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2023 Fantasy Baseball Year-in-Review: Spencer Strider

Spencer Strider fantasy baseball rankings waiver wire pickups draft sleepers starting pitchers

At just 25 years old and with two outstanding seasons under his belt, Spencer Strider is already one of the most dominant pitchers in Major League Baseball. He's already breaking franchise records for the Braves and looking like a perennial Cy Young contender.

He's also looking like one of the best steals of the 2020 Draft, taken in Round 4 at 126 overall, with 62 pitchers taken ahead of him. Thankfully for the Braves, his Tommy John surgery in 2019 may have scared off other potential suitors. He quickly made it through every level of the Braves' minor league system in 2021, and made his debut with Atlanta late that season.

In 2022, he began as a reliever, but in late May of that season, he was transitioned to a starter and hasn't looked back. Below are the stats for 2022 and 2023. We'll take a deeper look at the numbers to see if there is any room to improve in 2024 and if he's being drafted too high, too low, or just right.

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A Tale of Two Striders

The table above shows that, while Strider's 2023 was great, there were several stats that were actually better in 2022, including ERA, WHIP, AVG, K-BB%, and K/9. The first reaction might be to assume he clearly has room to improve, especially with an ERA approaching 4.00 in 2023. Then you remember that he's in the National League and in 2022, he faced a lot of pitchers that had to hit instead of the DH, so that could account for a portion of the better results in 2022. So we'll keep digging.

He probably got blown up by the Phillies, Dodgers, and other good teams from around the league. Hence, you look at his game logs to confirm, but as you scroll down and see which games he gave up the most earned runs, you see quite the opposite. There were five instances in 2023 where Strider gave up five runs or more, and the combined win percentage of those teams was .446. Not one of those teams ended the season with a winning record:

Strider made 32 regular season starts in 2023, but in the five games shown above (16% of his starts), he gave up 30 ER (38%). Here's what his 2023 would have looked like without those five games:

Does that mean he can clearly improve? Perhaps not, because if he cleans that up, he still might not fare as well against the better teams in 2024 as he did in 2023. Who knows what made him worse against inferior competition -- perhaps a lack of focus, as opposed to being locked-in against the more capable opponents -- but that at least seems like something he can work on much more easily than if it were a mechanical issue, for example.

2023 Achievements

Looking beyond just the stats, 2023 was a memorable year for Strider as he reached several notable milestones. For starters, this past season marked the first time he was selected to the All-Star team. Assuming good health, this should be the first of many AS teams he will make in his career.

On May 28, Strider became the fastest pitcher to record 100 strikeouts in a season in the modern ERA, doing so in just 61 innings. Then, on August 1, he broke the record previously set by himself of the fastest pitcher to 200 strikeouts, needing just 123.1 innings to do so.

On September 30, he broke the Braves franchise record for strikeouts in a season, which had previously been held by Hall of Famer, John Smoltz. Strider finished with 281 strikeouts during the regular season, establishing the new Braves record.

Had it not been for some late-season stumbles where he allowed 21 earned runs over his final seven starts (33.1 IP), he may have gone on to win the NL Cy Young award as well. Still, he finished fourth in voting and will be a strong candidate for the award in 2024.

Fantasy Outlook for 2024

Well, it'd be extremely difficult to say Strider could outperform his ADP, as he's currently being selected as the first pitcher off the board in early 2024 drafts, around 10th overall. Is it deserved, however? Yes. Assuming health for the full season, no one can provide the number of wins and strikeouts along with the low ERA and WHIP that Strider can provide. The Braves and Strider surely are aware of his bugaboo with opponents of poor quality, and he'll make sure not to overlook them in 2024, so look for a lower ERA than he had in 2023.

Gerrit Cole is the second pitcher coming off the board, but in his 2023 AL Cy Young season, he had five fewer wins (15) and 59 fewer K (222) than Strider. If I've got to choose, give me the 25-year-old over the 33-year-old. Give me the guy who looks like he can squat 600 pounds. Give me Doc Holliday. Give me Rick Vaughn!



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