Your fantasy baseball draft is finally here and you're sitting in your draft room watching a variety of picks being selected. You have prepared for this. You've read through the fantasy baseball draft guide fully. You've studied the fantasy baseball player rankings, done a few fantasy baseball mock drafts and you've got the fantasy baseball cheat sheet right in front of you. You're looking for a starting pitcher, but are struggling to decide between talent and higher expected volume That's what the Fantasy Alarm Player Debate series is all about today as Justin Vreeland and Colby Conway offer up their thoughts on if Dustin May is worthy of being an option at his price. Good luck!


Why You Should Draft Dustin May At His ADP

by Justin Vreeland

Dustin May is a very intriguing fantasy option as he is fully healthy now after returning from Tommy John Surgery for a brief stint last season. In my opinion, there is a lot to like with May. First let’s take a look at the statcast data from the 6 starts he made once he made his return from the injured list. 

Dustin May 2022 Statcast:

Not too shabby. Being in the 100th percentile in anything is obviously a good thing and he came back averaging 98.1 mph on his fastball, which is pretty much right in line with what we have seen from him in his career (98.3 in 2021, 99.1 in 2020, and 95.7 in 2019). On top of that, he had an xBA of .214 and an xERA of 3.67, which are both better marks than his career averages. In other words, there is not much post-injury concern here and the talent is fully still there. Let’s move onto this season. 

Dustin May 2023 Spring Training:

As you can see, through four appearances in Spring Training, he looks elite. The 2.13 ERA is nice, but the 11.4 K/9 rate is what I really like. This is a young pitcher with elite stuff and he is overpowering hitters thus far in Spring Training, which is something you can expect to see during the regular season as well. What do the projection systems have to say about him for this upcoming season? 

Dustin May 2023 Projections:

Well, as you can see, projection systems expect a pretty strong season out of May. An ERA of around 3.60 with over a strikeout per inning while pitching for one of the best teams in baseball? Sign me up. Really the only downside in these projections is that he is expected to be capped around 125 innings in his first full season back from surgery. However, something to keep in mind is the fact that pitchers aren’t really going 200 innings anymore and most guys only pitch around 150-160 innings (outside of your top guys, but May is not being drafted as a top guy). There’s really not a huge difference between 125 and 150 innings and on top of that, it’s not like you can’t put someone else in your lineup if May does get shutdown at some point. 

If you play fantasy football (and you probably do) it’s the same argument as to why you should use points per game over using season total points. Dustin May's 125 innings plus a few outings from someone else is going to provide more value than a guy pitching 160 innings with a 4.00 ERA and a low strikeout/win rate. It’s also worth noting that Justin Verlander, in his first season back from Tommy John last year at age 39, managed to pitch 175 innings in the regular season and another 20 in playoffs. Now, it’s a different situation with May and him being a young player, but I don’t think it’s fully out of the realm of possibilities that May reaches 135-145 innings this season, especially since he was able to get 51 innings of work in last year (between the MLB and MiLB). 

His ADP has been going up with his strong Spring Training but his current mark sits around 153 and at that price point, he’s worth targeting.


Why You Should Not Draft Dustin May At His ADP

by Colby Conway

Los Angeles right-hander Dustin May returned to the team late in 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2021. His wicked arsenal is GIF worthy, but despite great velocity and spin rates, where have the strikeouts been for May at the big league level? Dustin May isn’t overly expensive in drafts, coming off the board as the 61st pitcher (47th SP) since March 1, but he’s a trendy arm many have been pushing up in drafts. Let me advise you to be careful doing so.

Despite throwing a frisbee on the mound, for his career, he has just a 29.9 O-Swing%, 10.3 SwStr%, and 28.3 CSW%. Using numbers from last year, that compares closely to Chris Bassitt (8.27 K/9) and Eric Lauer (8.9 K/9). For a pitcher who’s velocity and movement compares to Zack Wheeler and Sandy Alcantara, per Baseball Savant, the strikeouts haven’t followed suit.

May has looked good this spring, and has said that right now is probably the closest he felt to the pre-Tommy John days, which is encouraging given that the beginning of the 2021 season was his best in terms of strikeouts (13.7 K/9). The marks he displayed in those five starts seem like they would have evened out over time, and a couple of good matchups earlier in the year (Colorado away from Coors, matchups against SEA and MIL who ranked in bottom six in strikeout rate in 1H of season) boosted those numbers.

However, strikeout qualms aside, how many innings can we feasibly expect from May in 2023? Since joining the Dodgers in 2019, here are his total innings pitched (including minors and postseason):

2019144.2 IP59.1 IP in MLB (incl. postseason)
202066.2 IPIncl. postseason
202123.0 IPTJ Surgery
202251.0 IP30 IP with LAD, post-TJ, back tightness in September

He’s looked good this spring, but it would be foolish of the Dodgers to trot out their 25-year-old right-hander for 130 innings this season after he has thrown just 140.2 innings over the last three years combined. His workload will most certainly be managed this season, as the team has already said that, and I don’t mean to be overly pessimistic, but fantasy managers should be ecstatic if they get 110-120 innings from him this season.

May pitches for a good team and induces a ton of soft contact, but without having the luxury of high volume to account for the lack of strikeouts on a per inning basis, May needs to have a significant jump in his strikeout rate so that his 100-odd innings this year are as valuable as someone else’s 120, 130, 140, etc.

If you want a starter on an innings limit who actually has a productive track record of strikeouts throughout the minors, why not wait a round or two and draft Grayson Rodriguez?


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