Mining the News (6/26/20)

Some random ideas to think about.

• Normally, I don’t care about the opening day starters, they could give owners an edge with the league having an opening weekend. The top-three starters will be the only pitchers getting starts to give some owners a head start.

• Managers with playoff bullpen experience could be at an advantage.

”Managers who have managed in playoff situations probably have a little bit more advantage with how to use their bullpens and things like that,” Shelton said.

American League

Angels

Shohei Ohtani will throw just once a week and never be a two-start pitcher.

Astros

• The Astros aren’t close to setting the fifth starter.

With the team pretty much set heading into Spring Training in February, the biggest race to watch was the fifth starter. Jose Urquidy, a rookie who burst onto the scene last year, was considered the No. 4 starter, with Austin Pruitt, Josh James and Framber Valdez locked in a battle for the fifth spot. As camp progressed, rookie Bryan Abreu emerged as a legitimate candidate for the fifth spot, as well.

Indians

• The Indians outfield and DH situation is still a mess.

The biggest roster competition will be between the 10 outfielders currently on the Tribe’s 40-man roster. Oscar Mercado is a lock for one of the three starting spots (most likely center field), while Reyes and Domingo Santana will either split time in a corner outfield spot and at designated hitter or fight to earn one of those two roles on a consistent basis. The other corner spot will be left to either Naquin (the most likely candidate, if healthy), Delino DeShields, Jordan Luplow, Greg Allen or Jake Bauers. Daniel Johnson and Bradley Zimmer will also be in the running but won’t likely be top contenders out of the gate.

The third injured player was outfielder Tyler Naquin, who has been recovering from September surgery on his right ACL. He was scheduled to have an appointment with the doctor who performed the surgery in Houston during the first week of April to get the green light to resume all baseball activities. That appointment was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but Naquin expects to be cleared for the second round of Spring Training.

With such a short season and every game counting, I’m not buying into “messes”. There is going to be enough turnover to deal with.

Mariners

• The Mariners are likely to go with a six-man rotation.

Rangers

• The Rangers will be operating with a short leash with all their players. Perform or get cut.

The Rangers’ goal is to win the World Series and Woodward made it clear: Players must be ready to perform quickly or risk losing playing time. Texas doesn’t have much time to wait out hitters or pitchers who fall into a slump.

“In a typical season, you give guys the benefit of the doubt to figure things out,” Woodward said. “We don’t have time for that this year. We have to hit the ground running. There is less [leeway] for guys. We feel that way from a team standpoint and feel like guys have to approach it that way individually. How I manage games: If a guy isn’t doing well, he’s not going to last long.”

• The Rangers have their rotation set and expect them to throw 90 pitches to start the season.

The Rangers will start out with a five-man rotation with Lynn and Minor joined by Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Left-handers Joe Palumbo and Kolby Allard, and right-hander Ariel Jurado are the first line of reserves.

Each has been throwing through the shutdown and is expected to get three “outings” in summer camp. That should put them in a position to throw approximately 90 pitches their first time out of the regular season.

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

First base remains open, Woodward said. Ronald Guzmán and Greg Bird, both left-handed hitters, are competing for the spot, but Woodward brought up the possibility of third baseman Todd Frazier moving to first either part or full-time.

That would happen if Woodward feels Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Nick Solak or Matt Duffy have earned playing time at third. Switch-hitting Blake Swihart and Sam Travis, a right-handed hitter, remain wild cards.

Danny Santana is the centerfielder.

Danny Santana. All those Spring Training auditions for Solak, Eli White and Leody Taveras were fun, but the Rangers won’t have time to experiment with only a few weeks to get ready for a shortened season.

Red Sox

• The first and third base situations aren’t set.

Manager Ron Roenicke will have to decide how to divvy up the playing time at first and second base. There could be a left-right platoon with Mitch Moreland and Michael Chavis at first, unless Chavis proves that he’s ready for more opportunities. José Peraza was acquired as a free agent to play second base, but this is also a spot you could see Chavis at times.

• The rotation lacks any depth with the fourth and fifth spots are also not close to being set.

The first three spots in the rotation are set with Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Martín Pérez. Ryan Weber was close to locking down the fourth spot when camp was halted. Roenicke was contemplating an opener for the fifth spot, but McHugh could emerge as well.

Royals

• I’m reading between the lines, but I don’t see any of the pitching prospects starting in the majors but could if ready and needed.

“As I’ve mentioned before,” Moore said, “you want to be 100 percent sure a player is ready to help you win at the major-league level before you add him to that 26-man roster and in this case some of the prospects to the 40-man roster.”

Tigers

• There are no plans to insert Michael Fulmer back into a set rotation.

