On the surface, the Brad Hand signing via free agency harpooned the fantasy upside residing in Tanner Rainey . However, it may be a blessing in disguise for the talented relief pitcher. Breaking out beneath the radar of the truncated 2020 season and finishing as one of 12 relievers with a strikeouts minus walks percentage greater than 25 (33.3 in fact), a swinging strike rate above 15 percent (21.7 actual) and contact allowed below 67 percent (56.7)
All told, Rainey finished 2020 with one win, nine holds, a 32:7 K:BB over 20.1 innings, a 2.66 ERA, 2.30 SIERA and a 0.74 WHIP. Producing an O-Swing (outside the strike zone) swing rate of 36.8 percent fueled his strikeout percent surge to 42.7 while suppressing contact. A key to maintaining this growth, a walk percentage at or near his 2020 9.3 percent. Less traffic benefits the skill set of a dominant closer.
Rainey's slider holds the key to a repeat of his recent success. According to Statcast, his slider produced a 72.9 whiff percentage with a 37.8 put away percent. It also accounted for a 69.6 strikeout percentage. Here's how he deployed his arsenal last year:
Using the expected statistics on Statcast, Rainey notched a .180 expected batting average against (xBA - 94th percentile), a .278 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) and 3.25 expected ERA (xERA). He ranked in the 99th percentile among his peers in both strikeout rate and whiff percentage (47.3 percent).
Rainey made huge strides attacking hitters. He raised his zone swing percentage slightly but generated a 5.5 percent decrease in zone contact allowed. Same for chase rates with hitters offering more often at them outside the zone making contact less (down 6.7 percent). Even with an increase in swing percentage, his whiff rate grew by almost seven percentage points.
Using the information on Brooks Baseball to hone in on swinging strike percentage by pitch, Rainey's numbers still jump off the page:
-- 4-seam Fastball: 17.3 SwStr%, 30.3 percent ground ball rate
-- Slider: 34.5 SwStr%, 80 percent ground ball rate
Health and opportunity may depress Rainey's price points in upcoming drafts. He represents an upside flier with upside if Hand struggles or if he needs a right-handed high leverage complement. This resonates in his projections which do not fully buy into last year's gains:
Presently a deeper league target for ratio protection with save upside. Given the chance, Rainey could reach 95-plus strikeouts with double digit saves.
MLB.com - videos
THE BAT courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen
ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski