Cleveland right-hander Zach Plesac had an excellent 2020 campaign. Sure, some of the stench from the season comes from breaking COVID-19 protocols in the shortened season, but outside of that, he dazzled. He posted a 4-2 record across 55.1 innings with a 2.28 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and a miniscule 2.9 percent walk rate. He posted over a strikeout per inning, which is a nice jump from his 2019 season, but we’ll circle back to that in a bit. A .224 BABIP, 91.7 percent strand rate and 3.39 FIP indicate some statistical regression is in line for the 2021 campaign, but still, he’s a top-30 arm.

He adjusted his repertoire and it worked for the better. In 2019, he threw his fastball more than half of the time, and despite each of his other pitches posting higher whiff rates, including two above 24 percent, he didn’t utilize them as much as he should have. His curveball usage remained similar, but he let his changeup and slider shine in 2020. Each pitch took a step forward, and registered whiff rates of 35.6 percent and 42.7 percent respectively.






The whiff rates jumped substantially, noticeably in the zone. His slider and changeup registered more whiffs in the zone, but in terms of getting whiffs out of the zone, his slider remained excellent, but the changeup and even his curveball made significant advances.











It’s really no surprise his strikeout rate enjoyed a nice boost. He generated more swings out of the zone, resulting in less contact. His contact rate against overall dropped by seven percentage points, and his swinging strike rate of 14.3 was nearly five percentage points up from his 2019 season. While Cleveland may have lost some pop in its lineup, he still has the luxury of pitching in the American League Central, in which even the more potent offenses have significant strikeout upside for opposing pitchers.

In 2020, the launch angle jumped, and so did the barrel rate. Fortunately, the exit velocity specifically on fly balls and line drives didn’t endure too drastic of an increase. In 2019, it sat at 92.7 miles per hour, and in 2020, it jumped a half of one mile per hour, up to 93.2 miles per hour. You can see in the rolling graph below, minus that downturn in the middle of the 2020 season, that since about halfway through the 2019 season, his launch angle was slowly but surely increasing.






With all that in mind, if he doesn’t continue to limit impact contact on fly balls, his HR/FB rate could take a hit. It remained intact last year despite the slight increase, but could have jumped a bit with some worse luck. This is something to monitor leading up to the season, and even in the beginning weeks of the campaign.

One thing there’s no denying and that is Plesac’s elite command. Unlike his launch angle, his walk rate has steadily been decreasing. In 2020, he posted a sparkling 0.98 BB/9 mark, and only Marco Gonzalez and Kyle Hendricks posted better marks in that department.







In 2020, Plesac’s 9.50 K/BB ratio was the best in baseball, and of pitchers that fired at least 50 innings in the shortened season, only Plesac and Marco Gonzalez posted a mark above 9.00 in this department. Plesac has demonstrated elite command, and this minimizes the amount of damage that he does to himself.

At time of writing, the Cleveland right-hander is the 26th pitcher (24th starter) off the board, per NFBC data, but it looks like more people are buying into the fact that Plesac will see some statistical regression in 2021. Take a look at his draft trends on NFBC:




If we just use March 15th as an example, here is where he was picked: 111, 108, 95, 92, 82, 78, 75

Those six picks come to an average of pick 91.6. His average draft position currently sits at 72.04! He’s slipping in drafts, and honestly, I’m a fan of it. You have to bank in some regression to his stat line, and while he should strike more than one batter per inning and display elite command, his ERA is going to come to the mid-to-upper 3’s this year.

He’s still a top 30 starter for the 2021 season, but he should be drafted as such, not as a top 20 or 25 guy.

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