At this time a year ago many were considering the Rays’ Blake Snell, coming off an AL Cy Young win in 2018, one of the elite pitchers in the game. While he obviously hasn’t been forgotten, the perception is different as we enter 2020. That’s what injuries and struggles can do, especially coming off a season with these mediocre numbers:
147 Strikeouts (12.36 K/9)
40 Walks (3.36 BB/9)
39.0% Groundball Rate
The results are somewhat skewed by the missed time and it was obvious he wasn’t going to be able to maintain his Cy Young pace (when he benefited from a .241 BABIP and 88.0% strand rate). You can easily argue that the swing in luck metrics was extreme (his strand rate also plummeted to 71.6%), especially given these key statistics:
- Hard% – 34.8%
- Barrel% – 4.7%
- SwStr% – 17.7%
- O-Swing% – 37.0%
Opposing hitters need to not only make contact, but make hard contact in order to do damage. Considering that the Hard% wasn’t inflated and the Barrel% put him in the Top 10 percent of the Majors (the league average was 6.3%), there wasn’t much quality contact. That supports a dramatic improvement in his BABIP.
Snell also limited the contact in general, pairing an elite strikeout rate (and one that seems believable, after he posted an 11.01 K/9 in ’18) with his second straight season featuring solid control (3.19 BB/9 in ’18). There is going to be the risk of some home run issues, especially as he maneuvers through the AL East, but without quality contact (or contact in general) it won’t be a crippling mark.
With health and better luck Snell will rise back close to the Top 10 among starting pitchers in the league (we currently have him ranked 12th among starting pitchers). That puts him squarely on radars and if others are scared to select him make sure to reap the benefits (his current average ADP is 34.91 in NFBC drafts, but the latest he’s been selected is #58).
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings: