Your most anticipated article of the year is here! I can read your mind like I read a Twitter feed: scattered and filled with unmentionable things. But don’t worry, I won’t tell people about your Gundam fantasy. Let’s stick to the socially acceptable fantasies — like baseball!

Every year, I sift through my trove of data and give you ridiculous yet data-driven takes that aim to give you the edge in your fantasy team construction. Successful calls have included Robbie Ray and Luis Castillo, while failed calls have included Jack Flaherty and Tyler Mahle. So…if it wasn’t for injuries, I’d be Nostradamus!

Compared to other writers who do “Bold Predictions” and then tell you that Gerrit Cole will have like 13 Wins and that Zac Gallen will finish in the Top 30 Pitchers, I go way out on a limb and give you fairly wild takes. If these don’t work out, it’s because they shouldn’t work. I can see narratives a bit more clearly than most, which gives me the edge for wild takes that win you leagues.

Let’s jump in and see what I’ve got cooking for 2023.

Corey Kluber Finishes in the Top 30 Starters

Since I first wrote him up in February, Kluber’s ADP has jumped 150 places…to 340th overall. He’s the 96th pitcher off the board, and FantasyPros lists him as slightly ahead of Frankie Montas on the draft board. Montas just went through shoulder surgery and might not play this year. So, it’s fair to say that Kluber is the bottom of the barrel as far as starters go. And here I am, telling you that he’ll be an integral part of your fantasy rotation in 2023. What gives?

Kluber has two Cy Young Awards in his career, with another 3rd place CY finish as well. He’s no stranger to elite performance. Kluber battled through multiple injuries from 2019-2021, ranging from broken bones to torn muscles. In 2022, Kluber signed with the Tampa Bay Rays and followed the path that so many veteran pitchers have done to reclaim their careers. Kluber finished with a 10-10 record over 31 starts with a 4.34 ERA. As we know, ERA is pretty fluky. His true skill stats looked way better:  a 3.57 FIP and 3.85 SIERA indicated that he was nearly a run per game better than his stats showed. He’s maintained a CSW% above 29% for the past two years, although his swinging strike rate is somewhat pedestrian and usually in the 11-12% range. In short, all the true skill stats that show the potential for good fantasy performance were aligned in the right direction. Although you probably didn’t notice it, Kluber finished 68th overall on the Razzball Player Rater, or just slightly outside the SP5 role for your 12-team mixed league.

In 2023, Kluber moved north to support the Boston Red Sox. Sure, park factors and whatnot. But somehow, Kluber’s ADP plummeted in the off-season. When early drafts began, we saw his ADP sitting in the 500s, alongside injured players and other random dart throws. In 2022, Kluber regained his spectacular control that hallmarked his heyday in the mid-2010s. Although the Ks aren’t there anymore for elite fantasy potential, we’ve seen plenty of pitchers with middling Ks and Win luck surge to the top of the fantasy charts. You might have heard of Sandy Alcantara before. Here are their 2022 stats side-by-side:

Player Win / Loss K/9 BB/9 CSW%
Sandy Alcantara 14 /9 8.1 1.9 27.5
Corey Kluber 10 / 10 7.6 1.1 29.7

One of these guys is going in the second or third round of industry drafts, and the other guy is completely un-drafted.

Take that for your first brazen prediction: Corey Kluber will not only be a usable fantasy pitcher in 2023, but he’ll also be useful in all formats.

Sandy Alcantara Finishes Outside the Top 20 SP

I probably don’t need to write this up in detail because loyal readers understand my loathing of the “Sandy Alcantara top SP 2023” narrative. Don’t believe me? Scroll back 75 words and see how Alcantara’s line looks more or less the same as ADP 340 Corey Kluber. Alcantara pitched nearly 70 more IP — practically an entire season worth of an RP — and had less Wins than Shohei Ohtani. You can trickle down the IP and see that Alcantara trailed other noted aces like Tyler Anderson and Chris Bassitt in Wins. Yeesh. Alcantara has always been dependent upon an enormous IP volume, and injuries or changes in play style can affect Alcantara’s fantasy value severely in the negative. Alcantara cranked out IP in 2022 and still trailed Ohtani and Robbie Ray in strikeouts, and he barely edged out Charlie Morton — a guy who is practically un-drafted in 12-team mixed settings.

I have no problem with Alcantara — or any pitcher — or their stuff. I don’t care for the whole GIF-worthy phenomenon that has overtaken baseball fandom. You do you, I read stats and tell you what to do. There continues to be warning sign after warning sign about Alcantara, and the risk is really high if you’re taking him in a high-stakes league. As I said earlier in the year, if Alcantara had thrown the MLB standard 180IP last year, his stat line was virtually indistinguishable from Kyle Wright. Best of luck to you folks riding the Alcantara train in 2023, but I’m remaining on the platform.

Quick Takes

  • Joe Musgrove is probably your most valuable fantasy pitcher if you drafted in early March. I think people over-reacted to the toe news. Reports indicate he’ll open the season either April 11 or April 16, and we’ll see how he goes from there. In the meantime, grab some random veteran to fill-in on the IL while Musgrove heals.
  • Jack Flaherty probably ends up on your end of season roster, or is at least your favorite waiver wire streamer. Love his stat lines but his road to recovery from injury has been years in the making.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu will be a playoff maker late in the season. Now, don’t add Ryu right now, or even in June or July. Ryu is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will probably throw a couple games to end the Blue Jays’ season, assuming they’re in the playoff hunt. If the Jays are out of the chase, Ryu probably won’t touch the mound in 2023. But we’re talking about a guy who was a fantasy stalwart for years, playing on a high Win team that has succeeded in several reclamation projects. I can see a lot of players needing a guy like Ryu come September. Of course, don’t forget the lesson of Luis Severino — just because a TJ recovery is assumed to be on course, the pitcher can always get into a simulated game and beat up their ankle or something.

OK, friends! I am still traveling abroad and writing to you from underneath a cherry tree in Japan right now. I won’t really be responding to comments for another week, so please check-in with Grey or try out another one of your favorite writers until the start of the season. Kanpai!