Fantasy baseball: 17 strikeout aces for 2010

Strikeouts are the one statistic that Major League pitchers really have control over.

Every other category they get credit for can be affected both positively and negatively by the offense and defense around him.

Cherish the strikeout pitcher. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the hurlers who are most likely to get you at least 180 strikeouts in 2010 based on three different sets of projections.

Average draft position values are in parentheses:

Tim Lincecum, Giants (12.49) – Every list had Lincecum at the top. If you were going call just one player a lock for 220+ strikeouts in 2010, make it Lincecum.

Justin Verlander, Tigers (43.72) — Verlander was as much of a regular at the top of lists as Lincecum. Look at that ADP. Then look at Grienke’s and Sabathia’s.

Zack Grienke, Royals (28.07) – Can he maintain that outstanding level he had last year? The projectionists seem to think he’ll at least keep his K rate up.

Javier Vazquez, Yankees (61.98) — His ERA and WHIP aren’t always outstanding, but Vazquez has always been a strikeout pitcher.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners (28.82) — King Felix turns 24 in April. Could he be wearing a strikeout king crown before he’s done?

Dan Haren, Diamondbacks (38.9) — In the wins post we mentioned his first-half Hyde to second-half Jekyll. along those same lines, he could have 140 Ks by the break and finish under 200.

Roy Halladay, Phillies (31.64) — Few pitchers are as consistently great as Halladay.

CC Sabathia, Yankees (29.24) — Another pitcher locked in for 200 strikeouts.

Jon Lester, Red Sox (59.34) — Jumped from 152 Ks in 2009 to 225 in 2009 despite getting seven less innings pitched. Is that a legit jump? He’ll probably be closer to 170-180 than 220 in 2010.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (103.32) — He’ll be just 21 in March and already has a 180 K season under his belt. He got it in just 171 innings.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies (104.52) — A Rockies pitcher is a legit fantasy star? Believe it.

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers (91.56) — Gallardo was great in 2009, and at age 25 we probably haven’t seen his best yet.

AJ Burnett, Yankees (126.49) — Threw more than 200 innings for the second consecutive season and struck out 195, following up his 231K 2008.

Chad Billingsley, Dodgers (122.59) — Has a 200 K season under his belt, but regressed a bit last year. he’ll be 26 this season.

Josh Beckett, Red Sox (85.29)– A punchout machine, Beckett has pitched 200 innings in three of the last four seasons.

Matt Cain, Giants (87.03) – He may not be as good as he was last year, but Cain’ll get you 180 Ks.

Cole Hamels, Phillies (99.81) — Even in a mediocre season Hamels had 168 strikeouts. He’ll bounce back in 2009 and prove he belongs on this list.

Those 13 starting pitchers are the most likely to get you more than 180 strikeouts in 2010, but you’d be smart to grab a couple of the following sleepers, too. Jonathan Sanchez will get 200 Ks this year. Bank on it. It also wouldn’t surprise many people of Johan Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Wandy Rodriguez, Max Scherzer, Rich Harden and Tommy Hanson finish with 200 Ks and as top-20 strikeout pitchers in 2010.

In 2009, 21 pitchers struck out 180 or more batters. Here’s the breakdown:

230 or more

Verlander, Lincecum, Greinke and Vazquez

200-229

Lester; Haren; Hernandez; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Halladay; Gallardo

180-199

Beckett; Jimenez; Sabathia; Burnett; Nolasco; Rodriguez; Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies; Josh Johnson, Marlins; Matt Garza, Rays; Kershaw; Cliff Lee, Mariners.

This is the fourth in a series that looks at the players most likely to excel in fantasy baseball’s 5×5 categories. The other posts so far highlighted home runs, steals and wins.

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