2023 MLB Fantasy: Five Pitchers That Have Broke Out This Year
These names have turned into fantasy superstars.
Through two months of the 2023 MLB season, a number of starters have turned into fantasy superstars. Now that we are eight weeks into the fantasy baseball season, here now is a look at five starters that have become must-own names, starting with a former University of Texas sensation.
Related: 2023 MLB Fantasy: Five Hitters That Have Broke Out This Year
Braves right-hander Bryce Elder was one of the league’s best pitchers over the final month of the 2022 season, but a rough spring led Atlanta to send him back down to AAA to begin 2023. But after a rash of injuries to the Braves rotation, Elder returned to the Majors rather quickly. Since then, the 24-year-old’s been highly effective for Atlanta. Elder owned the league’s best ERA (2.06) in the National League after his first nine outings of 2023, in which he won three and struck out 45 over 52.1 IP.
The former Longhorn’s been a model of consistency for the Braves. Elder threw at least five innings in each of his first nine starts and yielded two or fewer runs in seven of those games. The 24-year-old isn’t a power pitcher, as he relies heavily on getting ground balls via his slider and sinker. Nonetheless, he’s provided a ton of value to a Braves team that’s without Max Fried and Kyle Wright.
When Pirates starter Mitch Keller first arrived in the Majors, we noted back in 2020 that while the righty did have his inefficiencies early on, his stuff could make him a name to watch in fantasy. It took a while for Keller — who posted a gnarly 6.17 ERA just two years ago — to find his groove, but he’s turned into a truly dominant starter for Pittsburgh this season. Through his first ten starts of the 2023 season, Keller went 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA and 77 strikeouts. Keller’s 77 punchouts were fourth-highest in the Majors as of May 24, and second-best in the NL, behind only Spencer Strider.
Keller’s a much different pitcher. Over the past two seasons, Keller’s introduced a low-80s “sweeper” slider to arsenal that’s given the 27-year-old a much needed ace in the hole. But he also makes heavy use of his fastballs, including a cutter that can just run in on the hands of left-handed hitters and generate weak contact.
Twins SP Joe Ryan did quite well in his first full season in the Majors, as he won 13 games and struck out 151 batters over 147 innings as a rookie in 2022. Ryan, though, has developed into something special in his second full season. Ryan won six of his first 10 stars of the 2023 season, and posted an impressive 2.21 ERA. Not to mention, Ryan struck out 70 across his first 61 innings.
Ryan’s made tweaks to his arsenal, as he now deploys a hard-sinking split-change that’s about 10 MPH slower than his fastball. That splitter has helped him throw off the timing of so many hitters in 2023 and may just put him on track to earn Cy Young votes in his second full season.
Cubs left-hander Justin Steele dominated hitters in the second half of the 2022 campaign. This season, the 27-year-old has been arguably even better. Steele went 6-1 with a tidy 2.20 ERA, third-best in the National League and behind the aforementioned Elder and Giants RHP Alex Cobb. Steele will get his strikeouts, but the name of his game is clean mechanics, good command, and ground balls.
Steele is primarily a two-pitch pitcher. He does have a curve and changeup that he’ll use every now and then as a change-of-pace pitch, but his bread butter is a a fastball that Steele will pound up, and play his slider off of that. The results have been excellent for both fantasy owners and the Cubs.
The Baltimore Orioles got off to a roaring start, and much of that can be attributed to an electric bullpen and quality outings from its starting pitchers. Right-hander Tyler Wells delivered quality innings for the O’s a year ago, and the 28-year-old’s progress from 2022 has carried over into 2023. Through his first 52 innings. Wells is 3-2 with a sparkling 2.94 ERA and leads all pitchers (min. 40 IP) in the Majors in WHIP (0.79).
Wells doesn’t possess overpowering stuff, but can throw off timing of opposing hitters with an arsenal that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a changeup, and two similar looking pitches in a cutter and slider. Yes, Wells can have his moments. as indicated by the ten home runs he’s allowed thus far. Still, his craftiness makes him a worthwhile name to watch.