A Pitcher with Big Time Potential: Anthony DeSclafani

Photo: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Anthony DeSclafani, now 28-years old, was a former 6th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2011. He has had an up and down career thus far and is hoping to rebound from injury (which presumably impacted his performance last season to a certain extent) and aid in propelling the Reds into the thick of the NL Wild Card picture. After spending all of the 2012 season pitching in single-A ball for the Blue Jays’ minor league affiliate, DeSclafani was traded to the Miami Marlins in what was considered a blockbuster deal at the time…

Commissioner Bud Selig has approved the blockbuster trade that the Blue Jays and Marlins agreed to last week.  The Blue Jays announced the 12-player trade, which sends Jose ReyesJosh JohnsonMark BuehrleJohn BuckEmilio Bonifacio and cash considerations to Toronto for Yunel EscobarAdeiny HechavarriaHenderson AlvarezJeff MathisJustin NicolinoAnthony Desclafani and Jake Marisnick.

 Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors

Two years later, DeSclafani was traded once again — this time to the Cincinnati Reds (his current team) — along with catching prospect Chad Wallach in exchange for RHP Mat Latos.

Anthony DeSclafani pitched exceptionally well for the Reds as a member of their rotation. In 2015, his ERA was only 4.05, and he was worth 3.2 fWAR (per FanGraphs), and he pitched nearly 200 innings (184.2). Despite missing some time with a strained left oblique the following season, DeSclafani still pitched well (3.28 ERA in 123.1 innings pitched). In March of 2017, however, Anthony suffered a UCL sprain in his right elbow. Although surgery was not necessary, the misfortunate injury ultimately sidelined DeSclafani for the entire season.

DeSclafani finally made his return to the major leagues in June of last season. The results were mixed. His ERA was 4.93, but his strikeout (8.45 K/9) and walk rates (2.35 BB/9) were on point. It is worth noting that he was very susceptible to the long ball (1.88 HR/9).

In preparation for the 2019 season, DeSclafani made an effort to throw his curveball on a more regular basis during spring training, as conveyed below…

DeSclafani continued to focus on throwing more curveballs in his most recent outing against the Indians on Monday, Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. “I thought I threw some really good curveballs, but I want to get it a little more action as far as swings and misses and stuff like that,” DeSclafani said. “I think that’s just going to come with time. I just have to keep throwing it.”
DeSclafani is searching for an out pitch to throw against left-handers, as his fastball got crushed by them last season, and lefties were his nemesis all season long.

His spring training numbers were promising (3.04 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 23.2 IP per Baseball Reference), aside from the fact that DeSclafani conceded 4 HRs (~1.6 HR/9). But what I’m going to explore in depth today is the results from his 1st start of the regular season (which was against the Milwaukee Brewers, who boast a strong offense). Here are his stats (all stats according to FanGraphs) from that game…

  • IP: 5
  • H: 3
  • ER: 1
  • BB: 3
  • K: 8
  • HR/9: 0
  • GB%: 33.3
  • xFIP: 2.80
  • FIP: 1.53

What stands out even more than the stat line above is the changes DeSclafani made to his pitch repertoire. Here are his pitch frequencies from last year…

  • Fastball: 31.8%
  • Sinker: 26.1%
  • Changeup: 3.5%
  • Slider: 34.8%
  • Curveball: 3.7%

DeSclafani was basically fastball-sinker-curve in 2018. Here are his pitch frequencies from his first start of the 2019 season…

  • Fastball: 36.0% (+4.2)
  • Sinker: 20.2% (-5.9)
  • Slider: 28.1% (-6.7)
  • Curveball: 15.7% (+12)

The rate in which he threw curveballs on Tuesday was 5 times that of last year (highest CB% of his 2018 season: 13.6% [which was in one start in mid-to-late June]). His overall SwStr% (on all of his pitches) was 14.6%. The highest mark he recorded last season (in his 21 starts) was 14.3% (which was in Sept.).

Hitters could do absolutely nothing against DeSclafani’s curve. It induced a whopping 42.9% SwStr rate and hitters had a .000 AVG against (no hits!). The emergence of his curveball, coupled with increased velocity, made the rest of Anthony’s pitches more effective as a whole (except for the slider)…

  • 2019 Fastball SwStr%: 9.4 VS 2018 Fastball SwStr%: 5.5
  • 2019 Slider SwStr%: 12.0 VS 2018 Slider SwStr%: 17.8
  • 2019 Sinker SwStr%: 5.6 VS 2018 Sinker SwStr%: 3.9

The Brewers left-handed-hitters (Yelich, Shaw, Moustakas, Grandal, and Gamel) only hit for a mere .200 AVG against him.

Additionally, it is both reassuring (in the sense that he is likely healthy) and promising that DeSclafani velocity was up (Fastball: +0.2 mph; Sinker: +0.6 mph; Slider: +2.3 mph; Curveball: +1.3 mph).

DeSclafani is shockingly owned in only 3% of Yahoo leagues and 5% of ESPN leagues. The potential for a mid-rotation starter is certainly here, and I’d definitely say he’s worth picking up in some deeper leagues.

Thanks for reading.

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