It’s that time of the year again, as we begin to solidify opinions on last season’s breakouts and busts and rank players by position for your eventual fantasy baseball drafts. While these rankings can be used for all fantasy formats, they are a bit more on the points league/H2H side of rankings, meaning that I weigh volume slightly more than in standard leagues.
All stats via Fangraphs. All 2022 projections by Steamer. All ADP data via NFBC drafts from 10/1/21 – 1/19/22 (150 drafts)
26. Frankie Montas – Oakland Athletics (ADP: 85.56, Min: 51 | Max: 124)
2021 Stats: 13-9 W-L, 187 IP, 3.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 207/57 K/BB
2022 Projections: 11-10 W-L, 179 IP, 3.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 189/55 K/BB
I was surprised to see how impressive of a season Frankie Montas turned in when I punched in his line for this article because, while I did remember how amazing he was from July onwards, I also remembered how difficult it was to stick with him during the first three months of the season. After a blowup on June 21st, Montas sat with a 4.79 ERA (82.2 IP), but put together an incredible string of 17 starts (104.1 IP) after that, during which he pitched to a 2.24 ERA (3.40 xFIP) with a 28.9% K%, exhibiting great feel for his devastating splitter. If the right-hander can continue that run into next season, he will easily be a top-30 starter once again.
27. Dylan Cease – Chicago White Sox (86.07, 56 | 124)
2021 Stats: 13-7 W-L, 165.2 IP, 3.91 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 226/68 K/BB
2022 Projections: 11-10 W-L, 170 IP, 4.04 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 204/68 K/BB
Dylan Cease had a minor breakout last season, skyrocketing his strikeout percentage 10.4% from his 2019-20 rate to an elite 31.9% this past season, but didn’t see the same improvements in his ERA as he continues to have control issues (9.6% BB%). He could have a true breakout this season by riding his blazing (96.7 mph avg. velocity), high-spin (97th percentile, 2543 avg. RPM) four-seamer, and incredibly effective slider (39.3% CSW) to well over 200 strikeouts and even better results as he adds more volume and builds off his strong second half (35% K%, highest in MLB), significantly outperforming his Steamer projection.
28. Alek Manoah – Toronto Blue Jays (88.79, 51 | 126)
2021 Stats: 9-2 W-L, 111.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 127/40 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-8 W-L, 147 IP, 4.12 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 163/52 K/BB
The mountainous Alek Manoah achieves his successes by using his towering frame (6’6”, 260 lbs) to intimidate batters and by employing a four-seamer/sinker combo in concert with a devastating slider that excels because of its exaggerated horizontal movement (+6.5 inches of break vs. avg.). Going forward, the 24-year old right-hander will need to continue developing his changeup in order to overcome his deficiencies against left-handed batters. With the prospect pedigree to secure an automatically high ceiling, the mentality to further develop his arsenal, and the body to take on an ace’s workload, I think Manoah could easily cross the 160-inning threshold with a mid-3.00s ERA and close to 200 strikeouts if everything goes right in 2022.
29. Shane McClanahan – Tampa Bay Rays (109.31, 64 | 163)
2021 Stats: 10-6 W-L, 123.1 IP, 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 141/37 K/BB
2022 Projections: 11-8 W-L, 159 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 174/56 K/BB
When Shane McClanahan made his Major League debut in the 2020 postseason, we should have known he was going to be an asset. He was one of my favorite midseason pickups and I realized quickly that he’s a special talent with an amazing repertoire (SL: 21.3% SwStr%, 89.2 mph avg. velocity | CB: 43% CSW, .241 xwOBA | CH: 72.7% GB%) that includes the hardest fastball (96.5 mph) from the arm of a southpaw starter (min. 100 IP), a repertoire that should induce more strikeouts than it did last season. The only problem facing McClanahan is how the Rays treat him volume-wise, but I think he will easily provide worthwhile production with the possibility of reaching the tier of aces if the Rays deem him the innings-eater they need to fill in for Tyler Glasnow as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
30. Trevor Rogers – Miami Marlins (94.83, 63 | 136)
2021 Stats: 7-8 W-L, 133 IP, 2.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 157/46 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-9 W-L, 154 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 168/55 K/BB
After starting off the season as the NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner with a 2.14 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a 30% strikeout rate across his first 92.1 innings through June, Trevor Rogers suffered an injury, and wasn’t himself in July before succumbing to the injured list and being held back in his September return. The 24-year old relies on one of the premier power fastballs from a southpaw, registering the fifth-highest average fastball velocity by a left-handed starter with more than 100 innings pitched in 2021, to generate his elite swing-and-miss capability (15.5% SwStr% prior to injury). Even though his ERA will slide closer to the mid-threes next season, he will still provide elite ratios and strikeout numbers in one of the best pitcher-friendly parks in baseball.
