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Fantasy Baseball 2024: Top 130 Starting Pitchers (MARCH UPDATE)

I generally hate publishing starting pitcher rankings because they never feel done to me. As somebody who spends a lot of time watching/thinking about pitching, I always feel like there are tweaks I want to make or pitchers that I constantly change my opinion of. However,

I also want to make sure I share my thoughts on the rankings below, but given that I'm going to discuss 100 pitchers, you'll find short blurbs with my thoughts "off the dome" for these guys. Well, at least, I'll try to do that because I can naturally be long-winded, but I'll also link to other articles I've written where I dive into a given pitcher more completely.

Rank

Pitcher

Team

Tier One

1

Gerrit Cole

NYY

2

Spencer Strider

ATL

I have Gerrit Cole ranked first overall primarily because I trust the depth of the arsenal more than with Strider. Cole has five pitches that he feels comfortable using, including a new cutter that he started throwing more as the year went on. I also believe that cutter was a big reason that he cut his home run rate down in 2023. I know the strikeouts were down; however, the swinging strike rates overall weren't much worse, so I think he can rebound to just under a 30% rate and given that he's likely to push 190 innings again on a team that is improved from 2023, I think Cole has the safety and upside I like if I'm going to draft a starter this early.

Spencer Strider is great; there isn't really a debate about that. We just have to pick nits when we're deciding between the top two arms. For me, I have concerns that Strider really just has two pitches and he gives up a lot of hard contact. With only two pitches, hitters are able to sit on one pitch. That certainly doesn't help them all the time since Strider gets so many whiffs, but when hitters do make contact off Strider, it tends to be much harder contact than they make off an arm like Cole. Hence why Strider posted a 3.86 ERA. I know he'll get me more strikeouts than Cole, but I'd rather take the safer ratios because I think I can chase strikeout upside with other arms later. MARCH UPDATE: Yes, I know about Strider's new curveball, and I wrote about it in depth here.

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Tier Two

3

Corbin Burnes

BAL

4

Zack Wheeler

PHI

5

Luis Castillo

SEA

There was a time not long ago when Corbin Burnes was in the conversation as the top pitcher in fantasy drafts. However, he lost the feel for his cutter, and his results suffered. He started 2023 slow as well, but changed his slider mid-year, taking four miles an hour off the pitch and adding significant horizontal movement. The result was far less hard contact and more swings and misses. He also made it his second most-used pitch in the final month of the season. Given how Burnes' results overall improved with the pitch mix change, I think we can attribute some stickiness to it, and I expect it to carry over into 2024. The trade to Baltimore has also given him a ballpark upgrade and a team context upgrade, so he leapfrogs Wheeler for me after that.

Zack Wheeler has been about as consistent as any starting pitcher in baseball over the last eight years, only posting one below-average season in 2017 when he battled injury. While he didn't quite maintain the same level of strikeout gains from 2021, he has held onto a 27% strikeout rate, which makes him a solid source of strikeouts when you consider the number of innings he has thrown over the last few years. Wheeler added a sweeper last season and went to it more as the year went on, giving him another swing-and-miss option to complement his previous more gyro-like slider. Wheeler has great team context, solid ratios, and good enough strikeouts to give you clear four-category upside if you want a starter early in drafts.

While recent years have taught us that there's not any true security with any starting pitcher, Luis Castillo feels like one of the best bets going. He's thrown at least 150 innings in five straight full seasons and threw 70 innings in the COVID-shortened 2020 year. Since coming to Seattle, he's seen his strikeout totals rise as he's gone more fastball-slider-focused and less fastball-change-focused. The new ballpark environment has also helped keep his WHIP low, which separates him from the tier below for me. I think Castillo gives you great value in four categories, and I'm happy to take him at his current ADP as my fantasy ace.

Tier Three

6

Pablo Lopez

MIN

7

George Kirby

SEA

8

Yoshinobu Yamamoto

LAD

9

Kevin Gausman

TOR

10

Zac Gallen

ARI

11

Logan Webb

SF

This tier is full of pitchers who have clear talent and I'd be happy to have them in all formats, but there's just one issue that's holding them from the tier above for me.

I think Pablo Lopez is being unfairly punished for injuries he suffered during two seasons in Miami. Pitching is naturally risky from an injury standpoint, but Lopez has thrown at least 180 innings in two straight years. Nobody is saying he "cured" whatever injury issues plagued him earlier, but considering the elevated injury risk with all starters, I don't believe we should continue to drag down a player's value for years, even after they've continuously played well. We also have Pablo becoming a new pitcher in Minnesota. After going to Driveline in the offseason, he threw 1.5 mph harder in 2023 while also scrapping his cutter and adding a sweeper that missed tons of bats. Pablo always had a great change-up, but now he has another plus pitch that he can use to take some pressure off the change. With the curve also improving, I think Pablo is developing into a talented pitcher with a deep arsenal.

George Kirby is an elite command pitcher who has posted elite ratios and high innings totals since breaking through into the big leagues. His issue is the current lack of a true out pitch. He introduced a splitter in the middle of the season and had great success with it, posting a 17.4% swinging strike rate in the second half and his slider also doubled its swing-and-miss in the second half of the year. If those gains can be maintained, then, paired with a solid four-seam and sinker, Kirby should emerge as a true fantasy ace.

What can I say about Yoshinobu Yamamoto? Every article you read about him and every analyst that breaks down his stuff mentions how elite his raw stuff is. On paper, he profiles as one of the best starters in MLB, and he has elite command to support his plus raw stuff. However, he will also be in a new league and in a new country, so there are major questions about how he adapts. I just don't think anybody in the tier below him has his upside, so when push comes to shove, I'm likely going to draft him over all of those guys in almost every draft. MARCH UPDATE: He looked so good in his first two innings. They were two innings, but it was fun to watch.

There's nothing wrong with Kevin Gausman, but I just have a little bit of hesitation due to his arsenal. Gausman's four-seam fastball is not great and gives up a ton of hard contact, which puts a lot of pressure on his splitter, which is his best pitch. However, Gausman rarely throws the splitter for strikes because he gets so many chases. What that means is that Gausman is a two-pitch pitcher, but one pitch is fairly average, and the other pitch is great but relies on chases. That's a dangerous tightrope to walk and is a big part of the season that Gausman tends to sport high BABIPs and WHIPs. I don't believe those improve going forward, and so I have him below where many have him. MARCH UPDATE: Gausman is dealing with some shoulder fatigue and has been shut down from throwing for a bit. The Blue Jays aren't concerned, but even if it's not a long-term injury, Gausman will need to be cleared to throw and then ramp up to a normal workload, so it seems safe to assume he'll miss some starts at the beginning of the year. That's enough to drop him below Kirby and Yamamoto for me.

Here you see the direct results of the instability with starting pitching in this year's landscape. Logan Webb lacks major strikeout upside, but he is among the most stable ratio pitchers that you'll find. He has an elite change-up and slider that misses way more bats after he tweaked its shape three years ago and one of the friendlier home parks for pitchers. Additionally, while his strikeout rate may not be ideal, he still racks up a solid number of strikeouts due to his innings volume. Last year, Webb had the 18th-most strikeouts among starting pitchers. Now, he may not throw 200 innings again, but he's as good a bet as any to rack up high innings volumes with solid ratios and enough strikeouts to not hurt you. If you want stability, this is it.

I know I have Zac Gallen inside my top 10, but I have real concerns about the amount of hard contact he gives up. Gallen relies a lot on command for his success, keeping the majority of his pitches low in the zone to increase tunneling and deception. However, he does that because his arsenal is not overly dynamic on its own. That means, when he misses his spots or sequences poorly, he tends to give up lots of hard contact. All three of his main pitches have an Ideal Contact Rate of 40% or higher, including a whopping 47.7% rate on his curveball. Considering ICR adds up barrels, solid contact, and hard groundballs and divides them by batted ball events, it means that almost half of the contact that Gallen gives up is hard. That's a tough tightrope to walk to keep ratios low, but he has been able to do it so far and given how many innings he feels likely to throw, he's still a safer bet than most options in this range. MARCH UPDATE: Of course, the counter-argument there is that he threw so many innings last year and has a history of arm issues, so that's why I moved Webb above him. I just feel Webb is a bit safer. If that exists.

Tier Four

12

Tyler Glasnow

LAD

13

Tarik Skubal

DET

14

Max Fried

ATL

15

Bobby Miller

LAD

16

Grayson Rodriguez

BAL

17

Freddy Peralta

MIL

18

Cole Ragans

KC

This next tier is made up of pitchers with legitimate ace upside but some concerns about durability or development which make them a little riskier than the names above.

The argument against Tyler Glasnow is strictly connected to health, and it's one I understand. He's 30 years old and last year he threw a career-high 120 innings. However, according to him, it was the same injury in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Glasnow mentioned that the UCL injury first popped up in 2019 but the MRI came back clean, but then he had the same injury in 2020 and 2021 and the MRI kept coming back clean. When finally decided to have surgery, they found that the UCL was intact, which is why the MRI showed no major issues, but it was off his bone which led to constant re-injury. Now, this isn't to say that Glasnow will all of the sudden throw 160 innings, but it does give context to him being injury-prone. Also, as I've said a few times now, there are more risks and question marks at the top of the starting pitcher pool than ever before. I know when Glasnow is on the mound, he's going to be elite, so there just comes a time in drafts when I'd rather take 130 innings of elite production and hope for health than take 170 innings that could be far worse.

Everybody wants to buy in on Tarik Skubal and I can see why, to a certain extent. He posted a 2.80 ERA (2.77 SIERA), 32.9% strikeout rate, 28.4% K-BB%, and 14.9% SwStr% in 80.1 innings last year. However, Skubal made just 15 starts last season and his final eight opponents were: @CLE, CHC, NYY, @CWS, CWS, @LAA, @OAK, and KCR. That means over half of his total starts on the season were against some of the worst offenses in baseball. In those eight starts, he registered a 1.88 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 37% strikeout rate, and 4% walk rate. Did Skubal make a huge leap or is he simply a slightly improved pitcher who took advantage of an easy schedule? MARCH UPDATE: I had previously expressed some concern about Skubal's velocity. In my previous rankings, I mentioned that his four-seam jumped up 1.7 mph in 2023, which is great news because it has poor IVB or Vertical Approach Angle (VAA), so he needs the velocity. While Skubal was able to hold the velocity for much of the year, it did dip 0.5 mph over the final month which led me to question whether, over a full season, he might not be able to stay above 95 mph. Well, now he's sitting 97.5 mph in spring, and I just don't see any way that falls back under 94 mph. So...giddy up.

