Mining the News (2/5/21)

Free Agents

Mike Foltynewicz threw for teams.

Great, 90 to 92, just what he was throwing last season when he was cut. Over his career, he’s sat at over 95.5 mph and only has a 4.33 ERA. Continue to ignore.

American League

Astros

• The Astros could consider Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, or Myles Straw for the leadoff spot.

But I don’t think it will be Bregman. Altuve seems like the frontrunner because he’s done it in the past, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Dusty Baker will choose Kyle Tucker or Myles Straw because he did so last season. Of the 11 games Springer didn’t start in 2020, Straw batted leadoff five times. Tucker and Altuve batted leadoff three times apiece.

Myles Straw and his projected .650 OPS? Really? Let’s look at the lineups when he hit.

And

When Straw played, he hit near the top. I guess this could be good news for the Straw, but bad for the rest of the Astros.

Athletics

Chad Pinder and Sheldon Neuse are possible favorites for the middle infield spots.

This is the biggest concern of the roster, with the bullpen not far behind, after the departures of Semien and La Stella this offseason. Melissa Lockard and I ran through a few internal options for second base and shortstop, and as it stands, Neuse and Pinder might be the top candidates to fill those roles. Pinder has more experience at second base, but they each have extensive experience at both positions and could be slotted in at either spot. It’s possible that Pinder could platoon with the left-handed Kemp to balance out the A’s right-handed heavy lineup. Utilityman Vimael Machín has three options left (Neuse has two) which might give Neuse the advantage. Neuse could also bring some power to a lineup that lost Semien and outfielder Robbie Grossman.

This situation looks to be a disaster in the making. Here are the group’s current projections.

Projections wise, Pinder has a lead over the other two. Also, it’s not a good sign that both Kemp and Neuse are projected for an OPS under .700. That’s barely replacement-level production.

Pinder is the player to bet on out of this group. He is already qualified at second and third in most formats and adding short can only improve his value.

Blue Jays

Marcus Semien played through pain last season.

On top of that, Semien experienced a slump at the plate during summer camp that carried over into the start of the season. The stress of how a slow start in a 60-game season would affect his numbers led to more hours hitting in the cage, which led to a strained side that cost him seven games, but, more crucially, caused him to play through the pain for a large chunk of the year.

There were days when instead of taking batting practice, he was receiving treatment. Before the game, he’d take 15 quick swings in the cage, then go out to face the best pitchers on the planet.

“It wasn’t necessarily a recipe for success,” he said. “But once that got healthy, things picked up and I wish the season kept going because I knew I was headed in the right direction.”

Semien’s production lines up with this narrative, a slow start to the season but finished at his average production level.

Indians

• Don’t be surprised if Andres Gimenez starts the season in the minors to gain another year of control.

If Rosario doesn’t get moved before Opening Day, then the Tribe has a big infield puzzle to attempt to put together. Hernandez will take second base, leaving Rosario and Giménez to battle for shortstop. In that case, the two most likely options would be to move Rosario to the outfield or start Giménez in Triple-A.

From RosterResource, Gimenez has one year of service time, so he would just need to “work on his already stellar defense” in AAA for the customary two to three weeks before getting called up.

Rangers

Jose Trevino intentionally raised his launch angle.

“My swing,” he said. “I didn’t have much launch angle to it the past few years. Getting to work with our hitting coaches every day in offseason, and spring training in summer, I actually was able to dive into it a little bit, get a little bit more launch angle and try to work up that plane, go from there.”

It’s possible to do that without such a drastic pre-swing set-up, but that pose was the big clue that something was afoot. Trevino worked during the offseason (and again during the break between spring training and the delayed start of the season) with hitting coach Luis Ortiz and run production coordinator Alex Burg to revamp his swing.

The improvement helped him drop his groundball rate from 46% to 41% while his ISO jumped from .125 to .184. He ended up posting a respectable .715 OPS, at least for a catcher.

Sam Huff is going to start the season in the minors.

The front office has already indicated that Huff will start the season in the minor leagues, which will allow him (presumably) to work on squeezing both his 29.71 percent K-rate and his 7.3 percent walk rate toward a more agreeable middle ground.

Tigers

Tarik Skubal is redesigning his changeup.

Skubal returned to Driveline that Friday intent on getting a different result. It took more tweaks and more experimentation, but finally, Skubal got the action he wanted, a diving, fading change-up that could run away from right-handed batters.

His change already had a 16% SwStr% and 48% GB%. His future looks bright.

Twins

• The Twins have a flexible infield situation where players, including Andrelton Simmons, may be limited to 140 games.

The Marwin González situation gives us a really good idea of what we’re going to see from Polanco and Arraez. In 2019, Gonzalez received 463 plate appearances. Last season, Gonzalez was on pace for 537 plate appearances over a full 162 games. Though he didn’t have a dedicated position, González played three out of every four days. Rocco Baldelli loves to move players around and give guys days off. That won’t change, and I highly doubt Simmons plays more than 140 games himself. The idea is having flexibility to keep everyone fresh. If he’s healthy, Polanco will play a ton. The Twins aren’t about to overlook that he was one of their best hitters from 2017-19 and earned an All-Star spot in 2019.

