It’s time to rank the top 300 starting pitchers for 2023 fantasy baseball drafts. Not Top 100, not 200, not 250, but I ranked 300 pitchers just for y’all.
We’ve launched PL8 with a slew of new features, but most importantly it means our fantasy baseball draft kit is live on the site. Check out all our 2023 rankings paginated at the top and bottom of this article, including the draft kit hub featuring all our rankings + many helpful draft prep articles throughout the preseason.
Let’s rank some dang starting pitchers.
I UPDATED THESE RANKS ON 3/23 HERE: https://www.pitcherlist.com/top-100-starting-pitchers-rankings-for-fantasy-baseball-2023-updated-3-23/
CLICK ON THE LINK ABOVE FOR UPDATED RANKINGS.
I anticipate many of you won’t read this and instead skip ahead to see where certain players are ranked. I don’t blame you, do your thing. However, if you’re to get the most out of these 45,000 words I’ve written, it’s important you understand where it’s coming from on my end. If this all seems familiar, it’s because my strategy remains consistent with what I discussed in October. Please excuse the copy-and-paste from that article.
It’s important to take a moment to express my general philosophy for drafting starting pitchers. It remains unchanged from years past in case you’ve heard me say this before. My strategy comes in two parts:
- 1. Draft FOUR starting pitchers I trust to never drop during the season
Essentially, you don’t need to get two of the Top 15 starters to excel. Instead, develop a foundation of four starters who won’t be so bad that they deserve a drop. This year, that speaks to the Top 40 starters or so, but creeps into the 50s as well. It doesn’t mean just get four and call it a day; it just means having four starters allows you to have a foundation, even if it’s not including a Top 10 starter. I heavily encourage grabbing four and then aiming to fill up the next two or three within that Top 60 if you can – generally, SP value lies in the middle of the draft, anyway.
Note: With a greater understanding of the draft pool, I’ve changed this from three to four pitchers since October’s rankings.
- 2. Chase upside & pitchers you can drop early instead of middling decent pitchers
This is I Don’t Draft “Toby”s in a nutshell and is rooted in how much opportunity there is on the waiver wire in April & May. You need to put yourself in a position to take chances on pitchers early in the season as so many of them hit and become legit foundation starters through the year. Make sure your final pitchers are guys you can move on early in April if it’s not panning out, and if you draft middling arms instead, you’ll likely hold onto a 3.70 ERA guy instead of taking the chance on a true league winner. Don’t be that manager.
Don’t believe me? Here are Starting Pitchers who had a 2022 ADP of #260 or later and could be snagged in your leagues:
And that’s not even including this rag-tag crew containing many pitchers you were able to grab at specific points of the season for legit value:
Now you understand. That’s where I’m coming from with these rankings and it’s important to not treat them as a “Best Ball” ranking – you’re not drafting a team you hold for the full year. Instead, you’re drafting a team with anticipation that you’re burning and churning at the back end of your roster. It’s the way you win your leagues.
Early SP Schedules
One element that I often don’t discuss this early when doing rankings is the expected opening weekend schedule. It doesn’t have much of an impact on these rankings, but as we get closer to the start of the year and rotations become clearer after trades, signings, and injuries, it may reveal some late-round targets to sneak in a start or two in your head-to-head leagues that may turn into season-long holds (like Merrill Kelly, Tyler Anderson, or Miles Mikolas this season).
I took the liberty to color code the offenses as well: Red = top tier, Yellow = strong, Brown = average, Blue = weak, Green = poor. It’s mostly based on 2022 and could very well change based on the movement this off-season.
Seriously, don’t get too hung up on my offensive rankings here. It’s a quick assessment with many neutral teams possibly falling in either direction and I’m likely underrating/overrating many.
Here is one difference from October: We have a much better idea of who will be benefitting from these early schedules and who will not. As such, I’ve made a GIANT table that contains my best guess at the first opponent for every starting pitcher. It can be a massive game-changer when debating who to take in the final rounds and I hope it helps.
I released said table as an article to help prevent an already bloated article become a little less bloated. Check it out here.
Alright, let’s get to it now. Remember, these ranks are based on a 12-teamer, 5×5 roto format. Adjust accordingly to your situation.
For those unaware:
- “Cherry Bomb” = A volatile pitcher who is either super sweet or blows up in your face. There are few middle grounds.
- “Toby” = A middling pitcher who you can’t decide if they do enough to stay on your team and give you the itch to drop every single day. Named after Toby from The Office. Don’t draft them.
Read The Notes
- This is your reminder to please read these notes as they’ll tell you plenty about my thought process and why I’m ranking guys in a certain way.
- The most important part: I group pitchers together and often times I’ll draft a player from a later tier ahead of someone with a higher rank because I have different needs in my draft. This is why you need to read the notes.
- Seriously. Read the notes. ALL OF THEM.
Tier 1 – The Workhorses
This trio is ahead of everyone else because they have three things in common: a healthy history, glorious production, and a dependable track record of doing so. I don’t advocate reaching for SP in the early rounds, but if you are going to draft a starter that early, take the least amount of risk that you can.
1. Corbin Burnes (MIL) – Do we need to spend much time on Corbin Burnes? He’s the #1 starter heading into 2023 for obvious reasons: His floor is incredibly high as he’s likely to sport a sub 3.00 ERA, sub 1.00 WHIP, flirt with 200 frames and soar above 200 strikeouts. He’s done it since the 2020 season and despite losing a few whiffs on his cutter and having a mini-rough patch in late August, it was business per usual in 2022. H*ck, he even boosted his pitches per game to 99 after sitting closer to 90 in 2021.
The biggest pushback could be the Win totals as Burnes failed to eclipse 12 Wins for the second straight year – and it’s understandable with Gerrit Cole as the other favorable option at this point in drafts (I’ve also seen Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander touted this high as well and that’s another story about floor that I don’t agree with). As for me, if I had to take a starter, it’s Burnes given the whole package and dependability, but you know I’m not doing it. Hitters all day in the early rounds, y’all.
2. Gerrit Cole (NYY) – I spent a lot of time thinking about Gerrit Cole this off-season. There’s so much going for the Yankee ace from a ridiculously good slider to one of the better four-seamers in the game (yes, even with it getting worse since the sticky-stuff ban), but that pesky longball has driven his ERA comfortably over 3.00 the last two seasons and it’s spooked a lot of fantasy managers.
Ho boy, there’s a lot to say here. His four-seamer shifted away from its heavy 55%+ high locations with a sudden drop to roughly 35%, leaning more into shooting knees, and it actually worked: He didn’t allow a single HR on low fastballs. Huh. And yet, despite the tactical shift, Cole still surrendered 33 home runs in 2022. There’s still work to be done. (Aaron Judge baseball…? Maybe.)
First of all, the sheer luck of the longball should be diminished in the year ahead. It’s rare to allow a home run per game across a full season and given the stuff itself is still elite, it’s unlikely for his HR/9 to hover around 1.50 once again. Moreover, there are tangible solutions to the problem. Half of Cole’s homeruns came off lefties despite facing far fewer of them in 2022, which I believe can be solved by two tweaks: utilizing more sliders (just 10% against lefties despite a 26% SwStr rate!) instead of changeups and curves with sub 60% strike rates, and locating more burners inside instead of letting batters get their arms extended on the outside corner.
Why am I so focused on home runs? Because it’s Cole’s only flaw. 200+ frames of 240+ strikeouts and 15+ Wins with a near 1.00 WHIP feels almost like a lock, while it’s that dang 3.50 ERA making managers uneasy as they draft Cole in the second round. Expect it to come down as the tweaks keep coming and enjoy one of the best floors in baseball.
3. Sandy Alcantara (MIA) – Do you have a Sandy Crush? Why not? When reaching for a top starter in drafts, it’s tough to find someone safer than Sandy after far-and-away boasting the most innings of any pitcher in 2022 with 228.2 frames in the book propelling a 200+ strikeout season (volume is a wonderful thing), while his ratios glistened at a 2.28 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.
There are going to be doubts about its sustainability. It’s unwise to anticipate a sub 2.50 ERA and over 220 innings for another season, though I imagine his hit suppression and low walk rate should stick around once again – after all, he tosses 99 mph heaters with regularity, pairing them with a filthy changeup and a slider he confidently features inside the zone. I’d even argue there’s a bit more strikeout upside in the tank as Alcantara irons out some of his command issues with his slider and changeup. Don’t anticipate a 30%+ mark given how effectively he earns early outs with his changeup and sinker, but with a 14% SwStr rate and room to grow, there’s hope for a season comfortably above 200 strikeouts.
With plenty of injury concerns decorating the first few rounds of the draft, Alcantara is a warm blanket as you nuzzle into your couch cushion. Hear the crackle of the fire as you place another broken bat, its life ended by a 100 mph fastball into the hands, into the fire.
Tier 2 – They’re Too Dang Good
I love so many pitchers, but these guys are legit #1 starters who have a little more security in their health than those in Tier 3 while they aren’t as likely to hit 200 frames as those in Tier 1.
4. Carlos Rodón (NYY) – I would be thrilled to have Rodón as my SP1 for 2023. He exploded in 2021 and after getting fatigued that September with a shoulder issue, Rodón dominated in 2022 with the same elevated 95.5 mph heater and proved it to be no fluke, while tossing 178 frames. Don’t be scared by the rugged final few starts – a cracked nail lowered his velocity and worsened his command a bit and even enduring that returned six shutout frames of 10/0 K per BB – and I don’t see his shift to the Bronx as a major negative. Sure, he’s likely not going to keep his HR total under 15 for another season, but the four-seamer is still elite, while his slider does a fantastic job of staying low and dominating batters on both sides of the plate.
There are times that you can see the flaws of Rodón: the ever-elusive command. When he’s able to spot both the heater and breaker, there are few who can touch him, but there are plenty of moments where he fights against himself. He’s not as effectively wild as someone like Robbie Ray, but there are frustrating moments where he needs to execute one pitch to get out of a frame and he simply can’t do it. He’ll be fantastic far more than poor, though, and another 180+ frame season seems likely with a whole lot of strikeouts, great ratios, and plenty of Wins. This is the rock you want.
5. Shane McClanahan (TBR) – Entering 2022, we worried about McClanahan’s four-seamer, wondering if he was going to find a way to limit its hard contact allowed across the season ahead and I have good news and bad news. Wait, he had a 2.54 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 30% strikeout rate! There’s bad news?! I’M GETTING TO THAT. McClanahan’s changeup took massive strides, tripling its usage and dominating right-handers with its 24% SwStr rate and minimal punishment. The pitch was filthy, and pairing that with two stellar breakers that each earned high strike rates turned his four-seamer into a 14% SwStr pitch against right-handers.
Lefties…are another story. McClanahan doesn’t feature changeups against them and the heater is still susceptible. Very susceptible. We’re talking over 46% hard contact allowed with a near .300 average on four-seamers against left-handers as he struggles to locate them effectively around the zone. It makes me wonder whether McShane should introduce a sinker to jam them (just 25% arm-side location on four-seamers against LHB) as his slider and curve work so dang well and need more support from fastballs.
You could see this as a bucket of positivity if you want – McClanahan had a breakout year and has room for growth still – or you could see it as a flaw that could expose itself more often if he faces denser left-handed lineups. There’s also the elephant in the room: his health. McClanahan missed two weeks in September with a shoulder impingement, then skipped a start with a neck spasm shortly after. His final performances weren’t the same, though a seven-inning affair in the playoffs showcased the McShane we know and love.
As I enter my fourth paragraph, I’m still struggling with McShane’s ranking. On one hand, I’m not as concerned about his health as the others behind him and he’s one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball against RHB. On the other, his four-seamer is still a liability and his innings cap seems a touch lower than the rest (stupid Rays). In the end, I’m favoring the skills and possible growth against left-handers over the questionable health of the rest of the Top 10.
6. Brandon Woodruff (MIL) – Two storylines carried Woodruff through 2022. We can’t proceed without discussing the horrid first half, chained down by Raynaud’s disease as he lost feeling in his pitching hand, though in reality, Woodruff was only truly poor for fantasy managers through his first six games. After May 9th? Why that was a 2.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and a 31% strikeout rate in 124 frames. Splendid. There was a five-week beginning at the end of May to resolve the whole “my hand is numb and I really shouldn’t be pitching” thing and in retrospect, I didn’t grasp how good Woodruff was after that initial blip.
Speaking of which, we can thank a lean into his fastball/changeup mix for that. The slowball was obscenely effective, returning a 28% SwStr rate across 413 thrown – a whopping 15 points higher than the league-average changeup. With a true secondary weapon on his side and a four-seamer that found itself back in its old groove, Woodruff was as dominant as ever, making him primed for more sturdy success in 2023 (even if he has yet to eclipse 180 frames, it should happen!). The Brewers are sure to let him pitch through the sixth as often as possible and I’m wondering if it’s possible to sneak a Woodruff pick in the fourth round of 12-teamers. Boy that would be sweet.
7. Justin Verlander (NYM) – It’s hard to argue against Verlander. He’s clearly still got it after last year’s 28% strikeout rate, 23% hard contact, and, oh yeah, a 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Heading to the Mets is sure to keep his Win chances high along the way, and after tossing 175 innings in 2022, it feels as if any worry of workload following TJS is behind us.
…and yet I’ve been conflicted the entire winter. It’s very possible this is another “big brain” moment, but I can’t shake the signs of regression that make me concerned for what’s ahead in 2023. Verlander allowed just 12 home runs after allowing 28+ for two straight years (bouncy ball n all, but still), his four-seamer had a near 50% drop in SwStr rate down from 15/16% to 10/11% , his slider was a bit worse as well, and there’s a distracting whisper that makes me believe things could collapse in New York.
But Nick! You had him ranked around #20 in October, just expressed how worried you are and now he’s…#7?! Yeah, I know. It’s the hardest part of these rankings – on one hand I have a gut that tells me Verlander is still going to dominate, while some of the numbers do suggest a step back (but how far?). With the slew of talented arms, it’s not much of a stretch to put him back closer to #20, but I sat down and looked at the full cast of SP options in front of the fire, robe and coffee n all. With the lab at my ankles, I eventually sat up with resolve that Verlander is too dang solid to ignore. He should be able to keep his hits per nine around seven or below with a stellar walk rate, which spells a WHIP near 1.00 once again. His ERA shouldn’t balloon north of 3.50, and I’d imagine the strikeouts settle in around 25-28% as he has one of the highest win chances of any starter. If he’s on the bump and doesn’t have massive four-seamer and slider regression, things will be wonderful. That’s worth it up here.
Tier 3 – What Do We Do With You
These guys are the best pitchers in baseball but how much will we actually see of them in 2023? I HAVE NO IDEA. That haze has me not drafting them – why gamble when you don’t have to?
8. Zack Wheeler (PHI) – Honestly, I have no idea how to rank Zack Wheeler because like all of the holy trio inside this tier, it’s about health. Ability-wise, we saw the man he is for yet another season, as his healthy stretch returned a phenomenal 1.95 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP, 29% strikeout rate, and 6.3 IPS across 114 frames. His excellence (not what I’m calling him) was sandwiched between early shoulder stiffness (likely caused by being rushed due to the lockout) and a forearm injury in August. FOREARM?! Yeaaaah, it meant he started three games that each failed to hit 80 pitches to close out his season, and even scared us during the playoffs as he had diminished velocity in his penultimate start.
Why am I focusing so much on his injury history? Because Wheeler’s value is his volume. He’s one of the rare pitchers who can climb past 200 innings in a season given his ability to see the seventh inning like it’s his daily postman, and with his elite ratios and high strikeout rate, it speaks to legit #1 SP in fantasy potential. He throws high-90s with a sinker that boasts a 52% O-Swing (UNREAL) & a legit slider and it’s too dang easy. So make the call you want to make on Wheeler. As I’m typing this, I’m wondering if I should change it (he tossed upper-90s in the final game of the World Series, but then again it’s Game 6 of the World Series) and in the end, I’m likely going to bank it all on what we get out of spring training. If he’s “full steam ahead,” then I could see myself excited enough to push him to #4, but if there’s any worry, he’s falling close to Clayton Kershaw.
9. Jacob deGrom (TEX) – Look, deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet. You know, I know it, my mailman’s grandmother knows it. His slider is the best pitch in the game and his heater is bonkers as it carries a Top 10 VAA in baseball. He’s the biggest injury risk of them all, though, and given the number of productive arms with higher IP expectations than deGrom, I’m electing to stay away.
The way I see it, you’re not going to lose your league because you weren’t the one who drafted deGrom. However, if you went for him in the second round and he doesn’t pitch over 100 innings, it puts you in a horrific spot. Don’t take the volatile risk that you don’t have to take.
I’m going to enjoy watching every second of deGrom on the mound this season and I hope you do too. It’s good for baseball. Appreciate the time we have with him tossing pearls without the anxiety of your fantasy team.
10. Max Scherzer (NYM) – The skills are there, rooted in a slider/cutter combo that is as strong of a secondary duo as any in the game. We’re talking 22-28% SwStr rates and sub 15% hard contact marks. The heater isn’t what it used to be in his peak and allows a touch more hard contact than I’d like, but he pumps strikes constantly and boasts 30%+ CSW rates with four-seamers. It’s lifted by those breakers and makes the whole system work.
The concern isn’t the ability, it’s the longevity. Scherzer’s last 180-inning season was 2018 (he did pitch a full 2020, for what it’s worth) as he only managed 23 starts in 2022. It forces me to pull Scherzer out of the top tier as a 200-inning stalwart season seems highly unlikely for the future 39-year-old as I favor volume this high in the ranks when all have SP #1 ceilings.
Tier 4 – How Are There So Many Great Pitchers?
This is a long tier and maybe too long, but honestly, they are all so dang good, creating the 25 Aces of Dubs. Sure, there are differences here and there, but if you find yourself waiting on pitching and grabbing two or three of these, you’re going to be sitting pretty. Don’t get too caught up debating between them.
11. Luis Castillo (SEA) – The Mariners fixed Castillo! Did they? It may surprise you to know Castillo had a better ERA and WHIP with a much lower home run rate as a member of the Reds last season, though his strikeout numbers ballooned after heading to AL, jumping from just under 26% to a wonderful 29% clip. Throw in a little extra velocity with a tweak in pitch mix and I’m awfully excited about a full year for Castillo with the Mariners.
Forget everything you know about Castillo. He used to sport the most dastardly changeup in the league, but it seems as if his new emphasis on four-seamers has messed up the feel for the slowball. And that’s okay! Why is that okay? Because his slider is ridiculously good. Its 37% CSW and .183 average allowed as he raised its strike rate to a phenomenal 67% rate turned the pitch from the clear #3 to an elite #2 and here’s the fun part: I think it can do more in 2023. Castillo’s slider wrecked left-handed batters, but he only utilized it 16% of the time, favoring his (now) mediocre changeup over it. A simple tweak could turn Castillo into a bigger force in the season ahead.
And let’s say he simply matches 2022. That’s a 3.00 ERA with a sub 1.10 WHIP with a 27% strikeout rate across 150 innings (he was delayed to start the year with a sore shoulder). I imagine he can tally 180+ in Seattle, earning a 200-strikeout season without stress on your ratios for a winning ball club. Yep, I want all of that. Sure, there will be a touch of volatility mixed in here as Castillo leans more on stuff than location, and it’s well worth it. Get him.
12. Aaron Nola (PHI) – I’ve been the Aaron Nola hipster over the years. I loved him before it was cool, then when he soared up draft boards, I elected to look elsewhere. But now we’re in that post-post-pre-post-hype scenario where I’m back in on Nola as others are turning away. Did you realize that Nola has recorded over 220 strikeouts in each of the last four full seasons, and would have been on pace to do so in 2020? He had more strikeouts than Dylan Cease in 2022. The biggest problem for Nola has been the home run rate, which he tackled in 2022 as he improved his curveball location dramatically. And despite carrying a lowered zone rate, Nola’s elite hook returned the same glistening 73% strike rate, while reducing its HRs allowed from 10 to 4 and boasting a marvelous 16% hard contact rate. It’s so dang good.
His sinker is one of the best called strike pitches in baseball, with batters allowing it to land in the zone for a strike over 30% of the time last year. That’s outright ridiculous. His four-seamer put away batters with two strikes better than ever as well, and even though the changeup wasn’t as dominant as previous seasons, he wisely put it on the shelf for his other fantastic tools. Smart man, that Nola.
The way I see it, Nola is sure to have a fantastic WHIP once again with his sub 5% walk rate, while the ERA has a chance of hovering around 3.00 as he cruises through 180+ frames and comfortably over 200 strikeouts. The 4.63 ERA of 2021 is the stain on his record, and even if he carries some “Cherry Bomb” tendencies, I’m in it for the full year. He’s a backend SP #1 as his chance of an upper ceiling is a little lower than others, but hot dang I’d love to grab him in the fifth round of any 12-teamer draft.
13. Shohei Ohtani (LAA) – I sure didn’t expect the 2022 season we saw from Ohtani. After making 24 starts across 130 frames in 2021, I saw it as the likely peak for his volume given the extra days of rest, the higher injury risk (he’s playing twice as much!), and the fact he never had an IL stint. Welp, Ohtani made 30 starts in 2022 and did so while fully embracing his slider, arguably the best pitch in baseball. Its 72% strike rate and 40% CSW are unheard of for a pitch featured nearly 40% of the time, boasting a .164 BAA along the way. Meanwhile, the four-seamer was featured at a high velocity more often, sitting 97+ mph through the year and allowing far less hard contact than before. This is the dream shift you want for any pitcher – throw harder and throw more of your best pitch.
It’s not just a four-seamer/slider game for Ohtani. He has a cutter to gain strikes in the zone, a splitter that is stupid hard to hit…even if it’s not terribly consistent (25% SwStr rate, 12% hard contact), a curve he sneaks in for early called strikes, and then there’s a sinker that wow’d Twitter, as he introduced it late in the season. The latter still has work to be done (its command isn’t there yet), but I’m all for Ohtani adding the offering to jam right-handed batters with.
It adds up to a pitcher you want to start every time he’s on the bump, but those in H2H leagues will be sad to never have him lined up for a two-start week. Pair that with the still heightened injury risk (even if it is DH, it’s still doing more than the normal SP) and it’s hard to tell when it’s the right time to take Ohtani in drafts. SP #2 sounds about right.
14. Spencer Strider (ATL) – Hey, Strider is really good. There’s a reason he boasted a 38% strikeout rate last season in nearly 132 frames: His four-seamer is one of the best pitches in baseball as it sat 98 mph (and routinely hit triple digits) and his slider missed bats at a stupid high 24% SwStr rate. After the disaster of Huascar Ynoa last season, I’ve taken to heart what makes two-pitch pitchers truly work: Both pitches have to be excellent. That’s the case here with Strider, with his heater returning strikes at a near 70% rate and the slider limiting hard contact to a sparkling 9.5% clip.
The ability isn’t the question – it’s the longevity, both in and out of games. His pitch counts climb a touch more than ideal with a 61% strike rate on his slider and his changeup being an afterthought, creating a tougher climb to six frames than the average starter. I also question whether he’s built for a regular workload through a full year. His 2022 came to a halt with an oblique injury and Strider’s smaller frame raises eyebrows whether his body is built to handle the massive velocity across 180 innings (even if he is known as Quadzilla). I adore Strider and what he can do on the field and even if he were to be limited, there’s an argument that earning 200 strikeouts in fewer than 150 frames has a lot of value. All that aside, don’t underestimate the risk embedded in an early Strider pick – there are many great pitchers without the same workload haze.
15. Cristian Javier (HOU) – Take a look at Spencer Strider, take a look at Cristian Javier. They’re the same picture. Javier also has a Top 5 four-seamer in the majors, tossing the pitch 60% of the time and returning just a .183 BAA while missing bats 15% of the time. He throws it upstairs, he does it often, and he gets a ton of strikes with it at a 68% clip. That’s elite. And guess what? He also has a breaking ball that returns strikes around 62% of the time and is stupid hard to hit, allowing just 11% hard contact last season and boasting a 35% CSW. While everyone talks about Strider, you’re gonna draft Javier a few rounds later and thrilled about it. Alert the press, you got CJ. Was that a West Wing joke? You’re dang right it was.
16. Dylan Cease (CHW) – This time last year, I was the guy down on Cease. Why? His slider was still thrown around 30% of the time (now over 40%), his four-seamer allowed a ton of hard contact (it dropped eight points this year), and his curveball wasn’t a dependable pitch (still isn’t). Now that Cease has really leaned in on his elite slider, does it mean that you should draft him above the other stalwarts? I don’t think so. We just saw a peak season where he was able to boast a 2.20 ERA despite a 10.4% walk rate. It’s awfully rare to see such a low ERA with that walk rate and a 6.2 hits per nine should creep back up as more of his mistakes over the plate get punished.
All of that said, I don’t think Cease will be bad. He still seems on path to comfortably hit 200 strikeouts (even if he only had a 25% strikeout rate across his final 13 starts of 79.1 frames), I simply question how much of a hit the ERA and WHIP will take along the way. With a fastball that features a low 62% strike rate and an inconsistent curveball as his supporting cast, it seems as if we’re hoping for another season of being effectively wild instead of annoyingly wild. Why risk it on Cease when you can grab someone a lot safer with a balanced arsenal?
17. Max Fried (ATL) – Sometimes you move into a new place and all you care about is that heat wrapping around your toes as you step across the hardwood. A cozy floor is a good life. That’s what Fried provides with another consistent season under his belt, traversing the same 2021 journey of a few rough starts before months of brilliance. I was hoping for his slider to take a step forward, but we saw both his sinker and changeup become the marvels of the year instead. The slow ball came out of nowhere to return a phenomenal 9.3% HC rate and .173 BAA to go with a 46% O-Swing, while the sinker returned over a 45% O-Swing against left-handers (that’s what you want!).
His curveball does a wonderful job of preventing hits and keeping batters off the fastball (37.5% CSW last year!) and it should be here for another season as Fried has turned into a “vet” after just four seasons. I’m still waiting for his slider to become more than a 14% SwStr offering, but it earned a strike two-thirds of the time, complementing the four-seamer’s precision along the edges. There’s room to grow in the strikeout department, but even at this rate, you’re still getting about 180 strikeouts with a boatload of wins and ratios that we dream of. Don’t underestimate the lower risk of grabbing Fried over the other electric arms at the same spot – stability has a boatload of value inside the Top 100 picks.
18. Alek Manoah (TOR) – Did you realize Manoah had a 2.24 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 2022? It was a magical season despite the 23% strikeout rate and I have both concerns and excitement for the year ahead. On the plus side, Manoah’s sinker does a great job at jamming right-handers (sub 19% hard contact!) while he gets away with the pitch inside the zone to both sides of the plate. His four-seamer held a ridiculous 19% SwStr rate against right-handers and his slider was an effective offering in any situation, with upside for more if he’s able to turn it into a legit back-foot slider against lefties.
Now for the bad. Manoah doesn’t have a strong plan of attack against left-handers. The slider hasn’t developed the aforementioned skill yet and his four-seamer refuses to come up-and-in, lowering its SwStr rate to nearly 10%. He elected to turn to changeups last year close to 20% of the time as a nullifying pitch and it was..rough. We’re talking a strike rate just over 50%, which is normally reserved for pitches thrown just a handful of times a season.
In short, I believe the four-seamer and slider can be better against left-handers, which would resist the inevitable regression and elevate his strikeout numbers, but it remains to be seen. If he performs in the same fashion for another year, expect a rise in ERA and WHIP, but still comfortably in the realm of startable each week – I believe in the sinker’s movement, his four-seamer whiffability, and the slider’s general hotness. He’s a solid SP #2 with upside, especially with what seems like another 180-200 IP season ahead of him.
19. Zac Gallen (ARI) – Gallen Gals unite! Gallen’s first four months of the year were essentially what we expected – through August 2nd, Gallen held a 3.31 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 23% K rate, and 7% walk rate – but then he went on a tear, refusing to allow a run to cross the plate in 41.1 frames across six starts and carried his dominance through the end of the season, boasting a 1.36 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 33% K rate and 6% walk rate in those final 72.2 frames. It was pure bliss watching Gallen find his rhythm, dotting fastballs, keeping curveballs down, and even finding his cutter that had eluded him for much of the year.
He isn’t a guy who misses a ton of bats – his sub 11% SwStr rate ranked him near 120th out of all starters last year – but his precision across his four-seamer, curve, change, and slider is what made him a stud. He was able to induce a ton of swings out of the zone on his curve and change, locating both at the bottom of the zone or below the zone at an abnormally high frequency, and it leads to the biggest question surrounding Gallen: Will he be able to limit hits with the same regularity? The Arizona defense was shockingly elite in 2022, allowing Gallen to record sub .200 BAA marks all his curve, change (well, .202), and four-seamer, the latter at a staggering .165 clip. Don’t anticipate those marks to return in 2023, even if his heater gained just under a tick of velocity to 94.1 mph. A bet on Gallen is a bet that his phenomenal 5.9 hits per nine sticks for another season as he’ll likely push 180 frames for another season. I’m cautious to believe he’ll replicate the same feel he had in that second half, but Gallen will have volume, a solid ratio floor, and hover around a 25% strikeout rate for another season. And who knows, maybe the cutter/slider takes another step next season, too.