31. Yu Darvish – San Diego Padres (98.32, 66 | 123)
2021 Stats: 8-11W-L, 166.1 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 199/44 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-9 W-L, 159 IP, 4.08 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 177/47 K/BB
In his first season as a member of the Padres after being traded by the Cubs prior to 2021, Yu Darvish was on top of his game (96 IP/2.44 ERA/0.94 WHIP/30.5% K%) until the sticky substance ban went into effect at the end of June. From then until the rest of the season (July-September), the RPMs dropped on all of his pitches and his results suffered as he pitched to a 6.65 ERA with a 1.31 WHIP and 27.6% strikeout rate in 70.1 innings of work. It remains to be seen if Darvish will be able to recover the effectiveness of the pitches that relied on foreign substances, but he was still the only pitcher with an ERA over four and at least 100 innings pitched to post a sub 1.10 WHIP. He had promising ERA estimators (3.35 xERA, 3.49 SIERA, 3.75 xFIP), deploys a diverse arsenal of pitches, and has a long track record of success.
32. Justin Verlander – Houston Astros (113.51, 21 | 206)
2021 Stats: Did Not Play
2022 Projections: 12-9 W-L, 175 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 213/44 K/BB
Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Justin Verlander has a long road back to acedom, but will receive gracious exemptions from fantasy drafters because of his Hall of Fame resume and his incredible two-year run (Avg. Line from 2018-19: 218 IP/2.55 ERA/0.85 WHIP/295 K) with the Astros prior to the injury that held him out of action for most of 2020 (one six-inning start) and all of last season. It will be important to monitor how the 39-year old fares in Spring Training, as it will be his first taste of action since July of 2020, which makes it additionally difficult to buy into his 175 IP projection. However, I can see Verlander pitching like his old self if the Astros limit his workload in a crucial season for the future of his career.
33. Blake Snell – San Diego Padres (121.65, 63 | 169)
2021 Stats: 7-6 W-L, 128.2 IP, 4.20 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 170/69 K/BB
2022 Projections: 11-9 W-L, 158 IP, 3.77 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 189/69 K/BB
Former AL Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, had a rough debut season with the Padres, but began to turn things around in August with the help of a revamped pitching plan before an injury ended his season in September. As seen on Baseball Savant, Snell began to employ an increased reliance on his slider (+15.7% usage from June to 30.7% in August) while peppering the zone with fastballs and completely ditching his underperforming changeup (.429 BAA), earning plenty of swings out of the zone (+9.2% chase% from July to 26.3% in August), helping him reach another level. The lefty posted a 1.72 ERA in 35.2 August IP with an incredible 38.8% K%. If he can carry those changes over to this season and remain healthy, he would be one of the best starters in baseball.
34. Zac Gallen – Arizona Diamondbacks (142, 110 | 192)
2021 Stats: 4-10 W-L, 121.1 IP, 4.30 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 139/49 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-11 W-L, 178 IP, 4.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 188/67 K/BB
Zac Gallen looked like an up-and-coming ace after back-to-back sub-3.00 ERA seasons to start his career, but he turned a complete 180 in 2021, recording a disaster of a season in the process. The main culprit might be the velocity separation between his slider and changeup becoming nonexistent (86.1 mph avg. velocity on both his CH and CB), resulting in both of those pitches performing poorly, forcing him to lean into his four-seamer more. As a pitcher that relies on his fastball to play off his diverse arsenal of breaking and off-speed pitches, Gallen is going to need to make some changes to obtain his old form in 2022. With an ADP that allows for it, I think the gamble is worth the risk outside of the top-150 with the hope he gets back on track.
35. Nathan Eovaldi – Boston Red Sox (132.01, 92 | 175)
2021 Stats: 11-9 W-L, 182.1 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 195/35 K/BB
2022 Projections: 12-10 W-L, 183 IP, 3.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 184/44 K/BB
Red Sox postseason hero, Nathan Eovaldi, has had an up-and-down career wearing a Boston uniform, but he was a top-30 starting pitcher in all formats last season on the back of a strikeout rate that has risen in each of the last five full seasons (from 16.6% in ‘14 to 25.5% in ‘21). Entering the final year of his four-year, $68 million contract, the Red Sox will attempt to push the right-hander deeper into games, but with only one other season of more than 160 innings pitched (199.2 in 2014), it’s difficult to bank on him reaching the innings total he’s projected for, and therefore, to take him inside the top 125.
