At about 3:50 p.m. last Wednesday, I was in my way-too-early overreaction period of the Marlins trading away Zac Gallen. Stressed out, I texted Craig Mish and said, “Let’s hope they redeem themselves in the next 10 minutes.” The Deadline for the MLB Trade deadline was 4pm.
3:55 p.m. — Marlins agree to trade RP’s Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards to the Tampa Bay Rays for the MLB’s #42 prospect OF Jesus Sanchez and RP Ryne Stanek. This completed a flurry of deals over a few days that added top talent across the system and possibly one of the most important weeks of this young rebuild. The piece that has been overlooked the most in any of the deals could possibly have the most immediate impact, and that’s Ryne Stanek.
A former first round pick and teammate of Brian Anderson at the University of Arkansas, Stanek is a former starter who’s been converted to a reliever, and then an opener (?). Tampa introduced the opener position in 2018 and it’s been a blessing for the development of Stanek’s game. In 2019, heading into Saturday night’s game, he owned a 3.34 ERA with 62 Ks in 56 innings pitched. Let’s just ignore Saturday’s rough appearance for the time being…
In 42 appearances on the year, 27 of those were starts as an opener. This leads me to how that position has helped take his electric arm to the next level.
When first called up in 2017, Stanek had an arsenal of 5 pitches that he ultimately couldn’t control enough to get the results he wanted. Knowing the talent was there, Stanek toned his pitches to just 3 in 2018: four-seam fastball, slider, and splitter. Three pitches he has utmost confidence in, and the minimalizing his approach led to improved numbers.
Debut (5/14/17) – (5/25/18)
25.0 IP / 16 ER / 5.40 ERA / 6.16 FIP / 8 HR / 5.40 BB per 9 / 13.32 K per 9
First Opener appearance (5/26/2018) – Saturday
89.1 IP / 28 ER / 2.81 ERA / 3.30 FIP / 9 HR / 3.31 BB per 9 / 10.44 K per 9
Those early numbers might be a small sample size with high strikeout numbers, but over-pitching in key situations caused the results to skew in a negative matter. Switching to a role where he could get in the habit of preparing like a starter like he had his entire baseball career, along with maximizing his plus plus fastball and secondary pitches, was an absolute blessing.
Ryne Stanek is now in Miami. The Marlins don’t use an opener. So, what’s next for him?
Just off the IL – Marlins plan on using RP Ryne Stanek in “high leverage” situations. I would not be surprised to see him closing soon. I also would not be surprised to see him closing next year for Miami.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) August 5, 2019
A player with 0 career saves potentially being the closer? I say absolutely. He’s under contract until 2024, offers big league experience, and, might I add, he possesses some of the filthiest pitches in this Marlins organization.
I mean just look at this… (courtesy of one baseball twitters heroes Rob Friedman or @Pitchingninja).
Ryne Stanek, Filthy 88mph Splitter…and Stanek-y Leg K Strut. 😷 pic.twitter.com/puAz5EjhmL
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 1, 2019
That is a true “plus fastball.” Currently averaging 97.8 with the four seam in 2019, he’s in the top 10% of the entire MLB, but what I think will make him a possible elite closer is the slider and, more importantly, the splitter.
Stanek offers a legitimate power slider that can be unhittable at times. Sitting at 89-91 mph with hard run, it can be devastating. Stanek currently getting over 30% of his strikeouts on the slider alone, and when players do make contact, they have an average exit velocity of just 83.4 mph. So if you’re getting any bat on it, it won’t be substantial.
Now, let’s talk about the cream of the crop: the splitter. When you watch film on this pitch, you’ll understand the filth. Stanek has increased his usage this year by nearly 10% (13.0%-20.3%), and just look at these numbers from opposing batters this year.
Against Stanek’s splitter:
AVG .109 / SLG .174 / 1 XBH / 28 Ks in 50 PA / Whiff % 57.1 (!!!)
Now, I don’t know about you, but those results are extremely exciting.
Think of a Trevor Richards changeup with a bit more velocity. Now pair that with 98 on the corners and a slider you don’t want to see every night. Whew. That is the making of an great relief pitcher and one who I think will get a real chance to be on the mound in the 9th for the Marlins for the foreseeable future.