Mining the News (12/11/23)

• Free agent James Paxton had issues with his front leg at the season’s end.

Laurila: You obviously had some really good outings this year. What tended to be the issue when you weren’t going well?

Paxton: “Honestly, just the execution of my breaking stuff. And then toward the end, my last few games, I was having trouble with my front leg. I wasn’t able to brace on my front leg, so I was kind of falling off and not being able to finish my pitches. That was nothing too serious, though. It’s already feeling better.”

Paxton’s knee started acting up on June 24th. Before the injury he had a 3.29 ERA (3.13 xFIP), 12.0 K/9, and 1.07 WHIP. After the inury, he posted a 5.31 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 1.47 WHIP. His performance decline can be seen with a drop in his fastball velocity.

American League

Angels

Luis Rengifo expects to be healthy by Spring Training.

Minasian said infielder Luis Rengifo’s rehab from a torn biceps has been going well and he’s expected to be fully ready for spring training.

Astros

• The team is “excited” about Forrest Whitley

Brown said. “I’m excited about Whitley. He’s been throwing the ball well this offseason, so all of these guys will have an opportunity, and these are legitimate guys that could potentially pitch between the fourth and the seventh inning.

Jake Meyers will get an extended chance to be the centerfielder.

One spot the Astros apparently won’t be looking to add players to this offseason is in the outfield. Astros general manager Dana Brown said as much Tuesday, telling reporters at the Winter Meetings that Jake Meyers will get a chance to be the everyday center fielder to begin the season.

That came as somewhat of a surprise considering the emergence of Chas McCormick in center field last season, but Brown maintains McCormick is an “everyday guy.”

Just going with Meyers’s career stats (17 HR, 10 SB, .235 AVG, and 664 PA), he could be a fantasy bench streamer.

Athletics

Mason Miller will pitch out of the bullpen next season and be in consideration for the closer

While speaking to reporters on Monday at the Winter Meetings, general manager David Forst indicated that Miller, ranked as Oakland’s top pitching prospect by MLB Pipeline, is likely going to enter next season as a reliever for the A’s.

“We’ve talked about putting Mason in the bullpen,” Forst said. “He’s an incredible talent. I would love to see him go out there for 30 starts. But if he’s not out there at all, he’s not helping us. So far, we haven’t been able to keep him healthy as a starter, so we’ve talked to him about trying to stay healthy as a reliever.”

with Lucas Erceg.

“I think there’s a chance that Lucas Erceg and Mason Miller compete for the position,” Forst said. “[A’s manager] Mark [Kotsay] has talked to him about that possibility. Lucas showed the stuff to pitch at the back end, but also, I think there are some opportunities out there in the free-agent market.”

• Rule 5 pick, Mitch Spence, will be considered for a rotation spot next season.

Spence, 25, posted a 4.47 ERA in 29 starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2023, with 153 strikeouts and 53 walks in 163 innings. For an A’s club coming off a campaign in which it tied the Major League record for most starting pitchers in a season with 24, Spence, who enters the A’s Top 30 Prospects list by MLB Pipeline rated at No. 23, will be right in the mix for a starting job come Spring Training.

“We’re going to give him every chance to make the team,” Forst said of Spence. “He’ll come in as a starter. There’s always a chance that if he pitches well enough and there’s not a rotation spot, he ends up in the bullpen. But we’ll give him every opportunity to make the team.”

If you want to read up more on him, Eric Longenhagen wrote him up (and all the Rule 5 picks) in this article.

Red Sox

Triston Casas and Jarren Duran are progressing through their rehab.

Royals

Vinnie Pasquantino is fully healthy.

Pasquantino is a key piece for the Royals moving forward, aiming to be a staple in the lineup and a leader in the clubhouse. For the first time in a year and a half, he’s fully healthy. Instead of undergoing physical therapy on his shoulder, he’s finally able to swing the custom golf clubs he got last spring, and a pain-free golf outing recently confirmed to him that “the surgery worked.”

