Rookie Pitcher Tiers 1.0

Rookie Pitcher Tiers 1.0

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

With the top 400 prospect rankings+mailbag and first-year player draft rankings+blueprint in the books, I'm turning my eyes to evaluating prospects for 2023 value (dynasty rankings still on the way).

As I did last season, I'm splitting the rookie tiers series into hitter tiers and pitcher tiers. Vol. 1 of the Rookie Hitter Tiers went up earlier this week. Players are ranked within the tiers for 2023 value, but the tiers are generally more of a map than a strict ranking of all these hitters. I've written the outlooks on all the top guys, so check those out on the player pages if you want more detailed analysis.

Unlike with hitters, starting a bad pitcher just once can really do damage to your roto team, so I'm not going to list pitchers who I wouldn't stream under any circumstances in my deepest leagues. There were several pitchers who just barely exhausted prospect eligibility, but who I wanted to mention as intriguing flyers for 2023. Roansy Contreras (velocity, breaker, pedigree, opportunity), Brayan Bello (showed signs of harnessing big stuff late last season), Clarke Schmidt (most innings since 2019, put the finishing touches on his MiLB development), Bryce Elder (blocked, but team context/track record is very appealing), Mike Baumann (FB touches 98 mph, finished '22 strong at Triple-A) and Zack Thompson (FB touches 98 mph, plus curveball, good team context) are pitchers with fewer than 100 MLB innings who I've got some level of interest in for draft-and-holds

With the top 400 prospect rankings+mailbag and first-year player draft rankings+blueprint in the books, I'm turning my eyes to evaluating prospects for 2023 value (dynasty rankings still on the way).

As I did last season, I'm splitting the rookie tiers series into hitter tiers and pitcher tiers. Vol. 1 of the Rookie Hitter Tiers went up earlier this week. Players are ranked within the tiers for 2023 value, but the tiers are generally more of a map than a strict ranking of all these hitters. I've written the outlooks on all the top guys, so check those out on the player pages if you want more detailed analysis.

Unlike with hitters, starting a bad pitcher just once can really do damage to your roto team, so I'm not going to list pitchers who I wouldn't stream under any circumstances in my deepest leagues. There were several pitchers who just barely exhausted prospect eligibility, but who I wanted to mention as intriguing flyers for 2023. Roansy Contreras (velocity, breaker, pedigree, opportunity), Brayan Bello (showed signs of harnessing big stuff late last season), Clarke Schmidt (most innings since 2019, put the finishing touches on his MiLB development), Bryce Elder (blocked, but team context/track record is very appealing), Mike Baumann (FB touches 98 mph, finished '22 strong at Triple-A) and Zack Thompson (FB touches 98 mph, plus curveball, good team context) are pitchers with fewer than 100 MLB innings who I've got some level of interest in for draft-and-holds (Baumann and Thompson are super late names). I'm generally using only one or two out of 50 roster spots on pitching prospects.

For each player, I've included their NFBC 15-team Draft Champions ADP from Jan. 1 - Jan. 27 as well as my player shares (for guys I've drafted) from my three completed NFBC Draft Champions (50 rounds, draft and hold), all of which finished drafting back in 2022.

The Big Four

Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, BAL (ADP: 199)

Andrew Painter, RHP, PHI (ADP: 357, Shares 2/3)

Hunter Brown, RHP, HOU (ADP: 263)

Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, ARI (ADP: 395) 

These are the only pitchers who are A) Top-50 overall prospects for dynasty and B) draftable in 12-team mixed leagues. I'm expecting Rodriguez to make the Orioles' rotation if he's fully healthy, and I think Pfaadt has a 50/50 chance of making Arizona's starting five, so consider him a luxury end-game stash. Like Pfaadt, Painter could make the rotation out of spring training or get sent to Triple-A for weeks/months. I think drafting him in all formats is fine right now, but if he starts going in the 200-300 range, I'd opt for guys like Eric Lauer or Aaron Civale, especially in FAAB leagues, as I'd drop Painter if he has just an OK spring training and doesn't make the club. As for Brown, he figures to be the odd man out to open the year if the five starters ahead of him on the depth chart are healthy. However, a clear No. 6 guy who has already had MLB success typically finds opportunities sooner than later.

Breakout Candidates On The 40-man

Hayden Wesneski, RHP, CHC (ADP: 341)

Drey Jameson, RHP, ARI (ADP: 361)

Kyle Muller, LHP, OAK (ADP: 464)

Ryne Nelson, RHP, ARI (ADP: 465)

Luis Ortiz, RHP, PIT (ADP: 416, Shares 2/3)

Cody Morris, RHP, CLE (ADP: 397)

DL Hall, LHP, BAL (ADP: 476, Shares 1/3)

Cade Cavalli, RHP, WAS (ADP: 471)

Chase Silseth, RHP, LAA (ADP: 672)

Ken Waldichuk, LHP, OAK (ADP: 392)

Ryan Pepiot, RHP, LAD (ADP: 524)

Freddy Tarnok, RHP, OAK (ADP: 745, Shares 1/3)

Everyone in this tier has already made their big-league debut and in most cases they have little left to prove in the minors. The order of this tier could change drastically during spring training, as a veteran pitcher or two could get injured to open up a spot, or a handful of these guys could pitch their way into their team's rotation. We already know Cavalli is in the Nationals' rotation, but he has the most significant medical concerns entering spring training after finishing last season on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Waldichuk is also a shoo-in for Oakland's rotation, but I'd rather roster Muller in draft-and-hold since I think he has the upside to be more than a streamer. The rest of the guys will be in spring competitions.

