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Sure, everyone wants Clayton Kershaw on their fantasy team, but there's also tremendous depth as you run down the fantasy SP rankings. Heck, the No. 10 pitcher on my list could very well be this year's NL Cy Young, and last year's AL Cy Young doesn't come up until No. 12, yet I expect him to be pretty much the same dominant starter he was in 2015.
1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD.
After 301 strikeouts, 2.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP last year, he seems fully capable of doing it all again. Can LAD get him 20 wins for the third time in his career? He did have a couple bad stretches last year, but I think he's dialed in and due for another no-hitter.
2. Max Scherzer, WAS.
My resolve in rating him over Jake Arrieta is starting to buckle, but he had a Cy Young type of year in 2015 for a team that didn't help him much. His 14 wins, 276 strikeouts, 2.79 ERA and 0.92 WHIP could easily be 20/290/2.50/0.90 this year.
3. Jake Arrieta, CUBS.
NL Cy 2015 with 22-6 record, 236 strikeouts, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP. Regression seems likely, but if the Cubs play up to the hype he's looking at another 20-win season for sure. Biggest hurdle might be if the Cubs yank him early more often to rest him.
4. Madison Bumgarner, SF.
If you miss out on the previous three, don't panic. 18 wins, 234 strikeouts in 218 IP, 2.93 ERA and 1.01 WHIP last year from one of the most consistent starters in the game makes for a fine No. 1 fantasy arm. Could finally be in line for elusive 20-win season.
5. Zack Greinke, ARI.
One of the best seasons in years, yet not enough for the Cy: 19 wins, 200 strikeouts, 1.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP. Signing with ARI is looking better than it did at first, with a sneaky good rotation around him and a solid lineup, so he could be almost as good in 2016.
6. Chris Sale, WHITE SOX.
The main attraction continues to be the strikeouts, though if you buy the Sox as a winner this year, maybe they'll get him back some of the wins they've lost for him over the years. In any case, 274 strikeouts last year was tops in the AL, so at least you have that.
7. David Price, BOS.
18 wins, 225 strikeouts, 2.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP last season, though nine of those wins came for a TOR team that couldn't seem to lose. A lot could depend on how BOS fares out of the gate after coming in last in 2015, but he's always a top 10 fantasy value.
8. Jose Fernandez, MIA.
A real gamble this high after two lost seasons, but his brief stretch last year - 6-1, 79 strikeouts in 64 IP - showed enough that just about every fantasy expert is betting on him as a top 10 fantasy starter.
9. Felix Hernandez, SEA.
Declining strikeouts and rising ERA makes him seem less dominant than his best years, yet he still had 18 wins last year for a disappointing SEA team, so you have to wonder what he can deliver if they're actually contending.
10. Matt Harvey, NYM.
His 13 wins, 188 strikeouts, 2.71 ERA, 1.01 WHIP last year during a campaign when he was treated with kid gloves suggest he could have much more impressive stats this year. Decent shot at 20 wins, and maybe a dark horse candidate for the 2016 Cy.
11. Jacob deGrom, NYM.
Had slightly better stats than his teammate last year - 14 wins, 205 strikeouts, 2.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP - and he's still getting better. You could take him ahead of Harvey and not go wrong.
12. Dallas Keuchel, HOU.
AL Cy Young and 20-game winner seems like he should be higher on this list. His 216 strikeouts are top-tier, too, though it took him 232 IPs, so he doesn't have the K per 9 IP figures of most ahead of him. Safe bet if you want to take him a few spots higher.
13. Gerrit Cole, PIT.
Another Year of Jake victim, with his 19 wins going somewhat unnoticed. 202 strikeouts and 2.60 ERA leave him at the edge of top-tier starters, but he could still have a season of 20+ wins, 225 strikeouts if Pirates score enough runs for him.
14. Stephen Strasburg, WAS.
Still gets top-tier rankings, but now has too many injury-shortened seasons for me to buy him higher. Still, 155 strikeouts last year in 127 IP is pretty alluring and if he manages to pitch even a conservative 170 IP, could be a candidate for 15 wins.
15. Chris Archer, TAM.
His 252 strikeouts were second-most in the AL and fourth-most in MLB, and if you're buying him a lot higher, that's the main reason. His 12-13 record for the middling Rays, higher than top-tier 1.14 WHIP and 3.23 ERA are the main reasons I have him lower.
