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Quick Hits: Keller, Straily, Lotte Giants, Neris, Red Sox

Brad Keller posted a 2.47 ERA, 2.06 K/BB rate, 5.76 K/9, and 52.8% grounder rate over 54 2/3 innings this season, as the 25-year-old continues to establish himself as a front-of-the-rotation option for the Royals.  Keller was aided this season by an improved slider that essentially looked more like his fastball and moved like a curveball, as the right-hander told Fangraphs’ David Laurila.  The first step was remaking a slider delivery that initially left Keller unable to “see the plate because my front arm was covering the catcher….I was constantly pulling off on everything, yanking my front side.  I needed to clean that up and keep my shoulders more square.”

Working on advice from Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred during the league shutdown, Keller fixed his delivery and turned his slider into a prominent part of his arsenal.  38.2% of his pitches were sliders in 2020, well up from a 31.2% usage in 2019 and a 26.2% usage in 2018.  As per Fangraphs’ pitch value and slider runs above average (wSL) metrics, Keller had the third-most effective slider of any pitcher in baseball, behind only Dinelson Lamet and Zach Plesac.

More from around baseball as the Dodgers sit a game away from a championship…

  • Dan Straily’s first season in Korea was a success, and the right-hander tells Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News that he has yet to make a decision about a potential second season with the KBO League’s Lotte Giants.  Before anything, Straily wants to return to the United States to see his family for the first time in nine months, as COVID-19 travel restrictions kept him in South Korea.  “I want to be with my wife when the decision starts coming up and my agent starts talking to the team about this,” Straily said.  After inking a one-year, $1MM contract with the Lotte Giants last winter, Straily posted a 2.50 ERA with 205 strikeouts over 194 2/3 innings, becoming arguably the league’s top pitcher and a popular figure with fans.  It was a solid rebound season after a tough 2019 for Straily that saw him allow 22 homers over only 47 2/3 innings with the Orioles, resulting in a 9.82 ERA.
  • The Phillies hold a $7MM club option on Hector Neris for 2021, which the team could see as an acceptable price tag for a reliever who has been generally solid over parts of seven MLB seasons.  However, in an offseason where the Phillies are dealing with revenue losses and trying to get under the luxury tax threshold, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman sees Neris as a possible extension candidate.  Seidman floats the possibility of a two-year contract worth $9MM-$10MM, which seems like a good number from the Phils’ perspective, though it remains to be seen if Neris or his agents would accept such an offer.  The team has some leverage in the sense that Neris probably wouldn’t like to test the very uncertain 2020-21 free agent market, yet Neris might also have confidence that the Phillies wouldn’t actually decline his option since the Phils are in such dire need of bullpen help.
  • Chaim Bloom’s first year in charge of the Red Sox front office was a tumultuous one, and the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier looked beyond the unprecedented events (the pandemic’s effect on the season and the Mookie Betts trade) to examine patterns about how Bloom will shepherd the team going forward.  The Sox mostly targeted controllable players, and the sheer volume of transactions was also different, as the 2020 club had the most roster turnover of any Red Sox team of the past decade.  “It goes back to being more open-minded and willing to be more aggressive with the bottom end of our 40-man roster,” assistant GM Eddie Romero said.  “The 40-man roster became more of a living document.  It was a daily conversation.  It required daily upkeep.”
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