Nathan Eovaldi: Breakout Candidate in 2016?


In one of the more interesting moves of the 2014 off season, the New York Yankees traded for Nathan Eovaldi from the Miami Marlins coming off a season in which he had given up the most hits in the National League.

From a fantasy perspective it was pretty easy to ignore him at the draft because all signs pointed to be Eovaldi being in for a rough first season in New York. Eovaldi’s raw stuff has never been in question as his fastball routinely averages 95+, with a not too shabby slider either. But, the main hurdle that Eovaldi needed to overcome was the development of a third pitch.

I clamored for him to try and master a changeup as the change in velocity and downward movement in the strike zone seemed to fit will in his arsenal. However, he just stuck with the velocity angle and developed a hard splitter that has got me the most excited heading into next season.

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Yankees pitching coach, Larry Rothschild, has grown quite the reputation around the league as one of the better pitching minds in baseball, so to see he and Eovaldi implement this pitch into his arsenal and have this much early success, it has me thinking that Eovaldi could be ready to turn the corner.

Eovaldi didn’t master the pitch immediately and rarely used the splitter in the beginning of the year. Over the first few months Eovaldi did well though, notching a mid-4’s ERA, something that many fans were hoping for in his first year. He did run into trouble in June, 5.76 ERA in five starts, but that ERA is largely inflated by an eight earned run outing against the Marlins.

But as the All-Star break passed, it seemed as though Eovaldi turned a switch on and he went on to string along productive outings every time out and really became the Yankees best pitcher over the second half of the season.

So after looking at his usage charts it was crystal clear why he was beginning to dominate: the consistent use of his of his splitter. He bumped up its usage from June to August by nearly 10% sparking his great stretch and by season’s end its usage was up to nearly 35%. In July and August he would go on to post ERA’s no higher than 3.70, and raised his K rate by nearly two a game. One other encouraging sign was that Eovaldi did not even let up more than one homer run per month from June until the rest of the season, so his stuff was fully coming into form.

Outside of the fact that Eovaldi will further implement his newly dominant pitch, his peripheral ratios were mostly all encouraging as well. The hits per game were not what really got him into trouble this yearas in 2014, it was rather in the walk department as he allowed nearly three a game in 2015.

He still does give up more hits than you like so combine that with the walks uptick and it you may be wondering was he just lucky in 2015. The answer to that is no, he lowered his HR% and LD%, he raised both his K rate and GB%, and even cut the contact rate on his pitches by nearly 3%.

From a sabermetric view, all the ratios point to a breakout on the horizon and even by just watching his starts in the second half you could see the upside shining through. As we sit here right now I value Eovaldi as a SP 3 with a SP 2 ceiling making him a mid-round selection.

He will not carry your rotation next season as his command still leaves something to desire, but I fully envision him being able to post a, 15 W/3.75 ERA/1.20 WHIP/150-160 K,season. Keep your eye on him and do not be afraid to pull the trigger on him even if the room looks at last season’s stats at face value and deems it a reach. A breakout is imminent.