Woe be to ye who love pitching prospects in dynasty baseball. Seriously. No fun to learn the hard way how tricky it is to trade a big-named pitching prospect in a strong dynasty or keeper league. Even tricker to graduate them as mainstays of a winning staff.
I already discussed a fair bit of this in the Top 25 Starting Pitcher Prospects for Dynasty Fantasy Baseball in 2022. Hitters fail, too, but they can typically be traded earlier and later than pitchers in their minor league career arc. Pitchers can be traded the week or month they get called up and then again if they’ve been really good as rookies. If you’re lucky enough to land an Alek Manoah type, you probably don’t want to trade him anyway. The Daniel Lynch types can still be moved for pennies on the dollar, but they’ve have lost at least half the perceived value they had as top 25 prospects, which, again, isn’t much in a real strong dynasty league where everyone has been burned by enough pitchers to recount the scars.
I really should be more positive in this intro, but honestly a lot of this group is made up of players I’d trade away in a heartbeat yin my leagues. Let’s look ’em over.
Format = Player | Team | Age on 4/1/22 | Highest Level Played | ETA
Looked more like Mid-rotation Lacy in his first 52 innings as a professional, walking 7.1 batters per nine (17.3%) and earning a 1.58 WHIP across 14 starts in High-A. He did strike out 33.3 percent of the batters he faced (13.67 K/9), but he didn’t pitch after a July 21 outing in which he hit three batters, walked three, and allowed four runs in 2.2 innings. I couldn’t find specifics about the injury that sidelined him, but that was a wrap on his debut summer. He got better results in the Fall league but still walked seven per nine and said he was adjusting to the big-league ball, which makes sense, given how it keeps changing.
This guy brings absolute filth. I ain’t got no crystal ball, but if I had a million dollars I might spend it all on Canterino shares. I’m kidding. I’ve been struggling to squeeze the Sublime reference in here because I can’t unhear it. Canterino will always be I don’t practice Canterino to me. “Santeria” opens well, at least, so it’s an ear worm I can handle better than hitters can handle Canterino’s four-pitch mix. His slider and changeup are easy pluses, and his fastball jumps barrels, particularly up in the zone. His curveball can steal strikes up or get swings down and out against minor leaguers, but it’s not a knockout pitch and could likely be relegated to fourth chair. If he’s getting hit at AA next year, that will be his first time as a pro. He struck out 43 batters in 21 innings at High-A in 2021. 55.1 percent strikeout rate. 5.1 percent walk rate.
His first full season was something of a mixed bag for Harrison, who logged a 1.40 WHIP despite striking out 14.32 batters per nine across 98.2 innings covering 23 starts. He allowed just three home runs but walked almost five per nine (4.72). Part of the issue is lower-minors umpires trying to keep up with Harrison’s elite stuff. Same goes for hitters, who didn’t have much of a prayer. Even with the inflated WHIP, Harrison finished with a 3.19 ERA. A 6’2” 200 lb lefty, Harrison’s fastball stays up in the zone around 95, touching the upper nineties; his changeup slams the breaks at about 50 feet, and his slider bends like bullets in that wild-ass Angelina Jolie movie, Wanted, which is coincidentally how I felt about Harrison heading into First-Year-Player Drafts last winter. I’m sure he could still be acquired via trade in most dynasty leagues, and I’m just crazy enough to try that even though it flies in the face of my general strategy of waiting until at least AA to bother with pitching prospects. So many arms pop-up late through hard work and application of coaching across time that it’s unnecessarily risky business to pay market price for a hyped teenage tosser.
A great athlete with plus balance and command who repeats his delivery with ease, Allen fits the Cleveland mold for pitchers who exceed their on-paper projections. He’s not an ideal candidate to add velocity at 6’0” 190 lbs, but Cleveland tends to find a way, not that Allen has needed more than his low-90’s fastball, plus changeup and average curveball to this point. He went 9-0 in 19 starts across two levels this season with a 0.93 WHIP and 143 strikeouts in 111.1 innings. He’ll open the season in AAA and could be in Cleveland by July.
Miller has a 9.90 ERA in five outings in the Arizona Fall League, but that’s not enough to knock him off this list, partly because he represents the top of this tier. In a system this deep, we could always find another couple bats to fill the back end, but when a pitcher breaks through for the Dodgers, they become must-adds in just about every fantasy league. Miller has great stuff and spin that got him selected 29th overall in 2020. Home runs have been an issue against the best competition he’s faced, but he’ll likely manage that better as he gets comfortable. If not, he’ll join the post-Kenley closer circle.
