Mining the News (1/29/24)

American League

Angels

Jo Adell and Mickey Moniak are both out of options.

Both Adell and Moniak no longer have options. That means the team will have to make a potentially tough decision. If they add an outfielder before the start of the season, it’s hard to envision Adell staying on the team. But with his tools, at just 24 years old, it’s hard to give up on him.

As of right now, the outfield will consist of Trout, Taylor Ward, Moniak and Adell.

Astros

Forrest Whitley is “completely healthy“.

Whitley, 26, spent the winter working out in Phoenix and said he’s completely healthy, calling the lat injury that cost him most of last season “nasty.” He’s dedicated the last several months to get that right and threw a bullpen on Friday at Minute Maid Park.

• The bullpen arms will have set roles.

Espada believes in defined roles for players — “We owe them that,” he said Saturday — and sounded like a manager who will eventually name a standalone closer. He avoided that question Saturday morning, claiming “that’s going to play itself out” when the team gets to spring training, but Hader’s salary and contract structure isn’t one given to setup men.

“We have an elite bullpen, elite three guys that could close any games at any time,” Espada said. “I will sit down, and I would like to assign roles for these guys so they know exactly how they’re going to be deployed in the game. But (like) we’ve done in the past, if it’s the eighth inning where there’s some lefties and that might be a better pocket for some guys, that might be his inning. But I would like to have an established role for these guys.”

Hunter Brown is developing a new slider and J.P. France is also adding a new pitch but it’s a secret.

To remedy it, pitching coaches Josh Miller and Bill Murphy are working with Brown to develop a new, lower-velocity slider. He will continue to throw the aforementioned hybrid pitch — but solely as a cutter. Brown tried to experiment with a sweeper slider during last season but found it difficult to keep a pitch with so much break around the strike zone.

“We’re going for something that, really, the biggest thing is the velocity change that we’re shooting for,” Brown said.

France intimated that he, too, is adding a new pitch to his arsenal, but preferred to keep it “on the low down” before eventually debuting it in spring training next month. He dismissed any notion that last season’s workload carried over into his winter, though did acknowledge the novelty of navigating a shorter winter and some slight mechanical tweaks that are on the horizon.

Blue Jays

• If the team doesn’t add a real third baseman (Falafel doesn’t count), Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger, and Damiano Palmegiani will get consideration at third base.

Martinez has always been a prospect who could slug the ball, but last year he made the necessary adjustments to refine his approach. His strikeout rate fell from 28.6 percent in 2022 to 23.4 percent in 2023. Martinez can be a 30-plus-home-run hitter for the Blue Jays but patience could be required since there is a lot of swing-and-miss potential in his game, too. As for a position, he might project long-term as a second baseman, but third base remains a bit of a puzzle for the Blue Jays, and it could be worth seeing if Martinez is a fit there.

Barger has one of the best throwing arms in the organization, so like Martinez, he should get a look at third base, in spring and potentially later on in the season, especially if Isiah Kiner-Falefa looks like he fits better as a utility bench player.

[Palmegiani’s] power bat has garnered him more attention as he’s risen through the system. On defence, the 24-year-old has primarily split his time playing first and third base. While there are question marks about his defence, he looked comfortable playing third base in 17 of his 22 games in the AFL. Palmegiani should get a look at third this spring and if he continues slugging like he has over the last year, he could earn himself an opportunity to test his bat in the majors.

Guardians

• The manager believes Triston McKenzie and Shane Bieber are “full go” come Spring Training.

Since the ball dropped, McKenzie began throwing bullpens. Once he reports to camp, he’ll have to wait to see how his coaching staff wants to handle his workload.

“Not quite sure what that’s going to look like,” Vogt said, “but as far as I know, [he and Shane Bieber] are full go.”

Rangers

• Top prospect, Justin Foscue, has been mainly working at first base.

He noted [Foscue has] worked mainly at the corners this offseason, trying to get used to positions he hasn’t played as often.

“We all know who’s playing second base,” Foscue joked about veteran Marcus Semien. “But these next couple of weeks before camp starts, I’ll just be working around first, mainly, and then obviously getting my work in at second and third just to kind of be versatile and be prepared whenever and wherever I’m needed.”

Nathaniel Lowe’s hold on the first base job got a little shaky.

Red Sox

Cooper Criswell is to stretch out as a starter.

“They want me to come to spring training prepared to be a starter,” Criswell said. “Just because it’s easier if they want to move me into a bulk role out of the bullpen or even a reliever. Obviously it’s easier to transition from a starter to a reliever rather than a reliever to a starter. So I’m going to be geared up, ready for spring training to go as a starter.”

Yankees

• The medical reports on Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodón are positive.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the internal reports on Cortes and Rodón have been positive as they begin to throw under the watch of staff members, well ahead of the official Feb. 14 report date for Bombers pitchers and catchers.

National League

Cardinals

Nolan Arenado’s back was never 100% last season.

Did it help for you to take a mental reset from baseball at that point?

