Baseball is back!
Spring Training is here for all teams today and as we get updated news reports, late signings, and manager quotes, it’s important to have an idea of what to look forward to among all the noise.
Pitchers can illuminate plenty in their march outings, let it be an increase in velocity, a firm grasp of a rotation spot, new mechanics, or an added pitch to their arsenal. Keep in mind, in most cases, you should be shifting your perspective of pitchers only from a positive change, rarely when a pitcher underperforms as they ramp up for opening day.
To get ahead of the game, I’ve written this starting pitching primer featuring small notes on what I’m looking for from every starting pitcher in the majors across all thirty MLB teams and my basic expectations ahead.
I won’t be updating this before the season starts, but I will be discussing changes I’ve seen during my weekday morning Plus Pitch podcast until the season starts. Let’s get to it.
Zac Gallen – Keep doing the same stuff. He’s dope y’all.
Merrill Kelly – Last year we saw a small velocity increase that didn’t sustain throughout the year. Maybe it comes back?
Madison Bumgarner – 92+ is the ticket to success here. Doubt we see it.
Zach Davies – If the changeup is on, Davies has a chance to be productive. Hard to pull from the spring, though, as it varies start-to-start in-season.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Ryne Nelson & Drey Jameson & Brandon Pfaadt – All three of these are interesting fantasy arms to chase if they get the job. It’s likely Nelson, who has potential with a high four-seamer and a pair of breakers, though it may be shaky at first. Watch for Nelson’s command in the spring. I want to see high 90s for Jameson, though he struggled to get whiffs in the bigs as it came with some lateral movement. If Pfaadt massively impresses, he could snag the final spot, but it’s likely he’s the #7 SP here and we’ll have to wait until the summer.
Max Fried – Aces gonna ace. Hopefully he’s cruising in the spring to help avoid the early blowup start he’s had the last two years. And hey, maybe the slider and curve are consistent whiff pitches now to go with the new changeup?
Spencer Strider – You’re likely going to hear about the changeup getting a focus and it’ll not become a thing when the season starts. As long as he still has upper-90s heat, we’re good here.
Charlie Morton – Curveball dominance is his game. It’s hard to pick anything from spring with Morton, as is with a lot of vets who are likely saving bullets in March.
Kyle Wright – His command is the biggest question to me and if he’s walking plenty of batters, I may be skeptical he can soar for another season.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – Michael Soroka & Ian Anderson – This is a curious battle as Anderson has reportedly been far better as of late. Soroka is hoping to get back onto the hill after missing plenty of time and I’m excited to see both. Focus on the strike rates for Anderson, while Soroka is all about command. The whiffs will come with time and would be too much to expect out of the gate. Whoever gets this spot is someone to consider at the end of your fantasy drafts.
Kyle Gibson – He was throwing a new sweeping slider at the end of last season, I’d love to see him get whiffs in the spring with it, too.
Cole Irvin – Fastballs up can work well with him, I wonder what breakers we see in the spring and if he has something new to show us.
Kyle Bradish – He’s at his best when both breaking balls are working, but if he’s figured out how to get rid of his four-seamer’s cut-action (or fully lean into it to be a proper cutter!), then I’ll be a lot more interested.
Dean Kremer – There’s still not quite enough in the arsenal for me to get pumped, so if his cutter and curve are earning whiffs and his four-seamer looks great, then maybe I can jump in for his home starts.
Grayson Rodriguez – He’s apparently expected to be in the rotation out of camp, so the box scores mean more than the actual stuff here. If he’s succeeding, he’ll fly up boards.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: DL Hall – There’s an outside chance Hall is a starter for the Orioles, but I’d say highly unlikely out of the gate. Still, I love watching Hall chuck upper-90s with a wipeout breaker and I sincerely hope he does so this spring without letting the walk rate climb. Rodriguez + Hall out of the gate with an improved Bradish could be some seriously fun stuff.
Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale – Just be healthy. And sitting 94+ mph. And actually going five frames by the end of it. Thanks.
