Mining the News (11/5/21)

American League

Mariners

• Even if healthy, Evan White might start the season the minors.

1B Evan White (signed through 2025, club options for ’26, ’27, ‘28)

White’s recovery from left hip surgery in July will be one of the biggest storylines entering Spring Training, especially given that Dipoto wasn’t sure if the 25-year-old would be 100 percent healthy by then. Given his $24 million contract, Seattle is invested in his future. But his spot at first isn’t necessarily written in ink like it was after he first signed that deal — and the Mariners won’t have any hesitation playing him at Triple-A Tacoma if his bat needs more work.

Rangers

Taylor Hearn is a lock for the rotation.

The southpaw started the season as a bullpen arm and eventually transitioned to a starter after the Trade Deadline. His final ERA of 4.66 doesn’t tell the full story of how truly solid he was down the stretch. There’s no doubt he’ll open 2022 as part of the Rangers’ rotation.

He tinkered with his pitch mix throughout the season, but as a whole struggled as a starter (5.82 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 1.29 WHIP, 5.01 xFIP).

Rays

Kevin Kiermaier had offseason knee surgery.

Yonny Chirinos had a setback in his return from Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready until May, at the earliest.

Yonny Chirinos, 13 months into his rehab from Tommy John surgery, fractured his elbow while throwing live batting practice in late September. He underwent surgery Sept. 30 to have a screw installed, though with reassurance that his repaired ulnar collateral ligament was not damaged.

The best-case scenario is for Chirinos, with no other issues or setbacks, to resume playing catch during spring training, make it to the mound before camp breaks and be ready for game action in a rehab assignment in late April or May as he works his way back.

But fractures of the medial epicondyle, a bone on the inside of the elbow connected to the UCL, can be tricky.

Maybe he’s worth a 40+ round pick in a draft-and-hold … maybe.

Red Sox

Jarren Duran will mostly likely start next season in AAA.

I’m not sure Duran is ready for a full-time job in center yet unless he takes a huge step forward in the spring, and even then, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in spring training performances. In talking with Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham last week, it sounds like they’re hoping to give Duran more time at Triple A, especially defensively.

Triston Casas could take over at first base if Bobby Dalbec struggles.

Right-handed-hitting first baseman Bobby Dalbec, who had an up-and-down rookie season, could be a logical trade candidate. Keep in mind that Triston Casas, who also plays first base and is the team’s No. 2 prospect, could be ready to help the big league club by midseason.

I liked Dalbec as a deep first base option, but I may temper my expectations in draft-and-hold or best ball formats where there is no waive wire. If he struggles, he could end up in the minor or on the bench putting up big zeros.

Garrett Whitlock will move to the rotation next season.

Whitlock was a stalwart in a bullpen with many moving pieces. The 25-year-old had never pitched in relief entering this season, but the Red Sox wanted to ease him into the majors after he jumped straight from Double A and hadn’t pitched in two years because of 2019 Tommy John surgery. Whitlock has said he’s more comfortable starting, and it seems like the transition will happen at some point.

I’m not going to bet the house on him making that move to the rotation, but the news does raise some doubt about him being the backup to Matt Barnes. Draft the pitcher and hope the role works itself out.

Royals

• The Royals doubled down on Adalberto Mondesi playing only 120 to 140 games at most next season.

“They’re in a similar category athletically,” Picollo said. “But Tyreek plays once a week. The chances of Tyreek getting hurt with his quick-twitch fibers are less. With Mondi trying to play 120-140 games, it’s hard.”

• Mondesi and Hunter Dozier are going to see the hitting coach who turned around Salvador Perez’s career.

The Royals also want Mondesi to spend a week, at minimum, with special assignment hitting coach Mike Tosar in Miami.

Hunter Dozier, who is set to visit Tosar this offseason as well, would slot in at first or as the designated hitter.

Tigers

Derek Hill had offseason surgery to clean up his knee.

All that said, Hill had three separate IL stints and had a clean-up knee procedure last week. He didn’t stay healthy long enough to truly peg a role for 2022. But when he was on the field, Hill was fun to watch and looked much like the player the Tigers thought they were drafting back in 2014.

If Hill starts, he’s a sneaky stolen base option (6 SB in 150 PA in 2021, 21 in AA in ’19, 35 in high-A in ’18)

Twins

Royce Lewis had ACL surgery in Febuary and is still not running at 100%.

Sidelined for the entire 2021 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in February, Lewis finally returned to the field when he appeared in the last two games of the team’s Instructional League camp in mid-October.

Though he was cleared medically in late August, Lewis has yet to let it loose when running. Lewis estimates he’s only run at 60-70 percent of full strength. He said the focus of what is expected to be a normal offseason training program is to continue getting comfortable running. Lewis has to reach a point where he trusts his knee in game action and twisting it while running the bases.

Yankees

• There is a chance that Masahiro Tanaka could rejoin the Yankees.

Could you see the Yankees looking to bring back Tanaka?
— Dovid F., Brooklyn, N.Y.

