2023 Fantasy Baseball Ideal Draft Pitcher Targets: Dylan Cease, Spencer Strider & More!
With fantasy baseball draft season in full swing, I’ve had the opportunity to put quite a few mock drafts under my belt. I’ve tried out a few different strategies and have landed on a few that seem to be producing teams I like. I’ve also been drafting different players to see how I feel about them versus the players I passed up in that round.
I’m ultimately starting to get a sense of which players I like in which rounds, and while I don’t want to get stuck on a player going into a draft, I like having a short-list of favorites to fall back on just in case I get stuck deciding between various players.
I recently covered my 10 favorite hitter targets, so let’s turn our attention to pitchers.
If you read my draft strategy article, you’ll know I don’t love drafting too many pitchers in the early rounds, so I’m going to break this out into early, middle, and late-round targets.
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There’s nothing wrong with Gerrit Cole or Corbin Burnes. But you’ll have to spend a first or second-round pick on them, and I’d much rather use that draft capital on a hitter, personally. So with that in mind, I’m happy to jump down to the fourth or fifth round (according to our ADP tracker) and take a pitcher with similar potential in Cease. You’re getting a slight downgrade on Cole and Burnes, but Cease could very well hit 250 strikeouts with great peripheral stats. That’s a perfect anchor for your pitching staff.
Strider is currently going around the 40th pick as SP13. He’s not going to put up quite as many strikeouts as the elite guys, but he’s only 24 years old and is on the upswing. As the ace for an elite team like the Braves, Strider could hit 15 wins with 200-plus strikeouts this season.
We’re dipping down to the 60-range here with Ray going as SP23 currently. He’s on another solid team in the Mariners so his win total should easily hit double-digits while pushing to the 225-strikeout range. His ERA likely won’t be as elite as the current top-five, but I’m not worrying about that too much at such a discount.
Dipping down to the 70s now, Javier is another player with a high strikeout rate on an elite team (sensing a theme?). Still just 26 years old, Javier doesn’t look like he’ll have an innings limit this season and should put up more than 200 strikeouts with a sub-4.00 ERA and sub-1.20 WHIP. That’s a great return for where he’s going in drafts.
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Going back to the Mariners well, Gilbert is coming off a successful rookie year (13 wins, 174 strikeouts, 3.20 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP). Going around 90th in drafts, Gilbert is most definitely worth a look as SP27 if you’re trying to build the middle of your fantasy rotation.
Snell is going as SP29 around the 100th pick in most drafts, and again, should get plenty of wins on a good Padres team. Playing in a pitcher’s park, Snell should come close to 200 strikeouts and could very well put up top-20 pitching value this year.
I’m deviating from the good team strategy here, but Greene has good enough stuff that I’ll chase some strikeouts here. Greene has A-plus stuff and is going around 120 overall. There’s a bit of risk here as the 23-year-old may see his innings cut back toward the end of the season. But he’s worth a roll of the dice at this point in your draft.
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I wrote quite a bit on Peralta in a deep dive piece that you can read here. But in a nutshell, Peralta gives you a target of around 150 overall who can provide top-50 upside. It doesn’t get much better than that, my friends.
You can feel free to call me an optimistic Red Sox fan here, but I kind of like the idea of taking a high-upside (read: strikeouts) guy like Sale around 150 in my drafts as the (on average) 47th starting pitcher taken. Sure, Sale is older and is coming off multiple injury-plagued seasons, but we’re talking about a guy who could put up 200-plus strikeouts if he pitches a full season. And it’s not like you’re spending a ton of draft capital here. If he busts, you just go back to the waiver wire without anything really lost.
I’m not saying he’s going to be Max Scherzer, but Kopech has had a similar trajectory to Max Scherzer’s early career. While being used as both a starter and reliever, Kopech has flashed some brilliant stuff while also struggling at times (which is what happened to Scherzer too). While the similar trajectories may end there, Kopech is currently being selected as the 58th starting pitcher around the 160-170 range and could be a top-25 starter if he’s able to put it all together. Similar to Sale, there isn’t much downside to taking such a high-upside player this late in your drafts – you could be looking at a league winner if everything goes right.
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