Mining the News (3/13/23) by Jeff Zimmerman March 13, 2023 American League Angels • Chase Silseth added a cutter. Silseth, ranked as the club’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is competing for the sixth spot in the rotation and made his second start of the spring in Wednesday’s 4-3 walk-off win over the Rockies, striking out five and allowing one run over four innings. He’s added a new pitch to his arsenal this year — a cutter — which he believes will especially help him against left-handed hitters. Athletics • Adam Oller added a slurve. Oller continues to find success with his recently added breaking ball. Of his seven punchouts against the Dodgers on Thursday, five were finished off on the breaker, which he describes as somewhat of a hybrid between a slider and a curveball. Through three Cactus League outings, Oller holds a 1.86 ERA and leads all pitchers on the roster with 14 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. I couldn’t find any pitch info on the pitch. Blue Jays • Santiago Espinal will probably start at second against all lefties. “With lefties — and I don’t want to brag — but with lefties I feel like it’s way easier for me,” Espinal said after a two-hit day in Toronto’s 3-1 win over the Braves on Thursday. “It’s way easier because I can see the whole part of the field and the angle they’re coming in at. I just feel a lot more comfortable with a lefty.” It’s not bragging when the numbers back you up. Espinal’s career splits: vs. RHP: .260 / .319 / .354 (.673 OPS) vs. LHP: .322 / .376 / .427 (.802 OPS) The short version? When a lefty is on the mound, Espinal is in the lineup. Every single time. Espinal is still playable against righties, of course, but if he starts the day on the bench, he’s a wonderful option for Schneider to have late in games against a lefty. Short of some injury to a regular, this platoon with likely limit Merrifield to around 450 PA. Mariners • Chris Flexen 플렉센 added a slider. Pitch: Slider Purpose: He needed a breaking ball. “The curveball for me last year was just a far-below-average pitch,” Flexen said. “I just couldn’t figure it out. I had a good one in ’21. I don’t think I’m going to completely get rid of it, but I needed a breaking ball. And when I started working on the slider last year, I had good results with it. I felt good throwing it. So that was the pitch that I wanted to continue to stick with.” No detailed information on this pitch so far. Royals • Edward Olivares will need to improve his defense to play more. The question that has followed Olivares throughout his career is his defense, but he’s continuing to work with outfield coach Damon Hollins. The Royals will need him to play out there if they want him in the lineup every day, especially if Franmil Reyes makes the team and is the designated hitter most of the time. “Damon’s worked very hard with [Olivares] already, and what we expect is a consistent effort in the outfield and his drill work and playing balls off the bat,” Quatraro said. “We’ve told him, ‘We expect you to play a lot of outfield,’ and to not expect just to DH.” Tigers • Spencer Torkelson is using a lighter bat. He’s using a slightly lighter bat this season, 33 1/2 ounces, after using a 34-ounce bat throughout his pro career. That move came out of his conversations at first base, where he’d chat with hitters about what they used. Mike Trout and Carlos Correa were two notable hitters using 33 1/2-ounce bats. • Two of the third base candidates are injured, Tyler Nevin and Andy Ibáñez, so Nick Maton might have the inside track for the third base job. Infielder Tyler Nevin removed himself from batting practice yesterday and reported feeling soreness in his oblique. Meanwhile, fellow infielder Andy Ibáñez sprained the fourth finger on his left hand while preparing for the World Baseball Classic. … These two injuries could potentially have implications for the club’s plans, as both players are part of a competition for the open third base job. The club non-tendered Jeimer Candelario in the winter and has various players jockeying for the role of his replacement. At this point, it seems the most likely scenario involves the left-handed hitting Nick Maton taking the strong side of a platoon. Maton actually has reverse splits in his career so far, but in a small sample of 216 plate appearances. Twins • Aaron Gleeman of the Athletic believes Jhoan Duran and Jorge López will share closer duties. Do the Twins plan to have a primary closer this season or will they use closer by committee based on matchups? — Tim B. It’ll be a committee again, with Jhoan Duran and Jorge López likely receiving most of the early save chances. They’re among a growing number of teams that prefer having their best relievers ready for high-leverage, game-changing spots regardless of inning, rather than holding a “closer” back for ninth-inning “save” situations that may never materialize. Games can be saved in any inning. White Sox • Lucas Giolito is aiming for a more consistent windup. “Not necessarily,” Giolito said about whether he expected a velocity boost. “It’s just a more natural feeling. When I made the initial change, (the arm action) actually wasn’t super short. It was more (that I) was just keeping it bent, but still drawing it back. And then over the years, it got shorter