Welcome to the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - Pitchers. In part one of our series we focused on breakout candidates at the dish.
In part two we focus on breakout pitching candidates. Finding the next Spencer Strider and Ryan Helsley is what wins fantasy leagues. For each position, I will also include breakout candidates as well as a late-round breakout candidate for very deep draft and hold leagues as well.
Let's get to the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - Pitchers.
2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates Part Two Pitchers
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Luis Severino (New York Yankees, ADP 117, Age 29)
Severino was an elite starting pitcher in 2017 and 2018 during his 23 and 24-year-old seasons. He was limited to just 18 innings over the next three seasons due to arm injuries. Severino had Tommy John surgery in February 2020.
In 2022, Severino did miss between July 13th and September 21st with an arm injury. The Yankees appeared to be extra cautious with him. He looked really strong at the end of the season which included seven no-hit innings in his final start of the regular season where he was consistently in the upper nineties even reaching a hundred.
I look for Severino to return to his dominance from 2017 and 2018 and break out again. This is a big year for Severino who could be a free agent at the end of the season. I like Severino significantly more than pitchers like Triston Mckenzie, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, Hunter Greene and Nestor Cortes that are going in the same area of drafts.
Jesus Luzardo (Miami Marlins, ADP 150, Age 25)
Luzardo was an elite pitching prospect with Oakland who did not have instant success in the majors. In fact, Luzardo was expected to make a major league impact way back in 2019 but an injury set him back.
During the pandemic 2020 season, Luzardo showed promise but struggled with consistency. In 2021, Luzardo was just not very good. Oakland moved him to the bullpen after six starts and the results were not any better. Luzardo was sent to AAA where he continues to struggle.
At the trade deadline, Oakland dealt Luzardo to the Marlins for Starling Marte. Luzardo is from the Miami area. The Marlins put Luzardo in their starting rotation for the remainder of 2021 but it did not go well.
Although Luzardo only won four games and spent months three months on the injured list with a forearm strain, he was greatly improved in 2022. Luzardo had a 30% strikeout rate and a 1.04 WHIP in 18 starts.
The lefthanded Luzardo seems poised to finally become the pitcher he was expected to be back in 2018 when he was dominant in AA as a 20-year-old.
Dustin May (Los Angeles Dodgers, ADP 161, Age 25)
May was in the process of breaking out in 2021 when he hurt his arm and had Tommy John surgery. In five starts, May had a 31.2 strikeout minus walk rate.
May returned for six starts at the end of 2022. He had two dominant games, two decent games and two games where he was hit hard.
As to be expected, May was still working off the rust in 2022. This has allowed his price to be reasonable heading into 2023. There are only a handful of pitchers with better stuff than May and I expect him to put it all together in 2023 and become an elite pitcher.
Edward Cabrera (Miami Marlins, ADP 221, Age 25)
Cabrera is a skilled pitcher that just needs to improve his control to take it to the next level. In nine of his 14 starts in 2022 at the major league level, he gave up three or fewer hits.
Durability is also a concern with Cabrera who has averaged under 100 inning a year the last two years after not pitching in 2020 when the minor league season was cancelled. He had minor arm issues in both 2021 and 2022.
If everything goes right for Cabrera there are clearly top-of-the-rotation skills here and he is pitching in a nice pitching environment in Miami.
Jack Flaherty (St. Louis Cardinals, ADP 226, Age 27)
Flaherty is another breakout again pick who is an injury risk. In 2019, Flaherty had a 0.93 ERA in his last 16 starts of the year and was a second-round pick in most fantasy drafts for 2020.
Since 2019, Flaherty has been limited to a total of 154.2 innings. He did finish 2022 healthy, the Cardinal play in a nice pitching environment with a great infield defense and Flaherty should be plenty motivated since he could be a free agent after the 2023 season.
Besides health, command can also be a question with Flaherty. However, few pitchers who are going where Flaherty is going in 2023 drafts have the proven upside that Flaherty has.
Starting Pitcher Deep Breakout Candidates
Dean Kremer (Baltimore Orioles, ADP 549, Age 27)
Dean Kremer does not strike out many batters but he made some advances in 2022 that are not reflected in his price. His success is tied more to a high spin rate than velocity.
Over the last two months of the season, Kremer had a 2.80 ERA in 74 innings. During that period, Kremer made six starts against Houston and Toronto two of the best offenses in baseball. In those games, he allowed just ten earned runs in 40.2 innings with a 1.03 WHIP.
The environment for Orioles pitchers from a fantasy perspective is much better now than it was a few years ago. Orioles pitchers should no longer be avoided with the fences in Camden Yard moved back, the more balanced schedule, better coaching, analytics, and defensive.
Dean Kremer changeup with 23" of horizontal 😷 pic.twitter.com/SObJvVqGRq
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) March 28, 2022
Garett Whitlock (Boston Red Sox, ADP 301, Age 27)
Garrett Whitlock has been extremely impressive the last couple of years for the Red Sox since they selected him in the 2020 Rule V draft. He has a career ERA of 2.73 with a 1.06 WHIP and a strikeout minus walk rate of 21.5%.
A starter in the minor leagues, Whitlock has mostly pitched out of the bullpen with Boston although he did start nine games in 2022. While his numbers were better as a reliever, he still had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.256 WHIP as a starter while striking out 23.17% of batters. Whitlock had a significant hip injury that impacted him in the second half of 2022.
Whitlock is reportedly fully healthy and is expected to be a full-time starter in 2023. He has three solid pitches and I think he has a good chance of being a decent starter.
