Breakout or Bust: Could The Marlins’ Trevor Richards Be A Breakout Star In 2019?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Marlins feel like they are in a perpetual rebuild, but with that comes opportunity for young players to emerge.  That was specifically true on their pitching staff in 2018, as they gave several young starters a chance to step up and learn on the job.  One was Trevor Richards, who spent 75.1 innings at Double-A (2017) and 39.1 innings at Triple-A (2018) before being thrust into the Majors.  While he didn’t necessarily have much upper level experience, the 25-year old showed plenty of potential:

126.1 IP
4 Wins
4.42 ERA
1.39 WHIP
130 Strikeouts (9.26 K/9)
54 Walks (3.85 BB/9)
35.8% Groundball Rate
.309 BABIP

On the surface you look at most of the numbers and wonder why he even deserves any attention.  The control was lackluster…  The groundballs should lead to home run issues…  Throw in a 38.3% Hard% and what exactly grabs our attention?

Obviously the strikeouts are there, and he showed growth as the season progressed.  Just look at the SwStr%:

  • First Half – 8.9%
  • Second Half – 12.3%

He also was able to reduce the Hard% as he gained experience in the Majors, with a 33.5% after the All-Star Break (42.6% in the first half).  Those two numbers show upside, especially as Richards owns a changeup that can get swings and misses (25.42% Whiff%).  He needs to get to the pitch, and that’s the problem (AVG/SLG):

  • Fourseam Fastball – .312/.524
  • Changeup – .165/.284
  • Curveball – .321/.491

So when he gets to the changeup he’s devastating, but he needs to learn how to be more efficient and get outs with his other two pitches.  That’s something that should come in time, and he showed significantly better control (1.9 BB/9 over his minor league career) and groundballs (1.25 GO/AO in the minors, 0.81 in ’18 in the Majors) as he worked his way up through the minor leagues.  In terms of the latter he does benefit from a favorable home ballpark, so he may be able to limit the home runs overall, but an improvement there would go a long way in his outlook.

In terms of the former he showed growth in his control as the season wore on, including a 3.25 BB/9 in the second half (3.24 in September).  There’s more upside than that, but even at that mark the potential to produce would be there.

Richards owns a wipeout pitch…  He showed signs in his control…  There’s upside to at least post a league average groundball rate, pitching in a pitcher friendly ballpark…  It all comes together to form a pitcher who could be a surprising breakout in 2019.  Obviously pitching for Miami could cap his value, but at the tail end of your draft you have nothing to lose.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

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