Mining the News (10/13/21)

American League

Angels

• The six-man rotation is staying with Patrick Sandoval and José Suarez in the rotation.

The Angels are expected to use a six-man rotation next year with Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval and José Suarez essentially locks to be part of it.

For those in early season draft-and-holds and best balls, Sandoval and Suarez are reasonable mid to late-round options.

Astros

Kyle Tucker added 20 pounds to start the 2021 season.

A lean and lanky 6-foot-4, Tucker has gotten stronger and filled out in the last few years. Though he’s listed at 199 pounds, he said he came into spring training at about 220 pounds and has played his way down to about 210 pounds over the course of the season.

Athletics

Ramón Laureano had surgery and will be suspended for the first 27 days of the 2022 season.

The A’s announced this afternoon that center fielder Ramón Laureano underwent core surgery yesterday. He suffered the injury during his personal training regimen. The team expects he’ll still be ready for Spring Training.

Laureano hasn’t played since August 6, when MLB handed down an 80-game suspension after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. That ruled him out for this season’s final 53 contests, and he’ll miss the first 27 games of next season to complete that punishment.

Blue Jays

Hyun Jin Ryu 류현진 battled neck tightness to end the season.

Hyun Jin Ryu (neck tightness) continues to throw in the outfield prior to games in Minneapolis and is progressing well from his neck tightness. No pitcher is at 100 percent at this point in the season, but it was evident that Ryu was battling more than just fatigue in recent outings as he struggled with his typically pinpoint control.

At this point, he’s in line to be an option at some point during the Blue Jays’ series against the Yankees, which begins on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. That’s a powerful lineup and Ryu has not been his dominant self lately, though, so the Blue Jays would need him to bounce right back if he gets the nod.

Ryu struggled to limit runs with a 6.21 ERA in August and a 7.78 ERA in September. Also, he reintroduced a s(t)inker that got crushed (1.345 vsOPS).

Mariners

Julio Rodriguez is expected to be on the MLB roster next year.

Rodríguez frequently recorded some of the top exit velocities in the minor leagues in 2021, including a best of 117.4 mph.

“Julio will come to spring training with everyone else with an opportunity to make the team,” Dipoto said. “But his real chances will be defined by what we do in the offseason. But we don’t have (many) players who are more talented than Julio.”

If so, the outfield could be crowded, but the team is not counting on Kyle Lewis at this point.

It’s unclear, given that Lewis has declined to speak publicly since tearing his right meniscus on May 31. His efforts to return seemed to run more against the clock of the season winding down than anything, but Dipoto’s comments last week on the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year painted a far more sobering picture.

“I think we have to go into next season planning on whatever Kyle is able to deliver is a bonus for us,” Dipoto said. “He’s had a really rough go here with his knee, and through no fault of his own, missed a good part of this season. He’ll be a huge part of what we do, but we can’t push very hard on the pencil until we see him play.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this situation shakes out.

Logan Gilbert was able to keep up his velocity in his late-season games.

On Friday, Gilbert threw a season-high 110 pitches. He gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings, but even as the game got late, the righty’s fastball still touched 96 mph before he was pulled from the ballgame.

“When you look at his outings and how they play out, he’s still out there the fifth, sixth inning and getting to 85-90 pitches and you still see the velocity there and the crispness to his breaking balls,” Servais said. “I have a ton of confidence in sending him back out there.”

He turned into a workhorse after being limited to just 80 pitches in his first four games. At season’s end, he was regularly throwing 95-100 pitches and his velocity stayed up.

Orioles

• Expect Adley Rutschman to be promoted early next season.

But if Rutschman excels in Grapefruit League play, it’ll be harder to justify him beginning the year back in Norfolk, despite the service-time benefits it would bring the organization. Rutschman will turn 24 in February and left college as one of the most polished prospects in recent memory. But that extra year of control is hugely important for the Orioles and probably means he arrives in Baltimore around May.

He’ll be interesting to value in redraft leagues because it’s tough to roster an extra catcher for a couple of weeks.

Rangers

• The team plans on letting Dane Dunning throw deeper into games next season.

“​​I love [his] makeup, love the stuff,” Woodward said. “There’s plenty of games that he threw earlier in the year where we were kind of limiting him at times, but he could have gone on a couple more innings. He’s excited about pushing the innings next year and taking the handcuffs off a little bit.

