Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We're at the end of April, the first month of the marathon baseball season, but it's never too early to spot trends. Using this year's newest and best analyzing tool for starting pitchers, TSN's SSRD360, you can see who is pitching the best in the early going.
The SSRD360 evaluates each starting pitcher based on four fantasy categories: ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and wins per start. The formula compares a starting pitcher to the other starting pitchers in his league.
Two of the top-five are familiar names, ones who no one will be surprised to see: Jered Weaver and Stephen Strasburg. The other three, however, could surprise fantasy owners.
April's top-five fantasy starters:
Lance Lynn, St. Louis, (SSRD360 2.284) - Lynn currently owns the best SSRD360 rating in all of baseball. What was originally supposed to be a short-term solution for the Cardinals until Chris Carpenter returns from injury has become the team's ace. Lynn has made four starts, winning all four with a stellar 1.33 ERA and 0.815 WHIP. The 24-year-old has yielded just one earned run in each outing while striking out 24 in 27 innings of work. He's scheduled to go again on Wednesday against the weak-hitting Pittsburgh Pirates, so if you are in the 18 percent of all leagues in which he isn't on a roster, you should make your claim right away.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox, (SSRD360 2.433) - Back in 2007, Peavy was a 19- game winner who led the National League in strikeouts (240), ERA (2.54) and WHIP (1.061). Injuries and 1,600 innings seemed to take their toll because Peavy hasn't been a factor in the fantasy world for years, but he's suddenly reappeared on the fantasy horizon in 2012. Peavy has made five starts this season, going 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA, league-leading 0.690 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. He's always been a better first-half pitcher than second, so he may only be a short-term answer to your pitching woes.
Jason Hammel, Baltimore, (SSRD360 2.485) - Hammel has never been a fantasy star or even in the thought process for fantasy owners when looking for starting pitcher help. Heading into the season, he owned a 34-45 career record with a 4.99 ERA and 1.470 WHIP. However, that's not the guy who's been on the mound in 2012. The Orioles' 2012 pitcher named Hammel is 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA, a 1.000 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 26 innings. Whether it's simply getting out of Coors Field or he's finally developed into a quality pitcher, Hammel currently has excellent fantasy value. He's only owned in half of all leagues, but if he passes a big test on Monday night against the always formidable New York Yankees offense, that number will quickly rise. It might be worth claiming him before Monday's game instead of after it when he could get noticed by the other owners in your league.
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels, (SSRD360 2.601) - Weaver's place on the list is no surprise as he finished fifth in 2011. The 29-year-old has improved on his previous season's ERA and WHIP in each of the last four seasons and currently owns a 2.02 ERA and 0.953 WHIP. It's unlikely that he's available for trade in your league, but if he is, you certainly have to investigate the offer. At this point, the only downside with having Weaver on your roster is that the Angels simply aren't scoring runs. But we all know that Albert Pujols & Co. will eventually break out of their slump, and when they do, it's going to make life easy for the Angels starters.
Stephen Strasburg, Washington, (SSRD360 2.616) - The 23-year-old Strasburg owns a rifle for an arm and fantasy owners have been drooling over the kid since he signed a contract in 2009 and debuted a year later. He missed almost all of 2011, but that didn't slow down fantasy owners even a little bit. So far in 2012, Strasburg has made five starts, winning two with a 1.13 ERA, 0.875 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 32 innings. The only problem with owning Strasburg is an innings limit placed on him by the Nationals, which is currently set at 160. Given his current rate of six-plus innings-per-outing, he'll only be allowed to make 25 starts this season.