In preparation for a Fantasy Baseball Draft, few positions can demand greater attention from an owner than that of the starting pitcher, and being able to put together a strong starting rotation can at times be as much art as science. Still, every year you can find a dozen or so pitchers who are cable of anchoring a Fantasy Baseball pitching staff, and obtaining at least one of these starters is a must for any owner who is serious about making a run at a title. Here then is a list of the top ten starting pitchers to go after in your 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft.
Roy Halladay (Phillies) RHP
It’s hard to imagine what the NL Cy Young Award winner can do for an encore, but if any pitcher can duplicate his 2010 success it’s Halladay. Coming off a 21-10 season, in which he pitched over 250 innings, collected 219 strikeouts and a 2.44 ERA, Halladay proceeded to pitch his second no hitter of 2010 in the post season. Can Halladay continue this type of success in 2011, you bet, especially with a star studded Phillies lineup backing him up. Look for Roy to post another 20 win season and his ERA to come in under 3.00 for the fourth season in a row. Halladay will also throw in +200 strikeouts for good measure.
Tim Lincecum (Giants) RHP
Lincecum was in a league of his own in the post season collecting 4 wins in 5 starts and 43 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched. His post season erased any doubts there might have been after his regular season numbers experienced a slight decline. Still, after only 122 major league starts, the Giants’ ace is 56 and 27, with 901 strikeouts in just 811 innings pitched. Given that he will probably not suffer another August in which he losses all five of his starts, look for Lincecum to hover around the 18-19 win mark in 2011, and to pick up another 225-250 strikeouts in the process. Look for Tim to go in the first round of your draft.
Ubaldo Jiménez (Rockies) RHP
It was a tale of two seasons for Jiménez in 2010 as the Colorado ace went 15-1 before the All-Star game, and just 4-7 the rest of the way. Most likely it will be former pitcher who we will see in 2011. Blessed with a 97 mph fastball, Jiménez was able to keep hitters to a .209 batting average in 2010. Look for Ubaldo to get at least 18 wins and +200 strikeouts in 2011, and take him in the first three rounds of the Draft.
CC Sabathia (Yankees) LHP
Few pitchers have been as consistent as the towering lefty over the past four seasons, and if the last two seasons are any indication, Sabathia’s numbers will again hover around the 20 win, +200 strikeout mark. Having said that, Sabathia had a rather poor postseason, which may mean that all the innings he has logged during the past four seasons are starting to take a toll on him. However, the risks here are minimal and there is no reason to pass up on the Yankees ace.
Felix Hernandez (Mariners) RHP
On any other team, Hernandez would make for a higher pick, but Seattle hits so poorly that the 2011 AL Cy Young winner ended up with a platy 13-12 record. Still, Hernandez led the majors in ERA (2.24) and finished second in strikeouts with 232. Able to put together quality start after quality start, Felix logged 6 complete games and 249 innings in 2010. Look for more of the same from Hernandez in 2011, and for the righty to pick up a few more wins along the way.
Adam Wainwright (Cardinals) RHP
Wainwright has posted 39 wins, 415 strikeouts, and a 2.52 ERA over the last two seasons, almost putting together identical years in 2009 and 2010. Wainwright loves to pitch at home, where he compiled a 12-3 record with a 1.78 ERA last season. Though he slowed down considerably over the second half of the season, there is no reason to belief that Wainwright won’t keep on the same winning trajectory in 2011. Look for at least 18 wins and an ERA under 3.00 in this season.
Justin Verlander (Tigers) RHP
Take out his horrendous 2008 season and Verlander has to be considered one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last 5 years. Even with a shabby 11-17 record in 2008, Verlander has fashioned an 83-50 record over that span of time. Though his strikeouts and innings pitched were slightly down in 2010, Verlander is a pitcher who is going to hover around the 20 win, 200 strikeout plateau for years to come. Don’t hesitate to take him in the draft.
David Price (Rays) LHP
Amazingly enough, Price increased the velocity on his fastball last season, at times hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. By season’s end, the first pick overall in the 2007 MLB Draft, had fashioned a 19-6 record with a 2.72 ERA. Going into the 2011 season there are few pitchers that hold a bigger upside than the Ray’s lefty, and there is no reason why he can’t pull off a career year.
Jon Lester (Red Sox) LHP
Lester managed to improve slightly on his 2009 numbers ending the year with 19 wins, 225 strikeouts (for the second season in a row), and a 3.25 ERA. The lefty, who will be 27 once the 2011 season starts, was even better over the first half of 2010, where he went 11-3 with a 2.78 ERA. Still, he managed to close out the year well, with 6 wins in the last 7 starts, and his ERA would have been under 3.00 overall if not for the terribly last outing with which closed out his season. Look for wins in the 16-18 range, and a third season in a row with +200 strikeouts in 2011.
Cliff Lee (Rangers) LHP
Possible the biggest name available in the free agent market, Lee is being courted heavily by the Yankees, which could mean improved numbers across the board. He is coming off an incredible 2010 postseason in which he struck out 47 batters in 35.2 innings while posting 3 wins and a 2.78 ERA. One of those wins was a 2 hit, 13 strikeout gem against the Yankees. Lee’s numbers could easily be in the 18 win, +200 strikeout range in 2011 depending on who signs him.
Roy Oswalt (Phillies) RHP
Don’t let his poor overall record fool you, Oswalt revived his career in Philadelphia where he posted a 7-1 record with a 1.74 ERA last season. With 150 wins since coming into the league in 2001, Oswalt is a steal if he drops in your Draft.
Zack Greinke (Royals) RHP
Greinke had an off year in 2010 ending the season with a 10-14 record and a 4.17 ERA. Look for him to rebound this year and post 2009 type numbers.