Let’s continue reviewing the starting pitcher velocity surgers, as finding those breakouts will give you a huge leg up on your league winning journey. Yesterday, I shared and discussed six names, so let’s do another five today. As a reminder, these velocities are after just one start, and because the majority of starts have been abbreviated so far this season, the sample size of pitches is smaller than usual. While velocities stabilize rather quickly, they do fluctuate from start to start.
*Statcast average velocity of Fastball (4-seam), Fastball (2-seam), and Sinker
After a velocity dip in 2021, José Urquidy’s has not just rebounded to his 2019-2020 levels, but has risen further to what would be a career best mark. Oddly, it didn’t help at all in his first start, as he generated a lower SwStk% with his four-seamer than his previous season averages, plus failed to record any swinging strikes in seven changeups, which is his best pitch. That said, obviously this added velocity should be a good thing moving forward, and could make his changeup that much more effective. He remains an extreme fly ball pitcher, though, which could result in gopheritis, but at least it helps suppress his BABIP, and his sterling control results in more solo dingers than multi-run longballs.
Man, you’d think at age 32, Nathan Eovaldi’s velocity would have started to gradually decline! Instead, his first start four-seamer averaged a higher velocity than in any of his previous seasons. It’s pretty amazing how long it took him to translate that premium velocity into strikeouts. The fact he has maintained, or even increased, his velocity means that I’m thinking he’s going to continue sticking in that mid-20% strikeout rate in the near future.
This is a nice jump for Merrill Kelly, who has barely averaged above 92 MPH at best over his career previously. Like Urquidy, though, the added velocity didn’t help his fastball generate more whiffs during his first start, as the pitch’s SwStk% was well below what he’s posted over his previous seasons. However, his changeup was elite, as was his cutter. With good control and a career strikeout rate just above 20%, he doesn’t have far to go to make him more than just a streamer in 12-team mixed leagues. I’m not super bullish here, but he’s worth speculating on, especially in deeper leagues he may be available in.
Just another Spencer Howard implosion during his first start, right? Well yes, from a results perspective, but we like to look deeper than the results and focus more on the process and underlying metrics. Howard’s fastball velocity notched a career high, though following the theme of this list, it didn’t result in a particularly strong SwStk%. He was basically a two-pitch pitcher, and while his cutter generated a low-teen SwStk%, it was nothing special, so he ended up with just a mediocre overall SwStk%. Yet, he still managed to strike out a third of the batters he faced, and also didn’t walk anyone. I’m not sure what the deal with his pitch selection is, but a faster fastball means you should at least continue (or start) watching him. Yeah, I’d be petrified of starting him too, but don’t forget about his minor league track record and former prospect status.
Woah, where’s that velocity suddenly coming from Max Fried?! This velocity also includes his sinker, but he threw his four-seamer six times more frequently over his first start. His four-seamer has never averaged more than 94 MPH in a season, which his sinker velocity is up just marginally. Again, the velocity didn’t do anything for his four-seamer’s SwStk%, but at least this time his whiff rate didn’t decline, as we saw in some of the pitchers above. Overall, his SwStk% was actually lower than all previous seasons after his 2017 debut. Given his SIERA outperformance, I wasn’t particularly bullish on him relative to cost, but increased velocity could perhaps lead to a higher strikeout rate, which could maybe offset any loss of good fortune.