Once upon a time, we were uncertain how teams would handle their prospects in this the final season of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the players union.
Today, I feel like everyone could’ve seen this coming.
Given one last chance to squeeze their prospects for an extra year of team control, teams just can’t help themselves. Nico Hoerner will have to stay in the minors for about 37 days to grant the Cubs an extra year on his contract, so that’s that. Easy call. Let’s keep Eric Sogard and Matt Duffy instead, bumping some other more promising pieces off the roster.
Teams act like this is just free money, but that feels like folly if we consider the 41st man and 1st man off the roster who theoretically earned a spot he can’t occupy because of Matt Duffy.
And it doesn’t take into account another big question: will they even want Nico Hoerner six seasons from now? Perhaps his ultimate value is allowing the club to hold onto a promising young arm who might’ve otherwise aged off the 40-man roster.
No time for tears, though. Lots to cover this week.
The Tigers optioned fantasy flop Joe Jimenez. Good news for Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia. Soto’s the one we all want to get the gig, and I’ve gotta think Derek Holland helps. Nice to have some lefties lying around when you want to close with a southpaw.
IF Yu Chang made the club in Cleveland. He’s been hitting well this spring and playing some first base. I think he’s already the short side platoon there for Jake Bauers, and I think Bauers is below replacement level. Bobby Bradley awaits at the training site, so even if Chang banishes Bauers, he’ll have another platoon mate soon, but the arc of history is long, and Chang is the only constant among this triumvirate.
Boston RHP Matt Barnes has tested positive for the Covid. Hey remember when we worried about HIPAA laws with this stuff? Like early on when we thought people might melt and were watching Tom Hanks’ vlog posts with more fervor than we generated for his last fifteen movies put together? Yeah, me neither.
News of the World for our purposes is Adam Ottavino, who’s been dominant this spring, steps into his first real closer’s gig in a long, successful career.
This time of year, a victory lap of hype surrounds everyone in all fantasy baseball, except David Peterson. He’s a 6’6” lefty recent first round pick about to break camp in the starting rotation on a good team after an excellent debut in 2020, but you won’t find him in any sleeper articles despite an ADP in the 300s. Why not? I genuinely have no clue. I guess it’s velocity related? Trevor Rogers is all the rage because he can touch 97, but Peterson, with a similar profile and better track record, is considered a bad fastball guy, according to a notable pitching pert who frequently employs that phrase. One nice thing about statcast is its power to debunk some of our good-ole-boy aesthetic baseball myths.
In 2020, Peterson threw 304 four-seam fastballs to major league hitters, averaging 92.1 mph on those pitches comprising 37.4 percent of his arsenal.
Batters tallied ten total hits against those fastballs: six singles, three doubles, one home run. That’s a .164 batting average and a .262 slugging percentage.
Publicly available scouting reports grade the pitch somewhere in the 40-45 range.
If Peterson throws a below average fastball, I don’t know how one earns a plus.
So why does it work so well at 92 mph?
Well, stop me if you’ve heard this, but it’s all about drop, as in, his four-seamer has almost three inches less drop (-2.8) than the typical heater. It also has almost twice as much horizontal break: 11.4 inches or +4.6 compared to a typical FF.
Part of the issue here is Peterson throws two fastballs, and his sinker is bad. He threw 128 of them (15.8 percent of arsenal) last year and gave up a .368 batting average and .474 slugging percentage. His changeup, which he threw 18.7 percent of the time, got hit even harder: 556 SLG. I’m not saying he should junk these pitches entirely, but I’m hoping they comprise less than 34.5 percent of his pitches this year.
His sinker (91.8 mph) lives in the same velocity band as his four-seam fastball (92.1).
His changeup (83.4) neighbors the velo band occupied by his slider (81.3).
While the change was his worst pitch, his slider was dominant: .119 BA, .254 SLG as a 25.9 percent offering, and his command of the pitch is impeccable.
Pretty simple solution here, really: fewer sinkers and changeups; more fastballs and sliders.
A wildcard is a 74.4 mph curveball Peterson threw just 18 times last year, yielding zero hits. If he can command that pitch, he’d access three disparate velocity bands with pitches that have strong results so far. I’m guessing that curve could be a nasty strike-stealer to get ahead early in at bats.
Off-speed command is kind of my pitching mantra around here, and Peterson is an example I really like where it’s difficult to see why he’s effective via the well-worn pitcher-evaluation paths. I’ve heard announcers say he’s trying to get to the slider—that he peppers his fastballs just outside the zone (or in the shadow zone) hoping he can get ahead and wipe guys out with his slider. That’s fine, I guess, but his four-seamer is a swing and miss pitch, especially atop the zone, and I think he found a formula as the season wore on in 2020, rounding out his year with three straight solid starts and a 2.00 ERA over those final 18 innings.
In a world where everyone gets their moment under the hyperbolic heat lamps of fantasy baseball in the time of Twitter, Peterson’s spotlight has yet to shine. I was able to snag him at pick 338 in the 30-team, five-year dynasty best ball at Prospects Live after a whole host of players less appealing to me in that time-compressed, volume-heavy format were off the board: JT Brubaker, Shane McClanahan, Brailyn Marquez, Corbin Martin, Jackson Kowar, Tom Hatch, Spencer Turnbull, Caleb Smith, Matthew Boyd, DL Hall, Nick Lodolo, Michael Kopech, Matt Manning, Clarke Schmidt, Dane Dunning, Spencer Howard.
This draft is built from 30 of the best minds in the prospect and dynasty game, but few seem intrigued by Peterson, who’d be my favorite format-fit on this list regardless of price.
I guess Marquez is kinda close, but there’s timeline and relief risk there.
Can make a case for Dunning based on the enormous ballpark and lack of competition for innings, but Texas wants to use a six-man rotation, which all but eliminates the ever-important double starts required to thrive in this format.
I’m not saying Peterson is head and shoulders above all these arms in any objective sense, but half these guys went at least 100 picks ahead of him, and that’s, well, odd to me.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.