What To Watch For In Spring Training: Starting Pitchers

Which pitchers should we be monitoring in Spring Training?

We’re over a week into Spring Training and as we do our very best to tell ourselves that March games should have little-to-no effect on our drafting strategies, we have to acknowledge that there are always exceptions.

Pitchers can illuminate plenty in their early starts, let it be an increase in velocity, a firm grasp of a rotation spot, new mechanics, or an added pitch to their arsenal. Keep in mind, in most cases, you should be shifting your perspective of pitchers only from a positive change, rarely when a pitcher underperforming as they ramp up for the season’s premier.

There is also one general rule I follow that I want to pass to you:

Veterans usually start slow in the spring. Younger arms generally show up to camp ready.

You should be expecting older arms to ramp up their velocity with more starts, especially as they experiment in earlier outings. They also have more experience to know what tweaks and adjustments to make in time for the start of the season.

Meanwhile, younger arms generally have something to prove, say for a rotation spot or they are itching to define themselves among the team. It generally means what you see early is what you get.

Keep that in mind as we dive into all thirty MLB rotations. For the sake of your readability, I’ve made this an easy checklist for each starter in every rotation. No long paragraphs, just the good stuff.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

 

  • Zac GallenIs he leaning a little more on changeups? Can he get strikes with sliders and curveballs?
  • Madison Bumgarner – Can he get back to 90/91 mph velocity? Bumgarner can be a huge sleeper if his velocity is back up.
  • Caleb Smith – Is he throwing strikes + maintaining 92/93 mph?
  • Luke Weaver – Watch his slider usage and if it can constantly get strikes. He needs that pitch to prevent hittable fastballs.
  • Merrill Kelly – 92/93 mph velocity with curveballs or cutters for strikes.

 

Atlanta

 

  • Max Fried – Is he in rhythm with his curveball?
  • Ian Anderson – Still having trouble nibbling around the zone? Has his curveball improved?
  • Charlie Morton – We want to see 94/95 mph velocity to feel comfortable.
  • Drew Smyly – He showcased a 94/95 mph heater last September and we want to see that again.
  • Kyle Wright – Is he able to limit the walks and hit edges?

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

  • John Means – Is he at 94/95 mph on his heater? Is his changeup nailing the bottom of the zone? Are his slider and curveball forcing their way into the conversation?
  • Felix Hernandez – If he can’t get above 90 mph consistently, this won’t be worth it.
  • Jorge Lopez – Unless something dramatically changes, he’s not worth the look
  • Keegan Akin – Keep the same 94 mph velocity
  • Dean Kremer – Be the same guy from September.

 

Boston Red Sox

 

  • Nathan EovaldiIs his fastball + cutter combination working well? Is he comfortably pumping 97+ mph?
  • Eduardo RodriguezFirst, let’s make sure he’s healthy n all. Check to see if he’s able to get his slider/cutter over the plate for strikes.
  • Garrett RichardsCommand is everything here. The more strikes, the better.
  • Martin Perez – He excelled when he had 94 mph velocity and a solid cutter to boot. Without that, we’re not interested.
  • Nick PivettaIs he forcing himself into the rotation over Tanner HouckLet’s cross our fingers his fastball is back at 94/95 mph and he’s able to throw 45%+ breaking balls.

 

Chicago Cubs

  • Kyle Hendricks – Are you still the command freak you’ve always been?
  • Jake Arrieta – Can he sit 93/94 mph again? Is he getting whiffs with his cutter?
  • Zach Davies – If that changeup is cruising with 35%+ usage, you should feel safe drafting him.
  • Alec Mills – Is he finding the edges and stealing strikes effectively?
  • Trevor Williams – Is the slider usage still above 25%? Can it get strikes?
  • Adbert Alzolay – How is his control? His biggest question mark is his pitch efficiency.

 

Chicago White Sox

  • Lucas Giolito – Do you have a whiff-heavy breaker?
  • Dallas Keuchel – Command still there?
  • Lance Lynn – Still 93/94 mph velocity?
  • Dylan Cease – Is his command fix? Like for real this time? Watch his slider and curveball specifically, while hoping we get few heaters missing up and arm-side.
  • Caros Rodon – Monitor his slider. Is he getting 45%+ swings on them? That pitch is everything for Rodon.
  • Michael Kopech – Is he back up to near triple-digits velocity? How do his slider and changeup look?

