Nick’s Top 200 Starting Pitchers for 2022 Fantasy Baseball rankings continue with pitchers #81 through #100
Tier 10 – Recess Kickball (Continued)
81. Adbert Alzolay (Chicago Cubs) – I was out on Alzolay. Then I became enamored. Alzolay was a solid stream across the first few months of the year before injury slowed him down, and he wasn’t quite the same after. It’s hard not to fall a little for a guy with a 94 mph four-seamer that misses bats at a 13.5% rate and comes with a filthy 46% CSW tossed over 40% of the time. The issue is a mediocre sinker + a changeup & cutter that doesn’t do enough to find strikes across the other 45% of his pitches, and I’m not exactly sure how that gets a whole lot better. Sure, he’s going to have starts with 5-6 frames and a bunch of strikeouts, but in order for me to buy into Alzolay deserving your roster spot through the year, something needs to get better.
Well, maybe he can pull the sinker usage to 10-15% from its elevated 30% mark in favor of more four-seamers and maybe that cutter can become a consistent offering inside the zone. There’s some hope, it’s just not the one I’m running to chase out of the gate. Keep your eye on him through the year, especially if he’s slow to start out and off many managers’ radars. There’s some legit strikeout upside here.
82. Zach Thompson (Pittsburgh Pirates) – I’m secretly hyped about Thompson in deeper leagues. After the Marlins held him back in the second half, he’s now in a great situation in Pittsburgh — same poor Win chance, better rotation spot and division — where his cutter/curveball could entertain us all. Seriously, it blew me away last year with the cutter allowing a paltry .227 wOBA despite a heavy 35% usage + his curveball strutted around the zone with a 34% CSW. There even were moments where his changeup shined via a 22% SwStr rate and it’s kinda hard to keep my excitement in check.
This is when you expect me to be a Debbie Downer about his fastball and yeah, the four-seamer isn’t the greatest — just a 24% CSW and 61% strike rate – but that’s because he used it to elevate out of the zone, leaning into its whiffability for a 33% O-Swing. It all … works. I even think there’s more than a 21% strikeout rate possible here. But hey, this was just 75 innings and a lot of these numbers could fall flat on his face. I wonder how he looks in April.
Tier 11 – Late-Night Infomercials
I just went two upside tiers in a row, and in all your best ball leagues, these next arms are better value ‘n’ all that. But they are awfully close to being a “Toby” and I’d rather shoot for the heavens instead of settling on tier elevens. It’s true because it rhymes. We’re talking about the guys you’ll fall asleep to, even though it can be a little tempting to buy what they’re selling. If you’re finding yourself with a roster with far too many guys sitting out the first week or two, grab some of these to get some decent volume early and hey, maybe they do enough to keep holding on for a good while. Some of these are sure to be next year’s Chris Flexen, maybe even Flexen himself. Again. Weird Flex, but okay. Now you get it.
83. Rich Hill (Boston Red Sox) – Guys, it’s Hill. Tell me a season where he has hurt your fantasy teams. You could say his 3.86 ERA last year did … and it’s not a bad guess it gets worse as he ages, but the Red Sox are sure to use him in the rotation until the man can’t do it anymore, and somehow his four-seamer at 88 mph still gets the job done — 10% SwStr rate with a 25% CS rate = 35% CSW (It’s gotta be the low VAA that aids four-seamers, but that’s a discussion for another time). I don’t think the years of being a K-BB% immortal are coming back, but you could do worse filling in the gaps early in the season than taking a chance on Hill’s fastball/curveball mix getting the job done.
84. James Kaprielian (Oakland Athletics) – Kap is one of the final of the fastball/slider guys who can get you some volume and maybe turn into a solid add to get through the rough streaming times. His four-seamer was a bit underrated through the year, boasting a lovely 13.4% SwStr and 31% CSW, paving the way for a 32% CSW slider and a curveball to land for called strikes. His changeup was saved mostly for left-handers and wasn’t much of a useful tool, however it did hold a 20% SwStr rate against right-handers (righty-on-righty crimes! The only lawbreakers I’m okay with) and I wonder if that can develop this year.