Max Fried is arguably just as stable as Webb, if not more so. However, that's just when he's on the mound. He has a hard time pushing over 160 innings due to some previous injury concerns and the Braves' cautious approach to pushing him too deep into games. However, Fried has a career 3.03 ERA and a collection of five pitches, each of which he has elite command of. I've read enough that makes me think we shouldn't be worried about his forearm strain since he has had time to properly rehab and was able to come back and pitch at 100% health before getting a blister. As a result, I don't believe he's any greater of an injury risk than many of the other arms here, but he's still hard to project for more than 160+ innings.

Bobby Miller is my favorite of the second-year pitchers who could make big leaps in 2024. For starters, he has a 99 mph fastball with good Induced Vertical Break (IVB) which had just average swinging strike rates but I think could perform even better if he gets it up in the zone more. He also has a curve, slider, and change which all miss bats and give him an arsenal to attack both righties and lefties. An improved approach with the four-seam will add more swing-and-miss which will improve his overall performance against righties and get his strikeout rates up to where his raw stuff indicates they should be. He started to do that as the season went on, and his SwStr% jumped 2%, so I'm optimistic it's something that carries over into 2024.

Grayson Rodriguez is another young pitcher who made clear changes as the year went on, and we saw those directly in his results, registering a 2.58 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 24% strikeout rate across 76.2 IP after he was recalled from the minors in July. We can also tie those results to tangible changes, like a shift in vertical approach on his four-seam and throwing both his change-up and slider harder, which suggests he was "letting it rip" a bit more and aiming less. He also scrapped his cutter, using the harder slider to miss more bats than it did in the first half. The four-seam remains slightly above average, so he'll need his breaking balls to step forward, and that's why I slightly prefer Perez because of the elite raw stuff; however, given the step forward we've seen in those breaking balls, I believe that the second half version of Rodriguez is no fluke.

One of the biggest criticisms levied against Freddy Peralta is his lack of innings, but I think that's a bit misleading since Peralta was not a full-time starting pitcher until 2021. He’s had three seasons as a full-time starter and has thrown 144.1, 78, and 165.2 innings, which averages out to 129.1 innings per season as the Brewers usually pull him after six innings. That's not a lot of innings, and his cross-body delivery can lead to injury, but that's exactly why he's down in this tier. If we thought Peralta was a good bet to hit 160-170 innings again, he'd be getting drafted earlier. My point is that he's a better bet for 140-150 innings than many people think. Peralta was electric in his final 17 starts of 2023, posting a 36% strikeout rate and rarely giving up hard contact. The concern for me is that not much changed between his rough first stretch and the hot final stretch to point to a clear shift in results. Peralta struggles a bit more against righties because he becomes a two-pitch pitcher against them, but I think there is room for growth if he can elevate the fastball to righties the way he does to lefties or if he leans on the curve more to the glove-side. In a sense, I believe in Peralta's skillset while also believing that he has more durability than people give him credit for and there's upside for more.

Cole Ragans came out of nowhere, except that he didn't. He was a first-round pick back in 2016 but between injuries (a botched Tommy John surgery which required a second procedure) and the COVID cancellation of the minor league season, he didn't throw a pitch in a game between 2017 and 2021. Texas was reportedly bullish on his future, but they needed bullpen help when they sent him to Kansas City for Aroldis Chapman. The biggest part of Ragans' breakout last year was his increased velocity, but he also possesses a true five-pitch mix that he's comfortable using in all counts. He can throw most of his pitches for strikes consistently (when he's not nibbling) and has more than a few ways to get swings and misses. I have some concerns about team context and a minor health concern, but I believe in what we saw last year. MARCH UPDATE: Ragans is not only adding a two-seamer to the mix, but he was out there pumping 101 mph with elite iVB in spring. Now, I'm not suggesting he's going to carry over that kind of velocity gain into the season, but it's further proof that the gains from last year aren't a fluke, and if he's able to maintain the iVB gains from this year, you're going to see his second half results carry over into 2024.

Tier Five

19

Zach Eflin

TB

20

Aaron Nola

PHI

21

Joe Musgrove

SD

22

Framber Valdez

HOU

23

Logan Gilbert

SEA

These pitchers all feel safer than the names above and will likely give you more innings, but they also lack the upside of the fourth tier.

I'm not sure why people are so down on Zach Eflin. For years we said "If only he would throw his curveball more" or "If only he went to a team that could get the most out of his talent," and then he does that and has a great year and people say, "What if he can't do it again?" Which one is it? Is he the talented people who just needed a better environment or was he never that guy to begin with? Last year, Eflin upped the usage of his curveball significantly, added a sweeper, and changed his cutter to add more horizontal break. It resulted in a much higher swinging strike rate, which led to more strikeouts, and the arsenal was also one he could command better which led to a decrease in walks and better WHIP. To me, there's no reason to believe Eflin can't duplicate what he did last year (perhaps with fewer wins), and while he doesn't have the upside of some of the future aces coming in the next tier, I think he is less volatile as well.

Now, Aaron Nola doesn't have the same concerns regarding his durability, but he does have concerns regarding his diminishing strikeout rates. However, Nola is only 30 years old and has shown no meaningful velocity decline, so I'm not yet to say he's beginning to decline. I do have some concerns about how hard his four-seam gets hit, but Nola seems to share those concerns, which is why he began to use the sinker more and get it inside on righties. Another concern is that Nola's curve has lost horizontal movement in each of the last three years and has also seen its SwStr% fall. I was hoping he would go to a new organization that might prioritize fixing that, but that was not to be. Still, Nola has proven to be a reliable starter who will post strong innings totals on a good team, and I don't believe there is anything in his 2023 season that suggests it will repeat. He's likely just an SP2 for fantasy but probably one of the better ones, and if the Phillies do fix the movement issues on his curve, we could see a much better 2024.

Remember when Joe Musgrove was pushing to be a top-15 starting pitcher heading into 2023 drafts but then he dropped a weight on his foot in spring training and then also injured his arm during the year? The righty is 31 years old but doesn't profile as any different of a pitcher than he showed in 2021 and 2022. He has a slider that continues to miss bats, a cutter that induces weak ground balls, a curve that he can throw to righties and lefties, and an improving change-up that he seemed ready to rely on more in 2023. We've seen Musgrove be an above-average starter in every season since 2019, and I see no reason why that should be any different now. He's a rock-solid SP2 for me. MARCH UPDATE: No, I don't care that he's struggled to start spring. I only care that he's healthy, which he appears to be.

I don't know what to make of Framber Valdez, but I don't have tons of confidence. His surface-level stats were good, but he has just a slightly above-average swinging strike rate and below-average CSW and ICR. He's a primary sinkerball pitcher whose sinker got hit hard in 2023. Additionally, he changed his cutter in 2023 to be three mph harder and it resulted in more swinging strikes, but it also got hit harder. He also rarely throws it to righties, which means his best strikeout pitch is rarely used against the majority of hitters he faces. That puts an awful lot of pressure on his curve, but I'm just not confident in the rest of the arsenal. I don't think Framber will ever be bad, but I'm also not sure how elite he'll really be.

Having Logan Gilbert this high is about a belief that his breaking balls and fastball all take a step in the right direction at the same time. His slider had a strong second half, getting more whiffs as he leaned on it a bit more, and the new splitter that he added was really strong in the first half but fell off in terms of hard contact allowed in the second half. Also, his four-seam performed worse in 2023 than it did in 2022. Still, we've seen all the pieces individually: the plus slider, the strong splitter, the above-average four-seam, and all of that paired with plus command. We've just yet to see it all come together at once, but what if that year is 2024?

Tier Six

24

Blake Snell

SD

25

Eury Perez

MIA

26

Jesus Luzardo

MIA

27

Justin Steele

CHC

Like the tier above, these pitchers have all flashed high-end SP2 upside or more, but they are more volatile or have much less of a track record.

Blake Snell’s fantasy value is incredibly hard to pin down because we all know he’s coming off of a career-best year that he won’t replicate, and we also have no idea where he’ll pitch. We also know he’s thrown over 130 innings just once since 2018 and has never had a BB/9 under 3.19 in a season. Those are all legitimate concerns. We also know that Snell has been really good for most of his career, with a 3.20 career ERA and a 29.7% career strikeout rate. His change-up took a big step forward in 2023 and became his second most-used pitch, which is something we like to see since it ties up righties. On the downside, he also drastically over-performed with runners in scoring position, and his BABIP as well below career norms, so he should see a regression to the mean with both. I'm not ready to pay for Snell's career year, but I'm also not going to ignore how good he's been throughout his career. MARCH UPDATE: We're coming close to the point where I'm going to move Snell down because he's unsigned. I don't care where he ends up, but signing late likely means missing starts at the beginning of the season. I already am assuming we're getting around 150 innings from Snell, so I am not going to react yet, but we're nearing the time when it will start to hurt his projections.

The raw stuff Eury Perez possesses is great and good enough to make him a clear SP1 in fantasy, but he has to shift his approach in a way Bobby Miller started to and Perez hasn't yet. Much like Miller, Perez throws his four-seam low in the zone which causes it to get hit hard. Unlike Miller, he has yet to shift that approach, but I believe he certainly can. The shape and velocity of the four-seam would make it far more impactful up in the zone. He also needs to throw his breaking balls more in the zone, with both his curve and slider both inducing lots of weak contact but not being thrown for strikes enough. Again, this is something I believe happens a lot with young pitchers who can dominate in the minor leagues by saying, "Here's my best stuff; hit it." I believe that Perez is capable of shifting his approach and being more deliberate with this location; I just think he hasn't had to be yet.

