Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Checking the Sports Network's Starting Pitcher Evaluator at least once a week keeps me abreast of who is pitching well (and might help my fantasy rotation) and who is disappointing owners.
On this early Sunday morning the top pitchers in both the American and National Leagues are mostly names you wouldn't recognize if you haven't been paying attention or have been in a coma for a couple of years.
That's because there are very few familiar pitchers at the top of the list. Other than Seattle's Felix Hernandez, Boston starter Clay Buchholz and Madison Bumgarner (who in three big league seasons already owns two World Series rings), the top five in each league is primarily made up of guys who weren't in the league three years ago.
Gone are the familiar names like two-time Cy Young Award winners Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum. So are Cliff Lee and Matt Cain.
In their place are the likes of: Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma, Matt Moore, Matt Harvey, Shelby Miller, Jordan Zimmermann and Lance Lynn.
Who are these guys?
Darvish was a well-published import who has lived up to expectations going 16-9 in his first season and is 6-1 in his first eight starts this year with 80 strikeouts in just 52 2/3 innings pitched.
But more interesting is Iwakuma, who didn't get the big press clippings when he signed with Seattle in the offseason a year ago. Even now, after a 9-5 season in 2012 and a 4-1 start with a 1.74 ERA and league-leading 0.735 WHIP this spring, Iwakuma is available in about 12 percent of all Yahoo fantasy leagues.
Tampa Bay's 23-year-old Moore, with a preseason ADP of 74 (the 24th pitcher off the board), is pitching well above expectations this season. After going 11-11 last year, he's started 6-0 this season with a 2.14 ERA and 1.167 WHIP. He'll be even more valuable when he learns better control (22 BB vs. 43 Ks).
On the NL side of the ledger, the top-two spot are held by guys who last year at this time were pitching for the Buffalo Bison and the Memphis Redbirds.
The former Bisons hurler is the Mets' Matt Harvey. He made 10 starts at the end of 2012 (3-5), but this season has exploded onto the fantasy scene in stunning fashion with a 4-0 record, along with a league-leading 1.28 ERA and 0.689 WHIP. He owns a 95-plus fastball and a breaking ball that will send a lot of hitters back to the dugout while talking to themselves. In one of my keeper leagues, where my team isn't likely to win this season and I'm looking toward the future, I offered Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Upton (both were leading their leagues in homers at the time) for Harvey and was quickly turned down. That's a lot of respect and it is well deserved.
The former Memphis Redbirds pitcher is the Cardinals' Shelby Miller, who in his last outing gave up a single to the leadoff hitter and then retired 27 in a row while striking out 13 Colorado Rockies. For the season he's 5-2 with a 1.58 ERA and 0.876 WHIP. He's already owned in 86 percent of all Yahoo leagues although he was likely either a last-round flier or a free agent pickup in most leagues (Yahoo preseason ADP 279).
Zimmermann has been around for five seasons, but it wasn't until last year that his name set off alarms for fantasy owners. He went 12-8 last season with a 2.94 ERA, but has brought his game to another level this season by going 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 0.824 WHIP in his first seven starts. On a team with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, Zimmermann might be the Nationals' best pitcher. His one "weakness" is a lower strikeout-per-nine-innings rate (7.3) than his two teammates.
Lynn was a reliever for the Cardinals until last season when injuries thrust him into a starting spot. He thrived in the role going 18-7 last season and he's showing that wasn't a fluke by starting 2013 with a 5-1 record, a 2.72 ERA and 1.047 WHIP. So the real question for fantasy owners is why did he go in the 19th round of most fantasy leagues (ADP 217)?
Looking a bit lower on the list, there are three more names worth tracking for future moves in youngsters Alex Cobb, Patrick Corbin and Tony Cingrani. All three have an SSRD360 value under 3.250 which means they are already pitching at a level worthy of fantasy consideration.