Mining the News (2/20/23)

Note: Two items I’m NOT going to cover in these posts are fastball velocities and current injuries.


• There might be the possibility by the season’s end that several players will have 2B/SS/3B eligibility because of an infield shifting.

On the infield, there will be no more shifts. Teams must have at least two fielders stationed on each side of second base, standing on the dirt. But one overlooked rule: Infielders can actually switch positions between innings (though not during innings). So say an opposing team had two lefties due up. The Tigers could conceivably move Javier Báez to second base, move Jonathan Schoop from second to third and move Nick Maton from third to short. That would allow the rangy Báez to patrol the infield against lefty hitters.

“One thousand percent, I think one team will do that,” Hinch said. “I can think of one team in particular.”

Hinch was referring to the savvy Tampa Bay Rays, whom the Tigers will face in their opening series.

“I’m not sure we’ll do it,” Hinch said, “but that will be the next curiosity.”

American League


Matt Thaiss is out of options and could join Max Stassi as the MLB catchers.

Thaiss is out of Minor League options, which means he would have to be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. It could give him a nod over O’Hoppe, who MLB Pipeline tabbed as the club’s No. 1 prospect, but O’Hoppe is still firmly in the mix.

There is a non-zero chance that Logan O’Hoppe starts the season in the minors.


Myles Straw reworked his swing this offseason.

[Straw] did hit .330 over the final month of the season and he spent a week in Cleveland in December working with coaches on his swing.

• With the team’s loaded infield, Gabriel Arias will work out in the outfield.

When it comes to Gabriel Arias, the Guardians are working on finding a way for him to fit.

“One, we always try to tell the truth,” Francona said. “I think we view Gabby as an everyday player at some point in his career. If you look around right now, we got [José Ramírez], we got Amed [Rosario], we got [Andrés] Giménez. OK, what’s your best way to be able to impact the Major League club?”

Francona met with Arias on Sunday morning and discussed the idea of moving him beyond the infield. The goal would be to see if he could handle some time in the outfield, after the natural middle infielder and third baseman was seamless in his late-season transition to first base last year.


Robbie Ray is adding a new pitch, most likely a splitter.

Ray has been working on a new pitch to add to his fastball/slider/two-seamer mix, though he wouldn’t elaborate on what it is (it’s likely a splitter).

He has never thrown a splitter so there are no comps for it.


Cionel Pérez or Bryan Baker would likely close if Félix Bautista is not healthy by the season’s start.

“I think Bake closed one out late last year against Toronto in that doubleheader (on Oct. 5) and Cionel pitched big innings for us all year,” Hyde said. “So, those two would definitely be guys that I would consider pitching at the end of a game.”


Joe Barlow had off-season surgery and is adding a splitter.

Another development is that Barlow underwent surgery in November to correct something called Limberg-Comstock syndrome.

Once he’s comfortable using it in games, the split-finger would be his fourth pitch, pairing with a fastball, slider and curveball.

Sam Huff worked on his swing in order to make more contact.

Rangers offensive coordinator Donnie Ecker is looking to remedy that. Huff spent parts of the entire offseason working with Ecker and hitting coach Tim Hyers via FaceTime in order to cut down on his swing-and-miss and make more consistent contact against quality pitching at the big league level.


Brandon Lowe went over three months without swinging a bat.

Lowe was shut down on Sept. 24, 2022. He said he swung a bat for the first time on Jan. 1 as he recovered from the injury.

Red Sox

James Paxton is at full strength.

After being shut down in August with a lat strain, James Paxton is back to full strength. He threw eight bullpens this winter and had his first bullpen of Red Sox camp on Thursday. Paxton said it was nice to do normal spring training drills, ones that most pitchers consider boring, but ones that he hasn’t done in a while.

• It’s not set in stone that Masataka Yoshida will lead off.

Cora isn’t ruling out different lineup constructions. While Masataka Yoshida could lead off, he also said Kiké Hernández and Alex Verdugo are options. Yoshida doesn’t have much experience at leadoff after hitting third or fourth in Japan and could need some time to get adjusted to the league’s pitching before taking on a leadoff role.

Nick Pivetta lost his breath during throwing drills.

Nick Pivetta is recovering from COVID-19. He had to leave the back fields on Friday after losing his breath during some non-throwing drills. Cora said he’s still building back up, but should be OK soon.

Justin Turner will play some games at first base.

Veteran Justin Turner, signed as a free agent, will get some starts at first base against tough lefties. But for the most part, Casas will be in manager Alex Cora’s lineup.


Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco are on the “cautious” path to Opening Day.

Even as camp quickly ramps up, the club plans to be “cautious” with Buxton’s buildup at the start of Spring Training, with care taken regarding when he’ll start going full tilt, take more aggressive batting-practice sessions and play in games as opposed to simply hitting on the back fields. That will be the case for both Buxton and Jorge Polanco, who are still on track for Opening Day, manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Kenta Maeda’s splitter is not yet ready.

