There are so many fantasy baseball NL Only league starting pitchers to go through and to keep these articles sharp and concise I am going to break the starting pitchers into 3 parts. Today we look at the top tier players, the elite (guys who to me are 100% sure aces) and the aces-to-be (guys who are on the cusp of being considered a lock down ace). To quote the Great One "And Away We Go (that's Jackie Gleason by the way, not Wayne Gretzky).
Elite NL Only Starting Pitchers:
Roy Halladay - PHI - The doctor is quite simply the best. Turns 34 in May and is dominant across the board. Halladay received poor run support last year otherwise he would have won 25 games instead of 21. Going to give you 240+ innings with amazing numbers in every starting pitching category.
Cliff Lee - PHI - The only thing Lee is not amazing at is K's but he is getting better every year. Last year had a career high of 185K's so maybe now going to the NL he breaks 200 for the first time. Even still Lee on the Phillies should be knocking on the door of 20 wins with an ERA between 2.50 and 2.80 and a ratio right around 1.00 with over 200 innings pitched.
Adam Wainwright - STL - Last two years had 19 and 20 wins, an ERA at 2.63 and 2.42, ratio at 1.21 and 1.05 and K's at 212 and 213. That's an ace and in the prime of his career at the age of 29.
Tim Lincecum - SF - The Freak didn't have ace like numbers in ERA (3.43) and ratio (1.27). I know also on the Giants due to their lineup Lincecum is probably more likely to be a 15-16 win guy, but I expect Lincecum to bounce back with ace like numbers in ERA and Ratio and gives you ridiculous K's. Turns 27 in June so a lot of huge years ahead of him.
Josh Johnson - FLA - As long as the 27 year old stays healthy which he has had issues in the past then he will be a stud for you. Strikeout per inning guy, very low ERA and ratio but like Lincecum being on the Marlins probably will only be a 15-16 win guy. Did not receive run support last year.
Ubaldo Jimenez - COL - Jimenez always had a great arm but he also had a lot of moving parts in his delivery. It took him a little extra time but Jimenez put it all together and the 27 year old should be an ace for the next few years.
Chris Carpenter - STL - To me Carpenter is a bit of wild card due to his past with so many injury problems. Yes, Carpenter has been healthy the last two years and has put up big years. But remember in 2002 pitched 73IP, did not pitch at all in 2003, 6IP in 2007 and 15IP in 2008. Also we be 36 at the end of April. Carpenter should be a 25% discount compared to the rest of the aces because of this. If that is not the case then pass on Carpenter.
Zack Greinke - MIL - Last year was a big disappointment for the 2009 CY Young winner of the AL. But Greinke is going to be rejuvenated going to a contending team and let's face it his numbers will be better just going from the AL to the NL. The only reason he is not on the ace list is because of last years disappointing season. You can easily put Greinke on the ace list if you choose I would like to see him do it this year first before doing so.
Clayton Kershaw - LAD - What I love the most about Kershaw is this kid who turns 23 in spring training has improved every year. I believe this is the year Kershaw takes that next step and joins the ace list. Needs to make strides on his pitch count so he is pitching 7 to 8 innings per start as oppose to 6. That will help him out a lot with the Wins.
Matt Cain - SF - Has been a victim of poor run support pretty much his whole career. When he gets any sort of run support he wins. More of a 170 to 180K guy but ERA around 3 and very strong ratio. Remember he is only 26 entering his prime years.
Matt Latos - SD - A couple of weeks ago on the MLB network they did a piece of young starting pitchers there were concerned about due a big increase in IP for the first time and the higher probabilities of injury because of that. Latos was high on that list as he threw 62 more innings in 2010 than he did in 2009. The kid has special ability and as long as he stays healthy and pitching in Petco certainly doesn't hurt Latos will be dominant pitcher for years to come. Latos just turned 23 in December.
Cole Hamels - PHI - Some people might consider Cole Hamels the number four starter for the Phillies which is crazy because of many teams in baseball Hamels would be their ace. Bounced back from a poor 2009 season for him and at the age of 27 entering his prime years.
Tommy Hanson - ATL - Has not seen great run support in his career but the 24 year old first two seasons have been really strong. The Braves believe he is going to be an ace for years to come. The Braves are usually not wrong when it comes to their top talent.
Yovani Gallardo - MIL - Most people in baseball will tell you that Gallardo has the ability to win a CY Young. Last two years he has been really good but hasn't broken through yet. With the arrival of Greinke should help take some of the pressure off of Gallardo which can only help. Keep in mind only turns 25 in spring training.
Jonathan Sanchez - SF - Some of you may question this but look at his numbers last year. Quite simply the guy does not give up hits as Sanchez had 51 more innings than hits allowed. Sanchez each year has made strides with his walks and control and if he takes another step this year the 28 year old can easily put up an ace year.
Next up Starting Pitchers Part II "The Veterans".
NL King - C.Lizza