It might only be early November, but 2023 fantasy baseball leagues are already in full swing. And with these early 2023 drafts comes early 2023 Fantasy Baseball ADP for all of us degenerates to digest, dissect, and analyze. It’s still VERY early, so ADP will surely change over the coming months, but it’s fun to dig in to early data to see what range certain players are in, what trends are popping up, and so much more. After covering infielders and outfielders previously, I’ll be taking a gander at the deep starting pitcher position today.
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Early 2023 Fantasy Baseball ADP Thoughts
General Overview & Strategy
Deep. That’s a word I want everyone to cement in their brains for whenever you have your 2023 fantasy baseball drafts. This pitcher position is incredibly deep, even deeper than it was in 2022. My strategy last year with this position was to grab my ace in rounds two or three and ideally have two SPs by rounds 5-6 and three SPs by round 8-9 or so. That timeline has shifted back a bit this season. The elite names haven’t gone anywhere, but the elite tier has gotten tighter than in years past. There’s not a big gap from my SP1 (Burnes to my SP 5 (Woodruff) or a big gap from my SP7 (Scherzer) to my SP 17 (Manoah).
Given this immense volume of elite depth, I’ll be waiting a little longer to secure my SP1, SP2, etc this season. Of course, if a tantalizing draft day value presents itself, I’ll jump all over it, but for the most part, I’ll be waiting longer than I did in 2022 drafts.
Let’s take a look at the DC I was in out at FPAZ for example. The starters taken in rounds four and five (15-team draft) in order were Zack Wheeler, Shane Bieber, Luis Castillo, Kevin Gausman, Zac Gallen, Max Fried, Justin Verlander, Joe Musgrove, and Framber Valdez. Among starting pitchers, they were the 15th through 23rd arms off the board.
Picking out of the 11 slot, I was right in the middle of this cluster, grabbing Justin Verlander as my ace. And I was more than okay with that. Both because I have him ranked higher than he was taken, and I believed this was a great value in general. And this was in a 15-team DC where pitchers get pushed up a bit. If you’re in a 12-team league, you could probably get some of those names in the 6th or 7th round.
I’m more than okay waiting until the pick 50-75 range to grab my SP1 and then getting my SP2 in the 75-100 range. That would still give you an SP2 like Musgrove, Valdez, Cristian Javier, Nestor Cortes, Yu Darvish, George Kirby, etc. I want you to sit there with a straight face and tell me you wouldn’t be fine with a Zac Gallen/Yu Darvish pairing or something along those lines.
I’m not saying to go crazy and wait until pick 100+ to grab your ace or anything like that, but the level of elite depth at this position makes waiting past pick 50 possible and more than a plausible strategy. The amount of depth at this position in general allows you to do this as well as you won’t have to worry about the position thinning out.
Early Round ADP
Now that all my strategic rambling is done, let’s take a look at how the ADP is falling at the top of this position in early drafts. Keep in mind, that this ADP is from DC leagues as that’s really the only ADP to go off of right now.
After you ignore the four relievers in the above graphic, you’ll see that 14 starting pitchers are going inside the top 50 picks overall. Another 15 can be found in the next 50 picks taking us to George Kirby at ADP 100. This leads me back to what I was saying above. If you can get two of those players in the 51-100 range, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Out of all the players being taken inside the top 50, two names immediately stick out. One is going too high for my liking and the other is a nice value play. Yes, even aces inside the top 50 overall can be value picks.
Dylan Cease, CHW: There’s zero chance I’m taking Cease as a top 30 pick or the 5th SP off the board. Literally zero chance. And he’s going ahead of Shane McClanahan? Are we serious? Yes, McClanahan struggled in the last two months of the season, but even with that, he was more valuable than Cease was last season. On top of that, Cease’s K% dropped drastically in the 2nd half and he benefitted from a bit of good luck.
I’m not saying he had a rabbit’s foot shoved up his you know what, but Cease recorded a .260 BABIP, 8.4% HR/FB ratio, and all of his ERA indicators were half to a full run higher. We also saw a much lower whiff rate on his curveball in the 2nd half and his slider whiff rate plummeted in September. Cease is definitely a fantasy ace and I have him ranked as a back-end Top 10 SP in 2023, but he’s going a full round too high for my liking and in front of a few pitchers I value higher.
