We’ve finally gotten a resolution to the question of where Dallas Keuchel will call home in 2019. Landing in the National League is a positive, though does that mean that he is going to be a can’t miss contributor from here on out?
Even without the long layoff there would have been questions surrounding his upside. The first red flag would’ve been the reduction in his strikeout rate in ’18 (K/9):
- 2015 – 8.38
- 2016 – 7.71
- 2017 – 7.72
- 2018 – 6.73
Keuchel is not a hard thrower, and his changeup was less effective last season (his Whiff% went from 24.71% to 17.88%). With a similar drop for his slider (19.85% to 12.02%) and the increased usage of his cut-fastball the regression makes sense. At 31-years old there’s also no guarantee that the numbers improve.
Then you have the drop in his groundball rate. Once an elite groundball artist, this marks the second time in the past three seasons that his groundball rate fell to a less than elite level. That’s not to call it a bad mark, but it’s simply not the same:
- 2016 – 56.7%
- 2017 – 66.8%
- 2018 – 53.7%
Even with a rebound in strikeouts, that type of groundball rate isn’t going to make him elite. Then you have the risk of his control, considering how long of a layoff he’s coming off of. Keuchel can talk about how hard he’s worked while waiting to ink a contract, but there’s a history of those who missed Spring Training not producing as expected. Now consider how long this layoff was?
Maybe Keuchel gets a small boost in strikeouts with the move to the NL, but he’s never going to be elite. If the groundball rate stays in the low 50% range to go along with the risk of a regression in his control? Nothing about that profile sounds promising.
Keuchel’s name is going to bring intrigue, as a former Cy Young Award winner, but at the end of the day the risk may far outweigh the reward. He hasn’t been that pitcher in two of the past three seasons as it is, but with the missed time the outlook is that much more questionable. If you want to roll the dice sure, but don’t consider him a difference maker.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball