News of the lockout looms large among baseball this week. Honestly, I'm bummed, sad, disappointed, angry, annoyed, and so many other things. Support the players. Don't be fed the narrative that this is on them when we know all too well they are the only ones who seem to be doing any negotiating at said "negotiations.” It will get resolved. Only time will tell when, but it's upsetting to see the owners unwilling to budge. The eventual agreement will still heavily favor the owners. And that's just sad.
Anyways, I'm here to provide an outlet for escape. An outlet that should provide some joy. Eventually, we will have baseball again. Eventually, we will be cheering or booing teams and players. Eventually, we will be hitting the waiver wire or placing FAAB bids just like old times. When that happens, you'll need some pitching.
Here are a few names I’m targeting in drafts at starting pitcher.
Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners
My Rank: 10
NFBC ADP: 49.02
ATC projection: 181 IP, 231 K, 3.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 11-9
The reigning AL Cy Young winner is currently going outside the top 10. That sounds like value to me. Robbie Ray had a masterful season in 2021. He posted a 2.84 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while leading the league with 248 strikeouts. This is the same guy who posted a 4.53 ERA and 1.41 WHIP the three seasons prior. Well, Ray cut his walks down... a lot. From 2018 to 2020, Ray walked 13.1% of batters faced. In 2021, Ray had a walk rate of just 6.7%. There's nothing in the underlying numbers that suggest this was a fluke. And lest we not forget, Ray signed with the Mariners during the offseason. Seattle is a much better pitcher's park. It is also a much better division for pitchers. He could be a top 5 SP option this time next season.
Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants
My Rank: 17
NFBC ADP: 63.76
ATC projection: 171 IP, 165 K, 3.49 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 11-8
Logan Webb had a breakout 2021. He posted a 3.03 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 158 strikeouts over 148.1 innings pitched. This includes a 2.63 ERA over his final 17 starts following his return from the IL due to a shoulder issue. He had an elite ground ball rate of 62.2%. It would’ve been first in baseball had he qualified. The underlying stats support the breakout. He had an 85th percentile xwOBA and 88th percentile xSLG. His 2.72 FIP was third-best in baseball among pitchers with at least 140 IP, behind just Corbin Burnes and Zack Wheeler. Not a bad group to be a part of.
Shane Baz, Tampa Bay Rays
My Rank: 35
NFBC ADP: 139.04
ATC projection: 125 IP, 139 K, 3.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9-6
Baz is the kind of talent you bet on succeeding. Especially when his price is this generous. Last season, over 17 starts in the minors, Baz had a 2.06 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 78.2 IP. Then he got called up. Over his three starts he had 18 strikeouts to 3 walks, while allowing just three runs over 13.1 innings. He has one of the best fastballs in the game already. Plus, his slider is 65 grade and his curveball was impressive during his first three starts. Baz can make immediate impact in 2022 and should be a great value currently going in the middle of most standard drafts.
Ranger Suarez, Philadelphia Phillies
My Rank: 47
NFBC ADP: 174.48
ATC projection: 147 IP, 133 K, 3.80 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 10-8
Remember when I was gawking over Logan Webb's elite ground ball rate? Well, Ranger Suarez gave him a run for his money. Suarez had a 59.7% ground ball rate in 2021. Again, the lowest qualified ground ball rate was Luis Castillo at 56.6%. And although Suarez doesn't strike out many—he had 107 strikeouts over 106 innings—he does limit quality contact. He had a mere 2.6% of batted balls barreled last season. Corbin Burnes led all qualifiers with a 3.1% barrel rate against. Sure, Suarez won't post a 1.36 ERA again, but he's still terribly underrated at his current cost.
Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels
My Rank: 54
NFBC ADP: 213.26
ATC projection: 142 IP, 147 K, 3.92 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8-8
Swinging strike rate is a great stat to look at when looking for breakouts at starting pitcher. Think of it as untapped strikeout potential. Sandoval posted a 15.2% swinging strike rate last season. This was 12th in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 80 IP. That's up there with the likes of Robbie Ray and Max Scherzer, and even ahead of Gerrit Cole and Freddy Peralta. Sandoval's K/9 of 9.7 could see an uptick in 2022. An ERA around 4.00 and a K/9 north of 10 wouldn't shock me.
Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins
My Rank: 64
NFBC ADP: 214.24
ATC projection: 134 IP, 141 K, 4.17 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8-7
Joe Ryan has dominated the minors. How much, you ask? In 2019, Ryan had a 1.96 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP, and a 13.3 K/9 over 123.2 IP. Last year at Ttiple-A, he had a 3.41 ERA in 66 IP. This came with a 0.79 WHIP and a 12.5 K/9. Then over his first five major league starts he had a 4.05 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP and a 10.1 K/9. All he does is post great numbers. I see no reason why this shouldn't continue in 2022. He's a great option to fill out your rotation in drafts this season.