After taking last week off from Mining the News, I’m back with a partial recap and almost no in-depth commentary. It’s still almost 3000 words of projection altering nuggets. Also, I’m trying to catch up on the Spring Training fastball velocity tracker. Hopefully, both will be up-to-date in a day or so.
Patrick Sandoval (the Angels’ top pitching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline) started one of the team’s two games on Sunday, while Jose Suarez took the ball in the other. Both are considered candidates for the rotation, as are Matt Andriese and Jaime Barria.
“The candidates are great, it’s just a matter of experience and how they’ll be able to deal with all that,” Maddon said of the 22-year-old Suarez and 23-year-old Sandoval. “If you’re a scout and maybe just ran a fantasy baseball team, you kind of like this stuff. …
Not all that often. The Astros have five other outfielders – Springer, Brantley, Reddick, Kyle Tucker and Myles Straw – and Alvarez’s value to them is tied exclusively to his bat. They need to keep his knees healthy, and exposing him to too much running in the outfield could negatively impact his offensive production. He’s also by far their worst outfield defender.
I think Reddick and Tucker will end up splitting time early in the season, and if one significantly outperforms the other he will warrant a greater percentage of the playing time as the year wares on. I don’t think it will be a situation where one just always rides the bench. And no, I don’t think Reddick can be moved on his $13 million salary.
I have Austin Pruitt beating out Josh James in the competition for the final rotation spot. Although he’s a soft-tosser, Pruitt has really good command and I think the Astros will have him throw more off-speed pitches than the Rays did. James has great stuff, but I’m skeptical he will be able to repeat his delivery consistently enough to throw more strikes and pitch deep into games. James could also be a multi-inning weapon as a reliever while Pruitt would be more of your generic long man if he’s in the bullpen.
Abreu definitely has a shot at one of the last spots in the Astros’ Opening Day bullpen, but his candidacy took a hit when the Astros brought in Hughes.
Trent Thornton seems to have the inside track on the No. 5 job in the rotation ahead of Saturday’s starter Shun Yamaguchi, but it’s safe to assume that a Major League team will need numerous starters in a season.
With Lyles, it comes back to his 11 starts with the Brewers last season. Lyles was 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP after being acquired by the Pirates on July 29. That’s far above his career record of 43-60, a 5.11 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. The difference was emphasizing the high fastball over the sinker, and pairing it with a curve ball down in the zone.
• … while adding a changeup.
Rangers starter Jordan Lyles found success with a fastball/curve combination late last season with the Brewers, going 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts. This spring, he’s working on a changeup to add to the arsenal, and that was his focus over three innings of work against the Giants.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward assembled his potential Opening Day lineup, both in personnel and order, for the first time this spring on Saturday against the White Sox. Nearly all the regulars started the 7-6 win over the White Sox, with third baseman Todd Frazier in the cleanup spot he will hypothetically occupy when the season begins March 26.
Batting between Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun, the right-handed Frazier gives Woodward the ability to break up the lefties in the lineup and put a proven power hitter with a history of driving in runs in the fourth spot.
• Bobby Dalbec will not start the season in the majors.
Roenicke says Dalbec “probably won’t be” on Opening Day roster.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 29, 2020
What stood out the most was Duffy’s slider, which throughout his career has sat around 82-84 mph. On Sunday against the A’s at Surprise Stadium that slider ticked up to 87 mph.
“I worked on it a lot this offseason, trying to figure out ways to do something a little different with it,” Duffy said. “Nothing crazy, but definitely trying to get more consistent with it in terms of locating it.”
Maybin did not become another speedster trying to hit home runs every swing. But after reworking his swing with Wallenbrock, Maybin’s focus on centering line drives and avoiding ground balls clicked last year in time to rekindle his career with the Yankees last season.
Maybin’s average launch angle in 2016 was 3.9 degrees, according to Statcast. His groundball/flyball ratio was 1.36, according to baseball-reference. His launch angle last year rose to 11.1, and his ground ball/flyball ratio dropped to .70.
Maybin’s average exit velocity last year was 88.8 mph, slightly above his average. His hard-hit rate percentage jumped to 39.5 percent.
