Pitcher Rookie Review — May 23, 2022

Today, let’s flip over to reviewing the rookie pitchers who have faced the most number of batters so far. We remain in small sample territory, so in order for any analysis to be meaningful, I’m only sticking to those with the heaviest workloads.

Hunter Greene | CIN

Green was ranked as our 32nd overall prospect thanks to an elite 80 grade fastball that we had sitting 97-101 MPH and topping out at an insane 103 MPH! His slider was supposed to be his second best pitch, grading out at 55/60, with Command being a bight spot and earning a 50/60 grade. Outside of his time at Double-A in 2021, he never posted elite SwStk% marks, especially considering how strong his fastball was supposed to be. So, it was reasonable to question whether he would be another in a line of pitchers who arrived with a fast fastball, and not much else.

Good News:

  • That fastball is real! He has averaged 98.8 MPH, topping out at 102.6 MPH. WOW.
  • He has struck out 27.9% of opposing batters, losing only a marginal amount of strikeout ability from his minor league days.
  • An extreme fly ball profile helps suppress his BABIP and is a better strategy now in a lower HR/FB rate environment.

Bad News:

  • His control has regressed as his strike% is well below the league average, resulting in a double digit walk rate.
  • Even though league HR/FB rate is the lowest it’s been since 2014, Greene has allowed a mark double the league rate, exacerbating the high FB% and leading to the second highest HR/9 rate among qualified pitchers (the funny thing is the top of the list is Nathan Eovaldi, the former poster boy for the high velocity fastball, but low strikeout rate club)
  • Even a near 99 MPH fastball isn’t enough to push the pitch’s SwStk% into double digits, as it only sits at 9.5%, which is above average, but not dramatically so.
  • His changeup has generated just a 7.3% SwStk%, which is well below average.

Overall, Greene’s season hasn’t been as bad as his results, as his SIERA sits about a run and a half below his ERA. Then again, even a 3.94 ERA is no great shakes this year, but it’s obviously more playable than a 5.49 ERA! Driving up that ERA is the 21.1% HR/FB rate. One might assume it’s his launchpad of a home park that’s to blame, but he’s only pitched 8.2 innings at home. Instead, it’s been issues in away parks, as his HR/FB rate there stands at an absurd 24.4%.

He’s a tough one for me, because under normal conditions, that FB% is extremely scary, especially given his home park. He wasn’t supposed to deal with control issues, but a 9.1% walk rate at Triple-A did suggest a worse than league average mark. I usually give young pitchers a mulligan on walk rates, as often times control suddenly improves overnight. On the other hand, you can’t teach a 99 MPH fastball, but it seems clear that his repertoire has room to improve.

Joe Ryan | MIN

After coming over to the Twins from the Rays in the trade involving Nelson Cruz last year, Ryan was excellent, but he didn’t exhaust his rookie eligibility. His superb minor league strikeout rate carried over and he continued to show dazzling control. Was it a mistake that he wasn’t ranked higher than sixth on his team and failed to make the top 100 prospects?

Good News:

  • His spring training velocity spike has stuck during the regular season, as his four-seamer velocity is up 1.1 MPH from last year.
  • Like Greene above, he has also been an extreme fly ball pitcher, but unlike Greene, he has managed to maintain a microscopic 5% HR/FB rate, fully taking advantage of the leaguewide downturn in home run power.
  • His batted ball profile, heavy on flies and pop-ups and light on line drives, supports a low BABIP.

Bad News:

  • The faster fastball hasn’t generated more swinging strikes for the pitch, as its SwStk% is actually slightly down versus last year.
  • His curveball, which generated a mid-teen SwStk% last year, is now at half that, resulting in his two lesser used pitches generating single-digit SwStk% marks that are well below the league average.
  • He hasn’t been able to repeat his elite strike% from last year, resulting in an increased walk rate, though his strike% still remains much higher than the league average.

Throughout the pre-season, I made it pretty well known that I was on the Ryan bandwagon. Although the results so far have made me look good, his underlying skills have been a bit worse than I expected. It’s highly unlikely he could sustain the combination of his ultra low BABIP and HR/FB rate, plus high LOB%, and with neutral luck, SIERA suggests an ERA in the high 3.00-range. If he could push his strikeout rate back up, that added value could counteract the higher ERA.

Reid Detmers | LAA

Detmers shot through the minors, being drafted 10th overall during the 2020 Amateur Draft, then pitching at Double-A and just eight innings at Triple-A in 2021 before reaching the Majors. He was absolutely dominating during his time at Double-A, but only eight Triple-A innings wasn’t enough to give us a better idea if he was ready to be effective against Major League hitters. Over his 20.2 innings with the Angels last year, the answer was that he wasn’t ready.

Good News:

  • He has thrown a higher rate of strikes, resulting in an improved walk rate, suggesting last year’s debut mark was the fluke.

Bad News:

  • What happened to the strikeouts?! We’re still in relatively small sample territory, but I would love to read a full analysis on how he went from dominating Double-A hitters with a strikeout rate over 40% to failing to reach a 20% mark in the Majors. Such a fall isn’t easy to do!
  • His famous 65/70 grade curveball, which was nothing special at generating swings and missed last year, has been even worse this year, generating just a 10% SwStk%.
  • His slider went from a 17.6% SwStk% to just a 4.2% mark.

Again, only 55.1 MLB innings, but man has he been a mystery. It’s not like it never happens where a minor league strikeout artists can’t translate that success to the Majors. But it’s usually a guy with a weak fastball or perhaps a funky delivery. Detmers’ fastball ain’t great, but it’s about average in terms of velocity and SwStk%. I can’t understand how presumably his curveball was so darn good in the minors and has been a below average pitch in the Majors.

The crazy thing here is that he has posted a 4.15 ERA all while owning a .172 BABIP! Imagine what happens when his BABIP reverts toward the league average. His SIERA, though, is only marginally higher because he has posted a worse than league average HR/FB rate and LOB%. It’s baffling to see the low LOB% paired with that suppressed BABIP. Typically, when you’re running such a low BABIP, it suggests a lack of stringing hits together, which means stranding more runners.

Anyway, until he could show any semblance of strikeout ability, I have little interest here.

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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1 year ago

My objective analysis of Joe Ryan is that he’s walking a tightrope that is probably not sustainable in the long run. It’s good that he’s suppressing hard contact, but some of those fly balls will start clearing the wall in a month, and that ERA will probably puff up to ~3.5 or so. Interestingly, Ryan is throwing a Slider 26% of the time this year, versus 16% last year. Does this mean anything? Maybe it’s indicative that he doesn’t currently trust his Curve or Change, both of which have had negative values in ’22.