His three highest pitch totals were 89, 85, and 82. He never threw over 80 pitches after July 1st.

Spencer Howard is going back to a delivery he had in the minors.

Woodward said Howard and pitching coaches Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara are planning to work on his delivery in the offseason, to make it more closely resemble what it was early in his Minor League career. With the Phillies, the right-hander got into the habit of jumping toward the plate and losing power and command.

A change can hopefully have him improve on his 7.43 ERA and 1.61 WHIP from this season.

Josh Jung is expected to start the season as the major league third baseman.

Do you think Josh Jung is the Rangers’ starting third baseman on Opening Day 2022 or do you think they’ll start him out in Triple-A?
— @hannahbaugh on Twitter
If there’s one thing I would bet on, it’s that Jung — the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect and top-ranked position player per MLB Pipeline — will be the Opening Day third baseman.

I’m sure the Rangers will game another year of control, but he could be a late-round bargain.

Nathaniel Lowe is trying to be better with high-velocity fastballs.

“I would like to be better with higher velocity,” Lowe said. “It goes back to preparation. I need to get on the fastball and maybe make a little more of a jump to get there, instead of just hoping that a fastball shows up. And then when I see it, I’m behind it. This offseason is going to be good for assessing where I was short this year, and where I need to get better going forward.”

Just four of Lowe’s 17 home runs this season have come on high-velocity pitches. He and Adolis García lead the team with 13 home runs on pitches with a velocity slower than 90 mph.

Royals

Carlos Santana was hampered by a hip injury late in the season.

Santana seemed to be more injured by his hip flexor strain he suffered on Aug. 24 than he and the team let on, so perhaps when he’s healthy again he can get back to what the Royals signed him to do: Get on base and hit for power.

Before the injury, he was hitting just .228/.335/.374 but it dropped to .161/.254/.220 after the injury.

Hunter Dozier tried to regain his mechanics after an early-season thumb injury.

Reverting back to old swing mechanics calls for retraining of muscle memory. That’s what drill packages are for, so Dozier went to work and in July began to find success. He posted a .833 OPS that month. And after a difficult August, he posted a .928 OPS in September.

In the first half, he had a .586 OPS and it jumped to .780 in the second half.

Kris Bubic is featuring his curveball more.

By far the biggest improvement in Bubic’s season has been his curveball. It’s now a solid third offering that he incorporates into his starts and keeps hitters off his fastball and changeup. Against the Twins, Bubic threw 50 fastballs, 28 changeups and 14 curveballs. He registered eight whiffs and 16 called strikes — 11 of which came off his well-located fastball.

Those things include a slider, which Bubic has been working on during side sessions but didn’t have confidence in to throw in games this season.

The deal is, it’s decent on generating groundballs (66% GB%) not a good curve for strikeouts (7% SwStr%). And its swing-and-miss potential got lower as the season went on.

Tigers

• Unless the Tigers sign another catcher, Eric Haase will be the primary catcher going into 2022.

Haase is definitely a big part of next year’s club, but his ultimate fit might be more like the role he had before Jake Rogers’ season-ending elbow surgery — splitting catching duties while also getting time in left field and maybe first base. With Rogers expected to miss much of next season, however, the Tigers need a catcher to share some of those starts, whether that involves bringing back veteran backup Dustin Garneau or acquiring someone else. The free-agent catching market is thin.

Zack Short is likely to turn into a multi-position utility bat.

Short did not return to Toledo as the everyday shortstop, since Kreidler had been promoted from Double-A Erie. Instead, the two split the role while bouncing around the infield. Short even received some playing time in left field, which was an adjustment.

“I hadn’t played outfield since high school and I was having a blast,” Short added.

Whether that’s a preview of his eventual fit in Detroit remains to be seen. The Tigers will likely add somebody at shortstop, big name or otherwise in the offseason. If Short’s best hope of the big leagues is as a bench player, he’ll need to play around the field to stick in Detroit.

Twins

Miguel Sanó wants to lose 30 pounds, shorten his swing, and practice some before Spring Training.

Whatever the reason, the slugger is feeling added urgency to report to the Twins in 2022 in a position to be healthy, play every day and drive the ball like he has for much of the second half of this season — and as part of that, he says that he wants to lose 30 pounds before he arrives at camp next spring.