“I know that after the injury, I pushed a lot to play,” Rosario said. “I couldn’t play my 100 percent. I couldn’t run at 100 percent last year. It affected everything.”
Rosario was hitting .282/.312/.529 with 20 homers in 75 games at the time of his injury, sustained while rounding first base in a home game against the Rays. In the 62 games he played following his return from the 10-day injured list on July 16, he hit .268/.286/.465 with 12 homers.
Gonzalez said he played through pain in the knee throughout the 2019 campaign and underwent the procedure in Dallas as soon as his season ended with the Twins’ sweep at the hands of the Yankees in the American League Division Series. He added that he has spent around an hour a day in the trainers’ room during Spring Training to get physically ready to play.
Throughout the first four seasons of his Major League career, Berríos’ curveball developed into his primary swing-and-miss pitch and showed significant lateral run toward his glove side as well as vertical drop. But Berríos said after his three scoreless innings on Saturday night that he’s working to develop more north-south action on the pitch this spring, with the hope that it will tunnel more effectively with his fastball up in the zone.
Berríos has also been working on the consistency of his release point across all of his pitches, drawing his arm back less significantly in his delivery and using the Twins’ new force-plate mound and visual elements to track his progress. That also plays into the right-hander’s ability to tunnel the fastball and curveball.
With Jordan Montgomery generally thought to be in the driver’s seat for the No. 4 spot, Garcia is certainly in the mix for No. 5. That said, I sense that the organization would prefer to have Garcia pick up more seasoning at the Triple-A level, where he pitched to a 5.40 ERA in 40 innings late last year. There is an impressive presence and poise in Garcia’s 5-foot-9 frame, and you can see why the Yankees accelerated his progress through three levels of the chain in 2019.
• Luis Cessa will not be competing for a starting spot and is headed to the bullpen.
Aaron Boone says he probably sees Luis Cessa in the bullpen, where he can fill a variety of roles. Brian Cashman had mentioned Cessa's name as being in the mix for a rotation spot.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 25, 2020
While this might sound like a good plan, Braves manager Brian Snitker does not necessarily see it as a practical one. At this point, he believes Riley and Camargo would both be best served playing on an everyday basis, even if that means one would likely be doing so at the Triple-A level.
“Realistically, can you get both guys [on the roster]?” Snitker said. “No, I don’t know you can do them justice. If you’re not playing them every day, then you’re not going to do them justice. You can talk about it, and it all sounds good. But in reality, it’s just not that easy to do.”
• Felix Hernandez appears to be in the lead for the 5th rotation spot.
Lindblom is a lock for the Brewers’ pitching rotation after getting a three-year contract to return to the U.S. from the Korea Baseball Organization, where he won that league’s version of the Cy Young Award each of the past two seasons and was league MVP in 2019.
An adjustment to his swing is paying significant early dividends for Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia.
Coming off a season in which he was statistically the worst everyday hitter in the Major Leagues, and entering a season in which the Brewers brought in Luis Urías to compete with Arcia at shortstop, Arcia made some adjustments with Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines and new assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz upon reporting to camp in January.
To reach his overarching goal of improving with runners in scoring position this season, DeJong wanted to establish his strike zone and the places where he wants to see a pitch to swing at. Until he gets to two strikes, the Cardinals’ shortstop is looking for pitches in the upper part of the zone. He hopes that eliminates the chases — and all the strikeouts — he has had with pitches down and away.
For DeJong, situational hitting is eliminating the situation — or, at least, not dwelling on it. It’s simplifying the strike zone regardless of who is standing on base or what the situation is.
With nearly a month of workouts and more than a week’s worth of games in the books, Cubs manager David Ross was asked Tuesday if he envisions using a combination of players at second base, no matter which players get the Opening Day nod.
“It really is a wait and see,” Ross said. “Kip’s having a good spring. David Bote’s doing well. Nico’s continuing to get his at-bats. … And we’ll continue to work on their defense. I’m a big proponent of defense. I like taking away hits and runs. That’s a big one for me. So, we’ll just continue to watch that.”
David Peralta’s surgically repaired right shoulder got a test Monday when he dove for a ball in left field.
