The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired right-handed reliever in Dauri Moreta in the Kevin Newman trade, but can the team fix him after a rough season?
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired right-handed reliever Dauri Moreta from the Cincinnati Reds in the one-for-one swap with Kevin Newman. Although Moreta is coming off a poor season, is there more talent there the Pirates can tap into? What can they do to make him more effective?
There’s no way to sugarcoat Moreta’s 2022 rookie campaign. It was rough. In 38.1 innings, the right-hander had a 5.40 ERA and 5.80 WHIP. Of the few silver linings, Moreta struck out 24.4% of the batters he faced, only had an 8.1% walk rate, and held opposing hitters to a .224 batting average against. However, home runs were where Moreta struggled the most. He allowed ten in less than 50 innings of work. That led to a 2.35 HR/9 rate, the ninth highest among all pitchers in 2022, with at least 30 innings under their belt.
So what positives can be drawn from Moreta? Aside from a solid strikeout rate and walk rate, Moreta’s 19.6% HR/FB ratio indicates his HR/9 isn’t entirely sustainable. He was also much better on the road, posting a 3.60 ERA compared to 6.56 at Great American Ball Park.
Moreta also ended the season on a high note.
In his final 24.2 innings, the right-hander had a 2.92 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and 0.97 WHIP. He had a much more manageable 1.01 HR/9 rate, and while his strikeout rate was slightly down at just 23.7%, he only walked 7.2% of the batters he faced. Opponents hit below the Mendoza line against him as well. Another promising line from his hot streak was his 41.5% ground ball rate. Overall on the season, he had just a 32.7% ground ball rate, and speaking that he’s not one to limit hard contact (90.2 MPH exit velocity), getting more ground balls is key to success for Moreta.
Moreta throws hard with decent spin. Moreta was in the 84th percentile of fastball velocity and the top 54th percentile of fastball spin rate. He increased his active spin rate on his four-seamer by 4% up to 98% this past season. His slider also has 24% active spin, which helps it have 35.8 inches of vertical drop. His four-seamer was his best offering per run value at -4 (-1.1-per-100), while his slider was his worst offering.
But his sinker can be a much more effective pitch. It averaged out at 96 MPH, and while opponents managed a .560 wOBA against it, he also used it up in the zone a whole lot. This is something that Alex Stumpf of DK Sports pointed out on Twitter:
Take Milwaukee Brewers’ all-star starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff for example. Woodruff throws his sinker with almost identical velocity, spin rate, and active spin as Moreta throws his sinker. However, while Moreta worked up in the zone with his sinker, Woodruff worked more down and in. In comparison, Woodruff had a -6 run value with the offering. Rafael Montero is another pitcher who induced good results with his sinker with similar velocity and spin compared to Moreta because he worked much lower in the zone. Philadelphia Phillies’ ace Zack Wheeler also had a similar spin, active spin, and velocity to Moreta and held batters to a .260 wOBA with the offering while working much lower and inside compared to Moreta.
Moreta’s sinker was his real downfall last year. But he could also throw his slider more often. His slider held batters to a .103 average, a .207 slugging percentage, and a .200 wOBA. Batters couldn’t touch his primary breaking pitch, whiffing at it 48.9% of the time. This was the 28th highest in the league, ahead of Shane McClanahan, Blake Snell, and Max Scherzer. While his sinker location isn’t great, he knows how to use his slider.
His change-up also needs tweaking. He threw it 20.6% of the time, making it his least-used offering. While he held opponents to a .212 average and .320 wOBA with the offering, opponents also managed a .540 slugging percentage against it. While his xSLG with the pitch was .428, he also left it hanging in the zone a decent amount. Using it lower and more inside would be a more effective location.
On the surface, Moreta might not look too promising. He’s heading into his age-27 campaign and is coming off a rookie season that saw him post a 5.40 ERA and an even less promising 5.80 FIP. However, the right-hander could potentially benefit greatly from changing up the location of his worst pitch and second most used offering, using his most effective pitch more often, and changing up the location of a pitch with potential could greatly benefit Moreta.