Mining The News (4/20/20)

I’ve been sitting on a ton of possibly useful information since Spring Training was cut short. I was just going to sort through it once MLB tries to start up but it was becoming too much. I’m going to purge all the information in two to three articles and try to write Mining the News on a regular basis.

Here several quotes from several team officials and coaches on how long they think it’ll take to get pitchers ready.

• Jon Daniels says the Rangers are “idling”.

Daniels said the Rangers want their pitchers “idling their engines.” That means not shutting it down completely, but also not going at full intensity without knowing when they will be called back to work.

“Until the league tells us otherwise, we are going to try and keep guys in some sort of state of readiness,” Daniels said. “That’s going to vary with each guy based on what they can do safely. We don’t want anybody to do anything that will jeopardize their health or the public’s health.”

• Mark Shapiro of the Blue Jays thinks three to four weeks is needed for pitchers to start up.

If baseball does return, how long do you think the second spring training needs to be?
That’s too difficult to answer because it’s dependent on a lot of variables. All the different rules, roster composition, length of games (7 innings compared to 9) could speed it up dramatically … we need to find out what shape all the players are in, and so on. We could do it faster than three to four weeks like we did in 1995, but we would need significant changes that consider what shape our players are in and what roster and game rules are in place that help protect our players’ health, the pitchers in particular.

• The Twins pitching coach, Wes Johnson sees pitchers needing a three-week ramp-up period.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Johnson was asked about a possible timeline to have players ready for a revised Opening Day. While relievers can build up quickly and position players need roughly three weeks to prepare for action, starting pitchers require more time to build up. With teams already having experienced a month of camp and games before the shutdown two weeks ago, Johnson thinks the necessary time to ramp back up and prepare for action would be a minimum of three weeks.

“We feel pretty confident as a staff, talking, that 21-28 days, if that’s what we’re given, we could have some guys ready to go,” Johnson said. “Who knows, though, how much time they could call us and say we’re getting. Who knows? We can go through a whole bunch of different scenarios. That’s why we’re trying to stay in touch with these guys, so we have an idea when they do come back who might need more some more time and who doesn’t.”

• Ron Roenicke thinks the ramp-up can be quick if pitchers are doing intense throwing sessions.

The basic program is this: Most pitchers are throwing four to five times a week. Those who have access to a mound are getting up there a couple of times a week. As long as they’re able to do some of those throwing sessions with real intensity, Bush believes they’ll be OK for a fairly quick build-up to the regular season (though there’s no expectation that pitchers will be as stretched as they would be with a normal spring training).

“Some guys have access to a throwing partner or a catcher or a mound,” Bush said. “We have couple guys who are stuck at home and can only throw into a net in their driveway or their basement, in some cases … But I think most guys are in a pretty good spot. It’s actually going better than I expected. I was worried that there would be guys that wouldn’t or couldn’t throw at all.”

All Teams

MLB Trade Rumors did a nice by division series on possible rookie callups. Several articles could be done on these and I may at a later date.
AL East
AL Central
AL West
NL East
NL Central
NL West

American League


Dylan Bundy tweaked his mechanics mid-season last year and is trying to refine those mechanics this offseason.

When Bundy stepped into the bullpen to throw his side session, he decided to make a change. As he stepped back into his delivery, instead of keeping his hands at his chest, he brought them over his head. The small but effective tweak ensured that his plant foot landed consistently at the same time and in the same spot for every pitch. He tried it the next time he took the mound at Camden Yards to face the Blue Jays.

Over his final 10 starts with his reworked delivery, Bundy posted a 3.99 ERA. His ground- and fly-ball rates virtually flipped — before: 37.2 percent ground balls and 41.5 percent fly balls; after, 49.1 percent grounders and 30.8 percent fly balls.

As his winter began, Bundy continued his evolution. He started his throwing progression the earliest he ever had, in part to avoid a career issue of slow starts but also to continue refining his reworked delivery. Bundy practiced either in front of a mirror — or with Bobby recording on his phone and their dad, Denver, catching — to ensure that the new windup achieved its desired goal of keeping Bundy on time without tipping off any of his pitches. If done properly, the tweak could even add deception in addition to balance.

His stock has steadily climbed this offseason and over the last month, his NFBC ADP is at 214.

• I keep hearing some rumors about the Angels only using Ohtani as a hitter. He’s definitely going to start on the pitching starved Angels since he’s slated to return by mid-May.

Shohei Ohtani threw two bullpen sessions this week, Eppler revealed, including a 15-pitch session on Friday that consisted of only fastballs. Ohtani continues to progress in his recovery from Tommy John surgery and should be ready to pitch when and if the season does get underway. The two-way star was originally slated to return to the mound in mid-May, though since games surely won’t resume by that point, Ohtani likely won’t end up missing any time in the Los Angeles rotation.

