clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 Preview: Starting Pitcher Predictions

Here’s an educated guess on how each starting pitcher will perform in 2023.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably the biggest strength for the Phillies in 2022 was their starting pitching. The group ranked second in fWAR, fifth in FIP, second in walk-rate, and were a major factor in their quest for a pennant. But how will the group perform in 2023?

Aaron Nola

Nola proved just how good he really is in 2022, finishing fourth in Cy Young voting after the worst season of his career the year before.

He did just about everything you could ask, with the best strikeout-to-walk rate in the sport and pitching over 200 innings for the third time in his career.

What’s most notable about 2022 was how he proved doubters wrong, dominating the playoff clincher in Houston. Followed by making the Cardinals and Braves look silly in the playoffs.

Nola should only get better this season as he’s begun perfecting a cutter this spring. The cutter will pair perfectly with his two-seamer, getting plenty of swings and misses from righties or weak groundouts from lefties.

He’s tried to develop this pitch for years but his last start against Baltimore was the best it’s ever looked.

He should have a similar season to 2022, pitching to around a 3 ERA but a much lower FIP due to his defense. However, it’s a contract year for him and they’ve begun exchanging offers. A contract similar to Carlos Rodón’s 6 years 162 million dollar agreement would make sense for both sides.

Zack Wheeler

In spite of a velocity drop of over a mile per hour, Wheeler put together one of the best seasons of his career, with a 2.82 ERA and 2.89 FIP across 153 innings of work. This all comes with a 5.79 ERA in April after not starting at all in spring training.

Wheeler has also begun working on a new pitch, adopting a sweeping slider to his arsenal. Which will pair well with his sinker against righties and be helpful with his cutter against lefties.

Speaking of his cutter, in 2021, opponents had a slugging percentage of .317 but went up to .352 in 22. If there is one thing he could certainly fix, it would be cutter command.

Even though he pitched deep into the postseason, he should have an innings uptick with a more normal ramp-up into 2023 and hopefully no time on the IL.

It would also make sense for him to use his sinker more in 2023 after it put up the same run value as the four-seam, even though it was used 24.3% less.

Ranger Suárez

Suárez had a tale of two halves in 2022 that changed once he began to make major changes to his pitch usage.

In the first three months of the season, Suárez had an ERA over four, a FIP over four, and an OPS allowed of .757. The big problem was 87.7% of his pitches were the sinker, changeup, or four-seam, making him pretty predictable for opposing hitters.

The final three months were a different story, he added a cutter and curveball to help with the issue and the results changed drastically. He put up a 2.95 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and a .666 OPS allowed, which included a rough start the day after they clinched a wild card spot.

It is hard to imagine with an off-season to develop his pitch mix that he can’t put up similar numbers, if not better in 2023.

Taijuan Walker

In an inflated starting pitcher market, Walker signed a four-year 72 million-dollar contract after establishing himself as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for a loaded Mets team.

Over the last two years, Walker has been one of the more durable pitchers in baseball, with back-to-back seasons of over 150 innings.

Walker took a big step in 2022, lowering his ERA and FIP by nearly a run each. A big reason for this is the jump his splitter took. After learning the grip of former Mets teammate Carlos Carrasco, he now developed one of the best pure pitches in the Mets rotation.

The biggest reason the Phillies targeted Walker over other top-of-the-market pitchers who didn’t require a Qualifying Offer was because of his splitter. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.

After that, however, there are some concerns with the rest of his arsenal.

Opponents hit .268 with a .464 slug off of Walker’s fastball, his slider put up a run value of three, and his curveball was projected to be much worse than the actual stat line.

Walker’s second-best pitch last season was his cutter which he only threw 6.6% of the time but what will it look like when you double or even triple the usage? Will it still be just as effective?

Not to mention, even after unlocking the splitter, his strikeout rate dropped from 22.3% in 2021 to 20.4% in 2022. He also possesses a worse supporting cast around him, going from a top-ten defense in baseball to likely a bottom-ten.

The Phillies’ game plan for Walker will be to spam the splitter, locate the fastball off of it, and throw his cutter much more, especially against left-handed pitching. Can this work? Probably, but there are still questions that need to be answered when you only have one great pitch.

Bailey Falter

Since Andrew Painter is going to be out for a while, the Bailey Falter experiment lives on for another day. It did seem like he made real progress down the stretch, pitching to a 3.00 ERA from his final nine starts of the season. However, it is hard to imagine he can sustain that success.

Of those nine starts, five of them came against the Diamondbacks, Pirates, Marlins, or Nationals, all bottom ten offenses by wRC+. Falter also doesn’t have a good enough pitch mix to be a reliable starter.

91.6% of his pitches in the final two months of the season were either four-seams, two-seams, or curveballs. His curveball is also not exactly an elite secondary pitch with a slugging percentage allowed of .656.

While he’s been working on a changeup this spring to help against righties, there just needs to be more for him to be a consistent starter at this level.

As a number five, it’s hard to expect anything stellar but once Painter is actually ready, Falter is probably sent down barring other injuries.

Depth starters

Andrew Painter came out blazing this spring, hitting 100 mph in his first start vs the Twins but would be sidelined right after with a UCL sprain. He’s one of the top prospects in baseball, ranking 12th on Baseball Prospectus’s list. At 19, he seemed more like a lock for the rotation than an afterthought.

Painter came into spring with a swing-and-miss heater, a good sweeper, a curveball, and a developing changeup. Painter also has begun working on a cutter that he featured in that Twins start.

If he makes starts this season there will be growing pains but also flashes of the great potential he has.

Michael Plassmeyer came up for a few appearances last season and even got out of a bases-loaded jam against the Reds. He has a promising arsenal with a four-seam fastball he can throw at the top of the zone, a decent changeup, and a slurve.

He doesn’t have overpowering stuff and had an ERA over 7 before he came to the Iron Pigs so it’s hard to imagine he would fare well. Should eat some innings, however.

The Phillies should have another top rotation in baseball with some health luck but it thins out fast if the prospects aren’t ready.