Cody Morris (Cleveland Guardians, ADP 502, Age 26)
There is no organization better at developing pitching prospects that the Guardians. Cody Morris has made significant advances since I saw him in the Carolina League in 2019 when he did not stand out.
Morris has flashed the skills to be a successful starting pitcher in 2021 and 2022. He had also missed significant time with injuries in both seasons.
There is no guarantee that Morris will start for the Guardians. He is probably not in their rotation as of now. However, if he gets the opportunity and stays healthy, Morris has a chance to break out this year.
Cade Cavalli (Washington Nationals, ADP 564, Age 24)
Cade Cavalli was a 2020 first-round pick out of the University of Oklahoma, he is a big hard-throwing righthander who had success in the minors and appears to be major-league ready.
Cavelli was particularly strong over his last seven minor league starts where he allowed just six earned runs over his last 36.2 innings, holding batters to a .177 batting average against with a 21.4% strikeout versus walk rate.
Caveli was called up to the majors where he made one start on August 26th and allowed seven earned runs. He missed the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
He should be fully healthy for spring training and is expected to be in the Nationals' starting rotation. Cavelli is a nice prospect that is on a rebuilding team and seems to be a bit forgotten based on his one major league game and subsequent injury.
Cade Cavalli took a perfect game into the 6th inning last night.
He finished with 7 strikeouts in 7 scoreless innings allowing only 2 hits.
He's 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA, 41 strikeouts and a .182 opponents’ batting average in his last 7 starts.@CADECAVALLI // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/RtMqzThvV2
— Nationals Player Development (@Nats_PlayerDev) July 7, 2022
Gavin Stone (Los Angeles Dodgers, ADP 603, Age 24)
Gavin Stone (Dodgers ADP 603 Age 24) is a pitching prospect who has had as much success the last couple of years as anyone in the minors.
A fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft out of Central Arkansas, Stone has pitched across all four full-season levels in 2021 and 2022 and has a 2.45 ERA while striking out 35% of batters during this period.
Stone is unlikely to be part of the Dodgers' initial starting rotation but the Dodgers have a history of putting their pitchers on the injured list rather than trying to pitch through minor injuries. Obviously, the Dodgers have had a tremendous amount of success and it is typically wise to target their pitchers.
More so than any other position, in a standard 5 x 5 league, a reliever's value is dependent on opportunity. No matter how great a relief pitcher is if he is not a closer he only has so much value he can provide in terms of the rare win and helping the ratios.
The proven closers are generally going in the top hundred and have already broken out. For breakout relief candidates I am going to list several relievers who may or may not have the closer role initially but who I think could break out as the closer for their team.
Adbert Alzolay (Chicago Cubs, ADP 529, Age 28)
The Cubs do not have a clear closer. Alzolay is the classic, failed starter due to command and health, who is converting to being in the bullpen full-time.
Alzolay has good stuff and should find success in the bullpen if he is healthy. The Cubs just signed Michael Fullmer who might get a chance to close. The Cubs have a history with David Robertson and Craig Kimbrel of maximizing their value of relief pitchers and trading them at the deadline.
Alzolay is a nice late pick in a deep draft and hold as a closer lottery ticket especially later in the year.
Andrew Chafin (Arizona Diamondbacks, ADP 723, Age 32)
As much as any team, the Diamondbacks' closing situation is unclear. They recently signed, Andrew Chafin to a one-year contract.
The lefthanded Chafin has quietly been very good for the last two years where he has had eight saves and 41 holds while holding batters to a .200 batting average.
Unless 37-year-old Mark Melancon rebounds from an awful year, there are not a lot of other possibilities for saves in the Diamondbacks bullpen.
Chafin has the best recent track record of Arizona's potential closers and I think he is a good bet to win the job. Chafin's ADP will improve significantly now that he is signed and has a path to saves.
Domingo Acevedo (Oakland Athletics, ADP 591, Age 29)
Acevedo and Trevor May are the favorites for saves in the Oakland bullpen. In 2022, Acevedo held batting to a .206 batting average with 0.99 WHIP despite only striking out 7.71 batters per nine innings.
Acevedo had four saves after September 14th last season. The 33-year-old May has never saved more than four games in a year and is coming off a poor injury-riddled year. I would bet on Acevedo to be the closer here despite May having the better ADP.
Jonathan Loaisiga (New York Yankees, ADP 624, Age 28)
Clay Holmes was as good as any relief pitcher in baseball in the first half of 2022. He had a strikeout mins walk rate of 21.5% in the first half but in the second half of 2022, the strikeout minus walk rate was just 10.3%. Holmes has by far the best control of his career early in 2022. I am not drafting Holmes anywhere near his ADP which is 120.
It took until the end of the 2022 season for the Yankees to get Jonathan Loáisiga right. However, Loáisiga looked good by the end of the year and looked strong in the playoffs. He had a dominant 2021 season out of the Yankees' bullpen and I think Loáisiga figures in the closer mix far more than the ADP reflects.
Brusdar Graterol (Los Angeles Dodgers, ADP 548, Age 24)
The Dodgers also have a wide-open closer competition with a number of candidates. Evan Phillips (0.76 WHIP) was terrific out of the Dodgers bullpen in 2022 but was never given out opportunity to close. If Daniel Hudson is healthy, he could definitely be in the mix. Alex Vesia is a lefty that is coming off a strong season.
However, if I am going to bet on a Dodger closer, I like the hard-throwing righthander, Brusdar Graterol. Graterol has to stay healthy which has been a challenge for him but I think he has the tools of a traditional closer. I think Phillips will likely stay in more in a fireman role and Graterol gets an opportunity to close.
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