Daniel Ponce de Leon
Daniel Ponce de Leon has never really gotten a fair shake at the MLB level. After a ball was lined off of his head in a freak accident back in 2017, Ponce had his arrival to the MLB level delayed. It’s a miracle that he was every able to play again, but debuting at 26, Ponce de Leon has always done well.
In 2018, Ponce pitched in 11 games, starting four, and had a 2.73 ERA and a 1.121 WHIP. You would think that this performance would get him a greater look in 2019, but it really didn’t. Appearing in just 13 games last season, Ponce did garner eight starts, but his ERA jumped up to 3.70. This jump came from a lack of control, evident in his 4.8 walks per nine innings.
If Ponce could get that under control, his 9.6 strikeouts per nine would definitely play. Looking a little deeper, Ponce ranks incredibly well when looking at expected values. When it comes to xwOBA, xSLG, and xBA, he ranks in the 77th percentile, 86th percentile, and 86th percentile. He also is in the 96th percentile in hard-hit percentage.
This offseason, Ponce spent time at Driveline Baseball’s facility to get a high-tech look at his delivery. Results were good early as Ponce was having a great spring (one earned run in 13.0 innings).
However, the Cardinals don’t seem to have a role picked out for him other than in the bullpen in 2020 and after two years of riding the Memphis shuttle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team move on. If he has a good start to the year, he could have some good value as a cheap reliever.