Image: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
2021 season age: 32
Contract: Minor league contract
Height: 6’4 – Weight: 210
2020 stats: 19IP (22 G), 9.00 ERA (8.82 FIP), 20K/8BB, 1.79 WHIP
2020 in review: After five mostly productive seasons in Boston, the Red Sox shipped Hembree off to the Phillies at the 2020 trading deadline because Philadelphia’s bullpen was in utter disarray. Looking at Hembree’s 2020 numbers and that a team wanted to trade for him tells you how bad the Phillies bullpen was. Still, Hembree struck out a batter per inning last year (20 in 19 innings), and walked batters a little less often than he did the rest of his career on a per batter basis (8.9%). Unfortunately, he allowed nine homers in those 19 innings and a career high 89.9 exit velocity against. Like Shaw, there weren’t a lot of positives to point to for Hembree in 2020. In 39.2 innings for Boston in 2019, Hembree did have a 3.86 ERA (4.78 FIP) with 46 strikeouts, so there were some positives there.
On the mound: Hembree is essentially a two pitch reliever. He’s fastball heavy (57.9% in 2020) and averaged 93.9 mph in 2020. He sat at 93.6 in 2019, down from an average of 94-95 in years prior. His secondary pitch is his slider (32.5% usage). He will occasionally mix in a curveball (9.6%). None of his pitches qualified as his best pitch in 2020, but in 2019 Hembree’s fastball limited hitters to a .172 average and .394 slugging percentage. In years past, his slider served as his best weapon, but he’s gone back and forth results wise with it every year. His strikeout rate dropped off in 2020 but he’s typically missed bats at a good rate for a reliever, but has had command issues and isn’t the kind of pitcher who is good at inducing weak contact or keeping the ball on the ground, so his best chance at success is missing bats.
Beyond the stats: Unlike Shaw, Hembree doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his arm. They’re similar pitchers in having just average strikeout numbers, and below-average command. The good news for Hembree is that the spin rates on his fastball and slider both remained at a good level (2501 fastball spin – 93rd percentile – higher is good; 2729 slider 76th percentile). That should mean that Hembree still has decent stuff but clearly needs to get his command back under control to be effective.
2021 role: There’s more of a recent track record of success for Hembree than Shaw, so perhaps his climb to gaining a roster spot isn’t as steep. But he’ll still need to show improved command in camp to convince the club to give him a shot. Hembree is the kind of arm Cleveland has taken north in the past because of some good metrics, past success and hasn’t seen his stuff completely fall off a cliff, just major command issues. If he shows 2016-17 form at all, he could be a valuable setup man. If not, he won’t be on the club for long, even if he makes it.
Fantasy impact: None. He had 20 holds in 2018 but he’d have to prove very capable to get into a role like that with Cleveland. Even then, there are tons of better options for holds. Hembree doens’t belong on any fantasy pitching staffs.