TDG 2022 RISERS AND FALLERS: STARTING PITCHERS
Riser: Michael Kopech, SP, CWS, (AGE: 25, Rank: 40)
We have been waiting for the arrival of Michael Kopech for a while now and it may finally be approaching here in 2022. After a quick debut in 2018 was shortened due to injury and the need for Tommy John, Kopech missed all of 2019 and 2020 finally returning in 2021 where the White Sox used him in a bullpen role to ease him back into work where he accumulated 69.1 innings pitched over 44 appearances. He was also used in long relief appearances to get him used to being stretched out. Now entering 2022 he will get a chance to compete for a role in the White Sox rotation. It’s not only that Kopech is presumably as healthy as he’s been in almost four years that has him rising up our ranks though, his performance in relief in 2021 was spectacular. He showed command that he has long battled with in his professional career along with elite strikeout potential with a rate of over 13 per nine innings. His fastball averaged 97 miles an hour, and his secondary offerings were electric. If Kopech is able to put a healthy season together as starter the sky is truly the limit. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
Faller: Zach Plesac, SP, CLE, (AGE: 27, Rank: 93)
Zach Plesac was coming off of two very successful seasons entering 2021, and then it all came crashing down on top of him. There were signs he was playing with fire but, he had kept it together and made advances in the small sample season fo 2020, like increasing his strikeout rate from 6.9 k/9 to 9.3 k/9, that made it seem like it was going to be sustainable but the red flags ended up rearing their ugly head in 2021. Plesac doesn’t throw hard so he really relies on control and deception. While Plesac’s walk rate remained elite at 2.14 bb/9 that actually more than doubled from the previous season mark of 0.98 bb/9 indicating batters ever so slightly were making him throw more pitches. This part actually proved detrimental for plesac as his fastball was all caps DESTROYED in 2021 to the tune of a .326 batting average against. Batter just made him throw more pitches sitting on his 93 mile an hour meatball and then feasted on it to great success. Plesac’s strikeout rate regressed back to 6.3 k/9 and he had his worst season in the majors to date. Without the ability to keep batters off his fastball enough Plesac is just not going to have the success he needs to regain the helium he had from 2019/2020 and unless you play in a league with k/bb ratio there’s probably not much here.
Riser: Luis Garcia, SP, Houston Astros (Age: 25, Current Rank: 39, Previous Rank: 280)
Going into 2021 Luis Garcia was an after thought. Forrest Whitley and Tyler Ivey were front runners to fill in Justin Verlander’s spot. Christian Javier, Framber Valdez, and Jose Urquidy were the young names complementing Zach Greinke, Lance McCullers, and Jake Odorizzi. Luis Garcia wasn’t a thought.
After 2021? Luis Garcia is projected to be SP4 for the Astros. He is coming off an 11-8 season with a 3.48 era/1.18 WHIP and 167 strikeouts in 155 innings. He arsenal includes 5 good but not great pitches. His 4 seam was his worst pitch and his cutter and slider were lethal. The three starting pitchers ahead of him in the rotation? All have questions about their durability. Luis? He was eased into starting.
Garcia started 2021 in the bullpen. After 5 appearances in April he became a full time starter and didn’t look back. The knocks against him were that he was only allowed to go 5 innings a start on average. I think that is because of the awkward work loads of 2020. It speaks volumes that he was able to pitch as many innings as he did last season.
Going forward if Luis can continue to work with his pitch mix and add either velocity or movement to his otherwise blah 4 seamer he could really take more steps forward. Most projections have him pitching around 160 innings this season, but I think that is light. He pitches for an organization that gets the most out of its pitching. They develop well and I think Garcia has another step in him. 180+ innings with a mid 3 era and just under 10k/9 are what he is going to deliver the next few years. It isn’t unreasonable to think he could be a top 20 SP in dynasty if he repeats last year. (Sam Wirsching)
Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres (AGE: 29 Current Rank: 120, Previous Rank: 30)
The San Diego Padres were so excited to start the 2021 season. The season before they had eliminated the St. Louis Cardinals two games to one in the first round of the playoffs. In the next round they fell to the LA Dodgers, but they were pumped. AJ Preller attacked the offseason signing a number of players & trading for more. There wasn’t a lot of things that went well, and while I could choose a few starters on that roster my focus is on Dinelson Lamet.
Dinelson Lamet really only has two pitches he throws. A 4 seam and a slider. In 2020 his slider was one of the best pitches in the league. He tried to throw a sinker, but never got a feel for it. He finished the year 4th in Cy Young voting, it was a great season. Unfortunately he had elbow/forearm discomfort by the end of the season. And while his teammate Mike Clevinger had Tommy John surgery, Lamet chose rehab.
That decision hasn’t worked out for him. He had a lost 2021 where he only started 9 games. Lament also appeared in 13 games in relief. In total 47 innings of a mid 4 ERA with 11k/9 and a career high 4.2 walks/9. He wasn’t effective and he wasn’t healthy. My feelings about his situation is that San Diego is going to feel strongly about its win-now window. He is going to need surgery and that could put him out until the end of 2023. And then does he come back in the bullpen? His pitch mix and need to limit his workload makes it a good bet. There the Padres could maximize his talent. My opinion is this is our last year of ranking him among starting pitchers. (Sam Wirsching)