Top 400 Starting Pitchers For Fantasy Baseball 2024: 41-60 SPs

SP Rankings for 2024 Fantasy Baseball: 41 - 60 Starting Pitchers

Welcome to the Top 400 Starting Pitchers For 2024 Fantasy Baseball. This is an update to my Top 200 Starting Pitchers For 2024 from October last year.

After shoving all my strategies and write-ups of all 400 players + something close to 300 videos into one article, I quickly found out it crashed phones and browsers, and I felt like an idiot. I’m so sorry everyone, I really should have just done these individually spliced articles first.

Here’s what we’ve done:

Please read the Rankings Philosophy article before reading the rankings. I cannot express enough how it outlines my thoughts on drafting in 12-teamers and why I have ranked these players as I have.

Thanks for your passion and enthusiasm for this article – it pushes me more every year, and I already have new ideas for next year to make this easier a better presentation for all of you.




Tier 7 – I Have To Put Them Somewhere

This is mostly your Holly/Toby tier of guys who are hopefully going to be consistent enough to separate from the traditional Toby pack, while there is some fun upside in the mix. Oh, and Cease who I don’t like enough for Tier 6, but Tier 8 just felt too low and ignores his ceiling too much.


41. Dylan Cease (CHW, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


You’re drafting Cease because you believe he can get back to his 2022 form and I’m here to tell you that’s a path of discomfort and anxiety. Is it possible? Absolutely, and if Cease winds up on a team that can work with him to squeeze the most out of his four-seamer and slider, or better yet, find something else to properly complement the two weapons (the curve ain’t it, y’all), then I can see how Cease rises back to the Top 15 SP in your fantasy leagues.

But 2022 was a weird year where Cease both overperformed and peaked, with 2023 carrying more of what we should expect in the year ahead. There’s talk about the Stuff+ of Cease’s four-seamer dictating far better times ahead, though that mark is rooted in his elite iVB (18 inches!) and I worry about his low extension and VAA marks that can explain why the pitch hasn’t held a SwStr rate above 13% in his career against RHBs (and far worse against LHBs), in addition to the pitch crossing The Plane of 1,000 Cuts – the X-axis of horizontal movement. I don’t get it. When you cross the X-axis as a four-seamer, it means you have cut action. I hate cut action on four-seamers that we hope to earn whiffs with, as the ball finds the bat more often than pitches that feature more arm-side movement.

Back to that fastball’s performance. In 2022, Cease shockingly dropped its fastball strike rate to left-handers massively to sub 50%, but doing so prevented a ton of contact, and with Cease, it’s in his best interest to walk batters and aim to strike them out instead of relying on balls in play (hey, that’s the Snell method! See how precarious it is?). That fastball returned to a 66% strike rate in 2023 and subsequently got pummeled. Go figure.

However, the four-seamer held the fort against right-handers (as a mediocre option with a sub 13% SwStr as he stayed up-and-away, refusing to jam batters for whatever reason), and it was the slider that let him down there. Far fewer strikes resulted as the pitch induced fewer chases out of the zone and found the zone far less. That slider is everything for Cease and if he can’t overwhelm RHBs with sliders, then the whole thing falls apart.

I don’t believe a team can take a look at Cease and fix him overnight to return to his 2022 form. A rebound season requires Cease to demolish RHBs with his slider again while ensuring LHBs stay off his four-seamer, as I have little faith his ~55% strike rate curveball will have a ton of influence on his next six-month campaign. In addition, it’s hard to imagine “unlocking” his four-seamer for something more without great extension and VAA, merged with the cut-action that needs to get axed. You’re going to get a fair number of strikeouts with that slider still on his side and it’s well within reason to expect a better season ahead, but the volatility is sure to stick around even with Cease arguably breaking the Huascar RuleNo thanks.


42. Justin Verlander (HOU, RHP)

2023 Stats Tables
Pitch Repertoire Table


I’m more encouraged about Verlander than I expected to be. On paper, his declining SwStr rates on both his four-seamer and slider are troublesome (9% and 15%, respectively), pushing his strikeout rate close to 20% in 2023 and spelling further degradation for his upcoming 41-year-old season, especially after missing all of April last year. Combine that with a curveball that had far worse results, it doesn’t take a prophet to predict a proper fall off a cliff this season.

And yet, there’s hope. The hook was poorly commanded last season, and returning to form with an emphasis on getting the pitch lower for 2024 would have a ripple effect across his arsenal, giving him more flexibility with his fastball and slider, alleviating the tendency to go two-pitch at times. Verlander’s four-seamer still has elite iVB and he’s excellent at locating the pitch high enough to keep balls in the park (for the most part), with his only weakness coming against LHBs where the pitch fell into the zone more than ideal. And his slider, despite its pedestrian 15% SwStr rate, is still phenomenal at keeping hitters at bay.

