Pitcher Geoff Hartlieb
Many are still overlooking Geoff Hartlieb’s talent after a poor showing in his first 35 innings. Despite giving up 35 earned runs, eight home runs, and 18 walks, Hartlieb has the potential to be one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ next closing pitcher options.
Just take a look at his Triple-A numbers. Through 39.2 innings, Hartlieb had a 2.50 ERA, 2.24 FIP and 1.16 WHIP. He also struck out over 30% of the batters he faced, getting 50 of the 163 batters down on strike three, and was solid at controlling free passes with a 9.2% walk rate.
The most impressive part of Hartlieb’s 2019 season at Indy was how well he suppressed home runs. Triple-A’s International league, the Indinapolis Indians’ league, last year had 29 players who had at least 20 home runs, and nearly 50 hit at least 15. 40 players had at least a slugging percentage of .500 and 200 plate appearances. Despite the juiced ball, and everyone hitting home runs, Hartlieb allowed no long balls with an outstanding 63.2% ground ball rate to go with it.
Hartlieb’s best pitch is his sinker, which he can run up into the mid-90s. Last year, it sat at 95 MPH on average. But has some sick movement to go with it. With 27.5 inches of vertical drop, and 16.5 inches of horizontal break, he has the fourth highest vertical drop mark, sitting behind Clay Holmes, Jared Hughes and T.J. McFarland, and his horizontal movement is still 1.6 inches better than the average. He is just one of 12 pitchers to throw their sinker at least 95 MPH and have above average movement both ways.
Hartlieb also has an outstanding slider to go along with it. With 8.8 inches of horizontal movement, he is one of 22 pitchers to have a slider that has horizontal break over 100% above average. He can also throw it for a bit of drop too, 36.1 inches of drop. That’s about league average, but still, it’s one of the best sliders in the game right now.
Though his fastball has the least amount of movement, having both below average movement vertically and horizontally, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad pitch. Hartlieb averaged 96.4 MPH on the pitch, which places it in the top 86th percentile of fastball velocity. Plus it sits in the top 88th percentile of spin rate.
Hartlieb will also occasionally throw a change up. Although it’s his least used pitch, still has 31.1 inches of drop with 15.3 inches of break on it. Both sit above average at 13% and 5%. With four really good pitches, Hartlieb has closer potential.
Hartlieb also got a bit unlucky last year. For one, he had a .411 batting average on balls in play, in-part due to the lack of defense the Pirates had in 2019. Despite having a 20% soft contact rate (MLB average was 17%), 35.6% hard contact rate (MLB average was 38% per FanGaphs), and 47.7% ground ball rate with runners in scoring position, Hartlieb had a .395 BAbip and sub-60 left on base percentage.