36. Chris Bassitt – Oakland Athletics (140.04, 80 | 200)
2021 Stats: 12-4 W-L, 157.1 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 159/39 K/BB
2022 Projections: 11-11 W-L, 186 IP, 4.01 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 175/53 K/BB
Chris Bassitt was backing up his 2020 breakout campaign when it looked like his season had ended early after he was hit in the face by a comebacker, but he ultimately returned to the mound in September, showing no ill effects of that freak injury. His projection is puzzling to me and I think he outperforms it by building off of the gains he made in the strikeout department (20.2% K% pre-’21 to 25% in ‘21) while the majority of his regression will be depressed by the spacious Oakland Coliseum and his precision-centric approach.
37. Eduardo Rodriguez – Detroit Tigers (152.96, 98 | 245)
2021 Stats: 13-8 W-L, 157.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 185/47 K/BB
2022 Projections: 11-11 W-L, 185 IP, 3.83 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 192/61 K/BB
After not playing in 2020 due to COVID-related myocarditis, Eduardo Rodriguez was not his usual self in 2021 and suffered unfortunate batted ball luck (.363 BABIP) throughout the season, but was one of the first free agents to sign this offseason, inking a five-year, $77 million deal with the Tigers. Now, the 29-year old will be the veteran leader of a young pitching staff and will benefit from the move to spacious Comerica Park, helping him push his results closer to his ERA estimators (3.43 xFIP, 3.50 xERA, 3.65 SIERA) and giving him a high floor, making him an underrated starter in all formats that excels at limiting hard contact (90th percentile, 86.5 mph avg. exit velocity allowed & 87th percentile, 33.6% hard-hit%, via Statcast).
38. Sean Manaea – Oakland Athletics (151.21, 104 | 209)
2021 Stats: 11-10 W-L, 179.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 194/41 K/BB
2022 Projections: 11-10 W-L, 179 IP, 3.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 179/44 K/BB
Sean Manaea features a three-pitch mix that includes a sinker, changeup, and curveball and shines by exhibiting excellent command (career 6% BB rate), but has produced mixed results throughout his career. He reached new heights last season by featuring a career-high (for a full season) 25.7% strikeout rate (19.7% prior to ‘21) thanks to increased velocity on his sinker (+1.7 mph from ‘19 to 92.1 mph). While buyers should be wary of his storied injury history, they should also take note of his favorable ERA estimators (3.62 xFIP, 3.68 SIERA) and home park.
39. Pablo López – Miami Marlins (124.51, 88 | 202)
2021 Stats: 5-5 W-L, 102.2 IP, 3.07 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 115/26 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-10 W-L, 166 IP, 3.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 165/47 K/BB
A member of one of the most promising young rotations in the league, Pablo López has exhibited excellent outings throughout his early-20’s, but has been held back by nagging injuries and inconsistent performances stemming from an arsenal that needs a standout third pitch to be complete. It may be the cutter that he featured more in 2021 (12.5% usage) than in ‘20 (8.3%), but that pitch will need some tweaking as it allowed lots of hard contact (.363 xwOBA). Nonetheless, the right-hander will continue to develop in every category next year and could have a massive breakout season with better health on the back of his deceptive ability to get swings out of the zone (94th percentile, 33.3% chase rate).
40. Clayton Kershaw – Free Agent (184.29, 68 | 286)
2021 Stats: 10-8 W-L, 121.2 IP, 3.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 144/21 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-8 W-L, 148 IP, 3.72 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 151/35 K/BB
One of the greatest pitchers of his generation, Clayton Kershaw continued to show off the arsenal that made him the ace of aces for half a decade, but also continued to struggle to stay on the field, failing to reach the 170-inning threshold for the fourth time since 2016; his last 200-inning season. Entering his age 34 season, the veteran left-hander failed to sign with a team prior to the lockout, leaving question marks surrounding what should be expected of him this season. As a future Hall of Famer, the possibility that Kershaw doesn’t provide excellent ratios when he pitches is incredibly low, and the only concerning aspect of his profile is his lengthy injury history.