20. Julio Urías (LAD) – I was much higher on Urías in October, but I’ve tempered my expectations a little. The drive-by-oh-my-gosh-there’s-no-time summary of Urías is he’s a southpaw with a solid (but a little slower) fastball, an excellent curve that’s hard to barrel, and a changeup that he struggles to locate against right-handers. If that slowball is able to take a step forward (its stuff is great, it’s just the command of it), it opens the door to a 25-30% strikeout rate.
Even if he doesn’t hit that, there’s a good shot at 180 innings of ratio bliss, hovering around a strikeout per inning for one of the best teams to earn Wins. That’s some good cookin’, especially when it comes with a touch of upside for a 26-year-old to figure out his changeup. The guys ahead are simply safer in my view for similar Wins (he can’t keep this up) with a tinge more strikeouts per start.
21. Kevin Gausman (TOR) – We all know the stat that disrupted Gausman’s 2022 season: .364 BABIP. Well, that’s just bad luck! It’s not, BABIP isn’t really all about luck, y’all, and while it’s highly unlikely to plateau above .350, this isn’t a case where Gausman didn’t deserve it.
To get to the bottom of it, I sat down and looked at his lefty-righty splits, believing it was a weakness to LHB and clearly, Gausman’s four-seamer against left-handers has to get better. He’s allowed far too much hard contact on the pitch (37% last year!) as the y-mLoc% is atrocious, comfortably above 30% with a refusal to jam batters inside. In fact, Gausman featured four-seamers as strikes 80% of the time to left-handers and the man has to stop being so chill to throw the thing into the middle of the plate. He needs a thrill pill. The splitter does all the work you’d expect it to against LHB – 52% O-Swing is laughable in the most satisfying way – and it’s the one splitter in baseball I trust to dominate with regularity.
But here’s the thing. When I switched over to RHB…the four-seamer was EVEN WORSE. Seriously, this is the actual problem and it’s a real problem. I’m going to be lazy and rattle off stats now of Gausman’s four-seamer against RHB and you have to deal with it. Each of these should terrify you. Its BABIP jumped 140 points from .282 to .426, and it was justified with his xBABIP rising from .300 to .371. Hard contact from 31% to 40%. xAVG from .271 to .327. Just 36.5% hiLoc% and 33% y-mLoc%. MAKE IT STOP. Okay, okay, but you get the point. Gausman’s four-seamer is a major problem and it’s his fault, not the Jays defense, not the home park, not lady luck. It’s his dang four-seamer.
This is a real issue and I’m not so confident this is going to get fixed overnight. Maybe he makes the tweak to improve his four-seamer command while maintaining a splitter that earned a near 30% SwStr to right-handers last year, and maybe his slider can do better than a 55% strike rate given it’s exclusively saved for early in counts. I just want the slider and four-seamer to have a chat – get the slider more in the zone and the four-seamer can watch from outside it. And yet, despite this blatantly detrimental pitch, he boasted a 3.35 ERA and 28% strikeout rate en route to a 200+ strikeout year. I still want to roster Gausman as an SP #2/3 given how dang good that splitter is, though I’m losing a touch of faith in the four-seamer recovering to a massive degree. He deserved an elevated WHIP and BABIP. I know I’m lower on him than most (others love the K-BB% rate and the low ERA, Win chance, and strikeout rate) but I’m concerned with other arms not carrying such a massive flaw + it is ultimately banking on a splitter in the end, even if I trust it more than any other.
22. Tyler Glasnow (TBR) – I’ve been all over the place trying to figure out Glasnow this pre-season. I was initially in. Then out. Then more out. And now I’m…in?! Am I actually willing to pass on other starters who have a much better chance at being valuable through the entire season in order to get Glasnow? Kinda, yeah. There’s often a “TJS-honeymoon” period that frames Glasnow’s 2023 season as having more innings than you’d think after just tossing 6.2 frames, and the Rays are sure to give him the space to tackle 150-160 frames this year.
And boy can Glasnow excel in those innings. His four-seamer isn’t as electric as you think at 97 mph as it allowed nearly 31% hard contact in 2021…but it also had a 14% SwStr and just a .199 BAA allowed. And his breakers – HIS BREAKERS – they are what Guardians pitchers want to be. The new slider earned 60% strikes and a 36% CSW, while the curveball is one of the toughest pitches to hit in baseball. Sure, it was a small sample in 2021, but a 30% SwStr rate?! A .074 xAVG?! Glasnow is destined for strikeout rates far north of 30% and I just can’t resist getting behind this, especially with the new slider to help with the walk rates.
So count me in. I’m going for it and if you want Bieber instead, I really don’t blame you. Glasnow also has that fun factor that makes you hyped as a fantasy manager and I’m a sucker for it.
23. Shane Bieber (CLE) – 200 innings, 198 strikeouts, and a pair of glistening ratios. It ended as a dream season for those drafting Bieber last spring and I sure didn’t believe it was going to happen…even as the season was going on. Why? Because Bieber’s four-seamer velocity dropped to just 91 mph (not the 94 mph of his glorious 2020 season!) and it was awfully susceptible to damage. Bieber’s heater returned a 41.8% hard contact rate and made me terrified we’d see the ramifications of it through the season. And yet, it never came. Instead, the heater was able to boast the highest called strike rate of its career at 28% and while its .342 wOBA and .294 were far from stellar, but they weren’t enough to sink the boat.
Bieber’s weakest element aside, his trio of sliders, curves, and cutters are still phenomenal. The breakers each returned a 22% SwStr on the season while the cutter was able to earn strikes at a solid 63% clip. These are the pitches hard at work to shield his heater from barrels and they came through in 2022. I’m not sure we’ll see the same exuberant success in 2023 if his four-seamer doesn’t get better. You’re still very likely to get a whole lot of innings, though, and with that comes a likely similar 25% strikeout rate, be ready for some disasters along the way.
24. Yu Darvish (SDP) – We’re gonna play that game today. After Darvish’s second start of the year (in which he allowed 9 ER to the Giants, whoops), Darvish held a 2.79 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with a 26% strikeout rate across 186 innings. Huh. His IPS was closer to seven frames than six, he hit 200 strikeouts, and he will pitch for a winning ball club. Yeah, I think Darvish may be underrated heading into 2023 as a fantastic SP #2 for all squads, and what’s even crazier is that I think there’s a lot of room for improvement.
He’s essentially a three pitch guy with cutters (of varying speeds, of course), four-seamers and slider, with an extra 20% assigned to sinkers, splitters, and curves. None of those prime three pitches hit a 14% SwStr rate last year, yet I think at least the slider and four-seamer can do so.
His slider dramatically grew in low location last season and I can see that tendency increase once again, while his four-seamer lost vertical movement and spin (sticky stuff, obviously) that could return and turn him into a more hiLoc% four-seamer arm (it’s so far away from that right now). What I’m poorly saying is Darvish could get a whole lot more whiffs doing the “BSB” with his four-seamer and slider, while relying on his 70%+ strike cutter inside the zone. I hope to see it, but if he simply repeats 2022, fantasy managers will still be thrilled.
25. Joe Musgrove (SDP) – You want little risk? Musgrove is your guy. Sure, the 2.93 ERA is likely to sit above 3.00 as his WHIP nears 1.10, but he’ll go roughly 180 innings with upside for close to 200 while going more than a strikeout per inning and collecting plenty of Wins with the San Diego offense behind him.
How he gets it done is different than most here. Musgrove is all about the secondaries, utilizing fastballs under 30% of the time and leaning on sliders, cutters, and curves to get his outs. The slider is leader of the pack and is under-utilized in my view as it allows very little hard contact while carrying a 34% CSW and 64% strike rate. If Musgrove were to, say, limit his cutter (32% hard contact, too many “whatever” strikes with it) and feature more sliders while electing to use his four-seamer up in the zone instead featuring an above-average y-mLoc% (not what you want), then I think you’d see Musgrove overwhelm teams with more frequency.
As of now, he has a bit of a system that works and should be stable for you throughout the year. Sure, there will be some bumps along the way – that’s the way it is for everyone – but stay the course and he’ll be a lovely SP #2 for you once again.
Tier 5 – Are They Aces?
These guys all have their moments looking like absolute studs and have the potential to carry you through the season. However, Tier 5 brings the first true risk where talent evaluation begins to be more in question. It may be wise to not wait too long on pitching forcing you to rely on many of these to break the right way.
26. Nestor Cortes (NYY) – There’s one stat that blows me away about Cortes: his four-seamer, a pitch he throws close to 50% of the time against lefties, earned a 19% SwStr against them in 2022. Sure, he only tossed 167 of them, but that should give you an idea of how well his four-seamer can miss bats. It’s the biggest area of growth for Cortes entering 2022, as he increased the pitch’s velocity by a tick, boosting its overall SwStr mark over the 13% hump. I’m a little skeptical it can be replicated in 2023, but 12%+ shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain.
As for the rest of his approach, the cutter stays gloveside and jams right-handers while giving lefties something to think about away, especially with the slider at a slower speed in the same location. The same slide piece acts as a back-door called strike offering to righties (30% CS rate!) and ties the whole arsenal together, presenting four-seamers for whiffs and cutters + sliders to keep batters off balance.
I think it works well enough to be a stable starter for fantasy managers in 2023. I have concerns about his overall consistency with his approach, but I’d be shocked if Cortes tumbled heavily to disappoint trusting managers in 2023. His stuff works, even if his velocity is a little lower and isn’t as flashy as other arms out there. It’ll be boring at times and I’d expect something closer to a 23/24% strikeout rate with a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, but that’s still pretty dang good for an SP3 on a winning club.
27. George Kirby (SEA) – Kirby knows how to use his four-seamer and I love him for it. The pitch held a 64% hiLoc% against right-handers, helping it boast a 19% SwStr rate against them. That’s incredible. It wasn’t as elite against left-handers as they leaked more over the plate than we’d like to see, but it still missed bats 14% of the time and set up a foundation for his breakers.
Like his compadre Gilbert, Kirby’s secondaries are his biggest area of potential growth. His slider failed to eclipse a 10% SwStr and failed to do its job against right-handers (.436 wOBA, 33% hard contact, 57% strike rate), while the curve was used as a “get me over” and not a strong option to lean on. However, I think this can change moving forward. Kirby’s command of the slider was poor in 2022 against right-handers…but excellent against lefties as he targeted the same location: glove-side and down. With more time on the bump, I see Kirby evolving as a four-seamer/slider arm that allows him to ascend above Gilbert and become a rock inside fantasy rotations.
It’s not a given that Kirby will improve on that slider, but I like the chance of it happening as he maintains the performance of his four-seamer. I see a bit of Brandon Woodruff here as Kirby doesn’t need the greatest of sliders to make it work – just one he can rely on for solid strikes against batters on both sides of the plate. That’s the Kirby dreamland.
28. Hunter Greene (CIN) – This was a tough one and I’m going for it. We all know Hunter Greene can throw the soul out of a baseball, frequently chucking pearls above 100 mph in starts, but the question has become whether those pitches are actually good. When Greene is able to locate up in the zone, he’s untouchable, but when the ball lands low, he’s surprisingly mortal, leading to the pitch’s overall 28% hard contact rate in 2022. The run that stands is Greene’s phenomenal six-start run at the end of the season, returning a 1.02 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 37% K rate, and 6% BB rate across 35.1 innings, a time when he was able to locate his heater up in the zone more frequently than before. And considering PLV adores Greene’s four-seamer and slider, it makes me think he’s a cheaper version of Strider and Javier, even if facing the Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, and Cubs made it a little easier for him to excel in that miraculous stretch.
There’s a part of me that really wants to label him as a premium “Cherry Bomb” where volatility will still reign through the season (he is pitching in Cincy, after all), but that fastball is so dang hard to hit when placed properly, and if that second half command is anything close to what we see in 2023, Greene is going to be a stud. If you’re having doubts, understand that he’s turning 24 years old in August and development is typical with younger pitchers around this time – After all, he did fan 164 batters in just 125.2 innings and that was while enduring the volatility. It’s a gamble that could pay off if you lean into it, or he may be a frustrating play through the year. He’s fastball-focused + effectively wild – think Robbie Ray, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow on the high end – and I’m going with my gut to chase it. Take the risk here and be a little safer your next two SPs and you’ll be just fine.
29. Framber Valdez (HOU) – If you want a guy who can flirt with 200 frames and a strikeout per inning without destroying your ERA, you will likely get it from Valdez. You likely know about his ridiculous Quality Start streak last year, which wasn’t a fluke – Dusty will let the man go six frames each and every night while the strong Astros defense helps him return more outs with groundballs than most. He introduced a slider to make left-handers’ lives worse, while the curveball continues to be an elite offering against both sides of the plate. His league-leading groundball rate is sure to stick around for another season, limiting the longball and preventing his ERA from ballooning out of nowhere.
The only issue here is the WHIP and it shouldn’t be ignored. His 1.16 mark in 2022 seems more like a stop on the escalator rather than the peak given his heavy propensity for the grounder (his 7.4 hits per nine and .286 BABIP aren’t going anywhere) while his sinker is near a 40% hard contact pitch. It’s just how it is. Mix the inability to prevent hits on a given night with a walk rate that refuses to be under 8% (after all, he is a nibbler around the bottom of the zone), and that WHIP is not made to sit below 1.10. Valdez can be perfectly paired with a home-run-prone pitcher who walks few and if he’s able to squeeze more out of his new slider, maybe he heads north of the 200-strikeout mark. But that dang WHIP has me grimacing a touch when I draft him in my leagues.
30. Logan Webb (SFG) – It was a solid 2.90 ERA across 192.1 IP for Webb in 2022 and you’ll take that again as a fantasy manager, but the 1.16 WHIP and 20.7% strikeout rate was far from ideal. He stumbled in two facets last season and I hope we’ll see them rectified, allowing Webb to turn back into an SP #2 for 12-teamers once again.
The first is a slider that failed to generate swings off the plate near the same rate. We’re talking a 12 point drop from 44% O-Swing to just 31.6%, pulling down its SwStr rate in the process to a poor dismal 13.4% clip. As Webb struggled to put away batters with sliders at the same rate (31% to just 17% of the time, yeesh), he had to ask more of his sinker…which is a wonderful segue to the second point: His sinker wasn’t nearly as effective. The signature offering still limited home runs and returned a 70% groundball rate, but was smacked harder than ever at a 38% hard contact rate, leading to a .327 BAA – a 60-point jump from its 2021 mark. That’s a problem and it’s not all just the Giants’ worse defense and poor luck.
The good news is that I believe Webb’s slider should return more whiffs than last season, which should help his sinker return better results. He still has a great changeup in the mix as well, featuring an elite 83% loLoc and churning outs constantly. I see Webb as a workhorse for your squad who you’ll never take out of the lineup, but the jury is still out on whether he can be more than an ERA/Wins volume arm. As a #3/#4 SP, he’ll serve you well.
Tier 6 – Please Be Healthy
The skills are there, but how much will injury affect their performance or prevent them from pitching? I like drafting one of these arms, but getting more than one may be too much risk to take on.
31. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – It’s pretty simple with Kershaw. His slider is still one of the premier pitches of baseball – 49% O-Swing and a 71% strike rate across 43% usage (to use a pitch this often and have this much success is unreal) – the sky hook curve is as pretty as ever, and the fastball has found its way to prevent demolition despite its new lifestyle at 90/91 mph. It’s all about health and Kershaw feels destined to spend a significant portion of the 2023 season off the field. Drafting Kershaw is about team construction to me – if you already have a hefty amount of stability, go for it – he could put you over the edge. If even a glimpse of your team inspires anxiety already, you may want to consider something safer.
Appreciate the time we have left with the pitcher of a generation. The end can be very close and he’s still so dang good.
32. Luis Severino (NYY) – There are times in your draft where you’re going to make a choice between “is he going to be healthy enough” or “is he going to be good enough?” and when you’re at the point in your draft when you already have at least three dependable starters, I will always go with chancing health. Why? Because it makes your in-season decisions that much easier. If he’s healthy, you start the guy. If he’s not, you IL him and you get an incredibly valuable roster spot where you can fish for the next best thing.
It’s the major question with Severino in 2023, now one year removed from TJS, but still hampered by injuries after missing significant time in 2022 with a lat strain. His ability isn’t in question – 3.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 28% strikeout rate are legit – and I think there’s even more fun to be had if he embraces the cutter he showcased in April, crafting a deep arsenal of four legit pitches. I get excited watching Severino pitch and if we get to see 150+ frames this year, you’re going to be thrilled about it.
33. Lance Lynn (CHW) – The early season was an absolute struggle for managers with Lynn on their roster. They stared out the window, longing for Lynn’s return and when June 13th came, Lynn proceeded to return a 7.50 ERA and 1.53 WHIP across his first seven starts. Brutal. However, Lynn recovered by drastically reducing his sinker usage (47% hard contact for the season!!) and was an ace across the following 85.2 frames via a 2.52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 26% K rate, and 3% walk rate. He needed time to calibrate and even with a tick off his four-seamer of old, he still pushed a 17% SwStr on the pitch while the cutter pumped strikes galore. It works and he’ll continue to toss over 90 pitches per game and soar into the sixth frame.
If you want to turn away because of the drop in velocity or the fact he’ll be 36-years-old (injury risk? He missed early 2022 with knee surgery), by all
Johns means, you do you. I see a stable arm through the year who will fight harder than most to get his innings.
34. Blake Snell (SDP) – We’ve seen two straight seasons of Blake Snell floundering in the first half to suddenly turn into an ace in the second half, but 2022 was a bit different. His changeup usage was already down dramatically, the difference was his four-seamer approach.
When Snell features his four-seamer in the zone, electing to say “here you go, hit it” instead of nibbling along the edges, everything works. He doesn’t allow a ton of hard contact with it; he gets his strikes, and it allows him to do – guess what – THE BLAKE SNELL BLUEPRINT with his slider and curve. That slider earned a 25% SwStr rate last year with a 63% strike rate. It’s GLORIOUS and needs to be featured more than 24% of the time across a full season. The curve gets bounced a little too often to return the strike rate we want to see, but it can show up on a given day and dominate as well.
One other note on the fastball – I wonder if he can change his mentality to come inside to right-handers. He often misses arm-side and simply shifting his mental approach could return plenty more competitive heaters and improve everything overnight.
I think I generally buy that Snell can pull this off. Once it clicked last season, Snell boasted a 2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 35% strikeout rate across 93 innings across 17 starts. That’s SP #1 ability, y’all. He’s going to have moments when the four-seamer isn’t in the zone and he’s a bit “Cherry Bomb”-esque but I imagine the changeup is in timeout for good at this point and I am here for it. He’s already shown the ability that we’re hoping to see from a lot of SPs in this range, which has me pushing him up a little more than the others. It may be the year to target Snell in drafts.
Tier 7 – So You Need A Fourth Starter
You’re not going to drop these guys all season long, but you’re likely not going to enjoy them like your first three starters. That’s okay. Be thrilled you were able to get a valuable pitcher this late in your draft.
35. Robbie Ray (SEA) – The quick description of Robbie Ray’s 2022 doesn’t make sense to me. Ray struggled until he introduced a sinker in May and held a 2.97 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 28% strikeout rate across his final 118 innings. Why doesn’t this make sense? Because his sinker is BAD. The four-seamer is the star of the show, demoralizing batters on both sides of the plate, with his slider as a good – not great – secondary pitch. But the sinker? It’s atrocious. It’s a low strike rate, allowing a .406 wOBA, carries a horrid PLV, and it doesn’t make sense. Maybe the sinker is amplifying the effects of his four-seamer. Maybe having the pitch located exclusively arm-side (mostly against right-handers! Noooooo) gives him a different section of the plate he couldn’t nail down with his four-seamer. It’s weird and it’s a safe rule to not draft weird.
Overall, I do like Ray’s four-seamer, but I worry about its velocity. The pitch sat 95 mph in 2021 and fell down to 93.4 mph last season, with many games around 92/93 to begin the year. With his ultra-dependence on the pitch, I’m concerned the bottom will fall out from under him this season and drive us managers up the wall. That said, there’s a chance Ray has a better slider, maintains the four-seamer, and is able to perform closer to 2021 performance across 190+ innings. Given the abundance of strong SP options in drafts this year, it allows Ray to be drafted more as an SP #3/#4 if you’re lucky. I’m cool with that, though I think I’ll be favoring others at that point instead.
36. Logan Gilbert (SEA) – Is Gilbert a “Toby”? It doesn’t seem fair to give him the label after just two seasons in the league, but if he doesn’t make tweaks, I think the moniker fits. His four-seamer is good but held a near 30% y-mLoc as he elevated his four-seamers at a league average 50% rate. The breakers didn’t develop nearly as much as we wanted them to, resulting in middling support that perpetuated a near 1.20 WHIP and sub 23% strikeout rate.
There is hope, though. When Gilbert elevated four-seamers in 2022, they demolished batters. If he’s able to eclipse a 60% hiLoc and hammer high heaters with intent, it could open up more success with his lackluster slider and curve, pitches that have been tinkered with as recent as October last year (he flashed a lower velocity slider that may work out in the long run).
I see a 170+ inning arm with a good fastball that will make him fantasy relevant through the full season and the opportunity to be much more than that. He doesn’t come with the terrible floor others around his draft spot carry, though I’m leaning towards chasing arms like Luzardo and Ryan instead, given similar floors and higher ceilings. Here’s to hoping Gilbert makes the necessary adjustments.
37. Chris Bassitt (TOR) – I adore Bassitt and would love him as my #4 SP on squads this year. His 3.42 ERA and 1.14 WHIP felt far better as he endured a rough five-game stretch that included 15 ER in two games near the start of June and never looked back: He boasted a 2.78 ERA and 1.08 WHIP across his final 113 games.
That said, strikeouts aren’t the biggest focus for Bassitt. His sinker gets a stupid high 30% called strike rate against lefties, allowing him to save four-seamers for two-strike counts and elevate effectively. Meanwhile, his cutter jams lefties up-and-in for a fantastic 18% SwStr rate and .189 BAA. Add to that a big curveball coming in 17% of the time that batters simply can’t barrel. It’s all kinds of fun…except for the changeup. Stop doing that.
I also dig what he does against RHB: sinkers to jam and get called strikes, four-seamers with a 17%+ SwStr rate and saved as a putaway pitch, sliders instead of cutters away, and stealing strikes with curves. There’s room for improvement here with the breakers – he doesn’t have the slider command down yet and the curve can get tugged out of the zone a bit too often – but the whole thing works.
That outlines a pitcher who doesn’t have electric stuff and squeezes the most out of a varied arsenal with each pitch doing its job. You’re not going to drop Bassitt during the season, instead starting him every five days for a winning club, helping your ratios, and collecting a fair amount of strikeouts. Considering his ADP is closer to #200 than #100, I’m finding him on plenty of my squads this year.
38. Joe Ryan (MIN) – There’s a whole lot of potential for Joe Ryan in 2023. He’s armed with a four-seamer that doesn’t peak the PLV charts but has consistently performed at the top of the zone, and he increased his velocity steadily, jumping from 91 to 92 mph in 2022, even ending the year around 93 mph. It’s a foundation many fantasize about as it limits hits, earns whiffs, boasts a 70% strike rate, and is leaned on for 60% of his approach.
With a foundation set, it comes down to what’s built on top, and there’s hope. Ryan’s slider is close to being the strong #2 that would propel him into Top 20 SP discussion, but Ryan is still learning how to locate the pitch down-and-gloveside with consistency. It’s not the wildest of breakers, though a small tweak can make a huge difference and transform Ryan into a stud overnight.
The curve is a show-me offering and the changeup is a mediocre left-hander focus that I hope he leaves in the belt often. I see a Brandon Woodruff/Lance Lynn-esque arm here in terms of volume and dependability (especially as the Twins were more inclined to let him face the lineup a third time during the second half), making Ryan a target of mine in drafts for the year ahead. Don’t let the lower velocity get you down.
39. Pablo López (MIN) – We often talk about pitchers who were poor at the beginning of the season but adjusted and were spectacular – “if we just remove his first five starts.” With Pablo…it’s the opposite. Across his final 137 frames beginning on May 18th, López carried a horrific 4.60 ERA and 1.28 WHIP and that should scare you. It comes down to Pablo still being a two-pitch arm, without a strong slider or curve to give batters another look or act as a strong back-up plan when the four-seamer or slowball take a day off.
Sure, there are the cutter and the curve, but they are supporting cast members at best, combining for under 20% usage in 2022. His cutter gets crushed, while he struggles massively to get strikes with the hook, returning a sub 40% strike rate and I believe I just heard you gasp. Don’t worry, I did too.
At the end of the day, I don’t think we’ll see a 4.00+ ERA season from López – his fastball command and filthy changeup outline a strong arm through the year – though I think he’s still incapable of reaching a peak many around his draft pick carry (the dream of being an SP #1/2 for your squads) with his limited repertoire. Without that ceiling, still being a bit injury prone (shoulder problems every year but 2022!) and overall volatility concerns, Pablo isn’t a highly sought-after arm for 2023 in my book. But hey, if everyone is disinterested, I have no problem rostering Pablo – he’s a sturdy arm I trust through the year.
40. Triston McKenzie (CLE) – McKenzie reminds me a bit like Shane Bieber if you combine Bieber’s slider and curve into McKenzie’s curveball. I’m not sure if I trust McKenzie’s 93 mph heater to maintain close to a .200 BAA for another season after allowing over 30% hard contact this past season, but boy do I love his breaker. The Dustin Hoffman-esque hook destroyed batters with a .120 BAA and 23% SwStr rate last year, maintaining a sub 16% hard contact rate. He keeps it low 75% of the time and has a masterful 31% putaway rate on the pitch, sealing strikeouts constantly.
I worry if that’s enough, though. The slider acts more like a cutter with a decent strike rate and being overall “fine” as a #3 pitch – there are times it can be filthy and other times when it slips out of his hand and glides above the zone for an easy take – but there is a chance he refines the pitch in the offseason. My real trepidation is that fastball, which McKenzie can’t quite command and instead seemingly chucks into the zone. Maybe with an off-season of adding more mass to his small frame, Triston can add another tick of velocity or stability in his mechanics to wield a four-seamer with a SwStr rate above 11%, but if he doesn’t, 2023 should be a step back for the lanky Cleveland arm. I’m still a fan given his volume and elite hook, but the fastball makes me cautious of investing too hard into another stud season.
41. Nick Lodolo (CIN) – “Lodolo needs to figure it out!” I think he already did. The final 77 frames of Lodolo’s 2022 campaign returned a sparkling 2.92 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 30% K rate, and 9% BB rate. That’s it, that’s the blurb. Nick, come on. FINE.
Lodolo’s sinker returned more hard contact than I think we’ll see in 2023, as there are a few improvements that feel destined to come to fruition. Lodolo located his sinkers a bit too much in y-mLoc (middle height), while his changeup didn’t come along as much as I originally hoped. I’m willing to wager Lodolo will turn to the slow ball more often against right-handers, gaining another weapon to keep batters at bay and another path to strikes that lowers the walk rate.
Against lefties, Lodolo doesn’t need any help. He returned a near 40% strikeout rate against them with his sinker destroying bats inside and the breaker falling down-and-away. It’s demoralizing for left-handers, and with Lodolo’s low arm-angle, it’s not going anywhere.
Think of a better version of Andrew Heaney and a budding Chris Sale with his excellent sweeper and a sinker that moves a ton laterally + a changeup that is hopefully coming along. I don’t imagine the Reds will stop Lodolo from starting every five days and I’m excited to watch Lodolo rack up the strikeouts once again.
Tier 8 – This Could Be The Smartest Or Dumbest Pick
I have a feeling I’ll be looking back at this tier and seeing a slew of arms who either excelled far past this rank or were so far below their draft value. Be careful.
42. Jesús Luzardo (MIA) – You should be into Luzardo. 100 innings of a 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 30% strikeout is yelling at you for a 2023 breakout and he’s going much later than those numbers suggest. If he’s able to stay on the field long enough to toss over 150 innings. Ah. Injuries are weird things and if you’re uncomfortable drafting an injury risk as your SP #4, I can understand that.