Throw all of that into a pot and I don’t think you’ll bench Verlander in 2023, given his legit Win potential and a great WHIP with a strong defense behind him. Strikeouts and total volume are the biggest concerns, with a floor of a 4.00+ ERA if he’s unable to keep his four-seamer elevated (a skill he’s had, I don’t know, forever.). Oddly enough, that’s cool with me, just be careful leaning on Verlander if you’re already lacking punchouts.


43. Chris Bassitt (TOR, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Bassitt gets overlooked for obvious reasons: He doesn’t have the WOW factor, featuring a sinker that doesn’t feel like it should have a 27% called strike rate, or the secondaries that win you over on paper or with the eye test. But you’re the wise fantasy manager and you know there are many ways to earn success as a pitcher. What Bassitt does is one of them.

How does his sinker earn so many called strikes? Two reasons. He spots it decently well around the zone and mixes in a bevy of secondaries that keep batters tepid from sitting on the riding heater. It’s a dance of cutters, sliders, curves, and even changeups, mixed with the occasional high four-seamer in two-strike counts (that was far less efficient in 2023, but could return if he spots it better).

I could go on about his slider’s increase in SwStr rate, the curve that wasn’t as effective as previous years, the high cutter effectiveness, but the real champion is that sinker. With its routine 30% ICR against RHBs (and often lower), Bassitt is able to see the sixth frame often, granting him a solid WHIP and a handful of Wins. The only concern is its effectiveness against LHB, with hopes that his cutter can be a touch more precise in 2024, while possibly including more sliders and curves into the mix.

Bassitt is safe and reliable, though he’s likely not going to exceed a 25% strikeout rate. He’s a rock for 15-teamers and a good stabilizer for 12-teamers if you’ve taken a boatload of risk early on.


44. Brayan Bello (BOS, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I see Bello and I see potential for something more. After tossing 28 starts and 158 frames in 2023, Bello is primed to be a 180 IP volume arm in the year ahead, rooted in his sinker/changeup approach that should help him keep his walk rate down and hold a lower pitches-per-out than his contemporaries. I imagine the fatigue he showcased in his final two starts (13 ER that moved his ERA from 3.71 to 4.24) is a process of development and will be ironed out across another year.

Those two pitches will keep him afloat, even in Boston’s offense-fueling home park, and the question becomes What’s Next? Bello has hovered at a 20% strikeout rate while lacking a four-seamer to bully upstairs (not for lack of trying, though), nor a major breaking ball to demoralize RHBs. Bello’s slider for the season was pedestrian at best, though it woke up in September with four whiffs a game in his final outings, and he’s expressed the desire to increase its usage in 2024, likely after improving the pitch over the off-season.

With a proper slider, he could become a danger for RHBs who saw the breaker record just a 54% strike rate and just 15 strikeouts in 2023. However, it doesn’t quell my fears against LHBs, where Bello elected to favor more four-seamers than sinkers, which did him few favors with its high 44% ICR rate and unsightly -15% Quality-Bad pitch rate. Yikes. That heater nullified the massive success of his changeup, while the sinker was far better than we usually see them perform against LHBs, likely a product of mirroring his changeup so well at nearly 10 mph harder and with elite horizontal movement. Bello will need to slash four-seamers from his LHB approach for something else and I’m not entirely sure what at the moment. Maybe just throw 40-50% changeups?

What we see from Bello in 2023 is likely not the guy we get in the year ahead as the soon-to-be 25-year-old is still shaping his approach and arsenal for his second full year in the bigs. It outlines improvements in both ERA and WHIP, while possible strikeout gains are attainable. A draft pick in Bello likely results in a hold through the full season, though the sizeable chance of Bello making only a small improvement holds me back from elevating him up my draft boards.


45. Merrill Kelly (ARI, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Kelly is the perfect example of a pitcher that we all want to believe is safe after two years of nearly identical seasons, yet his 1.19 WHIP with a rising walk rate (9.4%?!) makes it awfully precarious. Then again, his strikeout rate rose to a near 26% clip due to his changeup flirting with a glorious 50% O-Swing that we only speak of in ancient myths, suggesting a play for 200 strikeouts if he’s able to go a full 32 starts. The stellar defense behind him has been the catalyst for his low hit rates the last two seasons and should stick around again, but I’m not sure I buy into his four-seamer returning an 11-12% SwStr rate for another season. Meanwhile, the cutter/sinker/curve are mediocre fail-safes if the changeup isn’t inducing chases at an elite rate. That slowball’s new 2022 grip makes me believe the 2021 floor isn’t present, and I generally think those drafting Kelly will hold him throughout the season, I simply hate how close he is to regressing massively and becoming a Toby at best. Just throw 40% changeups and I’ll be happy.


46. Cristopher Sánchez (PHI, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Sánchez is pretty remarkable. His sinker gets a ton of horizontal movement and a fair amount of drop, allowing it to sit away from lefties and still give them fits at an unsustainable sub 20% ICR rate. He’ll allow more hits across a larger sample next season, but we shouldn’t expect a massive swing of the pendulum. Even without his slider acting like the traditional southpaw silver bullet to dispose of left-handers, Sánchez’s sinker will grant him the advantage in same-handed matchups.

Against right-handers, it gets a bit weird. The changeup is a monster at near 40% usage and 21% SwStr rate, mirroring the sinker well but at 11 mph slower that has the bottom fall out from under it. But that sinker plays a delicate game of 25-30% called strikes and a 50% ICR. It’s a dangerous affair, though his +8 Hit Luck suggests Sánchez already saw its floor, while gaining a touch of command polish (inside half locations were favored, oddly enough) could also hint at improved performance in 2024.

There’s also the question of his slider. There were times Sánchez was limited to just two pitches when his feel for the slider disappeared, either leaving it too far inside the zone or missing for an easy take, and its 40%+ ICR against righties is a showcase of its unreliability.

This makeup isn’t an arm primed to return another 3.44 ERA, 1.05 WHIP season. However, Sánchez’s efficiency on the bump, as he consistently earns outs with sinkers and whiffs with the changeup, does suggest he can be stretched out to six frames more often, while settling inside a 20-25% strikeout rate with digestible ERA and WHIP ratios. His sinker and changeup are strong enough foundations that he can be trusted enough to roster in 12-teamers, though the wheels could fall off if his sinker doesn’t improve against right-handers.


47. Walker Buehler (LAD, RHP)

2022 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


It feels weird ranking Buehler and I’m likely going to jump back and forth throughout the pre-season. Buehler shouldn’t be expected to be pitching for the squad until the end of April at the earliest, especially with the signing of Paxton, as the Dodgers are trying to do everything they can to preserve him for their playoff run at the end of the year. Does that mean he’s on the IL to start the year? I’m okay with that. Honestly, I don’t know…? It may mean he’s in the minors instead and that would be all kinds of annoying as he steals a roster spot for the most critical weeks of the season. Maybe he forces himself into the rotation in April? It’s possible, but not necessary and I’d imagine having Buehler ramp up and never slow down during the season is preferred over a start-stop-start mid-way through, especially when they have a clean bill of health across their other arms at the start of the year.

With all that out of the way, what can we expect of the quality of Buehler’s outings? This is where I have more hesitation than I expected. Buehler’s four-seamer was absolutely bananas in 2021…before the sticky stuff ban as it went from 18.5 iVB to just over 16 inches by the end of the year and early 2022. Losing two inches of iVB on a four-seamer is a big deal, and paired with Buehler’s propensity to not elevate the pitch (Dodgers, GET IT TOGETHER), I have to wonder if that heater will be a golden offering post-TJS or not. I’m inclined to believe Buehler’s arm will feel better than it did in 2022 when we had our concerns about his performance, though it’s unclear right now where his skills are.

The slider, curve, cutter, and change were all solid offerings that made Buehler a complete pitcher, though he showed many signs of struggle commanding them before going under the knife – a problem that may be rectified with a healthy elbow. I have little doubt that Buehler will help teams this year as long as he’s healthy with this arsenal, but a 3.00 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP and 25%+ strikeout rate may be out of the cards without the old fastball.

Buehler has the makings of a pitcher you’re absolutely thrilled to have rostered in June while he induces all the anxiety in April, wondering why you have this stuck roster spot for at least a month. Buehler may not even give you production the moment he returns, either, with the Dodgers possibly ramping him up at 3-4 innings for the first few games. My feelings toward stashing players have shifted over the years, and I now see a curmudgeon in my reflection as I favor the short-term value moreso than the stash/long-term value of the seasons (get your value now and worry about next month later), which has me leaning toward skipping Buehler in drafts – it’s not a 100% lock he’s a stud! – and yet, I just can’t turn him down at this point. The chances of Buehler helping you across 140 frames are higher than those getting drafted behind him, even if you have to wait a little longer to get it.


48. José Berríos (TOR, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Don’t treat Berríos like he’s an average of his 2022 and 2023 selves. He completely overhauled his approach and it worked well for him, though there are still some glaring issues that make me a bit concerned moving forward.

In short, Berríos’ four-seamer does him few favors and he wisely axed the pitch for well-spotted sinkers and changeups, while finding consistency with his curveball against right-handers. The sinker now sits glove-side against both LHBs and RHBs and does so incredibly effectively, though I wish he was able to jam RHBs more often to at least flirt with the 40% O-Swing it had during its heyday. Meanwhile, that hook landed perfectly down and glove-side in 2023 and I imagine his general embrace of the glove side with his sinker and curve allowed both to find their spots better.

