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A new week, a new group of players to rank!

Welcome to this week’s edition of 2023 Top Keepers. The focus this time around is on starting pitchers.

As a group, I like starting pitchers more than relievers. At least with starters you don’t get the wild inconsistency that you get from relievers. Yes, a starter can have a bad year or one can come out of nowhere to have a great season. But as a whole, there is a little more projectability with this group.

Sticking with Youth

Unlike my top reliever’s list, where talent is the top factor in determining who the top keepers are, age plays more of a factor in these rankings. When it comes to keepers, I am giving a little more weight to dynasty leagues, and age plays a huge factor in that. If 27-year-old Zac Gallen is comparable to 31-year-old Kevin Gausman, then give me the 27-year-old Gallen.

Injuries also knocked pitchers down a little more than they do in my position rankings. I’m always a little weary of pitchers coming back from injuries. I probably shouldn’t since they always seem to bounce back these days. But nevertheless, I am not one to easily change my ways. So sorry, Jack Flaherty, for being in Tier 5. But perhaps you should stop getting hurt or at least post great numbers when you return from an injury.

A quick note: ages are as of now and obviously the team is who they played for this past season. Teams may change for 2023, ages certainly will.

Anyway, enough of the banter. Let’s get rolling with the Top 2023 Keepers – Starting Pitchers edition.

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The plan for today’s article is pretty complex in its simplicity. I set out to build a championship-level redraft team for 2023 using only rookies from 2022. 

C: Adley Rutschman

C: MJ Melendez

1B: Jose Miranda

2B: Vaughn Grissom 

3B: Bobby Witt Jr.

SS: Oneil Cruz

MI: Jeremy Peña 

CI: Gunnar Henderson

This infield is good. Might not win us the league, but getting steals all around the diamond puts us on a winning path. Not just because speed is increasingly rare but because these steals come from middle-order hitters with power.  

Catcher is a pretty clear win. I suppose the Sal Perez team has a leg-up on you if they’ve got anyone in the C2 spot, but aside from that, we’ve got a top-of-the-scale catching duo. 

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Tis the season to watch the scoreboard. My own teams are fighting down the stretch, and I’m looking their way more often than necessary. I’m hoping to write a postseason piece on my processes and outcomes, but I don’t want to jinx anything by starting early. 

For fantasy tweeters, it’s victory lap season. You might’ve seen a few threads already, typically in a shape like “What’d you get right and wrong this year?” Always worth our time to review the roads that brought us here, so I’ll be hopping back to March 30 to revisit my early season Brash Predictions 2022: Prospects Edition

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I know what you’re all doing. Counting down a New York slugger to home run immortality. Great! Me too! Pete Alonso (4-for-5, 3 runs, 5 RBIs and his 39th homer) moves to within 34 of tying Barry Bonds. That is so laughably funny. You can have an insane year and still be almost half away from Bonds. That’s like Aaron Judge vs. everyone else this year. Almost. Still not quite as ridiculous, but close. Wait, Pete Alonso secured an even more important record — the new Mets’ RBI record (128). So, it’s been truly a fantastic year for Albombso, as he hits .270, and has a legit shot of a top five slot on the Player Rater. A lofty status for a guy who runs like he’s an insect in molasses, though, he does have five steals. For 2023 fantasy, I could see Pete Alonso still being underrated because there is no real speed, and his average this year might be considered fluky-ish, as he’s more of a .255 guy. Think you are selling him short though. For hitters with the most homers in his 1st four seasons, only three guys have more than Alonso: Ralph Kiner, Pujols and Eddie Mathews. 40 homers is the new 60 homers, and do you want a guy who is as much a lock for 40 homers as anyone? Then Albombso! Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

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I realize that some of you beautiful people out there may have your H2H Championship this week, and I don’t want to leave any of you hanging!  If you have read this article all season long, you know that you should always play your studs!  Don’t get too cute, they have gotten you this far.  This is designed to give you that competitive edge that feels like cheating but isn’t!  It’s the first time a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contestant introduced a glass of water to dip the bun.  Dip those buns, Razzballers!  (Welcome new readers who googled Nathan’s Buns.  Sorry, it didn’t produce what you were looking for.  You can find those pics on page 11).  

