Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 2/8/13
The old adage goes, “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” Pitching is a huge element of defense in baseball. Not only do great pitchers win you a World Series, but fantasy championships as well. Taking these aces early in your draft will put you well on your way to hoisting that trophy. 1. Clayton Kershaw – Kershaw has been on the backburner behind Verlander the last couple years, but I think this is the season he takes over. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when you have a pitch that’s known as “Public Enemy Number One.” That’s his curveball, which aside from R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, is the best pitch in baseball. Kershaw is money for 200+ innings and strikeouts, a rare combo. Can’t go wrong with either one of them, but I think this is the year for the young-gun Kershaw. Photo Credit: AP 2. Justin Verlander – The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner is as consistent as they come. Just as with Kershaw, Verlander will for sure net you 200 innings and strikeouts, possibly more. One of the added benefits of Verlander is the offense led by Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and slugger Prince Fielder. Even if Verlander has a sub-par outing, the chances are still good for a win. It’s a tossup between Kershaw and Verlander, but both with go early and are worth it. via cbssports.com 3. Stephen Strasburg – No innings limit this year Kershaw, no problems. In a move that upset Nationals fans and baseball fans alike, not to mention potentially costing them a shot at the World Series, the Nationals shut down Strasburg last year as he was coming off of Tommy John surgery. Strassy is back in action, and looking to pick up right where he left off. With a career strikeouts per nine innings of over 11, you know he’s going to be among the league leaders. Strasburg will certainly be a contender for the Cy Young this year. Photo Credit: AP 4. Felix Hernandez – It’s crazy to think King Felix is still only 26 years old, as it seems he’s been around forever. There aren’t many better pitchers in baseball, but Hernandez takes a hit in the rankings because the Mariners are awful in a division full of playoff potential teams. You can’t judge a pitcher by his wins in real life (Ex: 2012 Cliff Lee), but it counts in fantasy. It doesn’t help that he gets to go up against the monster lineups of the Angels and Rangers all season. Still, Hernandez is certainly not a bad option to be the ace of your fantasy staff. Photo Credit: Debby Wong – USA Today Sports 5. David Price – Rays – The former 1st overall pick from Vanderbilt was your AL Cy Young award winner last year, and deservedly so. He had a dominant 2.56 ERA pitching in the AL East, and hit the heralded 20 win plateau. With the Orioles proving they are contenders, and the Blue Jays getting themselves half a new team in the offseason, Price is going to be going up against top notch teams all season long. But the hard throwing lefty certainly has the makeup and pitches to get it done. Can he repeat his Cy Young season? Who knows, but I do want him on my fantasy team? For sure. Photo Credit: AP 6. Jered Weaver – Angels – The only ace in the league whose fastball averages less than 90 mph, Weaver has the finesse to win games. He may not rack up the strikeouts like some of the top guys, but you know he’s going to throw lots of innings with low numbers all across the board. He also hit the 20-win mark last year, and with the addition of Josh Hamilton to the already potent Angels offense, they’re going to give their pitchers tons of runs to work with. Photo Credit: JEFF GROSS/AP 7. Matt Cain – Giants – Cain has clearly overtaken Tim Lincecum as the ace of the staff, but may have to fight off young-gun Madison Bumgarner to stay there. But for now, Cain has thrown 200+ innings in six straight years and has checked in an ERA under three for the past two. Cain’s issue has always been his walks, but he seems to have consistently taken them down each year. He’s an extremely solid pitcher and someone you can build a fantasy staff around. via northmobilepost.com 8. Cole Hamels – Phillies – Hamels has never really been a big strikeout pitcher, but threw up a 216 spot last year. If he can match that number, he may move up the rankings by the end of the year. At 29, he’s the young guy of the Phillies staff, but has learned well from his mentors, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. It would not surprise me to see all three of them in the top dozen at the years end, but for now, Hamels takes the cake. Photo Credit: AP 9. Madison Bumgarner – Giants – At 6’5’’, 235 pounds, the lefty Bumgarner is an intimidating figure on the mound. The 23 year-old is still learning how to pitch at the major league level, which is a scary thought considering how good he’s been so far. He’s finished each of the last two seasons over 200 innings, and with 191 punch-outs, I think he eclipses the 200 mark this year. He has great control for a young pitcher and has steadily decreases his WHIP and H/9 each year. Bumgarner is a sleeper to be a top-5 finisher at season’s end. Photo Credit: AP The next five: Roy Halladay, Zack Greinke, Gio Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, R.A. Dickey -Edwards    
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