Mining the News (9/2/20)

American League


• Even before Todd Frazier was traded away, the Rangers were looking at getting Ronald Guzmán more playing time.

Guzmán has been trying for three seasons to seize the Rangers’ first-base job and it has been an elusive pursuit. He was back in the lineup on Sunday after a three-hit game, including a home run, on Saturday night. The Rangers appear to be leaning toward taking another look at Guzmán, which could squeeze Frazier’s playing time.

Guzman has started three straight games and has a 1.367 OPS on the season. For those owners with struggling first basemen (e.g. Votto), he’s worth a gamble.

Kolby Allard is adjusting his pitch mix in order to be more productive.

But Allard made some adjustments from his two previous starts. Most notable was using his changeup more and getting away from being overly reliant on his fastball and cutter.

“It was using all of his pitches,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Changeup was one of them, a big key to it. He just got very, very predictable in his last outings. So we just asked him to use all his pitches, and he did a really good job. … Couldn’t ask for much more than that.”

Throwing a change more couldn’t hurt. He basically throws a fastball and cutter that are flyball prone (20% GB%, 29% GB%) and generate some swings-and-misses (11% SwStr% for both). The change creates similar results (33% GB%, 10% SwStr%) and can keep batters off guard. It’s also a hell of a lot better than his curveball, but he’s never going to be great without that one put-away pitch.


Joey Wendle is now healthy and hitting.

Wendle’s uptick in production this year comes after a 2019 season in which he lacked any type of consistency. Wendle battled a hamstring issue that placed him on the injured list at the beginning of last season, and then he fractured his wrist last April. He wound up doing three stints on the IL, all of which lasted at least three weeks. He played in just 75 games and finished with an OPS of .633. A year ago at this time, Wendle was hitting .206.

The injury-related struggles can be seen in his batted ball data.

All his hard-hit rates slowly climbed last season and jumped back to 2018 levels to start this season.

White Sox

Nomar Mazara is just now getting his strength and swing back to normal.

Missing time with strep throat at the start of the season set back Mazara and his power stroke, he explained Tuesday.

“I spent two weeks at my home without grabbing a bat,” Mazara said. “So, those two weeks really did me dirty, and when I came back, I was like lost. I was just going out there and trying to grind, trying to have good at-bats.

“The power is not there yet. But once I hit the first one, everything’s going to fit good.”

Mazara has always been of little fantasy value because he’s league average against righties and can’t hit lefties at all (.637 OPS for his career). Even with his swing coming together, he remains unrosterable.

National League


Omar Narváez is now worrying about how he’s hitting.

How has Brewers catcher Omar Narváez managed a slow start at the plate?

By doing everything possible to remain productive behind it.

“I’m one of those persons that always says, ‘If you don’t do anything good on offense, you better do it on defense,’” Narváez said Monday night, after hitting his first Brewers home run in a 4-2 win over the Reds.

As for his hitting, Narváez said he has been watching a lot of video and noticed a leg kick was creeping into his game. He has been working with Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines and assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz to get back to the swing that made him successful.

Up until August 15th, he was hitting .140/.275/.163. Since then, it’s been .219/.306/.500. The power jump is nice and he is now rosterable in two catcher leagues.


Lewin Díaz (vs RHP) and Jesús Aguilar (vs LHP) are likely going to be in a platoon.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami’s No. 8 prospect, Díaz is a left-handed-hitting complement to right-handed-hitting Jesús Aguilar.

The two will likely alternate between first base and designated hitter.

This platoon kills both of their fantasy values.


Spencer Howard’s fastball velocity tanked during his last start.

Rookie right-hander Spencer Howard earned his first big league win on Monday with his most effective performance in four starts. But the Phillies are trying to figure out why Howard’s velocity dropped 3.4 mph from the first inning to the fifth.

Howard’s four-seam fastball averaged 95.3 mph in the first inning, 94.6 mph in the second, 93.7 mph in the third, 92.2 mph in the fourth and 91.9 mph in the fifth.

“We’re kind of digging into that to find out,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s not something that he’s experienced in the past. We’re looking at everything — diet, conditioning, the shorter Spring Training. We’re looking at everything. We’re trying to figure that out. Physically, he feels fine, so I’m not concerned about it, but I would like to get to the bottom of it. I think we all would.”

If I rostered Howard, I’d look at sitting him for his next start. Pitchers don’t just lose almost 3.5 mph over a start without something being wrong. Proceed with caution.

Scott Kingery has been playing through and back and shoulder injury while trying to fix his approach.

It’s problematic that Kingery’s development has stalled and arguably regressed. Too much tinkering, by Kingery and by the organization with overall hitting philosophies, has left him searching for answers. Kingery revealed two weeks ago that he dealt with a back ailment that turned into a nagging left shoulder issue. It wasn’t enough to keep him out of the lineup or require time on the injured list. But between that and his delayed start to summer workouts because he contracted COVID-19 and the lingering after-effects, it could be understandable if he viewed those two factors as a hindrance to his performance. Kingery said he believes neither is the reason he’s struggled.

Amid the adversity and frustration, Kingery knows he needs to figure out his swing and approach.


Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story don’t think they were ready for major league pitching.

Through August, Arenado found himself just missing pitches during games. While practicing, he has been constantly tinkering with his balance and weight distribution — movements that showed he was having difficulty recognizing pitches. Would he have worked all that out sooner with the 30-50 Spring Training at-bats?

“I believe the season affects everybody differently, as we’ve seen throughout the league,” Arenado said on Tuesday. “It’s tough, for sure, on guys, and that first month has been tough on me. But I’ve also got to find a way — can’t make excuses.”

“Coming from the layoff, right away the pitchers weren’t necessarily ready to get straight into live at-bats, which is the quickest way for hitters to get up to speed,” Story said. “It’s a tough act to balance — keeping pitchers’ arms healthy and trying to advance to where you want to be as a hitter, in your timing and just feeling comfortable in there.”

I’m tucking away this quote for next season to possibly downgrade hitters who miss at-bats during Spring Training.

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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