2021 season age: 23
Contract: Pre-arb 1
Height: 6’5; Weight: 160
2020 stats: 8 GS – 33IP, 12BB, 3.24 ERA (3.91 WHIP) 0.90 WHIP
2020 in review: After missing all of 2019 and half of 2018, McKenzie wound up getting healthy and recovering from the time off and injuries well by skipping Triple-A and making his MLB debut in 2020. His first start was electric and he pitched surprisingly well despite his time off. His velocity did wane throughout the year and he wound up in the bullpen later in the year to combat that. There’s a chance that the time off and buildup in 2020 caused McKenzie’s velocity to wane, but he has showed that in the minors at times as well, so it’s something to monitor.
On the mound: Thanks to the development of his slider, McKenzie now has a four pitch mix. Because of his ability to spin his fastball, throw with solid velocity and the amount of extension he gets on it, he throws it most often of all of his offerings (53.1% of the time – 92.8 mph). His new slider became his second most trusted pitch (20.2% of the time – 86.3 mph) and it got him a whiff rate of 44.2%. His curveball, which was his best pitch in the minors, was his third offering (16.5% – 80mph) and had a 34.4% whiff rate. His changeup, which was much improved in 2020, he used just 10% of the time (86.8mph) had a 25% whiff rate. All four pitches play off of each other well. Hitters really only did damage against his changeup when he missed with it. His slider was a good chase pitch and when his fastball velocity was up, it missed bats well.
Beyond the stats: One of the characteristics of McKenzie’s fastball that helps it miss bats even at 93-94 is the amount of vertical movement it gets. It only has 11.7 inches of vertical drop, which gives the appearance of ‘rising’ thanks to his high ¾ arm slot. That is three inches, or 25% above MLB average for a fastball.
2021 role: McKenzie will be competing for a rotation spot in spring training out of the gate. He’ll contribute to the rotation in 2021 but there’s a chance he could end up back in the minors, or the Alternate Site camp in April, so Cleveland can help him build up his innings and monitor his workload early in the season to combat any injuries or endurance issues he might have. But he should impact the big league rotation this season at some point regardless.
Fantasy impact: He’s draftable in most deep leagues, especially dynasty formats. Keep an eye on his status in spring training if he breaks camp in the rotation but he should miss bats enough and pitch enough this year to at least be on deeper fantasy rosters and dynasty leagues he’s a must own.