Rookie Pitcher Tiers 2.0

Rookie Pitcher Tiers 2.0

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

A lot has changed in the six weeks since I published the Rookie Pitcher Tiers 1.0, so it's time for Volume 2.0. These tiers are for 2023 value only. I've got the players ranked within tiers, and the tiers are listed in rough order of my preference. 

***Since I got multiple questions about him after posting, Cole Ragans is not eligible due to days on the active roster, but he'd have been in the Breakout Candidates On The 40-Man tier. I love that his velocity is up, but still a bit worried about the durability. He'd rank as a top-150 prospect if eligible.

For each player, I've included their position eligibility, NFBC 15-team Draft Champions ADP from March 1 - March 13 as well as my NFBC player shares from my five completed draft-and-hold teams, four FAAB leagues and five NFBC Gladiators (23 rounds, no bench/FAAB).

The (New) Big Four

Hunter Brown, RHP, HOU (ADP: 212, Shares: 1/14)

Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, BAL (ADP: 182)

Unfortunately it's unsurprising that in the four-week span of pitchers reporting to camp and ramping up one of The (Original) Big Four (Andrew Painter) suffered a serious arm injury. This is why none of these guys were top-15 prospects for me on the Jan. 15 update. Painter was the best pitching prospect for 2023 and long term when healthy and now he's down in the Long Shots tier. I'll likely be ranking him in the 30s on the top 400

A lot has changed in the six weeks since I published the Rookie Pitcher Tiers 1.0, so it's time for Volume 2.0. These tiers are for 2023 value only. I've got the players ranked within tiers, and the tiers are listed in rough order of my preference. 

***Since I got multiple questions about him after posting, Cole Ragans is not eligible due to days on the active roster, but he'd have been in the Breakout Candidates On The 40-Man tier. I love that his velocity is up, but still a bit worried about the durability. He'd rank as a top-150 prospect if eligible.

For each player, I've included their position eligibility, NFBC 15-team Draft Champions ADP from March 1 - March 13 as well as my NFBC player shares from my five completed draft-and-hold teams, four FAAB leagues and five NFBC Gladiators (23 rounds, no bench/FAAB).

The (New) Big Four

Hunter Brown, RHP, HOU (ADP: 212, Shares: 1/14)

Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, BAL (ADP: 182)

Unfortunately it's unsurprising that in the four-week span of pitchers reporting to camp and ramping up one of The (Original) Big Four (Andrew Painter) suffered a serious arm injury. This is why none of these guys were top-15 prospects for me on the Jan. 15 update. Painter was the best pitching prospect for 2023 and long term when healthy and now he's down in the Long Shots tier. I'll likely be ranking him in the 30s on the top 400 update that will go live at the end of the month.

As for Brown and Rodriguez, both go about 30-40 spots higher on average in the 12-team RotoWire Online Championships than in the 15-team Draft Champions, as managers are more interested in chasing upside with enhanced risk in shallower FAAB leagues than in deep draft and holds. If I could get Rodriguez or Brown around pick 200 in an Online Championship or in the Main Event, I would be interested, but I'll certainly be priced out on Rodriguez and possibly Brown. There are too many unknowns for me with Rodriguez. Will he open the year in the rotation? Will he regularly be allowed to go five-plus innings? How many total innings will he throw after throwing 75.2 innings last season? If you know the answers to those questions or don't care about the answers, then by all means, take him as your SP4. Brown probably won't help your WHIP, but his extreme groundball and strikeout tendencies make his elevated walk rate less of an issue. He's absolutely locked into that rotation, threw 52 more innings than Rodriguez last season, had success in the majors and pitches for a team that could win 100-plus games. If I were on the clock and deciding between Rodriguez and Brown, I think I'd go Brown, but that's a hypothetical that I don't need to worry about due to Rodriguez's ADP. 

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Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, ARI (ADP: 333, Shares: 2/14) 

Hayden Wesneski, RHP, CHC (ADP: 313)

Pfaadt remains in this tier even though he probably has less than a 50 percent chance (just a guess) of breaking camp in the rotation. He could spend the first few weeks at Triple-A and still log more MLB innings than Brown and Rodriguez (Pfaadt threw 167 innings last year). Even if we knew definitively Pfaadt was opening the year at Triple-A, he has upside worth stashing. Unfortunately, it seems like everyone knows this and he's been getting drafted a little too high for my taste. Wesneski, who enters this tier on Vol. 2, is still technically competing for the Cubs' fifth starter spot, even though I feel he should have already been locked in barring a disastrous spring. He has not allowed a run while striking out 11 in 8.2 innings, including a dominant outing against the Dodgers, so it seems like a pretty safe bet to pencil him into the big-league rotation.

Breakout Candidates On The 40-Man

Ryan Pepiot, RHP, LAD (ADP: 481)

Michael Grove, RHP, LAD (ADP: 694)

Drey Jameson, RHP, ARI (ADP: 392)

Ryne Nelson, RHP, ARI (ADP: 455)

Cade Cavalli, RHP, WAS (ADP: 478)

Cavalli seems locked into the Nationals' rotation, while the others are still competing for spots. Whichever Dodgers hurler gets the No. 5 spot will have fantasy appeal based on that alone, but Pepiot sitting on one walk through six spring innings is particularly noteworthy. I've probably been too low on Grove. He would be less interesting in a random organization, but The Tyler Anderson Rule (no need to look under the hood, just add any Dodgers starter) makes Noah Syndergaard appealing this year, and it would make Grove appealing as well. I like Jameson's stuff a bit more than I like Nelson's, but I can see a case for preferring Nelson just based on the quality of his fastball. Cavalli has loud stuff, and his velocity is back after ending last year injured, but it will be hard to get wins on that team. 

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Taj Bradley, RHP, TB (ADP: 548)

DL Hall, LHP, BAL (ADP: 517, Shares: 2/14)

Ken Waldichuk, LHP, OAK (ADP: 385)

Chase Silseth, RHP, LAA (ADP: 648)

Kyle Muller, LHP, OAK (ADP: 482, Shares: 2/14)

Luis Ortiz, RHP, PIT (ADP: 466, Shares 2/14)

Mike Burrows, RHP, PIT (ADP: 744)

Cody Morris, RHP, CLE (ADP: 575)

Brandon Walter, LHP, BOS (ADP: 723, Shares 1/14)

Freddy Tarnok, RHP, OAK (Undrafted, Shares 1/14)

Prelander Berroa, RHP, SEA (Undrafted)

Bradley and Hall almost certainly won't open the year in the big-league rotations, and they may make more appearances out of the bullpen than the rotation as rookies, but they've got extremely high ceilings and it's easy to envision a path to double-digit starts if they're healthy and pitching well. Waldichuk, Muller and Tarnok have a chance to win rotation spots in Oakland. Paul Blackburn, Shintaro Fujinami and Drew Rucinski are locked in, and it's even possible they go with a six-man rotation to accommodate Fujinami, so there could be three spots up for grabs. Obviously a six-man rotation would make the Athletics' starters even less appealing than they were already. Don't sleep on Silseth -- he is a starter all the way and could be the Angels' fifth best starter sooner than later, although the six-man rotation aspect is admittedly annoying. Everyone knows about Ortiz's extremely loud stuff, but there's a lot of buzz in the industry regarding Burrows' 89-mph gyro slider, which compliments an already plus fastball and changeup. Morris would be higher if not for the fact his shoulder is already barking. Walter's strong three-pitch mix and excellent control is very intriguing, but he may not make big-league starts until the second half. Berroa could pitch exclusively in relief as a rookie, but I'm not giving up on the dream of a five-and-dive strikeout maven.

Refining At Triple-A

Gavin Stone, RHP, LAD (ADP: 531)

Kyle Harrison, LHP, SF (ADP: 501)

Jared Shuster, LHP, ATL (ADP: 692)

Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, TOR (ADP: 462, Shares: 2/14)

Gavin Williams, RHP, CLE (ADP: 645)

Bobby Miller, RHP, LAD (ADP: 509)

Bryce Miller, RHP, SEA (ADP: 732)

Eury Perez, RHP, MIA (ADP: 561)

Tanner Bibee, RHP, CLE (ADP: 664)

Robert Gasser, LHP, MIL (Undrafted)

These pitchers are all awaiting the selection of their contracts to the 40-man roster, but they should be ready at some point this season. Just based on pure stuff, Shuster and Gasser don't have quite the upside of the others, but it sounds like Shuster could actually win a rotation spot this spring on one of the better teams in baseball, and Gasser is on the classic Brewers starting pitching developmental path that has yielded more production than the prospect pedigrees would have suggested. This tier is where the FAAB-a-palooza potential is, as the majority of these pitchers will be unrostered when they get the call in NFBC leagues.

