As the page turned to September 2023 last season, George Kirby wasn't just pitching good, he was pitching at the level of one of the top arms in all of baseball. He was a semi Dark Horse for the Cy Young, sitting around 3rd-5th in the odds depending on when you looked at it. For someone to be threatening for the award so early in their career was impressive.
It's not just the Mariners that benefit from his dominance, but anyone that owns him in fantasy baseball as well. While walks don't really matter for hitters in standard leagues, they can be a determining factor in a pitcher's rankings because of the WHIP stat that is common in 5x5 leagues. This is where Kirby shines.
George Kirby can lead your fantasy baseball rotation, and do it well
Kirby was third in all qualified players in WHIP last season with a 1.024 mark. This helped offset the 8.1 K/9 that he threw, although he still gets you some strikeouts since he threw 190 innings.
So what does it mean for 2024?
Well, Kirby is sitting in a group of pitchers who are closely ranked overall and 6-11 range for SP. You'll recognize the name at the top of the list.
36. Luis Castillo
39. Pablo Lopez
41. George Kirby
40. Zac Gallen
46. Tyler Glasnow
47. Tarik Skubal
Those pitchers are all essentially within a round of each other, depending on if you play in a 10-league or a 12-team league. If there is a player ranked within 8-10 spots of your draft pick, I'm a big proponent of taking them if you don't like the other options or you are deadset on having a specific player. Once Wheeler and Gausman go off the board, you need to seriously consider taking Kirby with your pick if you want to get him.
There is a chance that he will go even higher as the season progresses. In his rookie year, he had a K rate of 9.2/9. That would've led to 23 extra strikeouts in 2023, further increasing his season-ending rank of 34th (and the 9th SP) into the thick of the 3-8 group ranked 21-28. Kirby can be a top-25 pitcher, especially with a strong finish.
For a 10-team, it depends on where you are in the draft. If you are early/late, he might not be there at the back end of the 4th but reaching for him on picks 21-23 might be tough with Burnes, Wheeler, and Gausman there. However, if you're late/early, Taking him at pick 33 or so will be a good way to nearly guarantee that you get him. In a 12-team, he is likely going to go late 3rd/early 4th, so you'll need to swipe him up with an early 3rd if you have one, because he won't be there at the backend of the 4th.
Starting Pitching is one of those positions that go in runs, and it could be tough because someone who likes Kirby could easily take him first out of that listed group above, snagging him with a pick in the 28-32 range. It may feel like reaching, but if you believe that Kirby can do what he did in 2023, it will be worth it. Kirby can lead your rotation...and he might just get even better.