From what I can surmise, John Means just continues to surprise and outlast the prognosticators. Pitching in high school in Kansas, he was not recruited by any D1 programs and yet was still able to get drafted in the 46th round by the Atlanta Braves (in case anyone wants to do that math, he was drafted 1,406th overall). He enrolled in a community college where he played for one year before transferring to WVU.
He would get drafted a second time in 2014, improving drastically off his first draft, getting selected in the 11th round (331st overall). He started with the Delmarva Shorebirds at Class A and made his progression up the As into the AAs and eventually pitching 111 innings with the Norfolk Tides at AAA last year sporting a 3.48 ERA allowing just 0.73 HR/9 and boasting a respectable 7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018.
After a very respectable time with the Tides, the Orioles brought him up last September for one start in the majors. He pitched just 3.1 innings allowing 5 earned runs with 4 strikeouts before he was pulled.
But now we find ourselves in 2019: a fresh year with fresh opportunities and boy has he made the most of it.
He entered this season not even sitting on Baltimore’s top-30 prospects. This is a team who lost 115 games last year and I didn’t see their team on any of the top-10 lists for best prospects. John began the season in the bullpen for the first two weeks where he pitched a total of eight innings allowing 2 total ER over that time and sporting 10 strikeouts. The team opted to promote him to a starter and he did not disappoint there. Since April 14th, he has pitched 24 total innings, allowed just seven runs and struck out 19 batters. He clearly struggles, if you can call it that, more on the road (3.52 ERA; 3 Home runs) vs. home (1.56 ERA; 1 Home Run).
Honestly, I’d take a pitcher with a 3.52 ERA any day.
How he succeeds
He excels at generating weak contact off his pitches despite a somewhat lower speed fastball (92 mph). He’s getting in early on the count going into a 1-1 or 1-2 count early and despite getting torched a few times on a 0-2 count he closes out very well with a full count generating more strikeouts there than anywhere else. This fact doesn’t surprise me much as he has a propensity for kicking it into an extra gear to prove people wrong.
He is relying on his fastball for half of his pitches but he also throws in his changeup with regularity—accounts for a third of his pitches. His changeup has been almost 30% higher than league average in swing and misses thus far. His slider and curveball make an occasional appearance around 15% of the time.
John Means has been throwing an awesome changeup (that counts as a money pitch so far)— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) April 24, 2019
- 43.1% chase rate
- 40.9% zone rate
- 24.6% SwStr rate
- 33% CSW pic.twitter.com/tYQ6wBZo8T
It varies across leagues but he’s under 40% owned in most leagues so now might be a good time to get in at a low price. He won’t be getting a lot of wins playing for Baltimore, but he should generate respectable Ks with lower ERA and very few walks.