Justin Verlander, HOU: If you couldn’t guess from me taking Verlander as my ace in the DC I mentioned above, I’m higher than most on him in 2023. As it stands today, he’s going off the board as the 14th SP on average and I have him ranked as my SP8, one spot ahead of Cease. And frankly, I’m stunned that he’s going as late as he is. I was able to get him at pick 71 in that DC for crying out loud. Maybe people are worried about Verlander retiring, something that he hasn’t even hinted at. Or maybe it’s the age? He’s 39 after all.
Justin Verlander, 8th Consecutive K.
Tied Franchise Record. pic.twitter.com/EYTuF5B2xa
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 5, 2022
Sure, he’s old, but Verlander is coming off one of the best seasons of his hall-of-fame career where he finished with a 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP across 28 starts, good enough for a first-place finish on the Razzball Player Rater among SP. The velocity is still there. The command is still elite as well. And while the strikeout rate dropped from previous levels, Verlander still punched out 27.8% of the batters he faced. He’s a top-10 fantasy arm that you can get a round or two later than where he should be going.
Outside of those two, I have no major gripes on how starting pitcher ADP is falling so far. Wait, I lied…
SHANE MCCLANAHAN IS GOING WAY TOO LOW!
Some have mentioned the 2nd half slide. Valid. Others have mentioned injury risk. I’m not there, but I can see why others are. But maybe it’s just a young pitcher reaching a new career high in innings and wearing out down the stretch. It’s all speculation, but I’m not worried. I’ll be happy taking McClanahan in the 3rd if he falls there as I have him as my SP2 compared to his ADP slot as the SP7. He’s the player that fits that “if a tantalizing draft day value presents itself” mold I mentioned above. Even with the end-of-season swoon, McClanahan still finished with a 2.54 ERA, 2.79 xERA, 0.93 WHIP, 5.8% walk rate, and 30.3% strikeout rate.
Notable Specific Player ADPs
Zac Gallen, ARI (75.9, SP 21): In my personal rankings, I have Zac Gallen as my #15 starting pitcher. He’s going around 20-25 picks later than I anticipated. Maybe his 2021 season is still sticking in the back of people’s minds, but this is now three times in four seasons that Gallen has posted an ERA below 3.00. He’s going to be one of my top rostered pitchers this season without question.
Tyler Glasnow, TBR (78.6, SP 23): This one I just don’t understand. There’s no doubting that Glasnow is one of the most talented arms in the game. If he gives you 130+ innings, there’s a good chance he finishes as a top 10 SP. However, we’re going to bank on that happening when the guy has a single-season career high of 111.2 innings back in 2018? That was so long ao that half of those innings came in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. I was hoping to secure some shares of Glasnow in the 100-120 range, which is where I thought he’d be falling. Guess not. That’s WAY too much risk for my liking at this ADP.
Hunter Greene & Nick Lodolo, CIN: If you were hoping to grab either of this duo at a reasonable cost, think again. In early drafts, Greene is coming off the board around pick 117 (SP 35) and Lodolo 20 spots later (SP 38). Still not bad investments at those prices though given the potential ROI.
Lucas Giolito, CHW (143.9, SP 40): I’m a tad surprised that Lucas Giolito didn’t fall 25-40 picks further in ADP. After being drafted as a back-end ace in 2022, Giolito disappointed to the tune of a 4.90 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 30 starts. But while I’m surprised his ADP isn’t lower, I’m not 100% opposed to this price tag given the talent and performance we’ve seen from him leading up to 2022. Giolito finished the season on a high note as well, posting a 3.48 ERA over his final six starts. Maybe he’s never going to return to ace levels, but would anyone be shocked to see Giolito flirt with top-25 SP status again? I wouldn’t. However, I’d rather have his teammate Lance Lynn who is going in this range.
Frankie Montas (NYY), Trevor Rogers, MIA, & Jose Berrios, TOR: Outside of Lucas Giolito, these three hurlers were probably the names that made fantasy managers hurl the most. And as you can imagine, all three of their ADPs fell considerably from 2022 to early 2023.
Montas: to 85.3 to 203.6
Rogers: to 96.3 to 214.7
Berrios: 68.6 to 222.3
Honestly, these aren’t terrible prices given the talent, but there are other pitchers I’m targeting in this range. I’ll discuss those names in a later article.
Grayson Rodriguez, BAL (214.2, SP 60): If you want the top pitching prospect on your rosters next season, it’s going to cost you a pick near the top 200 overall. This price will almost assuredly rise too as we get closer to opening day, especially if Rodriguez pitches well in Spring Training. Drafting a rookie pitcher is always risky, but if any prospect can vault to elite ranks in 2023, G-Rod is my choice.
Media Credit: Rob Friedman, Chris Clegg, NFBC, Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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