The Atlanta Braves were a part of two of the bigger moves this offseason as they traded for former A’s catcher Sean Murphy and allowed former World Series champ Dansby Swanson to leave in free agency. Understandably these two transactions have garnered the majority of Braves fans’ attention this offseason resulting in a few smaller moves to fly under the radar. The biggest and potentially most impactful of those smaller moves was when Atlanta traded for former Seattle Mariner and New York Yankee reliever Lucas Luetge. The Braves did not have to give up much as they sacrificed Caleb Durbin and Indigo Diaz, neither of whom were expected to make much of any impact at the MLB level. Down below, we are going to break down Luetge and what he can potentially bring to the table in 2023.
The New York Yankees signed Luetge at the end of 2020 to a minor league contract and gave him his first taste of the big leagues in 2021 since 2015 when he appeared in a single game for the Seattle Mariners. The southpaw did nothing but succeed for the Yankees in 2021 pitching to a 3.32 xERA to go along with an xwOBA against of .282, both of which were better than league average. He took a slight step back in 2022 which resulted in him not making a postseason appearance for the AL East champs despite them playing nine playoff games. As a result, the Yankees designated him for assignment to free up a spot on the 40-man roster in December, the Braves then acquired him a few days later.
So, what kind of impact can Luetge make for the Braves if the Yankees didn’t use him in the postseason and got hardly anything back for him? Easy answer, a big one. Despite taking a step back in some expected metrics last season, the southpaw’s already elite slider and cutter took another large step forward in some key areas. His cutter, which he threw 54.6 percent of the time, had the 16th best spin rate in the league amongst pitchers with at least 50 plate appearances against. Its average vertical break of 29.1 inches was tied for 43rd amongst qualified pitches and its horizontal break of 5.1 inches was tied for 17th. His slider, which he threw 31.2 percent of the time, was even more dominant. His spin rate of 2,691 RPM was 55th following the same qualifications as his cutter’s spin rate. In terms of movement though it is one of the best pitches in baseball. Its vertical movement of 47.5 inches was tied for 7th amongst qualified pitchers and its horizontal movement of 19.3 inches was second. His curveball, which he throws 14.2 percent of the time, is about an average pitch. Its spin rate ranks in the 40th percentile, however its vertical movement of 66.4 is 13th but its horizontal movement of 10.3 inches is 79th.
In addition to the quality of his top two pitches, Luetge excels at limiting hard contact. His average exit velocity against of 85.2 MPH is in the third highest percentile and his hard-hit percentage of 23.5 percent is in the 100th percentile. It is also difficult for hitters to barrel him up as his barrel percentage against of 5.3 percent is 1.4 percent better than league average.
Quality of contact aside, the new addition also does a great job of limiting walks and forcing chases and strikeouts. His walk percentage of 6.8 is 1.6 percent better than average and his strikeout percentage of 23.9 percent is 1.8 above average. Additionally, his chase and whiff rate both rank in the 64th percentile.
Whilst his back of the baseball card stats are never going to jump off of the page, the quality of his pitches and ability to force soft contact are always going to make him a reliable left hander out of the ‘pen.