Jesus Luzardo will be entering his age 26 season and while we've seen clear growth from him over his two years in Miami, we may also have seen the level he will settle in at. There were no real meaningful changes between 2022 and 2023 with minor improvements in walk rate and a slight dip in strikeout rate. We know that Luzardo possesses an elite change-up that the Marlins have gotten more use out of, but there doesn't seem to be another leap here. Still, even as is, Luzardo is a 3.50-3.70 ERA pitcher with a strikeout rate that will push 30% in a good pitcher's park. That's still a stable fantasy asset.

I'm a little more concerned about Justin Steele. His 2023 season was great, and his slider is certainly elite, but I'm not quite sure what else there is. Last year was his first season over 119 innings in pro ball and he's only thrown above 100 twice, so I do have some durability concerns that make me more apt to draft him in leagues with an IL spot. He has also sported some high WHIPs in the past due to his lack of deep arsenal, which leads to hard contact, as I mentioned with Strider above. Steele can be a low-to-mid 3.00 ERA arm with a 24% strikeout rate, and there's nothing wrong with that. He just lacks more upside, in my opinion.

Tier Seven

28

Chris Sale

ATL

29

Michael King

SDP

30

Bailey Ober

MIN

31

Shota Imanaga

CHC

32

Joe Ryan

MIN

This is a tier of pitchers that I really like grabbing in drafts and I have some of them well above their current ADP, so I can wait and make these guys my SP3 in drafts and feel good about it.

I've mentioned my fondness for Chris Sale more than a few times on the "On the Corner" podcast. To synthesize my thoughts into a shorter space: I believe he was more effective when you look under the hood than we thought last year. He still missed a lot of bats and pitched to solid ratios without his best stuff. He was rusty after battling injuries and seemed to lose feel for his pitches now and then, which led to harder contact than you'd like to see. Still, the solid raw stuff was there. Plus, he's been open about feeling that he didn't live up to his contract in Boston and said he was pissed off about how he performed. For a player as competitive as Sale, that means he's been attacking this offseason with something to prove. Now that he's in Atlanta, he finds himself with better team context and I think, even if we get 140 innings, they'll be 140 really good innings, and so I'm in on Sale in 2024. MARCH UPDATE: Sale looks lights out so far this spring, but I was already ranking him high and expecting 140 innings, so I'm OK paying the current price.

I'm also in on Michael King for similar reasons. I think some of what we saw last year was real to the extent that King has a deep arsenal of pitches and the pure stuff to make hitters look bad. He moves to a much solid ballpark for pitchers and figures to slot immediately into the Padres rotation. However, he has battled injuries in the past, and the Yankees were inclined to not push his innings totals too high. As a result, I don't think King is a lock for more than 130+ innings. I think they'll be good innings, but I have him down in this tier due to his questionable innings, and think I'd rather take the track record of Sale if push comes to shove.

Admittedly, Bailey Ober doesn't fit in this tier from a narrative standpoint, but I like him far more than the guys in the tier below him, so the only other option is to push him to the bottom of the last tier, which maybe I'll do. Ober came up through the minors as a command specialist, and even though he throws harder now, he doesn't bring elite velocity. However, his long frame allows him to get elite extension, so his fastball remains hard to hit. He pairs that with a good changeup that he started to rely on more in 2023, two solid breaking balls, and he still has that strong command. He's not going to give you tons of upside, and you'll always wonder when the other shoe is going to drop, but it's also possible that it never does. And, maybe that's the uncertainty that puts him in this tier. MARCH UPDATE: Ober has added velocity on his fastball which, if it sticks, is a game-changer since he already has elite extension. 93 mph from Ober will feel like 98 mph from most pitchers because of how quickly the ball gets on the hitter. He's also added a cutter, which I think is a great complement to the rest of his arsenal. Wheels up.

Much like we discussed with Yoshinobu Yamamoto, it's hard to rank Shota Imanaga because we haven't seen him against MLB hitters outside of a few innings in the World Baseball Classic. Still, he posted elite Stuff+ metrics at the WBC and features an array of offerings that he uses to keep hitters off-balance. He gets impressive IVB on his fastball, which is a great foundation, and he had better strikeout metrics than Yamamoto in Japan last year. I don't know how he'll adjust to the majors, but he's been a very good professional for a while, so I think the floor is pretty safe here.

This Joe Ryan ranking is either offensive or too high depending on which Joe Ryan we get. The right-hander introduced a new splitter in 2023 and he was electric to start the season, looking like a legit ace. Then he lost his feel for the pitch in the second half of the year and the results were pretty disastrous. I'm not going to penalize a guy too much for losing feel for a pitch he just learned; it happens often. He's presumably had another offseason to grow comfortable with the pitch, and we saw what kind of upside it brings. We also saw that he doesn't have a lot of options to back it up should the splitter falter again, so I'm going to be a bit cautious on Ryan and think he belongs in this tier of question marks.

Tier Eight

33

Yu Darvish

SDP

34

Sonny Gray

MIN

35

Dylan Cease

CWS

36

Justin Verlander

HOU

37

Carlos Rodon

NYY

38

Shane Bieber

CLE

This is a tier of pitchers I may avoid entirely in drafts. I like something about each of these guys, which is why they're inside my top 50, but they also scare the heck out of me.

It was a career-worst year for Yu Darvish, but he's Yu Darvish. Great analysis, right? We're all done here. OK, no, in reality, I still believe in Darvish and I believe in his ability to put together at least a solid floor season with his deep arsenal of pitches. He dealt with a bone spur last year, which limited his innings and his effectiveness, but he shouldn't be hampered at all in 2024. There was no meaningful dip in velocity, so age doesn't seem to be catching up with him, and he has so many pitches that he seems to be as good a bet as any pitcher to age well since he can keep hitters off-balance and mix-and-match pitches based on what feels good on a particular day. I'd love to see him elevate his four-seam a little more and sometimes I think his command wavers because he is trying to throw so many pitches, but the floor in a non-injury season is pretty safe. Oh, man, now maybe he should be in the tier above. Ugh. Rankings are hard.

I don't love the move to St. Louis for Sonny Gray, but considering he's a 34-year-old who doesn't require as much development, I worry about St. Louis' lack of pitching development less than I would with a prospect. I'm also optimistic about the way Gray leaned on his sweeper more as the year went on last year, throwing it over 10% more in the second half. The pitch misses a ton of bats and also allowed him to use his cutter less, which is good since the cutter gives up a fair amount of hard contact. Gray has solid SP2 upside, albeit without great strikeout rates, but I find him a touch safer than the next year. MARCH UPDATE: Sonny Gray just injured his hamstring as I'm finalizing this update. I don't know how serious the injury is, but it'll probably cause him to miss a few starts to open the season, so I'll drop him down my list a bit.

We all know how good Dylan Cease can be because we saw it in 2022. However, even in 2022, he sported an elevated walk rate, and we saw consistent evidence that his command might leave him at any moment. We also saw GIF-able swings and misses on multiple breaking balls, and he looked like a young pitcher who was putting it all together. Then that control got the best of him in 2023, and he had a pretty brutal season. He's also now the only starter remaining on a White Sox team that looks like it could be among the worst in baseball with a bullpen that is sure to cost him a few wins this season. Yes, he's likely to be traded and that could put him in a better situation, but what if he's not? He's not on an expiring deal. He also won't be as bad as he was last year. Even if the walk rate stays high, his left-on-base rate should rebound from a career-low, and the BABIP should rebound from a career-high. All of that should lead to Cease being at least a 3.90 - 4.10 ERA pitcher with the skills to be so much better, and the command to be worse. That's tough to roster, especially at 180 innings where you'll feel that WHIP even more.

Justin Verlander improved a lot in the second half of 2023. Perhaps it was coming back to Houston and throwing to his personal catcher, Martin Maldonado, who will not be in Houston next year. Maybe it was also that he got his fastball up in the zone more, which increased his IVB and jumped his SwStr%. He also started throwing his curve a little softer and with more downward bite, which led to more weak contact. I dunno. I just keep thinking that 2023 was his worst year in a while and he still had a 3.22 ERA. I don't necessarily think the strikeouts are coming back, and he will be 41 next year so Father Time is lurking, but I think Verlander has another year of decent production in him. MARCH UPDATE: Verlander is dealing with shoulder fatigue, but he's already working his way back and shouldn't miss more than a handful of starts. I was never planning on a full season for him, so this doesn't impact my rankings too much.

I feel less confident about Carlos Rodon. We've obviously seen how good he can be when he's healthy, and he certainly wasn't healthy last year. However, he hasn't been healthy for the majority of his career, and therein lies the issue. The fastball velocity seemed to be there at the end of the year in 2023, and he was able to put together some solid, high strikeout starts, but it just wasn't consistent. I feel like I have to rank Rodon here because if he's healthy enough to throw even 140 innings, they should be really good ones, but he's such a gamble that I'm just not sure I'll be drafting him. MARCH UPDATE: Rodon has this new cutter, and I'm not sure if I love it. We'll need to see how often he uses it and if it has any impact on his four-seam.

This is not the Shane Bieber of old. With diminished velocity on his four-seam fastball, Bieber now keeps the pitch low and then throws his breaking balls even lower. That approach has led to solid called strike rates on the four-seam and good swinging strike rates on the breakers, which certainly works. However, it does require him to be more precise. We saw a slight shift in the movement profile of the curve in the second half and it resulted in fewer whiffs, so Bieber is now the type of pitcher who has to walk a tightrope with command. I think he can do that better than most, but you're likely getting a pitcher with low strikeout upside but solid ratios. MARCH UPDATE: Not only has Bieber flashed 94 mph and higher on his fastball, but he's also gotten his curveball back to a movement profile that was more effective for him in years past. Bieber has a long track record of significantly better results when his fastball is over 93 mph, so if the velocity can stick in the spring, we could be looking at a big season as Bieber tries to earn another big contract.

