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Innings Limits to Monitor (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Mar 2, 2022
Shane Baz

Shane Baz is a young arm that could provide fantasy value in 2022 despite being on an innings limit.

What makes a pitcher valuable? Well, there are a few things that you want to look for when deciding which arms you want to draft. Of course, you want someone who is going to get strikeouts (use K% instead of K/9 as a better indicator), and you especially want those who are getting swinging strikes (SwStr%). If your pitcher is striking guys out, they are limiting the number of balls in play that the defense has to be counted on to make.

You also want someone who is going to limit hard contact or induce a lot of ground balls. 

But more than any other metric, you want innings. Well, you want good innings and not just innings, but let’s look at the top 10 pitchers off the board based on NFBC February ADP, and take a look at their last full season innings total and their projected innings total (in parentheses using ATC projections):

There are only two pitchers not listed (Sandy Alcantara (SP – MIA) and Jose Berrios (SP – TOR)) who are projected to throw for 190 innings this year. It’s a change from years past, as no pitchers are projected to throw for 200 innings this year.

None.

If we dip down to a 180-inning threshold instead, Luis Castillo (SP – CIN), German Marquez (SP – COL), Aaron Nola (SP – PHI), Lance Lynn (SP – CWS), Robbie Ray (SP – SEA), Lucas Giolito (SP – CWS), Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – DET), and Kyle Hendricks (SP – CHC) are all projected to hit that mark this year.

Last year, we had four pitchers (Wheeler, Buehler, Alcántara, and Adam Wainwright (SP – STL)) who hit the 200-inning mark, but with the start of the season up in the air, it makes sense why we are projecting that no pitchers will hit that mark this year.

A total of 20 pitchers in 2021 hit the 180-inning mark, and among those who we haven’t talked about yet are Kevin Gausman (SP – TOR), Frankie Montas (SP – OAK), Charlie Morton (SP – ATL), Nathan Eovaldi (SP – BOS), Kyle Gibson (SP – PHI), Joe Musgrove (SP – SD), Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN), and Jordan Lyles (SP – BAL).

Elite innings matter, and it’s why those top couple of tiers of pitchers are so coveted early in drafts. 

But not everyone can have the luxury of throwing near 190 innings or getting one of those guys. That doesn’t mean, however, that they aren’t valuable on a per-start or a per-inning basis. You just need to be mindful when you construct your roster and have some players who may get skipped, sent down, or shut down to preserve their arms.

We’re going to take a look at some of those players below to give you an idea of how many innings you can expect from them, whether they are coming off an injury, or if they are young guys who will be looking at the expected 30-inning increase year over year.

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Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM)

It kind of feels silly to put deGrom here, but when he’s being drafted as early as he is, you should know the risk involved. deGrom was well on his way to another Cy Young award and a historic season, but he only threw 92 innings thanks to a sprained UCL. You know, the ligament that’s associated with Tommy John Surgery. deGrom didn’t get the surgery, and he let it heal on its own instead. That’s … scary. The projections bake that in, of course, giving him 140ish innings. You could argue that deGrom plus the replacement-level pitcher makes him worthy of his early ADP. It all, of course, depends on your risk level. 

Shohei Ohtani (SP,DH – LAA)

The dream season for Ohtani happened, folks. And people ask “If he does it again and again, should he just always win the MVP?” My answer is a resounding yes, of course. He was fantastic in 130 innings last year, and while you can project a slight increase for him, the most he’ll likely ever throw in a season as a two-way player is around 140 or so. 

Shane McClanahan (SP – TB)

We are still factoring in the weird 2020 season since we typically go with three years when doing projections and rankings. But it’s tough for minor leaguers when there wasn’t a season. For the next few arms, starting with McClanahan, they are tough to project given that they made a huge jump in 2021 production without having a 2020 season in the minors. McClanahan threw 123.1 innings for the Rays last year after throwing a combined 127.2 innings across four levels in 2018 and 2019. I feel better about giving him a bump to around 150 innings, but given how the Rays are, don’t be surprised to see him skipped in the rotation to preserve his arm from time to time.

