Back in 2014 I predicted the breakout effort of Corey Kluber, starting a yearly attempt at predicting which pitcher will greatly outpace their draft day cost. A couple of times the selection for Breakout Pitcher of the Year has, actually, broken out in a big – like huge – way leading to tons of fantasy success. So, I’m strapping on the tinfoil hat for the tenth time, pulling out my abacus, and diving into the pitching pool to attempt, yet again, to give a name to the designation, of Breakout Pitcher of the Year.
I’m not predicting a Cy Young effort, or a $25+ fantasy season. I’m merely looking for Pitcher X who will vastly outpace his draft day cost, leading to oodles of earned value above that draft day cost.
We aren’t looking at comeback pitchers who have starred before. That means we aren’t looking at tabbing a former all-star who is trying to make a comeback.
We are looking for a pitcher that is outside the top-175 overall at the time this piece is written (February ADP at the NFBC), potentially much lower, who will be a borderline fantasy star in the coming season.
This task has grown increasingly difficult as analysis has improved dramatically over the past decade. The type of guy you use to find at pick 250 is now coming off the board at 180, so the effort required to find a pitcher who could break out that relatively few have discussed to date has never been more challenging.
2014: Corey Kluber (ADP: 234.8) – HIT
His first season of more than 150-innings led to a massive breakout of 18-9, 2.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 269 strikeouts. Oh yeah, he won the Cy Young award too. The best breakout call I’ve made – even though it was the first.
2015: Shane Greene (ADP: 422.6) – MISS
He threw just 78.2 innings in 2014 but he was still the 2015 call. He was amazing to start the year, throwing 22 innings while allowing one run over three starts before he started to have some problems that included some numbness in his pitching hand that eventually led to surgery. Ultimately, he flamed out going 4-8 with a 6.88 ERA over 18 outings.
2016: Kyle Hendricks (ADP: 214.1) – HIT
Had an 8-7 record with a 3.95 ERA in 2015, but the predicted breakout was impressive as he went 16-8 with a league leading 2.13 ERA and his 0.98 WHIP was pretty darn impressive too. This was another huge hit.
2017: Aaron Nola (ADP: 192.2) – HIT
Nola had a 4.78 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 2016 while throwing only 111 innings. In 2017 he took the next step with 12 wins, a 3.54 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 184 punchouts in 168 innings.
2018: Jameson Taillon (ADP 192.9) – HIT
Taillon finished the year on an amazing hot stretch, and overall, he won 14 games with a 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 179 punchouts in 191 innings for the Pirates. He went 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 2017, so he had a huge breakout effort.
2019: Marco Gonzalez (ADP 266.7) – MISS
The second miss on the list, but he still was a decent enough pick given the cost as he threw 203 innings, won 16 games and had 147 punchouts. Not claiming he was a win though, because he wasn’t a breakout star, merely a very solid value add.
2020: Ryan Yarbrough (265.8 ADP) – MISS
He didn’t breakout, but he still had a 1.19 WHIP, a 3.67 K/BB ratio and a 1.43 GB/FB ratio. Not enough innings/games were played last season given his profile to offer a breakout, though we knew that before the season began when they finally settled on the games played total of 60. This column also highlighted Tyler Mahle, Dylan Bundy and Pablo Lopez (with Reynaldo Lopez and Adrian Houser being dismissed). The eventual call when to Ryan Yarbrough, but as noted in the article, his selection was made when it was assumed he would be throwing 160+ innings, not 60. Here’s a quick rundown of the past few calls.
2021: Zach Eflin (199.3 ADP) – MISS
I had decided Eflin was my guy well before the article was posted. After I made the decision, Elfin started to get some heat, and that pushed his ADP inside the top-200 by the time the article was posted. Eflin posted a solid 18 starts, but he wasn’t any better than he had been in 2020 and he certainly was no breakout pitcher before being shut down with a knee issue (a 6.19 K/BB was fantastic, but a 4.17 ERA and 1.25 WHIP… blah).
2022: Tanner Houck (200.1 ADP) – MISS
Other finalists last season included Luis Patino and Patrick Sandoval. Clearly, Sandoval was the best option. Houck was very effective, but he dealt with injury and was bounced around the staff and made just four starts with 28 relief outings going 5-4 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP over 60 innings. He also had eight saves so he was an effective pitcher, but he obviously wasn’t a breakout star by any means.
THE 2023 POTENTIALS
So, who are the hopefuls?
