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Starting Pitchers Who Changed Scenes - Projecting Fantasy Baseball Values for Corbin Burnes, Chris Sale, Josh Hader

Corbin Burnes - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

There was no shortage of significant pitching changes during the offseason. Some of the biggest names in baseball changed teams, and for some of them, it will be the first time in their career that they will pitch for a different team than the one they came up with.

Changing teams can impact pitchers positively or negatively. Whether they land in a more hitter-friendly home park, or on a team that gives them a better opportunity to win, these factors can have an impact on their fantasy value.

Let’s highlight three noteworthy pitchers that changed teams and discuss their outlooks for the upcoming campaign.

Be sure to check all of our preseason fantasy baseball rankings for Roto, Points, H2H, dynasty, best ball, prospects and more:

 

Corbin Burnes, Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles took a significant step forward last season, winning 101 games and claiming the AL East crown. They were one of only three teams in all of baseball to win at least 100 games. One of the keys to their success was compiling a stellar 52-29 record on the road.

Loaded with young talent, the Orioles are positioned to be a winning team for years to come. Their farm system is very deep, which opened up the possibility for them to deal away some of that depth to improve their starting rotation. With promising youngsters Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez in the fold, adding an established veteran who could lead their rotation was an offseason priority.

The most significant starting pitcher on the trade market was Burnes and the Orioles swooped in to acquire him by sending Joey Ortiz, DL Hall, and the 34th pick in the 2024 MLB Draft to the Brewers.

As exciting as getting Burnes is for the Orioles, his numbers have actually been trending in the wrong direction. He won the NL Cy Young Award in 2021, posting a 2.43 ERA, 1.63 FIP, 0.94 WHIP, and a 35.6 percent strikeout rate. His ERA and FIP have increased in both seasons since, culminating last season with his 3.39 ERA and 3.81 FIP.

The biggest concern with Burnes has been his decline in strikeouts. His strikeout rate fell all the way down to 25.5 percent last season. His average fastball velocity was 96.5 mph in 2021, but it was 95.5 mph last season. His swinging strike rate of 12.2 percent last season was the lowest mark of his career.

Despite his declining production over the last two seasons, there is still a lot to be excited about with him for fantasy purposes. He won’t turn 30 years old until October. He has also thrown at least 193.2 innings in each of the last two seasons and has three straight seasons with at least 200 strikeouts.

With a loaded lineup supporting him and a strong bullpen backing him up, he could blow by his previous career-high of 12 wins in a season. ATC projections have Burnes set to finish the season with a 3.52 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, and a 27.0 percent strikeout rate.

 

Chris Sale, Atlanta Braves

Sale was once one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. He had a stretch of seven straight seasons with at least 208 strikeouts. During that span, he logged at least 200 innings in a season four times. For his career, his strikeout rate sits at an impressive 30.5 percent.

When Sale first went from the White Sox to the Red Sox, he rattled off three straight seasons with a strikeout rate of at least 35.6 percent. He also had a WHIP of 0.97 or lower in two of those three campaigns. His heavy workload in Chicago might have been catching up with him, though, as he logged 158 innings or fewer in both 2018 and 2019.

Since the conclusion of the 2019 season, we haven’t seen Sale on the field often. He threw 42.2 innings in 2021, then just 5.2 innings in 2022. He made it up to 102.2 innings last season, but he didn’t look like himself. His 4.30 ERA was the second highest mark of his career and his 3.80 FIP was the highest mark.

A concerning stat for Sale last season was that he allowed an 8.4 percent barrel rate, which was the highest mark of his career. His 37.3 percent ground ball rate allowed was his lowest mark.

With the Red Sox looking to shed payroll, Sale was dealt to the Braves during the offseason. The Braves have arguably the best lineup in baseball, but they needed to make improvements to their starting rotation. Some pressure should be taken off Sale because of the move. While he was expected to be the ace of the Red Sox, he will slot in third in the Braves rotation behind Spencer Strider and Max Fried.

Not having so much spotlight on him could be a blessing for Sale. However, the big question mark for him for fantasy purposes is how many innings will he actually pitch? He’ll turn 35 years old in March and he only threw 102.2 innings last season. ATC has Sale projected to log 124 innings, while THE BAT has him projected to log 121 innings.

 

Josh Hader, Houston Astros

Hader had a disastrous 2022 season in which he finished with a 5.22 ERA to go along with his 36 saves. His 3.45 FIP indicated he was a bit unlucky, though, and his strikeout rate still finished at 37.0 percent. He was largely done in by the long ball, giving up eight home runs over 50 innings.

Hader got back on track last season, posting a 1.28 ERA and a 2.69 FIP. He gave up just three home runs across 56.1 innings and finished with a 36.8 percent strikeout rate. He also lowered his WHIP to 1.10 after it was 1.28 in 2022.

His improved production came at the right time, allowing him to cash on and sign a five-year, $95 million contract with the Astros during the offseason. His arrival will push Ryan Pressly, who is coming off back-to-back seasons with at least 31 saves, into a setup role.

The Padres were cutting payroll this offseason, so moving to an Astros team with championship aspirations is a plus for Hader in terms of potential save opportunities. He should continue to miss a ton of bats, relying on a slider that produced a 51.7 percent whiff rate last season. Expect him to be one of the first closers to come off the board in fantasy drafts, and rightfully so.



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