Shane Baz (SP – TB)

Baz is the 49th overall pitcher off the board and has an ADP of 141 for February NFBC drafts. Last year, Baz threw 94.1 innings across Double-A, Triple-A, MLB, and the playoffs. Even if we are being generous with the 22-year-old, it’s hard to see him exceeding 130 innings this year. Of course, on a per-start basis, Baz has ace-type potential with his dominating swing-and-miss stuff. But he’s the guy that you need to pair with a high-volume veteran.

Alek Manoah (SP – TOR)

Manoah was a curious case, as he far exceeded his prospect expectations in 2021. He entered the season throwing just 17 innings of professional ball in 2019, and after missing the 2020 season, he only pitched 18 innings in Triple-A (he skipped High-A and Double-A altogether) to make his big-league debut where he threw 111.2 innings for the Blue Jays. Manoah has the makings of a pure workhorse, but for his second full season, he should throw right around 155 innings. It’s not too far off from a full workload in today’s game, but it’s still worth noting.

Sixto Sanchez (SP – MIA)

While some are optimistic on Sánchez, I’m out on him entirely for redraft and he’s a pretty hard fade for me in dynasty leagues, as well. He threw 39 innings in 2020 for the Marlins, and he showed flashes of dominance. But he missed all of 2021 with a shoulder injury, and the reports of clashing between Sánchez and the Marlins don’t give me a lot of reasons to be optimistic for his 2022 season. The lowest projected total for him this year is 71 innings, and I’m taking the under on that pretty comfortably.  

Michael Kopech (SP – CWS) 

After throwing a combined 14.1 innings from 2018-2020, Kopech impressed with a 36.1 K% in 2021 over a nice 69.1 innings for the White Sox. Of course, he only started four of those 44 games that he appeared in, so his stuff plays up as a reliever. He’s never made it three times through the order as a starter, but in his first time through, he had a 51.5 K% last year and held the opposition to a .065 average against. He still struck out 33.3 percent of the batters the second time through, too, but they hit .294 against him. We’re using a tiny 14-inning sample as a starter, of course, but there’s reason to be super optimistic about Kopech in 2021. We should see what he can do as a full-time starter, but his full-time workload will be limited to around 120 innings max. 

Joe Ryan (SP – MIN)

I think because Ryan is more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher that he, to me at least, feels like someone who can throw more innings without worrying about as much of a cap. He threw 92.2 innings across all levels last year, and he should throw right around 130 this year, too. I more worry about the repeatability of his success given his profile than the innings.

The Walking Wounded

I’m grouping all of these veterans because, well, I can. They are all either returning from major injuries or in Kershaw’s case, dealing with an injury to an unknown extent. Verlander had all of 2020 and 2021 to recover, but he’s also a 39-year-old pitcher who was showing diminishing skills before he got hurt. For Severino, his promising career has just been derailed by injury after injury, and he’s thrown a total of 18 innings over the last three years. The Yankees could just turn him loose and let him throw at this point, but I’m not buying his ability to stay healthy. For Syndergaard, it’s been much of the same. The Angels and Thor bet on a rebound with a one-year deal for 2022. We saw him throw exactly two innings in the last two years, and it would be unfair to judge his diminished velocity in those innings. For Kershaw, he was held to 121.2 innings last year after missing a portion of the season with a left forearm injury. We haven’t had many updates, which is concerning for a 34-year-old who is still really good start-to-start but has seen the injuries pile up on him.

The Rookies

The only one that we know for sure will be in the big leagues is Pearson, but he’ll likely be a bullpen arm for the majority of this year, though Toronto is adamant that they still want to develop him as a starter. 

For Greene, the upside is huge, and the 22-year-old should arrive in the Cincy rotation in May. He has redraft value, but expect him to be capped around 100 innings. The Miami rotation has a lot of competition, but for my money, Edward Cabrera is a better pitcher than Sánchez and should get a chance to throw 70 innings or so as a starter. 

As for Rodriguez and Gore, well, we should see both this year at some point. The new dimensions in Baltimore should help all pitchers, and Rodriguez should get the call around June or so for 10 starts for the Orioles. And Gore, man. It sucks. This is why it’s the smart call more times than not to sell on pitching prospects. But if not now then when? I expect him to debut for the Padres this year for better or worse, but I’m expecting a lot more worse than I am better with him at this point in his career. 

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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