The added rest will be good for the Twins, but could cost fantasy owners a bit of production.

• Continuing with the above statement, Luis Arraez could accumulate a decent share of plate appearances.

However, it will also have a positive impact on the lineup thanks to Luis Arraez shifting into the super-utility role previously filled by Marwin González.

González started 72 percent of the Twins’ games the past two seasons, but was mediocre offensively in 2019 and downright bad in 2020. Now, whenever Josh Donaldson is sidelined, it’ll be Arraez and his .331 career batting average, not the weak-hitting González, replacing him at third base. Arraez also provides cover for Polanco and Simmons, both of whom had ankle injuries in 2020.

Each infielder’s value is dragged down, but just one injury could boost the healthy players’ values.

White Sox

• Garret Crochet will likely work out of the MLB bullpen to build up his innings.

“He’s a guy that, coming off a 2020 with a lighter workload, a starting workload that for 2022, we have to be very creative. We have to be very cautious of how many innings we put under his belt. And the bullpen role probably is the safest landing spot to accomplish that. Hopefully, we look up at the end of the year and he’s got an ample amount of innings, and therefore, we’re comfortable with him starting the following year.”

Getz wanted to see how the upcoming season played out before committing to Crochet being ready for the White Sox rotation in 2022 as opposed to needing Minor League innings as a starter.

“The hope would be that he can transition as a starter the following year, but there are certainly plenty of unknowns here,” Getz said. “I just know that he’s ready for this year to start. He’s excited for the role that’s been given to him, and any White Sox fan or baseball fan is going to enjoy watching him pitch.”

With the White Sox’s loaded bullpen, it seems like it’ll be at least one season before Crochet has any fantasy value.

Reynaldo López is penciled in as the fifth starter with Michael Kopech headed to the minors.

When Reynaldo López is on his game, he has top-of-the-rotation sort of stuff. Unfortunately, those impressive starts have not been frequent enough over the past two years. He looks to be the team’s fifth starter right now, with Kopech figuring to open the season in the Minors. López eventually will become a bullpen swing man and could be valuable with the ability to spot start behind Lucas Giolito, Keuchel, Lynn, Cease and Kopech.

I just don’t see any reason to draft Lopez or Kopech.

• Lucas Giolito has been working on a new curveball.

But the duo has also been working on a new pitch Giolito refers to as the “downer.” That name doesn’t emanate from a plan for hitters’ dejected reactions after they swing and miss against it, but more because the pitch is a modified curve with the potential to be added to his repertoire.

“It’s like a 12-6 curveball, but it just goes down,” Giolito said. “It comes out of my hand almost like a slider variant. It’s hard to give it a real true name like curveball or slider. But the whole idea of it is it comes out on my fastball plane and then just goes down kind of later, whereas my slider is a little more right to left with that downward action. This one is more like out of the hand fastball plane, straight down late.

National League

Dodgers

Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will not start the season’s in the Dodgers rotation as long as everyone else is healthy since the Dodgers signed Trevor Bauer.

As in our first roster projection, this iteration leaves out Tony Gonsolin, but that’s really more of a technicality. As long as he’s healthy, Gonsolin should pitch meaningful innings for the Dodgers this year. Surely, there will be plenty of need for additional starts beyond what the aforementioned five can complete. And there’s no reason Gonsolin can’t open the season in the rotation, if he outpitches May in spring training or someone gets hurt. It’s just, somebody has to be left out right now. The Dodgers are not going to use a six-man group all year.

This news is more of a reminder than anything about the Dodgers having too many pitchers for their own good.

Chris Taylor’s versatility should keep him on the field.

No, there are no outfielders on this bench, but that’s not a huge hindrance. Chris Taylor can play every outfield position, and Max Muncy and McKinstry can play second base. Against some right-handed pitchers, you could see Ríos play first, Muncy play second and Taylor play left. A.J. Pollock can also play every outfield position and McKinstry (and, in a pinch, Matt Beaty) can play left field. Also, Gavin Lux exists as a potential regular second baseman. If he is installed there, that would push Taylor back to a utility role.

If Taylor gets a full-season of at-bats, the 30-year-old has the chance to hit 20 homers and steal a dozen bases with a .260 AVG. With a 220 ADP and three positions (2B, SS, OF), he could be an undervalued add.

Padres

Eric Hosmer is a candidate to be platooned.

Hosmer compiled a .563 OPS against left-handers over the last three seasons, and the Padres have more offensive talent than ever, so there certainly is a case for this happening. Nola, Victor Caratini and Jurickson Profar are potential substitutions versus lefties.

I don’t want anything to do with a platoon option going in the first 10 rounds (135 ADP).

Emilio Pagán might be the lead candidate to close over Drew Pomeranz

Emilio Pagán and Drew Pomeranz would be the main candidates, and the Padres could deploy both pitchers in the ninth inning, depending on the matchup. For now, barring an unexpected acquisition of a pricey closer option, I think Pagán might receive slightly more of those opportunities. Pagán, who saved 20 games for the Rays in 2019, looked far more like himself after his brief injured-list stint last summer, and Pomeranz might be equally valuable continuing to pitch in a variety of high-leverage situations.

