2023 MLB Fantasy: Five Starting Pitchers That Could Bust This Season
Watch out for these names.
The 2023 MLB campaign is upon us, and so is fantasy baseball season. Drafts are in full swing, and everyone wants to figure out which pitchers will break out and which ones could fall flat this season. Here’s a look at five pitchers that we think could slip in production this upcoming season.
Related: 2023 MLB Fantasy: Five Outfield Sleepers To Watch This Season
We’ll start off with Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes, who broke out to have an All-Star campaign for New York last season. An unorthodox left-hander with a diverse arsenal of pitches, Cortes posted a career-best 2.44 ERA and 163 strikeouts over 158.1 innings pitched.
There are two things that concern about Cortes for 2023, and one of those is durability. Cortes has spent time on the IL in each of the last two seasons, and did miss time this spring with a hamstring problem. Additionally, Cortes posted the fifth-best BABIP (.232) in the league last season — well above the league average. Can Cortes sustain that in 2023?
The 2023 campaign is already off to a rough start for one of 2022’s breakout starts. Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin went 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA last season in his first full season in the Los Angeles rotation. The right-hander didn’t rack up the strikeouts, but did use his splitter and other weapons to induce weak contact. Among all pitchers that threw at least 100 innings, Gonsolin owned the lowest BABIP (.207) in MLB — almost 100 points better than the league average.
The 28-year-old will miss at least the start of the 2023 season due to a knee injury. When he comes back, one has to wonder whether Gonsolin, who struck out 119 over 130.1 IP, can do it again this year.
Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly ate a lot of innings for Arizona in 2022 — 200.1 to be exact. The sinkerballer doesn’t possess overbearing stuff, but rode a well-average BABIP (.269) to 13 wins and a career-high 3.37 ERA. That BABIP marked a significant change from 2021, in which he posted a .305 BABIP and a 4.44 ERA.
With the shift now banned, a sinkerballer with good pitchability, but average stuff has a fair chance of being adversely affected by the change in the 2023 campaign.
Guardians starter Triston McKenzie proved to be a very valuable arm for Cleveland during the 2022 season. McKenzie went 11-11 with a 2.96 ERA last year, including a 2.70 ERA and 94 strikeouts over 90 frames in the second half. The 25-year-old improved immensely from 2021, in which McKenzie posted a 4.95 ERA and a below-average BB% (11.7%).
Much like with some of the other names on this list, McKenzie owned a rather low BABIP (.238), seventh-best in MLB (min. 100 IP). It will be rather interesting to see what the young righty can do for an encore in 2023.
It’s rather incredible to see what Rays starter Drew Rasmussen has accomplished since being acquired by Tampa in the Willy Adames trade in 2021. A talented right-hander with control problems, Rasmussen has since turned into a very impressive right-hander with much-improved command.
A pitch-to-contact righty, Rasmussen will need to be sharp with pitch sequencing and command in 2023. Otherwise, this season could look a bit different.