MLB: Early-Season Changes With Mitch Keller, Joe Ryan and Tommy Edman

MLB: Early-Season Changes With Mitch Keller, Joe Ryan and Tommy Edman

In a recent article, I looked at four notable starting pitchers through a couple of starts. We'll examine two more starting pitchers, plus a polarizing Cardinals hitter. Joe Ryan made an early pitch mix change. Mitch Keller finally had a solid start Wednesday after Twitter hype regarding the training videos and increased velocity. Through nearly two weeks, Tommy Edman has more home runs than steals. 

Mitch Keller (SP - PIT)

After two underwhelming starts, Keller fared well against the Brewers last Wednesday as he allowed four hits, one earned run and zero walks while striking out seven in 5.1 innings on 75 pitches. In Keller's first two starts, he walked five batters for a 12.2 BB% paired with a below-average 19.5 K%. 

Keller used the four-seamer 50% of the time, with the secondaries accounting for the rest in the first two starts. However, against the Brewers on Wednesday, Keller used the four-seamer 68% of the time. Meanwhile, Keller's slider (17%) remained the lone pitch thrown at a double-digit rate. 

Keller's slider performed the best, as evidenced by the 38% Whiff% and CSW%. It's positive to see the four-seamer finish with a 35% CSW%, though the 23% Whiff% looks underwhelming. Interestingly, Keller's four-seamer allowed a measly 57.2 mph average exit velocity, over 40 mph lower than 2021. Still, it would have been logical for Keller to lower the four-seamer usage, not increase it. It could've been a game plan against the Brewers specifically to attack with the four-seamer.

Before Wednesday's start,

In a recent article, I looked at four notable starting pitchers through a couple of starts. We'll examine two more starting pitchers, plus a polarizing Cardinals hitter. Joe Ryan made an early pitch mix change. Mitch Keller finally had a solid start Wednesday after Twitter hype regarding the training videos and increased velocity. Through nearly two weeks, Tommy Edman has more home runs than steals. 

Mitch Keller (SP - PIT)

After two underwhelming starts, Keller fared well against the Brewers last Wednesday as he allowed four hits, one earned run and zero walks while striking out seven in 5.1 innings on 75 pitches. In Keller's first two starts, he walked five batters for a 12.2 BB% paired with a below-average 19.5 K%. 

Keller used the four-seamer 50% of the time, with the secondaries accounting for the rest in the first two starts. However, against the Brewers on Wednesday, Keller used the four-seamer 68% of the time. Meanwhile, Keller's slider (17%) remained the lone pitch thrown at a double-digit rate. 

Keller's slider performed the best, as evidenced by the 38% Whiff% and CSW%. It's positive to see the four-seamer finish with a 35% CSW%, though the 23% Whiff% looks underwhelming. Interestingly, Keller's four-seamer allowed a measly 57.2 mph average exit velocity, over 40 mph lower than 2021. Still, it would have been logical for Keller to lower the four-seamer usage, not increase it. It could've been a game plan against the Brewers specifically to attack with the four-seamer.

Before Wednesday's start, Keller's Zone% sat at 47.4%, with the four-seamer Zone% at 61%. The overall Zone% and four-seamer Zone% jumped almost four percentage points each through two starts. Keller and the Pirates emphasized pounding the zone with the four-seamer against the Brewers. 

With data from all three starts, Keller's 48.5 Zone% and 64.8 Zone% on the four-seamer align with what we saw against the Brewers on film. Even the slider's Zone% jumped to 51.1% after three games versus 43.5% in 2021 and 42.4% in his career. 

Takeaways

Keller is still working through the offseason and in-season adjustments. The increased velocity provides optimism, but Keller needs to command those pitches better. One way to do so includes the Robbie Ray method of pounding the zone, particularly with the fastball. Hopefully, Keller's four-seamer performs well enough for that plan.

I believe there's potential with Keller, so hold onto him in 15-team leagues and possibly some 12-teamers. Stash Keller where possible in redraft leagues. He's a prime buy-low candidate in dynasty formats since many have skepticism surrounding Keller improving into a streamable pitcher.

Joe Ryan (SP - MIN)

Against the Red Sox, Ryan posted a dominant and efficient quality start with five hits, one earned run and zero walks with seven punchouts on 82 pitches across six frames. Ryan typically relied on the four-seamer over 65% of the time in 2021, then used the slider and four-seamer evenly against Boston. 

