Nick’s Top 200 Starting Pitchers for 2022 Fantasy Baseball rankings continue with pitchers #101 through #215
Tier 12 – Angels Winning The Pennant (Continued)
101.. Justin Dunn (Seattle Mariners) – I was a bit hyped on Dunn last year. Why? Because he jumped 2.5 ticks on his four-seamer, result in a a 2+ tick jump in SwStr rate. Sadly, it didn’t return better results off the pitch (.145 BAA to .241) but I wonder if he can keep taking steps forward as he gets more time on the bump — it was just 50 frames of action last year. He pairs the fastball with a strong 32% CSW curveball + a developing slider that batters failed to damage.
It’s a work in progress, but I can see Dunn eventually getting into rhythm with a good fastball, a strong curveball, and a legit #3 in his slider. Who knows, maybe his first start will blow us away and Dunn becomes the talk of the town the first week of the season … or he gets jitters again and walks 6+. I’m excited to see this play out through the year.
102. Dakota Hudson (St. Louis Cardinals) – I vastly underrated the Cardinals defense last year and I won’t do it again. Hudson made a small return from TJS for 8.2 frames, looked pretty normal (albeit, a touch slower on his heater), and now with a spot in the rotation, I don’t see why he can’t be a solid Toby for the year, rolling double-plays and outs up the (Hudson) valley. I also can’t help but wonder if his slider can replicate its 21% SwStr rate from 2019, a pitch that made me question if there was some extra strikeout upside left to unlock for Hudson.
Regardless, we’re sure to see plenty of grounders find gloves and hopefully a walk rate comfortably under 10% along the way. That makes for some solid early streaming that may turn into more.
103. Corey Kluber (Tampa Bay Rays) – I really believed Kluber could be the pitcher of old last year, and boy was I wrong. His sinker was slower, his cutter was nothing like it used to be, but hey! His breaker was still great and the Yankees breathed some life into his changeup. Before injury struck once again, Kluber wasn’t horrific as he held a 3.83 ERA and 24% strikeout rate, but the 1.34 WHIP and low 5.0 IPS wasn’t what we were dreaming of pre-season.
It’s possible the Rays can tinker some more and help him find his cutter once again, but sitting 90/91 instead of 92+ does Kluber few favors, especially when that heater has been a liability throughout his career. I wonder how the Rays will use him (will they use the dreaded opener on him? Keep him on a short leash to manage his workload?) and I can’t see it as a positive for fantasy purposes. Throw in his notoriety of being slow-starter, and you’ve got yourself a pitcher you don’t want to touch in 12-team drafts.
104. Patrick Corbin (Washington Nationals) – Speaking of older arms trying to reclaim their times of glory (this tier is filled with them), here’s Corbin, a full two years removed from his time as an SP #1B. The man was bad last year and I understand if many of you can’t forgive him for it, but hear me out. Corbin will get his chances to improve in 2022 given the dearth of options in the Nationals rotation and what if I told you he averaged two ticks harder on his four-seamer in 2021, sitting as high as 93.6 mph on September 12. That’s kinda wild. The pitch was creamed last year overall, though, sporting .300+ BAA on both his four-seamer and sinker, and his slider, while still earning plenty of swings out the zone, couldn’t steal enough strikes to keep batters off the fastball.
And at the end of the day, that’s the real issue. Corbin isn’t getting enough strikes with his slider, forcing him to find the zone more with fastballs, where they promptly get crushed. Funny story, Corbin found the zone 54% of the time in each of 2020 & 2021, but during his phenomenal 2018 & 2019 seasons those rates were under 50%. His slider did more heavy lifting, flirting with 65% strike rates, and it came up Millhouse.
Maybe that slider can get back to where it used to be. His fastball is doing everything it can to be less hittable with its new velocity, but ultimately, if batters aren’t whiffing 28%+ of the time against all sliders, then it falls apart. Who knows, maybe it’ll return.
105. Elieser Hernandez (Miami Marlins) – I can see Elieser grabbing the fifth spot in the Miami rotation, and with his slider, there’s potential for it to help your teams. Then again, with his 91 mph heater, there’s potential for him to hurt your teams. It’s a Cherry Bomb scenario in my view, where there isn’t a whole lot to latch onto for a major step forward. That slider is legit, but without a heater to depend on to not get crushed or another secondary to rely on (the changeup is decent, but not enough) I worry that Elieser is just a streaming candidate instead of a potential breakout candidate.
106. Drew Rasmussen (Tampa Bay Rays) – The day was August 24, 2021. Rasmussen just came off his third straight start, allowing just 2 ER in 13 frames with 8 strikeouts. The road ahead looked bleak: BOS, @BOS, @TOR, TOR, @HOU. Only a mad man would trust Rasmussen, armed with an effective 97 mph four-seamer and mediocre slider, against such dangerous bats.
Welp, he allowed just 4 ER in those games across 24 innings and fanned just 15 along the way. If you want to say it was a bit lucky, I’d heavily agree with you and it’s hard for me to say a whole lot more than that. That fastball certainly is a good offering — 71% strike rate, 33% CSW, .221 BAA gets all the work done — but without any strong secondary, it becomes a really hard sell. I imagine the Rays also believe Rasmussen loses effectiveness around pitch 70 or so, giving him an awfully quick hook of four or five frames constantly. It’s just not enough. It’s possible his strikeout rates from time in relief carry over into a starting job, but it’s not the play I’d make. Not enough to squeeze out of that repertoire.
107.Brady Singer (Kansas City Royals) – Look, Singer has a solid slider and a sinker that gets a ton of called strikes, but you need more than that in the majors. Sure, you can have some pretty starts when the sinker finds gloves and the slider misses bats, but Singer’s ratios will continue to undulate until he finds something else to add to the mix.
This seems like one of the shortest blurbs and there’s not much else left to say. I’m not interested unless I’m in need of a stream for a QS league. It’s too risky.
108. Ross Stripling (Toronto Blue Jays) – Assuming the Jays are done bolstering their rotation, Stripling is set to hold the #5 spot in Toronto and there is some intrigue about it. Everything goes through his heater, which did improve last year, but it wasn’t spectacular at 92 mph, but his changeup looked great as it boasted a 41% O-Swing and .199 xAVG. There’s a bit more room to grow in the slider and curveball, but those used to be more effective offerings in the past (especially the Curveball) and I wonder if 140+ frames in the #5 hole can get the big hook back to its 35%+ CSW days.
I wouldn’t go ahead and draft Stripling, given the whole AL Beast thing, but I wonder if we’ll see some worthy stretches and often get my label of the streaming pick of the day.
109. Domingo Germán (New York Yankees) – Here’s a fun stat. Germán’s 2021 15.2% SwStr rate ranks 17th among starting pitchers. You can thank a secondary-heavy approach that has Domingo tossing sub-45% fastballs, leaning on his stellar curveball 34% of the time (39% CSW! .193 xAVG!) + a changeup he tosses to all batters at a 65% strike rate. The question is if he can get by with a 93/94 mph heater that allowed a .421 wOBA last season.
There’s also a chance he doesn’t even make the rotation. He’s their current #5 behind Nestor Cortes Jr. and that’s only until Jameson Taillon returns + there’s a sense New York will be aggressive adding one more starter to the mix. Still, I personally think Germán’s ability plays more through a full year than Cortes Jr., and if he’s given the chance to start for a full year, we could see something close to his 140+ IP campaign of 2019. Don’t let the 4.58 ERA scare you off, a 1.18 WHIP and 24% strikeout rate are great and with any step forward on the heater, they propel Domingo into legit fantasy production. It’s just about opportunity at this point.
110. Tylor Megill (New York Mets) – He had himself a lovely start to his career, but it came apart once his changeup stopped earning whiffs and he was completely four-seamer dependent. That’s not to say his four-seamer is bad — he had a start against the Yankees where it earned eleven whiffs on its own! — it’s not akin to Bailey Ober or other non-elite arms who heavily rely on their four-seamer. Meanwhile, the changeup and slider weren’t all too impressive over the full course of the year and we’re stuck with a middling pitch who will likely perform well here and there but not carry the potential to soar.
