The name Brandon Pfaadt seems to be picking up more and more steam as the offseason rolls on. Why? It starts with Pfaadt leading all Minor League pitchers in strikeouts by a wide margin in 2022. The 24-year-old is also an innings eater who has a chance to crack the Diamondbacks rotation and be a solid fantasy baseball asset.
Pfaadt has genuine appeal in redraft leagues as well as in dynasty. Make sure you add him to your draft list in 2023, no matter what format you are playing. Using NFBC’s 2023 Draft Champions ADP, Pfaadt currently has an average pick of 434 with a min of 382 and a max of 551. At that price point, there is no reason not to draft Brandon Pfaadt.
So who is Brandon Pfaadt, and why should you draft him everywhere in 2023? Let’s dive in.
Brandon Pfaadt: 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout
Who Is Brandon Pfaadt?
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 167 IP/3.83 ERA/1.15 WHIP/11 Wins/218 Strikeouts
When looking at a generic stat line, you may not be wowed by Brandon Pfaadt. Nothing jumps off the page with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. What does look good is Pfaadt’s Minor League-leading 167 innings pitched and 218 strikeouts. Sean Boyle was second among all MiLB pitchers with 155 innings, so Pfaadt had a solid lead in the innings category. He made 29 starts which equates to 5.8 innings pitcher per start.
On the strikeout side, Pfaadt bested Kyle Harrison’s 186 by nearly 30. Harrison only pitched 113 innings, but you can’t ignore that Pfaadt led all minor leaguers by a wide margin of strikeouts. Pfaadt ended the season with a 31.6 percent strikeout rate and a minuscule 4.7 percent walk rate.
The underrated aspect of what Pfaadt did is where he pitched. In Double-A, the Texas League plays extremely hitter-friendly, and Pfaadt’s home park, Amarillo, had one of the highest home run park factors in Minor League Baseball. So looking at Pfaadt’s 4.53 ERA in Double-A may be a bit deceiving, considering he allowed a very high 1.62 home runs per nine innings over 105.1 innings.
Pfaadt had five multi-home run games in Double-A, with three coming at Amarillo. The other two came from Northwest Arkansas and Wichita, both favorable hitting environments.
It did not get any easier for Pfaadt as he moved to Triple-A and the Pacific Coast League. Pitchers in the PCL averaged a 5.40 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP, the highest of any league in the minors. Pfaadt proceeded to post a 2.63 ERA across 61.2 innings with Reno, good for third-best among starters with at least 60 innings pitched in the PCL. Only Hunter Brown (2.55 ERA) and Ryan Pepiot (2.56) had better ERAs.
But that is enough about talking about basic stats. Let’s get into what matters with Brandon Pfaadt: his impressive arsenal of pitches.
Brandon Pfaadt’s Arsenal
Pfaadt’s primary pitch is his four-seam fastball, which he used 54.7 percent of the time last season. The 93.5 mph average velocity may not blow anyone away, but it has topped at 96 mph. Even though the velocity is not elite, the pinpoint command is. Pfaadt locates his fastball and can easily paint the corners and the top of the zone. The video above demonstrates his ability to attack in the upper half of the zone, blowing it by hitters.
The fastball was located at the top of the zone 56.9 percent of the time, with excellent ride and spin rates (2518 rpm average). The beautiful thing is he had a 69.4 percent strike rate on the fastball, a 24.4 percent chase rate, and a solid 15.8 percent swinging strike rate.
It is interesting that despite how metrically good the fastball is, it still had a .288 batting average against last season and a .357 wOBA. These numbers are a bit propped up due to pitching in heavy-hitter environments. However, it is worth keeping an eye on. Regardless, Pfaadt’s four-seam has the characteristics of a solid big leaguer, giving him a solid foundation to build on.
The slider is Brandon Pfaadt’s go-to secondary pitch, which he mixed in 23.8 percent of the time in 2022. The pitch gets a late biting action, generating plenty of swing and miss. Hitters chased Pfaadt’s slider 44.1 percent of the time on pitches out of the zone. Pfaadt is comfortable throwing it to break away from right-handed hitters but also dropping it at the back foot of lefties.
Pfaadt’s slider induced a swinging strike rate of 20.8 percent, demonstrating excellent bat-missing ability. It has an impressive 72.2 percent strike rate which is high for a pitch like a slider. His zone percentage on the slider was south of 50 percent, leading to plenty of chase outside the zone.
The pitch only averages 82.1 mph, which is on the lower end of mostly MLB sliders, but the velocity does not limit Pfaadt. It generates enough spin at an average of 2639 rpm and buries at the bottom of the zone efficiently.
Hitters had just a .161 batting average against Pfaadt’s slider and a .229 wOBA. Pfaadt’s slider is an excellent swing-and-miss pitch, giving him a plus secondary.
Pfaadt’s changeup is his third pitch and the least consistent of the bunch. But it’s hard for hitters to make contact when it is on. You can see in the video above the nice arm-side fade that Pfaadt can get with his changeup. Sometimes he leaves it over too much of the plate, which is when he gets in trouble.
There is still plenty to like about the changeup, as shown in the video. He used it just 13.6 percent of the time last year, but it is also a significant source of strikes, as seen by his 68.4 percent strike rate. It also generated an impressive 22.2 percent swinging strike rate. Brandon Woodruff’s changeup had the best swinging strike rate among Major League starters at 27.8 percent. Luis Castillo, who also has an elite changeup, had a 21.8 percent swinging strike rate on his.
Pfaadt also mixes in a curveball, but it is a seldom-used pitch. He threw it 6.6 percent of the time and used it to keep batters on their toes, averaging 77.7 mph.
Brandon Pfaadt’s 2023 Fantasy Baseball Outlook
Pfaadt brings an intriguing arsenal to the table as a starting pitcher. He has a consistent delivery and a workhorse frame at 6’4/220. He consistently goes deep into games and holds his velocity late into starts.
There may not be a guaranteed rotation spot to start the season for Pfaadt, but there is plenty of reason to believe he could spend a good chunk of the season in Arizona. Pfaadt likely begins the season in Triple-A Reno, where he spent his final ten starts of 2022 before making the leap for his MLB debut. One hundred to 125 MLB innings looks reasonable, and they should be strong innings for fantasy purposes.
If Pfaadt is still available in a dynasty league you play, you should scoop him up immediately. It could also be a great time to trade for him if someone rosters him and does not value him appropriately. Pfaadt is ranked 53 overall, tenth among all pitching prospects in my prospect rankings. For 2023 redraft purposes, Pfaadt has a solid chance to be a top-100 starting pitcher, even if he does not spend an entire season in Arizona. It is time to buy into Brandon Pfaadt before it is too late.
Picture from MiLB.com | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)