This article is part of our Collette Calls series.
Let's dive into looking back at how my 30 bold pitching predictions played out and what we all can learn from them. The hitting version of this exercise can be found here.
AL East Bold Predictions
Cole Sulser is a top 350 player
Sulser was involved in a surprise trade at the end of camp which sent him and Tanner Scott to Miami, where Sulser's role became marginalized. He still struck out over a quarter of the batters he faced but was incredibly hittable, allowing a .293 opponents' batting average after three consecutive seasons of hovering near .200. Pitch data shows his changeup went from a pitch the league struggled to hit (.125 in 2021) to one they let up in 2022 (.294), a significant problem when that offering is your secondary weapon and your preferred putaway pitch. The xBA on the changeup was .202, so perhaps he can rediscover it and be a Draft and Hold grab in the late stages in 2023.
Garrett Whitlock is not a top 150 pitcher
Whitlock finished the season as the 112th pitcher by earned auction values in just over 78 innings of work. He had four wins and six saves out of the bullpen. He was the 96th pitcher by ADP during draft season, so finishing 112th is kudos to the market for a fair evaluation of the possibilities. My concern with him as I made the prediction was the loud talk of Whitlock working out of the rotation rather than the bullpen, which could have been a problem given his lack of workload and his issues against lefties. He did make strides in his battle against lefties this season, so perhaps there's hope of him joining the rotation after all.
Jameson Taillon is a top 75 pitcher
Taillon finished the season 49th on the earned auction values calculator, which is not bad for a pitcher who was going 111th by ADP during the peak of draft season. His 14 wins were a large part of his value, as his 3.91 ERA didn't help much while his strikeouts were merely average for a starting pitcher. His 1.13 WHIP was helped by his continued ability to limit the walks, and his 177.1 innings represented a full return from his pre-surgery workload days. He's a free agent this winter and certainly set himself up nicely for the offseason. His 1.3 HR/9 is a problem, however, especially when you consider 16 of his 26 homers were allowed away from Yankee Stadium.
Corey Kluber is a top 100 pitcher
Kluber finished 102nd on the pitcher list; so close! He handled his highest workload since the 2018 season, missing just one start all year as the Rays carefully managed his 164 innings over 31 starts. His strikeout rate continues to fall as his stuff fades into the sunset, something which was particularly noticeable in the second half of the season as his ERA went from 3.73 in the first half to 5.14 in the second, giving him a 4.34 ERA to end the year. He too is a free agent, but his fantasy value is certainly at risk without major run support behind him.
Tim Mayza is a top 250 pitcher
Mayza finished the year as the 150th most valuable pitcher after going undrafted in most league formats. Eight wins, two saves, solid ratios and enough strikeouts out of middle relief allowed him to return more overall value than the likes of Freddy Peralta, Nathan Eovaldi and Lucas Giolito, among others. He did that despite working under 50 innings on the season. Obviously, his future value hangs on the likelihood of him vulturing wins in the later innings, and that skill is highly unpredictable. Someone else making the jump from obscurity to the top 150 in 2023 is more likely than Mayza repeating his success, unless his role were to change to a full-time closer should something happen with Jordan Romano.
NL East Bold Predictions
Huascar Ynoa is a top 60 pitcher
Ynoa quickly pitched his way to Triple-A where he spent most of the season until he went down with an elbow injury on September 7th which required Tommy John surgery to correct. We can safely forget about him for awhile, and even when he does come back, his future will likely be out of the bullpen.
Jesus Luzardo is a top 75 pitcher
Luzardo missed a chunk of the season over the summer with a forearm strain, but he ended up finishing the season 101st in the pitcher rankings despite just 100 innings of work. He had an impressive 30 percent strikeout rate, with bookend outings of 12 strikeouts to begin and end the season. The 100.1 innings he threw this season were his highest total to date at the big-league level, and the fact he missed multiple months with a forearm strain gives me pause pushing the envelope with him again for 2023 despite his potential.
Carlos Carrasco is a top 75 pitcher
Carrasco finished the year 71st in the pitcher rankings and handled his highest full-season workload since 2018. He did not return to pitch at his peak levels from a few years back, but this was his strongest fantasy season of the last four years. That said, he did not pitch enough innings to activate the vesting option in his contract, making him a free agent this winter. His future value will certainly be impacted by where he lands should he leave Flushing.
Corey Knebel is a top 10 reliever
This was one of my big bets across multiple leagues that did not pay off. He had 12 saves and 3 wins before going down for the season with a tear in his shoulder capsule. Before that, he seemingly pitched around disaster too frequently as previous bouts of wildness came back, sending his walk rate soaring to a career-worst 14 percent.
