Mining the News (7/2/20)

American League

Angels

• Sounds like there is a slim chance Jo Adell makes the Opening Day roster.

It seemed in March that Adell’s chances of making the opening day roster were slim. Returning to triple-A to iron out his approach might have been the more prudent move.

After months of speculation, the minor league season officially was canceled Tuesday, so Adell won’t have the luxury of closing gaps in his development in a normal game setting. But the Angels hope the competitions they organize within their player pool provide Adell the opportunity to make strides.

“That’s what we’re hopeful for … There’s some upside to the intrasquad format,” Eppler said. “We’ll just have to keep getting him at-bats. There’s going to be talented pitchers over there for him to face and we’ll go from there.”

Mariners

• Shed Long and Jake Fraley are expected to still be starting when the season begins.

• Yusei Kikuchi was sitting around 93 mph in Spring Training while touching 96 mph. Those results are almost exactly what he did last season (averaged 92.9 mph)

“We’ve seen the velo be higher all spring with Yusei,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after that March outing. “It started off in the game in the 92-94 [mph] range, but then as he got comfortable — along with the curveball — we saw some 96’s as he went. He’s looked really good all spring. He looks like a different guy.”

Kikuchi has been throwing at the team’s facility in Arizona during the shutdown, and if he can reclaim that sharpness once play resumes, it will be a most welcome sign.

Rangers

• They may not use José Leclerc as just a closer and instead use him in high leverage situations.

Leclerc has had his rocky moments as closer, and manager Chris Woodward has contemplated the idea of using him in an earlier role. That would allow the Rangers to use Leclerc’s enormous talent in a less-pressured but still significant role, possibly one that includes multi-inning game assignments.

That would require somebody else to step in as closer. Right-hander Rafael Montero is one possibility. He appeared in 22 games for the Rangers last year with a 2.48 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

Veteran right-hander Cody Allen is another possibility. He has 153 career saves, but he has struggled over the past two years and was slow out of Spring Training with a sore elbow.

Red Sox

• They will go with a five-man rotation with the last two spots up in the air.

Roenicke said he still anticipates keeping the three main starters — Rodríguez, Eovaldi and Pérez — on a five-day rotation. The other two spots are still undecided, but it’s sounding like they plan to give Weber a shot in that fourth starter spot. He emerged as a candidate in the spring after a few solid outings. As for the fifth spot, the plan for now is still an opener, but it sounds like they’ll rotate a few guys through that spot and sort of mix and match depending on the opponent.

Royals

• Expect Sal Perez to have a full catching workload once the season starts.

Royals manager Mike Matheny said last week that Perez, coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, wouldn’t have to be brought along slowly now and should be capable of a full workload.

Tigers

• The third base job is still up in the air.

Neither Jeimer Candelario nor Dawel Lugo stood out in their competition at third base, but a shortened season gives Isaac Paredes a chance to make a new impression in his attempt to jump from Double-A to the Majors.

Yankees

• They only expect their pitchers throwing around 60 pitches to start the season.

“If you’re in a three-week build-up, I would imagine we could probably get guys to 55 to 65 pitches, assuming everything goes according to plan,” Blake said in April. “Those first seven days [of camp] will be a huge indicator of where we can go.”

It’s not a perfect comparison, but when baseball returned from the strike in 1995, Buck Showalter didn’t push a Yankees starter past 100 pitches until the season’s seventh game (when Jack McDowell threw 116 over eight innings against the Red Sox). In an era in which pitch counts were not as scrutinized as they are now, Opening Day starter Jimmy Key threw 84 pitches over five innings against the Rangers.

Cole just throwing 60. Great …

National League

Brewers

• Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom 린드블럼 are rotation locks.

It’s a roster built for depth, meant to withstand the rigors of a 162-game season. Anderson and Lindblom are locks for the Opening Day rotation with Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser, but at least three others (Burnes, Lauer and Peralta) will compete to join them.

Josh Hader will continue to throw more than one inning but not make back-to-back appearances.

Counsell has explained many times that it’s not the innings that are at issue, it’s the back-to-back appearances. Experience says that Hader is most dominant when coming off a rest day, so the team developed a usage pattern of stretching him multiple innings and giving him days off in between. Considering he was the National League Reliever of the Year each of the past two seasons, I don’t see that strategy changing. So, without a doubt, give me the under.

Cardinals

• The starters may be looking to go three to four innings at a time.

“It might also factor into how you think about managing the game,” Mozeliak said. “You might have a quicker leash with someone right now because of the depth you have in the bullpen. I would think you want maybe seven, eight, having the ability to get you three or four innings at any time.”

Cubs

• Expect a fairly consistent lineup from the Cubs.

He does, however, envision sticking with his original plan of putting out a consistent lineup. It’s a slight departure from the days under Joe Maddon. But Ross believes the consistency will pay off in a shortened season.

“But I think the more we give guys regular at-bats, the better it’s going to be as we continue with this. Looking up and you have two guys platooning and they both got 150 or so at-bats and neither one of them are swinging the bat well, I just feel like that might be a little bit of a hindrance. So let a guy get 250 and the other guy have some pinch-hit at-bats and a defined role. Just trying to find roles early for these guys is going to be important.”

• The Cubs will go with a five-man rotation.

“We’ve got guys that have stayed in shape, pitchers that are above three innings of [simulated] games, so we’ve got some guys that are ready to throw and get off the mound,” Ross said. “We’ll start those mini-intrasquad games as soon as we can.”