Peralta did not feel any discomfort in the shoulder on the dive.
• The Giants closer situation is up-in-the-air.
But we have a limited sample to scrutinize without mercy and it sure looks like it’s still going to be a while before a closer is chosen.
• Tony Watson is the most likely option to have the closer’s role but his shoulder is not ready yet.
Watson, 34, said he had been throwing bullpens before reporting to Spring Training last month, though his arm wasn’t bouncing back as well as he had hoped early in camp. He decided to take a break from throwing to try to rebuild strength in his shoulder and said he’s feeling better now.
Watson isn’t sure when he’ll be able to pitch in an exhibition game, but he feels he still has time to ramp up before the Giants play their season opener against the Dodgers on March 26. Watson is expected to be one of the Giants’ most experienced relievers this season and could be a candidate to take over the closing role vacated by fellow left-hander Will Smith, who signed a three-year, $40 million deal with the Braves this offseason.
The outfield remains difficult to project at this point. Assuming they’re healthy, I would expect Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Hunter Pence to be on the Giants’ Opening Day roster, with the latter two likely forming a platoon in left field. That leaves one or two openings for the rest of the outfielders in camp, a group that includes non-roster invitee Billy Hamilton, Jaylin Davis, Steven Duggar, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw and possibly Mauricio Dubón, who is getting looks in center field this spring.
Cooper is working on elevating the ball this season. A year ago, his average launch angle was 4.5 degrees, according to Statcast.
“You hit a 105-mph ground ball, and you’re not doing too much damage,” Cooper said. “I’m concentrating on getting underneath the ball. [There are] a lot of sinkerball pitchers in our division. It’s a daily thing. You work to figure some things out early in spring and see what works and what doesn’t.”
• Noah Syndergaard is trying to control the running game.
Of Syndergaard’s spring focal points, it’s possible none are as important as his ability to control the running game. Over the last two seasons, opponents stole 74 bases off Syndergaard in 80 attempts. No other Major League pitcher allowed more than 39 steals over that same stretch.
“I’d like to think I’m quite a bit further along than I’ve ever been,” Syndergaard said. “It took a lot of swallowing my pride in knowing there’s something I really need to work on there, and [I] made a huge emphasis of doing so.”
He allowed three hits and one unearned run in three innings of work during Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Spectrum Field, striking out a trio. Having allowed one unearned run in five innings this spring, Suárez has kept himself in the mix alongside right-handers Nick Pivetta (four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings) and Vince Velasquez (two scoreless innings). All of this comes after the lefty entered camp a perceived longshot behind the pair because they have better stuff and more upside.
The conventional thinking is Suárez will really need to outpitch Pivetta and Velasquez to win the job.
It’s not that hard to outpitch Pivetta and Velasquez.
If everyone else stays healthy, they’d have a rotation of Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, Keller and Holland with starting depth that includes JT Brubaker, James Marvel, Cody Ponce and potentially veteran Hector Noesí, among others. Eventually, Brault and Kuhl will work their way into that mix or possibly into the big league bullpen.
• The Punisher is likely to start the season in the minors.
Aristides Aquino starting the season in Triple A
The difference really is Suárez taking Aquino’s spot and letting VanMeter serve as an infielder/outfielder. Dietrich, if healthy, could push for that role as well.
This isn’t an indictment of Aquino’s rough start to spring — he’s 0-for-14 with six strikeouts and a walk so far — but more that he has an option remaining and he could certainly use daily at-bats, which won’t be available with the logjam in the outfield.
Mahle said. “A lot of times I got hurt, it was [with] two strikes. I would try to throw a breaking ball under the zone. I just didn’t have that pitch, and it hurt me over and over again. I started throwing a slider for right now. I’m able to do that with a slider. Until the curve can get big enough to where it starts out on the same plane and goes under the zone, that’s going to be my slider.”
Márquez, who said he threw four sliders among his nine breaking pitches, wants his curve to be 81-84 mph and his slider 87-89.
So in early Spring Training, and maybe throughout, the cutter is staying in Davis’ pocket while he throws mostly fastballs and changeups, in an effort to keep his fingers from drifting to the side of the baseball to create that unwanted cutting.
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.