Aaron Ashby (475.1 ADP, 101st pitcher) has a shoulder issue that is going to have him out until May. He’s therefore gonna be dead on arrival here.
Graham Ashcraft (566.0 ADP, 202nd pitcher) – everyone is talking about Greene/Lodolo… but what about this youngster? He has the lowest ADP in the list but he has solid stuff.
Hunter Brown (215.2ADP, 93rd pitcher) do we dare list a pitcher with all of 20.1 innings in the big leagues, even if he is set to take over a spot in the rotation at the start of the season for the Astros?
Edward Cabrera (219.7 ADP, 82nd pitcher) has as good an arm as any on this list, but his 13 percent career walk rate is a concern.
Reid Detmers (209.9 ADP, 80th pitcher) was a different pitcher after his demotion last year and had a solid second half.
Mitch Keller (433.0 ADP, 159th pitcher) – showed up with yet another new pitch this season.
Trevor Rogers (247.7 ADP, 91st pitcher) was on everyone’s get list last season and then he tanked. Did have a 2.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 10.62 K/9 mark in 2021 so it can be argued he already had a breakout-ish season.
Kodai Senga (185.6 ADP, 73rd pitcher) in his first year in North America makes the potential list, but he’s posted a 2.42 ERA, 1.10 WIHP and has 1486 Ks in 1,340.2 innings in Japan, so going with him seems like a cop out.
Brady Singer (188.7 ADP, 72nd pitcher) barely qualifies for consideration cause of his ADP. He kinda broke out in the second half last year and he did go 10-5 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 153.1 innings. I’m a big fan, but he kinda broke out already.
Jeffrey Springs (ADP 175.9, 70th pitcher) is just too close on the ADP minimum and he’s already popped, right? Agreed.
Justin Steele (ADP 295.4 ADP, 104th pitcher) dealt with a bit of an arm issue at the start of camp, but he looks to be fine now and had a heck of a second half last year.
Hayden Wesneski (332.8 ADP, 125th pitcher) posted an impressive 4.71 K/BB with a 0.94 WHIP over 33 innings last season as a rookie for the Cubs.
Garrett Whitlock (288.9 ADP, 105th pitcher) – so much to like as a starter from the get-go. However, he had hip surgery last September, and it isn’t clear if he will be ready for opening day.
A LOOK BACK AT 2022
GREEN: Top-3 In the Category
WHITE: Middle-5 In the Category
RED: Bottom-3 In the Category
TABLE ONE – ERA MEASURES
TABLE TWO – STRIKEOUTS & WALKS
TABLE THREE – BATTED BALL
TABLE FOUR – SWINGING STUFF
CSW – Called strikes + whiffs divided by total pitches thrown.
Called Strike – Just what it sounds like.
Swinging Strike – Swings and misses divided by total pitches thrown.
First Pitch Strike – First pitch strikes.
O-Swing – Percentage of pitches thrown outside the strike zone that were swing at.
TABLE FIVE – BASERUNNERS
WHIP – Walks plus hits divided by innings pitched.
ABA – Average Bases Allowed (TBA+BB+HBP)/IP.
TABLE SIX – OVERALL
Let’s total up the 19 categories (when a tie occurred, both men received a plus/minus in the appropriate category).
A few notes.
Brady Singer was the second most mediocre pitcher over the 19 categories. A bit surprising actually.
Edward Cabrera had a pretty even spread across all three categories. There is no questioning his arm talent.
Garrett Whitlock was only dinged twice and had double-digit green marks. Gonna miss the start off the year with a hip issue?
Graham Ashcraft has some things going for him heading into 2023, but he’s obviously miscast as a true breakout performer in 2023.
Hayden Wesneski only had two red marks last season as a rookie in limited work. Good track record of innings too.
Hunter Brown performed extremely well, but he barely through 20 innings in the bigs. Therefore, it is far from surprising to see him dominate some of these ratio categories. Interestingly, no pitcher allowed a higher hard-hit rate.
Jeffrey Springs was impressive last season, duh, with the second most greens and second fewest reds.
Justin Steele was the only pitcher on the list with just one red mark.
Mitch Keller keeps coming up with new tricks each year, but he’s yet to transition those skills into performance.
Reid Detmers was the most mediocre pitcher over the 19 categories.
Trevor Rogers was the worst pitcher judged solely by 2022 performance results.
