Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Underrated Free Agents Based On Sweet Spot Percentage

Here are some underrated free agents based on sweet spot percentage.
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game One
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game One / David Berding/GettyImages
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Keynan Middleton

Keynan Middleton once looked like the next close for the Angels in the late 2010s. However, injuries set in, and from 2018 through 2022, Middleton pitched just 85.1 innings with a 4.11 ERA/4.69 FIP. Middleton then signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox last winter in hopes of rebounding. He was traded to the New York Yankees mid-summer but had his best campaign since his 2017 rookie season.

Through 50.2 innings, Middleton worked to a 3.38 ERA, 4.20 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. Middleton’s game is all about limiting hard contact and striking out batters. He had a 30.2% strikeout rate while ranking above the 90th percentile in hard-hit rate (31.5%) and exit velocity (85.3 MPH). His sweet spot rate was just 25%. Meanwhile, his whiff and chase rates were both above 33%.

Middleton did have a 1.42 HR/9 rate. But some of that is because of the 23.5% HR/FB ratio that bogged him down. xFIP, which is best used for major outliers in HR/FB ratio, like in Middleton’s case, was at 3.26. Middleton’s other ERA estimators also put him in a positive light with a 3.34 SIERA and 80 DRA- (78 ERA-). All were extremely close to his bottom line ERA.

There have been very few rumors surrounding Middleton. The last time MLB Trade Rumors reported on Middleton was in mid-October. There were some tweets by unofficial sources that connected him to the Yankees, but nothing has been confirmed by Middleton or any other source. It might seem somewhat redundant to add Middleton to the strong bullpen, but I say let’s build on the biggest strength of the team right now.