Nick’s Top 200 Starting Pitchers for 2022 Fantasy Baseball rankings continue with pitchers #21 through #40.
Tier 3 – Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Continued)
21. Logan Webb (San Francisco Giants) – I’m really struggling with this one. If you feel differently from this rank, I don’t blame you. Seriously, I’m one man, who cares, trust your gut. Speaking of guts, Webb helped you claim a piece of the crag last year if you picked him up after his May return from injury, featuring a sinker/slider punch that debilitated batters for months. That sinker’s vertical break was among the most of any sinker in the majors, pushing Webb’s fly ball rate down to just 18%. If you think that’s unusually low, you’re right. In 2018, the lowest FB rate of any qualified pitcher was 24%. In 2019, that was 21%. The point here is Webb’s 2021 was an absolute outlier. Is it possible this is simply who he is? Absolutely … and so is Framber Valdez, who beat Webb with a 15% FB rate last year. Not a terrible comp (excellent breakers!), save for the fact I can actually stomach Webb’s sinker, unlike Valdez’s, but we’re getting off topic here.
A little more on Webb’s arsenal: His fastballs weren’t absurdly lucky in play — in fact, a .280 BAA is poor — and I’d argue pitching in San Francisco improves his case. The slider’s 39% CSW was incredible and while it shouldn’t be that good, it’s still a legit #2 pitch every pitch dreams for. The changeup … has its moments. Some nights, it’s essential for generating outs in play, on others, it just isn’t a serviceable option.
All in all, I’m giving Webb three full paragraphs because I’m so conflicted. I love the slider, the changeup is fine for a #3 option, the Giants will let him continue to go 6+ frames, and the sinker could be just as good again in 2022. On the other hand, after a questionable April, a short and injury-filled May, Webb didn’t truly become “Webb” until he went 5 IP on July 21, which was a 15 start span of dominance. Is that enough to really chase him as a Top 20 starter? I originally had Webb in the 30s in October because of that question and I’m not elevating him because I didn’t weigh his upside heavily enough. The man was in rhythm and deserved a lot of his second-half success, I just don’t have enough track record to believe he hit a Top 15 SP plateau.
Tier 4 – The Greenest of Grass
Now we’re entering the tier filled with arms you’re going to get jealous are not on your team. Sure, they all have questions about their limited sample dominance or if they’re destined to miss significant time, but it’ll be April 23rd and you’re stuck staring at your opponent, wondering why you didn’t pull the trigger. I’ll personally be aiming to grab two arms from here if I can, and I suggest you do the same.
22. Charlie Morton (Atlanta) – We’re in the fourth tier where we’re going to be playing two games constantly: Welcome to Jackbox’s newest games: “Was the small sample real?” and “Will he get hurt?” Questions create risk, which creates potential value as they get pushed down drafts. It ain’t value if you don’t know what will happen. It’s pretty clear Morton is in the latter bucket, as we have significant time across Houston, Tampa Bay, and now Atlanta of Morton being a legit #2 arm. His last three seasons have returned ERAs of 3.13, 3.05, and 3.34, his strikeout rate has stuck near 30%, 2020 was weird, but 18/19/21 brought 165+ frames each, and I don’t know what else to tell you. He’s really good.
And 38 years old. It seems like his final season in the bigs and it’s rational to be concerned about his health and ability degrading in some way. Drafting Morton is betting on his curveball to once again post a 38% CSW across a third of his pitches (at least!) with a sub-.150 BAA. It’s also hoping that the heater can still manage to hold its 65% strike rate without allowing too much damage — that cutter of 2019/2020 is likely not returning.
So it’s a tier of picking your poison. Considering Morton has only had one major injury in his last three seasons, I’m leaning on him more than the other injured arms, and he has little left to prove with his ability, even if he is Uncle Charlie.
23. Alek Manoah (Toronto Blue Jays) – I’ll take Manoah for $15, Alek. Am I entirely buying his 112 inning sample? Not exactly. The changeup, while looking like an ideal #3 offering in his debut against the Yankees, is far from what we want it to be (its 21% CSW was a horrid stain), and there’s a chance it bites him a fair amount across a larger ~160 inning sample (maybe more?). The AL East is not kind to strangers, pitching inside any of the Blue Jays’
forests home fields does him few favors, and a paltry 10.7% HR/FB rate is sure to rise a touch in a full year.
