Nick’s Top 200 Starting Pitchers for 2022 Fantasy Baseball rankings continue with pitchers #61 through #80.
Tier 7 – The Super Fun Time (Continued)
61. Aaron Ashby (Milwaukee Brewers) – Boy do I adore Ashby. I’ll take him in every draft that I can, muttering under my breath at my inner-self saying “I know, I know, he likely won’t start for a few weeks — or even longer — BUT HE’S JUST TOO GOOD”. I kid you not, during our PL Boston meetup the crew sat in a long booth for dinner and I elected to pull up Ashby’s start that day on my phone and watch in the corner. I’M SORRY. The fella had one of the best sliders in 2021, returning a league-best 45% CSW on the pitch and when batters did put it in play, little came of it. His changeup was a strong offering as well, though it was a touch more inconsistent than I would have liked. Still plenty tough, just not as elite of a strike-getter as I’d like.
Oh, and he features a 96.5 mph heater that returns 70% grounders. Yeah, Ashby has the full potential of an ace in Milwaukee and in normal times, he’d be in the 40s/50s like Kopech and Baz as the breakout candidate of the year. The one problem? The Brewers already have five starting pitchers. Ashby had just one game above sixty pitches last year and with Adrian Houser still around and doing things, it’ll take some time before the Brewers give him full control over the rotation spot. And with that issue at hand, it means Ashby is, in essence, a stash for … who knows? A month? Two months? H*ck, it could be a week into the year and suddenly a spot opens or it could take until July. If this were a best ball draft, he’d shoot up these rankings as his second-half should push the needle in your favor as I’d imagine he should have a rotation spot by then. Do whatever you want here — it’s not a 100% guarantee Ashby turns into a Top 20 SP suddenly when he does start, keep in mind — but if you want that hype in-season + are willing to use him as a helpful middle-reliever in the meantime, go right ahead. I’m rooting for it to work and while I couldn’t sneak him into the Top 60 with the early restrictions, this was the next best thing. It’s the super fun time tier, right?
62. Luis Garcia (Houston Astros) – I didn’t buy the surge of Garcia early in the season and I missed out plenty as he soared for 20 straight starts of a 3.24 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 30% strikeout rate. Crazy good, I know. Something odd happened after that August 24th start, though. Garcia began pulling back on his slider usage and he wasn’t quite the same — 4.50 ERA, 17% strikeout rate, 1.50 WHIP, 10% walk rate. That’s not it. The sweeper wasn’t quite right and the whole world saw its ineffectiveness in the most memorable moment of the World Series, zooming over the train tracks courtesy of Jorgé Soler’s bat.
It’s disheartening considering Garcia had so much success with the pitch before its departure in the final two months — 37% CSW and .123 BAA for the entire season is no small feat. Meanwhile, his cutter was fantastic at a 23% SwStr, but even if it wasn’t enough to share the load without the slider. As for the rest of the cast, his fastball is often detrimental as he sneaks it in at 93/94 mph, while the changeup disappeared plenty through the year and is far from the consistent companion.
In the end, the Astros will be looking toward Garcia for 150+ frames once again and I don’t imagine them being outright harmful for your teams. If the slider can steal strikes again and set up his cutter effectively, you can see another season near a 25% strikeout rate without harmful ratios. But if it’s just fastball/cutter early, it’ll be hard for me to keep a firm grasp.
Tier 8 – Are You Winning Son?
I guarantee you at least one of these pitchers will perform better than Tier 7 this year. Why? Because most have higher expected volume and some history of being “safe”. In other words, we’re coming close to “Toby” territory and y’all know me, I don’t draft Tobys. That said, I’m not ignoring them completely, especially if I need a start or two in the first few weeks and they can snag lovely matchups. Keep in mind, those in deeper leagues should weigh some of these pitchers higher given their lower full-season risk.
63. Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals) – Did you see 2021 coming? HOW?! Waino had an elite called-strike pair of fastballs, pairing with one of the better hooks in the game that returned a 35% CSW across its 34% usage. The cutter wasn’t incredible, but it was just average enough to act as a serviceable #3 offering and with the incredible Cardinal defense behind him + the lovely NL Central schedule, Wainwright flourished.
