The royal we already went over all the hitters for 2023 fantasy baseball rankings. That’s not the “royal we” as that term usually implies. It was me writing it alone while wearing a Burger King crown. I refuse to draft a top starter where they are usually drafted. Unlike hitters, you need six starters, depending on your league depth. In most leagues, there’s a ton of pitchers on waivers that can help you — all year. Not just in April. With the help of the Stream-o-Nator, you can get by with, say, three starters while streaming the rest. (By the by, Razzball Subscriptions are now open. Early subscribers get Rudy’s War Room, which I haven’t drafted without in about five years, and it’s worth the price of a subscription alone.) There’s also the fact that three stats by starters are difficult to predict due to luck. Wins, ERA and WHIP are prone to change, depending on which way the ball bounces and whether or not the guys behind the pitchers can score runs. Finally, the best starters can give you four categories. The best hitters can give you five categories. Here’s Steamer’s 2023 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Hitters and 2023 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Pitchers. Anyway, here’s the top 20 starters for 2023 fantasy baseball:
NOTE I: All my rankings are currently available on Patreon for the price of a Starbucks coffee, if you get one of those extra grande frappuccino jobbers. Don’t wait for the rankings to come out over the next month, and get them all now.
NOTE II: Free agents are listed as just that and not yet projected. Once a guy signs, I will write out their blurb and add in projections, or remove them, if they sign in an unfavorable place. They are ranked currently where I think they might be if they sign on for a full-time job.
NOTE III: Hear us talk about starters 1-40:
2. Gerrit Cole – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Woodruff. I call this tier, “Hanging out with Neil, Patrick, Harris.” I do the rankings and write-ups in the order you see them: top 10, top 20, then catchers and around the horn. I tell you this to try to properly express how excited I am to finally get to talk about pitchers. Imagine you’re 75 words into a blurb about Avisail Garcia and you’re like, “Can I please just write about velocity for, like, ten minutes?” I know I have the best pitcher rankings, and I wonder if it’s not slightly because I’m so eager to dig into pitching after a month of my time writing about hitting. Yes, what you read over the course of two weeks takes me twice as long. Any hoo! Pitching! *breathes in* Smell it up, baby! Smell it up! It smells great, right? It sure does! Okay, now don’t draft any of the guys in this tier. Allow me to explain.
Your buddy tells you to meet him at this place, because Neil Patrick Harris is gonna be there, and you’re like, “Holy crap, Doogie Howser, that’s amazing!” You rush over there with some memorabilia for him to sign that you plan on keeping and not immediately putting on eBay because you are a stan, as the kids say, then you get there, and it’s three guys named Neil, Patrick and Harris. That disappointment is what you will have when you draft one of the guys in this tier.
Now for a diatribe, I give every year, “If these starters were to fall in drafts to where I’m willing to draft a starter, I will draft any and/or all of them. It’s not about them as much as it’s about their draft slot. Sure, I have actual problems with some starters, which I’ll get to, but if Cole or Woodruff or any of these guys fell to around 50th overall in a draft? Sure, at that point, you have to draft one, because I would be drafting a starter and they’d be above other guys. (Thank you for not laughing too loud when I said Burnes, Cole or Woodruff would fall to pick 50.) For unstints, I always draft a starter around 50th overall (give or take ten picks, depending on size of league and rules), so if I’m in a draft with eleven other Greys and we’re sitting there discussing boba and how we’re totally Swifties and just general BS’ing, and all of us forget to draft a starter, I’d draft Burnes at 50th overall, then Cole, then Woodruff, then etc. So, this is a ranking of my starters, it’s just unrealistic for me to say I’m actually drafting these guys. They’ll be gone before I’m willing to draft a starter. Yes, I love the pitchers in this tier. They are great. There, I said it. But I will never roster them. You’ve read some form of this before from me. The names change, but it’s same general gist. By the way, my high school band, General Gist, was so rocking in the general vicinity of a crowd!
