2020 season age: 25 – Throws: Right- Bats: Right – Contract: Pre-Arb
2019 in review: After soaring to Double-A in 2017, making his MLB debut in 2018, Bieber put a stamp on his rise to the majors with the All-Star game MVP in 2019 at Progressive Field. He led the Indians in innings pitched with 214, struck out 259 batters with a 3.28 ERA and a 15-8 record, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Beyond the stats: Despite Bieber’s stellar season, his exit velo against was 90.4 and his hard hit rate against was 43.1%, putting him in the bottom 9% and 5% in the league respectively. But because he limits walks (4.7% – 6th best in baseball), decreasing his fastball usage by 12% from and increasing his slider and curveball usage, he’s able to limit damage and how often contact is made against him. His fastball only had a .309 wOBA against and but his curveball and slider performed even better. Command and pitch sequencing allow Bieber to combat the hard contact teams are able to make against him, when they are able to.
On the mound: Bieber only averages 93.1 with his fastball, which is about league average now and his fastball spin is in the 50th percentile (which is not good place to be – the theory is that you want to be below or above average). But his slider held batters to just a .247 wOBA and was his second most used pitch. His curveball allowed just a .250 wOBA and his changeup, which he worked to improve, had a .324 wOBA against, but that was down from .395 a year ago. It’s hard to know if that’s noise and a small sample, but either way we know he worked on improving his changeup and hitters did less damage against it from a year ago.
2020 role: Until the season was put on hold, Bieber was named the Indians Opening Day starter. Now, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco had injury issues that may have prevented them from being able to start the season on time, but that doesn’t mean Bieber wasn’t deserving or didn’t earn it on his own merits. He and Clevinger should be co-aces whenever the season starts again.
Fantasy impact: A lot of fantasy industry experts have Bieber pegged to deliver fantasy ace potential. I heeded that advice and was comfortable having him as my ace, while setting up my pitching staff with more dependable options behind that and taking few bigger gambles later in the draft, but I still think he is going to produce fantasy ace type numbers when the sport resumes (if?) and you can feel comfortable with him as your ace or at best, your second best starter. If he’s your ace, I’d want my second and third starters to have some more dependability, rather than going for a high risk-high reward type that you might feel more comfortable with having a proven fantasy ace like Jacob deGrom or the like. But take Bieber high and feel confident he’s going to produce something along the lines of 2019.