I could be wrong about those secondaries, though, and we could see Megill take a step forward in his second year both with that slider and changeup. His heater is a solid foundation, after all. Color me a bit intrigued without as much optimism as I’d like.
111. Cristian Javier (Houston Astros) – We waited all year for Javier to get his proper chance in the rotation and we saw just a handful at the beginning of the year, then a full demotion to the pen in from June through the end. The bad news here — he’s still on the outside looking in as Houston has a full rotation + Jake Odorizzi possibly getting chances before Javier. If he does get his shot, though, Javier has an intriguing skillset.
His four-seamer was a bit fortunate last year (.346 wOBA vs. .402 xwOBA) but it was far lower in 2020 and there’s hope its 13% SwStr rate can stick while the in-play results still favor him. Meanwhile, he upped his slider usage, and for good reason — the pitch was amazing, jumping 10 points in SwStr rate to a whopping 21% clip, while still earning plenty of strikes in the zone. I believe there’s even another level for the pitch considering its low 30% O-Swing (which led to a low 59% strike rate), though it’s hard to complain about a .166 xwOBA. It’s just so hard to hit.
The curveball and changeup each need a lot of work, the former at least looking better in 2020, but even with just four-seamers and sliders, you can imagine Javier getting into a strong groove as a starter if given the opportunity. Get ready to jump on this.
112. Nestor Cortes Jr. (New York Yankees) – Some of y’all are enamored by Cortes Jr. and I get it. A 2.93 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with a 28% strikeout rate?! The man was ridiculous down the stretch and you want to ride it one more time. His 90.7 mph fastball was shockingly hard to hit — its paltry .193 BAA is backed by the .212 xAVG and .289 xwOBA — but I’m not willing to wager Nestor will have a Top 10 fastball again in 2022.
Meanwhile, there isn’t a significant whiff pitch in his arsenal. The #2 is a decent slider he gets a ton of strikes with (70% rate), but sits at a 14.6% SwStr rate and a good (not great) 30% CSW. It seems a bit like smoke and mirrors, and that strikeout rate should come down dramatically.
The curveball jumped up to a 66% strike rate as well, and he even had a cutter he used 5% of the time to fantastic results. It just doesn’t add up to sustainability. At least he should have a spot in the Yankee rotation early in the year, and who knows, maybe he continues his solid run early in the year. I’d love to see it. It doesn’t seem all too likely to me, though, so I’ll have to pass, hoping he can be a streaming option here and there.
113. Zach Eflin (Philadelphia Phillies) – Eflin will start the year on the IL with a knee injury, aiming to return in May. I can’t make up my mind if Eflin is worth your IL spot or not. Why not? Nothing to lose! Well, it’s an important draft pick in the first place + when Eflin does return from the IL, I’d prefer to leave him there for his first start — Still ILL — and then would I actually want to use him as a starter? Eflin was a small step above a Toby last year with a shocking amount of strikeouts at times, but we never saw his curveball take the leap we wanted him to. It’s mostly sinker/slider with his four-seamer acting as a surprise whiff pitch (15% SwStr is great) and it gives him the chance to go six frames each night, especially with the Phillies’ tendency to avoid their pen.
I’m leaning “go ahead” for your final pick in the draft, but truly be honest with yourself. Eflin isn’t worth the bench spot if you have other guys on the IL in April. As far as his value when he returns, he’ll be inside the Top 100 as I don’t anticipate a horrid ERA, but any thought of him scaling up the ranks is just not in the cards with his 41% sinker usage. That pitch just isn’t good enough.
114. Nick Pivetta (Boston Red Sox) – First I loved him. Then I ignored him. Now I’m … acknowledging him? He’s gonna strike out batters and has few blockers to prevent him for coasting inside the Red Sox rotation for the year. If you’re in dire need for strikeouts, go ahead – he had 175 across 155 innings last year. Oddly enough, not one of his pitches returned a SwStr above 16% last year as the slider fell seven points in CSW rate & 10 points in O-Swing. He threw it plenty more in the zone for … fewer called strikes. Yikes.
The solution to Pivetta to me has always been a lower reliance on his fastball and more emphasis on his curveball. Maybe he pulls the heaters down to sub-50% levels and pushes his curveball over the 30% mark, but any way you cut it, something needs to get better in a big way for us to truly buy into Pivetta again. At least he’ll have many chances to do so.
115. Andrew Heaney (Los Angeles Dodgers) – He’s the anti-Nike. Just don’t do it. It’s hard for me to see a scenario where the Dodgers don’t add at least one more starter to their rotation, and I can see Heaney being more of a “four-and-out” pitcher, possibly with an opener than someone LA decides to toss out there every five days for 5+ frames. He’s simply too volatile and allows too many home runs.
But what if he actually makes it work? What if he can keep his high SwStr numbers on his fastball while pulling down its massive 20% HR/FB rate? Maybe the consistency comes with his curveball to pull it out of the sub-60% strike gutters and showcase an offering that prevents batters from sitting heater. And, who knows, the slowball could flash plus ability like it did in days of old, and VOILA! You have a legit 27-30% strikeout arm without the terrible ratios bringing you down.
It’s such a risk. You don’t need to put yourself in harm’s way, truly, and it’s a massive jump for Heaney to gain this consistency and home run prevention. Let’s even say that Heaney makes his first start and doesn’t allow a longball for a productive outing. Do you think he’s changed? At what point do you accept he’s a pitcher you can trust on a given night? I struggle to answer that question and I believe it highlights the problem with Heaney. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
116. David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers) – With the entire rambling above about Heaney, I couldn’t help but stick Price right under him. It’s tough to see what the Dodgers will do with Price — does he settle into the rotation for the full year? — and I won’t rule out the chance Price can reclaim his changeup and cutter from his prime days to become a proper Toby for your fantasy squads. But why chase that? I think we can all agree he isn’t the ace of the 2010’s anymore — his velocity was below 93 mph (yuck) and his changeup missed bats at a 12% rate. That’s not great, Bob.
At least the cutter can steal strikes enough for a 30% CSW + he had some success earning whiffs with four-seamers, though I can’t endorse a draft pick. There is no price for Price in your 12-teamers. 15-teamers? Ugh, I really don’t want to. Maybe. Fine. Super late, draft him and see what happens the first week. Just be so ready to replace him for something interesting off the wire.
Tier 13 – Stick To The Streams You’re Used To
We’re at the part of the rankings where I don’t see myself drafting any of these guys … unless they have a stupid good early schedule and I could use a little extra help in the early weeks. Otherwise, they’ll be on my radar as possible two-start arms or daily streamers, as they have an opportunity to go six frames on a given night and steal a Win.
117. Zack Greinke (Free Agent) – Are we going to hope for a Greinke return? He would be one of those guys who wouldn’t make a big deal out of retiring and just not sign a contract. But let’s say he does. Is he worthwhile for fantasy? On one hand, he’ll get plenty of volume wherever he goes + his WHIP will help your teams (last year’s 1.17 was great, despite being a down year). On the other, his 4.16 ERA and 17% strikeout rate leaves plenty to be desired, and his whiff numbers are depleting quickly. He’ll be 38 years old and it feels like things are getting worse before they get better.
I’m passing on this one, sadly. There’s a chance he got a bit unlucky with the longball last year — 19.1% HR/FB vs. 9.1% in 2020 — and he can give you perfectly fine Toby numbers, but when that’s your ceiling, what’s the point of chasing it?
118. Kyle Hendricks (Chicago Cubs) – The cliff we predicted five years ago was finally reached by Hendricks, returning a 4.77 ERA and 1.35 WHIP last year in concert with a near four point drop in strikeout rate to 17%. It was rough. Y’all probably want to blame the sinker, but it performed nearly identically to its 2020 counterpart … save for having to be used more often. The real issue was the supporting cast, as they took a vacation and left Hendricks out to dry.
