We continue our look at prospect pitcher pitch grades by moving on to the Changeup – Present (CHP). While a changeup is a great weapon against opposite-handed hitter, Eno Sarris and I have found that they result in fewer strikeouts than you would expect. So a great changeup isn’t really a necessity, as a strong curve could be just as effective and lead to more strikeouts.
That said, let’s check out the top seven CHP grades, as sorted by grade and then FV.
We find a new face atop the heap, as Jovani Moran is the only prospect honored with a 70 grade CHP. Unfortunately, the rest of his grades stand at just 40 or 45, resulting in an overall FV of just 40. Moran has been a reliever for the majority of his minor league career and has majorly struggled with walks. While his strikeout rates have sat above 30%, supported by excellent SwStk% marks, he most recently posted a crazy 15.1% walk rate at Double-A. Perhaps he sharpens his control and gets a taste of MLB action, but more likely, there’s nothing to see here.
Jackson Kowar is one of just two pitchers graded a 65 in CHP, but it hasn’t led to overly impressive strikeout rates in the minors. The good news is that the strikeout rate has risen at each higher level, and it has come with good control. But I’d still like to see it continue trending higher for us to care in keeper/dynasty leagues. If the season had started on time, there appeared to be a real shot he would have made his MLB debut if he performed well at Triple-A. With a respectable 55 grade fastball that touches 98 MPH, he’s worth monitoring, but not caring about just yet.
Padres prospect Michel Baez debuted last season and threw 29.2 innings, almost all in relief. He skipped Triple-A, and judging by the underlying skills he posted with the Padres, it’s clear he wasn’t quite ready for the Majors. He threw his 65 grade changeup about a third of the time, and it generated a decent, albeit unspectacular, 16.2% SwStk%. I think we should have expected better based on the pitch grade. For now, he looks like a generic middle reliever.
There’s Forrest Whitley again giving us hope that a myriad of good pitches will help offset his recently control issues and lead to a rebound in strikeout rate, which fell off upon his promotion to Triple-A.
At the moment, it appears that Sixto Sanchez’s most appealing fantasy trait is his control. He hasn’t posted gaudy strikeout or SwStk% rates in the minors, despite owning a 60 grade changeup and 55 grade fastball. He has been a ground ball pitcher through most of his career, but typically not an extreme one, so we shouldn’t care too much. But at least it should mean he won’t endure severe gopheritis, especially given his home park. From an underlying skills perspective, he reminds me of a Kyle Hendricks, which means he’ll need some help from his defense and home park to be a real help in fantasy leagues.
After a skills breakout at Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, Jose Urquidy enjoyed a solid debut upon his promotion to Houston. Combined, it made him a popular sleeper and breakout candidate for fantasy leaguers going into 2020. He threw his 60 grade changeupabout a quarter of the time, but it actually generated the lowest SwStk% of his three non-fastballs. That’s not very encouraging, but spinning it another way, he’s got two other secondaries (curveball and slider) that generated significantly higher SwStk%, in the high teens and just over 20%, respectively. An assortment of solid to excellent pitches should raise his floor. While I’m a fan as well, I’m a bit cautious given his fly ball ways, which could result in too many home runs allowed.
J.B. Bukauskas is the rare prospect who owns three 60 grade pitches. It’s too bad his Command grade sits at just 35! A starter throughout his minor league career, but making six relief appearances last season, his strikeout rate tumbled during his time at Double-A in 2019 while still with the Astros organization. That’s unacceptable, given the fact that his walk rate sat in the mid-teens. A move to the National League boosts his fantasy prospects, but it’s all about that control.
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.