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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitching Dynasty Trade Targets

These young arms are showing immense potential. It’s time to buy in before it’s too late.

New York Mets v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In dynasty leagues, people are often looking for that next big breakout. These starting pitchers below could offer upside that is well above their asking price. Now is the time to buy in, and try to acquire that next fantasy stud for your rotation.

Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays, Age: 24

Peak Projection: 170 IP, 14 W, 3.10 xFIP, 1.12 WHIP, 12.42 K/9

McClanahan made his debut on April 29th this season, and since then he has been one of the best arms in baseball, as he has posted an impressive 34.8% whiff rate and 2.80 xFIP. With a fastball that has a tremendous amount of arm-side run and can touch triple-digits, McClanahan’s fastball has already become one of the best in the game. That fastball, however, also comes with a 90 MPH slider that has a whiff rate approaching 50.0% this season, a changeup he can throw low in the zone, and an 84 MPH curveball to keep batters honest. These four pitches likely give McClanahan one of the best arsenals among starting pitchers, and possibly the best arsenal from any southpaw starting pitcher currently in the major leagues. The two big concerns with the dominant left-hander coming up through the minor leagues, however, were his command and his workload.

Ever since making his professional debut, many have been concerned with McClanahan’s command or lack thereof. This season, he currently sports an impressive 6.5% walk rate. With his command, however, McClanahan could see that rate rise as the season moves forward. Luckily with his arsenal. he should still catch a fair amount of batters chasing pitches outside the zone even if he misses his spots. If we do see that walk rate approaching double digits, McClanahan should still be a viable fantasy option as his arsenal will lead to one of the best whiff rates we’ve seen from a starting pitcher.

The big concern with McClanahan is his workload. With how hard he throws, injury history, and who he plays for, this is what would most likely keep him from reaching that upper echelon of starting pitchers. The Rays have been known to limit their starting pitchers' innings, and McClanahan will likely be more of the same in 2021. Since making his debut, the young left-hander has yet to amass 90 pitches in any of his starts this season. Although his ratios should be among the best in the league, this obviously will hurt his fantasy value as it’s hard to go five innings and get in line for the win when your team won’t let you throw more than 80 pitches a start. With his arsenal and dominance, however, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if we start to see McClanahan go farther into games as he matures. If he makes his way out of Tampa, then we could see his fantasy value rise even more. The time to get your shares of McClanahan is now, as there is a legitimate Cy Young potential in this young lefty arm.

Spencer Howard, Philadelphia Phillies, Age: 24

Peak Projection: 177 IP, 13 W, 3.56 xFIP, 1.24 WHIP, 11.25 K/9

Prospect fatigue is a real thing, especially when it comes to young arms who have struggled in their opportunities in the major leagues. Howard is no exception to this rule as his value has plummeted not only in redraft leagues but in dynasty leagues as well. Over his 35.2 innings as a major league pitcher, Howard has struggled with command and the long ball. This has led to an unimpressive 5.56 ERA and 11.4% walk rate. With a mid-90s fastball, a curveball with an absurd vertical break, a mid-80s slider with good movement, and a changeup that has a 16 MPH differential from his fastball, every pitch in his arsenal has the ability to catch batters off balance and get whiffs.

There are some concerns with how Howard will be utilized given how the Phillies have handled him this season. With how deep and effective his arsenal is, however, it’s hard to see the Phillies not wanting Howard to go deep into games as he matures. The only thing that is really keeping Howard from taking that next step forward is his command. Although he likely won’t be a command artist going forward, he could easily post a single-digit walk rate as he learns how to pitch at the major league level. If he can refine his command, then there is no reason to believe that Howard won’t be a fantasy stud going forward. Don’t wait for the breakout to happen! Get your shares now, sit back, and enjoy your profits.

Cody Poteet, Miami Marlins, Age: 26

Peak Projection: 164 IP, 11 W, 3.91 xFIP, 1.26 WHIP, 9.98 K/9

When it comes to talent, age, and control, the Marlins may have the best starting rotation in all of the major leagues—but there is one name at the back of that rotation that is currently getting overlooked. Cody Poteet was called up last month after posting some unimpressive numbers over his minor league career, so why should Poteet be a potential trade target in your dynasty leagues? Well, Poteet’s arsenal is foreshadowing an emerging star who can essentially be had for pennies on the dollar. With a mid-90s fastball, an upper-80s changeup with a good vertical and horizontal break, a curveball with a fair amount of drop, and a slider that he can throw to get whiffs, there no denying the potential here. Hopefully, the Poteet owner will look too much into his minor league numbers, and you can grab the young Marlins right-hander for nothing more than a bench piece.

Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers, Age: 27

Peak Projection: 168 IP, 13 W, 3.20 xFIP, 1.18 WHIP, 11.84 K/9

Gonsolin is currently working his way back from a shoulder injury he suffered earlier in the season. Over his 86.2 career major league innings, he has been absolutely dominant, as he sports an impressive 2.60 ERA and 26.6% whiff rate. With a career 4.31 xFIP and a lack of prospect hype concerning the 27-year-old right-hander, now might be the perfect time to buy low while you still can. With a mid-90s fastball, a nasty splitter, and two breaking balls that can both get a fair amount of whiffs, Gonsolin is an under-the-radar ace that has the potential to post a strikeout rate lingering around that magical 30.0%.

Gonsolin’s command to this point in his career has been spectacular, as he currently owns a 6.5% walk rate, but don’t be surprised if he struggles with walks at times as splitters are known to be difficult to command. With that being said, the young right-hander should still be able to keep that walk rate in single digits as he commands his fastball and breaking pitches quite well. With Gonsolin yet to throw a major league inning this season, there is no better time to try to get a potential ace for 50 cents on the dollar.

Frankie Montas, Oakland Athletics, Age: 28

Peak Projection: 177 IP, 13 W, 3.65 xFIP, 1.24 WHIP, 11.25 K/9

To say Montas has been somewhat of a disappointment over the past two seasons is an understatement. He currently sports a 5.00 ERA over his 111.2 innings pitched since 2020, and has struggled to keep the ball in the field. With a pitcher of Montas’ talent, you’d expect these numbers to be more in line with his 2019 season, when he posted a 26.1% strikeout rate and 2.63 ERA. You don’t have to dig deep with Montas, however, to figure out how he can turn his lackluster 2021 around. With a four-seam fastball that he can throw high in the zone and get whiffs, a nasty splitter that has a whiff rate over 50.0% the past two seasons, and a hard slider, it seems like Montas just needs to stop using the sinker as his primary pitch to take the next step forward. If he just made this simple change, then his strikeout rate could start pushing 30.0%. Now, if he did start relying more on his splitter and slider, then that could also come with an increase in walks and a decrease in innings. But if that increase in walks and decrease in innings helped him be among the league leaders in strikeouts, then it’d be more than worth it for the struggling right-hander.