4 Sixth Starters Who Could Be Great in 2023

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

As of right now, these four are penciled to be the sixth man (or at least in contention for that sixth spot) in their team’s respective rotations. Given that it’s mid-December, these situations are all subject to change so one or more of them could break camp with a rotation spot in hand. Even if they don’t, they could be the first man up when someone goes down. And I’m not trying to be pessimistic, it’s always “when”, not “if” as teams simply don’t use the same five starters for an entire season.

Hunter Brown | HOU

The 24-year-old had a brilliant breakthrough season with a 2.55 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 21% K-BB rate in 106 innings at Triple-A along with a nice cup of coffee in the major (0.89 ERA in 20 IP) . He has premium heat (96.7 mph fastball) and two solid breaking balls that have helped him consistently miss bats throughout his minor league ascent, netting a 31% K rate in 230 innings. He does have a 12% BB rate, too, so there is some control sketchiness to iron out, although he was down to 10% in AAA/MLB this year. Brown also has fantastic groundball rates throughout his career, including a 54% at Triple-A and then a bananas 68% mark in his MLB sample.

He models himself after Justin Verlander and while he is a long way from becoming his mentor, JV’s departure boosted Brown from the 7th to the 6th starter. This team uses just 5 SPs these days and there is some health risk in their current five, namely Lance McCullers Jr., who is awesome but has just one season north of 130 IP. I have no problem taking Brown in 15-teamers even without a starting role and I’m open to taking him in shallower formats that have deeper benches and allow players to be IL’d.

David Peterson NYM

Speaking of JV, he is now part of the block on Peterson. Verlander is one of three key signings for their rotation this offseason (along with Kodai Senga and José Quintana), so the departures of Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker didn’t clear any space for Peterson and another favorite of mine, Tylor Megill. I do favor Peterson over Megill as I think he is the first man up with Megill’s health issues and the fact that he threw fewer than 60 IP last year while Peterson had 132 between MLB and AAA.

Peterson was big for the Mets in a hybrid role last year, with 19 starts and 9 relief appearances totaling 106 IP during which he posted a 3.83 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 17% K-BB. His 28% K rate ranked 20th among the 140 pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched (tied for 7th-highest total), but his 11% BB rate ranked 135th (t3rd-highest). The walks have been present throughout his MLB career (career 11% rate), but he was a 7% guy in the minors so perhaps there is a path to improvement. Fastball command will be the key if he lowers the walk rate. The brilliant slider gives him a great foundation to build upon even if he continues to walk too many.

I am a bit surprised the Mets felt the need to sign enough guys to put Peterson on the outside looking in. Of course, as I just mentioned in the Brown write-up, you need depth to get through 162 as a major league team so running 8-9 deep already in December (main 5, Peterson, Megill, Joey Lucchesi, Elieser Hernandez) is a good spot to be in, but I’m surprised Peterson wasn’t penciled into the 5th spot with the Quintana signing being shifted to a lower end arm who is in that depth role. Unlike Houston, their primary 5 is laden with risk, both age and injury. Senga is the only one currently under 30 and that will change on January 30th. JV and Scherzer are 40 and 38, respectively. Carlos Carrasco is 36 and has eclipsed 100 IP just once since 2019 (which is only 1 out of 3 as 2020 doesn’t really count, but still…) due to injuries and Quintana turns 34 on January 24th.

Hayden Wesneski CHC

The Cubs Roster Resource page currently has Wesneski – the return from the Yankees in the Scott Effross trade – on the outside looking in with Adrian Sampson 샠수 penciled into the 5th SP role over him and Keegan Thompson (who I could’ve also included in this pieces). The truth is that it will probably be an open battle between the three come Spring Training, but Jason Martinez decided to slot the oldest of the trio into the spot for now. Wesneski was the best of the bunch skills-wise last year with a 20% K-BB rate, although it came in just 33 IP, well below Thompson (115 IP) and Sampson (104). Wesneski had a 15% K-BB rate in his two Triple-A stops (both in the International League, though) and has consistently missed bats throughout his minor league tenure with a 26% K rate and swinging strike rate that ranged 12%- 19% in the 269 IP of work.

The 25-year-old is also the youngest of the bunch which can work against a guy sometimes as teams give the veterans a shot despite being less talented. That shouldn’t be a major consideration here though as all three have minor league options so there is no risk of losing them if they are sent down. We will have clarity on the Cubs rotation by the time peak draft season comes through in March and if Wesneski nabs the job, his 279 ADP will surge so if you are a big fan of him, winter drafts are the time to buy!

Late addition: there are reports that the Cubs are close to re-signing Drew Smyly, too, which is further bad news for Wesneski and Thompson fans… and I guess Sampson fans, but those are probably a lot rarer. Smyly has struggled with health throughout his career so while no one expects him to top 115-120 IP, he will almost certainly be given a rotation spot immediately, joining Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Kyle Hendricks, and Justin Steele.

Chase Silseth LAA

Silseth was in Double-A through his first five starts of the season, allowing just 5 ER (1.73) with a tiny 0.85 WHIP and incredible 37% K rate in 26 IP. Instead of getting moved up to Triple-A, the Angels brought him to the majors. He dropped six 1-hit scoreless innings in Oakland during the debut. The A’s brought him back to earth a week later in LA (4.3 IP/3 ER/8 base runners) and after another 6 ER in 6 IP across his next two starts v. TOR and at PHI, he was sent back to Double-A. He would yo-yo between the two levels from early-June through the trade deadline, continuing to excel in Double-A while sputtering in the majors.

He spent the last two months in Double-A, closing strong and winding up with a 2.28 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 26% K-BB in 83 IP. The major league sample humbled him at 6.59 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, and 9% K-BB in 29 IP. I’m not entirely sure why they never put him in Triple-A, but maybe they didn’t want him to deal with the offensive-heavy surroundings of the PCL. We didn’t get to see him flex his swing-and-miss stuff in the majors, but I believe in the raw 23-year-old righty. He has strong velocity (95.6 mph) and two quality secondary offerings (slider/splitter) that can make him a mid-rotation arm at peak. There is development needed and he will likely start the season at Triple-A, but he is someone I am willing to take in Draft Champions leagues (50-round draft & hold) and put on my Watchlist in all other formats. Finding a bit more “life” on the fastball and consistently working the two secondaries can make him fantasy viable as early as 2023.

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