Buy or Sell: Anthony DeSclafani
Even the Reds couldn’t have thought trading Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins would have worked out this well but here we are. A mere four starts into the season and DeSclafani has a sparkling 1.04 ERA while his more decorated colleague has posted a hideous mark of 6.86.
On the surface the trade looked like a good move for the Marlins who were getting a 27-year-old Latos coming off of his fifth straight season of posting a sub 3.50 ERA. Latos would be a year removed from his health issues and the ballpark in Miami is considerably more favorable to pitchers that the hitter friendly confines of Great American. The centerpiece coming back to the Reds was the 25-year-old DeSclafani who posted a terrible 6.27 ERA over his 33 innings with the Marlins last year and whose upside seemed limited. DeSclafani had other ideas about his upside, so let’s take a look at how he is succeeding and if he can keep it up.
At 6’1 and 190 lbs. the right-handed DeSclafani and his low 90’s fastball profile on the surface as just another arm. His physical tools are limited and without an overpowering offering he needed to be exceptional in other areas of his game to succeed. The part that has stood out for DeSclafani since day one in the minor leagues is his control and ability not to hurt himself. Over 354.1 IP in the minor leagues he posted a 304/79 strikeout to walk ratio while limiting runs at every stop. The other thing that he did well was keeping the ball in the park allowing just two home runs over 59.1 IP in the notoriously hitter friendly PCL last year.
Breaking Pitches on Full Display
Obviously being a smart and adaptable pitcher DeSclafani knew that the formula that didn’t work so well for him last year in Miami would need to be changed if he was going to succeed. To succeed in Cincinnati you need to be adept at keeping the ball down and last year’s mark of just 35.5% ground balls was not going to be enough to get the job done.
Usage Rate: Courtesy of BrooksBaseball
As you can see so far this season DeSclafani has adjusted his fastball usage focusing on throwing his sinker much more and so far it is working out. Early returns on his performance show an increase of 7.1% in his groundball rate putting him at a respectable mark of 42.6%. With the increased usage of his sinker DeSclafani’s other offerings are seeing a tick up in their strikeout rate all seeing a substantial boost. His slider in particular has shown flashes of being a true wipeout pitch if he can keep throwing it this well.
Whiff Rate: Courtesy of BrooksBaseball
In addition to throwing more sinkers overall DeSclafani is throwing them in two strike counts to induce ground balls. He is doing this 17.2% of the time up from 10.5% last season. This seems like a positive since 71.4% of the time he threw the sinker in that count last year it resulted in a ground ball.
All of these changes withstanding we can’t ignore the fact that DeSclafani has not pitched as well as his peripherals suggest. While Latos is over in Miami getting destroyed with a .377 BABIP DeSclafani’s mark sits at an extremely favorable .174. This mark is not reasonable considering Johnny Cueto’s .238 BABIP was tops in the game last year. I think a reasonable expectation for DeSclafani is that he regresses back to where his FIP sits at 3.36.
It remains very early but overall I like what I see out of the young right hander. The numbers are there and the confidence is building. Sure he has gotten a bit lucky but he also got a little unlucky last year with his .330 BABIP. What DeSclafani has is three pitching getting him over a 10% whiff rate, good control, and a newly utilized sinker to get more grounders. That is progress and so far I am buying.