Mining the News (12/24/20) by Jeff Zimmerman December 24, 2020 Jayson Stark asked several people in MLB about when next season will start and most think it will be delayed. But in 2021, owners appear ready to dig in. If they can’t open ticket offices and play baseball games in front of real human beings who purchase real tickets, they’re likely to push to delay the season until they can. “The belief is, we can’t have games without fans anymore,” said one NL club official. “And we understand that in certain parts of the country, it’s going to be impossible to have fans in April.” So if it’s impossible to have fans in April, they’d prefer to wait until May. If it’s impossible to have fans in May, they’d prefer to wait until June. But even if they’re wrong and fans are permitted as soon as early April, their question is: How many fans? First, don’t get too excited about any preset fantasy draft dates. There is a good chance the start of the season will be pushed back so everyone in a draft must know that possibility. Second, players may have to go through the ramp-up and down and back up procedure again. The season could be a huge mess again with delays and an unknown start date. American League Angels • Joe Maddon thinks Jo Adell needs more time in the minors. In a videoconference Friday, Angels manager Joe Maddon suggested young outfielder Jo Adell might need more development in the minor leagues. Should they commit to sending him back, the Angels likely would need to acquire an outfielder to join Mike Trout and Justin Upton. Taylor Ward and Jared Walsh are internal options who temporarily could take Adell’s place. It’ll be interesting if Jared Walsh can carve out some playing time in the outfield. Sorry about this misinformation. • Joe Maddon expects Shohei Ohtani to be in the bullpen. Two-way star Shohei Ohtani remains on track to form part of the Angels’ starting rotation next season. Ohtani had no setbacks rehabilitating the forearm strain that ended his return to the mound after totaling 1⅔ innings over two early-season starts. “I want it to be in pen,” Maddon said of Ohtani’s place on the depth chart of pitchers. Wait … WHAT???!!! Ohtani in the bullpen. If Raisel Iglesias is the closer, Ohtani has no value as a pitcher. With the days after he pitches, he’s only valuable in daily transaction leagues. • Franklin Barreto (no options) is slotted into the Angels utility slot with Luis Rengifo (has options) headed to the minors. Minasian’s move to acquire José Iglesias at the non-tender deadline all but affirmed that David Fletcher will be the club’s everyday second baseman in 2021 — with the front office prioritizing middle infield defense between the two of them. Fletcher will likely still get some reps at shortstop when Iglesias needs a day off, and Barreto will likely bounce around the diamond like he did in limited time in 2020. Given that he has no minor-league options remaining, and that Luis Rengifo does, Barreto gets the edge here. Athletics • Jake Diekman could split time between being the setup man and closer. “Jake is the obvious candidate (for closer),” he said. “But whether or not we can wait till the ninth inning … a lot of times that left-handed spot comes up a little bit earlier. You know, wherever the leverage inning is whether it’s the seventh, whether it’s the eighth. His numbers were off the charts last year, and he can handle it very easily. It’s just in today’s game, sometimes you’re looking at more of a leverage inning, whether it’s the seventh, eighth or ninth, for maybe your best reliever.” It’s tough to see a lefty as a closer, but he might be worth a late stab for 10 to 20 Saves. Indians • Adam Plutko is out of options. Plutko is out of minor-league options, so he’ll either occupy a spot on the pitching staff or find himself involved in a trade or exposed to waivers. This is more of a reminder that if he makes the team, it’s because of the lack of options. Ignore. Mariners • Luis Torrens and Tom Murphy will be splitting time at catcher. With the Mariners’ youth movement, Torrens and top catching prospect Cal Raleigh — both 24 years old — figure prominently in the future plans. Expect Murphy and Torrens to split time relatively evenly in the initial going. “Just running a catcher out there for 120-130 games really doesn’t happen nowadays,” said Servais, a former catcher. “I think we’ve got a great tandem there, and that’s what it takes. I love where our catching is right now, and we have Cal Raleigh behind them, an interesting young prospect who played really well in the taxi-squad situation in Tacoma. We’re in good shape as far as catching goes.” A couple of notes here for deeper leagues. While the pair’s suspect time may be offputting in mixed leagues, in two-catcher only leagues, they could be a decent tandem. Torrens is projected for a .254 AVG and double-digit homers. The AVG base could be helpful for managers who waited on a catcher. • Jarred Kelenic should be starting in right field soon for the Mariners. While their youth movement remains the overriding storyline, one of the biggest questions facing the Mariners next season will be the status of right fielder Mitch Haniger. The 2018 All-Star hasn’t played since June 6, 2019, having undergone a trio of surgeries for a ruptured testicle, torn adductor and a herniated disc. … It’s a likely bet the Mariners will start both youngsters in the Minors next year and bring them up as soon as they appear ready. With American League Rookie of the Year Award winner Kyle Lewis entrenched in center field now, Kelenic seems destined for left field, assuming Haniger is healthy in right. It sounds like it’ll be just a couple of weeks for Kelenic to work on his defense before getting called up. Red Sox • Alex Cora is wanting Andrew Benintendi to run more. Can some of these guys play a little more small ball if they’re asked to play more small ball? It seems Cora really wants to try it. Is