2019 Projection Series - Dominic Leone

Dominic Leone was the major league piece that was part of the return for Randal Grichuk when he got moved to the Toronto Blue Jays following the 2017 season. Leone had been, by aggregate, a middling reliever. That wasn’t exactly the truth, though. He’d been incredibly good or incredibly bad in his 4 seasons. Last year, he added “incredibly mediocre” to his resume.

The thing is, though, that his stuff is not so mediocre. I mean, take a look at this cutter (courtesy of @cardinalsgifs)! It’s got incredible drop to it to go along with the cutting away from the right motion you are accustomed to when viewing a cutter (like Wainwright’s, for example). He threw 149 cutters and players swung and missed at over 1/3 of them. That’s actually down from the 45% the year before and he threw 393 of them that season!

Leone also threw a slider only 18 times last year. However in prior seasons, he had thrown the slider a lot more often (up to 194 times in 2014). He has consistently gotten nearly a 40% swing and miss rate or more on that pitch in his career. Here is a slider/cutter combo to Brad Miller of the Rays back when Leone was a Blue Jay. His third pitch of the PA is a slider that Miller swings and misses. His 5th pitch of the PA was the cutter to strike Miller out looking.

In that same game, here was a slider/cutter combo to Tim Beckham, with Beckham taking the cutter as well, but giving a half-hearted half-swing (and miss) on the slider in the dirt because it looks like his cutter.

There’s also him getting two swing and misses on Christian Yelich in the 2018 season with the Cardinals - one on a two-seam fastball and one on a slider. Pretty good stuff to a pretty darn good player there (ummm...Yelich did go on and homer in that same plate appearance...but that’s besides the point):

In any case, here is the typical reliever per 60 innings over the past 5 years in MLB:

Here is what I have projected for Dominic Leone’s 2019 season:

60 games, 60 innings

3.90 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 1.350 WHIP, 2.86 K:BB

8.85 H/9, 9.45 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9

What can be pointed out to show that things CAN be better than that?!?

In 2018, batters hit .190 against his sinker and just .133 against his fastball. In 2017, batters hit .190 against his sinker (not a typo, not a cut/paste) and just .132 against his slider. That’s 3 of the 4 pitches he throws that got absolutely stellar results in the past 2 calendar years.

How/If things go wrong:

Well, that cutter I mentioned earlier with 33.7% and 45% swing and miss rates? Hitters also blasted him for a .444 average against it last year in 39 PA that ended on the cutter. They also had a .528 slugging on that pitch. They basically hit like Mike Trout when he’s red hot against it...when they could touch it. They hit his slider much harder than that. It was his 4-seamer in 2017 that got hit the hardest. That’s 3 of the 4 pitches he throws that have had trouble in the past two calendar years.