Last year if you rostered Alcantara, Cease, Manoah, McClanahan and Bassitt, you would’ve walked away with your league’s pitching categories and not drafted any top starters. Am I cherrypicking? Yes, just like you could’ve cherrypicked last year’s pitchers based on my suggestions!
You could’ve had Alcantara, Cease, Manoah, McClanahan and Bassitt and not drafted one starter before 50th overall.
Yes, I brought out the repeat in bold, and underlined the key word.
In some leagues, you could do fine NOT drafting ANY starters. Yes, I brought out the caps.
I’m not only talking about H2H leagues where you can carry only relievers. I’m talking 10 or 12-team roto leagues, where you can stream starters. Maybe you roster one starter and stream five spots. Maybe you roster two guys and stream four spots. Maybe you drink seven cups of coffee and stream all day. Even if you want to draft an entire rotation and hold them (or try to), you don’t need a guy from this tier. There’s plenty of options later to fill out your rotation so you’re competitive in leagues where you can’t stream. I’m not suggesting you Reggie Roby starters. I’m telling you to Reggie Roby top starters. Concentrate on your hitting while these guys are being drafted.
It’s like this every year. Without fail. In the preseason, everyone will be telling you that you need a top starter, some people might even tell you that you need two top starters. What they never say, or purposely fail to mention is how every year there’s starters in the “top starters” who weren’t there a year ago, so you could’ve had a top starter without paying for one. I told you to draft Cease in every league last year even writing a sleeper post; draft McClanahan, I said, and wrote a sleeper on him too; Manoah, I said, draft and I said I’m surprised I didn’t write a sleeper on him, Bassitt and Alcantara were guys I loved. Every year I tell you who to draft later, then the following year all of those starters are in the top 20. You think this is an accident? Just luck? Look at my rankings from previous years. You didn’t need Cole, deGrom, Burnes, or others last year, and you don’t need these guys this year.
There’s dozens of starters to roster, and you need at most six. For whatever reason, everyone forgets how many starters are available later. Nestor Cortes wasn’t even drafted in most leagues! (Coolwhip wrote a sleeper post on him in the preseason, by the way, and natch.) People always tell you that you need a starter in the 1st couple of rounds. You do not.
Last year, I wrote sleeper posts for Cease, McClanahan, Patrick Sandoval and Jordan Montgomery. Last two were both great if only slightly less than the first two because the 1st two were so good. In the preseason, I told everyone to draft Cristian Javier, and Tony Gonsolin. Those starters alone were all you needed. If you had those starters on your team, you were trading away pitching because you had too much! I’m being 100% serious when I tell you that if someone tells you that you need a top starter, you should question everything they tell you. If they tell you to draft two aces, then you should make an anonymous call for help. They need it.
As for Cole, he had a 3.50 ERA last year in a year when the ball was dead, though, he might not have been a recipient of the dead ball, since there was some research done on the balls and it turns out balls used in Yankee Stadium were juiced for Judge, then again again Cole’s home ERA was 3.20. What’s wild, his 2nd half ERA was 4.12. I know, I know, don’t put so much weight on ERA. Yeah, not shizz, Sherlock. It’s why I ranked Cole 2nd here. Though, I am saying don’t draft him either. Holy mixed messages, Batman! Some people call them “mixed messages,” some people call them “hedges.” Let’s call the whole thing off! Either hoo! His K/9 was still elite in the 2nd half (11.3), his BB/9 elite (2.1) and his xFIP was 2.87. He was getting mostly killed by the home run, and that’s a bit fluky. He’s one of the best bets for 200 IP with elite strikeouts and walks, so, yeah, he’s the 2nd overall starter to not draft. 2023 Projections: 15-4/2.88/0.99/261 in 202 IP