The lack of a minor-league season will deprive Fulmer the chance of getting real game reps in rehab action. It’s likely the Tigers will ease him back into Major League competition before throwing him into the starting rotation.

There’s no urgency at the moment.

Back in the first spring training, the Tigers’ rotation was more or less set with Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Daniel Norris, Jordan Zimmermann and Ivan Nova. Tyler Alexander was expected to make the team as a sixth starter/bullpen swingman.

• The top pitching prospects will be on the 60-man roster

Tigers general manager Al Avila has until 3 p.m. Sunday to submit a 60-man roster to the league — a roster that will eventually comprise both the active roster (30 players to start the season) and a taxi squad.

The question, of course, was whether the Tigers’ quartet of high-end pitching prospects — Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo — will be on that 60-man roster. The answer is yes.

• … but they may not play much, if at all.

“There are some young guys that quite frankly if it was a regular season, we had plans at some point to bring them up and get them some experience,” Avila said. “A guy like Mize or Faedo would’ve been those possibilities. That would still remain the same as we move forward in this season. Those are things that we’re still contemplating. There will be other guys that are younger that we’re thinking about whether to add to this list or not.”

JaCoby Jones and Cameron Maybin are set in the Tigers outfield.

Detroit also has to sort out its outfield, where center fielder JaCoby Jones and Cameron Maybin appear to be the only Tigers assured of starting roles.

Twins

• While healthy, Rich Hill has not ramped up his intensity.

Falvey said in early June that Hill had ramped up to two-inning bullpen sessions, and the Twins weren’t going to ramp up the veteran left-hander more aggressively until a more concrete schedule for the season became apparent. Hill has still been throwing bullpens and progressing normally in the meantime. The Twins will still need to see how he reacts to being stretched out and facing live hitters, but signs are positive for the time being.

“So far, I have no reason to believe otherwise,” Falvey said at the time about Hill’s readiness for Opening Day. “I would say, obviously, the timing depends as to when … we press the ‘go’ button on the season, but I would say that so far, he’s tracking in a really good way and self-reporting that he feels great. It all depends on how he shows up, but I’m very optimistic about that.”

• Pitcher workloads will not start at peak levels.

“Three weeks will be quick,” Falvey said. “It won’t be the normal approach, which may lead us to having a heightened awareness of where guys are when they start the season in terms of their workloads. I would anticipate us looking at pitchers in particular and not running them all the way up to their peak pitch count right from Day 1.”

• Fantasy managers could play chicken with Michael Pineda who should come off his suspension in early September.

The delayed start to the season is quite unfortunate for Pineda, who must still serve the remaining 39 games of the 60-game suspension he incurred last year following a positive test for a banned diuretic. Had the season progressed as planned, he would have pitched most of the season after a planned return in mid-May. If the schedule proceeds as planned, he would likely be in line for reinstatement in early September.

White Sox

Michael Kopech will be used as an opener or paired up with another starter.

Michael Kopech should be the most interesting player to watch, since the hard-throwing right-hander who had Tommy John surgery in September 2018 almost certainly would have been with the big league team by now during a 162-game season. He was going to be eased back into action in the Minors to open 2020, getting some innings on the mound while also being kept away from the early cold weather conditions. Kopech looked very impressive during his one Cactus League inning, hitting 100 mph on six pitches.

Don’t be surprised if the White Sox use Kopech as an opener from time to time or pair him with other starters. They also want to give him the necessary amount of work to continue his development toward becoming a top-of-the-rotation starter.

• Carlos Rodon should contribute early in the season.

Carlos Rodón, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2019, should be ready to contribute at some point near the start of the season or shortly thereafter.

• Rick Hahn doesn’t seem set on starting with Nick Madrigal on the team.

“Nicky, we only got to see him for a handful of games up in Glendale, [Ariz.], but he’s been so far as advertised and certainly is a consideration for breaking with us; if not immediately, then certainly helping us at some point,” Hahn said.

I’m betting he’s down for a week and once Leury Garcia struggles, he’ll get called up.

National League

Braves

• The DH situation could feature Marcell Ozuna‘s thereby hurting Austin Riley’s value.

They could have a DH by committee, utilizing the likes of outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall and third basemen Austin Riley and Johan Camargo. Or, they could decide to make Marcell Ozuna their primary DH, since his bat, and not his glove, is the reason the Braves signed him to a one-year, $18 million contract, and his defense wasn’t particularly impressive in the spring.

Ozuna, whose arm strength isn’t what it was a few years ago after a couple of seasons with shoulder problems, is not as good defensively as Duvall and arguably not as consistent in the field as Markakis. If Ozuna is the regular DH, the Braves could have Riley as their primary third baseman and move the versatile Camargo around among at least three or more positions.

Freddie Freeman wasn’t 100% in Spring Training. It’s one reason to possibly pass on him.

