Written By: Connelly Doan
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This “First Impression” will be covering the 1st and 2nd start of Nate Pearson’s career. Typically for this series we will stick to JUST the MLB Debut. Nate Pearson and Brady Singer (Click to read) both had their “First Impressions” covering their 1st and 2nd start. Enjoy!
One of the more exciting aspects of the shortened 2020 MLB season (and there are many exciting aspects) is that teams do not have the luxury of keeping their prospects in the Minor leagues to continue developing. If a team wants their prospects to stay sharp, they need to let them play at the big-league level. For baseball fans, this means that there have been and will continue to be plenty of opportunities to see young talent in action.
One such player is Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer. Singer was selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, a draft in which the Royals selected a handful of exciting pitchers (including Kris Bubic, who made his big-league debut last Friday against the White Sox). The prize of that draft, Singer has now already made two starts for the Royals and has a respectable 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with four walks and 10 strikeouts.
The Royals are hoping that Singer will be at the top of their rotation for years to come; my goal is to take a deep dive into his first 10 innings of work to see how his first impression will impact that hope. To be clear, a sample size this small has no bearing on how Singer will perform over the course of his career, but it will be fun to analyze the small amount that we have seen of him.
Fastball: Great Horizontal Movement
The first thing I noticed about Singer was the amount of movement he got on his fastball. The fastball has clearly been Singer’s primary pitch, thrown 54.9% of the time with an average velocity of 94 MPH. Singer’s fastball has a ton of horizontal movement (5.5 more inches than league average, 71st percentile). The pitch breaks away from left-handed hitters and into right-handed hitters, movement typical of a two-seam fastball thrown by a right-handed pitcher.
The decent velocity and strong movement have yielded positive results so far in the form a .133 batting average against, a 9% swinging-strike rate, an expected batting average against of .173, and an expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) of .254.
Slider: Good Drop, Good Location
Singer’s main secondary pitch (38.9% usage) has been his slider. The pitch comes in at 83.7 MPH and moves like a curveball, with little horizontal break (1.5 inches less than league average) but a good deal of drop (2.6 inches more than league average). It’s 15.9% swinging-strike rate has allowed the slider to be Singer’s strikeout pitch to this point.
More importantly, Singer has kept the pitch down in the strike zone. The results haven’t been great overall (.333 batting average against, .437 wOBA), but his expected stats suggest that Singer has gotten unlucky (.245 expected batting average against [60th percentile in baseball], .324 xwOBA [61st percentile in baseball]).
And what better pitch than to pick up his 1st career strikeout with.
Batted-Ball Profile: Below Average, But Not Necessarily Bad
The most negative aspect of Singer’s first two starts has been his batted-ball profile. His 90.2-MPH average exit velocity is in the 32nd percentile of baseball, his 46.2% hard-hit rate is in the 25th percentile in baseball, and his 12.3-degree launch angle is above the league average of 11.9 degrees. While the launch angle is about average, the hard contact is a bit concerning. Consequently, Singer’s 4.05 SIERA is a good bit higher than his ERA.
However, some of Singer’s other expected numbers suggest that his batted-ball profile may be alright. As mentioned above, his expected batting average and xwOBA are all above average, and his overall pitch location has been good. This makes me think that his batted-ball profile may regress positively towards his expected stats over the course of the season.
Conclusion: Singer Has Promise, Next Two Starts Will be a Test
Overall, there is a lot to like about Brady Singer even just from what we have seen so far. He showed poise in his first two MLB starts, relying on a fastball with good velocity and great movement and a well-placed diving slider. He will need to incorporate his changeup more (6.2% usage) to be an effective starter, but it is encouraging that he was able to go five innings in each start with essentially two pitches.
His results against a decent Indians lineup and a lackluster Tigers lineup are encouraging, but his next two matchups at the Cubs and against the Twins will be tougher. It will be interesting to see how Singer navigates two strong lineups, but I am looking forward to see how he does and how he settles in for the rest of this short 2020 season.
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