3. Brandon Woodruff – So, confession time. I drafted Woodruff in one league already this year. “You said to never draft top starters! I know you have a standing desk, so let me be very clear: I hate you and all you stand for!” I know, I know, but here’s the thing. It was a 15-team league, and it was the third round, which was pick 41, and I couldn’t risk waiting for my next pick. Also, he was the 11th pitcher off the board! As I say time and again in my rankings, I don’t hate the top pitchers. Well, not this tier at least, and if they’re going to fall to around where I draft my first starter 45-55, then go for it. It’s usually lip service to say a starter like Burnes, Cole or Woodruff are going to fall that far, but pucker up, baby, because it wasn’t lip service for me. I don’t have the faintest idea why people were drafting a guy like deGrom as the third pitcher off the board. Maybe they know something I don’t, like deGrom’s about to stay healthy for 150+ IP. Then others took Cease and Sandy before Woodruff. Nothing Ceases to amaze me, but that kinda did. Woodruff is the third best starter in baseball. He has the high 11.2 K/9; the low 2.5 BB/9; the fastball velocity that’s consistent; the ability to throw a bunch of innings; the everything. He had the 8th best SwStr% with the lowest Z-Contact% in baseball. So, what does that mean? He gets more hitters than anyone to miss at strikes. He’s not getting by throwing balls in the dirt like a Gausman. He’s challenging hitters and they can’t do anything. The top ten lowest contact made on pitches in the zone is basically the cream of the cream. Factor in that Woodruff doesn’t throw many walks, and it’s lights out, good night. 2023 Projections: 14-6/2.77/0.98/233 in 194 IP
4. Dylan Cease – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until McClanahanananananananan. I call this tier, “HOW ARE YOU.” You ever ask an elderly person how they’re doing, and they can’t hear you, so before you know it you’re screaming “HOW ARE YOU” and everyone around you thinks you’re being too aggressive with an elderly person, and someone comes over to ask, “Is everything okay over here?” Then you say, “Yeah, everything’s fine.” And then the elderly guy says, “This guy is screaming at me.” And you’re escorted out of the bingo hall. That’s this tier. You think you’re doing something good, but it’s going to turn on you and bite you in the ass. I not only wouldn’t draft one of these guys in this tier, but I also think they will disappoint. You have to understand I still think these guys could be great, but there’s some real concerns. Last year, Walker Buehler was in this tier to give you an idea what I think of this tier. It’s not that these guys are going too high, but they also scare me.
As for Cease, I think the White Sox put their humidor so high that if you walk into their stadium, you start puckering your lips. You’re like, “Hey, I’m not trying to kiss you, I swear.” Then you have charges pressed, and you’re like, “It was the humidor!” Then people call it The Humidor Defense, and everyone inside baseball ignores it as they ignore everything else, and Rob Manfred scoffs, saying something like, “That lacks believability.” Something was off last year in Chicago (in Wrigley even more so). Both stadiums were down for home runs. Could be the dead balls; could be the humidors. It matters because Cease finally wrangled his home run problem, while still being pretty out-of-control on his pitches. His stuff is so good that he can get away with a 3.8 BB/9, and have the 4th least number of pitches in the zone, but if he’s wild in the zone or puts guys on and starts giving up homers again? That’s dangerous. From Cease’ing to government seizures of your fantasy winnings. Hopefully, I’m not manifesting it. Leave it to latency. Or Latin Cease, and still a carpe diem. 2023 Projections: 14-7/2.86/1.13/238 in 191 IP
5. Sandy Alcantara – Seeing people draft Sandy Alcantara in front of Woodruff or even Cease is just so funny to me. Just cackling like a loon. Just howling at the moon like a nut bar, no relation to Lars. Just standing in front of a mirror and applying Joker makeup as I let out hideous laughs. This is your standard shizz that happens every year. I like Sandy, tell you to draft him last year, then he clearly goes out and has what has to be so obviously a career year, yet people now draft him like he’s going to win the Cy Young every year. Pitching is tremendously difficult. Dancing between the raindrops with a 8.2 K/9, 2 BB/9 and 3.29 xFIP to come out on the other side with a dry-and-crisp 2.28 ERA? It’s especially difficult to repeat. Can he? Sure. And Emily Ratajkowski can storm through that door and scream, “Bobby, where have you been my whole life?” And, while your name isn’t Bob, you reply, “Entering, uh, data for south Cleveland’s Public Transit department,” and you run off together, then you get into a major tiff five years into your relationship because you still can’t spell her last name and she sees your phone ID reads, Emily Something. That all could happen! Likely won’t. 2023 Projections: 11-6/2.79/1.02/203 in 214 IP