Don’t overlook Jimmy K. It didn’t look awfully pretty and he slowed down in the second half, concluding with the Athletics moving him to the pen in the final weeks. He has a firm hold on the #5 spot for now — possibly higher if trades were to happen — and he could flirt with a 25% strikeout rate again with his whiffable fastball. He’s a solid option early inside O.Co when he doesn’t get the Astros.
85. Marco Gonzales (Seattle Mariners) – It was a magical run in 2020, but it didn’t last the following year … kinda. He stumbled early, but finished the season with 76 frames of a 2.61 ERA and 0.88 WHIP … even better than the 70 IP, 11-start run of 2020. In other words, Marco can be trusted to have a “Vargas Rule” at some point during the year and it may very well be the second half.
Or maybe I’m reading the tea leaves wrong. His first half could have been the stumble and we’re prime for another bounce-back. I’d love to see it, and it would likely be on the back on his curveball returning close to a 38% CSW again or his cutter … improving. I don’t think Marco’s sinker/changeup combo is a whole lot to write home about, but he’ll make QS-league managers happy to have a shot each time he hits the bump. And that’s great for them, not so great for the rest of us as we’ll likely see him flirt with a 4.00 ERA and 1.20/1.25 WHIP while we shrug at his strikeout rate. It’s fine, but not fiiiiine. Your 12-teamer squad needs more.
86. Alex Cobb (San Francisco Giants) – I’m kinda excited about Cobb? A little? Some are super hyped about it and I’m not one to belittle hype about a pitcher, I’m just concerned Cobb doesn’t quite have enough in the repertoire to imagine an Alex Wood or Anthony DeSclafani type of resurgence in San Francisco. It’s completely in the realm of possibility his splitter (“The Thing”) keeps its 20% SwStr for another season while he’s able to sneak in curveballs for called strikes well above 25% of the time, I question if his sinker can be an elite called strike pitch once again and avoid enough damage. Give Cobb tosses a splitter + a liberal use of a “show-me” curve, he relies heavily on that sinker getting strikes and getting the h*ck out of Dodge. And when everything went just right last year, it was just a 3.83 ERA and 1.27 WHIP across 93 frames — not exactly the greatest ceiling to chase.
All in all, it’s reasonable to expect some bump in performance given Oracle Park ‘n’ all and you could do a whole lot worse slinging Cobb out there for his first start or two. I just wish he had a stronger pitch to pair with The Thing. Like a Lurch, or something.
87. Aaron Civale (Cleveland Guardians) – It may surprise you that I find Civale similar to Jordan Montgomery but their arsenal is comparable. They both have a curveball that I want them to throw more (16%?! Civale, it’s your BEST PITCH) with another secondary that gets a ton of strikes (Cutter for Civale, changeup for “The Bear”), and they can’t seem to figure out how to sneak in fastballs enough to not get burned. Civale’s four-seamer and sinker combined for 35% usage last year, yet returned a horrific 21% CSW between them. That hurts.
The good news here is, unlike JorMont, Civale has a clear path to an approach that I believe would work — toss cutters as the primary strike-earner, using it more than 25% of the time (maybe 30% or so?) + pair it with a curveball that’s featured 30% of the time. Yes, double the breaker that returned a whopping 36% CSW last year. PLEASE.
The final 40% usage doesn’t have be just fastballs. There’s a mediocre slider that could improve this year + a split-change that boasted a 30%+ O-Swing. There’s room for finagling here as long as the cutter and curveball take center stage. The Guardians are sure to let Civale fly as he figures it all out, and maybe his 3.84 ERA and 1.12 WHIP are a bit more believable this year.
88. Cal Quantrill (Cleveland Guardians) – If y’all follow my SP Roundups through the year, then you know I was bewildered by Quantrill’s run last year (1,94 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 22% strikeout rate across his final 14 starts) and I just don’t see it sticking around. He went sinker heavy over the four-seamer (good call, given the four-seamer’s paltry 8% SwStr last year) during that stretch and upped his slider usage, yet that sweeper just isn’t anything spectacular. It’s fine and gets the job done, but his Sinker/Slider combination is pretty dang pedestrian. The changeup is the same tune and it’s just a question of … how?!
