Mound Musings: Their Stock Is on the Rise

Mound Musings: Their Stock Is on the Rise

This article is part of our Mound Musings series.

Not too surprisingly, this year, it seems like there have been even more (than usual) young, at least somewhat lesser known, pitchers finding work in starting rotations. Some have enjoyed success, and that always leads to decisions on whether they should be added to your fantasy roster. Even good teams with the very best pitching prospects are at least considering promotions, but some veterans and their second-tier minor leaguers are getting their chances to show off. Even with good beginnings, most won't post long term value, as the hitters build a book on them and uncover their flaws. However, some will take advantage of the opportunity, and so should you.

That said, I would like to feature a few pitchers who have impressed me with both solid numbers and future potential at this point in the season. This is a mix of kids and young veterans trying to convince me they are fantasy relevant. Every year a handful of pitchers break through, and early returns suggest these might be the most likely.

You might consider adding these arms:

Kyle Wright (Braves) – A couple weeks ago I suggested readers looking for starting pitching consider adding Wright. He looked good in his spring innings and has shown a lot of upside in his early season outings. I added Wright where possible, and he is now something of a buzz boy, but I think there is still room for growth as he builds confidence. He has always shown promise, but suffered from

Not too surprisingly, this year, it seems like there have been even more (than usual) young, at least somewhat lesser known, pitchers finding work in starting rotations. Some have enjoyed success, and that always leads to decisions on whether they should be added to your fantasy roster. Even good teams with the very best pitching prospects are at least considering promotions, but some veterans and their second-tier minor leaguers are getting their chances to show off. Even with good beginnings, most won't post long term value, as the hitters build a book on them and uncover their flaws. However, some will take advantage of the opportunity, and so should you.

That said, I would like to feature a few pitchers who have impressed me with both solid numbers and future potential at this point in the season. This is a mix of kids and young veterans trying to convince me they are fantasy relevant. Every year a handful of pitchers break through, and early returns suggest these might be the most likely.

You might consider adding these arms:

Kyle Wright (Braves) – A couple weeks ago I suggested readers looking for starting pitching consider adding Wright. He looked good in his spring innings and has shown a lot of upside in his early season outings. I added Wright where possible, and he is now something of a buzz boy, but I think there is still room for growth as he builds confidence. He has always shown promise, but suffered from those self-doubts that sometimes haunt young pitchers. Maybe he reads this column? Just in case, maybe I should offer my advice for what it's worth. Just three words: Trust your stuff. Hopefully you landed him when we first discussed him, but if not, you might see if he can still be acquired. As long as he resists the urge to nibble, he can help a fantasy team, and I really believe we may be watching a breakout for Wright.

Jesus Luzardo (Marlins) – Luzardo has been a roller coaster ride since arriving in the majors a couple years ago. There was considerable hype initially, and he displayed a lot of potential, but last year things unraveled. He couldn't find the strike zone, especially with his secondary stuff, and he seemed to compensate by steering his offerings rather than throwing them with conviction. He has had health issues and has faced the inconsistency endured by many young lefties, but he is re-opening eyes with increased velocity and better command this year. Maybe he's healthy now, or maybe things are clicking, but Miami, with a lot of big, young arms, looks like a good spot for him, and he can be a top-of-the-rotation type if everything is in sync.

MacKenzie Gore (Padres) – I've liked just about everything about Gore since the first time I saw him pitch. He eventually made it to the top of my kids list, and I was preparing for a big splash. Unfortunately, he missed time with injuries, and the pandemic came at an awful time, slowing his development so we've had to be patient. He began to drop on many prospects lists as he struggled, but I have a long memory, and I was pretty confident he would get things together. At his best, he has a full repertoire of above average offerings he will throw in any count or situation. His command is generally good as he works up and down in the zone, and everything moves. I recently watched his MLB debut, and I was happy with what I saw. If he sticks in the Padres' rotation, I can almost promise a few bumps in the road, but he's back and close to ready.

Carlos Rodon (Giants) – I led off with Rodon in this block because he might be the most dominant SP in MLB today. I don't necessarily think he'll spend the entire season with that label, but if he stays healthy, he might. And, beyond that, I want to throw out some thoughts on the entire Giants rotation. Why is it every pitcher who lands in San Francisco seems to jump up two or three tiers on the quality depth chart? Last year it was Kevin Gausman, Logan Webb and Anthony DeSclafani. Now its Rodon, and Alex Cobb. Is it physical changes in their deliveries? Is it a mental thing? Honestly, its likely a combination of both. Giants pitchers have a knack for pitching aggressively, and trusting their stuff. However the team gets that point across, they need to bottle it. I actually move a pitcher up a bit as soon as he puts on a Giants uniform.

