Mining the News (10/30/23)

Note: I’m reading through some articles on certain players that were published right before the season ended and I didn’t have time to process them at the time. I know the articles are dated but the info is still useful for next season.

American League

Athletics

Ken Waldichuk believes he can come back next season with better velocity and control.

Even with my [velocity] being down this past month, I think if I come back with better stuff next year, I think I’ll see some success.”

One area Waldichuk will look to improve for next season is limiting walks. Entering Friday, his 4.5 walks per nine innings was fifth-worst in the Majors this season among pitchers with at least 130 innings.

“Being in the zone is the biggest thing,” Waldichuk said of his takeaways from the season. “Know how to attack guys and figure out what they’re looking for based on reading them and knowing what to throw them based off that.”

Mariners

Ty France has not had his swing for 1.5 seasons.

“I think a lot of it’s just, mechanically, I just haven’t really been able to find my swing since the All-Star break last year,” France said. “I’ve been trying to find it, but yeah, it just hasn’t been able to happen.

“It’s kind of hard not to get frustrated when you have such high expectations for yourself and have proved that you’re capable of competing at the highest level, and you go out there every day and it’s just not there.”

How the hell does that happen?

Orioles

• Jake Rill of MLB.com thinks the team will settle on a single closer next season.

The Orioles withstood the loss of Bautista by using various relievers in the ninth inning — mostly All-Star righty Yennier Cano and lefties Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez — while playing the matchups. But the club would likely prefer to have a set closer in 2024.

Perhaps that could be the 29-year-old Cano, who had a 2.11 ERA over a team-high 72 appearances in his breakout rookie season. Righty Tyler Wells and lefty DL Hall could also be candidates, although neither has a defined role at the moment and either could wind up as a starter.

Rangers

José Leclerc wasn’t 100% healthy after Spring Training.

“When we left spring training, I just don’t think he was 100 percent,” says manager Bruce Bochy. “He had his neck thing going on … We stopped him from pitching in the World Baseball Classic because we didn’t think he was completely healthy. We needed him to be our closer. You could see it with his command, his stuff, gradually getting better and better and better. Now you look at the end of the year, he’s throwing the ball like he did … when he was throwing well — the velo, the breaking, the change-up.”

There’s some evidence to support Bochy’s assertion. Leclerc’s four-seam fastball averaged 94.2 mph in April, and by September, it was up to 96.6 mph. All of his other pitches (except his sinker) ticked up accordingly.

The velocity gain was quite impressive.

Rays

Zack Littell’s season turned around when he added a sweeper.

An expanded repertoire — “I have five pitches now, as opposed to the three I had before” — was also part of the equation. Augmenting the enhanced pitch mix was a move from the third-base side of the slab to the first-base side of the slab.

“He added the sweeper,” explained Tampa Bay pitching coach Kyle Snyder. “He added a two-seamer. The cutter… we moved him all the way over to the glove side of the rubber to allow his release point to be somewhat à la Oliver Drake. That allowed his stuff to remain in the zone longer.”

Littell began throwing a sweeper around the All-Star break — this a few months after the Rays claimed him off of waivers — in part because efforts to improve his old slider weren’t bearing fruit. Snyder suggested the new grip, told him to throw the pitch as hard as he could, and the rest is history. It’s become one of his best pitches.

In the first half, he posted a 6.03 ERA (3.78 xFIP) and a 3.57 ERA (4.25) in the second half. In all fairness, he was just unlucky in the first half with a .367 BABIP and 66% LOB%. His talent is around a 4.00 ERA pitcher.

Red Sox

Chris Sale thinks he’s fine with a 91 mph fastball.

“I think more so than anything, it’s just not doing too much,” Sale said. “I said it to (pitching coach Dave Bush) tonight when I got done, ‘If I’m out there with my best stuff, use it. If I’m out there with my worst stuff, use it.’ Not trying to do too much with whatever the day brings. If it’s 98, it’s 98. If it’s 91, it’s 91. Don’t try to do too much, stay within yourself and use the weapons you have that day. And over my last few starts, I was able to do that.”

Here is the velocity decline.

Sale wasn’t bad or good with a second-half 3.92 ERA (3.85 xFIP) with the velocity decline. His stats are similar to previously featured Littell who is going 200 picks later.

Current NFBC ADP
Sale: 189
Littell: 378

Nick Pivetta added a “whirlybird”.

Pivetta: “I honestly don’t look at that all that closely. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I get natural ride on my fastball. I can throw a 20-inch curveball that moves at 3,000 [rpm]. I picked up a whirlybird that is above average. I’ve been able to work on my cutter-slider. It’s really just about getting my body in the right position to allow my natural ability to take over.”

Laurila: When exactly did you add the sweeper?

Pivetta: “I had a conversation with Chris Martin about it when we were in Cleveland [in early June]. We played catch with it in the outfield and I threw some in my next relief appearance.

“So, I have two different sliders now. I have my cut slider — my harder slider — and then I have the one that registers as a sweeper. I call it a whirlybird, because that’s what everybody is calling it.”

