The Rays made headlines a few weeks back when they sent their starting shortstop Willy Adames and swingman Trevor Richards to the Milwaukee Brewers. Both teams dealt from a position of surplus, as the Rays received two formidable relievers in the forms of J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen.
While Rasmussen was optioned to AAA Durham to be stretched out into some type of multi-inning capacity, Feyereisen was slotted into the Rays bullpen immediately. In his six appearances since joining the Rays bullpen, he has pitched to a 1.08 ERA/3.98 FIP with three saves.
Feyereisen features three plus pitches—a rising four seam fastball, a slider with good vertical movement, and a changeup that grades as elite.
Altogether, these pitches have netted a 40.5 percent whiff rate, which puts him in the 98th percentile. Let’s dive a little deeper into what the Rays see in the newest member of The Stable.
The rising fastball
While Feyereisen’s fastball can reach the upper 90’s, he is generally not going to light up the radar gun, as his four seam fastball velocity of 93.6 hovers around the league average for right handed pitchers in MLB.
Rather, it is the amount of rise he gets that on the pitch — nearly 13 inches according to Texas Leaguers — that puts it in a league of its own, thanks in part to its 96th percentile spin rate and a 12:36 spin direction.
For some context on how that relates to the rest of the league, using Baseball Savant’s metric Vertical Movement vs Average, no one gets better rise on their fastball relative to its velocity than Feyereisen.
Currently, Feyereisen’s fastball is generating a 31.1 percent whiff rate. That is great for any pitch, let alone a four seam fastball. So long as he can keep commanding the pitch in the upper part of the zone, it will most certainly play.
The slider is pretty good, too
Along with the fastball, Feyereisen also features an above average slider, also featuring extremely high spin and good vertical movement. Of pitchers who have thrown at least 250 sliders, Feyereisen’s average spin rate of 2,872 rpm ranks 14th in baseball and tops on the Rays staff.
The pitch tunnels well alongside the fastball even as Feyereisen keeps the slider in the lower part of the zone and to his glove side. So far in 2021, he has thrown the slider 31.5 percent of the time. Hitters have been hard pressed to do anything with the pitch, it whiffing at 45.1 percent of total swings and generating just a .196 expected batting average.
But the changeup is elite
Perhaps Feyereisen’s best pitch is the one he goes to the least — the changeup.
Falling at nearly the rate of gravity, the pitch has drawn comparisons to Devin Williams airbender, perhaps lazily in that they were formerly teammates.
It’s not quite that good as far as movement goes, but Williams’s changeup is one of a kind, and Feyereisen’s changeup doesn’t need to be in order to be elite in its own right.
Of pitchers who have faces at least 25 batters in the 2021 season, Feyereisen’s changeup is second best in baseball with a 53.6 percent whiff rate. By Run Value per 100 Pitches, Feyereisen’s changeup ranks fourth best with a mark of -4.7.
As of now, Feyereisen is only throwing this pitch 21.4 percent of the time. I suspect that the Rays will take advantage of the quality of this pitch and that he with throw it more as a result. It’s hard to say exactly how much, since his two other pitches are good, but the changeup is clearly the best of the three, as well as a pitch he can go to against both righties and lefties.
According to Texas Leaguers, this is how the movement of all three of his pitches look. Judging by the plots, a savvy observer may be able to see how he works with each pitch.
Smaller platoon splits
For the 2020 season, Feyereisen has shown very little in the way of platoon splits.
While he is striking out righties more than he is lefties, hitters from both sides are swinging and missing at about the same clip — a very high one at that. Further, quality of contact metrics tell a similar story.
JP Feyereisen Platoon Splits
Part of this has to do with his pitch mix, more specifically the changeup, which nets Feyereisen a 54.5 percent whiff rate against lefties — a few percentage points higher than against righties.
Part of it also has to do with Feyereisen’s positioning on the pitching rubber, and how he adjusts to the batter.
First, take a look at this visual of the release points of all Rays against right handed batters. For some context, the ‘0.0 ft’ on the x-axis represents a release point that is dead center. Anything to the left of that is the third base side (typical for a right handed pitcher), and anything to the right is on the first base side (typical for a left handed pitcher).
Rays pitchers vs RHH:
In contrast, here is that same chard of Rays pitchers, but to left handed hitters.
Rays pitchers vLHH:
Notice how all of the dots maintain the same position except for one: Feyereisen.
Against left handed hitters, Feyereisen moves to the opposite side of the rubber to create an angle that would almost represent a left handed pitcher.
It is not quite as extreme as, say, Oliver Drake, a righty who contorts his body to throw from a legitimate left handed release point, but it is effective nonetheless.
J.P. Feyereisen is a pitcher that the Rays will task to get important outs in late innings. He earned his first save in a Rays uniform in just his second appearance upon joining the team, and has been put in high leverage situations ever since.
Feyereisen is yet another pitcher on the Rays staff who has at least one extreme attribute in his repertoire. For him, it’s not extremely high velocity or a big bendy curve, but rather high rise on the fastball, a plus slider and one of the best changeups in all of baseball.
Furthermore, Feyereisen’s ability to adjust his approach to deceive both righties and lefties by altering his position on the mound gives him the versatility to be thrown in against any part of an opposing lineup, or even pitch multiple innings if need be.