TDG 2021 RISERS AND FALLERS: STARTING PITCHING
This is a companion piece to our annual Top Dynasty League Starting Pitching series. The opinions below are our own and do not reflect the TDG consensus. Each of these players has fans among our colleagues.
Pitching is easily the riskiest position in all of dynasty baseball. But where there is a risk, there can be an immense reward. We live in a reactionary world where one dismal season or one stellar season can have a big impact on how a player is thought of in a fantasy baseball mind. In this article, we discuss a few pitchers whose rankings saw a sizeable jump for better or worse going into the 2021 season. I tried to avoid players who were/are injured as that, obviously, can greatly affect rankings.
Riser – Zach Plesac, Cleveland Baseball Team (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 132, Current Rank: 45)
Zach Plesac’s breakout season was not in 2020 but it was the year before. He spent about 70 innings in the minor leagues, split evenly between Double-A and Triple-A, destroyed the competition, and then threw another 115 innings in his debut season for Cleveland. While he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, his fastball is below average, but he has a wide variety of pitches and Cleveland’s superb pitching development system. He began to utilize his slider more in 2020 and his overall strikeout rate jumped from 18% to 27%! Of course, his 2020 stats partly could be chalked up to small sample size and poor competition but, I believe in that slider but more importantly, his team. Sure, 2020 might be the high water mark for Plesac but I feel he can be an excellent addition to your dynasty squad.
Riser – Pablo López, Miami Marlins (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 137, Current Rank: 55)
Another great team at developing young pitching is the Miami Marlins and Pablo López was one of the highest riser in our consensus ranks, as he jumped up 82 spots to 55th overall starting pitcher. What makes López very interesting is that his strikeout rate jumped four percentage points to 25% and he was able to generate more softly hit groundballs as well. Also, he began to expand his arsenal going from a four-seam/changeup guy to a four-seam/two-seam/changeup guy. I know seeing a pitcher add more sinkers might have you running away but please don’t! The Marlins have been extremely successful with getting the most out of sinkerballer pitchers (Hello Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez). While the NL East is a pretty tough place to pitch, I trust López will put up close to or over what he did in 2020.
Also…this GIF should move him up in your personal rankings…
Faller – Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres (Age: 25 Previous Rank: 9, Current Rank: 26)
You turn on Pandora and take a look at the top new songs station. You pick the first song on the list and you feel it. It totally becomes your new jam. You tell all your friends to give it a listen. Then you start hearing it everywhere; radio stations, tv shows, commercials, etc. A few months after you couldn’t stop listening to it, now you never want to hear it again. That is what the TDG crew thought about Chris Paddack’s 2020 performance. The Sheriff arrived in San Diego, cowboy hat and all, and posted a 3.33 ERA, .98 WHIP, and 27 K% in 140.2 innings during his debut season in 2019. He was the Opening Day starter for the Padres and well, things went downhill from there. Traditionally, Paddack has been a two-pitch pitcher but he wanted another pitch to add to his arsenal so he worked on a cutter in the off-season. Well, the grip that he was using for the cutter affected his ‘feel’ for his fastball and everything became just a bit more hittable. In 59 innings, he had a 4.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and only a 24 K%. Now, due to all of the Padres moves this offseason, he is barely clinging onto a spot in the rotation. I still believe Paddack is a starter for the long term, I’m just afraid 2019 will be his best season.
Faller – Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 20, Current Rank: 43)
After signing a long-term deal with the Nationals, winning the World Series, and having one of the best seasons of his career, we had TDG really bought in and ranked Patrick Corbin 20th. In hindsight, it was a bit aggressive. After returning from in 2016, Corbin has always taken the ball, posting 189+ innings the past three seasons. Corbin’s number one pitch is a filthy slider and it generates a bunch of whiffs, especially out of the zone. However, when he does not have a feel for it, his other offerings are just not good enough to be ranked where we had him ranked. He has spoken out that the craziness of the season really affected his preparation and he never felt comfortable with his pitches. However, I am more concerned with his drop in velocity more than anything else. His slider dropped nearly three ticks and his fastball dropped two ticks. To me, that doesn’t seem all related to the crazy 2020 season. Hopefully, I am wrong but I would be looking to trade him off my roster. Sure, maybe he gets the feel back for that slider but can we really expect all of the velocity to return? As I said before, his secondaries are just not quite up to snuff and I’m moving far far away.