The 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft season is officially upon us. As a part of our draft packet for this season, we’re going to examine the elite options at each position. Let’s take a look at our top 5 fantasy starting pitchers for 2014, and compare our rankings to their current ADP (average draft position) in mock drafts. As always, if your thoughts differ from these, please comment below or make use of our Fantasy Baseball Forum to share.
1. Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw posted eye-popping numbers in 2013: 16 Wins, 232 K’s, an ERA of 1.83, and a WHIP of 0.93. The first two stats are ridiculously good, but the latter two are just absolutely absurd. While there’s almost no chance he’s that good again in 2014, the distance between Kershaw and the field was so great that he’s still the #1 SP off the board even figuring in regression. He’s just 26, and deservedly in a tier by himself.
2. Yu Darvish
The Whirling Darvish finished 2013 with one of the most dominating strikeout totals of all time. He struck out 277 batters in 209.2 innings. That is a rate of 11.89 K’s per 9, which is good for the 9 best K/9 of ALL TIME. So, we can safely say he was crazy good. We’re expecting more of the same in 2014, and virtually any other year there wasn’t a guy named Kershaw in the league, Darvish would be the #1 SP off the board. He’s a manly #1A option though, and should be in line for another Cy Young season.
3. Felix Hernandez
King Felix, without much fanfare, had a thoroughly intimidating 2013 season. He only won 12 games on a fairly terrible Mariners squad, but posted a 3.04 ERA and 1.13 WHIP to go along with 216 K’s. His FIP and xFIP were actually even lower than his ERA (very uncommon) meaning that he was both unlucky and plagued by poor fielders behind him. It also means that he was even better than his statistics suggest. The Seattle ballclub should be much improved this season, both offensively and defensively, and with an ADP in the 4th round of most drafts, Felix looks like an absolute steal.
4. Max Scherzer
After breaking out in 2012, Scherzer followed up a strong campaign with a career-defining one. He won the Cy Young award, posting 21 wins, 240 K’s, and a 2.93 ERA. He also became the Tigers de-facto ace, with Justin Verlander struggling for much of the season. There’s no way we can expect the exact same dominance this year, but FST fully expects Scherzer to post another strong campaign. 15+ wins, 200+ K’s, and an ERA in the low 3’s can be taken to the bank. The Tigers also remain a dominant offensive team, and finally signed a legitimate closer in the offseason (Joe Nathan). He’s our #4 SP, and considering the company, that’s saying quite a bit.
5. Adam Wainwright
Wainwright’s numbers from 2013 would seem like they would befit a higher ranking among SP’s: 19 Wins, 209 K’s, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP. In other years, those numbers would potentially have won him a Cy Young award, but this season, with all the dominant pitching, it barely gets him into our top 5. Wainwright is an ace, however, and I’d be glad to have him as a #1 on any of my fantasy teams. He plays on possibly the NL’s best team in the Cardinals, has a solid defense, and consistently displays impeccable control. He also throws 200+ innings a year without complaint. The only real knock on Wainwright is his age (32) and the amount of innings he has on his surgically repaired arm (1000+ in the last 5 years alone). But Waino has showed so signs of a slowdown, and thus should be drafted with confidence in 2014 as a fantasy staff ace.
Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez, Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee, and Chris Sale round out our top 10 at the position. A lot can change during spring training, so be sure to check out our most up-to-date starting pitcher rankings.