Mining the News (4/24/24)

American League

Astros

• The team may be forced to roster and play José Abreu since the owner made the move.

Brown and Espada are in brutal positions. Espada can only play the roster he’s given and Brown did not sign Abreu — owner Jim Crane did during his three-month cameo as a general manager.

Both men are now forced to answer for a problem they did not create. The remaining money and year on Abreu’s contract means Crane is in control of his ultimate fate — and there’s no precedence in his ownership tenure for eating this much money due to underperformance.

Blue Jays

• The team wants Alek Manoah to be part of the rotation, so Yariel Rodriguez will be headed to the bullpen soon.

Manoah, 26, will impact that decision. The right-hander started the season on the 15-day IL with right shoulder inflammation but made his third rehab start Friday. It was his best yet, allowing two runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and, crucially, zero walks for Triple-A Buffalo.

The Blue Jays have maintained Manoah is a starter, and they still view him as somebody who can throw 100-plus pitches per start — or in other words, be the pitcher he was before his disappointing 2023 season. During his rehab assignment, the priority for Manoah is building his pitch count, but the Blue Jays are also factoring in his results in their decision on when to recall him.

In all likelihood, he will have a chance to rejoin the rotation based on his track record, at which point Rodríguez could move to a role in the bullpen while remaining an option for the rotation if Manoah falters.

Rays

• According to Yandy Díaz, he’s only “at 60%”.

Granted, Díaz has hit into some bad luck, mostly because he’s back to putting balls in play on the ground at an extreme rate. But he’s also swinging more, chasing more and not hitting the ball as hard as he has in years past.

“Sincerely, I don’t think I’m there. I’m probably about at 60%,” Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “With all the work in the cage and everything, I think things are going to turn around.”

Twins

Simeon Woods Richardson made a few tweaks and added “oomph” to his fastball.

Woods Richardson’s prospect stock tumbled during a rough 2023 season in St. Paul, but offseason mechanical tweaks restored much-needed oomph to his fastball and he impressed in spring training. It’s difficult to imagine Woods Richardson being less effective than Varland has been, and Baldelli indicated that the Twins’ poor start has them feeling pressure to make changes.

Last season, Woods Richardson’s average fastball velocity was 90.6 mph. This season, it’s up to 93.1 mph.

White Sox

• Minor league prospect, Drew Thorpe is topping out at 91-94 mph in AA.

Thorpe (who is the White Sox No. 3 prospect and No. 77 overall, per MLB Pipeline) explained the success of his changeup in a recent interview with MLB.com.

The right-hander’s fastball tops out in the 91-94 mph range. Questions arise about Thorpe’s stuff being able to play a third time through the order at the Major League level, but Thorpe understands his repertoire and believes he can be an effective starter.

The fastball velocity is in line with preseason reports. There are just no publicly available StatCast data for AA.

National League

Cubs

Adbert Alzolay’s sinker is getting the wrong movement.

Alzolay says his sinker is getting too much arm-side movement and not enough downward action. That type of pitch pairs well with a sweeper, but not as well with Alzolay’s more traditional slider. As a result, hitters can read what the pitch is a split-second earlier and they’re pouncing. It’s led to a .700 slugging percentage against his slider and a .750 mark against the sinker. Last season those numbers were .311 and .204, respectively.

Giants

Kyle Harrison doesn’t feel comfortable throwing his slurve.

Harrison threw his slurve 26.5% of the time in 2023, but he almost completely abandoned the pitch in his last start against the Marlins on Monday. Only four of his 85 pitches (5%) were slurves, one of which was crushed out to left-center field by Avisaíl García for a solo home run.

“That’s not ideal for me,” said Harrison, who has a 2-1 record with a 4.70 ERA through his first four starts of the year. “I want to figure out that slider again. It’ll be back. It’s coming back. Next bullpen session. I feel like it’s almost there. It’s a weird thing too because that’s a pitch that I haven’t really lost. I’ll get there. I wouldn’t say I lost it, but it’s just throwing it with the right conviction.”

Mets

• The team is struggling to control the running game.

The Mets finally got one Sunday after starting the season a major-league worst 0-for-28. The golden-armed catcher was not Alvarez’s backup, Omar Narváez, who has allowed 17 stolen bases in 65 innings. It was Tomás Nido, who joined the team in place of Alvarez only the day before, that threw out the Dodgers’ Will Smith.

A number of Mets pitchers do not hold runners well — Manaea and reliever Jorge López each have allowed four stolen bases; Houser, Buttó and Díaz three. But Nido, who cleared waivers and spent the rest of the season at Triple A after getting designated for assignment last June, could assume a greater role, particularly if Narváez is not hitting.

Phillies

Taijuan Walker will get another shot at the rotation because of his contract even if he is horrible.

It was 47 degrees when Walker’s Triple-A game began Sunday. Walker used it solely as a means to build his pitch count to 102. So, the effort level might have clocked in somewhere well below max. He topped out at 90.4 mph according to Statcast data and threw only three pitches at 90 mph. Scranton hitters whiffed at only two of his 102 pitches.

The Phillies will ask Walker to be a fifth starter. The bar is low. A solid fifth starter goes five innings and keeps his team in it. The Phillies expected more from Walker when they signed him to a four-year, $72 million deal in December 2022.

Essentially, Walker’s contract status affords him a few turns through the rotation to prove he can contribute to a contender. If he can’t, the Phillies can reinsert Turnbull and bump Walker to the bullpen. Those are conversations for June.

In AAA, Walker’s fastball is averaging 90.4 mph. Last season it was at 92.6 mph. Also in AAA, he has more walks (6) than strikeouts (2). Walker isn’t going to last until June.





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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LightenUpFGmember
1 month ago

Walker probably needs to revive his career as a reliever, then maybe revisit things a la Carlos Carrasco later on.