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Aaron Civale 2020 Outlook


meh2
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Currently sporting an NFBC ADP of 279, Civale is my favorite late round fantasy starting pitcher. I think a lot of people are going to bypass him in drafts pointing to the fact he wasn't a top 100 prospect and posted a 7.18 k/9 in his 2019 debut. His xFIP of 4.61 last year and Steamer 2020 projected ERA of 4.81 will cause a lot of people to pass on him, which I understand. But, there's a lot to like about what he did last year and Cleveland has had a great track record out of getting the most out of these types of pitchers.

Civale posted a 2.50 bb/9 last year and throughout his minor league career was below 2.0 at every stop. He has a full arsenal of pitches as he had a swinging strike rate over 12% on 4 different pitches last year:

Swinging strike rates for 2019:

Change up 16.07

Slider 12.31

Curve 15.79

Cutter 12.96

From his statcast profile (small sample warning), Civale had an 85th percentile FB spin rate and a 96th percentile CB spin rate. He had a 83rd percentile exit velo and 78th percentile hard hit rate. Out of 164 batted ball events, he only gave up 4 barrels (2.4 percent).

I think this might be the next great Cleveland starting pitcher success story. Consider this, Carrasco debuted in 2009 with a FB velocity of 93.4mph. By 2014, it was up to 96.4. Clevenger's FB velo sat at 92.8 in 2017 but was up to 95.6 in 2019. Kluber debuted at 93.0 but spiked up to 94.6 in 2014. Bauer's FB velocity with Arizona in 2012 was 93.4, but by 2014 in Cleveland he w\averaged 94.9. And lastly, Shane Bieber was throwing 90-91 in early minors, but was averaging 93.4 last year. I don't know how they're doing it, but Cleveland really seems to be developing starting pitchers with excellent control and good off speed offerings and finding ways to boost their velocity to turn them into elite starting pitchers. With a little bit of that magic combined with his ability to throw strikes and get whiffs on 4 different pitches, I think Civale will be a great late round value pick.

 

Links:

https://www.fangraphs.com/players/aaron-civale/19479/stats?position=P

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/aaron-civale-650644?stats=career-r-pitching-mlb

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/landing.php?player=650644

Edited by meh2
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There's a little bit of playing time risk with Logan Allen in the mix, but Plesac is probably the odd man out there, and I do worry that this could be a "year too early" situation in redrafts considering he's never had a heavy innings workload  I usually like my late-round SP grabs to be either sky-high upside dart throws or stable workhorse innings eaters, and Civale's neither fish nor fowl -- more of a buy-and-hold investment who could slowly but surely improve his value in the next couple of years.

There's also the question of team context.  Losing Kluber doesn't affect his value, but losing Puig would, and everything we're hearing says that the team just doesn't care about putting a winning team on the field right now.  It sounds like they're not moving Lindor as they were rumored to be considering, but as good as the 1-4 will be, Franmil Reyes, Cesar Hernandez, Jake Bauers, Roberto Perez, and Greg Allen/Delino DeShieleds is a putrid 5-9 for an AL team.  Even if he improves his ERA and adds some strikeouts, the wins are unlikely to be there.

Finally, the Bauer/Kluber/Clevinger comps for velo improvement are noteworthy, but none of those guys had sub-8 K/9 before their velo jumps.  Adding ticks on their fastball and developing their secondaries did turn them into elite options, but they were already getting decent strikeout numbers.  From what I saw of Civale last season I think the upside is peak Johnny Cueto, which I'd certainly take, but Cueto was able to make an 8-ish K/9 work because he logged tons of IP.  Civale isn't going to do that this season.

With all of that said -- everyone going around him in ADP has similar or worse warts, so it's hard to hate the value, particularly in dynasty if you're not going into the season in "win now" mode.