Andrew Benintendi the key to playing fast? In theory, Benintendi fits the style of play Cora has in mind. He’s patient, he’s shown good bat-to-ball skills, and there was a time when he had the ability to steal 20-plus bags and to measure well in speed and baserunning metrics. … “I’ll take the Andrew Benintendi (who was) the complete player,” Cora said. “I don’t want Andrew — just to say a number — to hit 35 or 40 home runs. It doesn’t matter. I want him to get on base, be fast on the basepaths, steal bases, play better defense the way he played in October (2018). If we get that guy back, we’re in a good position.” Maybe he can get back to the ~20 SB from 2017 and 2018. • J.D. Martinez found the reason for his struggles late last season. “I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll bet you $1 that J.D. will have a better season,” Cora said in a call with reporters Thursday. “I’m watching a lot of games and videos, it was a different hitter. … I know he recognized toward the end of the season what was wrong with him, but he wasn’t able to take it to the batter’s box.” Really? First, no video was his excuse. Now, this take. Maybe he’s just done. Twins • The Twins may not have a conventional closer. Rogers was unquestionably the Twins’ closer in 2019, but he was anything but a traditional modern closer, with 39 percent of his work coming before the ninth inning and 12 of his 30 saves consisting of more than three outs. His role was similar early in 2020, but Baldelli gradually turned to right-hander Sergio Romo for more saves, eventually forming a matchup-based platoon of sorts. Speaking to the media earlier this week, Baldelli hinted that this approach will stay for 2021, with Rogers remaining a prominent piece of the late-inning mix, but not necessarily tied to the closer label that so often dictates usage. Basically, the left-handed Taylor Rogers may not get all Save chances. Free Tyler Duffey. • All the Twins hitters are now healthy. Ryan Jeffers underwent a minor procedure to remove “loose bodies” from his throwing elbow, the Twins announced Tuesday, but manager Rocco Baldelli said the rookie catcher is “essentially back to normal already.” In fact, the manager said, “it’s been a good health-related offseason” for each of the Twins who were injured at the end of the 2020 season. Shortstop Jorge Polanco underwent surgery on his right ankle for a second straight offseason in October but now “is getting all of his [workouts] in daily and he’s doing great,” Baldelli said on a video news conference. Outfielder Brent Rooker’s fractured right forearm has healed as well, he said. I can’t see adding Polanco unless he comes at a steep discount. • Josh Donaldson could have more off days. The Twins’ skipper said the club could be more aggressive with scheduled off-days and possible appearances at designated hitter early in the season, with the hope that they’ll use part of the regular season to build Donaldson up and thus have him ready to play more consistently toward the end of the season, when a playoff berth or a run deeper into October could be at stake. Donaldson didn’t make an appearance at DH in 2020. … He noted that he had been stubborn in the past about not listening to his body during the recovery process in the name of a quicker return to the field, and that led to struggles with re-injury. This is a semi-big deal because Donaldson could fill in the Nelson Cruz vacated DH spot while someone else who plays third base. That’s if the Twins don’t sign a DH. Donaldson’s plate appearances have to be capped in a Ryan Braun sort of way. Yankees • Gleyber Torres did not stay in playing condition during the layoff. “Quarantine was a challenge for so many different people. I don’t think he was up to speed like he was coming into Spring Training. As far as him being prepared and ready to go, I’m not concerned with that. I know what he does in the offseason, which has been consistent over the last few years. He’s in excellent shape right now, working hard with his trainer and getting ready to start hitting. He’s doing all his baseball things like he did last offseason.” He did show improvement from a .588 OPS in August and a .842 OPS in September. National League Braves • Brian Snitker discussed how long the starters will go next season. And I think it’s a cumulative thing that they keep adding those innings and getting stronger as they mature in their careers. So it’s going to be a little bit of a concern (after the reduction in innings last season). Especially if we get going in April and play 162 games. We’re going to have to manage the stressful innings, I think. I don’t know that we’ll have to shut anybody down, but as we get going in this thing we’re going to have to be aware of the work in-between (starts) and sending them back out after a few stressful innings. One item I keep seeing is that teams will protect the young arms while letting the old guys air it out. Brewers • Lorenzo Cain could be hitting at the top of the order. Counsell is confident Cain will produce next season even though he will turn 35 in April. Unless the Brewers suddenly add a couple of impact bats, Cain will have to perform at a high level, perhaps again at the top of the batting order. With an NFBC ADP of 235, Cain might be a bargain for a while but could see his cost increase once he reports to camp. Cardinals • The Cards monitored non-seasonal pitch load and will base their starter innings off them. Also, Miles Mikolas is expected to be in the starting rotation. But Shildt brought up that the throwing programs during Spring Training, Summer Camp and throughout the four-month-long break would be evaluated in his starters’ workload expectations. He also expects there to be a healthy competition in Spring Training for rotation spots, with Flaherty, Kwang Hyun Kim 김광현 and Miles Mikolas earning three spots, and then having Austin Gomber, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Carlos