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Top Starting Pitcher Prospects - Impact Fantasy Baseball Rookies for 2023 (NL East)

Jared Shuster - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Waiver Wire Pickups, MLB Fantasy News

The National League East is the focus of the second installment of a six-part series focused on pitching fantasy baseball prospects who are better positioned from a developmental standpoint to contribute meaningfully in 2023 MLB games.

Fundamentals will be quantified using my Fielding- and Ballpark-Independent Outcomes (FaBIO) pitcher evaluation model.

Let us begin with individual analyses of three top National League East 2023 prospects: Andrew Painter, Eury Perez, and Jared Shuster.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Quick Overview of FaBIO

An earlier RotoBaller article more fully explains the FaBIO methodology. Every plate appearance is sorted into one of 12 event-type bins (BB+HBP, K, IFFB, Pull OFFB, Center OFFB, Oppo OFFB, Pull LD, Center LD, Oppo LD, Pull GB, Center GB, Oppo GB) and the pitcher is charged with league's average runs value for that event type.

We eventually wind up with loads of fundamentals-rooted percentile ratings expressed on a 100 to 0 scale where 97 is plus plus, 84 is plus, 50 is average, 16 is minus, and three is minus minus.

The all-in-one Overall Rating (based on expected run avoidance per batter faced over all of that pitcher's batters faced) will be used primarily as filtering criteria with relatively more attention paid to how the three core sub-Ratings of Control (or CTL, based on BB+HBP per batters faced), Strikeout (or K, based on K per batters faced), and Batted Ball Profile (based on expected run avoidance per batted ball) combine to produce Overall Rating.

Batted ball profile subcomponents like GB Rating (based on GB per batted ball), IFFB Rating, LD Avoid Rating, OFFB Avoid Rating, and Pull OFFB Avoid Rating (pull-third OFFB per batted ball) also provide useful clues as to approach, movement, and effective velocity biases.


Andrew Painter, Philadelphia Phillies

FaBIO Ratings from a 21-batter complex league pro debut rather strongly indicated that 2021 MLB Draft 13th overall pick Andrew Painter already ranked among the top dozen pitching prospects in pro baseball. The recent prep righthander seemed certain to produce elite strikeout outcomes ahead with the mysteries being how control and the batted ball columns would sort out over larger data samples.

In a 2022 full-season debut split across 3 levels, Painter would rate double to triple plus at K, plus at Control, and minus at Batted Ball Profile. While Painter's four-seam ranked among the best at inducing whiffs else infield popups it was also rather easy to line drive when put in play, which likely stems from the pitch's movement being skewed in the vertical rather than horizontal direction at the design level and its location similarly biased up-and-more-up as opposed to inside-and-out.

Painter more than survived minus to worse LD avoidance in A and A+ with above plus AVG avoidance on batted balls at both stops. That changed when AVG avoidance rated minus in step with minus LD avoidance in AA, where OFFB contact also flipped to very early (Pull OFFB Avoid<<OFFB Avoid) and likely as an offshoot of increased changeup use.

Some sources had Painter as the top pitching prospect in baseball this offseason, which seemed a bit rich after minus line drive avoidance at all three 2022 minor league stops. Yet the relative absence of walks makes the relative presence of line drives (future singles against more advanced batters) more tolerable. Painter threw a cutter in spring camp and that offering sets up to be a logical ticket to better line drive avoidance against lefthanded batters.

As opposed to scripting and implementing a conservative development plan in which Painter methodically worked on bullpen and back field mounds to diversify his hard arsenal for the bulk of 2023 spring camp the Phillies chose a hyperaggressive one and gave Painter a two-inning start in the first week of MLB games (8 BF: 78 Overall, 98 Control/5 K/88 Batted Ball Profile).

Within a day of that appearance, he complained of elbow symptoms and subsequent imaging revealed an early-stage tear (sprain) of the right elbow ulnar collateral ligament. Rest and rehab have been prescribed in an attempt to at least delay Tommy John surgery.

Most fantasy owners should hold Painter until he gets back on a pro mound and is generating analyzable data again, while a few who are already deeper in impact starter candidates would be wise to shop him for talent that would plug other roster gaps.

If the Phillies can rehab Painter into a rather successful MiLB SP by July to August he could be very in play for a pre-postseason MLB audition as a K specialist swingman SP/RP, but to roll those dice the Phillies squad must be very in the NL pennant picture.


