When you’re combing through depth charts and trying to find value in the late rounds of redraft leagues, prospects start to look really shiny and promising compared to steady veterans like Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber. But those two guys have guaranteed rotation spots to start the season, while most pitching prospects will need an incredibly strong spring to force their way in.
These rankings aim to provide a realistic timeline for when we can expect some of the game’s best pitching prospects to debut and contribute to redraft fantasy teams. This is not a ranking of the best pitching prospects in baseball based on their upside or skills alone.
The current state of the Major League rotation and the amount of opportunity available is considered first and foremost. Then I considered their skills (using stats like K-BB% and xFIP), minor league track records, innings pitched in 2022, and upside – in that order.
Pitchers are separated into three groups: those that could crack the opening day rotation, those that could get called up mid-season, and those that could get called up in September. The reality is that we have no idea what major league teams plan to do with most of these players. Pitcher injuries are fickle and arm health is paramount for organizations, so you never know when a fast-tracked prospect will start to slow down.
Pitchers Who Could Make the Opening Day Roster
This group features a few of the best pitching prospects in professional baseball. We’ve known for a while that Grayson Rodriguez would have the inside track to a rotation spot, but each guy after him is making his case to break down the door and force his way in this Spring. You might not have to stash them for very long.
1. Grayson Rodriguez, BAL
2022 Stats (AAA): 69.2 IP/2.20 ERA/0.93 WHIP/35.8 K%/7.7 BB%
You’ll have to pony up on draft day to secure Grayson Rodriguez on your roster. He’s currently going just inside the top 200 in ADP on the NFBC and he’s got the most secure Opening Day rotation spot of anyone on this list. He was just about ready to make his Major League debut last summer before a right lat strain shut him down. Due to the light workload in 2022, we can’t really bank on him eclipsing 100 innings with ease. He should provide immediate impact for your fantasy rotation, but you might have to prepare for some innings restrictions down the stretch.
2. Hunter Brown, HOU
2022 Stats (AAA): 106.0 IP/2.55 ERA/1.08 WHIP/31.5 K%/10.6 BB%
MLB: 20.1 IP/0.89 ERA/1.08 WHIP/27.5 K%/8.8 BB%
The comparisons to Cristian Javier will inevitably come for Hunter Brown, who figures to be the first man out of the Houston Astros rotation while potentially spending some time in a long relief role for the club. Javier found himself in a similar position last year until his performance forced the team to carry a six-man rotation and give him consistent starts. Brown was electric in his 20.1 MLB innings last season, and he would likely get a chance to start if not for the Astros’ rotation depth. He’s ranked high on this list because his long relief innings could be valuable for deeper leagues while he waits for his rotation opportunity.
3. Hayden Wesneski, CHC
2022 Stats (AAA): 143.1 IP/3.52 ERA/1.11 WHIP/23.6 K%/7.3 BB%
MLB: 20.1 IP/2.18 ERA/0.94 WHIP/25.0 K%/5.3 BB%
After being traded at the deadline from the Yankees to the Cubs, Hayden Wesneski was quickly promoted to make his MLB debut. He showed exceptional command in his starts, and his breaking stuff has the potential to grow to be lethal when he gets ahead. With Kyle Hendricks doubtful to start the season on time, Wesneski can battle with Keegan Thompson for the final rotation spot.
4. Andrew Painter, PHI
2022 Stats (A/A+/AA): 103.2 IP/1.56 ERA/0.89 WHIP/38.7 K%/6.2 BB%
Andrew Painter has been one of the fastest-rising pitching prospects in baseball over the last year. He logged at least 28 IP across three levels in the minors and ended at Double-A where he posted a 2.54 ERA and a 32.1 K-BB% as a 19-year-old. His primary opponent in the competition for the Phillies’ fifth rotation spot is Bailey Falter. While Falter was solid across 84 MLB IP last season, he doesn’t carry the same upside that Painter does. It’s an uphill battle considering he’ll only be 20 years old next season, but he’s already proved himself to be a special talent.