Appointment Spring Training Viewing 

Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, TOR (ADP: 551, Shares 2/3)

Eury Perez, RHP, MIA (ADP: 528)

Part of the real big four (for dynasty) along with Andrew Painter and Grayson Rodriguez, these two could look big-league ready in spring training, or they could look like more refinement is necessary. Spring training often clues us in on which young pitchers are much more ready for the show than we realized (Jose Fernandez, Alek Manoah come to mind), and while Painter's combination of excellent command and a clear path to his win-now team's rotation makes him a more obvious spring training helium generator, Tiedemann and Perez are talented enough to appear ahead of schedule. Even if conventional wisdom says we shouldn't expect 19- and 20-year-old pitchers to pitch in big-league rotations, it seems more likely to me that Tiedemann or Perez provide steady fantasy value at some point this year than the pitchers in the Potential Streamers tier.

Refining At Triple-A

Gavin Stone, RHP, LAD (ADP: 518)

Taj Bradley, RHP, TB (ADP: 538)

Kyle Harrison, LHP, SF (ADP: 486)

Gavin Williams, RHP, CLE (ADP: 641)

Bobby Miller, RHP, LAD (ADP: 456)

Robert Gasser, LHP, MIL (Undrafted)

I don't really understand why people are taking the non-Gasser/Williams pitchers in this tier as high as they are going. The Dodgers guys may not pitch in the big-league rotation at all this season. Bradley needs a third pitch and Harrison needs better command/control. They enter the year eighth or ninth on their depth charts with improvement needed in the minors. That's not to say they shouldn't be getting drafted at all, but they should be getting drafted down where Williams is, in the final 10 rounds of 15-team draft-and-holds. Meanwhile, Gasser was a bit more appealing before Milwaukee signed Wade Miley, but I still think we could see him up as a spot starter in the second half.

Potential Streamers

Mike Burrows, RHP, PIT (ADP: 748)

Reese Olson, RHP, DET (ADP: 749)

Caleb Kilian, RHP, CHC (ADP: 724, Shares 1/3)

Joey Wentz, LHP, DET (ADP: 577)

Matthew Liberatore, LHP, STL (ADP: 637)

Darius Vines, RHP, ATL (Undrafted)

Wilmer Flores, RHP, DET (Undrafted)

Brandon Walter, LHP, BOS (ADP: 746)

Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, MIN (ADP: 652)

Louie Varland, RHP, MIN (ADP: 698)

Quinn Priester, RHP, PIT (ADP: 715)

Drew Rom, LHP, BAL (Undrafted)

Noah Denoyer, RHP, BAL (Undrafted)

Taylor Dollard, RHP, SEA (ADP: 751)

Connor Thomas, LHP, STL (ADP: 750)

Thad Ward, RHP, WAS (ADP: 739)

Jay Groome, LHP, SD (ADP: 746)

Cole Winn, RHP, TEX (ADP: 739)

Jared Shuster, LHP, ATL (ADP: 728)

Logan Allen, LHP, CLE (Undrafted)

Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU (Undrafted)

Chris Murphy, LHP, BOS (Undrafted)

A few or more of these pitchers could develop into sought after fantasy commodities in the coming years, but I wouldn't trust any of them out of the gate in 2023. Even if they've been excellent at Triple-A, I'd be in prove-it mode with these guys if/when they get the call initially before using them as streamers against bad offenses and ideally in pitcher-friendly venues.

Long Shots

Sixto Sanchez, RHP, MIA (ADP: 566)

Mason Miller, RHP, OAK (Undrafted)

Tanner Bibee, RHP, CLE (ADP: 653)

Mason Montgomery, LHP, TB (ADP: 749)

Ben Brown, RHP, CHC (Undrafted)

Mick Abel, RHP, PHI (Undrafted)

Landen Roupp, RHP, SF (Undrafted)

Jake Eder, LHP, MIA (ADP: 749)

Prelander Berroa, RHP, SEA (Undrafted)

Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, STL (Undrafted)

Daniel Espino, RHP, CLE (ADP: 635)

Jack Leiter, RHP, TEX (ADP: 723)

Sean Burke, RHP, CHW (ADP: 623)

This is a mixture of intriguing pitchers who are unlikely to pitch in big-league rotations this year (Miller, Bibee, Montgomery, Brown, Roupp, Eder, Berroa, Hjerpe), pitchers I'm lower on (Abel, Leiter, Burke) and pitchers whose recent injuries will probably prevent them from pitching in a big-league rotation this year (Sanchez, Espino). 

Nasty Relievers

Bryan Mata, RHP, BOS (ADP: 747, Shares 1/3)

Abner Uribe, RHP, MIL (Undrafted)

Griff McGarry, RHP, PHI (ADP: 741)

Luis Gil, RHP, NYY (Undrafted)

Randy Vasquez, RHP, NYY (Undrafted)

Zak Kent, RHP, TEX (Undrafted)

Yosver Zulueta, RHP, TOR (ADP: 745)

Ricky Vanasco, RHP, TEX (Undrafted)

With the exception of Uribe and Vanasco, these pitchers will likely continue to be developed as starters long term, but if they pitch in the majors in 2023, it will be out of their team's bullpen. They all have the stuff to close some day if they don't make it as starters, but in some cases their poor command/control could limit them to setup work.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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