Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Leagues: Pitchers you need to know

Long-term dynasty league favorite Lucas Giolito

Long-term dynasty league favorite Lucas Giolito has graduated to the majors

Dynasty leagues are an increasingly popular format within fantasy baseball, so here is the rundown on the pitching prospects that will make fantasy impact over the next few years.

We have to start with a disclaimer that more than half of these pitching prospects will not become top-tier fantasy starters. Injuries are an inherent risk with all pitchers. Elbows and shoulders are not designed to help to propel a ball at 100 MPH.

Many of these pitchers are so young and still need time for their bodies to develop. During this time their mechanics change and most will just fail to reach the lofty heights of their projections.

Just three years ago, the top pitching prospects in the game were:

Lucas Giolito “An elite talent with the stuff, size and pitching acumen to develop into an ace.”
Julio Urias “The top left-handed pitching prospect in the Minor Leagues, he’s also the most precocious phenom in the game.”
Tyler Glasnow “Has the ability to blow away hitters on a consistent basis … has the stuff and makeup to develop into a frontline starter at the big league level.”

It is not too late for all three to develop into aces but you can see that you need to be prepared for more failure than success when drafting pitching prospects.

Hopefully, you have already consumed our article on the top-15 prospect pitchers to draft for fantasy impact in 2018. We are not expecting any of the players featured in this article to debut this season, and if they do get a September cup of coffee, their fantasy impact will be minimal. These are players for the long-game.

In researching this article, we have leaned heavily on the scouting expertise of MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Prospect361 and Minor League Ball, before converting into usable opinions for fantasy baseball dynasty leagues.

There is a lot of luck involved in picking the right pitching prospect. In the first round of the 2006 draft, Luke Hochevar went with the first overall pick, Brandon Morrow was fifth and Andrew Miller sixth. All three have made varying levels of contribution in fantasy leagues. Just imagine if you had added the player taken with the seventh pick to your dynasty team.

Can prospect Mitch Keller follow Gerrit Cole to success in Pittburgh?

Pitching prospects for dynasty leagues

It is feasible that these five players could get a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2018, but they are expected to contribute in fantasy leagues next season.

Mitch Keller (SP-PIT)
The 21-year-old finished 2017 with an 8-0 record in 12 starts in the Arizona Fall League to confirm his legitimacy as one of the best pitching prospects you can draft in dynasty leagues. He worked across three levels of the minors last season with a 3.03 ERA, a WHIP of exactly 1.00 and a strikeout rate of 9.0 SO/9. He has control, command, an impressive arsenal and he can reach back for 98-mph when necessary. With Gerrit Cole moving to Houston, Keller looks like the spearhead of the Pirates rotation for years to come. ETA 2019

Cal Quantrill (SP-SDP)
His 2017 results of 3.80 ERA with 110 strikeouts over 116 innings did not reflect this true talent. The former first-round pick from the 2016 draft has a sinking fastball, paired with probably the best changeup in the minors. Although he looks ready for Major League action, the development of a slider will enable the 22-year-old to offer top-30 starter potential in fantasy baseball. ETA 2019

Mitchell White (SP-LAD)
The second rounder from the 2016 draft is an under-the-radar prospect who thrived in Double-A last season with 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 10.0 SO/9. The 23-year-old operates a three-pitch mix and looks like a mid-rotation starter for the Dodgers. Expect to see White build on last season’s successes in Double-A and Triple-A, and do not be surprised if he is a top-50 prospect by the end of the year. ETA 2019.

Alex Faedo (SP-DET)
The 22-year-old had minor knee surgery at the end of 2016 which dropped him down the June draft board, eventually falling to the Tigers at pick No.18. He did not pitch for them but scouting director Scott Pleis enthused about Faedo’s “low to mid-90s fastball with a plus slider and changeup”. The right-hander is aggressively ranked as the No.59 prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline and will be on the fast track to the majors. ETA 2019.

Dane Dunning (SP-CWS)
You can avoid the right-hander if you only target high risk/high reward pitchers in dynasty leagues. The former first rounder from the 2016 draft looks a surefire prospect to give many seasons of steady but potentially unexciting fantasy production. He posted an impressive 2.94 ERA across two levels of the minors, aided by 0.35 ERA in four Sally League starts. Dunning uses a sinking fastball to induce ground balls and has a strikeout rate of 10.0 SO/9. He might not have the same ceiling as some of the other pitchers in this article, but his floor is higher than most. ETA 2019

Pitching prospect Justus Sheffield could soon join the rotation with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka

Pitching prospect Justus Sheffield could soon join the rotation with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka

Pitching prospects for dynasty leagues

It is difficult to predict the speed of promotion to Major League action for these five pitching prospects, but they are expected to be making an impact in fantasy in 2019.

