Zach McAllister has enjoyed a good deal of success since transitioning to a relief role a few years ago, but he remains confined to the middle innings due to the high volume of quality arms in the Cleveland bullpen. The right-hander racked up just two holds in 50 appearances last season despite a 9.6 K/9 and stellar ratios, as Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Tyler Olson and Nick Goody were more trusted pieces in the bridge to closer Cody Allen. While the peripherals suggest McAllister did overachieve last season -- he had an 89.3 percent left-on-base rate and allowed home runs at a greater rate as his opponents' hard-contact rate jumped to 39.1 percent -- he'd probably be a top setup option in weaker bullpens. Shaw and Smith are gone, so perhaps this is the year McAllister sees more high-leverage work, but he has no real shot at save chances on this team.
McAllister agreed to a one-year, $2.45 million deal with Cleveland on Thursday to avoid arbitration, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. McAllister was an integral part of the Indians' bullpen in 2017, posting a 2.61 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with a 66:21 K:BB over 62 innings. The 30-year-old right-hander had his best year as a professional, but remained in a middle-inning role due to the quality relievers the club employs. With some departures from that bullpen this offseason, McAllister could move into a higher-leverage position, but there won't be any opportunity for save chances with Cody Allen in the ninth-inning role.
McAllister, looking for a secondary pitch to supplement his mid-90s fastball, has ditched the changeup and cutter in favor of a curveball, T.J. Zuppe of The Athletic reports. Now in his seventh big-league campaign, McAllister owns career-best marks in ERA (2.27), WHIP (1.11), strand rate (87.2 percent) and BABIP (.278). The biggest difference for the former starting pitcher has been his commitment to becoming a true reliever. McAllister now understands that working from the bullpen doesn't require a large repertoire of pitches, but rather one plus delivery with a strong second pitch that will keep hitters honest. Despite his success, the 29-year-old is crammed into a bullpen loaded with talent, and that's limited McAllister's opportunity to provide fantasy-worthy stats.
McAllister finished the first half of 2017 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while racking up 46 strikeouts over 38.2 innings. The 29-year-old continues to enjoy a high strikeout rate since moving to a full-time relief role in 2015. McAllister has limited hitters to a career-best .225 BAA and .666 OPS through 30 appearances so far. That said, he remains a low-leverage option for Cleveland, giving him little fantasy value across most formats.
McAllister allowed a hit over one scoreless inning Tuesday in Baltimore. The righty has managed a strong 2.51 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 24 appearances (32.1 innings) this season. McAllister's 10.9 K/9 is just shy of his career-best mark, and he's proven to be a reliable arm out of Cleveland's bullpen. From a fantasy perspective, though, the 29-year-old doesn't offer much because he's not used in high-leverage situations.
McAllister has had a strong start to the season, posting a 2.29 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 19.2 innings. All five of the runs he's allowed came in two outings, and McAllister is carrying a K/9 of 12.3, well above his career rate of 8.3. Walks have been more of an issue of late, as he's given up seven walks across 11 innings in May, but McAllister has avoided damage thanks to the strikeout. Barring an injury, his role in Cleveland's stellar bullpen is unlikely to change, but that has little to do with the 29-year-old's performance this season.