I’ll say it now, I won’t rule out a chance for some more production this year. Sure, not a 3.06 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, but a 3.80 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 5-6 Ks a game and double-digit Wins? Sure, why not? Because he’ll turn 41 by September. Okay, solid point. There’s too much chance of those ratios falling off the deep end, especially if that cutter gets even worse, but with those gold glove defenders behind him, Wainwright has a decent chance each night of giving you production. You may want to spin that wheel in April and see where it takes you.
64. Ranger Suárez (Philadelphia Phillies) – I’m not trying to be controversial, I promise. Suárez had himself one h*ck of a run at the end of the season (yes, I censor h#ck as an inside joke among the PL+ community, no need to comment about it, just join our Discord already. It’s the best.), returning a 1.51 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 25% strikeout rate in twelve games on the bump. He won leagues and, more importantly, the hearts of managers everywhere.
But now it’s 2022 and with his stretch looking suspiciously close to a “Vargas Rule”, I have little interest chasing him in drafts. Seriously Nick?! A Vargas Rule?! I said it. Things don’t add up and should scare all of y’all. While he did survive the Rays and Dodgers along the way, his other ten opponents were: @WSN, NYM, @ARI, ARI, @MIA, COL, CHC, BAL, PIT, @MIA. That’s as cushy of a schedule as you’ll ever find. I watched plenty of these games as well and I saw the same thing — a 93 mph sinker that avoided the center of the plate well and got a bit fortunate with balls in play (he allowed one HR across all 1,100 fastballs thrown. ONE.) + a four-seamer that he elevated decently well but nothing exceptional + a strong changeup that held a 21% SwStr rate + an inconsistent slider that worked when executed.
That repertoire just doesn’t speak close to elite for me. It truly is something akin to Jason Vargas and it doesn’t excite me in the slightest, especially when we criticize Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler for the Phillies’ bullpen & team defense. While I’m not saying Suárez will be outright harmful to your fantasy rosters, the likelihood of many pumping their fists in July because they drafted Ranger seems slim (I kinda want to call him The Wrong Ranger. Sup, Jon Gray). That arsenal doesn’t call for a Top 50 SP slot.
65. Hyun Jin Ryu (Toronto Blue Jays) – It wasn’t easy rostering Ryu last season. His 1.23 WHIP made you shrug, his 20% strikeout rate left you wanting more, and his 4.37 ERA made you full of regret. The cause of trouble came from a shocking amount of clobbered changeups while his cutter became notably worse. Seeing your primary secondaries (I’ll never hate that phrase) let you down when your heater hovers 90 mph and is pedestrian doesn’t spell a great time at the park.
But maybe things get better for Ryu. It’s possible he can suppress the longball back to his ~.80 HR/9 days instead of the near 1.30 HR/9 mark last year. His changeup still held an elite 45%+ O-Swing, suggesting more whiffs and weak contact could come his way. And I didn’t mention his curveball, which became a strong called strike offering to turn to when his other secondaries failed him.
All is not lost with Ryu, but a return to 25%+ strikeout rates seem lost in the past, especially inside the mighty AL East. It makes for an arm likely better than a “Toby” but you may need to squint to make out the difference at times.
66. Alex Wood (San Francisco Giants) – You know what I love seeing? Pitchers stand back up after their fall from grace. Wood was the talk of the town in 2017, was good but not elite in 2018, then dissolved into the mysterious concoction of baseball’s journeymen collective … Oh wait, there he is, pitching for the Giants in 2021 to the tune of a 3.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 26% strikeout rate across 139 frames. What a wonderful thing.
How did he do it? Well, he brought his fastball back to its 92 mph peak, helping that sinker earn an elite 27% called strike rate through the year. Pair that with a that boasted a 22% SwStr and 38% CSW, you got yourself a legit stew right there. There were times in the first half where the changeup made a wonderful presence as well, but that faded in the second half and, frankly, Wood didn’t need it. Now that he’s back in San Francisco, you have to imagine he has all the chances in the world to sustain his comeback.