Tier Nine

39

Bryan Woo

SEA

40

Tanner Bibee

CLE

41

Nick Pivetta

BOS

42

Bryce Miller

SEA

43

Hunter Brown

HOU

44

Ryan Pepiot

TB

45

Hunter Greene

CIN

46

Brayan Bello

BOS

47

Yusei Kikuchi

TOR

Bryan Woo is another Seattle pitcher with tons of upside if he can make a few changes stick. Woo showed a great four-seam fastball in his debut, but he had a real problem with splits, giving up a .282/.389/.539 slash line to lefties, which is why Woo started throwing a cutter at the end of June. According to Pitcher List metrics, Woo used the cutter inside to lefties over 50% of the time, but, perhaps weirdly, threw it low 70.5% of the time, which is far too often in my opinion. You would believe a pitch designed to mitigate hard contact from lefties would be thrown more in on the hands, and that’s perhaps why the pitch itself allowed a 50% ICR, which is not good at all. However, now that he has a full offseason to get comfortable with the cutter and work to gameplan how to use it and how to elevate the four-seam more, I think we'll see an improvement in his splits from last year, which makes me bullish on Woo's upside. MARCH UPDATE: It was only one start, but Woo didn't really use his cutter at all in his first spring start, even with a few lefties in the lineup. I think he needs that cutter to limit the damage he gives up to left-handed hitters, so I need to see that in the spring before I feel confident in his ability to limit his splits issue.

Tanner Bibee does not have a great fastball, but he has two legitimate secondary pitches. That sounds a lot like a typical pitcher for the Cleveland Guardians, who have always seemed to get a lot out of pitchers with poor fastballs, even if that profile scares me. I have some concerns that he elevates his curve a lot, which, logically to me, is a potential issue because curveballs up in the zone are much easier to hit than curveballs out of the zone below. However, hitters also didn't hit his curveballs up in the zone in 2023 and, at some point, I need to acknowledge how good he was as a rookie with a 2.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, even if that came with a 4.19 SIERA. Bibee did have a sub-25% strikeout rate, so I think we could be looking at a 23% strikeout rate pitcher with an ERA around 3.70, and that's solid, but I haven't fully bought in on last year.

I know, you've seen this before and you're not going to fall for Nick Pivetta, but I can assure you that this time is different. For starters, Pivetta now has a whole new pitch that drove his second-half success. Pivetta picked up the "whirlybird," which is the sweeper he learned from teammate Chris Martin in late June. The pitch was electric with a 25.4% SwStr% over the remainder of the season. He also began to throw his old slider harder and turned it into more of a cutter which made the pitch itself more dynamic and allowed his four-seam to play up. All of that takes pressure off of his solid curveball and allowed Pivetta to crush the second half of the season, finishing with a 29% K-BB%, 34.4% strikeout rate, and 3.26 ERA over 47 innings in eight starts to end the year. He was also electric out of the bullpen with this new pitch mix before moving back into the rotation. That'll play.

I expected to be higher on Bryce Miller when I started these rankings, but he kept falling down my rankings a bit. Miller lived and died with his four-seamer as a rookie, and it gets tremendous IVB, but he also only throws it up in the zone 54% of the time, so it actually gave up an 11.6% barrel rate last year, which is not ideal for a pitch he throws almost 60% of the time. He has essentially two sliders, with a harder gyro slider and a sweeper, but the sweeper didn't miss many bats last year. He added a sinker as the year went on to keep right-handed hitters off of his four-seam, which was good because that allowed the four-seam to play up more as a putaway pitch. The issue is there's nothing much here yet beyond the sinker, which is just a setup pitch, the slider, which is far more effective to lefties, and a fastball that needs to be elevated more to reduce hard contact. There is a path forward for Miller, but it does involve a few changes and perhaps a new pitch for lefties, like a cutter? MARCH UPDATE: I wrote about Miller’s splitter here and how I like it but think he needs more.

I don't know what to do with Hunter Brown. He looked really good to start the year, but then the bottom fell out with an ERA barely under 7.00 over his final 16 starts. Perhaps it was fatigue since he'd never thrown over 130 innings before or perhaps it was just the inconsistencies that come with a pitch mix in flux. In the second half of the year, Brown went to his curveball more as he lost the feel for his slider, and then he also toyed around with a sweeper. He mixed in a splitter more in the second half too, but lost some velocity and IVB on the fastball as the year went on. Yet, he started going to that fastball more as the year went on, and it caught way too much of the plate. So which version of Brown will show up? If he can command his secondaries and doesn't need to rely on the fastball so much, then he's the low-to-mid 3.00 ERA arm we saw in the first half of the year, but if he can't harness his breaking balls then he's at risk or imploding again. I want to believe in the talent, but it's also scary.

Ryan Pepiot had a 2.14 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and a 24% strikeout rate in 42 innings for the Dodgers last year. But only three of those games were traditional starts. Also, now he's in Tampa Bay. All of that makes it hard to figure out what to do with him. I do know that his fastball has great IVB and extension, but he only threw it up in the zone 44% of the time (21st percentile) so the Rays could easily get him to start elevating that more, which would up his SwStr%. I also know that his change-up is a really good pitch, and he tightened it up a bit in 2023 for more swings and misses. His slider also improved in 2023 and while it remains a below-average offering, it now gives him more of a usable third pitch. Considering Tampa Bay has added sweepers with a few of their acquisitions, it wouldn't surprise me to see them tweak Pepiot's slider, and that could unlock another level for him. We just won't really know until we see him on a mound with his new team. MARCH UPDATE: Pepiot has made only one start this spring, but he's throwing his fastball up in the zone more often, which I love to see.

Everybody loves to dream about Hunter Greene because he throws 100 mph and has a wicked slider, but here's the issue: that fastball is not as good as we think. Sure, a 13.2% SwStr% is solid but it gives up tons of hard contact because it has below-average extension and IVB. So since Greene only throws a change-up 5% of the time, he basically brings the Spencer Strider profile to the mound but with worse command and a fastball that is far more hittable. Oh, and he pitches in a terrible park for pitchers. Yeah, I might be out until we see a consistent third pitch or changes to the fastball. MARCH UPDATE: I covered Greene’s potential two new pitches here. I'm not yet sold it makes a real difference for him.

Brayan Bello is another Red Sox arm who changed his slider during the season. Bello changed his slider late in the summer and went from averaging 2.3 inches of horizontal movement and 6 inches of drop at 84.9 mph to averaging 7.8 inches of horizontal movement and just 2.8 inches of drop at 85.9 mph in September. The pitch also posted a solid 21.4% SwStr% that month. Bello did seem to fade down the stretch, likely due to him tiring from the most innings he’s ever thrown in pro ball, but reports this offseason are that Bello will prioritize the slider in 2024. That would give him strikeout upside to his solid sinker/change profile that leads to lots of groundballs and is a combination that would make him a much more dynamic pitcher for fantasy.

I have historically been way out on Yusei Kikuchi because his secondaries seemed suspect to me and he gave up a lot of hard contact; however, he made a few meaningful changes in 2023. For starters, he scrapped his cutter and added a curveball. The curveball not only missed bats, but it was a pitch that he could throw for a strike. Since it has a similar movement profile to his slider but is 5.5 mph slower, it created more deception in his arsenal and allowed his slider to play up. The change-up is still not a particularly good pitch, and the slider is less effective to righties, so Kikuchi does have minor splits issues, but his home park is more pitcher-friendly, and I think him as a 26% strikeout rate pitcher feels sustainable. MARCH UPDATE: Kikuchi appears to be making another change to his arsenal by switching his change-up grip to a circle change. There's nothing actionable on that yet, but it's something I'm watching.

Tier 10

48

José Berríos

TOR

49

Jordan Montgomery

FA

50

Lucas Giolito

BOS

51

Merrill Kelly

ARI

52

Aaron Civale

TB

53

Chris Bassitt

TOR

This tier is safe. It's not likely elite, and it probably won't excite you, but it's safe, and that can be nice.

Jose Berrios feels incredibly consistent. His 2022 season was his worst ever, and almost all of it feels like an outlier. He got right back to form in 2023, with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 23.5% strikeout rate. His curve is still the star of the show, but he started to use his sinker more as the year went on. However, instead of attacking righties with it inside, it basically lived out over the plate as a get-ahead pitch. He also saw massive whiff gains in his four-seam in the second half despite no real change to the pitch, so I'm not sure if I buy that sticking. We know his profile; we've seen it for years, and it works. There just probably isn't another level.

Jordan Montgomery is just not the pitcher this offseason narrative is making him out to be. Perhaps it was his good playoff run or the fact that he and Blake Snell have been the best pitchers on the market for what feels like two months now, but the truth is that Montgomery in 2023 was basically the pitcher he's always been. None of his pitches aside from his curveball grade out particularly well and his sinker-heavy approach leads to soft contact but not many strikeouts. He used the four-seam less in 2023, which was nice, but the change-up took a step back and the rest of the arsenal and approach was very similar. I'm not sure he'll be as bad as his 4.23 SIERA suggests or even his 4.01 xFIP, but I think he's probably a mid-to-upper 3.00 ERA pitcher with a below-average strikeout rate and that's fine in deeper formats, but I don't love it.

The narrative surrounding Lucas Giolito is flawed. In 21 starts with the White Sox last season, he had a 3.79 ERA (4.21 SIERA), 25.8% strikeout rate, 1.22 WHIP, 12.3% SwStr%, and 28.8% CSW. He was then traded across the country to the Angels while also going through a divorce. That kind of off-field context does matter since these athletes are also human beings. He has reportedly been working with new Red Sox pitching coach Andrew Bailey to fix his mechanics, which he felt got away from him as the year went on. I don't believe you're getting an ace with Giolito, but even if you get his White Sox stats before the move/divorce then you're getting a pretty good pitcher at this cost, and I truly think this new Red Sox pitching development team can get more out of him. MARCH UPDATE: Quite literally ten minutes after I published this piece we got word that Giolito has a torn UCL. That will likely mean season-ending surgery, so just move him off your board completely.

Merrill Kelly is somebody who has seemed to consistently out-produce his raw stuff since coming back over from Korea. Kelly throws tons of pitches, with a true five-pitch mix, which allows him to keep hitters off-balance because the offerings all work relatively well off of one another. He added a slider more in 2023, which had a 21.3% whiff rate, but also allowed hard contact and was only thrown 6% of the time. There will be starts where Kelly doesn't have enough of his arsenal working and he gets lit up, but I think you'll look back at the end of the season and see a solid overall line that you can be happy with in most formats.