Abel isn’t out here murdering everyone like some of his big-armed brethren, but the 6’5” youngster with the nasty fastball had a promising debut season nonetheless, posting a 20.6 K-BB rate and 1.21 WHIP across 19 starts. He was 2.9 years younger than the average competitor he faced at Clearwater, and hopes are sky high in the city of brotherly love, an apt place for Abel to wind up one day. I’ve seen him in the 50’s on prospect lists, and he’s a Sell for me at that rate.
For a while, Liberatore seemed fated to become a blip in trivia history as the player acquired for Rays postseason beast Randy Arozarena. After 2021, skies look a little clearer. The club jumped him over AA and let him throw 124.2 innings at AAA, where he was six years younger than his average competitor. He struggled at first (5.21 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 1.87 HR/9 through 11 starts) but got better results over his final ten turns (2.67 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 0.78 HR/9). The WHIPs here show some luck both ways, but the home run ball was clearly his bugaboo early, and he cut that by more than 100 percent over the 2nd half. His pitch shapes could still leave him vulnerable in that department (his fastball doesn’t ride), but he’s adding velocity as he ages and was burying that big curve with consistency by season’s end. If he keeps that up, he’ll be a nice addition to the Redbirds’ rotation this year.
Eder chewed through minor league bats all season until elbow soreness led to Tommy John surgery in September. If he comes back all the way, Eder will be part of the 2023 pitching staff, featuring solid command of a mid-90’s fastball most hitters struggle to pick up. He pairs the heater with a plus curveball and a changeup that improved throughout the year. Pretty typical of this development team to target pitchers with everything but a changeup then teach them a dynamic cambio.
34. Spencer Strider | Atlanta | 23 | AA | 2022
The six-foot Strider popped this season after being a 4th round of pick out in the 2020 draft then spending much of that year in the pitching lab working on his mechanics and repertoire, specifically on the axis and spin of his 4-seam fastball, which he locates well atop the zone even as it comes in around 100 mph. He can hold that velocity throughout his starts, which alone gives him a shot to remain on the rotation path. His curveball pairs well with the heater, and his changeup has good shape and potential if he can command it. One fun stat about Strider, he had five starts (among 21 total) with ten or more strikeouts this year. We will be very happy fantasy players if he brings us something like eight outings with double digit strikeouts.
Don’t let the ranking here fool you: I’m way into Ryne Nelson, and not just because my mom was a big Ryne Sandberg fan, and I read his autobiography during a series of detentions when I was in junior high, but also because Nelson was a two-way player at Clemson, and it’s easy to see that athleticism manifesting in continued development on the mound throughout his pro career, when he has much more time to focus on the singular, intricate craft of pitching. He throws in the high nineties and gets easy whiffs atop the strike zone, as demonstrated in his 32.9 percent strikeout rate across 77 innings in AA.
Priester is a 6’3’ 210 lb fireballer the Pirates liked enough to draft 18th overall out of high school in 2019. His best season so far was 2020, where he garnered wild hype from Baseball America and Fangraphs due to throwing hard at the alternate site and giving good interview about putting pitching lab time to good use. It’s not that I dislike him, I just think it’s easy to go broke paying up for pitchers who haven’t proven the ability to retire big league bats. His curveball on Fangraphs is listed as a 70/80, meaning it’s a 70 right now and an 80 in the future. These grades don’t fold in command, by which I mean command grades refer to the pitcher’s entire arsenal, weighting the fastball more than the off-speed pitches. Priester uses that nasty hammer well enough, but the most important thing in the majors will be his ability to locate it down on a consistent basis, which will help his high nineties heater and plus cutter play up.
The club’s second first-round high school arm in as many seasons, Painter is a 6’7” 215 lb mountain with great stuff and better command than you’d expect from a teenager his size. He’s got everything you’d want: a slider that’s distinct from his curveball and a chance to access four different velocity bands if his changeup comes along, but he’s still a high school pitcher selected at a time when there wasn’t much high school baseball. This cuts several ways in that it saved him some innings and might have hidden his topside, but it also means he’s even less experienced than the typical teenage arm, which is already by far the most volatile player group. I’ll likely be letting someone else take him in my First-Year-Player Drafts this winter.
