2020 Fantasy Sleepers: Aaron Civale

Indians right-handed pitcher Aaron Civale had an impressive first MLB season in 2019. But should you consider him for your fantasy team in 2020? Let’s take a look at the 24-year old righty.

Aaron Civale

A third-round pick out of Northeastern in 2016, Civale made his MLB debut last season after a dominant run in the Minors in 2019. Across two levels (AA and AAA), Civale recorded a 2.35 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 13 starts (72.2 IP) last year. On top of that, the 24-year old righty struck out 70 (8.73 K/9) while walking just 15 (1.87 BB/9).


The Connecticut native made his MLB debut on June 22, and the righty had a rather solid rookie season with the Indians. Over 10 starts (57.2 IP), Civale went 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. Civale didn’t put up gaudy strikeout numbers (7.24 K/9) in the Majors last season, but he was rather effective when it came to limiting runners on base last year, and batters only hit .216 off the righty.

Civale has several weapons that can beat hitters, including two fastballs, a sinker and a cutter. Batters only hit .213 off his sinker, while his cutter can be an extremely tough pitch to pick up. 16 of Civale’s 46 strikeouts (34.8%) were off the cutter, which sits in the high-80’s and has nice movement and run.


A look at Civale’s cutter (via Baseball Savant)


Civale’s cutter also had a 22.4% Whiff% rate, and on top of his cutter, he also utilizes a slider which at times looks like his cutter, but is slower and can throw off hitters’ timing. The Connecticut’s native slider had a 28.6% Whiff% rate, and batters only hit .086 (yes, you read that correctly) off the pitch. Civale also utilizes another breaking ball, a curve, and a change, and both pitches had Whiff% rates over 30 percent last season.


What to Make of Civale in 2020

There are a couple of concerns we have about Civale entering 2020. First off, it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be in the starting rotation at the start of the season. Besides Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco should be a lock to be in Cleveland’s starting staff come March, as he looks to rebound after a season that included a battle with leukemia. That leaves two spots, with one most likely going to Zach Plesac, and the other spot going to either Civale, Adam Plutko and Logan Allen. Civale should be the favorite to get the fifth spot, given his performance last season, but it’s not a lock.


Second, sinkerballers in general can be tricky to figure out from a fantasy perspective. A good amount of sinkerballs limit hard hit contact, but they also can tend to have higher WHIP and hit totals, making them a tough projection. Third, Civale’s previous numbers from the Minors are a bit concerning. Last season was a great one for the 24-year old, but his 2018 season in Akron (AA) wasn’t a sexy one from a fantasy perspective (6.62 K/9, 3.89 ERA, .276 opponent AVG).

However, there are reasons to consider Civale for your team. The righty has had a track record of limiting walks (1.37 career BB/9 in MiLB), and he has multiple weapons in his arsenal to beat hitters and accrue strikeouts. Yes, he probably won’t be a strikeout machine, but he’ll get his share of them. And considering that the Indians should be a competitive team come 2020, he has a chance to pick up at least 10 wins in 2020, making him an intriguing pitcher to look at late in the draft.

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