Is Clayton Kershaw in a Fantasy Baseball Tier of His Own?
Michael Waterloo of RotoExperts.com takes a look at the starting pitching tiers for 2017 Fantasy Baseball, which are once again led by Clayton Kershaw.
We face the same dilemma every year when it comes to drafting pitchers. We have to determine if any should go in the first round, how many ace-caliber pitchers we need to own and identify which late-round pitchers have upside to jump up into the Top 30.
Before getting into the late-round pitchers, let’s take a look at the early Top 40 at the position, which makes up my top eight tiers at pitcher.
As always, we are using a 5×5 structure for the framework.
Yes, he’s still by himself in a tier. But the gap is narrowing. Yes, he had an injury for the second-straight season, but we actually saw Clayton Kershaw at his best in 2016 when he was healthy. He had a career-best 1.69 ERA in 149 innings and had a 0.725 WHIP. He’s worth a first-round pick and worthy of being by himself in a tier.
Besides a few blowups – five earned runs or more in four games – Max Scherzer was as elite as they come. He gives up too many home runs still, but you can live with it … For as good as he is, Madison Bumgarner still doesn’t get enough attention as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Somehow he’s only 27 years old. His numbers are consistent year in and year out. His walk rate went up to 2.14 last year, but he’s been at 2.77 before and has been fine … I might be the high guy on Corey Kluber this year, and that’s fine. His 2016 numbers were similar to his 2015, except that he pitched closer to his FIP in 2016 than he did in 2015 … Chris Sale rounds out the second tier, in what is a clear Top 5 this year. I have concerns about a lefty going to Fenway Park, but having competent catchers behind the plate and a potent offense will only help him.
This is where it gets tough. Who is the sixth-best pitcher for Fantasy? Ask 10 different experts, and you may get 10 different answers. For me, it’s Noah Syndergaard, who we still haven’t seen reach his peak level. Scary, right? What’s more scary is that by average velocity, he threw the hardest fastball (97.9 mph), slider (90.8 mph) and changeup (89.7 mph) in baseball last year. A 90 mph changeup? It’s not even fair. Neither is Thor … Speaking of velocity, the big concern I have with Jake Arrieta was that his velocity dipped across the board last year, except on his fastball. However his movement across the board stayed relatively the same. We can call it an off year, even with a 3.10 ERA, which is really, really good. But like his teammates, he’s helped out by the elite defense behind him, posting a .241 BABIP, which was the third-best in baseball … We wrote Justin Verlander off too soon, it appears. He’s found his way back to being an elite pitcher after the triceps and core injury … He can’t throw to first base, but that’s fine. An elite defense behind him and keeping the ball down is a recipe for success for Jon Lester … This is Yu Darvish’s breakout year. Buy him now in dynasty. Reach for him in your drafts. He’s going to lead baseball in strikeouts this year.
This begins part of the draft where you really hope you have a No. 1 pitcher already. These guys are great for your second pitcher, but I really don’t want to count on them as my ace. That includes Stephen Strasburg, who is as sure of a bet as there is to land on the disabled list as some point. But when he’s on, boy is he ever on … Remember when we said Bumgarner was only 27? Jacob deGrom is already 28. Are we jumping ship already? I’m not panicking on him, but he did have a career-high in ERA, FIP, xFIP, HR/FB, strand rate, BABIP, home run rate and a career-low in strikeouts per nine … We continue to underrate Johnny Cueto each year. We had reason to heading into 2016, after his poor stint in Kansas City. Don’t make that mistake again this year … Cole Hamels adjusted well to the American League in his first full season there. He’s the most consistent starter in this tier … David Price is a reason I’m concerned with Chris Sale. He allowed the seventh-highest hard hit rate (34.8 percent) in baseball last year, and the eighth-highest pull rate (44.1 percent), which is a recipe for disaster as a lefty pitching in Fenway Park.
Too see the next four tiers, including where Matt Harvey falls, click over to RotoExperts.
Image via Getty
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