Kodai Senga did not pitch in North America, so obviously there are no rankings for him. Here’s his scouring report. Signed a 5-year, $75M deal to be a horse for the Mets. He’s now 30 years old and last season he posted a 1.89 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in just under 150 innings in the JPN league. Further, he has 28 percent K-rate in Japan with a 1.12 WHIP over nearly 1,100 innings. Famous for his splitter and potentially triple-digit heater, he’s just 6’0” and 180 lbs. There are legitimate questions about how effective his slider/cutter will be in the bigs. Experience, talent, opportunity. All are there and Senga is expected to be a decent fantasy weapon in 2023, even in shallow leagues.
*** For all the charts, click on the Excel sheet at the bottom of this article.
THE 2023 FINALISTS
It’s time to weed out some folks.
Gone: Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Brown, Brady Singer, Jeffrey Springs, Trevor Rogers
Ashcraft is on the watchlist but he can’t get to the breakout list this year.
Brown is on everyone’s list, and the injury to Lance McCullers opens up a starting spot. Feels like a cop out if I go Brown since so many are talking about him, doesn’t it?
Singer has an ADP that is creeping up really close to the borderline. He would have the highest ADP of any pitcher I termed for the Breakout, so I’m just wary of calling out his name (said Captain Obvious). Plus, Singer threw 153.1 innings with a 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 150 strikeouts. Isn’t that a breakout? If it isn’t, he would have to go 15-7 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 197 strikeouts over 195 innings to truly take his game to the next level, and if he does all of that he’s top-5 for the AL Cy Young award.
Springs, like Singer, really did breakout last year and his ADP of 176 would straight make me feel dirty in using him here.
Rogers was basically Singer in 2021 (2.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 157 Ks in 133 IP as a rookie). He’s an option for Comeback Player, but he’s already had a breakout effort.
Still in the running: Cabrera, Whitlock, Wesneski, Steele, Keller, Detmers
Here we go.
Let’s start out looking at workload by total innings thrown at all levels (including college). Remember, minor leaguers threw no official innings in 2020 cause of Covid.
Cabrera has never hit 115 innings and has been under 100 innings in four of six years.
Whitlock last threw 85-innings back in 2018.
Wesneski is the co-iron man on this list. He’s hit 130-innings each of the last three seasons he was allowed to play games.
Keller was the other co-iron man. He hit a career best last season of 159 innings, the biggest number for any arm on the list.
Detmers took a legit step workload wise last season.
The only man who didn’t hit 110 innings last season was Whitlock.
The assumption is that he will grab one of the rotation spots. However, Braxton Garrett is lurking if Cabrera has a misstep, and Eury Perez is one of the elite arms in the game who we will likely see in the second half. There will be competition if Cabrera struggles.
There will also be competition if he can’t stay healthy, which has been a recurring issue.
In 2021 he had a right biceps issue that kept him out until May.
In 2022 he dealt with biceps fatigue that kept him out of the bigs until June. Then, he picked up elbow tendonitis. All told, he missed about two months of action.
He showed up at camp this year a bit overweight. Was that an attempt to help his durability?
When healthy, he throws 97 mph heat with an insane changeup that comes in at 92 mph. He increased the usage of the pitch up to 33 percent last season and the result was a .271 wOBA (.286 xwOBA). In fact, it was the only pitch he threw more than 21 percent of the time (he threw five pitches at least 11 percent). He’s produced a K-rate of 25.1 percent over his 21 big league starts with a 29.3 CSW.
The negative? He can lose the strike zone with a horrid 55 percent first pitch strike rate that has led to an equally awful 12.7 percent walk rate. Amongst pitchers who threw 100-innings last season, the only pitcher over 11.5 percent in the walk rate column was Yusei Kikuchi, he of the 5.19 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. The only one of the four hurlers with a walk rate of 11 percent last season in our sample group with an ERA under 4.50 was Michael Kopech at 3.54 and note that Kopech had a 4.83 xFIP and 4.73 SIERA. Amongst pitchers that threw 70-innigns last season Cabrera’s first pitch strike rate of 55 percent was 181st out of 188 qualifiers. Yikes. No one is doubting the arm of Cabrera, but he’s not shown an ability to harness the stuff to date.
CON: The recent trend of injury as well as the often substantial walk totals.
The Red Sox have health question marks with Chris Sale and James Paxton (who is already hurt). Whitlock had hip surgery last September (the 6th), and reports are circulating that he will likely miss a couple of turns through the rotation to start the year. He’s said to be doing fine, but he’s just behind the other hurlers.
