To win most dynasty leagues, especially ones that have been around for a few years, you need elite pitching. In my experience, farming prospects is not the most efficient way to accrue elite pitchers. It can work in fits and starts, but you’ll probably need to supplement your staff via the trade market, swapping sizzling young bats for established WHIP suppressors. This winter I saw Elly De La Cruz and Andy Pages traded for Tarik Skubal, and that’s a fun version of this kind of trade: huge upside all around, good chance both teams are happy with it in two years. In my spot on the win curve, I prefer Skubal, but I see the rationale for getting two topside hitters, who you could argue should be swapped instead for an older arm with a better WHIP history. Gotta throw them bones sometimes to win it all. No such thing as a risk-free trade.
A third way is to never pay for pitching. I’ve yet to put it into function, but I’d like to try it someday. I’ve developed a skill (or perceived skill, anyway, good fight confidence in the words of Shea Serrano) for scooping the Quantrills and Gausmans of the world at the right moment. I also like looking for the Luis Garcia types. This year’s candidates include Cody Morris, Jayden Murray, Jacob Lopez, and Matt Canterino, among others, and I’m holding last year’s versions like Peyton Battenfield and Joe Ryan. I think maybe this is the way, especially in deep leagues where it’s exceptionally hard to build a well-rounded offense, but I’d be nervous to try it in full. Probably I’d break down and start looking for veteran arms on the cheap. Adam Wainwright has been ridiculous the past two seasons, for example, though you could mark him as yet another reason to never really pony up for the big arm when a team in your league decides to shop Gerrit Gole or Max Scherzer.
It’s hard for me to ignore that kind of moment. Feels like dynasty leagues are often decided in tiny windows when someone decides to make a big sell-off. Typically worth your hustle to get an offer in, even if just to provide some kind of competition in the pricing. This is in an ideal world where you have any idea such a sell-off is happening. In my experience, it’s often kept secret until suddenly Trea Turner has been dealt for Blake Snell a half hour after the midnight trade deadline. Circling back the original thought, it might be better to just let it go. Over the past few years in a 15-teamer, I have traded for Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Shane Bieber, Chris Bassitt, Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, all shortly before their injury or, in Darvish’s and Snell’s case, their dip in production. The Buy High-Priced-Pitching strategy has not been kind to me. The toll of talent lost is incredible: Vlad Junior, Bo Bichette, Ozzie Albies, Julio Urias, Will Smith the Dodger and Byron Buxton (who also brought back Lance Lynn). Brutal. I still won the league in 2021, but that was due to Quantrill, Ranger Suarez, Walker Buehler, Lance McCullers, and some clutch relief help from Kendall Graveman, Paul Sewald, Dylan Floro, Joe Barlow and Jake McGee. I only lay all this out to explain why I’m more in the pan-for-pitching camp than the pay-for-pitching one, so let’s grab our gear and start sifting through the waters.
Format = Player | Team | Age on 4/1/22 | Highest Level Played | ETA
1. Shane Baz | Rays | 22 | MLB | 2021
I say “Baz” like Carl Yastrzemski. Some say “Boz” like Brian Bosworth. Shane says whatever the hell he wants. You can argue with his high-nineties (97 mph per statcast) heater about it if you insist. Or his triple digit heater when that zooms by. His curve and slider both exceeded a 40 percent whiff rate in his brief MLB stint. Lines up with the eyeball test. Also throws the occasional change. Just an evil array of pitches. It’s hard to see how Baz struggles outside of injury or totally forgotten command, which took a huge step forward in 2021. I’m guessing the command gains hold and Baz is an ascending asset even at his high price right now. Here’s a link to Grey’s thoughts in Shane Baz, 2022 Fantasy Outlook.
2. Grayson Rodriguez | Orioles | 22 | AA | 2022
The 11th overall pick in 2018 stands 6’5” and weighs in at 220 pounds, wielding a handful of plus pitches. Partly because coming up under the former Houston brain trust of Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal, he gives me Forrest Whitley vibes in a good way. I suspect the braintrust will try to avoid putting Rodriguez into a two-pitch, cookie-cutter box the way Houston dealt with Whitley’s diverse arsenal. Here’s a link to the 2022 Fantasy Outlook Grey wrote about his large adult offspring this winter.