While the sweeper showed up in his May 28th game, Pivetta didn’t start using it regularly on July 2nd and threw it 11% of the time in September. Here are the pitch’s comps.

The pitch helped turn his season around as seen by his monthly xFIP.

Month: xFIP
Apr: 4.58
May: 4.80
Jun: 4.21
Jul: 2.31
Aug: 3.54
Sep: 2.69

Royals

Daniel Lynch IV made an Arizona Fall league start and plans to throw in the Dominican Winter League.

“I’m going to go and try to get some innings in the Dominican Winter League, so I just stopped by here to get a game in,” said Lynch, who allowed a run on four hits and one walk while striking out five over three innings. “I’ve been throwing live at home, just to get a game so I’m not going straight into there without throwing at all. Just a little tuneup. I figured this was an easy, controlled environment with good competition to get ready for it.”

Lynch threw 49 pitches, 28 for strikes. He was able to mix in all four of his pitches effectively, getting a pair of strikeouts with his slider, two on his changeup and one with his curve. He cranked his fastball up to 95 mph in the first inning and was largely sitting 93-94 mph over his first two frames before fatigue took a tick or two away in his third and final inning. The lone run came on a solo homer by No. 12 Padres prospect Jakob Marsee in the first.

According to this video (0:53) he plans to, “Put on a lot of weight. Put on hopefully some good muscle.”

BEEFCAKE!!!!!!

Twins

Alex Kirilloff’s shoulder surgery was “less invasive” than anticipated.

White Sox

• Around early August, Yoán Moncada’s back was finally healthy.

Since Aug. 8, Yoán Moncada has been one of the White Sox top hitters.

That fact should not be surprising for a talented switch-hitter capable of hitting 25 home runs, hitting over .300 and drawing more than 80 walks in a single season as he has done previously. It’s also not surprising how Moncada’s highly bothersome back issue started to get better just under two months ago when this hot streak developed.

“There was a moment in the season when I thought my season was done,” said Moncada through interpreter Billy Russo. “But I never gave up, kept working, did the exercises from the trainers that they gave me. Thanks to that I was able to come back.”

“I really believe the injury affected him,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “It just didn’t affect him while he was hurt. It affected him while he was trying to come back and play. The first time around, he was still hurting to the point where I had to protect him against left-handed pitching, and then little by little that thing just started going away.”

Before the injury, he was hitting .216/.264/.338 and .288/.333/.492 after it.

Yankees

Carlos Rodón may have chronic back problems according to his doctors.

The left-hander got hurt in his first spring training start on March 5, dealing with forearm tightness that held him out the rest of camp. Then the Yankees revealed that a back injury had halted the progress of Rodón’s rehab. At the time, Rodón said doctors told him the injury was chronic, though it wasn’t a problem again for him the rest of the season.

National League

Brewers

Garrett Mitchell’s shoulder is stronger than before his injury earlier this season.

“I know physically, [my shoulder] is stronger than it was before the injury,” Mitchell said. “I’ve passed all the tests. I feel good. I’m confident about all the stuff that I’ve done.

“I’m going out there with no thoughts about what’s happened in the past or what could happen in the game. I’m just going to go out there and be a baseball player and compete.”

Cardinals

Masyn Winn wants to bulk up before next season.

“I usually drop about 10 or 15 pounds a year, so I want to come in pretty heavy next year and hopefully keep it on throughout the year,” said the 5-foot-10 Winn, whose Cardinals thumped the rival Reds, 15-6, on Saturday at Busch Stadium. “I showed up [to Spring Training] at 185 [pounds], so I want to show up at 190 to 195 next year. I think it’s healthier for me over a full season. I mean, if I can sit around 180 to 185 rather than 170 to 175, I think it’d be really good for me.”

BEEFCAKE!!!!!!

Diamondbacks

Kevin Ginkel is keeping his slider out of the strike zone.

Ginkel’s slider in-zone %
Through July: 42%
August/September: 29%
Postseason: 18%

Now, Ginkel pounds the upper part of the strike zone with his four-seamer and then buries his slider. That’s made all the difference.

His swing-and-miss rate jump up over the last two months

Dodgers

David Peralta had surgery on his arm.

Giants

Patrick Bailey wore down late last season.

As discussed by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, injury situations aren’t the only issues plaguing the Giants this late in the season. Catcher Patrick Bailey, who has caught more games this season than ever before in his career, told Slusser that at this point in the season that he is “experiencing more fatigue than [he’s] ever felt before,” a situation that’s surely factoring into the 24-year-old rookie’s downturn in performance in recent weeks. Dating back to the middle of August, Bailey has slashed a meager .174/.245/.244 with a 34% strikeout rate in his last 94 trips to the plate. Slusser adds that Bailey’s typically strong defense has also taken a hit recently, as he’s committed three errors and allowed four passed balls in the month of September.

Marlins

Sixto Sánchez and Edward Cabrera are both out of options.

