The Dynasty Value of Pitchers with Small Sample Sizes

The dynasty value of four pitchers who debuted in 2023

For those of you who have not been keeping up, the dynasty team has been working hard all off-season. After focusing on First Year Player Drafts last month, this month we shift our focus to the Major League side of things. Just because a prospect makes their debut, does not mean there are not still questions to answer over their dynasty value. This is especially true for players with small sample sizes. My last article looked at four hitting prospects who debuted in 2023 and how managers should value them moving forward. Unfortunately, two of them are now out for the season in 2024. Hopefully, the same does not happen with the four pitchers detailed in the article below.

Former Pitching Prospects with Small Sample Sizes


Emmett Sheehan, SP Los Angeles Dodgers

2023 Results

No scout has ever questioned Sheehan’s raw stuff. He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball sitting in the mid-to-upper-90s with rise. He mixes that with a filthy changeup that disappears down and away to lefties and generates plenty of whiffs. The two biggest areas of concern entering the season were durability and command. He had never pitched more than 57 innings since joining the Dodgers’ organization and had sometimes struggled with walks.

Although the command was still inconsistent, Sheehan appeared healthy in 2023. Not only was he healthy, but he was making Minor League batters look silly. He added a sweeper to his mix which allowed his stuff to jump to the next level. After striking out 41.7% of batters in Double-A, the Dodgers decided to send him straight to the Major Leagues. The results were a mixed bag as Sheehan surrendered two or less runs in seven of 11 starts. However, he also surrendered at least five runs three times and finished the season with a 4.92 ERA.

The Positives

There is quite a bit to like in Sheehan’s profile. Not only does he have 71st percentile extension, but he also has the pure stuff to go with it. Three of his four pitches generated a whiff rate over 40%. The only pitch that did not was his four-seam fastball which has good velocity and movement. He threw strikes at a league-average rate and was effective at getting batters to chase his pitches out of the zone.

Not only did the stuff look legit, but he also posted excellent underlying metrics. His xBA of .186 ranked in the 98th percentile in all of baseball. Batters routinely swung under most of his pitches allowing plenty of fly balls. In addition, his xERA of 3.50 is a lot more encouraging than the actual results. There is the possibility Sheehan experienced a bit of bad luck during his first taste of the Major Leagues.

The Concerns

One of the positives to Sheehan’s profile was the low expected batting average. His tendencies to give up fly balls is great for limiting singles, but terrible for preventing the long ball. Sheehan surrendered 11 home runs in just 60.1 innings. In particular, the home run issue came from his four-seamer. Eight of the 11 home runs he gave up were off this pitch. The worst part is that he relies on this more than his other three pitches combined. He is even more reliant on this pitch against left-handed batters as his usage jumps over 65%.

2024 and Dynasty Outlook

One thing I failed to mention earlier is that Sheehan was sent back down to Triple-A from August 3rd to September 2nd. Over his final five appearances (four starts one relief appearance), he reduced his fastball usage to 52%. In contrast, his slider usage increased significantly over these games. He pitched to a 3.68 ERA with a 2.97 xFIP during this period with the only blip on the radar on September 8th against the Nationals. In that start, he gave up five runs in 4.1 innings and two home runs. Unsurprisingly, this was the only one of these appearances during which he threw the four-seam fastball over 50% of the time (67.1%).

Why am I telling you this now? This makes me extremely optimistic about Sheehan’s 2024 outlook. Yes, he has to earn a rotation spot first, but the only two pitchers currently on the Dodgers’ roster who are definitely ahead of him are Walker Buehler and Bobby Miller. There are three spots wide open and Sheehan has already proven capable of making the adjustments needed to succeed at the Major League level. A full off-season for Sheehan to continue developing his sweeper and grow more comfortable with his secondaries could help fuel even more success than we saw at the end of the season. Sheehan is the 99th pitcher off the board in early drafts right now. Umm, yes, please!

For dynasty, this is more of the same. The potential here for Sheehan is evidenced by his Minor League strikeout numbers. He has made opposing batters look silly his entire professional career and had similar success with his secondaries at the Major League level. All of the stuff is there for Sheehan to be a dominant pitcher he just needs to trust his stuff. If a dynasty manager has him in your league, he could likely see his underwhelming stat line from 2023 and be willing to sell cheap. Now is your time to capitalize before he breaks out.