But then again, his four-seamer and slider are filthy. Each pitch registered multiple starts with 10 whiffs apiece, with the heater returning a whopping 14% SwStr on its own. The slider ramped to its peak during the year, becoming a true force, eventually landing on a .146 BAA. It’s a legit approach that spits on the changeup (not actually, that’s been banned for decades) and could ride him through a spectacular 2022 campaign. In the end, I’d imagine plenty more days of dance than despair, though a somewhat elevated walk rate as a result of that missing #3 pitch is something to keep an eye on.
24. Trevor Rogers (Miami Marlins) – Some will call it a fluke, but I find what Trevor did to be incredibly believable in 2021. His fastball was an absolute machine as he peppered the pitch effectively inside to right-handers, then dominated with changeups at a 20% SwStr rate and .200 BAA. There are two major questions that will give you pause. First, his second half was a far cry from the first, though those can be explained by personal matters as he was placed on the family medical emergency list in August and needed time to get back into his spring ways. It shouldn’t allow you to wave off the fact he failed to go six frames in any of his final eleven games of the year, but it does make a whole lot of sense. The second question is a bit more concerning: Can Rogers improve his slider, and if he doesn’t, is the fastball/changeup enough?
The slider had its moments in the first half, but overall was not a strong third offering, allowing a .271 BAA and returning a subpar 56% strike rate. Traditionally, we don’t see starters enter the realm of SP #1 territory being fastball/changeup (Alcantara wasn’t until he turned to fastball/slider for example, and Castillo? He never reached it.) and without that sweeper, it’s unclear if Rogers can flirt with a 3.00 ERA, 28% strikeout rate, and 1.15 WHIP again. At the same time, his fastball was truly phenomenal — 34% CSW, .221 BAA, 68% strike rate! — and we may be seeing a hint of Brandon Woodruff from the left side. So while it may be tough to replicate his rookie year, that heater and changeup keeps his floor plenty higher than many in this tier, while maintaining that lovely ceiling. You may be coronating him to become Roy Rogers as you get to have your
chicken cake and eat it too. That’s the dream.
25. Frankie Montas (Oakland Athletics) – For whatever reason, Montas isn’t as fun as the others in this tier. He has every right to be, boasting a 26% strikeout rate and solid ratios across a whopping 187 frames last season. His splitter earned a ridiculous 27% SwStr across the year and his fastballs combined for a fantastic 72% strike rate. The concern lies in his consistency, rooted in sub-60% strike rates for both his splitter and slider. That splitter should not be the #2 pitch, as such would imply he can get a strike on command with it. Nay, that should be his slider … which isn’t so great. Batter’s swatted it for a .274 average and its 58.5% strike rate leaves a lot to be desired. In the end, it means Montas needs to get outs with heaters more often than not, opening up the gates for potential disaster. Still, despite it all, Montas keeps the ball in the park well enough and keeps the walks to a minimum, allowing his WHIP to never soar too high and allow for good ratios across a ton of volume. I’m not sure you’ll see a strikeout rate flirting with 30% again, but close to 25% seems right and voila, you have yourself a very worth #3 arm. Just keep it together when he allows a few 5+ ER catastrophes within arm’s reach.
26. Shane McClanahan (Tampa Bay Rays) – Y’all know I adore McShane (yes, I envision him like McBain, guns replaced with his slider and curveball) and after watching him in any capacity, you would be too. Did you know his slider held a 21% SwStr rate and his curveball boasted a 40% CSW? So why did he have a 1.27 WHIP? Ah, yeah that’s a problem. You can blame a 96.5 mph heater that simply wasn’t commanded well. It hit the zone a ton (61% rate!) and maybe a little too much, as batters clobbered it for a .311 BAA. His control of the pitch is good, but the command is not (See, that’s the difference!). I think there is room to grow there, though, and the Rays are certainly the team to help him figure it out.
