Blue Jays: Another Rookie Battle, Ryan Borucki vs. Heath Fillmyer

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 8: Heath Fillmyer #49 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Kauffman Stadium on August 8, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 8: Heath Fillmyer #49 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Kauffman Stadium on August 8, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

On Tuesday, August 14, the Blue Jays will play the second of four games against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals will send Heath Fillmyer to the bump while the Jays will counter with Ryan Borucki.

Heath Fillmyer did not start his career as a Kansas City Royals pitcher. Instead, after being drafted and developed by the Oakland Athletics, the 24-year-old was shipped to Kansas City (along with Jesse Hahn) in exchange for Ryan Butcher, Brandon Moss, and cash considerations.

The right-hander was ranked as just the 18th best prospect in the A’s system, but he quickly made the big leagues on the Royals. After posting a mediocre 5.75 ERA and 4.64 FIP in Triple-A Omaha, the righty was called up to the majors on July 19.

The hurler’s first major league appearance was not good, but it could have been much worse. Taking on the defending world champion Astros, he allowed three hits, two walks, a home run, and two earned runs across four complete innings pitched. For reference, the rest of the Kansas City pitching staff allowed nine earned runs.

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After coming out of the bullpen in his first promotion, the former fifth round pick eventually made his first major league start on July 8 against the Boston Red Sox. The Sox touched the Royals hurler up for eight hits, four runs, and three earned runs across four and a third innings.

Overall, Fillmyer’s surface numbers are good, but slightly misleading. Through nine games, and five starts, he has managed a 3.13 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 1.286 WHIP, and 137 ERA+. In total, he has been worth an uninspiring 0.2 fWAR.

In order to achieve these numbers, he has utilized a five-pitch mix. This season he has alternated between a four seam fastball, slider, change-up, curveball, and sinker.

The former Oakland A has fired home four seam fastballs 51.69% of the time this season. The heater is not that fast, posting an average velocity of 92.66 mph. However, the pitch has been quite effective, allowing a .226 BAA and .323 SLGA.

The Kansas City starter has used his slider 22.97% of the time this season. The breaking ball has produced slightly above average swing-and-miss numbers, producing whiffs on 31.82% of swings. The pitch hasn’t been that good overall, though, giving up a poor .257 BAA and .400 SLGA. As well, the slider has struck out just 13 batters.

Fillmyer has offered change-ups 13.51% of the time this season. The off speed pitch is decently quick, averaging a speed of 85.60 mph, so there isn’t a tremendous separation from the fastball. However, the change has been incredibly successful this season, surrendering just four singles for a .191 BAA.

The rookie completes his repertoire with curveballs and sinkers. The hook and sinking-fastball have been used 7.77% and 4.05% of the time, respectively. Both pitches have surrendered two singles, but, with very different use rates, the curve has allowed a great .182 BAA while the sinker has posted a poor .400 BAA.

The right-handed hurler has had a fair amount of BABIP luck this year. Through 37 1/3 innings pitched he has allowed a .250 BABIP. In Triple-A Omaha, he gave up a .342 BABIP. Thus it is safe to assume that some of his good results have come from helpful defence, or simple luck. Therefore, his 4.52 FIP (which is almost a run and a half higher than his ERA) is a more accurate representation of his pitching skill and how he will regress through the year.

Fillmyer’s concerning numbers don’t stop there, either. The starter has also managed a poor 13.6% K-rate and 5.06 K/9. Even worse, he has allowed an above average amount of walks, coughing up an 11.0% BB-rate and 4.10 BB/9.

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The Blue Jays need all the help they can get to produce offence this season. The Kansas City Royals starter is due for a fair amount of regression, and it’s up to the Blue Jays to enact this change. Also, Toronto will be aided by a Ryan Borucki start—who has been one of the few bright spots in the 2018 Blue Jays season.