3. Hunter Greene | Reds | 22 | AAA | 2022
Greene is right there with the best pitching prospects in baseball, and he’s the only guy in the minors who can challenge Jacob deGrom for velocity supremacy across baseball. Sure, a lot of relievers throw hard, but nobody sits 100 across six innings on the regular. Well, nobody but Greene and deGrom, and who knows how the elder’s arm is going to hold up. At 6’5” 230 lbs, Hunter Greene is a large human who used to play shortstop and retains a great deal of the athleticism he had back in high school. He gets down the mound and repeats his delivery well. His slider has been ahead of his change up, but I think it’s the change that will baffle big leaguers over the long haul. After dominating AA, his results were not ideal across 14 AAA starts, but even a 1.29 WHIP, 4.13 ERA and 19.8 K-BB rate ain’t bad for a guy who hadn’t pitched since 2018 and was six years younger than his average competitor.
4. Eury Perez | Marlins | 18 | A+ | 2023
Best mechanics I’ve seen from a pitcher in the 6’8” range. Might have the best mechanics I’ve seen from an 18-year-old, especially his ability to repeat his calm, controlled delivery. His fastball gets up above the mid-90’s already, and his changeup stops and drops like a splitter. It’s a nightmare pitch the Marlins have had success teaching a lot of their young arms (see Cabrera, Edward). His curveball is plus too, but it’s the fastball, cambio combo that gives him an inside lane on becoming the game’s top pitching prospect after Shane Baz and Grayson Rodriguez graduate in 2022.
Click here for a look at Perez striking guys out.
5. Nick Lodolo | Reds | 24 | AAA | 2022
Twice a first-round pick (41st overall by Pittsburgh in 2016 and 7th by Cincy in 2019), Lodolo possesses rare physical traits as a 6’6” 205 pounder with plus extension from a three-quarter arm slot. If you had to craft a nightmare match-up for lefties in a lab, Lodolo would be the result thanks in part to a ludicrous slider that helped him post a 0.91 WHIP and 34.1% K-BB rate across 44 innings at AA, where he surrendered just one home run in ten turns. He’s something of a throwback in this sense, preferring to work down and out with a sinker/slider mix rather than perpetually hunting strikeouts atop the zone. He’s got some interesting guys to learn from as a Red. LHP Wade Miley has been avoiding barrels for a while with much less stuff, and pitching coach Derek Johnson tends to get the best out of everyone who crosses his path.
6. George Kirby | Mariners | 24 | AA | 2022
The shapeshifting Super Smash Bros legend brings the pain with a triple digit fastball that he’s reportedly bumped up to 102. His off-speed stuff is less impressive, but his double-plus command makes everything play up and turns the fastball into multiple pitches. If you know you can hit the inside corner or the outside corner to hitters from both sides of the plate, that soon factors into your thinking as two different pitches, strategically speaking. He’s 6’4” 215 lbs and puts it together in a smooth, athletic delivery that should help him stay healthy, in theory. His outcomes have been stellar at every stop so far. In 67.2 innings across A+ and AA in 2021, Kirby allowed just one home run, struck out 80 and walked 15 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.079 WHIP.
7. Daniel Espino | Guardians | 21 | A+ | 2023
Espino is the kind of guy you get questions about in the prospect writing game. The 24th overall pick in the 2019 draft, Espino was a celebrity in prospect circles before he graduated high school, with some projecting him as a top 5 pick. I liked him a lot heading into draft season and was surprised he fell to Cleveland deep in the round. He has repaid the club’s confidence, striking out his opponents at incredible rates since day one, never whiffing fewer than 30% and peaking at 45.1% across 49 innings at High-A this season, where he logged a 0.94 WHIP despite some gopher balls that ballooned his ERA to 4.04. He even cut the walk rate from 12.8% at Low-A to 8.2% at High-A. He’ll open 2022 in AA and figures to post similarly ridiculous rates thanks to a double-plus fastball that sits comfortably around 98 and a death-touch slider that means he could be pretty effective very early in his career a la Alek Manoah. And that’s not all he’s got. He’s a plus athlete at 6’2” 205 lbs and flashes solid curveballs and changeups if he ever needs to get that deep into his arsenal.
8. Roansy Contreras | Pirates | 22 | MLB | 2021
Came over from New York along with three other pieces in the Jameson Taillon trade, and Contreras is already the better asset than Taillon in the dynasty game. I’d be curious how MLB teams feel about that either/or, too. I’m guessing most would prefer the high-90’s heat Roansy brings to the short-arm weirdness that was Jameson Taillon in 2021. Along with that tailing fastball, which stays up as it slices in on right-handed hitters, Contreras features a slider, curve and occasional change up. At 6’ even, he presents a unique look. His change up comes in around 90 and barely moves. His curveball drops down to 79 with heavy dip. I’m guessing his change can be incredibly useful if he can control it, helping him access four velocity bands with offerings that move in four different ways.
