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. Here are my Top 5 left-handed starting pitchers age 27 or younger going forward for the 2016 season. All five pitchers are expected to start the season in their respective team's rotation. Clayton Kershaw has been No. 1 on this list for five straight seasons. Kershaw turns 28 in March otherwise he would be number one for the sixth consecutive season. In the last five seasons combined, Kershaw is 88-33 with a 2.10 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, 1,249 strikeouts in 1,126 innings pitched. Don't hesitate to grab him in the top 5 of your fantasy baseball draft. Dallas Keuchel was ranked 4th on this list last season. He had his best season by far (CY Young Winner) and before the odds-makers caught on, we really cleaned up. Unfortunately, Dallas turned 28 in January. I still like him a lot this season and he would've definitely made this list otherwise. Here are my Top 5 MLB Left-Handed starters for the 2016 campaign.
No. 1 Madison Bumgarner (SF Giants) Age: 26 (2015: 18-9, 2.93 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)
Madison jumps one spot from last year to No. 1 on this prestigious list. He has enjoyed back-to-back 18 win with sub 3.00 ERA seasons. All four of his pitches (Four-seamer, Cutter, Curveball, Changeup) are dynamic. Madison was ranked third on this list two seasons ago, and he came through which ended with a World Series MVP performance. His career numbers are impressive as he enters his seventh full season, with a 85-58 Won/Loss record, 3.04 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 1,130 strikeouts in 1,171 IP. He gets to pitch half his starts in a very pitcher's friendly ballpark. AT&T Park was ranked #1 in fewest runs scored last season according to ESPN park factors. Madison has surpassed 200+ innings for five straight seasons and seems very comfortable on the hill. 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 hit 5 Home Runs last season to go with his .247 batting average. In 20014, he hit 4 Home Runs with a .258 average. His 11 career HR's in 367 at-bats is very impressive. The Giants' offense figures to be improved and if Madison can stay healthy, I see no reason for a repeat performance when Bumgarner takes the bump every fifth day.
No. 2 Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox) Age: 26 (2015: 13-11, 3.41 ERA, 1.08)
Chris Sale had his worst ERA performance of his career last year and should be focused this upcoming season. After all, Sale finished third in the Cy Young voting two seasons ago. Could very well be No. 1 on this list next season. He's one tall drink of water at 6'6. Batters will tell you he hides the ball extremely well. The White Sox did not score many runs when he pitched and considering his low WHIP, he had some bad luck last year. He's too talented not to win at least 15 games every year. I am expecting a Ginormous performance in his seventh season. Had 208 strikeouts in 174 innings two seasons ago. Last year, Sale had 274 strikeouts in 208.1 innings. Sick. His career numbers suggest a top-notch starter for years to come. Sale is 57-40 with a 2.91 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Will turn 27 on March 30th. His 10.9 K's per nine and 2.2 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. Lets hope the offense can score some runs for him. Sale is an amazing 47-8 when the White Sox score 3 runs or more in his career. He's 6-29 when they score two runs or less. Just might win 20 games this season so don't hesitate to grab him come draft day. Find teams with a plethora of left-handed batters and fade that team when Sale starts. He is holding left-handed batters to a .181 batting average over the last three seasons. No picnic for righties either, with a .233 average. Chris Sale offers value after round four, but should be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round of a ten-team league.
No. 3 Matt Moore (TB Rays) Age: 26 (2015: 3-4, 5.43 ERA, 1.54 WHIP)
Will turn 27 in June and he's been on this list before. When healthy, Matt is capable of throwing a two-hit shutout in every start. Back in 20013, Moore went 17-4 with a 3.95 ERA and 1.29 WHIP (walks+hits in IP); 143 strikeouts in 150.1 innings is also impressive. He throws hard (91-96 MPH) and has excellent secondary pitches that will keep batters guessing. The only issue has been lack of command with 76 walks back in his career year of 2013. Injuries have derailed his rise to stardom over the last two seasons with just three wins in 12 starts. His last four starts in 2015 were quality starts (6 or more IP & 3 ER or less). His 385 strikeouts in 410 career innings shows he's ready to take the next step and somebody to grab as a sleeper this fantasy baseball season. I believe his 2016 ERA will be at least one full run lower than his career ERA of 4.05. He's too talented and healthy for his ERA to be that high. I think Moore is poised for a monster comeback, who gets to pitch half his games in a very pitcher-friendly ball park. Only AT&T Park (Giants), Dodger Stadium (Dodgers), Petco Park (Pirates), O.co Coliseum (OAK), PNC Park (SD), and Safeco Park (SEA) have generated fewer runs per game than Tropicana Field over the last five seasons. Matt Moore projects as the third or fourth starter this season for the Rays. Look for double digits wins, a low ERA, and high strikeout totals if he stays healthy.
No. 4 Drew Smyly (TB Rays) Age: 26 (2015: 5-2, 3.11 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
Another starter for the Rays with a lot of talent. Injuries have been a problem for the fifth-year starter. He looks to be in the best shape of his career, but 50% of all starting pitchers will land on the DL at some point this season. That's just the reality of being a pitcher. When healthy, Smyly has the "stuff" to win a lot of games. He had 77 strikeouts in just 66.2 innings last season. Will turn 27 in June and the former 2nd round pick (Arkansas) in 2010 (Det) is poised for a career year. His lifetime numbers are better than you would think. Drew is 24-15, with a 3.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, with 385 K's in 395 IP in his four 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. As mentioned above, only AT&T Park (Giants), Dodger Stadium (Dodgers), Petco Park (Pirates), O.co Coliseum (OAK), PNC Park (SD), and Safeco Park (SEA) have generated fewer runs per game than Tropicana Field over the last five seasons. All signs point to a career year for Smyly. I am bullish on the Rays this season, so don't pass him by as a late-round sleeper on draft day. Drew should be the team's third or fourth starter to begin the season.
No. 5 Daniel Norris (Detroit Tigers) Age: 22 (2015: 3-2, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Daniel Norris is just scratching the surface of his MLB career. From what I have seen, he's got the right stuff to be a solid starter for many years to come. His 45 strikeouts in 60 innings last year is very telling. Norris has a four pitch mix that features a fastball (91-96 MPH), Slider, Curve, and changeup. All four pitches are rated as above average and the scouts rave about his work ethic. Norris is now the number one prospect in the Tigers' organization after being traded from the Blue Jays in the David Price blockbuster. In 66.2 career innings pitched Norris is holding batters to a .233 average. Starting pitchers are like fine wine. They get better with age. While Norris is still very green, I have a feeling the Tigers are the perfect team for him. Last season, Comerica Park yielded the fifth fewest runs per game according to ESPN park factors. Detroit should score a lot of runs which should boost Daniel's win total. He's will open the season as the Tigers' forth or fifth starter.
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Good luck this Baseball Season!
Jeff Hochman of JH-Sportsline