Mining the News (2/12/24)

American League

Angels

• General manager Perry Minasian stated that Nolan Schanuel will have to earn his first base job.

[“]But Nolan’s earned the right to have the opportunity to come into camp and compete for the first-base job. He’s put a lot of work in this offseason.”

Astros

• The team thinks Trey Cabbage can play in the outfield or at first base.

The Astros are intrigued by his tools and his ability to play both corner outfield spots, as well as first base. Singleton can only play first base, Julks can only play in the outfield and Kessinger can play all over the infield. Espada said he thinks Cabbage is “an adjustment away from figuring some stuff out at the plate and being a legit threat offensively.”

Athletics

Ken Waldichuk is still a couple of weeks from throwing.

It remains to be seen if Ken Waldichuk will be part of this competition, as Forst said Waldichuk has yet to begin throwing and won’t do so for at least two weeks.

A’s general manager David Forst stated that Dany Jiménez, Trevor Gott, and Mason Miller have the opportunity to close.

On how the A’s might handle the closer situation:

“ Dany [Jiménez] is the guy right now who has done it the most. Trevor [Gott] has experience pitching in the back of a game, and when he signed here, we talked about giving him that opportunity. Mason Miller’s stuff sort of lends itself to thinking he can close. Those three guys right now are probably the most likely candidates. We’ll continue to look at the reliever market. Is there a guy out there with closing experience? That’s hard to say. … I wouldn’t be surprised if it moved around a little bit. Those three guys are probably the first that comes to mind, but we’ll see how the spring plays out.”

Royals

Cole Ragans tinkered with his slider this offseason while Brady Singer worked on his four-seamer and sweeper.

Singer and Cole Ragans, both of whom figure to be in the Royals’ Opening Day rotation, spent more time tinkering with their newer pitches this offseason. Ragans dove deeper into the development of his slider, which was a key pitch for him last year, and has played around with a two-seam fastball that could help him with lefties. Singer has focused on his four-seamer and sweeper, which he flashed at times last year.

Kris Bubic plans on returning mid-season.

Lefty Kris Bubic is eyeing a mid-season return from Tommy John surgery and is about two-and-a-half weeks from throwing off a mound. There’s still a ways to go until he’s pitching in Kansas City, but after the excitement of his stuff before he got hurt last year, he’s looking forward to that return.

Michael Massey is expected to be the team’s second baseman to start the season.

The latest move in a busy Royals offseason brought veteran second baseman/left fielder Adam Frazier to Kansas City on a one-year deal. Though Frazier has a long track record as an everyday player, Kansas City general manager J.J. Picollo suggested following the signing that Michael Massey will still be the regular second baseman, with Frazier operating in more of a utility role (link via Jaylon Thompson of the Kansas City Star).

“[Massey] needs to be a big part of our team, and we shared that with [Frazier] last week,” Picollo stated. The second-year K.C. GM stressed the importance of being up-front with a veteran like Frazier about the role he’d likely be stepping into. That, it seems, won’t be an everyday one. Picollo noted that with his defensive versatility, Frazier “can protect us, so to speak, in a lot of ways.”

Twins

• The team might go with a first base platoon with Alex Kirilloff facing righties and Carlos Santana facing lefties.

Like many left-handed hitters, Kirilloff has struggled to produce against left-handed pitchers, batting .207 with a .630 OPS in 157 career plate appearances. When facing lefties last season, the Twins often replaced Kirilloff in the lineup with right-handed hitter Donovan Solano. Rather than a reunion with the 36-year-old Solano, who remains unsigned, they’re filling that role with Santana.

Santana has always been better swinging from the right side, and recently his left-handed production has declined to the point that it’s not really an asset. He hit .200 with a .674 OPS against right-handers the past three years, including .231 with a .727 OPS in 2023, but the Twins have Kirilloff to take those starts at first base anyway and should have other left-handed options at DH as well.

Carlos Correa’s foot feels good and he is running.

Though the foot took longer than he expected to fully heal (without a surgical procedure), Correa said he felt good by late December, when he started running and sprinting. He’d already been hitting since November, marking his first time in “a while” that he started so early, he said.

Popkins will come down to Correa’s home in Houston a few times, the shortstop said, and teammates like Nick Gordon and Miranda will also be there, as Correa eagerly anticipates debuting a simpler, more efficient swing in 2024 that he hopes will reset the mechanical struggles of ‘23 and help him rebound from the worst full-season numbers of his career.

Yankees

Will Warren is working on not tipping his pitches.

Learning to throw his pitches all from the same arm slot — a technique known as tunneling, meant to disguise which pitch might come next — was also a big move he made last year, Warren said. He said he began that process at Triple A, where he also said he had to learn to adjust to using major-league baseballs. Different balls with higher seams are used in lower levels of the minors.

