Avid minor league ball denizens will recall a time not too long ago when John posted this article about Chris Bassitt on July 20. A reader asked John if Bassitt was worth a fantasy investment. John concluded that while Bassitt has broadened his repertoire since converting to a full time starting role a few years ago, he prefers that pitchers with flyable tendencies show a better strikeout rate then what Bassitt had shown up to that point.
With that in mind, John suggested he profiles better as a reliever but did say at the end, "if he does breakout, the first indicator would probably be a higher strikeout rate."
Well, it looks like Chris Bassitt took that comment to heart. Over his last five outings, Bassitt has 2.18 ERA over 33 IP with a 23.8% strikeout rate (30 strikeouts) and an impressive 4.8% walk rate (6 walks). He has been particularly dominant over his last two outings against the Orioles (7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) and the Astros (6.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 10 K).
Is he for real or is this performance a flash in the pan against admittedly strikeout prone lineups?
I'm leaning towards yes IF the improved command he has shown of late holds up. I think the stuff is there for him to develop into a solid mid-rotation starter. His fastball velocity as bumped up a tick this year (92.6 MPH average velo in 2015 as opposed to 91.6 MPH average velo in 2014) and pushed 95-96 MPH consistently in the outings I watched.
He gets great deception in his delivery with a high leg kick, long arm action, and a slight head jerk that together add visual noise to disrupt the batter. He comes from a 3/4 arm slot that allows him to get consistent arm side run on his pitch and stays tall enough in his delivery to get some downward plane as well.
Let's talk about the curveball. Bassitt has racked up the strikeouts of late in large part because of the emergence of a sharp 12-6 bender that clocks in at just 73 MPH. Watch video highlights of his last two outings and you'll see a majority of his strikeouts are of the swing and miss variety in at bats finished off by his curveball. He does an excellent job of setting up the pitch and stays true in his delivery, giving hitters absolute hell by going from a 92-95 MPH heater to a nasty slow bender that falls off the table.
I dug up old minor league scouting reports on Bassitt that described him as more of a fastball-slider guy, with an average changeup and an occasional slow curveball to add a wrinkle to the mix. The Bassitt of late, however, has consistently relied upon the slow-curve as his out pitch and he's been quite effective and comfortable doing so. The emergence of this pitch is a game changer if he continues to command the pitch well with the break it has shown. After all, he is currently sporting an elite 16.1% swinging strike percentage on the pitch.
In conclusion, I'm highly intrigued to see how Bassitt performs the rest of the way. I see him a solid mid-rotation starter in the making but part of me thinks he could emerge as something more if he continues to make adjustments and improvements to his repertoire and command.
After all, this is just his 3rd season working as a full time starter. In that time, we've already seen his fastball velocity increase, his walk rate decrease, and his pitch repertoire broaden from mostly fastball-slider guy to fastball-cutter-slider-curveball-changeup, with the fastball and curveball showing plus potential. Add in a deceptive delivery and a tall, strong bodied frame and that looks like a legit combination if the command and pitch ability continue to progress in the right direction.