Post-All-Star Break, the major storyline is the trade deadline–what teams are buyers, playing for the playoffs and the coin flip it is, and what teams are sellers, playing for future seasons. There’s another game at play that influences current playoff races and future seasons alike–monitoring pitcher workloads. Whether it’s the rookie without a lot of mileage on his arm or a veteran post-injury, looking not to overwork a finally-healed and healthy arm, most teams have players they’re closely monitoring to make sure that they’ll have a player that can help them in the coming October or be full-speed for the next spring.
Let’s take a look at some arms that may be getting some workload management from their teams so you won’t be caught off-guard if some starts are skipped or truncated. Sources will be used when applicable; otherwise, it’s just your author looking at workload history and giving you, the reader, the numbers that may be of use to you when making a trade or keep/cut decisions. I focused on the mostly-relevant fantasy guys and left the Beau Brieske’s, Chase Silseth’s, and others like them off of this analysis.
Shane McClanahan: McLanahan has an argument as the best pitcher in baseball in 2022, but he’s also somebody to monitor closely. He tossed 121 IP in 2019, then there was a gap due to COVID (as you’ll see with all of the pitchers) before throwing 123 IP in 2021. McLanahan is already at 104 IP in 2022, so if you gave him the “30-40 IP bump” many teams use as a workload gauge, he’d be looking at no more than 160 IP this regular season. As of this writing, the Rays are one of the four Wild Card teams. That would give him 50ish more IP, and if you gave him his typical 6 IP per start, you’re looking at just over 8 starts left this season. If the Rays want Shane for the stretch run and into the playoffs, they may have to get creative a couple of times during the 2H.
Luis Severino: Sevy is no stranger to being a rotation stalwart, pitching 190+ innings in both 2017 and 2018, but he’s only thrown 18 total innings across the 2019-2021 seasons. He’s at 84 IP so far in 2022, and a June 29 article in the New York Times suggests that the Yankees will work to limit Severino in the 2H to make sure he’s at full strength for what’s almost a sure playoff appearance for the Yankees.
Nestor Cortes: Cortes is an All-Star for the first time in his career, but according to a June 22 article on mlb.com, he will be monitored as well. “I’m not just going to push him through to navigate a heavy outing like that. I think Nestor’s in a good place where we’re certainly mindful of it, but at the same time, he’s going out and doing what he does,” said NYY manager Aaron Boone after pulling Cortes after throwing only 63 pitches in that June start. In 2021, Nester pitched a career-high 93 innings, and is already at 84 frames in 2022. The Yankees have some arms in the minors really pushing for some MLB opportunities (Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski are two Triple-A arms to pay attention to), but New York will likely be active at the deadline searching for an arm as well.
Michael Kopech: Kopech was deployed as a reliever over his 69 innings in 2021, but has already eclipsed that total in 2022 as a starter, sitting at 78 frames as of this writing. Kopech was known as a fireballer, and he averaged 97 mph on his fastball out of the bullpen, but as a starter, it’s down to the high 94s, with it dropping even further against the Tigers on July 10, topping out at 93.2 but sitting 92. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Kopech has already been given an extended rest back in May, setting a week, and it would be expected that an “IL trip” or some other form of rest is coming up for Kopech. With Chicago pushing for a playoff spot (they’re 2.5 games out as of this writing), it wouldn’t surprise for them to look for a starter as well.
Joe Ryan: Minnesota is clinging to a slim lead in the AL Central, and may have a tough decision to make in the 2H. Ryan’s career-high in IP is 95 back in 2019, and he threw 93 in 2021. He’s already at 73 this season, so he may have 50-60 innings left. That *could* be enough to get him to the finish line, but like most teams, Minnesota may be looking for another starter since their rotation has been an IL turnstile most of this season.
Justin Verlander: You idiot, Hoove. Verlander is the definition of a workhorse! You’re right, Mr. Italics Voice. Outside of one 133 IP season, Verlander never threw fewer than 183 IP since 2006! That is, until surgery, and a whopping 6 IP since COVID before this season’s healthy 100 IP through July 10. At 39 years old and coming off major surgery, is it reasonable to expect Houston to ride JV for another 60 post-ASB innings, along with whatever comes their way in the playoffs? They currently have a huge division lead, so they could probably tell JV to go have sex on the beach with Kate Upton (I mean the drink! Grow up!) for a month on some exotic island somewhere and still be fine for the division. Jake Odorizzi is back, Cristian Javier has been outstanding, and as with any playoff team, they may look to acquire a back-end insurance arm at the deadline.
George Kirby: Seattle is the team chasing Houston, but with the division probably out of reach, they’ll focus on the Wild Card, which is currently theirs by two games over a couple of AL Central teams and the Baltimore Orioles. (Wait, give me a minute to fact-check this. That can’t be right.) /runs it through a powerful supercomputer Yes, I guess the Orioles are indeed two games out of the Wild Card on July 11. I feel like that should be its own column. Anyway, back to Kirby. He threw 67 IP in 2021, but is already at 89 in 2022, and workload management is definitely a factor here. In fact, Kirby just got sent down to Tacoma in an effort to manage some innings there. In a July 5 article by Daniel Kramer on Mariners Beat, Seattle manager Scott Servais admits that the situation is being monitored. “We haven’t gotten into August and September. We don’t know how it’s all going to play out yet,” Servais said. “We’ve got the All-Star break coming up, so he’ll get an extended period of downtime there. He’ll probably be one of our later guys pitching out of the break.”