Right-handers also get a taste of the changeup, normally saved for two-strike counts and it works reasonably well, save for some mistakes in the Nitro Zone that batters are able to pummel. However, the problem lies mostly against right-handers. Berríos’ does a great job stealing called strikes with front-hip sinkers, but the four-seamer still gets hit hard over the plate, while the curve can’t figure out a home to earn whiffs or called strikes on demand without risk of punishment. José gave his changeup a nod to find more strikes in the zone as a result, which didn’t lead to the desired results, either. Something else needs to get tweaked here – either finding a rhythm nailing down-and-away four-seamers (probably not), figuring out his curveball down and middle-out of the plate, or getting a better feel for that changeup.

In the end, Berríos has a solid enough approach now against righties with a better fastball to deal with lefties, which will make him The Great Undulator once again, hovering a 3.70 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Paired with consistent volume and a strikeout every inning he hits the bump, Berríos is likely to be the same arm we’ve been accustomed to – a HIPSTER at worst and a Holly at best.


49. Jordan Montgomery (FA, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I don’t expect to roster Montgomery in any of my leagues after the playoff tax is sure to inflate his draft stock. Passan, calling his pitch “The Deathball” has done things to this fantasy community. The Bear is sure to help your fantasy team, but his mix of sinkers, curveballs, and changeups (with the occasional cutter and four-seamer) simply isn’t enough. His changeup is the best offering against RHB, but its sub 60% strike rate showcases its eye-rolling inducing behavior that makes me curl inside dreaming of watching a pitcher who can execute and not beg for whiffs so often. This is a gross exaggeration. Sorry, you’re right…when JorMont is pitching in the playoffs or has that one magical stretch every August or so. Otherwise? It’s a take on the Neckbeard approach with a few more strikeouts. That’s not for me.

I have to give him credit against LHB, though. Montgomery does a solid job jamming his sinker inside to consistently induce poor contact as much as any sinker out there, especially for a high 77% strike pitch. It’s a rare sinker with a PLV over 5.00 for that very reason…but sadly it falls to 4.53 PLV against RHB. Bleeeeggggh.

He will have runs of strong command where he can avoid mistakes over the plate with fastballs, allowing him to lean into hooks for strikeouts and changeups for surprise outs, though he doesn’t have that pitch to turn to inside the zone to demand success. He’s a nibbler who doesn’t nibble as well as the elites. He’s a strikeout pitcher who doesn’t have a go-to whiff pitch. He’s a volume pitcher who lacks efficiency. A jack of all trades, master of none. And I get it. He’s pretty safe for a sub 4.00 ERA with a WHIP around 1.20 or so and about 160-170 strikeouts. He’s sure to sign with a team that’ll give him a solid chance at double-digit Wins as well and there’s legit value in that. I just want to chase for more, in life.


Tier 8 – $100 At The Mall

I consider Tier 7 where the cliff should be in 12-teamers as you should have at least four starters you trust to anchor your rotation throughout the full year. That means you can go ham wild chasing ceiling at this point, throwing injury concerns or lack of track record out the window. Knock yourself out.


50. Carlos Rodón (NYY, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


After taking an hour to sit down with injury specialist Stephen Lyman during PitchCon (watch the chat here!), we discussed Rodón’s health track record, which included a forearm strain in 2023 that prevented him from starting until July 2023. Lyman outlined how strains rarely recover in full, suggesting it’ll pop up again in 2024, not to mention Rodón’s fall from 96 mph in two starts of September down to 93/94 mph in his final two, which ended the year. Yikes.

BUT, let’s say Rodón is A-Ok and fully healthy in the spring with a normal schedule expected for the season ahead. His horrendous 2023 marks can be explained by two factors: his slider against LHBs and the aggression of RHBs against his four-seamer. The LHB problem should be eradicated in the year ahead as we shouldn’t anticipate a replication of its horrific 51% strike rate for another season. That’s simply unheard of and something we should expect to improve for 2024, especially when small sample is in the mix merged with recovering from an arm injury that allowed for little time to regain a groove.

The RHB issue is a little more nuanced. Batters had massive swing rates against Rodón’s four-seamer, especially on first pitches, which resulted in one of the lowest True-First Strike rates on the heater & 1st percentile Early-Called Strikes, which tells you batters are seeking the heater on the first pitch constantly and punishing it. It lowered Rodón’s confidence and led to more balls on first pitches, which got him in worse counts, increased his walks, and messed everything up.