When the Rays trade for a pitcher, it usually peaks out interest; yet, Aaron Civale's overall numbers didn't improve after the trade deadline. However, we did see a minor tweak begin with his slider. Before coming to the Rays, the pitch averaged 83.2 mph with 11 inches of horizontal movement. After coming to the Rays, the pitch averaged 81.9 mph with 12.4 inches of horizontal movement. While he was only throwing the pitch 5% of the time, it had a massive bump in SwStr% up to 13.4%. It also gave up a lot more hard contact, but a mid-season switch like that is never going to be perfect. With a whole offseason to work on the pitch, it’s possible we could see Civale add a swing-and-miss slider to his plus curveball and a good enough cutter/sinker combo.

I just can't get in on Chris Bassitt. I know he was great last year, but I also know he had just a 9.4% SwStr%, a 4.25 SIERA, a 15.4% K-BB%, and gets consistently poor Stuff+ and PLV marks. So we have a pitcher with a deep arsenal of pitches, who certainly knows how to pitch, but he doesn't miss bats and has below-average raw stuff. That's just too risky of a profile for me to get behind. I feel like it could implode at any time.

Tier 11

54

Cristopher Sanchez

PHI

55

Kutter Crawford

BOS

56

Mitch Keller

PIT

57

Luis Severino

NYM

58

Brandon Pfaadt

ARI

59

Gavin Williams

CLE

60

DL Hall

MIL

61

Braxton Garrett

MIA

This is a tier filled with pitchers who I believe have considerable upside but have more question marks on whether or not they can reach it. If I feel secure in my rotation heading into this point in the draft, I may skip all of the tier above and focus on these guys, who are some of my favorite later-round picks in 12-team leagues.

Cristopher Sanchez was really good last year. I know some of it was due to an easy schedule, but he had a 3.44 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 99.1 innings. That should get your attention. He also has a filthy change-up that gives him a solid foundation for success against righties. However, his sinker which has tons of arm-side run, is way more impactful against lefties, as is his slider, which he throws to hitters of both-handedness but is just an average pitch to righties. Yet, he had these splits issues last year and was still able to produce a really good season. If he can alter his approach to righties with the sinker or add in a cutter, we could see him produce consistently steady results, but even if he doesn't, he seems to have a pretty safe floor on a good team, so I'm in. MARCH UPDATE: I know Sanchez is throwing harder so far in spring, but I'm not sure I like that. His change-up and sinker don't need to be harder to be successful, so I want to make sure the movement profile doesn't change too much with the velocity.

People have laughed at the Red Sox staff being optimistic about their current rotation, but Kutter Crawford is another pitcher who has a really strong foundation for success. Now that the team overhauled its pitcher development staff, perhaps we see him take a big step forward in 2024. All of Crawford's pitches grade out well in terms of Stuff+ and while Crawford doesn't throw overly hard, he has a 94 mph fastball with elite IVB and good extension, and the pitch has performed well. He also pairs that with both a cutter (of course) and a slider that gets whiffs and soft contact against righties and a change-up/curve pairing that works well against lefties. It's the same kind of solid foundation that we saw from Canning but with possibly more upside. MARCH UPDATE: Crawford appears to have added vertical movement on his four-seam fastball after one start. Obviously, it's only two starts, but if that four-seam gets even better, he's going to be a more secure fantasy asset.

Mitch Keller looked elite for the first half of the season and had my buddy Thunder Dan Palyo starting to think about a Cy Young. Then, the wheels fell off, particularly on his new cutter. The pitch doubled in barrel rate allowed in the second half of the year, and the rest of the arsenal couldn't recover. However, as I've said with a few pitchers already, a pitcher losing the feel of a new pitch is not the end of the world to me. It happens often. Keller will now have another offseason to work on the pitch and gain more consistency with it. The reliability of the cutter will also help the sweeper play up more, and I think we could see another step forward for Keller in 2024.

Luis Severino was another Yankee pitcher with a 2023 to forget. Since Severino became a full-time starter in 2017, he had never posted an ERA worse than 3.39, a strikeout rate worse than 27.7%, or allowed more than 41% hard contact in a season. He did all of that last year. While some of it could be because he only threw 18 combined innings from 2019-2021 due to injury and then the Yankees cut his season short in 2022 after 102 innings (which he spoke openly about being upset about), the bigger issue is that Severino totally lost his fastball. Despite throwing the pitch 96.5 mph (which is a decent indicator of health), the induced vertical break fell from 17.4 inches to 16.0 inches, so the pitch didn’t “rise” or “run” which means it was relatively “flat” and got hit hard. Considering Severino is already at Driveline this offseason, I feel like it’s a pretty solid bet that he'll be working to address his IVB concerns, and then the rest of the arsenal should fall into place.

Brandon Pfaadt was the darling of March drafts back in 2023, but he came up and was unable to find much success early, primarily because his four-seam gave up so much hard contact, and he didn’t really have another pitch besides a sweeper that he had trouble commanding in the zone. Well, as the season progressed, Pfaadt started mixing in a sinker and reducing his four-seam usage. While the sinker itself is not a great pitch, it induces more groundballs and gives up less hard contact to righties than the four-seam and can allow Pfaadt to set up his sweeper more consistently since he believes the sinker creates better tunneling with his best pitch. Pfaadt also moved his position on the rubber during the season so his pitches would catch less of the plate and give up less hard contact. We saw the changes pay off with a solid postseason run, and while I have some concerns about the arsenal still, I think he has a chance for a solid enough season.

Gavin Williams is not at all the typical Guardians pitcher. He relies on an elite four-seamer that gets tremendous extension and also above-average arm-side run in on righties. It doesn't give up a ton of hard contact, but it also doesn't miss a lot of bats with a 12.3% SwStr%. And therein lies the problem. Williams essentially has two other pitches in his slider and curve since he barely throws his below-average change-up. The slider is a solid overall offering that he can locate in the zone and get swings and misses on; however, he doesn't use it much against lefties, going instead to the curve which he has less command over. That curve didn't get hit hard in 2023, but I can't help just thinking of it as a below-average pitch when I watch. I can see a path forward for Williams if he optimizes his four-seam usage but unless that curve takes a step forward, I'm a bit worried about his ceiling.

DL Hall was a player I was optimistic about when he was in Baltimore, but I felt it might take a while for him to move back into that rotation. Now that he's in Milwaukee, it seems like a rotation spot is his, and I love the upside. Hall spoke openly about last year's back injury causing him to lose velocity on his fastball, which was a blessing in disguise because it forced him to focus on his off-speed. In the second half of the season, the velocity came back, and he tweaked his slider to be four mph harder while adding drop. The pitch had a huge bump in Stuff+ grades, and I think it gives him another level of upside. We've yet to see him put it all together as a starter but seems to have been the centerpiece of the Corbin Burnes deal, which makes me think the Brewers will give him a chance to show what he can do, and I'm going to have some shares.

Braxton Garrett's ranking comes down to your faith in his cutter. The pitch missed a lot of bats in the first half of the season but did allow a fair amount of hard contact. That hard contact caught up with him in the second half, and the pitch faltered, which meant that he really on had his slider. It's a pretty good slider, so it's not a bad foundation for his arsenal, and pairing it with a sinker/cutter combo should allow him to succeed versus righties and lefties. However, he'll need that cutter to be more consistent because the change-up is average. Yet, if there was any organization that could help him fix the change-up, it would be Miami, so there are a few paths forward here for a better 2024 than the already solid 2023 season that saw him finish with a 3.66 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. MARCH UPDATE: He got a late start due to some shoulder discomfort, but there doesn't seem to be any concern about his long-term health and, as of now, he is tracking to be ready for Opening Day.

Tier 12

62

Nathan Eovaldi

TEX

63

Nestor Cortes

NYY

64

Kenta Maeda

DET

65

Jameson Taillon

CHC

66

Cristian Javier

HOU

67

Eduardo Rodriguez

ARI

68

Triston McKenzie

CLE

69

Griffin Canning

LAA

70

Walker Buehler

LAD

We had a safe tier and then an exciting upside tier and now we have a tier of pitchers who have all produced in the past but have lots of questions mounting.

We know what Nathan Eovaldi can do when healthy. He was tremendous for the vast majority of 2023, but then he got hurt and when he returned his four-seam velocity was down noticeably and the results were much worse. Then he gritted it out in the playoffs, as he does, and looked great. He will go as his velocity goes, but with only two seasons over 140 innings since 2016, we have to wonder just how likely we are to get peak velocity for an extended period. When he's feeling right, you'll be happy to have him on your team, but there will be stretches where you'll want to drop him and not be sure if you should and that will be frustrating.

Nestor Cortes has been pretty good when healthy over the past few seasons, and he seems healthy right now at the start of spring. I feel confident in Cortes' rotation spot, which gives him a bit of a longer leash to work with in case he struggles out of the gate, but his sequencing has always kept hitters off balance and led to better results than you might think. I don't see that changing much this year. MARCH UPDATE: Cortes has looked healthy so far with his velocity trending up. I could see moving him up a bit more if that continues.

Kenta Maeda was pretty good last year. After getting off to a slow start due to injury, Maeda posted a 3.36 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 29% strikeout rate in 88.1 innings from June 1st on. That's like, really good. Yes, he still doesn't throw hard, but the splitter remains a tremendous pitch, and he started going to it more as the year went on. The four-seam, despite its mediocre velocity, was a decent whiff pitch against righties for him since he also throws the sinker inside, which creates more deception on the four-seam. With a solid slider to round out the arsenal, Maeda remains just a solid pitcher who is now in a more pitcher-friendly park. I'm not sure how many innings we'll get, but I think they'll be good ones. MARCH UPDATE: I moved Maeda down because his velocity was way down in his last start and the command was all over the place. The velocity doesn't concern me too much because it's early in spring, but given his past arm issues, the fact that he's spiking fastballs in the dirt and seemed to have no feel for his release was a bit more concerning.

I loved watching Nick Pollack from Pitcher List break down one of Jameson Taillon’s starts with Taillon himself because it provides a lot of insight from Taillon into what his thought process is for his approach and pitch mix. Taillon mentions struggling with his cutter early in the 2023 season, adding a sweeper instead of more of a gyro slider, and having a hard time finding a rhythm due to injuries. Yet, we saw him make clear changes as he got healthier and found more comfort with his new pitch mix. In the second half of the season, his cutter reduced the barrel rate allowed, he found more comfort with the sweeper, and his curveball stayed low in the zone more, which led to an improved barrel rate. In fact, from July 1st on, Taillon had a 3.57 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 16.8% K-BB% in 16 starts. That'll play.