Justus Sheffield (SP-NYY)
In 2016, the left-hander made one start in Double-A, striking out nine batters in four innings. That’s a strikeout rate above 20.0 SO/9. His 2017 results were more mortal, with 7.9 SO/9 over 93⅓ innings with an impressive 3.18 ERA. He walks the walk, and talks the talk of a top-end starter, and possesses the arsenal. A mid-90s fastball from a lefty backed up with a good slider and changeup will work at the highest level. If he were 6-foot-4 instead of 5-foot-11, he would be one of the best pitching prospects. ETA 2019.

Alec Hansen (SP-CWS)
The 6-foot-7 right-hander was taken in the second round of the 2016 draft but looks like a first-round talent. He pitched an impressive workload of 141⅓ innings last season with 191 strikeouts (12.2 SO/9) and 2.80 ERA across three levels. Hansen will start 2018 in Double-A but could reach the majors for a cup of coffee by the end of the season if he can improve his command. He possesses a mid-90s fastball with a swing and miss slider. The changeup is work-in-progress. ETA 2019.

Corbin Burnes (SP-MIL)
His ERA doubled when he moved levels, but he still finished the season with among the best stats in the minors. The unheralded prospect posted a 1.05 ERA over 10 starts in High-A before 16 starts in Double-A with a 2.10 ERA. He strikes out just under a batter per inning and has exemplary control with 0.95 WHIP. His stuff is not as good as his stats suggest and they will take a hit when he reaches the hitter-friendly environment of the PCL this year, but he needs to be monitored in all fantasy dynasty leagues. ETA 2019.

Forrest Whitley (SP-HOU)
The first-rounder from the 2016 draft is a strikeout machine. In 92⅓ innings across three levels of the minors last season, he recorded 143 strikeouts. That’s a rate of 13.90 SO/9. He posted a 2.83 ERA with 1.12 WHIP. His best stretch came at the highest level when the 20-year-old posted 1.84 ERA and 0.82 WHIP with 16.0 SO/9 in Double-A. He is MLB’s No.2 right-handed pitching prospect and should be up in the majors next year. ETA 2019.

Franklin Perez (SP-DET)
Although his strikeout rate dropped below 9.0 SO/9, the Venezuelan pitched the whole of the 2017 season as a 19-year-old in Double-A, so the 3.09 ERA is even more impressive. He looks like a top-of-the-rotation ace, although the secondary offerings in his arsenal will need to improve. ETA 2019.

Pitching prospect Dylan Cease moved across Chicago in the Jose Quintana trade

Pitching prospect Dylan Cease moved across Chicago in the Jose Quintana trade

Pitching prospects for dynasty leagues

High velocity usually gets fast-tracked to the majors. These four pitching prospects might see Major League action in September, but they should be making contributions in fantasy baseball leagues in 2019.

Dylan Cease (SP-CWS)
The 22-year-old, part of the trade that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs, is the poster-boy for why pitcher wins are an unreliable statistic at evaluating performance. In nine starts in the Low-A Sally League, the right-hander posted an acceptable 3.89 ERA with 11.2 SO/9 but was tagged with a 0-8 win-loss record. He regularly hits triple-digits, and the improvements in his changeup give the realistic possibility of a fantasy ace. ETA 2019.

Yadier Alvarez (SP-ATL)
Life as a top prospect in the minors is a rollercoaster for the Cuban. He was ranked No.78 in all of baseball before the 2016 season and jumped up to No.23 last year. A disappointing campaign in 2017 has dropped him out of the top-100 completely. With 97 strikeouts over 92⅓ innings, his dominance remained, but the 1.52 WHIP and 4.68 ERA tells the story. He has two impressive pitches, including a fastball that flirts with 100-mph but he will need to improve his command in Double-A this season, as not to become a future bullpen arm. ETA 2019

Albert Abreu (SP-NYY)
The 22-year-old projects as a frontline starter but there are concerns over this durability after elbow issues limited him to just 53⅓ innings last season. He pitched across three levels, finishing in High-A with 3.38 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a strikeout rate of 10.3 SO/9. The Dominican can hit triple-digits with his fastball which is backed up by useful secondary stuff. A full season of high-quality starts in 2018 will push him to the verge of the Yankees’ rotation. ETA 2019.

Beau Burrows (SP-DET)
The right-hander made 26 starts between High-A and Double-A last season with 3.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 135 innings. The 21-year-old recorded 137 strikeouts at a rate of 9.10 S0/9. He was taken in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Tigers and could be promoted for a taste of Major League action in September. He has high-floor, mid-rotation potential and is close to making a fantasy impact. ETA 2019.

Pitching prospect Tristan McKenzie will soon be exciting crowds in Cleveland

Pitching prospects for dynasty leagues

These four players are highly unlikely to see Major League action this season, but they should be important fantasy contributors in 2020.