9. Joe Ryan | Twins | 25 | MLB | 2021
He’s been around a while and I’ve been aboard the bus (express) for so long I don’t have much left to say about Joe Ryan, a 6’2” 205 lb rotation piece the Twins took from Tampa for half a season of Nelson Cruz, who posted a .283 OBP and 96 wRC+ in 55 regular season games for the Rays, who could’ve just signed the slugger as a free agent after being linked to him in trade rumors for years.
To my eyes, he’s got three plus pitches with plus command and a rotation spot on lockdown. The list of arms I want more than Ryan in terms of cost-versus-value is vanishingly short. Here’s a link to Grey’s Joe Ryan, 2022 Fantasy Outlook.
10. Max Meyer | Marlins | 23 | AAA | 2022
The 3rd overall pick in the 2020 draft has long battled relief concerns due to his size (6’ 195 lbs) and two-pitch focus, but he’ll be among the game’s best relievers if that’s his path, and I think the Marlins see him as a starting pitcher all the way, maybe even as a rotation piece early in 2022. If he masters the organization’s trademark changeup, he’ll have a shot to become an ace-level asset.
11. Jack Leiter | Rangers | 21 | NCAA | 2023
If I roll around in the memory of it, I’m still a little shocked nobody took a run at Leiter out of high school in 2019. The Yankees drafted him in the 20th round, but he was easily a first-round talent at the time. It’s obvious now of course but it was pretty plain then, too, but the Al Leiter piece and a strong commitment to Vanderbilt kept anyone from really trying to buy him away from Vandy. I feel a little bad for thinking this way, but it might’ve netted a better pitcher if someone had brought him in then. As is, Leiter has pitched in highly competitive games against talented opponents, so his experience is not a bad thing by any means, but outs have been more important than development, and Leiter has leaned into his fastball and hasn’t needed the off-speed stuff much. Fastball command is still the most important thing, so again it’s not a bad thing that he went to college, and he made money doing it. Just a flight of fancy on my part that gives us a glance at what he has to work on and why. Could he come up in 2022 and compete? Probably. His slider and curveball both work well when he commands them. Should he? I doubt it. His changeup feel needs refinement so he can depend on it against lefties. At 6’0” 205 lbs, Leiter doesn’t fit the prototype of an innings eater, but he’s strong through his base, and his delivery is balanced and fluid. I’ll probably wind up low on Leiter compared to the field, but I’d love to have him in any league.
12. Cade Cavalli | Nationals | 23 | AAA | 2022
A late convert to full-time pitching, Cavalli brought some untapped upside to the MLB draft and landed at 22nd overall to the Nationals, who are never afraid to snag a first-round arm talent with question marks. Cavalli thrived as a pro and climbed three levels, dominating in A+ and AA before getting knocked around in his final stop: six starts at AAA spanning 24 innings resulting in a 7.30 ERA. Everyone has a bad month in them, and I’m not fussed about that underwhelming last lap. Cavalli suppressed home runs and induced ground balls all year, striking out 175 batters in 123.1 innings along the way. He’s a thick 6’4” 235 and looks like a linebacker on the mound.
13. Edward Cabrera | Marlins | 23 | MLB | 2021
Cabrera didn’t throw much in 2020 due to recurring elbow soreness then opened this season in the same limbo. Unlike about 90 percent of these stories, Cabrera’s did not wind up with Tommy John surgery. Instead, the thickening 6’5” righty was hitting 100 mph by midseason and combining that heat with a have-a-seat changeup at 92, a tight slider at 87 and an average curveball at 83. His slider has generated the best results thus far in the big leagues, holding opposing hitters to a .167 slugging percentage in 100 pitches. He’s thrown it 23.5 percent of the time, preferring the fastball (36.9%) and change (24.6%), each of which has been hit hard (.758 xSLG and .824 xSLG, respectively). He’s certainly a sleeper target for 2022 redraft leagues, but his command will have to take a step forward, something I think is fair to bet on given the organization’s history and the player’s baseline athleticism.
14. Reid Detmers | Angels | 22 | MLB | 2021
The book on Detmers is out in paperback: he’s a plus command pitcher with a double-plus curveball whose fastball will cause him some home run problems anytime he’s not hitting his spots. I suspect his pro success will come down to his willingness to lean into his slider and/or find some kind of cut for his fastball. Even without any significant gains, he’s an excellent real-life prospect who should be almost as good in the fantasy game. Here’s a link to Grey’s redraft write-up: Reid Detmers, 2022 Fantasy Outlook.
