Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Pitchers Rising in Spring Training
Kyle takes a look at four hurlers that have rocketed up fantasy draft boards with their Spring Training performances.
With Opening Day 2023 only a week away, hitting prospects such as Jordan Walker (STL), Miguel Vargas (LAD), Oscar Colas (CWS) and Esteury Ruiz (OAK) are making their cases to break camp on the Opening Day rosters. On the opposite side, there are a handful of pitching prospects making their own respective cases for Opening Day roster spots. Below is a look at four pitching prospects that are positioned for either Opening Day roster spots or 2023 call ups, and how they have fared this Spring Training.
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RHP Hunter Brown, Houston Astros
When reports surfaced Lance McCullers Jr. would miss the start of the season due to a strained muscle in his pitching arm, it became evident that the Astros' fifth rotation spot was up for grabs. Hunter Brown was the early front-runner, and he has solidified his case to earn the final spot in Houston’s starting rotation. Brown received his first call up at the end of the 2022 season and fared well, finishing 2-0 with a 0.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 20.1 innings pitched. This came after he finished his 2022 minor league season 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 134 strikeouts across 106.0 innings. The flame-throwing righty’s Spring Training has been successful as he’s racked up six strikeouts in 5.0 innings while showing good command of the strike zone. As a mid-round selection, fantasy players should be rewarded with a high number of strikeouts and a low ERA/WHIP. While Brown has never gone over 106.0 IP, fantasy investors should expect around 20-25 games started, with the Astros monitoring their young righty’s usage as the season progresses.
RHP Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles
Rodriguez was off to a phenomenal start through 14 games in 2022 started before a strained right lat muscle caused him to miss a significant portion of the season. Still, the righty finished with a 2.62 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 75.2 innings. Rodriguez has pitched very well this Spring Training, striking out 11 batters in 7.2 IP. He has solidified a role in the Opening Day rotation, and fantasy owners should target him in the beginning of the middle rounds of fantasy drafts. A lot like Hunter Brown, Rodriguez has only reached 100+ innings once in his minor league career, and Baltimore will undoubtedly monitor his usage as the middle-to-late months of the 2023 season approach. However, Rodriguez has arguably the best strikeout numbers of any pitching prospect, and he should be a fantasy baseball household name for the foreseeable future.
RHP Edward Cabrera, Miami Marlins
Edward Cabrera is fighting for a spot in the Marlins' Opening Day rotation and owns a 1.80 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and four strikeouts in two Spring starts. The Marlins will probably wait until the final days of Spring Training to decide, but Cabrera has made a strong case to be in the Marlins' rotation. After finishing his 2022 MiLB season with a 2.79 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 38.2 IP, Cabrera made 14 starts with the Marlins, finishing with a 3.01 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and 75 strikeouts in 71.2 innings. He is more than capable of rewarding fantasy owners as a late-round target, but he has not reached 100+ innings since 2018. The Marlins will be very careful with their young righty, but as a late-round target, fantasy managers could be in for great production.
RHP Jack Leiter, Texas Rangers
Leiter has yet to pitch above AA, and he may have to wait until the end of 2023 for a call up, but his strikeout potential has fantasy players extremely eager for his arrival to the Majors. Leiter finished the 2022 season with 109 strikeouts in 92.2 innings, and while he has only featured in one 2023 Spring Training game, he did accumulate another strikeout. The Rangers are likely to keep the righty in the minors to see him reach 100+ innings pitched for the first time in his minor-league career, but with their big-league rotation featuring arms that are no strangers to injury, he could be on the fast track to the Majors should injuries start to pile up. Jack Leiter has minor issues, such as pitch location, maneuvering the count and repeating his delivery, but he should reach AAA by June.