Mysterious shoulder fatigue kept Sixto sidelined until surgery for a tear in his posterior capsule dropped the final curtain in July. He might be too high here if he struggles to retain his top-of-the-scale velocity. The pitch-mix itself doesn’t work all that well together for missing bats, so losing a couple ticks could render him ineffective.
The club’s first-round pick (14th overall) in 2021, Bednar dominated his Sophomore season, culminating in six hitless innings against Vanderbilt in the deciding game of the NCAA Tournament. A 6’2” 238 lb linebacker type, much like his brother David in Pittsburgh, Bednar is comfortable pounding the strike zone pitch after pitch, night after night, featuring a mid-90’s fastball that rides up top and a mid-80’s slider than burrows underneath. He’ll mix in the occasional change and curve as the night goes along. Could find something with the change as he’s pushed to throw it more. Good chance he’s too low here. I’ve moved him around a lot thinking of the success this team has had with strike throwers of late (Webb, Gausman, DisCo) and Bednar’s own stellar mechanics and outcomes.
I might have Walston higher than his outcomes merit for a while because lefties with his level of stuff tend to become aces if they actualize, and Arizona has been aggressive with his assignments, getting him to the precipice of AA as a 20-year-old, where I suspect he’ll open 2022 after holding his own for 52.1 innings at High-A (4.13 ERA, 1.30 WHIP). When I let the dream sizzle, I can imagine the curveball becoming a dominant pitch paired with a fastball he’s spotting across the top of the zone, something like a 55 percent fastball, 35 percent curve nasty mix with 10 percent change. He’s young enough that he could go any number of paths, aided by the fact that he’s 6’5” with good extension and balance in his delivery.
I thought the 6’2” 185 lb fireballer might look like a fish out of water when Gil got plucked from AAA with a 4.81 ERA, but he threw six shutout innings in his debut against Baltimore, allowing one walk, then five shutout innings against Seattle, allowing two walks, then 4.2 shutout innings against Boston, allowing four walks. Got kind of ugly after that. Seven walks against Toronto, allowing one hit but three runs. Maybe I should have laid this out differently, but at some point that’s just a game log, and I’m trying to point out the trend of diminishing control, which lines up with his entire baseball life to this point. He has always walked about 15 percent of opposing hitters. That dog won’t hunt for a starting pitcher in the AL Beast. If he can find a way to spot his pitches, his fastball jumps barrels atop the zone, and his slider is an easy plus pitch, maybe double-plus, but he doesn’t trust his changeup, and he probably shouldn’t. All in all, he looks like a solid but volatile starter with considerable but distant upside or a dominant reliever as soon as yesterday.
Bello added strength and velocity over the lost minor league season and now features a mid-90s fastball with a little extra dotting the gun once in a while. He was successful enough before, as we’ve detailed in these pages, but now he’s striking out 36.9 percent of hitters in High-A and 31.1 percent in AA—a big jump from the 22.6 percent he posted in 2019. His fastball gets a bit too much for him to be a no-doubt starter unless he finds a nasty breaking ball to go along with his plus changeup.
The context here is making me want to run Knack up the list a little further, and that’s mirrored in other corners of the chamber where sites are all aboard, regardless of what Knack lacks: a bender he can use against high-level right-handed hitters. He’ll probably find it. He’s currently using a slider and a curveball, and neither is average. If he can junk them both and build a cutter like some of his org-mates, that will pair dynamically with his fastball-changeup combination, both of which are comfortably plus. His WHIPs tell the story so far: 0.91 and 0.97 in A+ and AA, respectively, so even with the mediocre benders, he’s been successful by eliminating walks (3.3 percent across 62.1 innings) but frequently getting touched up (2.38 HR/9 in 22.2 innings at AA).
Delayed, abbreviated debuts don’t go much better than White’s. He cruised through A ball with the Down East Wood Ducks then dominated the Arizona Fall League, going 5-0 in six starts with a 1.91 ERA despite being 2.3 years younger and much less experienced than his average competitor. Most impressively, he allowed just 0.3 HR/9. A note of caution: If you count the Arizona League, he’s thrown just 63.2 professional innings since being drafted in 2018. But he was lights out in Low-A and again in the exhibition league, and he’s a fun prospect on a team with a good opportunity awaiting him when he’s ready.
