Welcome to the positional prospect ranking series for 2023. During the off-season, I like to take this time to dive deeper into my rankings and dissect the numbers posted by prospects the year before to help you get ahead in your dynasty leagues. Breaking these lists down into positions makes it easier to highlight key contributors as well as shine a light on prospects to target before the season begins. In this article, we will dive into my 2023 top starting pitching prospect rankings here today.
Top 75 Starting Pitching Prospect Rankings
The Top 10
1. Andrew Painter, PHI
Painter came on the scene in his first full season of pro ball in a big way ascending three levels while finishing in Double-A. Painter features an overpowering four-seam fastball topping out at 98 MPH with the ability to locate it up in the zone. He changes the eye level of the batter and induces off-balance swings with a two-seam fastball with sink or a plus-graded changeup out of the zone. With a 78 MPH curveball and a mid-80s slider, Painter is the full package and was on full display carrying a 1.56 ERA in 22 starts in 22’, striking out 155 batters in 103.2 innings pitched and holding batters to a .181 AVG against. Painter has an invite to spring training and will battle for the fifth spot in the Phillies rotation at only 19 years old.
2. Grayson Rodriguez, BAL
With a true four-pitch mix at his disposal and arguably the best fastball and changeup in the prospect ranks, Rodriguez checks every box for being a fixture atop the Orioles rotation for years to come. Rodriguez’s fastball has topped out at 101 MPH and his change-up is devastating when the 87 MPH offering is played off the fastball. Rodriguez held a combined 2.62 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 75.2 innings pitched, holding batters to an elite .176 average last season. Rodriguez dealt with a grade 2 right lat strain that put a screeching halt to his season in Triple-A. Now that he is reportedly healthy, look for Rodriguez to compete for a rotation spot for the Orioles in 2023.
3. Gavin Williams, CLE
Coming out of East Carolina, Gavin Williams was a steal for the Guardians in 2021. Williams features a four-pitch mix with three plus-offerings, most notably the fastball riding in at 100 MPH in college. With Cleveland being known as a pitching factory it seems to have worked with Williams making him unhittable in his first season. In 25 starts Williams held a 1.96 ERA with 149 strikeouts in 115 innings pitched, keeping batters to a .173 average against at A+ Lake County and Double-A Akron. There is a clear-cut SP 1 here for Williams in an organization that seems to be loaded with talent, Look for Williams to get his MLB debut sometime this summer.
4. Eury Perez, MIA
One of the most exciting names of the past two seasons in minor league baseball has been Eury Perez. The 6’8” right-hander has a plus to double-plus grade on all three pitches he offers. The fastball rides at 96 MPH topping out at 98 MPH, playing into a devastating changeup with solid fade and tumble. Rounding out the pitch mix is a 78 MPH curveball that has a sweeping break that lands for strikes. At only 19, Perez has ascended to Double-A Pensacola where he made 17 starts, striking out 106 batters in 75 innings pitched. The Marlins have invited Perez to spring training with the off chance of impressing and pushing for a rotation spot for the 2023 season.
5. Ricky Tidemann, TOR
Rising up boards in 2022, Tidemann has shown to be better than where the Blue Jays drafted him in the 3rd round (91st overall) of the 2021 season. The 6’4” lefty dominated three levels ending the season in Double-A New Hampshire. Combined, Tiedeman had a 2.17 ERA in 18 starts while striking out 117 batters in 78.2 innings pitched and holding batters to a .149 average. Tideman features an above-average fastball, slider, and changeup that have seen velocity improvements since being drafted. Look for Tidemann to have any innings restrictions lifted in 2023 as he is slated to start the year back in Double-A.
6. Daniel Espino, CLE
Espino’s high-velocity fastball tops out at 101 MPH and he makes batters look silly with a diving slider out of the zone. Espino has been on dynasty managers’ radars since he was drafted in 2019 and gave us eye-popping K/9s like 16.16 in 21’ and 17.18 in 22’. After making only four starts with a 2.45 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 18.1 innings pitched at Double-A Akron, Espino was shut down in May with patellar tendinitis. He then ended up missing the rest of the season with a sore right shoulder. With the injuries of the last two seasons and Cleveland’s full rotation, Espino might not make his debut till 2024.
