A dull offseason got much more interesting in the last couple of days, first with the Angels’ signing of Shohei Ohtani, and then with the Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. On Saturday’s installment of FanRag Fantasy Baseball, Jon Heyman reviewed these moves and provided some insight into what appeared to be last-minute changes of heart for both players. He also previewed the Winter Meetings, which are set to begin on Monday in Orlando.
I was also joined by The Athletic‘s Emily Waldon to discuss the Rule 5 draft, which will be held at the Winter Meetings on Thursday. She focused specifically on the Tigers, who hold the No. 1 pick, should they clear a spot on their 40-man roster in time for the draft.
You can check out the entire episode right here.
There were a few other recent items of note to discuss, including the Cubs’ three-year, $38 million signing of Tyler Chatwood. The former Rockie entered the free agent market with some buzz, as he had an enormous spike in his fastball velocity this past season, as well as an elite-level spin rate on his fastball and curve. Regarding the former, no pitcher who had thrown at least 120 innings in both 2016 and 2017 had a larger increase in fastball velocity than Chatwood. The graphic below shows how Chatwood’s increase (marked in green) sizes up against the rest of the field.
NOTE: Click on the full screen icon in the lower-right corner of the graphic for a more detailed look.
While Chatwood’s increased velocity coincided with a jump in his strikeout rate, he was hardly a standout in that regard with a 19.0 percent mark. His contact rate fell dramatically from 82.4 to 77.2 percent, but his Zone% fell from 44.0 to 41.1 percent, so he induced called strikes at a lower rate. Still, Chatwood’s 3.49 road ERA from this season bodes well for the move to Wrigley Field, and if he can throw more strikes and freeze more batters, he could further increase his strikeout rate.
Yet it’s the pitcher at the other end of the graph that caught my eye. Chatwood’s new teammate, Kyle Hendricks (marked in red), along with Danny Duffy, had the two largest decreases in fastball velocity. Possibly as a result, the Cubs’ righty had a modest decrease in his strikeout rate. Yet, his fastball velocity rebounded in September and October after a midseason trough. That late-season spike put him back in line with his 2016 velocity trends.
Over his final five regular season starts, Hendricks posted a 23.6 percent K-rate and a 19.5 percent K-BB%, and in the postseason, those marks were 25.0 percent and 18.1 percent, respectively. It may have taken him awhile to find his form after a midseason bout with tendinitis in his pitching hand. Barring any offseason health issues, Hendricks could be an underrated source of strikeouts on Draft Day.
Statistical credits: All data are from FanGraphs, except for monthly pitch velocity data, which are from Brooks Baseball.