Welcome back from Page 11.  Now let’s turn our focus to your Championship Week!  I would love to see everyone’s championship score!  Screenshot it to me @natemarcum on Twitter.  I will enter all winners into a drawing for a nice little prize!

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Jerry Tomato Realmuto (5-for-5, 2 runs, 2 RBIs and his 20th homer, hitting .278) is leading the pack for catchers once again on the Player Rater. Jerry Tomato, just sitting on the top of the heap, telling everyone to ketchup. The cream of the crap hasn’t smelled this bad in a while. Salvador Perez flew so close to the sun last year, that Sal Icarus made us forgot what good catchers are actually capable of when they’re being nice, good little catchers. J.T. Realmuto reminding us that 20-something homers and a .275 average is all you can hope for. Ha, that sounds so nihilistic. German accent, “Das nein else to hope for. Das boot catchers. Excuse me, not boot, how do you say in English das punt. Yes, dat one.” Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Julio Rodriguez (2-for-3, 2 runs) slammed (26) and leggsed (25) his way to history. Arod once went 40/40 for them, which begs the question, “Why don’t the Mariners sign more Rodriguezes?” Didn’t they learn from Baltimore when they stopped signing Robinsons? So, Julio Rodriguez becomes the fastest to 25/25 in just 125 games, beating Mike Trout (128 games), and Julio Rodriguez becomes the fastest to be the apple of my eye. The bounce in my step. The who in my ha. The cha-ching on my register. The Chachi on my Happy Days. The hill in my soap box derby. The wind beneath my Barbara Hersey wings. The TV without the motion smoothing. The cooler that holds a backup kidney if I need one. Belting at the top of my lungs, “You are my sunshine. My only sunshine!” BDon and I talk in the video at the top of the page about where do Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani fall in the 2023 fantasy baseball drafts, but Julio Rodriguez in 2023 fantasy? Is he any later than top 5? Before or after Judge? Ohtani? I’m not trying to commit just yet, but they’re all gonna be in that general vicinity. “General vicinity” is a fantasy baseball ‘pert’s greatest hedge. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Hola, fellow español speakers! Today’s word is Triston Casas (1-for-4)! Let’s break it down into parts! Triston is pronounced Tris like a Tris Speaker. Not the old-timey baseball player, but like a speaker who is saying the word Tris. Next part is ton like, “I ate a ton of churros and now I am sneezing cinnamon sugar.” Say the last name with me now…Ca-thathss. The last part you say like a Spanish snake. Like a snake you find in the desert outside of Barth-a-lona. A snake with a lisp. Try the whole thing now, Triston Cathathss. Bueno! *maracas around room* Cathathss! Cathathss! Cathathss! So, yesterday or today or last week doesn’t really matter for when the Red Sox called up Triston Casas, but if you think he was called up on Sunday simply because now he’s earned his place, like he got the ring from Gollum and deposited in the mouth of some volcano or whatever that quest was of those hill trolls, you’re sadly mistaken. Triston Casas has been ready for a while, but baseball is still broken for when prospects are called up. Rather than change the world’s problems today, let’s look at Triston Casas. Hey, what do you know, I already gave you my Triston Casas fantasy! So ridiculous that I figured (correctly) he’d have 300+ ABs this year. Because he’s been ready! If you don’t care what I say, here’s what Itch said, “Triston Cases has learned late at-bat traits to help him hang against a variety of experienced pitchers, and perhaps he’s carried some of those hang-in-there strategies to early-count situations against pitchers he’s never seen before. Whatever it is, I like it. Unlike Grey, who I hate.” Really not cool! I’d grab Triston Casas in every league. He’s got elite approach and power. For what he will do the final month? No one knows, because it’s a small sample, but worth finding out. Finally, Casas is home. Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Just yesterday, Prospect Itch featured Corbin Carroll as the number one prospect to stash, and now he’s called up. Maybe Itch can make things happen with his words, which is why I’m worried when he talks about locking me in the trunk of a car and driving me into the desert. Also, driving into the desert is Corbin Carroll! Hashtag nailed it! He’s not looking for holes though, and he’s got no holes in his swing. He was also number one on Itch’s Top 25 for Dynasty Leagues. I don’t know if Gunnar Henderson is called up this year, my guess is no, but I wasn’t sure on Corbin Carroll either. I did give you a buy on him about six weeks ago, where I said, “Corbin Carroll has to be on the short list of 2023 ROY candidates if he stays down. Yeah, yeah, keyword: Short. Hardy har har! You tall guys think you’re so cool! ‘Hey, look at me, I can get cereal down without standing on a chair!’ Aren’t you fantastic?! Sounding like an alien who is just discovering old HBO shows, Corbin Carroll is under six feet. Much like Mookie Betts with both power, speed and average. He is the total package like Paul Orndorff.” And that’s me quoting me! I grabbed him in my shallowest league, and I would grab him in any league.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

