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Trusting Triston McKenzie

Triston McKenzie

Triston McKenzie

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The season is almost done folks. Can you believe it? I surely cannot. However, just because there is only a week left that doesn’t mean there are not things to glean. For the edition of the Dynasty Dispatch, I thought I would highlight three pitchers whose late season heroics surely won many championships for dynasty managers. Hopefully they are on your team, but if not, these players could be excellent offseason trade targets.

Blake Snell, LHP, Padres

2.73 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 81/13 K/BB, 5 Wins

16.2% Swinging Strike - since August 3

Blake Snell has had a roller-coaster career, not in that he has been terrible, but more in line that has been inconsistent. He arrived on the scene in 2016 and posted an unsightly 1.62 WHIP to pair with a 3.54 ERA and 98/51 K/BB ratio. He settled in as a typical number three or four starter in fantasy in 2017 and shot to the moon in 2018, where he posted a 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 221/64 K/BB ratio. He led all of major league baseball with 21 wins, enroute to winning the AL CY Young Award. Since then, the 29-year-old settled back into the earlier version of himself, where the lack of consistency prevented him from being an ace in fantasy. So you might be asking, Shelly, we all know who Blake Snell is. I thought this was a piece on dynasty risers?

Well, fine reader, don’t look now but Snellzilla has returned. One of Snell’s biggest issues has been finding the right pitch mix. Back in 2018, he the four-seam fastball and curveball were his most used pitches, but he also paired those with an above-average changeup. However, Snell has never been able to find the feel since his CY Young season. In 2018, batters were slashing .195/.262/.361 but results have drastically diminished since then. Batters were destroying the pitch last year to the tune of a .429/.478/.595 slash line. Not great Bob. So what has changed this year? Snell has ditched the changeup and curveball and moved toward an elite combination of four-seam and slider. Batters are hitting .168/.200/.272 with a 61/4 K/BB ratio and 38 CSW% (called strike plus whiffs) on 523 pitches thrown. What?!? That is a 47% strikeout rate folks! Snell is also throwing the slider two ticks harder and the pitch sits comfortably around 88-89 MPH. Not only are all the underlying stats showing that this is an elite pitch, but Snell is also showing more confidence in the pitch. In two-strike counts, he goes to the slider 37% as opposed to the four-seamer just 29%. If Snell continues to trust the slider going forward, he could finally reach ace status next year.

Triston McKenzie, RHP, Guardians

2.71 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 74/13 K/BB, 4 wins

14.5% swinging strike - since August 2

The Guardians shocked the world with the gameplay down the stretch and took the AL Central title with a little over a week and a half to spare. There are many breakout stars on the roster but Triston McKenzie might have taken the biggest step forward. McKenzie was drafted by the Guardians in the comp round of the 2015 draft out of Royal Palm Beach High School. At the time, he was ranked as the 51st best prospect by Baseball America. After re-reading his scouting report, one thing really stood out.

“McKenzie is young for the class and won’t turn 18 until August. That gives him more time to fill out his 6-foot-5, 160-pound frame and a chance to improve his velocity.”

McKenzie is currently listed at 6-foot-5 and 165 pounds and his slight frame has always had me backing away. I will freely admit that I feel into some confirmation basis after he missed most of the 2018 and all of the 2019 seasons due to a wide variety of injuries.

He is the one laughing now as the 25-year-old has thrown 180 ⅓ innings and with the Guardians post-season run, could hit 200 innings pitched before the World Series champion is crowned. It is not only the durability he has displayed the year that him rising up my dynasty ranks. His development as a pitcher as me even more excited. He ditched the changeup and began to throw his slider and curveball more. Honestly, his curveball might be one of the better curves in baseball.

Batters are hitting a minuscule .116/.133/.204 with an 81/3 K/BB ratio and mind-blowing 37 CSW% on 580 pitches thrown. His 23% SwStk% is second in the major leagues, and like Snell, he is throwing it more in two-strike counts. Those are bonkers stats. The biggest hurdle for McKenzie will be his propensity for the long ball. He has and probably always will be a fly ball pitcher. Throughout his professional career, he has never had a groundball rate below 50%. He has made improvements this year but I’m always afraid MLB will mess with the baseball again.

Even with that being said, McKenzie has turned into a reliable number two starter in my eyes. He reminds me of Sandy Alcantara in that the lights-out stuff is not there but his ability to throw seven or more innings per start will accumulate many strikeouts and wins for the next couple of years.

Kyle Bradish, RHP, Orioles

2.59 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 50/19 K/BB, 3 wins

9.6% swinging strike - since August 3

I will freely admit as someone who follows minor league baseball, Bradish was a pop-up prospect for me this year. He was drafted by the Angels in the fourth round in 2019 but had to pack his bags for a move to the east coast as he was a part of the Dylan Bundy trade. As a 25-year-old, Bradish made only three starts in Triple-A before the Orioles called him up to the majors. During that time, he had struck out 17 batters across 15 innings pitched and he look poised to take the next step. Things did not go well.

Across his first ten games in the majors, the right-hander had a ghastly 7.38 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, and 46/18 K/BB ratio. He was sent back to the minors in the middle of June and made his return on late July with a new pitch mix and revamped mechanics.

Not only has he drastically changed his mechanics, but he has also begun to rely more on his slider and that pitch has become his prominent offering in the month of September. On top of that, he is putting himself in a better position to succeed by throwing 62% first-pitch strikes, which is drastically improved from a 54% rate prior to the demotion. While he may never reach ace status, his ability to miss bats could help dynasty managers rack up plenty of category goodness for the foreseeable future.