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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Zach McAllister

Zach McAllister has had an up and down experience since moving to the bullpen as, although he's been better as a relief pitcher, he's still had bouts with inconsistency. Can he still help this revamped Tribe bullpen?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Zach McAllister, RHP

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-29 season -- Contract: Avoided arbitration with a 1-year/$1.83 million deal (Free agent in 2019)

2016 In Review: Last season was a tale of two halves for Zach McAllister as, while he did post a respectable 3-2 record with a 3.44 ERA overall, the right-hander struggled before the All-Star break going 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 30 appearances while posting a 1.613 WHIP and 1.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In the second half of the campaign, however, McAllister did find a groove dominating down the stretch with a 1-0 mark and 1.40 ERA with a 1.286 WHIP and 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 29-year-old still allowed a fair number of hits throughout the year with 53 in 52.1 innings, but his walk rate fell by nearly half after the break with only eight of the 23 free passes he had issued coming during that period. His elevated fastball velocity and strikeout numbers since moving to the bullpen have made McAllister an intriguing addition to the Tribe bullpen, but unfortunately his chronic inconsistency has continued to hinder him from reaching his full potential up to this point.

Versus Right-handers: McAllister's splits have been fairly balanced throughout his career with his slash line variables differing by, at most, 22 points. Since moving to the bullpen full time in 2015, however, the variance between those numbers has grown a bit wider with right-handed hitters having more success against the Illinois native batting .264 with a .764 OPS in 2015 and .269 with a .788 OPS last season. His strikeout and walk numbers have remained fairly consistent from either side of the plate, although his overall ratio has declined from 3.65 in 2015 to just 2.35 during last year's campaign.

Versus Left-handers: 2016 marked one of the more effective seasons McAllister has had when facing left-handed hitters as southpaws slashed just .242/.318/.374 in 110 plate appearances. The .242 opposing average sets a new career best single-season split against lefties while the other two numbers, as well as his .692 OPS, all ranked among the three best in their respective categories over his five-plus seasons in the majors. Still, even though the gap between his platoon splits has increased somewhat as a reliever, it's still not too much of a contrast to limit him to more matchup situations. He can still pitch full innings, if not multiple frames, where his days as a starter would surely come into play.

Pitch Mix: One of the major points of criticism regarding McAllister is that he's strictly a one-pitch pitcher, with that one pitch being a fastball. While that is true to an extent as he has proven to favor his heater above all else, the right-hander does have numerous offerings in his arsenal. It's just a matter of whether he's comfortable with them and whether he can utilize them effectively. His four-seamer is definitely his bread and butter pitch as he used it a career-high 69.7% of the time last season, but he also has a two-seamer, a cutter, a slider, a curveball and a changeup, all of which he goes to seldomly with his curveball being used the most among his secondary pitches in 2016 at 10.3%. Of course, as a reliever with a fastball that can top out in the mid-to-upper 90s with movement, you can get away with a lot, but it's still hard not to wonder how effective he could be if he used his offspeed pitches more often.

Fantasy Impact: It's no secret that the Indians bullpen has had quite a facelift over the last six months with the addition of key veterans Andrew Miller and Boone Logan*. With them in the fold and potentially some of the young guns like Perci Garner, Shawn Armstrong or Mike Clevinger, there is speculation floating around as to whether McAllister will be the odd man out. If he does make the team out of camp, then projections are looking good for the former Yankees third round pick as Fangraphs sees him going 2-2 with a 3.59 ERA over 40 appearances with a healthier WHIP of 1.19 and a FIP of 3.60 after posting a 4.01 mark last year. He won't likely be used in key situations other than in extra innings or when the other relievers are taxed, but any strong pitching he can bring will certainly help lengthen an already-potent bullpen.

* - Still unofficial

Summary: Spring training is less than a week away and this may be do or die time for McAllister in Cleveland. He has experience and seniority over some of the younger relievers, but their performance in spring training could dictate his future. Keep in mind the Indians likely have intentions of bringing up and breaking in as many young arms as they can in order to get an idea of what their future bullpen may look like down the line. With McAlllister coming up on free agency after the 2018 season, his timeline is not an ideal fit for that window. On the other hand, if the right-hander does impress in spring training, which could include a higher degree of confidence in throwing his secondary offerings, his job could just as easily be safe, at least for the start of the campaign. Either way, if McAllister has more potential to tap into, 2017 would be the best time to do it.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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