Sadly, I have hesitation buying into Wood for your fantasy team for two reasons. First, I generally stay cautious when I see a new spike in fastball velocity — without that sinker confidently earning a 69% strike rate, his foundation crumbles. Second, any anticipation of 150 frames is foolish given his track record. If you’re getting Wood in your drafts, it’s to fill in a few gaps early in the season as you wait for someone like Baz to show up. Make sure you’re ready to to cut if things aren’t pretty. Monitor the velocity and slider performance in the spring and April, and feel free to jump in for some potential early value.
67. Anthony DeSclafani (San Francisco Giants) – Tony Disco is one of a few arms who seem awfully similar to me — they all have a decent fastball + an above-average slider without a strong third pitch. DeSclafani has the best sweeper of the bunch, boasting the offering over a third of the time last year to the tune of a 32% CSW and pushing its strike numbers all the way up to 67%. His four-seamer + sinker combo isn’t anything to write home about, while the curveball and changeup show up in droves if the slider isn’t working … and that’s never a good thing.
In the end, I don’t expect DeSclafani to repeat last year’s impressive 3.17 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, but with his comfortable situation in San Francisco, he should be a decent guy to plug in on a given night. Just sit him against the Dodgers, please.
68. Casey Mize (Detroit Tigers) – It’s the same thing as the rest of em — a four-seamer and sinker combo that doesn’t amaze, but it ain’t terrible + a slider that does its job to carve outs + not a whole lot else you can rely on. At least with Mize, his splitter has moments where it looked fantastic but … oh no, what?! A 10.6% SwStr rate?! ON A SPLITTER?! Yeeeeesh, that really ain’t it. And neither is the hook at a 8.7% rate. Man, there’s really not a stupid amount to get excited over for Mize.
Well, his slider is pretty dang solid. A 34% CSW across 28% usage is as solid as they come for a secondary offering, though its sub 13% SwStr rate really makes you wonder if he can push his four-seamer’s 11.3% SwStr higher in 2022 to flirt with a 25% strikeout rate. He’s still young and developing as he turns 25 in May, and who knows, it’s possible one of his secondaries took a step forward this off-season to demand our attention. The good news here is with his four-seamer and slider + the expected disappearance of any kind of innings leash means Mize has the opportunity to take a step forward if something were to change. The tough question to answer is what.
Tier 9 – Late-Night Karaoke
Now that the last-resort “stable” arms are off the board, it’s time to throw everything to the wall, take some chances, and think that maybe it is a good idea for some 2:00am karaoke. You’re going to see some unexpected names here, as all we’re trying to do at this point is strike gold. You’re not looking for a 4.00 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 20% strikeout rate to play off your bench in a 12-teamer. Nay, you want someone who could be the talk of the town in April and hold onto that magic for as long as possible. Strap in, this is the wild and crazy tier.
69. Josiah Gray (Washington Nationals) – Mmmm, I really love Jojo’s stuff, but his command? That’s the big issue entering 2022. Each of his four-seamer, curveball, and slider had nights where they independently earned double-digit whiffs, and that’s honestly all I think I need to say about Gray’s potential. His stuff is nasty. The hook held a 38% CSW last year, slider came in second with a “lackluster” 37% clip, and his four-seamer boasted a 31% O-Swing. It’s all there.
… But that fastball needs some work. It had a good strike rate, but got clobbered a decent amount and I watched many starts where Josiah battled his own command far more than battling the batter. Command improvements are hard to predict, but the best news here is the opportunity ahead. The Nationals have Patrick Corbin and a battered Stephen Strasburg ahead of him in the rotation — that’s it. I can imagine Gray going past the 150 frames in 2022, giving ample opportunity to get into a groove and massively improve upon his 10.7% walk rate. The fact I don’t trust Gray’s ability out of the gate has me considering other options instead, as he’ll likely act like a “Cherry Bomb” through the beginning, though he could be the talk of the town and soar through the season. This is likely the most “hail mary” of Tier 7, but I just love his stuff + opportunity too much.