Expect the 8.76 H/9 to come down, helping his WHIP fall to sub-1.20 levels, while the strikeout rate and ERA stay golden. Oh, and over 160+ frames this time, as the Rays will let the man complete the sixth more often — they did so in the middle of last year before slowing him down in time for the playoffs. In other words, his leash was a bell curve for a reason, and expect to flatten the crest this year. It’s such a tough tier to rank with conviction and I’m slightly lower on Shane due to the fastball issues, but those scared of the 1.27 WHIP, put it behind you. That’s not who he is.
27. Yu Darvish (San Diego Padres) – Sticky stuff. Questionable longevity. Command discussion. No, this isn’t a description of the 3m Command strips that help hold up audio foam in my office, we’re talking about Darvish after we saw him act like a bona fide ace for his first 13 starts — 2.28 ERA, 30% strikeout rate and 0.91 WHIP while averaging over 6 frames per start — before the crackdown began and it created an oscillation that drove us up the wall. He fluctuated between 4+ ER starts and flat-out dominance for his final 17 outings and it puts us in a tough place now. But his K/9 was over 11! That’s why you don’t use K/9 as his strikeout rate was 28% — still great, just not what an 11+ K/9 usually suggests.
Side note aside, note his cutter was crushed for a .351 BAA last year — not great for a pitch tossed 35% of the time. Meanwhile, his pair of heaters struggled to earn a ton of strikes … even if his four-seamer held an impressive 15% SwStr rate. The good news is his slider is still as filthy as ever, boasting sub-.200 BAA and elite strike rates — it simply couldn’t save Darvish from the detrimental cutter and fastball. I’m willing to wager that Darvish will figure out the sticky stuff problems and find some balance in 2022, but it’ll take some time for me to remove the “Cherry Bomb” label. If that cutter can limit home runs and his fastballs earn more strikes, then we’re golden.
28. José Berríos (Toronto Blue Jays) – I find thorough entertainment in strange places in baseball, and a constant fuel of my joy is Berríos’ inevitability to sit between a 3.50 and 3.90 ERA. I call him The Flag and The Great Undulator for his travels between legit ace and a “Toby” through the year, closely depicting a sine wave always finding a way to end at the x-axis. Why he fluctuates is often a product of a curveball that can act as elite with a 35% CSW and .203 BAA for the year, but it fails to get strikes consistently — it’s why the hook holds a 62% strike rate instead of sitting in the upper 60s. His changeup fares even worse (57% strike rate, 23% CSW) and those days where the heater has to do everything are maddening. But, once again, he is The Great Undulator and at the end of the day, he is who he is.
Thrust from the serene clarity of Berríos’ consistency was a move to Toronto that didn’t disrupt in the small sample, though a full year should showcase the terrors of the East, pulling him away from potential sub-3.50 ERA levels … per usual. Don’t expect the world from Berríos, just appreciate it for what he is — a solid SP #3 who will get a handful of wins while matching his strikeouts with his expected 180 frames.
29. Blake Snell (San Diego Padres) – In case you forgot, Snell ditched the changeup in the final two months of the year, something I’ve been asking for since I came up with the “BSB” way back in 2018. He exploded for a 1.83 ERA, 39% strikeout rate, and 0.77 WHIP in those final eight starts with a 1% changeup usage. Yeah, that’s what we’re chasing. Insane. I have to believe Snell won’t adjust his new approach — firing four-seamers recklessly over the plate and sitting sliders and curveballs under them — and the only real question is health at this point, and that’s a major question. Snell lasted just 129 frames last year across 27 starts (the inefficiency won’t last, I promise!) and has just one season above 130 frames at the MLB level. You can’t ignore it.
As I mentioned with Morton, it’s a game of injury- or cliff-dodging in this tier, and Snell is a bit of both. At the same time, it’s hard to believe he could be worse than last year’s 4.20 ERA and 1.32 WHIP across 125 frames, and with that floor in place, there’s a whole lot to like. Seriously, his slider is one of the nastiest out there at a 25% SwStr rate and debilitates lineups all on its own. Let’s just hope he can get it working out of the gate.
