Mining the News (10/25/21)

Free Agents

• Seiya Suzuki of Japan’s Hiroshima Carp might get posted this winter.

The Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball could make top outfielder Seiya Suzuki available to Major League teams via the posting system this winter, according to a report from Yahoo Japan. The Carp have begun taking some of the necessary steps, per the report, conducting a recent MRI for updated medical records and beginning to put together the requisite paperwork.

Hernandez quotes a big league scout calling Suzuki a “five-tool guy” and “the best player in Japan the last few years.” Sung Min Kim 김민, who’s written for both FanGraphs and The Athletic, tweets that several MLB Pacific Rim scouts have considered Suzuki the top NPB or KBO player with a realistic chance of being posted in recent years.

Suzuki is an interesting add for leagues where every player is rostered. I looked around for some projections or MLE’s and no one has any yet. Once they become available, I’ll post them here.

American League

Mariners

Shed Long Jr. has been released after having another surgery.

Until the injuries hit, he had the potential to be a 15 HR/20 SB talent. When he makes it back to the majors, he could be the ultimate buy low.

Red Sox

Chris Sale is throwing his fastball as hard as ever.

Prior to Wednesday, Sale had hit 98 mph just three times this year and just twice in 2019. In a similar second-gear situation in late August against the Twins, Sale allowed a two-run homer and came back firing with a trio of 98 mph fastballs he called his “F-U fastballs,” that he can dial up when he’s frustrated.

But his slider averaged a career-low 78.2 mph this season. Also, he threw it just 31% of the time for his lowest swinging-strike rate (14.3%) since 2016. I’m not going to project him to his peak form and that’ll probably mean I’ll probably not draft him.

Enrique Hernández was hit hard by COVID and moved closer to the plate to hit breaking balls.

Hernández is fully vaccinated but was hit hard by the virus, which kept him on the COVID-19 injured list from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7. Isolated in a hotel room in Cleveland, he was so sick he could barely get out of bed. Even after he returned, Hernández said he did not feel right physically for another two weeks.

He struggled to breathe. His brain felt foggy. His vision wasn’t right. He had trouble tracking the ball even on flips in the batting cage.

Throughout his career, Hernández has struggled to hit breaking balls. In the regular season, he is a career .196 hitter against breaking pitches, according to Statcast. But this postseason he is 7-for-10 with three homers off breaking stuff. The difference, Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers said, stems from an adjustment most hitters are unwilling to make: Hernández, just before the postseason began, moved slightly closer to home plate.

“He’s scooted up a hair, trying to get the ball maybe a hair closer to him,” Hyers said. “That little bit has helped him out. His plan, seeing the ball close to him, getting it up and not chasing the breaking ball away. He’s just not missing it right now. He has found a good move, his mechanical move. His upper body and lower body are just in sync so well. Getting the ball close to him, it’s worked for him.”

COVID did kick his butt as September was his worst month with a .665 OPS. As for the stance change, he did perform great (.408/.423/.837 with 5 HR) in the postseason, but his plate discipline improved starting in July with the September hiccup.

Month: K%, BB%
June: 25%, 9%
July: 13%, 13%
Aug: 13%, 17%
Sept: 21%, 10%
Postseason: 12%, 2%

Matt Barnes chopped off the tip of his thumb in September.

“The first four months, five months, everything was perfect. The last six weeks anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong,” Matt Barnes told Alex Speier of The Boston Globe, discussing the rough end to the season that turned the former Red Sox closer into a postseason question mark. Barnes was enjoying a tremendous season until August, when he ran into some struggles on the mound and was then sidelined with a case of COVID-19. If that wasn’t enough, Barnes revealed that he also suffered a self-inflicted left thumb injury in late September, as he sliced off the tip of his thumb while chopping peppers to make an omelet. Barnes was able to keep playing, albeit with a bandage on his thumb and what Speier describes as “a hard plastic casing inside his glove so he can catch the ball without pain.”

I love how Barnes and the team were able to keep it quiet.

Tigers

Casey Mize is looking to improve the results on his curve and splitter while hopefully throwing them more.

He pitched much of 2021 without the usual lethality in his trademark splitter — the whiff rate dropped from 28 percent to 21.9 percent, and the pitch did not have as much vertical drop as it did in 2020.

Mize did not have a true putaway pitch (despite the emergence of a very good slider). That will be the main focus of his offseason.

“I think the curveball usage needs to go up,” Mize said. “The splitter usage needs to go up. Fastball command is always something I’m gonna chase. … I think all that stuff will help me be better with two strikes.”

A lot is going on there, but he got hit hard by the sticky stuff ban with his fastball and slider losing 200 rpm from the first two months to the last two.

Tracking his Spring Training pitch metrics should be on everyone’s radar to see how much he could bounce back.

Matt Manning has a lot to solve this offseason … some made up.

But going into 2022, Manning has much to solve. We saw a fastball that can sit in the upper 90s average only 93.5 mph. We saw a curveball that was Manning’s calling card in the minors often nonexistent in his arsenal. Opponents could also hammer his changeup and developing slider.

His 16.6 percent whiff rate was one of the lowest in baseball, a puzzling problem for a 6-foot-6 righty built in the mold of a true power pitcher.

If he averaged in the high-90’s, there is a chance for a rebound. The deal is that he’s never sat in the upper 90’s. Going through his scouting reports, the best I’ve seen was sitting 94-95 mph. The rest is true since none of his pitches grade out as even MLB average. Pass until there is some improvement.

White Sox

Carlos Rodón was limited to just 90 pitches over the season’s second half while dealing with injuries.