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Indians are a tough evaluation. The offense and defense might be horrific which should have an adverse effect on the pitchers. For a guy like Civale who doesn't have the huge strikeout rate this could be problematic. The ADP is nice but like tonycpsu said you aren't getting either high upside or high floor, he's middle of the pack. Likely a target for super deep leagues where you are going 350+ picks deep where pick 280 is not simply a flyer.

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28 minutes ago, Sidearmer said:

Indians are a tough evaluation. The offense and defense might be horrific which should have an adverse effect on the pitchers. For a guy like Civale who doesn't have the huge strikeout rate this could be problematic. The ADP is nice but like tonycpsu said you aren't getting either high upside or high floor, he's middle of the pack. Likely a target for super deep leagues where you are going 350+ picks deep where pick 280 is not simply a flyer.


Wait, why will the offense be horrific? A lot of people on this forum said the same thing last year yet they finished right in the middle (15th) in wOBA at .319. I expect the same if not a little better actually. Defensively, they’re probably a bit better as well.

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16 minutes ago, Sonny_D said:

Wait, why will the offense be horrific? A lot of people on this forum said the same thing last year yet they finished right in the middle (15th) in wOBA at .319. I expect the same if not a little better actually. Defensively, they’re probably a bit better as well.

 

That's why I said *might*. They were average last year and that was with a career year by Carlos Santana. If they trade Lindor the offense will take a serious hit. As for the defense the OF rates pretty terribly in the field. They are strong in the middle infield but again losing Lindor would be a big blow.

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1 hour ago, Sidearmer said:

Indians are a tough evaluation. The offense and defense might be horrific which should have an adverse effect on the pitchers. For a guy like Civale who doesn't have the huge strikeout rate this could be problematic. The ADP is nice but like tonycpsu said you aren't getting either high upside or high floor, he's middle of the pack. Likely a target for super deep leagues where you are going 350+ picks deep where pick 280 is not simply a flyer.

Why are they a tough evaluation? They’re right up there with the Twins as favorites to win the division. Their defense was top 5 last year in just about every metric out there and looks to be just as good this year. Offensively, they’re probably middle of the pack while their bullpen could be considerably better with Karinchak, Clase, and Hand at the backend. Their outfield defense should be solid with Mercado, Deshields, and Allan getting a lot of innings. Franmil is a butcher but he’ll  be used exclusively at DH. Lindor isn’t going anywhere at this point. This isn’t the Orioles and they’re team context is just fine. I assume you’re passing on Bieber, Clevinger, and Carrasco too?

Edited by meh2
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2 hours ago, En Votto Veritas said:

@meh2 would you be willing to give us a tentative projection?  I like the narrative here but do you see 150+ IP?

I'm not too concerned about the innings pitched issue. He threw 164.2 innings in 2017. He was on pace for a similar amount in 2018 when a significant lat injury ended his season. He pitched in extended spring training to start last season due to rehabbing that same injury which is why he only totaled 129.3 last year. I think 160-175 innings are in play for 2020.

Touting a young starting pitcher with an ADP of 279 is going to end in disappointment more often than not, but there's a lot I like with this cat. I think he's capable of an ERA in the 3.75-4.00 range with a solid WHIP. The big question will be the strikeouts and admittedly I'm relying on some shaky logic (Cleveland's recent track record with this type of pitcher and hoping for some changes with his pitch mix) in hopes of a bump there. 

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On 1/22/2020 at 9:10 PM, meh2 said:

Why are they a tough evaluation? They’re right up there with the Twins as favorites to win the division. Their defense was top 5 last year in just about every metric out there and looks to be just as good this year. Offensively, they’re probably middle of the pack while their bullpen could be considerably better with Karinchak, Clase, and Hand at the backend. Their outfield defense should be solid with Mercado, Deshields, and Allan getting a lot of innings. Franmil is a butcher but he’ll  be used exclusively at DH. Lindor isn’t going anywhere at this point. This isn’t the Orioles and they’re team context is just fine. I assume you’re passing on Bieber, Clevinger, and Carrasco too?

