Spring Training: 3 Things You Need to Know (3/18)
Here’s a look at a few recent happenings around baseball and the resulting things fantasy owners need to know.
Cody Reed Changing Things Up
Cody Reed was excellent over 36 minor league starts spanning the 2015-16 seasons, but that success didn’t translate to the majors last summer. The 23-year-old had a debut to forget in 2016 as the owner of a 7.36 ERA over ten big league starts.
Right-handed hitters crushed Reed to the tune of a .329/.408/.614 triple slash and an astonishing 2.6 homers per nine. A quick look at his profile reveals the culprit as righties teed off on his fastball, posting a .394 ISO. In other words, add 50 points to Babe Ruth’s career ISO, and you have a right-handed hitter versus Cody Reed’s heater.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of Reed’s struggles is that he possessed the neutralizer in the form of an effective changeup. His change limited that same group of hitters to a putrid .063 ISO with an elite 64% groundball rate, but he only threw the pitch 14% of the time. When he fell behind in the count, his changeup usage dropped to 9% versus righties, allowing them to sit back and deposit his fastball into the left field bleachers.
Unfortunately, he struggled to locate the change, throwing it for a strike a mere 52% of the time. That’s not going to get it done as more than a “show-me” pitch. Nonetheless, he might be onto something this spring.
Over 11 Grapefruit League innings, Reed has struck out 15 hitters while surrendering three walks and, perhaps most importantly, only one home run. I don’t typically put much stock into spring stats, but if they can back up a narrative or two, they might be worthy of consideration.
Unfortunately, PitchFX only captured one of Reed’s spring starts. In said start, he threw sixteen pitches over two perfect innings. The data is limited, but something may be better than nothing in hopes of explaining the rest of his Grapefruit League success.
Reed’s fastball lit up the gun at 96 MPH — a substantial jump from the 92-93 he sat last year. I don’t know that he’s maintained that velocity in his recent starts, but who cares? That’s not even the exciting part.
Reed threw 12 pitches to right-handed hitters, and three of them were changeups, all of which came in hitter’s counts where they’d typically be sitting fastball. He stole one called-strike and recorded two groundball outs.
Okay, so a 25% usage rate over a twelve pitch sample. Anything else?
Yes. Following Reed’s second spring start a week later, he said that he threw the changeup more in three innings than he did in any of his starts last season. If this is true, Reed appears to be committing to the pitch that’s critical to his success.
Moreover, if he can locate the change, it could be the weapon that turns things around for him. For what it’s worth, he’s fired 100 pitches this spring, and 80 of them have resulted in strikes. I don’t know for certain how many of those were changeups, but whatever he’s doing is working.
Reed appears locked into a rotation spot and is currently off the radar as the 160th pitcher selected in NFBC drafts. He’s probably not worth a Draft Day selection in anything but the deepest leagues, but I’ll be flagging him on my watch list ready to pounce should the spring success translate.
Don’t Sleep on Saladino
Moncada’s game is whiff-heavy as demonstrated by his 31% strikeout rate in AA last year. Fast forward to this spring, and the 21-year-old has struck out in 13 of his 38 (34%) plate appearances. In short, he’s not ready for Major League pitching, and the Sox have no reason to rush him.
Instead, Chicago looks poised to move forward with the versatile Tyler Saladino manning the keystone bag on Opening Day. By the time Moncada gets the call, Todd Frazier may be on his way to a contender before walking as a free agent this winter. In other words, Saladino appears in line for everyday playing time.
In 161 career games, Saladino has hit .257 with 12 homers, 66 runs, 58 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases. I dug into his batted ball profile and concluded that’s a pretty fair expectation for Saladino. I’d feel comfortable paying for those numbers and cross my fingers some upside resides in the gaudy numbers he’s posted this spring, slashing .414/.485/.793.
He flashed some pop with a .173 ISO in Triple-A a couple of years ago, so .270/15/70/70/20 isn’t totally out of the question. It would be unwise to pay for that line, then again, you don’t have to. Saladino isn’t anywhere to be found in our consensus ADP, which means he’s yours if you want him with your last pick.
Kazmir is Toast, but McCarthy…
Scott Kazmir surrendered two homers to minor league hitters over five simulated innings on Thursday. What’s more worrisome is Kazmir’s fastball sat at 82-83 MPH. Dave Roberts has admitted concern of the huge drop, and rightfully so.
There’s a zero percent chance Kazmir can succeed in the majors with an 83 MPH heater. I don’t know what he’s dealing with, but I don’t envision he adds 8-9 MPH between now and April. In other words, stick a fork in him.
Kazmir’s struggles probably solidify a rotation spot for the 33-year-old Brandon McCarthy. Save a 200 inning campaign back in 2014,
Injuries have plagued McCarthy. Nonetheless, there might be something left in the tank for the Twitter all-star.
McCarthy’s best seasons (2011-12) featured a sinker/cutter combination that he offered about 77% of time complemented by an oft-used hook (19%). Over the past few years, his pitch mix evolved and relied more on the four-seamers, rarely cutting his fastball. On the plus side, he added strikeouts to his profile.
Contrarily, his hard-hit rate jumped substantially, as with his ERA. PitchFX captured two of his three starts and revealed an apparent reversion to his approach on the mound. The sinker is back (44%) as is the cutter (33%).
He is still dropping the hook 11% of the time and flashing the four-seam fastball (94-95 MPH) that has helped him elevate his strikeouts over the last couple years. The lanky right-hander probably isn’t worth Draft Day consideration at this point but deserves a spot on your watch list as a back end guy that may become relevant for as long as he’s healthy.