Cliff Lee-01Whether you play cash fantasy baseball or in free leagues, having a great starting pitcher is critical. Here is a look at the top starting pitchers in free and cash fantasy baseball, for the first fifteen picks.

1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Verlander was almost as good in 2012 as he was in his Cy Young 2011, with a 2.64 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 17 wins (sixth time in seven seasons he has won 17) and he led the majors in strikeouts for the third time in four seasons.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw led the majors in ERA and the NL in WHIP for the second straight season. After leading the NL in strikeouts in 2011, he was second by one K.

3. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Strasburg had a 2.82 ERA and 1.10 at the break, but finished with a 3.16 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He won 15 games and had 197 K in 159 1/3 before the Nationals shut him down.  Now he gets to pitch a full season.

4. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
After finishing second in Cy Young balloting in 2010, Price rebounded from a 3.49 ERA in 2011 to win the Cy in 2012, leading the league with a 2.56 ERA and tying for the lead in wins with 20. He struck out 200 for the second straight season.

5. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Marines
Hernandez finished in the top four in Cy Young balloting for the third time in four years (he won in 2010). He has at least 215 K the last four years. He also has two straight seasons of an ERA over 3 and has won more than 14 games just once in his career.

6. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
In the last five seasons, Hamels has had an ERA over 3.09 once and has been under 194 K once.  He has made at least 31 starts all five seasons.

7. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
Cain had career bests in wins (16), strikeouts (193), ERA (2.79, his third season in four under 3) and WHIP (1.04, his third straight season under 1.10).

8. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
Lee led all starting pitchers in 2012 with a K/BB of 7.39. He had a 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 207 K. So don’t judge him on those six wins.

9. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Weaver led the majors with a 1.02 WHIP, his third straight WHIP under 1.08. His highest ERA over the last three years is 3.01. Weaver tied for the league lead with 20 wins. His strikeouts, though, fell to 142, with a 6.8 K/9.

10. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Wainwright had a rough first half after coming back from Tommy John surgery, but appeared to be rounding back into form in the second half with a 3.28 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  His 8.3 K/9 matched his last pre-surgery number.

11. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Darvish had a 3.90 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in his first year in Texas, but also won 16 games and fanned 221 in 191 1/3 IP. His numbers were similar in home and away games. Darvish closed strong with a 2.21 ERA and 0.74 WHIP in September.

12. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
Sabathia was on the DL twice and had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in the offseason. Aside from the health issues, his 3.38 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 197 K were in line with his typical Yankee numbers.

13.Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
Bumgarner struggled in September with a 5.47 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, still finishing at 3.27 and 1.11. He struck out 191 for the second straight season and won 16. After two bad playoff starts, he finished on a high note, allowing no runs, two hits and striking out 8 in seven innings of Game 2 of the World Series.

14. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
Since his 2.16 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in his Cy Young 2009, Greinke has not had an ERA below 3.48 or a WHIP below 1.20. He finished strong with the Angels with a 2.11 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in September and could see improved numbers pitching in Dodger Stadium. Greinke was diagnosed with elbow inflammation during spring training and may not be ready for opening day. As of mid-March, it did not appear to be a serious injury.

15. R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
Dickey won the NL Cy Young, leading the league in strikeouts, finishing second in ERA and wins and third in WHIP. While his K/9 went from 5.8 in 2011 to 8.9, he had good ERA and WHIP numbers all three seasons he was a Met.  Dickey now leaves Citi Field for the AL East, but he had the same record (10-3) at home as on the road and his road ERA and WHIP were not much worse than his home marks.

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