I could. Masahiro Tanaka decided to return to Japan after the 2020 season, a decision spurred at least in part by off-field concerns, but I don’t sense that any of those issues revolved around playing for the Yankees or in New York. By all accounts, Tanaka genuinely enjoyed his time with the Yanks — had there been no pandemic, I suspect he might still be on the roster. If Tanaka is ready to return to the Majors, the Yankees should be the first team he speaks with.

Aaron Hicks is penciled in as the centerfielder after missing 2021 with wrist surgery.

If Hicks is healthy, and Cashman has said that he should be all the way back from left wrist surgery by December, then I expect him to be the Yankees’ center fielder.

National League

Diamondbacks

Geraldo Perdomo reworked his swing with some great results.

A reworked swing helped turn Perdomo’s season around, and he looked like a different player when he was called up on Sept 26. If the D-backs feel he’s ready to play every day in 2022, it could increase their desire to move Ahmed this winter.

In AAA, his monthly OPS went from .408 to .531 to .564 to .206 to .870 to 1.103 and hit .333/.417/.571 in 21 September plate appearances. A must roster in draft-and-holds.

Giants

• For now, Sammy Long is penciled into the rotation.

Long experienced ups and downs after making his Major League debut in June, but he should have an opportunity to compete for a starting role next spring given the number of vacancies in the Giants’ rotation.

Marlins

Lewis Brinson is out of options. He either has to stick with the major league team or be exposed to waivers.

Sierra, a reserve outfielder who is arbitration-eligible for the first time, was out of options in 2021. Brinson is now in the same boat.

Miguel Rojas played with a fractured finger for most of the year and might need surgery.

A National League Gold Glove Award finalist in 2020, Rojas ranked third among MLB shortstops with 10.3 Defensive Runs Above Average per FanGraphs in ’21. He also set career highs with 30 doubles, 37 walks and 13 stolen bases despite playing with a fracture in his left index finger since mid-June. Rojas was scheduled to visit the doctor later Thursday to determine whether surgery would be necessary.

I never heard about the finger not healing. Before the injury, he was hitting .274/.355/.429. After the injury, he hit .259/.302/.372

Mets

Jacob deGrom topped out at 98 mph in September.

That is what deGrom is doing now. At home in DeLand, Fla., deGrom made plans to begin his offseason catch routine on Monday, as he does every Nov. 1. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner didn’t feel any abnormal soreness during bullpen sessions in September, even after he cranked his fastball up to 98 mph — all positive signs for a bounce-back 2022 season.

This is far from great news. In every game this season, his fastball at least averaged 98-mph. Most times when a person is touching a velocity, they average 2-3 mph less. He is far from being cleared to be “healthy”.

Taijuan Walker’s up-and-down season can be linked back to some inseason pitch mix changes.

“He threw more two-seamers (in his final start against Miami), which led to some success in the first half,” Hefner said the last week of the season. “It’s a little bit of pitch mix stuff. That’s his last start so he could empty the tank so to speak. That’s not really anything we did with him. That’s the vibe I got from him, that he didn’t have to conserve anything because now he’s done.”

Walker maintained throughout the second half that he was not fatigued as he blew past the number of innings he threw in recent years. Indeed, his velocity was actually up in the second half on his four-seamer, slider and splitter. But perhaps fatigue helps account for the changes in his repertoire, as he moved away from the two-seamer and his breaking balls to lean more heavily on his four-seamer and splitter, each of which was hit harder in the second half.

His struggles started when he threw the sinker (6% SwStr%, 54% GB%) more. Here are is xFIPs by month.

Month: xFIP
Apr: 4.15
May: 3.68
Jun: 3.49
Jul: 6.15
Aug: 5.38
Sep: 4.40

While his sinker isn’t horrible, none of his non-fastballs produce league average results so he needs to throw his four-seamer (10% SwStr%, 23% GB%) for strikeouts.

Pirates

Ke’Bryan Hayes dealt with hand and wrist injuries all year.

A strained left wrist kept Hayes out of the lineup until early June. In August, he bruised his right hand when he slammed his helmet in the dugout after a strikeout. In late September, his left wrist acted up again — the cyst, doctors later determined, is the culprit — and he was shut down.

“This year, it was all about just getting through it,” Hayes said. “I was dealing with (the injury) the whole time since the All-Star break. I’m not worried about it at all. Next year, I know I’m going to drive the ball once I get this figured out and get my legs back under me. I’ll be fine.

Hayes was examined by two specialists after the season. The Pirates have not revealed the results of those exams, but Cherington last week did not sound any alarms. “Every piece of information we have right now leads to us being very optimistic about his recovery, about this not being something that gets in the way of his offseason, certainly not into spring training or next year,” Cherington said.

Hayes struggled at the plate with a sub-.700 OPS with his average exit velocity down ~3 mph.





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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walt526member
6 months ago

Great, helpful article as always. Just wondering: is there going to be a new edition of The Process this year? Will it be a full book or will you do what you did last year?

walt526member
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Zimmerman

Awesome! Added to the Christmas list.