Eury Perez, Miami Marlins

Eury Perez signed as an international free agent in July 2019. As a product of no 2020 minor league season, his pro debut came in 2021 and auspiciously so in full-season A ball.

Through two pro seasons, Perez is rather easy to classify on the FaBIO scales as a plus plus K, half plus Control, half to full plus Batted Ball Profile MiLB RHSP. Two noteworthy positive gains stand out in the 2022 FaBIO profile. First, the batted ball profile became far less flyball-biased.

Second, opposite-handed batter outcomes were much improved versus 2021. The nit to pick would be that AVG (hit) avoidance on batted balls should have been much higher than 31 given an 86 LD Avoid.

Like Painter, Perez is similarly tall and on the lean side. Perez was shut down for a month plus with arm fatigue nearer the end of 2022 MiLB play before a brief return so he may not be overly free of a fate similar to what befell Painter this spring. Perez has the more complete starting pitcher prospect profile of the duo given a more diverse mix of strikeouts and batted ball profile components.

Perez received the equivalent of four MLB spring starts and his out-generation fundamentals each rated around half plus (51 BF, 13 BF/G: 28 Overall 73 Control/31 K/23 Batted Ball Profile). Expect Perez to come out of the MiLB gates a bit slower again as he did in 2022.

From there he should gradually improve and emerge as a candidate for MLB starter reps in August to September ahead of an offseason in which he would require 40-man-rostering in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. Perez opens 2023 as a premium franchise cog for dynasty league play. His 2023 redraft league value is rather up in the air until we see how the MiLB pitching fundamentals sort out.


Jared Shuster, Atlanta Braves

Between the batted ball profiles and batted ball outcomes from the two NCAA D1 SP seasons and first MiLB one Jared Shuster had to possess one of the worst primary fastballs of any lefthanded starter prospect at the end of the 2021 season.

That dramatically changed overnight when Shuster opened the 2022 MiLB season with a 91 Control/91 K/96 Batted Ball Profile line over 353 AA batters faced. Though each of those three fundamentals soon sank one to two standard deviations in AAA, it stands out that the batted ball profile remained solidly average by circuit standards.

Somewhat like Taj Bradley from the AL East Prospects article, Shuster's fundamentals fell far enough in AAA to rule out what months earlier had seemed a surer 2022 MLB debut. In a moderate surprise (relative to offseason forecasts) Shuster won a MLB rotation spot this spring via an 80-batter 68 Overall showing that skewed Batted-Ball-Profile-first to the tune of 26 Control/53 K/86 Batted Ball Profile.

Shuster's immediate challenge in transitioning to regular season play is to maintain enough batted ball profile to offset that his early Control and Strikeout outcomes are surer to rate down versus his MiLB past. If he can keep his head above water via the better fastball of 2022 and 2023 the K and Control results will gradually rise to better forgive any dips in batted ball outcomes.

The long-term projection on Shuster is a mid-rotation MLB starter with Control and Batted Ball Profile carrying more of the weight than Strikeouts. Half plus control, average strikeouts, average to half plus batted ball profile seems doable down the road a year or two. His better seasons resemble that of a SP2, while the poorer ones match those of a SP4.


Other 2023 NL East Pitcher Prospects on the Horizon

2021 third-rounder Dylan Dodd, then a fifth-year collegian, should not slot very far below Jared Shuster on MLB LHSP prospects lists; Dodd also surprised this spring with a FaBIO profile similar to but better than Shuster's (85 BF, 14 BF/G: 80 Overall, 53 Control/63 K/86 Batted Ball Profile).

Newly 40-manned Darius Vines rates well enough at most fundamentals to be in line for back-of-rotation starting pitcher trials after a bit more AAA experience; for the 2023 Braves, he will instead serve as a AAA RHSP who earns emergency spot start and longman call-ups to the MLB squad.

Roddery Munoz also joined the 40-man roster over the winter but extreme forward splits have the MiLB SP projecting as a future righty-on-righty specialist short reliever. Victor Vodnik should eventually be selected for the roster to provide depth to the middle relief corps.

Brooks Wilson should return from April 2022 Tommy John surgery soon and projects as an all-comers strikeout specialist RHRP who needs better batted ball profile fundamentals (fastball parameters) to stick in MLB else earn higher-leverage opportunities then.

