In my AL-only league, I needed to fill in a couple pitching slots with James Paxton and Corey Kluber on the DL (and Berrios still in the minors). With almost no time for research (8 pm Sunday deadline), I bought both JC Ramirez and Mike Clevinger on a whim. Here’s what I ended up with.
Ramirez was exclusively a reliever in the majors until his last five starts. While his 3.74 ERA is not ideal, he has an 8.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. I went back and watched his start on April 19th against the Astros (great camera angle). Here’s what I saw.
Fastball: 94-97 mph with release-side run. It’s labled a 2-seamer, but it does not have a ton of downward break (or the rise of a four-seamer). For the season, it has only a 35% GB%. While the velocity is nice, there is nothing else to it. It’s not a good pitch with a 4.4% SwStr% on the season (4.7% for his career).
Slider: 87-90 mph with a 2-8 break (pitcher’s perspective) A nice chase-and-miss pitch. He has no issues throwing it for a first-pitch strike. Also, he’s throwing it 44% of the time (2nd highest among starters) which is more than his fastball (40%). I’m surprised other pitchers don’t go with this approach more, especially those who can throw it for strikes.
Curveball: 78-81 mph. 12-6 small late break. A couple times, the pitch broke like his slider to the glove side. A few times he hung them up in the zone. This curve might be more of a ground ball than a swing-and-miss pitch.
The posed 28-year-old righty throws each of his pitches consistently so he can successfully mix them together. As long as he continues to throw like he has so far this season, he should stay productive. I don’t have a good feel for the pitching depth still available in 10 and 12-team leagues but I would not be surprised if he was at least a streaming option in those shallow league. He’s a most own in anything deeper.
I do have a couple of concerns. First, his fastball velocity hasn’t dropped since starting. I would not be surprised to see it drop as the season goes on. A velocity drop may make his fastball go from bad to horrible.
The second issue I have with Ramirez is his health. It will be interesting to see if he can hold up throwing breaking pitches 60% of the time.
Clevinger made his season’s first start against the Royals this past Sunday. Even though he didn’t allow any runs, he only threw 5.2 innings and walked 4 batters.
Fastball: 91-94 mph, straight. He generally keeps the pitch down in the zone. He gets some swinging and called strikes off it when hitters were looking for one of his breaking pitches. Otherwise, it is a pretty bland and subpar pitch.
Change: 86-87 mph. The pitch comes right at the plate and drops down late. I would not be surprised if the pitch was a split-finger fastball. It’s by far his best pitch. He can throw it for strikes or bury it for swinging strikes.
Slider (81): 80-82 mph, 12-6 drop. He was able to throw it for strikes. Sometimes he hung the pitch. The Royals didn’t make him pay for them but other teams might.
Curve(75): 74-75 mph. Again, another pitching breaking 12-6 with the only difference being velocity. It’s only a swing-and-miss pitch.
The 26-year-old’s jerky windup and follow through are a mess. He looks like a reliever out there. There is no flow to his motion. If his motion gets out of sync in just one spot, he could struggle with location. Additionally, he just gives away too many pitches which can lead to a high number of walks and limit his innings.
I wonder if he needs all four pitches. I don’t think the slider gains him anything. If he dropped it, he could concentrate on his other three pitches and possible improve.
I really don’t like what I saw from him. I wish I wasn’t stuck starting him against the Twins on Saturday. Oh well. Sano can only hit three home runs off Clevinger before he gets replaced.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.