70. Triston McKenzie (Cleveland Guardians) – The potential is clear — Triston boasted an impressive 27.5% strikeout rate across 120 frames last year with a pair of breakers that returned a 33%+ CSW — but the command, oh, the command. He somehow held just a 1.18 WHIP despite a horrid 11.7% walk rate, though it’s not quite fair to quote the season long walk rate and call it day. McKenzie was sent to the minors in June after walking everyone on the farm — chickens and
deGroms goats, included — and returned to go on a ridiculous 12-game stretch where he suddenly held a 4.4% walk rate + tossing three ticks harder than his last start (90 mph to 93 mph). Huh.
I still have my concerns with McKenzie as he seemingly lives and dies with a four-seamer that just isn’t precise. Sure, the pitch found the zone ~15 points more when he returned in early July (whoa!), but I’m concerned it’s not here to last. I go back-and-forth, and in the end, I ask the question: Will I be convinced I can trust McKenzie at any point this year? I find it unlikely I will within the first month or two and it has been steering away. Still, he was a different arm after July 9 and it’s awfully tempting to take that at face value. Nick, you haven’t written a single sentence with conviction this entire blurb on McKenzie. I’M CONFLICTED, OKAY? I guess in 12-teamers, he’s a fun late flier that many could be gloating about before April is over. I worry about volatility even if he’s successful early, but hey, it could happen.
71. Joe Ryan (Minnesota Twins) – Do I dislike Joe Ry? Nah! I think he’s pretty cool actually, with a four-seamer that batters clearly struggle to hit, a great situation in Minnesota, and a slider that may be a strong #2 through the year. I just don’t like the fact he doesn’t have the deepest arsenal and his cushy September schedule last year is making us think he’s on the verge of a mega 2022 breakout. He tossed five games for the Twins last season, cruised in four against the Cubs + Guardians, then met the Tigers, who walloped his heater. That’s the story. I want to believe his 91 mph heater is that good to carry him to the promised land, but it’s not as overwhelming as Shane Baz’s stuff and I’m not ready to take the plunge.
Maybe I’m undervaluing his slider, maybe his curveball and/or changeup gain consistency as well. Or h*ck, maybe his prospect pedigree demands more faith in his ascension. I want it to work out, his low fastball velocity and lack of ridiculous secondary makes me hesitant to roll the dice. There are better chances to take.
72. Eric Lauer (Milwaukee Brewers) – I haven’t been too kind to Lauer over the years, but he surprised me in a great way last season. Lauer added a tick of velocity to his four-seamer and three full ticks to his cutter, the latter turning into a legit #2 through a 68% strike rate and a paltry .168 BAA. Using that cutter to get strikes, Lauer used his harder heater to hold — get this — a 14% SwStr rate on his four-seamer. WILD. I didn’t pick up on it last year and I’m a little ashamed about it. Throw in a decent slider for good measure and Lauer boasted a 3.19 ERA and 1.14 WHIP that I kinda just threw to the side without thought. Yet he’ll likely blow past his 119 frames from 2021 and if he keeps the same velocity on his four-seamer and cutter, I don’t see why he can’t be somewhat similar in 2022.
It’s weird. It does seem as though Lauer could fall into the “Toby” category again, but I just keep going back to earning so many whiffs on four-seamers. That’s just so dang good. Is it so dang good for me to ignore a massive 5.5-point jump from 2020? Maybe not. I’m still totally down for snagging Lauer at the end of drafts, though. Let’s see where all his velocity and command is in his first start or two and we’ll talk then.
73. Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals) – We’ve all forgotten about Strasburg, and that’s what happens when you’ve disappointed managers consistently due to injury. Now we’re at a point where disappointment is engrained and the only direction we can go is up. The great news here is it won’t cost you a dime to take a chance on Strasburg. Pick the fella up and if he’s sitting 94 mph in the spring, everything should be fantastic. If he’s sitting 92 and change, I’d be cautious and feel fine swapping him out for someone else.
