Image: USA Today
2021 season age: 26
Contract: Pre-arb 2
Height: 6’3; Weight: 220
2020 stats: 8 GS (55.1IP), 57K/6BB, 2.28 ERA/3.39 FIP, 0.80 WHIP
2020 in review: Outside of his incident breaking COVID protocols in Chicago and being sent to the Alternate Site, and his ill-advised Instagram post, it was a breakout year for Plesac. He built on a solid rookie year in 2019 and took the next step. In his eight starts he average over a strikeout per inning, had the best command and control of his career (2.9 BB%).
On the mound: Plesac’s success on the mound had in 2020 had a lot to do with changes to his pitch mix. Not his actual pitches, but his sequencing and usage. He dropped is four-seam fastball usage from 50.6% down to 37.6% (92.8MPH). It still got knocked around to a .321 average and .577 SLG%. He took his slider usage from 18.8% in 2019 to 27.8% in 2020 and that pitch had a .069 average/.103 SLG% and a whiff rate of 42.7% He also upped his changeup usage from 20.6% to 25.3% in 2020, which had a 35.6% whiff rate. Plesac still does have a curveball (9.3% usage rate) that did fairly well in 2020 (.200/.600 – 22.2% whiff rate). While he doesn’t throw hard and nothing he throws has a particularly high spin rate (they’re all somewhat low, in fact) but with command, tunneling, and deception, it all works for Plesac. He seems to have the ability to limit hard contact and when you don’t walk batters, you give yourself a lot more room for error.
Beyond the stats: Taking his strikeout rate from 18.8% to 27.7% from 2019 to 2020 looks like it holds up with a jump from 9.5% swinging strike rate to 14.3%. That makes it sustainable and his strikeout rates in the minors were between 21% and 24%, so it’s not far off. The swinging strike rate also might have come from a 36.9% chase rate up from 27% in 2019. Hitters also made contact just 72.9% of the time, down from 79.9% in 2019.
2021 role: Plesac looks like a lock for the second spot in the rotation with Carlos Carrasco being traded. He pitched well last year making sustainable changes. Cleveland will be counting on him for upwards of 170 innings or so, the most of his career. He pitched 140 in the minors in 2018.
Fantasy impact: Between the changes to his pitch mix in 2020 that gave him so much success and the bump Cleveland starting pitchers have seemed to get the last two or three years in fantasy drafts, there’s a lot of helium on Plesac in drafts this year. The only concern is the below average velocity and no real raw plus pitch, and the fact that he hasn’t pitched a full season yet. The talent and the numbers, in a limited sample, are there to back up his success. Don’t overpay early but if you get a chance to have him on your team at a reasonable price or round, he should be a solid second starter on your roster. Just get an established ace in front of him and see how the second-tier arms are going.