The Rays rotation is going to be stacked with talent in 2018. They have their ace in Chris Archer, the 2017 breakout Jake Faria, and their top prospect Brent Honeywell. One Pitcher that should not be forgotten is the former top prospect Blake Snell. Snell has had a rough go of it in the Majors in his short career. While his ERA was an acceptable 3.54 in 2016, he had an ugly 1.618 WHIP. This leads to his biggest problem, walks.
In 2016 he had a 5.2 BB/9. Certainly not what you want to see from a young pitcher with his potential. The strikeouts were there, at 9.9 K/9, but he just wasn’t going deep into games. The overall numbers in 2017 were worse if you just take a glance. Snell went 5 wins, 7 losses, with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.330 WHIP.
Let’s pause right there, a higher ERA, but a lower WHIP? Why is that? For one thing, the long-ball doubled from 0.5 HR/9 to 1.0 HR/9. This was in large part due to an increase in HR/FB rate which went from 5.6% up to 11.6% in 2017. So despite the lower WHIP, he gave up more runs in 2017.
Let’s break down these numbers into smaller chunks. Let’s start with Blake Snell’s first half in 2017. He had a 4.85 ERA with a 1.21 HR/9 percentage. He also walked an ugly 5.88 batters per 9 innings. His K rate also dipped below 20% at 19.2%. So far you have to be wondering why this guy is going to break out in 2018. So let’s dive into why Blake Snell will take a leap forward in 2018.
The biggest encouragement is the adjustments Snell made in the second half. The biggest change? His walk percentage, which went to a mere 2.91 per 9. This was a huge improvement for a pitcher who had struggled with command in 2016 and the first part of 2017. This was one of the biggest reasons his WHIP went down in 2017. Snell seems to have learned to control the ball. His strikeouts also rose to 23.7% of batters. So, not only was he hitting the strike zone, he was fooling hitters at a higher rate. He reduced the home run ball to 0.93 per 9 innings in the second half as well. Home runs may always be a pain in his side largely due to the division he plays in, but if he can keep it under 1.0, his ERA should be in the mid to low 3s. His hard contact rate also fell in the second half. Basically any number you can think of, it improved vastly in the second half of 2017. You can see he widened his stance just a bit with these pictures. You will also notice his placement on the mound, He is more in the middle of the rubber in the second half rather than off to the left.
Second Half, 2017
So what does this mean for 2018? Does Blake Snell carry it over? With his prospect pedigree and the adjustments he made in the second half, I believe he does. With pitchers getting thin so late, Snell is a great grab at the Fantrax ADP of 216.93.
Photo credit: Sportsnet.ca