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Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects: Pitcher (2023)

Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects: Pitcher (2023)

It’s easy to get excited about rookie pitchers. After all, you never know when you might uncover the next Spencer Strider (SP – ATL). Nabbing a young starter who exceeds expectations can go a long way for your fantasy team. As we prepare for our 2023 drafts, who are the rookie pitchers we should target?

If you missed them, be sure to check out each installment of FantasyPros’ Top 5 Prospects Per Position series:

Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Pitcher

Below are five prospects who rank in MLB’s Top 100 and figure to see significant innings this year (based on our Zeile Consensus Projections).

Andrew Painter (SP – PHI)

MLB Prospect Rank: 6

2023 Zeile Consensus Projections:

Innings Wins K/9 ERA WHIP
83 5 8.8 4.12 1.24

The 6’7″ Painter won’t turn 20 until after the season starts, but he’s been invited to major-league camp this spring, and it’s rumored that he has a shot at making the Opening Day roster. In all likelihood, the 2021 first-round pick who hasn’t pitched above Double-A will start in the minors, but he may not stay down for long as he’s dominated at every level. Painter features a fastball, slider, change, and curve and has exhibited great control for someone so young.

The Phillies don’t need to rush Painter, who would, at best, slot in as their fifth starter. Thus, it may be hard to draft him in redraft leagues unless the word out of Clearwater this spring indicates he has a legit shot at the rotation. In deeper leagues, he’s worth stashing, given his upside. In shallower leagues, you can wait if he’s demoted but be ready to pounce when he’s called up.

Grayson Rodriguez (SP – BAL)

MLB Prospect Rank: 7

2023 Zeile Consensus Projections:

Innings Wins K/9 ERA WHIP
118 7 9.3 3.74 1.21

The Orioles’ acquisition of Cole Irvin (SP – BAL) earlier this week could push Rodriguez down to Triple-A to start 2023, but it’s doubtful. He was ready to debut last season before a lat injury in June shut him down for much of the rest of the season. Even with the injury, Rodriguez logged 75 innings in 2022, so he’s a good bet to throw 100+ this year. At 23 years old, Rodriguez is ready, and he has the stuff to dominate from the jump.

In early drafts, Rodriguez has an ADP of SP55, going 186th overall. Thus, he’s far from a sleeper, and you could argue he’s being drafted too early. Still, the talent is there, and Camden Yards was much friendlier to pitchers last year after they moved the left-field fence back. Barring an injury in spring, Rodriguez should be on your radar come draft day in all formats.

Hunter Brown (SP/RP – HOU)

MLB Prospect Rank: 43

2023 Zeile Consensus Projections:

Innings Wins K/9 ERA WHIP
86 5 9.4 3.34 1.26

That the Astros can lose Justin Verlander (SP – NYM) to free agency and still be an overwhelming favorite to win their division speaks to their depth. Brown is a big part of that equation and displayed his potential with 9.7 Ks per nine, an ERA of 0.89, and a WHIP of 1.08 in 20 innings down the stretch last season. His fastball touches 97 mph, and he has a plus curveball and slider in his arsenal. The one red flag is his control. It didn’t manifest last September, but historically his BB% has been on the high side.

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Brown is how the Astros will use him. He’s fluctuated between starting and relieving since going pro, so he’ll likely do both, ala Cristian Javier (SP/RP – HOU) the past few seasons. The Astros know how to manage young hurlers, which is a plus for Brown, but the depth of their rotation could limit his opportunities.

Cade Cavalli (SP – WSH)

MLB Prospect Rank: 58

2023 Zeile Consensus Projections:

Innings Wins K/9 ERA WHIP
105 5 8.2 4.47 1.36

Cavalli made one start for the Nationals in late August last year and got knocked around by the Reds. After that game, he was put on the IL with shoulder inflammation and did not pitch again in 2022. Reportedly he’s healthy and is expected to open the year in the National’s rotation. The positive to playing for a rebuilding team is that the club should be patient with him. Washington’s 2020 first-round pick is 24 and has enough experience in college and the minors that the Nats will want to take a long look. In addition to the injury risk furthered by his violent delivery, Cavalli’s control could be an issue. He walked 10.7% of the batters he faced in the minors, which he needs to improve to be a fantasy asset.

Cavalli is not being drafted in most leagues, so there is no rush to go and get him on draft day in redraft leagues unless yours is extremely deep. However, he’s worth monitoring as he has a nice pitch mix and could blossom if he can stay in the strike zone consistently.

Ken Waldichuk (SP – OAK)

MLB Prospect Rank: 76

2023 Zeile Consensus Projections:

Innings Wins K/9 ERA WHIP
108 6 8.7 3.79 1.23

Waldichuk started seven games for the A’s down the stretch last season after coming to them from the Yankees in the Frankie Montas (SP – NYY) trade. The results were mixed, but a high BABIP and a FIP over half a run lower than his ERA indicate some bad luck. Like Cavalli, Waldichuk should start the year in the rotation and have a long runway. The A’s aren’t going anywhere this year, so they can afford to be patient with the 25-year-old. It helps Waldichuk’s value that Oakland has a good track record developing pitchers and that the Oakland Coliseum is one of the friendliest pitcher parks in the league.

He won’t get many wins this season, but Waldichuk might be good enough to fill out a deep-league rotation or stream in the right situation. You can hold off drafting him in most redraft leagues and monitor his performance in April, as his ADP is currently SP138.

Beyond our fantasy baseball content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – which optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.


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