Kyle Harrison, SP San Francisco Giants

2023 Results

When it comes to pitching prospects, there might not be a more polarizing one than Kyle Harrison. Throughout the 2023 season, some had Harrison ranked at their top pitching prospect in all of baseball. In the same tier as guys like Andrew Painter and Ricky Tiedemann. Others (like myself) ranked Harrison much lower and were overcome with confidence he would eventually land in a relief role.

His 2023 season did not get off to the best start He landed on the Triple-A IL after his start on July 4th but was averaging just 3.3 innings per start and had a 4.79 ERA. Things looked a little bit better after he returned on July 31st and the Giants decided they had seen enough to give him a shot in the Major Leagues. Things were more of the same in the Majors as Harrison battled inconsistencies. He showed off his tantalizing potential by striking out 11 Reds across 6.1 scoreless innings in his second start. However, he followed that up by allowing six runs and four home runs against the Padres. Overall, he finished the 2023 season with a 4.15 ERA and a 5.53 FIP.

The Positives

Harrison’s ability to throw strikes was much better than many anticipated. After struggling with walks throughout his professional career, Harrison only walked 7.5% of batters. He pitched at least five innings in five of seven starts after accomplishing that just one time in the Minor Leagues last season.

Another positive was Harrison’s success against right-handed batters. He held righties to a .179/.248/.389 slash and struck out 31.4% of righties that he faced. According to PLV, his four-seam fastball and slurve were even better against righties than lefties which helps eliminate part of the relief risk in Harrison’s profile.

His Major League stint resembled much more of what we would expect from a future starter than a reliever which is a huge relief for dynasty managers.

The Concerns

The one thing that nobody was worried about was Harrison’s stuff. This is the same pitcher that struck out at least 35% of the batters at every stop in his professional career. Sure, there might be slight regression with a jump to the Major Leagues, but it was not an area of concern. To everybody’s surprise, the stuff was, well… underwhelming. Overall, Harrison graded out with a 95 Stuff+. His fastball sat slightly above average at 104 and his curveball sat at 83. These two pitches accounted for over 87% of the pitches Harrison threw.

2024 and Dynasty Outlook

Is it fair to change your entire outlook for a pitcher after 34.2 Major League innings? Probably not. However, my outlook for Harrison was totally different from what seemed to come to fruition. The expectation was plenty of whiffs, high strikeout rates, and erratic control. What we got was high strike percentages with spotty command and feel for his secondary offerings and below-average stuff.

With where Harrison is going in early drafts, I would be more than okay to take a shot on him in 2024. The stuff was disappointing, but we barely hit the stabilization levels for most of these grading tools. The upside he demonstrated in the Minor Leagues makes him worth a dart throw in your fantasy drafts. The two pitchers he is going between are soon-to-be 36-year-old Kenta Maeda and Kutter Crawford. Harrison should be given a fairly long leash in 2024 and is well worth taking a shot on.

Meanwhile, for dynasty purposes, I would be looking to capitalize on his name value. Harrison was a top pitching prospect in baseball as recently as the middle of last season. However, the stuff seemed to take a major step backward at the Major League level. In addition, he looked to be a two-pitch pitcher. He lacked a consistent feel for his secondaries and the fastball failed to post the metrics fantasy managers want for a pitch thrown over 60% of the time. Dynasty managers should still be able to get substantial value for him on the trade market. They should cash in now before his dynasty value falls further.


Quinn Priester, SP Pittsburgh Pirates

2023 Results

Some scouts have raved about Priester’s potential since the Pirates drafted him 18th overall in the 2019 draft. Disappointing strikeout rates and the lack of consistent success has caused plenty of differing opinions surrounding Priester’s long-term dynasty value. Through his first five starts in Triple-A, Priester had a 7.78 ERA. However, after that, he went 6-0 across his next 13 starts with a 3.31 ERA. He allowed two or fewer runs in nine of those 13 starts earning him a Major League promotion.

Let’s just say that his Major League career did not get off to the best start. He allowed at least four runs in each of his first three starts and had a 9.10 ERA before a demotion back to Triple-A. While he was slightly unlucky, his FIP still sat at an ugly 6.81 and his K-BB% was just 3.6%. He looked solid in four Minor League appearances and returned for four more starts in the Major Leagues. The results were more of the same as he posted a 5.91 ERA with a 6.63 FIP.

