Mining the News (2/17/21) by Jeff Zimmerman February 17, 2021 A heads up, from now on, I’m not going to reinforce any previous reports if nothing has changed. There is just too much news coming out to reconfirm past reports. American League Astros • Ryan Pressly remains the best closing option. I’m not so sure the Astros won’t still try to acquire a closer, and they’ve shown strong interest in Trevor Rosenthal, who remains on the market. If they can reel him in, they’d have the makings of an elite bullpen. Without Rosenthal, they have a few options. Ryan Pressly would likely get the first shot at it. He converted 11 of 13 saves last year after Roberto Osuna got injured. • Also, Myles Straw remains the top center field option. As much as the return of Marisnick would have made a nice story, the Astros feel it’s time to see if the 26-year-old Straw can be their everyday center fielder and replace the departed George Springer. Marisnick and Straw share many of the same tools, too, so having two right-handed-hitting speedy center fielders probably isn’t the best way to take up two roster spots. It’s a great opportunity for Straw, but if he can’t take advantage of it, Houston will have to try to find a replacement via trade in the regular season. As for now, it’s Straw’s job to lose. And don’t forget Pedro Leon — the Cuban player who signed for $4 million last month — is probably on a fast track to the big leagues as well. The same Straw who has a .649 career OPS and is coming off a .500 OPS season. But he steals bases. So does Dee Strange-Gordon and Billy Hamilton and they aren’t starting in center field anywhere. Athletics • Jake Diekman seems to still be the closer even with the signing of Sergio Romo. Though Jake Diekman is expected to get the first shot at the closer’s role for the A’s this year, Romo provides another arm that has proved capable of closing out games in the past. Over his 13 big league seasons, Romo has 134 saves. Indians • If James Karinchak can’t hold the closer’s role, Nick Wittgren will get the next shot. However, Karinchak still runs into some issues with his command, especially with his fastball. He owned a 1.111 WHIP in 2020 with a 5.3 walks-per-nine-innings ratio. So, what happens if he’d struggle during the season? The Indians would likely turn to Nick Wittgren, who’s been a reliable arm for them over the last two years. And depending on how the hard-throwing Emmanuel Clase performs after missing last season due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, he could be a candidate at some point as well. • The first base job is up in the air between Jake Bauers and Bobby Bradley with Josh Naylor in the outfield mix. The indication is that Naylor will factor more into the outfield than he will at first base, at least at the start of the season. That means the first base job will come down to Bradley and Bauers. Because the Indians want to see what they have in their prospects, I’d be inclined to lean toward Bradley for this answer, but it honestly could go either way. What a nightmare. I really can’t believe Cleveland didn’t bring in a better option. So here are those options. Bauers and Bradley have similar projected OPS’s so it’s tough to give either one the advantage. The way I see the position working out is the hot bat in Spring Training gets the job and it just cycles to whoever is hitting the best over the previous two weeks. • Nolan Jones will start the season in AAA. Where will Nolan Jones open the 2021 season? –@Michael45871618 Triple-A. This is obviously far from being official, but with the influx of outfield options the Tribe now has, plus José Ramírez is still manning the hot corner (and let’s not forget about service time), all signs seem to be pointing toward Jones opening the year in the Minors. But it’d be shocking if we didn’t see him in the Majors at some point in 2021. I’m following this situation closely since I think Jones is one of the most talented hitting prospects and the major league team needs his bat. Red Sox • The team signed Marwin Gonzalez, adding another utility bat. Like fellow new Red Sox utilitman Enrique Hernandez, Gonzalez figures to play all over the diamond for the club. That should include the outfield, as the Red Sox traded one of their previous starters – Andrew Benintendi – on Wednesday. This creates quite a mess. Here is a possible plan using career OPS splits. Red Sox 2B and OF Options Name vLHH vRHH Hunter Renfroe .912 .717 Alex Verdugo .788 .810 Franchy Cordero .573 .786 Christian Arroyo .597 .678 Enrique Hernández .820 .673 Marwin Gonzalez .724 .732 Needing to fill three slots (two outfield and second base), the ideal options against lefties are Renfroe, Verdugo, and