But hey, like many (if not all) in this tier, Quantrill will get his opportunities to go 6+ every five days with some track record of not falling on his face while doing so. If you think the former Top 10 draft pick still has more to unleash in Cleveland, by all means, jump for this. Don’t hate me when I ain’t coming with ya.
89. Taijuan Walker (New York Mets) – Walker had a luscious start to the 2021 season, showcasing a near 1.5 tick increase in fastball velocity and riding it to a 2.44 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with a 26% strikeout rate across his first 85 frames. Then disaster struck. Well, not like an injury or anything, just his fastball wasn’t as stellar and he was exposed for having a poor set of secondaries. Ask yourself, what is Walker’s best non-fastball? Is it the 24% CSW slider? Maybe that splitter that returned a 67% strike rate but didn’t whiff a whole lot and allowed plenty of hard contact. And what about his curveball that … just wasn’t any good? It’s the biggest hole in Walker’s approach and when his fastball couldn’t do everything any more, it turned Walker into a 6.00+ ERA with a .138 WHIP arm in his final 73 frames.
I’m not saying Walker can’t be that first-half arm again. He has no leash at all for the Mets and could feature multiple six inning performances well worth your time in April and if you need volume early, Walker could help. But hot dang, I don’t trust 2021’s first half as being a tangible ceiling for the full year. This ain’t it.
90. Germán Márquez (Colorado Rockies) – Do you want to deal with it? I don’t. Drafting Márquez is effectively saying you’re going to blindly start him through the year and you’ll take the end result. But Nick, come on. I’ll bench him in Coors! A) That means you’re getting 50% of a pitcher in one roster spot and B) He was better inside Coors — 3.67 ERA vs. 5.38 on the road. I don’t have the faith for Márquez to replicate that home ERA this year and that’s really it. You’ll never know what decision to make as a manager and as a fantasy player I don’t sit there and think, “I can’t win this league unless I consider drafting Márquez.” Just don’t put yourself through it.
But fine, let’s say somehow he leaves Colorado — it won’t happen given his incredibly team-friendly deal + the Rockies have a hard sell when trying to sign pitchers to the team — I’d be more interested, but still have questions. His four-seamer is absurdly hittable and that’s not a Coors issue. His slider and curveball have been the saving grace with 20%+ SwStr rates on both and it sets him up as a potential “Cherry Bomb” given you don’t know when the four-seamer will open the flood gates.
I’m rooting for a trade so I can seriously consider the man again, and until then, I’ll be honest with my future self and just avoid it entirely.
91. Zach Plesac (Cleveland Guardians) – I had high hopes after Plesac dominated in his eight 2020 starts, imagining his floor to be akin to his solid 2019 rookie campaign. Welp, it was way worse than I expected. His slider and changeup fell off a cliff and there’s no great reason to assume that will change this off-season.
But it could. And the Guardians will allow Plesac every chance to reclaim his former secondaries, spelling a legit chance at a bounce-back season. The changeup fell from a 19% SwStr to a horrid 13% last season, while the slider dropped a full 8 points to an 18% clip from 26%. I won’t ignore the chance at least one of these can return to form in 2022 and doing so could propel Plesac quickly up the ranks.
So don’t draft the guy, but watch. See if his changeup and curveball look great against lefties, and observe the sweeper against right-handers. If it’s clicking and he’s not ultra-reliant on his four-seamer’s BABIP to get by, Plesac could be the steal of April.
92. Chris Flexen (Seattle Mariners) – So Flexen wasn’t so bad last year. The man was as “Toby” as they come, ultimately winning The Flenderson award of making managers sweat all year, rolling along as a “Vargas Rule” and bracing for the moment of impact. It never truly arrived, even allowing just 1 ER on the final day of season (and one strikeout, “HAISTBMBWT?!”) but now we have our feet up on the table, swirling golden amber in a tumbler, talking about the true machinations of our lives, we know Flexen ain’t it. This was a fun moment, but that four-seamer/cutter combo just isn’t meant to be for our fantasy leagues. A 17% strikeout rate? 1.26 WHIP? Come on …
He’ll get the volume and opportunity early, sure, and hey, he’ll spin off some nice starts ‘n’ whatnot. But you have to put yourself in a position to grab the hot hand off the wire and find your next Alek Manoah or Logan Webb, not hold onto someone so replaceable like Chris. Do not bow to Flex.