30. Luis Castillo (Cincinnati Reds) – How many seasons does Luis Castillo have a sub-1.21 WHIP? Just two — his initial 15-game season and a 1.14 clip in 2019. Yikes. I’m not sure Castillo is capable of pushing a 1.10 mark with what he’s working with: A 96 mph heater that isn’t commanded well, a changeup that disappeared a whole lot last year, and a slider that should be elite but has never quite gotten there (37% CSW is elite! 63% strike rate is not). Pair that with a lower arm angle that makes me consider if the command will ever arrive, and you have yourself a
stew tough hill to climb for legit #1 SP ability. But hey! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want Castillo on your clubs. His first two months were rough as we dealt with a 7.61 ERA through his first ten starts (seriously, the number of comments, tweets, and DMs I got about Castillo was unreal) but the wise held and received a 2.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 26% strikeout rate through his final 22 games. DON’T FORGET IT.
Maybe it’s the cold weather that gets Castillo each year, needing more time to ramp up. Maybe it indeed was a changeup that suddenly carried a 19% SwStr rate after pushing atop the leaderboards for years. The odds are Castillo won’t struggle nearly as much early in the year and will help your team across the year. Thing is, I don’t think there’s a decent chance he can break the mold and have a full season of true dominance (even the final 22 starts still had a 1.20 WHIP!) and for my SP #2/#3, I want guys who have a chance to become a true #1.
Tier 5 – The Refurbished
Alright, we have a new tier here (GETCHYA NEW TIERS ‘ERE!) until Kershaw, focused on high risk/high reward pitchers, mostly carrying heavy injury risk. And if you have no interest in risk, then all right, push him and the others down your ranks. You do you. It’s wise to not overload your staff with many from here (be conservative to put yourself in a good position before the waiver wire churn/burn), but I assure you, many of these will pan out and perform better than their draft position. It’s just tough to gauge who those steals will be.
31. Carlos Rodón (Free Agent) – It’s hard to talk about high risk/high reward without leading with Carlos, as this dude was UNREAL for just over four months of the year until he had too much shoulder fatigue to carry on. And seriously, it was glorious. The man averaged 93.5 mph at best on his heater in previous years and suddenly showed up sitting 97 mph at times in 2021. SITTING, not hitting. You just don’t see that. His slider still doesn’t earn quite enough strikes and the batting average will rise from .107, while the changeup is … not great, but the heater was just that amazing where it didn’t matter.
So here we are, wondering what to do. The rational expectation is for Rodón to appear healthy to start the year, likely sitting 94/95 instead of 95-97 and probably give you 4/5 months again before the shoulder fatigue sits in. That still should be really good as Rodón did those incredible things with 94.5+ mph heaters last season. The final confusion is the haze surrounding his home field and honestly, unless it’s Toronto or Coors, it shouldn’t matter. How much are Rodón’s 120 innings (with potential for a lot more or a lot less) worth to you? For me, it’s here in the 30s with safer options ahead. But hey, I’d love to see him hit 100 mph from April to September next year.
32. Zac Gallen (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Yes, I’m still a Gallen Gal, but 2021 sure wasn’t kind to him. After years without injury and looking primed for a ~180 frame season, Gallen failed to leave the spring without a forearm injury, returned earlier than expected, lost six weeks with a hamstring injury, and still managed to go 121 innings. It’s hard to ignore a battered season like this and it makes us wonder if he’ll navigate the deadly waters of the IL this season.
That aside, his stuff wasn’t what it used to be. Gallen still had his four-seamer earning called strikes as good as the rest of them, but what has made me excited through the years is a trio of secondaries he could whip out at any point. Those pitches … weren’t great last year. All three — slider, curveball, changeup — failed to hit the 60% strike threshold last season (something each pitch had always done prior), with his slider falling far from its 2019 70% clip to just a 58% rate in 2021. That hurts. The changeup used to comfortably sit above a 20% SwStr rate, pushing its CSW to as high as 36% in 2020, and it fell drastically: 16% SwStr & 23% CSW. The curveball was the only pitch still standing at a 30% CSW, but it wasn’t the answer with a shocking five point drop in usage to just 13% and another five points in CSW. It wasn’t great, y’all.