Clearly there are concerns about workload for the righty from Boston who hasn’t hit 85-innings the last four seasons. Even if he’s good to go, is he a good bet to reach 125-innings this season? I’m just not sure. Nowadays you don’t need to throw 160 to breakout, but if he’s at 122 innings and others on this list are at 158 innings, Whitlock is really gonna have to kill it to emerge. Ya feel me? Plus, the guy is coming off the hip surgery and there is this. Over the last two years he’s started nine games while he’s made 79 relief appearances. I love the skills, he misses bats and doesn’t beat himself, but he also lost about 10 percent off his ground ball rate last season as well. Hard to get past the health/workload piece here, though I’m in on the talent.
CON: Concerns about his hip and ultimate workload.
No one is talking about this young fella, but they should be. Perhaps it is because some are worried that Adrian Sampson will grab the rotation spot (Javier Assad is an option too and Kyle Hendricks is hoping to return in May)? Sampson was destroyed in his first outing this spring, but his stuff isn’t as sharp as HW. Sampson would seem to be an ideal swingman type in this writer’s opinion at least. Plus, Cubs’ manager David Ross says that HW has “it”.
Wesneski has a slider that kills it. In fact, amongst pitchers who threw 30-innings last season, he was third in baseball in horizontal movement on the pitch (it’s more of the sweeper type of slider that is all the rage these days). He threw the pitch 32 percent of the time last season and the results were damn impressive (.245 wOBA, .258 xwOBA). It is a dynamic pitch. Period.
In his six outings last season with the Cubs he posted a 25.0 percent K-rate with a 5.3 percent walk rate. Both those numbers pop – in a good way. He also posted a ground ball rate of nearly 50 percent in the minors and the number in CHI last year was 47 percent. Remember the Triangular Arts? Sure looks like HW qualifies. He has the talent to strike out a batter per innings and over 67 outings in the minors he’s been able to post a 1.16 WHIP thanks, in no small part, due to his ability to limit the free pass.
CON: Will he even start in the rotation? If not, what does his role look like?
Dealt with a back issue at the end of last season, and it ended a terrific run to close out the year as he posted a 2.05 ERA over his last 14 starts. This spring he had a start skipped with arm fatigue. Doesn’t sound like a real issue, but you also can’t feel great seeing that (he was sharp in his first outing of the spring putting even more shade on the concern bus). Still, it seems like he has a spot in the Cubs’ rotation – and yes I realize it is strange to be doing a breakout article with two Cubs on the list – if healthy. Steele was effective last season with a 24.6 K-rate and an impressive 51 percent ground ball mark. He was wild at times though he was just under 60 percent in the first pitch strike rate and had a 9.8 percent walk rate leading to a 1.35 WHIP. Have to think his HR/FB rate increases from the 8.7 percent mark of last season, and that could lead to the ERA rising a bit as well.
Steele has been working on his changeup this spring. He’s thrown the pitch just two percent of the time, so if he’s able to incorporate it into his repertoire on a more consistent bases, batters will have something else to think about. Note that he allowed a .284 wOBA to lefties and .300 mark to righties, so there wasn’t a significant split to worry about. However, his 10.1 swinging strike rate raises some concern that he will be able to post more than a strikeout an inning again. He will still match the league average in punchouts, but some pullback from last season in the K-column is possible.
CON: Slight health concern but probably more about can he maintain his second half strikeout strength while also lowering his walk rate.
Each year, from 2017-2020 (yes, all four years), he was a top-55 overall prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB Pipeline. He showed up with increased heat, and last year his fastball was 95.5 mph, nearly two mph higher than the previous two years. He also added a sinker, he threw it 22 percent of the time last season. Wait, he added a sweeper too throwing that 16 percent of the time. This spring? He’s working on a gyroball to attack lefties. That’s something he needs as lefties hit .276 against him last season with a .332 wOBA. He’s always working on improving, and you gotta love that.
Despite the pedigree and the stuff, he’s never been able to translate things to a strong K-9 rate (he’s just off the league average at 8.50 per nine for his career with a 21.1 percent K-rate). He posted an improved walk rate last season, the 8.7 percent walk rate is pretty average, but without the upper end punchouts that walk rate is higher than ideal. Something that could offset that walk rate is the increased ground ball rate he flashed last season at 49 percent with his first single digit launch angle allowed at 7.8 percent (thank you sinker). That’s an intriguing growth piece for Keller. Can he, after four seasons, finally become “the guy” in Pittsburgh? Even if he is more successful in 2023, can he win enough games with that lowly club to truly break out? The guy has 12 victories over 70 career outings, and the Pirates might lose 100 games this season. Something to think about with the righty.
