Mining the News (11/11/20) by Jeff Zimmerman November 11, 2020 General • Many hitters might wait to sign until the National League has said yes or no on the designated hitter. Ozuna, who turns 30 on Thursday, is not strictly a DH. His agent, Melvin Roman, is marketing him as a left fielder who started 21 games in the outfield last season and was fully recovered from the shoulder surgery he underwent in October 2018. Braves coaches say Ozuna worked hard to strengthen his arm in his one season with the club, throwing every other day during summer training camp. With continued work, they believe his throwing can be average, his play in the outfield serviceable. A rival executive was less convinced, saying, “He is a DH. If I was his agent, I’m not doing anything until I know the rules. I might have 30 suitors. Or I might have 15.” An agent for another free-agent position player agreed, saying, “If there were certainty with the DH, I believe everyone’s market would be enhanced.” In a year with so many unknowns, early drafters might have to wait to find out who is playing where and what role they will play. It’ll be interesting to see how far unsigned players drop in ADP as the season gets closer to the March drafts. • Jerry Dipoto believes the Mariners and other teams will only allow their pitchers to throw 170 innings next season. “The one thing I’m certain of, is that the innings totals for our youngest starting pitchers — there’s only so far we’re going to be willing to go with them in 2021 as a result of this year’s short schedule,” he said. “And I think that makes us like 29 other teams in the industry. We’re not going to run starting pitchers out there for 170 innings next year. We’ll build them up more carefully.” The reports on projected innings will be all over the place with Dylan Bundy planning on taking on a full workload. I think the assumption needs to start around Dipoto’s number (even though he’s not Bundy’s GM) and as reports come in, projections can be individually adjusted. Free Agents • James McCann plans on being the primary catcher for his new team. It’s something that I feel like I’ve earned in my career. I definitely think there is a lot that goes into that — being the guy and being able to run the staff. I do feel like that’s something that I’ve earned. But like I’ve said all along, I’m not burning any bridges, and we’ll see what the next few months hold. With the catcher landscape being barren, it’s safe to go ahead and pencil in McCann in for 450 PA. • Rusney Castillo is finally a free agent. The Rusney Castillo era in Boston is officially, officially over. In 467 minor league games, he totaled a .293 average, .761 OPS and 42 homers. For the degenerates in deeper leagues, Castillo could be a late-round flier as he tries to latch on with another team. American League Angels • Shohei Ohtani is still on track to be a starter. The #Angels provided an update on Shohei Ohtani… He's been throwing for about a month. His throwing has been extended to about 120 feet, about 75-80 percent effort. Ohtani is expected to be healthy for the start of spring training and again be a two-way player. — Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) November 6, 2020 I hear and read too many Touts pinning his value on full-time at-bats. It’s not going to happen this season unless he suffers another major arm injury. Athletics • Khris Davis’s teammates saw him improving over the last couple of weeks. Bassitt wasn’t alone in this assessment. Teammate after teammate began to approach Davis as the weeks went by, all with the same message: You’re back. You’re healthy. You just need the opportunity. I’ve got two images to examine to see if the scouting was true. The first is his 40-day rolling average for ISO, BABIP, and wOBA . Davis did show some improvement in 2020, especially compared to the end of 2019. When he was productive, all three measurements intermingled. Not any more. His ISO hasn’t gotten close to his BABIP and wOBA. Now, some improvement should be expected since the A’s sat him against righties (.513 OPS in 2020 vs RHP), but the 2020 results aren’t even close to his peak from 2018 stats. Additionally, here is his monthly batted ball data. The results are all over the place with his September average exit velocity up but his max is down. To me, it seems like the decline has been halted but it’s tough to say if he’s making any gains. Blue Jays • Vladimir Guerrero Jr. plans on playing third base. “When they moved me to first base they did it because they didn’t want me to struggle that much,” Guerrero told Yancen Pujols of El Caribe (translation confirmed by Sportsnet). “You know in 2018 I had an injury in one of my knees and they’re scared of that. And that’s the reason they moved me to first base.” If true, there is a lot to unpack in this comment. First, he’ll be dual eligibility which is a plus. Second, the first base/DH spots open up for Rowdy Tellez to have full-time at-bats. Finally, Travis Shaw will head to the bench, especially the Jays add a legit center fielder and one of the other outfielders moves to DH. • Also, Guerrero blew off training between the Spring and Summer camp. Guerrero also spoke about how the months-long delay of the season affected his conditioning, saying he was in shape for the first spring training but struggled heading into the second one, confirming he was not physically