His changeup dropped seven points in CSW and jumped 60 points in wOBA to .316, his four-seamer got tattered with a .447 wOBA, and his curveball became a 26% CSW offering — it held a 41% mark in 2019. It’s all bad news and like running up a hill for a tube of toothpaste, you’re wondering why you’re going through all the trouble. Hendricks doesn’t bring the consistency of previous years, and what you’re chasing is available at the discount store on the corner. There will be other names who act like the Hendricks of old; pick them up mid-season instead.
119. Kyle Gibson (Philadelphia Phillies) – Believe it or not, Gibson had a 1.98 ERA and 1.03 WHIP through his first 96 frames of the year. That’s unreal. We knew it was a Vargas Rule at the time, though, and he returned a 5.63 ERA and 1.40 WHIP after July 2. His slider is still his best pitch, with its 22% SwStr rate and 41% O-Swing, with his changeup losing its whiffability from years past. There was a new cutter this year that didn’t do a whole lot, with a low 58% strike rate and 24% CSW, and somehow his four-seamer returned a 4% SwStr rate. Good luck finding another with over 350 thrown with fewer whiffs.
That leaves his sinker coming in a third of the time. He pumped its groundball rate massively to 70%, and I think what we saw early was unsustainable results on the pitch as he avoided the middle of the plate. There’s a shot he finds a rhythm this year and bears some resemblance to his 2021 spring, though you’re better off cycling through potential breakout arms instead. I wish him the very best as a potential Toby. Potential.
120. Austin Gomber (Colorado Rockies) – So here’s the thing. He’s still in Coors, and that’s dumb ‘n’ whatnot, but his slider is dang good (35% CSW! .191 xwOBA!) and when he’s on the road and not in Oracle Park, we felt kinda good starting the man. He even got away with some success in Coors before his mid-season injury (vs. HOU, SDP x2, and TEX), and if he’s back to hinting 92 mph on the heater and getting called strikes on curveballs, there’s hope he’ll be more good than bad.
But yeah, Coors. His fastball gets blasted and it doesn’t help things, leaving you in a state of purgatory if you choose to dedicate a roster spot to Gomber. Do it if you must, I don’t think we’ll get to a point where Gomber is a comfortable add and I’m no fan of those situations.
121. Wade Miley (Chicago Cubs) – He’s got a few things going for him. 1) He’s still in the NL Central and doesn’t call Cincinnati his home anymore 2) He’ll have all the chances he wants to go deep into games for 32+ starts in Chicago 3) He’s way worse in September than any month and you can simply drop him when things fall apart. 4) There is no four. Miley tosses an 85mph Cutter nearly 50% of the time and while it isn’t great, it has stretches where it carves outs. There are days the changeup turns into a legit strikeout pitch and those are free onion rings in your fries. He’s a Toby you’ll be happy picking up for a two-start week – especially when he does a great job keeping the ball in the yard.
About that whole September thing, I wasn’t joking. He held a 2.74 ERA and 1.22 WHIP across 144.2 frames before September came crashing down on him last year & who can forget the catastrophic starts when he was in Houston? Consider Miley for some early volume if you need it, just don’t go overboard starting him against quality teams.
122. Reiver Sanmartín (Cincinnati Reds) – Sanmartín appeared the final week of the season boasting ridiculous ground ball numbers and a low left-handed release point to face the Pirates twice — of course he was going to allow just 2 ER in 11.2 frames.
His four-seamer didn’t allow as many grounders as I expected, and his secondaries didn’t blow me away — a low-80s sweeping slider that floats a touch too much and a changeup with solid drop — and while his sub-90 mph fastball does more than the velocity would suggest, there doesn’t seem to be enough here to suggest an early-season endorsement. But hey, play the matchups and see if things line for Sanmartín — he’s relatively unknown and could make for some sneaky plays early.
123. Miles Mikolas (St. Louis Cardinals) – He was superb in 2018, with a 2.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, and while he’s still maintained a productive WHIP over the years due to his minimal walk rate, he’s failed to eclipse a 20% strikeout rate and the ERA has soared above 4.00.
However, it’s the Cardinals. Their defense is exquisite and I won’t rule out Mikolas’ velocity returning to 94+ mph as he removes himself further from injury. Meanwhile, the curveball gets called strikes and the slider has whiff potential, and this could be a decent Toby through the year as St. Louis seems to favor him for an early rotation spot. Not the most exciting play, but a sneaky one for deep leagues looking for any non-destructive volume.
124. JT Brubaker (Pittsburgh Pirates) – I love his slider. A lot. 41% O-Swing, 43% zone rate, 25% SwStr and it’s his most thrown pitch at 34% usage. Glorious. The rest … ain’t so good. His four-seamer gets a bit too clobbered and doesn’t eclipse a 60% strike rate, and while his sinker gets a good amount of grounders, I worry it’s a bit too hittable with a xwOBA of .359 last year.
And that’s about it. The curveball and changeup are insignificant and unless Coffee Cakes elects to go near 50% sliders, I don’t see a great path to Brubaker having sustained success. But he had a 2.58 ERA and 1.12 WHIP across his first seven starts last year! His heaters had better results that I don’t expect to stick again. Consider him as a streamer only.
125. Paolo Espino (Washington Nationals) – Look, he’s starting for the Nationals and wasn’t so bad as a streamer against some poor teams, like the Marlins and Rockie Road. Both his slider and curveball returned 30%+ CSW marks last year, and if he can avoid his heater’s .356 wOBA, he could have a good five innings or so on a given night. That ain’t so bad down here, right? He held a very respectable 1.22 WHIP across nearly 110 frames, you know. All hail 5% walk rates!
126. Mitch Keller (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Look, the dude posted a video on Twitter in January showcasing him touching 100.9 mph on the gun. His max velocity with 98.4 mph in 2021. Say whatever you want about his command, and how his slider and curveball are not the whiff pitches we want them to be, if Keller is suddenly spouting mid-to-upper 90s heaters with consistency, there’s hope that he could be an effective fantasy arm. Higher velocity doesn’t mean a harder heater, you know — sliders and curveballs can benefit too, as it often outlines increased spin rates across the board.
Am I saying draft Keller? Absolutely not. The Pirates sure have the room in their rotation to take a chance on a former second-round draft pick and give him some innings. I wonder if he flowers in May.
127. Ryan Yarbrough (Tampa Bay Rays) – Yarbrough sure isn’t a guy I aim to draft, though I’m not ready to completely ignore him for the season. His stuff does little to impress, mainly tossing an 82 mph cutter that he plays the In-Out game with constantly + an even slower changeup that earned a 43% O-Swing last year. There is a big sweeping curveball in there as well, which has returned excellent CSWs across his career and I was happy to seem him lean on it more last year while maintain the same results.
Thing is, when those three didn’t earn enough strikes, he was forced to use his *gasp* sinker, and it was torched. It’s an 86 mph heater, what do you expect?
But while the ERA grew like the bubbles in my sink after just ONE DROP of dish soap, “The Fratty Pirate” saw his WHIP stick in a digestible range at 1.23 and given how the Rays are sure to keep him in the mix through the year, I can see Yarbrough’s kitchen sink approach (that’s the third time I’ve said sink) working from time-to-time, making him a worthy consideration, especially in leagues that limit your starts (he’ll have an opener a decent amount of the time).
128. Chris Archer (Free Agent) – I just want Archer to be the elite arm he was supposed to be. We haven’t seen a whole lot of him recently, but his last three seasons still held a 25%+ strikeout rate, despite the ERA and WHIP woes. It makes you wonder if signing with a new squad and taking some chances can unlock something worthy of your fantasy eye.
That slider was still amazing in the small sample we got last year, he just has to find a way to get strikes with another pitch that doesn’t get laced into the outfield. Oh, and getting some of that velocity back would help a ton as Archer fell to 92 mph after years well above 94 mph. Let’s start there and see what happens.
129. Michael Pineda (Free Agent) – Hey guys, don’t forget Pineda exists. He just put up 109 frames of a 3.62 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with a near 20% strikeout rate as his slider still earns a 20% SwStr rate. The four-seamer is still getting hit hard ‘n’ all, but if Pineda has his slider and gets a start every five days (Orioles? Tigers? Why not the Blue Jays #5?) you may find yourself with a decent arm at the backend of your pen.