6. Shane McClanahan – There’s a lot to like about McClanahanananananananan. That his name echoes so naturally is just one thing. Another thing, he led the league in SwStr% (tied with Gausman). Not sure there’s a better stat for what you want from pitchers. He was in front of everyone, except Gausman, obviously, but I feel like pointing out exactly who he was in front of: Burnes, Cease, Ohtani and Cole. Comparing him to Burnes (since he’s my number one), McClanahanananananananan actually got more hitters to swing, and was in the zone 43.5% to 35.1%. McClanahanananananananan has a case to be made that he’s the best starter in MLB right now. So, why rank him here and not, ya know, number one? Or even in a positive tier? He had shoulder discomfort on August 30th, and was removed from starts late in September with shoulder discomfort. Don’t want to put any serious voodoo on a guy like I’m Lisa Bonet in Angel Heart, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see McClanahanananananananan throw barely 140 IP this year, and need long IL stints. 2023 Projections: 13-7/2.74/1.01/188 in 168 IP
7. Spencer Strider – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Nola. I call this tier, “Fill my holes with dry rice to reduce moistness.” I imagine by now you are moist for starters. Well, before you fill your holes with dry rice to reduce moistness, I have a special treat for you: You can begin to draft starters. See, that wasn’t too long, was it? Great, I didn’t think so either, and I could tell you were overflowing with moistness, so I’m happy to tell you starters are now available. But you might want to chew on a sanitary napkin or rub deodrant on your forehead, because it might actually be longer before you can draft a starter. Here’s the thing, and, yes, there’s always a thing. I will absolutely draft someone in this tier, but I won’t reach for them. If they make it to around 50 overall, or under $30, then I’d happily draft one to reduce my moistness, and remove the dry rice from my holes. See, I don’t punt all starters, just the very top ones. Just don’t reach for one of these guys. Also, I’m using the same tier names as previous years so I can transfer over my Pitching Draft Tool with relative ease. You’ll get over your outrage.
As for Strider, I tried to not like him. Really, I did. I went to his 2nd half splits, expecting to see a fall-off, but they were better in the 2nd half (3.03 vs. 2.20 ERA; 3.6 vs. 2.4 BB/9; 2.51 vs. 2.02 xFIP). By the by, it’s hilarious that one site still has their prospect grade for Strider on his player page, showing he’s a 45-grade prospect. Saying his slider was a 45-grade pitch when it was a top ten slider in baseball last year, slightly better than Rodon’s. Goes back to William Goldman’s saying about Hollywood that applies here: No one knows anything. Strider, Rodon, Verlander and Cristian Javier are the only pitchers with at least 130 IP and a 20+ run value fastball and a 8+run value slider. Strider had a .139 BAA on his slider and .201 on his 98 MPH fastball. Yeah, good luck with those pitches. Doesn’t even need anything else. Oh, and his change had a .136 BAA and a 47.7% Whiff%. Again, I tried to not like Strider this year. Too many innings last year, I wanted to shout. Sophomore slump, I wanted to make up outta thin air. But, yeah, I see no reason why he’s not a number one. If he’s drafted before 45-55 to overall, then I’ll be out on him, but if he’s there, I’m in. 2023 Projections: 12-7/2.83/1.03/231 in 164 IP
8. Justin Verlander – Here’s what I said this offseason, “Signed with the Mets. Steve Cohen collects modern art, but prefers classic aces, kinda like A-Rod with women. S0, the Mets add Justin Verlander, as they compose the best staff possible of aces who might remember the 1986 World Series. “Wah-wah, wee-wee, Mookie Wilson.” That’s Justin Verlander’s first words. “Wah-wah, wee-wee, Ray Knight.” That’s Baby Scherzer. Mets are putting together a great pitching staff that won’t at all need the Mets doctors’ attention. Seriously. Because they’re already on Medicare, and can get an in-network doctor. Justin Verlander will likely be thrilled to be looking into that big brown eye once again. Get your heads out of the gutter, I’m not talking about Kate Upton! I’m talking about Max Scherzer’s one brown eye.
