Archive for A Closer Look

A Closer Look: Arizona Diamondbacks

After an 85-win season and key additions on both sides (Starling Marte and Madison Bumgarner), the Diamondbacks are hoping to work their way into the playoffs. They likely be fighting for a wildcard spot thanks to the Dodgers being in their division, but there’s a lot of talent on this club and they should remain strong throughout 2020.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

What does Zac Gallen’s first full season look like?

Apparently Gallen is battling Merrill Kelly and Alex Young to secure the fifth starter’s role heading into the season despite his scintillating debut last year. In fairness, Kelly and Young were pretty solid last year so I guess they deserve a shot to compete for the spot, but everyone seems to have Gallen as the leader in the clubhouse.

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A Closer Look: Detroit Tigers

After checking out the high end of the AL Central last time out, we turn our attention a little lower to the rebuilding Tigers who are still expected to be in the bottom two of the division but will start showing some fruits of their laborious rebuild.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

Will Matt Manning and Casey Mize debut in 2020?

Assuming a measure of health, it looks like both young arms will make their MLB debuts in 2020. They aren’t going to break camp with the club, but they should be up in the summer sometime. Manning has usurped Mize, the former #1 overall pick, on our Tigers prospect list, though both are given 60 Future Value grades. A tremendous effort at Double-A saw Manning refine his three-pitch mix and once again shave down his walk rate, yielding a healthy 28% K rate and 7% BB rate in 133.7 innings. He’ll start the season at Triple-A and be at the ready for a call up as long as he continues to pitch like this.

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A Closer Look: Minnesota Twins

OK, it’s time to start getting these going as I’ve fallen behind a bit due to an unexpectedly busy offseason.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

Can Jake Odorizzi repeat his success?

Odorizzi was a standout pitcher in his second year with the Twins, posting a 3.51 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 159 innings. He even made the All-Star team. In his debut with the Twins back in 2018, he had a 4.49 ERA and the Twins likely realized one key issue with the right-hander: he couldn’t go deep into games. His OPS was .627 the first time through, .659 the second time, and then soared to 1.159 the third time.

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A Closer Look: Miami Marlins

A team in the throes of a rebuild isn’t expected to do much in the offseason, but the Marlins quietly put together a nice set of moves, acquiring a group of players they can either look to flip and strengthen their system or be some of the veteran pieces of their next quality team years down the road.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

Is there any hope for Lewis Brinson?

Remember when Brinson hit 5 HR in Spring Training and got a bunch of fantasy managers excited about his 2019? I guess we glossed over the 32% K rate. Or the fact that he put up OPS totals of .937, .973, and .951 in the three Spring Trainings prior to 2019. The spring surge proved to be indicative of nothing positive as he went on to be literally the worst hitter in baseball (min. 245 PA) somehow hitting 0 HR in 248 PA. He now has 709 MLB PA over which he’s been – yep, you guessed it – literally the worst hitter in baseball (min. 700 PA) thanks to an impossibly bad .183/.238/.293 line in that time.

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A Closer Look: Los Angeles Angels

The scorching hot stove put the ACL series on the backburner a bit, but we’re diving back in this week and starting with the Angels, who have been very busy in the month-plus since our last piece in this series.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

Can Tommy La Stella pick up where ’19 left off?

Few players personified the bouncy ball of 2019 better than La Stella. He entered his age-30 season with a career .711 OPS and 10 HR in 947 PA only to nearly double his career total in April alone when he smacked 7 HR. He stayed hot through May and June with a .324/.358/.485 line and another 9 HR before disaster struck. On July 2nd, he fouled a ball off his leg that was originally diagnosed as a contusion, but eventually turned out to be a broken leg and effectively ended his season (he returned for two games in September).

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A Closer Look: Cincinnati Reds

We’re headed back to the National League for the upstart Reds who have a strong rotation and some intriguing bats setting them up as a 2020 fringe contender with a few key offseason moves.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

Is Joey Votto done as a premier hitter?

After a nine-year run which saw Votto hit .315/.436/.544 with 30 HR, 95 RBI, 102 R, and 9 SB per 162 games, he fallen on hard times the last two years with just a .272/.387/.415 line and 16 HR, 65 RBI, 83 R, and 4 SB per 162. His 2018 and 2019 aren’t that far off outside of his walk rate so while a lot attention is being paid to his 2019, this is now two severely non-Vottoan years.

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A Closer Look: Baltimore Orioles

From the World Series runner up to second-worst record in baseball, let’s take a closer look at the rebuilding O’s.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

Will Jonathan Villar be on the team to start the season?

The concern among the fantasy community is that Villar might be traded in the offseason to a team where a) he wouldn’t have a locked in full-time gig and b) they don’t run as much, thus robbing some of his fantasy value. The 29-year old switch-hitter has enjoyed a nice rebirth with the Orioles, posting a nice 107 wRC+ over 950 PA with a very fantasy-relevant 61 SBs.

