1st-year pitchers whose Statcast stats dazzled

November 30th, 2017

On Tuesday, MLB.com took a closer look at 10 position players who made a strong first impression on Statcast™ in their debut seasons.

But hitters weren't the only ones who put up some intriguing metrics in their first taste of Major League action. So here is a breakdown of 10 pitchers who did the same, whether by reaching a high velocity or spin rate, limiting hard contact or displaying a particularly effective pitch. (Once again, players with rookie eligibility who appeared in MLB prior to 2017 are not included.)

Players are listed in descending order of innings pitched in 2017.

, LHP, Rockies

The eighth overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Freeland started 28 of his 33 games for Colorado and excelled at Coors Field (3.72 ERA) even more than he did on the road (4.57). It certainly helped Freeland's case that out of 99 pitchers to generate at least 400 batted balls, he tied with for the third-lowest average exit velocity (84.5 mph). But Freeland also posted the seventh-highest ground-ball rate in that group (56.5 percent). Combine the soft contact with the grounders, and you get a barrel -- the most dangerous type of batted ball -- on only 4.3 percent of balls put in play against Freeland, a rate that ranked eighth.

, LHP, Yankees

The 24-year-old finished third on the club in starts (29) and innings (155 1/3), while posting a 3.88 ERA. Of his 144 strikeouts, 108 came on breaking balls, a total that tied him for 11th in the Majors, just behind and Zack Greinke. Montgomery excelled at getting opponents to chase his curveball and slider, which they did 36.8 percent of the time he threw them out of the zone. Batters missed 67.2 percent of those chased swings, putting Montgomery eighth out of 30 pitchers (minimum 150 swings), sandwiched between Chris Sale and .

, RHP, Rockies

Coming into 2017, Senzatela was 22 years old and had thrown all of 34 2/3 innings above Class A, yet he still managed to produce a 107 ERA+ across 36 games (20 starts). He did that in a highly unusual manner. Of the 138 pitchers who threw at least 1,500 pitches as starters, none threw a four-seam fastball as often as Senzatela (72.5 percent), who finished a whopping 7 percentage points above Seattle's . Despite his somewhat limited innings, Senzatela retired 275 batters with his four-seamer, to rank fourth in MLB.

, RHP, Padres

After debuting on May 25, Lamet quietly piled up 139 strikeouts over 114 1/3 innings, while featuring a four-seam fastball that ranked in the top 20 in both average velocity (95.0 mph) and spin rate (2,409 rpm), among 125 starters with at least 500 four-seamers thrown. Batters missed on 29.2 percent of their swings against Lamet, tied for the 14th-highest rate among 138 pitchers who faced at least 750 swings. Those whiffs helped Lamet produce an expected batting average allowed (xBA) of just .203, based on his quality of contact and actual strikeouts. That put him just in front of Kershaw (.204) for seventh place of the 132 pitchers who faced at least 400 batters in 2017.

, RHP, Reds

Acquired from Miami in January in the Dan Straily deal, Castillo entered Cincinnati's rotation in late June and dazzled over 15 starts (3.12) before being shut down in early September. The 24-year-old tied the Yankees' for the highest average four-seam fastball velocity as a starter (97.5 mph) and was one of four starters to reach 100 mph multiple times. It wasn't just about the heat, though. Opponents went 16-for-130 (.123) against his slider and changeup, with only five extra-base hits and 57 strikeouts. Of 187 starters who faced at least 200 batters, the only four who bested Castillo in expected wOBA (xwOBA) allowed (.257) were the top two finishers in the American League and National League Cy Young Award races.

, RHP, Reds

Though he didn't quite match his teammate, Castillo, Romano gave the Reds' rotation a boost with a 99 ERA+ over 16 outings. The former 23rd-round pick heavily featured his four-seam fastball, throwing it more than 63 percent of the time to tie for the fourth-highest usage among starters with at least 1,500 total pitches. It averaged 95.2 mph, tying for 10th among starters who threw that pitch at least 750 times. In fact, everything out of Romano's hand had notable velocity, even his changeup (88.7 mph). Put all his pitches together, and his overall average velocity of 92.3 mph ranked fourth out of 139 starters (minimum 1,500 pitches).

Jake Faria, RHP, Rays

Announcing his presence in the Majors with seven straight quality starts and a 2.00 ERA to from June 7-July 14, Faria eventually finished with a 3.43 mark over 86 2/3 innings. A big piece of his success was his nasty split-changeup, which produced a miniscule .137 opponent average (10-for-73) and 35 strikeouts. That was the fourth-best average out of 145 pitchers who ended at least 50 at-bats on splitters/changeups. Faria also ranked ninth with a 46.6 percent whiff rate on that pitch, and batters managed just an 80.2 mph average exit velocity when they put it in play.

, RHP, Brewers

There were ups and downs during the 24-year-old's eight-start debut -- including a gem against the Nationals and Max Scherzer -- which concluded with a 4.81 ERA. But one thing Woodruff did extremely well was limit unfavorable contact. The righty's average exit velocity allowed of 82.7 mph was the second lowest among all starters who produced at least 100 batted balls. His barrel rate of 3 percent ranked fourth in the same group, while he posted the third-highest rate of poor contact allowed (69.6 percent).

, RHP, Twins

A 25th-round pick who turned 27 in August, Busenitz didn't exactly fit the prospect profile, but he became a key bullpen piece for Minnesota during its run to an AL Wild Card berth. While posting a 1.99 ERA across 31 2/3 innings, Busenitz held opponents to a .200 average (12-for-60) with his four-seam fastball, which benefited from both high velocity (95.7 mph) and a high spin rate (2,488 rpm). Among 346 pitchers who threw at least 250 four-seamers in 2017, only four topped Busenitz in both of those categories, including .

, LHP, Braves

The southpaw from Brazil, acquired from Seattle in January, struck out 31 over 29 1/3 innings across five September starts. In that short amount of time, Gohara reached 100 mph and threw the four fastest pitches by a lefty starter all year, as well as 17 of the 29 at 98.7 mph or harder. Of the 62 lefty starters to throw at least 100 four-seamers, Gohara's 96.4 mph average was the highest by nearly 1 mph. Opponents also went 6-for-47 (.128) with 24 strikeouts off the 21-year-old's slider, with a 41.9 percent whiff rate that was 18th highest among starters who generated at least 50 swings with that pitch.