Josiah Gray is a top 75 pitcher
The Nationals playing well below their projections was certainly a factor here, but Gray did himself no favors by nearly mimicking his half-season home run and walk rates from 2021 over the course of a full season. He now has a 10 percent walk rate and a 2.3 HR/9 rate in just under 220 innings of major league work. The numbers are reminiscent of Triston McKenzie in that his fastball got obliterated last season (.304 BA, .738 SLG). 24 of his 37 homers came off the pitch, while the league hit below .190 against his breaking stuff (but still turned 11 of those into souvenirs). He still maintains a greater than 30 percent whiff rate on his breaking pitches, and things get really weird when we look at his behind/ahead splits:
I'm not going to repeat this prediction next year, but he's also still very much on my radar, as better fastball command would help him take a leap forward as McKenzie did this season.
AL Central Bold Predictions
Dylan Cease is a top 15 pitcher
Cease was every bit this good and then some, as he finished the season seventh overall with 14 wins, 227 strikeouts, a 2.20 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP while pitching in front of bad defense for an underperforming Chicago club. If not for Justin Verlander's dominant season, Cease may have walked away with the Cy Young for his performance this season. He wasn't being drafted as an SP1 this past winter, but he should be this season. The only knock we still have with him is his career walk rate of 11 percent. He's never been below 10 percent in a season in that category, making him one of the latter SP1 types.
Triston McKenzie is a top 60 pitcher
McKenzie finished the season as the 18th most valuable pitcher, as the Cleveland pitching factory has once again done its job. McKenzie's ADP during draft season was 228, so I'm hopeful many got on board with this one and enjoyed the ride as he outperformed many more notable pitchers in front of him. He lowered his exposure to the long ball from 1.6 to 1.2 per nine innings, but it would be nice to see that continue to fall in 2023. His consecutive seasons with a sub-.230 BABIP and left on base rate north of 80 percent are reminiscent of Jeremy Hellickson, and a read from the wayback machine may scare you a bit. I'm expecting a regression from him in 2023 even though I love the growth we saw from him this season on the mound.
Eduardo Rodriguez finishes in the top 100 overall
Rodriguez went off the radar for over two months during the season due to personal matters. He made 17 starts with familiar results but a noticeable decline in strikeouts, which dropped 10 full percentage points from his walk year in Boston. Assuming he's in a better place off the field, he could be a nice bargain this coming year if the personal issues are behind him.
Carlos Hernandez finishes in the top 300
This could not have worked out any worse than it did. He went winless on the season with a 7.39 ERA as he was constantly pitching from behind in the count and got punished for it. His lot in life may just be low-leverage middle relief.
Jorge Alcala leads the Twins in saves
Like Knebel, this one really hurt, as my portfolio was heavily invested here in the endgame. Alcala looked fantastic in the spring but then quickly became injured in the regular season. All attempts to avoid surgery were futile, as he ended up having arthroscopic debridement surgery on August 5th. We'll have to listen in on health reports over the winter, which should be plentiful now that we don't have a lockout situation, before deciding how to move forward with this talented reliever.
NL Central Bold Predictions
Codi Heuer leads the Cubs in saves
Heuer's season never got started as he had Tommy John surgery on March 8th. Perhaps the decline in his velocity was due to more than a mechanics change, as we were led to believe.
Luis Cessa is a top 200 pitcher
Cessa had a brief moment of value early in the summer when he picked up three wins over the course of a month in middle relief but was otherwise not very useful until the club put him in the rotation in September. Ironically, his worst start came against the punchless Pirates, but he was otherwise rather serviceable in NL leagues or draft and hold formats in September out of the rotation even if he only had a surprise win against the Cardinals in that stretch. That win helped me hold onto my title in my draft and hold, as Cessa was my last remaining healthy pitcher off the bench when September came around.
Aaron Ashby finishes in the top 200 overall
What happened here? The strikeouts were still there, but the walks hung around and he seemingly always worked with men on base. The slider still had it's whiffiness, although it was a little more hittable this season, but the changeup was a pitch which really failed him this season, as the league's batting against the pitch nearly doubled from 2021. His repertoire still has quite a bit of swing and miss across the board, so he'll likely be one of the names I have in the annual Value in the Scrap Heap article this winter.
Miguel Yajure is a top 250 pitcher
Yikes! Yajure was terrible in Pittsburgh and nearly as terrible in Altoona. He still has fewer than 50 innings of work at the big league level, but that time has been full of walks. He really has struggled to turn things around since peaking in 2019.
Steven Matz is not a top 150 pitcher
Matz wasn't even a top 300 pitcher as he came in at 303rd overall, just one spot behind Aaron Ashby. The oft-injured pitcher had two different stints on the IL in 2022, first with a shoulder impingement which cost him the first half of the summer and then a torn MCL which cost him the rest of the season. When he did pitch, he looked more like the 2019-2020 version than how he did in 2021. My prediction mentioned how reliant his 2021 fantasy value was on run support and how few quality starts he provided, and I wanted nothing to do with him despite the change to a great defensive ball club. That said, I didn't think he would be this terrible.
