7. Cole Hamels (SP) - The 2008 World Series MVP has been reliable in the regular season in his young career (29-15 record since 2006), but also comes into this season riding a dominant postseason where he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
6. Johan Santana (SP) - The 2004 A.L. Cy Young Winner has never had fewer than 15 wins or 200 strikeouts in his five full seasons. He posted the lowest ERA of his career last year, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be great again in 2009. Johan slipped a little due to early season injury concerns.
5. Cliff Lee (SP) - It’s hard to rank Lee fifth after a 22-3 Cy Young season. The reason that happened is because Lee was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness in 2007, and spent time in the minor leagues. If he comes close to last year, he’s great. If he comes close to the year before that, your team (and the Indians) are in trouble.
4. Tim Lincecum (SP) - Great last year as the 18-5 N.L. Cy Young winner. Since he had that season at 24 years old, his best seasons may still be ahead of him; but there is some risk of a sophomore jinx, or that hitters simply figure him out this year.
3. Brandon Webb (SP) - Won the N.L. Cy Young in 2006, and was a candidate again in ‘08, as you could usually pencil in a victory when he took the mound for Arizona. As seen in his 22-7 record. A 20 game winner with single-digit losses spells ace, fantasy or not.
2. CC Sabathia (SP) - Expectations are high on CC, but his second half dominance with Milwaukee last year suggests he won’t disappoint. The only thing holding CC out of the #1 spot is that he did struggle early with Cleveland last year, winning only six of his first eighteen starts, and posting a 3.83 ERA pre-trade. But he emphatically rebounded, and finished by lowering his ERA to 2.70, and finishing with ten complete games, and 17 wins (the fourth 15+ win season of his career).
1. Roy Halladay (SP) - Halladay is the Secretariat of major league starting pitchers, and is coming off an excellent season last year where he was tremendous in every fantasy category. Always reliable, the 246 innings he ate up last year were ones about which the Blue Jays never had to worry. Halladay posted a 2.78 ERA in 33 starts. He won twenty of those games, throwing two shutouts, and nine complete games.