Mining the News (3/21/23)

American League

Angels

Ben Joyce could end up being the closer this season.

Carlos Estévez looks to be the likely closer for the Angels, but what odds would you give Ben Joyce to take over the role this year? Is there someone we aren’t paying attention to who could steal saves?

Estévez has had a brutal spring training. Normally, that wouldn’t matter much. But the numbers are truly gaudy. Still, the job is likely his at this point. Joyce is a wild card. He has just about 50 competitive innings above the high school level. That includes college and pro ball. He throws 104 miles per hour. He seems to have solid command. The question is how often the Angels could use him, and how durable he’d be over a full season. The odds are good that he’s pitching for the team this year. And he has closer-type stuff.

Rangers

• The Athletic’s Keith Law likes what he has seen from Cole Ragans

Ragans is a two-time Tommy John recipient, and when he finally debuted in the majors last year, it seemed more like a feel-good story than anything else, as he averaged just 92.1 mph on his four-seamer and got hit very hard. This spring, he’s touched 98 several times and 97 in every outing, and combined with the pitch’s high spin rate and huge arm-side run, it should go from being a major weakness (the pitch was worth -13 runs last year, per Statcast) to an asset. He’s got a big-breaking curveball and a changeup with plus fade, with the curveball playing up because its spin-based direction is dead opposite to that of the fastball and change.

… and Ragans will see time in the majors as a starter or reliever.

Rocker, Leiter, Porter, Cole Winn, Cole Ragans, White: Who is in the bigs (1 this year (2 next year (3 traded? — Shawn W.

Ragans is unquestionably a 2023 major leaguer, possibly as soon as Opening Day if the club decides to move him to the bullpen.

Robbie Grossman will start the season as a full-time outfielder.

However, manager Bruce Bochy said yesterday that Grossman isn’t likely to be platooned but rather to head into the season in line for the lion’s share of playing time in left field (link via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). The Rangers like the adjustments Grossman has made from the left side of the dish and will give him a chance to play more often than not.

Red Sox

• In the second week, the Red Sox will face the Pirates and Tigers. Target the teams’s fourth starter (Houck or Pivetta) for possibly two easy Wins.

Projected rotation
Corey Kluber, RHP
Chris Sale, LHP
Tanner Houck, RHP
Nick Pivetta, RHP
Kutter Crawford, RHP

The rotation is a relatively easy guess at this point. The Red Sox have already announced that Corey Kluber and Chris Sale will start the first two games of the season, while Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta have been stretched out to fill two more spots. The fifth spot seemingly comes down to Kutter Crawford or Josh Winckowski as a stopgap until Garrett Whitlock, Brayan Bello and James Paxton are ready to go.

Tanner Houck is refining his splitter (i.e. change) and adding a cutter.

This spring, the 26-year-old righty has been working to diversify his pitch mix, continuing to refine his splitter while also adding a brand new cutter, to go along with his signature sinker-slider combination.

National League

Cubs

Kyle Hendricks should be pitching on the team in May.

He suggested that at some point next week before the team headed back to Chicago he’d sit down with the coaches and get a concrete plan for next steps. But at the moment, he’s throwing bullpens every Monday and Friday and going at 100 percent effort.

Hendricks said his velocity is back to where it once was and he’s throwing all his pitches in these bullpens. The shortened arm action is now second nature and he’s as healthy as he’s been in a while. His hope was to get in some extended spring action, hopefully get in a few minor-league games and that by May he’d be ready to return to the big-league team.

Dodgers

• The team is still looking to Ryan Pepiot or Michael Grove to replace Tony Gonsolin in the rotation.

Despite his strong spring, Stone isn’t in the mix to earn a spot in the rotation on Opening Day. The Dodgers will likely go with Ryan Pepiot or Michael Grove to replace the injured Tony Gonsolin. But if Stone continues to pitch the way he has since being selected in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft, the 24-year-old could be making Dodger Stadium his home this summer.

Phillies

• If/when Brandon Marsh struggles against lefties, Edmundo Sosa can now play centerfield.

Edmundo Sosa might be solidifying his chances to be Brandon Marsh’s backup in center field. Sosa played center for the second consecutive game on Monday, going 2-for-3 in a 14-6 victory over the Orioles. He is batting .516 (16-for-31) with four homers and a 1.583 OPS this spring.

The Phillies are playing Sosa, who is probably their best defensive infielder, in center because they want a right-handed hitter to back up Marsh.

• Don’t read too much into Bryce Harper not going on the 60-day IL. If he goes on the 60-day IL, the team must add a player to the 40-man roster. The team probably doesn’t have someone in mind right now, so they will wait until they need to make that move.

The Phillies will not place outfielder Bryce Harper on the 60-day injured list to begin the regular season as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Philadelphia president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday.

Matt Strahm might piggyback with Ranger Suárez to start the season.

The Phils aren’t planning to place Suarez on the injured list to begin the season, however. As such, it seems likely his per-start workload would be capped for at least his first few turns through the rotation. Having Strahm stretched out to three or more innings would allow the Phillies to piggyback the two if they choose to go that route, and there’s obvious benefit in having Strahm stretched out in the event that the Philadelphia rotation sustains an injury of note.

Pirates

Jack Suwinski is the front-runner for the last outfield spot.

Read between the lines, however, and Shelton’s stance on Suwinski is clear.

“Jack’s in a good spot,” Shelton said prior to the Pirates’ 7-5 win over the Red Sox. “I think the big thing is … there’s a lot of competition. There’s also a lot going on [with] what you did previously. I think we all know Spring Training stats can be inflated very quickly, especially playing the back half of games when it’s guys that are going to be in the Minor Leagues. So, we have to be aware of what has been done and what he’s done. The fact that Jack came to the big leagues last year, hit 19 homers, got better defensively [matters].”

Translation: Suwinski played well enough last season that he’s still a frontrunner for a starting outfield spot.

Suwinski’s numbers this spring — .226/.333/.452 slash line, one home run, two steals in 14 games — are solid enough, but the outfielder’s 18 strikeouts across 39 plate appearances (46.2% K rate) are cause for some concern. Some of those struggles might be attributed to Suwinski’s altered batting stance; compared to last season, he is noticeably more upright and slightly more open. Suwinski described the new stance as a “work-in-progress,” but he remains positive about the change overall.

Rodolfo Castro, Ji Hwan Bae, Tucupita Marcano will be in an infield rotation.

Like Suwinski, Castro owns a much stronger résumé compared to Ji Hwan Bae, Tucupita Marcano and the recently acquired Mark Mathias, all of whom are in the second-base competition as well. While Suwinski will have a clearer role heading into the season, Castro could be one of several second basemen instead of a definitive starter.

“I think it definitely could be a rotation, and I think you could see us have a rotation at a couple spots because we’re built a little bit differently than we have been in the past, in terms of what we’ve added and how we function left to right now,” Shelton said. “We have some ability to play some matchups. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be one person. It could be, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be one person.”





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.

4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
glecontemember
1 year ago

Thanks for the diligent work, Jeff.