And yet Gallen still managed a 27% strikeout rate and kept his WHIP below 1.30. Maybe the injuries prevented Gallen from finding rhythm in his secondaries and he needed a proper off-season to reclaim them. At least his fastball command is solid and kept its velocity and I’m willing to gamble a bit with this ranking to suggest Gallen can find those secondaries once again. The talent is still there and he’ll have all the freedom to pitch as much he wants in Arizona. Expect a rebound ahead.
33. Justin Verlander (Houston Astros) – Welcome to the player who will likely change most in my rankings in March. It’s simple: Verlander is a Top 5 pitcher if he’s sitting 95 mph again and has his old slider. It’s awfully uncommon for a pitcher over the age of 35 to get TJS and come back slinging the same pearl. There are two things going for Verlander, though, that has me favoring him at the moment: The Astros paid him $25 million before the lockout, something I don’t think would have occurred if they didn’t believe he was close to the same pitcher. The second is what happens if he isn’t sitting 95 mph (sitting, not hitting for those monitoring spring training reports). Let’s say Verlander is sitting 93 mph instead; how bad do we expect him to be? If he still has his slider, there’s still a lot he can do with his old command.
The final element here is Verlander’s age, which actually could be seen as an advantage. What?! You’re crazy, Nick! Hear me out. Normally when pitchers return from TJS, they are babied back into action. Verlander? Nah, if he’s 140 frames deep in August, they’ll just keep him pitching through the end. He’s on a one-year deal and on the final legs of his career as he enters his 39-year-old season. The man is going to pitch until his arm falls off and the team won’t stop him. It’s not as large of a risk/reward play as we’ve made it out to be and I’m willing to slot him here where we’re teetering on the confidence of stability. Verlander should be a worthy roster spot all year – does anyone really expect a fall to 4.00+ ERA as long as he’s on the bump? – but the unknown health is making it so hard to rank him.
34. Pablo López (Miami Marlins) – Ahhhh I adore PabLo and I’m so conflicted. I’m terrified about his shoulder — he’s had three separate moments of shoulder injuries across the last three years — but I also can’t get over the fact he’s a fastball/changeup pitcher without a lot of hope in his cutter and/or curveball taking the next step. It’s still possible, and I’m rooting every day for them to come out, but it’s hard to buy their development now.
At the same time, Lopez not only just put up a season of 2.98 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with a glorious 27.5% strikeout rate, he also did the opposite of what fellow rotator cuff injured pitcher Shane Bieber did — Lopez added velocity to his fastball in his return. Seriously, he sat 94 mph all year and returned for 25 fastballs at 95.2 mph in his October 3 start. Whaaaaaaaat. I completely forgot this fact for months over the off-season and while writing this, I had to delete sentences and change my tune. Sure, he could have amped it up a little in his five-out appearance, but it should quell any concerns about health entering the season. It doesn’t remove my question about his innings total and the lack of curveball/cutter development, but it makes me a believer in solid SP #3 performance when he’s on the hill. I’m anticipating about 130 frames given the consistency of shoulder problems, but then again, predicting volume is the hardest thing we do as fantasy analysts.
35. Dylan Cease (Chicago White Sox) – Hey y’all. We have to talk. I don’t personally look at official rankings before I write all of these blurbs, but I’ve heard an awful lot about Cease and his apparent rise to dominance in 2022. Thing is, I don’t get it. What am I missing, y’all? Are you seduced by the 32% strikeout rate and believe the .309 BABIP and 11% HR/FB rate speaks to a 3.41 FIP? But why? Cease was a 3.91 ERA and 1.25 WHIP pitcher last year and it made sense. The man was a premium “Cherry Bomb”, stemming from his volatile arsenal. The slider took a major step forward, being a legit elite offering, but on a given night, Cease wrestled to command his four-seamer, curveball, and changeup. It’s how he allowed 7 ER in 2.2 frames before going five shutout with ten punchouts in the next. Believing that Cease can become that sub-3.50 ERA and ~1.10 WHIP arm is believing that his four-seamer takes a step forward next year. Sure, it earned a 12% SwStr last year, but just a 25% CSW while getting battered for 13 HRs and a .332 BACON. But the curveball had a 35% CSW! That’s great, it just wasn’t consistent, recording a horrid 56% strike rate. In other words, when he executed it, things went well, but who knows when that would happen.
