Mining the News (1/20/23)

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

American League


Matt Vierling and Nick Maton will play all over the field according to manager A.J. Hinch.

Hinch on Thursday said new additions Matt Vierling and Nick Maton — part of the trade involving Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens going to the Phillies — will be the Tigers’ two “most active” players in spring training. That’s because both players are capable of playing both infield and outfield. Hinch will want to see both players at a variety of positions when camp begins next month.

“We’re gonna let it play out and see where the at-bats take them,” Hinch said. “I can see Vierling fitting in at a variety of positions. Maton, I’m gonna move him around, second, short, third, maybe even a little bit of outfield in the spring.”

Perhaps related: The Tigers do not currently have any player who profiles as an everyday third baseman. Maton could be the early favorite to win the job.

The team has no idea who will be the closer next season. None.

So with Soto gone, it was not hard to predict how Hinch would answer questions about the closer role and the bullpen in general.

“We’ll have somebody close the game, I promise,” Hinch said. “That’s my standard answer. … I think those roles are gonna have to sort themselves out. … We’re probably going to get to the finish line a couple of different ways this year until something evolves.”

National League


Paul DeJong reworked his swing.

DeJong spent the offseason in Florida, working heavily with hitting coach Daniel Nicolaisen, who was added to the major-league staff as a third hitting coach (joining Turner Ward and Brandon Allen) in early January. The two identified many changes, both physically and mentally, that led to DeJong feeling more optimistic than ever.

“I’ve been eliminating my leg kick, kind of going with a no-stride,” DeJong said. “I’ve been trying to keep my head as still as possible. Watching how (Paul) Goldschmidt hits, there’s so many good things about his swing and I’m trying to emulate a little bit of that. Having a consistent body position is something that I’ve really been struggling with before I made these changes, but I’m pretty confident about where I’m at.

Drew VerHagen is moving away from his sinker to a four-seamer.

VerHagen said his hip is fully healed and that his offseason hasn’t been impeded by it. But he did make a change to his pitch arsenal. The 32-year-old has always been a sinkerball pitcher. This winter, he transitioned to a four-seam fastball instead.

“I’ve been working on getting more of a true four-seamer,” VerHagen said. “I’ve always been predominantly a two-seam sinker kind of guy. And I feel like with my hip, that pitch flattened out. When I was expecting more of a sink to it, it was more flat, and I was getting hit. So I’ve worked on more of a four-seam that I can play off of my breaking balls because I have two good breaking balls and if I can set those up better with a four-seam, I think it’ll be really, really beneficial for me.”

By looking at the 2022 comp on the two pitches, his four-seamer grades out way better than his sinker.




• The team is likely to go with Eduardo Escobar as the starting third baseman.

Related to that, though, Eppler did field an inquiry about whether Eduardo Escobar would be the Mets’ Opening Day third baseman or if rookie Brett Baty had a shot. Predictably, Eppler didn’t answer definitively. But he did mention that Escobar had a “really strong year last year,” and that Baty’s call-up was “born out of necessity” late last year because of injuries.


Dalton Guthrie will likely make the team as a utility bat.

The Phillies could use another right-handed reserve. They lean lefty among potential bench players — Garrett Stubbs, Jake Cave, Darick Hall, Kody Clemens and Símon Muzziotti are all left-handed hitters. Edmundo Sosa, a righty hitter, can play anywhere on the field. So can Dalton Guthrie.

“I have a lot of confidence in Dalton Guthrie,” Thomson said. “I really do. … I feel really good about our balance in our utility players.”

Guthrie has a Steamer600 projection of .238/.293/.367 with 13 HR and 14 SB. He looks to be a better fantasy than a real-life player.

• The team with go without a closer unless someone steps up.

The Phillies have no shortage of candidates to pitch the ninth inning, but Thomson again reiterated his plan to operate without a set closer.

“Unless somebody steps up,” he said, “and is just completely dominant.”

Thomson wants to retain the right to use his best reliever on a given night to face the most challenging part of an opponent’s lineup. That spot might arise in the eighth inning. Or the seventh inning. It worked in 2022, and the Phillies believe in their game-planning infrastructure. They identified the right matchups more often than not.

Is the idea of a “floating closer” — as Thomson termed it — difficult to sell to relievers?

• The team might go with a six-man rotation.

Thomson acknowledged the club could go to a six-man rotation at times in 2023; this is something team officials have discussed all offseason. It would have been a consideration even if the Phillies had not advanced to the World Series. The six-man mechanism is a way to keep Painter in the equation for a full big-league season as he continues to adjust to the rigors of pro ball after only one full season in the minors.

Painter will be treated like every other starting pitcher in camp: He’s expected to build his innings under a normal progression.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 days ago

Re Baty, I’m not sure that’s what Eppler fully said. He also said “we’ll see what we have In The spring” or something to that effect. Eppler does a great job of respecting the Veterans like Escobar but 3b still appears to be an open competition.

5 days ago
Reply to  tomerafan