In time, I could see trade-deadline pickup Austin Adams also getting late-game chances. Some team officials think he can be just as effective as Trevor Rosenthal, who blew away hitters last summer and now seems likely to sign elsewhere.

This news might be a surprise to people since Pomeranz’s ADP is at 255 while Pagan’s is at 480.

Phillies

Spencer Howard will be on the slow track to being a full-time starter.

As for Howard, the Phillies are speaking in broad tones about how he’ll be deployed. They might put him on a slower track because his innings will be capped.

“There’s a lot of different alternatives: skipping starts, pitching out of the bullpen, shortening starts,” Dombrowski said. “But we haven’t really come up with what we’re trying to do as of yet, and it’ll be something that we do prior to getting into spring training.”

I’m leaning to not roster Howard at all. His usage pattern could make him unusable for a couple of months. He’s not worth being on my bench that long.

• In Japan, Matt Moore was able to maintain his 95-mph fastball.

It is a small sample size, but Moore’s average fastball velocity in those two starts with Detroit (92.9 mph) had been its highest since 2016 (93.4 mph). Moore maintained his velocity in Japan, occasionally hitting 95 mph on the radar gun.

Moore was pretty much useless as a fantasy option since 2015. I think the best option would be to only roster him at the end of a draft-and-hold league where all the players are horrible or in a waiver-wire league where he can be immediately dropped.





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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carter
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carter

Nice write up like always.

Earlier in the year someone (maybe you) mentioned that Donaldson was expected to play 2 out of 3 games. Sounds like a situation best to avoid, especially now that they resigned Cruz to DH.

Also regarding Crochet, I disagree. Obviously starting would be great, but that never was going to happen this year. This actually makes me like him a lot more than I did, as I thought they’d send him to AA to start. If they are building up innings that sounds like multi inning, which sounds like decisions where he is going all out for K’s. Plenty of mid relief guys had big years last year. Devin Williams was the 11th ranked pitcher, Matt Foster was 31st, Fairbanks was 51st ahead of Scherzer and Snell, Mike Mayers, Johnathan Hernandez, Diego Castillo etc etc all had very valuable seasons. Determining who these guys are going to be preseason obviously is the tough/impossible part. But if you are going to bet, you can’t get much better than a guy with potential Ace stuff who throws over 100 who releases the ball closer to home than any mlb pitcher who has a 473 adp on a team who used Sale in a similar capacity initially who they already said they are going to use to build up innings. Sounds like free money at adp.

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I think you provided ample reason not to draft Crochet. I have no doubt that he will help you WHIP, ERA and K’s (vs. other RP). But his ability to go multiple innings will limit his holds (if your league includes them) and Liam Hendricks is the one closer so his saves will be non-existant. It would not surprise me if Castillo and Hernandez get 20+ saves so they should be drafted. I can see Mayers taking the closing role from Iglesias if Iglesias pitches like he did in 2019 or if Iglesias is traded. I can see Fairbanks getting 5 saves. I can see Williams being the closer by year end if Hader continues to allow so many BB or if they feel they would rather use Hader in a multi inning role again. I can see Lucas Sims being the closer if Doolittle falters again. I can see Britton and Chad Green getting saves if Chapman goes down again.

If I have 3 closers already I would probably draft a SP before Crochet. If I had 1 or 2 closers I would draft someone who may take over as closer or get some save before Crochet. If I were punting saves I would draft Crochet and Williams if I could. I would never go into a draft intent on punting a category.

carter
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carter

Wasn’t talking about saves, or holds. Was talking about how MIRP are getting decisions on a good per inning rate which gives them a lot of value since their ratios are better. Like I showed you above, plenty of MIRP had value over starting pitchers. Remember when Hader was projected to be the 10th best pitcher in all of baseball….even WITHOUT saves, he wasn’t but that isn’t the point. To me it is a massively undervalued market. You won’t always be right, but that is the type of pitchers I personally target since I feel they are undervalued. This year I like Freddy Peralta/Crochet/Hernandez a lot. Those are the brand names, though. I am not talking about guys in the closer ADP range, I am talking about deep leagues to round out the back of your roster, not even trying to get saves. I’m looking at guys who have a good IP to W ratio, while putting up elite K/BB. Is Crochet going to be that guy? Who knows. I could envision him coming in the 5th/6th/7th in a spot vs a tough lefty in big situation and staying for 1-2IP. I think the price is right for that risk though, as he is going undrafted in 12 teamers, and some 15 teamers.

They have already said Hernandez is going to be used in Multi inning high leverage rolls, not as the closer. His price is probably a bit high as is imo for a non closer, as the whole point of this exercise is finding next years elite MIRP, not paying for one who is going for closer prices, ala Williams.

I’d be absolutely shocked if Doolittle starts out as the closer, as he isn’t even their 5th best relief pitcher. I also do not think Castillo is their closer. Rays are too smart to stick with one guy in that roll, they are going to bring their best guys in the rolls that they need.