One of the reasons stated for him not returning is that he won’t have rehab games. He’s going to have the same three weeks of games everyone will have during the second Spring Training.


• While the battle for the second base job will need to start again, Franklin Barreto and Tony Kemp are ahead of Jorge Mateo and Vimael Machin in the depth chart.

The feeling entering camp was that Barreto and Kemp had the inside track on beginning the regular season as a left-right platoon solution to the A’s second base hole, and so far both have done nothing to sway away from that likelihood. The more interesting development here is a battle within a battle regarding Mateo and Machin. Mateo is as electric as they come, with his speed producing headaches for opposing pitchers whenever he gets on base. Machin may not be as flashy as Mateo, but he has impressed manager Bob Melvin with his approach at the plate. Another plus for Machin has been his ability to play all four infield positions, looking comfortable at each.


Don’t expect any production from Mitch Haniger this season.

Dipoto said Haniger, also one of the last players to leave Arizona, is maintaining his rehab program on his own at home in California while still limited primarily to walking and doing some exercises for his lower back and groin.

Haniger’s replacement, Jake Fraley, has 20/20 potential and widely available in most leagues (22% drafted in NFBC leagues since March 1st).


Isiah Kiner-Falefa reworked his swing and he was inching his way into the Rangers starting lineup.

The change in how Kiner-Falefa has been perceived is dramatic.

It comes from adjustments he made during the offseason to try and eliminate a big leg kick in his swing. His ability to keep his feet on the ground proved the foundation for the big change, but there was still work to be done in spring training.

There was still too much movement. Kiner-Falefa felt the need to hit his way onto the team by “crushing” baseballs. It led to too much pressure, too much tension and an 0-for-10 start to the spring. By then, though, the Rangers’ hitting instructors had tried to get him to think more about accuracy in his swing and letting the power that was emanating from his new setup work for him.

He’s catcher eligible in most leagues and a must-own at his point considering how horrible the bottom catchers are. Since March 1st, he’s only been drafted in half of all leagues, so he’s widely available.


Willy Adames is continuing to improve his game.

This sense of maturity from Adames — his constant desire to learn — is an example of what the Tampa Bay front office and coaching staff continue to rave about when it comes to their starting shortstop. Following a breakout performance in 2019, when he played in a team-high 152 games, expectations continue to rise for Adames.

From the first to the second half, he improved his walk rate (7% to 8%), strikeout rate (28% to 24%), ISO (.145 to .189), and groundball rate (49% to 44%). While he’s not the most talented player, he reminds me of Marcus Semien who just keeps getting better.

Red Sox

• While the late start to the season means most players will have time to heal, Alex Verdugo might not be ready.

Interim manager Ron Roenicke didn’t rule out Verdugo being able to start the season on the active roster, depending on when that is.

“I think by the time we get back and train again, if we’re going to be able to do it, I would think he’s going to be able to fit in along with the other guys and maybe be ready for us,” Roenicke said in a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday.

I see no reason to draft him without better news.

Collin McHugh might be used as an opener.

If the season had started on time, [McHugh] would have missed at least a few weeks. Now, there’s a chance he will be in the bullpen or the rotation by the time the 2020 season eventually starts.

With Chris Sale out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, McHugh could factor in as an important part of the pitching staff — be it as a fifth starter or an opener.

Kevin Pillar plans on spreading the ball around the field more instead of being so pull happy.

“With that approach, it gives me a lot more room for error to hit the balls down the line,” Pillar said. “I think, historically, I’ve kind of been a little bit more of a pull hitter, and when I have gotten pitches over the plate to handle and hit them with the swing I had, a lot of my stuff was getting caught or run down.”

Pillar’s pull percentage for his career is 42.2, but last year he took that to the extreme: 48 percent, a career high. He hit .259 with the Blue Jays and Giants.

His new approach to stay up the middle allows Pillar to stay on pitches for longer and spray the whole field. It should enable him to turn on pitches just as much as going to right field.

“I feel like being able to open up that part of the field — especially here in Boston — is going to allow my slugging [percentage] to go up, my OPS to go up,” Pillar said. “That’s something that’s really important to me over the course of this offseason, especially, understanding how teams value players now.”

I’m not 100% sure about this plan. Last season he had a .980 OPS when he pulled the ball. It was just a .693 OPS to center and a .573 OPS when he went the opposite way. He didn’t get shifted a ton (1/3 of the time), so I could see the plan really backfire for him.


Michael Fulmer should be ready to return in July from Tommy John surgery.