Ryan's slider finished with a silly 50% Whiff% and 48% CSW%, plus an increased velocity of 0.7 mph. The four-seamer increased 1.1 mph with a solid 35% Whiff% and 42% CSW%. If Ryan mixes in more sliders to elicit more swings and misses, it increases his upside. 

Ryan kept the four-seamer high in the zone, with the sliders in the lower half. That's the same way Ryan attacked hitters in 2021. Ryan's early slider usage and results look juicy, and I can't emphasize that enough. 

It's early, but Ryan's four-seamer has above-average horizontal movement paired with the slight above-average rise. That could help elicit weak contact on the four-seamer with almost more than one inch of break than in 2021.

Then on Thursday against the Royals, Ryan posted his second consecutive quality start as he allowed two hits and one walk with five strikeouts in six scoreless innings. Ryan's slider and four-seamer performed well, with the 42% Whiff% on the slider and 39% CSW% on the four-seamer headlining the metrics. Although Ryan didn't use the slider as much Thursday, the slider and four-seamer combination remained effective.

Ryan's Arsenal & Results

Oddly, Ryan's slider doesn't possess above-average movement, but it has elicited a 24.5 SwStr%, up from 18.2% in 2021. Ryan has pounded the zone with the slider, with a 57.1 Zone% up almost 15 percentage points from 2021. That's quite a combination on the slider with the increased Zone%, lowered contact rates and a higher swinging-strike rate. 

We know Ryan's success partly relates to the deceptive fastball and vertical release height. Among pitchers with 100 pitches thrown in 2022, Ryan has the fourth-lowest release height behind Logan Webb, Humberto Castellanos and Freddy Peralta. That helps the four-seamer play up even though the velocity isn't overpowering. Ryan pounds the four-seamer in the zone with a 58.9 Zone%. According to Alex Chamberlain's Pitch Leaderboard, that ranks 17th among starting pitchers with 50 four-seamers thrown.

Takeaways

In NFBC Main Event leagues, Ryan held an ADP of 180, near starting pitchers like Alex Wood, Tanner Houck and Jon Gray. Monitor Ryan's pitch mix change of relying on the slider more since it has translated into positive results thus far. Overall, Ryan checks several boxes, including the ability to limit walks, elicit whiffs and command pitches.

Tommy Edman (2B/OF - STL)

Edman was a polarizing player during draft season. Would Edman hit leadoff or bat towards the bottom of the lineup? Is Edman a compiler with few standout skills?

Edman batted sixth or ninth in 11 out of the 13 games. Edman's 10-game hit streak ended last Thursday. He currently has three home runs and one stolen base.

Edman's Batted Ball Profile

Interestingly, Edman has a high 56.8 GB%, 11 percentage points higher than his career average. So far, Edman has traded line drives and flyballs for groundballs, which typically isn't a recipe for success. However, Edman's Pull% has jumped to 47.4%, which previously topped out at 44.2% in 2021. This increased tendency could translate into more power moving forward.

The best part: hardly any of Edman's plate discipline metrics have changed in the early sample, outside a slight dip in the overall contact rate. 

Edman's Statcast Data

The barrel rate had previously peaked at 5.3% (24th percentile) in 2019.

In 2021, Edman's 112.9 mph maximum exit velocity ranked in the 87th percentile, which indicated he possesses the raw power. Edman has nearly matched that with a 112.6 mph maximum exit velocity in 2022. Over a quarter of his batted-ball events (27%) resulted in an exit velocity of 100-plus mph in 2021.

Last season, Edman ranked 121st with a 90.5 mph EV on FB/LD compared to 92.6 mph (No. 78) in 2022. I also stumbled upon an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discussing Edman's swing and approach change to add some pull side power, particularly on the left side.

Takeaways

The early power skills are enticing, and Edman has already worked his way back up the lineup. In one of Jason Collette's recent Collette Calls, he examined the power outage in the early season. Edman could buck the league-wide trend with his personal changes, adding significant power to his profile.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Corbin Young
Corbin Young loves fantasy baseball and football. Recently, he received an FSWA nomination for a Fantasy Football Ongoing Series. Corbin loves diving into and learning about advanced metrics. He is a Mariners and Seahawks fan living in the Pacific Northwest. Corbin's other hobbies include lifting weights, cooking, and listening to fantasy sports podcasts.
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