Most of the fantasy leagues I play in use FAAB for free agency, but I still play in one league where it’s a free-for-all won by the first person to the internet. When the gates open for our league to make adds the following Monday after the draft at noon, it’s a question of who can click on their guy first. I’ve added players on my phone while getting out of a cab in years past. This was a time for Zach McAllister, who I forgot about on draft day. Now, I believe he’s worth a closer look after a strong spring.
Last year, McAllister struggled as a starter for the Indians as he had a 5.67 ERA in 15 starts. He failed to live up to the 3.75 ERA he had in 24 starts in 2013, but McAllister rebounded while pitching out of the bullpen in September. In seven appearances as a reliever, he posted a 2.77 ERA, 1.15 WHIP with a 14-to-2 K:BB ratio and 27 percent strikeout rate in 13 innings. Perhaps most importantly, his fastball velocity spiked and he averaged over 96 mph with his heater, according to Brooks Baseball. It was only the second time in his career that he had averaged over 93.5 mph with his fastball in a month and the other time was in July (94.22).
Then he showed up to spring training this year throwing 97 mph. You at least have to be mildly intrigued; have I mentioned his pitching coach is Mickey Callaway? McAllister has never been a big strikeout pitcher despite his reliance on the fastball as his career strikeout rate is below 20 percent. However, because he throws his fastball over 70 percent of the time for his career, increased fastball velocity could be just what the doctor ordered for McAllister.
Also, it’s not like he’s so far away from getting back to being a solid mid-rotation starter as even though he flopped in 2014 (5.23 ERA), he still had a 3.47 FIP. One would expect his .332 BABIP allowed and 61 percent strand rate to regress regardless of how McAllister is currently throwing. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt that the pitch he throws the most seems to have improved a substantial amount. In his last spring training start, he struck out nine Brewers, the majority going down on the fastball.
In his first start of the season, McAllister is will pitch the Indians’ home opener against the Tigers. McAllister has a 4.66 ERA against the Tigers in his career and even though it’s early in the season and many hitters are still getting their timing down, Detroit is a good fastball hitting team. The Tigers are a good test for McAllister in more ways than one, so we should get an idea of where he’s really at right away as he takes the hill Friday afternoon. I would add McAllister even in shallow mixers and take a nice long look at him.
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