15. Aaron Ashby | Brewers | 23 | MLB | 2021
Proximity and team history give Ashby an edge—not that he doesn’t bring considerable gifts of his own to the table. He has big velocity for a lefty (96.5 mph) and mixes it well with his off-speed pitches: a true FU slider he threw 38.5 percent of the time in the majors and a solid changeup he can rely on (21.4% usage rate). I like his delivery: a high-release that creates some deception and gives me some Steve Avery vibes. Exciting stuff in an organization that just coaxed a 3.19 ERA from Eric Lauer and a 3.22 from Adrian Houser, M.D.
16. Jackson Jobe | Tigers | 19 | NA | 2025
A 6’2” 190 lb prep powerhouse (9-0 with a 0.13 ERA and 122/5 K/BB rate in 51.2 innings as a senior), Jobe was considered by many to be the best high school pitcher in a long time. His slider is already a double-plus pitch, featuring spin rates in the rarified 3,000 RPM range. He’s a great athlete with plus balance on the mound who repeats his delivery well–a foundation built from the ground up that helps his pitches tunnel: a mid-90’s heater with ride, a high-70’s curveball that looks average already, and a changeup that he hasn’t had to use much but gets generous grades from scouts who’ve seen it. The Tigers shook up the draft a bit by passing on Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawler and Khalil Watson, among others, but their scouting and development team reportedly fell in love with Jobe and trusted their process,which helped net them a falling first-round-talent in Ty Madden at 32nd overall.
17. Peyton Battenfield | Guardians | 24 | AA | 2023
Acquired at the deadline from Tampa for OF Jordan Luplow and RHP DJ Johnson, Battenfield should flourish in Cleveland. At 6’4” 224 lbs, he brings an electric momentum to the mound via constant movement and consistent strikes from a brisk delivery. His heater eats up in the zone and tunnels well with his changeup and curveball, which he didn’t have to throw all that much in 103 innings that netted him a 0.825 WHIP across two levels. Tampa typically gets what it wants from its trades, but I’m a little stunned they bailed on Battenfield to add what they did. You want to sell Joe Ryan to add Nelson Cruz to the lineup? Sure, makes sense. Could’ve just signed him in the off-season but whatever. You want to trade a fire-breathing fastballer like this guy for Jordan Luplow? I mean, you’re the Rays so you do you and continue to be smarter than me and almost everyone else, but this is a weird one.
18. Brandon Williamson | Mariners | 23 | AA | 2022
Over his final seven starts in AA, Williamson pitched 37.2 innings, allowing 22 hits, 13 walks and 1 home run with 61 strikeouts. His 1.43 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 32.9 percent K-BB rate over that stretch represented a new level for the 6’6” fireballer, who also struck out 47.6 percent of the batters he saw at High-A. His upper nineties fastball and low-80’s slurve are a dynamite one-two punch, and his cambio should mix well with that combo as he refines his command of it. Prior to 2021, Williamson might’ve landed in a middle relief bucket for many evaluators, and that could still happen and provide a late-inning floor, but I’m betting against that now that he’s dominating upper-level bats over six-inning stretches. Great guy to pick up on the cheap if you can. A brief adjustment period to AA left his WHIP at the level at 1.26 and might help obscure a dominant season.
19. Taj Bradley | Rays | 21 | A+ | 2023
Might predict a 2022 arrival for Bradley in some organizations, but even if that happens in this case, it’ll come so late as to be mostly useless for our purposes, like Shane Baz and Joe Ryan this year. “Misleading” is probably a better way to say it. And those guys were much more experienced than Bradley is now by the time they made the majors. A 6’2” 190 lb plus athlete, Bradley repeats his delivery well and, as those types tend to do, commands his pitches well and even improved in that area throughout the year. He’ll probably make Grey’s group of soon-to-be rookies to write up next winter.
20. DL Hall | Orioles | 23 | AA | 2022
There’s only so many ways to say this is a lefthanded pitcher who throws very hard and has great off-speed pitches (curve and change in Hall’s case) but struggles to maintain health and command. His 2021 season ended in June after seven starts at AA in which he struck out 43.8 percent (15.95 K/9) of the batters he saw. That’s darn near Skubal territory. He also allowed 4.55 walks per nine innings (12.5%), but that’s not a big deal when you’re impossible to hit, and Hall wound up with a 1.01 WHIP and 3.13 ERA. Looks like he’ll be a volatile fantasy asset, like a lot of lefties with big stuff, but patience is a virtue here. His topside is tremendous if he can put together a full, healthy season repeating his delivery.
