Well, there's no reason in analyzing Clayton Kershaw - he's still the top fantasy starting pitcher in baseball. The only question about Kershaw is when his arm will give out a little bit, sending him to the disabled list. Kershaw only turns 28 in March, so age isn't a factor, yet. Mileage may be, but we don't think so - at least not this year. Anyway, take him if you can get him, but... fear not if you miss out on Kershaw. As you'll read below, there are plenty of solid starting pitchers awaiting your pick or bid on draft day.
We told the world after his 2012 season that Max Scherzer had the stuff to be one of the elite pitchers in baseball, and we were right. He strikes guys out, he leaves guys stranded, he has unhittable stuff (as proven by his two no-hitters in 2015), and he is solid across the board. His 14-12 win-loss record last season was a by-product of the dysfunction in the Nationals' dugout last season, but nevermind all that. Regardless of wins, he'll help you in strikeouts, WHIP and ERA. He's also crazy durable and he's built like a classic, long-term starting pitcher.
Madison Bumgarner is so good, some Giants' fans want him to platoon in the outfield just to get his bat in the lineup. Aside from his hitting, he's a pretty good pitcher, too. Five straight years of 13 or more wins (18 wins in each of the last two years); his worst ERA in his career so far is 3.37; five straight seasons of 200+ innings pitched; 1.04 WHIP over the last three seasons, combined; 9.2 k/9 over the past three years; and an average of 207 strikeouts over the past five seasons. Oh, and he doesn't turn 27 years old until August 1st. Draft Madison Bumgarner if you can - you can count on him to repeat last year's stats - maybe even improve on them.
The NY Mets' Starting Rotation
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard make up part of what could quite possibly end up being the most-dominant starting pitcher rotation in baseball history (take that, Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine). On top of Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard, there's also Steven Matz who is solid. And don't forget, Zach Wheeler is scheduled to come back into the rotation this year around July 1st. Out of the three Mets starters, Jacob deGrom is likely to be the most dominant.
Jacob deGrom ended up with the best WHIP, best ERA and the most strikeouts of the three, main starters in 2015 (although Syndergaard had a slightly-higher K/9). And deGrom looked virtually unhittable in the playoffs last season, primarily using his fastball.
However... if you're entering a first-year draft in a new keeper league, move Noah Syndergaard to the top of your list of starting pitchers, even above deGrom, Kershaw, Sherzer and Bumgarner. Syndergaard is only 23 years old, and he is a classic power pitcher. With a 1.05 WHIP, 9.96 K/9 and 3.24 ERA at the age of 22 things are likely to remain just as solid, if not better... and it's hard to imagine his stats getting better, but they just might (see Bumgarner's stats over time).
And while Matt Harvey would be the runaway ace on just about any other staff, he's the third-best option for the Mets. The good news about that is that it kind of takes the pressure off of him. He doesn't have to worry about carrying the team on his back (which backfired on him in the World Series in 2015, but I digress). He can draft off of the success of deGrom and Syndergaard, then show up as yet another guy in the rotation with unhittable stuff... and we pity the teams this year that have a three-game series with the Mets and have to face all three of these guys. It's just not fair.
Oh yeah - we almost forgot about Steven Matz - the "Steve Avery" of the group: he's solid, too. He won't be as dominant, but he still throws in the low- to mid-90s, and he'll end up with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. But keep an eye on him... winning and domination in a pitching staff can be contagious; Matz won't want to be the "regular guy" of the rotation, so he may just really up his game to keep pace with the other guys in the rotation. Draft him later on when the starting pitcher excitement dies down; you'll also be able to get him for around $8-12 in an auction draft, too.
Oh yeah - we almost forgot to talk about Bartolo Colon... wait... no we didn't. Just... don't, okay? Don't.
Fantasy Worth of the AL and NL Cy Young Award Winners (Keuchel and Arrieta)
Last season, we predicted that Dallas Keuchel would have a great season, and we were right. We also predicted that Jake Arrieta would have a good season, but to say we were right with just the word "good" is practically wrong. Good is inadequate in describing Jake Arrieta's surprising dominance in 2015. Still, though, we just can't stomach the idea of predicting Jake Arrieta having another sub-3.00 ERA in 2016, but we can easily see him having a 3.25 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and about 8.5 K/9 to go along with 15+ wins. In fact, we want to go on record to say that we wouldn't be surprised if his ERA was under 3.00 and is he kept his WHIP under 1.05 ,but we just don't expect it. Just like last year, no one expected Jake Arrieta to win - rather, earn the Cy Young Award, and we don't expect it this year, either. Nonetheless, we expect a solid year out of Arrieta.
As for Dallas Keuchel, we fully expect him to pick up right where he left off. We wish he'd shave that gnarly beard, though, but whatever, man. Keuchel is one of the smartest pitchers in baseball, and he's still only 28. Prior to last season, we told you he would have a great 2015, and he didn't disappoint, posting a 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9 while throwing a league-high 232 innings pitched. All of his statistical indicators prior to last year pointed to the Cy Young Award-winning season he just had, and last year's stats are right there, again. Expect Keuchel to remain dominant for a while as long as he keeps in shape, stays healthy and avoids arm troubles.
Zack Greinke's 2016 Fantasy Ranking
Zack Greinke moved to a hitter's ball park in Arizona... big deal. We're not worried, that's why we still ranked him #5, and we struggled putting him after Jacob deGrom. Greinke is quickly becoming this generation's Greg Maddux: just out-smarting guys with movement, changing speed and painting corners. Our only worry is that Greinke is now the #1 guy on the staff, as opposed to being able to pitch somewhat quietly in Clayton Kershaw's shadow. We know Greinke isn't too comfortable being the main focus of attention, but maybe he can hide in Paul Goldschmidt's giant shadow. Regardless, he'll be fine. Draft him without fear as early as you want and for as much as you want - he'll be fine.
Top 100 Fantasy Starting Pitchers for 2016
Click here to read our Archived 2015 Starting Pitcher Rankings.
#9: Chris Sale
Chris Sale has such dominant stuff that we very easily could have ranked him in he top 5... there were just too many guys with more-reliable stuff and a higher upside, but not by much. In fact, you could make the argument that Sale is a top-5 fantasy starting pitcher and we won't put up much of a fight. The only thing holding Chris Sale back is that he seemed like he was trying to strike out too many guys in 2015. He led the AL in strikeouts (274) and 11.8 K/9, so that was a plus. He also finished with a career-high ERA of 3.41 - still really good - but we think it would serve him best to try to do a little less, cut down his pitch count and make fewer mistakes. Draft him with confidence and feel free to bid him up to the $40-$50 range. He'll help you across the board, and when he goes on one of his hot streaks, he can carry your entire pitching staff for 2-3 weeks at a time.
#12: Chris Archer
Chris Archer was money last year, and he stayed healthy all season long. And dig this: Archer had 10 separate starts where he gave up 0 earned runs. Also, if you take out his terrible start on September 26th against Toronto (you know - the start that very likely ruined the playoffs for everyone who had Archer on their team last year) where he gave up 10 hits and 9 earned runs, you see his ERA drop from 3.23 down to 2.89 and his WHIP also drops to 1.08. There's no reason to think that Archer won't continue on the same pace this season. He's only 27 years old so his stuff is destined to get better, not worse. Draft Archer with confidence early on and be willing to pay $40+ for him in an auction, although he may go for less since he's less-publicized as compared to the bigger names on bigger-market teams. If you get Archer for the $30 range, consider it a bargain.