This year has most certainly not been the type of year many expected out of Jonny Venters. After posting consecutive years with an ERA below 2.00, Venters’ ERA has ballooned to over 4 while his velocity has dropped a mile per hour on all of his pitches.
Venters was listed in two of our preseason “best pitches” lists, for his slider and sinker, but the lefty’s biggest issues this year have come from his patented sinker. In terms of wSI/C, he sits at -2.60 after netting a 1.36 mark last year. The mid-90’s sinker has been hit much harder than in the past, but I still see an opportunity for Venters to succeed — maybe not quite at the level of the past, but still be a quality reliever.
While his ERA and FIP are both significantly higher, his xFIP and SIERA are not far from in line with his career numbers. The odd home run rate he maintained for the past two years may vanish with the lower velocity, which should allow the ERA to level off at roughly 3.00 for the rest of the year — ZiPS has his rest-of-season ERA at 2.93. While that is not the number we have become accustomed to, it is a number that seems reasonable. Unless you believe his 38.5% HR/FB rate and .413 BABIP are his true talent levels, Venters looks like a good buy for holds over the remainder of the year.
For the time being, since he has continued to struggle, Venters has been removed from his accustomed eighth inning role. He may see more opportunities in the sixth and seventh against only left-handers, which presents a solid opportunity for cheap holds in leagues with innings caps like ottoneu. He still has 15 holds on the year, which is not far from the league leader, so acquiring Venters from an owner who may be getting sick of his inconsistent play thus far is my current recommendation. If you find him on the waiver wire, he is certainly worth an add.
There are definitely concerns with Venters game, as the velocity is down as previously mentioned and his ground ball rate has sunk to 59% after posting consecutive years above 68%. That is still a respectable rate, however, and Andrelton Simmons behind him should help bring his BABIP down closer to career levels for the remainder of the year. He is striking batters out at a higher rate than ever before while keeping his walk rate down — a very good sign of things to come. He is a quality buy low candidate in holds leagues, in my opinion.