In addition, his four-seamer was objectively worse. Its iVB dropped from an elite 17.6 mark to 16.9 (still great but not sooo great), weighing down his SwStr from a strong 14/15% clip to just 12% against RHBs and creating a ghastly 47% ICR for RHBs off his heater. Blegh. The hope here is proper health will keep his velocity up closer to 96 mph more often, which would increase the iVB, prevent batters from effectively seeking out heaters early, and make life good again for Rodón.

The path to an SP #1/#2 for your fantasy squads is shockingly close for a guy who just had a 6.85 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Stay healthy, regain the minor decline of the heater, and normalize the slider against LHBs. That first element of health is the major domino that needs to fall and while I’m not banking on it, a strong spring will make me more inclined to chase him in drafts. All I ask is to not pass on legit production for your teams before taking the gamble on Rodón.


51. Nathan Eovaldi (TEX, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


This one took a while. Eovaldi was able to drop his hits-per-nine dramatically in 2023, shaving off over two hits from his time in Boston. How? A few factors: 1) better team defense in Texas, 2) improved cutter and splitters, especially against left-handers, 3) no more sliders, and 4) somehow returning out of nowhere in September with his velocity back.

That last part is the real issue with Eovaldi: his health. Eovaldi had an incredibly weird 2022 where his velocity fell off a cliff and he was banished to the IL soon after. The Rangers picked him up for 2023, and everything was more than gravy in the early months, sitting in the dugout after his June 4th start with a 2.24 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 25% strikeout rate, including a five-game stretch tossing 41.2 innings. In FIVE starts. Yeesh. However, the heater sat 95.8 mph across his first twelve starts, and the signs were beginning to show on that last game with a 95.2 mph heater. It fell to 93.8 by June 20th, leading to Eovaldi’s final 13 starts returning a 5.37 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 20% strikeout rate. But his last two starts were an atrocity! Fine, a 4.23 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with a 19% strikeout rate in the eleven games after. Better? Thanks. 

I’m worried about Eovaldi’s arm/shoulder/whatever you want to say is the cause of two straight seasons ending in fatigue that clearly affected the playoff hero – don’t forget, Eovaldi suddenly had 95-97 mph in the playoffs and led the Rangers to their first World Series titles, an act that he’ll have forever, and I’m willing to wager it was him giving everything he had at the sacrifice of 2024.

I’m terrified of the arm, even if his velocity looks alright early in the year. The overall approach of four-seamers (great VAA, terrible iVB) that get hit hard + cutters that nullify lefties and struggle against righties, and a splitter that kills LHB and can work against RHB screams massive regression ahead. He really isn’t as good as the playoffs or the early spring performances suggest – Eovaldi is much more like his 2021 and 2022 of high-3s ERA and ~1.20 WHIP with a strikeout rate hovering 22% than the workhorse ace we saw for eight weeks.


52. Gavin Williams (CLE, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


It’s the four-seamer. Williams’ fantastic extension paired with a good VAA allows his 95/96 mph four-seamer to thrive when located at the top of the zone, even with league-average iVB. He’s not as precise with the pitch as we want it to be on a start-to-start basis, though we’ve seen the ridiculous results when he finds a groove for the offering.

However, how elite is it? Considering Williams’ curve returned a horrid sub 50% strike rate last year (it should get better but by how much?) and that he has a slider that was effective in the zone but doesn’t have the same bite as other breakers from his peers, most of Gavin’s future success leans on that four-seamer dominating at-bats. This isn’t a Strider heater, sadly, and it’s not a Bryce or Woo heater either. Without a reliable third pitch or a #2 pitch that can take over a game, it turns Williams into a high Cherry Bomb candidate for 2024 and that has me slotting him behind the stable Holly types in drafts.


53. Cristian Javier (HOU, RHP)

2023 Stats Tables
Pitch Repertoire Table

It’s all about the spin. Which spin: his slider or his spin rate? Yes. No I mean–YES. Javier lost over 100 RPM on both his four-seamer and slider in 2023 (and regained a lot of it in the playoffs…), which may have been a catalyst for his fastball’s struggles, along with losing a tick on the heater (maybe that’s the reason for the spin drop?). Javier still missed a ton of bats with that four-seamer against RHBs at an elite 18%+ SwStr rate, and even with a much lower SwStr rate against LHBs (down to just 11%), Javier’s four-seamer held an impressive 35% ICR against those batters and that gave him a chance.

But hot dang, that slider failed him against RHBs. The pitch was either floated too high or tugged far out of the zone as it dropped from a 60% strike rate to just over 50% against right-handers in 2023. Wait, how did Javier hold nearly the same 9% walk rate as 2022? I DON’T KNOW. Well, kinda. Javier adjusted by serving fewer sliders to RHBs in favor of more heaters, which worked effectively to generate more outs as he lifted a bit more out of the zone to induce even more flyball outs. In fact, Javier’s 52% overall flyball rate was 99th percentile once again, with grounders turning into more line drives. Back to that slider, at least it showed up for a solid 63% strike rate and a sub 30% ICR against lefties that we’ll take despite the low 7% SwStr rate, but he needs that pitch against righties. Badly.

