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The following three starting pitchers that had second half-pitch mix adjustments and improved performance are ones I am buying into.  Their ADPs are all in the round 8-10 range for 12 team leagues, I believe they can return 2-3 rounds of value.  These are solid pieces to build out your rotation if you go with a hitter heavy approach in the early rounds or miss out on your desired aces.

Blake Snell – LHP San Diego Padres

2021 Season Review

From April to the end of July, Snell posted a 5.44 ERA and a below-average K-BB% of 13%. He turned it around in August, and through the end of the season posted a 1.72 ERA paired with an elite 30.2K-BB%.  Snell posted significant improvements vs right-handed hitters, which have been his nemesis. How did he do this? He scrapped his changeup almost completely from 18.2% usage to 1.1% and boosted his FB/SL usage from 66.4% prior to August to a staggering 88.4% from August through the end of the season.

2022 Outlook

It is unlikely that Snell will be able to dominate with his ‘fastball away’ and ‘slider down and in’ approach to right-handed hitters (RHHs) for an entire season without hitters adjusting.  He needs to improve the command of his slider to potentially realize a FB/SL tunneling boost by consistently hitting the outside corner to RHHs; or alternatively develop a viable third pitch, ideally something off-speed.  Snell is a high-risk, high reward play as he remains an injury risk, only eclipsing 130 innings pitched once in his entire 6-year MLB career.  If Snell can remain healthy, he can return a solid profit at the current ADP.

Frankie Montas – RHP Oakland Athletics

2021 Season Review

Pre July – 64% Fastball [31% 4 seam, 33% 2 seam] / 19% Slider / 17% Splitter; .323 wOBA, 24.0K%, 39.3 GB%

Post July – 53% Fastball [27% 4 seam, 25% 2 seam] / 19% Slider / 28% Splitter; .258 wOBA, 29.1K%, 46.6 GB%

Montas made a strategic change beginning in July by reducing his overall fastball usage, mostly coming at the expense of his 2-seamer (classified as a sinker on baseball savant).  Montas replaced these 2 seamers, his worst pitch, by throwing more splitters, his best pitch.  These changes resulted in increased strikeouts, groundball rates, and overall performance improvement.

2022 Outlook

Montas was a top 3 AL Starter from July to the end of the season which shows his ceiling.  If Frankie can sustain the gains in walk rate and get some positive variance in BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB% which have been inconsistent throughout his career he could be a sneaky longshot for AL Cy Young.

Shane McClanahan – LHP Tampa Bay Rays

2021 Season Review

Pre-All Star Break 40% Slider / 11% Curveball, 4.18 ERA, 3.87 FIP

Post-All Star Break 30% Slider / 21% Curveball, 2.84 ERA, 2.84 FIP

The Rays and McClanahan took the extended break in action to alter his four-pitch mix.  McClanahan made a 10% change in slider and curveball usage which resulted in significant improvements in run prevention as well as reduced longballs.  His fastball and changeup rates remained relatively unchanged throughout the season.

2022 Outlook

McClanahan has enough control over his curveball to throw it for a strike, which so far has paired well with his 96.4mph average fastball (top 10) and 89.2mph average slider (top 3).  This helped to keep hitters more off-balance as his curveball velocity was in the low 80s.  If he can improve command of the curveball and hit locations on the corner and shadow versus the heart of the plate, he could see a significant boost in his contact quality allowed metrics. McClanahan’s upside is reduced by playing in the AL East but mitigated by playing for the forward-thinking, analytic-heavy approach deployed by the Rays.

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