Ryan Cook has now pitched 19.2 scoreless innings in a set up role for the Athletics, while Pedro Strop has a vultures three wins, six holds, and a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings pitched. Let’s see if the success of these two relative unknowns will continue.
Cook most certainly has good stuff, with a mid-90’s heater and a slider that is utilized as a strikeout pitch. He is able to strikeout a solid amount of batters, with a current 8.24 K/9 rate and 8.23 career rate, but where he really struggles is with free passes. In the minors last season he netted a 9.1 K/9 with a 3.2 BB/9, which suggests that he does have at least some command, though much of that performance was at double-A. In 27.1 major league innings, Cook has walked 5.93/9 with a current 4.58 rate, which suggests that he will need to strikeout batters at a higher rate in order to sustain this level of success.
Cook has taken hold of a set up role, netting nine holds in 17 games, so he should have a decently long leash in that role. I do not expect him to be among the league leaders in reliever ERA all season, as he simply walks too many batters and his strikeout rate is not Kimbrel or Jansen-esque. Even so, in holds leagues Cook is a good player to go after as he pitches in a good park, has a solid defense behind him, and he has a pretty good hold of the set up role.
Strop’s stuff is even better than Cook’s, as his fastball sits around 96 miles per hour, and the increase from his career fastball velocity of 94.7 mph has proven effective. His strikeout rate has not seen the benefit of the increased velocity just yet, but his ground ball rate has sky-rocketed to 64.7%, which should help keep his BABIP down slightly if he continues to induce weak contact.
Strop also has a walk issue, with his walk percentage at 12.4% and a less than 2.00 K/BB ratio. It does help that Strop is likely the next in line to save games if something were to happen to Jim Johnson, so picking him up could have added benefits in the future. His six holds is already a career high and he seems entrenched in the role just as Cook is. Right now, I believe Strop’s FIP and xFIP match what his overall effectiveness and what to expect going forward, so a 3.20 ERA is where I would pin him if nothing in his repertoire changes. Keep an eye on his strikeout rate, as the velocity uptick may help his punch out total going forward.