With Yonny Chirinos and Charlie Morton hitting the Injured List in the past week, it looks like Jalen Beeks could be in line for some spot starts for the Tampa Bay Rays. So let’s take a deeper look into Beeks’ season to date to see if he is worth a speculative add in your league.
Change of Scenery
Jalen Beeks was a 12th round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2014 out of the University of Arkansas. He didn’t become a starter until his final season in college, but in 81.2 innings, he had a 2.64 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. After signing with the Red Sox, the team played it slow with him, moving him a level or two per season. Prior to his call-up to the major leagues, Beeks had an impressive 117 strikeouts in 87.1 innings while only walking 25 batters. He made his debut on June 7, 2018, against the Detroit Tigers and was hit extremely hard. The Red Sox were in a playoff push and, in need of starting pitching, traded Beeks for Nathan Eovaldi. While he has always had a pretty interesting delivery, there were obvious changes the Rays made once he moved organizations.
Currently, he is sporting a 39.1 K% but taking a look at his velocity, nothing has really changed. So what gives? Is this just a small sample size? Maybe, but there have been some pretty interesting changes in this short season that leads me to believe that the Rays have done it again with one of their pitchers and made Beeks even better.
Change in Spin
The active spin on his fastball increased from 82.9% (which was Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman territory) in 2019 all the up to 95.2% (which is Dustin May territory). The active spin on his changeup this year is up to 93.4% (which is Lance McCullers Jr. territory). His changeup last year was 87.6% (which was around Anthony DeSclafani and Bryse Wilson). It is pretty impressive to see a pitcher go from a Brandon Workman/Bryse Wilson-type to a Dustin May/Lance McCullers Jr. combination.
Looking a bit deeper, the active spin on his heater has given that pitch about two more inches of rise.
Change in Mechanics
We already saw the difference between the Red Sox version and the Rays version of Beeks, but let’s look at year over year. Looking at game video from this year and last year, there is a slight difference. In the GIF below, the first clip (in a white uniform) is Beeks from 2019, and the second (in a blue uniform) is Beeks this year.
Not only is Beeks super athletic, especially with that delivery, but did you notice what changed? Last year, he dropped his left hand prior to releasing the ball.
And now this year, he is keeping his hand closer to his hip prior to release.
Not only are the new mechanics allowing to hide the ball more and add more active spin, but Beeks is also getting more extension this season, which again adds to the deception. Alex Chamberlain’s amazing Pitch Leaderboard is an amazing tool to easily see the difference. (Thank you Alex for creating this. We are not worthy.)
His changeup’s extension jumped from 6.3 ft. to 6.5 ft, and his fastball’s extension increased from 6.2 ft to 6.7 ft. That is an incredible increase in one offseason, even if it was longer than normal.
Change in Pitch Mix
So other than adding more spin to his pitches and getting more extension, what else has changed? Well, he ditched the curveball that lefties absolutely destroyed last year (they hit .375 AVG and .625 SLG) and replaced it with throwing more changeups and four-seamers. Add in the uptick in spin, and batters are having a tough time squaring up the ball.
His changeup has a 42.4 Whiff% and his four-seamer has a 45.5 Whiff%, which is up from 27.1% and 18.7% respectively. Also, with a 58.5 O-Swing%, 50.6 Zone%, and 18.1 SwStr%, it is what Nick likes to call a Money Pitch.
While he is throwing his four-seam less, he is using it in different counts and pounding the zone with it, and batters are just fooled. His SwStr% on his heater jumped from 7.9 to 18.7 this year. That is a HUGE jump!
So we have established that Beeks’ best pitch is his changeup, but it was his second pitch last year. However, this year, he is throwing it more often, up from 31.4% usage rate to 47.7%. He is also throwing in different counts.
I love to see a pitcher throw his best pitch more and especially when he is ahead in the count.
So overall, I think that Jalen Beeks is a very different pitcher now. He has added spin, changed up his pitch mix, and tweaked his mechanics. Those changes are producing more strikeouts and better results. Even if he stays in his current role, he could pick up some sneaky wins as he typically goes more than one inning at a time.
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)