Mining the News (4/22/20)

Once Spring Training was shut down, MLB.com must have ordered their writer to publish articles on “Roster Battles” and “What We Learned” since each team got one. I ground through all 60 of them and here is what I learned.

American League

Astros

Bryan Abreu might be one of the team’s starters.

As camp progressed, rookie Bryan Abreu emerged as a legitimate candidate for the fifth spot as well.

I’m intrigued by the news. Abreu has always been a high-strikeout pitcher (11.9 K/9 in AAA, 13.5 K/9 in majors in 2019). His fastball sat at 95 mph last year. His slider and curve graded above average. His problem was fastball control and has always posted high walk rates. He’s starting to show some control. In the majors, he had a 3.1 BB/9. In spring training, it was 3.0 BB/9. While most prospect reports place him in the bullpen, I can see why the Astros have fallen for him.

Fastball

Curve

Slider

Blue Jays

The plan seemed to be to promote Nate Pearson in time to miss the Super Two cutoff in late-May.

Then you have Nate Pearson, the club’s No. 1 prospect who dazzled in Spring Training with 100-mph heat and devastating secondary pitches. The plan was for Pearson to open the season in Triple-A, with a call to the big leagues reasonably believed to come in May or June. How this stoppage impacts Pearson’s timeline is the most interesting variable of all.

The rookie rules will be one factor to keep in mind once the season starts up. I believe the rookies on contenders will get an early call while those on rebuilders will wait a season.

Rangers

• The Ranger’s first and third base situations are still a mess.

Ronald Guzmán and Greg Bird, a pair of left-handed hitters, were going head-to-head since the beginning of Spring Training and neither has forged ahead. Guzmán was 7-for-33 with a home run. Bird was 3-for-29. Sam Travis, a right-handed hitter, was 7-for-15 after overcoming early hamstring issues and has become a factor at the position.

Travis offers a possible platoon partner with Guzmán or Bird and can also play the outfield if needed. Todd Frazier can play first if needed if the Rangers want to use Isiah Kiner-Falefa and/or Matt Duffy at third base. Both are right-handed hitters and could platoon with Guzmán or Bird, with Frazier switching between positions.

The only player I’m interested in is Isiah Kiner-Falefa who could see his value jump since he’s catcher eligible.

Royals

Brady Singer could start the season in the Royals rotation.

When camp was suspended, it seemed right-hander Jorge López, ticketed for long relief in the bullpen, was the most likely candidate to be stretched out for that job. But interestingly enough, Kansas City also had kept right-hander Brady Singer, the team’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, in camp. And Singer was scheduled to make at least one more start in Spring Training, suggesting that the Royals were seriously considering him as the No. 5 guy. That plan likely would have included having Singer stay in extended spring training to be stretched out if the season had begun on schedule. Kansas City has not been enslaved to roster manipulation in the past, meaning that even though having Singer join the rotation that early in April would have chewed up a year of his service time, the Royals are more concerned about winning now.

While the Royals would like to be competitive, they’re not. Of the rookie starters to gamble on, it’s not Singer.

Glenn Sparkman’s velocity may have jumped 3 to 4 mph with a move to the bullpen.

As camp progressed, it became apparent that right-hander Glenn Sparkman, converted to the bullpen, was safe as his velocity spiked to 96-97 mph in a short relief role, that’s what the Royals wanted to see from him.

But is the jump average or where he topped out at? If topped out, it’s no big deal since he threw that hard last season even while in the bullpen. Everyone will have to wait to find out for sure, but for reference, here are his fastball’s swinging-strike rates at different velocities.

Velo: SwStr%
91: 3.3%
92: 6.6%
93: 6.5%
94: 5.0%
95: 9.0%
96: 11.8%

If his velocity is averaging 96 mph, his strikeout rate could jump.

Yankees

Jordan Montgomery saw a velocity jump.

Jordan Montgomery had the inside track on the No. 4 rotation slot, with Boone raving about an uptick in velocity that the Yankees attributed to better offseason training and being further removed from his June 2018 Tommy John surgery.

I dug around on Twitter and found the following comments on the jump.

If his fastball velocity readings are even close to being correct, he strikeouts could be in uncharted territory. He’s never thrown that hard before but his fastball’s swinging strike rate has steadily climbed with his velocity.

mph: SwStr%
90: 5.1%
91: 6.2%
92: 7.1%
93: 7.5%

Clarke Schmidt is another option to join the Yankees rotation when other starters get hurt or struggle.