But what fun this could be! Luzardo’s curveball and changeup both tick boxes as legit secondary pitches (33% CSW curve, 26% SwStr change!), while he maintained a 96+ mph heater on both sides of his injury. Command is still a little finicky – especially when his sinker can get demolished when left over the plate – but the heavy lean on curves and changeups have allowed Luzardo to become a 30% strikeout arm and prevent the disaster that was the first five months of 2021. The skills outline an SP #2, the poor injury track record ensures we take a few other starters before Luzardo.
43. Freddy Peralta (MIL) – The worst part about pre-season rankings is their dependence on predicting volume. If Peralta is able to pitch more than 150 frames, he’s an absolute steal for drafts this year as his stuff warrants production for your fantasy teams. His fastball comes with some of the best extension in the majors, allowing the pitch to limit hard contact and gain strikes. Peralta also improved his curveball’s strike rate, bringing the walk rate down to a digestible 8.5% walk rate, a clip that could stick in 2023, if not improve if the slider follows suit.
But I digress – how much will Peralta pitch? A lat injury took a massive chunk out of Peralta’s 2022, while his other IL days were spent nursing shoulder fatigue. The story seems to be that the fatigue was a product of his long absence with the lat injury, though it’s not a stretch to assign Peralta with the dreaded “injury prone” label for 2023 – especially after Stephen Lyman is spooked by his shoulder injury.
I’d love to have Peralta on my rosters, but it will be a risky proposition in my drafts. I’m not against betting on health over ability growth, though it comes down to cost. I’d rather play it safe with sure-fire value in the book than take a chance on heavy volume from Peralta, but I’ll be rooting for the slinger to put together that true breakout season.
44. Chris Sale (BOS) – We haven’t seen a fully healthy Chris Sale since 2018 and 2022 was a lost season for the lanky lefty with a three-month delay prefacing a fractured finger at the hands of a comebacker. 2023 is an ideal fresh start for Sale, who should have a regular off-season and spring as he proves he still has plenty left in the tank. In the very brief 5.2 frames we saw, Sale was able to sit roughly 95 mph – a tick or two off his 96/97 of his peak – and feature the sweeping slider we’ve become so enamored with. The Red Sox are sure to let Sale pitch as much as he wants, even if he hasn’t endured a full season in five years, and I get a sense Sale is getting a bit slept on because of the injury risk. If you’re able to grab Sale once you have a strong foundation of arms, I’m all for it, especially if we see a healthy spring ahead. He could fan 25%+ batters with a low walk rate and great ratios without sacrificing a Top 100 pick.
45. Grayson Rodriguez (BAL) – I often find it strange ranking a guy like Grayson Rodriguez in February, but fortunately we have hype in the form of their GM expecting him to be in the rotation leaving camp. That seems pretty dang good to me, all that’s left is for him to not bungle the whole thing in the spring. Why should we be excited? Because he has a full repertoire with a brilliant heater and fantastic breaker and you should read Jake Maish’s Prospect SPs to Stash (which features Rodriguez at #1) to get a better sense of what we’re dealing with. He’s the clear early Rookie of the Year favorite.
46. Reid Detmers (LAA) – I think it comes down to the slider for Detmers. His first full season came with a gap in June as he went down to the minors after tossing 58 frames of a 4.66 ERA, where he fixed his mechanics by straightening his shoulders on delivery, which helped him regain his slider and catalyzed a 3.04 ERA across his final 71 innings…but with a 1.30 WHIP. Yikes. He had moments where the slider was fixed and earning a ton of whiffs (12 in his final start!) mixed with patches of disappointment where his curve and change weren’t enough to save him. Definitely not the change, oh dear. Curve? Maybe, but it held too low of a strike rate and wasn’t located down nearly often enough.
I believe if Detmers can get into a rhythm of locating his sliders and curves down in the zone, he can soar. His four-seamer already is a solid hiLoc pitch at 93 mph and held an 11.5% SwStr last season, and with breakers diving underneath with consistency (and not using the blegh change), Detmers can bring down the WHIP, push the strikeouts past 25%, and flirt with a 3.00 ERA. It’s a big IF for the 23-year-old and I’m curious whether this is the year he makes the adjustments and ascends. I’ve found myself wanting to lean more in young development this year, propelling a somewhat elevated rank for Detmers – I may regret it given the lack of confidence we have in the Los Angeles Angels’ coaching, but I can’t help but fall for the potential of Detmers as he’s already developed the tools – all that’s left is polish.
47. Drew Rasmussen (TBR) – I’ve had a lot of back-and-forth with Rasmussen as he’s been this strange five-and-dive pitcher who has moments of brilliance (10 strikeouts against the Yankees!) followed by mediocrity (9 Ks across the three games that followed), though the Rays did stretch him out more consistently in September, with three of his final games tallying 85+ pitches and holding a stretch of 6+ innings on four of five games.
Rasmussen gets his outs mostly with four-seamers and cutters that are just dang hard to square up. Left-handers held just a 2.2% barrel rate against his cutter despite 33% usage, while his four-seamer’s barrel rate was half the league average. I don’t claim to understand exactly how Rasmussen avoids punishment on these pitches with such regularity, but I’m ready to accept its reality for 2023.
Right-handers are a little trickier. Sliders and curveballs make mistakes to batters on both sides of the plate, while the cutter finds damage a bit too frequently against righties. His four-seamer is elevated with intent and gets a decent amount of whiffs, but it isn’t the strikeout offering we desire – a bit surprising given its 95/96 mph velocity – and it gets destroyed when it finds a good amount of the zone.
What I see here is an effective starter who shouldn’t fall off the map and will generate a fair amount of strikeouts through the full year on the days where his slider and curve are able to avoid the heart of the plate and generate whiffs on pitches out of the zone. On other days, you’ll be happy with 5/6 innings of decent ratios and hope for more next week. I’m intrigued as a #5/6 starter for fantasy teams as the low walk rate will keep the WHIP low without a ballooning ERA, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention him as a PLV darling. He hasn’t quite shown consistency of an elite offering, but the flashes are there and if anyone can get it out of him, it’s the Rays.
48. Jeffrey Springs (TBR) – Springs came out of nowhere in May of last year and never hit the anticipated valley as he cruised to a 2.46 ERA and 1.07 WHIP across just over 135 innings. Toss in over a strikeout per inning with a 21% K-BB rate and oh boy, you’ve got a stew cooking.
Sadly, I’m a bit concerned moving forward. Like McClanahan, Springs’ success came on the back of a changeup that demolished right-handers…but wasn’t utilized against LHB. The echo continues with a 46% hard contact rate off his four-seamer against lefties in 2022, though I think Springs’ approach to lean up-and-in can work in the future if he’s able to limit the mistakes down in the zone. What Springs doesn’t have is a pair of filthy breakers to nullify the heater, opening him up to more destruction than I’d like to see when facing a left-handed heavy lineup.
The changeup is legit filthy against right-handers, though, and it will make him worthwhile in your 12-teamers as a draft option, especially with the easy Detroit/Nationals series to kick off the year. I’m concerned the slider doesn’t do enough and the four-seamer will get tattered, making Springs a “sure, why not” pick instead of one I’m circling and leaning on for the full year. Keep in mind, his 135 innings last season were the peak of his career and the Rays are…the Rays. Six months of production is asking a bit too much.
Tier 9 – All Of These Could Still Be Great
Now that we have pitchers we feel confident in, it’s important to shift your focus from “hey, that’s alright” to “these guys could be Top 30 SPs by the end of the year!” Remember, it’s not a best-ball league. If these guys fail, it’s okay, you have sturdy pitchers to rely on already.
49. Lucas Giolito (CHW) – Want to know something interesting? Giolito hurt himself on opening day with tightness in his abdominal muscle and left the game early. He missed only two weeks but later mentioned how he never felt quite recovered from the injury and pitched through it for the year. It led to Giolito sitting about 92 mph for most of the year, even falling to sub 91 mph by the end. It changed a lot. His heater dropped two ticks in SwStr and jumped 30 points in average, and his slider’s loss of velocity led to a bunch more hard contact, rising all the way to a 34% clip. Ouch.
The one silver lining was his changeup, which was better than ever. Its hard contact fell under 11%, he located it down in the zone at a fantastic 64% rate, and maintained its whiffability at a 20% SwStr rate. The way I see it, Giolito now has a healthy off-season to recalibrate. Heal where he needs to, reset his mechanics, and come out firing in March to get his velocity back to 93/94 mph on the heater. If he can get there, Giolito could return to pre-2022 form in a heartbeat, making us quickly forget the disappointment of yesteryear. It’s a gamble, but with his massive discount in drafts, I’m all for taking the shot. Few have his ceiling with his potential 180-inning volume.
50. Andrew Heaney (TEX) – I was awfully skeptical that Heaney would work out with the Dodgers in 2022. He’s a pitcher plagued with command issues over the years and even adding a slider to the mix didn’t seem like the “fix all” for lack of strong location he’s been sorely missing for years.
I was wrong. That slider was incredibly well spotted, leading to a whopping 26% SwStr rate on the pitch, allowing his four-seamer to carry a 14% SwStr rate, executing the “BSB” well across his 72+ frames. His season landed on a 36% K rate with a 3.10 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, which are surely not going to repeat themselves, but he’s far-and-away a better pitcher than he was before with just a curve and change in his arsenal. Leaving Los Angeles to Texas doesn’t strip Heaney of his ability to throw a good slider, but it does remove him from the same resources to re-calibrate when he needs to in-season. That’s the only worry I have with the move to Texas, especially with Globe Life Park’s ability to favor the longball.
I think it’s safe to buy into his slider being the complement Heaney has been searching for to pair with his above-average heater, which makes it come down to health more than ability on the field. That’s a hard bet to make, especially when a shoulder is involved. Heaney hasn’t tossed more than 130 innings in a season and any team rostering Heaney with expectation for volume is likely to be kicking rocks in September. That said, if you draft Heaney as a “Cherry Bomb” and nothing more, you may be pleasantly surprised if it all comes together.
51. Charlie Morton (ATL) – Looks like Morton is back for at least one more season and it should be a good thing that he is. Get past the 4.34 ERA from last season as Morton discussed how he fixed himself in June by trusting his formerly fractured leg once again and pushing off the rubber with full strength. Starting June 17th, Morton tossed 111.2 IP of 3.63 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with a 30% strikeout rate and that’s what you’re chasing with a Morton pick. That said, it took him six weeks to get going in 2021 and eight weeks in 2022, clearly that means a ten week delay in 2023, right?
He’ll pitch as long as he’s healthy and seeing at least 165 innings in each of the non-COVID seasons is a pretty dang good sign that he will. It’s just a matter of how good his curveball is on a given day. If the hook is hookin’, the cook is cookin’. His heater can be a saving grace, but it can also become a longball machine when it’s not located, and his cutter was awfully pedestrian in 2022, struggling to save him when the breaker is on vacation. It adds up to a risky play out of the gate, but one I encourage making if you have a solid foundation at the top of your rotation. Just make sure to let go of Morton if things aren’t shaping up well in April.
52. Dustin May (LAD) – You watch May and you think he’s as legit as it gets. His stuff moves all around and it makes for some tantalizing GIFs, emitting whispers of “oh, daaaang.” Sadly, there’s still a whole lot to fix, which was made apparent by his 11% walk rate last season. Consistency is something Dustin will be fighting through the season (maybe it was him shaking oƒthe rust of TJS?) and it makes it hard for me to chase in drafts, especially when I anticipate he’ll go around other upside arms who we’ll be able to discern quicker in-season (i.e. if May does well in his first start or two, do we trust his command is fixed? I wouldn’t).
His breaker (curve or slider, call it what you want) is oh-so luscious and will suggest a strikeout rate that blows past the 20% mark, while his four-seamer’s 16.5% SwStr across 109 thrown makes you wonder if there’s a path near 30%. That said, his sinker gets hit far too often for us to believe May will get into enough two-strike counts in the first place, especially when said sinker returns over 30% hard contact.
I see a hard-throwing groundballer who needs to find a way to get his footing to blast his arsenal with any sort of precision. The Dodgers defense isn’t what it used to be, and those grounders will find more holes than you’d like, leading to a “Cherry Bomb” you may be safe to avoid.
53. Kenta Maeda (MIN) – Maeda is returning from TJS and is the perfect pick in the late rounds as a “hey, let’s see if he’s looking back to normal in spring training” arm to stash. His 2020 season was magnificent, his 2021 was rugged with a clear explanation of his worse command coming from his UCL being torn n all. I don’t believe we’ll see a replication of his 32% strikeout rate and 2.70 ERA of the limited 2020 season, but we should see better command of his slider and splitter in 2023, while the four-seamer should be able to steal more strikes in the zone once again. Don’t forget, that slider was one of the best pitches around, while the splitter returned a 26% SwStr in 2020. The best news here is you can you move on if it’s not panning out early (maybe even in the spring!) as he’s not costing a pretty penny. I love these picks in my drafts.
54. Kodai Senga (NYM) – Who is this guy? I’m excited to watch Senga in the spring and see it for myself against MLB hitters, while the low-down at the moment is that he sits around 94-96 mph with a filthy splitter and decent slider. That works against the Brewers + Marlins (is he the #4 or #5 starter?) and I’m all for taking a shot to see how it pans out considering Senga won’t come at a premium in your drafts. That said, I have general worries about pitchers who feature a splitter as their #2 pitch – splitters are more volatile than any other pitch and it’s incredibly rare to see consistent success from pitchers who depend on it as their #2 (only Kevin Gausman can do this – Alex Cobb falls a bit short) – but the low draft cost and lovely schedule on a winning team spells a fun late pick in my book.
55. Tony Gonsolin (LAD) – I was a Gonsolin doubter this time last season. I felt he wouldn’t get the innings (he did, mostly), that his slider’s failure to get strikes in 2021 would carry over into 2022 (it did, kinda, but it didn’t matter), and that his splitter was destined to be inconsistent (it wasn’t). Entering 2023, it’s hard not to be a bit enamored with him. The splitter was truly exceptional in 2022, with a 43% O-Swing, 46% Zone rate, and 19% SwStr rate, all en route to a 70% strike rate, a clip over eleven points higher than its sub 60% mark in 2021. It’s all to say the pitch was pitching bliss and with its increased emphasis inside Gonsolin’s repertoire, he was able to mask a slider and four-seamer he couldn’t sneak into the zone.
I want to believe the splitter will be there to carry the approach again in 2023, though splitters are finicky creatures and often find a way to spell demise for pitchers fairly frequently. I also have concerns about Gonsolin’s longevity – 130.1 IP in 2022 was the most of his professional career, including the minors. Throw in a little doubt that the Dodgers defense can be as exceptional as it was in 2022 (Gonsolin held a .207 BABIP for the year, on top of an 84% LOB rate and sub 10% HR/FB rate. Yikes.), and Gonsolin’s pristine marks might fall to mid-3s ERA with a solid WHIP to go with a strikeout rate eager to eclipse 25% across somewhere between 100-160 frames. He’s an addition to any team, but there’s more skepticism than ideal.
56. Kyle Wright (ATL) – What a fun time it was picking up Kyle Wright last season. His 21 Wins placed him atop the league leaders, he fanned 174 batters and held a strong 3.19 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP, and he cost you nothing. What’s most interesting to me is how Wright gets his outs: It’s nearly the same approach as his veteran peer Morton with an elite curveball and sidekicks that hope to get in a few punches and kicks along the way. Wright is heavily dependent on that yakker coming through daily and I can hear the whining across the streets of Georgia on the days when his four-seamer/sinker/change have to do the heavy lifting.
This is all to say I’m likely avoiding Wright on my teams this year. I don’t see a pitcher who is locating with precision, where he can get into a flow at times, then throw the next one on the wrong side of the plate. His curve and all of its success still boasted an average 24% hard contact rate and that’s from his best pitch. We may be looking back at the 1.16 WHIP as the glaring hint of a 2023 decline as we sit in the long shadow of his 2022 peak.
57. Tyler Mahle (MIN) – The whole “Mahle is the only one that we have to apply home/road splits to” shtick is seemingly a thing of the past after being dealt to Minnesota in the middle of last season and I think we’re seeing Mahle fall a bit too far in drafts considering his only flaw is the shoulder inflammation that shut down his season in middle August. He still has a wonderful four-seamer that will keep the strikeouts afloat, and while the slider and splitter are far from dependable #2 offerings, you’re not drafting Mahle to be a pristine 3.00 ERA, 1.10 WHIP arm. You’re getting him for good Win chances, a flirtation with 200 strikeouts, and ratios that are fine. Expect an ERA around 4.00 (if not under!) and a digestible WHIP, and you essentially have a Toby who will also get you a boatload of strikeouts. Target Mahle when you already have your stable 4/5 starters.
I will preach the same concern I have for Freddy Peralta and Andrew Heaney – shoulder injuries should not be taken lightly. We just saw Frankie Montas get pushed back at least a month and while “no news is good news,” I’ll feel a lot better about this when he’s pitching in the spring.
58. Michael Kopech (CHW) – What a weird year. Kopech would go 93 one start, then 97 in the next, then 92 and 91, then back to the 95, and we never knew where he stood. His knee injury was downplayed and made the waters murky, and it prevented any sort of momentum for us to have conviction 2022 was the year of the breakout for Kopech during those summer nights.
2023 could be different. If Kopech is actually healthy (he got knee surgery on his right knee in October and should be ready for spring training), he could be pumping 95+ mph heaters that miss bats up in the zone and if his slider can pull itself out of a minuscule 9.8% SwStr and back to its near 18% clip, Kopech could blossom into a legit ace. I personally don’t trust his command enough to lean into it inside drafts and I see this being another potential “HIPSTER” scenario, but if he falls in your draft, why not? Just let him go if he
Baileys falters, and chase something else. At least you’ll be able to tell early whether Kopech has made the adjustments you want to see.
59. Jon Gray (TEX) – I know you want to talk about Gray’s four-seamer and slider, but we have to talk about the changeup. He tosses the pitch exclusively to left-handers and it returned…31% hard contact, 3.6% SwStr as he threw them 17% of the time to LHB. STOP DOING THAT GRAY. He does this because the four-seamer isn’t incredible against left-handers either, but I’m sad he doesn’t trust his slider more against lefties as well. It’s so much better than the slow ball, just trust the dang thing.
As for right-handers? Life is bliss. His slider is elite against them, while his four-seamer dropped its BAA 100 points to .239…but there’s room to improve. Its 7.3% SwStr rate is laughable and can be explained by its 37% hiLoc – GET IT…HIGHER! – making me a little concerned that Gray doesn’t have the command to avoid a 32% y-mLoc on fastballs.
It makes me think of the lesson I learned last season regarding a fastball/slider combo: If only the slider is elite, don’t trust it. Now, these numbers could have been a product of a season riddled with start-stop-start-stop injuries, and when Gray was able to get into a rhythm, he acted like an ace to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 30% strikeout rate across nine starts and 55 innings, with a fastball coming in harder and giving room for the slider to excel. The real tough part about this is Gray as his 2022 self is a “Cherry Bomb” who I’d likely avoid even if you want to say he pitches 160 innings this year. However, his 2023 self has potential if he actually elevates his four-seamer with intent given its above-average VAA and vertical movement. Are we comfortable believing Gray will both improve his four-seamer location and stop throwing the dang slowball 17% of the time to left-handers? Oh, and pitch more than 130 innings? I’m not sure I can, but let’s give it a shot and see how it goes.
60. Lance McCullers Jr. (HOU) – It’s hard not to be enamored with McCullers’ enthusiasm for breaking balls, as he was one of the first to cut fastball usage to sub 40% levels in favor of sliders and curveballs back in the day. You mean, like five years ago? YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH HAS CHANGED. When the slider and curve work, boy is it a party, but volatility is still very much present. McCullers has acknowledged that there are days when he doesn’t have a pitch or two and when he’s left to fend with just his sinker and changeup, things aren’t pretty. He doesn’t have a non-breaker he can rely on inside the zone, which has pumped up his walk rate through the years and his WHIP along with it.
It also means he isn’t destined to be a workhorse starter, forcing him out of the games by the end of the sixth often, if not sooner. Mix that with a long injury history and you have a “Cherry Bomb” who can win you weeks or simply not play for the next four. I’m okay drafting McCullers, though I imagine in most cases I’ll elect to draft an arm with a more clear-cut path toward SP #2/3 upside.
61. Jack Flaherty (STL) – If Flaherty is healthy and like his old self, he’s a steal! Flaherty is currently going at a point in the draft where there are plenty “What IFs” to choose from and I’m going to likely pass on Flaherty. The 2019 we’re chasing was a product of an exceptional sinker in the second half (37% O-Swing!) + sliders returning 11% hard contact and four-seamers cruising for a 69% strike rate. None of those pitches have hit those peaks since as Flaherty has battled with injuries, including multiple instances with his shoulder and an oblique last season that may have been a product of compensating for his shoulder. Yikes. Yeah, that’s not just a “get your feel back” injury. I’m all for taking a shot on Flaherty later in the draft when there’s little else to chase, don’t get me wrong, but it seems outlandish to believe Flaherty will be back with a perfect bill of health in 2023 and have the feel back for his former pitches.
TIER 10 – This Is Fine But Don’t Get Too Enamored
These pitchers will be drafted in your leagues, but it’s important to recognize them all as dispensible for your 12-teamers. You don’t have to hold them close if April isn’t going their way and someone else is incredibly promising on the wire.
62. Tyler Anderson (LAA) – After failing to hold an ERA below 4.30 in a single season since 2016, Anderson blew us away with a 2.57 mark with the Dodgers, taking full advantage of their defense as he not only increased his changeup usage to north of 30%, he also improved it drastically, returning just 13% hard contact (elite!) and a whopping 21% SwStr rate. Now that he’s heading to the Angels, it raises the question: Do the skills he gained with the Dodgers stick with him across town?
I’m inclined to say yes…and no. 2022 was a peak across the board and I imagine the changeup usage stays up, while the performance declines a touch along the way. The defense behind him will be worse (and so will those win chances – don’t expect a 15-Win season again, please) and suddenly I see Anderson’s 19.5% strikeout trying to get our attention to proclaim him a “Toby”. With Anderson’s four-seamer being a liability, I don’t believe the changeup/cutter (solid cutter, at that) are enough to make Anderson a major impact arm for a second season. Congrats on picking him up on your team last year, it’s time to move on.
63. Jordan Montgomery (STL) – The Yankees dealt “The Bear” to the Cards at the deadline and fans were in uproar after he soared to allow just two earned runs total in six of his next seven starts, including one against his former pinstripes. So the Cardinals fixed him? Not quite. Monty then allowed 15 ER in his final four games of the year, reminding us why the Yankees elected to deal their discount “ace”. Ah. There was suspicion that the Cardinals’ emphasis on JorMont’s four-seamer was the ticket, but honestly, I think it was just some good ole determination and good fortune against a few weak clubs that made the difference. After all, he faced the Brewers, “Rockie Road”, Cubs twice, and Nationals during his excellent stretch.
The haunting element of Montgomery has been his above-average 14% SwStr rate, yet his 21.8% strikeout rate remains pedestrian. When will this guy break out?! I think 2022 is the closest we’ll get as he struggles to put away right-handers with the changeup & the curve is stuck below a 60% strike rate. And that’s fine, Monty is a decent play in 12-teamers with the Cardinals’ defense behind him, just not with a Top 25 SP ceiling.
64. Sonny Gray (MIN) – What is Sonny Gray’s best pitch? In years past, it was the slider when it returned SwStr rates above 23%, but the pitch hasn’t been the same as of late, struggling to get the same amount of whiffs and in turn, lowered its strike rate dangerously close to the terrifying 50% clip. The answer would be his hook, which took leaps in 2022 to a marvelous 66% strike rate, though it doesn’t fare well as a strikeout offering and more as a nullifier for his fastballs. And that’s an important pitch to have when your heaters rely heavily on called strikes as Gray does with a 26% called strike rate on his four-seamer.
I’m not exactly sure how to feel about this approach from Gray. The heaters did a good job of avoiding a ton of damage in 2022, but they aren’t demolishing batters, either, while he’s getting fewer and fewer whiffs on the breakers. If Sonny can’t maintain the 10+ point jump in curve’s strike rate, he’ll have to rely too much on the heaters and disaster is sure to follow (just look at his 4.19 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 2021). It’s the major IF of Gray’s 2023 season and he may dance around it all year. He should be rostered on your squads, and make sure to change direction if he turns into a “Cherry Bomb” across the opening weeks.
65. Brady Singer (KCR) – Oh hey, it’s another pitcher I’m incredibly torn on! One lesson I’ve expressed learning from 2021 is “if you’re a two-pitch guy, both pitches need to be excellent.” I’m not sure that’s the case with Singer. His slider is a money pitch with its 40%+ O-Swing and Zone rates and an 18% SwStr rate, but it isn’t elite as it still allows hits – batters held a .237 BAA and 26% hard contact against it. Those aren’t rough numbers, just not the top-end marks we normally see from the best pitch of a two-pitch guy.
Singer pairs the slider with a called-strike heavy sinker and it will likely continue to get free rent inside the zone with regularity, returning another stellar 28% called strike clip in 2022. However, when batters swing, the results aren’t pretty. The sinker rarely misses bats and allows near a 30% hard contact clip, and while he was able to bring its BABIP down over 100 points in 2022, I imagine he won’t be as fortunate for another season, having the sinker likely rise above the .300 mark with its groundball focus.
It amounts to a pitcher who I struggle to pin down. He’s likely to flirt with 180 frames for the Royals and avoid a diaster ERA/WHIP season with a fair amount of strikeouts, but this could turn into a 4.00 ERA season with a 1.25 WHIP in a heartbeat – that low 5.6% walk rate isn’t going to stick. You’re fine drafting him, just learn to embrace the Advils you’ll have to pop to endure the headaches that are sure to come.
66. Patrick Sandoval (LAA) – It’s incredibly difficult in any way to endorse a pitcher with a 1.34 WHIP and 9.4% walk rate, but here we kinda are? 2022 came with Sandoval leaning more on sliders than ever before and it worked – the slidepiece’s 30% usage propelled a solid .206 BAA with a 44% O-Swing and matching zone rate with a 32% CSW – making him an absolute monster against left-handers, especially with a sinker that lined the inside corner against them constantly.
The issue here is against right-handers and it’s an immense one. He turns to four-seamers as his primary fastball and it returned, oh I don’t know, a .410 AVG last season with few signs that it should be a whole lot better in 2023. No wonder he has a walk rate hinting 10% – he’s terrified of throwing fastballs in the zone. The changeup tries its best to be the difference maker and despite its 25% SwStr rate, it returns too few strikes (60%) as the pitch floats up and out of the zone frequently. The slider becomes plenty worse against right-handers as well and I’m not exactly sure what the solution is outside of his changeup needing to develop more consistency. It makes me feel he’ll be a “Cherry Bomb” once again depending on how often he’s able to feast on left-handers, but at least you can platoon him and have more direction on when he’ll come through for your squad.
67. José Berríos (TOR) – This was bad. Real bad. I call him The Great Undulator for his tendency to rock back and forth (like Luis Garcia? No, stop that, I’m in the middle of something) between incredibly productive and destructive but settling around a 3.75 ERA or so, yet last year…was more destructive than usual. It wasn’t that he didn’t have his highs – 17/32 Quality Starts matched 2021 – it was that the lows were so dang low.
I looked into this one hard and found a fun little story. Berríos’ four-seamer was horrific against left-handers – we’re talking a jump from 29% hard contact to 44% – and it came down to throwing more four-seamers early and batters jumping on them as the pitch’s early ball in play rate rose from 12% to a staggering 20% (average is 14%!). Meanwhile, sinker was the same travesty (albeit, with a much lower xBABIP that didn’t go his way), while curves and changeups worked per usual against opposite-handed batters.
Against right-handers, there are a few things. His sinker still boasted its magnificent 40%+ O-Swing, but instead of getting his strikes by jamming batters, he accidentally ballooned its zone rate from 45% to 54%, allowing for a whole more hard contact and an average jump from .190 to .333. Yikes. The curve shared the same problem as his four-seamer against LHB – batters expected early curveballs and smacked them in play for more than usual, leading to a jump in BAA and hard contact rate.
Wait, that’s it? Berríos’ four-seamer and curve were attacked earlier and his sinker caught too much of the zone against right-handers? Ummm, yeah? You can’t strike batters out if they put the ball in play more often and with Berríos making too many mistakes early in the zone, batters took advantage. It kinda makes you in on Berríos, doesn’t it? It seems like a simple adjustment – be more of a nibbler earlier in counts – that could go a long way into being more of the pitcher we saw in 2021. It does explain why the bad games were so horrible as teams clearly had an approach that worked against him. That said, he is The Great Undulator after all, and he’s destined to, well, undulate a fair amount in 2023 as well.
