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Tylor Megill looks very different

Who are you and what have you done with Tylor Megill?

New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Tylor Megill was never very exciting. As a prospect, he never quite made waves or garnered a lot of attention. He was considered a reliever until 2019, when he moved to starting full time at High-A. In the minors, he induced a solid amount of whiffs, but he walked far too many hitters and didn’t flash good enough stuff to really be considered a prospect of any note. In 2021, he started throwing more consistently in the mid-90s and reigned in his command, resulting in solid success at Double-A and Triple-A. When the Mets had a barrage of pitching injuries midseason last year, Megill unexpectedly became the next man up in June.

At the big league level, Megill found surprising success early on, and his strong whiff rates carried over to the majors thanks in large part to his changeup and slider, which garnered most of those. But those two pitches were inconsistent, and neither was good enough to make up for his middling fastball once the league caught up to him. Despite averaging a decent 94.6 MPH on the heater last season, Megill saw 11 of the 19 homers he gave up come off his fastball. Hitters slugged .494 off the pitch overall. How did that happen? Well, when he threw it in the strike zone, bad things happened:

On top of that, he wasn’t very efficient and didn’t pitch deep into games, even when things were going well. He averaged over 17 pitches per inning last year, and recorded an out in the 6th inning in just five out of 18 starts. Combine all of that, and Megill’s upside still appeared to be capped as bottom of the rotation starter or maybe even as a reliever. Short of completely reinventing himself as a pitcher, it was going to be hard for the 26-year-old to eclipse that low ceiling.

Well, Megill may have just completely reinvented himself as a pitcher. Much has already been made about Megill’s mechanics early in the season, and for good reason, because it’s a stark change from last year. He has ditched his wind-up completely and now only pitches from the stretch, and he has simplified his delivery. We’ve observed the difference on TV already and had it broken down to us on SNY, but here’s a side-by-side just for effect:

2021:

2022:

You can see the dramatic difference. These alterations are basically the first thing that would come up if you Googled “how to throw a baseball harder,” as smoother mechanics tend to naturally lead to more velocity—just ask Jacob deGrom. Megill seems to have pulled this trick as well, flashing significantly increased velocity early this season; his average fastball has jumped nearly a full 2 MPH so far to 96.4 MPH, and he’s even been able to graze 98-99 in early innings of his first two starts, something he never did last year.

Before diving any deeper into the numbers, it’s worth it to issue a fair warning that we are about to get into some extremely small sample size stats, and that this is merely a reflection of what Megill has done so far and not necessarily a predictor of what is to come.

That said, the added velocity has already been making a difference for Megill. The heater has garnered a 27.1% whiff rate so far, an increase of over 6% from his total last year. There does not appear to be much more movement on it, but that extra 2-4 MPH suddenly makes his fastball much easier to get past major league hitters.

But that’s not all he’s done. Megill’s other bugaboo last year was his changeup, which did net a good whiff rate of 31.9%, but was sort of an all-or-nothing pitch. The contact against the pitch was loud, as hitters slugged .512 against it. Again, the problem was that Megill’s changeup, while it had good movement, was left in the zone far too much, and got crushed whenever it was:

Megill’s solution to that? Well, he’s throwing the changeup a startling 5 MPH harder so far; from an average of 85.4 MPH on it last year to 90.1 MPH in his two starts so far. It also has had roughly an inch and a half more drop on it now, according to Baseball Savant. He’s still getting a similar whiff rate on it, but it has yet to be squared up all that much, which is an indication that the added velocity and drop to it might be working much better for him.

The only pitch Megill hasn’t thrown discernibly harder in his so far this year is his slider, but that’s not to say that pitch hasn’t changed, either. Baseball Savant has measured his slider to have 38.3 inches of drop, which is about four full inches more vertical break than it had last year. If you’re wondering, his 34.1 inches of vertical drop last year was below-average for a slider, but 38.3 is considered well above-average by Savant. The eye test would bare that out, as his slider is visibly more crisp this year and has hitters way off-balance. It’s garnered a whopping whiff rate of 66.7% so far, and nobody has recorded hit off of it yet.

Again, these sample sizes are laughably small, and one of the two teams Megill faced was the lowly Nationals. But Megill’s dramatic alterations to his three main pitches are garnering headlines across the league. Fangraphs just wrote something very similar about him yesterday, and they even have visuals on how much more bite his slider and changeup have this year.

Perhaps most importantly, Megill has been hitting his spots and having much easier innings. He has yet to walk a batter so far across his first 11.1 innings, and he hasn’t even been worked into deep counts too much. In his first start this year, he tossed an easy 68 pitches in five innings, and on Wednesday he threw 76 pitches in 5.1 innings—an average of just under 13 pitches per inning between the two starts.

So who is this Tylor Megill? I don’t entirely know, but it’s a much more exciting version than the previous one! None of this comes with a guarantee of success, of course, or any sort of substantive indication that Megill is ready to become a top of the rotation pitcher. But the fact that all three of Megill’s primary pitches have drastic aesthetic changes from last year with mechanical reasons to explain them is a really intriguing sign, and the early returns are as good as they can be. If the velocity gains hold and Megill truly has three plus pitches now, his outlook dramatically changes.