And there’s the difference, really. Javier’s four-seamer was a bit worse to lefties, while the slider completely failed him for a heavy majority of the year against righties. It meant batters returned more liners, fewer two-strike rates, and a lower putaway rate as Javier didn’t have the same slider to feature off the heater. A pick in Javier is leaning in on his slider to lift itself out of the land of 50% strike rates against right-handers, while hoping to reclaim a bit of velocity or whiffablity on his four-seamer to left-handers. That seems like a decent bet to make given how much of a dip the slider took last season, leading me to place Javier in the Cherry Bomb crew I’d aim to grab after I have my first four starters secured.


54. Ryan Pepiot (TBR, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I like Pepiot far more than I thought I would and a move to the Rays could very well unlock the best version of him. But he was on the Dodgers! Don’t we like them for pitching development? We do for breaking balls but four-seamers? Kinda not…? One thing I’ve discovered about their staff is their hesitation to take four-seamers with excellent properties and lean into them upstairs. Buehler, Miller, Pepiot, each of these arms have four-seamers that would destroy for 14-15% SwStr rates routinely upstairs (if not more) and yet they’ve historically sat low in the zone, often down-and-gloveside instead of leaning into their strengths. Take a moment and reflect: Who was the last Dodgers pitcher with a four-seamer that bullied batters? Lance Lynn…? OH COME ON.

Back to Pepiot. His four-seamer has far better attributes than I realized given its 6.6% SwStr rate to LHB – a mark that masked its strong 14% SwStr to RHB, even without great command of the pitch upstairs. Pepiot gets excellent extension, allowing for an above-average VAA, and pairs it with nearly 17 inches of it on that heater. Wait, and he’s going to TAMPA BAY! That’s right, the very team that started the high-fastball revolution. I’m excited to see how Pepiot approaches that heater in 2024 and it’s the foundation of this rank. Surely they squeeze the most out of that pitch, right?

There is a downside to it. I’m not completely sold on Pepiot’s command. All of his pitches are more shotgun-blast around the zone than I’d like, suggesting that he has trouble replicating his mechanics and preventing him from becoming that hiLoc% stud on his four-seamer like Bailey Ober or Joe RyanI don’t see anything incredibly alarming in his mechanics to suggest this volatility and while the incredibly low 3% walk rate may have you in fits, remember that there is a difference between control and command. Pepiot shoved all his pitches into the zone, but not along the edges nearly as well as we need him to be.

His changeup and slider both made plenty of mistakes over the plate last year, though the former is an elite pitch that he overthrew in his rookie year and found a much better feel as he became accustomed to the bigs in his second season. It’s why I’m not afraid of his performance against LHB and maintains a larger floor against RHB with his 25%+ changeup usage. It’s really that good.

The slider needs work. It currently acts as a tight cutter without pronounced depth with rare moments when he can locate it down-and-glove side that it gets sharp action out of the zone. I wonder if he keeps it as a proper 90 mph cutter and develops a true sweeper for RHB, without the need for it to excel against LHB given his excellent changeup. I believe in you Tampa Bay.

Speaking of which, there is a negative about heading to Florida. The Rays are notorious for short leashes and the hopes of a consistent six-frame effort from Pepiot dwindle with the trade. You may see many five-and-dives given Pepiot’s lack of arsenal depth at the moment, even if he pushed 90+ pitches multiple times last year. I’m willing to take that chance given the great situation, possible growth of both his fastball and breaker, and the team context of solid defense + Win chance. Sign. Me. UP.


55. Kutter Crawford (BOS, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I’m a fan y’all. Crawford has a high iVB four-seamer with good (not elite) VAA and decent enough extension and velocity to let that thing soar upstairs. And guess what? LHBs saw the pitch far upstairs and held a 16%+ SwStr rate against it. Wait, aren’t same-handed batters supposed to whiff more against upstairs heaters? They are! But Crawford doesn’t elevate as effectively against RHBs, still keeping it upstairs near a 60% hiLoc, but far more hittable than ideal, near a 55% zone rate. In other words, if Kutter goes further up the ladder with the pitch instead of settling inside the top third of the zone, he should earn more whiffs, more strikeouts, and fewer hits as its ICR rate is sure to drop from its 48% rate.

And that’s it. Seriously, from a skills standpoint, it’s the only noticeable flaw. Sure, he could be a bit better with his curve and changeup (especially to LHBs), but the kutter and slider are both fantastic pitches at earning strikes and mitigating hard contact to both lefties and righties, while the slider is a huge whiff pitch against righties. In fact, it’s filthy with the holy trinity at play – sub 30% ICR, 65%+ strike rate, and 20%+ SwStr rate – which may be a product of its 20-25% usage against RHBs, but hot dang do those numbers suggest throwing it more.

With a four-seamer that dominates upstairs and should become better with an adjustment, a slider that earns whiffs to propel strikeouts, and a reliable cutter that does exactly what it should against both righties and lefties to earn consistent strikes, Crawford has the skills you want to be a legit starter. There are two problems: The Red Sox & the volume. It’s not a great situation pitching in Fenway and the offense isn’t quite as potent as it once was, denting Crawford’s Win potential. Another blow comes in the form of Crawford’s workload. The right-hander tossed 90+ pitches just five times last year and we haven’t seen him get the long leash of 6+ innings quite yet as he tallied roughly 130 frames in 2023. That’s not to say he can’t, but there is haze in the leash we’ll see from the Red Sox.

The Red Sox have made a pair of great moves behind the scenes with Andrew Bailey and Kyle Boddy joining their development staff and I have to believe they’ll see the same thing I do with Crawford’s four-seamer. Here’s my #1 sleeper pick of the year. With @SEA + @LAA as his likely first two starts of the year, you’re going to want to take a shot on this.


56. Louie Varland (MIN, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Please let him start. Please let him start. There’s even more concern that Varland won’t get a rotation spot after the Twins added Anthony DeSclafani to the rotation, but if I had my way, the Twins would leave Paddack in the pen and give Varland the chance to go every five days. Why? Because his four-seamer is DOPE.

Varland has great extension at nearly 7 ft along with an elite VAA that allows his 94/95 mph to excel upstairs, even with middling iVB at 15+ inches. However, the pitch was walloped a ton last season as Varland struggled to get it consistently upstairs. It’s clearly an approach he’s aiming to have and one I believe he can harness over time.

His secondaries aren’t lacking, either. He doesn’t carry a demonstrative weapon to match with the best, but many at-bats see a solid 90 mph cutter that earns strikes consistently and makes batters question his four-seamer’s veracity when he can establish it around the zone. There’s room to grow with Varland’s slider, though, as the pitch failed to eclipse a 60% strike rate while its lackluster SwStr rate left much to be desired. However, Varland tugged the pitch too far out of the zone down-and-away with shocking precision, granting hope that he can make the adjustment to pull the pitch closer to the plate with a simple tweak rather than a massive overhaul.

The arsenal speaks to 5/6 innings of consistency far more than that of Paddack, with legit upside if he can get the heater upstairs and add a touch of polish to his slider. The risk here is not just a demotion to the pen, but a dent to ratios if his 2.00+ HR/9 returns, which we should know soon into the season as we monitor his overall command.

Circle Varland as a legitimate sleeper to target at the end of drafts, especially given he’s a cut candidate if he fails to earn a rotation spot out of camp. Let’s hope Minnesota does him right.


57. Bryce Miller (SEA, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


If you read my thoughts on Woo, you’ll understand that I’m cautious about Bryce. On paper, he has excellent attributes that should outline a decent floor – an overwhelming four-seamer focus with excellent iVB and VAA attributes – though I worry about his consistency. Command isn’t Miller’s greatest asset, and his cutter & slider (I’m calling them two different pitches) each have had their moments, but are not ole reliables to be trusted upon. It makes his time against left-handers a struggle, with his four-seamer, sinker, and breaker all having returned 40%+ ICR rates. That’s not good. No, it’s not. In fact, his four-seamer’s SwStr held a 12% SwStr against left-handers, which should make you a bit queasy given that heater is everything for Miller. There was a changeup flipped in about 11% of the time, but a 19% CSW makes me a bit hesitant to give its 36% ICR a big thumbs up. (Translation: batters make a ton of contact with it and you want to see something closer to 30% ICR).

In the end, I see a pitcher who was able to throw a ton of strikes with his four-seamer to promote a low walk rate, though his high 42% ICR (19th percentile!) is what caused his 4.32 ERA to balloon further than ideal. More growth is required in both command and arsenal to take the next step and I’m less of a believer he can do so than Woo. I still like Bryce – the four-seamer will keep him afloat and there will be many days where the secondaries work well enough – and the tiebreaker for me is the higher likelihood of a Cherry Bomb outcome than a reliable SP #2/#3.


58. Yusei Kikuchi (TOR, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Kikuchi is shockingly close to being a legit starter. 2023 saw a large improvement in two areas as the season developed, and there’s a part of me that wants to take a shot on Kikuchi taking that final step forward to becoming a stud arm.

The first shift is an obvious one. On May 7th, Kikuchi began moving away from his changeup in favor of a curveball that allowed him to cut his walk rate tremendously as the pitch returned a near 70% strike rate – far better than the 51% clip his changeup held against RHBs. While his curve still has room to grow (please, get just a little bit lower and find the zone more often against LHBs), it was a major improvement from his cutter and changeup of previous seasons.

The second is a trend for Kikuchi to throw more high heaters. His sub-40 % clip against righties in previous seasons climbed to 47% last year, which is still below average but possibly a sign of more to come in the year ahead. But Nick! He’s allowed so many HRs, why do you want him to throw more high pitches? Because his struggle to get the ball properly elevated is why he’s allowed so many home runs. Kikuchi’s four-seamer would be elite if he were able to locate it at the top of the zone or higher at will, featuring one of the best VAA marks of any starter in the majors and thrives with its 95+ velocity + excellent extension (its 15″ of iVB is low but doesn’t matter when paired with such a good VAA and extension at 95+ mph). Seeing Kikuchi have a mental approach shift to feature more high heaters (which makes sense to tunnel with the new curveball) could indicate that he’ll lean into more in the year ahead.

Mental approach isn’t everything, though, and if there has been one criticism of Kikuchi over the years, it’s been his command. Kikuchi’s fastball plots often look like shotgun blasts, while his slider and curve often land well over the plate and far from their intended locations. It very well could be a rhythm situation that we’ll only see for bunches during the year (he did hold a 2.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 27% strikeout rate across 77 IP and 14 starts in the heart of the 2023 season, after all), though I’m all for taking a shot at Kikuchi in drafts in the hopes he can get that four-seamer hiLoc% closer to 60% as he continues to lean on his slider and curve for strikes.


59. Luis Severino (NYM, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Severino is weird and simple at the same time. His four-seamer was crushed last season despite lower velocity and it’s pretty easy to see why – he lost 1.5 inches of iVB on his four-seamer. It could be that simple of a story, but then again, his slider and changeup were also far less effective and that’s where things get confusing. His slider lost 10 points of SwStr rate against RHBs and was crushed by LHBs, while his changeup was horrific against LHBs and the only saving grace he had against RHBs (phew).

There’s talk that Severino was tipping last year (I also noticed some myself with the speed of his delivery, but that’s a hard one to lean into as a hitter) and it’s possible that tweak will save his secondaries, though his missing iVB on the heater is the one that scares me the most, even if batters were more aggressive on the heater than ever before. Are the Mets a good enough crew to get it all ironed out? I’m not entirely sure. I also wonder whether he can nail down the low-90s cutter into his mix as well. I absolutely adored that pitch when it was cooking in late 2022.

At the very least, Severino’s price tag in drafts makes him an admirable late-round flier. After all, his velocity is still up, which showcases a lack of physical decline that is normally the hurdle for those cascading down from their peaks. Take a shot and see if Severino is able to miss bats again with both his heater and slider – if so, you suddenly find yourself having an SP #3/#4 for the cost of very little at the draft.


60. Lucas Giolito (BOS, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I feel like he’s so close yet we can’t trust him in drafts, nor do I believe we’ll see something brand new in April to convince us he’s a changed man on whom we can depend throughout the season. At the very least, his changeup is still a glorious offering at just 81 mph, getting batters to bend the knee frequently, and it is the lifeblood of his approach. Giolito injects a gyro-slider to earn strikes as well, which can be a stabilizer in his pitch mix at times, but sadly we saw too many starts in 2023 where it wasn’t as reliable as it needed to be. That leaves the four-seamer and that’s the big question mark for the future.

The crux of it all is a four-seamer that gets a ton of vertical break, but has such a high VAA, that it doesn’t miss as many bats as we’d like up in the zone. It means the pitch needs 94/95 mph and good command upstairs to get over the hump of success or failure. Yes, that’s why we saw so many home runs and why we don’t know what to expect moving forward. I do wonder whether Giolito can adopt a low fastball approach with his odd fastball characteristics – the Gallen approach! – though leaning on that outcome is too much wishcasting. The most likely ideal scenario is a season with 94+ mph heaters that carry a ton of hiLoc% as he pushes his changeup usage toward 40% instead of 28%. I have my doubts, but that’s what you’re hoping for from Giolito to avoid another cataclysmic 4.00 ERA season.

I should also add – now that he’s with the Red Sox, he’s sure to get the leash that you’re looking for with 90+ pitches per start and the team’s desire for a workhorse. In addition, Andrew Bailey & Kyle Boddy could be new additions to the coaching staff that give Giolito more assistance than he’s had on previous squads. However, will the Wins be there? Will Fenway’s dimensions inflate his ERA further? I’m willing to call it an overall wash, where his skill growth or lack thereof will matter far more than the situation.

Top 400 Starting Pitcher Rankings For 2024

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

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