“There needs to be some work for splitter,” Maeda said. “Gallo got off the splitter at the end and obviously it’s different throwing against hitters as opposed to hitting decent splitters in bullpen splitters, so that’s something I could work on a little more.”

• A Randy Dobnak sighting.

Randy Dobnak threw nearly 40 pitches and broke teammate Jose Miranda’s bat in a live BP session on a secondary field. Dobnak has been slowed by ruptured ligaments called pulleys in his right middle finger each of the past two seasons. Last week, Dobnak said he feels as good as he has since he originally suffered the injury. “I threw the ball and didn’t feel any pain,” Dobnak said. “That’s all I want.”

White Sox

• The manager would like to go with a single closer but he has no idea who that is right now.

“I’m going to put the best pitchers on the mound that we feel are the best in that particular situation,” Grifol said. “If somebody emerges into a closer, we’ll do that. But I’m definitely not going to rush that. And even if somebody does emerge, they’re not always available. I know it’s early to get into that, and we’ll talk about that as we get into (things) with this group. But they’re not always available, so we’re going to need more than one. Regardless of whether Liam was available now or not, we’re going to need more than one. Once we get closer and we start setting up our game plan for the day, we’re just going to leverage guys. And if a closer emerges and that’s what we do, then that’s what we do.”

Eloy Jiménez is not going to be a regular in the outfield.

“I want Eloy to come to spring training ready to play the outfield,” Grifol said. “He’s going to. It doesn’t mean he’s going to play two times a week, three times a week. I’m not sure. But what I don’t want is him coming to spring training all of a sudden saying you’re our DH and that’s it, that’s all you’re working on. No, he has to be prepared to play the outfield, he’s got to stay athletic. He’s got ability. So we’re going to play that by ear. If we need him to play the outfield, be ready to play the outfield. If not, he’ll be our DH.”

• The team hopes Michael Kopech will be ready by the season’s second series.

Manager Pedro Grifol said Kopech won’t be on the mound in the opening series in Houston but “probably the second series,” which could mean the home opener against the Giants on April 3.

Elvis Andrus will be adding second-base eligibility.

The White Sox signed veteran infielder Elvis Andrus to a one-year, $3 million deal on Monday. To make room on the roster for Andrus, left-handed pitcher Bennett Sousa was designated for assignment.

Andrus, who has 1,914 games played at shortstop over his 14-year-career, will move to second base where he has never played an inning in the Major Leagues.


• All the shortstops will practice at multiple positions.

A bevy of All-Star shortstops have reached free agency in the past two winters. With Volpe and Peraza rising through the minors, the Yankees stayed out of the bidding. The club now must decide how to foam the runway for their arrival. Peraza impressed Boone during his 18-game cameo last season. The roster logjam prevents him from making definitive statements about how the team will proceed. “All of our shortstops will play more than one position this spring,” Boone said.

Anthony Rizzo admits he’ll always have back issues.

Keeping Rizzo on the field is among Boone’s concerns for the new season. Rizzo has dealt with recurring back issues in his career; last season, Rizzo sought relief with an epidural injection that preceded severe migraines, extending a stint on the injured list. Boone said that Rizzo’s back “is always something that’s on the back burner,” but can be addressed by a diligent exercise program.

“Anyone who’s had back pain, it kind of comes out of nowhere. You just do everything you can,” Rizzo said. “This offseason, I really focused on recovery and feeling good the next day. I’d be crazy to sit here and say I won’t have a back issue this year because every year it seems like a little something pops up, but I definitely feel confident with my daily preparation.”

National League


Ian Anderson has a new slider and a “cleaner” delivery.

Along with a cleaner delivery and the slider, Anderson has come to camp with the confidence you’d expect from somebody who stands with Christy Mathewson and Stephen Strasburg as the only pitchers to post a 1.50 ERA or lower through at least eight postseason starts.


Nolan Gorman reworked his swing in order to handle high four-seamers.

After mauling Minor League pitching for 16 home runs in a little more than a month and clubbing six home runs in his first 28 MLB games, Gorman saw a shift in how pitchers attacked him. Gone were the off-speed and breaking pitches that he jumped on to hit nine of his first 10 home runs more than 400 feet. Instead, he started seeing a steady slew of elevated fastballs that shut him down. By mid-September, his struggles landed him back in the Minor Leagues.

The Cardinals stressed to Gorman that mechanical changes were needed to fix the flaws in his swing. He spent much of his offseason hitting in the cage — both against high-velocity pitching machines and pitchers feeding him a host of heaters. During one BP session off the high-velocity machine earlier this week, Gorman raised eyebrows by powering several home runs onto a field butted up against the one he was hitting on.

“He’s moving faster and … there’s more explosiveness in his swing,” Cards manager Oliver Marmol said. “Mechanically, the swing is flatter and that helps at the top of the zone and being able to get to the fastball that’s up. It’s different than last year when he kind of had that uphill move where he was collapsing and coming up through the zone.