Tier 12 – Angels Winning The Pennant
There are still some fun names left now that we’re nearing the #100 mark. This tier will climb deep into the triple-digits, featuring pitchers who have still have a chance to be well worthwhile this season. I don’t endorse drafting them as your dart throws to trust the first week of the season, but they could become instant pick-ups after a single inning of work — if I get a moment to stop making high-pitched squeals of excitement. Hey, it could happen! I just want pitchers to be their best selves, you know?
93. Tony Gonsolin (Los Angeles Dodgers) – I really want this to work. As I sit at my desk, staring out my rain-splashed window with gloom about this terrible lockout, Gonsolin sits in the Dodgers rotation as their #3. THEIR #3. That’s assuming Andrew Heaney and David Price are #4/5 respectively, but it seems as though Gonsolin has a rotation spot locked unless at least two are signed (and three may be needed to knock him out).
That presents an opportunity for Gonsolin to get his act together, as 2021 was far from a productive fantasy arm. His slider was still effective with a .118 BAA, but that was only when it ended at-bats. The real number is a 52% strike rate, which — whoa. I heard your GASP from here — which fell 18 points from its fantastic 70% clip in 2020. That sweeper is everything for Gonsolin, and if he can get its CSW anywhere close to its former 38% CSW, then he’ll set up more batters to face the wrath of his 20% SwStr splitter + prevent his four-seamer from returning a dismal .298 BAA. He’ll have to regain over 150 RPM on that slider to get there, though, so don’t hold your breath.
94. Dylan Bundy (Minnesota Twins) – Yes, he’s still a thing. After a good start in Los Angeles, Bundy hit a valley and stayed there at the end of May, eventually getting a shoulder strain to end his season. Thing is, he still has an elite slider. The dang thing held a ridiculous 39% CSW last year and now that he’s heading to Minnesota, you have to think they’ll push for him to throw it more than 21% of the time — I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw 35%+ as soon as his first outing.
He still has his tendency for early curveballs (81% of them last year came within the first two pitches of an at-bat) and while they got hit a bit last year, I imagine they’ll be better in 2022. I’ve given up hope for his changeup to turn into a legit pitch like the old days; at the very least, it can be a decent #3 in times of trouble. Just stop featuring fastballs 50% of the time. Seriously, 40% sliders, 30% fastballs, and changeups/curves for the other 30% should work super well. As long as he has his health, there’s a chance it plays out this way and Bundy cruises inside a weak AL Central. Be aware of the possibility.
95. Michael Lorenzen (Los Angeles Angels) – It’s hard for me to rank Lorenzen as he tries to be the best two-way player on the Angels. We saw him flex a pair of stellar secondaries in 2020, as his changeup and slider each carried a phenomenal 23% SwStr rate, while his four-seamer has sat above 96 mph during his time as a reliever. It sounds great until you see the cutter at 30% usage. On one hand, it’s awesome. 37% CSW, absurd strike rates at 75+, 40% O-Swing, this all seems wonderful. However, it’s incredibly inconsistent and gets tattered when batters make contact — there’s a reason batters held a .338 xBABIP on the pitch.
That said, it’s an intriguing enough arsenal on a staff that struggles mightily with health and will likely have a calling for Lorenzen if he were to avoid the injury bug himself. I’m curious to see what happens.
96. Sixto Sanchez (Miami Marlins) – Sixto gave us one of the most hyped MLB debuts in 2020 and looked ready to soar in 2021. Sadly, a shoulder injury removed him from the entire season and we’re still in the dark on when we’ll see him return this year. And if he does, to what capacity? Will he still have upper-90s heat? Will his changeup and slider return whiffs? The Marlins are loaded with pitching talent at the moment and even a healthy Sixto may have to wait it out for a decent amount of time in the minors, twiddling his thumbs until a clear spot opens up.