It ties into another problem with Cease: inefficiency. I’m sure some of you have seen his 166 frames from last year and thought “Oh, great! He’s primed and ready for 180+” without realizing he pitched a full season. That took all 32 starts! His inability to command fastballs and curveballs well prevent him from going deeper into games, which means his strikeout rate isn’t expressed as much, he earns fewer Wins, and the WHIP/ERA stay inflated. Unless you’re buying that the walk rate will dramatically fall — which is a sizeable leap — then his ceiling is dramatically capped by the fluctuation of his innings per start.
Be smart about this. I would much rather trust pitchers like Manoah, Rogers, or McClanahan, who have two excellent pitches under their belt already + legit areas of potential growth, than lean on Cease with a fastball that has always been inconsistent. I still have him Top 40 ‘n’ all — I’d like to roster him, of course, and I don’t want to see the comical DC, I want to see the cool and rockin’ AC/DC — but I won’t jump for him in drafts if it means he needs to take a huge step forward.
36. Clayton Kershaw (Free Agent) – Oh hey, it’s another “you’re great when you start, but how much of you are we actually going to see?” Kershaw was shut down in October with an elbow injury — not shoulder, not back, now it’s an elbow — without clarity as to where he’ll be chucking heaters next year. We all feel it’ll be with the Dodgers, but I think that’s truly dependent on Kershaw’s ability to display his talents on the hill.
And let me tell you, before his injury, the southpaw of our generation still had it (the generation after Randy). His slider was arguably the best in baseball with a 27% SwStr rate, 38% CSW, and .207 BAA as he threw it half of the time. Sure, you can find great slider metrics, but none thrown this often. It’s genuinely incredible. And yes, the curveball is still hard to hit (though it failed to steal strikes like it used to). His fastball … well, we were excited in 2020 to see the pitch gain a tick in velocity while creating many outs. It took a step back in 2021 and became a bit of a detriment, forcing the slider usage to rise to its overwhelming status. I’m not sure this is going to get better before it gets worse and that elbow injury is awfully scary. I’m likely sitting this one out with all of this haze, but I’ll tell you this. It never feels like opening day until I see Kershaw pitch and I hope he’s as much of a joy as ever this year.
37. Lance McCullers Jr. (Houston Astros) – Whoa, another injury question. Such surprise. I really hope we can get another 160+ inning season from Lance after adding a new slider to his arsenal last off-season, a pitch that stifled batters for a .162 BAA and earned 35% CSW. Kinda unfair given he already had a stellar breaker in his curveball … which beat the slider with a 46% CSW and .139 BAA. Cool stuff. In traditional, not #1 SP form, McCullers’ fastball fails to be the greatest complement to his breakers. It’s an odd pitch, one that held just a 64% strike rate despite its 59% zone rate — an expression of its low 15% O-Swing. It’s a major hole in Lance’s approach, elevating his walk rates given batters can sit heater and spit on breakers in many counts.
About that walk rate. I wouldn’t anticipate replication of its 11% clip in 2021, though a return to ~8% marks may be difficult with an underwhelming fastball. In addition, many times last year we didn’t see both the slider and curveball dominate in tandem, forcing an inconsistent changeup to arrive as well. It adds up to a pitcher who has never sat below a 1.16 WHIP and I don’t see a great reason to anticipate 2022 to be the outlier.
Combine his WHIP/walk issues with an elbow injury that we anticipate to either delay his opening day or at some point prevent McCullers to hit the desired thirty-start milestone, it’s a risky proposition to rely heavily on McCullers. He absolutely has the mentality and ability to overcome his challenges, and even with them his ERA and strikeout totals will help plenty. Without the clear path to SP #1/#2 levels, he’s not my favorite of this risk-laden tier.