August 2022 Tommy John surgery will prevent Max Meyer from making a 2023 MLB return but dynasty league players should still value him as a Top 10 pitching prospect who eventually profiles similarly to Sandy Alcantara batted-ball-profile-wise with potentially more strikeouts.

The three NCAA D1 Overall Ratings of 2020 draftee Jake Eder was only in the 45 to 67 range calling into question the repeatability of his remarkable 2021 AA FaBIO Ratings upon 2023 return from a Tommy John of his own.

Dax Fulton capped his 2022 with a phenomenal 5-game 100 Overall (69 Control/100 K/100 Batted Ball Profile) AA debut quite unlike anything he had posted before; the 2020 prep draft signee will have to handily outperform pending Rule 5 eligibles like Perez and Eder to earn a MLB SP stint before 2024.

Nic Enright of the Guardians made for a logical Rule 5 pick as a more control-oriented K+IFFB RHRP prospect who had enjoyed consecutive successful MiLB seasons across all four full-season affiliates; he has since been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma making his 2023 MLB usability uncertain.

LHRP Josh Simpson gets K and GB but the actual batted ball outcomes have been fringy despite the anti-aerial bias (23-batter 2023 MLB spring: 33 Control/98 K/18 Batted Ball Profile).

Offseason 40-man-addition RHRP Eli Villalobos had much improved batted ball outcomes in 2022 versus 2021 and is on track for a middle relief trial; strikeouts were a relatively weak spot in a 21-batter MLB spring (68 Overall, 86 Control/8 K/87 Batted Ball Profile).

July 2018 international free agent signee Jorge Mercedes had not appeared in an official pro game before 2022 but made it all the way from the complex league to AA affiliate and finished that season with an impressive 100 K and 94 Batted Ball Profile combo that was countered by 12 Control; though control plummeted over 43 subsequent Arizona Fall League batters the K and Batted Ball Profile combo of the upper 90s-velocities Mercedes stayed stouter.

Chandler Jozwiak had a nice run in the Arizona Fall League and projects to have more staying power as a MLB LHRP than Simpson thanks to better control and batted-ball fundamentals.

Power-fastball Bryce Montes De Oca will miss all of 2023 after a recent surgery to remove of loose bodies from a previously Tommy-John-ed throwing elbow identified enough wrong to require a second Tommy John. 100 Overall-ing Stephen Ridings missed nearly all of 2022 with a right shoulder injury and the offseason waiver claim has yet to appear with the Mets for the same reason.

LHRP convert Josh Walker posted a 100 K Rating in an injury-shortened 96-batter 2022 mostly AAA campaign then followed that up with a 42-batter 60 Control/89 K/58 Batted Ball Profile line in the Arizona Fall League. Eric Orze stands to be tried as a lower-leverage short RHRP but must better avoid OFFB and especially Pull OFFB to survive in MLB.

Undrafted free agent fifth-year-collegian Grant Hartwig hardly impressed after a 2021 post-draft conversion to short RP duty only to post a tremendous K and Batted Ball Profile combo across all four 2022 full-season affiliates; K fell to half minus over another 46 Arizona Fall League batters but a good 17-batter MLB spring (77 Overall, 42 Control/88 K/60 Batted Ball Profile) has Hartwig on the cusp of a middle relief MLB debut.

Dedniel Nunez returned in 2022 after spending 2021 as an Injured-Listed Giants' Rule 5 pick and has some legs as RHB-leaning short RHRP prospect.

A stronger post-draft 2021 pro debut offered hope that the ever-erratic Griff McGarry might Control and especially Batted Ball Profile well enough to be a viable MLB SP prospect before those same fundamentals plummeted around the usually strong K results in 2023.

Eleven MLB spring batters yielded an unsurprising 0 Control/57 K/0 Batted Ball Profile line for the righty who the Phillies trialed as a AAA short RP in September with consideration of giving him an MLB audition before the playoffs. Altogether McGarry is trending more in the direction of a mercurial yet productive short RHRP like James Karinchak than a long-term MLB starter.

Mick Abel made a number of offseason Top 100 Prospects lists but the 2022 FaBIO fundamentals of the 2020 15th overall pick did not match those of a top MLB SP prospect. Thanks to an August promotion to AA that seemed to have more to do with Painter being moved up then, Abel could struggle in early 2023 due to assignments beyond his current level of development as a starting pitcher. Eleven spring batters for Abel showed no glimmers of improved fundamentals per an 8 Control/18 K/49 Batted Ball Profile line.