Not much more to say than that. If Pineda has the slider and keeps pitching, there are far worse options out there.
130. Michael Wacha (Boston Red Sox) – The Red Sox elected to add Wacha, because what else is there in their rotation, and honestly, there’s a touch of interest here. I know, I know, he hasn’t been legit for ages and carried a 5.05 ERA last year, but there were flashes of brilliance that I don’t want to ignore. Wacha sat 94/95 mph at times while getting a fair share of whiffs with his changeup, slinging a trio of 9-strikeout games last year in the process. That’s kinda cool.
His cutter gets hit way too hard, though, and he’ll have to figure out that 24% usage offering if he’s to have any sustained success. But hey, he’s shown legitimacy at times and that’s something a lot of these guys don’t have in their cap.
131. Kris Bubic (Kansas City Royals) – I feel like Bubic could be something special if he ever command his changeup down effectively. A loLoc% of 54% seems good enough (loLoc% = low location %), but that means half of his changeups are waist-high and higher. That ain’t it.
The best I saw Bubic last year was during a seven-out relief appearance against the Yankees, where he fanned two and sat 92+ on his heater. So what happened in his next start? Why, 90 mph and 3 ER in just two outs. Yikes.
However, Bubic was better down the stretch, allowing just 7 ER across his final five starts of 30.2 IP, even sitting 92.2 mph in his final game. It was a good run against middling offenses, and I’m not ready to suggest he’s going to carry that over into 2022. If I see improved changeup command + 92 mph consistently, then we’re talking.
132. José Suarez (Los Angeles Angels) – Suarez has a filthy changeup with a 21% SwStr and a curveball that returned a 37% CSW last year across 23% usage. That’s … something to care about. Sadly, his heater is pretty dang poor without a solution in sight, which will make for a whole lot of turmoil through the season. Still, the two secondaries make him an intriguing deep play as the Angels certainly need all the innings they can get. A potential breakout is here if that heater dramatically matures.
133. Dane Dunning (Texas Rangers) – Dane was the talk of the town after a 34.6% strikeout rate in 34 frames in 2020, but fell down to Earth in Texas like a Martian trying to save its friends but missing Area 51 by a few states. The sinker’s result regressed massively with a full 100 point jump in BAA, though it was an elite called-strike pitch. The slider did more of the same, but without the superb 2020 fastball outcomes, the whole package was a bit underwhelming.
There’s hope that one of his cutter/changeup/curveball can become a strong #3 offering, allowing the slider to blossom as a proper whiff pitch, but without the supporting cast, Dunning will fail to ascend. At least he has all the chances he wants in that Rangers rotation to make it work.
134. Matt Manning (Detroit Tigers) – I remember being so excited for Manning’s MLB debut, thinking of him as the best of the Detroit trio of arms, and oh, how quickly my enthusiasm faded, like seeing raisins instead of chocolate chips. Put simply, the stuff isn’t there. I thought his curveball would be a major offering, but he tossed it under 10% of the time to little fanfare.
His four-seamer is the biggest weapon, and in his final outing of 0 ER and 7 Ks, Manning sat 94.8 mph on the pitch — a full tick up from his season average — and what do you know, it boasted a 34% CSW and carried him through five excellent frames. I wish I had better things to say about the slider and changeup, though, and his sub-20% used sinker is okay, but not a proper surprise pitch.
It all just … exists. I hope there’s another level for Manning to reach — maybe it is on the back of that four-seamer velocity — but those secondaries make it difficult to inspire passion for Manning in Detroit. The best news is his job security as their #4 starter and with that extra time, he could become something new.
135. Merrill Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Kelly has done everything he can to be given the Toby tag proper. Don’t start him against the Dodgers. Or Giants. Or Coors. Or whoever you’re scared of, and you’ll be fine. At the root of what he does is pump 91 mph heaters that sometimes sit 92 (those are the good days) while he spins a solid curveball 20% of the time for a 32% CSW and .213 BAA. There are changeups and cutters appearing about 30% of the time that can be a catalyst, but those nights are few and far between. Like old college buddies who see each other at a wedding every few years. Life just gets in the way sometimes.
Anyway, Kelly should be decent for the occasional stream, but any extended stay on your roster is likely to send you to the depths of your league. Those are dark places.
136. Adrian Houser (Milwaukee Brewers) – I feel bad for Houser. He’s one of the more hated arms in fantasy, and I’m sure he’s a wonderful guy. Why don’t we like him? Because he’s blocking Aaron Ashby in the Brewers rotation. Oh. GET YOUR PITCHFORKS. Eaasssy. Eaaasssy. There are some cool things about Houser, like one of the more effective sinkers you’ll see, earning grounders 70% of the time and limiting batters to a sub-.300 xwOBA. That’s pretty cool.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing else in the repertoire, making it tough for me to believe in any way that he can replicate a ridiculous 3.22 ERA from last year. It came with a mediocre 1.28 WHIP and a 18% strikeout rate, so unless you’re chasing a handful of Wins and a possible sub-4.00 ERA, this is going to be a rough ride. Consider him as a streamer and a streamer alone.
Tier 14 – The Don’t Have A Rotation Spot Tier
It’s funny, I care more about these guys than the ones who do have a rotation spot, despite the fact they likely won’t start in the beginning of the year and are not worth a stash on your bench. Definitely monitor them, though, as if they get a cushy rotation spot, you may see them quickly jump up the ranks. A word of caution: Understand when makes them worth your time. If they get the opportunity but haven’t fixed their flaws, it’s like hearing your neighbor’s poor piano talents past midnight — it’s not the volume you want in your life.
137. Griffin Canning (Los Angeles Angels) – Hey, it’s Canning! He’s still dealing with injuries ‘n’ all, but it may shock you that both his slider and changeup held a 20% SwStr last year + his curveball held a 31% CSW. Nick, please don’t do this. It’s the hope that kills you. Well, he may not be recovered from his stress fracture in his back + his four-seamer was still incredibly erratic with a paltry 60% strike rate. You can’t do that with a pitch you toss 41% of the time, Canning.
Given those secondaries, it’s cool to see a guy who’s a tweak away from legit fantasy value. The problem is the tweak could actually be his in his arm, not actual growth in ability. As with all of these, keep an eye on Canning. If I lead with him on an SP Roundup this year, it’ll likely be a product of something major happening, and I can’t wait to write it.
138. Chris Paddack (San Diego Padres) – Paddack used to have an incredible fastball in 2019. Then he lost it … and never got it back. I took little joy watching Paddack pitch in 2021 and without that overpowering heater that overran batters in 2019, there wasn’t much else to look at. His split-change had its moments, but, well, it’s a split. Those can’t be the feature if your heater is out of whack.
The Padres are effectively adding a pair of arms to their already loaded rotation in Mike Clevinger (back from TJS) and Nick Martínez, which means Paddack is on the outside looking in. Even with a rotation spot, we’ll have to see some change in that heater for us to get excited again. Don’t count on a sudden revival.
139. Edward Cabrera (Miami Marlins) – While the Marlins are unlikely to allow Cabrera to start the season in the rotation, you best be keeping an eye on him. Sure, the numbers were not kind to Edward last year (5.81 ERA, 1.65 WHIP), but after fanning just five in his first 12.2 frames, Cabrera earned 19 strikeouts across his final 10 innings of work. That potential should excite you.
He hurls 96/97 mph four-seamers that failed to earn the O-Swing we want (just 18% is all kinds of poor) but the breakers showed promise. I think there’s more to squeeze out of his slider and curveball, hopefully putting a middling changeup out of the 20%+ usage range.
In short, he throws hard, has a trio of secondaries, and I can imagine at least one, if not two pitches coming into their own with more experience. I wouldn’t bank on that development, but he’s got a shot and I’m excited to see how he develops through the season.
