1. Clayton Kershaw (26) - Nothing much to say here, he's been the best pitcher in baseball the past couple years and this year he's been even better with a ridiculous 11.5 K/9 rate.
2. Yu Darvish (27) - Darvish and Kershaw are currently the premier strikeout pitchers in the majors. Last year Yu broke out with 277 strikeouts in just 209 innings! His K rate is down this year, but only to a still crazy good 10.86 K/9, which is still one of the best in baseball. Right now he has the track record and the upside, I don't see any reasons to doubt that he'll be one of the best pitchers for the next 3-5 years.
3. Chris Sale (25) - Ever since Sale moved to the rotation in 2012 there have been huge injury concerns with him, but he has only been on the DL once in his 3 seasons as a starter. It's possible that his funky delivery works for him, and he'll remain relatively healthy. And to steal a stat from Bradlee from one of my dynasty leagues, through 560 innings Sale has 597 K's, which is more than Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens had. Wow.
4. Steven Strasburg (25) - Strasburg hasn't quite put everything together and had a truly dominant season yet, but he could as soon as this year. His strikeout rate is up to 10.82 and he has a career low walk rate right now. If he stays healthy and strings together a few 200 inning seasons he could challenge Kershaw for the #1 spot, but the injury concerns are real.
5. Masahiro Tanaka (25) - Tanaka was proclaimed by several fantasy experts to be the most overdrafted starting pitcher during 2014 draft season. Turns out he was actually underdrafted. 14 games, 14 quality starts with an ERA under 2 and a WHIP under 1. Oh, and he is striking out more than a batter per inning. The only reason not to believe is that the league will catch up to him once they've seen him more than once, but I don't buy that. He looks like an ace to me.
6. Madison Bumgarner (24) - I've never really bought into Bumgarner prior to this year, but he has relatively quietly become one of the best pitchers in baseball, and despite being in the majors since 2010 he's only 24. He's on pace for his 4th straight 200 inning season, with over 190 K's in all of them.
7. David Price (28) - Price is currently having a career year in some ways, with a career high strikeout rate of 10.11 and walk rate under 1. However he also currently has a 3.93 ERA which would be his worst since 2009. I'd say I trust the underlying numbers, and its possible that his high ERA will give you a chance to buy. Right now he has an xFIP of 2.60, so a correction is coming and maybe a CY Young season is coming as well.
8. Felix Hernandez (28) - The concern with Felix isn't age, it's workload. He has pitched 1938 innings in his career, which is 750 more than our #1 Clayton Kershaw despite being only 2 years older. But even with the heavy workload he is still dominating, and is actually having one of the best seasons of his career this year.
9. Jose Fernandez (21) - Fernandez is one of the toughest players in baseball to rank, if he comes back healthy he goes back up to #1 or #2 on this list but you just don't know how he'll recover from Tommy John. With his potential he probably should be even higher, but the risk of a second TJ surgery moves him down.
10. Max Scherzer (29) - Scherzer is 29, and coming off a CY Young season in 2013 but his slow start in 2014 has me a little worried. He's still throwing 95, but his WHIP has ballooned from .97 in 2013 to 1.25 this year. Most of his underlying numbers look fine, his K rate is almost exactly the same as last year and the walks aren't a problem. I'd say the Scherzer of last year was the outlier, as a .259 BABIP helped him out. He's still a huge source of strikeouts, and that makes him valuable, but the ERA might not be under 3 again.
11. Adam Wainwright (32) - At 32 Wainwright isn't showing any signs of slowing down, his numbers are all on par with his last few dominant seasons. He's still a top 5 pitcher in baseball, but the fear of a Verlander like slip pushes him down to 11.
12. Johnny Cueto (28) - Cueto is having the best season of his career right now, and he's still relatively young at 28. He does remains a health risk, but has actually made 30 or more starts 4 of the past 5 seasons. I'm not sure why his K rate has gone up to career high levels this year, but even if that number gets closer to his career rates his ERA and WHIP make him a great SP option.
13. Matt Harvey (25) - I could cut and paste what I wrote for Fernandez in here, its the same story. They both should be back in 2015, and I expect them to dominate again, but the risk of another injury is there.