16. Corey Kluber, CLE.
Another top-tier K king, the 2014 AL Cy Young by some measures had just as good a 2015, but got no help from CLE bats, resulting in a 9-16 record. Slightly worried about 220+ IP two straight years, rising ERA and increasing HRs allowed (22 in 2015 after 14 in 2014).
17. Noah Syndergaard, NYM.
After Harvey and deGrom, the next stud on the Mets staff. 9-7 record, 3.24 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 166 strikeouts in 150 IP doesn't completely show a guy who was getting much better as the season progressed. I think he's a top-five strikeouts candidate.
18. Adam Wainwright, STL.
Two-time 20-game winner and ex-Cy lurking here in the weeds after another season lost to injury, But remember, he came back during the postseason, is supposed to be completely healthy and is the No. 1 starter for a team than won 100 games last year.
19. Johnny Cueto, SF.
After winning 20 games in 2014, his uneven 2015 almost got him kicked out of KC before he righted the ship. Had an 11-13 record between CIN and KC, but before the trade he was tracking a 0.93 WHIP and .196 BAA, and SF is a great landing spot for a stingy pitcher.
20. Carlos Carrasco, CLE.
We got an expected breakout last year, though maybe not as flashy as we hoped: 14 wins, 216 strikeouts in 183 IP, 3.63 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, but he's still getting better and strikeouts may be set to soar this year if he's a bit more consistent and goes deeper in games.
21. Sonny Gray, OAK.
This guy gets a lot of fantasy love, strange for someone who had only 169 strikeouts in 208 IP, but 14 wins for a last-place time was a feat and 2.73 ERA was nice, too. After two straight years of 14 wins, is this his breakout year?
22. Cole Hamels, TEX.
Biggest thing he did last year was no-hit the Cubs just days before getting traded out of PHI. His 13-8 record, 215 strikeouts suggest a higher ranking, but 3.65 ERA and tendency to give up HRs doesn't seem like a great fit playing 81 games in a bandbox.
23. Jon Lester, CUBS.
He better be better, is what Cubs fans and 2015 fantasy owners alike are saying. His 207 strikeouts were the highlight. That he won 11 games says more about how good the Cubs were. He often started well and blew up with bad innings, so we'll be watching.
24. Tyson Ross, SD.
Could prove a steal here if he improves on 10 wins, 212 strikeouts, 3.26 ERA, 1.31 WHIP. Padres implosion last year probably cost him a few wins, and at age 28, we're guessing he's going to get better over the next couple seasons.
25. Danny Salazar, CLE.
Breakout candidate last year had his ups and downs, but still managed 14 wins, 195 strikeouts in 185 IP. Injury is a concern, but in a great position to improve and deliver stats of a No. 2 starter from a No. 3 starter draft ranking.
26. Marcus Stroman, TOR.
Another 2015 breakout candidate lost most of the season to injury, but was strong in a late season comeback, going 4-0 with 1.67 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. That has a lot of fantasy folks extrapolating and hoping he puts in a full season this year.
27. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY.
Each of his first two MLB seasons have been shortened by injury, yet he's got 25 wins over that span. Last year's 0.99 WHIP in 154 IP was my favorite stat. Insists he'll pitch 200 IP this year, and while not really a 200-strikeout bet, that could be good for 15 wins.
28. Francisco Liriano, PIT.
205 strikeouts last year marked his first 200-K season since 2010. Seems like he should have been better than 12-7 for a 98-win team, but 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP are not top-tier. Often dominant in stretches, which also means he has less-dominant stretches.
29. Carlos Rodon, WHITE SOX.
Yes, small sample size in 2015, and some ugly starts for sure: 9-6 record, 139 strikeouts, but an embarrassing 1.96 WHIP. But look at his final eight starts: 5-2 record, 49 strikeouts in 54.2 IP, no more than two earned runs yielded any of those starts.
30. Carlos Martinez, STL.
14 wins, 184 strikeouts in 179 IP - injury continues to dampen the numbers of who seems like he should land in the top 20 one of these years. When the Cubs bunted their way to a Game 2 NLDS win, they beat on of the best young arms in the game.
Sleeper: Yu Darvish, TEX.
May not see action until June, and who knows what we'll get, but he was the top fantasy SP out of the AL just a few years ago, striking out 277 in 209.2 IP, so even if you only get 150 IP or so, we could be talking 10-12 wins, 175 strikeouts. Not bad.
Previously in the Fantasy Fix Baseball Draft Guide:
* The (Tied At The) Top 40.
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