Hans Crouse has long looked like a future K+IFFB RHRP who was too short in anti-LHB weaponry to be viable as a MLB SP; the short RP route may be the road better traveled ahead but two option years allows some rope for continued starter development. The clock ticks faster for one-option-year-remaining RHRP prospect Francisco Morales, who impressed over 52 2022 Arizona Fall League batters to the tune of 42 Control/99 K/74 Batted Ball Profile.

McKinley Moore rated well enough all-around over a very large sample of MLB spring duty (34 BF, 4 BF/G: 84 Overall, 81 Controll/79 K/65 Batted Ball Profile) that he has to be very in the 2023 big league bullpen picture as an all-comers middle RHRP.

Between his 2022 Arizona Fall League and MiLB outcomes Taylor Lehman might earn a 2023 MLB trial as a LHB-leaning specialist LHRP. 2021 draftee Andrew Baker pitched two junior college seasons around one COVID-shortened D1 season and projects as a MLB RHRP candidate who could put up half to full plus outcomes at one or both of K and Batted Ball Profile.

Spring Tommy John surgery will delay the next MLB game action of wilder K+Batted Ball Profile standout Cade Cavalli until 2024 at the earliest. In injury-limited action Cole Henry has been a more complete RHSP prospect on the FaBIO scales than fellow 2020 NCAA D1 draftee Cavalli; Henry's hopes as a 2023 MLB SP candidate hinge heavily on a cleaner return this spring and summer from August thoracic outlet surgery.

Red Sox opted to expose Thad Ward to the Rule 5 Draft after a 230-batter AA-and-lower 97 Overall (49 Control/91 K/99 Batted Ball Profile) and a 54-batter Arizona Fall League 58 Overall (51 Control/80 K/31 Batted Ball Profile); Ward rewarded the Nationals faith in him this spring with a 48-batter, 4-batters-per-game 88 Overall and 15 Control/80 K/98 Batted Ball Profile line that resembled his 2021 MiLB season one.

Former Tigers' farmhand Jose (A.) Ferrer is tracking nicely as an all-comers LHRP prospect but struggled to get K and avoid LD against 29 MLB spring batters (52 Control/7 K/30 Batted Ball Profile). Zach Brzykcy emerged as a K-leaning short RHRP prospect over a 2022 journey from A+ to AAA but injury denied the non-roster invitee MLB spring game action.


Impact NL East Pitcher Prospects Farther Down the Pipeline

Fantasy league players with an eye cast to MLB seasons beyond 2023 should follow Braves RHP Owen Murphy (Complex League and full-season A FaBIO fundamentals suggest that the 2022 high school two-way prospect is already a Top 20 MLB SP prospect) and a trio of Mets RHPs in Blade Tidwell (potential plus to better batted ball profile SP), Jeffrey Colon, and Calvin Ziegler.

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Welcome to the UFL Championship for the inaugural UFL season, RotoBallers! The Birmingham Stallions and San Antonio Brahmas will face off in the Championship as they relatively easily won their respective conference championships. However, the Stallions took an interesting approach to get the job done as they benched star QB Adrian Martinez in favor of... Read More

Video: Undervalued Tight Ends? 2024 Fantasy Football Sleepers and Draft Steals

The fantasy football season never ends at RotoBaller! With early 2024 best ball drafts already underway, we're evaluating fantasy football's most impactful players. NFL Network contributor and RotoBaller analyst LaQuan Jones digs into the potential impact of fantasy football options in 2024. Are these tight ends being undervalued? Check out some of our favorite fantasy... Read More

Sam LaPorta - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

FFPC Best Ball Fantasy Football Rankings and Tiers (Top 400)

Hello and welcome to RotoBaller's FFPC Best Ball Fantasy Football Rankings for 2024 Best Ball leagues on FFPC. A reminder that on the FFPC Fantasy platform, NFL best ball leagues only have six potential positions -- Quarterback (QB), Running Back (RB), Wide Receiver (WR), Tight End (TE), Kicker (K), and Defense (DST). You will see... Read More

Luther Burden - College, NCAA, Draft, Prospects, CFB, Missouri

2025 NFL Draft - Early Wide Receiver Prospect Rankings

Heading into 2023, everybody knew that Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze made up the top of a heavy wide receiver class. That held true, and all three studs heard their names called in the top-10 selections. Looking ahead to next season, two receivers have cemented themselves ahead of the rest of the... Read More