Corey Kluber – He was below 90 mph last year and I wonder if we’ll ever see 91 mph from him again. Hard to pull anything out of spring from him save for complete disaster.
Nick Pivetta – The idea that I could buy into Pivetta actually fixing his command from a small spring sample is silly. However, if he has premier upper 90s velocity, then maybe we can negotiate.
James Paxton – We haven’t seen him pitch in ages and if there’s a way he can sit mid-upper 90s again with his cutter and curve, I’ll be so excited. Keep an eye on him.
Garrett Whitlock – I’m a fan of Whitlock’s first start against the Pirates and as long as his sinker is hitting its spots with solid sliders and changeups, he should be on your radar.
Marcus Stroman – I’d be surprised if we got amped on something here, maybe the slider/cutter getting extra focus? There’s whiff potential there.
Jameson Taillon – I wonder if the Cubs are going to do anything new with Taillon – I still feel he should be throwing more curves, while the slider needs to be something different. I’m curious to see what he looks like.
Drew Smyly – As long as his sinker is 93+ mph elevated with those curves sitting down, Smyly could be a sneaky add early in the season.
Justin Steele – The slider should be getting whiffs, but is the fastball (or really anything else at all) doing anything to impress?
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – Adrian Sampson & Keegan Thompson & Hayden Wesneski – I hope it’s Wesneski here as his breaker is fantastic. Maybe Sampson or Thompson do something that wows us (doubtful), which means it’s more about seeing if Wesneski becomes the clear option or not.
Chicago White Sox
Dylan Cease – Literally, don’t walk guys. K thx.
Lance Lynn – Is he throwing enough strikes and not losing more velocity? He was great once he got settled from his knee injury last season, though the velocity has dropped a bit year-to-year. Pray it doesn’t fall further…
Lucas Giolito – Hoooo boy. He apparently changed his arm circle once again in the off-season, which hopefully fixes the whole “hey, here’s an 89 mph fastball” we saw in September. I want to see him sitting 93/94 mph in the spring. If he’s doing that, then consider him a Top 30 SP in my book, no joke. It’s all about velocity here.
Michael Kopech – He endured a knee injury last year, got surgery, and is apparently ready to go. Monitor this one a ton – if his velocity is back to sitting over 96 mph, then I’m very much interested in Kopech. 2022 was not a consistent arm.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Mike Clevinger & Davis Martin & Sean Burke – I don’t expect Clevinger to be starting for the White Sox as he’s under investigation for DV charges. The back-up options could be Davis Martin, who has a solid slider but not the best heater, and Sean Burke, who apparently the White Sox are very high on. I’m focusing heavily on Burke in the spring as if he’s impressive, he may sneak into that fifth spot and surprise everyone.
Hunter Greene – I want to see four-seamer command up in the zone as often as possible. Greene is elite with his heaters and highly susceptible when the ball finds its way down.
Nick Lodolo – I’d love to see the changeup look great for Lodolo, but otherwise, as long as he keeps the walks down he should be all good.
Graham Ashcraft – I really want Ashcraft to turn into a hard-throwing Drew Rasmussen by leaning into cutters and sliders more than the sinker. Command is everything here.
Luke Weaver – If Weaver finds a way to hard a third option on top of his four-seamer and changeup, there could be something here. You’ve said this since 2019. So what if I have?
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Brandon Williamson & Luis Cessa & Justin Dunn & Connor Overton – I’m awfully curious about this one. Cessa is just a slider reliever who happened to start last year but is the clear option at the moment. However, if Justin Dunn is able to recover from his shoulder issue and perform in the spring, he may force his way into the rotation if he has the velocity bump he featured in Seattle. Overton could grab the spot with a great spring as well, though I’m not very interested in him for fantasy purposes. Then there’s Williamson, who carries the most upside of the bunch and is determined to break camp with the team. Watch his starts if you can – he could dominate and make the Reds do what they did with Greene and Lodolo last year with early callups.
