Posted: Fri February 22, 2013 2:35PM; Updated: Fri March 15, 2013 8:14PM
Eric Mack
Eric Mack>INSIDE FANTASY BASEBALL

Fantasy baseball 2013 draft preview: Starting pitcher primer

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Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg
After a limiting innings cap in 2012, Washington's Stephen Strasburg will not be restricted in '13.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Fantasy baseball 2013 draft prep central: Rankings, position primers and much more

In real baseball, pitching wins championships. In fantasy baseball, however, pitching can often frustrate more than it helps. Drafting starters early is a dangerous gamble -- as anyone who spent a high pick on Tim Lincecum last year can attest.

That doesn't mean fantasy owners can ignore the position. The best philosophy is to attack the position for quality depth instead of merely grabbing a couple of aces and then streaming scrubs throughout the season. Strength in numbers tends to be a safe way to end up with a chunk of the season's top arms.

POSITION PRIMERS: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Is there a debate at No. 1?

Yes. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw will likely be the top two pitchers off the board in most drafts, but I'm convinced Stephen Strasburg will emerge as the top arm in fantasy. Thus, he's first on my board. It's tempting to select guys like Verlander and Kershaw, who have done it before, but Strasburg presents the highest up-side. The truth is, any of the top pitchers on SI.com's board (Strasburg, Verlander, Kershaw, David Price, Felix Hernandez) could wind up No. 1, but no one else boasts the rocket arm, wicked strikeout totals and wins potential combo that Strasburg does.

Comeback player: Tim Lincecum, Giants

Lincecum's velocity and fantasy value declined so quickly, I'm inclined to believe both will return this season. He's not going to be fantasy's top pitcher again, but he's still only 28 and his performance in the postseason shows he hasn't lost his stuff. He just needs to figure out how to sustain his success given his skinny frame and wonky delivery. Lincecum was so good so soon that his 2012 struggles aren't necessarily a bad thing. He needed to learn to become more pitcher than thrower. If he's done that, he can again be a fantasy ace.

Breakout: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

One of the best ways to find players who will outperform their draft position is to target pitchers who have made around 40-70 career starts, which usually places them in their third season. That's usually when a pitcher can shoulder the 200-inning grind and avoid falling apart down the stretch. With 45 career starts, 21 career victories and 313 strikeouts in 251 1/3 innings, Strasburg is primed to explode in 2013. He will blow away his career high of 159 1/3 innings in a season and, assuming he maintains the ratios he has posted to date, he could win the pitching triple crown. Maybe quadruple crown, if we count WHIP along with wins, ERA and strikeouts. Strasburg instantly emerged as a national star and a relevant fantasy player, but in his third season, while pitching "without restriction," he will break out as a true tier 1 fantasy ace. With Strasburg, 200 innings should mean 20 victories and 250-plus strikeouts.

Bust: R.A. Dickey, Mets

This one's almost too easy. Very few fantasy owners think Dickey is likely to replicate his 20-win, Cy Young season. Granted, Dickey throws arguably the hardest knuckleball anyone has seen and manages to command it and register strikeouts unlike anyone in history. But that's still not enough reason to expect him to perform like a top-tier fantasy ace. There might be as many as 20 pitchers worth taking ahead of Dickey. If you're cautious, someone else will likely grab him before you do and spare you the bust risk.

Sleeper: Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays

Sleeper pitchers tend to emerge from the fantasy woodwork, and Morrow is one scary cockroach. If he can ever hit 200 innings, he would rate as one of the top 15 pitchers in fantasy, if not a Cy Young candidate. In fact, many rounds after Toronto teammate Dickey is off the board, fantasy owners might be able to get the Blue Jays' pitcher who is a better fantasy commodity, stat-for-stat. Morrow, 28, has the kind of arm that can deliver an ERA around 2.50, a WHIP around 1.050 and 220-plus strikeouts. He just needs to stay healthy and take the ball every fifth day. Jump on Morrow after the top 25 pitchers are off the board, and you could have the steal of the draft.

Top prospect/rookie: Dylan Bundy, Orioles

Even the greatest arms can require time to adjust at the major league level. For every Lincecum, Hernandez, Strasburg or Kershaw, there are dozens of guys like Phil Hughes, Edinson Volquez, Neftali Feliz and Julio Teheran. Still, the 2011 draft class looks bound to make a huge impact in fantasy baseball this year. Dylan Bundy, picked fourth overall by the Orioles in that draft, is the leader of it all. In his first season, he rose from low Class-A ball to the bullpen of a playoff team. The only things keeping Bundy from earning "sleeper" status are the facts that he's yet to build his arm up to 150 innings and he's likely to start the season in the minors. Gerrit Cole (PIT, drafted 1-1), Danny Hulzten (SEA, 1-2) and Trevor Bauer (ARI, 1-3, traded to CLE this winter) were drafted ahead of Bundy, but the Orioles' farmhand has the best stuff and long-term potential. All four of these 2011 draft arms figure to be shaping fantasy leagues for as long as their shoulders hold up, though.

