2023 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

by Jason Beckner
2023 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

Welcome to the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

The 2023 fantasy baseball season is right around the corner. With only weeks until Spring Training games start, Fantasy Baseball draft season is upon us. Make sure you check out all of our position previews!

It's time to draft like a boss in your Fantasy Baseball league! With a wealth of talent at the starting pitcher position, the possibilities are endless. 30 teams with five-man rotations, the starting pitcher position is a Fantasy goldmine waiting to be discovered.

So when you look at the position and the many different options, the task of building a Fantasy Baseball pitching staff can be a daunting task. However, I am here to help you answer some questions you may have, as well as give you some players worth targeting in your Fantasy drafts.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

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Who should be the first starting pitcher drafted in 2023?

When it comes to the starting pitcher position one popular strategy is to grab the number one ranked starting pitcher, similar to the number one ranked hitter, this can give you a leg up on the competition. So who exactly is the number one starting pitcher in fantasy baseball for 2023?

Currently, the team here has Shohei Ohtani ranked as the number-one pitcher. The NFBC ADP agrees that Shohei Ohtani is the number starting pitcher. Unfortunately, I am going to remove Shohei from the conversation as most people are drafting Ohtani for his dual eligibility and not necessarily for the starting pitcher position.

Therefore, I am here to say, Corbin Burnes should be the first starting pitcher taken off the board. Burnes is coming off a career year in which he had 12 W, a sub 3.00 ERA, and a career-high 243 K. The 243 strikeouts were second in the league behind only Gerrit Cole. His 0.97 WHIP was top ten among all qualified starting pitchers. Burnes has also had back-to-back seasons in which he has 230K+ seasons as well as three straight seasons with sub 3.00 ERA.

When we look at Burnes' advanced stats there is plenty of reasons to believe that this type of dominance will continue in 2023. We also saw Burnes reach 200 IP in 2022. A mark that many top pitchers need to reach to be considered a top fantasy ace.  I think for 2023 Burnes will sustain the strong ratios, reach 200K+ and even increase his wins and quality starts from a year ago. These are why I believe Burnes should be the first starting pitcher to be drafted in 2023.

What is the best strategy for drafting starting pitchers?

With the starting pitcher position being so deep, one is left to wonder what is the best way to tackle the position on draft day. I am the first to tell you there are many different strategies when it comes to drafting starting pitchers.

The strategy that I find to be the "best" or most beneficial for me, is to set up pitchers into tiers. By separating pitchers into different levels and tiers. If you miss out on one of your top pitching targets, then you have a fallback plan and you can draft a pitcher in the same tier or a pitcher that has similar statistical outcomes as your initial target.

I generally like to make a minimum of five to seven tiers that way when I get into the draft room I am able to draft five to seven starting pitchers with confidence.

Furthermore when drafting starting pitchers. I generally like to get two starting pitchers in my top two tiers. That can be in any order of the tiers. Whether that be one pitcher from each tier or two from one-tier. I strongly try to leave the draft with at least two starting pitchers that will not leave my starting lineup and you can feel confident with those two pitchers.

In my experience, that means drafting those two pitchers in the first 5 rounds. That can be in any order you see fit. As most drafts differ from one to the next and most drafts are not similar. Wait till the draft starts and if you see starting pitcher "runs" start then you know that you will need to act fast.

Those are the main strategies that I follow and consider to be the "best" or that I have the most success with when drafting starting pitchers.

Can Sandy Alcantara repeat his 2022 dominance?

Sandy Alcantara is the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and rightfully so. He was second in the national league in ERA, he had 200K+ he led the national league in innings pitched. Which also included an NL league-leading six complete games with one shutout.

Clearly, Alcantara deserves to be in the top three starting pitchers for 2023. However, can we expect the same Sandy that we saw in 2022 in 2023? When we look at the advanced stats there are many reasons to believe that the 2022 season wasn't an outlier.

His chase rate has increased every year since 2020 including a career-best 34.7%. When we look at his xERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. All are in line and suggest that the ERA was an indication of his skill set and not an outlier.

Sandy not only has top-end fastball velocity, but he also does a really good job of mixing his secondary pitches. He threw all four of his offerings at least 20% of the time. Resulting in great success. All four of his pitches had a CSW% above 25%. including two offerings, the changeup and slider had CSW% above 30%.

I believe Sandy can continue his success in 2023 and he should be the second pitcher drafted behind only Burnes.

Starting Pitchers on the Rise

Spencer Strider, RHP, Atlanta Braves

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Get ready for some major heat on the mound! The Braves have struck gold with their latest sensation, Spencer Strider, a homegrown starting pitcher who's about to take the league by storm.

There weren't many pitchers better than Strider post-All-Star break. In his 10 starts post-All-Star break, he had a 2.20 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 88 strikeouts, and seven wins.  The advanced metrics all back up the 2022 season statistics as well. Take a look at all the red.