Shane Bieber – Is the velocity coming back at all? He was 94 mph in his prime and sat around 91 mph last year. I’d love to see even 92-93 mph consistently.
Triston McKenzie – I honestly wonder if he’s bulked up at all – adding some strength would help his mechanical stability to better command his pitches (it’s the reason PLV doesn’t like him!). I want to see 94 mph from his heater with the slider consistently spotted down-and-glove side.
Cal Quantrill – Dude, I have no idea how you keep doing this so you do you.
Aaron Civale – Curveballs + cutters over 67% of the time, please. The sinker and four-seamer need to get shelved and if we get 35% curveballs alone, I think there’s hope.
Zach Plesac – He had the slider back last year, but not the changeup. Focus on the slowball’s usage and outcomes.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Cody Morris & A whole lot of Guardians prospects – Cody Morris is the clear #6 and is someone to watch for with an elevated four-seamer and solid cutter. The Guardians also have a slew of prospect arms (even with Daniel Espino out with injury) like Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee, and Logan Allen (not that Logan Allen), who should bring some excitement during the spring.
Germán Márquez – Calm your thoughts and quietly remember that whatever you see in the spring is not located in Coors.
Kyle Freeland – Calm your thoughts and quietly remember that whatever you see in the spring is not located in Coors.
José Ureña – Calm your thoughts and quietly remember that whatever you see in the spring is not located in Coors.
Austin Gomber – Calm your thou–okay Gomber is a little more interesting and I want to see his breakers working effectively.
Connor Seabold – Calm your thoughts and quietly remember that whatever you see in the spring is not located in Coors.
Eduardo Rodriguez – There was hype last year for Erod and his injury + AWOL situation last year has us wondering if he’s the same guy. Even the box scores will help us here – if he’s performing just fine, then maybe we should reconsider him again.
Matthew Boyd – I want to see the slider back in full getting whiffs, with the velocity comfortably above 93 mph. There’s a chance he has his renaissance back in Detroit.
Michael Lorenzen – The slider and changeup are his two best assets and if Lorenzen is leaning on them plenty toward success, that could make him an interesting deep play.
Matt Manning – The fastball needs to be above 95 mph consistently with one of his breakers looking solid. Haven’t seen it with consistency yet.
Spencer Turnbull – He’s back from TJS and I wish he’s four-seamer focused at 94 mph with one of his slider/curve looking wicked. I’m so curious what he looks like.
Framber Valdez – Don’t walk a ton of guys.
Cristian Javier – Also don’t walk a ton of guys. I would love to see the breaking balls get a ton of strikes, too.
Luis García – I wonder what his mechanics look like now that he needs to speed up his “rock the baby” motion. Also, lots of cutters and sliders please.
José Urquidy – He’s a kitchen sink guy who went away from it for a moment last year before returning to the four-pitch approach. I hope to see that established early this year.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE – With Lance McCullers Jr. out indefinitely, Hunter Brown should step up. His command is the biggest question for me (can he elevate his four-seamer enough to get whiffs on it?) and if he excels in the spring, he’ll be in that rotation. I’m excited to see what he brings to the table.
Kansas City Royals
Brady Singer – I guarantee you there will be plenty of discussion surrounding Singer’s changeup and I highly doubt it will become a major thing. If there’s something truly new that shifts him from his standard sinker/slider approach, then take notice.
Zack Greinke – His velocity is going to be down, y’all. It’s what he does every spring as he slowly ramps it up.
Daniel Lynch – I’m not sure what to look for here. Honestly, it may be as simple as “is he getting a lot of strikeouts?” He would be doing so with the “BSB” approach if so – high heaters and low breakers.
Jordan Lyles – He’s at his best when both slider and curve are filthy. I doubt we’ll see that much in the spring.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Kris Bubic & Brad Keller & Ryan Yarbrough – It seems like Yarbrough is the option here for the Royals and there’s a touch of excitement there as he won’t be over-managed like he was with Tampa, though there is Brad Keller as well (blegh) and if Bubic can finally have above average command with 92/93 velocity, he may demand the spot.
