Relying on rookie pitchers in fantasy baseball is an often faulty venture. Most of these guys have been brought along slowly through the Minors and likely have a hard innings cap upon getting the call-up. Very rarely are they finished products; their stuff is generally far ahead of their ability to command it. Maybe some young arms already dealt with significant injuries. But sometimes, phenoms show up and overpower hitters right away. The chance to catch one of those shining stars is tantalizing, and there are a host of rookies who could do just that in 2022. Here are five rookie pitchers to keep in mind during your fantasy drafts.
Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds
Immortalized on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 17-year-old and then selected No. 2 overall in the 2017 MLB Draft a couple of months later, Greene created no buzz before 2021. He didn’t shine early on in the Minors and then missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. However, he dominated the Double-A level over seven starts last year, recording a 1.98 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. He was hit around a little more at Triple-A, but he struck out 139 batters through 106.1 innings while keeping his walk rate under control. Still armed with a triple-digit fastball, Greene is going to make an impact in the Reds’ rotation in 2022.
Cade Cavalli, Washington Nationals
Cavalli has four above-average pitches and led the Minor Leagues with 175 strikeouts last season. His 5.4 and 4.7 walk rates in Double-A and Triple-A, respectively, are concerning, but if he shows a modest improvement in his command early on in the year, Cavalli should be a part of the Nationals’ rotation in short order. He could get a long look with the rebuilding franchise as long as he keeps the walks in check. The wins may not be there for the 23-year-old, but the strikeouts will be.
Luis Gil, New York Yankees
Gil was a revelation for the Yankees last August as he turned in scoreless starts in each of his first three MLB turns last August. He regressed to the mean in September and was a little lucky overall (.239 BABIP, 4.40 FIP despite a 3.07 WHIP). But he struck out nearly 30 percent of the batters he faced thanks to a high-90s fastball and a devastating slider. The back end of the Yankees’ rotation has a lot of question marks, so there could be a spot for Gil there sooner than later. He has plenty of areas to work on. Namely, he needs to keep his walks and the ball down. But Gil has got a lot of upside and could pick up a good number of wins and K’s in 2022.
Edward Cabrera, Miami Marlins
Sixto Sanchez could have been placed here, but it’s unknown how he’ll respond following shoulder surgery last summer. Max Meyer is another Marlins hurler who could open eyes this year as a rookie, but let’s talk about the one who already has some experience at the highest level. Cabrera might have the brightest future of the trio. Last season was a learning experience for him. Cabrera’s numbers, frankly, were ugly. Not enough strikeouts and ground balls; too many walks and home runs. But Cabrera does have three quality pitches and the body to take on a big workload. If he can rein in the walks, he could be a fantasy factor. He should be the first pitcher called up by the team if injury or poor performance befalls the rotation early on in the season.
Shane Baz, Tampa Bay Rays
The best rookie pitcher in fantasy by far, Baz is a top-50 starter in current ESPN drafts. He impressed in three regular-season starts last year, with an 18:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and only three earned runs allowed. He refined his command before the season, which really helped him limit the free passes. Baz also had great results with a developing curveball to go along with his plus fastball and slider. It’s pollyannaish to believe that Baz will be as successful over a full season as he was in his short 2021 stint, but he’s a quality starter with a guaranteed rotation spot on a team that has a long track record of getting the most out of its pitchers. The biggest question mark in Baz’s fantasy profile entering 2022 is his workload. How many innings will he be allowed to throw? He hasn’t exceeded 100 IP in any of his four pro seasons.