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Buy or Sell – Braxton Garrett’s Intriguing Stuff And Mitch Keller’s Sinker

We’re past the halfway point for real-life and fantasy baseball, with the common theme of people in our leagues transitioning to fantasy football. Life happens, and sometimes we slack, but stay the course because fantasy baseball comes down to each of the daily or weekly roster moves and transactions (hopefully) accumulating to more positives over time.

With the All-Star Break underway, we’ll look at two pitchers to buy or sell that garnered more attention during the recent waiver wire period, Braxton Garrett and Mitch Keller. Garrett and Keller had top prospect hype, but it’s been a rocky journey. As usual, we’ll look at what the data indicates on whether to buy or sell Garrett and Keller for 2022.

Buy or Sell – Braxton Garrett’s Intriguing Stuff And Mitch Keller’s Sinker

Braxton Garrett (SP, MIA)

The former first-round pick for the Marlins in 2016 posted underwhelming results in his first 41.2 innings in the majors. Before 2022, Braxton Garrett had a 5.18 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 20.7% K%, and 13% BB%. He allowed too many balls in play, evidenced by the .367 BABIP with a reasonable 74.3% LOB%. With the below-average 9% SwStr%, Garrett allowed high home run rates with 1.30 HR/9 and an 18.2% HR/FB%.

Outside of deep draft and hold formats, fantasy managers didn’t even have Garrett on their radars with an NFBC ADP of 750. Several of Garrett’s surface metrics improved in 2022 with a 3.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 22.9% K%, and 5.7% BB%. It’s positive to see the drop in walk rate, plus the BABIP declining to .316. Even Garrett’s 0.87 HR/9 and 11.1% HR/FB% improved. Garrett also went from a below-average SwStr% to an above-average SwStr% at 12.5%. Let’s look at the pitch data to see whether to buy or sell with Garrett moving forward. 

Garrett’s Arsenal & Results

The soft-throwing southpaw in Garrett uses four pitches at a double-digit rate with the slider (33.9%), four-seamer (28.6%), sinker (19%), and curveball (10.3%). Garrett also mixes in a changeup thrown 8.1% of the time to right-handed hitters. In 2021, Garrett used a similar pitch mix with the adjusted usage rates. 

The main pitch mix changes involve increased slider usage versus right-handed hitters at 33.3%, up from 18.1% in 2021. Garrett’s slider results slightly remained similar, with a .263 wOBA in 2022. He also tripled the usage of the sinker from 11.2% in 2021 to 38.3% in 2022. 

buy or sell

The results on the sinker improved versus lefties in 2022 as a weapon to induce groundballs (53.3%) and weak contact (.163 wOBA). With the lower usage in 2021, Garrett’s sinker finished with worse batted ball results, evidenced by the .333 BA, .333 SLG, and .354 wOBA. On the surface, we notice Garrett’s pitches increased around a half to two mph, so that’s possibly a reason to buy rather than sell Garrett’s pitch mix adjustments and improved results. 

Garrett’s Intriguing Stuff

Braxton Garrett’s slider remains his best pitch with a 19.3% SwStr%, up almost three percentage points from 2021. The batted ball results align with a .221 BA, .353 SLG, and .289 wOBA. Garrett added over 1.5 mph on the slider, with more horizontal break than in 2021. 

buy or sell

With the increased slider velocity, Garrett’s slider dropped three inches less. However, the slider still possesses above-average vertical movement. Garrett’s movement profiles remain more intriguing than expected, with above-average movement on all five pitches. Since Garrett’s sinker results look sneaky good, it added drop and break, translating into an above-average profile. 

buy or sell

It’s wild to see Garrett having three pitches with above-average drop and break in the changeup, slider, and sinker in 2022 versus zero in 2021. I expected to look at the underlying metrics and find Garrett’s stuff being mediocre. However, Garrett’s stuff and movement profile look more enticing, meaning we might want to buy more than sell as something better than a streamer. 

Buy or Sell Garrett?

