We listen to a lot of baseball podcasts

The arms I’m rolling with in 2023

Telling you which players I believe are going to perform might be interesting and useful. But telling you which players I have rostered the most in my various off-season drafts feels like I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

I am in 20 fantasy leagues in 2023, including Draft Champions, NFBC 50s, NFBC redraft leagues, the Highlander Dynasty League, home dynasty leagues, home auction redrafts, Gladiators, the NERF league, and more.

In this article, I’m listing the pitchers I took in at least 25% of my drafts this season and giving a brief explanation of why they’re on my teams and in what context. Hopefully, this will be a thought-provoking entertaining read for you, and an exercise in accountability and self-improvement for me. I also published a version of this article for hitters: The Bats I’m Rolling with in 2023.

Tyler Mahle (8 shares/20 teams) – You shouldn’t be able to draft a pitcher one season removed from 200 Ks with serviceable ratios in the 16th round. If he stays healthy, this ADP will look like robbery.

Nick Lodolo (8/20) – Most of my dynasty teams have Lodolo because he’s been my favorite pitching prospect for years. I picked up a couple of shares in redrafts as well because his skills are remarkable and it could all come together. But honestly, I am frightened of this year in Cincinnati. The team will be bad, the ballpark is a launching pad, the defense is questionable, and he missed time last year due to injuries. I’m not confident in spite of how much I love watching him pitch.

José Suarez (7/20) – I don’t understand the market on this one. Why is a young pitcher on a winning team with good ratios going in the reserve rounds of drafts? He had a rough start in 2022, was demoted, made some changes, and came back up to perform well. I didn’t enter draft season with Suarez as a target, but he ended up on so many of my teams because he was always there when I was filling out the bottom of my rotation.

Alex Wood (7/20) – The posterboy for bad ERA luck last season. Assuming that regresses, we’re looking at something like 10 W, 3.80 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 145 K. Sign me up for that as my SP 9. Back-to-back seasons of 26 starts for those who are concerned about his injury history.

Keegan Thompson (7/20) – A deep cut from my Draft Champions rosters (38th round ADP), Thompson is a swingman with solid skills who will likely end up starting some games. Not all your pitchers on a 50-man roster need to be starters or closers. Thompson is a glue guy who I can use to plug in holes as they emerge over the course of the season. And if he can keep his control in line, he could also end up being a solid starting pitcher when the inevitable opening in the rotation comes.

Joe Mantiply (7/20) – 48th round pick in Draft Champions. He showed fantastic skills last season. Unsettled bullpen. Yeah, he’s a lefty. But at this point, worth the shot.

Kevin Gausman (6/20) – I rarely want this much exposure to an ace. I prefer to spread the risk around among a number of elite arms. But my general strategy in early drafts this year, before the annual NFBC SP Bump, was to wait on starting pitching because I like so many of the guys at the top this year. Gausman fits the profile beautifully as a true ace who slipped til the 6th round at times. My guess is that the historically bad 2022 BABIP against him, which inflated his ERA and WHIP, have convinced some drafters he’s not elite. I think he’s such a tremendous target that I could have easily had 12 shares, but I decided to intentionally diversify my portfolio because pitcher injuries suck.

Daniel Bard (6/20) – I’m not proud of this one, and it has disaster written all over it. I drafted him late last year in a number of places, and he was a huge win for me. That bias definitely creeped into my early drafts, where I took him as a second closer everywhere, before I came to my senses. Hoping he just gives me 20-25 saves without destroying my ERA and WHIP. But my bet is I take a fat L on this one.

Brandon Pfaadt (5/20) – Watched his meteoric rise across multiple levels of ball last year and scooped him up on a few dynasty teams before the price got ridiculous. I’ve also grabbed Pfaadt in redraft because he might be the second-best pitcher on the Diamondbacks right now. In FAAB leagues, I don’t like to long-term stash. But my bet is he’s up within the first month, and his upside is worth the roster slot.

Yu Darvish (5/20) – He was the 22nd starting pitcher off the board this off-season, and I have yet to see evidence he’s anything less than an SP1. Similar to Gausman, I could have easily had double the shares. But I intentionally diversified.

Grayson Rodriguez (5/20) – I thought the redraft price was pretty reasonable for the upside potential. Sure, he’s a risk. But look at the group of pitchers he was being drafted around … Brady Singer, Jon Gray, Kodai Senga, Andrew Heaney. At this point in the draft, they all have risks. And Rodriguez isn’t a typical rookie pitcher. With even the more modest projections giving him a 26% K%, on an improving team in a good ballpark, it feels like the floor is pretty high.

David Peterson (5/20) – Been picking him up late throughout draft season as a skilled pitcher on a team with the oldest rotation in baseball. Looks like he’ll get his opportunity sooner than later now. If he could cut down on the walks just a bit, he could become a low-end #2 fantasy starter.

Hayden Wesneski (5/20) – I’ve been a fan since his early Yankees days (they could sure use him now). He’s not an ace, but Wesneski has the profile of a mid-rotation starter and the opportunity to show it now. I think his ADP would be 4-5 rounds higher if it had been clear all off-season he had a rotation slot.

Bailey Falter (5/20) – Falter was a very effective streamer in 2022, which was a rare feat. With an ADP in the 400s, I’ve taken him late in Draft Champions formats for the same usage in 2023. Start him in favorable match-ups to get some wins and Ks with decent ratios, and hope the pitch mix changes he made midyear might lead to something more.

Steven Matz (5/20) – His unlucky 5.25 ERA kept the draft price low. This is a starting pitcher with a 21.8% K-BB% on a very good team with very good defense. And they have that Devil Magic as well. Love it.

Reynaldo López (5/20) – In deep keeper leagues, he has been one of my favorite high-skilled middle relievers to stash. The unfortunate diagnosis of Liam Hendriks has opened up an opportunity for him to shine. I think he’s the best arm in that pen and will emerge with the most saves this season, even if he’s not the only one getting saves. Just expect some regressions from that 0.14 HR/9.

Michael Fulmer (5/20) – Maybe he’ll save 30 games. Maybe he’ll implode in the first week and lose the job. We don’t know. Such is the life of a mediocre closer. Which is why I don’t want to pay the current 13th-15th round draft price for him. But this is an example of where Spring Training does matter. There were plenty of signs pointing to him getting the role early in spring, so my shares here came early, and my personal ADP for Fulmer is in the 23rd round. A perfect place to throw a closer dart.

Guys who just missed the cut: Luis Castillo, Clay Holmes, Felix Bautista, Kenley Jansen, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Alex Cobb, Sean Manaea, Gavin Stone, JP Sears, Yonny Chirinos, Ricky Tiedemann.

Sidenote: You see three Giants starting pitchers on this page. That’s not an accident. Along with the Dodgers, Guardians, and Rays, I trust them to get the most out of their pitchers. So if a new starter comes up midseason – like Kyle Harrison, Michael Grove, Logan T. Allen, or some random pitcher with a made-up from New Zealand that the Rays have discovered pitching on the backfields of a sheep farm – I’ll be speculating.