5. Gavin Williams, CLE
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 115.0 IP/1.96 ERA/0.95 WHIP/33.1 K%/8.9 BB%
Gavin Williams was a 2021 first-round draft pick and blew through his first professional season in 2022. The fact that he’s already poised to see the Big Leagues this upcoming season says a lot about his makeup on the mound. The Guardians continue to develop premiere pitching talent, and until Daniel Espino shows that he’s healthy, Williams should be the first guy up if Cleveland needs innings.
6. Ken Waldichuk, OAK
Stats (AA/AAA): 129.2 IP/3.40 ERA/1.17 WHIP/31.3 K%/8.5 BB%
MLB: 34.2 IP/4.93 ERA/1.21 WHIP/22.6 K%/6.8 BB%
Another pitching prospect traded by the Yankees at the deadline, Ken Waldichuk, debuted shortly after the trade as well. Unlike Wesneski, Waldichuk didn’t find immediate success. This is likely due to the drop in strikeout rate after the promotion, and there isn’t much in his profile to suggest it could bounce back. His SwStr% and CSW% are both below average, and all of his pitches grade out to be average by PLV. The good news is there’s almost zero competition for a rotation spot on the A’s, and he’ll pitch at home in the cavernous Coliseum.
7. Ryne Nelson, ARI
2022 Stats (AAA): 136.0 IP/5.43 ERA/1.39 WHIP/21.6 K%/7.9 BB%
MLB: 18.1 IP/1.47 ERA/0.82 WHIP/23.2 K%/8.7 BB%
Those Triple-A stats look horrendous for Ryne Nelson. While he didn’t have a great K-BB% or experience terribly bad luck (by his LOB%, HR/FB%, or BABIP), we should still cut him some slack because he pitched in the Pacific Coast League (PCL). It’s one of the most notorious hitter-friendly leagues in the Minors. He also proceeded to dominate in his three MLB starts, and he showed three pitches that grade as above average in PLV.
8. Kyle Muller, OAK
2022 Stats (AAA): 134.2 IP/3.41 ERA/1.18 WHP/29.3 K%/7.4 BB%
MLB: 12.1 IP/8.03 ERA/1.70 WHIP/20.3 K%/13.6 BB%
Kyle Muller has logged more than 200 quality innings at Triple-A, but he hasn’t been able to find sustained success at the Major League level. He didn’t have many opportunities to pitch in the Majors with the depth of the Braves pitching staff, but now that he’s on the A’s he should have plenty of opportunities to carve out a prominent role in the rotation.
9. DL Hall, BAL
2022 Stats (AAA): 76.2 IP/4.70 ERA/1.45 WHIP/36.1 K%/14.2 BB%
MLB: 13.2 IP/5.93 ERA/1.68 WHIP/29.7 K%/9.4 BB%
DL Hall finds himself in a similar position to Hunter Brown, but I’d say the long-term reliever risk here is a bit higher. Hall doesn’t have as good of command as of right now, and his stuff could be absolutely dominant in short spurts in the late innings. We saw this last year when he made 10 MLB relief appearances and one start, while posting fantastic strikeout numbers.
10. Drey Jameson, ARI
2022 Stats (AAA): 114.0 IP/6.95 ERA/1.59 WHIP/21.2 K%/8.2 BB%
MLB: 24.1 IP/1.48 ERA/1.11 WHIP/24.5 K%/7.1 BB%
Drey Jameson will be competing with Ryne Nelson for the final spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation to start the season. He also experienced the woes of pitching in the PCL and proceeded to stop allowing runs in the Majors. Nelson gets the advantage for me because his stuff rates better, both according to PLV and Eno Sarris’ Pitching+ Model. Brandon Pfaadt is close behind both of them, so we should see an injection of youth in the rotation very soon.
Pitchers Who Could Be Called Up Mid-Season
These guys epitomize the true meaning of the term “stash.” You can grab them in the final rounds of your drafts or pick them up early on in the season when one of your draft picks inevitably gets injured. The path to cracking the MLB rotation in April is slim for them, but it’s only because of the skills or experience of the guys ahead of them in the pecking order. The Major League baseball season is a long one, and starting pitching depth is paramount for any MLB team. The pitchers below will likely be the first to receive phone calls when young arms are needed.
11. Kyle Harrison, SFG
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 113.0 IP/2.71 ERA/1.13 WHIP/39.8 K%/10.5 BB%
Giants General Manager Farhan Zaidi told reporters in early October that he expects Kyle Harrison to contribute to the Major League starting rotation in 2023. The follow-up question should naturally be, “When?” And while we don’t know that answer yet, we do know that the Giants starting rotation is packed with veteran arms. It will be tough to crack it for Opening Day, but he will slot in at some point.
12. Brandon Pfaadt, ARI
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 167.0 IP/3.83ERA/1.16 WHIP/31.6 K%/4.8 BB%
Just about any fan of the CBS TV show Survivor knows about the notorious Dragon Slayer. I’m confident in bestowing that moniker on Brandon Pfaadt as well, but in this case, the dragon is the PCL, not a starving castaway. Jokes aside, Pfaadt posted an incredible ERA and K-BB% in Triple-A. He did it in about half the innings as Nelson or Jameson, but that’s why he’s in this section and not the first one. But his skills could allow him to eventually take a big step ahead of them both.
13. Bobby Miller, LAD
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 112.1 IP/4.25 ERA/1.18 WHIP/30.9 K%/7.9 BB%
Bobby Miller is a fireballer who racks up strikeouts while also keeping the walks under control, which is a huge recipe for success if he can replicate it at the Major League level. He should be the first to answer the call for the Dodgers if they need a rotation replacement. We’ve been hearing about his fastball for a while, and he showed off the full impressive arsenal when he opened this summer’s Futures Game.
14. Tanner Bibee, CLE
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 132.2 IP/2.17 ERA/0.97 WHIP/32.4 K%/5.2 BB%
Tanner Bibee was drafted at 156th overall in the fifth round of the 2021 Amateur Draft and he has vaulted up prospect lists after an exceptional debut professional season. He’s another benefactor of the Guardians’ stellar pitching development and could offer some much-needed swing-and-miss capabilities to the Major League rotation.
15. Gavin Stone, LAD
2022 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 121.2 IP/1.48 ERA/1.12 WHIP/33.9 K%/8.9 BB%
Gavin Stone rose through three levels of the Minor Leagues in 2022 without carrying an ERA above 2.00 at any of them. We saw him be the benefactor of some luck as seen in his HR/FB% and LOB%, but that’s to be expected with an ERA that low. The exciting thing is that his xFIP backs up some tremendous skills – it stayed below 3.00 in High-A and Double-A before rising to 3.79 in 23.1 Triple-A IP. Miller likely has the first shot at MLB innings due to his deeper experience in the organization, but Stone is right on his tail.
16. Daniel Espino, CLE
2022 Stats (AA): 18.1 IP/2.45 ERA/0.71 WHIP/51.5 K%/5.9 BB%
Daniel Espino would likely be in Gavin Williams‘ spot on this list if it wasn’t for the injuries that ended his 2022 season. He originally suffered patellar tendinitis in his knee in April and then he was sidelined for the full year with right shoulder soreness. That’s particularly concerning, especially since we haven’t received an update on when he might return. But if he becomes available, he could make quick work of the Minors.
17. Luis Ortiz, PIT
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 140.1 IP/4.55 ERA/1.14 WHIP/26.8 K%/8.3 BB%
MLB: 16.0 IP/4.50 ERA/1.13 WHIP/24.6 K%/14.5 BB%
Luis Ortiz was signed as an international free agent in 2018 and was promoted through three levels in 2022 which culminated in him making his MLB debut. His strikeout rate doesn’t pop in his short MLB sample, but his SwStr% and CSW% point to a possibility for more strikeouts.
