There are countless examples of struggling pitchers coming to the Dodgers and figuring out what was wrong (unfortunately, Noah Syndergaard definitely is not one of them). Keynan Middleton figured out his flaws without having to join the Dodgers, which could make him an even better trade target at this year's deadline.
The former third-round pick by the Los Angeles Angels showed a lot of potential during his initial stint in Southern California. However, he could not stay healthy or put together consecutive strong outings and it quickly looked like his MLB career would be a short one. From 2020 through 2022, Middleton threw just 60 innings and had a 5.10 ERA.
Middleton has completely turned it around in 2023 with the Chicago White Sox as one of the team's most utilized relievers out of the bullpen. In 22.1 innings pitched, Middleton is sporting a 2.01 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and is striking out a career-high 11.7 batters per nine innings.
The advanced metrics are even more favorable. Middleton ranks in the 92nd percentile in strikeout rate, the 91st percentile in chase rate, and the 98th percentile in whiff rate. This is not a small sample size fluke, either. There is a very distinct reason why Middleton has excelled: his changeup.
Middleton stopped throwing his mediocre fastball as often and has really leaned into his changeup. He went from throwing his changeup 17.1% of the time last season to 40.1% of the time this season. As a result, it has made his fastball better. The xBA of his fastball dropped nearly 200 points from 2022 to 2023.
This drastic change in pitching philosophy is something fans so often see on the Dodgers. Middleton would fit right in.