The National League has clearly ruled the stat sheet when it comes to pitching this year, but there are still quite a few names out there in the AL. Here's my 2010 AL starting pitcher ratings for those of you with keeper and dynasty deadlines approaching.
1. Zack Greinke- Lots of people were calling him a good buy in the preseason and was being drafted at around 138 overall. He was drafted around the likes of Ryan Dempster, Derek Lowe, and David Price but has outperformed all of those guys by leaps and bounds. It's possible that he's going to win the Cy Young award on a horrendous offense as well. Be happy you were able to sit back and watch one of the greatest pitching seasons of the 2000's and have no concerns with him as your number one starter in AL only leagues.
2. Felix Hernandez- If I were to ask you to pick out the younger of Felix Hernandez and David Price, could you get it right without looking? Well, if you think about it, it's pretty easy to answer since I'm writing about one of these players. That's right. Felix Hernandez is only 23 years old and is improving more and more each year, finally making the jump to a true ace in 2009. Currently, Hernandez and Greinke are likely the two guys fighting the Cy Young award and could do so for the next five years plus. Since he's on an upward trend and hasn't come close to hitting his prime, look out for Felix to provide you with a true ace for years to come and watch as he could possibly get better and better each year.
3. Roy Halladay- I have a hard time actually putting Halladay over the first two players because of his slide after all of the trade rumors during the latest deadline. Halladay was and has been one of baseball's most consistent starters over the last several years and I think all of the trade talks and rumors could have caused a bit of grief for Halladay and hopefully Doc returns to form in 2010. You should also keep in mind that Halladay still could be traded during this offseason and if that were to happen, he'd likely get an increase in value since he'd be moving to a good, contending team and possibly out of the AL East.
4. CC Sabathia- This is a hard one for me to decide. CC started out slow in the 2009 season but has since lowered his final numbers to a very respectable level. It's hard to drop in rank a guy pitching for one of the best offenses in baseball that puts up decent peripheral numbers.
5. Justin Verlander- Verlander has finally returned to his 2007 and earlier form. He's currently leading the AL in strikeouts and will take home that crown barring a miracle from Greinke and has a BB/9 2.44, the lowest mark in his major league career. Along with the decreased BB/9 ratio, he's got the highest K/9 in his career. Some regression can be expected but even with a regression, Verlander is still a lights out starter. If he can keep the walks under control and if luck is in his favor, Verlander can be easily be moved up this list and above Sabathia.
6. Jon Lester- Lester made significant improvements in 2009 in his K/9 ratio. Lester has a K/9 of nearly 10 and has kept his walk rate in check with his first full season in 2008. There's no telling if Lester will keep the strikeout rate up, but we've seen how effective Lester can be with a lower K/9 and there's no reason to think he'd be any worse.
7. Josh Beckett- Beckett's regressed a bit over the last year but has still been a fairly decent ace. Whether you want to call Beckett's 2007 season a career year or you think he's got a better season ahead of him is entirely up to you. I personally think Beckett will not likely return to 2007 form and the Josh we're seeing now will be the Josh of the future. Beckett's had stretches in 2009 where he was nearly unhittable and stretches where he was just torched. If you're hoping for him to be atop this list at the end of 2010, I think you're in for disappointment. But if you want a pitcher who can get you around 200 innings and roughly a little less strikeouts, Beckett is nearly as safe a bet as any.
8. Jake Peavy- Peavy's got the talent to be at the top of this list but injury concerns and a move to a very hitter friendly park and out of one of baseball's best pitchers parks in San Diego. Peavy will finally have a decent offense to back him in the south side and if you're getting him late in drafts next year, you're not losing out if he ends up getting hurt AGAIN, but you are gaining if he returns to form and puts up a full season. I expect Peavy's ERA to rise a bit, but I don't think it will be enough to warrant dropping him out of the top ten.
9. John Lackey- Lackey's been injured for an extended amount of time at season start in the last two seasons and bounced back well each year. The concern with Lackey could fall in where he lands this offseason. The Angels trade for Scott Kazmir could be a precursor to letting Lackey walk in free agency. If this is the case, you've got to be sure the Yankees, Red Sox and all other big market teams will have their turn in the negotiations for Lackey. Chances are pretty good that he'll go to a contender and if not, he can still put up very good, consistent numbers.
10. Scott Kazmir- Early on in the season, you'd never expect to see Kazmir anywhere near anyone's top 10 rankings. Over the last month of the season, Kazmir's put up a line of 31.1 IP, 29 K, 1.44 ERA and .96 WHIP. Like a lot of guys, you've got to be concerned with Kazmir and injuries and also with his inability to go late into games. Barring any sort of injury, I think Kazmir could float up and down this list and I would have no problems snagging him as the tenth starter off the board.
That's all for now, folks. Look for updated rankings later on in the year.