 

Bieber, Clevinger, and Carrasco likely aren't relying on a good team context to be viable fantasy starters. They also strike out way more batters, making the team context mean less to them anyway. Civale will have more balls in play, will be more marginal in runs allowed, thus the better the team fielding / offense / bullpen can be the difference between a random guy (9 W, 3.9 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.5 K/9) or someone that can actually be helpful (14 W, 3.8 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.5 K/9).

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was in on him early, as the cost was extra palatable...then I read this, and I am quite apprehensive (via RotoGraphs https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/2020-forecast-starting-pitcher-k-decliners/😞

Quietly, Aaron Civale came out of nowhere to enjoy a solid Indians debut…on the surface. Underneath the hood, though, is some scary stuff. Though he didn’t end up being much of a strikeout pitcher, Civale actually deserved an even worse rate than the already below average mark he posted. His problem was two-fold — while he was right around the league average at generating called and foul strikes, he was terrible at inducing swinging strikes. He also struggled with throwing strikes to begin with.

What’s interesting about Civale is that all of his non-cut fastballs generated double digit SwStk% marks. That’s pretty amazing, especially when we know he was awful at inducing whiffs overall. How is that possible? Because his sinker generated a paltry 2.3% SwStk%, while his four-seamer (only thrown 3.1% of the time) generated literally 0 swinging strikes. It’s not like the sinker was great at inducing grounders, as it’s grounder rate was just 48.5%. If I were him, I’d try being cutter-first and then using the rest of his arsenal, scrapping the sinker and four-seamer. But for now, I’m not interested.

Edited by ST. STEVEN
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Sinker: 35.9 (2.3 SwStr)

Cutter: 28.75 (12.2 SwStr)

Slider: 15.13 (12.3 SwStr)

Curve: 11.06 (14.7 SwStr)

Change: 6.52  (16.1 SwStr)

4-Seamer: 3.14 (0.00 SwStr)

 

To me. He's a junkballer. Not really comparable to Carrasco, Cleivinger, Bieber, Bauer. They all 4-Seam fastballs they trusted from the start. So that leaves Kluber as the only comparison point. He was Sinker/Cutter coming up just like Civale. Difference? Klubers Curve/Change already had 20+ SwStr from his very first season as a starter.  Civale has no plus pitches here. Just a collection of decent/good.

He could put up good ratios because he has 5 pitch mix where everything moves. Can't see him putting up high K% without an elite out-pitch. Don't see the upside people in this thread are seeing.

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2 hours ago, Slatykamora said:

Sinker: 35.9 (2.3 SwStr)

Cutter: 28.75 (12.2 SwStr)

Slider: 15.13 (12.3 SwStr)

Curve: 11.06 (14.7 SwStr)

Change: 6.52  (16.1 SwStr)

4-Seamer: 3.14 (0.00 SwStr)

 

To me. He's a junkballer. Not really comparable to Carrasco, Cleivinger, Bieber, Bauer. They all 4-Seam fastballs they trusted from the start. So that leaves Kluber as the only comparison point. He was Sinker/Cutter coming up just like Civale. Difference? Klubers Curve/Change already had 20+ SwStr from his very first season as a starter.  Civale has no plus pitches here. Just a collection of decent/good.

He could put up good ratios because he has 5 pitch mix where everything moves. Can't see him putting up high K% without an elite out-pitch. Don't see the upside people in this thread are seeing.

If Civale turns out to be exactly the same pitcher he was last year, I agree he probably doesn’t possess too much upside. I think I’m the only one in this thread touting him so what makes me optimistic about him is his youth, his excellent ability at limiting walks, his ability to outperform his ERA estimators throughout his young career thus far, his arsenal of pitches which should give him room to modify his pitch mixes for better results, and the recent track record of Cleveland starting pitchers improving significantly in year two. With an ADP > 250, there’s very little risk. Here’s something from Fangraphs that he’s been working on this offseason that gives me hope that he is going to make some changes and be a better pitcher in year two:

Aaron Civale doesn’t feature many four-seam fastballs. The Cleveland Indians right-hander threw the pitch just 3.2% of the time in his rookie season. And while upping that usage in 2020 isn’t necessarily a goal, having a higher-quality four-seamer is. Cognizant of the fact that he’s ”always been able to spin a baseball, but not really backspin a baseball,” Civale has been working out at Cressey Sports Performancein hopes of changing that dynamic.

