Mining the News (10/19/20) by Jeff Zimmerman October 19, 2020 • A couple of Korean players may get posted this year. The most likely to contribute in fantasy is Ha-seong Kim who Eric Longenhagen has already written up. The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will post star shortstop Ha-Seong Kim for Major League clubs this winter, MLBTR has learned. He’d previously voiced a desire to be posted, and the team plans to honor those wishes this winter. All 30 Major League clubs will have the opportunity to bid on the infielder, who’ll turn just 25 years old next week. The other is pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang Kia Tigers lefty Hyeon-jong Yang is expected to explore offers from MLB teams this winter, Jeeho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency tweets. The former KBO MVP is wrapping up a two-year deal with the same Tigers club with which he’s spent the past 14 seasons. • In the shortened season, hitters just didn’t get the live at-bats needed to be at 100% to start the season. “There will still be individualized focuses for all the players and different opportunities to help certain guys with their swing development, certain guys with their approach development and certain guys racking up at-bats.” Zoll and the staff also want to help pitchers rack up the innings total. But as Zoll pointed out, pitchers had it easier to produce the workload needed as long they had access to “a mound and a fence.” The idea then was that the Twins wanted all of their pitchers ready for live batting practice and games, which began on Sept. 24. One concept I’ll take from this past season is that hitters need a certain number of plate appearances to get up to speed. American League Angels • Max Stassi could miss the start of next season because of hip surgery. Angels catcher Max Stassi underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip after the injury was discovered in an MRI exam at the end of the season, the club announced Wednesday. The timeline for his return is four to six months, which means he could miss the start of the 2021 season. Athletics • Jesús Luzardo started throwing a new hard slider. According to Brooks Baseball, Luzardo hadn’t thrown a slider all season, switching to a curveball in 2020 after throwing sliders a third of the time last season. But as Luzardo mentioned, this new slider bears little resemblance to the one he threw before. It registered as a curveball on the scoreboard while traveling at a much faster rate than his normal curveballs, or sliders. “It was harder,” Luzardo said. “It was later, sharper, and definitely more, like, down. So it’s kind of more of a curveball, I guess you could say. It was kind of doing a little bit of everything. It looked like a slider at times, it looked like a curveball at times. And then it looked like a cutter at times. So I’m glad that Jonah (Heim) was able to handle it back there for the most part. It seems like it’s still a work in progress and most of the pitch tracking systems label it as a curve. Blue Jays • Rowdy Tellez understands he had enough power for home runs and tried to go for more contact last season. Tellez credited maturity and a simpler approach as a reason for his improvements in these areas. “I’m too big of a player, too strong of a person to try and hit that ball a country mile every time. Just trying to be a good hitter first,” he said. His contact rate jumped from 70% to 78% which dropped his strikeout rate from 28% to 16%. He was still able to hit eight homers in just 127 PAs. Sleeper alert. • Teoscar Hernández’s tried to be more patient. But, it’s encouraging that dating back to last season, Hernández was turning things around. From July 16, 2019, through to the end of this season, 108 game sample, he hit .277/.347/.593 with 34 home runs and a 147 wRC+. He said it comes down to a more patient and selective approach at the plate. He still struck out more than 30 percent of the time this season, better than career norms, but well above league average. Sort of. His 3% point drop in strikeout rate (33% to 30%) was offset by his walk rate dropping the same amount (10% to 7%). He’s going to be a mess to evaluate. I want to see how projections handle him playing in Buffalo with his 33% HR/FB rate (21% on career) and the .348 BABIP (.310 on his career). While I trust him for some power and speed, I think his near .300 AVG was a mirage and it will drop under .250 going forward. • Jordan Romano looks to be the leading closer candidate. Last year, the Blue Jays moved him into the bullpen. With a clear role, he spent his offseason bulking up. He also moved away from tinkering with a changeup and focus on his fastball and slider. The result was a significant uptick in velocity. His four-seam fastball averaged 96.5 mph, up about two miles from 2019, while his slider was about four miles harder, averaging 89.1 mph. He also used his fastball up in the zone for much success, while his wipeout slider helped batters chase more this season, too. A finger strain suffered at the end of August derailed his year, but Romano did enough to solidify himself as a part of the bullpen next season. Perhaps even their next closer. Rangers • Elvis Andrus maybe add several position eligibilities in a utility role next season. But Woodward said Andrus could handle the transition to being a utility player, if needed. “That would be a challenge, especially since he’s never played another position,” Woodward said. “I think, honestly, the biggest thing will be the second base one, if that’s where we go, just because it’s a different — it’s on the other side of the field. Third base is very similar, you’re just a little more pull. “But I know Elvis believes he’s still the everyday shortstop, and I want him to believe that. He’s obviously got to come in and prove that, but if we happen to move him around a little bit, it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment. But I think he’ll be fine.” Red Sox • Matt Barnes is the favorite to be the closer. “I think one of the best things is when the game ends with you,” said Barnes. “It’s an awesome feeling when [Christian] Vázquez walks out or [Kevin] Plawecki walks out or whoever is catching, they walk out and the game ends with you. I think that’s a really cool interaction, a really cool feeling that you get, knowing that you’re the guy they want to lock down the last three outs of the game.” … “I have no doubt he can do it. He’s got great stuff,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “He’s got two plus pitches he can throw at any time. I think that right away we