14. Julio Teheran (23) - At 23 Teheran certainly could be higher on the list, but pitchers at this age are the most terrifying to own due to injury. He also is a fly ball pitcher, and his strikeout rate is only at 7.2 this year which is far from elite. He's not a hard thrower with an average fastball velocity of 92 MPH in 2014, I'd be concerned about both injuries and home runs with Teheran.
15. Gerrit Cole (23) - Cole's 2014 season certainly feels like a huge disappointment so far, but he has actually improved slightly from 2013 and was still throwing 97 before he hit the DL. Obviously the DL trip is a huge concern, but if he avoids a major injury I think the perception that he's having a down year could make for a good buying opportunity. While he hasn't reached the heights that Fernandez and Harvey did in their first couple seasons he is still 23 and has upped his strikeout rate and groundball rate this year.
16. Mat Latos (26) - It's possible that since Latos missed the first couple months of 2014 his owners have forgotten how consistently good he's been the past 4 seasons. From 2010 to 2013 he struck out between 185 and 189 batters each year, while logging over 184 innings in all of them. I still expect him to put up 4 or 5 more seasons like that so maybe now is a good time to buy.
17. Michael Wacha (22) - As a soon to be 23 year old in his second year in the bigs Wacha has shown remarkable consistency. He has only given up more than 3 earned runs in a start one time in 2014, and it wasn't exactly a blowup start as he gave up 4 ER in 5 innings. The consistency, the youth, and the organization all make me like him. The fact that one of his best pitches is a changeup, and that he doesn't throw a slider makes me less worried about health.
18. Jordan Zimmermann (28) - There is only one question with Jordan Zimmermann's fantasy value, where are the K's? In 2009 he had 92 strikeouts in 91 innings as a rookie, but his K rate hasn't hit 8 since then. If he could get back up to his rookie level he would be top ten on this list, but I think at this point we shouldn't expect that anymore. Even still 200+ innings with a 3.00 ERA and a nice WHIP makes him a top 20 guy.
19. Kevin Gausman (23) - Gausman hasn't put it together yet at the big league level. But on June 7th against Oakland he looked like the ace he could become. He pitched 7 innings of one run ball with 6 K's, but the numbers don't tell the tale. He was hitting 99 on the gun and looked like a future star. I'm officially in love with Gausman.
20. Sonny Gray (24) - Gray is one of the few young up and coming pitchers who hasn't disappointed in 2014, unlike the Danny Salazar and Shelby Millers of the world. But even though he's young and pitching well I'm not sure how much better than this he can get. His strikeouts are down from his rookie year, and that seems to line up more with his minor league numbers. Keep in mind that over 26 starts in AA in 2012 he had a K rate of 5.9. I'm thinking his strikeout an inning rookie season may have been a mirage, and he's going to stay in the 7-8 K/9 rate for his career.
21. Zach Greinke (30) - At the age of 30 Zach Greinke is having a rebound season. His K rate is back up to 9.59 after dipping all the way down to 7.5 in 2013. Don't assume Greinke is done just cause he is 30, I think his bad 2013 was a blip on the radar and he'll put up 3 or 4 more great years.
22. Jeff Samardzija (29) -Samardzija has been a great source of K's the past 3 seasons, and has improved his ERA markedly this season. His main problem is that he hasn't ever won double digit games in Chicago, but he is expected to be traded away very soon. Where he goes next will greatly affect his fantasy value.
23. Cory Kluber (28) -Kluber is having a breakout season at the age of 28. His K rate is over 10, and he has a solid 3.35 ERA with an xFIP of only 2.85 which could mean he could get even better this year! Even still he hasn't done it at the big league level for long enough for me to move him any higher, and he actually never had numbers this good in AA or AAA.
24. Cole Hamels (30) - I don't like Cole Hamels, but he's too good to leave off the top 25.
25. Taijuan Walker (21) - Walker should be up any day now, and a top ten prospect in that big park in Seattle could be fun. He has only one start in the majors, but he had 160 K's in 141 innings in AA in 2013. He could move way up the list with a solid second half of the season.