We’re still a week away from spring training, but planning for the fantasy baseball season has officially begun!
With that in mind and with many fantasy baseball managers beginning the process of figuring out which players to target in their drafts, we asked the intrepid duo of Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell another seemingly simple question. Read on to find out what they had to say about it.
Who is the #1 pitcher in fantasy baseball in 2023?
Tristan H. Cockcroft: This is where Shohei Ohtani makes a more compelling case, but I find it hard to rank a pitcher who probably still has his workload managed enough to fall under 30 starts and 200 IP ahead of some of the other candidates.
In points leagues, I’ll take Gerrit Cole. Did you know that not only is he the only pitcher to make at least 30 starts and strike out at least 240 batters in each of the last four full seasons (2018-19, ’21-22), but he also has a 22% ( 4- of-18) of the total seasons of this type in that time period? The success of the points league depends almost entirely on innings pitched and strikeouts, and history is important when projecting those two categories.
However, Corbin Burnes had 33 starts and 243 strikeouts in 2022, and that tempts me as he looks more proven now. Still, the New York Yankees are more likely to pitch Cole every five days than the Milwaukee Brewers with Burnes.
Eric Karabell: Points right there, and Cole might be the one the safest ace for fantasy purposes, but it’s hard to simply ignore his rather high 3.39 ERA over the past two seasons. He wasn’t unlucky either. Cole’s BABIP was .269 last season. Yes, he wins and loses at-bats and keeps runners off base (although home runs are still an issue), and to be fair, I rank him second among pitchers, but I switched to Burnes as the top pick.
Burnes finished considerably ahead of Cole in the ESPN Player Evaluator over the last two seasons, posting a 2.69 cumulative ERA in that span, and with a better WHIP each season and comparable strikeouts. Burnes also outhit Cole in tackles last season, so any questions about reliability or durability with Burnes seem ill-advised. It’s amazing!
I’ll probably fade each teammate if it takes a top 20 pick to get them, however, focusing more on offense in rotation categories/formats, and see how far Justin Verlander and/or Max Scherzer fall. I suspect you are much more anxious to fill pitching positions early in point formats.
Cockcroft: Yes, and especially in our new standard scoring format, where you only have seven pitcher spots to fill and need to squeeze every last number you can out of the fewest lineup spots. I want an ace pitcher even more now than I did then, as I’m leaning more toward arm transmission and rotating players faster on both sides of the ball. Aces like Cole and Burnes are much more likely to be “locked in” members of my lineup when the replacement pool at each batting spot starts with the 11th player (or shortly thereafter if you count the DH and bench, and the 31st or shortly thereafter for the 11th player). gardeners).
I know I didn’t pick him here as my No. 1 pitcher either, but you also have Ohtani notably lower in the overall roaster rankings, and since we’re only discussing his pitching contribution here, where would you put him? I’d have him close to 12th, but only so low because he won’t match the innings of most (if not all) of the 11 pitchers I’d rank ahead of him.
In the broken, however, would not be Ohtani’s throwing line more valuable because of better ratios and strikeout rate? It’s hard for me to see Ohtani falling out of the top five overall picks in any draft that keeps him as a unique player — and again, this answers a different question — so what parts of his skill set fit perfectly in any of the formats.
Karabell: Ohtani was magnificent last season and certainly answered any concerns about durability in his unique, multifaceted and historic role. However, volume matters when evaluating each skill set. For Ohtani, the lack of starts/IP has to be a factor, even a minor one. Will he throw 150 innings? It’s hardly a guarantee, and pending free agency gives us few clues about its use. I have Ohtani firmly in my top 10, which shows that my concerns (statistical or otherwise) are minor. As always, know the rules of your league, especially when you consider Ohtani. It can absolutely affect whether Ohtani is the obvious top pick in your drafts or a later first round pick.
Cockcroft: With Ohtani, I think it’s more about the team’s long-standing pattern of six-man rotations and the use of “Ohtani Sundays.” At least the Angels swung from both late last year. These days, no every Pitcher a concern for durability as many are now talking about 200+ IPs overall and 40+ innings increasing year after year due to health issues?
I’d say the daily trade hook in our game greatly increases Ohtani’s value, and in a points league, it’s a “Wayne Gretzky in 1982” cheat code. Ohtani Fun Fact: His 17.6 points per game average was fifth-best among pitchers who made at least 10 starts, trailing only Verlander (20.3), Jacob deGrom (18.9), Scherzer (18.8) and Sandy Alcantara (18.1). . Ohtani was also sixth in ERA, 12th in WHIP, second in strikeout rate and tied for seventh in total wins (wow, on that team!), which addresses his broken bonafides.
I wonder if we (and even this is an industry “we”) grossly underestimated his potential impact, clinging too much to his 2019-20 injury absences, which were really tied to his recovery from Tommy John surgery. It’s at least one question we should all be asking ourselves at that point in the draft.
Karabell: I agree that we need to move on from labeling Ohtani as an injury risk. The truth is, in our new game, potential superstars are more valuable than ever — if that’s possible — because the active rosters are smaller. Ohtani is one of baseball’s definitive stars, and building around him, regardless of format, seems pretty wise. Just like it was with Gretzky.