That’s it. Really. I have no idea how good Strasburg will be and if he’s actually healthy, just follow the velocity. If it’s there — h*ck, 93 mph might be good enough — it’ll mean he’s healthy enough to spin his incredible curveball 30% of the time and pull off his best 2021 Wainwright impression. Considering how high the ceiling is here, he’s worth the shot so late in your drafts.
74. Noah Syndergaard (Los Angeles Angels) – You see the name and you think of baseball magic. His glistening hair, 99 mph heaters, a 95 mph slider, and some of the dumbest pitching GIFs you’ve ever come across. But like a terrible infomercial, FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT SYNDERGAARD. 1) His velocity wasn’t back to upper-90s in his very short return last year — I’m talking three ticks down. That’s bad. 2) He’s been instructed to not throw his slider. That’s what made Syndergaard such a ridiculous stud and without it, are we even going to get the curveball back? No? Just changeups? 3) That changeup is good, but it ain’t enough. 4) Syndergaard, even before TJS wasn’t elite. His BABIP has always been elevated because his heaters are too dang hittable and now they are slower, too.
It seems like a worse version of Corey Kluber or Jameson Taillon from last season and I’m avoiding it unless the entire room doesn’t take a chance on it. Maybe the hook makes its return and Syndergaard can work effectively with a three-pitch mix. The decrease in velocity and questionable history of suppressing hits has me looking elsewhere.
Tier 10 – Recess Kickball
Your back is against the wall as you wait patiently to be picked. Sure, all the best kids have been picked, but you’re still better than Steve and Carla, right? And surely this is the day you show the fourth-graders you can kick it into the playground.
Why did I choose to tell a story of an eight-year-old. I DON’T KNOW. Look, all the best upside guys are gone but there some intriguing arms still left that have a shot at displacing them. I’d be a little upset relying on them early in the year, but there’s hope for something greater. I hope they get there.
75. Luis Patiño (Tampa Bay Rays) – When he was a Padres prospect, the very brief look I had of him was a filthy slider paired with a mid-to-upper 90s heater. Now that we’ve had 77 frames in Tampa, I realize I had it backward — Patiño is four-seamer first with a solid but not yet elite slider. The heater returned a whopping 13% SwStr and 70% strike rate across its 60%+ usage, becoming the fuel for his moments of success. And while the slider isn’t poor, it sure wasn’t consistent, holding a lackluster 26% CSW and poor 58% strike rate — we’re looking for at least a 65% strike rate from a #2 offering. Patiño’s slider inconsistency led to too much reliance on heaters and the underwhelming performances followed.
There’s still plenty of hope for the … 22-year-old. The Rays will lean on him plenty in the coming year with their expected rotation looking like McClanahan, Kluber, Yarbrough, and Rasmussen filling out the other spots + Baz showing up a few weeks into the season. I’d imagine the Rays will work with Patiño to improve the breaker + I wouldn’t rule out his curveball helping grab strikes as an early show-me offering.
The ceiling here is a 25-30% strikeout arm going about five innings per start at solid ratios. It’s not Top 20 upside, given the expected limitations enforced by the Rays, but once he gets the green light as a consistent starter in their rotation, I’d be eyeing his matchups carefully. If he gets that slider working, it’s going to be a lovely summer.
76. Jesús Luzardo (Miami Marlins) – What a poor year it was for Luzardo, falling heavily from one of the more exciting arms of the future to getting shipped off to Miami and barely getting drafted for 2022. Put simply, his four-seamer and sinker were demolished, and our dreams of ace with them. However, there is a glimmer of hope.
