The goal of the Ace Analysis Series is to analyze pitchers whose most recent performance has not met expectations and try to determine whether the results are due to skill change, or simply a run of good/bad luck. As always, I do take requests, so if there is a specific player you would like me to take a look at, please let me know in the comment section.
Time is a bit tight for me this weekend, so I am only analyzing one pitcher instead of the customary two.
All stats are current as of 7/2/16. I will include a paragraph with pertinent updates regarding Mengden’s performance in his Sunday start, but the bulk of the analysis was completed beforehand.
Daniel Mengden, Oakland Athletics
|Owned in 28% of Y! Leagues
Daniel Mengden has more or less come out of nowhere to find success through his first four major league starts. He was never an elite prospect and struggled somewhat in high-A ball last season before dominating in AA and AAA this year. So far his big numbers have been very solid, but can fantasy owners count on him to continue his recent performance, or are hitters merely a little slow to adjust?
Mengden throws his fastball in the low 90s and he uses it about 50% of the time. Scouts don’t project the pitch as anything special, but it has been very effective so far. His wOBA against on the fastball is .267 and he is generating swinging strikes 8.9% of the time (very good for a fastball). Mengden’s body movement on his delivery would not exactly be classified as smooth, and opposing hitters have said that he can be pretty deceptive. Perhaps the deception is contributing to his early success here, but so far, so good.
Mengden’s changeup has been his most effective pitch and is also the one that scouts say projects as his best moving forward (15% usage rate). He gets a pretty average swinging strike rate on the pitch, but opposing hitters have a difficult time getting the barrel on it. His changeup should continue to produce a lot of ground balls and weak contact.
The slider (20% usage rate) and curve (10% usage rate) are his two best strikeout pitches and offer above average swinging K rates, but they grade out as average offerings. He is capable of racking up Ks with both, but also has a tendency to leave pitches hanging and has given up very high line drive rates. Neither pitch is anything special, but they help Mengden’s K rate.
Ks and BBs
Daniel Mengden is currently striking out 24.3% of the batters he has faced for a K/9 of 9.12. While that is a bit higher than his minor league numbers, it is not completely crazy. Mengden has been able to generate an above average swinging strike rate of 10.3%, so his high strikeout totals are partially backed up by the underlying data. He gets plenty of swinging strikes on his curveball (15.8%) and slider (13.9%) with solid swinging strike rates near 9% on both the changeup and fastball.
While it is certainly possible that he is able to keep getting close to a strikeout an inning given the swinging strike data, I am skeptical over the long-term. His fastball rates as an average pitch, but has been catching hitters off guard because of the deceptive delivery. Once batters have seen Mengden a couple of times, I worry that the fastball won’t be so difficult to hit. I expect his K rate to trend closer to 20% once he has had more time in the bigs, which would be slightly below his AAA K rate of 22.4%. Mengden is probably not a strikeout an inning pitcher.
Mengden has a reputation for being a pitcher with excellent command. His minor league walk rates have backed that up for the most part. So far this year, he has walked a somewhat disappointing 8.4% of batters he has faced. He had a couple minor league stints where he could not consistently locate the zone, but most of the time he was working between 5% and 6%. There is nothing that really jumps out in his major league plate discipline stats that would indicate Mengden is not capable of a better walk rate in the majors. Seven of his nine walks allowed came in two starts, so it is possible that he simply had a couple off nights and his walk rate will come back down in time.
As I mentioned before, I think his K rate will likely regress, but the good news is that his walk rate should improve a bit to counteract the strikeout decline. Mengden’s current K/BB ratio is 2.89, and I think he will continue to post a similar number moving forward.
Batted Ball Data
Keep in mind, Mengden’s major league data is based on an extremely small 25.2 inning sample, so any conclusions drawn here are nothing more than an educated guess.
Throughout his minor league career, Mengden was regularly able to limit hitters to a BABIP below .300, which might indicate that he has special talent at inducing soft contact. So far in the majors, his BABIP against is a very strong .265, but his batted ball distribution will have to change if he is going to sustain this.
Currently, Mengden is allowing a relatively average hard contact rate of 29.6%. He also has a below average 32% fly ball rate (this is good for limiting home runs, but bad for BABIP) and a relatively high line drive rate of 24.6%. Pitchers with similar batted ball profiles typically have a BABIP well over .300. Since his strand rate is also above 80%, fantasy owners should expect some ERA correction in the future.
Home runs have never been a big problem for Mengden. This year, his HR/FB rate is 13.6%, but because his fly ball rate is so low, his HR/9 is a decent 1.05.
Mengden’s ERA indicators all sit between 3.70 and 3.90. I think that is a pretty fair projection of his talent level. He will likely give up more hits moving forward. Even if he has better HR luck, he is not quite as good as he has shown so far.
Role with Club
Currently, Mengden is slotted as the A’s 5th starter. He got the opportunity when Rich Hill went to the DL and has pitched well enough to keep his job. Although I believe Mengden is superior to Kendall Graveman and perhaps better equipped for present day big league success than Sean Manaea, he will need to pitch well to stay in the rotation. Mengden may not be able to pass either on the depth chart, and the Athletics have a healthy Jesse Hahn lurking in AAA as another option. Further complicating matters, Henderson Alvarez is slated to resume throwing in a couple of weeks and could be set for a big league return later in the year.
Basically, Mengden should keep his spot as long as he is going well, but any sign of struggle could land him back in AAA. Regardless of how successful he is though, Mengden has never thrown more than 120 professional innings in a season. Between the majors and minors, he has already thrown 70 this year. Don’t expect more than 70-80 more.
Mengden was not particularly sharp today. He was actually pitching quite well until the wheels came off in the 5th inning. Through the first four, he held the Pirates scoreless and allowed just four base runners. After allowing two earned runs in the 5th and 4 of the first 5 base runners to reach in the 6th inning, Mengden’s night was finished with the following line:
5.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 HBP
While the results were not too pretty, he was doing okay before allowing 8 of the final 11 batters he faced to reach base. As mentioned above, deception is part of Mengden’s game. Hopefully this does not become a regular occurrence as batters figure him out the 3rd time through the order.
Here are my Daniel Mengden projections:
- IP: 60
- ERA: 3.75
- WHIP: 1.28
- Ks: 52
- Wins: 4
Mengden is certainly worthy of a pickup in deeper leagues, but he is not likely to keep it going at quite the same rate. He is a solid SP 6-7, but not somebody who owners should be counting on for more than a spot start here and there.
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