Fulmer underwent Tommy John surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow just over a year ago. The Tigers planned around a typical timetable of 14-16 months before he could return to pitching in the Majors, placing his potential return likely around July.

Fulmer is one of the few big league players still working out at the Tigers’ Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla., where he has progressed to throwing off a mound.

Even if Fulmer is physically prepared to pitch by the time baseball formulates a return, he’ll need to face hitters in something resembling a game situation. That could come in whatever form of Spring Training precedes a regular-season schedule.

White Sox

Carlos Rodón should be ready to contribute in the majors around July as he also recovers from Tommy John Surgery.

While Kopech looked to be in midseason form, topping 100 mph multiple times and commanding his offspeed pitches in a perfect inning in his Cactus League appearance in Arizona, Rodon is probably weeks away from facing live hitters, he said. The Sox’ 2019 Opening Day starter who had Tommy John surgery last May is throwing three days per week at the team’s spring-training complex in Glendale, Arizona, including bullpen sessions on Mondays and Fridays. And that’s what he would have been doing had the season started on time.

“I’m still on schedule,” he said. “I’m pretty close to 100 percent, but that said I haven’t thrown to a hitter yet and that will be a different feeling. I feel good.”


Jonathan Loaisiga is likely in the Yankees rotation.

If he’s starting, I’m intrigued. He’s into the three true outcomes with tons of strikeouts (11.2 K/9 in career), walks (4.5 BB/9), and home runs (1.4 HR/9). He tried to halt the home runs (53% GB% vs 32% on four-seamer) later in the season by throwing a hittable (4% SwStr%) sinker about 25% of the time. His curve and change both have a 20% SwStr%, so the strikeouts will continue to come.

National League


• There is a good chance both Austin Riley and Johan Camargo make the Braves roster and split time with no minor league season.

Camargo and Riley were playing unbelievably well. We hadn’t made a decision yet. We had started to talk — the fact that with the minor league season scheduled to start on April 9, and we were going to start the 26th of March — we had started to talk about just carrying both. There was no reason, really, to leave them down in Florida. They both had been playing well enough to make the team. If it got to a point where we thought one of them needed to play each day, that would’ve been a conversation we could’ve had right when Gwinnett was going to open the season around [April 9], we could’ve sent a player down at that point.

Both players’ value is dead at this point unless one gets the full-time role.


Orlando Arcia reworked his swing to possibly be sometimes kind of useful.

Out of the 135 players who qualified last season, Arcia posted the worst OPS (.633) in the majors. So, he went to work and changed some things with hitting coaches Andy Haines and Jacob Cruz. Arcia said he is “staying on the back leg more” and “finishing high” with his swing.

Brandon Woodruff worked on a curveball.

Woodruff was working on his curveball during the spring, and he was able to mix in six or seven of them in his last start. The only thing in the way of Woodruff entering a group of elite pitchers is an increased workload.

While there is no game footage from the start mentioned above, I watched his 3/4/20 start and didn’t see an obvious slow curve. He could be throwing a hard one and it has a similar shape to his change and slider.

Corbin Burnes is looking to feature his elite slider (37% SwStr%).

Burnes received assurances during the last days of spring training that he would be on the opening day roster. Notably, it was after Lauer’s injury, but Burnes had a string of impressive performances. It’s unclear whether he will be a starter or in the Brewers bullpen, but his spring outings indicated he turned the page on a horrendous 2019. Armed with a better plan featuring his slider and improved preparation between appearances, Burnes was the standout from the spring, striking out 13 in 10 innings while allowing just one run, three walks and six hits.

The problem with Burnes that he’s predictable by throwing his fastball when behind in the count. His fastball gets crushed (vs 1.283) and he’s almost twice as bad as the average pitcher when behind in the count (1.207 OPS). He might get a few more strikeouts with more sliders but he has to have a plan once he falls behind in the count.


• Top prospect Andrés Giménez added muscle over the offseason.

Andrés Giménez made a strong impression in spring training from the minute he walked into camp.

“What did you do?” Luis Rojas asked Giménez, taken aback by the muscle the previously diminutive shortstop had added in the winter.

“That was a goal I had this offseason,” Giménez said of bulking up. “I did really good.”

While not an option in redraft leagues, it will be interesting to see if the slick fielder can be a 10 to 20 home threat.


• The Pirates are looking to limit the number of times their starters see a hitter for the third time.

“The other thing that could come into play is where he’s hitting in that inning, especially with the new three-batter rule. We may put a guy in a situation where he throws maybe to two hitters that third time through or goes through a certain part of the order the third time through, because we’re trying to get a better matchup for our relievers. We’re trying to get maybe just two outs out of our relievers or two hitters out of our relievers. So I think we’ll play on both sides of that.”

