The elite left-handed starters have a big advantage just for the simple fact that most players see a lot more right-handed pitching. Look for teams that have not faced a Quality Left-handed starter for some time (five games or more) and you will have a nice winning investment. I have enjoyed a lot of success with this article and is easily in the top 5 I get the most feedback from. This prestigious list featured Clayton Kershaw from his rookie season until he turned 28. Dallas Keuchel ranked 4th on this list the same year he won the AL CY Young Award. Here are my Top 5 Left-handed starting pitchers age 27 or younger going forward for the 2017 season. All five pitchers are currently projected to start the season in their respective team's rotation
No. 1 Madison Bumgarner (SF Giants) Age: 27 (2016: 15-9, 2.74 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)
Madison has been on this list since his sophomore season back in 2010 and he gets my #1 slot for the second straight year. This will be the last time Bumgarner appears as he turns 28 on August 1st. Madison missed out on at least 18 wins for the third straight season only because the Giants did not score runs when he was on the bump. That's baseball and until the rules change you will see a lot of low-scoring games, especially early. All four of his pitches (Four-seamer, Cutter, Curveball, Changeup) are dynamic. His career numbers are impressive as he enters his eighth full season, with a 100-67 Won/Loss record, 2.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 1,381 strikeouts in 1,397.2 IP. He gets to pitch half his starts in a very pitcher's friendly ballpark. AT&T Park was ranked #1 in fewest Home Runs last season according to ESPN park factors. Madison has surpassed 200+ innings for six straight seasons while lowering his season ERA every year since 2014. Don't be concerned with all those innings pitched. He's big and strong. At 6'5 and 225 he has the look and skill of an Elite pitcher for many more years. When he pitches, the offense gets a nice boost from the 9th spot. Madison has hit 12 Home Runs over the past three seasons. His 14 career HR's in 453 at-bats is very impressive. Madison's WAR (Wins above Replacement) is 29.1 for his career which ranks 22nd among all active pitchers. CC Sabathia (58.7) and Clayton Kershaw (54.4) rank first and second respectively. Bumgarner's best role is at home off a team loss of five runs or more, going 17-5 with a 2.39 ERA. A solid second round draft pick in your fantasy league that should not be available after the third round. Look for Madison to have another All-Star level performance in 2017!
No. 2 Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox) Age: 27 (2016: 17-10, 3.34 ERA, 1.03)
The five time All-Star will turn 28 on March 30th which is before my March 1st cutoff. How can't this guy be included based on his skill-set. Sale has increased his win total in five consecutive years. Yes, there is always concern that his funky delivery will lead to an injury, but 50% of all starting pitchers will land on the DL at some point. Chris Sale is going to win a lot of games this year provided he can stay healthy. Maybe skipping a start would help. Since 2014, Sale is 30-18 with a 2.78 ERA before the All-Star Break. After the break, Chris is just 12-17 with a 3.33 ERA. The Red Sox offense is loaded and should score enough runs which should propel Sale to his first 20-win campaign of his career. After all, Sale finished third in the Cy Young voting three seasons ago. He's one tall drink of water at 6'6. Batters will tell you he hides the ball extremely well. I am expecting a Ginormous performance in his 8th season. Had 274 strikeouts in 208.2 innings two seasons ago. Last year, Sale had 233 strikeouts in 226.2 innings. Sick. His career numbers suggest a top-notch starter for years to come. Sale is 74-50 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. His 10.1 K's per nine and 2.1 Walks per nine tells me he's one nasty beast on the mound. Chris Sale is only getting better and poised to have his best season of his career that will benefit the Red Sox and their fans. Sale is an amazing 55-12 when the White Sox scored 3 runs or more. Find teams with a plethora of left-handed batters and fade that team when Sale starts. He is holding left-handed batters to a .205 batting average and .533 OPS (on base + slugging) over the last three seasons. No picnic for righties either, with a .227 average and .646 OPS. Chris Sale offers value after round four, but should be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round of a ten-team league.
No. 3 Drew Smyly (Seattle Mariners) Age: 27 (2016: 7-12, 4.88 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
When healthy, Drew Smyly has the "stuff" to win a lot of games. Looks to be in tip-top shape early in Spring after batting numerous ailments last season. Smyly had 167 strikeouts in 175.1 innings last season. Will turn 28 in June and the former 2nd round pick (Arkansas) in 2010 (Det) is poised for his first 10+ win season of his career. His lifetime numbers are better than you would think. Drew is 31-27, with a 3.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, with 550 K's in 570.1 IP in his five-year career. Smyly throws four pitches that all have a purpose. His bread and butter is a four-seam fastball (90-93 MPH) which occasionally reaches 95 MPH on the radar gun. Smyly also throws a slurve (Slider/Curve combination), a cut-fastball which has drawn praise for its late darting-like movement into right-handed batters and away from lefties. He also throws a change-up which he uses exclusively to right-handed batters. Drew has held hitters to a career .243 batting average. All signs point to a career year for Smyly. Drew is projected be the fourth starter to begin the year.
No. 4 Blake Snell (Tampa Bay Rays) Age: 24 (2016: 6-8, 3.54 ERA, 1.62 WHIP)
This guy is the real deal and should be much improved in his sophomore season. Snell struckout 98 batters in just 89 innings pitched last year. He issued 51 walks and will need to show better control to have any real fantasy value. He might be a better real life pitcher than fantasy pitcher this season. Blake Snell was the Minor League Player of the Year back in 2015, which goes to show you his skill-set is for real. Blake can reach the mid to upper 90s on the radar gun along with a sharp sinking action. Very tough pitch to hit when he keeps it down in the zone. His Slider has shown tremendous break away from left-handed batters. His changeup is now considered to be above average and will one day be his second best pitch. The Rays may keep Snell on a pitch count this season. I would guess no more than 170 innings. Expect some skipped starts this season. If you're in a deep league than you should not hesitate to draft him. He's a strikeout machine and a very solid two-start streaming option. Blake is currently listed as the Rays' fourth starter.
No. 5 Julio Urias (LA Dodgers) Age: 20 (2016: 5-2, 3.39 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
I would expect Julio Urias to appear on this list for the next eight seasons. He should climb the rankings every year too. In terms of talent, he reminds of his teammate, Clayton Kershaw. Urias started slow but looked poised and in control after his first four starts and ended his rookie season with 84 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched. At 6"2 and 207 pounds, Julio has a smooth, effortless delivery with easy arm action. His ability to repeat his fluid mechanics is top-notch for his age. Urias has a fastball than sits between 92-95 MPH, but is able to reach 97 if needed. Hitters have said his ball is extremely difficult to pick up due to his deceptive throwing motion. This makes his changeup even more devastating along with an exceptionable curveball. Keep in mind, the Dodgers are going to limit his workload. Skipped starts and extended spring training is possible, but not probable. Look for 200 strikeouts if Urias pitches 180 innings. Grab him late on draft day. Julio is currently projected as the Dodgers' fourth starter. Believe the hype. Future Superstar folks!
Jeff's success in MLB is well-documented here and at The Sports Monitor of OK. Early Bird MLB package is now available.
Good luck this Baseball Season!
Jeff Hochman of JH-Sportsline