Los Angeles Angels
Shohei Ohtani – Be healthy and throw 40%+ sliders again.
Patrick Sandoval – His changeup was in-and-out last season while the slider got better. If the changeup gets a ton of whiffs, that’s a wonderful sign, while I wonder if he can make a pitch usage adjustment to avoid the fastballs as much as possible.
Reid Detmers – Is the slider getting whiffs? Seriously, this is incredibly important for Detmers. If it is, he can be an ace. If not, it’s the first half of 2022 all over again.
Tyler Anderson – I wonder if the changeup is as effective as it was last season. The increased usage is likely still around, but will the results follow?
José Suarez – He’s great against lefties, but doesn’t have a great weapon against right-handers. Monitor his attack against RHB and see if something’s new.
SIXTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Griffin Canning & Jaime Barria & Chase Silseth – The Angels traditionally go six-man to accommodate Ohtani, and I’m a bit excited to see if Canning can look like his old self with two strong breaking balls and four-seamers around 94+ mph. There’s upside here and watch him closely. The backup options are Barria (meh) and Silseth (good splitter but not enough), who I don’t expect to be any different than their 2022 iterations.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Julio Urías – His velocity was down to 92 mph last year for a bit, I hope he’s above 93 mph consistently with a changeup that actually gets whiffs. Curveball should be phenomenal, though.
Clayton Kershaw – Just be healthy and 90/91 mph on the heater.
Tony Gonsolin – The slider needs to improve (too few strikes), but if the splitter is still getting a ton of strikes and avoids damage, he’ll still be worthwhile. I have my concerns, though.
Dustin May – I really want him to turn into a four-seamer pitcher instead of a sinkerballer, but if May is getting whiffs with his breaker (i.e. not wasting the pitch often), it will push him up my draft boards. We know the potential is there and command was lacking heavily when he returned from TJS last season.
Noah Syndergaard – Is his velocity actually up after working with Driveline? Is he getting slider whiffs again? Spring feels like a huge influencer for Syndergaard after his heavily mediocre 2022 post-TJS.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Gavin Stone & Bobby Miller & Michael Grove & Ryan Pepiot – They won’t make the opening rotation save for an injury, but all four of these pitchers could become fantasy assets in-season if they are allowed to get 5+ innings with regularity. Have fun getting glimpses of them in the spring (will Pepiot actually command the supposed 80-grade changeup?!).
Sandy Alcantara – I wonder if we’ll see whiffs on the slider and changeup – he could be a 30% strikeout rate guy if he keeps them down a bit more.
Jesús Luzardo – 96/97 mph without health concerns? I also would love to see the curve and change work in tandem this year.
Trevor Rogers – His four-seamer wasn’t the issue, it was the change and slider command. He has the tools, just needs the polish. Monitor his K/BB numbers heavily.
Johnny Cueto – We all want Cueto magic to still be there. I don’t think it’s a wise dream to chase.
Edward Cabrera – He should get the number five spot and I’ll be watching to see if his four-seamer command has improved – it held a 50% strike rate last year and that has to be better. The changeup should still be low-to-mid 90s, which is absolutely dumb.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Eury Perez & Braxton Garrett & Sixto Sánchez – We’ve been waiting for Sixto to be healthy since the start of 2021 and I’m excited to see him on the bump again. Perez is a young arm who’s sure to get a ton of buzz when he starts and Braxton Garrett is expected to get a fair amount of starts filling in this year.
Corbin Burnes – Aces gonna ace. Don’t walk everyone?
Brandon Woodruff – He was horrid last year due to Raynaud’s Disease and I just want the man to not struggle this year.
Freddy Peralta – Is he actually healthy? I have many concerns about his shoulder issues and just want him to thrive.
Eric Lauer – is he sitting 94 mph? The four-seamer success at the top of the zone at that velocity propelled his early dominance, but it faded through the year. Hopefully the secondaries look great as well.
Wade Miley – Locating cutters glove-side and changeups arm-side is everything with Miley. As long as he’s stretched out in full, he should be the same ole guy.
Joe Ryan – He threw a touch harder last year and I wonder if there’s still more velocity in the tank to sit 93+ mph. He’s also apparently throwing a new slider and I’d love to see it get a ton of whiffs.
Pablo López – He’s likely still four-seamer/change, so as long as Pablo is healthy without any warning signs, we’re good to go here.
Sonny Gray – I’d love to see dominance with both the slider and curve here – I don’t trust Sonny as a guy who can succeed with just four-seamer and sinker.
Tyler Mahle – Is the shoulder still bothering him? His four-seamer is elite, but fell a tick down to 93 mph last year with the injuries. I would love to see him at 94 mph without any hiccups. Oh, and is there a secondary pitch we should care about here?
Kenta Maeda – He’s coming back from TJS and if the splitter/slider are down and the fastball command is there, I’m super pumped. Would love to see him back to the 91/92 mph range as well.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Bailey Ober – I still believe Ober can be a strong starting pitcher with a great elevated four-seamer and developing breakers. He’s the clear #6, though, so we’ll get a peek and wonder when we’ll see him in the rotation again.
New York Mets
Justin Verlander – Just do your thing Verlander. K thx.
Max Scherzer – Same with Scherzer. It’s all about health here, so as long as he’s starting and not showcasing a massive velocity drop, we’re good.
Carlos Carrasco – He should be the same ole fella, but if the strikeouts aren’t there, it may be a sign to something wrong as he’s had a history of injuries.
José Quintana – Command is everything here – look for the four-seamers up and curveballs down with precision. Without that, he’s back his 2021 self and we want none of that.
Kodai Senga – I’m so curious about this. His velocity is apparently mid-to-upper 90s with a legit splitter, though I’m mostly curious to see if his slider is a legit #2/#3 pitch. If not, it might be a little too volatile with the splitter focus, especially if its velocity doesn’t come with whiffs.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: David Peterson & Tylord Megill – Maaaaan, I want Tylord to start again, but it looks like he’s stuck being the first or second backup at this time. Hopefully the velocity is still 96+ mph on the fastball with a lovely slider. As for Peterson, his slider held one of the higher SwStr rates last year and as long as that’s still present, there’s room to grow with the fastball that we could see in the spring.
New York Yankees
Gerrit Cole – Aces gonna ace. I wonder how many longballs he’ll allow in the spring.
Carlos Rodón – Velocity is king with Rodón and as long as it’s above 95 mph, we’re golden.
Luis Severino – Just be healthy and sit 95/96 mph.
Nestor Cortes Jr. – There was a hamstring injury that kept him out of the WBC, but as long as he’s fine and still sitting 91/92 mph on the deceptive heater, then we’re solid.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Domingo Germán & Clarke Schmidt – Germán seems like the obvious choice after starting a fair amount last season and I don’t anticipate much of a change from his former self in the spring. However, Schmidt could earn the role with his new cutter and pay attention to this. Whoever gets the starts may find their way into a large number of wins, especially with Frankie Montas possibly out for the full year.
James Kaprielian – Kap was chucking 96 mph heaters last year but with questionable command. If the fastball is still hard and the walks are missing, this could spell a fun time with his fastball/slider combo.
Paul Blackburn – He has a big curveball and if that thing is cooking, he may spin off another positive stretch for fantasy managers this year. I don’t expect to get too hyped here, though.
Drew Rucinski – He excelled in the KBO, which always gets my attention as someone who could form into a solid “Toby” during the year. I’d love to get a great look at his current approach and see if there’s legit six-inning potential here.
Shintaro Fujinami – I wonder what we’ll see here. His numbers in Japan weren’t the most stellar we’ve seen, but there’s good velocity and a lovely splitter inside that arsenal. It may be middling, it may be a sneaky add.
Ken Waldichuk – Waldichuk has a lot of fans of his high four-seamer, but command is a major concern. He looks to have a rotation spot for the Athletics and he may turn some heads if he takes a step forward from his 2022 rookie year.
JP Sears – Technically this is some fun here, but there’s also a chance he makes the rotation so we’re just going to add him in. Sears performed well during his debut for the Athletics, though I heavily question if his fastball can survive inside the zone as much as it did. Watch to see if his velocity creeps up or if he gets regular whiffs out of nowhere.
Zack Wheeler – He gave us a ton of concern with his forearm last year and low velocity in his first WS start, but exploded in Game 6 for upper 90s heat. It’ll likely be slow to start, but if he’s regularly throwing and ramping up the velocity to 96+ mph, that’ll make me feel a bit better. Remember, he had shoulder stiffness to start last year and needed a little longer to rev up (the lockout did affect that, of course).
Aaron Nola – Aces gonna ace. Not much here except for don’t be terrible.
Taijuan Walker – His velocity fell to sub 94 mph last year and without a strong fastball, I don’t trust Walker’s splitter/slider on a given night. Look for the fastball to sit above the 94 mph mark again.
Ranger Suárez – Suárez is a command guy and found his rhythm in time for the Phillies to have their playoff run last year. Sadly, I don’t expect to find something in his arsenal in the spring to get me hyped.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Andrew Painter & Bailey Falter – Here’s the thing. It’s likely Falter, who I don’t expect to look any different from last year (maybe he’s actually sitting 92+ on his heater?), but you should be heavily invested in the performance of Painter. If he’s ultra-dominant, the Phillies could be aggressive and make him the #5 starter out of the gate. It could be a huge deal for fantasy teams.
Roansy Contreras – The fastball velocity dipped in the second half and I’d love to see Contreras become a consistent 96/97 mph guy – after all, his four-seamer was crushed for 40% hard contact last year.
Rich Hill – Honestly, just being to stand on the bump consistently. He’s a marvel.
Mitch Keller – It does feel like Keller is awfully close as PLV adores his slider and his four-seamer did jump in velocity last year. If he can pull off the “BSB” with any consistency, I’ll take notice. Focus on his heaters and low sliders and their efficiency.
Vince Velasquez – Are they actually letting him start consistently? Is he anything more than just four-seamers?
JT Brubaker – The slider can be so good but the sinker is so dang rough. Something needs to be new here.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Luis Ortiz & Johan Oviedo – Ortiz throws awfully hard and should find his way back into the rotation soon, with an outside chance of demanding a spot with a dominant spring – he wasn’t consistent with his locations last year and that’ll be the focus for me with his fastball/slider combo. I think Oviedo has solid raw ability that still needs some polish and I’m excited to get a peek at his development.
St. Louis Cardinals
Adam Wainwright – ¯\\\\\\\\_(ツ)_/¯ – We can’t translate the spring for a vet like Waino, but I don’t have high expectations this year with his questionable sinker + no Molina behind the dish.
Jack Flaherty – Just be healthy and sit 94 mph. I miss the old Flaherty.
Miles Mikolas – Unless he somehow becomes a whiff guy, I doubt I’ll be able to pull anything away from Mikolas, save for a ridiculous K/BB rate.
Jordan Montgomery – I wonder if he’ll be sinker or four-seamer focused as the Cardinals initially leaned on the latter, but then went back to the former down the stretch. Also, his changeup and curve get whiffs but are often wasted and I’d love to see more consistency with them to return strikeouts.
Steven Matz – Don’t forget about him! If he’s healthy and looking normal, he’ll get this fifth spot and be far more decent than his injury-riddled 2022 season.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Matthew Liberatore & Dakota Hudson – Okay, Hudson isn’t actually fun, but Liberatore was throwing harder last year in the second half with a new slider. I consider him a legit sleeper for 2023 and pay attention to his performances this spring as he could be the first guy up to fill in for an injury.