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A Closer Look: Houston Astros

This Astros article will not talk about sign stealing. You’re welcome.

Continuing the series I started last week, let’s take a closer look at the World Series runner up!

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

Can Justin Verlander continue to hold up at age-37?

While Verlander has gone as one of the top starters throughout the early 2020 drafts, there is always a tinge of trepidation because of his age. But should we be worried? It’s hard to say yes. I understand that anyone age-35 or older carries a bit more injury risk, but outside of his age there is nothing in Verlander’s profile that should cause panic. Not even the homers. I mean his 1.5 HR/9 mark was high, but he allowed so few base runners that it didn’t really matter. His ERA went up 0.06 from 2018.

Arguably the biggest effect of the 2019 ball was the number of opposite field home runs that carried out and no one was affect more than Verlander. His 9 oppo tacos tied him for the league lead with Shane Bieber, Noah Syndergaard, Yusei Kikuchi, and his teammate Wade Miley. Even with those homers, his .360 wOBA to the opposite field was still easily the lowest of that group (Bieber was second at .379). The rest of his profile was elite. Don’t sweat the age, draft the reigning Cy Young winner.

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A Closer Look: Seattle Mariners

I started this new series yesterday and you can bookmark this page to follow along going forward. I’ll put that link in every intro for sure, but I could also list every team that has been covered so far in every intro if you’d like. Please let me know in the comments.

Today we head out to the Pacific Northwest to discuss the Mariners. They are a bit stuck right now with a roster that isn’t really set up to tear down nor is it good enough to truly compete. Their farm system is on the rise, but their best prospects are years away. Of course, GM Jerry Dipoto loves to trade and could flip this entire roster by Christmas. We’ll see how it goes.

3 QUESTIONS

Is Dee Gordon done as a 50-SB threat?

A bruised wrist and strained quad limited Gordon to just 117 games and resulted in his third sub-.700s OPS and underwhelming SB output season in the last four. We can excuse his 30 in 2016 as he played just 79 games and then he led baseball with 60 in 2017 but then just 30 and 22 the last two seasons. Those two seasons don’t even pace that well (31 per 600 PA) when you consider barren numbers that come with the steals (.271 AVG, 4 HR, 41 RBI, and 58 R per 600 PA).

Gordon’s 6.6 speed score was easily a career-worst and his StatCast sprint speed has dipped each of the last three years. He also has a .305 OBP or worse in three of the last four years, including a combined .295 the last two years. Teammate Mallex Smith swiped an MLB-best 46 bases with a .300 OBP so it’s possible to rack up a giant total with a terrible OBP, but Smith is also five years younger and faster. As Gordon enters his age-32 season, it’s hard to project him for more than 30 SB and part of me wonders how much Seattle wants two OBP drains who only offer speed in the lineup on a daily basis.

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A Closer Look: Pittsburgh Pirates

Welcome to a new offseason series where I’ll be taking a closer look at all 30 teams via six different categories, all of which should be self-explanatory in terms of what they’ll cover: 3 Questions, Riser, Faller, A Move to Make (Signing or Trade), Playing Time Battle, and Prospect Contributors for 2020 (1 hitter/1 pitcher). I took all 30 teams and randomized the order since I couldn’t decide on an order myself. The Pirates are leading off!

3 QUESTIONS

What does Josh Bell do for an encore?

Only a groin injury could slow Bell’s massive power breakout. He put together a .946 OPS through five months before limping to the finish line with just 11 games and an .803 OPS. While his 2019 was a massive surge from 2018, it wasn’t the first time he showed capable power (.211 ISO in ’17) and he’s always had a strong plate approach (career 19% K, 12% BB) so I don’t see a major falloff even if the ball changes. I see 27-32 HR, a .275 AVG, and 90+ R/RBI.

Can Gregory Polanco finally stay healthy and breakthrough?

Polanco’s 2018 might already be his breakout (23 HR, 12 SB, 123 wRC+ in 535 PA), but even that season was shortened to 130 games, so his proponents are still holding out hope for a season like that or better in 150 games. Six IL stints over the last three seasons and a major shoulder issue this past season make it hard to see a particularly bright future here. He’ll be priced to buy in 2020, but a 20/10 ceiling feels right.

Is Chris Archer done as a viable fantasy starter?

Things came to a head for Archer last year as his walk and home run rates spiked resulting in a hideous 5.19 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 119.7 innings. The second half of his season wasn’t quite as bad with a 4.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 31% K offers some hope, especially the strikeouts, but if 4.42/1.29 is what we’re looking forward to, then yeah he kinda is done as a viable option in 10- and 12-team leagues. 15-teamers might find some streaming value. I will be eager to see what a new pitching coach in Pittsburgh can do for Archer and a with price at pick-250 or later, he might be a decent late round gamble.

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