You've heard it once, you've heard it a million times. Baseball is a game of adjustments. If you're caught in a deep hitting slump or can't find a groove on the mound, it might be time to tweak your mechanics, add a pitch or be more aggressive at the plate. While baseball is a complicated sport, the logic behind it can still be simple. If something isn't working, it's time for a change. Let that be a lesson in your everyday lives as well. 

Below we have eight pitchers who throughout the course of 2019 changed something. For some, they altered mechanics. For others, they started using a new pitch and the rest, they just changed up the pitch mix. A few recent examples come to mind in this regard. Let's take Jameson Taillon's 2018. Out of nowhere on a warm day in May, Taillon starts unleashing a slider. He pitched to sub-3.00 ERA the rest of the season. How about Luis Severino between the 2016 and 2017 seasons? There were reports that he was working with Pedro Martinez to improve his slider. He finished third in AL Cy Young award voting in 2017. 

Now just because a pitcher makes one of these changes does not automatically mean he'll become a star. However, in this information age of technology, Fantasy owners are trying to gain any possible advantage they can. Paying attention to reports like these are one way to gain said advantage. Below you have eight pitchers who either broke out in 2019 because of an adjustment or showed subtle signs that should have us excited for 2020.

CHW Chi. White Sox • #27 • Age: 27
2019 Stats
INN
176.2
W
14
K's
228
ERA
3.41
WHIP
1.06

The most obvious example of pitcher metamorphosis in 2019 was Lucas Giolito. The former first-round pick and top pitching prospect did not live up to expectations before last season. Entering 2019, Giolito owned a 5.48 career ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, striking out just 170 batters in 240 innings pitched. In 2018, his 6.13 ERA was the worst among all qualified starting pitchers. What changed? Is everything an acceptable answer? First, he completely revamped his mechanics, opting for more of a short-arm approach coupled with using his lower half more. 

This adjustment allowed him two add about 2 MPH on his fastball, going from 92.4 MPH in 2018 to 94.3 MPH in 2019. Additionally, he opted to up his changeup usage to 26.1%. He had never used it more than 16.2% in a season before 2019. Giolito's changeup garnered career-highs in swinging strike rate (22.2%) and zone percentage (52.5%). According to Fangraphs' pitch values, Giolito's changeup was the fifth most valuable among qualified starting pitchers last season. Add it all up and you get a top 12 starting pitcher for both Scott White and myself. He does carry some risk with his ADP (52.1), but I trust the pedigree and adjustments he made in 2019. 

SD San Diego • #11 • Age: 35
2019 Stats
INN
178.2
W
6
K's
229
ERA
3.98
WHIP
1.10

Yu Darvish is another pitcher who has enjoyed a fair share of ups and downs in his career. Darvish was nearly left for dead in Fantasy baseball last season, often being drafted in the double-digit rounds of drafts. Through his first eight starts of 2019, the majority who passed on him looked like geniuses. On May 10, he owned a 5.40 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP while averaging (brace yourself) 8.1 walks per nine. He was coming off a six-walk performance against the lowly Miami Marlins. Then… the cutter/slider (Fangraphs calls it a cutter, other places call it a slider) happened. 

During those eight starts, Darvish opted to throw his cutter/slider around 20% of the time, a fair amount. Over his final 23 starts, he would up the usage to 39.3%. During that span, Darvish pitched to a 3.61 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP, averaging 11.7 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9. Everything fell into place. His curveball and splitter played well off the pitch. He posted the best control we've seen from him. Fast forward to 2020 and Darvish is a consensus top 20 starting pitcher. While I appreciate the improvements and change to his arsenal, I do have some trepidation when drafting him because of his injury history. 

OAK Oakland • #47 • Age: 29
2019 Stats
INN
96.0
W
9
K's
103
ERA
2.63
WHIP
1.11

Frankie Montas is another former top prospect who was finally able to put it all together in 2019, likely thanks to the introduction of his splitter. Entering 2019, Montas owned a 4.90 career ERA and a 1.58 WHIP, striking out just 99 batters in 112 innings pitched. The only thing you can count on him for at that point was velocity. Then, last season, he started using a new splitter about 18% of the time. It was the third pitch he so desperately needed and played extremely well off his mid-90's fastball and upper-80's slider. 

The results spoke for themselves. In 16 starts, Montas pitched to a 2.63 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP, averaging 9.7 K/9, 2.16 BB/9 and a career-high 49% ground ball rate. Some might be hesitant to buy-in on Montas considering he was popped for PEDs but the PEDs did not develop the splitter and Montas always threw hard. If it makes you feel better, he returned for one final start against the Angels in September, allowing just one earned run over six innings with six strikeouts. Montas is a trendy breakout and one I often draft as a Top-25 starting pitcher. 

BOS Boston • #65 • Age: 33
2019 Stats
INN
150.2
W
15
K's
186
ERA
3.82
WHIP
1.28

Ah, we've arrived at the curious case of James Paxton. There's no doubting Paxton has some of the best strikeout upside in the league, but the guy just cannot stay healthy. His 2019 was no exception. Paxton managed 150.2 innings last season as he dealt with a knee injury throughout. It's likely the knee affected his production because his 3.29 BB/9 were his highest since 2015. It was an up and down season overall for Paxton. Through his first 18 starts, he had a 4.72 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. The one positive remained the strikeouts as he had 117 over 89.2 innings pitched at that point. 