Schmidt was arguably the most impressive, muscling into the fifth-starter conversation while showcasing a polished four-pitch mix that produced a 2.57 ERA over seven innings.

“This guy [Schmidt] is pretty much ready to go in the big leagues, from a stuff standpoint,” reliever Zack Britton said. “Everyone here throws hard, the young guys, but it’s more the execution of the offspeed pitches.

He has a 93-mph fastball with three average to above average non-fastballs and has breezed through the minors so far.

National League

Braves

Félix Hernández was making a push to join the Braves rotation but his fastball velocity was way down.

No longer armed with the plus fastball that helped him become recognized as King Félix, the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner is now attempting to prove he can be crafty with a fastball that sat between 85-89 mph during his four spring starts.

His fastball averaged 89.6 mph last season so a 3 mph drop might put him on par with some NAIA pitchers.

Diamondbacks

Robbie Ray is trying to improve his command.

Left-hander Robbie Ray reported to camp about 15 pounds lighter than at the end of last season, the result of a change in his diet. The lefty also tweaked his mechanics, hoping to make his delivery more fluid and improve his overall command. His results during the spring were impressive and he seemed a lot more like he was during his dominant 2017 season.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I feel strong, arm feels good, body feels good, mind is right so yeah all around I feel strong and ready to go.”

He could be an elite pitcher if he got his walk rate near 3.0 BB/9.

Dodgers

• The Dodgers don’t seem to be set on starting Gavin Lux this season.

So, he’s pretty much the projected National League Rookie of the Year by acclimation of preseason prognosticators. The only problem is, he might not make the Opening Day roster. Yes, the Dodgers gave him the starting second-base job last September and he kept it in the ill-fated series against the Nationals. But the 22-year-old struggled down the stretch and started at second base in only four of 17 Cactus League games while he worked mostly on reworking his swing, hardly the typical spring of a can’t-miss starter preparing for Opening Day. Then there’s also the possibility that service-time considerations could factor into the decision-making process.

While Lux has the potential to become a great player, he might not be ready at this time. With a 162 ADP, his cost is a little too much for me considering he might not be starting.

• In another position battle, Will Smith may lose some playing time to Austin Barnes.

Here’s a traditional position battle. When Spring Training began, Roberts said Smith would get the bulk of the catching duties. By the time Spring Training paused, it had turned into “a partnership.” Smith got the call-up last summer and put up Mike Piazza-like power numbers, with 10 homers in his first 25 games. He struggled badly down the stretch and it’s been more of the same this year, hitting .143 without a homer in the Cactus League. Meanwhile, 2019 was so rough for Barnes that he was demoted to Triple-A and didn’t make the postseason roster. But in nine spring games, he posted a 1.033 OPS and looked a lot more like the player that inherited the starting job from Yasmani Grandal in 2017. Unlike last year, there isn’t a Russell Martin-type veteran with a guaranteed salary as a fallback option.

Clayton Kershaw’s fastball hit 93 mph.

…Kershaw’s fastball topped at 93 mph, offering hope that with a healthier body and a better understanding of its functioning, he can improve on a 2019 that was already pretty good.

While the 93 mph fastball seems like an improvement, he “topped” out at 93 mph last season while sitting at 90 mph.

Giants

Trevor Gott is in the running for the closer job.

Trevor Gott is out of options, so he’s a virtual lock for the bullpen and could be a candidate to replace Will Smith as closer.

Gott doesn’t have elite skills with a 9 K/9, 3 BB/9, and a 4.00 ERA projection.

Mauricio Dubón seems like a lock for the center field job.

The Giants’ depth at second base, where they have non-roster invitee Yolmer Sánchez, Solano, Flores and Dubón, freed up Dubón to play all over the diamond this spring and draw some reps in center field. After watching Dubón make a few appearances in the outfield, Kapler came away convinced that the 25-year-old prospect could form a key part of the Giants’ center field rotation this season.

“I can really, legitimately, see him playing center field quite a bit,” Kapler said earlier this month. “I think earlier in camp I was saying we’re going to take more of a wait-and-see approach. I think at this point he has demonstrated he can play center field. He can play shortstop for us.”

Marlins

Brandon Kintzler seems to be the closer.