I've kind of fallen out on Cristian Javier. He's only had two seasons as a traditional starter; one was great and one stunk. Last year, he totally lost the feel for his slider, so his whiff rates fell and it allowed hitters to pounce on his four-seam. But that's the risk with a pitcher who throws his four-seam/slider combo 88% of the time. The four-seam has elite IVB and misses a decent number of bats, but it's not good enough to carry the entire arsenal. Javier needs to find that slider again, but even if he does, he's still essentially a two-pitch pitcher, and that worries me. Especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers waiting in the wings to return this summer.

Eduardo Rodriguez way overperformed his peripherals in 2023 with a 3.30 ERA but a 4.06 xFIP and 4.26 SIERA. He seemed to find his change-up which led to a bump in SwStr% and the harder version of his slider missed more bats, but he only threw that pitch 7% of the time, so it's not a real difference-maker. The cutter got lit up to an 18.8% barrel rate, and that's a problem since he loves to throw it against righties. I just don't see a consistent swing-and-miss pitch other than a change-up, and I get wary about relying on guys to improve their strikeout rates when that's their best pitch. It's just really hard to do. Rodriguez feels like a solid floor but low ceiling option to me in 2024.

Triston McKenzie is a pitcher we may have forgotten about due to injury. You may be surprised to hear his four-seamer had the most iVB of any starter’s four-seamer in 2022, and paired with excellent extension, the pitch can outperform its velocity. Especially if he keeps attacking with it upstairs. The curve was an elite put-away pitch for McKenzie before, but he has struggled to command it before. Same with the slider, which has been inconsistent in terms of finding the strike zone. I think McKenzie has higher upside than this, but I need to see it first.

I just can't quit Griffin Canning. I know the injury history is concerning. I know the Angels won't be good, and I know he's lacked consistency with his breaking balls, but the arsenal is deep, and he was solid for a long stretch last year. His four-seam isn't a great pitch, but he started throwing it up in the zone more as the season went on, and it got more whiffs. He backs that up with a hard slider that is his primary whiff pitch and actually performs better against lefties, and a change-up that can tie up lefties. The curve was inconsistent last year, and he'll need to get a better feel for it to give him another weapon against righties since the change-up is less effective there. I see a step forward for Canning, but even his floor is a solid pitcher with a four-pitch mix.

We don't know what to expect from Walker Buehler. The right-hander was out all of last season and will now reportedly not start the season on time as the Dodgers look to manage his innings. It's very likely his innings are closely monitored all season, which limits his accumulation upside, and his fastball had issues with hard contact before he even got hurt. I don't believe Buehler will be bad, but I think it's safe to expect some rust, and, in limited innings, that scares me a little bit. MARCH UPDATE: I honestly don't know how to rank Buehler. He was allegedly throwing 95 mph in his last batting practice session, but he's also likely out for the first month of the season, which is a bit concerning since he missed all of last season too.

Tier 13

71

Emmett Sheehan

LAD

72

Taj Bradley

TB

73

Mackenzie Gore

WAS

74

Edward Cabrera

MIA

75

Garrett Whitlock

BOS

76

Nick Lodolo

CIN

This tier is filled with fun late-round fliers but also pitchers who could be in the minors or bullpen by mid-season.

Emmett Sheehan was pretty good in 60 innings for the Dodgers last year, and I believe he has a rotation spot locked up to start the year since the Dodgers have said Walker Buehler will miss the first few weeks. When Buehler returns, the Dodgers could move to a six-man rotation or Sheehan could keep his spot if another of the notoriously fragile pitchers (Glasnow and James Paxton) were to need a break. I also am intrigued by Sheehan's introduction of the sweeper in late July. The pitch is eight mph slower than his slider and has almost 15 inches more horizontal movement, and while the results were inconsistent in limited usage, I love the idea of Sheehan adding that to pair with his harder slider against righties. Since he has a change-up that misses lots of bats against lefties, there’s a clear path to a big jump for him in 2024. MARCH UPDATE: I know Sheehan is currently sidelined, but he has not yet been ruled out for the stateside opening day, and I think he gets a lot of innings this year, so I won't downgrade him too much just yet.

Taj Bradley is enticing, but he also couldn't put together any kind of consistent success in the big leagues in 2023. His raw stuff is great with a solid four-seamer, a cutter that flashed plus, and a potentially elite curveball. However, he also struggled to command literally all of those pitches at times in 2023. He could certainly get a better feel for them over the offseason, but with Shane Baz coming back, is Bradley even a lock to make the rotation? If he does make it over Zach Littell (which he should), will he keep the spot once one or both of Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen return? The talent is there, but there are so many question marks for me.

MacKenzie Gore has always had good stuff, but he never developed in quite the way people expected when he was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. He tweaked his curveball last year and got some really good results with it despite inconsistent Stuff+ results. Then he came to camp with a new plan to seemingly live more up in the zone with his fastball. That's a great thing. That will allow his curveball to play up more down in the zone, and we might get another step forward from Gore this season.

The case for Edward Cabrera is simple: He’s 25 years old with elite fastball velocity, an electric change-up, and the ability to miss bats with a 13.4% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) and 27.2% strikeout rate. We also saw Cabrera’s four-seam take a step forward after a stint in the minors over the summer. The pitch itself has elite velocity, above-average extension and arm-side break, and average IVB, so if he does keep it up in the zone, it has the potential to be a strong offering to pair with his change-up and could be a difference-maker for him. Cabrera also doesn’t allow a lot of hard contact, but the command is a legitimate concern.

On some level, I want to throw out much of 2023 for Garrett Whitlock since he was on and off the injured list a few times, which caused Boston to shift him into various roles in the bullpen. When healthy, Whitlock is a sinker/change-up pitcher with good arm-side run on both pitches. He frequently attacks with the sinker up and change-up low and uses the change as a key swing-and-miss pitch to lefties. Another major change for Whitlock in 2023 is that he modified his slider from more of a gyro slider to a sweeper with almost eight inches more horizontal movement. However, he also struggled to command that pitch, but I'm willing to give him a pass since it was a new pitch and his innings were so inconsistent that it was hard for him to get a feel for it. f we believe Michael King can be a starter due to his previous minor league workload then we should be open to the idea that Whitlock can too since his workload has been pretty close to what King has been putting up recently. The beauty of taking a gamble on Whitlock is that it will be so incredibly easy to know if you should hold him on your roster or cut him. The Red Sox are stretching him out to battle for a spot in the rotation with Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford, and maybe Josh Winckowski. MARCH UPDATE: Whitlock seems to have come to camp with two sliders: a harder, tighter slide for strikes and a sweepier pitch for swings and misses. If he can have that slider to command well for strikes, I think there's a real chance he wins this rotation spot, especially with Giolito now out. I might be moving Whitlock up a bit.

I used to be a big Nick Lodolo fan, so I don't want to quit him. There is also a world where he is a better fantasy pitcher than Hunter Greene, which many suggested would be the case two years ago. However, since then we've had injury concerns and his command goes wonky at times. Now, the injury is not arm-related, which is good to see for a pitcher, but we've also yet to see a third pitch emerge to join the fastball and curve. The four-seam has given up double-digit barrel rates in two straight seasons, so I think he needs that change-up to take a step forward to make him a safer option because allowing hard contact in that park is a really big problem. I'm ready to fly Lodolo up my rankings if I see something new in 2024, but I'm losing a bit of faith. MARCH UPDATE: The Reds have not ruled Lodolo out for Opening Day, but the delay due to his tibia (still) is a bit concerning and I may lower him if it lasts another week or so.

Tier 14

77

Marcus Stroman

NYY

78

Seth Lugo

KC

79

Charlie Morton

ATL

80

Michael Wacha

KC

81

Tyler Wells

BAL

82

Jack Flaherty

DET

The final tier is some less exciting pitchers than Tier 14 but all pitchers who I think have another level in them than they showed in 2023.

Marcus Stroman joining the Yankees is interesting. The park is a touch worse for him, as is the infield defense, but the team context is a little better. I'm also curious to see what they do with his arsenal since Stroman has been a known tinkerer. He has some trouble finding the zone with his slider and splitter, but the cutter is really good and could be a foundational pitch if he builds around it. I don't think Stroman will be an exciting pick in your drafts, but I think he'll be a solid ratio pitcher with a good chance for wins and there's nothing wrong with that.

Seth Lugo is another deeper league starter who doesn’t get discussed as much as he should. He had a solid first season as a starter in San Diego and will now be locked into a rotation spot in Kansas City with a great home ballpark for pitchers. Lugo came into 2023 and split his breaking ball into two with clear differentiations between the slider and curve; however, as the season went on, he started to morph his slider into more of a sweeper, which had just a 12.1% SwStr% in the second half, so while it was an improvement from the slider, it wasn’t tremendous as a swing-and-miss pitch. However, it didn’t allow a lot of hard contact, and it allowed the harder slider to play up as well, which gave Lugo six pitches that he could go to. While he will never be a huge strikeout arm, I think that depth of arsenal in that home park will make him a solid ratio target in 15-team leagues.

Speaking of imploding at any time, Charlie Morton continues to ride his curveball into his 40s. The pitch remains elite with a 19% SwStr% in 2023, and he threw it even more, at 43% of the time. However, the rest of the arsenal leaves a lot to be desired. The change-up flashes at times, but he really only uses it to lefties. His cutter is kind of more like a slider to righties, and it was a much better pitch for him in 2023 but it also gave up a 12.5% barrel rate to righties, which is not ideal. This just feels a lot like late-career Adam Wainwright with an over-reliance on one pitch and that scares me.

At the end of 2021, the Rays had Michael Wacha go to his change-up more often, and he saw a huge surge in his results. In 2022, the Red Sox signed him and asked him to do the same, with similarly strong results, and then, in 2023, the Padres moved him into their rotation and had him throw the change-up more than any other pitch. It works for Wacha since it's such an elite offering, but he doesn't even get an 8% SwStr% on any of his other pitches. I think he'll have solid ratios in Kansas City, and he does mitigate hard contact, but I can't see much strikeout upside and win total upside, which will limit his fantasy value.

The Kyle Bradish injury means that Tyler Wells gets a spot in the Orioles' rotation. It may only be for a month or so, but you're drafting for results all season long, so getting somebody late in the drafts who will pitch for one of the best teams in baseball, in a great pitcher's park is something we want to go after. We are even more interested when that person has proven to be good at suppressing hard contact and posting solid ratios. Tyler Wells was really solid as a starter last year, and I'd be happy to roster him again in 15-team leagues.

Jack Flaherty pushes his way into the top 100 with his new velocity spike in camp. I have no idea if it will stick or how he'll pitch at that velocity because he hasn't done it; however, he does seem healthy and is in a pitcher-friendly park with a locked-in rotation spot so, at this point, it's worth a gamble to see how he performs.

Tier 15

83

Max Scherzer

TEX

84

Kyle Bradish

BAL

85

Kodai Senga

NYM

86

James Paxton

LAD

87

Erick Fedde

CWS

88

Chris Paddack

MIN

These are all pitchers with some injury concerns.

Max Scherzer now finds himself at the top of this tier and not in the injury tier below because the Rangers said the plan is for him to return in June. Now, we have no idea if he will actually return in June or how long he'll stay healthy, but Scherzer was still solid last year. He may not be as overpowering as he used to be, but he has a deep arsenal of pitches and is learning how to pitch without his top-end velocity. I don't think he's done yet.

I wrote up Kyle Bradish last year as a breakout candidate, but I didn't expect to be ranking him near my top 20 in 2024. However, Bradish rode his elite slider to a tremendous 2023 season with a 2.83 ERA. He also cut back on his four-seam usage as the year went on, opting for more reliance on his sinker, which is great because his four-seam remains below average. Yet, Bradish also has a good curveball which limits hard contact and is his preferred two-strike pitch to lefties. I worry a touch about him versus lefties because he has to throw his four-seam more, but he has two plus breaking balls and a good sinker, which means last year was no fluke. I'm just not sure there's another level unless the four-seam improves. MARCH UPDATE: I know Bradish is progressing well in his throwing program, but he has a UCL injury and has not undergone any surgery to repair it. That always makes me nervous. I'll likely grab a share if he falls far in drafts, but he's among the riskiest pitchers you can draft this year.

Command is a huge issue for Kodai Senga. His ghost fork is a deadly offering and his slider has flashed swing-and-miss ability; although he struggles with its consistency. Therein lies the issue for Senga: consistency and command. He induces weak contact on his cutter, but his four-seam gets hit hard and there were too many outings for me where his command just left him. I think it's reasonable to expect that he improves in his second season in this country and this league, but I don't think he will all of a sudden become a different pitcher. The walk rate will remain high, and I don't love any pitch besides the ghost fork, so while I see some room for improvement, I also still have concerns. MARCH UPDATE: Kodai Senga is likely going to return in late May, but he also has an injury that scares me when it comes to his long-term health. He's worth an IL stash, but I don't know if I have the stomach to roster him.

Much like Nestor Cortes above, James Paxton has been pretty good when healthy over the past few seasons. He was great for Boston in his first few starts but then faded before getting hurt. I'm not sure how many innings I'm going to get from him, but I think they'll be good innings for maybe the best team in baseball to start the season. MARCH UPDATE: The Dodgers say Paxton will pitch every six days to start the year to keep him healthy. That's not a bad thing, but he does mean he'll make fewer starts than other pitchers so I'm not going to raise him too high up the rankings, even if he is healthy right now.

I wrote about Erick Fedde’s completely overhauled pitch mix here, so you can see why I'm interested in taking late-round fliers on him.

We've dreamed about Chris Paddack's upside before and, to a certain extent, I'm ready to do it again. Paddack may only have thrown five innings last year, but the fact that he was able to come back and pitch suggests he's had a fully healthy offseason to work on honing his pitch mix with a Twins organization that has seen a number of their starters use Driveline to improve their arsenal. He currently has a spot in the Twins' rotation, and I'm willing to take a gamble late that he's in a plate that can optimize his above-average IVB on the fastball and solid change-up. Could he learn the sweeper that Pablo Lopez brought in last year? That could be fun.

Tier 16

89

Chase Silseth

LAA

90

Kyle Harrison

SF

91

Reid Detmers

LAA

92

A.J. Puk

MIA

93

Trevor Rogers

MIA

94

Casey Mize

DET

95

Tanner Houck

BOS

96

Louie Varland

MIN

I'm a Chase Silseth fan because I believe in his new slider. After a stint in the minors, Silseth came back up and was throwing his slider four mph slower and with six more inches of drop, almost like a sweeping curve. While his second-half sample size was a small one (after being hit by a comebacker in a scary moment), the new slider had a 1.74 dERA and 16.7% SwStr%. If he continued to get comfortable with it during the offseason that would give him a potential plus pitch to go along with a splitter that showed good swing-and-miss potential but lacked consistency. That's a solid foundation with a chance to raise his floor if he can land on a good usage approach for his four-seam and sinker. He's just 23 years old, so I think we should expect growth, and I don't see why the Angels wouldn't keep him in the rotation.

Kyle Harrison had tremendous Triple-A numbers and had success in his brief time with the Giants, but it feels a bit flukey. His fastball lacks much extension or IVB but he does run it in on lefties well. I'm just not sure there's a great approach for it currently with righties since he doesn't like to get it inside there so far. His curveball is also a weird tweener pitch that grades out well but allowed an 11.5% barrel rate last year. I'm just not sure there is a deep enough arsenal here to have sustained success at the MLB level and the Giants love to piggyback their starters, so how many innings will he throw? MARCH UPDATE: Harrison came to spring training with a new cutter, which is great for him given how much he relied on his four-seam last year. I need to see it in action a bit, but I could move Harrison put the rankings if it seems like he'll use that cutter in 2024.

Listen, I won't quit Reid Detmers. You can't make me. But I will put him far down on this list. I still dream of him finding more consistency with his curve and slider to allow him to rely less on his four-seam, and then he also introduced a change-up at the end of last season, which was a solid pitch that adds depth to his arsenal. He's still just 24 years old, and I think the Angels will give him as many innings as he can handle, so maybe this is the year he puts it all together.

A.J. Puk looks to have the inside track for the Marlins' fifth starter role given that Trevor Rogers had a late start due to injury. Puk is now throwing two different versions of his slider: a sweeper for swings and misses, and a harder gyro slider for strikes and to get in on the hands of right-handed hitters. I think that's a nice addition for him as he looks to move to the rotation, and I'm happy to take some fliers here.

This Trevor Rogers ranking is because I'm not willing to give up on 2021. It was such a good season, but 2022 was a disaster with tipping pitches and losing command and then he got hurt. He's still only 26 years old and features an elite change-up when he isn't tipping it, and a four-seam/sinker pairing that works. Add in the potential in his sweeper, and you have an arm that could still be very fantasy-relevant.

Casey Mize is healthy and throwing hard with even more vertical movement on his four-seam. It's only been two starts, but those are great things to see. He also has seemingly gone back to the velocity and shape on his splitter that he had when it was his main pitch in the minor leagues, so that's another good sign. He will likely be on an innings limit as he works back from Tommy John surgery, and the command is often the last thing to return for pitchers after the surgery, but I like Mize in leagues where you have an IL spot or draft-and-hold formats.

I like Tanner Houck, but I'm on record above as saying I think Whitlock can steal the final rotation spot. That would make Houck a reliever and maybe a future closer? If it looks like Houck will take the rotation spot then I'd likely move him up in my rankings.

Similarly, I have no idea if Louie Varland will be in the rotation. People seem to think he will because Anthony DeSclafani is dealing with shoulder soreness, but DeSclafani is still throwing, and the Twins say he'll be ready for the start of the season, so that would leave Varland with lots of talent but without a rotation spot.

Tier 17

97

Shane Baz

TB

98

Jacob deGrom

TEX

99

Robbie Ray

SF

100

Jeffrey Springs

TB

101

Tyler Mahle

TEX

102

Dustin May

LAD

These are all pitchers we know for sure won't be on the mound until the summer, so they're better as injury stashes (even if Baz might not qualify for an IL spot).

I think people forgot about Shane Baz. The former top prospect is coming back from injury after not pitching at all in 2023 and while his minor league success has not carried over into the majors in his very brief sample size, the raw stuff is electric. Baz is in this tier simply because of innings concerns because, on a pure stuff basis, he could be up with the Eury Perez tier. Still, we also know Baz is going to be ready for the start of the season, and Tampa Bay has two big-time starters (Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen) not set to return from their own injuries until the summer at the earliest, so Baz should get a long leash for the first few months of the year. The Rays may limit his innings down the stretch, but I'll worry about that later in the year. If I can get 120+ innings from Baz, which I think is feasible, then I love him at this cost. MARCH UPDATE: Tampa Bay is going to delay Baz until the summer, so he'll join this crew but we at least know he's healthy and will pitch in the majors this year.

These other guys are all pitchers you know are talented, but we also have no idea if they'll make it back at their projected times and how impactful they'll be. Still, I'll stash all of them just in case.

Tier 18

103

Andrew Heaney

TEX

104

Reynaldo Lopez

ATL

105

Jordan Hicks

SF

106

Ryne Nelson

ARI

107

Alek Manoah

TOR

108

Bowden Francis

TOR

109

Frankie Montas

CIN

110

Joe Boyle

OAK

These are all pitchers with clear talent but a concerning injury history or current injury issues. In a 12-team league with a deep bench I might rather take one of the prospect stashes from the tier below, but if you need a pitcher that could get innings right now, these are some intriguing arms.

Remember when Andrew Heaney was the next ace and the best bargain in all of fantasy baseball? Yeah, me neither, but now that people have forgotten all about him, I'm intrigued. With Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Mahle all injured, Heaney will be in the Rangers' rotation to start the year. While 2023 wasn't great, I think there is enough that remains in his arsenal to think it was just a blip. His SwStr% against lefties was over 4% worse than against righties because his slider command struggled in two-strike counts. That feels like an outlier to me. However, his four-seam and change-up combo created a decent number of whiffs against righties because he has great VAA and pounds the top of the zone, something he does far less against lefties. He is just a two-pitch pitcher against lefties, so he needs to get that slider ironed out, but we've seen him be dominant with that pitch in the past, so I think he can find it again.