Triston McKenzie (SP-CLE)
The 20-year-old recorded 186 strikeouts over 143 innings in High-A last season with a 3.46 ERA. McKenzie’s power belies his wiry frame. Although his fastball sits in the low-90s, it is delivered with impressive accuracy, making it appear significantly faster. It is supported by a nasty curveball and an improving changeup. If his body can handle the workload, the first-rounder from the 2015 draft could be a future top-of-the-rotation starter for the Indians. ETA 2020

Sixto Sanchez (SP-PHI)
It is possible that the 19-year-old is the most gifted pitcher in the minors. His trademark is a 100-mph fastball with tremendous movement but mixes in a groundball-inducing sinker. Sanchez also throws a curveball and a changeup with pinpoint control. The Dominican made 18 starts last season with 3.03 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 95 innings. He struggled with the jump to High-A and will likely spend most of 2018 there. If he conquers that level, the hype surrounding the right-hander will continue to grow. ETA 2020

Michel Baez (SP-SDP)
The Cuban was as under-the-radar as it is possible for a 6-foot-8 pitcher to be when he signed with the Padres at the end of 2016. He did not appear as one of the top-50 international prospects but excelled in 10 starts in Low-A last season, with incredible stats of 2.45 ERA and 82 strikeouts with just eight walks in 58⅔ innings. Perhaps the most impressive is the 0.84 WHIP which shows a level of control not usually associated with such a tall pitcher. He commands three impressive pitches and just needs to demonstrate durability to be accepted as one of the best pitching prospects in the game. ETA 2020.

Matt Manning (SP-DET)
The former first-rounder from the 2016 draft is the type of pitcher of which prospect evaluators dream. He is tall, strong, athletic and projectable. That also means he is a long way from the majors and a lot needs to go right to prevent the 20-year-old joining the ever-growing pile of shattered dreams. His 2017 stats of 3.18 ERA, with 62 strikeouts and 25 walks in 51 innings, flatters the right-hander and does not reflect the mixed nature of his season. He has a mid-90s fastball with raw secondary stuff, but if it all falls into place, Manning could be a top-tier starter in a few years. ETA 2020.

Aroldis Chapman is fast. Pitching prospect Jorge Guzman is faster.

Aroldis Chapman is fast. Pitching prospect Jorge Guzman is faster.

Pitching prospects for dynasty leagues

These four players have the potential to shoot up prospect lists this season. Even if they don’t make it to the majors for a couple of years, their increased prospect status could be useful trade chips for your dynasty league team.

Jorge Guzman (SP-MIA)
The Dominican is the hardest throwing starter in the history of baseball according to Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, even faster than Aroldis Chapman when he was a starter. The 22-year-old continually hit over 100-mph during his 66⅓ innings in Low-A, when the right-handed posted 2.30 ERA with 1.04 WHIP and 88 strikeouts (that’s 11.9 SO/9). He does not only offer high velocity, but Guzman also has an effective slider and changeup and is projected as a top of the rotation starter. ETA 2020.

Adrian Morejon (SP-SDP)
Considering how long the Cuban has been known within the prospect evaluation world, it is incredible that he is still only 18-years-old. The left-hander made 13 starts in the low minors last season, with 3.86 ERA and 58 strikeouts to 16 walks in 63 innings. That’s a strikeout rate of 8.3 SO/9. He has a mature repertoire of pitches, and if he can maintain his career trajectory while building up durability, Morejon has top-25 starter potential. ETA 2020.

Riley Pint (SP-COL)
Taken with the fourth overall pick from the 2016 draft, the right-hander is a high-risk/high-reward prospect who has the potential to be the Rockies’ No.1 starter. He offers a four-pitch mix including a devastating fastball that hits triple-digits. Unfortunately, as shown by his 5.42 ERA and 1.67 WHIP last season, the 20-year-old lacks control. He was a top-50 prospect before last season, and as he will drop out of most prospect lists this year, his exciting potential makes him a buy-low candidate. ETA 2020.

Nate Pearson (SP-TOR)
The 21-year-old from the first round of the 2017 draft is another high-risk/high-reward pitcher with triple-digit velocity on his fastball and a mesmerizing changeup. He threw 20 innings last season between Rookie ball and Low-A with attention-grabbing stats of 0.90 ERA, 0.60 WHIP and 11.70 SO/9. The right-hander will shoot up prospects lists, but the range of outcomes is vast. In a few years, he could be top of the Blue Jays’ rotation, their ninth-inning fireballer or out of baseball completely. ETA 2020.

Shohei Ohtani is not the only two-way star. Watch out for Rays' prospect Brendan McKay

Pitching prospects for dynasty leagues

These pitchers are not expected to be making significant fantasy contributions until 2020, but all four need consideration in dynasty leagues.