41. Carlos Rodón – Free Agent (128.53, 61 | 200)
2021 Stats: 13-5 W-L, 132.2 IP, 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 185/36 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-8 W-L, 154 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 189/49 K/BB
Having pitched a no-hitter, made the All-Star team, and finished fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting last season, Carlos Rodón reached his peak with the help of increased fastball velocity (+2.4 mph on his fastball from 2020 to 95.4 mph) and the ability to stay on the field, something he hadn’t experienced in multiple years (10.25 starts/season from 2017-20). I am staying away in fantasy drafts next year, however, because of his history of injury, the fortunate luck he experienced last season (.267 BABIP, 82.2% LOB%), the fact he faded down the stretch (both in terms of velocity [92.9 mph in September] and production), and that he will most likely find himself on a new team in an unfamiliar situation (spent his entire professional career in the White Sox organization).
42. Tyler Mahle – Cincinnati Reds (123.48, 85 | 180)
2021 Stats: 13-6 W-L, 180 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 210/64 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-11 W-L, 176 IP, 4.59 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 187/64 K/BB
Tyler Mahle was one of my favorite breakout picks last offseason and that sentiment paid off with great production, but I’m not as happy to draft him this offseason because of his massive home/road splits (5.63 ERA at home/2.30 ERA on the road) and the horrible defense behind him in Great American Smallpark. While I think his projection is a bit harsh on him and I see him making developments in his age 27 season, I think the negatives pushing against him will be difficult to overcome. On top of that, he altered his arsenal drastically after the sticky-stuff ban, ditching his slider (37.4% usage through June 5th, 27.9% ROS & 140 RPM drop from May to June as he prepared for the rule change) to feature his splitter as a more prominent secondary pitch. It is something to take note of as it could mean he was relying on something sticky to reach full effectiveness with that slider and was forced to employ his average fastball with his splitter more often as a pitch that works best with less spin, leaving fewer reliable weapons to attack hitters.
43. Framber Valdez – Houston Astros (139.29, 104 | 174)
2021 Stats: 11-6 W-L, 134.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 125/58 K/BB
2022 Projections: 13-9 W-L, 191 IP, 3.58 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 177/77 K/BB
Relying on a high-spin curveball (92nd percentile, 2873 avg. RPM) and a heavy sinker (+4.6 inches of drop vs. avg.), Framber Valdez was a key member of the Astros rotation in 2021, eating innings and keeping the ball on the ground (70.3% GB%). The 28-year old didn’t make his season debut until May because of an injury and was solid in his return, increasing his changeup usage against righties (14.5% usage vs RHH/6% vs LHH) to great effect (.269 xwOBA), but his ceiling is ultimately lower than his peers because of his reduced strikeout rate (21.9%), his struggles with the free pass (10.1% BB% in ‘21), and having never pitched more than the 134.2 innings he pitched last season.
44. Logan Gilbert – Seattle Mariners (148.11, 91 | 224)
2021 Stats: 6-5 W-L, 119.1 IP, 4.68 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 128/28 K/BB
2022 Projections: 8-9 W-L, 141 IP, 4.16 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 146/40 K/BB
The 2021 debut of Logan Gilbert might seem underwhelming when looking at his end-of-season line and his prospect pedigree in concert, but there are metrics that make his 2022 outlook more positive. Both xFIP and xERA paint Gilbert’s 2021 season as much more of a success, with the former awarding him a 4.19 mark and the latter a 4.09 mark. Additionally, the path that Gilbert took to reach his final numbers is promising. He came out of the gates ice-cold (May ERA: 5.94), figured things out for a couple of months (Jun/Jul ERA: 3.38), faced an adjustment phase, forcing him to struggle in August (9.13 ERA), but made the correct adaptation and finished strong (Sep/Oct ERA: 2.70). His ability to make adjustments bodes well for his future and should ride his underrated slider (18.9% SwStr) and pinpoint control (5.6% BB%) to even greater heights next season.
45. Ian Anderson – Atlanta Braves (142.29, 95 | 192)
2021 Stats: 9-5 W-L, 128.1 IP, 3.58 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 124/53 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-10 W-L, 166 IP, 4.39 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 164/72 K/BB
As a pitcher with multiple pitches to turn to, Ian Anderson has a reliable repertoire that has helped him outperform his underlying metrics across his first two Major League seasons. His deception is the main reason he is able to outpitch his projections. Not only does Anderson release the ball from a funky angle, but he also gets an unprecedented seven feet of extension on his pitches, which is well above average for a pitcher of his height and aids in his deception, making his pitches look faster and leaving less time for batters to react. The right-hander’s primary whiff weapon is a changeup that is seven miles per hour slower than his four-seamer, resulting in a miss on 18.9% of swings against the pitch, keeping hitters off-balance. With better health in 2022, he should outperform almost every aspect of his projection and has the upside to finish the season as a top-30 starting pitcher.
