Keyvius Sampson underwent surgery almost immediately following the 2015 season to have loose bodies removed from his throwing elbow. In hindsight, it makes sense that something wasn’t quite right with the right handed pitcher. While he would flash things at times that lined up with past scouting reports, his velocity was down a little bit and his breaking ball wasn’t quite as crisp.

John Fay tweeted out earlier this morning that the Cincinnati Reds plan was to use Keyvius Sampson out of the bullpen this spring.

Control problems has followed Sampson around since he signed out of high school, with his best walk rate in a season coming in the 2011 season in Fort Wayne as a 20-year-old where he walked 3.7 batter per 9-innings pitched. He’s particularly struggled at the Triple-A level with his control, walking 119 batters in 168.2 innings in parts of three seasons.

The control issues have leg to many believing he would eventually wind up in the bullpen where his fastball/breaking ball combo could play up and shorter outings may limit the struggles with the strikezone.

As a starter, you face the lineup more than once. That doesn’t really happen as a reliever. With that in mind, it seemed like a good idea to see how Keyvius Sampson performed the first time through the lineup. Here’s the breakdown when it comes to his walk and strikeout rates:

1st Time Through 2nd/3rd/4th time
Level BB% K% BB% K%
Minors 11.8% 23.6% 13.0% 17.9%
Majors 10.8% 24.3% 9.8% 11.9%

As expected, he was much better the first time through the lineup in both the Major and Minor Leagues. His walk rate was still a bit higher than you would like to see in all splits shown above though. The big difference is that he’s missing significantly more bats the first time through the lineup, particularly at the big league level when he missed more than twice as many bats the first time through the order. The highish walk rate isn’t ideal, but that kind of strikeout rate certainly is. The Reds probably won’t throw him into high leverage innings right away because of the control issues, but that kind of strikeout rate should play quite well at the big league level if he can do what he did last season.

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