140. Eli Morgan (Cleveland Guardians) – A surprising Cherry Bomb last year, Morgan caught our attention with a few luscious outings, including 5.2 shutout frames against the Red Sox and another six scoreless against the White Sox. There’s a laundry joke there, and we’re going to move on. The impetus for those outings was fastball command, especially against Boston where his 90/91 mph heater returned 14 whiffs on its own. Unreal, especially when it tallied a pedestrian 9% SwStr rate for the season.
Supporting the heater are a pair of secondaries. His slider leaves a lot to be desired with a 61% strike rate and missing bats at a 15% clip, while the changeup earned great results (.174 BAA!) and looks awfully lovely as it floats to the plate. I wonder if it can maintain its success with a 26% CSW — hopefully the 39% O-Swing is here to stay.
In the end, Morgan doesn’t have a job in the current Guardian rotation, and even when he does return, it’ll be a risky proposition guessing when he’ll have everything working. But hey, he’s shown more success in the majors than most of the others in this tier, so that alone deserves some love.
141. Daniel Lynch (Kansas City Royals) – My fascination with Lynch became a joke by the end of 2021, with the southpaw failing in nearly every chance he had in the bigs. Let’s throw it all away and see if he can rebound in a sophomore effort when he’ll inevitability get another shot. Keep in mind, he’s a southpaw with a mid-90s heater and a slider that already has a start with double-digit whiffs. He wasn’t known as a wild thrower in the minors, either, and I have to think there’s more room for a whole lot more if we give him some time. Prospect growth ain’t linear.
Watch his first start of the year when he returns to the majors and decide for yourself. There’s legit potential here.
142. Reid Detmers (Los Angeles Angels) – Detmers was barely 22 years old when he made his MLB debut last year, and his introduction to the majors was clearly premature. Don’t judge the southpaw too quickly, especially when he flashed a curveball he could land in the zone + a slider that missed a good amount of bats.
He’ll get another shot soon, especially with the notorious health history of Angels’ starters, and when Detmers does, he could be some solid summer Reiding. Nick. Hey, I haven’t been making many jokes in these blurbs, LET ME HAVE ONE.
143. Nate Pearson (Toronto Blue Jays) – There was legit hype around Pearson in 2020 as he pumped 96/7 mph heaters with a filthy slider, but the control was wonky and injury took over. Then we saw him brief for just 15 innings last year and now all the signs point to the Jays using him as a reliever. That said, Ross Stripling has the #5 spot, keeping the door slightly ajar for Pearson to have a dominant spring and force his way back to the rotation.
I truly don’t expect that to happen, especially with his concerning injury history, and even if he does get the job, he still has major walk issues to overcome to actually be a fantasy relevant starter. The ceiling is certainly captivating with his elite velocity and whiffability in his arsenal, though it’s far outweighed by its unlikelihood
144. Garrett Crochet (Chicago White Sox) – The dude throws ched (96/97 mph) and there have been whispers of him getting a shot to start for the White Sox. I see him as their fifth option after Kopech and López, though, but that aside, if he did start, he’d be someone to heavily consider as a flier.
The heater wasn’t as good as you’d expect — just an 8% SwStr is startling with his velocity, but the slider was nasty at a 22% SwStr rate and held batters to a .141 BAA — worse than its .134 xAVG. I can see him featuring it more than the current 28% usage as well and suddenly you have a lefty pushing near if not over the 25% strikeout mark.
But that doesn’t matter a whole lot because I don’t expect this to happen. The White Sox have enough options to start + I could see them even adding one more as a depth option. Don’t plan on Crochet becoming your fantasy savior.
145. A.J. Puk (Oakland Athletics) – We’ve been waiting for Puk to get a proper role in the starting rotation for years and it just hasn’t come to fruition, so much so that I was reluctant to even include him here. HOWEVER, if the Athletics are indeed having a fire sale, it could spell multiple open spots in the rotation. Puk may be stretched out in the spring and voila, you have yourself and exciting young arm to consider in the middle of April.
He throws hard from the left side with a great slider. Yeah, he’s pretty much another Crochet, just with a sinker and four-seamer combo. Lots of strikeout potential and it would cool to see him get a proper chance in Oakland.
146. Luis Gil (New York Yankees) – Luis was ridiculous in his brief audition for the Yankees last year. His 96.1 mph heater would rank 16th among qualified* starters if he hit the BF threshold, which returned a 13.4% SwStr and propelled his near 30% strikeout rate. Sadly, his control isn’t pretty, as he walked 19 in nearly 30 innings, a product both of an unwieldy heater and a lack of depth in his arsenal. His #2 pitch is a wicked slider with plenty of potential, but, like the heater, it needs to find a few more strikes before Gil can truly break out.
The real issue here is he’s 7th on the block at the moment (assuming Taillon is healthy), and it’s possible the Yankees sign another arm before the start of the year. That isn’t to say we won’t see Gil appear at all this year, it just means we won’t see him in a position where he can develop in the majors. 2023 seems like a possible breakout year if he has the opportunity, while 2022 should be a mix of disjointed starts with limiting pitch counts.
*Our “qualified” = Among the Top 200 SP in batters faced. Way better than the super small sample of actual “qualified”.
147. Glenn Otto (Texas Rangers) – I kinda like Otto. Okay, his fastball is kinda mediocre ‘n’ whatnot, but his slider is pretty dang awesome. 36% CSW last year with a ton of horizontal bend and I can see him pushing its usage past 35% moving forward given the elite 75% strike rate. His curveball ain’t bad either with a 20%+ called strike rate in the ultra small sample size we had and there could be something here if Otto gets enough chances. Of the names listed, we may see Otto the most as the bottom of the Rangers rotation is filled with enigmas and I wonder what we’ll get when the time arrives. He’s definitely in consideration as a strikeout upside stream at some point this year.
148. Jake Odorizzi (Houston Astros) – Look, Odorizzi is currently the 6th man for the Astros, and for whatever reason, I still have hope he can flirt with the 16% SwStr he had on his four-seamer in 2019. Why? Because I’m a fool. None of his secondaries suggest anything promising — they rarely have — it’s just the one four-seamer that can dominate when he’s painting the top of the zone red.
Keep in mind, Cristian Javier may have the inside track to the #6 spot instead of Odorizzi, so in the end, you really should be ignoring Odorizzi until he gets a chance and success with a glorious blotch of red in the upper third of the zone.
149. Michael Fulmer (Detroit Tigers) – I feel like I have to mention the man every year, and at least we have something grab onto this season, as Fulmer was valuable in relief for the Tigers last year, flashing an increase in velocity in that time. Who knows, maybe the Tigers give Fulmer a crack at the rotation in the spring and forces their hand to slot him in as their #5. I don’t expect the velocity to match his max-effort time in relief, but if there’s any semblance of his slider + changeup of old, this could be an exciting play. Probably not, though.
150. Taylor Widener (Arizona Diamondbacks) – It seems like Taylor is on the outside looking in with Taylor Gilbert and Dan Straily also competing for the #5 spot in Arizona, and I kinda wish we saw more of him. There’s some promise with Widener when he’s able to sit 95 mph with heaters and feature decent sliders and changeups. Sadly, what we saw last year was a 92/93 mph heater and his secondaries were far from enticing.
We’ll likely get another look at Widener during the year and I have to imagine it’ll be better than the 2021 iteration. Let’s see.
151. Jordan Hicks (St. Louis Cardinals) – We get so many whispers during the cold, lonely nights of winter, and one has been that the Cardinals are pushing Hicks to be a starter. Thing is, they have a full rotation, and who doesn’t need a pitcher tossing 105 mph in their bullpen?
I don’t expect it to pan out at all, but hey, if Hicks actually gets a starting spot, it’ll be a worthy flier — it’s aforementioned triple-digit heat + a slider that doesn’t need to do a whole lot to surprise guys gearing up for 100+.
152. Deivi García (New York Yankees) – Before Gil, there was Deivi, who had a sprinkle of success in 2020 where five of his six starts came with at least six strikeouts. His brief time in 2021 was far from pretty, but I’m not ready to give up on him yet. Deivi’s slider and changeup showcased legit whiffability during both stints, his curveball should act as a solid “show-me” offering, and his four-seamer should be better than the .333 BAA allowed last season.