But Baldelli also noted that the slugger’s physical work will go hand-in-hand with the continued work Sanó will need to do in maintaining the shortening of his swing and opposite-field approach that has helped his performance following a slow start this year.

They hope that this offseason-long physical work can be part of that equation, so that he can hit the ground running in Spring Training instead of spending the preseason and a chunk of the early season still finding his bearings at the plate

I’ll bet on the under.

Joe Ryan’s fastball works because of its low release point and deception.

As to why it works so well, many point to Ryan’s release at a strikingly low, three-quarters arm angle that might actually mess with hitters’ expectations, pitching coach Wes Johnson said. Among right-handers with four-seam fastballs in 2021, Ryan has an average release height that is the 24th lowest out of 555 big leaguers tracked by Statcast — and none of them throws the four-seamer as often as he does.

“One of the things we’ve found through science is hitters anticipate an arm slot or hand movement,” Johnson said. “If a guy throws sidearm, they anticipate arm-side run and sink. Any time they see that slot that’s lower, innately, they’re going to anticipate some sink and run. … His actually doesn’t.”

Ryan also seems to hide the ball very well, something that’s been pointed out by teammates and opponents alike in the short time he has been in the big leagues.

For a future article, I will try to find similar pitches to his fastball and their results.

Yankees

Aaron Judge played through several ailments this season.

In 2021, the matter of Judge’s health has been largely without controversy. He’s played through what the Yankees have called general soreness and lower-half fatigue, he missed nine games after contracting COVID-19 earlier this season, and he is now accepting an injured pinky as the price of admission in the final days of their postseason push.

Even with the injuries, he outperformed his projected OPS (.896) by 20 points (.916 OPS).

DJ LeMahieu’s struggles might be related to the new, softer baseballs.

LeMahieu was the Yankees’ most valuable player in each of the past two seasons, and Boone offered an explanation Friday for the dropoff in the infielder’s numbers.

“I think he’s been one of the guys that’s been hurt by the baseball,” Boone said. “He’s hit a number of balls, I’ll look up on the board — 97, 99 miles an hour, and it’s to the warning track. I think part of that slug has been a ‘just miss’ a handful of times this year, coupled with the ball probably not going quite as far.”

While there were short published lists naming leMahieu as a regression candidate, I could not find a study on the hitters who would hit fewer home runs. I feel I need to see how any preseason predictions held up. His drop could just be regression to his career norms.

National League

Cardinals

• If healthy, Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, and Miles Mikolas will be in next year’s rotation.

2. Might they add a starting pitcher?

Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas are surefire options. Behind them, Alex Reyes, Jake Woodford, Johan Oviedo, Matthew Liberatore and, possibly, Jordan Hicks will be in the mix. Save for Hudson, St. Louis hoped to have each of those top four for the entirety of the 2021 campaign, but injuries derailed the availability of Flaherty and Mikolas.

Diamondbacks

Luke Weaver is moving to just two pitches (fastball/change) and adjusting his windup.

But this year, Weaver has done his part to rewrite — or re-unwrite — that unwritten rule. The fastball and the changeup are his best pitches, so he is going to throw his fastball and changeup the vast majority of the time. For years, he’s tried to conform to the platonic ideal of a starting pitcher only to watch half-hearted breaking balls get crushed.

Working with the training staff, he broke down his delivery to its component parts. His landing leg was soft and not stiff. How could he fix that? His arm was lagging behind his body, putting it and his shoulder in a precarious position. What was the solution for that?

What Weaver has landed on looks subtle on video. He previously pitched out of an abbreviated windup, with his front foot starting on the first-base side of the mound before rocking into his delivery. Now, he pitches out of the stretch. His front foot starts more in line with home plate and lifts straight up with his knee. It’s a small change, but it achieves a happy medium — fewer moving parts, but not so few that Weaver deprives himself of any rhythm.

The move to the four-seamer (10% SwStr%, 34% GB%) and change (14% SwStr%, 44% GB%) is probably for the best. Both pitches are close to league average and will make him league average. He is a flyball pitcher and therefore home run prone (1.5 HR/9). Additionally, his xFIP jumps from 3.41 the first time through the batting order to 4.95 the second time. He seems to be maxed out as a low 4.00’s ERA pitcher.

Mets

Noah Syndergaard’s velocity was way down in his last appearance.