The Positives

Looking for positives with those kinds of numbers can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Although the appearances were not very successful, Priester managed to work at least four innings in every start and averaged over five innings per appearance.

In addition to his ability to work deep into games, his sinker was actually a solid pitch. This pitch graded with a 4.8 PLV and helped Priester keep the ball on the ground. Although his four-seam and slider need a lot of work, his sinker profiles as a solid Major League offering.

The Concerns

The concerns are numerous, but we will just hit a couple of big ones here. The most obvious is the lack of strikeouts. His 15.4% strikeout rate would have ranked lowest amongst all qualified starters in 2023. To be a fantasy-relevant pitcher, Priester will need to generate more whiffs than he currently does. This is an issue with the only solid offering being his sinker; a pitch to generate weak contact.

The pitchers who can maintain relevancy with low strikeout rates are control specialists. Think Miles Mikolas for an example. He only walked 4.5% of batters he faced last season. Priester’s command and control have been inconsistent throughout his professional career and is another area he struggled in during his Major League debut. He walked over 11% of batters which even further caps his upside. Pitchers either need to have strong stuff or strong control. Priester currently has neither.

2024 and Dynasty Outlook

Many of the players included in this brief article series have had complicated outlooks. Some have value for 2024 but should be viewed as sells in dynasty formats. Others have the complete opposite. The outlook here is fairly simple: stay away. The path to fantasy relevance here is almost impossible to see. There is the potential in Priester’s profile to turn into a useful Major League asset for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is not a path that I see him helping your fantasy team win a championship. He lacks the stuff to generate strikeouts or the control to post strong ratios.

AJ Smith-Shawver, SP Atlanta Braves

2023 Results

There was not a pitching prospect who flew up prospect rankings faster than AJ Smith-Shawver. The seventh-round pick from 2021 started the season in High-A where he threw 14.1 scoreless innings prior to earning a promotion to Double-A. Seven more scoreless innings at Double-A led to a fast promotion to Triple-A. He made two starts there and then at 20-years-old he was promoted to the Major Leagues.

His first appearance came out of the bullpen when he threw 2.1 scoreless innings. He made three starts after that with a 5.02 ERA and a 7.37 FIP. The Braves sent him back to Triple-A after that for more seasoning and in an attempt to limit the young pitcher’s innings. He returned to make two more starts for Atlanta before working out of the bullpen in the postseason. He finished the season with a 4.26 ERA but a concerning 6.69 FIP has many proceeding with caution.

The Positives

One of the biggest positives is that Smith-Shawver was able to gain valuable Major League experience at just 20 years old. Not many pitching prospects can reach the Major Leagues at such a young age and this experience is sure to benefit him throughout his Major League career.

Success with his slider is another positive takeaway. Smith-Shawver was especially effective with this pitch against right-handed batters. He generated a whiff over 38% of the time with a .125 batting average against. A greater reliance on this and his curveball could be a big step in his development.

The Concerns

Smith-Shawver found significantly more success against right-handed batters in his small Major League sample. Righties hit .116/.174/.256 while lefties slashed .240/.356/.560. Left-handed batters also found more success in the Minor Leagues. The sample sizes here are extremely small, but this is something to keep an eye on.

Another issue was underwhelming stuff. Smith-Shawver’s Minor League run was fueled by impressive strikeout numbers. His strikeout rate dropped with each promotion and was just 19% in the Major Leagues. There is nothing in his arsenal that jumps off the screen leading to questions about his long-term value.

2024 and Dynasty Outlook

One potential negative for playing for an organization like the Braves is the importance placed on winning. Competing in a division with teams like the Phillies, Marlins, and yes even the Mets creates an urgency to win every game possible throughout the season. The Braves have an opening in their starting rotation, but that spot could be filled via free agency. His price in drafts is essentially free, but there is a strong chance he winds up pitching out of Atlanta’s bullpen. There are other pitchers I prefer to take a shot on late in fantasy drafts.

For dynasty, this is another player that managers should be looking to sell high on. His meteoric rise created buzz throughout the dynasty community. Some of that hype is still attached to his name and creates an opportunity for dynasty managers to capitalize. The combination of relief risk and underwhelming stuff tempers his future outlook.


Assets by Adobe Firefly, Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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