So, I just went looking for an off the radar SP trade target, just in case there ends up being nothing to these "spend big on FA SP rumors." Here's the inexact science behind it:
1) I started w/ BTV looking for High & Very High Availability SPs - this search only yielded 4 names - Wilson, Wells, Walker, & Seabold
2) I somewhat quickly dismissed Wilson due to our failed history w/ him & him looking much comfortable in a long relief role w/ MIL
3) So, I initially focused in on Wells, Walker, & Seabold
4) I ended up dismissing Seabold next, because beyond a somewhat interesting changeup there doesn't seem to be much there to work w/
So, I ended up w/ 2 guys in Wells & Walker who are on very different ends of the spectrum from a cost perspective:
- Wells w/ 4 arb years of contract control w/ BAL seeming to have given up on him as a SP
- Walker w/ 3 years @ $18M a pop w/ PHI seemingly not willing to trust him in the playoffs
Even w/ them being quite different in terms of cost, I can see why both guys came up as quite available according to BTV.
Arsenal-wise both guys offer some interesting stuff:
- In '23 Wells had 3 pitches w/ above average vertical movement (4-seam, curve, & cutter) & 4 pitches w/ above average horizontal movement (curve, cutter, change, & slider)
- In '23 Walker had 2 pitches w/ above average vertical movement (cutter & splitter), w/ his 4-seam & curve being only barely below average, & 3 pitches w/ above average horizontal movement (4-seam, splitter, & sinker), w/ his cutter being only barely below average
So, there seems to be stuff to work w/ from each guy.
First, let's look at the veteran in Walker. I'll note first that some of Walker's changes as a pitcher are interesting & I'm not sure they are all necessarily interesting in a good way:
- Over the first half of his pro career, he had both FB velo & Extension on his side (reds on Savant). However, over the 2nd half of his career, neither of those things seem to be present. Why's he's short-arming things & not getting the velo that he used to get? Maybe his 2018 TJS is the reason.
- His splitter has progressed throughout his career to the point of it being a very quality pitch over the past two seasons such that it was actually his most thrown pitch last year.
I think that 2nd bullet is actually kind of cool, but I just wonder how much more effective he could be overall if he combined the splitter's progression w/ the Extension & FB velo pre-TJS. Maybe combining those things simply isn't possible, but I will note that in his first full season back from TSJ (2021, because I'm skipping the weird, short COVID year) his 4-seamer's velo was good & his 4-seamer had good life as well & his Extension numbers hadn't started dropping much yet.
So, any interest in Walker would be centered around trying to mash some things together that might not be all that possible & there's also the fact that trading w/ a division rival could be problematic & Walker costing some real $.
This leaves me really zoning in on Wells for the most part. The first thing I'll note is that he spins the ball really well w/ all of his pitches (reds on Savant). Also, for a big pitcher, w/ long levers, he's never had difficulty repeating his mechanics, which has resulted in probably better command than most pitchers his size ever achieve. So, the good w/ him is the spinning, overall command, & the good movement throughout his arsenal mentioned higher above.
So, what's the issue? In '23 the thing that seemed to hold him back the most was specifically command of just one pitch - his cutter. In '22 he was repeatedly throwing that pitch at the glove-side & down corner (see his '22 heat map on Savant). However, in '23 the pitch finished in the heart of the plate a lot (see his really gross '23 heat map on Savant), which resulted in a lot of high EVs @ damaging LAs - 6 HR & 10 barrels in 137 heart cutters in '23, which included a 50% HH% & nearly a 1/4 Barrel/BBE ratio.
Braves' pitching has featured & coached a lot of guys w/ cutters in recent years. So, maybe Kranny & company could tweak what's going on w/ Wells' cutter, because pretty much every thing else he has going on seems pretty interesting to me. Lastly, if I'm not mistaken, then Wells still has MiLB options. So, get his cutter back on track & that could very well be solid, young middle-to-back end SP production cheap for 4 years w/ MiLB options flexibility baked in. Any interest in such an off the radar SP trade target?
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