Mining the News (2/11/21) by Jeff Zimmerman February 11, 2021 American League Athletics • The second base job is up in the air since the team traded for Elvis Andrus. This is an area that Forst still believes can be addressed internally — and another area that could see a position player battle over in spring training. Forst mentioned Chad Pinder, Sheldon Neuse — he said Neuse would get a “long look” in spring training — Tony Kemp and Vimael Machín. All of these candidates can play multiple positions, and two of them, Kemp and Machín, are left-handed hitters. Pinder and Kemp are the veterans of the group, while Neuse and Machín have limited big-league experience. Neuse projects to have the higher ceiling of the two young players offensively, has good footwork and a strong arm defensively. Right now, four below-average players are fighting for one spot. Just stay away until there is some clarity. • Seth Brown or Ka’ai Tom could DH. Forst didn’t rule out bringing in a DH candidate from outside the organization, but he also mentioned “flexibility” in describing how they might use this spot, so it might not be one person who gets DH at-bats. He did say that the A’s are “aware of their right-handedness,” so slotting a left-handed bat in here could be ideal; some names already on the roster that come to mind include outfielder Seth Brown and Rule 5 acquisition Ka’ai Tom. I thought my money would be on Brown, but he has one of the jacked-up projections I’ve seen. An AVG near .200. A K% four points higher than his career mark. Just eyeballing his career stats, a season 20 homers and a .260 AVG seems reasonable. He’s someone I could take a late dart on. Indians • Franmil Reyes could play some outfield. Reyes will see the majority of his time as the Tribe’s designated hitter like he has the past two seasons. However, Reyes believes that he can be an everyday outfielder and he even posted videos on his Instagram of him getting reps at first base earlier this offseason. The more that he can hone his defensive skills, the better the chances are that he’d be able to move out of his DH-only role. “The way we look at that is the more versatility Franmil has, the more options he can create for Tito to get him into the lineup beyond DH is a net plus,” Antonetti said. “So if that’s being able to play the field in a National League city, great, if it’s more than that, even better.” Getting outfield eligibility could really boost his value by allowing a fantasy team to free up its Utility slot. The deal is that he played in the outfield only once last season. With Cleveland in 2019, it was just three games with two being at an NL park. For him to get the needed outfield starts could come down to the NL not having the DH. Looking over the schedule, Cleveland doesn’t go to an NL park until mid-June when they have five games against the Pirates and Cubs. • Bobby Bradley could start out the season as the first baseman. It seems like this is the year that Bradley will get a real chance at earning the everyday job. How he performs during Spring Training will determine whether that opportunity will come at the beginning of the year or later in the season. However, the Indians have indicated that it’s time for Bradley to get a stronger look at first base than he has in the past. Bradley might the team’s worst option, so I don’t see him keeping the job if he is given it. Like with the A’s second base situation, I’m just staying away. Mariners • The starters will max out at 170 innings, with several at a lower total. “It was such a young staff and it is still a young staff,” Dipoto said. “And that’s an important element here. So with that, and understanding that the highest-volume starters in 2020 were guys that threw 60-80 innings. And that’s a that’s not a high volume of innings in the grand scheme of things. And we feel like the jump from 60-80 to, say, 140-150, is reasonable. For the guys who might have been at the top end of that scale, to get them into a 160-170 type of range is reasonable. Going beyond that is not likely, and we feel like this allows us to help govern that.” Our projections may be a little high on Gonzales but the rest seem to follow the above quote. Rangers • Nick Solak is the favorite to win the second base job. Young did say that the Rangers are giving Nick Solak the opportunity to win the starting second-base job with Odor in a utility spot. Solak played both infield and outfield in 2020, but isn’t expected to do as much shuffling in ’21. • Sherten Apostel and Josh Jung will start the season in the minors. President of baseball operations Jon Daniels said on a Zoom press conference with reporters that the preference would be for Apostel and Jung to both get more development time in the Minors this season. Woodward agreed, saying Jung would have to “go nuts” in Spring Training to break into the Major League roster. Reading between the lines here, it seems like the Rangers are going to give Rougned Odor one more chance to earn a starting job or he’s headed to the pine for nine. Red Sox • Chris Sale had a setback in his return from Tommy John surgery. According to a source, Sale experienced a setback around the holidays due to neck stiffness. The ailment put a halt to the starter’s throwing program, which he has begun participating