Despite missing two months with a back injury -- specifically, a herniated disc -- Clayton Kershaw finished as the No. 6 pitcher last season in terms of earned 5x5 fantasy value. He was more dominant than ever when on the mound, posting an otherworldly 172:11 K:BB in 149 innings (65:2 K:BB in May). His 15.3 percent swinging-strike rate would have tied Max Scherzer as the best among qualifiers had he logged enough innings to qualify, and Kershaw's command and control reached unprecedented levels as he shaved his walk rate to just two percent. There were no noticeable lingering effects from the back injury upon his return in September (0.86 ERA) and he looked plenty strong into late October as he carried the Dodgers on said back to the NLCS. Entering his age-29 season, Kershaw still looks very much in his prime and remains worthy of a first-round pick, if not top-five overall.
Kershaw was in midseason form Thursday, tossing six shutout innings while striking out 11 batters in a win over the Rangers. Sure, spring training stats don't count towards anything, but Kershaw's fantasy owners have to feel good about their fantasy ace's dominant showing this spring (2.14 ERA with 28 strikeouts over 21 innings). The 29-year-old looks to be completely past the back troubles that cost him a couple months of action last season. When healthy, every aspect of Kershaw's game points to him being the best pitcher in fantasy.
Kershaw is throwing a bullpen session Thursday despite the Dodgers having their first rest day of spring training, David Vassegh of AM 570 LA Sports reports. Kershaw is staying on his workout schedule to build himself up for the Opening Day start. It's a positive sign that he's sustaining his normal pace heading into this season. The apparent clean bill of health surrounding his previously balky back upholds his status as the unquestioned No. 1 starting pitcher in fantasy baseball -- and perhaps the No. 1 overall pick.
Kershaw was near perfect in his third spring training start, firing three hitless innings while walking one and striking out three against the Giants on Tuesday. The Giants stacked their lineup with seven right-handed batters in an effort to test their in-state rival's ace. Kershaw walked their leadoff batter, picked him off first, then proceeded to retire the next eight batters he faced. The Dodgers' ace already dismissed any concerns regarding the herniated disk in his back that cost him two months last season, and now he is letting his play do the talking. Kershaw has posted a 0.00 ERA with a 0.17 WHIP in through three spring appearances, confirming the notion that he is the clear-cut top arm in fantasy.
Kershaw said that his back was "all good" after making his one-inning appearance against the White Sox on Saturday, the Orange County Register reports. Kershaw has insisted that his back is healthy heading into this season, so much so that he was very dismissive when reporters asked him about it after Saturday's game. The three-time Cy Young winner was limited to 21 starts last season due to back issues, but it sounds like the injury is his rear-view mirror. Owners can rest easy knowing that the top pitcher in fantasy is completely healthy heading into the season.
Kershaw said Wednesday that he has "no worries or concerns" about last year's back injury, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Kershaw followed up those statements by throwing his first bullpen session of the spring. The three-time Cy Young winner missed more than two months last season with a herniated disc in his back, but he show no ill effects upon his return, allowing just four earned runs with a 27:2 K:BB in his final 28 regular-season innings. He's the unquestioned No. 1 arm once again in fantasy baseball drafts.