Mining the News (4/7/21)

American League

Athletics

A.J. Puk will only work out of the bullpen.

Puk, 25, will work out of the bullpen, providing aid to an exhausted relief corps that worked 16 2/3 innings over the last four days against Houston. The situation was so dire that the A’s even had to call upon rookie outfielder Ka’ai Tom to pitch the ninth inning on Sunday.

I am just not sure if Puk will end up being fantasy relevant this season.

Indians

Andrés Giménez is expected to be the full-time shortstop

“Giménez, he’ll be right back in there,” Francona said. “I just want to keep Amed in the lineup today. We’ll be doing some mixing and matching. Amed’s gonna move back and forth a little bit. He’s not just a platoon player, for sure. We’ll make sure we keep everybody to a point where they can be productive.”

… while Amed Rosorio is easing into his outfield role.

If the team is expecting to play Giménez regularly, that means Rosario’s time in center field could be coming soon.

Red Sox

• The team blames Bobby Dalbec’s struggles on a Spring Training hit-by-pitch.

However, Cora made it a two-day thing when Dalbec was again not in the lineup against Rays ace Tyler Glasnow.

“I mean he didn’t swing the bat well at the end of Spring Training after he got hit [by a pitch],” Cora said. “And he feels like there’s a few things that he’s working on, and he needs to do adjustment wise. Maybe we’ll use him late in game and tomorrow he’ll be back at first base.”

They may be waiting until his hand is 100% before playing him every day.

Royals

Andrew Benintendi’s struggles stem from making contact in the strike zone.

One of the most concerning elements of Andrew Benintendi’s struggles in 2019 and ’20 was his declining contact on pitches in the strike zone. In 2018, he made contact on 83.9 percent of pitches in the zone. The number fell to 78.7 percent in 2019, then 76.7 percent in 2020. Through three games with the Royals, his in-zone contact percentage is 70.6 percent.

A few weeks ago in spring training, scouts pinpointed Benintendi’s whiffs at pitches in the zone. Maybe, they wondered, if it remained a byproduct of his continued work toward returning his bat path to how it was in 2018.

It’s not a good sign that he’s in the Miguel Sano and Joey Gallo range of making contact.

Nicky Lopez was working on a mechanical adjustment when he was promoted.

This season’s spring training was no different. Lopez struggled mightily, so the Royals optioned him. The plan was for him to make mechanical adjustments, then test them in co-op games on the backfields in Surprise, Ariz. When shortstop Adalberto Mondesi was placed on the injured list, that plan was crumpled up and thrown in the trash.

The day he was optioned, Lopez and Royals director of hitting development Alec Zumwalt, among others, dug deep into Lopez’s 2018 video and compared it to video of his swing in 2021’s spring training. Lopez pinpointed the differences. The lack of rhythm in his pre-pitch setup.

His .866 OPS is by far the best he’s hit in the majors.

White Sox

Carlos Rodón has added a curveball.

A curveball is not something that’s been on the Rodón scouting report before, and at least at this point, it has eluded Statcast’s otherwise detailed tracking of his career. A Baseball Savant game log is under the impression that his slider ranged between 72 and 89 mph, a large differential to have between two pitches, let alone within one. The sharp wipeout slider that represents the latter has been Rodón’s saving grace when his command and velocity have failed him and was on display plenty Monday. The curveball is the former and just emerged this spring as something that could be immediately usable.

While he threw it just five times, he did get one swing-and-miss.

Zack Collins is to be Lucas Giolito’s catcher.

That confidence and comfort level built up the coaching staff’s willingness to pair Collins with Giolito, who had praised the insights Collins was giving in spring training and encouraged him to be more vocal.

This move shows the Sox’s priority at catcher. Right now, it’s not Yermín Mercedes who will likely not catch a major league game and remain a Utility-only player.

National League

Cubs

Trevor Williams is working with a new pitch mix.

This isn’t the same Williams teams have seen the last two years. That guy had abandoned his sinker in favor of going north-south with his four-seamer and curve. If his pitch distribution and effectiveness Monday are a sign of things to come, this version should look quite different.

The results have been good so far with six strikeouts and two earned runs in six innings.

Giants

Aaron Sanchez has not seen his 2020 velocity return and it dropped during his last start.

The 28-year-old from Barstow, Calif., held the Padres’ deep lineup to six singles — three of which didn’t leave the infield — and capped his Giants debut by retiring the final seven batters he faced. Sanchez’s velocity began to dip toward the end of his 74-pitch effort, but he managed to dig deep and end his night by striking out Tommy Pham on an 89 mph fastball.

After reporting to Scottsdale, Ariz., for Spring Training, Sanchez did most of his work in the more controlled environment on the backfields and appeared in only two Cactus League games before the start of the regular season. He hasn’t flashed his premium velocity thus far and averaged 91.5 mph on his two-seam fastball on Tuesday, but he said he’s confident he’ll see an uptick as he continues to build up his arm strength.

Sanchez’s final results were fine (one run over five innings), but the velocity readings are a concern. Here are all his pitches plotted in order with the top dots (fastballs) seeing about a 3 mph decline.

Marlins

Nick Neidert was still dealing with the effects of COVID-19 when he returned to the team last season.

“Nick’s a guy that got hurt by 2.0 [Summer Camp] and COVID last year,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a Zoom call. “He never seemed to recover after he got COVID.

With Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sánchez hurt, Neidert will join the rotation and his owners might want to disregard his 2020 results (5.40 ERA, 1.44 WHIP).

Padres

• The team plans on going with one closer and right now that person is Mark Melancon.

But Tingler has also indicated that his preference is to have a designated closer, rather than employ a by-committee approach. All four of those relievers have experience in that role, but none more than Melancon, who worked a 1-2-3 ninth on seven pitches to record his 206th career save in San Diego’s 8-7 Opening Day win over Arizona. In Friday’s 4-2 victory, the right-hander pitched another scoreless ninth, working around an error and single that both came with one out, to secure his second save of ’21.

“He’s done it for a long time,” Tingler said. “He’s done it 200-plus times. The experience plays a factor, the personality plays a factor. He’s able to control his heart rate. He’s a pitch-maker. He’s got weapons. And even on the days his stuff’s not A-plus sharp, he’s got the mindset to be able to will outs and get it done.”

Well, no Saves for Emilio Pagán or Drew Pomeranz unless it’s a one-off or Melancon struggles.

Reds

• The last time Joey Votto has hit the ball this hard was six years ago.

Votto’s fourth-inning RBI single off of Martinez was measured at 113.6 mph off the bat, just his second ball with an exit velocity greater than 110 mph since 2015. The other was also against the Cardinals, a home run last season that was 113.2 mph against Adam Wainwright (and also scored Castellanos) on Sept. 11.

Those are the only two hits Votto has had since 2015 with an exit velocity greater than 110 mph, according to StatCast.

Fantasy managers have been disappointed in Votto’s power the last few seasons. It looks like with a new approach, his power is back.





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.

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Thanks for doing these.