Thirty-three innings into his major league career, Anthony DeSclafani was traded to the Reds. The Reds braintrust must have seen a few things they liked about his arsenal, and now it looks like he’s got a rotation spot. He’s got a good fastball, a decent breaking ball, and good command, that much most people agree on, even as they doubt him. So much of his future, though, hangs on the quality of his changeup.
Ask the pitcher to sum himself up, and you get what you might see the first time you take a look at DeSclafani’s numbers. “I’m an aggressive pitcher, especially with my fastball,” he said before a spring game. “Attacking hitters, going after guys — I just like to attack the strike zone, really.”
DeSclafani walked just two batters per nine in the minors, and only five in his first 33 major league innings. Last year, the league’s starters threw 56% fastballs, and the 24-year-old Marlin threw 70% fastballs. He was in the zone 49% of the time last year, and the league average was 42%. He knows himself well. His short description of himself is decent.
But most agree that he has a good fastball and decent command. And also that his breaking ball is good. It got 19% whiffs last year, and the major league average is around 14%.
Still. Batters had an OPS of .850 against his slider last year. That might be because major league hitters can be ready for those fastballs and breaking balls when the pitcher is obvious in trying to even the count.
“You have to be able to throw any pitch in any count,” DeSclafani says he learned last year. The league threw breaking balls 20% of the time in counts with zero or one strike last year, and then upped that to 30% in two-strike counts. DeSclafani went from 20% to 40% slider usage once he got two strikes, and maybe that was too predictable.
But part of the issue here is the depth of repertoire. If he had more faith in the curve or the change, he’d have another weapon at his disposal in those moments.
The curve is almost a total unknown. “Just started throwing a curveball at the end of the year last year, in September,” the pitcher admitted. He had thrown it before, but it wasn’t any good. “It was a below-average pitch so I kinda canned it. Fixed the mechanics, and I spike it now.”
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.