38. Tyler Mahle (Cincinnati Reds) – Mahle is a pretty simple case. His fastball is great, his slider is okay, and there’s not much else there. Sometimes his split-change can help the ailing breaking ball, but Mahle is a man who is destined to allow a sizeable amount of longballs as batters cheat heater in Cincinnati’s home park, while maintaining a questionable walk rate due to lack of dependable secondary offerings.
But there’s good news here. Mahle can repeat his 180 IP season as there’s little reason to question his longevity, while the strikeouts will continue to come via the elevated four-seamer. The ratios won’t dazzle, but they won’t damage, and if you’re chasing safe strikeouts, Mahle is your guy.
Tier 5.5 – Y’all are going to hate me for this
There I sat, relaxed after a heavy sigh, staring at Clevinger and Severino the night before the rankings go live knowing y’all are going to hate this. BUT NICK, YOU JUST RANKED TAILLON AND KLUBER TOO HIGH LAST YEAR! AT THE SAME SPOT! I sure did and I don’t care, I’m doing this. I don’t think either presented the same ceiling as Clev or Sevy and it’s just how things landed in the ranks this year. If I’m not putting them here, where should I put them? In Tier 8? Tier 7 is all about stable guys if that’s the game you want to play and I can’t squeeze them in there. Thing is, Tier 8 is the fun tier of risk, so why not chase the risk that actually did the dang thing already?
Look, just skip Clev/Sevy if you want, I stand by this ranking, and feel free to play to the ADP/room to grab someone else before them if you can. We’ll talk about these ranks again when they actually have some spring training and we can grasp where they actually are in their ability, okay? Cool, it’s about time we move on. For real.
Oh, and yeah, Ohtani fits too. It’s the same idea, for the most part.
39. Mike Clevinger (San Diego Padres) – What’s an injury tier without discussing Clevinger? I wrestled with where to put Clev (I’ll get a lot of comments about placing him #10 spots too high, especially over “safe production” of Tier 6) and I find it hard not to place him at the end of this Tier 5, despite many scenarios where I can see myself not wanting to jump this early. I debated about Clev vs. Luis Severino and Sevy’s injury history is a bigger stain with a shorter track record of excellence — Clev was dominant for three straight years (arguably four!) before TJS got in the way. That dominance was catalyzed by a phenomenal slider, returning consistent CSW marks above 36%, SwStr rates above 20%, and batters have yet to have a season above a .200 BAA. It’s crazy good. The curveball has potential, but was a bit more inconsistent than the slide piece, especially in 2019 and 2020, and I wouldn’t have high hopes for it to glisten in 2022. The changeup is fine as a backup option for lefties, but I’m going to stop rambling now. The slider is amazing, his fastball is solid, and the curveball/changeup do enough to support a decent leash in starts.
I don’t think he can soar to Top 5/10 SP levels given the mediocre strike rates on his secondaries (which means the walk rate stays comfortably above 8%, bringing up his WHIP and taking him out of games sooner), but a legit Top 20 arm is here if he’s pitching with consistency. Monitor the spring and look for his fastball sitting 95 mph.
40. Luis Severino (New York Yankees) – It’s near impossible to accurately rank a guy like Severino, a man who has Top 10 SP upside but has barely showcased his stuff since 2018. That’s right, a shoulder injury in 2019 + TJS in 2020 means we’ve only had a glimpse of Severino since. The ability back then was clear — mid-to-upper 90s heat with a ridonkulous slider and solid changeup for ~180+ innings on a winning ballclub — the question is how much of that we’ll see four years past his peak and two significant injuries behind him.
It sounds like I’d be avoiding such a gray area, but actually Severino is exactly the kind of pitcher I love taking in drafts. 1) You can draft him after you have your four dependable SPs on your roster (you don’t need to follow these rankings to an absolute T!). 2) He presents clear Top 15 SP upside. 3) You’ll know early in April how good he is (if the velocity/command are gone or if the slider isn’t getting whiffs, you cut him) 4) If it doesn’t work out, it opens the roster spot early to snag a potential season-changing pitcher (Rodón, Ray, Waino, Rogers, etc.). Just make sure you’re disciplined enough to let Severino loose if it isn’t looking good early on. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know in the daily SP Roundup articles & in my new morning Plus Pitch Podcast if things are going south quickly.