Brendan McKay (SP/1B-TB)
The ‘other’ two-way player was taken with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft and immediately grabbed attention with 1.80 ERA over six starts in Low-A. He struck out 21 batters over 20 innings (9.50 SO/9) with 0.75 WHIP. It is unclear how the Rays will utilize the 22-year-old, but the potential of a 95-mph left-handed starter with an impressive repertoire of secondary pitches offers intriguing fantasy value. And that is before you consider what he can do with the bat. ETA 2020.

J.B. Bukauskas (SP-HOU)
The first-rounder from the 2017 draft made three starts across Rookie ball and Low-A with 2.70 ERA and nine strikeouts to five walks in 10 innings. The right-hander throws a mid-90s fastball with a decent slider and a useful changeup. As with most of the pitching prospects in this article, there is a risk that he will end up in the bullpen. ETA 2020.

Jesus Luzardo (SP-OAK)
The 20-year-old produced an amazing debut season with 1.66 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 11 starts across Rookie ball and Low-A. The Peruvian has a mid-90s fastball with an effective curveball and changeup which produced 10.0 SO/9. Luzardo was taken in the third round of the 2016 draft and looks like a left-handed innings-eater of the future for Oakland. ETA 2020.

Adonis Medina (SP-PHI)
The Dominican was ranked as a top-100 prospect by Baseball Prospectus before the 2017 season, although he looks more like a low-ceiling, mid-rotation starter with a fastball/slider mix. He made 23 starts in the Sally League last year with 3.01 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. The 21-year-old recorded 133 strikeouts with 39 walks over 119⅔ innings and will have more fantasy value if he develops an effective third pitch. ETA 2020.

Pitching prospect Shane Baz (First round pick from 2017)

Pitching prospect Shane Baz (First round pick from 2017)

Pitching prospects for dynasty leagues

These five pitchers are so far from the majors that they are true high-risk/high-reward prospects.

Shane Baz (SP-PIT)
At 18-years-old, the 12th overall pick from the 2017 draft is the youngest pitcher on our list. He posted 3.80 ERA with 1.69 WHIP across 23⅔ innings in Rookie ball. Scouts rave about his five-pitch mix, but although he is a high ceiling prospect, he is a long way from the majors. The rewards in fantasy will be huge if he can fulfill his potential. ETA 2022

Hunter Greene (SP-CIN)
The scouting report on the second overall pick from the 2017 draft mentions that he will consistently reach 97-101 mph with a clean, repeatable delivery. He is the epitome of a high risk/high reward pitcher. Greene could be one of the best pitchers in the game in a few years time, or he could just be another bullpen arm. The fastball is impressive, but he will need to work on the slider and develop a third pitch. The 19-year-old needs to be owned in all dynasty leagues but just remember there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. ETA 2021

MacKenzie Gore (SP-SDP)
Although the 18-year-old still has a long journey to reach the majors, he possesses projectability that excites prospect hounds. Taken with the third overall pick of the 2017 draft, the left-hander made seven starts in Rookie ball with 34 strikeouts over 21⅓ innings, while posting 1.27 ERA. Gore has a funky delivery and is the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, although it will be interesting to see whether hitters at the higher levels of the minors are as easily mesmerized by his delivery. ETA 2021

Ian Anderson (SP-ATL)
Another outstanding pitching prospect on the Braves, the third overall pick from the 2016 draft, racked up 101 strikeouts over 83 innings with 3.14 ERA. He has a low-90s fastball with heavy sink and an improving curveball and changeup. He is only 19-years-old, so the variance of outcomes with the right-hander is great. If you need help differentiating between the Braves’ pitching prospects. Anderson is the one who did not allow a single home run in 2017. ETA 2021.

Jay Groome (SP-BOS)
After he was taken with the 12th pick of the 2106 draft, the left-hander enthralled evaluators who ranked him a top-40 prospect before last season. The 19-year-old demonstrated exceptional strikeout potential with 11.7 SO/9, but he needs to improve his control, as shown by 5.69 ERA and 1.42 WHIP over 14 starts. As the Red Sox top prospect, Groome will retain his high-profile reputation. ETA 2021.

Anderson Espinoza (SP-SDP)
Elbow issues prevented the 19-year-old from throwing a single pitch last year, and he will miss the entire 2018 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Before the injury, the Venezuelan was a top-25 prospect with three excellent pitches, although this was not reflected by his 2016 stats of 4.65 ERA across 24 starts with 1.39 WHIP. If he can come back healthy, Espinoza still has high-ceiling potential. ETA 2021.

Young Madison Bumgarner

Young Madison Bumgarner

Final quick take

It is your choice whether you opt for a high risk/high reward teenager with triple-digit velocity and wayward control, or play it safe with a high-floor, control pitcher with proximity to the majors. Either way, there is a likelihood that the prospect pitchers you draft for your dynasty league will break your heart. It is the exhilaration that you could be picking the next Madison Bumgarner that makes pitching prospects so enticing.