— Razzball (@Razzball) December 5, 2022
So, Justin Verlander goes to a new league, though the Astros used to be an NL team. Does that count? No? Okay. The whole league thing is irrelevant nowadays, and the new team does nothing either for a guy like Verlander, except he no longer has to contend with the Crawford Boxes. Oh, wait a second, his HR/9 was only 0.6. His strikeouts were down, but you almost get the sense that he was throwing more to contact (relatively), because he was returning from Tommy John, and knew he wouldn’t be able to throw 220 IP. Him and Scherzer are such reliable stalwarts that the Mets got better, even with the loss of deGrom, i.e., Verlander + Scherzer is better than deGrom + Scherzer. Just for the reliability and innings. Not saying Verlander is better than deGrom inning to inning, but when you need 175 IP more than an insane 100 IP, Verlander is the one. He’s actually The One.” And that’s me quoting me! 2023 Projections: 17-5/2.54/0.94/196 in 179 IP
9. Max Scherzer – You, laughing, “Verlander and Scherzer? Give Grey all the ancient pitchers! What a loser this guy is!” One quick note about age curves. I think they’ve changed in the last five years, or maybe it’s the pitchers instead of a larger pitcher–uh, picture thing. I’m not pointing at Charlie Morton or Wainwright, but I could, and now I have pointed at them while saying I’m not. So, I debated if I wanted Verlander or Scherzer 1st more time than I care to admit (17 seconds). In the end, why not both? I mean, not both in the same league, but grab one in one league then the other in another league. I’m not usually Mr. Old Pitchers Rock! But I’ve become that guy this year. Allow me to explain further. Old pitchers are great for 150-180 IP. Do you really need 200 IP? You do? Okay, then Sandy Alcantara or bust, because no one throws a lot of innings anymore. Will the Mets be careful with Verlander and Scherzer? They should. It’s fine. Unless you’re in an insanely deep league, there’s streamers available for when Scherzer or Verlander go down for a few weeks in the middle of the season. Scherzer’s had a sub-3 ERA for the last seven of eight seasons. Halloween season starts earlier every year, but not sure why Scherzer would suddenly become a pumpkin, like the all-time losingest pitcher, Jack O’Lantern. Could this be the year when it all falls apart? I guess, but you’re just guessing. Why not guess Rodon’s shoulder will finally fall off? Or deGrom won’t throw more than 50 IP? Or Strider will fall back to earth? You’re just guessing. Don’t guess, just go with what Scherzer has done for the last 15 years. Is this the first time in over a decade I’m saying to draft Scherzer, so that’ll make him absolutely jinxed? Well, yes, I can get behind that logic. Grey is a stupid jinxer! 2023 Projections: 15-6/2.63/0.96/191 in 164 IP
10. Aaron Nola – One quick note about my starter rankings vs. ADP this year. It’s early, so it could change, but my rankings seem way different than what I’ve seen early on for ADP. More of a difference from what I’m doing than years past. As I always say, trying to figure why others are drafting the way they are is a fool’s errand. I bring this up now because Nola seems to be the most disconnected from rankings and ADP, which means there’s a good chance that Nola is on so many of my teams this year. Not sure how you can look at 200+ IP, 1.3 BB/9, 10.3 K/9, 2.77 xFIP and not see an ace. Phils about to win 100+ games and Nola’s about to win a Cy Young. He’s going 22-3/2.30/0.89/236 in 215 IP. No, I won’t project him for those numbers, but that’s sorta what I’m expecting for his ceiling and I’m expecting him to get his ceiling. 2023 Projections: 16-5/2.76/0.98/227 in 201 IP
11. Alek Manoah – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Darvish. I call this tier, “Eat your ideal lover’s weight in cookie dough.” The tier name is a self-help tip. Much like any pizza can be a personal pan pizza with some dedication. Or wait until midnight on Valentine’s Day, go to Wal-Mart and buy 50% off candy so you can gorge yourself. Another self-help tip for a person is drafting a starting pitcher. So, stop reading, Who Moved My String Cheese, get off your butt and draft a starter! Now!