in again. Sale’s workouts now include treatment on the neck issue to prevent the problem from cropping up again. He was originally planning on throwing off a mound at some point in January before recent incident. I see no reason to draft him if he has fallen behind in his rehab. He already had a mid-season return at best. • Tanner Houck may be eased into the rotation. [Tanner Houck will] definitely be in the mix. Unless he has a lights-out spring training, the thought process is to ease him into his first full season in the majors. Bloom has said all winter he wanted enough rotation depth so that he wouldn’t absolutely need to rely on Houck, pressuring the rookie to perform from the get-go. I might have to pass on Houck if he’s not playing much to start the season. I would rather roster a pitcher who is playing to know if they are good or not. Tigers • Jonathan Schoop could play all over the infield. Tuesday, on a Zoom call with reporters, Schoop clarified: He hopes to prove he can play shortstop or third base if the Tigers need his services. Proven versatility could increase Schoop’s value after a winter in which he signed a one-year deal for $4.25 million — a pay cut from the $6.1 million he was set to receive before the pandemic last season. “I just want to prove I can play shortstop, that I can play third base, I can play all over, wherever they need me,” Schoop said. … If the Tigers are serious about Paredes at second base, it’s also possible to envision a world where Schoop moves to first base. It could get Paredes’ bat in the lineup, but that would also mean moving a strong defensive second baseman to a more limited defensive position. It seems like the team is willing to move Schoop around to get the most value out of him. To see if and where he might play more, track his positions during Spring Training. Twins • Alex Kirilloff will likely spend the first few weeks in the minors working on his fielding. Where things will get cloudy is at whatever point Kirilloff joins the team. My money is on a late-April arrival that guarantees the Twins a seventh season of club control. Aaron: So much of any outfield roster projection hinges on the plan with Kirilloff. Like you, I’m assuming they’ll start him in the minors, and with Wade gone, Cave is the obvious placeholder. If there was any prospect I was going to target, it would be Kirilloff. He has a ready-made spot in the majors and should be promoted within a month. • The closer might not be set with matchups determining usage. Rogers, for example, has been solid against both righties and lefties with his hard sinker and combination of breaking balls, but Robles now brings in a hard fastball and changeup, while Colomé brings a fastball-cutter mix to the table. None will be fazed by the pressure of high-leverage situations, either. The Twins almost certainly won’t name a single closer (that’s not Baldelli’s style), and I’d expect things to play out with flexible usage in the final innings. While Taylor Rogers has gotten the bulk of the Saves (39) since Baldelli has become the manager, 42% of the team’s Saves has gone to other pitchers. It might be frustrating to not have a single reliever to count on for Saves, but I think those days of single look to be ending. National League Cubs • David Bote, Nico Hoerner, and Ildemaro Vargas are competing for the second base job. As things stand, David Bote, Nico Hoerner and Ildemaro Vargas look like the main contenders for playing time at second base. The Cubs could go with a rotation at the position, but Hoyer said the team’s preference would be to have someone win the job and run away with it. “You can have a number of guys that are rotating in a position,” Hoyer said. “That gives you depth. But, I think we all want someone just to kind of grab hold of it and kind of force their name into the lineup every day.” The options here are just sad. I can’t find a reason to roster any one of them without a significant step forward in talent. Giants • Brandon Belt still might not be ready for the season’s start. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Brandon Belt is “a possibility” but “not a certainty” for Opening Day after having offseason heel surgery, which could leave La Stella and Wilmer Flores as the main options at first base early in the year. La Stella bats from the left side and Flores from the right. With a current ADP of 463, his price reflects the injury timeline. Pirates • Erik González, Cole Tucker, and Kevin Newman will be in a pillow fight for the shortstop job. Picking González as the starter ahead of Newman and Tucker is mostly an informed guess on my part. González has the most experience and largest salary. Newman is the incumbent, although he played in almost as many games at second base (20) as he did at short (23) last year. Tucker is a former first-round pick. All three have a projected wOBA under .300. This “battle” is just sad. Reds • Lucas Sims has already been dealing with elbow tightness. Fellow lefty Amir Garrett and right-hander Lucas Sims are the favorites for the closer role. Krall said Sims dealt with elbow tightness, but the player indicated on Twitter that it was minor and he’d be ready for Opening Day. I will not use any draft capital on a part-time closer who is already experiencing elbow pain.