Yesterday, we released The Nine Best NL Starters for 2013, so this will come as no surprise to those of you who did last night’s homework. Yet, for completeness sake, we’ll go through it for those of you who had that paper to finish for MLB Trade Rumors.
The NL has some great starters and a lot of top flight starters just missed the cut here. You can refer to the list linked above to see how I rank them, but my reasoning should be clear through my description below.
And the award will go to…
Stephen Strasburg (SP – Nationals)
There are two major concerns with picking Strasburg for NL Cy Young. First, would be the workload, which the Nationals claim will not be limited during this season. Second is his health. He’s now two years removed from Tommy John’s Surgery and showed no real ill effects last season. So, I’m banking on a full, healthy season from Strasburg.
Given that, he’s my Cy Young pick.
Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee are all fantastic pitchers who I expect to have very good seasons, but Strasburg, if performing at his best, is the class of the league.
In 45 career starts he has an 11.21 K/9 and 2.40 BB/9 in 251.1 innings to go with a 2.94 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and 8.0 WAR. Of active starters with at least 250 innings, no one has a higher strikeout rate and less than 30 have a lower walk rate. No one has a lower FIP.
About that FIP, the next closest active starter with a FIP that low is Kershaw. Kershaw’s FIP is more than half a run higher.
We can often get caught up by small sample sizes and extrapolation where it isn’t appropriate, but everything about Strasburg points to this being real. Scouts rave about his stuff and he put up amazing numbers in college. The minor league numbers are consistent.
Stephen Strasburg, when he’s been on the field, has an incredible mix of high strikeouts and low walks. And he’s only 24, so there is a lot of reason to believe he’s going to get better before he gets worse. Roll that all together and I’m picking him to win the NL Cy Young.
I’m not worried about injuries for him, and if we assume every starter in the league performs to their ceiling, I’m taking Strasburg easily. No disrespect to Mr. Kershaw, but Strasburg will be king in 2013.
Disagree? Just watch the dude pitch.
Over the last nine weeks, we’ve chronicled the best players at each field position and the best starters the AL has to offer. Here, we’ll wrap up this particular run with the National League’s best starters.
I’ve often commented on the level of difficulty each list gave me during its construction, and this one, like the AL list, gave me trouble because there were a good number of candidates for the back half of the list. I feel strongly about the top five, but I think 6-15 could go in a lot of directions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these rankings as a topic of debate and a way to preview the 2013 season. We’ll pick up next Saturday with other types The Nine lists, but we’ll revisit these lists throughout the season to see how well they prepared us for the future.
9. Johnny Cueto (Reds)
Cueto has pretty consistently outperformed his peripherals in the past and finally had a top shelf season this year in Cincinnati. Cueto remains in his prime and pitches in front of a pretty complete team. I thought about some other guys for this spot, and it killed me to leave Halladay off this list, but this one feels right.
8. Zach Greinke (Dodgers)
Greinke is now a very wealthy man and has a friendly home ballpark. He’s got great stuff but is susceptible to blow up innings. If there wasn’t a bit of a question about his elbow for the start of the season, he’d be a bit higher. Greinke is as talented as almost anyone on the list, but he tends to underperform his peripherals and his health is a bit uncertain.
7. Matt Cain (Giants)
Cain is an absolute workhouse with great control whose WAR undervalues him because it doesn’t appreciate his apparent ability to limit BABIP. He’s never missed a start in seven seasons, clearly has no-hit stuff and is very reliable. The ace of the world champs belongs on any list of this kind, and his contract looks incredible compared to some of the big signings of late.
6. Gio Gonzalez (Nationals)
Gio is a bit wild, but the strikeout rate and the walk rate are trending in the right direction. I’m not his biggest fan and there will certainly be steroid talk this season, but the numbers are telling me he’s a top six starter for next season. I’d rather have Cain or Greinke on my club, but if we’re going to try to be objective about next year, we probably have to give the edge to Gio.
5. Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)
Wainwright had two Cy Young type seasons in 2009 and 2010 before missing all of 2011 after having Tommy John’s Surgery. It took him a few months to return to form, and looks locked in and ready to go. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game when he’s healthy and all signs point to a big season from the 31 year old ace of the Cardinals.
4. Cliff Lee (Phillies)
Lee is coming off five excellent seasons in which he threw 211 innings or more. He has amazing control and a fine strikeout rate. He only has one Cy Young on his shelf, but this lefty ace could easily have a couple more. He is, without a doubt, owner of the best 6-9 season in baseball history and shows no sign of slowing down.
3. Cole Hamels (Phillies)
Everything about Cole Hamels’ game is awesome. Strikeouts, few walks, durability. He doesn’t quite have the ceiling of the others, but he’s consistency keeps him at the top of this list. The changeup is one of the best in the game and he remains the youngest of the Phillies aces heading into 2013.
2. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
Kershaw is awesome. I don’t think I have to say anything else. He’s 25, has a Cy Young and a couple of near misses. He’s the best left handed pitcher in the game and should be for years to come. The only question about Kershaw is if he or Verlander will break the $200 million barrier for starters.
1. Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)
Last season was all about the innings limit. When he’s allowed to pitch, he is off the charts incredible. His career strikeout rate is 11.21 with a 2.71 BB/9. If he can hold up and stay healthy, he’s the best pitcher in the league. His stuff is amazing to watch. Is he Justin Verlander? Maybe not. Is he as close as any right hander in the game, you bet. Stephen Strasburg is the real deal.
What do you think? Kershaw or Strasburg? Or, someone else?
The Rookie of the Year award is one of the most interesting awards to discuss at the end of the season most years because it can mean so many different things. It could be the most valuable rookie, the rookie who played the best during his time in the show, or a rookie who had a good season and looks to have a brighter future.
Predicting who is going to win at the outset of the season is quite difficult most seasons because it is so hard to determine playing time. Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals outfielder, is likely the best player in the NL with rookie status this season, but his path to playing time is blocked. If Carlos Beltran breaks his ankle tomorrow, things change quite a bit.
So when choosing a preseason Rookie of the Year, one must look for talent and one must look for consistent at bats or innings. We at SABR Toothed Tigers considered a number of candidates for this award including Taveras, but ultimately settled on who we consider to be the talented rookie with the clearest path to a full season of playing time.
And the award will go to…
Adam Eaton (CF – Diamondbacks)
With Justin Upton and Chris Young out of the picture, Cody Ross will slide to right field this season for the Dbacks, giving Eaton a chance to take the everyday job in center. The newly 24 year old Eaton looks to solidify the leadoff spot this season and brings above average regular potential to the table.
Most scouts don’t consider him to have superstar potential, but he could be a very solid major leaguer for years to come. Eaton is very good on defense with excellent speed and a great arm that will play at any of the three outfield spots.
He’s stolen 40 or more bases in each of the last two seasons across multiple levels and has consistently put up a better than .300 average and .400 on base in the minor leagues. His 5’8” frame isn’t built for power, but if you’re looking for a speedy leadoff hitter who plays great defense, Eaton is your guy.
He’s a very good player with little left to prove in the minor leagues and should have an everyday spot on a decent to good big league team. It’s hard to find a lot of other NL players who fit that bill. The Mets and Cardinals have pitchers who could contribute in a big way, but there is more uncertainty there in my opinion. The Padres Jed Gyrko is another candidate, but he’s playing on a lesser club in a tougher park, all while likely playing a new position. He gave Eaton a run for his money in our voting, but came up short.
Adam Eaton has hit at every level and looks poised for a strong rookie campaign in a field of players with difficult paths to full seasons of playing time. He’s not an MVP type player like Mike Trout was last year, but when 2013 is over, he’ll get his hands on some hardware of his own.