Other potential eligibles

Our rankings below consider pitchers with eligibility at starter (five starts) and starter/reliever (10 relief appearances) and also include some relief-only pitchers who are going to attempt to transition to the rotation this spring (Aroldis Chapman, Alexi Ogando, Wade Davis and Brett Myers).

Take a good look at your league rules, because some head-to-head formats might not allow you to slot Chapman as a starting pitcher until he accrues five starts. That could take a month. In that event, you would need to move Chapman out of the top 30 starting pitchers to target on draft day.

Target averages

Based on the rough estimate projections below, the average starting pitcher in a 12-team league should produce around 14 wins, a 3.49 ERA, 181 strikeouts and a 1.225 WHIP.

2013 fantasy baseball starting pitcher rankings
Stat projections, tiers and auction values for the top 215 fantasy baseball starting pitchers
RankPlayerTeamPOSWERAKWHIPSVTierAuction $
1Stephen StrasburgWASSP202.942651.10001$35
2Justin VerlanderDETSP182.892291.10001$35
3Clayton KershawLADSP162.802301.14001$35
4David PriceTBSP173.162101.12001$32
5Felix HernandezSEASP143.222151.21001$31
6Cole HamelsPHISP153.002151.10002$22
7Jered WeaverLAASP182.951751.05002$22
8Matt CainSFSP152.831891.06002$22
9Yu DarvishTEXSP173.602101.25002$21
10Chris SaleCHWSP162.902051.13002$21
11Cliff LeePHISP133.152001.15002$21
12Gio GonzalezWASSP173.252051.20002$21
13CC SabathiaNYYSP173.351951.20002$20
14Johnny CuetoCINSP162.991751.15002$20
15Adam WainwrightSTLSP163.161991.21002$20
16Madison BumgarnerSFSP153.211951.12502$20
17Aroldis ChapmanCINRP (SP)112.791801.02073$17
18Tim LincecumSFSP123.322151.23003$16
19R.A. DickeyTORSP153.451921.33303$16
20Kris MedlenATLSP/RP143.201581.13503$16
21Roy HalladayPHISP143.311811.21503$14
22Max ScherzerDETSP163.892271.30003$14
23Yovani GallardoMILSP153.642001.30003$14
24Zack GreinkeLADSP153.591961.21903$14
25Mat LatosCINSP153.421871.16003$14
26James ShieldsKCSP143.152101.23003$14
27Josh JohnsonTORSP143.351801.24003$13
28Brandon MorrowTORSP123.551991.18903$12
29Ian KennedyARISP143.771851.24003$12
30Jordan ZimmermannWASSP153.201651.15003$10
31Jeremy HellicksonTBSP133.071551.19003$10
32Matt MooreTBSP123.701851.33303$10
33C.J. WilsonLAASP143.661791.31004$8
34Dan HarenWASSP143.651801.25004$6
35Jon LesterBOSSP143.771651.30004$6
36Jake PeavyCHWSP113.471841.18004$6
37Jarrod ParkerOAKSP143.501571.28004$4
38Matt HarrisonTEXSP153.451351.27504$4
39Jeff SamardzijaCHCSP104.131921.25004$4
40Jon NieseNYMSP123.801501.25004$4
41Tim HudsonATLSP153.42751.24004$3
42Brett AndersonOAKSP133.581541.25004$3
43Alexi OgandoTEXRP (SP)123.491301.15004$3
44Tommy HansonLAASP143.631751.26004$3
45Lance LynnSTLSP143.691791.28004$3
46Derek HollandTEXSP144.201551.30005$2
47Mike MinorATLSP133.801621.17505$2
48Hiroki KurodaNYYSP133.451601.20005$2
49Anibal SanchezDETSP103.761651.35005$2
50A.J. BurnettPITSP124.061691.33005$2
51Trevor CahillARISP133.881511.32005$2
52Hisashi IwakumaSEASP/RP103.511901.30005$2
53Phil HughesNYYSP154.151701.25005$1
54Bud NorrisHOUSP123.651881.35005$1
55Edinson VolquezSDSP104.011811.45005$1