Syndergaard’s final one-inning outing was forgettable; he allowed a leadoff homer to Jorge Soler among three hits and two runs against the Braves at Truist Park. He topped out at 95 mph and, while that is several ticks slower than what Syndergaard used to reach in his prime, it was hard enough to hint at improved radar gun readings in the future.

So…

…and therefore …

Seth Lugo likes being a multi-inning reliever.

Looking back, Lugo said, that operation prevented him from feeling comfortable with his mechanics until the past couple of weeks.

Now that he’s back to feeling normal, Lugo hopes continued success will allow him to return to his old multi-inning “fireman” role next year. The right-hander has submitted just six relief outings of four-plus outs this season, compared to 53 from 2018-19.

Rich Hill wants to pitch next season.

Robinson Canó could be back with the Mets next year.

I suspect Canó will be back next year, though in what capacity remains to be seen. He possesses value as a left-handed pinch-hitter. He should still be able to play a reasonable second base, and Mets officials have been thinking about him as a third-base option, as well. At the latter position, Canó could potentially pair with Davis in an offensive-minded platoon.

I forgot Cano was still signed for two more seasons.

Nationals

• The team wants Josh Rogers to improve his slider and gain a few pounds.

This offseason, Rogers aims to “crisp up” all of his pitches. The Nationals will look for him to hone in on his changeup & slider, which Martinez described as “really good.” Rogers also wants to gain 10 to 12 pounds to stay durable after losing weight last winter, and Martinez would like him to get stronger in his lower half.

Patrick Corbin thinks he might have turned the corner on his getting his slider back.

But Corbin, 32, saw plenty of encouraging signs Thursday, particularly with his slider.

“I know I had the four walks, but I thought I was around the plate,” Corbin said. “I thought it’s the most consistent slider it’s been this year. They have some good hitters over there. I pitched ahead of guys, got some ground balls.”

Corbin got 14 of his 26 swings and misses on the slider, and eight called strikes with his sinker. When he’s going well, Corbin is getting guys to swing and miss on the slider.

I’m out until he gets the spin on the pitch back up over 2300 rpm and close to 2400 rpm when it was effective in the past.

Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. would need six to eight months to recover from shoulder surgery and would have a good chance to come back productive. Tatis doesn’t desire the surgery and wants to continue to play shortstop.

Arthroscopic labrum repair often comes with an estimated recovery period of six to eight months. If Tatis were to get the procedure immediately after the season, he might be ready to play shortly after Opening Day 2022. Still, no surgery is without risk.

“The return to play for these types of surgeries is generally pretty good,” Lee said. “Returning to the same level of play is not as great. So while a return to play is generally about 90 percent, returning to the same level is probably around 80 percent.”

Last month, Tatis said, “I don’t want to put a (knife) in my body.” This weekend, he seemed to maintain an anti-surgery stance. Those close with Tatis say he can be especially stubborn, a quality not uncommon in the most talented athletes.

While a full deliberation has yet to take place, the Padres have at least signaled a willingness to consider Tatis’ wishes. “I think it’s super encouraging where he’s at physically right now,” Tingler said Friday. And Tatis has resumed spending the bulk of his time at shortstop.

Both men agreed it should be his primary position in 2022.

Phillies

J.T. Realmuto played through a shoulder injury that hampered his swing for over a month.

Realmuto refused to use his injured right shoulder as an excuse, but he said there was about a month and a half when he felt discomfort on every swing.

He didn’t struggle too much over the last 45 days hitting .250/.318/.400 which is a bit worse than his season-long stats (.263/.343/.439).

Pirates

Oneil Cruz can hit the ball hard.

Reds

Wade Miley pitched through a late-season neck injury.

Miley made 28 starts for the Reds and went 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA. Miley’s ERA was 2.97 through August, but his neck started bothering him and he didn’t pitch out of the fifth inning in three of his last four starts, going 1-3 with an 8.35 ERA in September.

“It’s been kind of slowly, gradually getting worse,” Miley said. “Just every start, I wasn’t recovering, wasn’t bouncing back. Against LA the other day, even warming up in the bullpen, I probably should’ve stopped there. A little bit stubborn, a little bit thinking it’d go away, I’ll figure it out and didn’t.”

In September he posted an 8.35 ERA and 2.18 WHIP.





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 three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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NB: the Julio Rodriguez linked to the article is the pitcher on the Giants; the Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez is same age and comes up first in search. Or I guess all I want to say is, link’s wrong.