It’ll take some time for us to buy into a successful Garcia, but don’t rule out the possibility if we see him have an extended stay in the majors this year.
153. Clarke Schmidt (New York Yankees) – There’s another option in the Yankee rotation in Schmidt, though I don’t see as high of a ceiling given the stuff he brings to the table. He could leap above García to get an earlier shot, but with his emphasis on sinkers, is it worth it? I’m not sold that it is.
But hey, he made Judge and Stanton look foolish with breakers in the summer of 2020, and maybe I’m undervaluing his potential. Now with a clean bill of health, there’s time for more development that could put egg on my face. I know, it’s a weird phrase, Fast taught it to me years ago on the pod and I still can’t say it without some sort of preface (debrief?).
154. Daulton Jefferies (Oakland Athletics) – He lost the early job to Cole Irvin and later had an elbow injury. But as I mentioned with Puk, the A’s could be short on arms entering the season and Jefferies may get those chances. What we saw in his brief 15 IP sample was a plus changeup mixed in between sinkers and four-seamers that failed to get whiffs and are nothing special. Jefferies does use a curveball and cutter sparingly as well, but they aren’t anything to write home about.
I do wonder if that changeup will blossom more as we get an extended look at Daulton, possibly setting up for a strong fastball/changeup combo. Until then, he’s a Toby at best who may be worth the stream against poor teams if he settles into a rotation spot.
155. Brent Honeywell Jr. (Oakland Athletics) – More Athletics, talk given a few possible openings, and Honeywell could be the guy who wins the next available job. I covered his MLB debut with our signature GIF Breakdown and the quick takeaway is that I liked what I saw, but it wasn’t overwhelming enough to instill a whole lot of hype. I dig his “screwball” changeup and his confidence to throw it against right-handers, but I’m not sure if his four-seamer and slider are enough to fully support it. I don’t see a budding star in Honeywell, but he’s worth a stream if he seizes starts for Oakland.
156. David Peterson (New York Mets) – It wasn’t pretty at all for Peterson in 2021, but did we forget his 3.44 ERA in 2020? You mean the ERA that was wildly unsustainable with a .233 BABIP and 10.6% HR/FB? So you remember! When we’ve see Peterson at his peak, his slider is cooking while four-seamers earn strikes galore. Seriously, the heater went 24/48 CSW on May 14 against the Rays, and sadly the marks didn’t stick. I just can’t ignore an outing like that and who knows, maybe Peterson found a way to harness that ability over the off-season.
He doesn’t have a rotation spot for the Mets … but it’s the Mets. I’m curious who we see when he gets the call.
157. Jackson Kowar (Kansas City Royals) – Look, I saw Kowar pitch in his first start, and he flexed a 95/96 mph heater with a nicely shaped slider (34% CSW! 51% strike rate … ) and a changeup that had potential. I got excited. Then Kowar couldn’t toss those secondaries for strikes, while the fastball was absurdly hittable despite the velocity.
The stuff is intriguing, the execution is not. He’ll get more looks in Kansas City this year and I’ll be watching from afar, through a telescope into a home where there’s a TV playing his recent start.
158. Reynaldo López (Chicago White Sox) – The White Sox currently have a fifth spot open in the rotation that I’m anticipating will go to Michael Kopech, but I won’t rule out the possibility they let ReyLó get another crack first. I’ve followed Reynaldo plenty since his MLB debut in Washington, and when he’s pitched at his peak, it’s been a product of both his slider and changeup earning strikes, allowing his four-seamer to do some work with batters not sitting heat all day.
The slider has been … okay through the years, and last season Reyanldo axed the changeup nearly entirely as half of his games came out of the pen. In short, it’s not looking like a renaissance is upon us, but then again, he’s entering his 28-year-old season. There’s still time. If he gets a shot, who knows what we’ll see.
159. Tyler Gilbert (Arizona Diamondbacks) – He threw a no-hitter in his first start with a 90 mph heater and a cutter. We don’t understand it. His fastball held a .192 xAVG last year while his cutter pumped strikes at a 71% rate and survived. It seemed like he overperformed and held a 16% strikeout rate.
Now that Dan Straily has signed a minor-league deal with the Diamondbacks, it makes for a tougher path to claim the #5 spot in Arizona — I’m willing to wager Straily wins it over Gilbert/Widener. This doesn’t seem like the thing to chase, now does it?
Tier 15 – They Have A Rotation Spot Tier
This is essentially the previous tier, but I ain’t streaming them early in the year. It doesn’t matter who they’re facing, you don’t want to put yourself in that kind of situation without seeing more.
160. Madison Bumgarner (Arizona Diamondbacks) – There was a time last year when Bumgarner was actually pretty dang good. He had a fantastic six-game stretch ending in May last year where he sat 92/93 mph before a horrible three-game stretch then injury. He returned and was seemingly great again…but without the velocity. It didn’t last, concluding with a 6.34 ERA and 1.38 WHIP across his final six outings. It was a rough summer.
That four-seamer holding a .212 BAA was the reason he was a 1.18 WHIP arm last year, though I am impressed by his 37% CSW curveball that he featured nearly a quarter of the time. If Bumgarner can get his velocity back near 92 mph with that curveball working (and make his cutter not so dang hittable), there’s hope he can be a decent streamer again. Wait for it to happen instead of betting it will.
161. José Quintana (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Apparently he’s the ace of Pittsburgh, and I can’t decide if I want that to ring true or not. There are two starts that consume my thoughts whenever I see Quintana’s name. The first is a day where he embraced elevated heaters and returned 12 whiffs on 91 mph heaters against the Red Sox. The second was a few starts prior, where he struck out nine via 17 whiffs on low curveballs.
With your powers combined … Look, Quintana displayed the two desired skills on two separate starts. If he somehow harnesses both inside games consistently, this could actually be something legit. He failed to do so across the all of last year (albeit, moving to the pen in June when he returned from injury) and any expectation to figure it out now is silly. BUT HOT DANG A MAN CAN HOPE.
162. Kyle Freeland (Colorado Rockies) – Oh hey, another guy on the Rockies. Instantly, you should be out, but I have to note, there was a stretch where Freeland was feeling his curveball in August, including a 57% CSW night across 30 hooks against the Diamondbacks, returning seven frames of ten strikeouts. He then earned a 40% clip next time out against the Dodgers. It’s there, inside him somewhere.
Given Coors and all that, you’re so better off not chasing it. You know me, though, I can help but hope he finds that feel and goes on a tear. It’s the coolest part of the sport, if you ask me.
163. Brad Keller (Kansas City Royals) – It was easy to write off the 2.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP season in 2020, but can we do the same in reverse for last year’s 5.39 ERA and 1.67 WHIP? Um, yes. We can. Yeah, okay.
But seriously, it was cool to watch Keller gain back some velocity on his four-seamer to 94 mph, helping him earn a 10% SwStr rate on the pitch. Meanwhile, his sinker was demolished and maybe he should just stop throwing it … ? He mixed in a slider as well that wasn’t bad, just not great.
I wonder if there’s a possible BSB to create here with just four-seamers and sliders, cutting out the dastardly sinker. The Dastardly Sinker. The name of my bar. I’d visit it.
164. Luke Weaver (Arizona Diamondbacks) – I’ve seen some hype for Weaver and I truly hope it’s justified, but I can’t be a part of it until he finds a third option. When Weaver was a thing in 2019, his cutter found the zone constantly, allowing him to feature changeups out of the zone effectively while not getting destroyed on his heater. He lost the cutter in 2020, the heater was demolished, and we haven’t seen it since.
I really do wish he figures it out in 2022, but the fastball/changeup ain’t enough. Something else needs to support it for any sort of justification for a waiver wire add this year.
165. Dillon Peters (Pittsburgh Pirates) – You know, his changeup had a 25% SwStr rate last year. Sadly, his 91 mph heater is pretty pedestrian and the curveball held just a 60% strike rate, but there could be something valuable if he can set up his changeup constantly. There’s not much else to say here, it was a small sample and maybe he won’t…Peters out. See, you didn’t even want me to write more.