Hernandez, Against righties it’s Cordero, Verdugo, and Gonzalez. Looking over our projected playing times, everything looks fine except I’d give most of Arroyo’s plate appearances to Gonzalez. Tigers • Nomar Mazara and Victor Reyes are likely to form an outfield platoon. And it’s nearly impossible to envision the Tigers carrying Mazara and Stewart on their 26-man roster with near-identical skill sets. As for Reyes, he could well end up in a timeshare scenario with Mazara, playing against lefties and some righties. Statistically, Reyes has been a better pure hitter for his career against lefties, but all eight of his Major League home runs have come off righties. Here are the pair’s career OPS splits. I included Robbie Grossman‘s and Christin Stewart’s stats for reference. Detroit Outfield Splits Name vLHH vRHH Mazara .640 .781 Stewart .653 .681 Reyes .676 .675 Grossman .754 .721 There is no reason to assume Grossman won’t have a full-time role with Mazara facing righties and Mazara or one of the other two against lefties. I could see Reyes get the platoon role since he could also be used as a pinch-runner. • Willi Castro will be the starting shortstop with Niko Goodrum as the team’s utility bat. Willi Castro has absolutely earned a shot at shortstop after hitting .349 last season, but he’ll have to sustain his offense while also improving his defense. … Only one year ago, Goodrum was penciled in as the starting shortstop. That’s not going to be the case this season, but it doesn’t mean we won’t see plenty of Goodrum, and it doesn’t mean he couldn’t even earn a more stable role back by year’s end. There isn’t much of a chance the pair end up in a platoon since both crush lefties and hold their own against righties. • The team won’t name a closer, but Bryan Garcia is likely to fill the role. A.J. Hinch has said he won’t name a closer before the season, but Bryan Garcia is probably the favorite after taking the role late last season. Gregory Soto, José Cisnero, Buck Farmer and Joe Jiménez could all contend for the role, as well. White Sox • Jonathan Lucroy will be the backup catcher on Opening Day. Barring something unexpected, Lucroy is going to make this Opening Day White Sox roster. He mentioned on Thursday that he was originally contacted with the thought of manager Tony La Russa liking veteran players, and Lucroy should end up as the primary backup to Yasmani Grandal. Lucroy had great comments about handling the pitching staff and calling games coming first for a catcher, which is exactly what Chicago wants from a catcher in his position. It might be a bit before Zack Collins gets promoted to be the backup. • Carlos Rodón will start the season in the rotation. Rodón will be the team’s fifth starter at the outset; it’s assumed Kopech will begin the season in the Minors. López will be in the conversation and certainly will make the team, and Kopech should reach the White Sox before too long. It may not be the best plan, but I think I’ll take some late darts on the hope Rodon gets back to his 2016 form. He could f(l)ail miserably, but there is some decent upside with him. Yankees • Deivi García and Domingo Germán will be battling it out for the fifth rotation spot. Given that group and based upon their performances last season, I would have to imagine that García enters camp as the favorite, but he’s by no means a lock. García’s big league service was accelerated last year. Even though he largely succeeded in that trial by fire, it wouldn’t be a shock if the Yankees believe that more development time is necessary. Germán is the wild card in that mix to me; all indications are that he will be welcomed back into the clubhouse after his domestic violence suspension — general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone recently spoke to him on that topic. Both have similar projections, so whoever performs better in Spring Training will likely get the job. National League Brewers • Luis Urías and Daniel Robertson, who is out of options, will be in competition for the third base job. With his on-base skills, defense and upside, Urías likely projects as a better option at third base compared with what’s left on the free-agent market, despite Urías’ profile as more of a middle infielder. Robertson, who doesn’t have options, is expected to compete for the job at third base. A first-round pick in 2012, Robertson has racked up 300 or more plate appearances in a season only once: In 2018 with the Rays, he posted a .797 OPS in 340 plate appearances. This battle is another one where the pair’s projected talent is very similar. Diamondbacks • Daulton Varsho will start the season in the minors while Tim Locastro looks to could be the starting centerfielder. Unless there