Mining the News (1/17/20)

I’m finally able to mine a few useful bits of information with players, coaches, and owners talking at Fan Fests and caravans.

Maikel Franco played through a hand bruise last season. When I collected information on players who played through an injury, he didn’t come up. The injury happened in early August and initially, his production suffered (.572 OPS). It bounced back in September (.703 OPS) hopefully meaning it’s not major.

Brandon Nimmo is another hitter I missed who played through an injury.

Dragging down the above numbers is Nimmo’s performance last April and May, when he played through a bulging disk in his neck.

• Also, while investigating all the hitters who played through an injury, I found this nugget on Matt Carpenter from 2017.

Carpenter sat out the Cardinals’ final three games and underwent a follow-up MRI to the one he had a month ago. The exam showed the same thing now that the doctors knew then, which is that Carpenter is dealing with inflammation and not a structural issue.

Since then, he has missed a considerable amount of time with back injuries. I just can’t pay for any kind of rebound with what seems to be a chronic injury.

• Don’t expect Fernando Tatis Jr. to slow down and be cautious.

“All the reports have been ultra-positive,” Tingler said. “I’ve been watching a lot of videos of him swinging the bat, him running, doing all his training. The group, the organization, is very encouraged about where he’s at.”

Tatis’ rookie season ended on Aug. 13 because of the back issue. He also missed the month of May because of a hamstring strain.

Tatis plays with abandon on the bases and on defense. The injuries have prompted questions about whether it’s reckless abandon. Tatis vowed in August not to change his game.

Tingler is aboard with that line of thinking.

“I’m certainly not prepared to tell him to slow down or anything like that,” Tingler said. “The way he plays the game — obviously, he has a unique ability. I’d hate to see any style change to the way he plays. I personally admire anyone who goes 100 percent and dives and goes down first [hard]. If we ever get to a point where it’s a little out of control, then we’d sit down and talk about that.”

Hopefully, he can stay healthy.

• When/if Alex Reyes returns to the Cardinals, he’ll pitch out of the bullpen.

If Reyes makes the roster, it’s probably realistic to think he’ll pitch out of the bullpen in 2020. This is a guy who — after all the hype that came with being dubbed the organization’s top prospect — has dealt with injuries for the last three years. It’s unlikely Reyes could jump from seven Major League innings over the past two years to making 30 starts.

• The Padres may come into the season with two outfield platoons as long as no one is traded.

[Wil] Myers obviously makes the roster if he’s still around (though he remains a prime trade candidate). Grisham would most likely join him, considering what the Padres gave up to land him. [Manuel] Margot has been a staple in the outfield for three seasons, even if he’s more likely to serve as a platoon bench piece this year.

That could leave [Josh] Naylor and [Franchy] Cordero competing for the final outfield spot. If you’re keeping track, that’s two right-handed hitters and two left-handed hitters alongside [Tommy] Pham. From there, a day-by-day outfield platoon might be the best guess at how the Padres split playing time.

• Even without the Rangers adding another bat, Nick Solak will start the season on the bench in a utility role.

Solak, also a second baseman, had a slash line of .289/.362/.532 at Triple-A last year.

The difference? The Rangers traded Alfonso Soriano to open up a spot for Kinsler back then. They now have second baseman Rougned Odor signed for three more years and have yet to identify a suitable alternative spot for Solak. At this point, utility player — infield and outfield — appears worth pursuing for the short term. But the Rangers have serious expectations of Solak eventually being an everyday player.

Chris Paddack (curve) and Joey Lucchesi (mystery) are working on new pitches. From the same source, Paddack will be limited to 180 innings.

Mauricio Dubón could end up in a utility role with outfield eligibility.

I also have a hunch that Dubón will wind up playing all over the field. There isn’t a lot behind him at second base and really, the center-field situation remains a huge hole after the decision to non-tender Kevin Pillar. I’m eager to see how well Dubón handles center field and how it compares to Mike Yastrzemski, Davis and whomever else the Giants acquire. If Dubón ends up being the best defender out there, who knows? That could become his primary position. I guess all of this is meant to say that I don’t believe Dubón will turn Crawford into a bench player.

Shed Long could be the Mariners full-time second baseman.

But I’d go a different route and recommend taking a long look at Shed Long. I suspect that Long will get lots of playing time at second base — which is a harder position to fill in fantasy — and very well could be leading off and providing decent offensive numbers as well as the ability to steal a few bags.

Travis Shaw reworked his swing before last season and it caused all kinds of issues.

The reason behind Shaw’s 2019 struggles, he said, was a minor swing change that ended up backfiring. Shaw tweaked his swing last offseason after receiving some advice. But when it didn’t feel right, he bailed on it midway through spring training. Except by then, the change had taken hold and he had trouble reverting back to what had worked for him during the two previous seasons.

“I was too far into it and I had practiced it so much over the offseason that I created some muscle memory in that swing,” he said. “And for some reason, I just had a really hard time getting back to where I was the two years before.”

Forrest Whitley will likely start the season in AAA.

Jeff Luhnow said there was a chance Whitley could break camp with the big league club, but that seems ambitious. He’s certain to begin the regular season in the rotation at Triple-A Round Rock and will get a chance if he pitches well. The Astros should have plenty of openings for him to get some innings at the big league level if he takes the next step.

Expect about 120 innings from Lance McCullers Jr. this upcoming season.

At the Winter Meetings last month, Luhnow suggested 120 innings would be about the cap on Lance McCullers Jr.’s season coming off Tommy John surgery. He said that “feels like the right landing spot.” Knowing McCullers, he’ll want to push as much as he can, but the team and the player have to be wise.

With Cole gone, the Astros will be counting on McCullers to be a huge part of their rotation, but they aren’t going to let him throw 200 innings. On the 120-inning limit, Luhnow said: “None of it is set in stone, but it’s reasonable to assume you might not get above those numbers.”

• Jamey Newberg dissected the Rangers roster for the Athletic. Two players who have a tenuous hold on full-time jobs are Ronald Guzmán and Danny Santana with the Rangers looking to add another bat.

Logan Webb is going to be on “less than full workload”.

• Unless there is an injury to one of the other starters, Shun Yamaguchi will not start the season in the Blue Jays rotation.

With Yamaguchi in the mix, there will be a healthy competition for the fifth starter’s spot this spring. Assuming good health, Hyun-Jin Ryu will lead Toronto’s rotation in 2020, while Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker can likely be assured starting jobs as well. That leaves one spot up for grabs.

Along with Yamaguchi, Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton are seen as the front-runners for it, with Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay and Sean Reid-Foley in the conversation as well — and to a lesser extent, top prospect Nate Pearson, who most likely will begin the year in Triple A to further his development. For the young pitchers, such as Reid-Foley or Borucki, if they do not win the job out of camp, they could be stashed in Triple A as starting depth. For Yamaguchi, it seems far more likely he pitches out of the bullpen or functions as the team’s swingman, should he not earn a spot in the rotation.

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 twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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4 years ago

So, two things: (1) Odor is going to be on a VERY short leash — if he is vomiting upon his footwear into May, Solak will take this job. (2) Gotta believe that if Yamaguchi can’t beat out that cast of characters for the 5th spot in the rotation, Toronto would be very disappointed.