Where 2020 Velocity Decliners Stand in Spring Training

During the offseason, I kept track of pitchers who saw a 2020 velocity drop or were coming back from injuries. I’ve decided to check in on them. I know some of the sources can be a little wonky (e.g. stadium guns), but it’s better than nothing. Also, the pitchers could add velocity as they continue through Spring Training even though it rarely happens. That said, any information is better than going in blind.

For the velocity readings, I used FanGraphs for the 2019 and 2020 readings and the 2021 information from my personally collected list.

Madison Bumgarner
2019: 91.4
2020: 88.4
2021: 90-91

Bumgarner seems to be caring after he blew off his pre-season throwing last year. Projections don’t like him projecting an ERA near 5.00 but if the velocity stands, he should at least be around 4.00 ERA pitcher.

Patrick Corbin
2019: 91.9
2020: 90.2
2021: 89.9

Corbin is nearly unrosterable if his velocity is headed down even more. As a fastball-slider pitcher, he needs the extra velocity to be productive. His K-BB% has been on a three-year decline from 25% to 20% to 14% as his velocity as waned. He’s going to need to reinvent himself or he’s at best a streaming option.

Sean Doolittle
2019: 93.5
2020: 90.7
2021: 92

Doolittle’s velocity is up from last season, but still not up to his 2019 levels. I think it’s a situation to monitor especially with Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims dealing with injuries.

Adrian Houser
2019: 94.4
2020: 93.4
2021: No info yet

Sorry, no information yet.

Clayton Kershaw
2019: 90.4
2020: 91.6 (season-long decline, late back injury)
2021: 89.5

A ton of hype surrounded Kershaw’s velocity increase last year, but he wasn’t able to keep the gains. Additionally, a back injury meant he missed some of the playoffs.

He has been able to keep his strikeouts up by throwing his fastball less (72% in 2010, 54% in 2015, 41% in 2020). Also, he’s not going further into games averaging just 5.8 IP last season limiting the time he sees an order the third time. Most of the tricks to keep aging pitchers productive have already been implemented with him, so any velocity loss will degrade his production.

Dinelson Lamet
2019: 96.1
2020: 97.1 (late-season arm injury)
2021: 95

Lamet has not thrown in a game yet, but the 95-mph report from a bullpen is encouraging. He should remain productive as long as he is healthy. I’m not ready to buy in just yet until he gets into a few games. If this means I will have no shares of him, I’m fine with that.

Corbin Martin
2019: 95.3
2020: DNP (returning from TJS)
2021: 95.6 (one pitch)

While not an elite prospect, Martin has completed his rehab and should be able to help the Diamondbacks.

Carlos Martinez
2019: 95.8
2020: 93.9
2021: 91 (96 topped)

Velocity readings are all over the place here, but none are good. The sitting 91 mph report crosses him off my draft list. I mentioned it, and someone said he topped out at 96 mph. This reading is still not good. I’ve found most pitchers sit 3 mph under their topped speed, so he’d still be under the 94 mph from 2020 when he posted a 9.90 ERA and 2.10 WHIP.

Miles Mikolas
2019: 93.6
2020: DNP (forearm surgery)
2021: Has not pitched

Nothing yet.

Mike Minor
2019: 92.6
2020: 90.6
2021: 94

Absolutely nothing to see here, just ignore this reading especially if you are drafting in a league with me. Just a minor pitcher with a minor change.

Charlie Morton
2019: 94.4
2020: 93.3
2021: 95

Morton gained velocity late in the season and into the postseason. With his velocity back up, it’s time to draft away.

James Paxton
2019: 95.5
2020: 92.1
2021: Has not pitched

I’m a little worried that he hasn’t been in games yet.

Tanner Roark
2019: 92.1
2020: 90.7
2021: 89.1

Even more of a drop. Ignore.

Eduardo Rodriguez
2019: 93.1
2020: DNP (COVID complications)
2021: 92

He’s down just a bit, but I’d draft away with confidence. (Ed. note: he also threw 4 IP with 6 Ks on the day this is going up, 3/11/21)

Caleb Smith
2019: 91.6
2020: 92.1 (up with AZ)
2021: 91.5

No more gains, but not down. He’s fine.

Jameson Taillon
2019: 94.8
2020: DNP (returning from TJS)
2021: 92

His velocity is not up yet and maybe he might struggle for a few months will he gets used to his new elbow. While it may burn me, I’m going to pass on him at his current price (195 ADP) and take a chance on Aaron Civale or Zach Eflin who are going around him.





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.

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VTJordan
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VTJordan

so, a pitcher’s reading on the gun on march 11 is predictive of his productivity? corbin is down 3/10 of an mph on march 11 is honestly reason for concern? 3/10?

shakeappeal
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shakeappeal

Further decline when you’re already throwing 90mph is bad, yes.

VTJordan
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VTJordan

in march? does any veteran throw as hard on march 11 as he does on april 11? angels, pinheads. this is dumb. his decline in SPRING TRAINING is .3 mph. so he’s toast?

creejohnson
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creejohnson

I saw several pitches by Corbin that were 91-92 in today’s start. Granted I didn’t see the entire thing but I did watch some of the second inning.

J.D. Martin
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J.D. Martin

Also looks like he threw 7 changeups out of 46 today (~15%), historically it’s been around 5-6% the last two seasons. If that extra 10% sticks that could help offset some velo loss. (Of course sometimes pitch mix changes don’t always stick past spring training but something to monitor)

stonepie
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stonepie

looks like hes working on a changeup and cutter. I might actually gamble on him refining his pitch mix… if hes ~90 with his slider and a decent third pitch, he can hit his ~4 era projection

Skin Blues
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Skin Blues

89.9 is his average, not his max. By definition, half of his pitches will be above his average so he should have several thrown >91. Conversely, he should also have several <89.

Skin Blues
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Skin Blues

There are actual answers to the sarcastic questions you’re asking, and they go against the facts that you’re arguing in favour of.

Yes, velo readings in spring are an indication of velo readings in the regular season. Yes, it matters when somebody has a decline in velocity. Why take a risk on a guy in the middle of a serious velo decline when there are so many similar pitchers without question marks? I could see if there was a big discount on Corbin that you might want to take a chance. But there isn’t. Just avoid him, and you can thank Jeff at the end of the season.

Steve
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Steve

A lot of pitchers are at, or above, their velocities from last season because they are pitching shorter outings compared to when they are fully stretched out. So yes, Corbin’s reading is concerning to me as well

bruno
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bruno

His velocity was already way down last year, that’s the point of this article. And he stunk. The 3/10 means nothing, the problem is that he’s still down in that 90 mph range.

carter
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carter

With the exception of Greinke, I have learned that spring training velocity matters. Corbin to me seems entirely undraftable at this point, until way after his adp at least. K’s were way down last year too. He has had two very good seasons in his career, that is it. One of which he underperformed his expected stats so war is much higher than on field result.