Here is a prospect question that applies to those of us who play in redraft, keeper, and dynasty leagues: Which rookie pitcher will be the most valuable fantasy player in 2021?
Ian Anderson continues to impress, while Trevor Rogers and Casey Mize seem to be establishing themselves as reliable MLB rotation pieces. Beyond those three at the top, there’s a lot of uncertainty, injuries, and changing roles. I’ll go through all that, plus some recent notable prospect call-ups, to hopefully help you gain an edge in your leagues for the remainder of the 2021 season:
|Josh Fleming||TBR||Bulk guy|
|Brent Honeywell Jr.||TBR||Triple-A|
|Zac Lowther||BAL||Alternate Site|
News and Notes
Ian Anderson keeps plugging away in the Braves rotation. He’s still walking a few more batters than you’d like to see, but the flip side is he’s effectively wild, keeping hitters off-balance and posting an above-average number of strikeouts (25.2% K-rate in 2021). ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all nearly in alignment with Anderson — he’s around a 3.30 ERA talent that is going to give his team a shot at six effective innings each 5th day. You can’t really ask for much more than this out of a rookie hurler.
Trevor Rogers continues his breakout season. With his fastball averaging 95 mph this year, the totality of Rogers’ stuff has taken a step forward. The changeup has been a great weapon (34.9% whiff rate), and his slider has shown vast improvement (42.6% whiff rate, up over 11% from 2020). He’s had no issues working deep into games (only one start less than 5.0 innings this year), and he’s handling opposite-handed batters without much difficulty (1.99 ERA, 0.93 WHIP vs RHB in 2021). In short, he’s looking like a total starting pitcher package.
Casey Mize started the 2021 season with some bumps, but he has been dynamite in the month of May. His game scores over his last four starts (50 is average): 61, 63, 71, 72. He’s a relevant SP in all formats.
Sixto Sanchez has been throwing bullpens, but has yet to appear in a competitive setting in 2021. We might not see him in the Bigs until the end of June (or later).
Michael Kopech has shuttled back to the bullpen, but he’s been dynamite this year. He’s the next man up for the White Sox rotation in the event of an injury or ineffective performance. His stuff has been really electric, with a developing changeup as the final piece of the puzzle:
Michael Kopech, 98mph Fastball (foul) and 91mph Changeup (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/FZuzhSRuV7
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 25, 2021
Triston McKenzie has been sent back down to Triple-A. His four-seam fastball has averaged only 91.2 mph over 7 MLB starts thus far in 2021. When you see him back again, it’s likely going to be in a relief role.
Dane Dunning was excellent the last time out against the Yankees, posting a game score of 71 while pitching six scoreless innings. He doesn’t have the ceiling of Kopech or Sixto, so I’m keeping him below those two for now. But his sophomore season is going well, making the Rangers feel good as getting him as part of the return for Lance Lynn from the White Sox.
Tarik Skubal is back making starts for the Tigers, turning in a couple usable five inning outings over his last two starts. Skubal’s issue is that his fastball has been supremely hittable, with batters posting a .688 xSLG against the pitch so far in 2021. His overall barrel rate allowed is 17.9%, putting him in the bottom 1% of the league.
Nate Pearson made one MLB start which lasted 2.1 innings before he was shuttled back down to Triple-A Buffalo. He’s been passed (for now) by Alek Manoah on the Toronto pitching depth chart for this season.
Adbert Alzolay continues to get results despite a 23.7% HR/FB rate in 2021. He’s yet to turn in a totally dominant outing this year, but he’s been usable even in 12-teamers. He’s throwing his slider 47% of the time, and with good reason, as it’s a “Big League” pitch. His next step is to figure out his fastball mix, and how to best locate each to avoid the longball.
Kohei Arihara underwent shoulder surgery and there’s a good chance that he could miss the rest of the season.
Garrett Crochet has looked like a different pitcher in 2021. His average velocity on his four-seam fastball has dipped to 96.6 mph, and he doesn’t command it well enough to get by with it as much in that lower velocity band. Hitters have posted a .357 xwOBA against the pitch in 2021, compared to a .176 xwOBA against in 2020 when the pitch was sitting 100 mph. The good news is that Crochet has shown a willingness to rely on his slider and changeup more. Both pitches have been getting good results. There’s a starter’s profile in here somewhere. We just might have to wait until 2022 to see it.
Josh Fleming has been good in his bulk inning role, and is on the way to establishing himself as YARBRO 2.0.
Chris Rodriguez is on the IL with a shoulder issue. The team thinks he might be activated by the end of the week. Here’s hoping it’s nothing too serious, given that timetable.
Luis Patino cut open the middle finger on his pitching hand, and is on the 10-day IL until that heals up. He’s been usable in an opener/bulk-inning role for Tampa this year.