Martínez, Alex Reyes and John Gant among those competing for additional spots. Shildt: “From a throwing standpoint, while not as intense over a six-month period, the timing of the throwing still took place — the bullpens and intrasquads — and those innings and bullets are still real. So, pitchers’ arms were still conditioned over that period of time. I don’t feel like those innings are a one-to-one ratio based on this past season. While we don’t know the expected innings for now, we do know that Mikolas will start and is a bargain with a 392 NFBC ADP to see if he can repeat his 2018 season. • Jordan Hicks (elbow) should be ready by spring training. So, when I last spoke with Mozeliak (last week), he indicated that Hicks and Mikolas appear to be on target for spring training. • Alex Reyes will take another stab at being a starter. Reyes is an interesting name to bring up. Mozeliak said he will begin the spring on a starter’s program, which raises two possibilities. He can either start or be used in a multi-inning relief role, which I think is more valuable than being just a traditional one-inning closer. I’m with the author and see Reyes heading back to the bullpen. Marlins • Miami is looking at putting a cap on the number of starter innings. “It’s definitely a concern — not only of mine, but for our whole organization — as we talk about our young staff,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve walked through some scenarios. Our analytics and our pitching guys, we’re talking about what we think is a doable number of innings.” For many of Miami’s young starters, this means a preset cap on innings. “We think there will be some restrictions on a lot of our guys, the number of innings,” Mattingly said. “How do we manage that? That’s all part of the discussions that are on-going, walking into a season. It’s definitely a concern.” … “You always worry about injury,” Mattingly said. “Bumping [pitchers] from a low amount of innings to 190 or 200 is a big jump, especially for young guys who have never been through it. It’s definitely a concern of ours.” I keep seeing maxed out inning totals near 180. Expect for a few arms, this should be an expected limit. Mets • Noah Syndergaard is expected to return in June. Manager Luis Rojas, on a Zoom call, divulged Wednesday that the [Noah Syndergaard] is “on schedule or maybe a little bit ahead of schedule” in his workouts before team president Sandy Alderson offered a more concise timeline, telling WFAN a “reasonable expectation” is Syndergaard will return at some point in June. June is the expected 14 month return time. Nationals • Max Scherzer is going to go balls out this year. “I still have another year left to really try and execute this contract,” Scherzer said. “That’s just kind of how I try to work. I’m not going to sit here and try to reflect upon six years when I’ve still got a year left. It’s a seven-year deal. I have a year left. It’s not time to reflect on the seven years until you’ve completed it. So, the job’s not finished yet.” I see his season going two ways. He either makes another run at a Cy Young award or completely breaks apart. Gamble away. Padres • Another take on the innings starters will throw. If the schedule re-approaches 162 games, can the Padres count on their able-bodied starters to cover enough innings? And how dramatically can those pitchers increase their usage after a summer of abbreviated workloads? “That’s a concern,” manager Jayce Tingler said Friday. “I think the best thing that we have to do is handle each case individually, knowing who’s coming off of arm injuries, who’s had Tommy John injuries in the past, who’s thrown 200 innings in their career, et cetera. … No healthy Padres pitcher has, in fact, thrown 200 innings in a season. Zach Davies came the closest, logging 191 1/3 for Milwaukee in 2017. San Diego’s other rotation options are less proven, and a shortened season has thrown a wrench into their development. Davies led the club with 69 1/3 innings in 2020. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Padres were hoping for more than double that number from several starters. Again, each pitcher will have their own limit. Phillies • For now, the broke Phillies will be starting Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez. Barring an acquisition or injury, yes, it appears Howard and Velasquez will start the season as the Phillies’ Nos. 4 and 5 starters. The top three starters — Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin — should stack up well against most teams. Howard and Velasquez could determine whether this rotation is bad or great (or somewhere in between). Both need to make significant improvements, but they at least have a job for now. Pirates • Josh Bell and Colin Moran could be in a first base platoon if there is no DH in the NL. It’ll either be Josh Bell or Colin Moran at first, and they’ll both play every day if the designated hitter is back in the National League. For now, this news has pushed Josh Bell completely off my draft boards. Reds • Tejay Antone has the stuff to either start or be the closer. What makes Antone special is the spin on his pitches, his fastball is in the 98th percentile in spin and his curveball is in the 95th percentile. He could be a dominant closer with those two pitches. But batters also swung and missed on nearly half (47.6 percent) of his sliders. He also threw a changeup, although sparingly, with some success. Those 35.1 innings were impressive. Antone came in and showed that he has the ability to close, but he could also start. Whatever his role is in 2021, it will be a big part of the team’s plans. Antone has become a must draft. Bouncing between starter and reliever last season, he ended 81st in strikeouts to go with his 2.80 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He’s got a 95 mph sinker (50% GB%) and three non-fastballs all had a swinging-strike rate over 14%.