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Top 10 for Wins: 2014 Fantasy Baseball Predictions


Predicting pitcher Wins is one of the hardest things to do in fantasy sports. That's because, as many of you have probably found out the hard way, having a good pitcher or even an elite pitcher, doesn't guarantee a 16-20 win season. In order to get the win, a pitcher needs the support of his offense, he needs his bullpen to protect the lead after he leaves the game, and he needs his defense to do its job. For example, in 2012 Cliff Lee threw 211 innings with a 7.39 K/BB rate and a 3.16 ERA. He won 6 games that year as the rest of the team proceeded to let him down in historic fashion.

The following list is of the 10 pitchers I think most likely to rank at the top of the Win category next year, both because of their personal skills and because of the team support they are likely to receive. As with any list talking about Wins in the preseason, it should be taken with a grain of salt, but I think at the very least it should point savvy fantasy owners in the right direction. You can't perfectly predict Wins, but these at the very least are the types of players you should be looking for on draft day.

Note: I've included my own personal Win predictions for each of these pitchers. These are not statistically grounded estimations, but rather what I think the pitcher's season should turn out like. Just like any prediction concerning Wins, they should be taken with a large grain of salt.

 

1) Clayton Kershaw

2013 Stats: 1.83 ERA, 16 Wins, 232 strikeouts, 0.92 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 22 Wins

That Kershaw heads this list should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed this sport over the last few years. Anytime you partner the best pitcher in the game with one of the most potent offenses in the game and a great bullpen, you're going to win a lot of games.

 

2) Adam Wainwright

2013 Stats: 2.94 ERA, 19 Wins, 219 Strikeouts, 1.07 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 21 Wins

Kershaw might be a better pitcher than Adam Wainwright, but the Cardinal's offense might also be the best in the National League next year. By bringing in Peter Bourjos to man center field, they've also substantially upgraded their defense. With those elements behind him, coupled with his elite stuff, Wainwright is an easy inclusion for me.

 

3) Justin Verlander

2013 Stats: 3.46 ERA, 13 Wins, 217 Strikeouts, 1.32 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 20 Wins

Despite his struggles last year, I still do consider Justin Verlander an elite starting pitcher for fantasy purposes. If nothing else his ability to pitch deep into ball games consistently will keep him in the running for a decision, and the Tigers' potent offense and improved defense should give him all the support he needs. The bullpen is also much better this year, now that they have a real closer in Joe Nathan to rely on. There is also the hopeful note that Verlander ended his season on to look towards, as the pitcher who played in September and October (2.27 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 4.80 K/BB rate, 1.11 WHIP, 48 Strikeouts) looks much more like the Justin Verlander we all remember, and drafted going into 2013. I'd like to think 2013 was a season in which Justin Verlander had to learn to pitch with his declining stuff, and if the final two months of the season are any indication, he's learning to do it well.

 

4) Max Scherzer

2013 Stats: 2.90 ERA, 21 Wins, 240 Strikeouts, 0.970 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 20 Wins

Like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer is a pitcher who find himself pitching in front of a lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera. In addition, now that the Tigers have brought Ian Kinsler in with the Prince Fielder trade, their defense should take a huge step up from last year. And again the Tigers now finally have a closer they can trust in Joe Nathan. You might have your concerns about Scherzer regressing after last season, but looking at the talent, the stuff, the strikeouts, the command, it's clear the environment is all still there for him to succeed in a very big way. That’s worth putting some faith in.

 

5) Yu Darvish

2013 Stats: 2.83 ERA, 13 Wins, 277 Strikeouts, 1.073 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 19 Wins

The Rangers offense isn't the juggernaut that it was back in 2010, but the additions of Shin Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to the lineup should help to turn back the clock quite a bit on this team. Darvish himself is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, with possibly the best strikeout stuff we've seen in the last decade. I think that he'll have everything he needs to win plenty of games in 2014.

 

6) Stephen Strasburg

2013 Stats: 3.00 ERA, 8 Wins, 191 Strikeouts, 1.049 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 19 Wins

I'll fully admit that I was absolutely shocked by how badly the Nationals preformed last season, but I'd be even more shocked if that carried over into 2014. You look at Strasburg's stuff and it practically screams Cy Young Award winner. It's also worth noting that unlike the rest of the team, Strasburg himself didn't actually preform that badly last season. He struggled to pitch deep into games as many young pitchers do, but apart from that the main source of his low win numbers was that he just didn't have any help from the rest of the team on a consistent basis. I think he gets that help this coming season.

 

7) Jon Lester

2013 Stats: 3.75 ERA, 15 Wins, 177 Strikeouts, 1.294 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 17-18 Wins

Jon Lester showed us all last year that he still has what it takes to be an ace pitcher in major league baseball. That's a good thing for him, because he'll be pitching in front of what many believe to be one of the best offenses in all of baseball next year. He'll also be backed by an outstanding bullpen headed by one of the most dominant closers in the game right now. I didn't think twice about putting him on this list.

 

8) Zack Greinke

2013 Stats: 2.63 ERA, 15 Wins, 148 Strikeouts, 1.114 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 17 Wins

Don't let his status as the second best pitcher on the Dodgers fool you, on most teams Zack Greinke would be the staff ace. That he's the Dodger's second best pitcher says volumes about how much depth the Dodgers have and how good Clayton Kershaw is. Nonetheless everything I said about Kershaw also applies to Greinke. He's a great pitcher on a team that’s going to score a lot of runs. That's how you win baseball games.

 

9) Jordan Zimmermann

2013 Stats: 3.25 ERA, 19 Wins, 161 Strikeouts, 1.088 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 17 Wins

Zimmerman was good enough to be in contention for the Cy Young for much of last season despite the weakness of the Nationals lineup. He might not be as good a pitcher as Strasburg in terms of the raw stuff, but he has more than enough talent to succeed in this league. And like I said, I expect the Nationals offense to be much, much better next year.

 

10) David Price

2013 Stats: 3.33 ERA, 10 Wins, 151 Strikeouts, 1.098 WHIP

2014 Prediction: 17 Wins

Price's inclusion on this list is based on the assumption he stays with the Rays for 2014. If he does I see him pitching in front of a good offense and a great defense and bullpen that has a reputation for squeezing every advantage out of a baseball game. As a fantasy player, I hope he's not traded to an offensively weaker team like the Mariners sometime in Spring, because I expect big things out of David Price next year.




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