After winning the World Series last year, the one weak spot that the Nationals failed to address this offseason was their bullpen. They’ve essentially lost Sean Doolittle who doesn’t seem to have his fastball anymore, which left a huge hole behind last year’s deadline-deal steal Daniel Hudson.
Enter Tanner Rainey, who flashed tantalizing upside last season but was marred by a high walk rate (17.8%). Well so far in 2020, that walk rate is down over 10% and he is even missing more bats than before. His 21.9% SwStr rate is currently third among all relievers while a 39.3% K rate ranks in the top 20. His slider currently has an 88% Whiff rate, with his total Whiff percentage ranking in the 98th percentile.
Rainey’s fastball velocity has dipped about two mph this season, but he’s now able to command that mid 90s fastball, which pairs nicely with that wipeout slider of his. It’s looking like a breakout season for the future Nationals closer, and as long as his walk rate stays below 10%, this is someone you want in all SV+HLD formats.
- Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo basically switch spots for this week, but I’d imagine the two switch back to their original roles sooner rather than later. Diaz still only has one bad outing this season (against Boston), and his slider looks much better than it did last year.
- Jonathan Hernandez and Rafael Montero also swapped lists this week, but this should be more permanent. Hernandez’s slider currently has a 60% Whiff and 50% PutAway rate which is pretty absurd considering he also has a 98 mph sinker.
- Gregory Soto has excelled in a full-time bullpen role for the Tigers so far this season, as he has a similar repertoire to Hernandez, just from the left side. With Buck Farmer landing on the IL, Soto should be the Tigers’ top setup man for the foreseeable future.
- Josh Tomlin continues to succeed despite the lack of velocity and has basically scrapped his four-seamer for a cutter/curve combo that has dominated hitters on both sides of the plate. He got knocked around last night but has still yet to allow a HR on the year after allowing 39 from 2018-19.
- Burch Smith has come from out of nowhere to be on the best relievers in baseball currently, so what’s the difference? For starters, his fastball velocity is up about two mph, and that fastball has carried him to this fantastic start. His offspeed offerings still need some work, but for now, he will try to continue to ride his fastball to success.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)