San Diego Padres
Yu Darvish – What does his approach look like? I want to see more sliders from Darvish + four-seamers located up inside of settling for “anywhere in the zone”.
Joe Musgrove – Has he figured out how to use his fastballs to their fullest yet? His breakers are so good and the four-seamer/sinker often get in the way, even at 30% usage.
Blake Snell – The changeup looks to be pretty much gone now (YES!) but the four-seamer command can be tweaked as he’s often missing too far arm-side. I’d love to see him able to locate the pitch glove-side, hinting at a higher strike rate for it and setting up two of the best breaking balls in the game.
Michael Wacha – Wacha was excellent last year when he commanded the zone, but it’s a hard bet to make right now. Watch his locations to see if he’s already in a good rhythm.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Seth Lugo & Nick Martinez & Adrian Morejon – With the signing of Wacha, it muddies the waters for the Padres’ rotation. Maybe they go a six-man to get Lugo and Martinez opportunities, while I really want to see more of Morejon. I think his fastball/slider combo from the left side is awfully nasty and could become a legit arm in a hurry (he’s expected to be a bullpen guy for now, though). As for Lugo, I wonder if he can get enough from his arsenal to start, while Martinez needs to tweak his heaters so they don’t burn him as much as they have in the past. More breakers please.
San Francisco Giants
Logan Webb – Is the slider the big whiff pitch from 2021 or the tighter one from 2022? Yes, I want the former one.
Alex Cobb – Is the velocity still up at 95 mph? Does he have anything new to help complement the splitter and sinker that isn’t just early curveballs?
Sean Manaea – The secondaries were inconsistent last year and I’d love to see Manaea focus on their development in the spring while comfortably sitting 92+ mph on his heater.
Ross Stripling – The changeup is so dang good from Stripling, but the rest isn’t, especially the four-seamer. I question he can replicate 2022 without something new to the mix, whether it be an approach change or a new offering now.
Alex Wood – The velocity was up last year and the slider still got whiffs, and yet he struggled. I’m curious about hearing something refined with his changeup or another offering.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Anthony DeSclafani & Kyle Harrison – Did you forget about Tony Disco? He dealt with ankle injuries last year and wasn’t able to get significant innings – I hope he’s healthy and effective in the spring. Then there’s the hard-throwing Harrison who is expected to make his debut when the Giants need another arm early in the season. I can’t wait to get a glimpse of him this spring. And now, I’m not forgetting Sean Hjelle or Sam Long, but they are far behind these two in my eye, even if Hjelle had some flashes of brilliance last year and Long has a lovely curveball.
Luis Castillo – Is he legit going elevated four-seamer + slider? I really hope he can throw sliders consistently down-and-in to left-handers. Oh, and maybe he gets his elite changeup back. That would be cool.
Robbie Ray – He apparently has a new splitter, though I’m more focused on his four-seamer sitting above 94 mph instead of its depressed velocity last year. The sinker is likely back, too, which I have mixed feelings about given its horrible PLV scores. Maybe it was good just for being something different from the four-seamer?
Logan Gilbert – The Mariners pitchers have all been working on new pitches, Gilbert very much included. I hope the splitter is the whiff-heavy secondary pitch he’s desperately needed, and while I’m sure we’ll get a strikeout GIF of the pitch this spring, monitor the actual consistency of it in games.
George Kirby – I want to see if he’s improved his slider or curve to a point where he can complement his four-seamer properly. There’s so much potential here if he can unlock a dominant #2 pitch.
Marco Gonzales – He’s holding onto the #5 spot for now and the only thing to note here is if he’s good enough to keep it. I don’t expect Chris Flexen or Emerson Hancock to suddenly steal it from him, and if Marco has a great spring, you can likely thank the changeup command for that.
Tampa Bay Rays
Shane McClanahan – I just want him to quell our concerns about the shoulder impingement and neck stiffness from last year. Also, does he have something new for left-handers ala the changeup usage he increased against right-handers last year? LHB is his biggest weakness as the four-seamer doesn’t quite do enough.