Take the projections with a grain of salt since THE BAT expects Garrett to have a 4.57 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 20.8% K%, and 8.9% BB% in 46 innings. While we can’t expect a massive strikeout upside for Garrett, he improved in the surface and underlying metrics in 2022. Although Garrett doesn’t dominate via velocity, he made positive changes with the increased sinker usage versus lefties to generate groundballs and weak contact. The stuff and movement profiles remain better than expected, which suggests we should buy into Garrett as a streamer with upside in most formats. 

Mitch Keller (SP, PIT)

In February 2022, I finished up a three-part series examining potential breakout pitchers who could be the 2022 version of Freddy Peralta. In my final installment, I mentioned Mitch Keller. Several people commented on that series of articles with comments saying this pitcher hasn’t performed well, and they won’t perform well in the future. Although Jesús Luzardo suffered an injury, he performed near elite in the limited 2022 sample. 

Enough talk about the off-season research, though I want to preface that before we check in on whether to buy or sell Mitch Keller. Sometimes when we identify a sleeper, we might hold on longer than we should (that’s me). That said, we’ll look at the season-long numbers for Keller, then dive into the recent stretch where he incorporated the sinker in 2022.

Through 89 innings, Keller has a 4.55 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 19.8% K%, and 8.7% BB%. Keller has kept the home runs in check with 0.81 HR/9, though he still allows too many balls in play with a .332 BABIP paired with a better 71.1% LOB%. While Keller’s 8.3% SwStr% remains underwhelming, let’s examine the small samples before he introduced the sinker usage in 2022. 

Keller’s Increased Sinker Usage

To begin the 2022 season, Keller hadn’t thrown the sinker until a relief appearance on May 18, when he threw it once. So we’ll look at the surface and underlying metrics from April to May 18, then from that point forward. 

buy or sell

Unsurprisingly, Keller generated more groundballs and lowered the home run rate. Furthermore, the ERA dropped, though the WHIP and BABIP remained high. Although Keller isn’t showing the strikeout skills, the sinker has translated into better results. Keller lowered the four-seamer usage to 35%, down over 20 percentage points from 2021, given the increase in sinkers. 

Keller’s Pitch Arsenal & Results

In January, I tweeted about Keller as I struggled to find reasons for optimism other than regression and a pitch mix change. Thankfully, Keller lowered the four-seamer usage, though he unexpectedly added a new pitch in the sinker. Keller’s slider elicits a 12% SwStr%, down over three percentage points from the career SwStr% of 15.7%. With the overall SwStr% below the league average, the rest of the arsenal is in the single digits. 

Keller’s slider and curveball possess above-average movement in break and drop, which improved from 2021. The slider added nearly two inches of vertical drop and over seven inches horizontally. 

Keller has increased his velocity on all pitches, most notably the fastballs. Although the four-seamer and sinker don’t have above-average movement profiles, the increased sinker usage has helped lower the home run rates with the increased groundball rate. It’s a small sample in 2022, but Keller’s sinker has a -7 Run-Value via Baseball Savant – the best this season and in his career. Keller’s negative Run-Value on the sinker ranks 14th amongst all sinkers, tied with Brusdar Graterol and Aaron Nola. Further evidence to validate the sinker’s being a quality pitch. 

Buy or Sell Keller?

On Saturday at Colorado, Keller threw six scoreless innings (one unearned run), five hits, two walks, and six strikeouts. Keller allowed five hard-hit batted balls with an overall 21% Whiff% and 29% CSW%. Interestingly, Keller only threw four sinkers with reliance on the four-seamer, slider, and changeup.

Two straight quality starts for Keller against the Marlins and in Colorado increases the intrigue to buy versus sell and stream him in deeper formats. Something to monitor involves the lowered velocity over the past two starts, as it could hint at Keller attempting to focus on commanding the pitches better. Unfortunately, the projection systems don’t expect a positive outlook for Keller, with a 4.85 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 18.1% K%, and 9.3% BB% in 52 innings, per THE BAT. Look past the projections, as Keller remains my top player to buy in dynasty formats. The recent stretch of optimism should give us more confidence to buy rather than sell in redraft leagues, though the hesitation is understandable.  

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