I’ll admit it.
I don’t think Bailey Falter is a major league starter.
I think he has good qualities about him. He generally is around the strike zone. The extension he gets on his pitches has probably helped him last in the big leagues so far as his actual stuff isn’t all that great. Were he to be given a regular chance as the team’s fifth starter, he’d probably be good for four or five innings each start, keeping the team in the game most of the time, something that can be very valuable to a team with World Series aspirations.
Maybe it’s my natural skepticism about pitchers without a plus pitch. Maybe it’s me just being a grumpy old pessimist (I haven’t crossed the 40 year old threshold....yet, so I’m not decrepit). But I just don’t see how Falter is going to last a whole season as a starting pitcher.
2022 stats: 20 G (16 GS), 84 IP, 85 H, 39 R (36 ER), 16 HR, 21.2 K%, 4.9 BB%, 3.86 ERA (4.65 FIP), 1.3 bWAR
It’s not as though Falter doesn’t have value to a team. He clearly does. When Zack Wheeler went on the injured list last year, the team needed someone to fill in in the rotation and Falter did so admirably. The above numbers are mostly as a starter, and as you can see, though the innings were few, they were somewhat effective.
It was a season that maybe wasn’t expected from Falter, but happened anyway.
To me, everything that is scary about Falter can be boiled down to his NLCS start. Yes, he was given the difficult task of facing the Padres in a pivotal game, but tasked with that opportunity, he wasn’t even able to make it out of the first inning. It encapsulated what we should fear if Falter is allowed to make regular rotation turns: his stuff, average as it is, is going to get exposed once teams that have good lineups have the book on him and take the scouting reports and run with them.
We like to make comparisons to other pitchers. It helps us visualize what a pitcher is like or what he might become like. Luckily for us, Baseball Savant takes the information that is essential to being a major league pitcher and compares them to others in the league. Here is who Falter is most similar to.
That’s not exactly stellar company to be in.
The version of Austin Voth is the one that might give us the most hope that Falter can become something just a little more. Voth was discarded by the Nationals for not having the best results, but his pickup by the Orioles and subsequent pitching tweaking turned him into a highly dependable starter for Baltimore, one they are depending on to keep those gains in 2023. Until (unless?) we see this from Falter though, the skepticism will remain.
2023 is a big year for Falter. He’s probably first in line to get the fifth starter’s job so long as one of the top pitching prospects the team is seemingly counting on in 2023 doesn’t take the job from him in spring training. Even if they do, they’ll likely be limited in their innings during the season, meaning the team will want to alternate starts with some of their available pitching depth. That might mean Falter or someone else.
One idea the team could do is have him piggyback starts with someone who contrasts his style well. If the team were to, say, start a game with Andrew Painter for three innings, then give Falter the next two or three innings, it would be a great way to get their top prospect some innings at the big league level while also making sure Falter is getting his own work in.
If Falter is simply better than all three of them in spring training, he could just take the job and run with it. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t be bumped if he should struggle and one of the prospects performs well early in the season, but he has at least earned the benefit of being the leader in the clubhouse for the job heading into Clearwater.
Here’s the thing about Falter and this grade. Basing it off of 2022, he was really good for the team. He was an integral part to their making the postseason as his starts weren’t starts being given to waiver wire fodder. With that in mind, you have to respect what he did for the team.