Tyler Glasnow – He’s healthy and getting strikes with his slider and curve, right? That would be wonderful.
Drew Rasmussen – I think there’s legit whiff potential in his cutter and slider and I hope we see a glimpse of that in March.
Jeffrey Springs – He struggled with command against left-handers – I want to see either the breakers get located down-and-gloveside better or the changeup to be introduced lefty-on-lefty.
Zach Eflin – Did the Rays tweak him at all? Are we going to see an increase in curveball usage once again?
Jacob deGrom – Hi. Please throw baseballs.
Andrew Heaney – Outside of being healthy n all, I’m curious if Heaney can have the same fastball & slider command he flexed as a Dodger last season.
Nathan Eovaldi – VELOCITY. Seriously, Eovaldi was 96/97 mph before his mid-season injury and then came back around 94 mph. If he’s still down there, he’s not the same guy. If he’s back to 96/7 mph, my interest is piqued.
Jon Gray – Is he 96+ mph and healthy with his elite slider? Does he have a new weapon against left-handers?
Martín Pérez – Is the changeup command down-and-gloveside? Is he able to avoid the heart of the plate with sinkers and cutters?
Toronto Blue Jays
Kevin Gausman – Will the horrible luck ever come to an end?
Alek Manoah – Is he getting the sinker inside to right-handers? Is his slider getting the whiffs it deserves?
Chris Bassitt – Is he still able to sneak his sinker over the plate for called strikes? Has he upped his curve/cutter/slider usage to 60%+ combined?
José Berríos – Berríos needs to locate fastballs better across the board. I doubt we’ll get a good answer on that in the spring.
Yusei Kikuchi – Command has always been an issue, but he’s also shown success when he’s sat 96 mph on his fastball. It’s an outside chance in the spring and I’d be cautious of any momentary success in the spring- it’s often fleeting.
THERE’S SOME EXTRA FUN HERE: Nate Pearson & Ricky Tiedemann – Looking past Mitch White who will likely still have a poor heater, the Jays are in all likelihood using Pearson in their bullpen but could still give us some fun innings in the spring. Tiedemann, however, looks to be a legit starter who could make an impact the moment he gets a job with the Jays. It’s likely not happening until mid-season as the Jays have been ultra-cautious with his innings thus far, but I’m excited to get a taste in the spring.
Patrick Corbin – Look, Corbin was the most unlucky pitcher in all of baseball last year according to Hit Luck. Maybe he still has 93/94 mph velocity and misses a ton of bats with sliders, okay?
Josiah Gray – Look for the slider and curve to overwhelm while avoiding damage with heaters. There’s a shot he can pull it off, but he has to do everything right.
MacKenzie Gore – I hope he has a clean bill of health, with fastballs at 95/96 mph up in the zone, setting up low breaking balls. The potential is still there, I think he just needs the time to sort it out.
Trevor Williams – He had a surprisingly high strikeout rate last year and who knows, maybe he finds a way to maintain it during the spring. That’s the best you’ve got? It’s T-dubs, of course it is.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT CHALLENGE: Cade Cavalli & Thaddius Ward & Chad Kuhl & Friends – For all the lack of excitement we have about the Nationals’ rotation, they still have some interesting starters to watch this spring. Kuhl has a fantastic slider and could show something new with his fastball. Cavalli was a highly touted prospect who floundered in his debut but might have some magic left. Lastly, Ward was a Rule-5 pick who turned some heads late last year. I wonder what we’ll see from him this March.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photo by Megan Ellis / Unsplash
Nick, Keep doing the same stuff. You’re dope man.
In what world is 13-4, 3.05, 190Ks horrid? *eyeroll*
Can you please talk a bit more about what you are seeing with Ashcroft? I’m seeing everywhere that he has a new slider. But, didn’t he already have a slider? I’m so confused!! Getting him to be Rasmussen would be dope. Is that the kind of slider wrinkle that you are seeing or at least hearing be talked about?