7. Taj Bradley, TBR
Rising up draft boards is Taj Bradley. The 6’2” right-hander has proven to be one of the Rays’ best prospects and for good reason. An analytical franchise like the Rays helped Bradley take his borderline slider and whittle it down into a cutter that has turned into his best plus pitch with a tight break. Bradley has shown solid speed on the fastball, sitting around 96 MPH and topping out at 98 MPH. Bradley will drop a curveball from time to time to throw off batters but will rely on a well-placed change-up out of the zone as a third offering. Last season Bradley held a 2.57 ERA in 28 combined games, striking out 141 batters in 133.1 innings while holding batters to a .213 average in Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. Bradley looks to be a strong candidate to start the year in the major leagues or be up shortly after the season begins.
8. Kyle Harrison, SFG
Harrison followed up a strong pro debut in 2021 by moving two levels to Double-A Richmond in ’22 and skyrocketing up the starting pitching prospect rankings in the process. In 25 games Harrison held a 2.71 ERA combined over A+ and Double-A, striking out 186 batters in 113 innings pitched and holding batters to a .196 average against. The 21-year-old left-hander has seen his fastball velocity rise since being drafted in 2020, topping out at 98 MPH with the slider being a strong out pitch with sharp break at 85 MPH. With the success at Double-A last year it won’t be long before Harrison makes his debut in AAA and a potential late-season call-up to the big league club.
9. Hunter Brown, HOU
Houston has been able to develop homegrown pitching talent in abundance over the last three years and you can add Hunter Brown to the list. Brown has an electric fastball touching triple digits and whipping in a power curveball that sits in the low 80s with great break. Prior to the call-up, Brown spent the season at Triple-A, mixing in starts and relief outings in preparation for a postseason run with the Astros. Brown struck out 134 batters in 106 innings while holding batters to a .186 average. After the call to the majors, Brown struck out 22 batters in 20.1 innings, holding batters to a .205 average in two starts and five relief appearances. Brown has a chance to make the Opening Day roster and is ready should injury strike (Lance McCullers Jr. anyone?) and will be a big impact arm in dynasty leagues.
10. Tink Hence, STL
Hence made major developmental strides in 2022. The velocity gain on the fastball was impressive sitting between 95 and 99 MPH. Hence also features a plus curveball that has good spin and an above-average change-up to round out his pitch mix. With the Cardinals limiting Hence’s pitch load he was able to hold a 1.38 ERA and log 52.1 innings while striking out 81 batters in 16 starts at A- Palm Beach. Hence should have more of a leash innings-wise in 2023 and is expected to start the season in A+ Peoria.
More Pitching Prospects To Buy
Emerson Hancock, SEA: Taken 6th overall in the 2020 MLB draft, Hancock was an exciting arm with an arsenal of pitches at his disposal. With arm and shoulder issues limiting Hancock to 44.2 innings in ’21, many started to slide Hancock down rankings. I would say now is the time to buy Hancock. Last season he pitched the entire season at Double-A Arkansas, making 21 starts. Although the Mariners limited his innings per start, Hancock posted a 3.75 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 98.1 innings while holding batters to a solid .219 average. This season I would expect a bump to Triple-A to start the season and the innings restrictions should ease as there can be a clear path to the fifth rotation spot currently being held by Marco Gonzalez in Seattle.
Ryan Pepiot, LAD: This off-season has been interesting for the Dodgers as they have made small splash signings that have left fans longing for more. Personally, I believe they know what they have developed. Despite a full rotation with the addition of Noah Syndergaard, there can be a key role for Ryan Pepiot. Pepiot has been a name that has stood out since being drafted in 2019. in his 2022 season, Pepiot played the entire year at Triple-A Oklahoma City. In 17 starts, Pepiot struck out 114 batters in 91.1 innings while holding batters to a .193 average and securing a solid 2.56 ERA. As with every season, injuries happen and the Dodgers pulled Pepiot up to start 7 games where he posted a 3.47 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 36.1 innings pitched. Pepiot is a name to buy right now because of the successful starting experience and the likelihood to get spot starts or act as a long reliever that could get a chance for more by the trade deadline.