68. Hunter Brown (HOU) – There’s a lot of hoopla about Brown and I get the enthusiasm – he tosses 96/97 mph heaters with a wicked breaker or two. I wrestled with where to place Hunter and settled upon the mid-60s as it’s past the cliff of legit value lost in your draft if Brown doesn’t start, while he can make a large impact if he gets the opportunity. I’m not completely sold that he is the talent everyone wants him to be – he’s not Justin Verlander when he boasts a 8.5% SwStr rate on his four-seamer (and do we want him to be a groundball pitcher…?) – but if the Astros go six-man or one of their starters isn’t ready/deserving to be in the rotation out of camp, it’ll be Brown’s job and he could run with it for a good while. If he dominates the spring and earns a rotation spot, he makes a case to be inside the Top 50, believe it or not. The Astros, man. They find a way.
69. Jameson Taillon (CHC) – 2022 was an odd year for Taillon as he shifted his approach but still felt like he was what we know him to be – a decent ERA, good WHIP, decent volume, and consistent start-to-start. He threw fewer four-seamers overall and dropped its location (hiLoc dropping from 62% to 53%), likely in an effort to help reduce the longball, but it resulted in more hits with a similar HR rate and a five point drop in whiffs. Cutters were introduced in their place, which weren’t bad, but they weren’t stellar either and it perpetuated the man we already knew to be Taillon. Meanwhile, the slider and curve were still good for what they are, but neither are the wipe-out pitch Taillon very badly needs.
There’s a world where Taillon nails sliders down-and-gloveside with consistency, ups the curveball usage to 25%+ while holding onto its low 16% hard contact rate and 62% strike rate, elevates four-seamers with ferocity, and becomes his best self in the lower-pressure environment with the Cubs. Don’t rule this out – I wouldn’t be shocked if changing scenery makes for another tweak and unlocks a bit of his potential. I see him as a late option grab in drafts given the easy early matchup against the Brewers (opening weekend!) and if there’s something new and exciting there, you may want to keep the ride going against the Rangers and take it from there.
70. José Urquidy (HOU) – It’s really hard to decipher Urquidy’s 2022 season. I don’t think even he knows how to take it. Traditionally a kitchen-sink pitcher with a repertoire five pitches deep, Urquidy uncharacteristically utilized his four-seamer throughout the year, featuring it 40% of the time in some games, then jumping well north of 70% in others as he didn’t have faith in the secondaries. I’m not exactly sure why, though, as all of the changeup, slider, and curve returned sub 20% hard contact marks and sat above a 60% strike rate…while the four-seamer boasted a 38% hard contact rate and .275 xAVG. Yeah, I’m just as confused as you are.
The looming haze makes you wonder if the ship with be righted in 2023. He still has the same tools that can make him a sub 1.15 WHIP and 3.50 ERA pitcher for a winning ball club, so it’s all about staying healthy as he has a rotation spot locked. Consider Urquidy a “Toby” with a wonderful early schedule for 12-teamers and a solid deep play in 15+ teamers.
71. Marcus Stroman (CHC) – Stroman is Stroman. He throws a sinker that generates a ton of grounders, his slider sometimes wakes up for a lot of whiffs and shows up when it pleases, while the cutter is the more reliable secondary pitch to mess guys up. He held a 3.50 FIP in 2021 and matched it with his ERA in 2022, carrying the same exact 1.15 WHIP. The question is simple: Is this what you want? Stroman is likely to sit under a 4.00 and under a 1.20 WHIP, but the strikeouts won’t be too plentiful – he’s just missed 160 Ks in two of his last three seasons – and with the large ceiling ruled out, it’s a battle against a floor that dives past being a “Toby”. That’s a game I generally don’t play, but in deeper leagues I will be here for him as a #5 starter all year.
All of that said, Stroman will likely be the opening day starter and get a delicious matchup against the Brewers. He’s exactly the kind of pitcher I love drafting where I can steal a productive start to kick off the season, and then drop him quickly if something else is more appealing before his next game. Every start counts.
72. Luis Garcia (HOU) – I’ve heard a lot of wise ideas in my time since I’ve started this site and one I can’t ignore with Garcia makes a whole lot of sense – “Pay attention to how an organization feels about a player. If they don’t trust him, there’s likely a very good reason why.” The Astros didn’t turn to Garcia at all during their postseason run and it wasn’t simply because of their recurring nightmare of Jorge Soler destroying a Garcia slider. Despite his solid marks in the regular season, Garcia’s stuff wasn’t right. His cutter is still a great pitch and his curve is a solid one, but the fastball gets taken advantage of, and the Astros didn’t want to risk it. The second half of the year outlined that tale as Garcia’s pitch mix was odd, turning away from the cutter a bit too much (especially against left-handed lineups), resulting in some disasters along the way.
All in all, I still think Garcia is still a solid fantasy arm as the Astros are likely to keep featuring him in the rotation during the regular season – the cutter is that good and the curve is solid and it added up to a 14% SwStr rate that returned the 25th best mark in the majors. I do wonder if his ERA will climb even more, though, especially if the four-seamer gets more attention than it should.
73. Edward Cabrera (MIA) – It’s hard not to be a little infatuated with Cabrera. He featured his changeup a third of the time last year as it ranged from low 90s all the way to 96 mph, limiting batters to a .183 BAA and 17% hard contact rate, while featuring a solid 65% strike rate. In fact, his slider and curve also boasted strike rates above 60%. You don’t mean…Sure do, Cabrera’s 11% walk rate was a product of his four-seamer’s 50% strike rate. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a pitcher’s inability to prevent walks stem from a 50% strike rate fastball.
There’s good news, however, is that Cabrera improved his fastball strike rates as the season went on and I think there’s hope he can tug his walk rate far below the 10% clip, closer to 8% or so. Combined with his breaking balls and filthy changeup, it makes for a tantalizing upside play, though the Miami “run support” is sure to dampen his Win potential. If Cabrera is the #5 entering the season, I’d be thrilled that he avoids the Mets and gets the Twins, but his upside may be worth rostering past the likely rough start.
Tier 11 – Draft These To Get An Early Start
If you read the article I posted a day before the PL8 launch, you’ll have seen a bunch of pitchers who have a wonderful matchup to start the year. I love getting at least one of them at the end of my drafts – you don’t have to hold onto them for their start, but at least you’re getting something that should help you to begin your season instead of stashing a guy for 10 days before you start him because they have a poor first matchup.
74. Carlos Carrasco (NYM) – I’m cool with drafting Carrasco this year for the single fact that he’ll likely get the Miami Marlins to start the year. That’s it? Pretty much? I think he’s too volatile to trust during the year as his fastball is too dang hittable. It is? Always has been. It makes him a “Cherry Bomb” as the slider and change can miss bats but if one of them falters – changes vs. lefties, sliders against righties – it’s a battle in those trenches. He’ll continue to allow hits at a much higher rate than we like (over 9.0 in three of the past four seasons!) and grant a whole lot of frustration to managers who hold on for too long. So draft him for that start against Miami as a stop-gap before you find the guy you actually like off the waiver, and maybe he does well enough to warrant another start against the Marlins…and another against the Athletics…BUT THAT’S IT.
75. Drew Smyly (CHC) – Oh not this again Nick. Yeah yeah yeah, I remember that month of September when Smyly upped his velocity out of nowhere and went far too early in 2021 drafts. HOWEVER, Smyly was somehow an ace in the second half…? Beginning July 16th, Smyly returned a 2.77 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 22% with a 14% SwStr rate. Yeaaaah, that’s amazing for a guy actively available in all formats last year. The major difference was two-fold: Smyly threw a tick harder on heaters & he executed the “BSB” to perfection with sinkers and curveballs, axing the cutter from 30% to sub 10% marks by the end. It’s difficult to discern whether that command will still be there when April baseball hits, but for someone who could still be overlooked in drafts, I’m all for a late pick to start him against the Brewers or Reds and see whether the velo & command is still there.
76. José Quintana (NYM) – Quintana had a 2.93 ERA in 2022 and it was marvelous. He executed the vision of “BSB” with his four-seamer elegantly placed up (jumped from 51% to 69% HiLoc!) and curveballs spotted down (strike rate up eight points!) to give us a “Vargas Rule” for the ages. In fact, if not for a month of destruction between June and July, Quintana would have allowed 2 ER or fewer in 23 of his 24 starts. Unreal. The thing about Vargas Rules, though, is they generally don’t continue when the season ends. I won’t rule out that Quintana’s four-seamer command can stick around for another season, and like Carrasco, it may be in your best interest to take a shot early against the Marlins twice and take it from there. Once the four-seamer wavers, though, it’s game over, especially when he’s still destined to carry a low strikeout rate as he fights tooth-and-nail to hit 20%.
77. Noah Syndergaard (LAD) – I had zero interest in Syndergaard after the 2022 season. Since returning from TJS, Thor has dropped significantly in velocity, lost his studly slider (9% SwStr rate?!), and struggled to get outs without his pedestrian sinker and four-seamer. Yeah, not great.
But things have changed. The Dodgers signed him for a year, which is all kinds of intriguing, especially when he’s been working out at Driveline during the off-season. If Thor could get his velocity back, it could mean not just improvements on his fastballs, but also a possible return of the devastating slider he had back in the day. Keep your eye on this one in March, especially as he likely has a lovely first matchup of the season hosting the Rockies in Los Angeles.
78. Garrett Whitlock (BOS) – Whitlock’s approach reminds me a touch like Aaron Nola’s. You’re going to see plenty of gloveside sinkers, from backdoor two-strike fastballs locking up right-handers, to sinkers coming back over the plate to nab the inside corner against lefties (19% SwStr vs LHB?!), a changeup that does an excellent job of staying low and armside, and his slider misses plenty of bats with a 22% SwStr rate. The biggest issue lies in the contact allowed from both his sinker and slider: His slider was crushed often as he made mistakes over the plate, while the sinker wasn’t as precise as it needed to be. I can see the command of both offerings improving with more time on the bump, leading to an interesting name to monitor through 2022. If he gets regular starts for the Red Sox, Whitlock may become more of a sinker/slider arm that glides through six frames with surprising consistency.
Throw in a lovely matchup to begin the year against the Pirates, and suddenly I’m interested in grabbing him in drafts. If there’s something better, sure go and get it for the opening week, but I’d like to throw Whitlock out there for his first outing and take it from there.
79. Zach Eflin (TBR) – Eflin was a bit frustrating to roster last season with his 4.04 ERA and 3-5 record, though the skills suggested a bit better with a 1.12 WHIP and 21% strikeout rate. A move to the Rays has given many of us hope that the team can squeeze out the most of him, and with that curveball rising to a 20% usage rate, it may come to fruition.
Eflin’s approach against left-handers in 2022 impresses me, though I wonder if he can maintain the same elite command. Sinkers avoided the middle of the zone frequently, either landing inside as surprise pitches or dotting the down-and-away outside corner. Cutters went up-and-in, four-seamers were elevated with intent for a near 15% SwStr rate, and his curveball, despite getting featured 21% of the time, returned a 3.7% hard contact rate. Absolutely phenomenal.
His stuff against right-handers was solid, though I wonder if he can increase his sinker’s 30% O-Swing if he were to focus on jamming RHB up-and-in instead of down-and-in or staying away. That said, it worked for him last year, while the curve boasted a 47% O-Swing, the cutter pinpointed the outside corner, and four-seamers worked up in the zone.
I kinda dig this. Eflin will have freedom with the Rays as they need a volume arm that they shouldn’t tinker with as much as their younger arms. With the Tigers and Nationals out of the gate, I’m all for drafting Eflin to start him in his first game and take it from there. This may be the Toby of the year in the end.
80. Brayan Bello (BOS) – I really want to like Bello more. He tosses 96+ mph sinkers and improved his changeup as the year went on while his slider was able to flirt with a 65% strike rate. Sadly, there seem to be a few too many fixes needed for Bello to dependably soar. His slider made bats miss at a poor 9.0% clip, his sinker allowed a horrid 38% hard contact rate as it generated grounders that turned into far too many hits (.402 BAA allowed!), and his changeup doesn’t do enough against right-handers, even if it is a great weapon against lefties. I expect him to improve in some areas with more time on the bump (a few more slider whiffs, lower than a .452 BABIP on the sinker for the love of Koufax, etc.), though with a fastball that gets hit more than its velocity would suggest and without a haymaker breaker, it feels wrong to chase it.
…and yet, I’m kinda intrigued. The first start will be an easy one against the Pirates and if Bello is able to take a step forward (he’s taking time from Pedro, after all), he can soar out of the gate. I’m not banking on it, but that Pirates start is the perfect “what have I got to lose?” situation. But Nick, he may not be in the rotation! Okay, that’s very fair if James Paxton is actually healthy, I imagine the Red Sox push Bello to the minors and leave Whitlock up. It wouldn’t be long, but if that’s confirmed, Bello moves under Aaron Ashby down in #110 land.
Tier 12 – So You Want Some Upside
I imagine I’m lower on some of these guys than others, which is a product of all the grouping I do in these drafts. If you want to draft them, go ahead! Just ask yourself “how long am I willing to stash them?” The arms listed here either don’t have a favorable opening matchup or we’re uneasy about exactly what we’re going to get from them this year. Follow them in the spring and have a plan before you blindly draft them.
81. Trevor Rogers (MIA) – 2022 was bad. We know this. Leave it at the door with your wallet and keys and step into the living room where you can take a deep breath and experience what’s ahead with new eyes. If you’re looking for the major difference between 2021 and 2022 Trevor Rogers, I can quickly tell you his changeup was chased far less – ten point drop from 48% to a 38% clip – though you could make a case that Rogers’ 2.86 ERA and 1.36 WHIP across his final games of 2021 was the same man in 2022. And maybe that is true and we should simply accept Rogers for not having enough in the tank to make it all work.
What I see is a strong fastball with a possibly elite changeup and a slider that needs a little more refinement to become a 60%+ strike offering and put batters away. It’s there (he was throwing a harder slider in his final six starts!), and I wouldn’t give up on the 25-year-old southpaw just yet. Give it a shot early – you may like what you find.
82. Alex Cobb (SFG) – The Statcast darling of 2022 still gave you a solid ERA and 24% strikeout rate despite the horrid WHIP across about 150 innings and I know what you’re gonna s— WHAT IF HE DIDN’T HAVE ALL THAT BAD LUCK?! Easy Tiger. I know he held a 2.80 FIP and a 9.2 hit per nine was inflated by a .338 BABIP, while the 68% LOB rate should improve. I get it, I really do.
The problem here is I’m not starting Cobb against the Yankees to begin the year and I’m not sold that his repertoire is all that amazing. His splitter is as good as an average splitter by most metrics, except he’s able to toss it over 40% of the time as opposed to the normal ~20% rate, and it helps mask his curveball that is only saved for early counts and a sinker that allowed a .281 BAA last year, even with the boosted velocity to nearly 95 mph.
On a good day, Cobb lands sinkers inside the zone for called strikes, spots his curve at the right moments, and puts guys away with the split. On the bad days, he can’t get enough splitter strikes and his sinker gets blasted. He’s too “Cherry Bomb” for me where I won’t be able to tell if Cobb is on the path to a breakout season or going through the motions of disappointment once again, and I’m not here for that.
83. Ross Stripling (SFG) – Take a moment and appreciate Stripling’s changeup. He increased its usage from 15% to 27% while boosting its SwStr rate to an elite 22% mark and a magnificent 50% O-Swing, fueled by a jump to 70% loLoc. It’s almost as if the Jays lost Ryu and the power of his slowball went directly into Stripling. I imagine the Giants front office fell in love with this pitch when they reached for the checkbook and we can only hope that the pitch retains its ability in San Francisco and maintains its filtration with 30% usage.
That’s where the joy ends, though. It’s all an act to mask the mediocrity of his four-seamer (poor VAA, 35% hard contact), while the heater joined his slider and curveball in failure of hitting a 10% SwStr rate. That’s rough.
At least, Stripling accomplished the remarkable task of nearly going 50% called strikes across 196 curveballs. That’s crazy high and a result of its near-exclusive sequencing early in counts, which I think could be altered a bit as it does feature big break and whiffability if used correctly. But is it enough to hint at his sparkling 3.01 ERA and 1.02 WHIP for another year? I don’t believe so, especially with a mediocre slider getting nearly a fourth of the attention. I’d only consider Stripling after the initial start against the White Sox. Not enough Ross on the stone.
84. Nick Martinez (SDP) – I was jazzed about Martinez entering last season and now that he likely has a spot in the rotation to start 2023, I’m not sure I’m back to where we started. Martinez’s changeup is a wonderful thing, but he doesn’t take down right-handers with it enough, his cutter (really a slider) isn’t used against left-handers as a weapon, and I generally think he’s not getting the most out of his arsenal.
Maybe that’s a good thing and opens the door for a strong season ahead. He certainly uses his sinker effectively to jam right-handers (over a 40% O-Swing is glorious) and the brilliance of a 65% strike rate and 18% hard contact clip on changeups is a leg to stand on, but there’s more needed to be done to mask the punishment his four-seamer endures. There’s potential for a “Toby” with a strikeout rate above 23% here if he puts it all together, but in all likelihood, his 8+ hit per nine sticks around and the ERA/WHIP aren’t quite good enough. That said, he shouldn’t have a 9% walk rate again with the amount of strikes he throws, so at least the potential of a 1.20 or lower WHIP is still there.
85. Seth Lugo (SDP) – Is Lugo actually going to start for the Padres? The last time he was stretched out was 2020 and it went well, save for a pair of horrid outings that ballooned his ERA in the small sample. His time as a reliever featured a pair of fastballs that did a fine job finding strikes without a whole lot of damage, though he recently struggled to get whiffs on the curve as its O-Swing fell dramatically from 36% to 28%. As he transitions to get stretched out, we may see the slider more often and in the 15-20% usage range, which could work out well, especially as he increased its spin and horizontal movement in 2023. Keep an eye on this: If Lugo is pumping 94+ and getting strikes with both sliders and curves, there is legit upside for a guy who has routinely sported a 25%+ strikeout rate and low walk rates. It will come down to his four-seamer and sinker avoiding the longball and we can only hope the sinker’s rate of 5 HRs across just 240 thrown in 2022 was just a blip on the radar.
86. Spencer Turnbull (DET) – Turnbull is returning from TJS and I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of him. His 2021 had me excited as he increased his slider usage to 24%, and that could go even further in 2023, leaning on its high 36% CSW and 67% strike rate. I don’t have the most faith in his other secondaries (the curve and change never developed into consistent offerings) but if he comes back with that wicked slider, I hope he can push it to 35%+ usage while sporting the 94/95 mph heaters of old (please stop throwing the dang sinker though. It gets hit hard and the four-seamer returned a 13% SwStr in 2021!). That could make him a decent streamer for 12-teamers and worthwhile in deeper formats.
87. MacKenzie Gore (WSN) – I love the fact that Gore is on a Nationals team that needs him to get his innings in 2023, just like Josiah Gray’s California transition the year prior. His elbow concerns seem to be in the past after rehabbing and making four starts in Triple-A to conclude his 2022 and I’m excited to see what Gore does with his opportunities in the year ahead.
I don’t think I’m rostering him out of the gate, however. I didn’t see stellar command from Gore last year, while his four-seamer doesn’t miss bats enough at its 95 mph velocity. He leans on his curve more than the slider, both pitches that could turn heads if he’s able to develop more consistency across his time on the bump.
As of now, I like the idea of Gore, but without a better fastball, I don’t feel great leaning on his breakers for success. I hope we see him take a step forward this year and be ready to pounce if he does. Throw that dang thing upstairs with authority, Gore. I know you have it in you.
88. Hayden Wesneski (CHC) – I’m kinda into Wesneski more than I thought I would. I was already aware of his slider, a pitch with wicked movement that allowed just 10% hard contact and is sure to be a dangerous weapon across his career, but I wasn’t aware of his sinker and cutter. I had an image of Wesneski as a “decent fastball, great slider” arm that would struggle to find playing time. The latter may still be an issue – the Cubs have four locked-in starters and it’ll be a spring battle for the fifth with Kyle Hendricks on the IL – but Wesneski’s repertoire has more depth than just a 93 mph four-seamer to pair with the slider. A sinker and cutter combo lies in wait, darting in opposite directions with the intent to jam batters which he does so effectively – the sinker returned a 42% O-Swing in its limited time, while the cutter aimed to land gloveside often. This works and if those heaters can get strikes and outs while the slider carves, this can work far better than other late options. Keep an eye on him, but a possible first start in Cincy isn’t ideal.
Tier 13 – Toby Has Been Buzzing For Five Minutes
I don’t draft Tobys – middling pitchers who are barely better than the waiver wire and you debate dropping them constantly. They often don’t carry the upside of others or are too volatile to make you believe in consistency. If you want a “Toby”, here’s a little secret – you’ll be able to find them off the waiver easily during the season. Chase the high-impact upside guys instead and if you need a “Toby”, you’ll be able to find one.
89. Mike Soroka (ATL) – Oh hey, it’s Soroka. Again. We saw a glistening 2019 campaign of a 2.68 ERA and 0.88 WHIP across nearly 175 frames and…about nothing else since as he’s undergone an Achilles injury twice. It’s unclear what he is at the moment, but what’s the harm in drafting Soroka in the back third of your draft and seeing how things pan out? If Soroka is regularly starting for Atlanta and hitting the same 91/92 marks on his heater while he paints the edges, you’re going to be thrilled you grabbed him so late. Worst case, he’s not the same and you’ll know right away, dropping him for whatever the new hot thing is. The only mistake you can make here is grabbing Soroka too early and overlooking a player who is sure to help your team through the year. Target him when you look at the draft list and shrug at everyone else.
90. Merrill Kelly (ARI) – Y’all don’t need me, you know Kelly isn’t going to replicate his 3.37 ERA and 1.14 WHIP for another season, even if you want to play the game of “but what if we remove the 8 ER game from his penultimate outing?!” Watch Kelly for a game and it’ll all make sense to you: He has a fastball around 92/93 mph that he hopes to locate along the edges while fighting his changeup, cutter, and curve all game to do what he wants them to. He’s not an electric arm, but he’s one who will likely go every fifth day for the Sneks and have as long of a leash as he wants. There’s value in that for deeper leagues, but in 12-teamers, he’s a fantastic example of a “Toby” and not someone I target in my drafts. Keep in mind, the Dodgers are first on the schedule, which means spending a late pick on Kelly equates to a 10-day stash play you could be spending on something actually exciting. You’ll be able to find last year’s Kelly on the wire if you want to, don’t fret.
91. Taijuan Walker (PHI) – I’m concerned y’all. Walker’s four-seamer dropped a tick and allowed over 30% hard contact last season, while his slider failed to eclipse a 55% strike rate. It meant Walker had to rely heavily on his splitter, bumping its usage rate from 15% to 27% and it paid off – the pitch returned a sub .200 batting average, a 67% strike rate, and helped Walker boast a 3.49 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
And I don’t buy it. I hate relying on splitters for a pitcher’s success, especially when nothing else is noteworthy (at least he’s jamming right-handers with sinkers a good amount…?) and said splitter doesn’t return a SwStr rate above 18%. Walker will continue to get chances to go deep into games for a winning team in Philly, but I think we’re hoping for a “Toby” and it paints the picture of an arm I’m not into drafting.
92. Nathan Eovaldi (TEX) – The velocity. Ohhhh the velocity. Eovaldi’s four-seamer has sat about 97 mph for his career and was doing his thang for about two months of the year until June 8th when his velocity dipped to just 94 mph on the gun. So he went on the IL, as one does, and he came back…sitting 93.4 mph in his first game back. We waited, we paced, we shouted at the sky, but Eovaldi’s four-seamer never sat 95 mph again for all of his eight starts post-IL stint – not even after a second IL stint through the final summer days – and yet…Eovaldi held a 2.91 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP across his final six games. Okay fine, with a 17% strikeout rate and he allowed 9 ER in the game before, BUT STILL.
I’m just kidding. There is no “but still” here, I’m terrified of rostering Eovaldi if his four-seamer isn’t sitting 96 mph or higher. The pitch wasn’t even elite at its previous velocity and was vastly worse when below 95 mph. His curve is still a strong offering and the splitter showed up in a major way last season, but a sub-par Eovaldi equates to a highly risky arm without the strikeout rate you want for your fantasy teams. If he’s pumping ched once again in spring training, it changes things and I’d consider him near pick 175 or so, but as of now, I’m not interested.
93. Domingo Germán (NYY) – Germán is the front-runner to replace Frankie Montas in the rotation out of the gate and he’s of consideration in your 12-teamers at the end of your drafts. The curveball is a stellar offering and he’s able to throw a ton of effective strikes with changeups (even if the four-seamer gets clobbered often), plus there’s still room to grow to get his strikeout rate comfortably above 20%. I don’t see a legit SP #2 like we saw in the first half of 2019 and that’s alright. He’s a little riskier than a standard “Toby” for the sake of strikeouts, though I don’t love his first matchup likely coming against the Phillies – even if the Yankees elect to go four-man for the first turn, that still means you have to stash Germán for the first 10 days of the season and I’m not sure that’s worth it.
94. Miles Mikolas (STL) – You want a “Toby”? Then fine, go grab Mikolas. He doesn’t walk batters as he nibbles the edges effectively with cutters, four-seamers, and sinkers, while curveballs plummet into the zone early for free real estate. The strikeouts aren’t destined to climb above 20% without a major whiff pitch, but the WHIP should be digestible with his low walk totals and solid St. Louis defense behind him. Think high 3s ERA with a 1.20 WHIP or so and call it a day (the sub eight hits per nine isn’t going to last another season). It’s not for me in 12-teamers, but 15-teamers should be fine with Mikolas…though I have to mention the Blue Jays and Braves await the Cardinals for their first six games. Okay maybe don’t get Mikolas?
95. Eric Lauer (MIL) – Whoa, I didn’t realize Lauer was this good for the full year! That’s because he wasn’t. Oh. Lauer’s first five games returned a 1.82 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and a 36% strikeout rate, while the following twenty-four starts packaged a 4.12 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 21% strikeout rate. Ohhhhh. Yes, it’s magic. You know, Lauer is a “Cherry Bomb” in my book, even after raising his velocity for the third straight season to 93.3 mph and keeping its 14%+ swinging strike rate. In fact, it was a phenomenal heater overall with just a .188 BAA, 31% CSW, and 23% hard contact. Then his slider was the problem? Nah, while it didn’t earn whiffs, it earned a whole lot of outs with a 69% strike rate and .181 batting average. THEN TELL ME WHO TO BLAME. Jeeeez, that’s the curve and cutter, totaling 30% usage between them. Lauer failed to sneak them in the zone effectively, and with his four-seamers sub 65% strike rate, it meant turning to them too often for too much demolition.
I kinda think there’s still something here – maybe as a two-pitch arm if the slider can maintain the batted ball results and jump from a 22% usage to something closer to 30% – and with a whiffable heater in his arsenal, I’m curious enough to take a gamble…if Lauer weren’t set up for the Mets in the first start of the year. I don’t like drafting pitchers outside my SP #5/6 who I’m not starting in their first game of the year, which means I’m hoping he’s worth an add off the wire later in the year.
96. Aaron Civale (CLE) – I absolutely adore Civale’s curveball. The pitch returned a 21% SwStr rate, 41% O-Swing, .124 BAA, and 12% hard contact last year, making it the number one item on every kids’ wish list last Christmas. In other words, it missed bats, and when contact was made, batters didn’t do anything with it. He kept it down over 75% of the time, returning more grounders than ever, and a solid 62% strike rate means he can depend on it whenever…except he only tossed it 28% of the time. I would love to see a 35%+ usage curveball from Civale in the future as it’s far and away the best thing he does.
And that brings us to the rest of his stuff, which is…fine. The cutter is the best of the lot and gets used 34% of the time, but it took a step back in 2022 with a 100-point jump in BAA and a lot more hard contact. Still, it’s better than the sinker he tries to sneak along the outside corner to right-handers and the four-seamer that is saved only for the rare elevation (and it doesn’t work often). If Civale can improve his cutter and throw more curves (or find another pitch to toss 25% of the time?), I can see a beautiful season ahead as he’ll be allowed to go as deep into games as he wants. There’s only so much that curveball can do, though.
97. Michael Wacha (FA) – I understand he returned a sparkling 3.32 ERA and 1.12 WHIP across 127 frames, but it came with a 25.6% CSW that ranked 164th in the majors and a paltry 20% strikeout rate. Wacha’s success relied heavily on his changeup command on a given day and while I’m happy for him that his cutter returned just a .233 BAA last year, it returned more hard contact than ever and held a .321 xAVG. In other words, he vastly overperformed and I’d be all kinds of scared trusting his four-seamer to endure 35% hard contact and a 23% CSW for another season. He’s not a guy you want to start each week. But where is he gonna land? Okay, that’s a fair point. If he signs with a team that grants him a cushy first start, fine, I’ll consider it. I’m not expecting it, though, and I don’t trust the overall package.
