Mining the News (2/26/20)

I’m trying to crank this article out three times a week to limit how long it takes me to assemble each one. That said, I’m not sure if/when the next one will be posted since I’m traveling Friday to BHQ’s First Pitch Florida for my mixed LABR auction. I’m guessing sometime late on Friday or sometime Saturday.

Notes

• I’m going to shy away from any current headline injury news (Luis Severino and J.D. Davis). Instead, I’ll try to dig a little deeper to find some “hidden” news that everyone isn’t “breaking”.

• I’ll continue to add in Spring Training velocities whenever I find them to my tracker.

American League

Angels

Dillon Peters plans on emphasizing his slider to get left-handed hitters out.

Peters spoke after his first appearance of how he planned to begin mixing in a slider during the spring to give left-handed hitters another look. He threw the slider just 3.9 percent of the time last season.

Jose Suarez pitched through a shoulder injury and pitch tipping last season.

Suarez’s winter allowed him to address his tipping issue. He moved his glove up higher as he looks in for the sign instead of subconsciously moving it up and down depending on pitch type, and he worked on closing his glove toward his body to prevent runners from picking up his pitches from second base.

Fixing the problem also allowed Suarez to restore both his mental and physical health, healing up his confidence while also giving himself time to rest and rehab a troublesome shoulder that he pitched with in 2019. While Suarez wouldn’t concede the ongoing shoulder tightness (which dated back to last spring training) affected his performance, he admitted the noticeable difference in how he feels now when he pitches.

If both disappear, he could take a major step forward.

Astros

• Congratulating their P.R. for the great work they’ve done over the past season. They smoothed over all the turbulence surrounding the club so the players can now focus on just playing a clean fair game of baseball. And stay fresh to dodge balls being thrown at them.

Athletics

Sean Manaea is refining his slider.

Manaea is looking to implement improvements to his slider. That includes tweaks that came on advice from Randy Johnson during a special visit to camp earlier this spring on how to manipulate the pitch and when to use it in order to throw the hitters’ timing off.

“It was good. I was pretty happy with it,” Manaea said of the movement of his slider. “I was able to control it a little bit. Especially the first inning, it was good. I felt like I threw some really good ones right off my fingertips. I was really happy with it, movement-wise. Not so much location-wise.”

Indians

• It still looks like Jordan Luplow will be starting in the Indians outfield.

Right now, Oscar Mercado is the only guarantee. It’s early, but it seems like the Indians really want to keep Reyes in left and put Domingo Santana at DH. In that case, a way-too-early projection of the Opening Day outfield could be Mercado CF, Reyes LF and Jordan Luplow RF (especially if a lefty is on the mound).

It’ll be interesting to see how Luplow handles righties but in leagues where every starter is owned, he needs to be drafted.

Mariners

Justin Dunn made some mechanical adjustments in the hope of throwing more strikes.

Dunn has made a couple of mechanical fixes to his delivery that he and the organization hope will allow him to locate his fastball better in different parts of the strike zone.

Orioles

John Means plans on featuring his curveball more.

Enter the curve, which Means featured early and often across 1 1/3 innings in Tuesday’s 15-2 split-squad loss to the Rays, his spring debut. It was a pitch Means didn’t throw until September last season; previously, he relied only on his fastball, changeup and slider. He began tinkering with new grips midway through the summer, after trouble putting hitters away led to a string of short outings. What he came up with was a hybrid pitch, which Means dubbed a “slurve” at the time. Now it’s a curve, after an offseason spent refining it further.

He threw it 158 times last season and it only generated a 7% SwStr% and 35% GB%. Unless he improves the pitch, throwing it more is not going to help his results.

Red Sox

Andrew Benintendi will likely lead off for Boston.

Benintendi, who is likely to replace Betts in the leadoff spot, didn’t fare well there last year — especially in the first inning.

Tigers

Matthew Boyd is bringing back his curve. It has never been a decent pitch with a career 8% SwStr% and 32% GB%. Blah.

The pitch that froze Altuve, though, really was a curveball. And for that, Matthew Boyd had reason to cheer on the inside.

This is part of the process of spreading out Boyd’s arsenal. He has always thrown a curve; he just hasn’t thrown it like this. He didn’t throw many curves of any kind last year, though.

National League

Brewers

• I was higher than the crowd on Peralta after hearing about his new breaking balls. The Brewers must like what they’ve seen to guarantee him money to stay around. While I wouldn’t want to count on him coming into the season, he’s a must draft in all formats to see where his talent stabilizes.

Cubs

Albert Almora Jr. has a secret new swing.

With cameras rolling and a slew of mics and recorders surrounding him, the Cubs outfielder preferred to keep the conversation simple.

“I made adjustments,” Almora said. “I made adjustments that you guys will see in the game. It’s visibly different.”

Mets

Wilson Ramos is hoping to get more lift from his swing.

Working with an independent hitting coach this offseason, Ramos made significant mechanical changes in an effort to increase his launch angle, working on avoiding “cutting” his swing.

“That made me go around the ball and hit a lot of ground balls,” Ramos said of his old style. “This offseason, I was working on trying to stay through the ball and not cut my swing. That helped me to keep the ball in the air and not hit too many ground balls to the left side.”

Any kind of lift will be an improvement with a 62% GB% last season.

Padres

Garrett Richards developed a change while rehabbing.

“I’ve always wanted to throw a changeup,” Richards said. “I just couldn’t figure out a grip or a mindset without me pronating a whole bunch or putting my body in a bad position or it just coming out too hard. I’ve always struggled with taking some velocity off of it, so that’s why I kind of related to his changeup because he does throw hard and he is able to take enough off on the changeup.”

Manny Machado has been working on “things” this offseason like barreling up more balls.

“I’ve been working on some things this offseason, and I’m just trying to barrel up some more balls,” Machado said. “It was nice to get one out of the way.”

Machado wouldn’t get much more specific about his offseason adjustments. He’s simply working to square up the baseball more frequently, he said.

Phillies

• The Phillies are wanting Vince Velasquez to pitch his fastball down in the zone.

But there is more to it than just feeling free. A point of emphasis in camp under new pitching coach Bryan Price is being able to locate pitches down in the strike zone. Velasquez’s orders last season? Pump four-seam fastballs up in the zone.

“I think it’s something you have to work really hard at,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said about locating the ball down. “Your body was trained to do it for one way. He pitched down before, but then they strictly went up.

I don’t like the plan at all. The season (2017) that he pitched down in the zone, he had his best groundball rate (43%) but also his lowest strikeout rate (8.5 K/9) and highest ERA and ERA estimators (~5.00). Pass.





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 three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Jeff, thanks as always for aggregating this info regularly. At this point, everyone has access to the same or similar rankings list, so to me this is the single most valuable column for finding upside plays and potential ADP bargains. Please keep up the great work!