Checking in on Spring Training Pitching Performances

A couple of weeks ago I checked in on some hitting performances in the spring. This go round, I’m going to turn my attention to pitching. I don’t believe spring training stats carry much weight in fantasy evaluations, and that’s even more true for pitchers. Often times pitchers will speak of working on a weak pitch or trying to regain feel for a secondary offering. With that in mind, I wouldn’t advise freaking out if a pitcher is getting knocked around. Still, a good spring from a pitcher coming back from an injury or fighting for a rotation spot can be viewed as a plus.

Greg Holland – RP – Rockies – ADP: 294.6
Spring training stats: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, 6.75 ERA, 1.88 WHIP
Just one week ago I was singing the praises of Adam Ottavino. I love Ottavino’s skills, but prior to publishing the piece — yet after I’d written it — Nick Groke of the Denver Post speculated that Holland would open the year as Colorado’s closer. I still think Ottavino is a fine dice roll with ample upside, but I’m already scaling back expectations for him since it appears Holland might have less rust to shake off than I anticipated on. The former Royal’s fastball velocity has been trending upward since his uninspiring workouts and even late February. At the end of last month he reportedly sat at 91-92 mph and topped out at 93 mph. Since then, Brooks Baseball has captured PITCHf/x data for a spring start on March 15th and one on March 20th. His average fourseam fastball velocity was between 94-95 mph, per Brooks Baseball, right where it’s sat in previous springs, as you can see here. Holland isn’t without risk yet, but his velocity is promising. The biggest concern for me beyond his hitter-friendly — putting it mildly — home park is his control. He’s walked two batters thus far, which itself isn’t a concern, but in his last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery (2015), he tallied a wretched 13.5% BB%. Holland’s stock is up, but if you’ve yet to draft, I’d continue to monitor his progress in the spring.

Dylan Bundy – RP/SP – Orioles – ADP: 243.4
Spring training stats: 11.0 IP, 13 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO, 7.36 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
The stats are ugly, but I’m undeterred from my optimistic outlook for Bundy this year. Travis Sawchik discussed why he believes Bundy’s poised for a breakout earlier in the month, and one day later Nicolas Stellini took his own look at Bundy. Both pieces made note of the fact Bundy’s been given the greenlight to throw his cutter/slider. He threw zero last year as a result of the pitch likely being the source of elbow soreness. Without his cutter/slider he was able to stay healthy and flash his upside in 36 appearances (14 starts) spanning 109.2 innings, but the pitch could be his key to kicking things up a notch, and the reports on the pitch provide more reason for encouragement than the poor spring stats provide discouragement. Bundy struggled against the Twins in a March 12th start, but he acknowledged throwing more sliders and feeling good. The 24-year-old wasn’t dominating in his last turn either, but he pitched four innings against the Yankees in that start and mixed in eight or nine more cutter/sliders. Bundy’s healthy and reincorporating a pitch into his repertoire that earned rave reviews prior to his selection in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft and while he was a prospect. As long as Bundy remains healthy the remainder of the spring, I believe he’s a solid buy at his current ADP with plenty of upside to provide a huge ROI.

Charlie Morton – SP – Astros – ADP: 498.0
Spring training stats: 13.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 13 SO, 1.38 ERA, 0.85 WHIP
By now, you’re undoubtedly aware of Morton lighting up the radar gun in his injury-abbreviated 2016 season. Good news! He’s carried over his eye-popping velo to the spring. Morton carved up the Nationals in his most recent spring start allowing two unearned runs on three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in four innings. He pounded the zone throwing 42 of his 63 pitches for strikes, but more impressively, he reached back and found 97 mph facing Bryce Harper and routinely popped 95-mph and 96-mph heaters, per Glenn Sattell of The veteran righty has long induced worm burners at a gargantuan rate (55.4% GB% for his career and 62.8% in four starts last year), and pairing that with bat-missing heat (12.3% SwStr% last year plus his 27.1% K% this spring) makes him a tantalizing get at his ADP. As Paul Sporer’s player cap indicates, there are negatives in Morton’s profile including his struggles staying healthy and poor walk rate last season. That’s more than baked into his barely top-500 ADP.

Wily Peralta – SP – Brewers – ADP: 526.9
Spring training/WBC stats combined: 11 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 10 SO, 1.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP
I’ve already thoroughly hyped Peralta this offseason. However, since he entered the spring in a battle for a rotation spot, it’s worth circling back to him. Only Junior Guerra and Zach Davies have been announced as locks for Milwaukee’s rotation, but it would be surprising to see Peralta on the outside looking in after a strong finish to 2016 and a nifty spring. Manager Craig Counsell spoke about Peralta’s WBC performance and said, “I didn’t see any of it, but everyone said he pitched well. Really well.” Really well is a factually accurate statement. Peralta started against Cololmbia and pitched four innings of one-run ball allowing one hit, one walk with six strikeouts. Brooks Baseball has PITCHf/x data for that appearance, and Peralta was throwing gas averaging 96-97 mph on both his fourseamer and sinker. He threw the two heaters a combined 61% of the time, approximately, while mixing in his slider the other 39% of the time. The fastball/slider combo could continue to result in struggles with left-handed batters (which I discussed more in depth in the linked piece above), but I’m still willing to gamble on him for a buck or two in auctions or a late pick in snake drafts in 12-team mixed leagues or larger.

We hoped you liked reading Checking in on Spring Training Pitching Performances by Josh Shepardson!

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Any thoughts on Tim Beckham’s big spring and opportunity?