Welcome back FA Nation! Get ready for this week’s edition of Category Impact! If you’re new to the site or just forget how this article works since last week, let me offer a quick refresher.
Category Impact will offer up anywhere from four to six players that can help you out in a certain category, whether it is stolen bases, home runs, or strikeouts. Some weeks, there will be an added focus on a specific categories, while others will be just players that you will want to pick up, but there will be in-depth analysis detailing exactly what category, or categories, a certain player will be of added benefit.
This week’s category is…. SOLDS! (Saves or Holds)
Luke Farrell , RP CHC
Farrell stands a firm 6-feet-6-inches and has just 15 innings to his big league resume. Furthermore, he was just called up to the big league squad under a week ago. However, the way he’s throwing right now, he has a chance to stick in the Chicago pen, making him a reliable add in deeper mixed formats and NL-only formats. In 13 innings last year, he walked 10 guys and struck out nine. Yeah, not an ideal ratio. However, even before hitting the disabled list, Eddie Butler was nothing to write home about, so if Farrell continues his recent dominance, Joe Maddon and company could be forced to keeping him with the squad.
Since joining the big club, Farrell has allowed two hits in two innings, while striking out five batters. Yes, it’s an incredibly small sample size, but he’s generating plenty of swings-and-misses and the opposition is chasing his stuff out of the zone. His fastball and slider have proved effective this far, however, he doesn’t possess the elite velocity of guys like Aroldis Chapman and Co. Nonetheless, Farrell rests in the mid-90s, which is more than adequate to get batters out. He’ll need to continue to dominate the strike zone and avoid the walks that plagued him to the tune of a 1.69 WHIP last season. He’s far from saves, but could start pitching in higher leverage situations if he continues to dominate and earn the trust of the skipper.
Keynan Middleton , RP LAA
Middleton has posted above-average strikeout numbers at A+ and Double-A, but those marks slightly regressed during his brief tenure at the Triple-A level. However, in 58.1 innings last year, his K/9 jumped back up to 9.72, while the walk rate (2.78 BB/9) remained low. The contrast between his ERA and FIP signified he was lucky, but that luck has carried into the early part of 2018. He’s stranding runners on base nearly 90percent of the time and his BABIP of .294 is less than last year. However, Middleton’s FIP is nearly a full point and a half higher than his ERA (3.39 compared to 1.93). Yikes.
The opposition is making hard contact over one-third of the time, while only forcing ground balls one-third of the time. That means that the other times, the opposition is either hitting line drives or fly balls. Not all is grand and dandy for Middleton, especially when you look at his swinging strike percentage from last season. In 2017, Middleton forced a swing-and-miss 16.6 percent of the time. Right now, that mark resides at just 8.9 percent. Yikes.
However, saves are saves, and Middleton has six of them on the season, plus one hold. The closers job is his and that’s valuable, my friends. If he’s still available, scoop him up before you go back to work or back to whatever you were doing.
Drew Steckenrider , RP MIA
Compared to some of the other guys on the list, Steckenrider is very close to being the ninth-inning guy for the Marlins. In 10 April innings, Steckenrider has allowed just two earned runs, holding the opposition to a .206 batting average. Additionally, he’s posted a 12:2 K/BB ratio during that time frame. The 27-year-old right-hander has quality marks of a 11.57 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9 through the first month and change of the season, but the big question is are the marks sustainable? Damn right they are.
In 34.2 innings last season, Steckenrider posted a 14.02 K/9 and a 4.67 BB/9. The strikeouts and walks are down, but I believe that moving forward, the strikeouts will increase and the walks will remain at a respectable mark. While it may not stay below a 2.35 BB/9, it surely won’t increase to last season’s 4.67 BB/9 mark. He’s generating swings-and-misses at a similar clip to last year’s professional sample size, and batters are chasing at a similar clip as well. The velocity is within an acceptable range and he’s limiting the opposition to less hard contact. Miami will likely try to keep Brad Ziegler as the team’s closer as long as possibly to boost his trade value, but he’s been so bad that they will need to make the move at some point. When they do, ride with Steckenrider, because he’ll be commanding the ship.
Tony Cingrani , RP LAD
Cingrani has had his share of struggles at the big league level, and there’s no denying that. However, he’s throwing the baseball rather well in 2018. This season, he’s allowed just three earned runs on 6 hits in 9.1 innings pitched. However, the big thing to note with Cingrani and perhaps a potential sign of resurgence is that he’s keeping the ball in the strike zone. The southpaw has a career BB/9 of 4.31, but after posting a 5.29 BB/9 in 2016, he reduced that mark in 2.53 last season. Through his first handful of appearances, he’s yet to walk a batter, while striking out 17, en route to a 16.39 K/9.
He’s deviating from his fastball more than he has in the past, while using his slider more frequently. Here are his pitch usages (per Fangraphs) over the last couple of years.
Cingrani had injury concerns in the past, so hopefully the ramped up usage of his slider doesn’t cause him to hit the shelf. However, enjoy Cingrani while the going is good, and he’s worthy of an add in NL-only formats and deeper mixed leagues.
HONORABLE MENTION: Adam Ottavino , Colorado Rockies. His ownership has jumped above the percentage I typically use for this piece. If he’s available, GO GET HIM.