Pitcher Rookie Review — Jul 14, 2022

Today, let’s flip over to re-reviewing the rookie pitchers I first discussed in late May. Like I did for the hitters, I’m going to compare their skill metrics through my original post with how they have performed since.

Hunter Greene | CIN

Performance Splits
Thru May 21 27.9% 12.3% 12.1% 0.255 80.6% 21.1% 5.49 4.10
Since 29.8% 7.9% 14.3% 0.295 65.2% 17.9% 5.87 3.36

After much fanfare that saw him vault into the rotation out of spring training, Greene opened the season in typical hard-throwing fashion, with lots of strikeouts, but not much control. Though he managed to suppress hits on balls in play by posting a .255 BABIP that helped fuel an inflated LOB%, he didn’t have any such luck keeping his fly balls in the park. That 21.1% was primarily responsible for his ugly 5.49 ERA, which was significantly higher than his 4.10 SIERA.

There’s some good news and bad news since that period when I first reviewed him. The good news is his skills have dramatically improved. He has boosted his SwStk% to near elite territory, which has raised his strikeout rate to nearly 30%. Better yet, his control has massively improved, as his walk rate has tumbled into single digits and has actually been better than the league average. His overall season walk and strikeout rates now come much closer to what was suggested by his minor league rates.

The partially bad news is that as you might figure, his BABIP luck couldn’t last, as he has basically been league average since. But he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, so you would expect a suppressed BABIP, just not necessarily to the degree he posted early on. The worse news is his LOB% has also fallen, though that has merely left him with a season line that mirrors league average. Finally, he simply hasn’t been able to keep his flies in the park. While a 17.9% HR/FB rate is better than what he posted earlier, it’s still well above the league average. It’s not a home park thing either, as his home HR/FB rate sits at 20%, while his away mark is nearly the same at 19%. While he will likely allow a higher HR/FB rate than league average due to his home park, there’s little reason to believe his true talent level will remain this poor.

Because of the combination of low LOB% and high HR/FB rate, his ERA has actually gotten worse, despite the improved skills. He has now sat with a huge gap between his ERA and SIERA. The longer this keeps up, the more profitable a breakout candidate he’ll be in 2023 drafts! If you’re in a keeper league, he’s actually quite the target.

Joe Ryan | MIN

Performance Splits
Thru May 21 24.3% 8.1% 11.3% 0.234 83.7% 4.9% 2.28 4.04
Since 18.6% 5.3% 7.8% 0.278 75.0% 10.4% 4.39 4.74

Even with a fastball that only averaged about 91 MPH, Ryan made quite the debut last year, striking out hitters and featuring dazzling control. He opened the season in strong fashion, though his skills were well off from his debut last season. However, a low BABIP and HR/FB rate, combined with a high LOB%, saved him and resulted in significant SIERA outperformance.

Unfortunately, he then missed about three weeks to COVID-19, which perfectly lines up to the periods in this post. Since returning, his skills have collapsed, as he simply hasn’t been generating swings and misses and his strikeout rate has fallen below 20%. All his luck metrics have been reasonable, but with the low strikeout rate, his ERA has jumped above 4.00.

The driver of his recent underperformance looks pretty obvious — he has lost velocity. Before his positive test, he had averaged 92.4 MPH with his four-seamer. Ever since, he has only averaged 91 MPH with his fastball and his best game average has sat at just 91.5 MPH, which is well below what he averaged before hitting the IL. Perhaps COVID-19 hampered his strength and he may still be feeling the effects, even if the virus has technically left his system. As a Ryan owner, it’s tough to know what to do, but perhaps benching him until his velocity returns is the safest decision.

Reid Detmers | LAA

Performance Splits
Thru May 21 17.9% 7.5% 8.4% 0.172 65.4% 12.2% 4.15 4.54
Since 21.8% 9.7% 9.4% 0.234 81.1% 16.2% 4.30 4.41

After dominating over a small sample in the minors in 2021, Detmers flew to the Majors after recording just 62 minor league innings. His strikeout rate collapsed and ERA ballooned to 7.40. This year, he opened the season with an even worse strikeout rate and weak SwStk%, but was somewhat saved by a sub-.200 BABIP. It was baffling to see a pitcher who made such easy work of Double-A and eight innings of Triple-A struggle to make MLB hitters swing and miss.

After his June 22 start, the Angels had seen enough and demoted him to Triple-A. He only made one start down there before being recalled and enjoying a strong start against the Orioles. In the period since my first review, Detmers’ strikeout rate has improved along with his SwStk%, but it’s still nowhere near where we expected it given his minor league performance. Once again, he has managed to suppress hits on balls in play with a .234 BABIP, resulting in a LOB% over 80%.

It’s difficult for me to figure out why his strikeout stuff hasn’t translated to the Majors. His 65/70 grade curveball has only generated a 9% SwStk%, and his career mark stands at 9.9%. That’s far below what you would expect from a pitch that was supposed to be elite. Only one of his pitches this year has generated a double digit SwStk% and that’s his changeup, which he has actually thrown least frequently.

I really have no idea what to expect from him moving forward. Part of me wants to still take the chance he suddenly rediscovers what made him a top prospect, but the other part of me is more realistic in that it’s not often a pitcher significantly and suddenly improves his strikeout rate by a dramatic degree. Perhaps his pitch mix baffled minor leaguers but is just not as well-suited to be effective against MLB hitters.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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24 days ago

Interesting to see two different perspectives on Greene today (Choi article about the importance of fastball shape is the other).

Not necessarily contradicting each other, but one glass-half-full, the other glass-looks-like-it-should-hold-more-beer.