prepared to play this past summer once the league got the go-ahead to begin. The lack of effort might explain why he showed none of the expected growth for a 21-year-old. Mariners • The Mariners plan on using a six-man rotation in 2020. A few days after the season ended, general manager Jerry Dipoto was more concrete about that plan in an video news conference. “For our starting rotation, we’re very likely to run out a six-man rotation again, because we think with the limited number of innings we were able to throw in 2020 that we’re putting our players in a position to be healthier, stronger,” This quote along with the 170 innings one from earlier in the article has me a little sour on Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justus Sheffield. Their upside is limited. • Kendall Graveman is returning to the Mariners bullpen. Graveman spoke confidently about his ability to adjust and let his stuff play up during shorter outings. The right-hander also spoke about shortening his arsenal. He plans on focusing on what works best and sticking with a couple of his strongest pitches, probably a heater, change, and curve primarily, though he also spoke about working in a two-seamer on occasion as a way to vary the look from the fastball. There is some sneaky closer potential here for two reasons. First, Graveman was respectable as a reliever with a 3.60 ERA. Second, the rest of the bullpen was a disaster. A complete mess. The Mariners could sign someone else to close, but it would not surprise me one bit if Graveman started the season as Seattle’s closer. Orioles • Trey Mancini’s Spring Training return is still on track. Since Mancini had a malignant tumor removed from his colon in March, both he and the Orioles have consistently expressed confidence he would return to the field in 2021. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic complicates those goals, given that Mancini is considered immunocompromised. But his recovery has gone according to plan otherwise, with no setbacks … While he’ll need the strength to compete, it is not 100% ensured. He’ll have to weigh the effects of catching COVID-19 with his weakened immunity. White Sox • Must read. Garrett Crochet is now healthy and there’s a bunch on him. “I was kind of sore just like leading up to the game,” Crochet said. “I felt like I just hadn’t been recovering well because I felt like I was thrown into the mix pretty quick and tried not to really speak out of turn. I didn’t want to feel like they were going to have somebody else do my job. So that was a little selfish on my part, not really speaking up a little bit more. … He feels discomfort-free after taking time off and underwent tests this past week at Camelback Ranch to set up an offseason throwing program. … At Schaumburg, Crochet talked about working on the visual effect of his fastball, trying to get it where it was more of a true backspin and get a little more vertical ride action so he could pitch more up in the zone. Crochet added that his spin rate already showed he would be able to, but he was kind of tweaking some little things mechanics-wise. … Crochet will be focused on improved fastball command to pair with his velocity jump and better usage of his changeup to give him a third pitch. I “stole” just four useful quotes from the article but there are a ton more. Go and read the whole thing. Crochet is healthy and seems to have the drive to improve his game. It’s nice to see that dedication level early in his career so when his skills start to deteriorate, he can adjust. His role is a little up in the air, but reading between the lines, in 2021 he’s headed to be a major league long reliever with the hope that he’ll start in the future. Other options are to be a high-leverage arm or go to minors to stretch out to be a starter. I find it interesting that he felt he couldn’t speak up about being off. I’m not sure that will change once the Legit Hall of Famer takes over as the manager. National League Cardinals • Lane Thomas had limited production because of his bout with COVID-19. In 2020, he tested positive for the coronavirus and struggled heavily when he returned. He slashed .111/.200/.250 in 40 plate appearances, and there were times he didn’t look all that comfortable at the plate. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said that COVID-19 might have affected Thomas more than it did other players. If that’s true, the Cardinals probably want to find out what he can do for them when he’s healthy before giving another team that opportunity. How that looks will depend on how the Cardinals’ roster looks next year. Right now, Thomas projects as a fourth outfielder, with production guiding his playing time. It seems like he’ll get another chance with the Cardinals. After the Cardinals’ recent debacles trading away power bats (Voit and Arozarena), they may wait a bit and see what they have in Lane. Diamondbacks • Merrill Kelly 켈리 is still on track to return next season. Right-hander Merrill Kelly, who underwent surgery in September to address thoracic outlet syndrome, said his recovery process has gone “way, way easier than I could have ever imagined.” … Though he hasn’t yet picked up a baseball since the surgery — he said he likely will begin throwing later this month — he is optimistic that everything will go smoothly when he does. I wouldn’t count on him until he actually takes the mound.