With spring training half over, we’ve already scratched names off the list from the rotation, and the ‘21 Astros don’t have the same depth or frontline starters they once had.
I’m going with Tyler Ivey as my break-out candidate. Ivey is somewhat of an enigmatic prospect, but the reasoning has very little to do with his stuff or results.
Since joining the Astros in 2017, Tyler has pitched to the tune of a 8-9 record with a 3.07 ERA in the minors, which is impressive in it’s own right, but in each step, he’s gained better results (ERA’s: A- 5.94, A 3.46, A+ 2.58, AA 1.57)
Ivey’s arsenal is reported to be a 90-93 MPH fastball that he can dial up to 95 when needed, a deadly 12-6 curveball with excellent vertical break, and a developing change-up / secondary breaking pitch (conflicting reports ranging from cutter to slider). Ivey throws both his fastball and curve with spin rates that align well with the Astros vertical approach.
Ivey’s detractors will point to two primary elements as his limiting factors, his health and his wind-up. With the latter being the primary point that has been making detractors out of scouts since he was drafted. Here is a look at Ivey’s wind-up:
Thirty-five seconds of Tyler Ivey’s, um, unorthodox delivery. pic.twitter.com/XCNbk3MLl2— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2021
It was described by Fangraphs as a dance in their interview with him, Baseball Prospectus described it as “something out of the 1940s”.
An unorthodox wind-up, particularly one with a lot of moving parts is largely known to cause control and/or injury related issues. For Ivey, control has not been a huge issue, still holding a 2.8 BB/9 across his minor league career.
From an injury perspective, Ivey has technically had 3 stints on the 7-day Injured List, although one of them was allegedly due to a suspension, although I couldn’t find official confirmation of that.
For Ivey, there’s an argument that he could not have found a better home given his unique wind-up. Where most pitching coaches have subscribed to Tom House’s traditional mechanics - Brent Strom is a full-fledged believer in Paul Nyman’s approach.
For those not familiar with the two, likely the majority of what you have learned has been elements of widely accepted theories from Tom House’s train of thought - which while flexible to different deliveries, primarily builds a repeatable, balanced approach. Nyman on the other hand, is a much bigger believer in momentum and utilizing the natural rhythm of a pitcher and maximizing based on kinetic energy.
For Ivey, this is a dream come true. Instead of battling his “dance” of a wind-up, he finds himself with a pitching coach who advocates for these styles of wind-ups. Given that he’s been able to maintain a repeatable delivery with solid control, the Astros will likely refine what is there to take advantage of the deception added to his delivery.
Currently, Zips projects Ivey for a 3-3, 4.74 ERA, 9.15 K/9 and 3.61 BB/9 across 79.7 IP for a grand total of 0.7 WAR.
I don’t envy anyone who looks to do predictions, particularly given the randomness of baseball especially given last year's challenges. With that said, I foresee Ivey continuing to produce results as he hits the MLB. One of the aspects I dislike as I project minor leaguers is the lack of data that is available for MLB players, but Ivey checks all the boxes of someone who can really capitalize on the methods Strom uses.
My prediction? Ivey cements himself into the rotation this year, producing a mid-high 3’s ERA with exceptional K/9. If he’s unable to break into the rotation, his arsenal has the ability to play up and allow him to be a high leverage reliever.
What are your thoughts? What type of year are you expecting from Ivey?