 

Cincinnati Reds

  • Sonny Gray – Is he getting strikes with his slider and curveball?
  • Luis Castillo – Fastball command okay? How is his slider developing?
  • Tyler Mahle – Track that slider. Is it low in the zone and getting whiffs? Is he using other secondary pitches instead?
  • Wade Miley – Remember him? His cutter created his success, check to see if it’s jamming right-handers effectively.
  • Michael Lorenzen – Is he able to keep his 96 mph velocity? Are his slider & changeup getting whiffs? Are his cutter and sinker getting smacked around?

 

Cleveland

 

  • Shane Bieber – How’s the changeup coming? Is his new cutter still fantastic?
  • Zach PlesacAs long as his slider and changeup are both getting whiffs, everything is fine. Is he still exclusively throwing them to just righties (sliders) and lefties (changeups)?
  • Aaron Civale – He has a new arm circle, throwing more four-seamers, and now has a split-change. Let’s see if it all works.
  • Triston McKenzie – Is his fastball at 94 mph? Are both his slider and curveball working?
  • Logan Allen – Is he going to win the #5 spot?
  • Cal Quantrill – Is he going to win the #5 spot? Also, are any of his secondary pitches noteworthy?

 

Colorado Rockies

 

  • German Marquez – Is his slider doing wonderful things?
  • Kyle Freeland – He needs to be hitting the edges with heaters or this is doomed.
  • Antonio Senzatela – Something new needs to happen
  • Jon Gray – Is he back to 96 mph?
  • Austin Gomber – How dominant is that curveball? Does it matter?

 

Detroit Tigers

 

  • Matthew Boyd – Is his slider back? Is that changeup still getting whiffs? 92/3 mph velocity should do the trick.
  • Spencer Turnbull – Please tell me he’s axing that sinker. PLEASE. Meanwhile, are both his slider and curveball missing bats?
  • Michale Fulmer – Ha. He needs to return to hovering 96 mph velocity with a solid slider and changeup. We can only hope.
  • Jose Urena – If he’s hitting the edges with a 95/96 mph sinker, there’s hope for a Toby in here.
  • Julio Teheran – Can he get back to 90/91 mph velocity? Is his slider missing bats again?
  • Casey Mize – How is his splitter consistency? Is he leaning on his cutter for strikes effectively?
  • Tarik Skubal Focus on his secondary stuff. Is he featuring them heavily and getting strikes with them?

 

 

Houston Astros

 

  • Zack Greinke – Don’t worry about his velocity. It’s always slow.
  • Lance McCullers Jr. – How’s the cutter? Does he have a proper secondary pitch to get strikes outside of his curveball?
  • Jake Odorizzi – Is he painting the top of the zone with 93 mph heaters? Don’t worry about the secondary stuff.
  • Jose Urquidy – Are the whiffs returning on his slider and curveball?
  • Cristian Javier – Has he developed the stamina to push 93 mph as he progresses through the start?

 

Kansas City Royals

 

  • Danny Duffy – Should be 92/93, I wonder if he’ll keep his elevated curveball usage for strikes in zone.
  • Brad Keller – 93/94 mph is ideal. His breaker had its moments last year, let’s hope it keeps up (by locating it down).
  • Mike Minor – Can he get his 92/93 mph back? Lost two ticks last season.
  • Brady Singer – Does he have a strikeout pitch?
  • Kris Bubic – Is his command good enough to deserve the #5 spot?
  • Jakob Junis – Is his slider forcing him into the rotation?

Los Angeles Angels

 

  • Shohei OhtaniIs he still falling behind in counts constantly?
  • Andrew Heaney – Look for pitch separation: fastballs up, curveballs down and glove-side, changeups down and arm-side.
  • Dylan Bundy – Is he comfortably at 91 mph through outings? First pitch curveballs back? Please no mistake sliders deep in counts.
  • José Quintana – Can he get strikes with his curveball & hit edges with heaters?
  • Alex Cobb – Has driveline changed him? How is “The Thing” (his splitter) looking?
  • Griffin Canning – Is he getting into deep counts often? How are the breaking pitches?

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

  • Clayton Kershaw91 mph velocity still there?
  • Trevor Bauer – Are his spin rate numbers still incredibly high?
  • Walker Buehler – Cutter/slider/curveball for strikes?
  • Julio Urias – Is he getting whiffs with sliders and curveballs?
  • David Price – 93/94 mph velocity? Sat 92 mph in 2019.
  • Tony Gonsolin – Are they letting him get innings?
  • Dustin May – Are they letting him get innings, too? Also, does he have a whiff pitch?

