Ray and Alex have each brought you their very early top ten lists and I'll follow suit with my top 5 starters for 2014. Unlike hitters, where off season trades and signings can affect overall projections, my top 5 starters as of today will more than likely be the same come 2014 draft season.
Let's take a look at who makes the starting five:
1. Clayton Kershaw - Dodgers
Not much of a surprise here - Kershaw is a machine and at 26 years old next season, should produce off the chart numbers yet again. If another arm goes first in your drafts next March, someone is doing it wrong. 200+ K's, sub 3 ERA and sub 1.00 WHIP almost makes drafting a pitcher early worth it to me.
2. Cliff Lee - Phillies
2013 marked Lee's third season in a row with at least 200 strike outs. Over that same three year period Lee has posted ERA's of 2.40, 3.16 and 2.87, to go along with WHIP's of 1.03, 1.11 and 1.01. Not only is Lee very consistent, he's also a value on draft day. Selected 37th overall on average (9th SP) according to ESPN, Lee finished 2013 as the 20th ranked player (4th SP) on ESPN's player rater. As owner's select sexier named pitchers earlier next season, Lee will be sitting there atop my draft sheet ready to contribute another brilliant season in 2014.
3. Felix Hernandez - Mariners
Another 200 inning - 200 strike out season for Felix Hernandez in 2013. While Felix did miss a couple of starts in 2013, the rumors of his demise have been overstated for a few seasons now. Felix saw his SO/BB improve from a career high 3.98 (set last season) to 4.70, this year. His FIP (2.61) and xFIP (2.66) both say his 3.04 ERA wasn't anything out of the blue (or teal for you Mariner fans)
4. Yu Darvish - Rangers
Darvish's 277 strike outs in 2013 led Major League Baseball and I project him to lead the league again in 2014. I wanted to see the Ranger's ace do it again before investing in him this season and that's exactly what he did. Darvish proved he's more than capable of pitching in Arlington and holding up over
an entire most of a big league season.
5. Jose Fernandez - Marlins
Fernandez burst onto the scene in 2013 and I'm all in with him going into next season. With a K/9 of 9.75 in 2013 and marks of 11.28 and 9.65 to his credit in the minor leagues, I expect the 21 year old to be towards the top of the strike out leaders in 2014. Having reached 172 innings pitched for the Marlins this season, I don't see work load being an issue for the talented youngster going forward. Throw in the fact he'll pitch his home games at Marlins Park and gets to face the pitcher two or three times a start and Fernandez just edges out a couple of other worthy arms for the last spot in the rotation.
6th Starter, Swing Man and waiting in AAA
As a bonus, the next three arms I rank, include: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg & Adam Wainwright.
So that does it - my current top 5 starters for 2014. Who's on the list that shouldn't be and who would you add to your list?