Blue Jays: Ranking the top 10 relief pitchers in the AL East in 2023

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2: Pete Fairbanks, Tampa Bay Rays

This ranking may seem a bit high, but reserve your judgment for just a few minutes. Pete Fairbanks is incredibly hard to rank, since he only pitched 24 innings last season, but had a 1.13 ERA. Over the last three seasons, he has a 2.70 ERA in only 93.1 innings pitched, but the stuff that he's shown has been so tantalizing that it's impossible to keep him off this list. Last season, he had 14.3 strikeouts per nine and only 1.1 walks per nine. This is obviously a completely unsustainable ratio, but he has a 12.7 career strikeouts per nine in 114.1 innings, so that aspect of his game at least seems to be sustainable. He absolutely dominated in his short 2022, campaign, but what can we use to project him for 2023?

The easiest place to start is his fastball. His fastball averages 99 MPH, which is in the 99th percentile, and routinely touches triple digits. Last year he was able to locate it very well which played a big role in his low walk numbers, but in the past, it's been slightly less consistent. His other pitch is a slider, and it's once again a very good one. Unlike most sliders, this pitch actually has a decent amount of vertical drop with little to no horizontal movement. It's great at getting swings and misses, and along with his fastball, helps produce lots of ground balls when it's put in play. His expected stats per statcast last season were also insane, with his xERA, xBA, and other numbers being good enough to lead the league had they been over a full season.

There's no question that Fairbanks has the potential to not just be one of the best relievers in the AL East, but in MLB as a whole, it's just a question of whether he can do it over a full season. Injury has been something that's plagued Fairbanks throughout his career, with his healthiest season being the COVID shortened 2020. However, the Rays did sign him to an extension this offseason, which could be a sign that they believe he can stay healthy. It'll probably be controversial no matter where he's ranked, and maybe two is a bit high, but he has more raw talent than anyone on their list and has a chance to really make a name for himself in 2023.