Mining the News (1/2/20) by Jeff Zimmerman January 2, 2020 It’s time to empty my notes and start clean for the new year. A “Mining the News” almost came out before the holiday break, so some notes are dated but still applicable. • Nomar Mazara owners shouldn’t be counting on fulltime at-bats from him next season since he’ll likely be on the strong side of a platoon. In 574 plate appearances against southpaws, Mazara features a below pedestrian line of .231/.272/.361 to go with 15 homers, 19 double and 68 RBIs. Manager Rick Renteria expressed hope in getting Mazara going against left-handers, but as it stands now, Mazara could get the bulk of playing time vs. righties with someone such as switching-hitting Leury García facing lefties. • Wade Miley’s September struggles (16.68 ERA) were related to him tipping pitches. But he had no idea what was wrong until a former teammate sent him a text message after his final regular-season start: “Check your glove.” Miley, 33, thought he had checked everything. He maintained to reporters several times in September he was not tipping pitches. But it turned out that was exactly his problem. … Astros pitching coach Brent Strom noted two other reasons for Miley’s decline in September. Strom said Miley started “pushing” his changeup, losing effectiveness with the pitch by focusing more on location than arm speed. Miley also became too reliant on his cutter, the pitch that helped revitalize his career. • Gregory Polanco is finally feeling healthy after his 2018 shoulder surgery. Right fielder Gregory Polanco, coming off something close to a lost season due to lingering injuries related to his September 2018 shoulder surgery, is expected to be ready for Spring Training with no restrictions, Tomczyk said during a conference call with reporters. Polanco visited the Bucs’ Spring Training facility in Bradenton, Fla., last week. He is feeling good and throwing from 120 feet, and Tomczyk said the right fielder’s throwing motion is “much more in tune” than it was during a season in which he dealt with recurrent left shoulder inflammation. • If José Leclerc struggles again at closing games, don’t ignore Joely Rodriguez. One NL executive thinks the most underrated move of the winter meetings was the Rangers signing of LH Rel. Joely Rodriguez, back from the Chunichi Dragons, 1.64 ERA, 77-14 K-BB. "He 's 97-99, swing and miss, could be really good and Texas got him cheap(2 yrs.m $5M). Great work" — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 15, 2019 • Danny Santana and Nick Solak may see time in the Rangers outfield. Switching-hitting utility player Danny Santana becomes the leading internal candidate to play center, but that’s far from settled. The Rangers could look at Scott Heineman and Nick Solak at least in a part-time capacity. Leody Taveras and Steele Walker are the Rangers’ two top center-field prospects, but they will likely be at Double-A Frisco in 2020. There is a strong chance the Rangers will go outside the organization for either a veteran starter or at least some depth. The Rangers seem to feel Santana is most valuable as a utility player. Joey Gallo is not an option. He is playing in right. “We are not ruling out anything out,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “We went into this trade that if we had to go with our internal options, we would be comfortable with that. We’ll continue to explore and see what else is out there.” • Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk should begin the season in the A’s rotation but with limited innings/starts. “These are terrific talents,” Melvin said. “These are our top two pitching prospects that we got a look at last year. In the case of Luzardo, we probably made it a little easier on him. We started the piggyback thing. He knew exactly what inning he was coming in, and we knew we’d roll him out there for several innings in a particular game. A.J., I threw him to the wolves a little bit quicker, based on the needs at the time when we brought him up. But both of them are so talented and maybe as talented as guys we’ve had here in quite some time. The fact they’re both left-handed and both throw hard. They’ve got a taste of the big leagues, so they have some experience. We’re really excited about the ceiling these guys give us.” The Oakland manager added that the club might have to get creative with innings limits or spots for rest to make sure both southpaws can make through it a full season, but he expects both to enter 2020 as starters following their initial forays in the bullpen. • Gavin Lux may see time in the Dodgers outfield. Gavin Lux, corner outfielder? It could happen, according to his Major League manager. Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts said the club is considering giving its top prospect some time in the outfield at his Winter Meetings news conference Tuesday. Lux has climbed through the Los Angeles Minor League ranks as a shortstop and played second base exclusively during his 23-game run in the Majors in 2019. With Corey Seager manning shortstop and the Dodgers expecting to be aggressive with roster improvements this offseason, MLB.com’s No. 2 overall prospect might have to change positions again in order to fit his impressive bat from the left side into the Major League lineup. • Salvador Perez could see time at first base in order to keep his plate appearances up. Mike Matheny also mentioned the realistic possibility Royals C Salvador Perez could see considerable time at 1B during his return from Tommy John surgery. — Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) December 10, 2019 • Adalberto Mondesi should be ready for Opening Day. Mike Matheny says Royals SS Adalberto Mondesi is progressing in his rehab from left-shoulder surgery, which is being done in Kansas City, and that he's scheduled to be ready for Opening Day. — Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) December 