Tier 14 – Back To Some Fun Stuff
It’s fun because they have potential. Remember to let them go back to the wire if they aren’t expressing the missing piece to the puzzle. It’s easy to get enamored, but trust me – there’s always another arm.
98. Roansy Contreras (PIT) – On paper, this feels like it should be something legit. Contreras sits mid-90s on his heater (~96 mph early in the year, 94/95 mph by the end) with a slider that returned a 24% SwStr rate and a curveball that he can flip in for strikes decently well. All that’s left is polish to locate with consistency, right?
Not quite. I call it the Huascar Ynoa rule where I won’t get too excited about a fantastic breaker if his fastball is too much of a detriment. And boy is it a detriment: Contreras’ four-seamer allowed 43% hard contact in 2022 with a sub 9% SwStr rate. That’s a huge red flag for me, one that makes a path to reliable fantasy relevance a rugged mountain to climb. There are destined to be days where the slider returns double-digit whiffs and the fastball survives (likely a good amount, in fact), but that poor four-seamer outlines a “Cherry Bomb” and I’d be shocked if he navigated around the fastball’s punishment with ease. Throw in the fact that he’s pitching for the low-win club known as the Pirates and heading to Cincy for his first outing and I’m sitting this one out.
99. Eduardo Rodriguez (DET) – Can I be both in and out on Erod at the same time? I look at his 2022 season and see a guy who wasn’t able to get into a rhythm through most of the season – he did go AWOL after his initial injury, after all – but when he returned, he looked like 2019 Erod once again. To a hilarious degree, actually: 2019 returned a 3.81 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, and across his final nine starts of the year, Eduardo returned a…3.81 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.
The approach is akin to the classic veteran arms who don’t come packed with an explosive fastball or a wicked breaker. The goal is to nibble the edges with cutters, sinkers, and changeups, allowing more walks than the average starter, but accepting them as he earns plenty of grounders and limits hard contact. The addition of an elevated four-seamer propelled his strikeout rate to a staggering 27% in 2021 and I won’t rule out the possibility of the pitch returning to form in 2023 after falling from a 15.5% SwStr to a ghastly 8% clip last season. In the end, I can’t buy into his notoriously high WHIP marks to fall drastically to digestible ~1.20 levels, but the ERA should be comfortably south of 4.00 given a proper lead into the season, hopefully with his heater missing bats once again. There’s something of value here with a decent ERA and potential strikeout rate if you can stomach the likely elevated WHIP, and I’m begrudgingly okay with his first start against Tampa, assuming all looks fine in the spring.
100. Justin Steele (CHC) – There’s a touch of hype surrounding Steele as his 21.4% hard contact rate ranked 14th best among all starting pitchers as he boasted a solid 25% K rate and 3.18 ERA in 119 innings for the Cubs. I’m not sure I’m buying into it, sadly. The slider is excellent – batters returned just a .136 BAA on it with just 14.5% hard contact allowed – and maybe if he pulls a Cease and bumps its 30% usage to over 40%, there could be something here. However, the four-seamer and its cut action seem too…pedestrian for my liking. I’ve seen days where he’s able to earn a fair amount of whiffs on the pitch, and others where it seemingly floats into the zone like a bubble hitting a wall. There just isn’t enough meat on the bone at 92 mph and unless he finds another gear for the pitch, I see Steele’s near 10% walk rate keeping that high WHIP afloat as he fails to find enough redeeming qualities to earn a spot on your squad.
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|60||Lance McCullers Jr.|
WE’RE NOT DONE YET
Whoa whoa whoa, where do you think you’re going? We’re only 1/3 of the way through! And besides, we all know how much the Top 100 List changes in-season, spend an extra moment and take a gander at who is outside the Top 100. It’ll do you a whole lot of good.
101. Matthew Boyd (DET) – I have no idea what we’re going to see from Boyd, but at the very least, he’s back from TJS and was able to sit 92.6 mph during his quick time as a reliever for the Mariners last year – he sat around 91 mph before going under the knife. I wouldn’t read too much into that as we normally see an uptick in velocity when heading to the pen, but at least he’s seemingly back to where he started with his fastball. His slider, however, wasn’t missing bats near the same 18%+ rate we celebrated in his peak, though the sample we’re working with failed to eclipse the 70-pitch mark. So, again, I have no idea what we’re going to see from Boyd.
He’s likely starting for the Tigers out of the gate, though, and we’ll have time to observe his starts during spring training to get a sense before draft season is fully upon us. I heavily suspect we’re going to pass on him given the poor Detroit schedule to kick off the year (@TBR, @HOU), and follow his starts to see if he’s acting like the man we’ve always wanted him to be.
102. Drew Rucinski (OAK) – The Athletics signed him to a cheap $3M one-year deal after he featured a 2.97 ERA and a 24% strikeout rate in the KBO. The word is he earned plenty of grounders and could be a solid innings-eater for the Athletics. I’m cool taking a flier on this for deeper leagues in search of 5/6 innings of decent quality for some strikeouts and win potential, and if he winds up facing the Guardians in the fourth game of the season, I’d be happy to give him a test run and go from there. Monitor this in the spring, though your 12-team drafts can likely ignore this until we see something that excites us.
103. Shintaro Fujinami (OAK) – Fujinami was a phenom in Japan before struggling massively across the last five seasons until the 2022 season where he found new life with a 3.38 ERA in about 67 frames. He tosses a hard heater in the upper 90s and embraced the splitter more than usual still carrying a filthy slide piece. Most teams wanted him as a reliever, but the Athletics brought him in to start and I’m oh-so-curious what we get.
His tall 6’6” frame makes me concerned his velocity comes with a poor VAA, meaning the four-seamer doesn’t perform as well as we’d like despite the flirtation with triple-digits. That said, he’s not a terrible last-round wait-and-see option as there’s a chance Fujinami has his command working and can be productive as soon as his first start against the Guardians (assuming he’s their #4 or #5 starter). In all likelihood, this fizzles and Fujinami turns into a reliever with command issues and a too-hittable heater, especially with the low workload in recent seasons.
104. Alex Wood (SFG) – Like Cobb, Wood was clearly unlucky as well. His horrific 64% LOB rate did him no favors, while he allowed more home runs and his hits per nine sat near the dreaded 9 mark. Thing is, Wood wasn’t a whole lot different than his 3.83 ERA, 1.18 WHIP season and that should scare you. Sure, his sinker gained a little velocity, but the results were similar, and while the slider dropped in putaway rate and whiffs…it was essentially the same pitch for another year. And all of this is happening while his changeup was in the middle of chomping on a muffin as everyone’s eyes went to him. “Oh, you’re talking to me?”
2023 should be a better season for Wood than his recent trials and tribulations, but can he live up to the sub 4.00 FIP of his previous two seasons? …Maybe? He’s still too hittable with his sinker, and his slider isn’t the dominant breaker we want it to be. Given the early schedule (Yankees or White Sox) and lack of overwhelming ceiling, I’m passing on Wood in drafts.
105. Sean Manaea (SFG) – Manaea’s sinker velocity fell a tick last year and it seemingly was the problem for everything…but I wouldn’t say that’s the case. He regained most of it by the end of the season, and while his final 12 starts returned a 6.17 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with that velocity (yikes), you can blame the Dodgers and Coors for most of that hurt. And the Royals. Yes, and a game against the Royals. Still, he held a 14% SwStr rate in that time while his slider woke up for a 36% CSW and there could be something there. Manaea truly needs that breaker to return to form as he’s been left in the dust pumping mediocre fastballs without a paddle.
I worry about this. There’s a world where Manaea has the breaker with 92/93 mph velocity and the occasional changeup (yes, “occasional” as I dream that he stops throwing it and its horrid 32% hard contact rate over a quarter of the time) to keep batters off balance, but that world feels contained inside a snowglobe, where it looks pretty for a glimpse before the excitement subsides and you’re just staring through the glass at normalcy again. You deserve a sparkling globe, surrounded by the thrill of the game for more than a flittering moment. Take the chance elsewhere.
106. James Paxton (BOS) – Oh hey, remember him? We were hoping Paxton would return from TJS last season but elbow soreness and lat tightness shut him down before he could return. The Red Sox are hoping he’s healthy entering next season and can make his two-year deal not a total loss for the club. Peak Paxton boasts 95-99 mph heaters with a vicious cutter and curveball from the left side, though it’s been a whole lot of time since we’ve seen it. I’d expect low-to-mid 90s without the same bite as before, resulting in a tough arm to trust on any given day. I’m awfully curious what we’ll see in spring training, and if the velo is there, he could be an awfully sneaky pick, even if the health can’t be depended on.
107. Steven Matz (STL) – Remember him? We were stoked about the move to Missouri this time last year and we never saw our vision realized as Matz hurt his shoulder and knee, tossing just 48 frames for his new club in the end. With health supposedly on his side, we can only hope everything clicks for the southpaw.
When Matz was healthy across his first eight starts, we saw a “Cherry Bomb” in action. He pinpointed sinkers and paired them with strong changeups most of the time…but then got bamboozled by the Pirates, Mets, and Giants for 19 ER between them. It’s easy to say “he had a 6.03 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in those starts, he’s terrible!” while we know he also had a 27% strikeout rate with just a 5% walk rate, and the small sample of a few starts stained what actually looked to be a solid pitcher before health got in the way.
It makes me kinda interested in taking a stab at Matz for 2023…after the initial series or two. Matz should give enough to let the Cardinals’ defense back him up with a sizeable amount of Wins and the ability to go 90+ pitches constantly. Don’t overlook him in deeper leagues.
Yeah But What If He Had A Job Tier
At this point, the number rank is really blurring and it’s about outlining the pitchers themselves and grouping them together with others in similar situations. Read through them and pick the guy you want, don’t get bogged down by the ranking.
Anyway, these are the guys I’m paying attention to in April or later in the year and crossing my fingers they get their shot before too long. There’s legit potential across the board here.
108. Aaron Ashby (MIL) – I’m not embarrassed to admit the number of times I’ve made noises I shouldn’t make in public watching Ashby pitch. Well, what is it? I dunno, five sacks of apples worth. IT’S A LOT. The slider and curve are filthy, his sinker movement is bonkers, and the change often falls elegantly into the zone. However, despite all of this, his ratios were horrific as the oft-lamented command destroyed his days. His sinker is a fabulous weapon against left-handers, but with it as his primary pitch versus righties, Ashby struggles to limit hard contact while failing to avoid deep counts and free passes.
I don’t have as much concern with the secondaries – the slider is sure to be a CSW darling once again (36% last year) as the changeup and curve offer plenty of distraction to perplex batters – but without a cutter or four-seamer to disable right-handers, Ashby is destined to struggle once again in 2023. It’s often unwise to lean on the development of a new pitch (and one that we don’t even know if he’s developing in the first place), but a four-seamer or cutter is plenty easier than a secondary to add, and removing a sinker that allowed 33% hard contact to right-handers in 2022 would do wonders for Ashby’s potential breakout season.
In short, I wouldn’t draft Ashby as the pitcher he was at the end of 2022. The Brewers were cautious to let him consistently start (and with the signing of Wade Miley, they could give Ashby the ole workaround again), his 10% walk rate may stick around, and the sinker isn’t enough. The possibility of a tweaked arsenal with a locked spot every five days (one can only hope) could clear the clouds and allow us to get more than a glancing touch of Ashby’s golden ceiling, but is it enough to draft Ashby before the final rounds? I don’t think so.
109. Tylord Megill (NYM) – Sir. You got me so dang hyped on opening day by featuring 96 mph heaters with pristine sliders down and with a clear hold on a rotation spot for the foreseeable future. And after holding a 2.43 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 28% strikeout rate through his first six starts, he suffered a shoulder strain, got blasted for eight runs, came back for two starts, got blasted for six earned runs and went back on the IL, then returned…as a reliever. Ugh. I believe in Megill’s four-seamer as it boasted a 15% SwStr and just 21.5% hard contact last season, while I saw flashes of his slider turning into a legit whiff pitch. It’s Brandon Woodruff-lite in my view and all that’s missing is health and opportunity. I wonder what becomes of the season ahead for Megill – does he turn into a reliever? Does he find regular time in the rotation? Does he, dare I say, get traded? If Megill gets consistent outings as a starter and sits comfortably above 95 mph on his four-seamer, I think there’s legit breakout potential here. Be on the lookout in season.
110. Sixto Sánchez (MIA) – The last time we saw Sixto was in 2020, but it was a fun time for all. He boasted a heater in the upper 90s with a vicious changeup and a slider that seems destined to miss a whole lotta bats. However, a shoulder injury tarnished his 2021 season…and 2022 season, making him a post-post hype arm entering the new year. Don’t carry any reasonable expectations from Sixto this season, but if he is finally healthy again, it would be foolish to overlook a pitcher with his skill set given how he’s the price of free at the end of your drafts. Regular starts of Sixto would be far better than those on your waiver wire, as he carries legit 25%+ strikeout upside with solid ratios. If he’s not in the rotation out of camp, however, cut the man and replace your pick with something else that can help you early in the year. A perfect upside pick to take as Mr. Irrelevant.
111. Adrian Morejon (SDP) – Morejon returned from TJS last season and the good news is his velocity was right where he left off, sitting 96/97 mph out of the pen. Morejon is sure to get some looks in the rotation this year – h*ck, he could get it out of camp if he soars – and the major question here is whether he can regain his command across the arsenal, which is usually the last to return post-surgery. His fastball isn’t an issue – it was a dominant pitch in 2022 and could soar next season over a larger sample – but the slider feel is still lacking for it to turn into the strong #2 pitch that it used to be. In short, we don’t really know where Morejon is at the moment (is the change coming back?!), and keep an eye on him in camp and early in the year, especially if he has a rotation spot. That heater could turn a whole lot of heads next year, especially if the slider jumps from a 57% strike to a mid-60s mark. It’ll open the door for batters to sit less on heaters and ohhhhh boy that could be fun. BRING ON THE “BSB”!
112. Tanner Houck (BOS) – This time last year, we were pretty jazzed about Houck as the #5 for the Red Sox. We all saw the GIFs of Houck as the right-handed Chris Sale, featuring a big sweeping slider and heaters sitting 94/95 mph. However, the Red Sox didn’t give Houck many opportunities in the rotation, allowing him to start three games before heading to the pen full-time, save for a brief spot start in May. There’s a chance Houck can make it work as a starter this year, though I don’t have the highest of hopes. The slider is elite, the rest…is not. His sinker and four-seamer each get hit too hard for my liking, even if the sinker has routinely sat above a 35% O-Swing. Hmmmm, maybe I am undervaluing that O-Swing…Anyway, his splitter is too inconsistent (Gasp!) to be a reliable third offering and a pick on Houck is chasing a guy who could be a constant five-and-dive pitcher for the Red Sox, jumping in-and-out of the rotation all year. Chase another pitcher.
113. Matt Brash (SEA) – I don’t expect Brash to start, but it does seem like Mariners are stretching him out in the spring as a backup plan if something goes wrong with their starting five. Y’all know the stuff – his breaker is one of the best out there while his four-seamer gets a bit too hammered as his command is all kinds of blegh – and even if he does start, I won’t make the same mistake twice of believing his command is good enough to stave off damage. He’s a “Cherry Bomb” at best and a massive risk. Nooooo, but he has one of the best breaking balls in baseball! Oh, I know. I remember the GIF I made watching his first start last year. He struggles to place it where he wants. For every gorgeous one, there’s a horrific hanger or a fastball down the heart of the plate. The risk is too dang high!
113½. A.J. Puk (OAK) – Update: I’m adding this a day later on Februrary 8th as the Athletics are making it clear they want Puk to be heavily considered a starter in spring training. I’ve been dreaming of Puk entering the rotation since he debuted in 2019 but now…I’m not so hyped? What. Yeah, it’s a really good slider from the left side, but the four-seamer – despite its 96/97 mph velocity in relief – hasn’t been commanded well and isn’t an elite offering. Without a strong #3, Puk boasting just one elite pitch in his arsenal breaks the Ynoa rule of trusting a two-pitch pitcher without two elite weapons. We’ll see how he looks in the spring, but if the heater isn’t consistently sitting upstairs (42% hiLoc%?!), it’ll continue to put up a below-average PLV and make for a “Cherry Bomb” starter at best.
114. Bailey Ober (MIN) – This was a fun late-round grab until he got bounced from the rotation as Ober comes with a legit four-seamer (12-13% SwStr rate) and a developing slider that returned a fantastic 20% SwStr rate and 67% strike rate in his limited time in 2022. I call him Oberizzi given his propensity to elevate the heater, and it should speak volumes that he boasted a 67% strike rate with four-seamers despite a minuscule 46% zone rate. But that was just in 56 frames of 2022! He did the exact same thing in 2021’s 92 frames – the four-seamer has held a HiLoc% above 70% for his full career and gets strikes. I love it. I haven’t mentioned the change and curve, and there’s some potential in the change, though he’ll have to iron out the lapses in command we’ve seen thus far. As for the hook, it’ll continue to be an early show-me pitch for a strike and that’s just fine with me.
If Ober can maintain that slider’s performance and secure a rotation spot, then there’s true potential for a breakout season as long as he stays on the bump. The Twins may micromanage him a little by preventing him from facing the lineup a third time frequently, but even stellar performances across 5+ frames with high frequency can do you a whole lot of good. Be ready to pounce when the opportunity arises.
115. Ian Anderson (ATL) – 2022 was a disaster for Ian Anderson. His walk issues caught up to him as his notoriously low BABIP and H/9 marks refused to stay depressed while he failed to improve inside his arsenal. The curve dropped to just a 52% strike rate, his changeup was still bounced frequently, and his fastball jumped from a .219 BAA to a ghastly .306 clip. Something needs to be tweaked to get Anderson locating better, but the good news is his youth: He’s turning just 25 years old in May so don’t consider him a lost cause just yet. Time spent in the minors in 2022 mixed with a proper off-season could work wonders for Anderson, who will be fighting for a rotation spot in the spring. Keep an eye on him – if Anderson limits the walks in March and demands a place on the opening roster, he should be on your draft board.
116. David Peterson (NYM) – Hey, I get it. You’ve read so many of these that you’re getting tired (just 185 to go!), but this should wake you up. Peterson’s slider returned a 26% SwStr rate in 2022. Ohhhhhhhhh I’M AWAKE. The four-seamer has been effective at a 23% hard contact rate as well, though I’m a little skeptical the pitch can continue its results in 2023. The sinker and change leave plenty to be desired, though, and we’re left with a volatile arm who is hoping to be the first backup option when the Mets next need a starter. I’d consider him as a possible streamer just for the 28% strikeout rate (likely closer to 25% with everything being mediocre outside the slider), though regular outings are sure to spell “Cherry Bomb” in the air – his 10.6% walk rate doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
117. Ryne Nelson (ARI) – Nelson throws a bit more over-the-top than most at about 95 mph – going down a bit in his third and final start of the year as he suffered from a shoulder injury. He’ll be back for spring training and I’m curious as to what we’ll get. His four-seamer didn’t miss a whole lot of bats despite its velocity (possibly because of the high release point?), making his success hinge heavily on generating outs in the field or his curve and slider to find strikes. Sadly, the curve and slider aren’t electric but have had their moments of a brighter future if Nelson were to find a consistent feel for them. There are growing pains to endure here, but Nelson could become an interesting add in-season were he to get regular starts. His floor is low, but the stuff speaks to higher peaks than the average “Toby”.
118. Kyle Muller (OAK) – Hey this is a cool thing! Muller forced a raised eyebrow from me in his 2021 debut and now that he’s out of the packed Atlanta rotation and in Oakland where there’s sure to be a chance at some point this season, and I’ll be watching with adoration. Muller sits on the left side with a 94 mph fastball that doesn’t get as many whiffs as we want, a product of its barren hiLoc% rates of 28% and 38% (generally, 55-60% = whiff city), but his slider gets the job done with his curve as a potential threat down the road as well. Whenever I see a guy with two strong breakers and 94+ velocity, I’ll lean a little further up in my chair. Here’s to hoping Muller gets consistent innings and the opportunity to polish his arsenal at the big-league level before the summer hits. Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
119. DL Hall (BAL) – The Orioles have said they will attempt to stretch Hall out as a starter in the spring and give him a proper chance to enter the rotation out of camp. That should excite you, given that he sits 96 mph with a slider and changeup that each miss bats. Think Andrew Heaney with similar arm-action as well with a bit more velocity and less control and you’re all set. I’m a bit worried about Hall’s command and have hesitations trusting in him early in the season, but like many, if he’s surprising in camp, he’s a worthy late stash to see what happens. And who knows, maybe he ends up the Orioles closer when all is said and done, that still helps, right? What’s a closer? No idea. Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
120. Luis Ortiz (PIT) – I want to buy into Ortiz with his upper 90s fastball and whiff-heavy slider, but I think I’m gonna pass. Seriously? Yeah, it’s sad, I know. His fastball’s movement is too lateral focused, which meant he failed to climb above a 10% SwStr rate in the small sample last year, while his command of the pitch was more of a shotgun approach than precision. In other words, there’s a lot of work to do here and I question how good that four-seamer actually is despite the velocity. Throw in the Pirates preventing a whole lot of Wins, a bit of a log jam in the rotation, and a likely cap on his pitches during starts, and Ortiz becomes too much of a headache to trust on my roster throughout the year. Nevertheless, he’s sure to be an interesting streamer if you’re chasing strikeouts (oh that slider!) when he gets regular starts and I’m going to do my best not to get too enamored with the velocity and breaker to overlook the low floor he brings. Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
121. Drey Jameson (ARI) – I can’t help but wonder if I was a little too high on Jameson after the season originally ended. The young Jameson has had just four games in the majors, returning a whopping 25% SwStr on his slider, though the pitch excelled in one start and was a bit inconsistent in the others. His heater came out guns blazing at 96/97 mph in his first two performances but sat 94/95 in the finale as he struggled to locate heaters. It may have been a product of October fatigue for the 25-year-old, though it displayed a lack of polish that concerns me trusting him out of the gate. Considering Jameson mostly is a fastball/slider arm, I want to see more dominance with his fastball before I can lean on him as a consistent starter in a 12-teamer. That said, if he impresses mightily in the spring, the Diamondbacks could let him fly in the rotation early and begin to return to my draft board. Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
122. Cody Morris (CLE) – If you’re in a deep league, Morris may turn into something of interest in-season. He’s the clear #6 on the squad at the moment and comes armed with a 94/95 mph four-seamer he likes to elevate and a developing cutter that I think can do better than the 11% SwStr it held last season. The changeup had its moments as well with a seven-whiff night in one of his sole starts, and it makes for yet another Cleveland pitcher who could toss over 90 pitches of success on a given night. I don’t see too high of a ceiling unless the four-seamer’s 13% SwStr can come with a drop in hard contact (31% hard contact and .371 BAA, yikes) and that cutter taking off, but even in his current form, there’s something of value here for leagues that need volume. If Morris has that chance, he could be an underrated volume arm for AL-Only leagues.
123. Anthony Desclafani (SFG) – Tony Disco is an effective starter every other year, and after enduring injuries through 2022, most have forgotten about his stellar 3.17 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 23% K rate campaign in 2021. He achieved it through a fantastic slider and finding a way to earn a .191 BAA on his sinker…which doesn’t seem destined to repeat in 2023, especially without a locked rotation spot with the Giants’ signings. As the sixth man in the rotation, this is an obvious “take note when he gets a chance to go 5+ innings with regularity and we’ll talk then” situation. There’s a legit “Toby” in there going fastball/slider if given the right opportunity.
124. Braxton Garrett (MIA) – We had some lovely moments with Garrett in 2022, demolishing the weak Pirates and Reds each for eleven strikeouts and saving plenty of managers down the stretch as a strong streaming option. For the season ahead, it could be very much the same: a streaming option against weaker teams, but not to be trusted as a regular member of your fantasy rotations. The slider is everything, harnessing its 23% SwStr across a third of all pitches thrown, while he does a good job of separating his four-seamers and sinkers across the zone to help set up the devastating breaker. It’s solid, just not electric, and not enough for me to think there’s something more on the horizon. There’s a world where Garrett returns 160+ innings, turning him into a legit “Toby” for the season, though the Wins are likely to be diminished and you’ll be wrestling with dropping or holding him all year. In all likelihood, he’s a stop-gap for the others, including Eury Perez, and we see him flittering around the pen, minors, and rotation through the year, allowing us to choose our spots and move on.
125. Clarke Schmidt (NYY) – Let’s say the Yankees favor Schmidt instead of Germán to take the #5 spot. First and foremost, I’m not a fan in 12-teamers as he’d get the Phillies in his first outing, though Schmidt won’t be swooped up in as many leagues, allowing him to be a considerable streamer and maaaaybe hold once he gets his feet wet.
He’s a sinker/slider arm who does a solid job against right-handers (even if the sinker needs to come a bit further inside) with his slider earning a 40% CSW across 51% usage (insane!), though lefties get the better end of the stick – per usual – as the sinker is so dang hittable. Whether batters get the hook or slider doesn’t matter a whole lot (lefties saw more curveballs and batted just .067 against it), but Schmidt needs to either throw fewer fastballs (four-seamer was poorly located as well) in favor of 60%+ breakers or he may struggle to be reliant enough for managers.
126. Ken Waldichuk (OAK) – Seeing a young arm get a sizeable amount of innings per start with a 15%+ K-BB rate is something to appreciate, with the understanding that he could improve from this initial foundation (ignore the near 5.00 ERA, please). The problem here is the amount of work left to be done. His 94 mph heater has potential if he’s able to carry 65%+ hiLoc and maybe a tick more velocity, while the secondaries were too volatile to get a sense of their legit ceiling. Watch him through the year and see if there’s a major shift start-to-start with his locations, velocity, or whiff rates. It’s not out of the question Waldichuk clicks into place and has a mini-breakout in deeper leagues. Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
They Have A Job Tier
Am I undervaluing these pitchers? Maybe. I don’t think they should be on your 12-team rosters out of the gate, though, and you’re better off stashing one of the arms in the above tier in case something wonderful happens in the spring. If it doesn’t work out and you’d rather have a starter? Sure, go with someone in here…but just because they’re starting doesn’t mean they are worthwhile.
127. Graham Ashcraft (CIN) – On paper, Ashcraft should be a stud. He hurls 96-99 mph cutters and sinkers and pairs them with a high-80s slider. That should work. The problem? His cutter is too dang hittable as its break is more of a dip down than laterally and that’s a problem. With high velocity, you’re aiming to miss above the bat. With a small dip on the cutter, Ashcraft helps batters catch up to the velocity with the ball dipping toward the barrel when they’re late. If he had more cut on the, um, cutter, it would dive into the handle of the bat, generating weak contact. As it is now, it’s allowing 28% hard contact and a .282 BAA that just isn’t going to…cut it.
The sinker should be a bit better as well. Ashcraft is struggling to get the pitch further inside to right-handers, leading to a sub 30% O-Swing on a pitch that should profile to be like Zack Wheeler’s with its velocity. There is potential for more if he can consistently place that pitch off the plate and diving into the wrists of right-handers.
As for the slider, it’s a solid offering that pairs with his velocity. It’s just a matter of setting it up to take advantage of its drop and velo dip, which the cutter and sinker don’t do incredibly well. If this slider’s numbers improve, it’ll be a product of the cutter and sinker, not the breaker itself.
At the end of the day, I’m not too encouraged by Ashcraft. I think the cutter needs to be reworked for him to become fantasy relevant and the sinker command has tweaks to be made as well. There’s a chance it comes together on a given day, but overall, there it’s far too risky to chase without much to salvage when it goes poorly.
128. Ranger Suárez (PHI) – Oh how the turntables. Suárez’s 1.36 ERA from 2021 just wasn’t meant to be, as Ranger came out guns a-jamming with a 4.33 ERA and 1.46 WHIP through the first three months. However, those who gave up on him were punished(?) as July through October redeemed his year with a 2.95 ERA and 1.21 WHIP to go with a 20% strikeout rate across 76 innings, later becoming one of the most reliable arms for the Phillies during their playoff run. That works! Maybe Suárez is just a second-half pitcher? Jokes aside, I still don’t like Ranger for the year ahead. His change was noticeably worse, and as his best pitch, it losing five points of strike rate to just 54% is a horrid trend. His fastballs surrendered just one longball in 2021 and regression ensured eight left the park in 2022, a normal affair and I expect the same in 2023.
In short, there isn’t a whole lot here for me to chase. His peak last year was a 3.00 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with a meh strikeout rate and you had to sift through season-ruining months to get there. At best, he’s a “Toby” and we don’t draft those, do we?
