Triston McKenzie quickly developing into ace for Cleveland Guardians
Triston McKenzie has put together a great start to the season, but it’s probably still too early to start throwing around the “ace” talk.
Triston McKenzie suffered a hard-luck 2-1 loss against the Detroit Tigers Sunday as the Guardians offense continues to sputter, but that shouldn’t take away from yet another great performance by the 24-year-old.
After Sunday’s 7 2/3 innings, giving up just two runs, McKenzie closes out the month of May with a 2.12 ERA in five starts, with 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 34 innings. Opponents hit just .155 against him this month as well.
For the season, McKenzie holds a 2.65 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts), currently leading all of baseball in hits per nine innings (5.5) and, most importantly, walking hitters just 6.7% of the time. It’s an incredible turnaround for McKenzie, who to this point has always had incredible strikeout stuff but often had trouble locating his pitches. In 2021, he issued 58 walks in 120 innings, though there were glimpses of McKenzie’s maturation once he rejoined the rotation last July following a demotion to Triple-A to work things out.
In 2022, McKenzie has been a completely different pitcher, working efficiently on the mound and looking in complete control of his entire arsenal, which includes the four-seam fastball (which he is throwing just a bit harder this season, at 92.3 mph), curveball, and slider. He isn’t striking batters out at the same rate, but the Guardians will certainly take better control over McKenzie simply trying to blow everyone away.
A 3.84 FIP and 3.92 xERA suggests there might be just a little regression ahead for McKenzie, but the fact remains hitters currently have just a .244 xBA against him to this point.
So, Is Triston McKenzie the New Ace of the Guardians?
With McKenzie seemingly coming into his own now at just 24 years old, one wonders if he could soon be the new anchor of the rotation. For as long as Shane Bieber is on the team – even with his continued decrease in velocity – that probably won’t be the case, but McKenzie has certainly leapfrogged the likes of Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac when it comes to providing reliable outings each and every week.
After the up-and-down nature of McKenzie’s young career to this point, Cleveland has to be thrilled with how quickly McKenzie has matured into the pitcher that made him a 2015 first-round pick out of high school in the first place. It’s not hard to imagine, then, two or three seasons down the road, where McKenzie is the true bona fide ace of the staff, leading the next crop of young pitchers much like Bieber has done himself to this point.
So while McKenzie isn’t quite yet the true “ace” of the Guardians’ pitching staff, he’s putting together a fantastic start to the 2022 season that, if it were to hold, would certainly put him in the discussion for some Cy Young votes at the end of the year.
Not too shabby at all.