Going Deep: Spring Training’s Five Most Effective Pitchers

Michael Augustine digs into the data to find the most impressive pitchers during spring training that should be taken seriously.

Spring training is drawing to a close and we’ve had some intriguing pitching performances. It’s hard to know for sure what’s legit and what’s not. Thankfully, we have Baseball Reference’s Opponent Quality ratings to help weed out the fugazi’s. OppQual, if you’re not familiar, is a measurement of talent scaled to skill level in terms of major and minor leagues. 10 is MLB-level, 8 is AAA, 7 is AA, and so on. I wanted to find the five most effective pitchers of the spring so I decided to do some digging based around OppQual.

To break down effectiveness, I started with all pitchers who faced at least 30 hitters as of March 22nd. Then I isolated all pitchers who had an OppQual of at least 8. From there, I took the best performers from each team, taking stats like ERA, batters faced, WHIP, and K/BB rate into account. Further evaluation left me with the five pitchers who are clearly standing out and worth taking their spring seriously.

I ended up with a mix of veterans and young, potential stars.

*data courtesy of Baseball Reference

Trevor Bauer has been all business this spring and has featured a new changeup that seems to be working out pretty well for him. His control seems to be on point- 12.5 K/BB rate and a 0.84 WHIP. Bauer promoted his 2018 performance and was pretty upset about his Cy Young Award snub last year and maybe now he’s ready to take that vitriol out on hitters in 2019. Bauer could be the true ace of the Cleveland Indians this year.


Tanner Roark has been a pleasant surprise this spring for the Cincinnati Reds, posting a 2.29 ERA, sub-1 WHIP, and a rate of 11 K/9. The former Washington Nationals starter (along with Bauer) has faced some of the toughest hitting talent this spring. Roark is currently placed third in the Reds rotation for this coming year.

You can see from the strikeout clips below that Roark’s new pitching coach Derek Johnson’s love of the high fastball is rubbing off.


Jon Gray has been an enigma for the Colorado Rockies. Some called him mentally weak, indicating he can’t handle the pressure when things get tough. Gray entered this spring with the desire to make his critics reconsider him and he’s done a pretty good job of it so far. His incredible (and totally unsustainable) 22 K/BB-rate has turned heads this March. His newfound attention to detail has helped his mechanics and provided hope that his slider will finally come back to him as his money pitch.


Our own Nick Pollack wrote a terrific review of an early Chris Paddack start that tells you everything you need to know about the youngster. He’s continued his strong spring by not allowing a single home run along with a tremendous 14.2 K/9 rate. Paddack has impressed the San Diego Padres enough to be considered part of the 2019 starting rotation. Keep an eye out for this potential star down in southern California.


Not much is expected from the Miami Marlins this season but there is potential for a bright future. One of the reasons is due to 23-year-old Pablo Lopez. He’s been absolutely dominant and you could argue he may be the best overall pitcher this spring, all things considered. Lopez holds the best ERA, WHIP, H/9, and BB/9 of all pitchers featured here. One of the reasons why Lopez is flourishing could be the return of his fastball velocity. Regardless, he is making a big impression with the organization and is giving them little reason to not consider him for the starting rotation. Have a look at the stuff he’s shown us this spring. Be excited, Marlins fans!


(Photo by Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire)

Michael Augustine

Going Deep manager for Pitcher List and a contributor to SB Nation's Royals Review and Gaslamp Ball. I've assisted with the roster and scouting development for Out of the Park Baseball since 2016. You can find my pitching 'art' on gfycat (@Augustine_MLB).

4 responses to “Going Deep: Spring Training’s Five Most Effective Pitchers”

  1. Chucky says:

    Let’s go in the opposite direction for a moment if you will. Thoughts on Newcomb with all those BBs. I know the Braves rotation is thin right now, but how long will they go with a guy 15:9 BB:K? Also from the end of the bench, your thoughts on Brad Keller using W rather than QS?

  2. Neal says:

    The movement on Lopez’s pitches is straight FILTH

  3. Zach says:

    In a dynasty league, would you rather own Lopez or Trevor Richards if both were available for free?

  4. Neal says:

    What about the other Gray, Sonny?

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