I released (and updated) my five fantasy baseball sleepers yesterday, which means we also need to focus on the starting pitchers who may have gotten a bit too much helium in fantasy baseball drafts season this year.
This isn’t to say that I don’t want to have any of these pitchers rostered on my teams; it’s more that the risk they hold isn’t baked far enough into their current ADPs in my view. Here’s to hoping I go 0/5 in this article and they all have phenomenal seasons.
Max Scherzer (RHP, NYM)
Throw Jacob deGrom in there as well, but we all know that by now. At the point in your drafts where you have to take Max Scherzer, you’re looking for a rock of an SP1 through the full year. Scherzer is turning 39 years old with a history of injuries already, with a fastball that has declined in velocity in each of the last three seasons.
That’s it, really. Oh come on, his skills are so good and you’re going to say one of the busts is an old guy with an injury history? … yes? The fact that Clayton Kershaw is going far later yet has nearly the same skills and will likely be close in innings pitched with Scherzer amplifies the point in my book. Scherzer isn’t a 180-inning guy, and a 2.29 ERA and 0.91 WHIP are unlikely to happen for another season.
Triston McKenzie (RHP, CLE)
I’m seeing Triston McKenzie float around the top 100 ADP with his 2.96 ERA and 0.95 WHIP from last season and I don’t believe we have been weighing in the expected regression enough. McKenzie’s heater is good but not elite with its poor locations, his slider is incredibly inconsistent, and I’m not sure I can buy into the 35% zone rate returning a 65% strike rate again for McKenzie, especially with the unreliable slider.
PLV supports this theory as the curve and slider grade far worse than the shallow metrics will tell you:
To hammer it home, Triston McKenzie held a -21 hit luck (91st percentile) that suggests he should have held a hits-per-nine of nearly 8.0 instead of the elite 6.5 mark, reinforcing the horrid 27% hard contact rate that makes his .238 BABIP highly suspect.
It wasn’t a season that was meant to be replicated. It’s certainly possible McKenzie can improve upon the skills he flashed last season, but a pick this early in drafts is banking on that development, not hoping for one.
Kyle Wright (RHP, ATL)
What held Kyle Wright back before he burst onto the scene in 2022? His control, of course. Wright flaunted a horrific 14%+ walk rate in each of his 2020 and 2021 seasons and suddenly cut that mark in half with his 2022 7.2% walk rate. Sadly, his improved control still carries a significant question in command.
Wright’s fastballs and changeup are a dopamine pendulum, fluctuating between brilliance and frustration. Those are kind words for his four-seamer as it returned a ghastly -15% QP-BP rate in 2022, putting pressure on his curveball to tow him to the finish line. It worked across the first 12 outings, but the final 18 of Wright’s 2022 campaign returned a 3.63 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP and 21% strikeout rate. That’s a “Toby.” It sure is.
I worry that Wright doesn’t have enough in the tank to come close to replicating his blissful 2022 spring. It’s a wonderful curveball, but without a full arsenal, I worry his walk rate will climb near 10% again, while the strikeouts will fail to hit the 24% mark.
And no, Kyle Wright is not going to win 21 games again.
Tony Gonsolin (RHP, LAD)
It’s obvious and I don’t care. I’m not drafting Tony Gonsolin this season. The Dodgers’ defense is questionable this year (Turner –> Rojas is better, but Muncy + Vargas in the infield doesn’t inspire confidence), Gonsolin was the #1 benefactor of the shift that lead to a ridiculous -54 Hit Luck (he should have allowed fifty four more hits last year according to PLV), and his saving grace was the splitter returning a miraculous 70% strike rate that I can’t expect to return the same results in 2023.
Take a look at Gonsolin’s arsenal profile from last season:
Gonsolin’s four-seamer and slider leave plenty to be desired and despite its high strike rate, PLV is skeptical it can return the same good fortune in play.
The 16-1 season with a 2.14 ERA and 0.87 WHIP was a magical thing … across 130 frames. Gonsolin has to overcome a history of low workload, a questionable defense behind him, expected BABIP regression, and holes inside his repertoire in order to be a regular fantasy asset for your teams. That’s a tough hill to climb.
Freddy Peralta (RHP, MIL)
I don’t like having two injury-bust guys in this article, but for it to be a proper bust pick, it needs to be a guy inside the Top 150 SP, and drafting Peralta is turning down other stellar options who have a much higher chance to provide legit value in my view.
The quality per inning for Peralta isn’t in question – his absurdly low hard contact rates are a product of his top-tier extension on his fastball and a phenomenal slider – it’s the fact he’s dealt with a shoulder problem that is likely to rear its ghastly visage during the season. There’s nothing worse than dealing with headaches in-season and given we already feel there’s a capped innings ceiling for Peralta, I don’t believe his current ADP reflects the horrendous floor of missing time & the Brewers using him sparingly when he returns from the injury.
Graphic by Chris Corr (@Chris_Studios on Twitter)