TDG 2023 PLAYERS TO TARGET: STARTING PITCHER
This is a companion piece to our 2023 Dynasty League Rankings. The opinions below are my own and do not reflect the TDG consensus.
GEORGE KIRBY, SEATTLE MARINERS (AGE: 25, RANK: 19)
If you didn’t know George Kirby was a rookie in 2022, you wouldn’t have been able to tell by watching him on the mound. Kirby pitched like a seasoned veteran during his first season, nothing seemed to phase him. During the playoffs he earned a save to close out the Blue Jays and then threw 7 scoreless innings against the eventual World Series Champion Astros in the Divisional Series.
The 24-year-old’s greatest strength is ability to pepper the zone with strikes. He throws all 5 of his pitches for strikes and should only continue to refine these offerings as he matures. His 4.1% walk rate was in the top 4% of the majors last season. Kirby doesn’t generate whiffs like some of the pitchers ranked around him, but his fastball location and shape is excellent and his ability to control and command his arsenal elevates him to the 20th spot in our SP rankings.
Kirby struggled vs RHB in 2022 giving up 79 hits in 57 IP. This was a new problem for him as he never had trouble with righties in the minor leagues. Kirby’s command is so good that a small tweak to his pitch mix should help limit damage to RHB. Kirby shouldn’t have any innings restrictions this season as he threw 156.2 IP between the majors and minors in 2022. He pitches in a good home park and will have a solid offense supporting him making him someone to target in your dynasty leagues.
KYLE WRIGHT, ATLANTA BRAVES (AGE: 27, RANK: 45)
Kyle Wright was a league winning player last year. He was likely a late round selection or free agent pickup in many leagues and became an ace seemingly out of nowhere. Wright had some prospect hype, ranking in the back half of many top 100 lists from 2018-20. Kudos to the managers who held him through his early major league struggles or who noticed his strong 2021 Triple-A season at Gwinnett and snatched him up before he broke out.
Wright’s success stems from a couple of things: he cut his walk rate down significantly (7.11 to 2.65 BB/9) and he changed his pitch mix by throwing his best pitches (curveball/sinker) more while dropping the use of his less effective pitches (four-seam fastball/slider). These two improvements have helped Wright significantly increase his ground ball rate (56.8% – 6th in MLB). Another consequence of his changes is his CSW% (called strikes + whiffs) has risen to near elite levels (30.7% – 25th in MLB). These improvements are real and should be sustainable for the right-hander.
Wright likely flies under the radar a little because he was not a key part of the 2021 World Series Champion Braves and also because he doesn’t light up the radar gun like many other young pitchers including his teammate Spencer Strider. If you haven’t inquired about Wright in your dynasty league, do it now before his price gets too high.