129. Martín Pérez (TEX) – Pérez did exactly what a crafty pitcher is supposed to do. He played the east-west game with cutters and sinkers to keep batters off balance, then sat them down with changeups down-and-armside with ease. I labeled him a “Vargas Rule” early in the season and it never seemed to end as Pérez was in rhythm for about five months, dotting edges and getting chases on the changeup.
All good things must come to an end, though, and “Vargas Rule” pitchers very rarely hold onto their rhythm through the off-season. Just ask Marco Gonzales, Ranger Suárez, Chris Flexen, Dereck Rodriguez, and, you know, Jason Vargas himself. That means we’re letting him go to someone else in drafts and hope he’ll hit the wire in time for a decent stream during the year if he’s nailing that command once again. Remember, it was a 2.89 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP and 20.6% strikeout rate. You’re not missing much if he happens to be magical once again.
130. Cal Quantrill (CLE) – The mystery that is Cal Quantrill – The UnQuantrillfiable. His approach is simple: sinkers arm-side, cutters over the plate, and occasional changeups against left-handers. There isn’t much else to it and I’m still amazed he’s able to squeeze out a 3.38 ERA for over 185 innings. His best talent is jamming those fastballs off the plate inside and returning a 36% O-Swing (well above average!) but otherwise, I don’t have much more to say. This is “Toby” as it gets – if you’re lucky – and we don’t draft Tobys, do we?
131. Corey Kluber (BOS) – It made all the sense in the world for Kluber to sign with the Red Sox after the front office made it abundantly clear they weren’t going to aggressively chase a ring in 2023. A one-year deal for Kluber who still has two solid breakers in his curve and cutter (both sub 25% hard contact with a fair amount of whiffs and 30%+ CSW) could turn into a trade asset at the deadline, making those in best-ball leagues more inclined to take a shot on Kluber. That said, a 3% walk rate is highly unlikely to be repeated, though it should stay low and help his WHIP reach a sub 1.25 mark. The sinker has always been a problem and should not find its first taste of glory in Boston, but that’s alright. Consider Kluber as a streaming option in-season (is he safe to start against the Orioles to begin the year?) and question your direction if Kluber finds his way as a regular starter. The ceiling is gone and the floor is awfully shaky.
132. Kyle Gibson (BAL) – The Orioles got their guy – Kyle Gibson. On the real, he fits as their Jordan Lyles replacement as an arm who will likely go above 150 frames of reasonable baseball, feature moments of bliss, and keep the rotation afloat as their young arms find their way. For fantasy purposes, there’s a touch of intrigue surrounding Gibson possibly learning a sweeper at the end of the year – his penultimate start returned 25 total whiffs en route to a “Golden Goal” as he generated 11/28 slider whiffs using a breaker with more horizontal movement than ever. The slider performed to the tune of a 47% CSW as well in the following game and I can hear you now – “he must have been an ace!” Nah, 12 ER in two games lol. Yes, LAUGH. OUT. LOUD. It does make Gibson a deep sleeper if that slider is just as effective in 2023 as the poor ERA isn’t sure to follow over a larger sample. Throw in a decent offense and that lovely left-field fence and Gibson may be the José Quintana of 2023.
133. Kyle Bradish (BAL) – I often wonder what we’ll see from Bradish in 2023. There were moments in 2022 that got us legitimately excited, including a ten-strikeout 8.2-frame shutout against the Astros, which was a product of many new elements that rose our collective eyebrows: 97 mph heaters galore, sinkers favored against right-handers, sliders getting whiffs, and curveballs earning 24% usage while generating a 54% chase rate. The thing is, save for the reliance on sinkers, I can’t anticipate any of these being present in a single start moving forward, let alone all of them. His four-seamer has been a detriment with its cut action, but if he’s able to sit 95-97 on the pitch instead of 93-95, well that’s a different story. This is all to say I don’t want to draft Bradish on my teams exiting spring, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on how he develops. The slider can be such a pretty pitch and with a proper supporting cast, there is a path toward reliable dominance, however small.
134. James Kaprielian (OAK) – I still believe there’s talent here. To see it, just watch his final start against the Mariners where he fanned seven across six scoreless, helping him complete his season with a 3.18 ERA across his final fifteen starts beginning July 1st. The slider aggressively zooms across the plate and his four-seamer can climb to 95/96 mph and flirt with its 13% SwStr rate in 2021…
…but it fell to just 8% in 2022 and I don’t understand why. He earned far fewer strikes on it as Kapriellian’s low arm angle made for a loss of command, failing to nail his cross-body arm angle’s timing. It led to opening up too early or tugging pitches constantly, and a poor 61% strike rate on his heater (we want to see 65%+). The good news here is Jimmy Hat has all the opportunity in Oakland to not only start every five games, but also travel through the sixth whenever his pitch count allows it. Keep an eye on him, if not just to be a serviceable “Toby” in-season when you need it.
135. Paul Blackburn (OAK) – Those who rostered Blackburn in 2022 know his 4.28 ERA doesn’t do the story justice. His final five games returned 25 ER (including a 10 ER game that itself added nearly 70 points to his ERA), with Blackburn holding a 2.90 ERA and 1.16 WHIP before the explosion. But who is the true Blackburn? I see a guy with a lovely big hook, a well-located-and-unlucky cutter, and a horrific sinker that needs to disappear forever. The command speaks better than the high ratios from 2022, and I can see Blackburn being a decent play for 15-teamers at the end of drafts to get some volume. However, in a league any shallower than that, Blackburn is a spot starter for a desperate weekend, nothing more. You need to take chances on guys with higher ceilings.
136. Mitch Keller (PIT) – Wait he had a 3.91 ERA in 2022?! Yeah…with a 1.40 WHIP and 20% strikeout rate. Oh. It’s a weird situation where Keller increased his fastball velocity and dropped its hard contact from 31% to 18.5%, featured a slider with an excellent PLV (especially against LHB!), and still struggled massively…until the last eight games of the season where he boasted a 2.42 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with a 24% strikeout rate. You can thank the four-seamer for carrying a 32% CSW with 33 whiffs in that span, while the slider was a proper complement. I’m a little conflicted here – I can’t push myself in on Keller as I don’t trust the command, nor the low hard contact to stick…but hot dang the “BSB” seems like a legit possibility if he’s able to push his slider strike rate from just under 60% to near 65% while axing the slider for more sinkers. Seriously, I think that’s all it takes for Keller to turn into something real at this point, and yet here I sit, lacking the faith that he’ll actually do it. Sigh. If only he were traded out of Pittsburgh…
137. Wade Miley (MIL) – It makes all the sense for the Brewers to sign Miley. The crew features little depth at SP, and Miley (when healthy) has put up a sub-4.00 ERA in four of his last five seasons. That plays in real-life baseball. But this is fantasy and Miley, even sporting a cutter that works well against right-handers and a strong changeup that stays armside with ease aren’t all that great for fantasy. The aging right-hander fails to eclipse a 20% strikeout rate, while he’ll likely carry a hit per nine batting off the wretched 9.0 clip with a bath towel. What does that mean? It means Miley is prone to a meh WHIP and few strikeouts. Sprinkle some classic Injury Risk and this Miley recipe tastes like an ADP well past #400. Let’s leave him there.
138. Michael Lorenzen (DET) – The Tigers got exactly what they needed: an arm who can toss 95+ pitches on a given day and get through a season where they are still working on getting development time for their younger players. It opens the door for Lorenzen to be a “Toby” during the year, but in all likelihood, Lorenzen is just a streaming option as his slider has failed to return enough strikes – and whiffs for that matter – while his sinker is so dang hittable at 36% hard contact. Ya can’t throw the dang thing a third of the time and expect resounding success. Without a legit secondary pitch to get us excited, Lorenzen isn’t worth the gamble until something changes. Changes…you forgot about his changeup! Okay fine, it had a near 20% SwStr rate, but a paltry 56% strike rate. Sure, if he can bring that mark comfortably above 60% while holding onto the .154 BAA and 15% hard contact rate, I’m more interested, but that fastball and lack of solid breaker is still a major issue. I’d avoid this one.
139. Rich Hill (PIT) – One of the more frustrating elements of rostering Hill in 2022 was his sub 5.0 IPS – the Rays had no desire to appease us fantasy managers and would let Hill go a full seven one day, then pull him after four across the next two. The good news? He’s a Pirate now and they won’t care in the slightest. Go ahead Hill! Knock ’em dead! With his IPS very likely to be comfortably above 5.0 this year, will it be of quality? Likely not? He’s a “Cherry Bomb” and makes for an occasional streamer as his four-seamer finds a way at just 88 mph to maintain a CSW above 30% while the hook prevents damage frequently. It’s a lovely trick and I even imagine Hill can improve on the horrid 9.1 hits per nine of 2022 to lower his WHIP closer to 1.20 in 2023. All that said, don’t anticipate 150+ frames from Hill, and I suggest considering him as a weekend streamer when needed and nothing more. There’s going to be a whole lot of volatility here.
140. Cole Irvin (BAL) – I’m pretty amazed to see Irvin landing on a 3.98 ERA and 1.16 WHIP through 181 innings last year when his stuff is the equivalent of enduring the repeated complaints of a stranger who’s confused that the bus didn’t arrive ten minutes ago. Okay, Irvin doesn’t deserve that with a near 13% SwStr on his four-seamer last year, though I don’t anticipate another .215 BAA season from his 90/91 mph fastball. Once that pitch falters (and it often will), there’s little to lean on. His sinker gets hit hard frequently and even the big hook allowed more damage than the average yacker. Not even the changeup’s 41% O-Swing and 41% Zone rate are good enough when it earned below-average whiffs and more contact than most.
It spells the way for an occasional streamer, hoping to be a “Toby” for the full season. At least he was traded to the Orioles where he could Win a few more games now, right?
141. Marco Gonzales (SEA) – You don’t want this. Gonzales is your dire attempt at getting Wins and volume in AL-Only leagues, but for your 12-teamers? Nah. He doesn’t have enough in the repertoire to make it work on a consistent basis and I dislike his approach with what he’s got. Marco’s brilliant 2020 season was a product of nailing sinkers gloveside to right-handers (yes, it’s that simple), and he hasn’t been able to replicate it since. The change is still a good weapon, but the cutter is not, the sinker is not, and the four-seamer is middling. He’ll plod through innings and give you a chance for a Quality Start in leagues that matter, but that’s something for you to chase on the wire, not out of the gate against the Angels.
142. Adam Wainwright (STL) – Things were worse for Waino last season and I’m losing confidence that they’ll get a whole lot better in 2023. His sinker and four-seamer get battered with regularity, which puts all the heavy lifting on his curveball, a pitch that still holds its own, but isn’t elite: It carried just a 10% SwStr and .251 BAA last year, though a 33% CSW and 21% hard contact rate. If Waino paired the hook with a stellar slider or changeup, I could see him acting as a prime Bieber-esque starter, but the cutter was awfully mediocre and I’m worried this will be the last we see of Wainwright. Enjoy it from afar.
143. José Suarez (LAA) – You may be like me and have written off Suarez initially, but his second half of 2022 should be noted. Suarez pitched beautifully to the tune of a 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 22% K rate and 4% BB rate across 64 frames and eleven starts, propelling teams through the finish line when they needed it most. The impetus was a heavy lean on his slider over his curve, bumping its usage to close to 30% and nearly ousting the curve entirely. That slider returned a .121 BABIP in those starts and while his locations for the breaker were solid, it didn’t deserve that much fortune in the field.
I should mention Suarez is a platoon arm. That is, he features four-seamers and changeups to right-handers, then turns to sinkers and sliders against lefties. It leads to games where he can overwhelm a left-handed focused crew, but he may come up short when stacked against batters who can handle that slider better from the opposite batter’s box.
All in all, a bet on Suarez is a bet on that slider coming through. The changeup does well to get swings out of the zone and is still a solid weapon, but the slider is the real nullifier for his pedestrian fastballs. I don’t see a true breakout en route, but there’s enough here to be a decent play in AL-Only leagues.
144. Johnny Cueto (MIA) – For a guy with a sub 16% strikeout rate, I’m impressed by his ability to get whiffs with four-seamers against right-handers. He mixes the pitch up-and-away on two-strike counts, using the sinker to hopefully jam batters early in the count and changeups for righty-on-righty goodness. It works for the most part, though I don’t anticipate a sub .200 batting average for the four-seamer next season.
Against left-handers, it’s a little tougher. He still elevates with four-seamers to reasonable success and his slider does a good job finding the outside edge, but the changeup and sinker each get hit plenty harder. Then there’s this whole cutter business (i.e. it existing) that doesn’t do Cueto a whole lot of favors, but he has to feature it to help him get more strikes in the zone.
In short, Cueto is squeezing out as much as he can with his approach, using four pitches to maneuver around the strike zone in different directions. I won’t rule out another magical season for Cueto, but when the hope is a super boring “Toby” on a team with a horrific offense, it’s best to leave him on the wire.
145. Dean Kremer (BAL) – I’ll be the first to tell you I completely forgot Kremer had a 3.23 ERA across 125.1 innings. His final 62 frames helped with a 2.76 ERA…and 15% strikeout rate including a CGSHO against the Houston Astros of all teams. If you’re wondering what changed on that date, it’s the same thing that happened to Bradish: Kremer introduced a sinker to feature against right-handers. There’s still work to be done locating the pitch on the inner-third and off the plate, but there’s promise there as it kept batters off the heater. All of that said, there isn’t a whole lot to love about Kremer’s one-two punch of four-seamers and cutters. They are…fine, while the curve and change sometimes make an appearance, but it’s more of a fleeting “oh don’t mind me!” than a life of the party. I’m highly skeptical Kremer can turn into a dependable arm through the year as he’s a “Toby” at best, especially with the lack of a SwStr pitch.
146. Matt Manning (DET) – Manning has a decent four-seamer that would set the table for solid secondaries…but I don’t think he has any. The slider upped its SwStr rate all the way to 16.7% in 2022, but it’s heavily buoyed by a 12 whiff night (and 61% CSW?!) against the Giants that was weird, odd, and not a product of well-located pitches. Removing that start pulls the mark down to 13% and change, which is far more fitting for the pitch’s average movement and blegh command. There really isn’t much else to talk about here – if the four-seamer can jump to 95+ consistently, there’s something here, but as of now it’s a sub 10% SwStr rate pitch, relying far too much on a .248 BABIP for its success – and I’d hate to rely on Manning out of the gate and expect his pedigree to show up and galivant him into legitimacy.
147. Nick Pivetta (BOS) – You may not find a better example of a “Cherry Bomb” than Nick Pivetta. His success is highly dependent on his curve and slider locating down in the zone and when that hook has a low location of just 41% (average is 61%, elites are 75%+!), that’s going to be a problem. There were eight weeks of bliss in May and June as he allowed just six longballs across 1,100 pitches…but the season total came to 27 as the happiness was fleeting. There will be times when Pivetta looks golden and has, say, nine innings of one run and eight strikeouts against the Astros, but don’t get too enamored with it. You’re chasing fire and its beauty cannot be contained.
148. Yusei Kikuchi (TOR) – Wait, the Jays can’t actually be depending on Kikuchi to be their #5 starter out of camp, right?! Yep. Well, if Kikuchi suddenly develops command across the winter, it could be a brilliant move by Toronto, but the man sure has been inconsistent so far. The slider on paper is fantastic (we’re talking stellar O-Swings, SwStr rates, and Zone rates!), but is hung too often and ruins evenings in a hurry. His four-seamer fails to avoid punishment despite sitting 96 mph at times and his changeup sports a sub 50% strike rate despite 17% usage against right-handers. (Why do so many pitchers throw horrific changeups so often?!)
This is a problem. Kikuchi will have moments where his slider overwhelms and avoids punishment on changeups and four-seamers and cutters, and I wish you the very best of luck guessing which night that will be. It’s not for me, absolutely not.
149. Griffin Canning (LAA) – We haven’t seen Canning for a while due to injuries, but hey, maybe he’s healthy and can beat, oh I don’t know, Tucker Davidson for a spot in the Angels rotation? Before injuries derailed him, he had a 94 mph heater with a fantastic slider and curveball. It’s the kind of repertoire that springs up and we say “oh, that works.” I’ll be watching to see if he beats out Davidson in the spring to begin his redemption tour. Mark Canning as a potential sleeper in deep AL-Only leagues.
150. Josiah Gray (WSN) – Do you want a headache? You do?! Fine, then chase Josiah Gray, who simply can’t find a way to make it work with his four-seamer. The pitch is a magnet for the longball, especially against lefties where his slider and curve can’t earn enough strikes to keep them honest. He saves the hook for lefties and the slider for righties, with the latter being his most successful offering. We’re talking a 21% SwStr rate across 66% strikes on top of a 17% hard contact rate and .192 BAA. It’s what makes Josiah Gray a legit strikeout arm.
It’s not enough to justify starting him with any regularity, though, and I’d only consider Josiah for streams when I’m chasing the punchout. Otherwise, he’s far too unreliable with his heater and curve to allow a spot on my rosters.
Why Do They Have A Job Tier
Look, sometimes you just need a guy that actually makes starts and you don’t care how ridiculous it is. I get it. I’d much rather chase other things in many scenarios, but I had to stick guys with actual spots in the rotation somewhere, so here they are. Note: I heavily debated swapping this tier and the injured tier. In the end, I value getting any value now more than potential value later, leading to guys like Brad Keller and Tucker Davidson getting ranked above Frankie Montas. It’s dumb, I know, but this is how I’m doing it.
151. Mike Clevinger (CHW) – Clevinger is under MLB investigation for domestic violence charges and honestly, it feels as if he doesn’t play for a long time. If he’s innocent, Clevinger hopes to be a strong #5 for the White Sox. He returned from TJS and wasn’t able to replicate his 95 mph velocity of old, sitting at 93.7 mph for the year, nor was he able to dominate batters with breaking balls. The threatening slider of old became a small pup with its 13% SwStr, and without it, Clevinger’s venom turned to water. It’s possible Clevinger gets his stuff back on track – he’s always been a tinkerer and now that he’s done rehabbing from injury, time in the gym could be focused on reclaiming his arsenal – but the off-field problems make it easy for me to pass completely.
152. Bailey Falter (PHI) – Simply put, Falter was a fun guy to stream last year against poor offenses. His four-seamer has moments elevated while he mixes his curveball and slider down when he’s cooking. Sadly, nothing here spells elite and I don’t anticipate his spot locked for the 2023 rotation. There needs to be a jump in stuff in his 91 mph four-seamer or sinker for me to get excited, or possibly an increase of breaking ball usage from 32% to 45%+ could do the trick. It would be unwise to skip over Falter entirely for the season ahead, though I won’t be considering him outside of a streaming option until a significant beneficial change comes along.
153. Zach Plesac (CLE) – The good news: Plesac found whiffs again with his slider. The bad news: His changeup is still nothing like it used to be and his fastball gets demolished. Sadly, Plesac’s slider isn’t as overwhelming as Civale’s curveball, and save for that pitch, he doesn’t have much else. He’s also pretty heavy on the platoons – sliders for righties, curves/changeups for lefties – and when the curve and change are questionable, it makes the platoon splits pretty rough – .360 wOBA allowed against LHB vs. .286 against RHB. I don’t see a whole lot of hope for a return to glory unless his changeup or curve takes a huge step forward, sadly, but if he’s still in the Cleveland rotation, he’ll go steadily through the year and have a chance each day to earn a Win. There’s something to be said for that if you need volume that doesn’t destroy everything.
154. JT Brubaker (PIT) – Coffee Cakes, I’m sad to say your slider just isn’t enough. Is it marvelous? Absolutely, with a 23% SwStr rate and 66% strike rate, but that dang sinker…it gets too much of the plate too often and while I wish you could do what Brady Singer does with his sinker/slider combo, I don’t believe your heater is up to the task. There’s still some potential as the curve is an effective hook that makes for a solid slider/curve duo, but being so dang dependent on that sinker surviving makes me far too nervous on a given day. All of that said, I can imagine a stretch where Brubaker is cruising and he becomes a popular pickup in leagues, especially with an easy schedule on the horizon. He’s likely to get Boston out of the gate and I think it’s too risky, even if he held a 23% strikeout in 2022.
155. Jordan Lyles (KCR) – The Royals rotation was in dire need of arms to go out there every five days and survive at least five frames and Lyles fits the bill after tossing 179 innings for the Orioles last season. There were times when Lyles was a decent streamer based on matchup, crossing my fingers that his slider would be its best self and he could avoid disaster off his four-seamer (37% hard contact?!). Fortunately, he does use his sinker appropriately – to right-handers and off the plate for a fantastic 38% O-Swing – opening the door for a decent day when, once again, the four-seamer doesn’t let him down. Don’t leave your draft with Lyles on your squad, just remember he exists as a desperate option for a lonely Sunday.
156. Ryan Yarbrough (KCR) – Hey, it’s The Fratty Pirate! And he’s out of Tampa Bay, which means he’ll be allowed to start with regularity and for at least five innings a game! There’s some value there as Yarbrough endured in 2022 across an injury-laden season and never found a rhythm. There’s still hope he can steal strikes without allowing the longball with cutters while missing bats with curveballs and hopefully bringing him changeup’s BAA down from .297 to the digestible .238 mark from 2021. He doesn’t look pretty on the bump, but signing with the Royals may have been the best situation for him in fantasy land as he’s sure to be a decent option as a streamer across the season. Certainly not draftable, though. Absolutely not.
157. Zack Greinke (KCR) – Wait, he’s actually back? Nick, he had a 3.68 ERA last year in 137 innings. Sure…but a 1.34 WHIP and the worst strikeout rate in the league at 12.5%. For a, ahem, not-winning ballclub. And he’s going to be older. BUT IT’S GOOD FOR BASEBALL. You know what, you’re right. It is good for baseball. Good to still have you, Zack.
158. Zach Davies (ARI) – Of course the Diamondbacks went and got Davies, they weren’t just gonna let Jameson and Nelson (and maybe even Pfaadt?!) both start the season in the rotation, now would they? Gotta bring in a guy like Davies to show ‘em how it’s done with an ERA over 4.00, a 1.30 WHIP, and a paltry 18% strikeout rate. But Nick! He did well at the end of the year when he allowed 9 ER in seven of his final nine games! That’s some good ole cherry pickin’, I tell ya. From August 17th to the end of the year, that is true – Davies allowed 9 ER across seven of his final nine starts – but on the whole, it was a 4.04 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and an 18% strikeout rate BUT FINE. The two bad games were Coors and Houston and you could have avoided those…but also the two starts against the Dodgers that he actually did well in…? Is there a point here? I DON’T KNOW. YES. Don’t draft Davies, okay? He’s only as good as his changeup on a given night, and most of the time it’s not good enough. The sinker gets rocked and doesn’t earn enough strikes, and there’s really nothing else. Seriously, his sinker is tossed over 50% of the time and I have no idea why he does it. Its 60.7% strike rate last year was its highest since 2019. Jeeeeez that’s a lot of words on Zach Davies. Sorry y’all.
159. Madison Bumgarner (ARI) – You know the name Bumgarner because how can you not remember a name like that, but that doesn’t mean he’s worthwhile for your squads. With the Diamondbacks having a lack of depth and the backend of their rotation, you can anticipate Bumgarner getting his chances through the year (and there is value in that for deep leagues!), but guessing which of those will help you is another story. There are days he’s sitting 92+ on his fastball and suddenly it’s two runs in six frames and you’re skipping down the road. On other days, you can feel the grinding of his left shoulder with every missed cutter and you’re wondering how this tree branch found its way onto your fantasy roster. The cutter/heater approach isn’t what it used to be and the curve’s 28% CSW doesn’t seem like the shining light guiding him toward a renaissance. When he faces the Pirates, we can have a debate if he’s worth it, but March is not the time for a stroll down Madison Ave.
160. Luke Weaver (CIN) – Ohhhh right! Weaver found a home to start again in…Cincinnati. Hoooo boy. There was a time when his four-seamer/changeup combo worked, but then his four-seamer was absolutely demolished in 2020 and he never returned to form after. At least he should get a fair amount of reps to experiment and figure something out barring injury. The Reds need innings and they’ll take all they can get from Weaver, the good news here is that you are not the Reds. You don’t need these innings if you don’t want them.
161. Brad Keller (KCR) – Leave it to Keller to be the guy who is fastball/slider and allows more hard contact with his 36% usage slider than his four-seamer. Sadly, unless Keller can unlock another tick on his heater or get his slider down and not hanging over the plate, it’s going to more of the same…if not worse. It’s a hard gamble starting Keller on a given night, so save it only for the most desperate of occasions.
162. Patrick Corbin (WSN) – It’s the slider. The pitch used to soar above 25% SwStr rates and it now has to settle for sub 20% marks, turning Corbin from a devastating arm to one of mediocrity when his sinker, four-seamer, and change fail to ascend past their content homes of the pedestrian. How is it worse? I’m not too sure. Maybe it’s his command and inability to place it as before. Maybe its movement profile is a bit easier and batters can pick it up better. Maybe his sinker and fastball are just so dang easy to hit, batters can feast on them earlier in counts than before.
I won’t fully rule out the chance of a return to dominance – Corbin’s velocity has increased the last two seasons and there’s always a chance he regains his slider feel. After all, Corbin’s 6.31 ERA and 1.70 WHIP aren’t as far off from fantasy relevance as they’d make you think – 33% of Corbin’s 2022 starts were beneficial to fantasy managers. That’s a horrible rate, but it’s not as far off as you likely thought. Let’s see what happens when he’s on the wire, okay?
163. Vince Velasquez (PIT) – You didn’t realize he was on the Pirates now, did you? He had some chances to start for the White Sox as they dealt with early injuries, but he returned to the pen in June and now hopes to toss over 100 frames with the Pirates in their rotation. If he does earn a spot, he’ll be free to pitch as long as he wants in games, though you may not enjoy what you see. Velasquez’s four-seamer has gotten a bit worse over the years – still above a 12% SwStr rate, but I don’t trust it to keep the BAA down to .200 moving forward – while the slider isn’t the stellar #2 pitch it needs to be. The curve is a standard “please land for a strike k thx” hook and that’s all there is to it. Rooted in that four-seamer, Velasquez will have some days where he makes the Reds look silly, though I’d hate to be in a position to trust Velasquez to come through for my fantasy squad.
164. Trevor Williams (WSN) – Williams doesn’t have anything in his repertoire except a decent four-seamer. Seriously, I’m not kidding – his slider and curve all returned sub 50% strike rates against right-handers (But those are supposed to be great against same-handedness!) while the changeup was sub 40% to lefties. Sure, the four-seamer was good against righties, but horrible to left-handers and I’ve run out of things to say about T-dubs. The man is there to survive, not to thrive. Stay away.
165. Luis Cessa (CIN) – There was a moment of bliss with Cessa this year when his slider propelled an eight-strikeout affair across 5.2 shutout frames against the Cubs, and it was among a decent stretch for Cessa as he entered the rotation inside the final six weeks of the season. That said, there isn’t much to like here outside of that slider, which he was able to locate generally well down-and-away from righties and return a .202 BAA and 34% CSW. The sinker and four-seamer are highly questionable, both sitting above a 37% hard contact rate, while the changeup has decent shape and location, but is far from a consistent offering, returning swings and misses at a sub 10% rate. The Reds should be considering someone else for the #5 job, but as of now, it’s still Cessa. Welp, okay then.
This Guy Is Hurt
You’re drafting this guy because you think you’re clever. I have IL spots! It’s free, why not? And you’re not wrong, just make sure you have the discipline to actually drop these guys when you need that IL spot in April and May. But he may be returning in two weeks! Nope, do it. Drop them if you need the roster spot, these guys are very likely not worth it, with Montas being the sole exception…probably. Yes, I know that Frankie Montas is too low, once again, it’s about the groups of guys past the #110 mark or so.
166. Frankie Montas (NYY) – The overall line of a 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP seems oddly pedestrian after the chaos that was Frankie Montas in 2022, but a quick reminder that his final 15 starts returned a 5.01 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, and 19.5% strikeout rate should bring lucidity. His shoulder injury in June seemingly impacted his performance, though there were moments of bliss even in pinstripes before they were nullified in the follow-up game.
I think the skill set is still there, it’s just about getting his velocity back on track to sitting 96+ on his four-seamer and sinker. The slider and splitter are going to have their days off here and there, but this isn’t a lost cause. It’s a poor second half due to a laboring shoulder and dropped velocity that we hoped would be better in 2023…but now he’s expected to miss the first month of the season with shoulder inflammation. It’s awfully disappointing as he could have been what we always wanted Marcus Stroman to be – a 3.50 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP and 25% strikeout rate as he goes through the sixth frame constantly. Sadly, Montas falls to the end of drafts now – not only does the timeline of “May 1st” seems too optimistic, but the faith that he can return to his former self is dwindling fast. By all means, take him and see what happens, but don’t hold on too tight if you have too many to slot into your IL spots.
