Potential 2021 Starting Pitcher Strikeout Rate Surgers

We know by now that spring training stats are almost completely meaningless. So stop looking at batting averages and ERAs and using those marks to drive draft day decisions! However, there are some metrics that do matter, pitcher strikeout and walk rates, which I discovered from a study I had conducted. So it follows that pitchers who posted significantly higher strikeout rates and/or significantly lower walk rates, and vice versa, than projected should get slight bumps (or the opposite) in their season projections.

Let’s now check out the pitchers who have posted the largest gaps between their Spring K% marks and their Steamer projected K% marks. It’s important to remember that while I cut this list off at 60 total batters faced, that’s still a tiny sample size, as 23.1 innings was the max in my population set. In addition, the competition highly varies and with all the minor leaguers in camp, at least early on, it’s definitely below what the average pitcher would face during the regular season.

K% Surgers
Player Spring K% Steamer Projected K% K% Diff
Trevor Rogers 39.7% 23.6% 16.1%
Logan Webb 36.1% 20.4% 15.7%
Huascar Ynoa 35.9% 22.6% 13.3%
Corbin Burnes 41.3% 28.2% 13.1%
Tyler Glasnow 42.9% 30.2% 12.6%
Sandy Alcantara 33.3% 21.3% 12.1%
Casey Mize 30.3% 18.9% 11.4%
Cole Irvin 28.6% 17.3% 11.2%
Daulton Jefferies 33.3% 22.2% 11.2%
Brady Singer 29.9% 19.7% 10.2%

Trevor Rogers has enjoyed one of the most dominant performances of the Spring. During his 28 inning debut, his changeup was his best whiff pitch, both his fastball and slider generated swings and misses as well. The concern here really just stems from workload questions. He only averaged four innings a start last year, though a lot of that is due to his ridiculous .380 BABIP that ballooned his ERA up to 6.11. That should come back down, of course, so he should be pretty good for as long as he’s making starts. And perhaps he’s even better than projected given his Spring wonders.

With an ERA over five in each of his first two MLB stints, fantasy owners weren’t rushing to draft Logan Webb before spring training began. Now they are, thanks to his dominating performance. He has posted solid, albeit unspectacular, strikeout and SwStk% rates in the minors, which provides optimism for better than what he has shown so far in the Majors. But his Spring performance suggests that perhaps there’s even further upside. Aside from the hope for more strikeouts, he pitches in a friendly home park and also generates a high rate of grounders. He looks like a true breakout target.

Where on Earth did this performance come from by Huascar Ynoa?! I was close to drafting him or FAABing him recently, but it seems like he’ll be part of a bullpen game, rather than be an actual part of the Braves rotation. That limits his value, unless he piggybacks an opener and is given the chance for a win without starting a game. Ynoa has posted okay strikeout and SwStk% rates throughout his minor league career, so no one would have expected him to suddenly become a strikeout force this season. I’m real curious to see how this translates to the regular season and will be watching his role.

Oh c’mon Corbin Burnes, was last year’s breakout not enough?! Clearly Steamer isn’t buying his strikeout rate breakout, as the system actually projects a lower mark than even 2019! While it’s just 63 batters during Spring, his performance provides optimism that he could hold onto at least some of that strikeout rate spike from last year.

Yeah, we know Tyler Glasnow is a strikeout king, now he just needs to get those homers under control.

Sandy Alcantara is just one of many guys who throws in the mid-to-high 90s, but has been unable to translate that velocity into strikeouts. So when I see he’s suddenly doing it during spring training, I take notice. Steamer projects him to fall back from his 2020 increase, but Alcantara is doing his best now to make us believe there are more strikeouts coming than even last year.

Casey Mize was part of my bold predictions as a Spring velocity surger, so you like to see that the added velocity is also resulting in a high strikeout rate. He’s going to be a bargain this year.

Not only do the Athletics have A.J. Puk and Daulton Jefferies competing to replace Fiers, but Cole Irvin too! Irvin is a former Phillies prospect, but is already 27 years old and has had a very underwhelming minor league career and small MLB body of work. Absolutely nothing suggests he’d suddenly become a strikeout guy, though his velocity did spike 3.1 MPH last year, but in just 3.2 innings, we didn’t have a chance to see what he could do with that added velocity. If he wins the spot, I’d still take a chance in AL-Only and deeper mixed leagues.

So much for A.J. Puk winning a rotation spot to replace the injured Mike Fiers, as Daulton Jefferies has made it a real competition with his performance. Jefferies was the team’s fifth ranked prospect heading into 2020 after a dominating High-A and strong Double-A performance. I was drafting Puk in several places early on when the assumption was he’d win the spot, but now it’s anyone’s guess who opens the season with that job. Whoever it is, I’m interested.

Brady Singer was perfectly solid during his Royals debut last year, but after being drafted in 2018, we have very little professional stats to evaluate. In his career, he has posted a low-20% strikeout rate and meh SwStk% marks, which wouldn’t normally excite fantasy owners. So this strong Spring performance is exciting, as he’ll become a lot more interesting with more strikeouts given his ground ball tilt, and the good control he showed in the minors that didn’t fully translate last season.

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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3 years ago

Thanks! Really appreciate the insights. Snagged Webb and added Irvin and Ynoa to my watchlist. With what you’re seeing from Webb this spring, how are you adjusting his projections?