Cliff Lee: No. 3 starter?

Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee was very good in 2012 despite just six victories in 15 decisions, perhaps enough to suggest he remains a legitimate ace. In Philly, however, at least in terms of rotation order, Lee will be a No. 3 starter.

The 34-year-old posted a 4.9 fWAR last season, ninth-best in baseball among pitchers and tops on the Phillies team, but Cole Hamels will get the Opening Day nod with Roy Halladay to follow. Halladay's slot is likely in attempt to split up the two lefties, but if you're a fantasy owner Lee may be a little more attractive as he'll match up more with No. 2 and No. 3 starters more often than No. 1s, likely assisting in the wins category.

Lee is still good for at least eight strikeouts per nine while pounding the strike zone for low walk rates and a strong ERA. ESPN's Fantasy experts have more:


ESPN Fantasy Baseball

Lee's fantasy outlook

"Few 2012 statistics are more irrelevant than Lee's six wins. They were an aberration of historical proportions: Of the 379 instances in the game's history in which a pitcher managed at least 200 strikeouts with lower than a 3.25 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in a season, no one managed fewer wins than Lee. Lee led the majors with both 11 quality start no-decisions and 15 non-win quality starts, and his Phillies afforded him 3.20 runs of support per nine innings, fourth-worst in the majors and considerably beneath the team's 4.22 runs per game for the year. The truth about Lee's 2012 was that he really wasn't any less effective a pitcher than he was in the four seasons that preceded it, and he averaged 16 wins a year from 2008-11. No one has the kind of pinpoint command Lee does; his 7.16 K's per walk the past three seasons combined is tops in the majors. He's a pitcher worth picking to lead your fantasy squad, and his odds of far greater success in four primary rotisserie categories -- instead of only three -- are outstanding."