The southpaw didn’t make a start of more than five innings or 90 pitches after July 18, dealing with shoulder soreness and fatigue.

Health remains his biggest obstacle.

Michael Kopech should join the White Sox rotation in 2022.

Moving Kopech to the rotation in ’22 was the talk before the ’21 campaign and should move forward despite leaving a void in the bullpen with his 103 strikeouts.

• Currently, Gavin Sheets has an edge for the right-field job.

Gavin Sheets would get the nod in right presently, and the left-handed power bat would be a good choice. Sheets’ story has been told numerous times: He was left off the 2020 alternate site training roster but instead of getting upset, Sheets worked diligently in the offseason to get better while learning the outfield.

Sheets should come at a discount because of the unknown playing time, but his profile is enticing especially if he can improve on his .264 BABIP.

Yankees

Jameson Taillon will be out for five to six months.

DJ LeMahieu will have an operation to fix a sports hernia.

All reports have him playing through the injury, but no one knows for how long. I wonder if it happened early in the season since his power dropped and his strikeout rate spiked.

National League

Braves

Ronald Acuña Jr. might not be ready to play until May.

When asked about his current status, Acuna said he is “maybe 70%,” and then gave more details about the next steps. “I think the plan is to start jogging maybe around November and December. And you know, sort of just light activities like that, and then maybe around January or February start doing baseball activities. But that’s all (for) the trainers (to decide).”

When asked about whether he would be back in April or May, Acuna again deferred to the team’s medical staff. “If the trainers say May, then May. If the trainers say April, then April. So really, whatever the trainers and doctors and team medical staff say.”

And this quote is from the player who is always more optimistic.

Brewers

Luis Urías improved his offseason routine along with a new stance learned in Spring Training.

Urías changed his mechanics while working with hitting coaches Andy Haines and Jacob Cruz from the early days of spring training in 2021. He started squaring up his shoulders and better using his lower half, which helped him get the ball in the air more often and with hard contact. His 9.2 percent barrel rate was better than Escobar, Justin Turner, Yoan Moncada and Nolan Arenado. Of Urías’ 23 home runs, 13 were labeled by Statcast as “no-doubters,” meaning they would’ve left every major-league ballpark.

Last winter, Urías didn’t play winter ball because he wanted to stay healthy and focus on building strength. Over the course of the season, he developed a better routine, he said, by watching players such as Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader.

He made huge strides across the board with career bests in groundball rate, walk rate, Max Exit Velocity, ISO, and wOBA. And all that while stealing a few bags (5 BB). With his multi-position eligibility (over 20 games at second, third, and short), I could see him on a ton of my rosters.

Keston Hiura had a procedure to clean up his elbow and could become a utility player with time in the outfield.

And infielder Keston Hiura will have a minor procedure to clean out some loose bodies in his throwing elbow.

Stearns said Hiura could shift into a multi-positional role next season depending on the makeup of the team, including some play in the outfield.

“I think there’s a skill set that can play out there,” Stearns said. “I think he can catch fly balls. So, that’s not something we’ve dug deep into, but as we look towards potential multi-positional players, that’s probably something that we’ll talk about as we go forward.”

Maybe at some point, he can learn to make contact with a baseball.

Mets

Carlos Carrasco had surgery to remove a bone fragment in his elbow.

Carlos Carrasco’s troublesome year took another turn this week, when the Mets pitcher underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment from his right elbow. The team said in a release that Carrasco “will resume baseball activities later this winter,” while a person with knowledge of the procedure indicated the right-hander should have no trouble being ready for the start of Spring Training.

That same source said that Carrasco had been aware of the bone fragment for some time, but he wanted to try to pitch through it after losing the first four months of the season to a right hamstring tear.

Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. will not have elbow surgery.

Tatis has partially dislocated his shoulder at least five times this calendar year, with each recurrence fueling speculation he would require surgery after his season was done. The infielder, meanwhile, has publicly maintained the opposite preference.

“I haven’t sat down with (Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller) and the doctors, but I feel like everyone’s in a positive way about not taking the surgery,” Tatis said Oct. 1. “I feel like I’m in a great spot, my shoulder’s in a great spot and I’m very secure in where I’m at right now.”

… Dr. Brian Lee, an orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, said the likelihood of continued shoulder instability after two instability episodes is “upwards of 97 percent.”

I don’t know how far he’d have to fall for me to be interested in rostering him. I understand the upside, but there is a chance he eventually needs surgery and could be lost for the season.

Phillies

• The team is likely to non-tender 2021 contributors Ronald Torreyes and Odúbel Herrera.

From this group of nine, the Phillies could non-tender as many as five players. It does not mean they will, but they could choose to forgo the arbitration process and let Herrera, Torreyes, Jankowski, Quinn and Knapp walk.

While not applicable to most leagues, the pair are no longer worth adding in deep draft-and-hold leagues.

Reds

Kyle Farmer played through a second-half sports hernia.

Through most of the second half, Farmer kept performing at a high level despite playing with a painful sports hernia.

Jose Barrero could be moved to center field.

Farmer will have to compete against rising star Jose Barrero to continue as the regular shortstop. Barrero, who turns 24 next season, has been groomed to be the club’s future shortstop but also showed last month that he could play center field. If Barrero becomes the regular center fielder, Farmer could return to shortstop.

Or Farmer could return to being a utility player.





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

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evo34
6 months ago

Not updated for 2021 yet, but looks legit:

http://www.claydavenport.com/ht/SUZUKI19940818A.shtml