Valdez more than doubled his changeup usage – still an infrequent part of his arsenal, but an increase nonetheless – in 2019 compared to 2018, up to 4.34% from 1.7%.
Valdez’ other plus pitch along with his fastball is his curveball, as he’s able to get a ton of swings and misses in general but specially outside the zone. He gets over 60% groundballs on the pitch and it features a ton of horizontal and vertical movement.
Valdez cut back on his fastball usage this past season, throwing it 61.45% of the time compared to 68.1% of the time in 2018. He also started throwing it slightly harder, averaging 92.9 mph with his core pitch, up from a base 92 mph. It was far less effective though, dropping from a 5.8 pVAL in 2018 to -10.2 in 2019.
While the curveball was his strikeout pitch, Valdez’s sinker was his most effective and highest-graded pitch in 2018. While he did walk batters at a 20.6% rate, he limited line drives and fly balls with the pitch (11.4 and 13.6% respectively) while generating an outstanding 75% ground-ball rate. Although he generated few swinging strikes and did not strike out many batters with the sinker, he held batters to a .094 ISO.
The curveball was Valdez’s strikeout pitch. He produced an outstanding 41.7% K rate with the pitch while limiting batters to an 8.3% walk rate. He also induced weak contact with the pitch, producing less than 10% line-drive and fly-ball rates, which led to a .024 ISO allowed. Based on the effectiveness of the pitch, the curveball is one Valdez can and should throw more frequently in 2019.
Valdez’s 92.7 mph fastball graded out as slightly above average, but the underlying metrics do not support that grading. Valdez walked as many as he struck out with the pitch while allowing a .188 ISO and a 33.3% HR/FB rate. He did allow a below-average rate of fly balls while inducing an above-average rate of ground balls, which limited the damage that HR/FB rate could cause.