The Braves signed Reynaldo Lopez to be a starter and I didn't believe them. But so far this spring, he is preparing as a starter and looking as good as any of the candidates for the fifth starter role. At this point, I can't rule out the fact that the Braves will give him a shot, and he's always had intriguing raw stuff. Maybe this is the year we get a decent stretch out of him as a starter At worst, he's probably one of the more valuable multi-inning relievers out there in 2024.

Jordan Hicks is transitioning into the rotation but that has never worked in the past. I do like that he's added a split-change into his arsenal and is trying to throw four pitches for strikes, but I don't like how the Giants used their starters last year. I think Hicks could be limited to just three or four innings per start which would be good for his ability to stick in the rotation, but not great for fantasy purposes. If the Giants use an opener in front of him so he can still get wins then I'd become a bit more interested.

Ryne Nelson has the fifth starter spot locked up in Arizona and has made some changes to his pitch mix to try and add more swing-and-miss to his game. He's throwing his slider harder with more of a fastball line of attack to create deception. He also spent a lot of time working on being more direct to home plate to improve his command. The early results in spring are promising, so I'm watching this more closely.

Yes, Alek Manoah was a trainwreck last year, likely struggling with the pitch clock and also with a vague arm injury that led to him getting injections at the extended spring training site. Still, the Blue Jays claim he's had a great offseason, and this is a 26-year-old who dominated the minors and was tremendous in both 2021 and 2022 in the major leagues. Would it be so crazy if he found that success again? That's not a bad gamble to take this late in drafts. MARCH UPDATE: Manoah's first start couldn't have gone much worse. It was only one start, so we don't want to overreact because we know Toronto wants him to get this spot, but another bad start or two, and he'll be off my boards.

Our concern over Manoah and Gausman means that Bowden Francis has a real leg up to be the fifth starter in Toronto. He will electric for them as a multi-inning reliever in 2023 and has been the talk of training camp. Through two starts, Francis is averaging 95.5 mph on his fastball, up over one mph from last year, and has added over an inch of iVB to over 18 inches. That would give him above-average velocity, extension, and vertical movement on a pitch that already graded out well last year. Considering Francis’ bread-and-butter pitch is an elite slider, pairing that with a plus four-seam gives him an even safer floor.

Frankie Montas appears healthy in spring, so much like we did for James Paxton, we have to rank him somewhere based on the talent we know he possesses. I hate the ballpark for him in Cincinnati and he has only two seasons as a real asset when it comes to strikeouts, so I don't want to be too bullish on his success this year.

Joe Boyle always had big-time stuff, but the command was an issue. The Athletics have been instructing him to not worry about hitting quadrants but just put the ball over the plate and it's working. Well, it's working in that he's throwing pitches in the strike zone, but he's not to hit specific spots so the command is still not quite where we want it to be. Still, if he locks down the final rotation spot, he has the raw talent to be an intriguing late-round pick.

Tier 19

111

Ricky Tiedemann

TOR

112

AJ Smith-Shawver

ATL

113

Max Meyer

MIA

114

Paul Skenes

PIT

115

Jackson Jobe

DET

116

Cade Horton

CHC

117

Jared Jones

PIT

118

Robert Gasser

MIL

119

Christian Scott

NYM

120

Mick Abel

PHI

These are the only prospects that I would think about drafting in redraft formats. They're all pitchers who I feel confident will be good big-league pitchers and also feel confident that they'll be up in the big leagues before midseason.

Tier 20

121

Clarke Schmidt

NYY

122

Tylor Megill

NYM

123

Jose Urquidy

HOU

124

Sean Manaea

NYM

125

Cole Irvin

BAL

126

Jon Gray

TEX

Clarke Schmidt is another pitcher with some concerns but a spot in a starting rotation for now. Against righties last year, Schmidt was a pretty good pitcher, with a .236 batting average against and a 25% strikeout rate. That's because righties had a tough time with his sweeper/cutter combo, and the sweeper posted solid whiff rates while the sinker did just enough to keep hitters honest. Yet, against lefties, he got pummeled with a .303 average against and just an 18% strikeout rate. The sweeper has a 17.1% barrel rate allowed to lefties and he brings in his curve against them, but it doesn't do much. Certainly, the Yankees also know this and they've come up with an offseason plan for Schmidt to improve against lefties. If he can, I think he can be a solid fantasy arm.

I wrote about Tylor Megill’s new pitch mix here and then he landed himself a rotation spot due to Kodai Senga's injury. Given the state of the Mets' rotation, it's possible Megill could hold that spot too.

With J.P. France delayed due to shoulder soreness, it seems that Jose Urquidy has the final rotation spot for the Astros locked in. He has never quite delivered on the promise we had for him, and his pitch mix seems like something that will always look better on paper than in action. However, he is a solid starter on a good team, and he will almost certainly provide value in 15-team formats.

Ah, Sean Manaea; one of the only pitchers who could sign into a starting job and have me think, "I mean, yeah, sure, I guess." My former Catcher's Corner compatriot Sami Akleh has always been a huge Manaea guy, and even he's fallen a bit out of love of late. We know the lefty went to Driveline after the 2022 season and came back pumping mid-90s, but he seemed to lose that as a starter for the Giants until they moved him to the bullpen and he found it again. The slider and change-up are both inconsistent so he needs that fastball velocity to remain useful in fantasy, so you'll know really early on if you should buy back in or not. If he shows good velocity in the spring, you could be looking at a low 4.00-ERA season with decent strikeouts in a pitcher's park with a solid lineup. I'll take that this late.

Cole Irvin went to Tread in the offseason and revamped his pitch mix. He then came to camp with way more velocity. I wrote about that in detail here, and I like him in deeper formats.

Jon Gray was good for Texas in 2022 and then was having a great first half in 2023 before injuries and blisters knocked his season off the tracks a bit in the second half. I'm not sure we'll ever get a full season of top-end Jon Gray like we used to believe we could if he left Coors Field, but I think he'll go through stretches where he provides tremendous value for the reigning World Series champions.

Tier 21

127

Matt Manning

DET

128

JP Sears

OAK

129

Andrew Abbott

CIN

130

Roansy Contreras

PIT

131

Aaron Ashby

MIL

132

Reese Olson

DET

133

Luis Medina

OAK

At one point, Matt Manning seemed like the prized pitching prospect in the Tigers system, but injuries and a lack of development have quieted that a bit. Still, Manning has been pretty successful in his limited MLB innings over the last two seasons with a 3.43 ERA season in 2022 and a 3.58 ERA mark in 2023. His four-seam has elite extension and great approach angle, but it has mediocre velocity, so he needs to start getting it up in the zone more to get more whiffs. If he can do that, there's something here because Manning has a tremendous slider that he pounds the zone with and induces tons of weak contact. The downside is that even that pitch doesn't miss bats, and the rest of the arsenal hasn't developed. Still, with some better four-seam usage, I could see Manning being a steady ratio contributor in deeper leagues for an improving Tigers team. MARCH UPDATE: Manning is throwing about two mph harder with his whole arsenal this spring. That's great for his four-seam fastball, if it sticks, but I'm not sure I want to see his slider thrown harder.

People want to avoid all Oakland pitchers, but JP Sears is kind of good. At least, his sweeper is. The pitch is a true swing-and-miss offering and doesn't give up a lot of hard contact, so Sears just needs to set it up. Unfortunately, his four-seam isn't great and his change-up also seems to lack consistency. However, Sears was pretty good against righties with that three-pitch mix, and I think further growth on the sweeper would help him against lefties as well. I'm not fully bought in, but I do see some pieces that I like here.

I'm confused by Andrew Abbott. When I watched him last year, I felt like he shouldn't have had the success he did. The underlying metrics seem to agree with a 4.56 xFIP and 4.33 SIERA compared to his 3.87 ERA. But he also dominated Double-A and Triple-A and posted a 26% strikeout rate in his 109.1 big league innings, so something he is doing is working. There are far too many pitchers in Cincinnati right now, which makes me less confident in his innings total, but I can't sleep on what he's done on the mound so far.

So far through two spring starts, Roansy Contreras is averaging 94.9 mph on his fastball with 17.6 inches of iVB. Last year, Contreras averaged 94.3 mph on the four-seam with just 15.6 inches of iVB, so this would be a big and important change because his fastball got hit hard in 2023 and didn't miss bats. This change is believable because Roansy has shown this with his fastball before. In 2022, he averaged 95.6 mph on his fastball with 17 inches of iVB to go along with his above-average extension. The pitch still wasn’t great, but it missed double the number of bats. It got hit hard, but he only threw it up in the zone 46% of the time, so if Contreras has his old velocity and vertical movement and also throws it up in the zone, then we could have something here since the fastball is just a complementary pitch to his really good slider.

Many people were enamored with Aaron Ashby after he debuted in 2021 and posted a 4.55 ERA in 31.2 innings but also showed off a 97 mph fastball from the left side en route to a 29.3% strikeout rate and 13.3% swinging strike rate. However, Ashby failed to take a big step forward in 2022 then got hurt and missed all of the 2023 season. However, there is enough to like in this profile. In both healthy seasons, his slider was an elite swing and miss pitch, he flashed the ability to miss bats with his change-up, and he also limited hard contact. His command suffered a bit in his second season, but he's a lefty with plus velocity, two good swing-and-miss pitches, and the ability to limit hard contact who only has to beat out Colin Rea and Joe Ross to win a spot in the Brewers rotation. MARCH UPDATE: Ashby has only made one start this spring, and it was a disaster. There's a very real chance he'll start the year in the minors and we won't see him up in the big leagues until summer.

If the Tigers start the season with Casey Mize on the IL then Reese Olson will likely be in the rotation. He has not looked good this spring, but he featured a great slider last year and is a young pitcher who could continue to get better in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, so that's a solid late-round gamble.

Luis Medina is another contender to land the final rotation spot in Oakland. He's been pumping 101 mph fastballs this spring, and he intrigued me last year when he went to a more sinker/slider-heavy pitch mix. I still believe he may be a reliever long-term, but he has the raw tools to be worth a dart throw if he lands the rotation spot.