Here are how the team’s possible starters performed each time through the order last season.

Pirate Starters Times Through the Order
TTO Chris Archer Joe Musgrove Trevor Williams Steven Brault Chad Kuhl Derek Holland Robbie Erlin Average
1st 3.83 3.89 5.03 4.25 4.26 6.51 5.00 4.68
2nd 5.03 4.56 5.86 5.61 4.19 4.23 9.18 5.52
3rd 4.18 4.74 4.71 5.04 4.73 4.43 3.86 4.53

In all fairness, any self-respecting team should let them face a lineup the first time.

• And Keone Kela is set as the closer.

Right-hander Keone Kela, the most proven member of the Pirates’ bullpen, will be the closer. Shelton has that part set. The rest is more up in the air.

Gregory Polanco is made some progress hitting but still can’t throw a ball.

When camp opened six weeks ago, Polanco finally seemed fit again. Over nine spring training games, he went 8 for 21 (.381) with one home run. An American League scout was impressed by how much Polanco’s timing and bat speed had improved over the final week before the shutdown.

“Offensively, he’s going to be OK, but I think it’s going to take a little while,” the AL scout said. “He had so much time off and needs to get his timing back. Once he does that, I think he’ll be a contributor. An impact bat? I can’t answer that because he’s never really been an impact bat. Why would anyone think that, coming off a long layoff, all of a sudden he’s going to be an impact bat? That’s hard to do for anybody who misses so much time.”

In December, team medical director Todd Tomczyk said Polanco’s shoulder will require extra care, including “additional times when we hit the pause button” for maintenance and recovery, for the rest of his career. Polanco tested his shoulder on back fields and in workouts, but never uncorked a long throw before the shutdown.

“My concern, just watching him, is he has not thrown well at all,” the AL scout said. “He made one throw, trying to prevent a guy from going to second on a double, and it had nothing on it whatsoever. So, there is concern with the arm. I didn’t see him unleash one ball toward the plate. I think he’s afraid to do that.”

There are so many other hitters I’d like to gamble on (e.g. Jake Fraley).

• Derek Holland seems to be the fifth starter.


• The Reds hitting coach, Alan Zinter, notes that Aristides Aquino has issues maintaining his swing.

[Aristides Aquino] shocked the world last year in a month’s worth of play and then he also showed the other side of it where he wasn’t so good. During Spring Training, we were hoping that he could find his consistent base between that, where he’s more consistent and more productive. We’ve been working with him on just repeating his good swings, understand he’s got long levers, a big body, lots of movement in the box with his open stance and staying straight up. It’s getting to the point of how he can repeat that and be able to do that on a daily basis.

For now, Aquino might go through hot and cold stretches as he fine-tunes his swing. There might be a chance he no longer changes and may just stay hot or cold.

• The pitching coach, Derek Johnson, may go with some unusual pitching strategies to win in a short, compact schedule.

“I think everyone understands that because injuries, this could definitely be a situation where injuries become a factor if we don’t do it the right way,” Johnson said about a question of what renewed preparations might look like.

Once MLB determines a schedule length for the regular season after the end of the pandemic, the need to improvise could continue.

“I think it could be really interesting,” Johnson said. “I think there’s all sorts of different combinations that you could look at here and they can all make some sort of sense.

“Being a former college coach, I look at that 56-game schedule and say it’s not really a marathon, it is a sprint. We look at Major League Baseball and it’s the complete opposite. We look at it like it’s a marathon and there’s this long period of time where we’re kind of grinding through things. This thing may look like a really short spring.”

I thought about including this nugget at the beginning of this article with the other pitcher ramp up info. Instead, I think it’s important to know which teams might go with a unique approach while others will go with a more traditional approach.

• Johnson goes on to talk about Castillo’s progress in developing his slider.

On the development of Luis Castillo’s slider: “There were some (strikeouts) on his slider, which I think has gotten better. I don’t have the numbers in front of me on what he struck out guys with. Of course, the changeup is a weapon. I also think in time guys are going to start looking for his changeup more. I think we saw that a little bit at the end of last year. We’ve got to keep ahead of that curve and switch gears when needed. That’s something Luis and I have talked about some as well. He’s got a good enough fastball and a good enough breaking ball to get them off that changeup. I’m pretty sure you’re going to see that some this year where guys sit on that changeup a little bit more than what they have in the past. It’s still an elite pitch.”

Castillo threw his slider 17% of the time last season with a 20% SwStr%. It’s a good pitch and pairs up nicely with his elite change.

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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4 years ago

Good stuff, Maynard . . .