“The Lithuanian Assassin” J.B. Bukauskas has struggled in a bullpen role so far this season. His fastball, in particular, has been extremely hittable and hasn’t demonstrated any characteristics of a ‘closer’s fastball’. Don’t look for him to graduate into high leverage work any time soon.
Corey Kluber left his last start for the Yankees with right shoulder tightness, so there’s a chance that we see Deivi Garcia up soon. However, Deivi has been pretty pedestrian in four-starts at Triple-A, as he’s been weighed down by borderline unusable control (17.4% BB-rate).
Sam Hentges has made three consecutive starts for Cleveland, and now Zach Plesac has been shelved with his Hulkamania-related injury. Hentges has been wild, so don’t count on him in redraft this season. However, there is enough to like to make him a hold guy in deep dynasty and keeper formats.
Spencer Howard has been recalled by the Phillies and has taken a spot in the starting rotation this time around. His first start was a bumpy three-inning affair, but he has posted a 33.3% CSW rate in 2021 thus far. One thing Howard has dealt with as a young starter is a notable velocity dip within games. While he can touch 96 mph with the fastball, especially early on, he usually settles in around 91 mph after a couple innings of work. Until he can prove that he’s got the stamina to pitch deep into games, his likeliest role is in the bullpen long term.
Nick Lodolo has been strong through four starts at Double-A, posting a 1.47 FIP. He should work his way up to Triple-A soon, and a late-season call-up is a definite possibility.
MacKenzie Gore continues to struggle mightily with his control at Triple-A. He doesn’t need to be stashed in any redraft format.
Cody Poteet – RHP – Miami Marlins
Man I did not see this one coming at all! The Marlins have some great young pitching depth, and I figured a number of guys would contribute ahead of Poteet. But the team’s 4th round selection in the 2015 draft has taken advantage of his opportunity, spinning three gems to start his MLB career, going 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA.
Poteet features a four-pitch mix that he can use to keep hitters from both sides of the plate off-balance. His four-seam fastball has averaged 93.7 mph, and has good spin and life up in the zone. Poteet locates the pitch well. His changeup plays very well off the four-seamer. It’s a straight-change with a great movement profile (12% more drop than the average MLB change), generating whiffs at a 37.9% rate so far. Then, he mixes in a slider with two-lane movement and a sweepy slower curveball to keep hitters off-balance. He commands everything well. He has a future as a MLB rotation arm.
Cody Poteet's Changeup vs Nick Maton
Velocity: 84.3 mph
Spin: 1954 RPM
VBreak: 35 in.
HBreak: 19 in. pic.twitter.com/wbF1q6FN7i
— Joe Gentile (@JoeGentileFT) May 19, 2021
Logan Gilbert – RHP – Seattle Mariners
The Mariners gave us a double-barreled prospect surprise by calling up future franchise cornerstones Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert on the same day. Gilbert has now made three starts for the Ms, and has struggled. He’s posted a 7.59 ERA, with MLB hitters really teeing off on his fastball in their first look at the kid.
Gilbert has projected as a starting pitcher throughout his pro career due to his repeatable delivery and four-pitch mix. However, his delivery, while repeatable, seems to be easy for MLB hitters to time up so far. And, despite flashing a good changeup in the past, Gilbert has yet to throw one at the MLB level. The fastball, in particular, has been a trouble spot. It hasn’t flashed as a pitch that will generate a lot of whiffs, and he’s been serving it up in the hart of the zone a ton. Just look at his heat map thus far:
Gilbert still has the prospect pedigree to make him a worthwhile hold in pretty much every format. But for those of us who dumped a bunch of FAAB to pick him up for his MLB debut, that’s not much consolation right now.
Alek Manoah – RHP – Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays called-up Alek Manoah to make his first career start against the Yankees tonight. Manoah, 23, was the team’s first round selection in the 2019 draft out of West Virginia University. Manoah has impressed at each placement during his non-traditional development period, including his time at the alternate site in 2020 and at MLB spring training in 2021.
Manoah’s primary weapon is a slider that might rate out as a double-plus pitch. It’s the type of pitch that will confound MLB hitters and provide Manoah with a security blanket that he can rely on while he figures things out at the big league level.
The Blue Jays are calling up their top pitching prospect Alek Manoah this Wednesday to start against the Yankees!
He’s rostered in 58% of @CBSFantasy leagues.
— Fantasy Baseball Today (@FBTpod) May 24, 2021
Manoah’s fastball should work at the MLB level. He can sit consistently in the 92-93 mph band with the pitch, and has the ability to reach back and touch 97 mph with it when needed. The slider tunnels well with the fastball, and the combination of looks should give hitters trouble. His changeup is a work in progress, but the team has said that they like the depth he’s been able to add to the pitch since draft day in 2019. Manoah is worth a stab in leagues where you are strained for starting pitching at the moment.