Free-agent addition Brandon Kintzler is the front-runner to be the closer, and Yimi García, formerly with the Dodgers, has had an excellent camp. Left-hander Adam Conley is signed for $1.525 million.

The remaining five spots are still to be determined. Ryne Stanek has dealt with lower back stiffness. Drew Steckenrider, recovering from a right elbow injury, had his velocity drop to 90-91 mph in his final Spring Training appearance. Jeff Brigham (right biceps strain) didn’t pitch this spring. The layoff, obviously, will help the recovery of any ailing reliever.

Mets

• If the National League uses a DH, Yoenis Céspedes could be the Mets best option.

When Céspedes took swings at Mets camp, crowds gathered. He launched his share of homers in live BP, most recently taking Seth Lugo deep during a simulated game. Céspedes also drew rave reviews for his regular BP sessions, which frequently included screaming home runs to left and left-center. In the minds of most Mets coaches, there is little doubt Céspedes can be an offensive threat in the big leagues right now.

The question is his defense. While Céspedes also showcased a strong throwing arm during fielding drills, he never sprinted full-speed or ran regularly in zig-zag patterns. The next few weeks will give Céspedes extra time to work his legs into shape following multiple heel surgeries and a broken right ankle, meaning all eyes will be on him once again once camp reopens.

Phillies

Ranger Suárez was getting some rotation love.

Ranger Suárez made things more interesting, but he still might not win the No. 5 starter’s job. It would not be a surprise to see either Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez get the nod instead.

Suárez had a 2.25 ERA in three Grapefruit League starts: eight innings, 10 hits, two earned runs (three runs total), one walk and eight strikeouts. But he also faced the least accomplished competition.

Pirates

• Some starters are limiting their pitches to just throw the good ones. Science.

We heard from several pitchers who were paring down their arsenals, focused more on emphasizing their best pitches rather than adding below-average offerings just for the sake of having them. Top prospect Mitch Keller, for instance, spoke perceptively about the information he received from Marin and Meccage and how it might help him.

Here are the pitches that could be dropped by each potential starter.

Pitcher: Below-average pitch(es) (combined usage)

Rockies

Raimel Tapia is trying to add some power and plate discipline.

Tapia arrived stronger and made adjustments that allowed him better pitch selection.

We hoped you liked reading Mining the News (4/22/20) by Jeff Zimmerman!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




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.

newest oldest most voted
LenFuego
Member
LenFuego

Do you have lawyers that review articles before publication and give red light/green light on quoting content from other sites? I am no intellectual property lawyer … oh wait, yes I am — and that seems like an awful lot of content to be quoting from another website.

Goob
Member
Goob

Today, LenFuego logs onto the Internet for the first time since the Clinton Administration!

Kevbot034
Member
Kevbot034

Dumbest comment I’ve read on this site

LenFuego
Member
LenFuego

Boy I sure got a lot of downvotes, but it was meant as a genuine question. This article is self-reported as a summary of 60 pages of content from MLB.com, and quotes from those pages extremely liberally – many of the quotes are full or multiple paragraphs. It is certainly fair use to report individual items reported on other sites (“MLB.com reported that Kershaw’s fastball has hit 93 MPH this spring”) and/or to link to the content of those sites. And it is probably fair use to provide a summary of the fantasy relevant information from those 60 pages. But an awful lot of the value of this article is the extensive quoted content from MLB.com which represents that site’s specific expression. Copyright law does not protect ideas or facts, but it does protect the expression of those ideas or facts. Just as one example, the blurb on Mauricio Dubon consists of two full paragraphs from MLB.com, with the only editorial content added being “Mauricio Dubón seems like a lock for the center field job”, which is what the MLB.com quote already describes. Now, perhaps MLB.com does not care — Fangraphs is a terrific partner that promotes major league baseball in ways that are immeasurable to MLB’s bottom line and liberal quoting by such a partner that includes links to the content on their site may not be of any concern to them. Maybe they have even said as much to Fangraphs in writing. But if they have not, the use of such extensive quotes sure seems risky. I genuinely wonder for my own edification if IP lawyers have approved the use of such extensive quotes, and if so, on what basis.

docgooden85
Member
Member
docgooden85

One of the (only) best things about having a fancy law degree is I can usually tell when some other lawyer is talking out of his a$$. The bright lines LF imagines for fair use (esp. in context of internet posts) do not exist. LF sounds like someone trying to intimidate an unsophisticated adversary with a cease and desist letter full of exaggerations.