and shorter and shorter. So all the biomechanics, all that sh– I did in the offseason just got me a little bit more fluid, a little bit, a little bit longer. But I’m still compact.” The compactness is important for the increased repeatability, and thus better control, Giolito has displayed since his 2018 season. And really, he’s not looking for the best shape or hardest fastball, but a return to the baselines of his three-year run from 2019-21 when he averaged a fastball velocity closer to 94 mph, rather than his 92.5 mph from last season. Giolito just wants the consistent action and movement from that period, and he’ll allow that velocity could come with it. The problem is that he has not increased his velocity yet to his “good” levels (94 mph). Giolito on first outing, vs. Dodgers: "Velocity doesn’t matter too much right now but I was pleased with it. The differential, fastball around 92-93 and changeup down to like 79-80, that’s always good. The changeup was getting a lot of swings and misses." — Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) March 5, 2023 • Yasmani Grandal may see some time at DH this year… IF he’s hitting. His stated playing time goal for Yasmani Grandal is for him to be behind the plate “if he feels good and he checks all the boxes from our sports performance team and our trainers and everybody,” though Salvador Perez not catching more than 120 games since 2016 is instructive to how far that might be pushed. How much of that playing time might include first base and designated hitter depends on Grandal’s bat rebounding. “If Yaz gets out to a really hot start with the bat, and we gotta keep the bat in there, then maybe he DHs some,” Grifol said. Yankees • Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt will be in the rotation but with Nestor Cortes also hurting, someone else may have to step up. With Rodón missing the start of the season, it now ends the fifth starter debate for the time being because both Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt will now be thrust into the rotation with both Rodón and Montas out. Now, the Yankees are looking at possibly Deivi Garcia, Randy Vasquez and Yoendrys Gómez as the in-house options who are currently on the 40-man roster and can be used as deep depth. Besides the three guys listed above, Roster Resource had Jhony Brito listed as an option. Here is a quick look at the quartet’s prospect grades. Yankees Prospect Starting Pitcher Options Name Rank FBv Best non-FB grade MILB BB9 Yoendrys Gómez 10 94.5 55, CU/CT 3.7 Randy Vásquez 11 94 70, CU 3.5 Jhony Brito 15 94.5 60, CH 1.9 Deivi García 32 94.5 50, CT/SL 4.5 I’d be the most interested if Vasquez or Brito got the chance to start. They are the only ones projected for a plus pitch and Brito is the only one of the three with any signs of control. National League Dodgers • Ryan Pepiot is cleaning up his delivery to throw more strikes. In most of his starts, Pepiot struggled with consistency and command. He lost too many pitches to his arm side of the plate. He couldn’t find a good feel for a slider he’d tinkered with the previous offseason. And he finished the season unsatisfied with his delivery. So, this winter, he tried to revamp his game. He focused on cleaning up his mechanics, especially to better locate his two-seamer and changeup. He settled on a more traditional slider shape, with just enough right-to-left movement to keep hitters guessing. • Michael Grove has reworked his slider. [Grove’s] fastball is up a couple of ticks, routinely reaching 96 mph after averaging 94.4 mph last year. He added more spin and movement to his slider and curveball, hopeful it will help him put more batters away in his next stint in the majors. “I could have gone one of two ways,” Grove said. “Throw [my breaking pitches] harder or get something that spins a little more and has a little bit more shape to it. I went with that route, and just toyed with my grip and made an adjustment that way.” The article states that he’s “reaching 96 mph” but last season he reached 97.5 mph. I suspect his average fastball velocity is in line with last season. Mets • David Peterson and Tylor Megill are fighting for the last rotation spot with José Quintana to start the season hurt. Assuming Peterson comes out of the live BP session without issue, he should rejoin the rotation soon, continuing what has become perhaps the most intriguing battle in camp. Peterson and Tylor Megill are the two top candidates to replace José Quintana, who is likely to miss the start of the regular season due to a stress fracture in his rib. Padres • José Azocar changed his approach to drive the ball more. The power comes from a conscious attempt to adjust his offensive approach. “I’m standing up a little more now, using my bottom half, my legs,” said Azocar, who started in center field on Thursday. The game right now is not just about putting the ball in play. It is about driving the ball to the gaps, hitting homers and being able to run the bases, too.” Azocar had a slash line of .257/.298/.332 in 98 games with no homers and five stolen bases as a rookie last season. Phillies • Edmundo Sosa is trying to not chase balls outside the zone. Edmundo Sosa homered twice and Bryson Stott homered once in a 7-6 victory over the Orioles. Sosa is batting .500 (8-for-16) with