166. Mike Minor (Kansas City Royals) – Man, I was so hyped on Minor in March last year, as he was sitting 92+ mph on his fastball again. Instead, he fell back to 91 for the year and made me all kinds of frustrated. There were flashes of brilliance, though, including a stretch where he fanned at least seven batters in 6/7 games. You can thank a groove finding his four-seamer up in the zone effectively for that.
Sadly, there isn’t much else to get hyped on. His slider is decent, the changeup got worse, and the curveball doesn’t earn enough strikes. Sadly, we’re on the wrong side of the Minor scale.
167. Alec Mills (Chicago Cubs) – Mills is as pedestrian as it gets. The dude is command-focused, with sinkers and four-seamers, pumping tons of strikes with the former and tossing the latter for some reason I don’t quite understand (5.7% SwStr rate + .321 BAA on his four-seamer). He mixes in a few secondaries, from a decent but inconsistent changeup, a poor slider, and a curveball that does a dang good job getting called strikes, but got destroyed for a .434 wOBA.
It makes for a pitcher who could go 5-6 frames for a middling ball club and should not be trusted to make a major fantasy impact. You’ll get frustrated when a manager streams him against you and happens to pick the exact right matchup to do so, but let it slide. Don’t be the one holding onto the wrong potato.
168. Dallas Keuchel (Chicago White Sox) – Nope, I wouldn’t touch Keuchel even if it were a lovely opening stream. H*ck, I want the ChiSox to move on from him entirely and give Crochet a shot in his place, with Kopech solidifying the #4 spot. But whatever, we’ll likely see Keuchel toss over 150 innings of 5.00 ERA ball again and we just gotta deal with it.
Everything was so dang hittable last year. Keuchel is at his best when he properly executes the “neckbeard” approach — placing sinkers, changeups, and cutters around the bottom/inside/outside edges of the zone. He did it rarely last year and sometimes when he did, it didn’t matter. Don’t tie yourself to DK.
169. Cole Irvin (Oakland Athletics) – I was a bit annoyed he took the job from Daulton Jefferies last year, and I was a bit shocked he ended the year with a not-absolutely-terrible 4.24 ERA across 32 starts. Save for a pair of starts in September, the second half wasn’t pretty for Irvin, allowing at least 3 ER in 7 of his last 9 games.
Look, it’s a 91 mph pair of fastballs with a meh changeup and meeeehh slider. Unless you’re dire for volume or an outside chance at a QS, I wouldn’t stream the guy early.
170. Taylor Hearn (Texas Rangers) – Are you as shocked as I am that Taylor tossed over 104 frames last year? Eleven of his 42 games came with a first-inning pearl and he wasn’t particularly impressive, recording a 4.66 ERA and 1.33 WHIP along with a 21% strikeout rate for the season.
Still, it’s a 95 mph four-seamer that posted a 30% CSW and a decent slider that could improve with its decent shape. Not much else to look at, sadly, and it makes for a highly questionable fantasy play. He’ll have a fair share of starts that don’t kill you, though, and if that’s what you want, then you do you.
171. Spencer Howard (Texas Rangers) – I feel like we’ve been waiting ages for Howard to evolve from “intriguing prospect” and I don’t know what changes for his maturation to complete. He’s been fastball-heavy for a while and while his four-seamer isn’t poor — 31% CSW! — it’s far from elite and there is nothing to support it in his arsenal.
Seriously, I miss the days of adoring his slider — it held a 23% SwStr in 2020 when he tossed it over 20% of the time, but last year? 7% usage and a 13% SwStr rate. Like my college friends wearing boots in the winter, Uggggghs were had. Until we witness a dramatic shift in his repertoire, don’t expect any taste of greatness from Spencer.
172. A.J. Alexy (Texas Rangers) – Yes, I’m grouping players based on team now. These rankings are massive and the actual number is incredibly loose at this point. Like the host of a blackjack table suddenly getting a massive back itch halfway through his shift, deal with it. We didn’t see a whole lot of Alexy last year and apparently he has the #4 spot in Texas, but that shouldn’t make you chase him in the slightest.
Honestly, I’m tempted to stick him in the bottom tier, but then again, he fanned seven in six frames against the Angels with 0 ER and fine. There’s clearly something here, and that night it was the slider earning a 47% CSW with some solid four-seamers. It didn’t stick through his following three outings, where he combined for just six strikeouts, but hey, if he has a rotation spot, maybe that ceiling can be found once again. I suggest using a broom.
Tier 16 – Prospects Exist, Too
Prospects! They make impacts every year — Ashby, McClanahan, Manoah, etc. — and I’m not great at telling you exactly the ones you should have your eye on for their respective callups. That’s why we have our amazing dynasty team at the site, with our weekly pitching prospects to stash articles. Adam Lawler will have his Top 25 Pitching Prospects To Stash article out in the next week; keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, Nate Handy wrote an incredible series outlining the Top #100 Pitching Prospects for Dynasty Leagues and many of the names below represent them.
I’ve loosely ranked them below, but honestly, it’s a major crapshoot for the 2022 season. I heavily recommend using the resources above to figure out the ones you want to focus on. If you know me, you know I don’t focus on prospects (I focus only on arms when they perform in the majors) and please excuse me as I just list the names here for you to keep an eye on + a few attributes about what makes them special (thanks to Nate Handy!).
175. Cody Morris (Cleveland Guardians) – Mid-to-upper 90s heater with an absolutely filthy Vulcan changeup. Has a slider/cutter and curveball to make a true four-pitch mix. Something needs to budge in Cleveland for his shot, though (it’s why Daniel Espino isn’t on this list – Espino hasn’t hit Double-A yet)
176. Cade Cavalli (Washington Nationals) – Mid-to-high 90s heater, big 12-6 curveball + a hard slider + high 80s changeup. Command isn’t there yet but the potential is surely there. Could move fast if he looks sharp early given Washington’s lack of SP talent.
177. Joan Adon (Washington Nationals) – I saw him pitch the final game of the year and I was intrigued. Legit velocity + a solid slider for a team desperate for starters? I’m definitely curious to see more.
179. George Kirby (Seattle Mariners) – Seems like a solid arm, but not a league-winning type. Mid 90s heaters with a ton of strikes and decent secondaries, though it doesn’t seem like he’s destined to overwhelm when he arrives.
180. Tommy Romero (Tampa Bay Rays) – Over-the-top motion screams north-south approach with a low 90s heater that plays up with the delivery to be way better than expected. Secondaries are a question mark, but the heater has put him on the map.
181. Bryce Elder (Atlanta) – Could get some time early, low 90s fastball and more of a kitchen sink guy than the defacto-strikeout arm as many others here.
182. Kyle Muller (Atlanta) – I dug the slider and curveball when he arrived last year, but the low-to-mid 90s heater seemed like it needs more development before Muller takes a legit stab at the majors.
185. Brailyn Marquez (Chicago Cubs) – Dealt with a shoulder issue in 2021, but could make his debut for the Cubs later in the year. upper 90s heater with a solid slider and changeup from the left side.
186. Max Meyer (Miami Marlins) – Sports a ridiculous slider and a fastball that can be spotty at times. Hard to see how the Marlins will work their pitching staff this year and how Meyer could fit in. Changeup could be a decent #3, we’ll see.
Tier 17 – The Unworthwile IL Stash Tier
Look, these guys are hurt, and if you’re in a league with a ton of IL spots, these are some of the ones you should be considering. Many had TJS last year, though, and could be out for the entire year. The only exception is Mike Soroka, who should be back mid-season from his second Achilles surgery. I’ve ranked them here by ability if they were healthy, but honestly, you’re likely better off ignoring all of it in your draft. Those IL spots are incredibly important, and while you sit here now believing in your future self’s discipline to drop Tyler Glasnow when you need the roster spot in April, you’d be surprised how often spring managers betray their past wishes. I recommend not taking part in the whole circus entirely.
188. Tyler Glasnow (Tampa Bay Rays) – Watching Glasnow pitch is too much fun. Absurd fastballs and a curveball that’s impossible to hit even if you guessed correctly. Mix in a new slider that added another way to get strikes, and Glasnow seemed destined for Olympus. He’ll help whenever he returns, though it could be 2023.