167. Stephen Strasburg (WSN) – Oh Strasburg. You gave DC everything you had to give them a World Series victory in 2019 and have since pitched a total of 31.1 innings. We all have the lowest expectations of health this season, let alone velocity matching his old self (90/91 mph instead of 94+) or his changeup and curveball performing at elite levels. But hey, let’s see what happens in the spring and take it from there, right? H*ck, draft him, see how it’s not working in the spring, then go grab Skubal or something.
168. Tarik Skubal (DET) – This ranking could very well change by draft day as we’re still unclear as to when we’ll see Skubal on the mound again. He got flexor tendon surgery last summer and could miss months to kick off the year, but who knows, maybe he’s pitching in April and life’s a joy. Ish. I’m not sure how much I buy into the 117.2 innings we saw of Skubal last year – it was a year of him figuring out how he’s supposed to attack batters. Is it four-seamers up? Sliders and changeups as the secondaries? Maybe some curveballs? Nothing screamed elite to me, and while his xERA was 2.91, PLV doesn’t love his stuff. After all, it was a 12.5% SwStr rate on the slider with 31% Hard Contact, while the changeup was featured well inside the zone far more than he should have gotten away with. Throw in some likely rust to shake off as well, and I’d rather not stash Skubal to start the year. You may not even want to start him for a few starts when he returns.
169. John Means (BAL) – Means went down early in 2022 leading to TJS and it was awfully disappointing. I still have high hopes that Means can get away with his heater and set up his fantastic changeup while continuing to develop his slider and curveball into legitimate whiff pitches. The shapes are there, it’s in him, I promise. Baltimore also changed their park (clearly for him) to aid his home run problem, and Means’ stage for success is only missing the lead actor. I’m sure we’ll even see John return this season – returning from TJS ranges from 12-18 months – but when he does return, I’m incredibly curious to see what he looks like.
170. Hyun-Jin Ryu (TOR) – Ryu underwent TJS last June and I wouldn’t expect him back until August at the earliest. He isn’t worth the stash for when that time arrives, but if he’s able to replicate his elite changeup chase rate for the limited innings, there’s a chance he’s productive down the stretch. Don’t hold your breath here.
171. Kyle Hendricks (CHC) – If you forgot about Hendricks, I don’t blame you. 2021’s disappointment was the season of “I told you so!” we’d be holding in since 2017 and it was more of the same in 2022 before Hendricks suffered a scapula injury that has the start of his 2023 slightly up in the air. Assuming he’s healthy and ready to go, I’m still not interested. We all know the sinker should be more detrimental than it is, but the changeup has been the secret to keeping hitters at bay. The pitch was a ~70% strike rate for years…until it dropped to as low as 63% last season, forcing tougher at-bats and more four-seamers. Spoiler alert: Hendricks doesn’t have a good four-seamer and it induced 41% hard contact last season.
It’s possible he gets that changeup back to what it used to be, and maybe the curve can be a bigger weapon like it was in 2020 as well. I have my doubts, and when the ceiling still comes with a sub 20% strikeout rate, you have to act like a 16-year-old grasping their own self and wonder Why?!
172. Chris Paddack (MIN) – Paddack had his TJS surgery in May and may fight back into the Twins rotation at some point this season, but do we really care? Maybe? I just hope his four-seamer is good once again – if that’s back to the same spin efficiency as before, this could be a sneaky in-season pickup.
173. Casey Mize (DET) – Like Paddack, Mize had his surgery relatively early in June of last year and it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to be productive in 2023. But let’s say he does get the innings, he was just a “Toby” when he pitched – that’s not ideal, y’all. I need a little more vita in my IL spot, you know?
174. Walker Buehler (LAD) – He got his TJS surgery on August 23rd, we really should anticipate him returning before the end of the year. But what if he does…sure, add him to your unlimited IL spot IF YOU MUST.
175. Shane Baz (TBR) – People, he got his surgery at the end of September. Not a chance he pitches in 2023. Please stop asking about it and he actually deserves to be at the end of this list but I made the injured tier over here so DEAL WITH IT.
176. Huascar Ynoa (ATL) – The same thing that I just said about Baz, but he’s not as good. It’s not what you want.
177. Max Meyer (MIA) – So let me give you this hypothetical. Uh huh. It’s 13 months removed from TJS surgery and the Marlins are suddenly in a playoff race in Septem–Nope, please stop.
Prospects To Consider Stashing Tier
What’s a starting pitcher ranking without talking about the potential impact arms who could come up throughout the season? We have a fantastic Dynasty writing team here at Pitcher List and I’m going to leave this section mostly up to Jake Maish and his rankings from the Starting Pitchers To Stash In Redraft Leagues article. There are some pitchers I’m adding my random thoughts on, but for the most part, listen to the dynasty guys. They know what they’re doing.
178. Andrew Painter (PHI) – There’s a lot of discussion about Painter for the 2023 season (will he earn a spot out of camp?) and the general consensus is a debut arriving during a hot summer night. Be ready to jump to the waiver wire when he does, as Painter sports elite velocity with a full four-pitch arsenal. If Painter is dominating the spring and there’s a clear hole at the #5 spot for Philadelphia, I’m all for a speculative add at the end of drafts, but the moment he’s demoted, I’d let him go back to the wire for someone who will help before the inevitable call up. That bench spot is incredibly valuable across the first month or two. For more on Painter, check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
179. Gavin Williams (CLE) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
180. Kyle Harrison (SFG) – There’s some hype surrounding Harrison after boasting insane strikeout numbers through the minors. I’m not stashing him in my leagues given a) the Giants have too many starting options already and b) Harrison’s walk rate is too rich for my blood. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Harrison for a start later this year and that’ll be an exciting time, but spending a draft pick on him and sitting on our hands til then? Pfffft, no thanks. But stop listening to me, go check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
181. Brandon Pfaadt (ARI) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here and Chris Clegg’s Breakdown back in December.
182. Bobby Miller (LAD) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
183. Tanner Bibee (CLE) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
184. Gavin Stone (LAD) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
185. Daniel Espino (CLE) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
186. Quinn Priester (PIT) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
187. Taj Bradley (TBR) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
188. Logan Allen (CLE) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
189. Eury Pérez (MIA) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
190. Ricky Tiedemann (TOR) – Here’s the thing. I really like Tiedemann. It makes all the sense to get him into Toronto this year given the Jays’ clear position to make the playoffs and yet they still lack a proper #5 starter. Ricky brings legit upside in his arsenal and it’s just a question of what Toronto is going to do. They limited him a bunch in 2022 and they’re likely to do more of it this year, which means my original hope for a shot at the opening day roster is seemingly out of the question. But maybe in June? July? He’ll be a popular pick-up when it happens and you shouldn’t ignore it. And, obviously, check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
191. Owen White (TEX) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
192. Mick Abel (PHI) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
193. Jake Eder (MIA) – Check out Jake Maish’s thoughts here.
194. Matthew Liberatore (STL) – When Liberatore debuted at the start of the season, he sat 92/93 mph without a secondary pitch to trust. Then he returned in the second half for a handful of games and suddenly spouted 94+, even sitting 95 mph on the final day of the season across 95 pitches. His slider increased velocity as well to 87 mph from 83/84 mph and it made me sit up in my chair. Just because he didn’t pan out when he debuted as a 22-year-old does not mean there isn’t more in the tank for Liberatore. With Flaherty and Matz’s injury concerns, I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw Liberatore make another appearance in the rotation before June hits and it’s in your best interest to pay attention. This could be something.
195. Sean Burke (CHW) – I still can’t get over the fact that the White Sox don’t have a proper SP #6, which could turn into SP #5 if Clevinger isn’t pitching. The club said Burke is the first option up should they need an option, and with his strikeout rates hovering 30% in the minors, it would be unwise to ignore him. This could turn into something quickly.
196. Thad Ward (WSN) – The Nationals acquired Ward in the Rule-5 draft and I can’t help but wonder if the Nationals will quickly give him a chance. The brief video I saw showcased a strong breaking ball and improved fastball after a long journey back from TJS. There could be something here that the Nationals say “what the h*ck, let’s give him a shot, who else would start anyway?” pretty early in the season. Know the name, wait for the game, and take no blame.
197. Forrest Whitley (HOU) – Oh dang, it’s you! Whitley is past his TJS now and despite all the focus on Hunter Brown, there isn’t a clear-cut #7 SP. It could turn into Whitley if the Astros needed it (get out of here Brandon Bielak), but that would mean he’s not walking 12 batters in two games like he did in Triple-A last year. Hey, it was his first season back from TJS, it happens. Follow his progression in the minors and it may make for a pickup before the team makes it official.
198. Emerson Hancock (SEA) – Hancock appears to be the clear prospect arm to get the chance when it arrives this year, though I’m not sure I’m amped about it. What I’ve read is a solid mid-90s fastball with a slider that’s still in the works and a solid changeup. His Double-A numbers don’t jump off the page, and while I’ll be intrigued once the opportunity arrives, I’m not stashing him as of now.
199. Bryce Miller (SEA) – Miller sits around 95 mph with a great slider and solid curve and may get a shot this year if the Mariners need new life in their rotation. He tossed 50 frames of Double-A in 2022 with a near 30% strikeout rate, though his 9% walk rate affirms the scouts’ fears in the draft of his wild tendencies. I’m curious as to whether he can earn enough strikes in the majors when he gets the call to become a mainstay of 12-teamer rotations.
200. Simeon Woods Richardson (MIN) – He sat around 90 mph in his debut without command of his change and curve and I have no interest at the moment. The Twins are likely to give him another shot at some point, though it’s very much a “wait-and-see” as the heaters appear to be too much of a detriment at this time.
201. Jay Groome (SDP) – Look, the Padres don’t have a whole lot of depth in their rotation, which means Groome may get some chances this year. Don’t get excited about it – he held a sub 10% SwStr rate with strikeout rates hovering 20% in AAA – and the upside here is to hope for a “Toby” type if he gets regular innings and why you’re focusing your hope energy on that is beyond me.
Fine, It’s The Rockies
We do this song and dance every year. Don’t touch em. BUT THERE’S A CHANCE IT’S LIKE 2018 MÁRQUEZ! And there’s a chance I wake up throwing 99 mph, but it ain’t gonna happen. Avoid the headache of variability and just skip past this tier.
202. Austin Gomber (COL) – Gomber seemingly has the most potential of any Rockies starter. His fastball is bad (shocking, more at 11:00), but if he reduces its usage from 41% to, say, 30%, there could be something there. His sky-hook curveball should be bumped from its 17% usage with its ability to avoid damage; the slider took a step back in 2022, but could return to its 35% CSW glory from 2021; and the changeup was a decent option to fend off right-handers. This is a more complete repertoire than anyone else on the staff, just throw the dang heater less and maybe you can hint at a 4.00 ERA – he would have had a 4.56 last season if it weren’t for 17 ER in 6.1 frames in back-to-back nightmare outings.
203. Kyle Freeland (COL) – There was a small small stretch where Freeland was a sneaky play last season, but, oh right, duh, he still pitches in Coors. His fastball dropped two ticks last season. His slider is down to sub 13% SwStr levels. I can keep writing terrible sentences if you like (his curveball sank below a 60% strike rate), but you understand the point. Freeland is not the pitcher he was in 2018 and he is not fantasy relevant save for the rare stream on the road against a weak offense, and even then that’s a tough sell.
204. Germán Márquez (COL) – If only Márquez pitched outside of Coors…welp, he won’t because he’s on a team-friendly contract through 2025. Please move on. The slider and curveball are still solid offerings, but his heaters are so dang rough that it isn’t in your best interest to chance Márquez on a given night. Seriously, his sinker – a pitch he throws 24% of the time – returned 50% hard contact – last year. How. HOW. There’s always the hope that road starts turn Márquez into a serviceable pitcher, but his breakers act worse on the road and his fastballs are still the same ole hittable platters of joy for the cardboard cutouts that are opposing batters.
205. José Ureña (COL) – I can see you right now. You saw Ureña’s 5.01 ERA and thought “wait, I thought he was shockingly good last year?” That’s because he was far better than we expected on random nights, like his final start of the year against the Dodgers, surrendering just one earned run in six frames. And it all makes sense if you know the sinker game. If you can jam right-handers with it all night (37% O-Swing for the year!), you can get grounders with it and steal outs in a hurry. It’s not a ticket to consistent success if there’s nothing else to offer, though, and with Ureña’s #2 pitch being a slider that carried a horrific 53% strike rate (I don’t think I’ve seen a #2 pitch that low before), it all makes sense quickly. Lightning can strike, but please don’t stand in the rain for the random jolt.
206. Antonio Senzatela (COL) – The legend of Senz-A will live on in 2023 as he tore his ACL this season and is aiming to return at the start of the next season. Does it matter for your fantasy teams? Absolutely not. His fastball gets clobbered – 40% hard contact rate and a .395 BAA – while the slider isn’t a major whiff pitch, failing to eclipse 14% SwStr in three of his last four seasons (peaking at 15.4% in 2020). And that’s it. Seriously, there’s nothing more. His successful nights are the ones where BABIP goes his way and we all celebrate when a 7 is rolled. That may be the most fitting joke I make in all of these blurbs.
207. Connor Seabold (COL) – Seabold left the Red Sox and got swooped up by the Rockies as they needed a fifth starter. Congrats, I guess? Connor’s first game last season came with 21 whiffs (I haven’t forgotten!) on the back of elevated four-seamers and spotted changeups. Didn’t he also allow 7 ER in that game? Like that’ll happen again in Coors. Uhhhhh. It is kinda fitting that he’s starting in the mile-high stadium. Sea-level? Nah, Sea-bold. I see you are already in mid-season form. There is no off-season.
Do We Care If They Start?
I’d imagine all of these pitchers getting starts this year, but does it really matter? Maybe? I’d feel pretty dang meh drafting them in any format, save for Sears. Okay maybe even Sears.
208. Cade Cavalli (WSN) – We saw Cavalli for one outing in 2022 and his command was a bit all over the place, but the stuff was exciting. His breaker showed its plus plus potential, he boasted 95/96 mph heat, and his changeup did work on the side. Now that Cavalli is (hopefully) past his shoulder injury, he should make a good case to be a part of the Nationals rotation out of camp and you may want to keep your eye on him. Take note in the spring – there may be a last-pick stash in here.
209. Matt Strahm (PHI) – IS THIS THE YEAR?! Strahm openly stated his aim was to be a starting pitcher in 2022 and the Phillies do have a spot up for grabs inside the rotation. If Strahm were to get his chance, it may take a moment for him to climb past the 85 pitches per start, and I’m wondering how the stuff will be. His four-seamer (as a reliever and in a small sample, mind you) performed exceptionally well in 2022, while his slider and curve flash legitimacy, they failed to sit low enough to generate the whiffs you want to see. Even if the Phillies stated Strahm was their #5 starter today, I’d still be hesitant to let him fly for a good while, at least until I saw 93/94 mph velocity on the heater mixed with plenty of empty swings on breakers. He exists, though, and don’t brush him off if he gets regular starts.
210. Chad Kuhl (WSN) – He’s a free agent with a really good slider. Watch someone like the Dodgers snatch him up and fix his whole jazz – he’s pitched for the Pirates and Rockies thus far, we can’t really count him out, right? Suit-man whispers in my ear THE NATIONALS?! This dude can’t catch a break. He could break camp as the #5 and unless his sinker is fixed, it doesn’t matter.
211. JP Sears (OAK) – The breaker has legit potential as Sears has no fear throwing backfoot sliders, but for it to become a legit pitch to carry him, he needs to figure out a solution for his four-seamer. Simply put, it’s not enough. He was able to skirt through a mini-stretch at the beginning of his Oakland career with the pitch returning a minuscule BABIP, but it caught up to him, ending the year with 36% hard contact and a .316 BAA (.319 xAVG) on the 93 mph fastball. I’ll continue to avoid Sears until this is fixed and I hope his time likely spent in the minors to begin the year can bring the necessary tweaks to make the pitch a proper foundation for the strong sweeper.
212. Johan Oviedo (PIT) – Oviedo came over to the Pirates in the José Quintana deal and I’ll have my eye on his development in 2023. I may be most excited about Oviedo’s potential than anyone else in the Pirates rotation, if you can believe it. Potential is the key word there, though, as elevation to being a fantasy-relevant starter hinges on his 96/97 mph four-seamer leaving the middle section and sticking either to elevation or shooting knees (32% y-mLoc ain’t it). It doesn’t quite have enough vertical movement at the moment to become an exceptional elevated four-seamer…but it has a solid approach angle and Oviedo gets a ton of extension on his fastball. I have to wonder whether he can increase the active spin on the pitch, which would increase its vertical movement and suddenly turn the pitch into a monster up in the zone. This is all to say there is legit potential in the pitch, especially with a slider that he was able to earn strikes over 70% of the time last year while carrying a 36% CSW mark + a curve that he spins for strikes decently well. I’m intrigued, y’all, but this may take some time until he’s truly unlocked. It may even take a new pitching environment entirely to become the pitcher he could be.
213. Dylan Bundy (FA) – Ohhhhhhh right. Bundy. You know, the guy who had 144 innings last year. I’ll be honest, I would have guessed half that. It just came and went with his 4.89 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with a sub 16% strikeout rate. Here’s what I expect to happen: An injury appears at some point in March and a team needs something to survive as they don’t want to promote another starter. Maybe the Yankees or Mariners, if you can believe it. Or H*ck, what are the Reds doing with the back of their rotation, huh? I dunno, he’ll probably land somewhere, pitch some innings, and we’ll shrug and forget about it. But if the slider is thrown 40% of the time…Didn’t you say that three years ago? BUT HE’S ONLY 30-YEARS-OLD! Wait, for real? …WHAT.
214. Adrian Sampson (CHC) – There’s some intrigue to Sampson for me. His slider was incredibly hard to hit last season, he elevates four-seamers far more than the league average, and his sinker finds its way armside frequently, jamming right-handed batters. In short, this execution across his two fastballs and slider can work and more time with the pearl could polish the approach to a level where the Cubs depend on him every fifth day as he reclines on our rosters. I do question whether he’ll get that chance much this year, though, and he’ll need to gain more strikes with one of his pitches before too long – the changeup isn’t the answer as it is far from consistent enough.
215. Justin Dunn (CIN) – I’m glad to see Dunn pitching once again and hopefully 2023 can mark the year he can pick up where he left off in 2021 – a season where he increased the velocity on his four-seamer to hover 94 mph, improve his curveball to a 32% CSW pitch, and feature a solid slider that returned a .128 BAA. The games we saw in 2022 weren’t encouraging in the slightest, but let’s give the kid some space and hope we see something in the spring that hints at better days ahead. Keep him on your radar in deeeep leagues and hopefully he becomes a streaming option in 12-teamers through the season.
216. Bryce Elder (ATL) – Elder is an interesting one. His best offering is a sinker that slices into the handles of right-handed batters endlessly, creating a low 22% hard contact rate and solid 32% O-Swing. It doesn’t work nearly as well against left-handers, though, and while his slider and changeup try to nullify them, it’s not quite enough. The cutter is a work in progress as he lets the pitch sit up in the zone too frequently at an unintimidating 90 mph velocity, and while the slider has its moments missing bats down-and-gloveside, Elder needs to take a step forward locating his sinker and changeup to avoid a drastic platoon split. Meanwhile, the strikeouts are going to be tough to come by and you’re hoping for Kyle Hendricks 2.0 as a ceiling and more often than not staring at Justin Masterson instead.
217. Jake Odorizzi (TEX) – I imagine the Rangers will give Odorizzi a sizeable chunk of frames this year as their sixth man off the bench, though I’m not thrilled about the chances he’ll get. His four-seamer isn’t as elite as it used to be (even if he is leaning into hiLoc more than ever) and the supporting cast is mediocre at best. There are better backup starters out there with Odorizzi being a desperate streaming option in the depths of summer.
218. Mitch White (TOR) – I don’t expect the Jays to allow Mitch to get the pearl every five days in 2023, but if they do, you’ll see a guy with an awfully hittable four-seamer (5.6% SwStr rate?!), but a solid slider and serviceable curveball. The slider consistency isn’t enough to balance out the horrid heater, sadly, and it means he’s made more as a long(ish) reliever than a starter who would traditionally be a five-and-dive at best. This isn’t the sleeper pick you want it to be with that rough four-seamer.
219. Adrian Houser (MIL) – Houser features a sinker 48% of the time. It allowed a .381 BAA and 38% hard contact to left-handers last year. Why are you writing so poorly of him? IT’S TO MAKE A POINT. His secondary offerings offer little help as his slider/curve/change are all distant from the desired 60% strike threshold, holding their hands to their forehead and peering out toward the horizon, hoping to reach the comfort of land. Oh 60% strike rate, how we long for thee. As a pitcher who relies on getting outs with his sinker, this is an apparent bug and not a feature. I’m not sure how he squashes it – his four-seamer wasn’t much better with a near .300 BAA and 55% strike rate against left-handers (maybe his intent up-and-in can get better to lean into its 22% hard contact?) – and with Lauer + Ashby filling out the bottom of the rotation, Houser seems far from a place of security entering the season. There’s sure to be a few holes to fill as the season progresses, but with a clear issue and a lack of substance behind his successful days (15% strikeout rate?!), what’s the point?
220. Brent Honeywell Jr. (SDP) – Did you forget Honeywell signed with the Padres? He’s post-TJS now and after Adrian Morejon, I imagine Honeywell could be the Padres’ #7 option. When I broke him down at the start of 2021, I dug his heavily pronated changeup (not screwball) and horizontal bend on the slider. I can only hope he still gets the same action post-TJS while holding mid-90s velocity. This could be a sneaky in-season pickup.
221. Davis Martin (CHW) – Who’s the current #6 starter for the White Sox? I’m going with Martin, who sports one h*ck of a slider but not a whole lot else. His mid-90s heater isn’t commanded all too well and the curve needs to get more strikes. I wouldn’t trust him if he got the innings, but at least he has a good shot at getting frames early in the season and he has the potential to spin a ridiculous strikeout game if his slider is cookin’.
222. Dane Dunning (TEX) – Dunning’s slider returned just a 56% strike rate to left-handers and there’s your ball game. That’s the pitch that separates Dunning from the minor leagues and if that’s not working, he’s too reliant on a decent changeup that doesn’t do enough. That’s not what you want, y’all.
223. Josh Winder (MIN) – Winder has a fastball that gets destroyed by a 40% hard contact rate and low 22% CSW rate. It makes it hard to lean into him with any confidence, even if he has a solid slider that keeps him in the majors. The changeup is okay and the curve falls for strikes, but it isn’t enough for me to consider him as a regular starter. The four-seamer is too much of a liability.
224. Ethan Small (MIL) – We saw Small briefly last year, and while I can see a world where he executes the “BSB” with 91 mph heaters up and changeups down, his command wasn’t pristine and he looked awfully hittable. It’s possible the hitchy southpaw delivery adds some extra deception to allow the heater to play up at its low velocity, though I wouldn’t hold my breath with his lack of repertoire depth and mediocre command. He’s also the #8 option for the Brewers at best, and I think we’ve already spent enough time here.
225. Tyler Wells (BAL) – There isn’t much to hold onto with Wells. His changeup holds one of the better CSW marks out there at 32.6% and earns strikes at a fantastic 70% clip, but his slider misses bats just 13% of the time and his four-seamer gets crushed. We’re talking a 44% hard contact rate on his 93.5 mph offering. It doesn’t give Wells a whole lot of room for failure, and even at his best, Wells doesn’t do enough to justify the dismal evenings.
226. Sean Hjelle (SFG) – No one really cared for Hjelle until his final game of the season, following an opener and returning five frames of shutout ball and eight strikeouts. Wait, why don’t we love him?! He throws 95/96 mph with a slider that misses bats and clearly has upside! It’s clear – I hate his sinker and don’t trust that he can sit above a 60% strike rate with his slider. For such a tall fella, Hjelle needs to be shooting knees with his sinker and a 29% loLoc last year is terribly far from where it needs to be. It explains the .362 BAA and 36% hard contact and unless Hjelle fixes that sinker command & learns how to get more out of his breaker (which can be great when he spots it, for what it’s worth), I have no interest chasing this one.
227. Joey Wentz (DET) – I’m kinda intrigued about Wentz. He’s a command pitcher with a lovely breaker (it’s called a cutter, but I see it more as a loopy slider), hoping to live on the edges with his heater with the occasional high fastball in two-strikes, a curve he’ll display at times for some possible free real estate and then what I think is the real make-or-break pitch for him: the changeup. He only featured the slowball 14% of the time in 2022, but when it worked, it completed his whole approach against right-handers, featuring sliders early, fastballs inside, then changeups living armside and down. Its consistency hasn’t been there start-to-start, but if he finds a groove with the pitch and is able to keep batters from crushing his heaters, Wentz could surprise everyone as a legit “Toby” through the full season.
228. Dakota Hudson (STL) – Dakota is your prototypical sinkerballer who can’t miss a bat to save himself. It means you have a daring chance to grab a quality start on a given day…or flip the score and get demolished for 6 ER in three frames. He’s the sixth man for the Cards at the moment, but he’s sure to get more chances as something opens up during the year. He may find himself overthrown by Liberatore before too long, and I’m only considering him as a desperate streamer against a weak team.
229. Keegan Thompson (CHC) – I see Thompson as the backup option for the Cubs if their rotation is in dire need of a starter and not something to chase in fantasy. His curveball can be great and his cutter is a decent offering, but both are not enough to mask a pedestrian fastball that gravitates toward the middle of the zone. There isn’t a whole lot of upside to chase unless the curveball propels past 30% usage and is able to skirt past the 20% SwStr threshold – a hypothetical that will very likely remain just that.
230. Austin Voth (BAL) – All of the Orioles pitchers seemed to have their moments in 2022 and Voth was no exception. In fact, he had a 51.1 IP stretch beginning on July 31st that returned a 2.45 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 21% strikeout rate for daring managers. We saw a drop in fastballs in favor of a touch more sliders, but I’m the scrooge here to tell you it felt like smoke and mirrors then and it looks like smoke and mirrors now. The stretch came with an 86% LOB rate and sub 10% HR/FB clip, as I don’t believe Voth unlocked something new in this time. There are moments his breakers look stellar, but his heater is simply too hittable for me to latch on. He’s too much of a risk without enough coin at the end – his slider’s 15.9% SwStr was the only pitch above a 12.5% SwStr and none of his offerings returned a CSW north of 30%. It’s not what you want.
231. Javier Assad (CHC) – When Assad appeared during the season, I loved the cutter. He was nailing the pitch down-and-gloveside effortlessly, allowing him to get some whiffs, steal strikes, and return outs. It wasn’t a consistent feature, sadly, and while his sinker did a good job inducing poor contact, there isn’t much else to write home about. If that cutter isn’t an excellent offering, nothing else in his repertoire gives us pause, and even if the pitch comes through, you’re not staring at SP #3 upside, you’re looking at a “Toby” at best. Maybe he’ll get a stream one or two days this year.
232. Rony García (DET) – It’s hard not to absolutely adore the movement on García’s breaker, but his low arm action makes it tough for him to command it, resulting in too many waste pitches and an abysmal 49% strike rate. He ends up having to force more from his four-seamer/sinker and mediocre changeup, and with his poor command, Rony isn’t someone to be trusted. I don’t imagine his command will get fixed in the near future given the low-arm angle – it generally speaks to more difficulty finding the release point timing to locate effectively. If he gets into a rhythm where the breaker earns over a 60% strike rate, there could be something there.
233. Cole Ragans (TEX) – Ragans has a lovely changeup that messes up right-handers…and nothing else. I like his intent to pair them with four-seamers up and cutters inside, but it needs a whole lot more polish before he becomes something legit to focus on. On top of that, he doesn’t have a good enough break to take down lefties and this is going to take some time to gain traction, especially as the likely #9 in Texas.
234. Chase Silseth (LAA) – I remember getting excited by Silseth when he first arrived in 2022, throwing 96 mph ched and featuring a splitter that went 6/28 whiffs. Thing is, the fastball command is meh, the splitter is inconsistent (gasp!) and the slider is good, but not great. 41% hard contact on fastballs without a destructive secondary is a recipe to mediocrity and I can only hope that we’ll see a refined Silseth when he gets his next shot this year.
