Welcome to the fastball velocity edition of the deep league waiver wire. While fastball velocity obviously isn’t everything, it does highly correlate with strikeout rate and a spike in velocity often leads to a surge in strikeout rate. These two pitchers embody this theme perfectly.
Charlie Morton | PIT SP | 3% Owned
About a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Charlie Morton returned to the mound for the Pirates. Given the lengthy and arduous rehab process, many pitchers experience an uptick in fastball velocity after coming back from the procedure. In 2012, Morton averaged just about 90 mph with his fastball, but 91-92 in the seasons before that. This year, his velocity jumped to nearly 93 mph in his first start and he was hitting the mid-90s with regularity in his start yesterday. He induced an 11.6% SwStk% during his first start with five strikeouts in five innings, though the extra oomph on his fastball did not translate into strikeouts in his second outing.
We know that TJ returnees typically struggle with their control early on, which could be problematic for Morton given that he already owns an uninspiring 3.7 BB/9 over his career. So that could certainly be a concern. But, he has been an extreme ground ball pitcher over the last two seasons, which should take some of the sting out from the extra base runners given his ability to induce the double play. The increased velocity is exciting, as Morton has not been much of a strikeout pitcher in the past. If he could push that strikeout rate into even league average territory, then along with an elite ground ball rate, he could make himself useful in most fantasy leagues. In fact, his skill set could potentially show little difference from another groundballer with suspect control, Justin Masterson.
Carlos Carrasco | CLE SP | 3% Owned
He’s baaaack! Am I the only one excited that Carrasco has returned to the Indians rotation? Back in mid-April, I reminded you readers not to sleep on him. This came after his first start of the season when he allowed 7 runs in just 3.2 innings against the Yankees. He was then suspended and promptly demoted to the minors. Now he’s back again filling in for the injured Zach McAllister. So why the excitement? Well, knowing the theme of this week’s waiver wire, I’m sure you could guess. It was the same reason behind my initial excitement in mid-April.
Over his three previous stints in the Majors between 2009 and 2011, Carrasco averaged between 92 and 93 mph with his fastball. Then just like Morton, Carrasco underwent TJ surgery and like magic, his velocity has spiked. According to PITCHf/x, his four-seamer has averaged about 95 mph, while his two-seamer is up to about 94 mph. That’s some serious gas. Unfortunately, the increased velocity has not led to impressive swinging strike rates or strikeout totals. That wasn’t a problem in the minors this year though as he whiffed over a batter an inning there.
Oddly, his fastball has had a pitiful SwStk%, both this year and in previous seasons. And given that he has thrown it more frequently this year, that could provide the explanation. The velocity increase itself hasn’t seemed to matter. Perhaps if he started throwing his change-up over 20% of the time like he used to, the increased velocity would help make the fastball more effective and induce more swings and misses.
At the moment, Carrasco’s strikeout rate and SwStk% don’t match his stuff. I cannot tell you if it will happen, but it’s hard not to be intrigued by a guy suddenly throwing in the mid-90s who had been previously lauded as a top prospect.
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