189. Kenta Maeda (Minnesota Twins) – He wasn’t the same in 2021 and the TJS would explain it. Splitter + slider is a crazy good combo, with fastballs that hopefully find the zone without getting crushed.
190. Mike Soroka (Atlanta) – He should be back in the middle of the year … at least, that’s what we’re told. The command was so legit beforehand, with a pair of excellent secondaries and a lovely spotted set of fastballs. So much potential for a prime Hendricks with more strikeouts.
192. James Paxton (Boston Red Sox) – I had a love for Paxton all the way back in 2014 and we’ve seen him battle injuries all through his career. Maybe he can push himself past them this year in his return.
193. Spencer Turnbull (Detroit Tigers) – He tossed a no-hitter and did the same for the second half … with no innings either. It’s not the same level of talent as those above, but his four-seamer + breakers can make for some glorious evenings.
195. Matthew Boyd (Free Agent) – I want to be a Boyd boy again so badly, and maybe a return from TJS will help him find his old slider while retaining the new changeup.
196. Joe Ross (Washington Nationals) – He shocked me last year after a rough April and it was cut short due to TJS. The Nationals need all the rotation help, and you may be considering Ross late in the year if he makes a comeback in time.
197. Yonny Chirinos (Tampa Bay Rays) – Remember him? He suffered a fractured elbow 13 months into his TJS rehab and may be still delayed returning this year. He was teetering between fantasy relevance and a spot on your wire in the past; who knows what we’ll see.
Tier 18 – The Free Agents Who Could Actually Be Decent Tier
You know, these guys actually could provide some value if they were to sign with a team that sticks them straight into the rotation. Anderson is the one that kinda deserves to be far higher on The List, but I’m waiting for him to sign first, just so y’all don’t come at me with pitchforks. I could use the company after locking myself indoors to get this done for three weeks, though.
198. Tyler Anderson (Free Agent) – He was a fun streaming option through all of last year with cutters, changeups, and a surprisingly CSW-elite four-seamer. Monitor his starts and I imagine there’s some value to be had through the year.
199. Kwang Hyun Kim (Free Agent) – There are whispers that he may return to Japan, which would be unfortunate given his sub-3.00 ERA across his two years in the majors. It may have been a product of the stellar St. Louis defense, though, and residing in another rotation may turn him into a 4.00+ ERA without the strikeouts to justify it.
200. Cole Hamels (Free Agent) – He didn’t play last year, but if he returns this year, there’s a Toby with some whiffs in there. I’m not drafting him, obviously, just consider him for a week if he is starting regularly.
201. Garrett Richards (Free Agent) – The dramatic drops in spin rates effectively destroyed Richards’ season, but I can’t help but wonder if he can rectify the issues over the off-season and return to form in some way. That slider has been stellar in the past + his fastballs can be awfully hard to hit at times. I’m curious to see where he lands, if anywhere.
202. Brett Anderson (Free Agent) – Look, Anderson doesn’t strike out anyone, but he gets as many grounders as the best of them. If he finds a home that allows him to start (albeit, when he’s healthy enough to do so), I can see a starter who is a decent stream against the worst lineups.
203. Chad Kuhl (Free Agent) – He’s embracing the slider, but the velocity isn’t what it used to be. There could be another level to unlock at some point if he finds an above-average fastball. That’s a huge if, of course.
Tier 19 – Oh no, There’s More?!
Look, I know these guys exist, okay? I could have just stopped it on Kuhl and called it a day – it was a perfect #200! – But the fact is, there are other names I haven’t mentioned and I’m sure some of y’all with ask about them. And after all, I want at least one of them to make me look dumb this year. In fact, I’ll even wager that one does. CAN’T WAIT TO LOSE.
204. Danny Duffy (Free Agent) – He had new velocity last year and put up a crazy fun run to start the year, but injury took him and it’s hard to imagine a repeat of the April magic this year.
205. Jaime Barría (Los Angeles Angels) – The Angels could be going with a six-man rotation, a smart move given their injury woes of the past. It means Barría has a spot to begin the year, though I’m not sure how excite you should be. Barría held just a 14% strikeout rate last season, a product of his best pitch being a slider with just a 11.6% SwStr rate. It shares its time with two heaters, with neither the four-seamer nor sinker returning a CSW above a 22%. In other words, you don’t want to chase this. At all.
206. Johnny Cueto (Free Agent) – There were rare moments when Cueto was someone to consider as a stream, but this ain’t it. Maybe he finds a home in the NL Central and can take advantage of some weak lineups.
207. J.A. Happ (Free Agent) – Look at all these free agents who are streaming options at best. Happ doesn’t have strong secondaries and when he spots his four-seamer, there’s a glimmer of hope for six strong frames. You deserve better.
208. Martín Pérez (Free Agent) – I recall the days of increased velocity on the Twins and a solid cutter, and it disappeared with the Red Sox. It would be silly to anticipate any return to decent form.
209. Drew Smyly (Free Agent) – We loved the 94 mph velocity at the end of 2020 and hated how it fell to 92.5 mph with Atlanta. He has a chance to collect strikeouts with each start, but the risk of disaster is so dang high + his health is always in question.
210. Zach Davies (Free Agent) – Davies just doesn’t have enough left in that repertoire. It’s a sinker/changeup combo that speaks to little fantasy value.
211. Jakob Junis (Free Agent) – His slider has always been great, but nothing else is there to make Junis a reliable arm.
212. Vince Velasquez (Free Agent) – VV has a solid fastball that can overwhelm an opponent from time to time, but there’s little else to support it inside his arsenal. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s a long-reliever type for a team instead of a proper starter.
213. Carlos Martínez (Free Agent) – Oh, it’s you. I was hoping he’d bring his velocity back up from 93 mph and it … stayed at 93 mph as he struggled for the Cardinals. I don’t expect much from him this year, but we’ll see where it all settles. Maybe there’s some magic in the slider and changeup to find once again.
214. Jordan Lyles (Baltimore Orioles) – At least he has volume in Baltimore as their … #2 starting pitcher. I can’t wait for Hall and Rodriguez to show up. Anyway, the new slider was effective at times for Lyles, especially when he had his best curveball at his side. It’s horribly inconsistent, though, and squaring off against the AL Beast squads is sure to make it a rough campaign ahead.
215. Logan Allen (Cleveland Guardians) – Maybe he gets some starts this year? Cal Quantrill snatched any hope of consistent outings from Allen, and it seems as though there isn’t enough in the tank for Allen to stand out.
216. Sam Hentges (Cleveland Guardians) – Hentges has a breaker I think can become something legit, but the rest of his command and arsenal needs to take a step forward first. Opportunity will be tough to find as well.
218. Randy Dobnak (Minnesota Twins) – Dobnak generates a ton of grounders and few whiffs. Guys like that can squeeze out a productive start every so often when balls find gloves instead of paths to outfield grass … rarely. You don’t want rare success. It’s the one case I prefer medium to rare.
219. Justus Sheffield (Seattle Mariners) – His slider put him on the map, but his sinker and lack of consistency in the changeup has taken him off it. The Mariners have far better options, leaving Sheffield in a tough place.
220. Vladimir Gutíerrez (Cincinnati Reds) – Remember when Vladdy was decent and had the greatest schedule ahead of him? Yeah and then … Right. He was dismal against so many poor opponents. There’s little reason to put yourself in danger.
221. Trevor Williams (New York Mets) – Knowing the Mets and their injury history, we’ll see Trevor a decent amount this year. No one wants that, sadly. At the very least, he has the chance to toss 90-100 pitches when he does, though, so hey, there’s a chance.
224. Antonio Senzatela (Colorado Rockies) – Senz-A is the most maddening pitcher, as he’ll go on stretches where he dominates the Dodgers in Coors but can’t handle the Marlins on the road. Like many others, I just avoid it and move on with life. You’ll be happier for it. But his slider and fastball … Nope. We’re not doing this. WE’RE DONE.