Yeah, I would say so. With where we were as a team, if we were in it, I obviously would’ve tried to find a way to battle through and get through the season, but with where we were and how I was feeling, you don’t want to do this, but it was OK for me to take a break, give my body, my back a break.

Because my back never felt 100 (percent). It was a good mental break, but the physical part, it’s all combined. I think that’s what some people don’t understand, is that it’s a combined thing. If I don’t physically feel good and then I’m not playing good, then it becomes mental. Then I start to think it’s my swing, but it’s probably my back, and then it becomes this whole thing. It starts to creep on you.

Cubs

Matt Shaw has been taking most of his reps at third base.

Matt Shaw estimated that “99 percent” of his offseason reps have been at third base, a good strategy for a sharp player who wants to get to the majors as fast as possible but doesn’t have a fixed defensive position yet. But if the Cubs sign Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman — agent Scott Boras represents Bellinger, Chapman and several other prominent free agents — that path to Wrigley Field isn’t as clear.

• The manager believes Michael Busch is ready for the big leagues.

“[Busch] is a player that has essentially conquered the minor leagues,” Counsell said. “It’s time for him to get major-league at-bats. Pressure? This is how it works, right? You got to perform. The players want opportunity. He’s going to get an opportunity. Of course, there’s something attached. He’s going to have to perform.”

Giants

• Sonja Chen of MLB.com stated the following on the rotation…

When the Giants made Hicks’ four-year contract official last Thursday, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi laid out the team’s tentative rotation, with Kyle Harrison and Keaton Winn set to join Webb and Hicks. The fifth spot appears to be less certain and could be between veteran Ross Stripling and Tristan Beck.

… and gave a link to a previous article where Zaidi didn’t mention any names in the rotation.

With Ray (Tommy John surgery) and fellow veteran Alex Cobb (left hip surgery) expected to miss the beginning of the season due to injuries, the Giants had been looking to bring in other pitchers who could join Logan Webb, Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn, Ross Stripling and Tristan Beck as rotation options early in the year.

“We’ve got to have at least a couple of rotation spots where we have flexibility, whether it’s young pitchers who are optionable, whether it’s guys who can move back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said last week. “Having some flexibility there to be able to work those guys back in is going to be critical for us. It doesn’t rule out sort of adding a free-agent starting pitcher who is in the rotation from Opening Day and is a guy that we would like to get 30 starts from, but it does change the equation a little bit. It puts a premium on some flexibility.”

I rooted around on the internet and all I could find was this one mention of Ross Stripling possibly being the fifth starter.

The Giants may be done adding to the rotation now that Hicks has joined the group, which includes ace Logan Webb, top prospect Kyle Harrison (No. 20 overall per MLB Pipeline) and Keaton Winn (Giants’ No. 16 prospect). Zaidi named Ross Stripling as a possibility for the fifth spot.

Ross Stripling is adding the “Deathball” to his arsenal.

It’s not uncommon at this time of year to hear about pitchers introducing new pitches to their repertoire. Giants right-hander Ross Stripling is taking it to another level, giving his newest offering a nickname with the potential to strike fear in the hearts of batters everywhere.

“I’m throwing the ‘Deathball,'” Stripling told Ari Alexander, a reporter for KPRC 2 in Houston. “Which is essentially an inefficient spinning slider that, from my arm angle really high; if you can cut the efficiency of the spin, it basically can’t move horizontally, so the only way it can go is down. So it’s just kind of like a funky, downward, harder slider that guys from high arm angles are trying to figure out.”

Mets

Mike Vasil and Christian Scott both got invited to major league Spring Training.

Vasil, 23, and Christian Scott, 25, whom various publications tab as the Mets’ best pitching prospect, are among the minor-league players who have been invited to major-league spring training, The Athletic has learned. Like Vasil, Scott is another right-hander who has generated buzz as a potential call-up this season. While neither player will break camp with the Mets — nor will any of the team’s top prospects, for that matter — the invitations bode well for how the organization views them.

Reds

Jonathan India will play all over the field.

It could also take creativity, including India playing in unfamiliar spots. Earlier this winter, Krall noted that India could appear at first base or left field.

“He’s established himself and he’s 100 percent on what we have here as a team,” Bell said. “I think there’s been even a little more of a shift towards, ‘I am going to do whatever I have to do to be on the field and to help our team win, whatever that takes.’

“He just wants to be on the field and in the lineup as much as possible. Obviously as a second baseman, but depending on how things shake out, to be able to get him on the field as much as he wants to be and as much as I want him to be, there may be other positions that he’ll need to play.”





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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montrealmember
1 month ago

Good info . Thanks. I do have to laugh at Counsel saying Michael Busch is ready for the big leagues now…..as opposed to when ?? when he hits 30 he will be ready ? He better be ready as he is already over 26 years old. Not to mention he is projected for a low batting average and may not play against LH pitching. This is far from a significant addition but hopefully he contributes. As for the Reds since they refuse to trade India for pitching they have too many deserving players for full time play. I’m predicting one of CES, Noelvi Marte or Elly de la Cruz are sent down to AAA. Seems foolish for a young player who is ready to only play part time. But I do predict the Reds win the division.