As for Manoah, saw that Steamer had his projections down for a 4.07 ERA, and I did a spit take, and the spit spelled out the question, “What the hell?” And now I think my spit is like the Sphinx. How do I answer that? Has my spit stumped me? I think so. Stupid, freakin’ smart-ass spit! His 8.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 3.97 xFIP does read more like a number two or three, but why is it that people think a guy does one thing and that’s what he’s always going to be? Manoah is a 25-year-old who still hasn’t settled on what he will be. He could easily be a 10 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 guy. If he couples that with his 23.7% Hard Contact% last year, he’s going to win the Cy Young, and not just come in third, as he just did. Oh, that 23.7% Hard Contact? That was the lowest in the majors. It’s how Max Fried, Ranger Suarez, Chris Bassitt and Martin Perez keep being successful. Only Manoah could blow all of them away with many more strikeouts. Plus, his mom. Mommaoah mia! 2023 Projections: 15-5/2.97/1.00/197 in 196 IP
12. Luis Castillo – He dealt with a sore shoulder last preseason, so I did a big deep dive for guys with shoulder soreness who came back to be fine and never have problems again. A full day of research (minus about 23 hours and 45 minutes). If his velocity was down or there was some lost stuff when he returned or, honestly, if the Mariners didn’t just give him a long-term deal, I might’ve been more concerned. I’d contend (for the featherwieght title) that Castillo wouldn’t have got a 5-year deal from the M’s if there was real concern here. So, when you put aside health concerns, which honestly every pitcher has to a certain respect, Castillo’s been a top 15 starter for the last three of four years, and for most of that time he had to deal with Cincy. In Seattle, I had to fight with myself to not put him in the tier above this. 10 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 2.99 ERA, off one of the best fastball/slider combos in baseball and his change had a .239 BAA. It might be harder to catch up with Castillo than it is for me to pronounce his name. (Though, let’s be honest, prolly not.) 2023 Projections: 14-7/2.94/1.10/203 in 186 IP
13. Kevin Gausman – Mentioned Gausman up in the McClanahanananananananan blurb, but one thing I didn’t mention is Gausman also has a 42.7% O-Swing, aka swing percentage outside zone. McClanahanananananananan’s is 35%. Think about that for a second. To illustrate further before I clarify and put your mind at ease: Gausman’s 42.7% is the highest O-Swing%. Done thinking? Okay, I figured, because your eyes were starting to cross and you looked like you were trying to push steam out of your ears. Gausman gets more people to chase crap pitches, and when they do, they can’t hit sheeeeeeeeeeeeet, to quote Senator Clay Davis. McClanahanananananananan’s SwStr% is awesome, and super impressive, but Gausman’s ability to get people to chase dogshizz pitches is truly remarkable. His ERA was up a little last year (3.35), but that’s about as fluky as things come with his insane metrics. Go all-in once again on Gausman throwing gas, man. 2023 Projections: 14-6/2.94/1.09/214 in 188 IP
14. Yu Darvish – He prolly could’ve had a sleeper post written about him, if I didn’t find the idea of calling Darvish a sleeper so laughable. Based just on his previous year, where he ended up as the 7th best starter on the Player Rater, he could’ve been ranked up by Verlander and Scherzer, and I nearly did. Still have him way above ADP, because. Dot dot dot. He was the 7th best starter last year! He’s a career 3.50 ERA pitcher with a 9.4 K/9, and last year he had a 9.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. He does tend to have these super random years where his ERA balloons (2021: 4.22 ERA; 2018: 4.95 ERA), but there’s nothing really in his profile that says he shouldn’t be great. He’s still throwing 95 MPH and if you were to just cover their names, there’s a case that Darvish is a better bet this year than Sandy Alcantara. There’s nothing wrong with Darvish. There’s so much gee-dee pitching it’s hard to even come up with a sane reason why Darvish isn’t ranked higher, except there’s just some guys who are better. So, here’s an insane reason: He’s in San Diego, and they’re the Padres, which translates to Dads, and Father’s Day, the movie starring Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, sucks, so be careful of Darvish! Also, I go over Darvish in the video at the top of the post. 2023 Projections: 13-7/3.21/1.02/194 in 191 IP