 

Miami Marlins

 

  • Sandy Alcantara – How are his changeup and slider looking?
  • Pablo Lopez – Is the cutter getting strikes and landing glove-side? Is he getting chases on changeups?
  • Sixto Sanchez – Is he favoring a four-seamer over his sinker? How is the slider command glove-side?
  • Elieser Hernandez – Does he have a third pitch to get strikes with?
  • Trevor Rogers – How are his performances overall? Are changeups still getting whiffs?

 

Milwaukee Brewers

 

  • Brandon Woodruff – Confidently sitting 96+ mph?
  • Corbin Burnes – Still landing glove-side on cutters and arm-side with sinkers? Is he featuring the slider plenty?
  • Josh Lindblom – Is he sitting 91+ mph? How much has his slider taken over his arsenal?
  • Adrian Houser – Is his heater getting consistent outs? Can he rely on his slider or changeup for strikes?
  • Brett Anderson – Can the man avoid getting hurt? Is he at 90/91 mph?

 

Minnesota Twins

 

  • José Berrios – Can he keep the 94/95 mph velocity gain? Is his curveball working?
  • Kenta MaedaDelicate fastballs around the edges?
  • Michael Pineda92/93 mph velocity with plenty of slider whiffs?
  • JA Happ – Constant four-seamers up-and-in to right-handers?
  • Matt Shoemaker – Does he learn Maeda’s splitter? Can he be consistent with it?

 

New York Mets

 

  • Jacob DeGrom – He can’t keep the increasing velocity trend going right? Right?!
  • Carlos Carrasco – Is his command back to normal after taking a rest with a sore elbow?
  • Marcus Stroman – How’s the new split-change? Cutter usage still high and performing well?
  • Taijuan Walker – Does he have a proper whiff pitch?
  • David Peterson – Is he getting slider whiffs?

 

New York Yankees

 

  • Gerrit Cole Does he have his fastball going? Are they letting him go in full by the end of spring training?
  • Corey Kluber – Is he comfortably at 91/92 mph?
  • Jameson Taillon – Is he back to 94/95 mph? How are the slider and new four-seamer?
  • Jordan Montgomery – Is he maintaining the 2020 velocity gain at 92/93+ mph?
  • Domingo German – Does he have a firm grip on the #5 spot?
  • Deivi Garcia – Are you getting opportunities in the rotation early in the season?

 

Oakland Athletics

 

  • Chris Bassitt – Does he have a pitch working that isn’t his sinker?
  • Jesús Luzardo – How is his fastball command? Is he moving away from sinkers in favor of four-seamers and breakers?
  • Frankie Montas – Is his splitter back? Is he back to 96/97 mph?
  • Sean Manaea – Still 90/91 mph? Command alright?
  • Mike Fiers – 90 mph velocity? Cutter effective?

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

  • Aaron Nola – Still heavy changeup usage? Fastball command looking good?
  • Zack Wheeler – Sliders for strikes/whiffs? Is that changeup/curveball developing well?
  • Zach Eflin – Please show me that curveball near 20% of the time. PLEASE.
  • Vince Velasquez – Is there a second pitch to trust confidently?
  • Matt Moore – Does he have the fifth rotation spot?
  • Spencer Howard – Is that velocity at 95/96 mph? Is he pairing heaters well with sliders and changeups?

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

 

  • Steven Brault– Is his slider usage still climbing? Jumped to 25% last year, but lost whiffs in favor of called strikes.
  • Chad Kuhl – Fastball at 95/96 mph? Sliders still filthy? Is the transition to four-seamers from sinkers working?
  • Mitch Keller – Back at 95 mph on his fastball? Are his slider and curveball getting strikes?
  • Tyler Anderson – Is he finding the edges and getting whiffs? Does he have what it takes?
  • JT Brubaker – Is his sinker earning outs? Are his sliders getting whiffs?

 

San Diego Padres

 

  • Yu Darvish Fastball still mid-to-upper 90s? Is he getting beat with secondary stuff?
  • Blake Snell – Are his slider and curveball landing inside the zone?
  • Chris Paddack – Is that fastball dominating again? Does he have a breaking ball he can trust?
  • Joe Musgrove – Is he at 94 mph consistently? Is he throwing at least 50% sliders and curveballs?
  • Dinelson Lamet – Are you actually healthy – watch his fastball command as erratic heaters out of the zone can be an early sign of pain.
  • Adrian Morejon – How’s the splitter?
  • MacKenzie Gore – Is this guy actually good? How are his breaking pitches? What about his fastball command?

