Next up in our 2023 season preview series is relief pitcher Matt Gage.
First, here's a refresher on the projection systems looking at:
STEAMER: 21 G, 1-1 record, 3.88 ERA, 20 SO and 8 BB in 21 innings
ZiPS: 50 G, 3-2 record, 3.86 ERA, 51 SO and 19 BB in 51.1 innings
THE BAT: 24 G, 1-1 record, 3.79 ERA, 24 SO and 6 BB in 24 innings
2022 stats: 11 G, 0-1 record, 1.38 ERA, 12 SO and 6 BB in 13 innings
Note that ZiPS projections include minor and major league innings but the performance estimates are all major-league level. Steamer and THE BAT project only major league innings.
Gage, the 29-year-old minor league journeyman, made his long-awaited major league debut on June 6 last season in a late-night, rain-delayed thumping of the Kansas City Royals. His clean, two-strikeout inning led to him spending a month as a reliable option out of the bullpen, pitching 13 innings with an impressive 1.38 ERA, .092 WHIP and 12 strikeouts.
Gage's role for the upcoming season is far from settled, and the projections reflect that uncertainty. While he is currently on the 40-man roster, the Roster Resource Depth Chart on FanGraphs has him starting the season in Triple-A.
When asked about his preparation for 2023, Gage said, "The thing I am working on for the upcoming season is to be quicker to the plate. With the pitch clock being implemented, there is a focus on stolen bases, and I need to be able to give my catcher a chance to throw him out."
Steamer and THE BAT project similar seasons for the lefty reliever. At 21 and 24 innings, respectively, both systems think he could spend a couple of months in the Rogers Centre bullpen. They definitely don't think he'll pitch to the same stingy ERA as his short stint in 2022, giving him a high-threes ERA.
ZiPS predicts more innings at 51.1, which takes into account all professional innings, whether in Triple-A or the majors. Like the other systems, ZiPS is giving Gage a higher ERA at 3.86.
However, all three projections agree on him continuing to log a strikeout per inning in 2023. Combined with some positive batted ball metrics, there's reason to believe he could hold his own at the big league level.
Gage had a higher-than-average ground ball rate in his small MLB sample but has consistently generated high rates in the minors. He also generated a 22.2% soft contact rate, better than the league average of 16.6% last season.
Ground Ball %
Line Drive %
Fly Ball %
Barring bullpen injuries or surprising spring training results, Gage will most likely begin 2023 in Buffalo, but don't be surprised if we see him pitching for the Jays at some point this season.