21. Matt Brash | Mariners | 23 | AA | 2022
Bold prediction: Brash is good. Here’s what I wrote on August 29 in Prospect News: Jake Meyers Breaks Out in Time for Halloween:
“Brash looks a little like closer Paul Sewald due to the impossible angle created by his delivery that brings his front leg well over toward third base before he crossfires back toward the plate. Will likely get hit with a reliever tag more than once as he climbs the org ladder, but he managed seven dominant innings in his last start. I’ve got a pretty open mind to his potential role, and I suspect Seattle feels a similar way. Brash is enjoying a loud breakout season, especially if you do the cool kid thing and remove his one big hiccup: 1.61 ERA and a 36.6 K% in ten starts since June 23, seven of those coming in AA.”
I’ll bet he’s back in AAA as a starting pitcher to open 2022, and I think he’ll probably dominate there and come up as a starter.
22. Emerson Hancock | Mariners | 22 | AA | 2022
For a minute there in college, I was really vibing with Emerson, Ralph Waldo. I was reading his poetry and letters along with the famous essays. Not much poetry there, really. You could read it in a minute, and it’s, well, it’s not great. I’m not a fan of most poetry though. And that’s where we find ourselves with Emerson Hancock. He’s not great, among pitching prospects, in my opinion, which is not surprising considering I don’t like many pitching prospects on a dollar-per-outcome basis. Hancock began his junior year as a leading candidate for number one overall pick but didn’t dominate quite as much as expected, but he’s done exactly that since Seattle selected him sixth overall in the 2020 draft, posting a 1.03 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 44.2 innings across two levels.
23. Cody Morris | Guardians | | 25 | AAA | 2022
Like his namesake Zach, Morris always looks cool and composed in the center of the frame, even holding a cordless phone twice the size of his head. He was a 7th round pick out of South Carolina in 2018 and follows a long line of big conference college arms through the Cleveland pipeline in that his pitches tunnel well, he has command of his off-speed arsenal and he’s added some velocity as a young Guardian. He dominated both upper levels last year, registering a 1.00 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 61 innings. He was pitching around 96 mph with an 81 mph curveball in most of the outings I watched this season, so he’s not some finesse guy: we’re looking at a legitimate angle on some Cleveland pitching magic-slash-technology.
24. Cole Winn | Rangers | 22 | AAA | 2022
I can see a case for going pitcher-heavy with this list, given the wide margin for error in the club’s cavernous new ballpark, and Winn would be a good fantasy piece in any non-Colorado environment anyway. At 6’2” 190 lbs, he features fluid mechanics and a four-pitch arsenal. He controls each of his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup well enough to use them in any count, so it will be interesting to see how he deploys them as a big leaguer. Double-A proved to be little challenge for the 15th overall pick in the 2018 draft. Winn aced the level for 78 innings across 19 starts, posting a 2.31 ERA and 0.82 WHIP with a 32.8 percent strikeout rate. He was less dominant in two starts at AAA, but who cares about how a 21-year-old looks for a week and a half at AAA to end a season? Not me, really, and he snagged a 3.38 ERA for his troubles there despite a 13.9 percent walk rate. He has a decent case to be ranked ahead of Leiter, but you wouldn’t have to pay anything like that to acquire him.
25. Jayden Murray | Rays | 25 | AA | 2022
Here’s what I wrote on August 18 in Prospsect News: A Mallrat, a Transformer and Jose Barrero Walk Into a Bar:
“Rays RHP Jayden Murray demands a double take. I mean you just don’t see many WHIPs in the 0.68 range. His command is incredible, and the fastball-breaking ball combination looks like it comes fresh from the pitching lab—fastball riding the top of the zone around 94 (I’ve seen him hit 96) and the curve diving down and out. He can steal early strikes with the bender, too, as a 24-year-old with 100+ innings pitched in college at Dixie State. Yeah, I don’t know what that is either, but I do know he pitches with the confidence and command of an old hand, and I think his mix will work at AAA. Batters swing right through his fastball. He went toe to toe with Jake Eder back on August 13, and I liked what I saw from his changeup that night. Reminds me of Joe Ryan in that he might have to dominate for a long time to get any attention, partly due to his heavy reliance on the fastball. Murray might even add another tick of velocity at some point, who knows? All the cool kids are doing it, and his delivery is so well under control that he occasionally plays with his (and the hitters’) timing.”
He ended the season with elbow soreness, but this ranking factors in my fear about that. Might have been extremely aggressive with his placement here without that burnt orange flag.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter and Reddit.