Pitching (in my opinion) is in a current state where it is top-heavy but also deep. It is important to grab one of the top 4-5 names, but beyond that there is a long list of quality names who could be electric or toxic this year in fantasy baseball. I’m here to get bold about what might play out at the position this year.
1. Shane Bieber cracks the top 3 most strikeouts ever in a season (since 2000)
For anyone who is curious, Randy Johnson owns all three of those spots at 372 (2001), 247 (2000), and 334 (2002). I think Shane could eclipse the 326 that Gerrit Cole threw in 2019 and the 334 that Randy Johnson threw, to land among the top three all-time seasons. He showed elite pedigree last year in a limited sample size. Cleveland might let him go deeper as their options are limited somewhat, with the departures of Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and a reliever like Brad Hand.
2. Max Fried has over 22 wins this season
If there is one thing that Fried has been absolutely elite at over the last two seasons, it’s securing wins. It started with an impressive 17-6 record in 2019 and propelled into a perfect 7-0 last season. The Atlanta Braves should give him plenty of defense and run support, and while Max had a short Covid scare last week, he should be ready to go for the season’s start.
3. Sixto Sanchez finishes the season with a sub 2.50 ERA
This one is a stretch, but Sanchez held a 2.53 ERA at Double-A before a respectable 3.46 in his rookie year. His first 12 innings he amassed a 2.25 ERA before he “struggled” with a 4.00 ERA in August and September. Specifically, it was his last two outings against Washington and Atlanta where he posted a 11.25 and 12.00 ERA that really muted what was an otherwise solid season.
4. Pablo Lopez is a top 10 pitcher this year
I am VERY bullish on an excellent season from Lopez. 2020 showed all of the pieces coming together as he decreased his ERA from 5.09 to 3.61 and upped his K/9 from 7.68 to 9.26. He also cut his HR/9 in half over that same time frame. His changeup and cutter have elite whiff%.
5. Trevor Bauer is NOT a top 15 pitcher this year
There are a few warning signs that have me wavering from Trevor. First, his BABIP last year was .215 which is a considerable improvement from his career average of .290ish. His K/9 was up almost two strikeouts per 9, his walks went down, and just about everything clicked and came together during a very pivotal contract year. There was a time when I would say Bauer wasn’t caught up in money signs—see his previous contract negotiation with Cleveland—but in this circumstance, I think the notion ‘contract year’ played it’s part. He got a very juicy payday, he’s no longer THE star but now one of many talented pitchers in a big market, which will come with added scrutiny.