Starting Pitcher Barometer, Week 22: Zach’s Plesac Is Full Of Disappointment
As you might have imagined after the Barometer took a week off, there’s a lot of movement this week. On that note, I’ll be absent from my post here again next week because of the holiday. I also wanted to note that the back-end of these starting pitcher rankings is very fluid at this point in the season. The 70th ranked player might not be much different from the 90th depending on their remaining matchups. Take that into consideration when you’re nabbing your streamers. Onto some news and notes! Let’s get that cheddar!
- Corey Kluber makes his return to the Yankees rotation. They needed the good news after Luis Severino was shut down from his rehab assignment with a sore shoulder. He is essentially hitting the reset button on his rehab, making it unlikely he pitches this year.
- Kenta Maeda is slated for season-ending elbow surgery. That’s what I get for singing his praises in the last Barometer. It’s unclear exactly whether he’ll need a full Tommy John surgery or something lesser. Either way, he’s facing an extended absence. With Jose Berrios out of town and Michael Pineda a free agent at the end of the season, the Twins rotation is going to look a lot different in 2022.
- Patrick Sandoval is also going to miss the rest of the season thanks to a stress fracture in his back. It’s a sad way to end what has been a breakout season. Still, at 24 years old, we’re looking at a promising future for the southpaw. Even for 2022, I’d be looking at Sandoval as a top 40-50 SP.
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The Starting Pitcher Barometer
Blake Snell, SD (+14) – Bah-lock-eh seems to have finally turned the corner. Over his last five starts (29.2 IP), Snell has a shiny 2.12 ERA (2.96 FIP) with a sexy-time 13.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, and 0.98 WHIP. This isn’t just a run of good fortune for Snell, either. There are some tangible changes.
In August, Snell has dropped his curveball in favor of more fastballs and sliders. He has essentially scrapped his changeup, as well. He has also been taking a page out of the 2021 Robbie Ray School of Pitching and has done his best to pound the zone. The aforementioned 3.0 BB/9 in his recent stretch of success is nearly half of his 5.9 BB/9 from the start of the season through the end of July. He should be fired up everywhere for his next start against the Diamondbacks.
Kyle Freeland, COL (+25) – Freeland got a late start to the season, and when we did see him, he was… bad. through his first five starts through June 16, Freeland had a cool 9.58 ERA (9.55 FIP) with a 5.2 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, and 2.27 WHIP. Since then, he’s been Free of Stinky Pitcher Land. Through those ensuing 70 innings, he has a 2.57 ERA (2.90 FIP), 8.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 1.06 WHIP. The whiff rate on his curveball is up to 41.7%, and that’s only his fourth most often utilized pitch. Things are always going to be a little sketchy when dealing with a Rockies starter. At this point, however, Freeland has proven himself to be someone you can trust.
Kyle Freeland, Nasty 81mph Curveball. 😨 pic.twitter.com/Fb9AhV9TfB
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 28, 2021
Yusei Kikuchi, SEA (-19) – After a rough start to the season, Kikuchi really settled in as a consistent option. It was at that point I declared myself a Kikuchi Hoochie. Oh, what fine times those were. Things have fallen apart for him lately, unfortunately. Since July 7th, Kikuchi has a 6.75 ERA across those nine starts (44 IP). Not only has his command taken a step back, but his velocity has also dipped along with his spin rates across the board. That makes me a sad Kikuchi poochie. What does a sad Kikuchi poochie look like, you ask? Imagine a Welsh Corgi with floppy Basset Hound ears and a droopy face. I’m sure someone out there with Photoshop skills can put that together for the betterment of humanity.
Zach Plesac, CLE (-16) – Plesac earned the dubious honor of being my Don’t in the SP category this preseason. You should really follow that link, by the way – that’s a hell of a successful list (including the recently demoted James Karinchak). I noted that Plesac’s command would need to be nearly impeccable once again to repeat his 2021 K:BB ratio. It…has not been impeccable. While he still has a good 2.01 BB/9, his K/9 has dropped from 9.27 to 6.12 thanks to a 3.1% drop in SwStk%.
His spin rates are down on his breaking balls from 2020 – over 200 RPM lower on the curveball, specifically. To make matters even worse, his velocity was down in his latest start against the Rangers. He still managed to deliver a near-quality start thanks to the matchup, but he’s going to be hard to trust as anything more than a streamer moving forward.
Edward Cabrera, MIA (SP81) – At this point, when the Marlins bring up a pitcher, I’m interested. Cabrera has been a prospect of note, as well, thanks to the development of his offspeed pitches. His fastball sits 97 MPH with an excellent changeup which averaged 92.6 MPH in his debut. He also has a curveball and slider, although he went to his slider sparingly in his debut. He makes for a decent streaming option for now. However, he’s likely sent back to Triple-A when Pablo Lopez is eventually ready to return to the rotation.
AJ Alexy, TEX (SP92) – With Spencer Howard, Miky Foltynewicz, and Dane Dunning on the COVID IL, we’re about to see some new names in Texas. Jake Latz and Glenn Otto are also going to be contributing, but the most interesting prospect debuting here will be AJ Alexy. Alexy is also the most likely to stick in the rotation through September if he performs well.
Through 65 innings between Double- and Triple-A, Alexy has compiled a (Round) rock-solid 1.66 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP and 76:27 K:BB ratio. His lack of third pitch as well as the poor command in the minors has led a lot of scouts to believe he’s a reliever long-term. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach here, but I’ll be watching with interest in his debut anyway.
Top 100 Starting Pitcher Rankings
|36||Hyun Jin Ryu||35|
|73||Kwang Hyun Kim||NA|
Fell Off The List:
Jack Flaherty (Injury), Chris Bassitt (Injury), Kenta Maeda (Injury), Patrick Sandoval (Injury), Jon Gray (Injury), Anthony DeSclafani (Injury), Luis Gil (Minors), Triston McKenzie (Injury), Dane Dunning (COVID IL), Reid Detmers (Injury), Griffin Jax (Performance), Braxton Garrett (Minors), Tyler Gilbert (Performance).
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