56Matt HarveyNYMSP104.001651.25005$1
57Josh BeckettLADSP123.921511.23005$1
58Ricky RomeroTORSP124.091711.39005$1
59Homer BaileyCINSP124.151551.25005$1
60Doug FisterDETSP103.491401.18005$1
61Wade MileyARISP123.871391.24505$1
62A.J. GriffinOAKSP123.651391.27505$1
63Ryan VogelsongSFSP133.791551.26505$1
64Matt GarzaCHCSP103.851471.27505$1
65Ryan DempsterBOSSP124.341651.30005$1
66Clay BuchholzBOSSP133.931351.30005$1
67Johan SantanaNYMSP104.001401.30005$1
68Edwin JacksonCHCSP104.001591.31505$1
69Wade DavisKCRP (SP)123.951511.32005$1
70James McDonaldPITSP114.111471.39005$1
71Jaime GarciaSTLSP103.441411.34005$1
72Trevor BauerCLESP94.011401.45005$1
73Wei-Yin ChenBALSP113.991551.30006$0
74Wandy RodriguezPITSP113.611411.34006$0
75Tommy MiloneOAKSP133.811461.30006$0
76Chad BillingsleyLADSP103.671331.36006$0
77Felix DoubrontBOSSP104.651751.48006$0
78Mark BuehrleTORSP133.831001.28006$0
79Clayton RichardSDSP123.851111.30006$0
80Andy PettitteNYYSP103.861101.35006$0
81Ross DetwilerWASSP123.501301.25006$0
82Shaun MarcumNYMSP83.771351.23006$0
83Marco EstradaMILSP73.891581.20006$0
84Ivan NovaNYYSP134.391551.41006$0
85Zach BrittonBALSP114.601471.45006$0
86Chris TillmanBALSP123.851351.20006$0
87Hyun-Jin RyuLADSP54.151011.40006$0
88Kyle LohseFASP133.751201.37006$0
89Gavin FloydCHWSP124.211501.33006$0
90Ricky NolascoMIASP124.351401.35006$0
91Jhoulys ChacinCOLSP113.681521.36006$0
92Justin MastersonCLESP114.181601.39006$0
93Brett MyersCLERP (SP)104.211161.33006$0
94Alex CobbTBSP93.881431.28006$0
95Michael FiersMILSP94.421551.30006$0
96John LackeyBOSSP104.111501.45006$0
97Jorge De La RosaCOLSP104.571361.31007$0
98Dylan BundyBALSP52.951001.25007$0
99Brandon BeachyATLSP83.00801.25007$0
100Cory LuebkeSDSP103.271511.11007$0
101Scott BakerCHCSP64.171251.27007$0
102Brandon McCarthyARISP103.991191.23507$0
103Ervin SantanaKCSP84.341441.30007$0
104Andrew CashnerSDSP/RP64.151271.34507$0
105Ubaldo JimenezCLESP104.041551.35007$0
106Barry ZitoSFSP104.351201.35007$0
107Jason VargasLAASP114.361351.31007$0
108Paul MaholmATLSP123.751451.25007$0
109Jake WestbrookSTLSP124.311051.40007$0
110Scott DiamondMINSP113.821091.33007$0
111Jason HammelBALSP113.991551.35007$0
112Jeff NiemannTBSP104.091351.29007$0
113Dan StrailyOAKSP94.101351.35007$0
114David PhelpsNYYSP/RP73.851001.25007$0
115Bronson ArroyoCINSP104.241191.31007$0
116Chris CapuanoLADSP74.281251.33007$0
117Mike LeakeCINSP74.241151.33007$0
118Miguel GonzalezBALSP103.851501.25007$0
119Rick PorcelloDETSP104.571051.42007$0
120Lucas HarrellHOUSP103.941561.47007$0
121Shelby MillerSTLSP83.65881.32507$0
122John DanksCHWSP104.131441.32007$0
123Zach McAllisterCLESP94.251591.36007$0
124Francisco LirianoMINSP84.421601.36007$0
125Tyler SkaggsARISP63.651151.41007$0
126Brian MatuszBALSP/RP84.401381.40008$0
127Scott KazmirCLESP64.10751.38508$0
128Jon GarlandSEASP64.45751.37508$0
129Daniel HudsonARISP63.69811.21008$0
130Drew PomeranzCOLSP74.651511.46008$0
131Joe BlantonLAASP94.381451.34008$0
132Jordan LylesHOUSP94.651411.39908$0
133Erasmo RamirezSEASP73.651391.20008$0
134Jacob TurnerMIASP104.101251.25008$0
135Vance WorleyMINSP73.511271.35008$0
136Dillon GeeNYMSP74.401101.33308$0