saw some games where he got in trouble with being a little wild, but when he’s throwing strikes and throwing the ball over the plate with those two pitches, he is really tough to hit and is as good as anybody. “So, no question, he has the arsenal to do it. I think he’s got the makeup to do it. We’ll see how it all plays out.” Royals • Brad Keller reworked his mechanics to improve his slider. This wasn’t a vision issue, but rather one the Royals pinpointed as a byproduct of Keller’s mechanics. When Keller would lift his knee from the ground and begin to pull the ball from his glove, his left shoulder — or “front side” — would lift up, while his right shoulder — or “backside” — would sink down. His shoulders angled so far upward that they affected his sight, and also made it difficult for Keller to replicate his release point at the same spot each time. Keller is never going to be a great strikeout pitcher without a third pitch, but he just needs to drop the four-seamer. It got fewer swings-and-misses than his sinker this season (4% vs 5%) and groundballs (53% vs 66%). He just needs to accept being a low-walk, groundball heavy pitcher who will force hitters to string together three singles to score. White Sox • Nick Madrigal might not be ready for the season’s start. Nick Madrigal had as expected his shoulder repaired. Planned procedure to stabilize the area after the separation. Recovery time can range from 5 to 6 months. He still could be on rehab program at ST. — Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) October 12, 2020 National League Diamondbacks • Merrill Kelly’s thoracic outlet surgery may not end his career like the surgery did a few years ago. That’s not to say Kelly’s return is assured, although he was given a rosy outlook after his procedure. He had the surgery last Wednesday and was already beginning his rehab process a week later. The plan is for him to begin throwing by late November or early December, which would set him up to enter spring training without restrictions. That would be quite the smooth path back, one that might be becoming more common but is hardly guaranteed. “Thoracic outlet is not considered career-ending,” said Dr. James Carr, an assistant attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Sports Medicine Institute in Florida. Carr was not part of Kelly’s treatment team but has dealt with the condition regularly as a member of the Mets’ medical staff. “But it’s definitely not as much a home run of a diagnosis.” We’ll see. The “successes” aren’t that exciting. Giants • Brandon Belt had offseason surgery. The Giants announced that first baseman Brandon Belt underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right heel on Thursday with Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wis. Belt returned home to Texas over the weekend and is expected to start physical therapy this week, though the Giants did not provide a timetable for his recovery. Marlins • Chad Wallach is in play as Miami’s top catcher next season. In my opinion, catching is the biggest question for the organization to address this offseason. The fact that Chad Wallach got the starting nod in each of the five playoff games is telling. The decision was based mainly on his ability to handle the position defensively and work with the pitching staff — more specifically, the starters. One defensive metric shines light on the decision. According to Statcast’s catcher “framing” metric leaderboard, Alfaro’s strike percentage behind the plate this year was 41.3 percent. For Wallach, it was 45.8 percent, a pretty significant jump. While that one metric doesn’t tell everything, it is one indicator. … My guess is that Miami will not give up on Alfaro and will look to help his development next year. I could see the club looking for another veteran to share the position, or they could potentially trade for an everyday candidate. I just don’t see Miami making a free-agent play for Realmuto or even James McCann, who is expected to have a big market. Yep, the 28-year-old with 165 career plate appearances and a .209/.282/.318 slash line. Padres • Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet will not require offseason surgery. The GM also reported relative good fortune concerning two starters: Neither Mike Clevinger nor Dinelson Lamet will require offseason surgery, Preller said. Both pitchers will rest for six weeks or so before beginning offseason throwing programs — a course the Padres settled on after visits with team doctors and other medical specialists. Both pitchers are expected to be ready for spring training next February. • Chris Paddack might be competing for a rotation spot next season. If the top two arms enter next season without restrictions, the Padres should have a solid mid-rotation option in Zach Davies and a wild card in Chris Paddack, who went from Opening Day starter to the only rostered player not to appear in the club’s National League Division Series. Preller on Wednesday reiterated his faith in Paddack — regaining fastball command and late life on the pitch will be key, the GM said — but some team officials believe the young right-hander should compete next season for a spot near the back of the rotation, at least at the outset. My guess is that he’ll start in the rotation to get his mojo back while the top prospects stay in the minors. After a few, the Padres will decide on his role depending on if he can keep the home runs in check. • Tommy Pham is recovering from his knife wound. Preller said outfielder Tommy Pham is out of the hospital and back at home as he recovers from surgery to address a stab wound to his lower back. “Expect a full recovery here over the course of the next three weeks, that’s kind of the timeframe,” Preller said. “It’s obviously a very scary situation. … The good news overall is that he’s doing well. He’s on his way to recovery.” Pirates • Gregory Polanco may have bulked up too much and lost some flexibility. Polanco, who turned 29 Monday, has bulked up over the past few years. During his first pro season as an 18-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, Polanco weighed 170 pounds. When he made his big-league debut in 2014, he was listed at 222 pounds. This year, he’s lean and ripped at 235 pounds. “He’s huge,” the scout said. “I think he’s gotten too big. He’s lost flexibility. I can look back in my reports and this guy was running 4 (seconds) flat to first base. Long strides. I used to joke that it was six strides and he was down there. He doesn’t run like that now.” At this point in his career, Polanco is a reserve round dart throw at best.