15. Jacob deGrom – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Urias. I call this tier, “Wearing flip-flops with socks.” There’s just no excuse for wearing socks with flip-flops unless you are a Polish immigrant or you just took off your shoes and were asked to take out the garbage. Anywhere else with socks and flips-flops is strictly prohibited. That’s this tier, strictly prohibited. As for deGrom, here’s what I said this offseason:
“You can spend any amount of money, but it has to be in the months of November and December, then from the months of April thru October you have to stink.”
Rangers’ GM, the 8-foot tall Chris Young shakes his head, lowering the last will and testament of the Rangers’ crazy aunt Mary, who just passed. Finally, Young says, “This is more convoluted than Brewster’s Millions.”
Don’t fully understand it, but the Rangers print money in December of every year, then set it on fire all summer long. It’s not clear how, why or any other question you have. All I know is the Rangers have made this their MO. It truly is impressive if you stop to think about it. I’m glad they’re spending money, but real questions: Where is all this money coming from and are they ever going to win anything? So, the latest spend was on Jacob deGrom, giving him $222 million. Good for him. As I said at one point last year, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game. Speaking of which, as frequent contributor, Coolwhip, reminded me: What will deGrom’s health be like without the Mets’ trainers? 220 IP incoming! I kid, I think. No, I don’t think deGrom will suddenly be the model of good health. He has a better chance of being a cover model on Men’s Health next to a topless Bartolo Colon.
So, Jacob deGrom goes to a great park, but he’s stadium-proof. He’s in a new league, but he’s league-proof. He’s the best pitcher in the game, who can’t get past 92 IP since 2021. He could be one of the biggest lottery tickets in fantasy baseball drafts, but, unless he fell, I won’t be trying to cash it. His 14.3 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, and 1.54 xFIP last year are so ridiculous. In 64 IP or 15 IP, it doesn’t matter. No one is better, it’s just “no one is better” for how many innings? That’s the question.” And that’s me quoting me! 2023 Projections: 10-2/2.26/0.83/167 in 107 IP
16. Shane Bieber – Pointing at Urias,”I want to become that!” That’s Bieber talking to his genie. “Stuff reduction in the form of a fantasy number two that’s valued as a number one…Coalesce?” That’s Bieber and Urias doing the Wonder Twins catchphrase but forgetting what they say, so going with “Coalesce?” These rankings will be 47,000 words long if I don’t cut to the chase, which is what one says when they’re not cutting to the chase, but Bieber: Lost Ks, velocity, ability to fool, getting swings, getting chases, needed an absurd amount of his cutter, got hit around on the fastball (.292) and threw it 34.4% of the time. Maybe he can dance with the devil again and not get burned by its Flaming Hot Cheetos-coated pitchfork, but I don’t trust it. 2023 Projections: 12-8/3.31/1.08/193 in 196 IP
17. Shohei Ohtani – This is my strictly pitching ranking for Shohei Ohtani, but I go over both his hitting and pitching in the top 10 for 2023 fantasy baseball. One quick word on Ohtani, as just a pitcher. Don’t think there’s any leagues where he’s just a pitcher, so this is likely irrelevant, but I wouldn’t draft him as only a pitcher. It would be like saying you love Tom Cruise movies, but only Tropic Thunder. It’s a great movie, and Cruise is great in it, but it’s not a Tom Cruise movie.
