BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw uses the BloombergSports.com Front Office projections to rank the top five strikeout artists in Major League Baseball for the upcoming season. While Justin Verlander is expected to lead the Majors in strikeouts, National League rivals Tim Lincecum andClayton Kershaw are not expected to be far behind.
Verlander is fresh off one of the greatest seasons ever by a starter and while he earned the MVP and Cy Young award, he is expected to repeat his success this upcoming season. The Tigers have added some pop to their lineup in the form of first baseman Prince Fielder, while Miguel Cabrera is now destined for third base.
While most fantasy managers will focus on that offensive boost, a greater concern may be the poor defense behind Verlander. The good news is that he may become more dependent on strikeouts. Bloomberg Sports projects a staggering 244 strikeouts from Verlander this season.
On the west coast, Tim Linecum and Clayton Kershaw will battle for fantasy supremacy. The hurlers seem to be moving in different directions as Lincecum has regressed a tad in recent years while Kershaw is peaking. Regardless, Lincecum remains a safe bet pitching in AT&T Park with a proven track record that includes 220 or more strikeouts in each of the last four seasons. It also helps having a healthy Buster Posey back in the lineup.
Kershaw finally put it all together last season as he improved his control, went deep into games, and finished with a stellar 21 wins and 248 strikeouts. The southpaw’s statistics are looking more and more like Sandy Koufax’s by the day. The BloombergSports.com Front Office tool projects 239 strikeouts from Kershaw this season.
The fourth most strikeouts will likely be racked up by the forgotten Felix Hernandez. The Mariners 2010 Cy Young award winner has a little more offensive support this season, which should lead to more wins and greater confidence. The durable right-hander picked up 222 strikeouts last year despite some struggles at home. He is projected to surpass 200 K’s for a fourth straight season.
Finally, Cliff Lee edges teammate and fellow ace Roy Halladay on the list. The veteran hurler brandished a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in one of his finest seasons yet. He tallied a career-best 238 strikeouts and that number is expected to take just a minor decline this season.
if looking for sleepers, a couple of less heralded hurlers who can deliver K’s are Braves starter Brandon Beachy and A’s top prospect Brad Peacock. While Beachy is hoping to be a bit healthier in his second full season, Peacock is just the latest young hurler hoping to breakout in Oakland.
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Rob Shaw and Michelle Steele report on the waiver wire, including Yankee killer Chris Heisey, joined for the first time ever by a live studio audience!
Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves
Beachy has just two wins on the season, but with a 3.22 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, fantasy managers are picking up a reliable hurler. Best of all, Beachy, who was undrafted of Indiana Wesleyan, is a strikeout artist. In fact, fresh from more than a month on the disabled list, Beachy fanned 11 batters in just 6 innings on Thursday night. He has 57 K’s on the season in just 50.1 innings of work.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Cubs
He is an all or nothing type slugger, but the good news is that lately he has been more all than nothing. He has gone three straight games with a homer, and make that 5 dingers over the last seven games. Sure, only once did he get an additional hit in those games, but the RBI are piling up as well as the runs scored. This is a guy who can swat 40 in a season, so feel free to pick up the hot bat.
Travis Hafner, 1B, Indians
One of the biggest surprises this season has been the play of the Indians, and if you’re wondering where they’re getting their offense from, well the answer is an oldie, but goodie. Travis Hafner has turned back the clock to hit .338 this season. This is a former .300-plus hitter, so the fact that he is raking is not unprecedented. He is 34-years old, so invest accordingly.
Chris Heisey, OF, Reds
Yankees fans are wondering who the heck is Chris Heisey. Turns out this newfound Yankee killer, Red Sox fans will love this, went to a college called Messiah! Not sure if he is the chosen one, but in a small sampling, Heisey now has 16 home runs in just 329 at bats. This year his slugging is .492, to put that in perspective, his teammate Joey Votto is not that far above him at .519. In 2009, at the high levels of Minor League ball, Heisey blasted 22 home runs with 21 steals and a .314 average. Looks like fantasy managers should put this outfielder on their radar, although playing time could be an issue unless Jonny Gomes finds the bench with his .222 average.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, Dodgers
If you cut Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton following his most recent blowup in early May before landing on the DL, it may be a good idea to pick him right up. We have no idea if his struggles are in the past, but we do know that his manager intends on returning him to the closer’s role once he is healthy. Broxton is on the road to recovery, most recently pitching at Triple-A in a rehab appearance.
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