Tigers

Carson Kelly is working on hitting the ball harder.

His average exit velocity dropped from 88.9 mph in 2019 to 86.8 mph in 2023. He hit 36 home runs over 248 games in 2019-21, then just nine homers over 154 games in 2023-23.

“We’re doing a swing speed program,” Kelly said. “A lot of it is not hitting baseballs. I’m hitting heavier plyo balls. It’s the size of a baseball, but it’s a heavier weighted ball. What that does is put me in a position where I can’t hit it with my arms. I have to use my entire body with my movements. That’s one thing that we’re working on.”

Twins

• The team is considering using Chris Paddack as a starter.

Though the Twins know the range of outcomes for Paddack can vary widely, the potential upside makes trusting him as a starter a risk the Twins are willing to take.

“Long and short of it, this guy’s been a very good major league pitcher,” pitching coach Pete Maki said. “Whether he killed it in his four or five outings with us or didn’t, we still expect this guy to be a guy, to be someone that we rely on to give quality innings every five or six days independent of how he did with us at the end.”

Royce Lewis will practice at shortstop in case he needs to fill in for Carlos Correa.

At the end of the 2023 season, the Twins made clear their intent to move forward with Royce Lewis as their everyday third baseman, but president of baseball operations Derek Falvey also noted at the Winter Meetings that the Twins will keep Lewis working at shortstop to keep the position in his skillset.

“You’ll see Royce playing short in Spring Training,” Falvey said. “You’ll see him playing short in early work and taking a bunch of ground balls there. We just want to make sure it stays in his mix, but we don’t think it rules it out down the line. We just have to assess that every year.”

• Best case, Jose Miranda starts the season as a short-side platoon bat with Alex Kirilloff.

Miranda will focus more on first base than on third (that’s Lewis’ job now) and will have to prove that he could, perhaps, be a right-handed platoon bat opposite Alex Kirilloff — maybe akin to the role Donovan Solano played on last year’s roster. If Gordon can find his bat again, he could be part of the answer in the outfield, whether in a corner or center.

“When [Gordon] got that run [in the past], when he got a little time, he had the ability to impact us,” Falvey said. “Unfortunately, he dealt with the injuries last year. But I think if that happens again, we can see a little bit of what we saw a couple years ago.”

• Kirilloff will focus on first base with no outfield reps.

Though Kirilloff came up through the Minors as an outfielder and maintained left field as part of his big league skillset, manager Rocco Baldelli said that the Twins will turn Kirilloff’s focus more toward first base in ‘24 and beyond.

They kept Kirilloff out of the outfield in ‘23 more for the health-related reasons that led to his offseason right shoulder surgery, but Baldelli said they simply see a better fit for Kirilloff in general in the infield — even as the corner outfield depth remains unproven, with Matt Wallner and Trevor Larnach serving as the primary options opposite Max Kepler.

Yankees

Arson Judge’s toe is no longer an issue.

National League

Cardinals

Zack Thompson and Andre Pallante worked out at Tread Athletics this offseason.

With tweaks to his offspeed pitches in mind and a recommendation from teammate Zack Thompson, Pallante flew to North Carolina shortly after the season ended and spent about a week at Tread Athletics — a sports performance facility located about 10 miles from Charlotte.

While there, Pallante, whose visit briefly overlapped with Thompson’s, utilized the training facility’s resources such as its motion capture cameras. He underwent movement assessments similar to the ones he’s had with the Cardinals to get a better understanding of where changes need to be made and how best to utilize his body’s movements.

Pitch mechanics and pitch shape were a focus.

“Once the season ended, that was a good time for me,” he said. “My arm feels healthy. I’m already at full speed. I’ve already got my baseline set. I’m out there with the intent of making those adjustments in my offspeed (pitches). … Hopefully, those changes will carry on in the beginning of this next season.”

• The team expects Tommy Edman to be the everyday centerfielder.

Marmol has always said that he thought Tommy Edman could win a Gold Glove as a center fielder if allowed to play there full-time, and those are the club’s plans for now.