137Kevin CorreiaMINSP114.15991.41008$0
138Blake BeavanSEASP104.37951.26008$0
139Kyle KendrickPHISP104.001201.30008$0
140Nathan EovaldiMIASP94.251201.48008$0
141Danny HultzenSEASP94.411411.30008$0
142Jose QuintanaCHWSP94.001271.39908$0
143Aaron HarangLADSP54.201211.36008$0
144Chris ArcherTBSP44.45751.25008$0
145J.A. HappTORSP84.211351.39008$0
146Jeremy GuthrieKCSP84.291141.31008$0
147Julio TeheranATLSP74.50701.35008$0
148Chris NarvesonMILSP84.691251.38008$0
149Henderson AlvarezMIASP84.65851.42508$0
150Martin PerezTEXSP74.45691.50008$0
151Erik BedardHOUSP54.151191.35908$0
152Jeff LockePITSP74.351411.37008$0
153Cole De VriesMINSP74.001211.26508$0
154John LannanPHISP84.001001.45008$0
155Carlos CarrascoCLESP64.97851.40008$0
156Patrick CorbinARISP74.451251.35008$0
157Travis WoodCHCSP64.231271.25008$0
158Jake OdorizziTBSP63.65851.35008$0
159Zack WheelerNYMSP53.00751.40008$0
160Gerrit ColePITSP43.451051.25508$0
161Jarred CosartHOUSP43.65801.49928$0
162Neftali FelizTEXSP32.69351.00028$0
163Rudy OwensHOUSP33.99711.35508$0
164Drew SmylyDETSP64.251051.30008$0
165Randall DelgadoARISP54.251001.37508$0
166Franklin MoralesBOSSP/RP44.391001.30008$0
167Michael PinedaNYYSP44.25551.35008$0
168Kyle GibsonMINSP63.251001.25008$0
169Daniel BardBOSSP23.67721.25008$0
170Colby LewisTEXSP64.15901.20008$0
171Mike PelfreyMINSP64.371001.46008$0
172Bartolo ColonOAKSP74.05791.33008$0
173Juan NicasioCOLSP64.671221.43008$0
174Eric StultsSDSP74.181091.39008$0
175Bruce ChenKCSP74.611001.39008$0
176Wade LeBlancMIASP/RP74.451101.45008$0
177Rich HardenMINSP63.78811.30008$0
178Mark RogersMILSP64.511211.41508$0
179Luke HochevarKCSP64.751311.41008$0
180Scott FeldmanCHCSP64.831091.42008$0
181Anthony BassSDSP53.721051.31008$0
182Josh CollmenterARISP/RP23.50741.14008$0
183Jair JurrjensBALSP54.25901.32008$0
184Danny DuffyKCSP54.15801.49908$0
185Jenrry MejiaNYMSP54.301001.50028$0
186Garrett RichardsLAASP/RP54.35671.50008$0
187James PaxtonSEASP54.50811.50008$0
188Brad LincolnTORSP/RP13.49751.21058$0
189Jeff FrancisCOLSP54.87891.44008$0
190Christian FriedrichCOLSP55.001101.51008$0
191Tyler ChatwoodCOLSP55.10861.52508$0
192Jerome WilliamsLAASP/RP54.30811.34008$0
193Kyle McPhersonPITSP44.251001.41008$0
194Chris HestonSFSP44.25671.35908$0
195Charlie MortonPITSP44.10551.50008$0
196Kyle DrabekTORSP44.65501.50008$0
197Alex WhiteHOUSP45.451001.59908$0
198Corey KluberCLESP34.77771.39508$0
199Hector NoesiSEASP35.25751.35008$0
200Dallas KeuchelHOUSP35.10721.54508$0
201Ted LillyLADSP34.15791.25008$0
202Jason MarquisSDSP54.61851.44008$0
203Carlos VillanuevaCHCSP/RP54.271001.30008$0
204Jonathan PettibonePHISP54.40901.50008$0
205Freddy GarciaSDSP/RP44.15691.31008$0
206Liam HendriksMINSP45.45671.52508$0
207Tyson RossSDSP44.65771.54508$0
208Brand HandMIASP44.75801.55008$0
209Philip HumberHOUSP/RP34.891051.37008$0
210John ElyHOUSP34.25751.44508$0
211Nathan KarnsWASSP24.10651.25008$0
212Casey KellySDSP34.75651.47908$0
213David HuffCLESP34.79491.50008$0
214Will SmithKCSP24.35551.50008$0
215Jeremy HefnerNYMSP/RP24.75511.37508$0

Note: Parentheses indicate anticipated position eligibility

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