Logan Gilbert: Kirby’s teammate may be monitored as well, though Gilbert logged 135 IP in 2019 and 119 in 2021, so his 100 IP in 2022 so far may not be as much of an issue as Kirby’s. If the M’s are still in contention down the stretch, it’s not unreasonable to think Gilbert would be spearheading the charge behind Robbie Ray.
Spencer Strider: Another one of the nominees for best SP in 2022 is a guy with 96 professional innings to his name. He’s already sitting at 65 in 2022. The Braves haven’t said publicly what they’d like to do with Strider yet, but that didn’t stop their announcers from discussing it during their broadcast on July 7, as Paul Byrd believes he’s got at least 150 IP in him this year because of his youth, his condition, and the extra innings Strider threw as a member of the taxi squad last year.
Josiah Gray: Washington won’t be sniffing the playoffs this season, so it’s fair to wonder if they’ll look to manage Gray’s workload as the season progresses. Gray does have a 130 IP season under his belt, but it was pre-COVID, and the most he’s thrown since then is 86 in 2021. He’s at 87 already this season, so it’s fair to wonder if they’ll take him much past 120-130 this year with no postseason prospects.
Aaron Ashby: Milwaukee is currently atop the AL Central, but they’re going to have to hold off the Cardinals to remain there. Getting Freddy Peralta back would definitely boost the rotation, but so would keeping Ashby in it. Ashby has a 126 inning season to his name, but as with so many others, it was pre-COVID, and since then, he’s only got a 95 inning 2021 to his name. He’s thrown 64 this season, so he shouldn’t be limited, but his arm health may do that for him.
Keegan Thompson: Another arm whose team won’t be in postseason contention, Thompson threw 129 innings way back in 2018, but only threw 10 in 2019-2020, and 68 in 2021. He’s currently at 77 this season, so some management will likely come into play, as a July 10 article in the Chicago Tribune strongly suggests.
Roansy Contreras: Like his AL Central counterpart above, Contreras has a decent season of innings on his pre-COVID resume (132 in 2019), but only threw 58 in 2021. He’s currently sitting at 70 this season, so do the Pirates handle their young arm with care due to his post-COVID lack of innings, or do they allow him a mostly-full season since he’s got that in his past? My guess–he gets limited the rest of 2022 since the Bucs are nowhere near the postseason, but that’s purely my speculation and I have no published articles to back up my hunch. Contreras was demoted just prior to this article’s writing in a presumed effort at workload management, and the organization says he’s in line to start the first game out of the break.
Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo: Greene logged 106 innings in 2021, and sits at 85 so far in 2022. An April article by Doug Gray on redlegsnation.com speculates that Greene could go to 150 innings this season, but that’s his speculation, not the organization’s. Lodolo is in a similar spot, having thrown 51 innings last season and sitting at 30 in 2022 after just healing up. The real question is this–what does Cincinnati do if it trades top starter Luis Castillo at the trade deadline as is widely expected? Tyler Mahle is also heavily rumored to be a trade chip in the Reds rebuild; if those two go, who fills the empty spots if these two prized young arms are undergoing workload management? While the numbers say they may get managed, the Reds may push them through the finish line if they are major arms dealers at the deadline.
Tony Gonsolin: Another of 2022’s best starters is on this list, as Gonsolin has currently thrown 88 innings. However, Gonso only threw 68 innings in 2021, then 89 in 2019. The Dodgers are masters at playing the IL game, and while they have so far held off a surprisingly pesky San Diego team, they may not be able to make up a reason to give Gonso some rest if they’re in a fight for the division pennant. Walker Buehler will hopefully return in September, and the Dodgers are also rumored to be in on pitching at the deadline (with reports on July 11 that they’ve been in preliminary talks for Luis Castillo).
MacKenzie Gore: Speaking of the Padres, Gore has been terrific for them this year, helping bolster their rotation in the face of the injuries they’ve had to overcome. Pre-COVID, Gore has a 101 inning season in 2019, but he only threw 50 frames in 2021, while accumulating 70 already in 2022. Red flags are flying here, as he had a three-start period in April where his fastball velocity averaged 95+, but in his past three outings, his fastball has only averaged 93.5. Every single playoff contender can say the same thing, and the Dads will be no different–they’ll be looking for an arm at the deadline.
Mike Clevinger: The Padres may get help from a healthy Clevinger, who is no stranger to high-inning seasons, but has also only thrown 42 since pre-COVID. If he shows he’s healthy, SD will likely rely on him every fifth day, but he’s one to monitor if they worry about screwing up his arm with too many high-stress innings so quickly after coming back from such a layoff.
Carlos Rodon: Rodon *should* be like Master P and have no limits, but his 2021 is a cautionary tale for his fantasy owners and the SFG. Rodon was masterful much of 2021 until wearing down, losing a ton of velo, and eventually getting shut down. Watch the velo here–if it stays 95-96 and up, full speed ahead. If it creeps below 95…Rodon is either spent or hurt.
If you’re a fan of any of these players/teams and have in-market support/refutation from any of the publications there that I may not have been able to access, feel free to post in the comments anything that may help us all with our roster moves as we chase our own championships!