Pitchers Who Need to Bounce Back in 2021

Today I’ve constructed a list of three pitchers, who didn’t do the job expected of them in the shortened 2020 MLB season. Here’s what went wrong, and how they can recover in 2021.

Marcus Stroman- New York Mets

Marcus Stroman is one of the most interesting players in baseball. When the right hander steps on the mound, more times than not he’s one of the most electrifying players on the diamond. From 2016 through 2018, Stroman’s trajectory kept going up. In that time, he pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays on Opening Day, pitched in the ALCS, and was a key contributor to Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Stroman has always been a pitcher many have expected to take the next step. After opting out of 2020, this will be the first time he’s on the mound since 2019. Every season with Marcus Stroman there’s some problem that hinders his performance. Stroman unfortunately is very familiar with the injured list, and is know to give up the long ball. What Stroman does best is use his finesse pitches. When Stroman uses his fastball, it occasionally leads to disaster. In his six seasons, Stroman’s Hard Hit percentage is 42.5 percent, and the league average is only 38.7.

During 2021 Spring Training games, Stroman has said “My stuff is nasty”. For the New York Mets to contend, they’ll need Marcus Stroman in a big way. Look for Stroman to use more off-speed pitches and be more precise with his pitches. A lot rides on the thirty year old in 2021. It’s a contract year, and he has a team who needs him to take the next step.

Carlos Martinez- St Louis Cardinals

Carlos Martinez was one of the MLB’s best pitchers from 2015-2017. Since the 2018 season though, his production has taken a dip. In the last three years, Martinez has only won 12 games and had his role switched a lot on him. Martinez’s last full season was 2019, where he came back from injury and starting being the closer for the Cardinals. In the 2019 season, Martinez did well in the role, converting 24 of 27 save opportunities, he also struck batters out at a slightly higher clip than as a starter.

During the shortened 2020 season, the best way to describe Martinez’s season is abysmal. Win probability added by pitcher is a newer stat, what was Carlos Martinez’s WPA in 2020? -1.3. The -1.3 ranked 728th in all of the MLB. For someone the Cardinals are paying over eleven million dollars, that’s not the production you expect. Martinez’s fastball hasn’t been there in a few seasons, and that’s the pitch he’ll need to do well.

Similar to the Mets, the Cardinals have playoff aspirations. Carlos Martinez is now stuck at a cross roads with the team. Do thy give him another chance as a starter, or see how he fares in the bullpen? I think the Cardinals put Martinez in the bullpen to start. Then based on his success and possible injuries to other starters, he comes back in the rotation.

Lance McCullers Jr- Houston Astros

Way back in 2015, Lance McCullers Jr was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Since then he’s spent time hurt, and other times inconsistent. 2020 was an average season for McCullers, he pitched to a record of 3-3, with a 3.93 ERA. The juggernaut that was the Houston Astros pitching rotation in 2019 is gone, and McCullers need to step up. McCullers will pitch behind Zack Greinke, and be a key piece. In five seasons, McCullers have never pitched more than 125 innings or won more than 10 games.

The biggest problem of McCullers’ young career is giving up runs. Every season his ERA has been above 3.22, and is too high give the expectations that were given to him. McCullers has been able to hide in the sea of pitchers Houston had, that won’t happen in 2021. One aspect McCullers need to touch on is his breaking and off-speed pitches. McCullers’ pull percentage was 48.6, which is his career high. While his soft hit balls in contact percent was down, the hard hit percentage shot way up from his last season in 2018.

Lance McCullers is a Scott Boras client, so I expect him to have on of his best seasons. I’m not saying McCullers is Gerrit Cole, but the similarities are there in more than one way. Both are Boras clients, underperformed for a majority of their young career, and obviously played for the Houston Astros. 2021 is a show-me year for McCullers. If he can regain the hype that surrounded him all those years ago, he should have his best year yet.

These pitchers all have the talent, only time will tell how they can perform in 2021. Two of the three are in contract years, I expect them to really have their best career performance.