It's incredible how much better the pitchers are in the National League compared to the American League. It is so easy to make the case for many of the pitchers below that it really comes down to looking for value. I really love Jacob deGrom this year but getting just 10/1 odds for him is too rich for my blood. Last season Jake Arrieta's otherworldly second half was enough to dethrone Clayton Kershaw, who had won three of the past four years. Kershaw is once again an extremely heavy favorite so this could be the year to look elsewhere for value. Below are a few names I think are worth taking a closer look at. Odds are courtesy of Bovada.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, +175
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the world. If I was building a team from scratch I would need to seriously consider him as thenumber one pick. Kershaw is in the middle of the most impressive pitching run we've seen since Pedro. Over the past five years he has won three Cy Young awards, one MVP, led the league in ERA four times, strikeouts three times, wins twice, complete games twice, shutouts twice, WHIP four times, and ERA+ three times. 2015 was the first year since 2010 Kershaw finished lower than second in the Cy Young voting. He finished third. It took historic performances form Jake Arrieta (1.77 ERA) and Zack Greinke (1.66) to do so. Both of these guys are bound to regress in 2016 which means the award is there for Kershaw to take. But while +175 would be good odds for him in the AL, the NL race is just to deep for me to take it.
Max Scherzer, Nationals, +1000
Scherzer's 2015 is one of the most underrated seasons I've seen from an all star pitcher in a while. He was actually the favorite for this award during the first few months of the season but started running out of gas in the second half just as Arrieta and Greinke were gaining steam. Still Scherzer struck out a ridiculous 276 batters in 228.2 innings pitched while walking just 34. He led the league in complete games, shutouts, and strikeout to walk ratio while putting up an impressive 2.79 ERA. He also threw two no-hitters. In most years this would have been good enough to win the award. Instead Scherzer got overshadowed by Arrieta's and Greinke's second halves as well as happening to play in the same league as the best pitcher in the world. However if we expect Arrieta and Greinke to regress it could make more sense to take the upside of Scherzer at +1000 rather than Kershaw at +175.
Gerrit Cole, Pirates, +1400
Cole is my NL version of Sonny Gray, somebody I think can make the jump into becoming an elite pitcher this season. Similar to Scherzer, Cole was overshadowed by Arrieta, Greinke, and Kershaw in 2015 and to my surprise actually finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. Last year, at just 24 years olds, Cole went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings pitched. Most all of Cole's ratio stats improved from 2014 to 2015. He lowered his BB/9 from 2.6 to 1.9, FIP from 3.23 to 2.66, and WHIP from 1.21 to 1.09. These stats show me Cole is trending in the right direction and could be even better this year. This is a very crowded NL Cy Young race but 14/1 odds for a 25 year old who finished fourth in the voting last year has my attention.