235. Spenser Watkins (BAL) – What is a whiff? Seriously, Watkins needs help answering that as his 9.4% SwStr rate ranked 164th across all starting pitchers, sinking his strikeout rate to just 13.7% on the season. Can I stop typing now? Fine, there was a stretch where he allowed just three earned runs in four games, but so did Dylan Bundy and we’re not talking about that for some reason. Nick, there’s a very good reason…Annnnyway, Watkins’ heater is all kinds of average, he gets a ton of strikes with cutters and sliders, leading to most of the outs he acquires, while the curve can fall into the zone here and there. It’s awfully boring and I imagine the Orioles are searching for ways not to have Watkins regularly start in 2023. He needs at least one, if not two, improvements to come, either in the form of velocity or a new feel for one of his pitches.
236. Tucker Davidson (LAA) – Tucker came over in the Raisel Iglesias deal and I was hoping he would have some sneaky value in the second half. HA Ha ha…no. The fastball gets hit far too hard and while he does a good job of getting his slider down, it’s not the most impressive breaker, while the hook is big but fails to earn enough strikes. There isn’t much to chase here and I’d pass on Tucker until he has a clear opportunity with at least one successful start displaying better skills first. Sidenote: Yeah, I know. He’s apparently in the running for the #6 spot for the Angels, but I’m giving that to Griffin Canning.
237. Jaime Barría (LAA) – Okay, let’s say Griffin Canning isn’t solid and Tucker Davidson is…Davidson. Barría has to get a shot, right? Sure, he tossed out of the pen last year save for one start, but he started eleven games in 2021 and will likely get his shot again. His whole shtick leans on a decent slider he favors nearly half the time, though without anything else to stand on, I wouldn’t rely too heavily on this panning out.
238. Corbin Martin (ARI) – Sure, y’all care all about Ryne Nelson, Drey Jameson, and Brandon Pfaadt, but Martin was one of the headliners of the Greinke –> Astros deal years ago and I’ve since wondered whether Martin can break out at any moment. He’s expected to be the long reliever out of camp, which means you may see him steal some starts if the youngins aren’t ready. And maybe that heater soars upstairs with decent breakers now. A man can hope.
239. Elieser Hernandez (NYM) – The Mets have a decent amount of depth outside their starting five, and I’m not sure if Elieser is the #8 or #9 with Lucchesi returning from TJS. Either way, we’ve seen what good Elieser looks like with the Marlins – a filthy slider and changeup + a sinker that can steal strikes – and I have to wonder if he gets a chance at some point. The Mets rotation isn’t a spry bunch, you know.
240. Michael Grove (LAD) – You know, I kinda dug what I saw from Grove last year. Sure, his four-seamer is kinda average at 94-95 mph, but both the curve and slider returned a 17% SwStr rate. With the Dodgers still boasting a rotation filled with injury risks, there may be a situation Grove gets his shot once again, even with Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller chomping at the bit.
241. Danny Duffy (TEX) – I almost wanted to leave off the team name so you could guess where he’s pitching now. Duffy is attempting to return from a flexor tendon injury and who knows, maybe Duffy can spark some magic once again – the Rangers will certainly need some depth this season with their injury-prone staff, after all. He had a bit of a renaissance in 2021 as he increased his fastball velocity to nearly 94 mph before the injury, propelling a 25% strikeout rate. If he’s healthy and can get that velocity back…
242. Connor Overton (CIN) – With the lack of depth in the Reds organization, the 2,001-pounder might see some starts once again in 2023 and they could work out…? Both his sinker and four-seamer returned a horrendous 42%+ hard contact rate, but the locations of his four-seamer were far better than you’d imagine, jamming lefties up-and-in constantly. If only he could get that sinker inside to right-handers with any frequency…
The slider and changeup combined for about 40% usage and I hope that number crosses the 50% threshold next year as Overton has a fair amount of success with both. It’s not an electric arsenal by any means, but all combined there’s enough here to plod through five effective innings at least.
243. Deivi García (NYY) – Without a strong #5 in the Yankee rotation, I wouldn’t rule out Deivi getting some starts this year. I was amped for him before he made his initial debut, but the velocity dwindled and his breakers weren’t spectacular. Now he spent 2022 in Double-A and Triple-A where he…oh no. What. He had a 7.96 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in Triple-A. Oh no. But hey! This is a new year! Can’t rule him out…right?
244. Ryan Pepiot (LAD) – The changeup was supposed to be 80-grade and when he executed it just right, it was pure bliss. Thing is, it earned a 44% strike rate. It was so inconsistent and I still wonder how good Pepiot could be if he was able to command the thing once again – his four-seamer returned a 12/13% swStr rate while the slider produced an impressive 34% CSW. The Dodgers have a ton of options but we may see some Pepiot if there’s an early injury and if that changeup is wicked, you better be…picked him up? Naaaaah. Yeah, it’s 300 pitchers, I gotta keep moving along.
245. Chris Flexen (SEA) – The Mariners have their top five locked in the rotation, but if they need an arm, Flexen is likely to get the first shot. He’s not one to circle as a grab if he were to get innings, sadly, as Flexen features nothing elite in the tank. Four-seamers and cutters are the plan of attack, with four-seamers leaning outside regardless of batter and it doesn’t make for success – the pitch allowed 44% hard contact against right-handers last year. His changeup can make lefties look silly at times, but when the realistic expectation from Flexen is an evening with three strikeouts, why are you taking the chance? Set yourself up for a bigger push of the needle.
246. Daniel Lynch (KCR) – I hate what I’m about to type. I want to give Lynch a…Patrick Corbin comp. His slider can be so dang good when he spots it, but he’s too inconsistent getting the pitch down and gloveside, while the fastball simply gets hit too dang hard. There’s also a changeup in the mix and it does save him at times, but unless Lynch can really nail down the “BSB”, it’s not enough. There will be those glorious evenings of command but they will few and far between.
247. Kris Bubic (KCR) – I have a stressful time watching Bubic. Ignore the horrid ratios from last year – Bubic has the stuff to be a legit major leaguer. The problem? He can’t locate with consistency and it drives me up the wall. If he were to get his changeup down consistently (sub 50% loLoc despite the 65% league average) or earn more than 60% strikes on the curveball, or elevate four-seamers when he wants to, it could work and make it fun to watch. But getting to an 0-2 and then taking 10 pitches to get a deep flyout on a 3-2 count is irritating to say the least. I can’t recommend you put yourself through it.
These Guys Exist
Doing these ranks, my intent is to cover everyone. Sometimes a guy falls through the cracks, but it’s important I look at the entire field and have some feelings about each guy. And as you can guess, by the end there are a decent group of guys we really don’t need to talk about. But hey, they exist so here they are. Huge thanks to everyone who stuck around – let me know you read this far and via a Twitter or Discord DM and it’ll warm my heart. You’re the real MVPs…unlike the guys in this tier.
248. Luis Patiño (TBR) – Will we see the Patiño experiment once again in Tampa Bay? I sure hope we do as there are moments I adore the four-seamer and slider combo, but he battled plenty of injuries in 2022, including shoulder discomfort that brought the year to a close in September. And even if he does find a way to be a starter again, how long will it take to get six innings out of him? Why are you putting yourself through this?
249. Glenn Otto (TEX) – The hope for Otto is for his slider to overwhelm and mask all the mediocrity in his sinker, four-seamer, and curve. Problem is, the slider wasn’t that good in 2022 and it’s difficult to squint enough to see a world where Otto not only has an elite slider but also another pitch to complement to make Otto a strong fantasy play. I have very little interest here.
250. Joan Adon (WSN) – Hoooo boy. Right-handers were served four-seamers and curveballs – the former held a sub 7% SwStr rate and the latter “boasted” a 16% CSW. Did you get that backwards? Nope. Oh no. Against left-handers he didn’t fare any better and this isn’t going anywhere but south. Sorry you’re not the Joan for me.
251. Paolo Espino (WSN) – There was a moment in 2021 when Espino was a solid streamer, but he’s not that man anymore. The Nationals clearly don’t trust him as a starter, and going 0-9 last year has to do a lot on the mind. He does sport a solid pair of breakers in his slider and curveball, though, and if Espino were allowed to go 80+ pitches once again, it would be on the backs of those pitches that he could possibly make it happen. I wouldn’t chase him in an NL-Only best ball as I don’t expect the innings to be there.
252. Joey Lucchesi (NYM) – The man with the churve is back from TJS and knowing the Mets, you can’t rule out a need for starters at some point during the year, even with Tylor Megill and David Peterson in the wings. Any hope for his 2018 26% strikeout rate is a foolish endeavor but maybe he’ll get some innings and raise an eyebrow or two.
253. Adrián Martinez (OAK) – You know, I dig that changeup, and his slider held a 36% CSW across twelve starts last year. Sure sure sure, the sinker is atrocious as he plops that thing in the middle of the zone so dang often, but when he was able to reliably get strikes with the two secondaries, you saw something promising. That sinker is going to hold him back too much, isn’t it?
254. Chris Archer (FA) – You know, the guy who never went more than five frames and was usually done after four. Maybe he goes somewhere like the Nationals and can actually flirt with six frames as he leans on the slider over half the time. Hey, I’ve seen crazier things.
255. Garrett Hill (DET) – The changeup is better than Hill lets on, as it reminds me of the classic Estrada tumble, and everything else is awfully meh. The path to something salvageable here is in that changeup becoming a 30%+ offering with better consistency than it is now, and I wouldn’t hold my breath we’ll see it any time soon.
256. Alex Faedo (DET) – The slider. It’s all about the slider. There are days when it misses a whole lot of bats (17% SwStr, 33% CSW for the year) and others where he can’t locate it down and the four-seamer + changeup are forced to do far more than they can. We should see him again at some point, but for now recognize that he could be a streamer at some point during the season, and even in that moment you’re actually considering it, maybe sit on your hands for a moment first.
257. Jakob Junis (SFG) – There was a moment last year when Junis had intrigue – he showed up for a start with a ton of ridiculous-looking changeups – but sadly it was just a platoon moment and he settled back into mostly sliders/sinkers with the latter being mediocre and our interest waned. I don’t see him getting many chances in the rotation this year, and even if he does, I doubt we’ll see a replication of that wondrous evening.
258. Tyler Alexander (DET) – Pedestrian as pedestrian gets. Please stop. Changeup doesn’t get enough strikes, cutter is fine and can mess up lefties, and the fastballs are so precision dependent. Slider/curve has great break, but gets hammered when in the zone. We’re not doing this.
259. Beau Brieske (DET) – I’m not sure what you’re chasing if you’re going for Brieske. Everything he offers is…fine. Okay, the changeup had just 19% hard contact and a near 70% strike rate, but it doesn’t miss bats and relies solely on those balls in play, which will likely get far worse than the .203 BABIP from 2021. Unless something new happens – he learns a new slider grip, he gains velocity, yada yada yada – I’m staying away from him.
260. Zach Thompson (TOR) – He was picked up by the Jays this off-season and who knows, maybe Thompson gets some starts when Kikuchi is, well Kikuchi. There was a time when his cutter and curveball were making us all fall for him as a streamer, but those days were long gone with Pittsburgh in 2022. Don’t completely rule it out in Toronto, but we’ve got to see a whole lot first.
261. Kutter Crawford (BOS) – He made twelve starts for the Sawx last year and has one of the few easter eggs at Pitcher List but that doesn’t mean we care about him for fantasy. I think there is something decent in his four-seamer/kutter but it’s sure not enough to invest draft-day dollars on him, especially with the uncertainty on when he starts, if at all.
262. Josh Fleming (TBR) – Those first two games where he earned 17 whiffs on sinkers only to earn just one whiff in his next three games perfectly sums up how we should be reacting to April performances. Just performing well isn’t enough, they have to perform in a way that is believable. We may see Fleming making long appearances again in 2023 – as a follower or as a long reliever – and I’ll still appraise his ability to stick to the edges with his sinker, changeup, and cutter. He didn’t deserve the horrendous ERA and WHIP from last year…but he doesn’t deserve a spot on your roster, either.
I DIDN’T FORGET THEM Y’ALL
I was originally going to do 200, then it was 250, and now we’re past 260 and WE’RE GOING TO 300 Y’ALL (and still not that one guy).
263. Justus Sheffield (SEA) – Before the prospects arrive in Seattle, I wouldn’t be shocked if Sheffield had a chance at an open spot in the rotation. Sadly, I don’t think he’s in a place where we’d be thrilled about the opportunity. His velocity is sitting 91/92 mph while his slider isn’t the destructive pitch it was when we first saw him. There’s a lot to fix before we get excited and this is very much a wait and see.
264. Jackson Kowar (KCR) – You know, Kowar actually has decent stuff. His slider was legit in 2021 and the changeup fade is wonderful, and hey! He throws 95/96 mph! He also just chucks the heater into the middle of the zone and gets trounced. It allowed a .429 BAA in his short 2022 stint and both seasons return hard contact rates of 41%+ as he elected to go to the four-seamer nearly 50% of the time. Welp, there’s yer problem. Maybe one day he figures out the fastball and leans in on the other two offerings and becomes something to note.
265. Andre Pallante (STL) – Sure, he made just ten starts last year, but a 3.17 ERA across 108 innings even if 37 games came in relief? It was a 1.42 WHIP and 16% strikeout rate. FINE. But the slider is solid and his four-seamer has cut action…oh wait. I hate four-seamers with cut action. It’s like a bad director who ends then quickly restarts a scene. Cut action doesn’t get the best out of what you’ve got. Anyway, the Cardinals have so many options to choose from and Pallante is too far down the list as a starter. He’s a meh reliever at this point.
266. Sam Long (SFG) – He’s gotten starts before with his big curveball and he could get them again if they’re in dire need. I don’t see him panning out to be a strong starting option, but there could be one of those 6 IP, 1 ER games lurking at some point.
267. Louie Varland (MIN) – He impressed in his debut with eight four-seamer whiffs and a changeup that flashed plus plus, but it didn’t hold up. We may see him get a few more chances this year for Minnesota, though I’d be scared to chance it blind.
268. Brandon Bielak (HOU) – Hey Brandon, I definitely didn’t mention you already in another blurb. No need to Ctrl-F for that, absolutely not. Anyway, the Astros don’t have depth after Hunter Brown, which opens the door for Bielak to get a few starts here and there…even if he’s only had two across the last two seasons. His approach is incredibly fastball focused, and when that heater is awfully ordinary, you suddenly get flashbacks of walking into a bodega, seeing there’s no milk, and walking out.
269. Yonny Chirinos (TBR) – He only made two appearances last year but tallied seven frames as he returned from TJS. I have very little faith Chirinos will blossom once again into the rose he once was, but you never know with the Rays. If they need someone to get innings, Chirinos looks like a guy who they trust to at least go with an opener.
270. Janson Junk (MIL) – Junk could see some starts for the Brewers this year and I would ignore it when it happens—BUT NICK. Yes, I see the strikeout rate, though it was a product of an eight-strikeout game against the Royals that was far from as good as the line looked. He has a decent slider and not a whole lot else, sadly, and despite our desires for someone named Junk to pan out, it doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be.
271. Ryan Weathers (SDP) – The Padres were in a rough situation when they relied heavily on Weathers to kick off 2021 and despite my initial enthusiasm, it has since heavily waned as I imagine the Padres will do everything they can to prevent Weathers from getting starts. If only he had a slider that missed a ton of bats…
272. Caleb Kilian (CHC) – There was hype around Killian making his debut last year and I remember being a bit disappointed to see a decent sinker ride take over most of his pitches. Sure, there was a cutter in there too with a few curves and four-seamers, but it’s a power sinker and we don’t chase prospects with those. With the plethora of options at the disposal of the Cubs, I wouldn’t expect to see a whole lot of Kilian this year, let alone get excited at the proposition.
273. Jimmy Lambert (CHW) – He started two games in April and pitched out of the pen for the rest of the year, leaning heavily on a four-seamer and slider. He’s likely not starting this year but WHAT ARE THE WHITE SOX DOING WITH THEIR ROTATION?! If he does start, I’m not interested unless his changeup/curve become solid #3 options, or the slider truly takes off. A 15% SwStr breaker isn’t enough.
274. Bruce Zimmermann (BAL) – There was a moment in 2022 that we dug Zimmermann’s changeup and slider from the left side, going seven starts without allowing more than 3 ER…and then he went six straight allowing more than 3 ER. You have to believe that even after going on the IL and coming back for a game, Zimmermann isn’t at the top of the Orioles’ depth chart for those getting available starts.
275. Dallas Keuchel (FA) – Keuchel danced between three teams last year to average 4.3 innings across fourteen starts. His 9.20 ERA was – wow you guessed it! – bad. His cutter shouldn’t be a .447 AVG pitch, but the sinker lost drop and the changeup didn’t do enough with a 21% CSW and 57% strike rate. Poor fella, he should land somewhere, but it’s rough.
276. Aníbal Sánchez (FA) – He’s not actually going to pitch, right? He’s 38-years-young and while he “made it work” with a 4.28 ERA and 1.27 WHIP last year for the Nationals, it looks pretty dang clear he’s delicately balancing on the edge of relevancy. We’ll miss the butterfly, Aníbal.
277. Michael Pineda (FA) – The man just wills his way through 4-5 innings with a four-seamer, changeup, and slider, the latter of which fell dramatically in SwStr last year to no longer be considered “solid”. Pineda isn’t good, he just is. I’d imagine he’d find a home somewhere at some point during the year, or it could be time to hang em up.
278. Mike Minor (FA) – I’m sorry Mike, I really am. We both know this is likely the end of the line after three years of 5.00+ ERAs. Wellllll it was a sub 4.70 FIP each year before last year’s 6.00+ clip…Wait. Here I am, near the #280 SP mark and I still can’t help but find a way for it to work. Everyone is a major leaguer for a reason, y’all.
279. Max Castillo (KCR) – He’s a pretty pedestrian pitcher. The fastball and slider aren’t anything to write home about, sadly, while the changeup is his golden ticket if he’s ever ascending to fantasy relevance. If he’s able to keep it down and feature it more, there’s a slight chance, and I would be shocked to see it come to fruition in 2023.
280. Peter Lambert (COL) – He had TJS and made a very brief appearance last year, but now? He’s ready for vengeance. Or not, maybe just a spot on the roster. His curveball is the main selling point – a big hook that steals strikes a ton – but there’s still much to be desired in the heater and slider. I don’t think we’ll get to a point of jumping for Lambert, but you never know what TJS can do. Doesn’t he pitch for the Rockies? Oh right. Yeah, that’s pretty bad, isn’t it.
281. Adam Oller (OAK) – I just don’t see why you’d pick him over the Oller guys. Oh, so we’ve gotten to THAT part of the rankings. Yup. Okay, he dances around the zone with four-seamers, cutters, and sliders decently well, and it opens the door for one of those ridiculous evenings where he tosses eight shutout frames, but that’s just baseball, Suzyn.
282. Jason Alexander (MIL) – I’m not sure there’s a more erratic “here’s-my-sinker-and-I-don’t-know-where-it’s-going-so-good-luck!” pitcher than Alexander. Sometimes that can work if it’s paired with some filthy breakers, but unfortunately, it’s all Alexander’s got. And when “what you’ve got” is a pitch that returned a 39% hard contact rate and .344 batting average, “what you’ve got” isn’t a whole lot. You don’t want this.
283. Josh Winckowski (BOS) – For a guy with a name I spent a decent amount of time learning how to spell, I’m a little sad he’s far away from starting again. Wait, so he’s a solid fantasy starter when he pitches? Oh dear, not close. He throws an awfully hittable sinker and features a trio of secondaries that all fail to eclipse a 14% SwStr rate. Let’s keep it moving.
284. Jonathan Heasley (KCR) – Heasley has a poor heater that can sit 94 at times, but usually is down to 92/93 mph and that destroys everything, unfortunately. The changeup and curve have promise in their movement but are not enough to save the arsenal and there’s not a whole lot left to say. This isn’t it, y’all.
285. Bryse Wilson (MIL) – I swear, if there’s a world where Bryse steals a start from Aaron Ashby, SO HELP ME. He sports just one pitch that held a SwStr rate above 10% last year – his four-seamer at 10.6%. I think that’s enough for this blurb.
286. Kolby Allard (ATL) – Atlanta acquired Allard in a deal for Jake Odorizzi and you should see it as a depth move, not a realistic fifth man for the 2023 season. Dralla will not have his day as the discount Ryan Yarbrough, who was released by the Rays. That’s what we’re dealing with here with his upper-80s heater, get-me-over cutter, and low-80s changeup.
287. Tyler Gilbert (ARI) – Yeah yeah, he threw a no-hitter in his debut. He still flirts with 90 mph with a cutter and doesn’t do a whole lot else. He’s one of those “alright, call him up for a double-header” kind of pitchers who shouldn’t make much of a fantasy impact save for a rare NL-Only stream that makes you pace in your kitchen for the entire day.
288. Konnor Pilkington (CLE) – He had that one nice start with a changeup and then nothing else after. I really wanted it work, I truly did. The Guardians have so many backup options after their front six that I just don’t see Pilk getting many chances this season (the same goes for the next guy), making his path to becoming a fantasy-relevant arm terribly treacherous.
289. Xzavion Curry (CLE) – Hey, it’s the next guy! He tossed just 9.1 frames in the majors this past year, but flashed a wicked slider that returned near a 20% SwStr rate. The problem is, he struggles to throw strikes and his fastball is oh-so hittable. But that’s the Guardians’ way! Nah, he needs another stellar secondary and the curve nor change are that. You don’t want this.
290. Ryan Feltner (COL) – At the beginning of the season, Feltner made me raise an eyebrow. He fanned 20 batters in three games, showcasing a near “BSB” approach with four-seamers up and sliders down, allowing just seven batters to cross the plate in 14 frames. That’s a 4.50 ERA, Nick. For a guy on the Rockies? Fair. The strikeouts faded, sadly, and given the whole “hey, it’s Coors” thing, there is little reason to chase this. Maybe the heater can rise above 95 mph again and the slider whiffs return, but in all likelihood, Feltner will be one more on a long string of “oh right, I remember that random Rockies guy”.
291. Alec Mills (FA) – Mills is the proto-typical “Toby” you can find in a season, where he’s on every wire, gets picked up for a bit, then goes back and stays there. Like many down here, he’s sure to get a shot at some point this year and he’ll be able to grind out a few 5+ inning starts, I’m sure. Unless he has pinpoint command, though, he’s not going to help your fantasy squads.
292. Spencer Howard (TEX) – Remember when he was a premier pitching prospect? I used to dig his slider and changeup, but all I’ve ever seen from him are poor four-seamer after poor four-seamer. At some point you think he has to adapt and figure something else out and with the injury-prone rotation that the Rangers have put together, he could get his chance to be something new once again in 2023. One can only hope to be browsing Spencer’s stuff again twenty years later.
293. Daniel Castano (MIA) – Take Drew Rasmussen and make him a whole lot worse – that’s Castano. He’s a cutter/slider guy with a horrific four-seamer and not one pitch in his repertoire returned a 12% SwStr last season. He’s a desperate start if the Marlins need someone, but you have to think they have so many other options to go to first, right?
294. Chase Anderson (FA) – Chase started seven games for the Reds if you didn’t realize (you didn’t) and there’s a chance he finds his way onto some ballclub searching for something. Chase hasn’t been a pitcher to get excited about since his velocity increase in 2017 and I’m sad it’s all but assured that will be fact a year from now.
295. Shelby Miller (LAD) – Oh come on Nick. LOOK. The Dodgers picked up Shelby and when the Dodgers pick up a player, you pay attention. Who knows?
296. Jordan Yamamoto (LAD) – NICK. I’M JUST SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE.
297. Tommy Romero (WSN) – There was a ton of hype surrounding Romero last year after posting ridiculous whiff numbers in Double-A and Triple-A for the Rays in 2021. Sadly, he looked awfully average when he made his debut and was transferred to the Nationals mid-season, then non-tendered and signed to a minor league deal this off-season. In all likelihood, Romero tries out for the bullpen instead of rotation, but given the state of the Nationals, who knows. Maybe something clicks and he gets his chance to start like he demanded in 2021.
298. Devin Smeltzer (MIA) – There were days when Smeltzer was an intriguing ratios arm for the Twins and now he’s just trying to earn some starts with the Marlins. We see random names make starts for the Marlins all the time, and Smeltzer is sure to do the same across the summer months, possibly grinding five frames of mediocre fantasy production. This is nothing to excite you, but there are worse arms out there.
299. Chi Chi Gonzaléz (MIA) – Like Chi Chi. Sorry, you likely deserve better, but Smeltzer should be ahead of you in the “hey, we need a start STAT” chart for the Marlins, even if you’ve made random starts across multiple teams over the last few years. And considering how far down Smeltzer is (Braxton, Castano, Pérez, etc.), this doesn’t look so good.
300. Julio Teheran (SDP) – And why not, let’s end it with Teheran. He played in LIDOM in 2022 and apparently brought his velocity closer to 93 mph. Now he’s with the Padres and they may be calling on him to make a start or two. Watch this be the breakout of the year and I DIDN’T FORGET HIM Y’ALL.
These rankings will be updated in early March in a separate article, but just for the Top 100 via The List. Save for significant injuries, I will not be updating this article until then, so sit tight and let’s look forward to some spring baseball.
Don’t forget to tell me where I’m wrong on Twitter, Reddit, and Discord – I’m sure there are some oversights across all these players.
Photo by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)
This is such excellent work, Nick. Thank you!
Excellent as always. Been playing fantasy since 80s. You and Mr. Grey(Razz) are the preeminent experts when it comes to pitching hands down
Thanks a lot! Grey is fantastic.
Tremendous work Nick. One small gripe would be with your ranking of Luis Garcia. You mention how you’re hesitant to up rank him because the Astros didn’t trust him in the playoffs but I’m not sure this is true. I think they may have not needed him due to having an incredibly hot group dealing throughout but when they called on Garcia, he was lights out. If this kid posts another solid season, I think he could easily be a #3 or even #4 on your staff.
Anyway, great content. And love the pod.
I hope you’re right! I could be completely dropping the ball here.
A minor typo:
“253. Peter Lambert (CHW)” should be “253. Peter Lambert (COL)”
Oh duh. TOO MANY LAMBERTS. Thanks a lot for the catch!
Hey Nick, love your stuff. I just heard you say something on your podcast (I think it was during your SP 41-50 episode) that wasn’t quite clear to me. You mentioned that in deeper leagues you should aim to get more guys who give you more innings (I think you meant more Tobys) rather than targeting higher upside/risky pitchers. I’m in a 20 team H2H categories league (W, Ks, ERA, WHIP, SV and HLD) and I’m struggling with those back end starters and would love some advice/targets for a league that deep.
Excellent reviews. You obviously spent a lot of time to put this together. Much appreciated.
Is Pablo worth a 3rd round keeper in 12 team N.L. Only leagues? I’m 51/49 in favor that he is. What are your thoughts?
How are there so many great pitchers? There are not. Your standards for greatness are way too low. It is a predictable take on historically terrible baseball though. If there is not much happening on the field, then I guess we can attribute it to the pitching if we want. Pitching “success” is inevitable considering the de-juicing of the balls. Decades of hitting progress were discarded as hitters adapted to hitting super balls AKA discarded a reasonable approach to hitting. Now that the balls don’t hit themselves out of the park all we have is a flawed group of hitters with awful approaches. The league is full of hitters that should be in AAA. There are a lot of reasons that baseball is really bad right now and none of them are related to pitching greatness. Nobody is going to look back at this era and say, wow what incredible pitching! I suspect that people will look back on the era following the steroid era as when baseball stopped being anything worth paying attention to in the long history of the game.
These rankings are going to be upside down by the end of the year. That is a good indication of the lack or greatness going on right now. It doesn’t take much to be elite and there are very few guys really getting to a high level and consistently producing there. Personally, I would put the JV, Kersh, Nola, DeGrom types in that top tier and call it what it is. When an old guy is no lock for 100 IP it is a big problem but when a young guy is no more likely to throw 100 IP it is exciting. If the top 100 is completely upside down at the end of the year, then I think you did a bad job, right? Granted, I love it as it helps me at fantasy baseball!
On Luis Garcia, the Astros trusted him a crazy amount when he was called up as they started him then and then last year they moved away from him. I always thought that was weird. His CH used to be his best pitch so that is probably somewhere in his bag of tricks. I do think that the Astros are pretty dumb at managing a staff – they always have been. Javier is a good example of them not being able to see what is right in front of their face as is McCullers. Those two should have switched roles a long time ago. There is no reason to ever rely on McCullers. They have done lots of weird things over their great run. They are overflowing with talent, not making brilliant game management decisions. HOU always employs a lot of MLB talent.
Look at TMacs career numbers. He is a lot better than you are giving him credit for being. There are lot of fragile guys ahead of him that will never do what he has done. If he retires today he will still have that pretty impeccable track record going on three years. Career WHIP 1.03 over 300+ IP. There doesn’t have to be any more to it than that.
All that said, this looks like the year to punt SP more than any in history. There are going to be a ton of great arms that can get scraped off of waivers… or reliable arms are going to slide really far.