4-6-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
This Winter, the Pirates made a move that I’m quite sure many fans saw as a salary dump. Moving Kevin Newman to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Dauri Moreta a right handed reliever who hadn’t found a way to stick.
From the jump, it didn’t sound like it would amount to much. The Reds aren’t good, and they don’t have a really good bullpen, so the assumption was man if they don’t see this young controllable arm as worthy of keeping, well, how could he possibly be good right?
The general Pirates fan knew what Kevin Newman was, so it was no shock we were moving a glove and many assumed whatever they got back was better than nothing which they easily could have gotten by simply non-tendering him.
Here we are 6 games into the 2023 campaign and Moreta has been the bullpen’s fireman, pitching in 3 contests. In 2.1 innings he’s struck out 5, walked 3 and in general become the emotional face of the Pirates Pen.
Now, we all know that sample size is the kryptonite of the baseball statistical analysis world, but its becoming hard to miss that this kid has earned the trust of his manager, and he’s got his fellow bullpen mates fired up with his emotional outbursts, money hand symbols and so far, solid performance.
So, who is this kid? I mean most of us ignored him when he was acquired, let’s talk about how he got here a bit and see if we can’t at least figure out why he was available, which in turn would probably inform us as to what we should look out for.
He’s been playing pro ball in the Cincy system since 2015 and he’s largely had success, even his walk to strikeout numbers are in line with what you’d want to see. 2020 much like a ton of other players was a lost year for him after wrapping his High A season in 2019 he’d reemerge in 2021 placed in AA.
He’d make it all the way to MLB and the Reds by the end of the season. 4 games that year, but all in all, no issues. 4K’s, 1BB, pretty encouraging.
In 2022, he was given a real shot with 35 games in the Bigs where he struck out 39 and walked 13. Too many for a reliever, but it hadn’t really been an issue before this. Problem is, the issue followed him during his demotions to AAA and the strikeouts fell off the table too.
I reached out to Jeff Carr from Locked on Reds and basically said, hey, give me the scouting report on Dauri.
“He was electric when the Reds first called him up, but he had trouble with the long ball. Without looking specifically at the numbers, I feel like his HR/FB ratio was unsustainable. But because of that, he was up and down between AAA and the Bigs and never felt like he got a real shot. Just the nastiest of stuff and he would sometimes strike out the side and make you think he was on to something. Then David Bell wouldn’t pitch him for days on end and it would seem to throw off his rhythm. I’ll always look at him as someone who was under utilized here”
So I head back to the stats and wow, yeah, in 38 innings pitched in MLB during 2022, 10 homeruns. Yikes.
Surely this has always been a problem right? Nope. The most homeruns he had ever given up prior to 2022 was 6 and that came in 57.1 innings. He posted a 2.35 ERA that season with High A.
2022 though, even in the minors the issue plagued him. 6 dingers in 27.1 innings is gross too.
I think we see why he was available.
So what happened? Dauri throws 3 pitches, a changeup, slider and 4-seam fastball, what got him into trouble is the placement of the slider and change.
The average launch angle for a homerun is about 29.5 degrees. On those two pitches in 2022, Dauri was surrendering 30+ launch angle outputs on both and the heat map below illustrates where they landed in the zone.
For a slider and changeup, you really want that heat map to look much more bottom heavy. Let’s be real honest here, this problem, it’s fast becoming Oscar Marin’s specialty to fix. A big reason the team (aside from being the right price) took a shot at Vince Velasquez.
Sometimes that has been by introducing a 2-seamer but Dauri’s 4-seam has played in the zone, up in the zone, even slightly out. The issue is his secondary pitches, and early on here, he’s not so much fixed the issue, as getting away with it.
Below you’ll see a heat map from 2023, I’ve highlighted the Slider and Changup and again, we’re only talking 46 pitches here folks.
Again, he’s had success, so maybe there is just better movement, or maybe he’s gotten lucky. His chase creation almost exclusively comes out of the zone, but for a guy who just struggled mightily with walks and homeruns you can understand why he’d prefer to just pound the zone.
This is where Marin will come into play. The longer they work together, the lower in the zone I expect to see those heat map hot zones creep because folks, this will get scouted, and good hitters when they have their bearings will do damage. Elevated changeups like that are like waving a beef tenderloin in front of a lion.
All in all, he has killer stuff, and I certainly hope they’re able to work with him to keep building on the success he’s had early on here. Sometimes the confidence of experiencing some success is key to unlocking the next evolution.
If the Pirates can get his precision to match his intensity, they might just have a reliable bullpen arm through the end of the decade.
One thought on “Dauri Moreta Has Been Money, Can He Continue on This Path?”
Terrific post, thanks for the multiple insights. All signs point to a guy the Reds gave up on too soon. I like the enthusiasm, but I can’t deny he’s concerned me with location too. Then again, so does Bednar pretty regularly.
If there’s anything I want a pitching coach to be able to do, it’s help the pitchers harness their stuff through improved command. If that’s becoming Marin’s penchant (even if specifically low off-speed), I’m thrilled.
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