Strider is a power pitching, strikeout machine. In 2022 he struck out 202 batters in only 131 IP. Furthermore, his 38K% was the highest among all pitchers with at least 100 IPs. Thanks largely in part to his dominant slider. Strider threw his slider 28% of the time and was able to get a 52% whiff rate and a 29% put-away rate on the slider.

One of the biggest benefits for Strider is his eligibility. Depending on what site you play on, Strider probably qualifies as both an SP and an RP. Any time you can put an SP in your RP slot you gain an advantage, and an even bigger advantage when that pitcher is Spencer Strider.

I believe Strider is the starting pitcher that everyone looks back at their draft board in August to see where Strider was drafted and why they didn't draft Strider instead of the league winner.

Hunter Greene, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

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Similar to Strider, Hunter Greene is yet another young power pitcher that you should be targeting in your drafts. The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher made his debut in 2022. He finished the season with a 4.44 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 5 W, and 164 K in 125 IP. While the ratios weren't ideal, they were serviceable, especially for a rookie.

Another similarity to Strider, Greene has an electric fastball that he pairs with a plus slider. He threw his slider 41% of the time and was able to generate a 38% whiff rate and a 23% put-away rate on the slider. Greene's 31% strikeout rate ranked in the top 10 among all pitchers with at least 100 IPs in 2022.

If Greene can limit the hard-hit rate and the walks. Greene could be a top-of-rotation arm that can help pile up the strikeouts while contributing serviceable ratios. According to NFBC ADP Greene is currently being drafted in the 9-10th round range. I think Greene could easily outperform that value when all is said and done.

Starting Pitcher on the Decline

Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, Texas Rangers

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The now 32-year-old pitcher has moved on from Boston and is now with the Texas Rangers. This makes Eovaldi's sixth team in 11 years. He is also no stranger to the injured list. 2021 was the only season where he made 25+ starts and his career high in IP is 182.

We saw Eovaldi have a decline in several key statistical categories in 2022. His K% and his K-BB% rate both saw significant decreases in 2022.  Among all five of his pitch offerings, none of them had a put-away rate above 25%. We also saw his ERA, xERA, FIP, and xFIP trend in the wrong direction.2023

Eovaldi still surrenders a ton of hard contact as both his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate rank in the bottom 20% of the league. Some of this could be in the increase in the contact rate he saw in 2022.

Eovaldi continues to trend in the wrong direction and his arrow is again pointing in the wrong direction for 2023.

Starting Pitchers on the Horizon

Andrew Painter, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Andrew Painter is not the Phillies' top pitching prospect he is also arguably the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. Painter is only 19 years old but the Phillies have extended a non-roster invite to the big league spring training camp. The front office has come out and said that they are open to the possibility of Painter making the opening-day roster. Which is almost unheard of for a 19-year-old pitcher.

Painter started in low A last year and rose to double-A by the end of 2022. Across the three levels, he finished the season with a 1.56 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 155 K in only 103 IP.

Painter is a tall big physical presence on the mound and attacks hitters. Even if Painter does not break camp with the big league club he will make his debut at some point in 2023. He is absolutely someone worth monitoring in Spring Training to see what the plans are for Painter in 2023.

Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Similar to Painter, Pfaadt is also getting a non-roster invite to the big league spring training camp. The former fifth-round pick had a 2022 season and became a pitcher worth taking a look at.

In 2022 he started in double-A and made it to triple-A. He finished the season with a 3.83 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 11 W, and 218 K. The 218 strikeouts led all of the minor leagues and did it in only 167 IP.

One glaring issue that plagues Pfaadt is the long ball. He surrendered a total of 28 HR in his 29 starts. Including a whole HR per start at double A. Pfaadt could make an appearance with the big league roster in 2023 and I would monitor his spring training appearances.

Starting Pitcher to Avoid

Jose Berrios, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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Is it just me or does Jose Berrios seem like he has been a reliable starting pitcher for the past decade? Believe it or not, Berrios is only 28 years old. However, Berrios is a starting pitcher that I am avoiding this year.

Largely in part to his career-worst 2022 season. Let's just look at his main fantasy statistics. Not only was his 5.23 ERA the highest it's been since his rookie year, but it was also a league-leading worst ERA among all qualified pitchers. His 1.42 WHIP was also a league-worst among all qualified pitchers.

Berrios saw almost a 7% decrease in his strikeout rate and a slight increase in the walk rate. Furthermore, his 13% strikeout-to-walk ratio was the worst since his rookie season. It also should come as no surprise but his .286 BAA was the league-worst among all qualified pitchers.

Berrios' NFBC ADP currently sits at 229 which may seem like a good value. However, I would rather have someone else have Berrios on their team.

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