Garrett Cleavinger Breakdown: Newest Dodger

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The Dodgers, Rays, and Phillies just pulled off a 3-way deal headlined by Jose Alvarado from the Rays to the Phillies. The Dodgers traded away a mid-tier, 1st baseman prospect and a ptbn for a reliever they could slide into the pen this year. Philly sent 26 year old, lefty, Garrett Cleavinger to LA after he just barely debuted last season.

Highlights

  • Cleavinger’s Career
  • His Release Point
  • His Arsenal
  • Quick Player Comp
  • Conclusion
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Clevinger’s Career So Far

Garret was drafted in the third round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Orioles with high hopes. He was the 13th ranked prospect immediately. He was always viewed as a bullpen piece and started off his minors career hot. He had a sub 3 ERA through his first 100 innings, but he derailed slightly as he got promoted.

Cleavinger couldn’t quite cross the barrier of producing in AA for a couple years. His ERA in 2017 was 6.00 in 54 AA innings. 2018 was even worse, but something changed in 2019. Cleavinger revitalized his career in AA. He had a 3-2 record, 3.66 ERA, 8 holds, 1.28 WHIP, .172 OAA, 83 STRIKEOUTS, 34 BB, only 2 homers, and all in 51.2 IP. It was his best performance since rookie ball.

Unfortunately for Garrett, there were no minors to pitch in last year, so the only professional stats came from his 0.2 IP debut. He gave up 2 hits, one a home run, and struck out a batter. It was not a debut to remember…

His Release Point

Cleavinger throws with almost a side arm delivery. At 6’1″ most of his balls are release at about shoulder height. He fits in perfectly with the Dodgers clockwork bullpen. He essentially replaces the angle that Jake McGee brought with his fastball last year.

Cleavinger releases just slightly lower than Alexander while reaching out a little further horizontally, essentially the more side arm approach. This gives him a release point unique to the Dodgers lefties as seen below. (Thank You Statcast)

Swipe to see how much Cleavinger and McGee lineup

So hypothetically the Dodgers can slide Cleavinger in immediately. They’ve loaded up on right handed arms but still needed another lefty they can count on if they want Urias in the rotation. The Dodgers will hopefully be able to show him the ways of the McGee fastball as well as pitch him as close to 1st base as he can.

His Arsenal

  • 4-Seamer, 94.4 MPH (Avg. Speed)
    • Our Pitch Grade: 45

His fastball has just below average movement while sitting in the mid 90s. To no one’s surprise, batters hit his fastball better than they do his breaking stuff. Still, his 4 seam needs to improve or be used much less.

It has a spin rate of only 2160 which is a good 100 rotations off at least from where it needs to be. He can’t just get rid of it though as it’s what makes his off speed pitches more of a threat. If batters can sit back on 76 and 82 they’ll take their chances on Cleavinger leaving one over the plate.

Hopefully a driveline trip and this staff can tweak his fastball to add velocity and movement. Otherwise, he shouldn’t throw it more than 33% of the time.

  • Curveball, 76.1 MPH
    • Pitching Grade: 55

His curveball grades slightly above average to us. We love the almost 20 MPH difference between it and the fastball. The spin rate is a much more impressive 2606. It doesn’t really mean much because it was 3 pitches in 2020, but batters missed 100% of them.

It moves about 10% more than the average curveball with the bulk of it coming from extra horizontal break. He still has room for improvement here as well, but this looks like a plus pitch already.

  • Slider, 82.3 MPH
    • Pitching Grade 60

The slider surprised us. Cleavinger again has a solid spin rate of 2633. Its speed sits nicely in-between his other two offerings. Enough that the batter’s timing will have to adjust with each pitch. Although we doubt many batters will look to swing at this slider.

His slider drops 8% more than the average, and breaks horizontally a whole 44% more. The same as Gerrit Cole’s slider last year. It will runaway from lefties and dive towards righties back feet. It’s by far his best looking pitch and will hopefully be used as his secondary or primary pitch in 2021.

Player Comp

We think Cleavinger has the potential of a Andrew Miller type career. Miller has also relied on his slider and fastball throughout his career and it’s worked well for him. Miller is much bigger at 6’7″ but they release the ball almost exactly at the same point.

Conclusion

This isn’t some random add. Garret Cleavinger is going to pitch in the Dodger’s pen this upcoming season. The Dodgers are taking a bet on the rebounding Cleavinger climbing to his once high draft value. He’s replacing Jake McGee for anyone hoping that the Dodgers were going to resign him like we were.

At 26 he’s about to hit the prime of his career as he looks to pitch for a full major league season. Usually the most productive for athletes. They took that bet on Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, and even Mookie Betts in a way for their age 27s season.

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Blake Snell peaked at 26, Teoscar Hernandez just blew up at 26 and 27, Jose Ramirez peaked at 25 and 26. The list can go on and on about players reaching another level depending on when they reach full maturity as people.

So watch out for this kid. If he’s flipped, sorry for getting your hopes up. But the Dodgers don’t make moves for nothing, and knowing what we know about the goal of the pitching staff, he fits right into the mold. Welcome to LA Garrett. We’re all rooting for you.

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