is enough playing time to be found for Varsho around the diamond — specifically behind the plate and in center — it’s hard to see how it makes sense for the Diamondbacks to carry him when the alternative is regular playing time in Triple A. Varsho will be up in the majors plenty this year as injuries pop up and spots come open, but probably not on Opening Day if everyone is healthy. … Locastro, a player some in the organization feel is primed to take a step forward, can handle center field as well. Varsho is being drafted at pick 150 in the NFBC. With this news, he might be undraftable for me. • Joakim Soria has been anointed the team’s closer. The surefire inclusion, and nearly surefire bet to be closer, is Soria. Stefan Crichton’s value is gone since he’s not even close to being a top reliever. Giants • It sounds like the team had only a few pitchers at the alternate site and the hitting prospects got few live at-bats. The alternate site was like extended spring training. He’d get one or perhaps two competitive plate appearances a day during live batting practice against the scant number of pitchers who were available to throw in the Giants’ bubble. “It ended up being a lot of machine work,” Davis said. “I just tried to make sure I did everything with a purpose and used whatever I could to try to get better.” It’ll be interesting to see if the prospects in some organizations will take major steps forward after facing tougher competition while other organizations see their prospects fall behind. Mets • As of right now, Joey Lucchesi and David Peterson are in the rotation. The Mets can go into spring training with Peterson and Lucchesi as part of the Opening Day rotation, but their preference, revealed rather glaringly in their nine-figure offer to Bauer, is to add another veteran arm to the mix. Doing so would create a spring competition between Peterson and Lucchesi for a spot that would, ideally, eventually go to Syndergaard upon his return from Tommy John surgery. Nationals • Carter Kieboom will get another chance at third base but the Nationals brought in Josh Harrison if Kieboom fails again. Though he impressively didn’t chase many pitches out of the zone last season – he drew 17 walks in 122 plate appearances – Kieboom often was too patient, letting good fastballs go early in the count. Manager Davey Martinez wants him to be more aggressive and go after those pitches and not leave himself in so many two-strike counts. … A year ago, the Nationals had Asdrúbal Cabrera as a fallback option at third base. This year, they’ve got Josh Harrison, who hasn’t been an everyday player since 2018 with the Pirates and hasn’t regularly played third base since 2015. Kieboom was lost last season (.556 OPS) and I see no reason to invest any draft capital in him. Padres • There has been no update on Dinelson Lamet’s health. The Padres know as much regarding Lamet as they did five months ago. He missed the postseason because of an injury to his right elbow/biceps area. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection in October. The Padres are hopeful he won’t require surgery, but they privately acknowledge they won’t know for sure until he returns to game action. I will continue to hold off from drafting him until I see him pitch. Pirates • Here is a look at the “rotation”. We’re still unsure if the Pirates could make a rotation depth acquisition, but here’s where it stands for now: Steven Brault Chad Kuhl Mitch Keller JT Brubaker Cody Ponce And who’s Cody Ponce? Rockies • Ryan McMahon wants to make several adjustments to his swing. The resulting adjustments are still in progress. Here’s a look: • McMahon wants to be more efficient using his legs, although he says that part of his stance and setup “probably won’t look much different.” • He has lowered his hands to a level he used while in the Minors. • These adjustments could eliminate mechanics that practically had McMahon’s back to the pitcher and the bat knob pointed at the umpire at the start of the swing. Those movements slowed the barrel. A Statcast look at McMahon’s swings and misses reveals an above-MLB average rate over the middle, in and out of the zone. Many of these misses occurred on fastballs early in counts, which became the popular strategy against him, since his complicated mechanics made his swing late. In turn, missing or fouling a hittable pitch early in the count leads to chasing late in the count. He had a 10% SwStr% against sinkers, over twice the league average. Not good He needs to cut the walk rate because he’s almost unstartable at home with a career .246 AVG (.234 on the road). He’s a power-only bat without elite power. Those player types are a dime a dozen at the end of a draft.