 

San Francisco Giants

 

  • Kevin Gausman – Still holding 95+ mph on his fastball? Locating them high-and-tight to right-handers?
  • Johnny Cueto – Is he acting as a proper “kitchen sink” pitcher?
  • Anthony DeSclafani – Is his fastball getting beat? Can he rely heavily on sliders?
  • Alex Wood – How is the new changeup looking? Can he sit 91+ mph again?
  • Aaron Sanchez – Does he have the stamina to pitch six frames? Is he getting whiffs on high heaters and effective breakers?

 

St. Louis Cardinals

 

  • Jack Flaherty – Is he in rhythm with sliders and curveballs? Is that sinker inside to right-handers getting outs?
  • Kwang Hyun Kim – Is he living on the edges?
  • Adam Wainwright – Are his curveballs still in heavy rotation? Are they getting outs?
  • Carlos Martinez – Is he back to 94/95 mph velocity?
  • Daniel Ponce de Leon – Can he throw his curveball inside the zone for strikes? Are fastballs still living at the top of the zone?
  • Alex Reyes – Is he actually going to start? For real?
  • Miles Mikolas – How is his health? Are they going to put him in the rotation out of the gate?

 

Seattle Mariners

 

  • Marco Gonzales – Is he still earning consistent outs on sinkers?
  • James Paxton – Are his cutters and curveballs getting strikes? Can he jam right-handers with fastballs? Is he back at 95 mph velocity?
  • Yusei Kikuchi – Does he have command with his fastball and cutter?
  • Justus Sheffield – Has he made a breakthrough with his changeup? Is his sinker good enough?
  • Chris Flexen – Did he make enough adjustments to be a proper Toby this year?
  • Justin Dunn – Is that slider looking like a legit whiff offering?

 

Tampa Bay Rays

 

  • Tyler Glasnow – Does he have a third pitch that can get consistent strikes? For real, though.
  • Rich Hill – Is he at 88 mph? If not, is he at least spotting his fastballs well? Are his curveballs still tough to hit?
  • Chris ArcherCan he sit 95 mph again? Is his slider still an elite whiff pitch?
  • Ryan Yarbrough – Do the Rays look insistent to allow him to start a game and go at least five frames?
  • Michael Wacha – Can he sustain his velocity gain? Does he have a major second pitch to push him confidently into the rotation?
  • Luis Patino – Will he make us dream a world where he’s not on the Rays?

 

Texas Rangers

 

  • Kyle Gibson – Can he go 50% sliders and changeups?
  • Jordan Lyles – Is he in rhythm with high fastballs and low curveballs?
  • Kohei Arihara – Do we trust his command?
  • Mike Foltynewicz – Is he touching upper 90s on fastballs and getting whiffs on sliders?
  • Dane Dunning – Does he still get whiffs on four-seamers? Is his slider a legit #2 pitch?

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

  • Hyun Jin Ryu – Does he not look like he’s about to get injured?
  • Robbie Ray – Can he throw strikes?
  • Tanner Roark – Is he dotting the edges?
  • Steven Matz – Can he get whiffs on fastballs? Has his curveball or changeup developed? Is he bringing back the slider?
  • Ross Stripling – Are the Blue Jays giving him a legit place in the rotation?
  • Nate Pearson – Do the Jays limit him when he returns from his groin injury?
  • Tyler Chatwood – Is he destined for long relief? Are his cutters the answer?

 

Washington Nationals

 

  • Max ScherzerIs he feeling healthy through March?
  • Stephen Strasburg – Is he feeling healthy through March? No discernable velocity drops?
  • Patrick Corbin – Can he get his fastball back to 91 mph consistently? Is he placing them inside to right-handers (yes!) or only staying away (no!)? Are his sliders getting whiffs again?
  • Jon Lester – Can he survive on the edges?
  • Joe Ross – Does he have the rotation spot? Is he getting whiffs with his slider or changeup?
  • Austin Voth – Are the Nationals giving him a chance? 94 mph on his fastball? Does his curveball become a legit #2? Is his slider or changeup a strong #3?
  • Erick Fedde – Is there enough here to suggest a roster spot?

 

 

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

One response to “What To Watch For In Spring Training: Starting Pitchers”

  1. Doug says:

    This is great work, as always. Will you be updating this and answering these questions toward the end of camp?

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