CON: Can he finally get where he was supposed to be a few years ago? Even if he improves, will he win any games and will his K-rate ever improve?
He made 25 starts last season with a 3.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 8.51 K/9 rate. Those are solid numbers in a first big-league season (he threw just 20.2 innings in 2021 in the majors), but there is something inside the numbers that intrigues even more. Detmers was demoted in June. He worked on his slider, found the secret sauce after changing the grip that allowed him to get a bit more velocity, and when he returned to Anaheim he took off. Over his last 13 trips to the hill he posted a 3.04 ERA with 78 punchouts over 71 frames. Over the offseason he worked up his changeup without doing anything dramatic.
Detmers could maintain his K-rate from the second half last season and more than a punchout an inning would increase his fantasy potential (duh). He’s never been one to beat himself with the free pass either, though I would like to see him increase that first pitch strike rate that was below the league average at 60.1 percent. Once concern might be the 42 percent fly ball rate as he was fortunate last season with a HR/FB rate of just 8.7 percent. If that HR/9 rate jumps from 0.91 to the league average this season, around 1.20, his ERA likely settles in above the 3.77 mark he posted last year. We saw what he could be in the second half last season. Can he take the game to another level in 2023?
CON: Fair or not, do pitchers ever emerge in Anaheim? Get the sense that his ratios aren’t likely to be better this season.
I love Edward Cabrera’s arm, and I’m in at the current cost. Still, the lack of control can border on alarming from start to start. The guy has walked 52 men and hit 13 others with pitches, that’s 65 free men on base, in just 98 innings. Truthfully, he can’t even throw his heater for strikes at times (he threw his fastball in the strike zone less than half the time last season resulting in a swinging strike rate of just 6.4 percent). He also had a mere .207 BABIP with an 86.1 percent left on base rate last season, and we know what direction both of those numbers is going this year. If you were to say Robbie Ray without the innings upside, I would say it is possible. Not likely, but possible. The arm talent is elite, and it’s the kind of arm where things could all snap into place overnight. More often than not, this profile takes some time to develop though like a fine wine.
Garrett Whitlock has been terrific in dual roles the last two years but… and that’s the issue, the “but.” (1) Whitlock had that hip surgery last year and he’s a bit behind the others in Sox camp which could cost him a wee bit of time to start the year. Thirty plus starts isn’t a bar many attain, so he’s not likely to be giving up a huge number of innings to others – if he is healthy. (2) What will his workload look like? As noted above, he’s been under 85-innings four straight seasons leaving me to think that 120-125 might be the spot we end up with (it’s not likely the Sox will push him late as the playoffs don’t seem like a reasonable goal). He threw strikes last season but without the sharpness on the slider as it often caught too much of the plate (.308 average, .577 SLF and .378 wOBA). He will need to refine that pitch as the innings pile up as a starter.
Hayden Wesneski isn’t being draft in many leagues, so even if he’s not the eventual choice here, he’s an excellent option in the final rounds of your draft as your lottery ticket here is virtually free. The slider is wicked, and that sinker/cutter duo is trending upward in a hurry. He also has the best innings pitched base other than Keller, so it is disappointing to see what the Cubs are thinking with him (more below). That makes him extremely appealing to me, and I’m interested in the last round of drafts across the land… even if he isn’t the guy here.
Justin Steele had a true weapon in his slider. Might he consider upping his usage of the pitch? Thirty one percent is high for a starting pitcher, and there has to be some concern about the elbow holding up long-term at that rate, but more than 20 guys who threw 100 innings last year used the pitch 31 percent of the time. Not comparing him to Dylan Cease, repeat not, but after throwing his slider 30 percent of the time in 2020-21 he upped the usage of, the pitch to 42.9 percent last season – and his performance took off. The final hiccup is that pitch mix – and volume. By the way, his fastball grades out very similarly to Julio Urias based on movement as it is a bit funky compared to the way most fellas throw the pitch, and that should help Steele even without the pitch delivering premium velocity.