Sixto Sánchez was once a highly-touted prospect but has been limited to just one inning of minor league work in the past three seasons and is now out of options.

Cabrera is now out of options and could be plausibly flipped to a rebuilding club with the ability to be patient with his development, but that would likely leave the Marlins looking for at least one free agent starter, as well as relying on Rogers or Meyer to be healthy and effective.

Mets

Jeff McNeil won’t be able to golf this offseason.

But much will depend upon his recovery. For McNeil, one of the disappointing aspects of his injury is its effect on his ability to golf this winter. Doctors have prescribed no golf for six weeks for McNeil, a scratch golfer who typically spends his offseasons playing some of the finest courses in the country. He said he will consider golfing right-handed if it means he can continue to play without risking harm.

I hope McNeil’s short game is great because I’m guessing he’s not much of a long driver.

Nationals

• The team might consider going with a six-man rotation.

Patrick Corbin, Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Trevor Williams, Jake Irvin, Joan Adon and Rutledge are all returning next year. The team had success with expanding to a six-man rotation, which it could implement again to manage innings.

Phillies

Johan Rojas will have to earn the center field job.

• There is a chance that Bryce Harper stays at first base.

Harper has enjoyed his time at first base and playing on the dirt has kept him engaged. He made mistakes, but some of those were from inexperience. He looks like someone who can play the position and play it well.

“I don’t mind giving them the option, even if (Rhys) does come back, if Rhys needs a day off,” Harper said last week. “Give them the option to put me at first base and they know, ‘Hey, we can put him there at any point and he’ll be fine.’”

Hoskins is interested in returning. The Phillies know that. The question is whether they can fit a bunch of corner outfielders and first basemen and designated hitter types onto the same roster. Maybe Harper splits his time in the outfield and the infield while Hoskins does so half as a first baseman and half as a DH. That would force Kyle Schwarber into 70 or so games as a left fielder.

Pirates

Henry Davis is expected to catch next season according to the team.

However it came together, the puzzle pieces theoretically fit. Everyone could have enough rest while allowing the Pirates to take advantage of versatility and simultaneously avoid an offensive black hole typical of that roster spot.

But it unfortunately has been a strange path from that original designation to where we’re at now, even though the Pirates insist that Davis will report to spring training in 2024 as a catcher.

“We’ve seen that he can play right field, so the preparation to catch is way more taxing in the offseason,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “The message has been to come in and prepare to catch.”

“We believe in both cases that catcher is their primary position,” Cherington said of Rodriguez and Davis. “It has been for their entire life, and they are young players who are just getting to the big leagues. We owe it to them, and to us, to find out what it looks like at that position and give them a chance to be major league catchers.

“There are years down the road the road to make adjustments, but we think it’s in the best interest of Henry, Endy and the Pirates to focus on catching going into 2024 with both of them. We believe they can do it.”

At the moment, Davis is only outfield qualified. Being catcher-qualified would be a huge boost to his value.

Quinn Priester saw a late bump up in his velocity while shifting to throwing his sinker more.

Priester has always been a ground-ball pitcher, but he’s been shifting even more to his sinker lately. Heading into the game, Priester was throwing his sinker 32.0 percent of the time and his four-seamer (which often has cutter-like spin) 20.3 percent of the time. But on Sunday, he threw the sinker at a 42.4 percent rate while only throwing 11 four-seamers in 92 pitches.

And it’s not just that he’s throwing the sinker more — he’s throwing it more effectively as well. He has worked on improving his athleticism to add a tick of velocity (94.4 mph average on Sunday, up from 93.3 on the season). The pitch did not get any swings and misses, but he got eight called strikes on it and all five sinkers put into play resulted in outs.

What little velocity he gained, he quickly lost.

Jared Triolo altered his batting stance late in the season.

Over the last week-and-a-half [article date is September 23], Triolo has slightly-yet-noticeably altered his batting stance in the pursuit of power, less of a change in mechanics and more of a change in set-up. The sample size is small, but the early returns are extremely encouraging.

His ISO spiked and GB% dropped at the season’s end.

And he could end up playing second base.

Third base, Triolo’s position all throughout the Minors, is, of course, Ke’Bryan Hayes’ territory. That said, the Pirates don’t have a definitive starter at either first or second base going into next season. Triolo isn’t a natural first or second baseman, but he’s shown in a limited sample that he’s plenty capable. And as the adage goes, if Triolo can hit — and hit for power — they’ll find him a spot in the lineup.





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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Jorge Soler vs Train (UNEXPECTED)member
6 months ago

Side story: back in march, during our annual fantasy draft (dynasty after keepers lock), my friend took McNeil in the 3rd round. I said that was too early for someone who won’t hit 10 homers. We made a bet on that amount. Going into August, McNeil had 3 and I looked favored to win the under. However, McNeil then hit 7 over the next 2 months before the injury ended his season. We had a clause in the bet if he hit exactly 10 we both had to buy a McNeil jersey to wear to the next draft