Breakout or Bust: Will John Means Take The Next Step In 2021?

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While The Baltimore Orioles’ John Means posted a solid 3.60 ERA in 2019, most expected things to regress significantly in his sophomore season. While the drop-off did come to fruition, could there be reason to believe that he’s actually figured things out? Could there suddenly be reason to believe that the southpaw is going to develop into a viable fantasy option?

While he finished with a 4.53 ERA over 43.2 IP in 2020, Means showed improvements in all three skills we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 8.66 K/9
  • Control – 1.44 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 43.9%

Interestingly he saw an increase in his velocity on all of his pitches, and that likely had an impact in his improvements:

Pitch20192020
Fourseam92.1694.24
Changeup81.2385.39
Slider84.0486.99
Curveball77.0679.39

That helped lead to a jump in his SwStr%, going from 9.9% to 12.5%. Interestingly he didn’t feature one big swing and miss pitch, instead showing an ability to get misses on all of his pitches (Whiff%):

  • Fourseam – 13.85%
  • Changeup – 14.13%
  • Slider – 11.69%
  • Curveball – 10.64%

The takeaway could be that he is strong will all four of his pitches, and that gives him the potential to come close to maintaining these numbers. Of course the biggest issue has been his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, with an ugly 2.47 HR/9. While he was generating more groundballs, pitching in Baltimore and routinely facing the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays and Red Sox, that’s something that’s going to continue to be an issue.

That said strong control and an improved strikeout rate should go a long way. Even if he just gets back to his 2019 mark (1.34 HR/9), the upside would be there to get back into the mid-3.00’s ERA. Time will tell, but the upside is there and it’s enough to make him a late round flier in all formats.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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