18. Julio Urias – Disliking Julio Urias is a rite of passage for my acolytes. You can’t play volleyball in Albany with the rest of my crew if you don’t dislike Urias. I’m sorry. You know what you’ve done, and I want be branding you with a tramp stamp of my initials. If you’re willing to dislike Urias after he has great year after great year, then welcome. Join the rest of my altar boys, they’re the ones wearing a shirt that reads, “Urias? No, UR Ass.” Yes, the shirt is in the shade of a light peach. It was all the t-shirt printer had in stock. That’s irrelevant! The real problem is his falling K-rate, loss of velocity and heavy reliance on men left on base. Yes, I know he gets by on an elite ability to produce weak contact. That’s like the peach shirt’s color, irrelevant! Let me hate on Urias before I start hating on your ass. 2023 Projections: 15-5/3.35/1.11/182 in 188 IP
19. Max Fried – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until top 40 starters for 2023 fantasy baseball. I call this tier, “Bon varyäge.” The tier name is what you say when you’re taking a number two in a fancy joint. You want a cheap number one? Well, that ship has sailed, but how about an expensive number two? I will go over how to draft starters when I do my pairings post, but this tier is essentially when you think your number one might be a little weak, and you wanna bulk up on a strong number two.
As for Fried, the only difference I can see between him and Urias is Fried is drafted about 20-25 spots later, didn’t lose fastball velocity, didn’t get a 2.48 ERA based solely on luck and — how many one differences is this? — AND has a much better xFIP (3.09). Max Fried zucchini–sorry, I was talking to my Grubhub delivery guy–Max Fried is your prototypical number two. He won’t have elite strikeouts, but it’s no fluke that he had a 36.8% O-Swing% and an insanely low Zone% of 38.3% while having great command (1.6 BB/9). Think about what that means from a real world perspective. No, I’m not re-litigating David being kicked out of the Los Angeles Real World house. Lowercase R & W real world. You got what it means yet? It means Fried doesn’t throw strikes, but he gets people to chase so much that he’s never in the zone and everyone is swinging. You’d know why they’re chasing if you ever saw his curve, that elicits a .174 BAA. Max Fried onion rings–Sorry, I really need to take this call from Grubhub. 2023 Projections: 15-6/2.89/1.03/171 in 183 IP
20. Cristian Javier – This tier could’ve been called, “Putting icing on top of a cupcake’s icing.” If starters were sugar, you’d all be diabetic. There’s just too many sweet, sweet pitchers. There’s really 25 top ten pitchers. Does that make any sense? No, and this rest of this shizz does? Javier is an ace being sold to you as a number two because I can’t see a world where there’s 25 number ones. My brain can’t wrap its tortilla around that burrito stuffed with riddles. If you squint hard enough, Javier’s 11.7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 is Dylan Cease only 50 picks later. This tier could be called, “This is why I keep screaming at you to not draft a starter in the top 50 overall.” This tier could’ve been called, “You prolly don’t need to draft a starter in the top 100 overall, if I’m being honest.” This tier could’ve been called, “I’m calling these high number two starters, but you could make these guys your number ones and prolly be fine.” This tier has as many tiers as there are starters to draft. You’re not drafting starters higher than this tier because you need them, but because you’re scared. 2023 Projections: 12-6/3.24/1.04/201 in 161 IP
CONTINUE ON TO TOP 40 STARTERS FOR 2023 FANTASY BASEBALL