Matt Canterino, MIN: This could be an unpopular take right now, but I think Canterino could be one of the best upside arms on this list. Canterino has dealt with injuries every year since being drafted in 2019. A forearm strain limited his ’21 season to 23 innings and he logged 37 innings in ’22 before going down with Tommy John Surgery. Canterino was a three-year starter at Rice University and struck out over 100 batters per season. In the small sample in the minor leagues. Canterino has shown serious strikeout ability. In 10 starts (one relief appearance), Canterino had a 1.83 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 34.1 innings while holding batters to an abysmal .142 average at Double-A Wichita before getting shut down. At 25 years old, Canterino is an older prospect and missing the majority of 2023 recovering for TJ is not ideal, but of the pitching prospects in the Twins system, Canterino has the highest upside with Gray, Mahle, and Maeda set for free agency at season’s end.
Nick Nastrini, LAD: The Dodgers do it again! It seems every year we see low-key names drafted by the Dodgers turn into top-150 prospects and Nastrini is no exception. Coming out of UCLA, Nastrini was a weekly starter but lost his spot due to control issues, causing him to fall to the Dodgers in the 4th round of the draft. With a four-pitch mix graded at above average to plus, Nastrini has the pitch mix and strikeout ability to be a frontline starter. In 116.2 innings combined between A+ and AA Nastrini struck out 169 batters and held them to a .180 average while posting a 3.93 ERA in 27 starts. In 2022 Nastrini’s strikeouts per nine was a fantastic 13.24 K/9 in 86.1 innings pitched in A+ and 12.46 K/9 in 30.1 innings in AA Tulsa. This stays in line with his debut in 2021. The only issue is the walks for Nastrini. If the Dodgers can get them below 4.0 BB/9, Nastrini could be the worst-kept secret in the minor leagues for dynasty owners.
Randy Vasquez, NYY: The Yankees never seem to go without starting pitching and in recent years we have seen homegrown talent get the majors in Luis Severino and Domingo German. Same case and point as we have seen, Yankee prospects go off and have success elsewhere when no room is available such as Hayden Wesneski, Ken Waldichuck, and Roansy Contreras recently. All this is to say of the arms top arms in the Yankees system Vasquez might be a sneaky call-up to spot start if injuries arise. Vasquez features a four-pitch mix of a 95 MPH fastball, an 88 MPH changeup with firm sink, a tight slider, and his best pitch of all, a power curveball that has over 3,000 RPM coming in and has great break. This is an analytic geek’s dream. In 25 starts at Double-A Somerset, Vasquez struck out 120 batters in 115.1 innings pitched holding a 3.90 ERA and keeping batters to a .239 average. At 24 years old, Vasquez is on the doorstep of the major leagues and with the previously mentioned Severino and German set for free agency at year’s end, this season is Vasquez’s chance to claim a spot in the future Yankees rotation. For these reasons, this is a name to buy now before the hype gets too big.
Christian Roa, CIN: This might come as a surprise on the list of names to buy but don’t let it be. In 2020, I believed the Cincinnati Reds got a steal at 48th overall. With Roa leaving Texas A&M because of the shortened college season, we did not get to see how good he was. Standing at 6 ‘4 “, Roa has a starter’s build and above-average grades on his fastball, 11-5 curveball, slider, and sinking changeup with the only hurdle being his control. Last year Roa played at A+ Dayton and AA Chattanooga, combining for 20 starts with a 3.56 ERA and striking out 102 batters in 91 innings, all the while holding batters to a .197 average. With the pitch mix and the ability to get strikeouts every stop so far in the minors, the key will be for Roa’s control to catch up. With the Reds’ rotation sorely lacking upside, Roa could be a solid candidate to join Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft by season’s end.
2023 Starting Pitching Prospect Rankings
Who are your favorite starting pitching prospects? Drop some names in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!
Great article! Appreciate the insights at the perfect time as drafts are happening.