(Photo: Orlando Ramriez, USA TODAY Sports)
2020 season age: 27 – Throws: Right – Bats: Right – Contract: – Pre-Arb/split contract
2019 in review: Maton pitched 36.2 innings between San Diego and Cleveland, who claimed him off of waivers with 12.1 coming for the Indians in the second half. He struck out 33 and walked 12 with a 6.14 ERA. In Cleveland, Maton struck out 13 in his 12.1 innings with six walks and a 2.92 ERA. In Triple-A between San Diego and Columbus he pitched 29.1 innings with 47 strikeouts and 10 walks with a 2.76 ERA. He was in the Indians from August 5 on but also didn’t pitch for over two weeks in early September, essentially an extra arm the rest of the way.
Beyond the stats: During players weekend, Maton sported “Spin Rate” as his moniker on the back of his jersey. The spin rate on his fastball in 2019 put him in the 100th percentile in baseball. This means his fastball has good carry and plays better up in the zone, something he didn’t discover until he was drafted. His fastball spin was the 7th highest in all of baseball last year, just ahead of Justin Verlander and whatever the Astros are using to effect spin rate. This is probably a big part of what the Indians liked about Maton and part of what got him to the majors.
On the mound: At 6’3”, 220lb, Maton looks the part of a big league pitcher and throws a fastball, curveball and a slider. It appears he once threw a cutter, but I think his slider gets picked up as a cutter by Statcast, unless he’s ditched the slider in favor of the cutter in the majors along with his curveball. Hit cutter also has a very high spin rate. He has a deceptive delivery to boot. As a prospect he threw his fastball 92-95 but in the majors he’s averaged no better than 92 with it. More spin and velocity is good, but the high velocity along with his delivery should help in play up. He’s been something of an interesting case since 2017 and Indians hitters saw him that day, with Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Bradley Zimmer all noting the life on his fastball. The Indians have been good at coaxing a little extra velocity out of pitchers over time in the last few years, so if he can return to 93-95 with his fastball combined win the spin, he has a combination that plays in the bullpen in 2020. He swinging strike rates suggest the potential to miss bats in the bullpen is there if the Indians can help him gain some consistency with the whole package.
2020 role: The Indians bullpen in 2020 shapes up with Brad Hand, Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak (two high spin relievers themselves), Oliver Perez and Nick Wittgren as seemingly locked into jobs going into spring training. Hunter Wood is out of options, so you could pencil him into a role if the Indians want to retain him to build depth. That leaves Maton, Adam Cimber, whose role could be in question with the three batter minimum rule, and James Hoyt to potentially claim the last two spots in the bullpen. Jefry Rodriguez or another starter could factor in there too, but at least two spots are up for grab, so Maton should have a spot in spring training.
Fantasy impact: If your league awards points for spin rate, first, invite me to play in your fantasy league, because that sounds fun, then Maton is rosterable. If your league doesn’t count spin rate, then there’s no reason to have him on your radar. If he were to turn his high spin rate into something valuable in the bullpen, he could eventually vie for some holds and could help with strikeouts or K/9. But even then, Clase, Karinchak and Wittrgen are more likely to get a lot of time with the lead, where as Maton looks like he’d be the first man out of the pen trailing.