Cubs

• While Christopher Morel isn’t playing at first base in the Dominican League, he is doing work at the position.

As part of his offseason program, the Cubs wanted Morel to get more exposure at first base while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Morel, however, hasn’t played there through his first 15 games with Águilas Cibaeñas. Hawkins said Morel is doing a lot of pregame work at first base.

“We’ve sent some coaches down there to work with him,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have control over the lineups, so we’ve suggested that they do some of that at first base, but it hasn’t happened yet. He’s getting a lot of pregame work in and excited about that aspect of things. Honestly, him playing third is beneficial for us as well. That’s a potential positional fit for him, too. Really, any reps he’s getting on defense are going to be great for us.”

Dodgers

Mookie Betts will be the everyday second baseman.

During an interview on MLB Network’s High Heat, Roberts casually dropped that the Dodgers see superstar Mookie Betts as the team’s “everyday second baseman” next season. While Betts — who split time between second, shortstop and right field in 2023 — was always going to get plenty of playing time at second in ‘24, Roberts’ declarations made it much more concrete.

“We both feel strongly that he’s not looked at as a utility player,” Roberts told reporters later in the day, doubling down on his stance. “Mookie is a superstar player, and I think it’s important for him to thrive and to have some clarity. I could see him play the rest of his career at second base. That excites me, and that excites him most importantly.”

Mets

Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, and Ronny Mauricio (just got injuired in the Dominican League) will compete for the third base job.

But one of them will be — or so the Mets still hope. On the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings on Monday, president of baseball operations David Stearns said definitively that the Mets do not plan to add a third baseman this winter. The job is open for one of Baty, Mauricio or Vientos to grab it.

“We will have that position covered internally,” Stearns said.

Phillies

• GM Dave Dombrowski likes Cristopher Sánchez as the team’s fifth starter (mentioned at 4:55 in interview in article).

He said he hopes Rojas can play center field every day and Cristopher Sánchez can pick up where he left off as a No. 5 starter.

Pirates

• Ben Cherington said Connor Joe and Jared Triolo are the team’s first basemen right now.

“We know Connor Joe can play there and do a good job. [Jared] Triolo got some time there at the end of the year. Obviously, [we] really like Triolo and believe he can be an important part of the team going forward, but we would like to add to the position. That market’s fairly formed out. We’re engaged in it, and we’ll see what’s there. Would obviously like to add someone to that position for 2024. Also interested in longer-term options. It’s an area of the organization we don’t have a clear [option] longer term, at least clearly right now.”

Reds

Elly De La Cruz is working on waiting for his pitch.

De La Cruz expressed his desire to play some winter ball, but he wasn’t sure that was going to happen. In the meantime, he keeps working on his game.

“It’s just been small adjustments that we’ve been doing. It’s more about staying back in the box and looking for my pitches,” De La Cruz said. “It’s really just not swinging at the pitches the pitchers want to throw and worrying about my pitches. That’s one thing I want to get better.”

Rockies

• The team expects Kris Bryant to play some outfield.





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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weekendatbidens
2 months ago

With his health back I hope Judge keeps working on his swing and isn’t complacent. Last year, he made comments about how he didn’t do any major prep for ’23 on his swing. Although he was still very dominant, the underlying plate discipline, especially the contact rates, dropped below expectations and could be considered worrying in the context of aging. It is worrying when your plate coverage trends towards Gallo.

weekendatbidens
2 months ago

Also, not good news from Twins about how they’ll use Miranda and Kirilloff.

Jorge Soler vs Train (UNEXPECTED)member
2 months ago

So I remember the MVP year he was “over training.” IDK if anything changed in those habits but I’d be more willing to bet that last year he pressed a little given the rest of that lineup was a skeleton crew. And he still played at over an 8 war pace.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jorge Soler vs Train (UNEXPECTED)
Sculpin
2 months ago

 I hope Judge keeps working on his swing and isn’t complacent.”

I just hope they keep that RF bullpen door securely latched during the game.