2021 season age: 25
Contract: Pre-arb 1
Height: 6’3; Weight: 230
2020 stats: 27IP, 53K/16BB, 2.67 ERA/1.52 FIP, 1.1 fWAR
2020 in review: Finally getting on the mound at the beginning of the (delayed) 2020 season, Karinchak showed that his strikeout binges and minor league domination was no fluke. He posted an absurd 48.6% strikeout rate. He earned pitching in big time spots and had a 1.39 leverage index (above 1 is considered above average). Karinchak still had spurts of control issues at times and it cost him for a stretch and in the postseason. Overall, Karinchak established himself as one of the best relievers in the game with pure, dominating stuff.
On the mound: Karinchak has needed just two pitches in the pros to send hitters back to the dugout with their bats on their shoulders. He throws a fastball that sits 95 and touches 97 that he threw slightly over 50% of the time in 2020 to great effect (.184/.342 SLG – 38.7% whiff rate). And just under 50% of the time he threw his power, 12-6 curve (83 mph – 2356 spin rate). Hitters batted just .140 against it with a slugging percentage .140 as well. It struck hitters out at a 56.3% rate as well. His walk rate of 14% was trouble for him though his WHIP was just 1.11 meaning most hitters reached through hits and not walks, Just the damage came with runners on when he did walk hitters.
Beyond the stats: What makes Karinchak hard to hit is the amount in which his fastball lacks natural ‘drop’ at the plate. It only drops vertically at 9.5, and his high spin rate gives his fastball the appearance that it’s ‘rising’ and therefore runs over the top of bats and is hard to connect with or drive. His curveball comes out of the same high arm slot and release point, and gets 46 inches of vertical drop, which make the two pitches hard to discern until its too late. His mechanics also throw off hitters as he creates that high release.
2021 role: Despite his great 2020 season, the command issues and lack of long term pro experience will keep him from just being thrown into the closers role. Cleveland will likely also prefer to use Karinchak in a ‘fireman’ type role that Andrew Miller served and that Cody Allen served while the team had other closer options, much like he did in 2020. He’ll probably pitch in the highest leverage points of the game, whether that is the sixth, seventh, eighth and possibly ninth. He’ll be counted on to face the other team’s best hitters in the toughest jams during the game, regardless of which inning it is.
Fantasy impact: If your league only counts saves for relief stats, in addition to strikeouts, be way of Karinchak’s value. He isn’t going to be the regular closer, at least not at the outset. He’ll get save chances but he’s more likely to rack up holds early on. He’ll get you plenty of strikeouts and if your league counts holds too, you’ll get a lot of value from him. His command issues could cause your rate stats to be an issue, so you’d need to be in a league that counts holds and saves in addition to strikeouts to want to own him, but in most leagues he could serve up a ton of value as a second or third reliever.