Be ready to jump when the time arrives. There will be hype around Sixto at some point this year and don’t be slow on the trigger when you see the notification. If he’s starting for the Marlins during opening week, Sixto may become the best pick of your draft.
97. Jameson Taillon (New York Yankees) – It didn’t work out as we planned in 2021. Coming back from TJS, Taillon suddenly became an elevated four-seamer junkie (16% SwStr rate!) but didn’t have the legit #2 pitch to take him over the edge. There were days where the slider and/or curveball become a major weapon, though we didn’t seem him power through to hint at this prime Pittsburgh self. The curveball returned strikes just 55% of the time, while the slider got strikes, its shape allowed for plenty of hits and a .360 xwOBA. Not great.
There’s hope, even as we dream of a speedy recovery from an ankle injury that may force Taillon to be on the IL to start the year. He’s a tinkerer and I’d be shocked if we didn’t see some change of approach or ability in his breakers in 2022 as he tries to find that final piece. Remember, that four-seamer is legit — give him Woodruff’s slider and/or changeup and he’s golden. Don’t draft him expecting that leap, but don’t ignore the possibility, either.
98. Carlos Hernández (Kansas City Royals) – It’s not every day that the fifth starter for a club is the one I rank highest, but here we are … again (sup, Alzolay). Carlos tosses a 97 mph four-seamer that isn’t as effective as you’d want a 97 mph heater to be, and oddly enough, Carlos’ sinker returned a far better SwStr rate than the four-seamer (12.9% vs. 9.6%). Huh. Maybe we’ll see the sinker taking over next year if that trend continues. On the secondary side, there’s promise in both his curveball and slider, but both failed to hit the 60% strike threshold last year. They look pretty when they work, but consistency isn’t there yet.
He’ll be just 25-years-old this year and it’s very possible we see steps forward from the small 85.2 frame sample we saw last year. You have to think the Royals let the kid pitch a ton — he topped out at 107 pitches in August last year — and we’ll be witnessing development on the fly. It could take some time, so be ready.
99. Yusei Kikuchi (Free Agent) – I’m not sure where Kikuchi ultimately lands, but I’ll be watching closely early in the year. He uses cutters and sliders to get his strikes — the former being downright filthy at times, and the latter leaned on more consistently for whiffs — and can be awfully inconsistent with his four-seamer, featuring a shockingly low sub-60% strike rate on the heater. We saw moments were Kikuchi pushed 96 mph and dominated lineups last year, but the pitch ultimately settled at 95 mph and Kikuchi’s season fell with it.
If the overall command improves and he can live comfortably in the zone with cutters and sliders, Kikuchi could flourish. The right coaching squad may be able to get him there and the major positive here is he’s likely to sign somewhere that’ll let him start without hesitation. Definitely worth your streaming consideration at the least.
100. Tyler Beede (San Francisco Giants) – I was a bit shocked to find Beede ranked past #650 in AFBC ADP when I put out this tweet back in January. Does that mean I’m drafting Beede in my 12-teamers? Nah, it’s far too risky to start a guy like him right away. Still, Beede was tossing heaters two ticks harder last year and before the 2020 season, we were hyped about his repertoire featuring three pitches above a 15% SwStr rate.
That’s the kind of pitcher who actually holds the “sleeper” label — someone who has mid-to-upper 90s heat and three secondaries with the ability to miss bats + the opportunity to pitch every five days in a rotation + going undrafted in 15-teamers. The risks are certainly there, though. A) He’s coming off TJS and just put up some terrible numbers in the minors, including an 18% walk rate. B) The Giants could add one more arm before Opening Day and boot Beede from the rotation. C) He’ll likely not be allowed to take on a full workload. D) He’s not a finished product in the slightest. But hey, it’s all about throwing darts at this point and Beede’s intriguing arsenal has me wondering what could be for a kid in a great situation.