As we have been discussing, an important data point to observe during spring training games is pitcher velocity. I have posted a couple of updates so far, but this one is specific and primarily geared around some players that caught my eye after their second starts. The issues can be related to coming back off injury, velocity is in the “danger zone”, velocity has dropped, or velocity has gained. I also highlighted a couple of hard-throwing prospects as you should try to remember their names if they get called up. First off, I am posting the chart, then a brief description of why they are on this list.
Sorry, the chart is a bit out of alignment but it will get the job done. The first player on the list is Dakota Hudson. He made only 1 start in 2021. He is coming off Tommy John surgery with that one start coming Oct 2. It is a good sign to see the velocity up over 2021. His velocity was 92.76 in 2020. He likely will pitch 4th in the STL rotation so a good Hudson is someone who should be able to win games from that rotation spot. A very positive sign for STL and one for us to gain an edge on before his prices get out of hand.
Andrew Chafin makes the list as he was a DET sign to as one of the best left-handed relief pitchers available in the free-agent market. DET ranks 18th in their bullpen so bottom but not the bottom of the barrel. It is not good to see him fall into the danger zone though. He is listed as throwing the 7th inning, which is a key spot. He is very vulnerable at this velocity and this is a bad sign for DET to hang onto leads late.
I will slide Michael Fulmer into this spot to piggyback on the Chafin report. He is throwing 92mph and some change, but that is down 3mph from 2021! Pitchers that drop that much have to learn how to pitch again. Their stuff at the current velocity is less than it was, so they need to adjust their style as they have become easier for a better to put the ball in play. In this case, Fulmer is being counted on to pitch the 8th inning in DET. Now you can see the issues they may run into in the backend early in the season. Keep an eye on this and expect possible roles to be shuffled if things don’t get better over the next few outings. NOTE: This is also why we should be looking at relief pitcher velocity as well as starter velocity.
Prospects to note: Cade Cavalli of WSH and Roansy Contreras PIT are names that should make it up to MLB level sometime in 2022. Cavalli averaged 97.4mph and Contreras 97.9mph. Both big-league teams can use this! It is only a matter of time.
We may have a problem in MIN. After his first outing of 87.2mph and down 3.5mph, Dylan Bundy followed up with an 88.8mph down 1.9mph outing. He accomplishes two very bad characteristics here. First, he has velocity drops averaging 2.7mph, and second, he has fallen below 90mph to an avg of 88mph. He is listed as 2nd in the starting rotation! MIN made some big signs in SS Carlos Correa, but having a number two starter in a situation where he will get hit, puts this team at a deficit. In theory, the remaining starters will be worse than Bundy. Bailey Ober, Joe Ryan, and Lewis Thorpe are the remaining starters. This looks like a team that after Sonny Gray, will need to rely heavily on their bullpen. It can also mean many high-scoring games!
Another piggyback situation here is to slide in Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey. I just mentioned the MIN bullpen above and now we have their closer (Rogers) and their 8th inning guy (Duffey) on our list. In the case of Rogers, his velocity is a large drop. He goes from 95.7mph in 2021, to avg 92.9mph in spring 2022. He is the closer. Closers come in throwing hard, blowing the ball by the hitters. That will not happen at 92.9mph. The average MLB fastball is 93.8mph and closers will be above that most often. Combine that issue with the Duffey dropping to 91.25mph, and now we have a backend that is going to have balls in play. Another situation we need to make note of! Similar if not the same as in DET. Expect MIN to give up runs and not hold leads until this either gets better or changed.
Finally some very good reports! MIA made a significant deal last season sending Starling Marte to OAK. In that deal OAK received Marte and MIA received Jesus Luzardo. He is only 24 years old and was a top 5 prospect for several years. He has not had success in his 1st 100 innings as an MLB pitcher. In 2019, his velocity was 96.8mph with a 95.8mph slider. This spring, he is throwing an average of 97.6mph! It is the fastest so far as an MLB pitcher. It is a great sign for him that he is getting it together, and a great sign for MIA. He is slated as the #5 starter. If he gets it together, we can capitalize early in the season before the lines catch up to his gain in performance. In PIT, we see Mitch Keller taking off! In 2019, he was called up to the big league team and made 11 starts. His K/9 was 12.19! His velocity was sitting at 95.4mph. Over 2020 and 2021, his velocity has fallen off to 93.8mph (average). Keller went to a pitching academy over the off-season and has come back throwing harder than he ever has. He is sitting at 97.2mph! The reports out of PIT are comparing his stuff to none other than Gerrit Cole! If this is the case, and I know who he pitches for, don’t be afraid to play unders, runline plus the 1.5 runs, or even money line dog spots on him. Especially early, we need to capitalize on the market! If he really is like Cole, we get strong value as no one else will see him this way!
In summary, we have identified a couple of teams with some pitching issues, some teams with bullpen issues, we clarified a couple of prospects who could make some impact when they are called up, and we have targeted a couple of guys who the market will undervalue out of the gate. We have found exactly some of what we are trying to find! Let’s hope it continues. Make some notes!