I’m still interested in Whitley. I’m not trading for him in a dynasty league, unless the other team is simply unloading sunk costs, but I’ll keep him in the queue if doing a startup. Houston’s pitching development team is still among the best in the world, and Whitley remains a talented enough player to pop back into our lives someday.
Hell I dunno. I’ve been comparatively low on Gore since before I got this gig, and while that’s also true of most pitching prospects, that goes double for Gore. Anytime Prospect World identifies the consensus top young arm as a low-minors guy posting crazy numbers due partly to deception, you probably ought to raise an eyebrow. If he’s blowing dudes away with 103 mph heat, okay sure he can be the consensus Dude, but if he’s a four-pitch lefty with area-code accuracy who gets by on pedigree and a cool leg kick, pump the brakes. The Padres seem reluctant to remove the big lede leg even as they add variations on that theme, specifically a more natural leg raise that keeps his center mess balanced over his back leg. This, to me, is the only real way to become a big league starter. If you can stand in place without wobbling on your plant leg for at least a minute or two, how can you expect to maintain balance at foot strike (when the front leg lands)? That’s when you need to torque your lower half in sync with your arm swing, ideally the same way every time no matter what pitch you’re throwing.
Sorry for jog there. I just want to make clear why I think this has been incredibly hard for Gore to figure out, and why I don’t think it’ll get better until they remove the over-the-head leg swing entirely. It begins his torque too early, and he’s burning energy to correct his balance in little ways all over his body before he even lands. First thing Tampa did with Luis Patino was start chiseling away at his front leg height. Same thing they did with Glasnow and Baz. Sorry for that jog too, but I’d like to clarify that I’m not out forever. I think Gore can get it going again someday. Pitching development is in flux at the top of that organization, from our limited vantage point that saw Larry Rothschiled fired in August. Perhaps a new structural hire or two will help.
The club’s first-round pick in 2021 (9th overall), Bachman stands 6’1” 235 lbs and features two double-plus offerings in his fastball and slider. He was dominant during his junior year at Miami of Ohio, striking out 93 batters and allowing just 29 hits and 17 walks in 59.2 innings. He was good at High-A, too, where the club sent him for five abbreviated outings (14.1 innings) after the draft. Can’t take anything much away from that, but his 1.186 WHIP is impressive to me for a guy jumping the bottom rung of pro ball on the back of a college season.
Was just doing diligence on the Rays, watching a few games at each level during their spotlight week on the off-season calendar, when I finally saw Jacob Lopez. Makes sense I missed him, as he pitched all season in High-A and doesn’t have a big profile from the public-facing sites. I get it. He doesn’t throw all that hard and looks pretty funky, but all his pitches work in perfect synchronicity, personifying the concept of tunneling from a low three-quarters angle that looks a little like Bumgarner with a better base. He struck out 39.5 percent (14.49 K/9) of the High-A hitters he saw across 54.2 innings, allowing about a baserunner per inning (1.04 WHIP) with a 7.6 percent walk rate. He was a little old for the level through no fault of his own, as he had dominated in Low A for San Francisco back in 2018 and 2019 as well. He’ll be a perfect addition to the Rays strategy of stacking their staffs with release points from every conceivable angle.
Schmidt is the current poster boy for overrated Yankees youngsters. Several fantasy sites put him in the top 50 due to one solid minor league season in 2019, during which Schmidt had a 1.31 WHIP in High-A. Why did fantasy writers suddenly push him onto our dynasty rosters where he likely remains in your league today? He had a nice Spring that one time, I guess. Schmidt pitches side-to-side with gif-worthy movement but has struggled to stay healthy throughout this career. He probably hasn’t earned this spot, but he’s on the brink of a third big-league stint in 2022 and could finally settle in at the level.
Hoglund was trending toward being a top ten pick in 2021 draft but blew out his arm and needed Tommy John surgery, which did not dissuade the Blue Jays from drafting him 17th overall. This presents dynasty players a bit of buying opportunity for the patient, as Hoglund was about as pro ready as college pitchers come, featuring plus command of three plus pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) from a balanced 6’4” 220 lb frame. If he adds a little velocity after rebuilding his baseball self from the ground up, Hoglund could carve right through the minors with high K-rates and microscopic ratios. The AL East is hard to predict when it comes to young pitching. Plus command of plus off-speed stuff is essential to survival there, so there’s plenty of reasons to slow-play him on draft day, but a healthy Hoglund would have the skills to succeed even in this baseball pressure cooker.
Thanks for reading!
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