18. Quinn Priester, PIT
2022 Stats (A/A+/AA/AAA): 90.1 IP/3.29 ERA/1.21 WHIP/23.6 K%/8.0 BB%
Quinn Priester has a beautiful curveball but hasn’t shown many flashes of strikeout potential. He’s managed to carry good ratios, but his upside will be limited until he misses more bats. The Pirates do seem to believe in him and he should start next year at AAA.
Pitchers Who Could Be Called Up in September
Here, we have the dart throws. The key is to avoid carrying them as dead weight on your roster all year long while still keeping tabs on them in the minors. You could be ready to pounce before the rest of the managers in your league even read the transaction report.
19. Taj Bradley, TBR
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 133.1 IP/2.57 ERA/1.04 WHIP/26.5 K%/6.2 BB%
Taj Bradley soared through Low-A, High-A, and Double-A while posting elite ratios with strikeout and walk rates to match. After he made it to Triple-A last season, he came back to Earth a little bit, but he was still effective. His strikeout rate dropped pretty significantly, so it will be important to see how he comes out of the gates to begin next season. The Rays have plenty of starting pitching options and they’re not afraid to use an opener in a pinch so he might have to wait until rosters expand to make his debut.
20. Logan Allen, CLE
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 132.2 IP/4.75 ERA/1.30 WHIP/31.5 K%/9.1 BB%
Logan Allen might not be as popular of a prospect as some other pitchers in his organization, but he’s pitched the most innings in the upper minors of any Cleveland pitchers on this list. He’s adept at missing bats and doesn’t have a big walk issue so he could be a decent sleeper to keep an eye on if the Guardians choose to go with the experience over upside. And if he does make it to the Majors this year, don’t get him confused with the Rockies’ Logan Allen, who was on the Guardians roster in 2021. Go figure!
21. Eury Perez, MIA
2022 Stats (AA): 75.0 IP/4.08 ERA/1.16 WHIP/34.1 K%/8.0 BB%
It is absolutely possible that Eury Perez could end up being one of the most talented Major Leaguers on this list. The factors that make him a tough one to stash right now are his age and the level of competition ahead of him. Even after the Pablo López trade, the Marlins still have plenty of young pitching depth, and Perez will still only be 20 years old this season.
22. Ricky Tiedeman, TOR
2022 Stats (A/A+/AA): 78.2 IP/2.17 ERA/0.86 WHIP/38.9 K%/9.6 BB%
Ricky Tiedeman has the upside of an ace starting pitcher, but like Eury Perez, he’s limited by his age and level of competition. We could absolutely see him for a few starts in September if he’s able to replicate his 2022 success in the high levels of the minors this year. So make sure to watch how the team handles his workload and promotions throughout the summer.
23. Owen White, TEX
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 80.1 IP/3.59 ERA/1.16 WHIP/31.7 K%/7.0 BB%
Owen White has improved his walk rate at each level of the minors. Although the strikeout rates have come down as well, he has yet to register a K-BB% lower than 20% at any level. The Rangers have loaded their Major League starting rotation with free agents, but most of them are past 30 and carry significant injury risk, so White has a good shot to get the call by the end of the summer.
24. Mick Abel, PHI
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 108.1 IP/3.90 ERA/1.33 WHIP/27.6 K%/10.6 BB%
Mick Abel was a 2020 first-round pick for the Phillies and he’s risen pretty quickly through the organization in two seasons. He made it to Double-A last season for five starts but his K-BB% and xFIP don’t stand out as much as others on this list, so it might be a stretch that he makes it to the Majors this year.
25. Jake Eder, MIA
2021 Stats (AA): 71.1 IP/1.77 ERA/0.98 WHIP/34.5 K%/9.4 BB%
After being drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 Amateur Draft, Jake Eder blew away Double-A competition in 2021. He was well on his way to propel through the organization before Tommy John surgery stopped him in his tracks. He didn’t pitch in 2022 but now he’s ready to go to begin the 2023 season and he has the stuff to make a lot of noise down the stretch.
Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Chris Corr (@Chris_Studios on Twitter)