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I know it’s stone fruit season, but check out the plums on the Diamondbacks! They called up Stone Garrett (2-for-3). Mean’s while, Corbin Carroll remains a stone’s throw away. What’s that all about? This guy may be Stone, but it’s still Rock and Carroll to me! Garrett’s numbers are goofy, and goofy is good. 28/15/.278 in 385 ABs should definitely get the berries tingling. Here’s what Prospect Itch has said, “(Diamondbacks’) AAA numbers are always inflated, but Garrett’s plus power and .375/.430/.764 slash line look good enough to mix in with that lineup, at least. Garrett’s a guy with big raw power, who gains a little value in an environment where it’s harder to clear the fence. He’s looking at near-term playing time and has enough speed to help us in roto leagues if he gets the time. If only I had time to beat up Grey.” Dude, cmon! In an NL-Only league, I’m absolutely interested. In mixed leagues, I’m kinda wait-and-see for now, but that could change very quickly. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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A crucible is a trial or challenge faced by a protagonist, where they endure a challenge and come out new and improved. Kind of like the time Grey brought us to Chucky Cheese as a “team building” exercise. Naturally, we all started sumo wrestling in the ball crawl pit, only to find that Grey had released several crocodiles among the balls. Where did he get the crocodiles, you ask? I dunno, I didn’t ask — I spent most of the evening consoling Son after he lost his big toe. But after that “Chucky Crocodile” experience, we emerged as a bonded team, readier than ever to do battle on the fantasy baseball front.

A lot of you are in that fantasy crucible right now. About 50 games remain in the season; I round up because I only work in base ten numbers. So, about 10 starts remain for your favorite hurlers, constituting about 25% of the season. Rankings fail more than ever now: playoff teams will rest their aces, non-playoff teams will give cups of coffee to their minor leaguers, and a quick search of the baseball news sites indicates some teams are talking six-man rotations already.

Of course, “rotation” can be loosely construed because minor league relievers are plentiful and can eat up plenty of innings. From August 17, 2021 until the end of the 2021 season, Paul Sewald made 26 appearances and made 26 IP. Comparatively, Logan Gilbert — the top starter for the Mariners last year — made 8 appearances and pitched 42 IP in the same span. Over on the White Sox, Michael Kopech made 16 appearances and notched 23 IP in the same span. Kopech pitched as many innings over the final bit of 2021 as did Carlos Rodon, who ran out of steam and watched his fastball velocity plummet. Sometimes, your fantasy dream is as much about letting go of players who have run out of steam as it is about finding new, shiny players.

Please, blog, may I have some more?