four home runs this spring. “He’s not chasing and that’s big for him,” Thomson said. “That was a big objective over the winter.” Sosa played shortstop Thursday, but he is getting work in center field. He will play there again Tuesday. Last year he had a 26% K% with just a 13% K% so far in Spring Training. • Jake Cave might play in the outfield when Kyle Schwarber is the DH. Jake Cave went 2-for-2 with a triple. He is batting .474 (9-for-19) with one double, two triples and two home runs. Cave is competing for a bench job. He hits left-handed, but Thomson said that is not a detriment with Kyle Schwarber and Brandon Marsh already in the outfield. “While Harp’s out, you want to try to get Schwarber off his feet, even with a right-handed pitcher,” Thomson said. “That could be a spot where he could fit. There’s a lot of tough and good problems to have to solve by the time we’re done.” • Bryce Harper might not play in the outfield this season. Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper said Thursday that he is uncertain if he will play right field this season amid his recovery from Tommy John surgery. • With Ranger Suárez and Andrew Painter hurt, Bailey Falter seems like the best option for the team’s fifth rotation spot. Suárez’s setback follows Andrew Painter’s right-elbow injury, which will not require surgery. Painter had been competing to be the team’s No. 5 starter. Left-hander Bailey Falter is the favorite for the No. 5 spot now, but left-handers Michael Plassmeyer and Cristopher Sánchez and right-hander Nick Nelson are in the mix. Falter — who has allowed three runs (two earned) in 3 2/3 innings this spring — probably has the edge, based on his performance last season, but Plassmeyer (zero runs allowed in 5 1/3 innings) is pitching well this spring. I already previewed Falter this off-season. While there was a move from the sinker to the four-seamer, the pitches are similar with a bit more vertical movement on the sinker. The big takeaway is that his fastball is fine and he should be throwing his curve and slider about 25% of the time. Solid late option on a decent team. The results are mixed this preseason in tracked games. Elder hasn’t thrown a curve (12% SwStr% last season), he’s leaning into his sinker (43% usage), but the sinker is up about 1 mph. Michael Plassmeyer is not a normal target of mine because of his 89 mph fastball, but the pitch was a flyball machine (27% GB%) while his non-fastballs were elite in a small sample (Change: 22% SwStr%, 71% GB%, Slider: 40% Swstr%, 66% GB%). So far his spring in tracked games, his fastball is up to 89.9 mph and he’s throwing an 86-mph cutter with an 18% SwStr% so far. He is struggling to throw strikes with a 39% Ball% (which projects to a 11% BB%) and 7.7 BB/9. Reds • Henry Ramos라모스 is in play for an Opening Day roster spot. Outfielders (5) Wil Myers, Jake Fraley, TJ Friedl, Henry Ramos, Will Benson … Ramos is the surprise. He’s done nothing but hit in camp. Ramos, who turns 31 in April, played in Korea last season after reaching the big leagues with the Diamondbacks in 2021. He was limited by injury in Korea last season, but was healthy this winter playing in Puerto Rico. He’s currently playing in the WBC for Puerto Rico, the only position player in the Reds’ big-league camp playing in the WBC. He’s produced in his career at Triple A (where he’s a .297/.350/.471 hitter over 364 games) and this is his chance to show he’s a big leaguer. He’s done that so far in camp. Ramos wasn’t on my radar at all. The 30-year-old played in Korea last season (.250/.304/.417, 3 HR, and 2 SB in 18 games). In 2021, he hit .371/.439/.582 with 12 HR and 4 SB in AAA, but struggled in the majors (.200/.255/.300). And he’s still not on my radar. Rockies • Harold Castro, Brenton Doyle, and Nolan Jones are all in play for the open outfield spot because of Sean Bouchard’s injury. Castro plays in the outfield and infield, and he started at first base against Team Mexico. Switch-hitting Cole Tucker, another non-roster player with infield and outfield experience, is batting .273 in Cactus League play. Michael Toglia, ranked as the Rockies’ No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is a first baseman by trade, No. 16 prospect Brenton Doyle and No. 17 prospect Nolan Jones, who played third for most of his time in the Guardians’ system but broke in with the team last season in the outfield, also are competing. • Elehuris Montero is struggling with his defense at third base. But Montero’s defense is the question, and the answer has to come from his feet. He has quick hands, and the arm is strong. But getting his big frame (listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds) into position for accurate throws is taking time. Cactus League started with him yanking a couple of throws, which required the first baseman to lean toward right and make a tough scoop. One sailed, requiring a leaping catch and tag. Thanks to work at the receiving end, Montero does not have an error. Montero can help the daily lineup — if he can fulfill manager Bud Black’s defensive directives. “He’s got work capacity — his stamina is such where he can handle a [heavy] workload in spring,” Black said. “I want to say that he’s reliable on balls he should make as a Major League third baseman. That’s where I want to get to.