Logan Gilbert (Mariners) – The Mariners aren't quite in the same category as the Giants (and a handful of other teams) when it comes to transforming pitchers, but they are working on it. Gilbert burst on the scene last year with limited pro experience, and he enjoyed some success. Not surprisingly, there were also some bumpy stretches including his tendency to serve up home runs at inopportune times. It's all a learning experience when you only have about 50 innings above Low-A ball, but I have been keeping a close eye on him and like what I see. He seems to be a quick study, He comes out of a small college in Florida with an interesting reputation. Stetson lists among their alumni Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber. Maybe there's something in the water?  He's a big kid with very good stuff and very favorable mound presence. I don't think it will be all roses this season, but the struggles could occur less and less often.

Merrill Kelly (Diamondbacks) – These last couple of guys are perhaps a bit more speculative. I'm not ready to tag them with an endorsement, at least not yet, but they have done some things to warrant attention. Kelly has shown enough to earn a roster spot on your fantasy team several times. That's the rub. He has had to re-earn the spot several times after going into a funk and posting stretches of ugly numbers. We know it's there. We've seen it. We're seeing it again this season. Will it last? If so, how long? And winning games won't be easy. I saw earlier this week the Diamondbacks are hitting .157 as a team. I've seen some of their games. They are that bad, and they aren't a lot better defensively. I keep holding out hope for Kelly, but I don't know when I'll trust him enough.

Brad Keller (Royals) – Here's another possible flyer. I have owned shares of Keller since the Royals took him in the Rule 5 draft a few years ago. His first season was on the job training for a raw talent with limited experience. No surprise. The next year he took a large step forward displaying much better command of his secondary pitches and more maturity on the mound. Right on schedule. Last season looked like a possible breakout season. Keller took another large step. Backwards. He was out of sync, and his mechanics were a mess. Every correction he made seemed to solve one problem while creating a few others. His confidence waned, and he often looked lost. This year, so far, he appears to be back on track. Hopefully, he can stay the course. We'll see.

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings:

  • I can't blame all of the ugly innings put up by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola on poor defense, but they certainly aren't being helped. With a couple exceptions (Harper and Realmuto) that bunch is the best argument I have heard for a universal designated hitter. All Phillies pitchers get a downgrade.
  • The Orioles have lost John Means, their best starting pitcher, for at least a couple of months. The newly configured Camden Yards appears to be helping their pitchers but it won't help enough to compensate for lack of ability. In that division especially, winning games looks like an insurmountable task.
  • With an arm like his (the most pitches over 100 mph per outing) Cincinnati's Hunter Greene demands attention. His secondary stuff is still coming together, and his location can become erratic as he wears down later in games, but his raw stuff is good enough right now. Consistency is the next objective.
  • Some of us just can't go deep enough in the search for future pitching stars. In dynasty formats, it could be five years before a rising star in Japan makes his way to MLB, but Chiba Lotte Marines' Roki Sasaki (age 20) just tossed a perfect game, fanning 19 while routinely hitting 101 on the radar gun. He's genuine.

Endgame Odyssey:

Only two weeks into the season and we're already seeing the bullpen shuffle. Last weekend, I believe it was Saturday, three "nonclosers" logged saves. Workload concerns and lack of quality options for the ninth inning both contributed, and it's likely to continue.  We also saw a frontline closer go down. Houston's Ryan Pressly has been a health question mark, and now he's out indefinitely. Fantasy owners are flocking to Hector Neris, and I am reasonably sure he'll get a look, but I can't forget his epic meltdowns in Philadelphia. I'd rather see Ryne Stanek get a shot. The Rangers DFA'd Greg Holland, the reliever with the most closing experience in their bullpen. I'm going to say again, I believe it's only a matter of time (and good health) before Garrett Richards inherits the gig. Tanner Rainey does appear to hold the reins on the Nationals' closer job. He's their best option, and while he can make life interesting with his command issues, I would think they will give him every chance to prove himself. In Boston, with Matt Barnes still not completely healthy, Garrett Whitlock just picked up his first 2022 save. So, is Whitlock the closer, a top set-up guy, a long reliever or a piggyback pitcher? The answer to all those questions is yes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Johnson
For more than 30 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.
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