46. Luis Garcia – Houston Astros (153.85, 116 | 205)
2021 Stats: 11-8 W-L, 155.1 IP, 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 167/50 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-10 W-L, 168 IP, 4.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 175/63 K/BB
Replicating a breakout rookie campaign can be a tall task, and many players that succeed in their debuts usually experience an adjustment phase in their second season. However, Luis Garcia’s Steamer projection for 2022 is a little harsh. That projection most likely stems from his first half/second half splits (3.06 ERA/3.99 ERA), his ERA estimators (3.91 SIERA, 3.93 xFIP, 3.95 xERA), and the previously mentioned sophomore slump, but I think because Garcia has a multitude of weapons (three average or better secondaries) and pitches for an organization adept at handling pitchers, he will outperform his projection and provide solid value at the right draft slot.
47. Shane Baz – Tampa Bay Rays (142.83, 98 | 242)
2021 Stats: 2-0 W-L, 13.1 IP, 2.03 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 18/3 K/BB
2022 Projections: 8-7 W-L, 118 IP, 3.71 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 134/40 K/BB
In the minor leagues, prior to his September call-up, Shane Baz was putting up mind-boggling numbers. In AA, he started seven games, lasting 32.2 innings with a 2.48 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and an insane 40.8% K%. He then backed that up in 10 starts at AAA, pitching 46 innings with a 1.76 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and a 36% K%. Baz pairs a hard four-seamer (97 mph avg. velocity) with two devastating breaking pitches in his slider (26.2% SwStr) and curveball (35.1% CSW), as well as a changeup (13.6% usage vs. LHH) to keep lefties off balance. His talent is undeniable, but his innings total is up in the air with the Rays most likely limiting his volume in his second MLB season.
48. Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox (172.95, 130 | 245)
2021 Stats: 4-3 W-L, 69.1 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 103/24 K/BB
2022 Projections: 9-8 W-L, 145 IP, 3.83 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 179/52 K/BB
Former top pitching prospect and one of the highlights of the Chris Sale trade, Michael Kopech finally got an extended opportunity in the big leagues in 2022, but pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen (4 GS), brandishing elite strikeout ability (36.1% K%, 34.1% CSW) through the utility of a fiery four-seamer (97.4 mph avg. velocity & 98th percentile, 2585 avg. RPM) and a wicked slider (17.4% SwStr%). As a young and unproven pitcher, Kopech will not only have to build up his arm strength to withstand the rigors of starting, but he will also be facing the order multiple times, could see a loss of effectiveness with the move to the rotation, and will need to add a reliable third pitch if he’s going to survive long enough to qualify for wins. He has amazing talent, but he is an unfinished product and may need more than a few starts to adjust across the first couple of months of the season.
49. Luis Severino – New York Yankees (169.52, 115 | 251)
2021 Stats: 1-0 W-L, 6 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 8/1 K/BB
2022 Projections: 10-8 W-L, 156 IP, 4.06 ERA, 1.26 WHIP,
In case you forgot, Luis Severino was coming off back-to-back ace-caliber seasons from 2017-18 during which his average line was 192 IP/3.18 ERA/1.09 WHIP/225 K, before enduring Tommy John surgery during the 2019 season, missing a total of almost three seasons as a result. He proved his health by pitching out of the bullpen for the Yankees in September of 2021, but it’s still uncertain what kind of workload Severino will be able to take on next season. He is in a similar boat to Mike Clevinger, having previously shown ace upside, having undergone Tommy John surgery, and now attempting to reacquire the abilities he once had as he hopes for fortunate health.
50. Mike Clevinger – San Diego Padres (195.11, 106 | 257)
2021 Stats: Did Not Play
2022 Projections: 9-7 W-L, 138 IP, 3.76 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 152/47 K/BB
Mike Clevinger exhibited ace upside for three straight years before succumbing to Tommy John surgery at the end of 2020 following a trade to the Padres. As recently as 2018, Clevinger put up top-20 starting pitcher value (200 IP/ 3.02 ERA/1.16 WHIP/25.6% K%), leaving hope that entering his age 31 season, he still has the potential to reclaim the filthiness that made him an ace prior to the injury. Monitoring the right-hander’s recovery from the surgery in Spring Training will be key to evaluating when to take the risk on him in fantasy drafts. His innings will be limited coming off of Tommy John surgery, and as a consequence, his upside will be similarly limited.