Pitch Mix and Velocity Report: Spring Training standouts that should not be ignored!

Ryan Venancio brings you the latest in notable pitch mixes, velocities, and overall changes on some pitchers entering the 2022 season.

Welcome in to what will be a weekly article here on SKPlaybook covering notable pitch mix changes, effectiveness, and velocity changes (good and bad!). This spring training we saw a number of players add velocity, add a pitch or change something in general. Here are some of the more notable names worthy of your attention.

Don’t Sweep This Under the Rug

Andrew Heaney, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitch Added: Sweeper 

Fans of Mr. Heaney could not be happier with his landing spot this off-season. Going over to the pitching machine that is the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

You knew LA was going to change something about Heaney and it appears they have done so already. Last season, Julio Urias and Blake Treinen started throwing a ‘sweeper’, this new frisbee-like slider/slurve type pitch that is the new cool thing to do around baseball. 

Though Heaney hasn’t seen any results yet in adding the pitch, striking out 21% of batters. But let’s be real, it’s five spring innings. Keep a close eye on Heaney as he should make his debut sometime next week in the second series. 

Jon Gray, SP, Texas Rangers

Pitch Added: Sweeper/Slider

After making a flurry of free agent adds this off-season, it appears the Rangers aren’t taking shit from anyone. One of their big additions was former Colorado Rockies starting pitcher, Jon Gray. 

From June on last season, Gray had posted great numbers. After gaining his velocity back, he went on to post a 27.6% strikeout rate and an 8.5% walk rate over the final four months of the season. 

Fast forward to spring training and Gray is featuring a ‘new’ slider. One that he says is breaking almost double as much as his old one, “moving across the entire plate.” Though he didn’t come out and call it a sweeper, that’s sort of what it sounds like. 

Gray is someone who should be valued highly in dynasty leagues. This could be a really big breakout season for him. 

Notable Velocity Gainers

Mitch Keller, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Velocity Increase: 96.4 mph (93.8 in 2021) 

Everyone scoffed at the fact that Keller released a video of himself touching 101 mph in a semi-viral video. He trained at a ‘pitching lab’ called Tread, where he clearly worked his butt off. 

Keller has added roughly two and a half miles per hour to his four-seam fastball. While that alone doesn’t make him better, he is also commanding the top of the zone with the added velocity. Therein lies the potential for Keller as a bridge in becoming a possible front rotation starter. 

If he is able to command 96-97 at the top of the zone while throwing his slider and curveball, both grade well above average in terms of spin and movement. There is some serious potential in this arm. 

Remember, Keller just started all of this in the off-season. It’s still relatively new to him. Be patient, if he has a poor April, do not give up. Pick him up in your redraft leagues and trade for him in your dynasty leagues. You will not regret it. 

Jesus Luzardo, SP, Miami Marlins

Velocity Increase: 97.7 mph (95.5 in 2021) 

There was no doubt that Luzardo moving to the pitching factory in Miami would do wonders for his future. I don’t think anyone would have thought it would have resulted in a potential two miles per hour bump in velocity in year one. What’s encouraging is that Luzardo is a decent fastball away from being a legit starting pitcher. 

Last season, he had a 35% whiff rate on his changeup as well as a 42.4% whiff rate on his curveball. These two well-above-average breaking pitches to go along with even an average fastball will give Luzardo enough to compete. Hoping to see him turn into at least an average big league starter. 

Unfortunately, unlike Gray and Keller, Luzardo still has a high asking price in both redraft and dynasty leagues. If the velocity sticks and he gets off to a slow start, there is an opportunity to buy low. Otherwise, you may not want to buy just yet because his improvements are currently baked in. 

Alex Cobb, SP, San Francisco Giants

Velocity Increase: 94-95 mph (92.7 in 2021)

It was reported that Cobb went to Driveline this off-season and as a result has seen his velocity go up several miles per hour potentially. In his most recent spring outing, Cobb went four innings, struck out six batters, and was sitting 94-95 mph. 

As his career has gone on, he has seen his velocity slowly creep up as he has gotten older. Last season Cobb made huge strides as a pitcher, having his best season by a large margin. He was able to strike out 25% of batters. A mark he hasn’t even come close to since 2013. 

Now that Cobb is with a great organization, throwing harder, and has already shown that he can pitch well before the velocity increases. This is a clear buy, considering he could be had on the cheap in a dynasty league you should be going out and acquiring him if you are ready to contend. 

Jhoan Duran, SP, Minnesota Twins

Velocity Increase: 98-100 mph (96 in 2021) 

All you have to do is watch Duran pitch in the six innings during spring training and you notice that he jumps off the page. His fastball is sitting 99 while throwing something that he calls a ‘splinker’, which combines a splitter and a sinker. It’s a pitch that just drops off the table and he throws it as hard as 90 mph. 

There’s a likely scenario in which Duran starts the year in the bullpen for the Twins. Whether or not they decide to make him a starting pitcher or a reliever long-term is yet to be determined. Though he has been a starting pitcher his entire minor league career, they likely are just starting him the bullpen to limit his innings.

Duran has some ridiculous potential with his mix of offerings. In dynasty leagues, there is an opportunity now to pay up for what this kid is doing. There is a legitimate chance that he becomes special. I would almost go out on a limb and say to pay whatever the owner is asking for in a trade for Duran in any type of format. 

Potential Pitch Mix Change

Casey Mize, SP, Detroit Tigers

Pitch Mix Change: Losing the sinker 

From what Mize has both said and done, it appears that he’s going to throw his sinker significantly less this season. His sinker was far-and-away his worst pitch last season, so it would be nice to see it go. At the least, if he doesn’t dispose of it completely, make it his least frequently thrown pitch. 

Last season, Mize’s sinker had a whiff rate of 13%, the lowest of his five pitches by a wide margin. On top of that, he surrendered the most home runs and extra-base hits of any of his pitches while allowing a .322 batting average against. Needless to say, he should have ditched this pitch a while ago. 

For someone as talented as Mize, discarding his worst pitch could be all it takes for him to become the ace he was touted to be. For now, we are going to wait and see exactly how all of his pitches line up when games are on the line. We will monitor his underlying numbers throughout his first couple of starts and then assess from there. 

We hope you enjoyed this article. You can follow this author on twitter Ryan Venancio (@ven_armbarn)

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