AL West Bold Predictions
Phil Maton combines to save/win 10-plus games
Maton got plenty of work out of the Houston bullpen, but it was mostly in low-leverage and he had but two decisions on the seasons. The strikeouts were still there, but the home run was a problem and Dusty Baker looked to other options in medium- and high-leverage situations when possible.
Michael Lorenzen is a top 150 pitcher
Lorenzen finished 183rd overall because he missed 13 starts with injury. He pitched effectively around the injury with eight wins in 18 starts for a bad Angels team, but the walks were still an issue, keeping his ERA over 4.00 yet again. Eight of his 18 outings resulted in zero or one earned run, but four of the 18 saw him allow five or more runs, offsetting that body of work. 10 of his 18 starts were quality starts as well. He is a free agent this winter and there were enough moments this season to keep me intrigued yet again.
Brent Honeywell combines to save/win 10-plus games
Honeywell did not throw a pitch at the major-league level as he once again spent most of the season dealing with injuries and trying to get back on the major-league mound after four serious surgeries to his pitching arm. It may never happen now, which is a reminder that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect.
Robbie Ray finishes outside the top 100 overall
Ray finished the season 140th on the pitcher earned auction value list. The odd thing is that Ray didn't pitch that poorly. He still struck out 27 percent of the hitters he faced and put up a second consecutive season with an average walk rate, but he saw his WHIP jump from 1.04 to 1.19 and his ERA go from 2.84 to 3.71 in a season where offenses struggled to produce runs. The change from Toronto to Seattle didn't impact him in homers (he still allowed too many), but that absurd 90 percent left on base rate from 2021 fell 10 percentage points, finishing closer to his career average.
Demarcus Evans is the top dollar earner in the Texas bullpen
Evans did not throw a major-league pitch and spent a good portion of the 2022 season rehabbing from an early injury, working just 33 innings in Round Rock. He did strike out 44 hitters in 33 innings down there, winning two games and saving four.
NL West Bold Predictions
Corbin Martin earns a positive dollar value in 2022
Martin appeared in seven games for Arizona and did little to impress. His extreme flyball results would have been even worse if the baseball wasn't so mushy this year. His time in Triple-A was worse, as the ball flew out of Reno and he had a 6.08 ERA in 77 innings of work there.
Robert Stephenson leads the Rockies in saves
I give up predicting what the Rockies will do in the bullpen as I continue to get it wrong every season. In all fairness, Daniel Bard ended up pitching extremely well for them, but they decided to keep him rather than trade him away? Stephenson lost some time due to injury and had issues keeping the ball in the yard, with 1.6 homers per nine innings around two wins and an unsightly 6.04 ERA. If he can get out of Coors, I'm still intrigued in deeper leagues.
Andrew Heaney is this year's Robbie Ray
I nearly pulled a hamstring running this victory lap in April as Heaney opened the season with two impressive starts. He then spent two months on the IL with a calf strain, came back for one start, and missed another month before finally sticking on the roster the rest of the way. Nine of his 14 starts saw him strike out at least seven batters, with a high of 11 in the second start of the season. On the season, he had a career best 36 percent strikeout rate as well as a career-best 29 percent K-BB%, while the league hit .213 against him. This was a GREAT season in terms of results, but the injuries got in the way. 110 strikeouts in 72.2 innings of work against 19 walks is going to push his 2023 ADP into an uncomfortable area for me.
Yu Darvish is a top 20 pitcher
Darvish finished the season as the sixth most valuable pitcher, rewarding those who took him just inside the top 100 when he was falling to the eighth round in Rotowire Online Championship drafts. He won double-digit games for the first time since 2017 and reduced the home run rate which hurt him last season while making 30 starts for a second consecutive year. He pitched like the ace the Padres thought they were getting last season and finally looked like the guy we loved in the middle of the last decade again.
Camilo Doval finishes outside the top 20 in saves
Doval finished 11th in saves with 27, converting all but three of his opportunities and laughing in the face of a sophomore jinx. His 11 percent walk rate is still a bit uncomfortable for sustained success as a closer, but his 18 percent K-BB% helps offset that a bit.
Overall, I'm happier with the outcomes on the pitching side of the ledger than the hitting side. The hits on guys like McKenzie, Ray, Matz, Taillon, Mayza, Carrasco and Cease, as well as near hits on Kluber and what could have been with Heaney, are as satisfying as some of the misses are frustrating. At least with the misses, most of them were on fringe type players that were endgame speculations and not high-profile flops.