Mitch Keller – I just can’t. He throws hard, has a pedigree, and continues to work at his craft. I’m rooting for him, really am, but do I feel good about putting his name out there as The Guy? Last year’s 20.1 percent K-rate was a three year and the league average walk rate of 8.7 percent left him with an 11.4 K-BB% mark, a three years best but still not a good number. The slider is improving the four seamer is good, but that scattershot command just holds me, and Keller himself, back. Rooting for him, but he’s not the call (that’s what we call foreshadowing).
Reid Detmers “fixed” his slider last season and finished with that impressive conclusion to the season. However, the changeup and curveball still need some refinement which can be seen in the 1.37 second half WHIP – despite the step forward in his game. Plus, as noted above, the Angels simply do not have a track record of success in developing pitchers the last few years, not close.
Finally – the cost.
The good news is, that if you want to go nuts, you can take multiple guys from this list, and that might be the best news. In fact, you could easily grab four of the arms if ADP is an accurate guide and you’re in a deep. If you don’t want to go that far, you could easily hit up two guys – one A and one B – and then a C and be in pretty good shape.
- Detmers 210 ADP / Cabrera 220 ADP
- Steele 295 / Whitlock 289
- Wesneski 333
- Keller 433
As you can tell, this has not been an easy choice.
It might be the most difficult I’ve faced, and I can’t help but think that whomever I chose, it is going to be the other guy who has the best season.
As noted, Keller is out.
Detmers is the most expensive so I’m leaning no with the lefty cause it still seems to “chalk”, and given when we are trying to accomplish with this piece I will say it thusly. I’m not naming Detmers here, but he’s a strong addition to any fantasy rotation this year.
Cabrera has a monster arm, but the control is spotty, I just can’t for the final call.
That leaves a guy coming back from hip surgery and two Cubs. Really.
Whitlock has the hip and the workload concerns of the past few years. If he throws 140-innings he is probably the right call for the breakout, but we cannot assume that at this point.
Wesneski has the concerns about a rotation spot and if he will even be able to secure one, so I ultimately cannot tab him.
THE 2023 BREAKOUT CANDIDATE IS…
I will freely admit, that I was this close to going Wesneski, and if Whitlock’s hip wasn’t still a slight concern… But we need to deal with what is, not what could be.
Here is the Cubs’ manager talking about Justin Steele.
“This will be the first season where he’s building up for this type of journey and carrying us hopefully throughout the season and into the postseason,” manager David Ross said. “So he’s one of those guys we’re gonna rely heavily on, and he put in the work in the offseason to be that guy… if he continues to build off just having that four-seam [fastball], slider in to righties, away to lefties and building off that, he’s pretty darn valuable and had a really good season on that.”
Steele also moved his offseason training from Mississippi to Arizona so he could be at the Cubs’ complex every day. “It just made the offseason a lot easier for me and the training staff,” Steele said. “If something came up, I was immediately able to get to work on it rather than being in Mississippi.”
Steele feels really good about where his changeup is this year, and if that pitch really is locked in, batters will have a tough time against him this season (he only threw it 37 times last season, so it would bring a look batters have never seen from him). You know, if you’ve read my stuff for years, that I tend to lean away from two pitch starters, so I really hope the changeup comes around as that third pitch. Hell, throw the curveball more Mr. Steele. He threw that pitch 56 times last season and — did not allow a single hit. None. Batters hit .000 on the pitch.
Like with so many arms, a big key will be lowering the walk rate for Steele. He started to do that a bit in the second half last season with an 8.6 percent walk rate, and his 22.4 K-BB% rate in the second half was nearly identical to mark of Justin Verlander last season (23.4 percent). If Steele continues to pitch like that, look out in 2023.
Finally, Steele has a 51 percent ground ball rate in his young career, and the Cubs added Dansby Swanson to help out the infield defense at short. Further, because of all the grounders he just doesn’t get hit hard often and his barrel rate of 3.9 percent is extremely low while his 33.7 percent hard-hit rate was top-18 percent amongst qualifiers (his average exit velocity was top-20 percent last year). Add in that, even though the unbalanced schedule has changed this season, that Justin still gets to face Pirates and Reds and that he doesn’t pitch in the AL East – and we have our winner.
If you are looking at grabbing a better WHIP – go Whitlock. If you’re talking about grabbing a guy with your last pick who could breakout – go Wesneski. In the end, Steele isn’t winning the Cy Young award, but he’s going to greatly outpace his current ADP in 2023 at a great price point.
Here is a copy of all the Excel Sheets for the above.