He struggled at four-seamers with a 17% SwStr% and a .615 OPS.


Jameson Taillon is adding a sweeping slider.

Jameson Taillon did not want to wait until Spring Training to begin his new pitch project with the Cubs. Over a video call after he signed in the offseason, he picked up a baseball and went over a revised slider grip with the team’s staff.

From there, Taillon began testing out his new “sweeper” slider in bullpen sessions, sending Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and assistant pitching coach Daniel Moskos video and data for feedback. By the time they all convened in Arizona this spring, the group was deep into the process.

• The final rotation spot will come down to one of Adrian Sampson 샘슨, Hayden Wesneski, or Javier Assad.

After Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele and Drew Smyly, manager David Ross made it clear that the battle for the fifth spot is on. Along with Sampson, youngsters Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad will be in the mix for that final rotation spot. Ross praised all three and pointed out that Assad earned the right during his brief time in the big leagues last season. But for now, not even a full week into camp, this feels like a battle between Sampson and Wesneski.


Gavin Lux got bigger this offseason.

Lux’s first move this offseason was to visit Driveline in Seattle, something the Dodgers encouraged nearly every position player to do this offseason. After going through tests at the facility, the message to Lux was to add more strength.

Lux spent the offseason eating close to 4,500 calories a day and working with the training staff. He came into camp about 15 pounds heavier than where he was last season, a change that could lead to more power and more arm strength.

Will Smith won’t DH much.

“It’s just going to be more of Will will just have off days,” Roberts said Sunday, though he was quick to note nothing has been set in stone. “I don’t expect J.D. to DH 162. But he’s going to be the guy who’s going to be in that position 99.9 percent of the time. So if there is a time Will doesn’t play, it’ll just be an off day.


David Villar, Wilmer Flores, and J.D. Davis will be limited to 300 to 400 at-bats.

While Villar, Flores and Davis might appear to be potential redundancies, Zaidi said he anticipates that there will be at least 300 to 400 at-bats for each player this season.

• David Villar could get some reps at second base.

Zaidi cited Villar’s defensive metrics in the minor leagues along with internal evaluations from the player development staff as reasons to believe that the Giants haven’t seen Villar’s best defense at the major league level. They think enough of his range and athleticism that they plan to give him exposure this spring at second base. If he shows enough proficiency, he could snag a few starts against left-handed pitchers there when Thairo Estrada slides over to shortstop to give Crawford a day off.

“He looks great physically and we think he can handle the range at second base even in a post-shifting world,” Zaidi said. “So that’ll be something to watch for. He’ll get a lot of work there.”


• The team might go with a six-man rotation.

Several MLB clubs are considering a six-man rotation, and Miami is one of them.

“It’s something we’ll take a look at,” pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said. “There’s guys in that rotation potentially that are still on inning restrictions. So we have to balance all of that, and we have to win games. It’s time to move on and get past the losing part. All of that needs to remain at the forefront and most important, but we will look at that, and then carry — if you do go with a six-man [rotation] — you carry one less guy in the bullpen.

“And you want to make sure that sixth man is giving you competitive starts and can actually win games. It can’t be development. It needs to be ‘win now.’ We are confident with those six guys all fighting for spots, too.”


Starling Marte is being cautious this spring.

“Thank God, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” Marte said through an interpreter, three months after surgery. “We just continue to do exercises on it to make sure everything is strong and everything is ready to go.”

Although Marte will not be ready to join his teammates for a full complement of baseball activities when full-squad workouts begin on Monday, he said that’s a precaution more than anything else. The outfielder added that Opening Day is not in question.

“First, we’re just going to make sure that we’re strong enough,” Marte said. “We’re going to be in the weight room a lot to make sure that we have the strength there. And then, after that, we’re going to take the next steps.”


Jack Suwinski changed his stance to handle the high pitch.

Compared to last season, Suwinski’s stance is noticeably more upright and subtly more open. For Suwinski, the goal of these changes is to “get more square,” allowing him to ride out breaking balls while handling pitches at the top of the strike zone, an area that Suwinski struggled to cover last year.


Jonathan India added speed this offseason.

India worked with a sprint coach in the offseason to get his running form right and body in shape. He noted that his sprint speed was 3 mph faster.

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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1 year ago

If India added 3 MPH to his statcast sprint speed from last year, he is now the fastest man in baseball (ran a FT/S to MPH conversion on India’s 2022 statcast number and #1 on the leaderboards, Corbin Carroll, and India would be as fast as Carroll after a 2 MPH bump).

Brian Louchis
1 year ago
Reply to  VottomanEmpire

Whether his self-proclaimed turbo boost is true or not doesn’t matter. The fact that a main goal is to get faster tells me he’ll have more SB attempts, and therefore more steals.