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High Risk/High Reward Picks: Pitchers (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Dan Tursky | @Tan_Dursky | Featured Writer
Mar 10, 2023
High Risk/High Reward Draft Picks (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

One of the most crucial positions in all of Fantasy Baseball, hitting on both starting and relief pitching is essential for molding a championship-caliber team. While positional players see the field nearly every game day, most pitchers, namely starters, rarely see the baseball diamond more than once a week. Despite this, top aces in today’s day and age can still finish out full fantasy seasons alongside star hitters, at least scoring-wise.

For example, stud hurlers such as Justin Verlander, Sandy Alcantara, Gerrit Cole, and Carlos Rodon all topped the board in 2022, and their scoring totals neared 500 fantasy points on the entire campaign, give or take. This was right up there with some big-time positional player names, rivaling the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Matt Chapman, Bryan Reynolds, and Anthony Rizzo, to name a few.

There are also the all-important relief pitchers, mainly closers, that are essential towards the ideal roster construction on a fantasy squad. Managers likely rode on the backs of Emmanuel Clase and Kenley Jansen in 2022, the respective AL and NL saves leaders on the season.

There is importance in drafting the correct pitchers that will pay dividends for owners throughout a fantasy season. This inherently requires avid drafters to take some risk when drafting specific pitchers, as many price tags come at a premium. With clear tiers of ability when it comes to pitching, and less depth than at other nominal positions, hitting on the correct selections is imperative for a season of success.

Let’s look at a few of the most volatile “High Risk/High Reward” pitching picks on the 2023 fantasy baseball landscape.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

High Risk/High Reward Draft Picks

Jacob deGrom (SP – TEX)

DeGrom does not make this list for any reason other than his apparent inability to stay healthy. However, his injury history has been bad enough that he has become one of the riskiest picks in all of fantasy baseball. When his body is right, there is little argument to be made that DeGrom is not one of the most talented starting pitchers in the MLB on any given day. His injury history just cannot be overlooked at this point in his career. For context, that history dating back to 2018 is as follows:

  • 2018: Hyperextended right elbow
  • 2019: Hip injury
  • 2020: Back tightness, neck, and hamstring injuries
  • 2021: Right side, elbow, shoulder, and forearm injuries
  • 2022: Shoulder injury

Many of these issues have caused DeGrom to miss extended periods of time. He has made just 38 starts throughout the past three seasons, good for just 224.1 total innings pitched.

Here’s the flip side: DeGrom is an obvious dominant force to be reckoned with when healthy. He sits just behind Clayton Kershaw in active MLB pitchers for second overall in career ERA at 2.52 and remains top-20 in career strikeouts despite all the recent action he has missed.

The question for fantasy managers beckons- is DeGrom worth the risk with a current second-round price tag in many season-long fantasy leagues? As of this writing, DeGrom has been dealing with left-side soreness since mid-February and has been shut down in Spring Training. Should the 34-year-old remain healthy for Texas, and this is a big if, then he could be the piece owners require to win championships in 2023. But it’s arguably the biggest gamble of them all.

Daniel Bard (RP – COL)

Former Red Sox bust and seemingly back-from-the-dead Rockie Daniel Bard appeared out of nowhere in 2022 to finish sixth across the MLB with 34 saves, a 1.79 ERA, and a 69:25 K:BB ratio. Now a ripe 37 years old, Bard is in line to run it back as the surefire closer for Colorado in 2023. Currently ranked as the 15th relief pitcher off the board in fantasy drafts, Bard feels like a player that could go in either direction during the upcoming campaign.

The unlikely transformation from Bard over the past year-plus leaves a lot of questions to be answered, such as, will the same Daniel Bard be able to show up in 2023? Historically, we are talking about a guy that has categorically struggled with his control but somehow found a way to reel it in last year. This same Daniel Bard averaged nearly five walks per nine innings pitched just one season prior to last. At the same time, Bard’s xBA, xSLG, and xERA in 2022 all ranked in the top-5 percent, so maybe he really did find a way to figure it out. Pitching out of Coors Field is always a scary premise, and there will be a surmountable amount of risk when it comes to snagging Bard off of draft boards as this offseason dwindles.

Tyler Glasnow (SP – TB)

Another obvious candidate for this list is the monstrous 6-foot-8 29-year-old Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow has shown that he can pitch like a superstar but, similar to Jacob DeGrom, he just cannot stay healthy for the life of him. The injury bug seems to always be around him, and his 2023 season is already off to a brutal start. A Grade 2 oblique strain suffered on February 28th is already scheduled to sideline him for the next one to two months.

There could be some good and bad to this for fantasy owners. The good is obvious- Glasnow’s ADP has already been dropping and will continue to do so rapidly. Other managers in your fantasy league may also look to fade the big man completely, allowing him to be scooped up as a theoretical “steal.” However, the massive risk will always come with drafting Glasnow, no matter the case. There is always the chance his leave becomes extended via a setback, and the reinjury possibility is always at the forefront with him.

A decision will have to be made- take a shot on a guy that has been in the top 10% of the MLB in K% in three out of the past four seasons, or leave that to someone else in your league to deal with for the 2023 tilt.

Quick Hits

Kenley Jansen (RP – BOS): Jansen was great for Atlanta in 2022, finishing second in the league in saves with 41. He will now make the move over to Boston as a 35-year-old and on a team that possesses much less talent.

Shohei Ohtani (SP – LAA) & Yu Darvish (SP – SD): This may surprise some people, but Ohtani and Darvish were two of the slowest pitchers when it came to tempo in 2022. They cannot afford to pitch as slowly as they did last year for this upcoming campaign. They are both guys that rely on their routine and adding the pitch clock may just have an outside chance of affecting their consistency in 2023. Just something to think about.

Hunter Greene (SP – CIN): People love Greene for the upcoming season, and rightfully so. The 23-year-old has filthy stuff, emphasized by his 99th-percentile moving fastball. That said, all of that strength in his arm also led to him getting hit hard at times. Greene finished with a pedestrian 4.44 ERA last season. Temper expectations, at least a little bit.

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