(Photo: Jon Durr, USA TODAY Sports)
2020 season age: 25 – Throws: R – Bats: R – Contract: – $583, 500 (Pre-Arb)
2019 in review: Much like Zach Plesac, not many would have predicted that Aaron Civale would make his Major League debut in 2019. Anyone what was should play the lottery, or ask why they were inflicting pain on their Cleveland pitching voodoo dolls. In 10 MLB starts, Civale was impressive and stepped in admirably with 46 strikeouts and 16 walks in 57.2 IP and a 2.34 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. He fanned 70 and walked 15 in 72.2 IP in the minors with a 2.35 ERA between Akron and Columbus.
Beyond the stats: Some of the hardest things to do when profiling prospects is getting some of the advanced data, like spin rate. We manage to get some of it on some guys, while information on others is tighter lipped or from a lack of resources. On Civale, his 10 MLB stats bore out the information we weren’t aware of other than his pure stuff in the minors, which was good, but didn’t appear so good that we would have thought it would reflect his numbers in those 10 starts. What Civale does well is spin the fastball (2268 – 85th percentile), which helps his 93 mph fastball play up. He did touch 95 at times, something we didn’t see in the minors from him. His curveball spin is in the 96th percentile and gets 12% better than league average on his vertical drop on it. He limited hard contact well, finishing with a 2.4% barrel rate, the top 1% of the league.
On the mound: Civale throws three fastballs – four-seam, two-seam and he cuts it. He favored the sinking version of it in his 10 big league starts but the cutter was right behind it. He also throws a high spin, 12-6 curve, along with a slider and changeup. Finishing with just a 7.1% walk rate in the majors, Civale has good command of the entire arsenal. He works the four seam up in the zone when he uses it with the high spin, he can back-door the sinker to right handers and the changeup stays below the zone against lefties. It’s a mid-rotation type arsenal just lacking above average velocity.
2020 role: Coming into camp it seemed like Civale would have to battle with Zach Plesac for the last rotation spot, but with an injury to Mike Clevinger he seems to have a spot ready for him to take. He also has a slight groin injury, but is expected to be OK and may be ready for the season. He should be in the rotation to start the season if healthy.
Fantasy impact: Civale had a fairly middling strikeout rate last year but didn’t walk anyone. I’m not sure he’ll avoid hard contact and such an elite rate in 2020, but he should still be fairly adequate at keeping hitters off the barrel. Keep an eye on his health in camp the rest of the way and the rest of the rotation’s health as that might impact his role, but you can draft Civale to the back of your roster as someone you’d bet on to have pretty solid numbers based on last year with some upside remaining. You’d probably have to be in a deeper league to draft him, but he’s worthy of a late draft add to your pitching staff. I wouldn’t reach too much for him, depending on how heavily skewed towards pitching your league is and how many starters you can play on any given day.