“The less tips you would give to the hitter the better,” he said. “Let’s be honest. If Aaron Judge knows what’s coming, it’s probably a home run. It’s a lot easier to pitch when they have to guess.”

National League

Brewers

DL Hall is still prepping to be a starter.

“When they called me, they asked me how my training had been going, what I was preparing for. Luckily, I was preparing to be a starter. They want me to be a starter,” Hall said in an appearance on Foul Territory yesterday afternoon.

Diamondbacks

Cristian Mena will start the season in AAA.

Mena is Arizona’s No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

“His slider and his curveball are both really good, and he’s got a decent changeup, too,” Hazen said. “I think we’re still looking for, and we haven’t laid eyes on him yet, but some velocity gains that we think could be in there given his youth and with more maturity, and then refinement of everything. He’s certainly not a finished product. I’d very much anticipate him being in [Triple-A] Reno to start the season.”

Dodgers

Shohei Ohtani believes he will play in the first series in Korea.

As he continues to progress from the injury that cut his 2023 season short, Ohtani revealed on Saturday at DodgerFest that he is “very confident” he’ll be the team’s designated hitter when they open the season on March 20 against the Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

“We’re right on schedule,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “We’re not ahead, we’re not behind. We’re right on schedule. As long as there are no setbacks going forward, I’ll be ready.”

Marlins

Braxton Garrett is trying to add a changeup … again.

LHP Braxton Garrett
New(ish) pitch: Changeup

Quote: “[My offseason work has been to] keep my same delivery and just sharpen everything, really. … Keep the slider sharp, maybe make a few adjustments with it. And especially the changeup, that’s the pitch I feel like I tell you guys every year I’m working on.”

Mets

• It seems like Mark Vientos, Starling Marte, and DJ Stewart will be the team’s DH options.

Barring any unforeseen changes regarding the markets of the notable players left in free agency, league sources said the Mets seem intent on sticking with their in-house options at designated hitter. While New York won’t be closing any doors on potential external options, prices would have to dramatically drop for the Mets to be aggressive pursuers for DH candidates such as Jorge Soler or J.D. Martinez.

That should come as little surprise. After all, league sources said the Mets weren’t exactly aggressive pursuers for other potential DH fits such as Rhys Hoskins or Teoscar Hernandez, due in part perhaps to the team’s harsh salary reality.

Instead, a more likely scenario for the Mets at DH includes deploying a combination of Mark Vientos, Starling Marte and DJ Stewart, along with using the spot to rotate players for rest.

• Mark Vientos changed his swing path in AAA last season.

Evaluators were encouraged by the improvements Vientos made last year in Triple A, where he made an adjustment regarding his swing path. The result was an improved contact rate and quality of contact.

Consistent playing time in the major leagues had mostly eluded Vientos until the final two months of the season. Thus, it’s hard to put a whole lot of stock into some numbers such as his low walk rate and his high ground-ball rate relative to his numbers in the minors. Nevertheless, both have caught the attention of people within the Mets.

Adam Ottavino is changing his “cutter-slider pitch”.

Ottavino is always someone who tinkers with his pitches, and this offseason seemed to be no different.

“I’ve been working on my pitches in a number of ways,” Ottavino said. “I do think if I can get a little bit of my velocity back, that will make the rest of my arsenal play up the way I really want it to. So that’s kind of the main indicator. I’m just looking to trend in a little better direction, velocity-wise, when I get there.

“But I have been altering a little bit with my cutter-slider pitch — looking to make it more of a chase pitch, something that I can get swing-and-miss below the zone — and I’m looking to get down to Florida and kind of see the trial-and-error process with actual hitters.”

Phillies

• The team plans on going with a closer by committee.

What will be Kerkering’s role on the staff? Who is the closer going into the season? — @jmd_690

The Phillies said Kerkering will have to earn his spot in the bullpen, but it would be very surprising if he doesn’t make the team. Assuming he does, Philadelphia sees him as a high-leverage reliever. The closer? It’s going to be closer by committee, at least according to manager Rob Thomson. I wouldn’t be surprised to see José Alvarado, Jeff Hoffman, Gregory Soto, Seranthony Domínguez, Matt Strahm and Kerkering each pick up at least one save this season.





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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Mentholmember
1 month ago

Mets should be all over Brandon Belt for one year at, say, $8-9 million plus incentives. He is just what they need.

montrealmember
1 month ago
Reply to  Menthol

Ya but to me the Mets have too many platoon players and Belt will just add to that. All this job sharing is for money strapped teams, not the Mets. They need more players knowing they have a full time role. Vientos should be given a half season of full at bats to see if he can be a full time hitter. But of course he won’t be allowed that opportunity.

dickaspis
1 month ago
Reply to  Menthol

Lol