Spencer Strider was selected by the Atlanta Braves with the 126th overall pick of the 2020 MLB Draft. Strider was impressive in both the bullpen and rotation during his career at Clemson University, and it’s easy to see why the Braves made the choice despite the hard-throwing righty missing all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Despite the sophomore setback, Strider joined the Tigers rotation full time after rehab and was poised for a big 2020 season. Strider was only able to log 4 starts thanks to the pandemic, but managed to post a 4.50 ERA and a 19/3 K/BB ratio in 12 innings. In order to get a better understanding of the type of pitcher Atlanta selected last week, I will dive into his 2020 statistics and metrics to see where he is currently at with his game.
Right off the bat, you can see Strider has the potential to have an absolute rocket of a fastball. He has touched 97.2mph in such a short time coming back from injury. He sat in the 93-95 range in multiple outings with good spin on his heater. Looking at his Bauer Unit on his fastball, it’s comparable to many major leaguers. One thing I have noticed is you should not just look at one pitch and evaluate a player that way; having the ability to command different pitches and fooling the hitter is most important. For example, Strider’s slider has great spin rate posting an average 33 Bauer Unit and came in at an average of 79mph. While most major leaguers have more juice on their slider, Strider is still young and will develop this pitch more.
Next, I wanted to look at the movement on Strider’s fastball, and I was impressed. He is averaging about 19.5″ of Induced Vertical Break with this pitch, so he has elite velocity and movement on his fastball. Below is a density chart of Strider’s Induced Vertical Break on his heater.
I wanted to compare his vertical break to other MLB pitchers, however Statcast does not measure Induced Vertical Break. One comparable stat that both Statcast and Trackman have is ‘pfx_z’. This is a measure of vertical movement from the catcher’s perspective. Below, you can see that Strider is below the MLB average for this statistic but not by much. Strider had an average of 0.933 (ft.) total vertical movement on his fastball while the MLB averaged about 1.3 (ft.).
After looking at his horizontal break of all his pitches I was pleasantly surprised. The chart below shows a density plot of all his pitches’ horizontal break from the 2020 season.
In my opinion this chart speaks volumes to where Strider is at with his pitch movement. His changeup and fastball follow a similar horizontal path, but his slider is completely different. This is what can set Strider apart from the rest of his draft class. Having the ability to mix the pitches and throw to each side of the plate will be fun to watch.
After looking at his Horizontal Break I was intrigued to look at the differences in his Induced Vertical Breaks across all his pitches.
Similar to the pattern his horizontal break followed, Strider’s IVB was different across his pitch types. I believe Strider has the potential to have a filthy slider to accompany his heater.
Another metric to analyze would be the spin axis at which he throws each pitch. Spin Axis is important in my opinion because it is highly correlated with pitch movement and can in turn add more value. Below is a small table of his Spin Axis averages across his pitches, along with the tilt of the ball.
After a quick look, this is what you would expect the Spin Axis and Tilt to be after understanding Strider’s horizontal and vertical break. Finally, I wanted to touch on his play results by pitch type.
I just wanted to remind you that this is from a small sample size especially his curveball and changeup, but these pitches proved to also be effective. If I would add one criticism overall, it would be for the Braves to help him develop his changeup. Increasing Strider’s confidence in that pitch could help him move up through the farm system and eventually get to the show.
Overall, Spencer Strider has a lot of raw talent and in my opinion he will become a successful starter in the Major Leagues.