Who are the best starters in Major League Baseball? Who would you trust to take the hill with great confidence every fifth day? Jason Lisk and Kyle Koster, two unabashed fans of low-scoring duels, attempted to figure that out with a draft.
The premise is quite simple. Which pitcher would you want the most for the next calendar year? We are factoring high-profile injuries to Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, and their lack of availability for part of this time, when doing these selections.
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (JL): This one is as stone-cold of a lock as possible right now. Kershaw is 29, and the last time he had an ERA above 2.20 was in 2012, when he led the league with a 2.53 ERA. He’s been top 5 in Cy Young voting or six straight years. Ho-hum, he’s off to a 7-2 start this year.
2. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (KK): Struck out at least 10 batters in his first eight starts with the Boston Red Sox, tying his own Major League record. Sports a ridiculous 101 Ks on the year, 23 more than the next highest pitcher, and an anemic 0.81 WHIP. How he will fare in meaningful games remains to be seen but his ability to miss bats with great regularity gives him a great chance at being successful, even against righthanded-heavy batters in Fenway Park.
3. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (JL): After Kershaw and Sale, who are the Memorial Day leaders in Cy Young chances, it opens up. I’ll go with my Missouri guy Scherzer next. He’s led the league in wins 3 out of 5 years, and is always good for more strikeouts than innings pitched. He has 76 K’s through 59 innings this year and, oh yeah, just won his second Cy Young award in 2016.
4. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros (KK): Has rebounded from a shaky 2016 and looks like the guy who won the 2015 AL Cy Young. Has the fourth-lowest WHIP (0.86) and second-lowest ERA (1.84) in the majors. Does it in a different way that some of the names above but the results speak for themselves.
5. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (JL): Kluber is on the DL right now but should be back in a week or so. The 2014 Cy Young winner has been one of the most consistent performers, and was a warrior last year in the postseason for Cleveland. One of the best curveballs in baseball contribute to his strikeout success. According to Fangraphs, batters are hitting .123 against his curveball for his career.
6. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs (KK): Mr. Reliable. A guy you can trust with virtually everything except throwing over to first base.
7. Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals (JL): The Cardinals ace is only 25 years old and is on the verge of going from really good to dominant. He can light up the radar gun, consistently in the upper 90’s on his fastball, and has a wide variety of plus pitches, including a tough sinker, changeup, and slider. He may be above this spot in a year.
8. Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers (KK): Won the AL Rookie of the Year last year and is showing no sign of a sophomore jinx. Has electric stuff and pitches with tremendous poise considering his relative inexperience. If we re-visit this draft later this year, he’s probably a top-five pick.
9. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (JL): Kate Upton would like a word with Kyle Koster for taking a different Detroit pitcher before him, so we will remedy that here. Verlander rebounded last year and very easily could have won the AL Cy Young after leading the league in strikeouts and WHIP.
10. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks (KK): Did a double-take when looking at his Baseball Reference page. The righty is an astounding 101-35 since 2011 and off to another great start as evidenced by his sub-1.00 WHIP.
11. Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals (JL): Duffy didn’t move back into the starting rotation until mid-May last year, but he has really emerged as an ace. His 12-3 run as a starter a year ago included a 16 K, 1 hit performance at Tampa in August.
12. Jacob DeGrom, New York Mets (KK): Third in the Majors in K9 (12.3) and a New York Mets pitcher that shows up to the ballpark and isn’t injured. He’s the total package.
13. Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers (JL): Mr. Consistency, Hamels has had a WAR over 4 every year since 2009. That will be tested this year since he is out until around the end of June with an oblique injury.
14. Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians (KK): On any given night the Cleveland Indians righty can be as good as anyone in the game. Brings a 8.9 K9 into play and is a solid steal at No. 14 if he can stay healthy.
15. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers (JL): Darvish returned from Tommy John surgery just about one year ago and is 27 starts in. So far, he looks just as good as you could hope and at 30 should be an ace for years to come.