Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.
You’ve probably heard of today’s subject. He’s 6’2” and averages 97 mph on his fastball. Oh, and even though it seems like he’s been around a while (153.1 MLB innings), he’s only 23 years old. 23.
Still despite all the raw talent, he struggled in 2016, putting up a 5.83 ERA in 77 innings, split between relief and starting. His velocity was fine. His strikeouts were a little low for him, but his K%-BB% was an ok 13%. He allowed 1.39 HR/9 innings and allowed about one hit every inning. Allowing that many hits and home runs led to that awful ERA. His swinging strike rate of 9.2% was disappointing for someone with his skill.
Despite many scouts saying his durability concerns and more importantly, his platoon splits would destine him for the bullpen, he actually showed a small reverse platoon split in 2016. He did have some big issues, though. With men on base, his walk rate nearly doubled, from 2.27 BB/9 to 4.31 BB/9. The second time through the order was also a big issue for him. He allowed a 0.417 batting average (on a 0.462 BABIP) and had a 2.50 WHIP in those situations.
So, we’ve established that 2016 did not go well for Severino. As an aside, his 2015 debut actually went well, with a 2.89 ERA and 3.72 xFIP in 62.1 innings as a starter. There was reason for excitement going into 2016. Now, we enter 2017. And there’s even more reason for excitement!
Here’s his 2017 line so far:
27 IP, 11 K/9, 1.33 BB/9, 55.6% GB%, 3.0 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 2.07 xFIP
I’ll give you a second to digest those numbers.
A K%-BB% of about 30%! An 11.3% SwStr%! He’s doing this while throwing more pitches in the zone (Zone% up by 3% over 2016). His hard hit rate has fallen from 29% all the way down to 23.4% this year. He has allowed 6% fewer line drives. His excellent ERA is in spite of the fact that his HR/FB% is up 10% over last year. Oh, and his SIERA is a measly 1.86.
I am running out of exclamation marks here! His fastball has had the same SwStr% the last three years, so the big improvement this year is in his great slider. His slider’s swinging strike rate went from 11.5% to 19.2%. His changeup is also up a % but more importantly, the groundball rate on the pitch is up 27% over last year!? (I’m out of pure exclamation marks now, so I’m using an interobang).
He’s still showing no platoon issues, his second time through the order issues are not around (1.08 ERA 2nd time), and, while his walk rate with runners on is still much higher than with the bases empty, it’s still only 1.93 BB/9.
I don’t think he will be this good all season, of course, because he’s not Clayton Kershaw. But, he has looked every bit as good as Dylan Bundy, who I wrote about last week. In fact, he’s looked even better. Small sample size caveats apply to everything I’m writing here because it is still April. That being said, swinging strike rates and velocity stabilize early and K% and BB% aren’t too far behind. In fact, strikeout rate stabilizes around 70 batters faced, and he’s at 101 already, so the strikeout jump is definitely real.
He has a true three pitch mix with a moving fastball to get swings and misses, a nasty slider, and a good hard changeup to get lefties out. Velocity, nasty pitches, youth, great results, what is missing? What more could you want? I hope you bought low in drafts because his trade value is probably getting ridiculous now. I’m am excited about this guy in 2017. If you are an owner already, enjoy the ride and hold onto him. If not, if you can get him for a reasonable price still, go for it.
Welcome to Luis Severino’s breakout! Tschus!