Exit Interview 2020: Daniel Ponce de Leon

After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season.  They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post.  Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  This year, of course, was anything but typical.  So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative.  There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable.  As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!

Player: Daniel Ponce de Leon

Season stats: 1-3, 4.96 ERA, 9 G, 32.2 IP, 23 H, 8 HR, 20 BB, 45 K, 5.64 FIP, 1.316 WHIP, 12.4 K/9, -0.2 bWAR

Postseason stats: 0-1, 27.00 ERA, 1 IP, 2 H, 2 HR, 1 BB, 2 K, 3.000 WHIP

Statcast: 9.2% barrel %, 88.6 exit velocity, 40.8% hard hit %, .321 xwOBA

Best Statcast category: K % (86th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Barrel % (23rd percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 2


Overview: What is your opinion on Daniel Ponce de Leon?  Did he show this year that he’s more of a bullpen piece, unable to get through the fifth in his first five starts?  Did he turn the corner with his last three starts (2.65 ERA over 17 innings) or was that more a function of him facing Milwaukee twice and Pittsburgh once, offenses that rivaled the Cardinals for weakness?  There’s no doubt that his strikeout skill works in the big leagues, since he struck out six or more five times, but his elevated pitch counts (because, especially early on, the counts went deep and the walks also piled up) kept him from being a real asset.

Obviously, the postseason inning would tend to indicate that some of the late success was due to the opposing team, but that is just one inning (and the Padres are really good).  No matter what way he is used, though, it would seem he needs to be more efficient with his pitches.  He was reaching 100 after six innings in his good outings, which is more in line with what you see out of pitchers these days, but when he was approaching that in less than five, it was a big issue.  Control means that his strikeout ability would make him a very good late inning option but also allow him to go deeper in games, thus being a solid starter.  He was also significantly stronger against left-handers than righties, which might also point toward a relief role.

Outlook: Given the usage and results this year, it would seem that Austin Gomber is first in line for any rotation opening.  Ponce de Leon may still be the next option, depending on how Johan Oviedo is viewed in the organization (or how he’s doing in Memphis should an opportunity arise).  Ponce de Leon is out of options, though he has a couple of years left before he hits arbitration.  That probably keeps him in St. Louis all next year, starting in the bullpen but going back and forth as conditions warrant.

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