Case for making Clayton Kershaw Fantasy Baseball's top pick in Mostly MLB Notes

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8180/" data-ylk="slk:Clayton Kershaw">Clayton Kershaw</a> highlights this season’s debut of Mostly MLB Notes (Getty Images)
Clayton Kershaw highlights this season’s debut of Mostly MLB Notes (Getty Images)

I made the case for Clayton Kershaw to be the top pick last year, and while it’s tough to argue against Mike Trout’s consistency, I’ll do the same in 2017. Especially if you want to win a big money league like NFBC, Kershaw easily has the most upside (he was nearly twice as valuable on a per-game basis last year compared to Trout, according to BaseballMonster).

Kershaw is coming off a season in which he threw just 149.0 innings, and pitchers are generally more injury prone (although this is also overstated), but we are talking about a player who’s posted a 1.87 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP over the last four years. He has a 29.8 WAR over that span, which is 6.5 higher than the second next highest SP (Max Scherzer).

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Mookie Betts has the second highest ADP and looks like a star, but he has fewer than 1,500 career at bats. Kris Bryant has fewer than 1,200. Few batters contribute to all five categories (obviously it’s impossible for a pitcher to), but SPs comprise around seven of your nine pitching spots (assuming two closers, so even more so if you grab three relievers), whereas a hitter comprises 1/13th (or 1/14th if your league uses two catchers), so Kershaw is going to impact your standings more than any hitter possibly could. I’d spend more money on him than any other in an auction.

TV/Movie Talk: I recently binged “The OA.” Tough to fully endorse given the highly controversial ending, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. So yeah, I say watch it…I’m a big Christopher Guest fan, but his new mocumentary “Mascots” was pretty disappointing and would rank on my bottom of his films….”Weiner” is worth watching, and that guy is crazy…I didn’t see many movies last year, which is a stark contrast to the excessive amount of TV I watched, but I was glad to see “Hell Or High Water” get an Oscar nod for Best Picture, as that movie was definitely a well done take on a modern western…“Sneaky Pete” is a new entertaining show that’s good to binge. I recommend it…Crazy how good “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” remains in Season 12. “The Gang Goes to a Water Park” episode killed me…What a twist on the season finale of “The Good Place.” Michael Schur is the man…Be sure to check out “Jeff & Some Aliens.” A couple of friends of mine created and write the show, and it’s really good!

I recognize the hypocrisy suggesting Kershaw based on track record and now say Trea Turner is someone to target early, but I want to defend my position of ranking the latter so much higher than my colleagues (Andy Beherns has him 20 spots lower!). I would never bet on anyone repeating a .342 BA, but 13 homers and 33 steals over 307 at bats is pretty hard to ignore, as in there could be a lot of regression and still result in being a top-flight fantasy option. Steals are a scarce commodity (Turner had 33 over 73 games), and he also posted a .567 slugging percentage, which is the highest among second basemen last year, which seems like a pretty good combination.

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In case you missed it, here’s my Arizona Diamondbacks 2017 season preview.

Another player I seem to be ranking higher than most others is Justin Turner. After impressing in 2015, he hit .298/.349/.549 after the All-Star break last season, and his sluggish start made sense coming off microfracture knee surgery (he entered June 17 with a .697 OPS and then hit 21 homers over 87 games afterward). Turner is slated to hit in the middle of a strong Dodgers lineup, so he sure seems like a major value as just the No. 15 third baseman off the board (according to Yahoo ADP)….Teammate Joc Pederson is also being undervalued. He posted a .900 OPS after the All-Star break last year, and while his SB totals have been disappointing based on his usage on the base paths in the minors, and he sits against some lefties, there’s legitimate upside for approaching 40 homers here (OK, I’m done promoting Dodgers now as an SF Giants fan).

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Danny Duffy will likely be trendy, but it’s hard not to get excited after he posted a 20.0 K-BB% that ranked eighth best among all starters last season, including ahead of Corey Kluber and Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (17.6%). Duffy posted a 13.0 HR/FB%, which seems unlucky given Kauffman Stadium has decreased home runs by 20% over the past three years, with only AT&T Park more extreme over that span. Obviously pitching in the A.L. isn’t ideal, but Duffy is an emerging star whom I’d treat as a top-20 fantasy starter entering 2017.

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Yu Darvish had the lowest xFIP in the AL last year (while returning from Tommy John surgery) and is entering a contract year, and while I get both of those have some noise involved, it’s tough not betting on a pitcher who owns a career 30.3 K% (to put that in perspective, Pedro Martinez’s was 27.7%). Darvish is still just 30 years old, and I’d draft him aggressively.

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