Today we’re taking a look at two more free agent pitchers. We previously, in this blog entry, presented some stats and facts related to free agent pitchers Taijuan Walker, Chris Bassitt and Jameson Taillon. We did the same for Kodai Senga and Sean Manaea in this entry.
Today let’s take a look at two pitchers MLBTradeRumors.com has ranked as the No. 18 and No. 21 available free agents in this class.
Lefty Andrew Heaney: Heaney is No. 18 on the free agent list. I don't believe he will get a contract as strong as the one predicted by MLBTradeRumors.com: three years for $42 million.
On the negative side, there is an injury history here, and Heaney is certainly not an innings-eater. But what some front offices will also see is how the Dodgers turned him into a two-pitch pitcher in 2022, resulting in some pretty strong swing-and-miss and strikeout rates.
For his career, Heaney, 31, is 36-42 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.245 WHIP. He's posted a career walk rate of 2.5, a 9.7 strikeout rate and a 1.6 homer rate. His homer rate was 2.0 in 2021 and was 1.7 last year for the Dodgers. But perhaps the O’s front office will see a lefty here who would benefit greatly from the deeper left field wall in Baltimore. For his career, his OPS against is .780 versus right-handed batters and .679 against lefties.
In 2022 for Los Angeles, Heaney went 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA over 16 games, 14 starts. In 72 2/3 innings he allowed 60 hits with 19 walks to 110 strikeouts. He posted an impressive 1.087 WHIP and allowed 7.4 hits per nine innings with a 2.4 walk rate and strong 13.6 strikeout rate, a career best.
While Heaney spent nearly three months on the injured list last summer with shoulder issues, he also was among the best in the sport in strikeout percentage at 35.5. That put him in the top three percent in baseball in K percentage, and he was in the top four percent in chase rate and top eight percent in fastball spin. This data will all be of interest to teams.
It was just 72 2/3 innings, but the Dodgers got his fastball moving. He threw it 63 percent of the time, at an average velocity of 93 mph with a strong spin rate. His slider was a real weapon, one he used 32 percent to produce a 44.3 whiff rate. So his slider and fastball usage were up from previous seasons, and his changeup became an afterthought and was used just one of every 20 pitches he threw.
Righty Noah Syndergaard: The one-time New York Mets flamethrower is a very different pitcher after his 2020 Tommy John surgery. He is among that seemingly small percentage of hurlers who did not regain his pre-surgery velocity. His fastball in his heyday was in the upper 90s, averaging 97.7 mph in 2019. And last year it was 93.8 mph.
But MLBTradeRumors.com predicts that Syndergaard, one of the youngest free agent pitchers at 30, will sign for three years and $36 million.
After rejecting the Mets' qualifying offer after the 2021 season, Syndergaard signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels for $21 million. But then they traded him to Philadelphia on Aug. 2 at the trade deadline.
In 25 games between the two teams last season, he went 10-10 with a 3.94 ERA. In 134 2/3 innings he allowed 138 hits with 31 walks and recorded 95 strikeouts. He yielded 1.255 WHIP and a 2.1 walk rate, recording a modest 6.3 strikeout rate and 0.9 home runs per nine.
Syndergaard was fourth in the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year voting and was eighth the following year for the Cy Young Award with a record of 14-9 and a 2.60 ERA.
And while he is not nearly at that level anymore and his velocity is down from his younger days, the guy still did produce a just-above-league-average ERA in 2022. And he featured a strong combo of a low walk rate and being tough to square up. Despite the lower velocity and poor spin rates, he was in the top 20 percent in the major leagues in exit velocity against and top 21 percent in hard-hit rate. His walk rate was in the top 14 percent. All strong numbers.
I will take a guess that Syndergaard does better in a contract than Heaney. He’s a bit younger and he seems to be moving past his surgery. He has a few more good years in the tank, it seems. Yet some clubs may be enamored of Heaney's swing-and-miss stats.
Either of these two pitchers could help the Orioles somewhere in the middle or the back end of their 2023 rotation.
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