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Key Stats: What? I happen to think Clayton Kershaw is talented. There’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t draft him if you don’t like him, but the numbers support that he is a top 62 pick. Last season I took what was a radical stance that Kershaw was a top 125 player. That was before he had a full season to prove he was legit. Now that he’s clearly arrived, the rankings should reflect that.

Kershaw was ranked 83rd last season despite winning only 8 games. He was the only starting pitcher in the top 100 who didn’t have a double digit win total. Playing on a division winner and having a better FIP than several great players including Felix Hernandez, goes to show that Kershaw didn’t have much luck. If the rankings formula was adjusted to neglect wins, Kershaw could have been a top 50 guy last year.

Skeptics Say: The 4.8 BB/9 is much too high. Daniel Cabrera, who has made a name for himself by walking batters, has walked 5.2 batters per 9 innings during his 6 year career. Kershaw wasn’t a whole lot better at limiting free passes as a rookie when he had a 4.2 BB/9.

In parts of 3 seasons coming up with the Dodgers, Kershaw had a little better control going by the numbers as he walked 3.7 per 9 innings. I haven’t done the research, but I would assume that pitchers can get away with being more wild at the minor league level where plate discipline and strikezone knowledge are less mastered arts among the inexperienced player pools. Hoping Kershaw does a 180 and eliminates walking hitters in his starts would be asking too much since the opposition hit less than .200 off of his cautious approach. If he did get it back to around that 4.2 BB/9 level, his WHIP would have been 1.16 last season as opposed to 1.23. A large differential when it comes to deciding if he’s worth taking over a player like the ones listed below.

Peer Comparison: Going by the point above about ignoring the poor luck and discouting wins here’s how Kershaw fared in the three categories that he has the most control over – ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. He was better than these players in all three of those categories last year:

John Lackey
Jered Weaver
Cole Hamels
Cliff Lee

All of these guys are ranked ahead of Kershaw in the CBS rankings.

Kershaw’s disrespect is only beginning with CBS. At ESPN he at least retains the value he had from last season, but there are still players Tristian Cockcroft ranks above Kershaw even after Kershaw was better than these players in two out of the three categories of ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Here are those players:

Matt Cain
Yovani Gallardo
Johan Santana

Finally, the two most important categories for making Kershaw’s case are strikeouts per 9 innings and FIP. MDC has some of the names already mentioned, but for variety’s sake, I include only new names at the bottom. Kershaw wasn’t better in just one of these categories, but both versus the players in question, and again these players are going ahead of Kershaw according to the source.

Josh Beckett
Tommy Hanson
Adam Wainwright
Dan Haren
CC Sabathia

Other names going ahead of him include two players with a much more checkered medical history (Chris Carpenter and Jake Peavy), a player coming off a career year at age 33 and moving to the AL (Javier Vazquez), and a player who Kershaw outpitched in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP in the second half (Josh Johnson).

Team Outlook: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez’s names still haven’t come up on this countdown yet so the Dodgers offense can score. They were 11th in runs last year, but third in the NL trailing only the Phillies and Rockies who have much better parks to hit in. Jonathan Broxton was the best closer last year and could be again this season. So how did Kershaw not finish with more than 8 wins? Innings. In 14 of 30 starts he lasted less than 6 innings and he also was watched closely toward the end of the year so the Dodgers wouldn’t be Verduccizing him during the playoffs. With last year’s 184 combined innings under his belt, Kershaw shouldn’t have a problem getting over 200 this year.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #25 Starting Pitcher; ESPN.com: #83 Overall; Yahoo: #18 Starting Pitcher and #82 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #103 Overall; Couch Managers: #102 Overall; FB 365: #17 Starting Pitcher

Projection: The WHIP ultimately won’t move because the BABIP will adjust to the mean as the walks go down.
14 wins 3.17 ERA 1.23 WHIP 216 K in 204 innings

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