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. This prestigious list featured Clayton Kershaw from his rookie season until he turned 28. Here are my Top 3 Left-handed starting pitchers age 27 or younger going forward for the 2018 season. All three pitchers are currently projected to start the season in their respective team's rotation. Please note, I normally feature 5 pitchers on this list annually. Injuries to Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS), Brent Honeywell (TB), Julio Urias (LAD) and a few others have forced me to a Top 3 list this season. My apologies.
No. 1 Robbie Ray (Arizona Diamondbacks) Age: 26 (2017: 15-5, 2.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Robbie is the real deal and a rising star. He had his best season of his young career in 2017. Ray posted a 15-5 record, 2.89 ERA, and 1.15 WHIP. He held opposing hitters to a .199 batting average in 28 starts. And while that's awfully difficult to repeat, Ray is primed for another solid season in what should be more of a neutral park. Don't forget that Humidors will be used this year in Arizona. What affect that has on run production we won't know until the games are played. I would expect a moderate decrease in hitting if the Humidors are the same ones used in Colorado. Robbie has 574 strikeouts in 492.2 career innings. Really good! Don't hesitate to grab him as a solid #1 SP on your fantasy squad this year. Ray will be the opening day starter.
No. 2 Blake Snell (Tampa Bay Rays) Age: 25 (2017: 5-7, 4.04 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
Blake's counting stats last season don't jump off the page but I really believe his stock is a strong buy. Snell improved his WHIP from a 1.62 to last year's 1.33. This guy is the real deal and should be much improved in his third full season. Snell struckout 119 batters in 129.1 innings pitched last year. 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. Snell has 217 strikeouts in 218.1 career innings. Solid. Blake is currently listed as the teams' 2nd starter behind Chris Archer. The Rays play in a pitchers park. Tropicana Field was the 7th toughest stadium in runs according to ESPN park factors last season. Snell should be drafted as a dependable #2 starter with a ton of upside.
No. 3 Sean Newcomb (Atlanta Braves) Age: 24 (2017: 4-9, 4.32 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
He certainty looks the part standing 6' 5" and weighing 255 pounds. Sean Newcomb could be a nice sleeper this season after posting 108 strikeouts in 100 IP last year. He will need to cut down on his walks (57) to become a dependable starter. Newcomb was acquired in the Andrelton Simmons trade and the Braves are going to give him a chance. Sean throws in the mid to upper 90s, but also has tremendous downward movement on his four-seamer. His curveball ranks higher than his changeup and there is room for improvement with both off-speed pitches. This guy has been compared to Chris Sale who appeared on this list for five seasons before turning 27. That's good enough for me. Late round sleeper and potential breakout in his sophomore season. He's currently listed as the team's 4th starter right behind Brandon McCarthy.
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Good Luck this Baseball Season!
Jeff Hochman of JH-Sportsline