As for his primary fastball, the 24-year-old Northeastern University product doesn’t throw a traditional two-seamer. He described the grip as “a little bit offset, creating almost one-seam spin; I spin at a different axis to create more of a lateral movement, versus just depth. The better I spin it —I do spin the ball well — the more it moves in the direction I want it to.”

“I’m typically on the side of the ball at release, so I tend to get a little baby cut on the ball from the spin axis,” said Civale. “The direction it’s spinning isn’t really conducive to carry. Having the Edgertronic and the Rapsodo allows me to see the immediate results of the spin axis and direction, which allows me to quantify potential small changes.”

Again, those small changes aren’t intended to remake the righty’s repertoire.

“It’s not something that’s being prioritized,” explained Civale, who logged a 2.34 ERA in his 10 starts with the Indians. “The goal isn’t necessarily for it to be a plus pitch, it’s more to help make my other pitches better. And because I do mix it in, I need to make sure it’s there when I need to go to it.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

Great article from Pitcherlist illustrating most of my reasons touting Civale this year:

I’ll also add this quote from another article talking about a different pitcher that could benefit from improving his spin efficiency:

“I reached out to an organizational pitch analyst this offseason to confirm this notion. My question? “How difficult is it to increase spin efficiency? Can it be improved if its a focal point of an offseason?” The answer? “100%. Anyone with a Rapsodo and any semblance of pitching knowledge could fix it.”

Remember, Civale has been working with a Rapsodo this offseason in an effort to improve his spin efficiency.

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4 hours ago, meh2 said:

Great article from Pitcherlist illustrating most of my reasons touting Civale this year:

I’ll also add this quote from another article talking about a different pitcher that could benefit from improving his spin efficiency:

“I reached out to an organizational pitch analyst this offseason to confirm this notion. My question? “How difficult is it to increase spin efficiency? Can it be improved if its a focal point of an offseason?” The answer? “100%. Anyone with a Rapsodo and any semblance of pitching knowledge could fix it.”

Remember, Civale has been working with a Rapsodo this offseason in an effort to improve his spin efficiency.

Brilliant article. I liked him as a end-draft flyer but now think he could be more than that. That curve is a dandy, needs to start throwing it much more this year.

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  • 3 weeks later...
2 hours ago, JE7HorseGod said:

Why'd they option him?

I assume he will be back if/when the season starts.  A number of younger players are going through this right now.  Probably involves some money saving thing per arcane rules and regs or whatever.  Brendan McKay and Nate Lowe were both optioned by Tampa Bay and they are in the same situation.  If these clearly MLB-level players have options some teams seem to be using them some right now.

Edited by The Big Bat Theory
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  • 2 months later...

I was pretty surprised to see the big green M next to him after getting him in my auction, since he’s certainly one of their five best starters. I imagine with the unusual rules this year, he’ll definitely have a rotation spot to open the year, yeah? 

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2 hours ago, mavsfan23 said:

I was pretty surprised to see the big green M next to him after getting him in my auction, since he’s certainly one of their five best starters. I imagine with the unusual rules this year, he’ll definitely have a rotation spot to open the year, yeah? 

What the hell is the "big green M?"

And yes he should be in the starting rotation despite being listed as NA which was just a financial move while baseball is on hold.

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21 hours ago, The Big Bat Theory said:

What the hell is the "big green M?"

And yes he should be in the starting rotation despite being listed as NA which was just a financial move while baseball is on hold.

Minors

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