Nasty Relievers

Ben Joyce, RHP, LAA (ADP: 634)

Carlos Vargas, RHP, ARI (ADP: 746)

Abner Uribe, RHP, MIL (Undrafted)

Justin Martinez, RHP, ARI (ADP: 742)

Colby White, RHP, TB (Undrafted)

Yosver Zulueta, RHP, TOR (ADP: 744)

Luis Gil, RHP, NYY (Undrafted)

Luis Medina, RHP, OAK  (Undrafted)

Zach Brzykcy, RHP, WAS (ADP: 743)

Bryan Mata, RHP, BOS (ADP: 747, Shares 1/14)

Griff McGarry, RHP, PHI (ADP: 745)

I'm gaining confidence in Joyce (if healthy) finishing the year as the Angels' closer. He could even break camp in the big-league bullpen. I almost took Joyce with my final pick of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, a 15-team mixed league with seven-man benches, just in case he does break camp. I ended up grabbing Rafael Montero (Bryan Abreu was already taken) on the notion it's more likely Ryan Pressly gets injured in the next few weeks than that Joyce is closing games in April. This is very reminiscent to Jhoan Duran a season ago, where all the signs were there early that a monster big-league reliever was emerging in front of our eyes. Vargas and Martinez are more talented than the rest of the Diamondbacks' relievers, so the cream could rise to the top over the next few months. Uribe has the most upside of any non-Devin Williams reliever on the Brewers' 40-man roster. White, Gil and Brzykcy are all either injured or working their way back from surgery, so make sure you're aware of that before selecting them.

Potential Streamers

Joey Wentz, LHP, DET (ADP: 610)

Matthew Liberatore, LHP, STL (ADP: 615)

Caleb Kilian, RHP, CHC (ADP: 727, Shares 1/14)

Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, MIN (ADP: 718)

Louie Varland, RHP, MIN (ADP: 742)

Wilmer Flores, RHP, DET (ADP: 741)

Reese Olson, RHP, DET (Undrafted)

Darius Vines, RHP, ATL (Undrafted)

Quinn Priester, RHP, PIT (ADP: 718)

Drew Rom, LHP, BAL (Undrafted)

Noah Denoyer, RHP, BAL (Undrafted)

Thad Ward, RHP, WAS (ADP: 743)

Jay Groome, LHP, SD (ADP: 736)

Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU (ADP: 745)

Taylor Dollard, RHP, SEA (Undrafted)

Connor Thomas, LHP, STL (Undrafted)

Cole Winn, RHP, TEX (ADP: 738)

Logan Allen, LHP, CLE (Undrafted)

Chris Murphy, LHP, BOS (Undrafted)

If you want upside, you came to the wrong place. Any of these pitchers is capable of providing value in the right matchup or in AL/NL-only leagues, but the expectation shouldn't be that you will be able to lean on any of them for a lengthy stretch this season.

Long Shots

Andrew Painter, RHP, PHI (ADP: 385, Shares 3/14)

Sixto Sanchez, RHP, MIA (ADP: 597)

Mason Miller, RHP, OAK (Undrafted)

Mason Montgomery, LHP, TB (ADP: 751)

Ben Brown, RHP, CHC (Undrafted)

Mick Abel, RHP, PHI (Undrafted)

Landen Roupp, RHP, SF (Undrafted)

Jake Eder, LHP, MIA (ADP: 748)

Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, STL (Undrafted)

Jack Leiter, RHP, TEX (ADP: 745)

Sean Burke, RHP, CHW (ADP: 748)

It's tough to say exactly how things will unfold for Painter, but I have to imagine Scott Boras will be putting heavy pressure on the team to take things slow. He's a cross-off for me now, even in draft-and-hold formats. I love Miller, Montgomery and Hjerpe, specifically, but they're more likely to debut in 2024.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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