His fortune would change over his final 11 starts thanks to change in his pitch-mix. From August on, Paxton pitched to a 2.51 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP, nearly doubling his curveball usage to 27%. Paxton has always been fastball reliant, but he should continue to work the curveball in more considering it's an above-average pitch. To nobody's surprise, Paxton had a microscopic lumbar discectomy back in February but is expected to be healthy if/when the season starts. If Paxton picks up where he left off, he can easily outperform his current ADP of 139.1. 

SD San Diego • #44 • Age: 29
2019 Stats
INN
170.1
W
11
K's
157
ERA
4.44
WHIP
1.22

If you've listened to Fantasy Baseball Today over the past two months, you've probably heard me gush over Joe Musgrove at some point. Yup, the same Musgrove who had a 4.44 ERA and pitches for the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. The truth is I've always been a big fan of his, and I just can't quit. While he might not be great in any one aspect, he's above average in a few key things I look for in a starting pitcher: he has plus control (career 2.09 BB/9), can miss bats (11.5% swinging strike rate) and can generate a modest ground-ball rate (44.7%). Then he went out and did something last September that caught my eye and reeled me back in.

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It's a very small sample size, but the numbers don't lie. He coupled improved fastball velocity with an increase in curveball usage to generate more whiffs and ground balls. Upon watching him this spring, Pirates broadcasters would often mention he was sitting mid-90's with his fastball, which is closer to where his fastball velocity was in September. Also, there's reason to believe he will continue using his secondary pitches more as well. Ray Searage is no longer the pitching coach for the Pirates. Searage did a lot of great things and helped revitalized many careers, but his fastball-heavy pitching philosophy was outdated. From 2016-2019, the Pirates were first in baseball in fastball usage. New pitching coach Oscar Marin uses a more analytical approach, which should have Musgrove lean into those secondary offerings. If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Mike Axisa. Musgrove's ADP is just 217.2, which means people have not caught on yet. He's one of my favorite sleepers and somebody I try to grab in every draft.

ARI Arizona • #7 • Age: 28
2019 Stats
INN
64.1
W
4
K's
69
ERA
2.94
WHIP
1.07

Luke Weaver or, as Adam Aizer likes to call him, LUUUUUKE WEAVER finally took that next step in 2019. Coming up, Weaver always had a solid fastball-changeup combination but was lacking that third pitch. For a while it seemed like he was trying to make his curveball the final piece of the puzzle. It wound up being the cutter that Weaver used a career-high 14% of the time last season.

It's not a great pitch, but it does enough to give batters a different look when expecting the fastball or changeup. The best use of the cutter was Weaver's ability to throw it for strikes. His 57.8% zone percentage with the pitch was far and away a career-best. It helped that Weaver also made strides with his control. Entering 2019, Weaver was averaging 3.2 BB/9 in his career. In 2019, he lowered that number to 1.96 BB/9. The risk with Weaver comes with injury as a forearm strain limited him to just 12 starts last season. That's baked into his draft price, however, as his ADP sits at just 186.2. If Weaver can manage to stay healthy and mix in that cutter appropriately, he has top-30 SP upside. 

CHC Chi. Cubs • Age: 31
2019 Stats
INN
184.1
W
10
K's
159
ERA
3.22
WHIP
1.31

At this point in Marcus Stroman's career, it seems like we know who he is for Fantasy, right? He's an accumulator who's more useful in H2H points leagues. Well, maybe not. Stroman was unexpectedly traded to the New York Mets and made 11 starts in the blue and orange. During that time, he pitched to a 3.77 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. It was the strikeout numbers that took a bit of a jump. With the Mets, Stroman averaged just over a strikeout per inning with a 10.8% swinging strike rate. Both numbers would be career-highs over a full season. It turns out he upped his cutter usage about 7% from when he was with the Blue Jays.

Stroman usually featured a slider in his career, but this cutter offers a different look to batters. On average, it's about 3-4 MPH faster than the slider and it doesn't have as much break. It's a tighter breaking ball. Whatever it is, the Mets might be the key to unlocking it. While everybody else believes Stroman is who he is at this point, he might still have another step he can take as a starting pitcher. With an ADP of 195.4, I'm willing to find out if the Mets version of Stroman is for real. He should be targeted as one of your last starting pitchers or somebody you stash on your bench. 

SEA Seattle • #33 • Age: 26
2019 Stats
INN
36.0
W
0
K's
37
ERA
5.50
WHIP
1.72

Sometimes, it's amazing how quickly we bury former top prospects if they don't pan out right away. Look at Giolito who was universally undrafted in Fantasy last season. Justus Sheffield falls under that same category. The kid is just 24 years old. While his 5.50 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in 2019 are quite bad, he does do some things well. In his brief 36 innings, he averaged 9.3 K/9 with a 12.9% swinging strike rate and a 52.3% ground ball rate. I want to focus more on 2020, however. He only pitched eight innings this spring, but Sheffield flashed a new two-seamer that caught the attention of his teammates. 

In those eight spring innings, Sheffield racked up 12 strikeouts and even more impressive was the zero walks. The biggest weakness for Sheffield to this point has been his four-seam fastball. Last season opponents had an .888 OPS and .206 ISO against his fastball. If the two-seamer could effectively work as his fastball offering and is just adequate, there may be something here. Sheffield is somebody to draft late in deeper leagues for now, but if he gets off to a slow start, remember it might be because of this new two-seamer he's using.