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MLB Pitching Performances You Might Have Missed
Chris Clegg runs down some pitching performances that have not been talked about enough.
People often get fixated on early-season results with players. As the season goes on, people usually hang onto the early season results because a full season line may still look good. But people often miss a player struggling the entire second half of the year or that might have been incredibly hot down the stretch. Let’s talk about some MLB hitters who have been stellar and not getting much love.
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Kyle Bradish, RHP, BAL, 26, MLB
Bradish’s season has flown under the radar; in fact, most don’t realize that Bradish has pitched like a high-end SP2 since the All-Star break last year. Since then, over 39 starts and 217 innings pitched, Bradish has a 3.11 ERA with 210 strikeouts.
The exciting thing is he has taken that up a notch in 2023. Since June 1, Bradish has a 2.66 ERA, good for fourth best among MLB starters with at least 70 innings pitched, but since July 1, that number has dropped to 2.32.
The production from Bradish has come mainly from him leading with his slider and using an elevated amount of sinkers to get ground ball outs. His fastball has steadily increased in velocity all season, and even though it has only gone from 94-95 mph that is still worth noting.
Bradish is pushing top-100 overall dynasty status due to the consistent performance over the last year and a half and the fact that he is only 26 years old.
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, BAL, 23, MLB
It was not much of a surprise to me to see Rodriguez struggle after missing much of last season with a lat strain. The stuff was not the same stuff we had seen from Rodriguez pre-injury that led him to be the top pitching prospect in baseball.
Upon being called up on April 5 to make his pro debut against Jacob deGrom, Rodriguez looked pretty good. But it went downhill from there. Over ten starts and 45.1 innings in April and May, Rodriguez posted a 7.35 ERA, earning a demotion.
But hopefully, you have not missed what Rodriguez is doing in the second half, as he has a 2.85 ERA in nine starts and has seen his average fastball velocity tick up a ton, averaging over 98 mph. Rodriguez is looking like the high-end starting pitcher we saw as a prospect and seems poised to make a huge leap across dynasty rankings this offseason.
Tarik Skubal, LHP, DET, 26, MLB
It feels like a decade ago that the Tigers had Skubal, Casey Mize, and Matt Manning all coming up through the farm system and slated to be the next big trio of arms in the majors. Things did not necessarily go as planned, but Skubal has looked great since returning from his flexor tendon surgery.
In 57.1 innings with the Tigers this year, Skubal has a 3.77 ERA/1.06 WHIP while posting a career-best 28.8 percent strikeout to 5.2 percent walk rate, both career-best marks.
It starts with a massive jump in velocity for Skubal, whose 95.8 mph average fastball is up nearly two ticks from previous seasons. He is also averaging 3 inches of more of drop in his curve. It might seem surprising to see someone come back from a flexor strain have his arsenal look improved, but that is exactly what Skubal has done.
I would be buying Skubal everywhere in dynasty.
Matt Manning, RHP, DET, 25, MLB
What about Skubal’s teammate, Matt Manning, who seemingly turned around his season in August before fracturing his foot on a 119 mph rocket off of Giancarlo Stanton’s bat. It is unfortunate to see his season end because over his last six starts, including the one inning before leaving with the fractured foot, Manning had a 2.08 ERA.
Now, it is worth noting that 2.08 ERA came with a 4.51 FIP and just 14 strikeouts across 30.1 innings pitched. The 11.7 percent strikeout rate seems a bit absurd, considering Manning had an 8.6 percent swinging strike rate.
Manning did change his pitch mix and was becoming more reliant on his slider and using his curveball less. So that will be something to monitor heading into 2024. He once missed bats at a high level in the Minors, so it will be fun to watch if he can return to near those levels in the Majors.
Aaron Civale, RHP, TB, 28, MLB
Civale moved from one great pitching organization to the next when he was traded at the deadline from Cleveland to Tampa Bay. He also dealt with an oblique injury that caused him to miss the first couple of months of the season. But upon returning, Civale has pitched extremely well, posting a 2.75 ERA across 107.2 innings pitched.
The transition to Tampa Bay has been interesting as his pitch mix has been all over the board. He has used his secondaries less overall in favor of throwing more sinkers. The overall results have actually moved backward as a result. It will be interesting to follow, but all-in-all, Civale has pitched extremely well this year and not gotten the love he deserves.
Javier Assad, RHP, CHC, 26, MLB
The Cubs moved Assad to a full-time starter role on August fifth and the move looks like a great one for the org as he has been dominant. Despite a three-earned run outing in his last start, Assad still has a 2.34 ERA in 42.1 innings in the starters role. The strikeouts have not been there, as he has posted just a 16.3 percent strikeout rate, but the results have been positive nonetheless.
Assad has a fastball-heavy approach with his sinker, cutter, and four-seam fastball being his three most used pitches, so in some ways, the lack of strikeouts is not surprising. He mixes in a slider, curveball, and changeup, but the changeup is exclusively thrown to lefties, and the slider just to righties.
I am not sure what Assad is doing is sustainable, but he does induce weak contact and keeps the ball on the ground. So while not flashy, Assad has use as a back-end fantasy starter.