Freeman had arthroscopic elbow surgery in October and missed a couple of days during spring training with inflammation — the sort of thing that typically comes with a major increase in activity after surgery rehab. Having three extra months to rest and work out a more leisurely pace at home in California should assure the All-Star first baseman is fully recovered.

Brewers

Eric Lauer, Freddy Peralta, and Corbin Burnes are likely fighting over the last rotation spot.

For example, assuming Milwaukee goes with Brandon Woodruff, Anderson, Lindblom and Adrian Houser atop the rotation in some order, as Counsell forecast in February, it would mean Lauer, Freddy Peralta and spring star Corbin Burnes would vie for one remaining starter’s spot, with the others beginning the season in the bullpen and surely getting starts as needs arose.

Cardinals

• Mark Saxon of The Athletic thinks the Cardinals will not promote Dylan Carlson for at least a week.

On the other hand, I can’t say for sure that the Cardinals don’t actually want to get older outfielders opportunities before pulling the Carlson lever anyway. Tyler O’Neill has shown enough in the minors and in small sample sizes in the majors to warrant a legitimate string of at-bats. Unfortunately for him and others, this will not be a good season to start off cold. His entire career could hinge on a fast start this season. Same goes for all the outfielders, particularly Harrison Bader.

Diamondbacks

• The DH will be a rotation to keep everyone fresh.

One is that Hazen envisions the designated hitter spot being rotated among a series of players rather than going to one player full time.

• They are looking at going with a 6-man or piggy-back rotation.

A second is that while a six-man rotation will be considered given the organization’s rotation depth, it’s more likely that one starter piggybacks off another early in the season.

• All the players will be on a short leash with no time to work things out.

“I would imagine, if I were speculating, that there would be heightened urgency around performance,” Hazen said. “We would have to be more mindful, when we’re typically in the middle of April to the middle of May, we’re letting things play out, we may not have that time. The multiple-game swings could severely impact your ability to make the playoffs.”

So, expect shorter leashes if a player has a couple of rough outings, especially if a viable alternative is available. Luckily for Hazen, the modern tools of today’s game — systems that track exit velocities, spin rates, launch angles and more — help distinguish between bad luck and bad performance. Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo will have to make quicker calls on roles and roster spots than they’re used to, but they have more information in their hands than they would have 10 years ago.

Giants

• May go with tandem starters.

Zaidi said. “We may have to tandem guys. We may have to do some unconventional things with the pitching staff to get through nine innings a day to get through the season.”

Marlins

• The Marlins DH situation is unclear. The whole article reads like nested IF.THEN.ELSE statement.

Brandon Kintzler is still likely the closer.

Brandon Kintzler, who signed as a free agent in the offseason, was the likely closer when Spring Training opened in February. He’s an experienced veteran with closer experience. Kintzler is the likely choice again, at least for the start of the season.

José Ureña or Sandy Alcantara is likely to be the Opening Day starter.

When Spring Training was cancelled in mid-March, Ureña was making the case to either be the Opening Day starter or perhaps the No. 2 guy. The right-hander was impressive and solidified himself to pitch at the top of the rotation. Still, my guess is Sandy Alcantara would have been the Opening Day starter a few months ago, and he will enter camp next week again as the front-runner, barring anything unforeseen.

Padres

Josh Naylor and Ty France are DH options.

Tingler and Preller both mentioned Josh Naylor and Ty France as candidates, though the team likely will not have a full-time DH in 2020; the current 40-man roster was not constructed with that in mind

Reds

• Most of the starters are already throwing 60 pitches.

Barnhart, who lives in suburban Indianapolis, has made the two-hour drive to Great American Ball Park a couple of times to catch bullpen sessions with several pitchers. Among those he’s caught are Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley, Lucas Sims and Justin Shafer. Each of them was throwing around 60 pitches in their past two sessions.

“Which, in my opinion, is more than they would throw on any side day before a game,” Barnhart said. “I know Sonny was saying that in Nashville at one point, they were doing three or four innings with up-and-downs [between innings] like scrimmage games or whatever.

Tucker Barnhart is on baby watch.

Barnhart’s wife, Sierra, is due to give birth to their second son in July.

“We are very close to our due date, so that may alter some of my decision-making,” Barnhart said. “If we were in the middle of it and I’d have to be away from my wife and family the entire time based on safety, not be able to see them the entire season, maybe that would have had me thinking about it a little more.”

Rockies

Kyle Freeland spent the past few months cleaning up his mechanics and pitches.

Freeland said on Thursday. “Once I realized this was going to be a lot longer than we thought, I devoted my time to making sure my mechanics are as clean as possible to continue my work on that, to continue to work on my pitches in bullpens and get them as ready as possible.





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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