10, 2019 • Shohei Ohtani’s start to the season still might be “delayed”. Billy Eppler said they are considering various options for Shohei Ohtani this season, including "delaying him a little bit." The #Angels are going to keep a close eye on Ohtani's innings in his first season after TJ surgery. Hence the need for durable pitchers like Bundy-Teheran — Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) December 22, 2019 • Joe Ross and Austin Voth are both out of options and will need to stay on the MLB roster or clear waivers. The Nationals now will toss out those performances. The team’s fifth starter when the season opens will have more to do with their pitching this spring than those numbers. The Nationals need to handle the situation carefully because they will need to keep whoever isn’t in the rotation between Ross and Voth on the major league roster anyway. Optioning a player even at the beginning of the season means they must clear waivers. So for the pitcher who isn’t the No. 5 starter, it likely means a transition to the bullpen. • Gio Urshela is likely to start at third base for the Yankees because he has no options remaining and Miguel Andújar still does. Andujar and Urshela seem likely to compete for at-bats this spring, though Cashman has previously called the hot corner Urshela’s position to lose. Andujar has minor league options remaining if he shows signs of rust in Florida; Urshela is out of minor league options. • Cavan Biggio could gain eligibility at several positions including outfield. Defensively, Biggio had long been thought of as a potential super-utility player due to his ability to play in the infield and outfield. But in 2019, he played the majority (735.1) of his 835.1 big-league innings at second base, with additional innings spent in right field (61), first base (33) and left field (six). He also made four starts at DH. And while the team is still set on giving Biggio plenty of reps at second, we could still see him move around the diamond in 2020. Earlier this offseason general manager Ross Atkins floated the idea of seeing him spend some time in centre field, too. • Lance McCullers Jr. talks about finishing up his rehab process. I finished my rehab in November. I finished facing hitters down in Florida. I was throwing a fastball, changeup, curveball — all my stuff. Got back up into the low 90s [mph]. I’m probably splitting pubic hairs but his fastball has sat in the mid (94.2 mph for his career), not “low 90s”. While he may get the velocity back, it’s tough to know how effective he’ll be with a 91-92 mph offering. • Ryan Mountcastle is expected to be called up a couple of months into the season once the Super-2 date has passed. Austin Hays is penciled-in as the starting centerfielder. And Mountcastle will be starting games for the Orioles in 2020. The questions concerning him are when and where. I don’t think the Orioles are planning on having Mountcastle start the year in the big leagues. They’ll say it’s because he can use more time in the minors to work on his defense. That is true. But, given the Orioles’ situation and how far they are away from contending, it makes little sense to start his service-time and arbitration clocks. The guess is you’ll see him in late May or early June. I’m sure any defensive problems will be fixed by then. • The Royals noticed an issue with Maikel Franco and hope they can fix it. While we’re discussing Franco, the Royals also did their homework on Franco’s hitting mechanics, which had changed this past season. In the demotion story, Gelb wrote: “The Phillies asked Franco to stop hitting the ball on the ground. He is slow and blessed with a powerful swing. But the result was an infield popup rate (23.7 percent) that was higher this season than any other hitter with at least 200 plate appearances in the majors.” The Royals, who revamped their hitting-development department late in the season with director of hitting performance Alec Zumwalt streamlining communication among hitting coaches, noticed a few oddities in Franco’s swing from his more successful seasons (2016-18) to last season (2019) in a video study session. The Royals are optimistic they can correct him. • Daniel Vogelbach might not even be a DH option in Seattle. I think based on his poor second half (when he hit .162), Vogelbach will need to win a job on the 26-man roster this spring. His options are limited. I don’t think we see him at first base at all, but there’s a chance he could win the DH job or at least slide into a platoon where he starts against right-handed pitchers, and, say Austin Nola starts against lefties. I’m just not sure. Vogey’s first half — really, his first month or so — was very good. The second half was about as bad as it could be. He’ll need to show something during spring training. • A great writeup on Corey Kluber and his 2019 struggles. Read the whole thing if you’re considering drafting him but here is a snippet: That’s a very encouraging quote if some writer doesn’t go and put four particular words in italics. “His lower-body stuff?” What’s that about? To answer that question, we go back to 2018, when Kluber missed the All-Star game due to an injection to help clear up a right knee issue that was considered “not serious.” In fact, it was speculated at the time that the knee might have been what was caused his subpar performance in the 2017 postseason, when he allowed nine earned runs in 6⅓ innings. The knee seems like it needs to be managed. It’s going to be impossible to give him a full season of innings. • A great breakdown on the Astros internal fifth starter options from the Athletic. • Ten under-the-radar pitchers who could have an impact in 2020. While some beat your favorite author leagues will be starting soon, feel free to go to the NFBC and sign up for their Draft or Online Championships. Also, for those with deeper pocketbooks, the NFBC Main Events are quickly filling up.