Fantasy Baseball 2018: Is Chris Sale the top fantasy pitcher?

Red Sox ace Chris Sale in having a historic season in both real and fantasy baseball. Though, is it just a one-year wonder or can we expect the same in 2018?

The Boston Red Sox sent shockwaves across the American League East when they acquired Chris Sale in the offseason. He has been lights out all season and just reached 300 strikeouts for the season. Does this make him the No. 1 pitcher for next season or should be ease back our expectations?

Before this season, Sale averaged a 3.04 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, 227 strikeouts, 45 walks and a 14-9 reocrd in his last five years with the Chicago White Sox. He was building up to be one of the league’s best pitchers. He posted low ratios and high strikeout totals in the AL worthy enough of a top-30 pick.

Sale entered this season as a second-round pick, 18.1 ADP in ESPN leagues. After the season he posted in 2016, it would be hard to pass him up at that spot. In 32 starts, a career high, Sale had a 3.34 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9 and 9.3 K/9. The strikeout rate was below career average, but the other numbers offset the decline.

This season, obviously, has been off the charts. He matched his career-high with 17 wins. He has 300 strikeouts, the 34th pitcher to reach that plateau, in just 209.1 innings. Sale also has jsut 41 walks, 20 home runs allowed, 2.75 ERA and a 0.496 WHIP.

While the overall numbers look great, Sale has been prone to some bad outings recently. In his last seven starts, he has allowed at least three runs in four of those games. Two of those games were against the New York Yankees and a third was facing the Cleveland Indians, two teams he may face in the playoffs. He allowed seven runs to the Indians back on August 1.

He didn’t pitch more than six innings in four starts as well. Hopefully, he’s saving his arm for his final two starts.

I haven’t done my 2018 rankings yet but I have a pretty good idea of which pitchers will be in my top five. Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Max ScherzerZack Greinke and Sale. I thought about Madison Bumgarner but the lack of offense around him moves him down a couple of spots.

How do the other four pitchers compare to Sale this season?

Kershaw has missed time the last two seasons and could be a on a decline again in 2018. I know we can predict injuries but twice is a coincidence and three times could be a trend.

Kluber is atop the ESPN Player Rater. He has better ratio stats, surprisingly but doesn’t have the strikeouts. The offense is a little better but Kluber also missed time in May. He’s in contention for that top spot.

Scherzer has improved since joining the Washington Nationals. He’s lowered his ERA, WHIP and his strikeout has gone up. It does help pitching in the National League. Scherzer did miss two starts in August, too.

Greinke is the biggest surprise because he’s been all over the plae throughout his career. He was good in Kansas City, had one great year with the Los Angeles Dodgers and had a bad year last year in Arizona. Can we trust the soon-to-be 34-year-old pitcher next year?

That’s the four. Obviously, Sale has his flaws as well but it’s hard to see them after this season. If you think pitching in the AL East could come back to bite him, I would target Kluber first. I also don’t think he’ll reach 300 strikeouts again. He had 18 games with 10-plus strikeouts, some luck mixed in with his skill.

If I were forced to make my starting pitcher rankings now, I’d have to put Kershaw first. He’s just been so consistent over his career. You could switch up Sale and Kluber and two and three. I also don’t blame you if you took Sale first. Even 280 strikeouts would be a great season.