Laurila: How data transformed the Angels’ Rule 5 draft pick

From SABR member David Laurila at FanGraphs on February 28, 2018:

When the Angels selected Luke Bard in December’s Rule 5 draft, they acquired a pitcher who is stylistically different than the right-hander Minnesota took in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft. The younger brother of former Red Sox flamethrower Daniel Bard is no longer looking to induce ground balls. He’s looking to blow away hitters with belt-high heaters.

He did plenty of that last year between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester. Armed with his new data-driven attack plan, Bard augmented his 2.76 ERA with 99 punch outs in 65.1 innings of relief work. His 13.6 K/9 far exceeded his previous personal best, which was a pedestrian 8.1 against Low-A hitters in 2015.

What prompted the change from sinkerballer to power pitcher? The 27-year-old Georgia Tech product learned that he has elite spin rate. As a result, his two-seamer is now in his back pocket and his modus operandi is four-seam explosion.

Whether or not he remains an Angel, or ends up being offered back to the Twins, remains to be seen. Either way, Bard has evolved, and he has Statcast to thank.

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Originally published: March 1, 2018. Last Updated: March 1, 2018.