louis

Not a name anyone will get excited about when you draft him, but he’s a pitcher on the Cardinals staff who’s proven himself worthy. A sub 4.00 ERA is a lock.

43 Marco Estrada – Milwaukee

Under-rated pitcher who is solid matchup play.

44 Jon Lester – Boston

Lester was awful last year for the most part, then he was good in the post-season. Was it because of a mechanical change? Is it a temporary fix or will it carry into 2014? Too inconsistent for my blood.

45 Bargain Alert! Tim Hudson – San Francisco

46 Justin Masterson – Cleveland

Another name that kind of drags off the tongue, yet can help your team if you play matchups. 

47 R.A. Dickey – Toronto

The dude turns 40 this year and some predict his ERA could be as high as 4.50. Still, he throws nasty knuckleball and if started against the right teams could give you good numbers.


Steve Avery Tier

Only draftable in the deepest of leagues.

Guys I like at this price: Dare I say…

Bargain Alerts!

Brandon Beachy – Atlanta

C.C. Sabathia – New York Yankees

Dan Haren – Los Angeles Dodgers

A.J. Burnett – Philadelphis

Tyson Ross – San Diego

Andrew Cashner – San Diego

Joe Kelly – St. Louis


Sleeper Alerts!

Trevor Bauer – Cleveland

Yordano Ventura – Kansas City

Zack Wheeler – New York Mets

Tajuan Walker – Seattle

Tyler Skaggs – Los Angeles Angels

Alex Wood – Atlanta

Carlos Martinez – St. Louis

James Paxton – Seattle


Guys still worth drafting in super deep leagues or streaming during specific matchups:

Hiroki Kuroda – New York Yankees

A.J. Griffin – Oakland

Francisco Liriano – Pittsburgh

John Lackey – Boston

Rick Porcello – Detroit

Ian Kennedy – San Diego

Tim Lincecum – San Francisco

Kyle Lohse – Milwaukee


Scott Kazmir – Oakland

Ubaldo Jimenez – Baltimore

Jake Peavy – Boston

Jose Quintana – Chicago White Sox

Dan Straily – Oakland

Chris Tillman – Baltimore

Chris Archer – Tampa

Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee

Clay Buchholz – Boston

Ivan Nova – New York Yankees

Dillon Gee – New York Mets

Wade Miley – Arizona

Alexi Ogando – Texas

Travis Wood – Chicago Cubs

Wei-Yin Chen – Baltimore

Jarrod Paker – Oakland

Mike Leake – Cincinnati

Jhoulys Chacin – Colorado

Bartolo Colon – New York Mets

Josh Johnson – San Diego

Corey Kluber – Cleveland

Eric Stults – San Diego

Erasmo Ramirez – Seattle

Josh Beckett – Los Angeles Dodgers

Brandon McCarthy – Arizona

Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa

Michael Pineda – New York Yankees


Do Not Draft Under Any Circumstance

Bronson Arroyo, Hector Santiago, Jon Niese, Ricky Nolasco, Brad Peacock, Miguel Gonzalez, Wandy Rodriguez, Mark Buehrle, Garrett Richards, Edwin Jackson, Phil Hughes, Henderson Alvarez, Wily Peralta, Charlie Morton, Trevor Cahill, Martin Perez, Brandon Morrow, Zach McAllister, Roberto Hernandez, Matt Harrison, Felix Doubront, Nathan Eovaldi, Scott Feldman, Felipe Paulino, Jason Vargas, John Danks, Tommy Milone, Jorge De La Rosa, Jaime Garcia, Derek Holland, Bruce Chen, Kyle Kendrick, Edinson Volquez, Ross Detwiler, Bud Norris, Jeremy Guthrie, J.A. Happ, Brett Anderson, Ryan Vogelsong, Kevin Correia, David Phelps, Paul Maholm, Gavin Floyd, Brett Oberholtzer, Kevin Gausman, Erik Johnson, Hunter Harvey, Scott Baker, Ryan Dempster, Jake Arrieta, Jeff Locke, Chris Young, Randall Delgardo



And finally, again, don’t pay for saves. Just don’t. Closers get hurt and the ones that do stay healthy are no lock. Mariano’s and Hoffman’s only come around once a decade. There are players who come out of nowhere to pickup saves each summer. But just like looking for a wife, don’t wait too long — you at least want to get someone who is reliable. 

Photo Credit: Getty