When Luzardo went to Miami, the Marlins had many options for their fifth spot in the rotation, but elected to give the spot to Luzardo, allowing him to experiment and tweak his approach. And that, he did. Luzardo reduced his fastball usage to sub-50% levels, even flirting with sub-40% at times, pushing his curveball usage to as high as 45%. The result were three of his final seven starts coming with at least eight strikeouts, climatically ending the season on a stellar 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks performance. Look, I’m not saying this is him, in fact as actually a bit foolish to chase the final start of the season. My entire point is that there is something to still chase with Luzardo, a pitcher with 96 mph heaters, an elite curveball (22% SwStr rate!) that he’s throwing more, and a solid changeup. He has the opportunity and all the chances to succeed now, why not take a chance and see if he’s improved over the off-season?
77. Steven Matz (St. Louis Cardinals) – The 2022 offseason felt like the job fair where the Cardinals had just one open spot and every single student bum-rushed the table to be the lucky new recruit. With gloves blessed with the Midas touch behind him, Matz and his 47% career groundball rate is prime for a BABIP below .300 for the second time in his career and it could mean glorious ratios await. I’m … not that sold and while he should still hold a decent strikeout rate above 20%, I wonder if his ratios will improve so much it forces you to hold him while the potential-next-big-thing dances a welcoming jig on your wire. Don’t act like you don’t have an image of a “welcoming jig” in your head.
My hesitation lies in what seems to be a rather mediocre array of weapons in Matz’s arsenal. His “whiff” pitch is a changeup with a sub-15% SwStr rate, relying on called strikeouts via curveballs and sinkers. That slowball took a step forward last year in preventing itself from getting plastered, and maybe a move away from the AL East to the NL Central will keep its .208 BAA afloat.
Matz is the rubber in the sea of electricity. I have him higher than those in Tier 11 since we’re expecting growth and potential in the ratio department and he should be relatively safe given the team defense + high 88 pitches per game last season. I’m not sure you’ll be pumping your fist a whole bunch, though.
78. Bailey Ober (Minnesota Twins) – I can’t help but wonder if this is the season for Oberizzi to leap into the spotlight. He has all the opportunity in the world in Minnesota, a four-seamer he elevates effectively, a la Jake Odorizzi, and a slider that had moments last year looking like a legit #2, and other moments when his four-seamer had to do it all, leading to quick hooks in the fourth and fifth.
That four-seamer had a game of 17 whiffs all on its own last season, and if that can stick around to some extent with his slider doing its best Tails impression, then Bailey and his 5% walk rate could turn into a consistent arm quickly. And hey, I’ve overlooked his curveball’s 41% CSW and 71% strike rate as he was able to steal 30% called strikes on the pitch last season. There’s something to that — just look at prime Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy — and we’re closer than I thought. What about the changeup? It’s a bit too mediocre for my taste, but, sure, let’s throw that in the bag of why the h*ck not for Ober. So with the volume and a repertoire that could improve in his sophomore year, there’s a shot. Just don’t be so dang hittable, okay?
79. Nick Martínez (San Diego Padres) – Didn’t expect this one, did ya? Martínez has returned to the majors after spending time demolishing hitters in Japan and he’s boasting new velocity, sitting 94/95 for the Padres. That’s about all I know about him, and given we’re at the point of your draft where you should be taking chances, you might as well do so on Nick. Maybe, MAYBE we’ll get a legit Nick starting pitcher to finally jump up the ranks without disappointment. You know who you are.
Follow his spring and early season performances and let’s hope his improvements in Japan make for legit success in the majors. I’m sorry this is the shortest blurb out there, but we simply have to wait and see at this point.
80. Carlos Carrasco (New York Mets) – The injury history has been rough. Here’s the thing with injuries — they don’t matter when they’re your last pitcher. If he’s healthy and pitching, who cares? Well, healthy and pitching and good. Yeah, that’s still unknown. The good news here is he has the opportunity + what we normally see from older arms is a major dip in velocity when they come back from injury. Carrasco? He sat 93.3 mph on his heater last year, matching 2019 and 2020. His 2016 heater? 93.8 mph. The velocity is still there, it’s a question of retaining the effectiveness of both his slider and changeup of old.
His secondaries had moments last year independently working, but rarely both in tandem. Give the man a healthy off-season for a change and don’t rule out Carrasco returning in stride, raining gems reminiscent of 2018. Don’t rule it out.