“We haven’t talked about that,” Ross said. “I think it’ll be unrealistic to expect guys to get to maybe 100 or so pitches right out of the chute. That may be a little bit of a challenge. … But right now we’re just going to stick with our five-man rotation and continue to move forward.”

Diamondbacks

• Yasmany Tomás is still not a consideration … at all.

Though he has been invited to big-league spring training the last two years despite being off the 40-man roster, Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomás will not train with the team this summer. That may be because the Diamondbacks have a host of other options at designated hitter, such as Kevin Cron, Seth Beer and Pavin Smith. It may be because the Diamondbacks under general manager Mike Hazen have shown little inclination to keep playing an underperforming player signed by the previous regime.

Dodgers
• Another report of all their starters not throwing many innings.

They will likely begin with a traditional five-man rotation — Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price, Julio Urias and Alex Wood. At least for the first two times through the rotation, those starters will be limited to two or three innings each. But the Dodgers have solid depth to piggyback with multi-inning swingmen like Ross Stripling, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Dennis Santana and possibly Jimmy Nelson in the mix to get the game to the back end of the bullpen.

Giants

• Who knows what to expect from Kapler since he’s basing his decisions on video games.

But the stakes will be higher during the regular season, especially with the rule changes that will give Kapler more latitude to experiment with new pitching strategies and mix-and-match lineups. Kapler has said that he used “MLB The Show” to simulate games and practice his decision-making during the shutdown, so it will be interesting to see how his skills as a strategist will play out when it counts this year.

• The rotation will be limited to three innings per start to begin the season.

Kapler said there’s a high likelihood that when the Giants break camp their starting pitchers are only prepared to throw three innings the first time out, but a few minutes later he added that the staff won’t really know what they’re dealing with until they get players back in the fold and see how stretched out they are and what their current level of intensity is.

• Also, Kapler is considering a bullpen by committee.

One thing is clear, though. No matter who Kapler chooses as his “closer” after Summer Camp, it won’t be a one-man job. It’s no secret Kapler is a believer in modern analytics and mentioned Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader, who comes in during any situation, throughout the interview. He wants flexibility, and both Rogers and Watson should provide that.

“The one thing I just want to make clear is while if somebody emerges as a surefire closer option for us, a guy that fits the ninth inning, we’ll absolutely put that person in that role,” Kapler said. “However, we want these guys to be flexible to take down multiple innings, because as you guys know, we’re not going to have our starters built up by the end of camp to take five, six, seven innings.

Mets

• The Mets are going with a standard five-man rotation.

Van Wagenen has said the Mets will proceed with a traditional five-man rotation of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. He also said he expects the Mets to be creative. They have the personnel to do so, starting with multi-inning relievers Lugo and Robert Gsellman, and continuing with some other intriguing arms in their 60-man player pool — No. 10 prospect David Peterson, for example, or hard-throwing youngster Drew Smith, who is coming off Tommy John surgery. Given the shortened season and expanded rosters, the Mets have an opportunity to use both their rotation and bullpen in unconventional ways.

• Yoenis Céspedes is expected to get half the Mets DH at-bats.

When asked about the Mets’ DH plans earlier this week, Van Wagenen talked about the importance of workload management — not just for Céspedes, who is coming off multiple heel surgeries and a fractured right ankle, but also for everyday players like Pete Alonso and Robinson Canó. Just because the season is only 60 games this year doesn’t make it any easier to play 60 games in a row. So the Mets will use the DH to get Alonso and Canó off their feet every now and then. They will also use it to find at-bats for Jed Lowrie if he’s healthy, and to give J.D. Davis some days off in left field.

I can’t put a number on how often each guy will see time there, but if you go into the season expecting Céspedes to take about half of the Mets’ DH reps, you probably wouldn’t be far off.

• They plan on shorter starts to utilize their bullpen.

“We also have some high-velocity, high-stuff bullpen guys,” he said. “We may see shorter starts from some pitchers early on in the year, and we may see bullpen arms in pitching situations earlier than maybe they otherwise have been accustomed to. We’re going to use (the bullpen) with the mindset that every out counts, not just every inning.”

Padres

• The starters will be at their normal Opening Day workload

Rothschild feels the Padres are already ahead of the curve. A number of their starters have ramped up to three simulated innings. That puts them at roughly the same place they’d be with three weeks left before any normal season. Barring setbacks, it’s fair to expect Padres pitchers to be at their usual Opening Day capacity on July 24, Rothschild said.

• … but if they struggle, expect a short leash.

No matter who cracks the rotation, the role of a starting pitcher might be altered slightly in a 60-game season. In theory, each game is worth nearly three times as much as a typical regular-season game, and Rothschild expects new skipper Jayce Tingler to manage aggressively.

“You approach it like it’s the stretch run, but with the knowledge that we haven’t already played 100 games going into that stretch run,” Rothschild said. “… Hopefully, our starters get us deep into games, but we’ve got ability in the bullpen to cover ourselves on days that they don’t.”

• MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño won’t start in the Padres rotation but could fill in once someone gets hurt.

“Sooner than expected” is in the eye of the beholder. (Heck, they might both have been promoted already, if the season had gone ahead as planned.) There’s a large segment of the fanbase that would like to see the two pitching prospects in the Opening Day rotation.

That seems unlikely. The Padres have a pretty decent idea of their five-man group already. And while Gore and Patiño were solid during Spring Training, neither wowed like Chris Paddack in 2019.

Then again, both Gore and Patiño are squarely on the Padres’ radar for meaningful innings in 2020. There are extra roster places available for the first four weeks. If they don’t make the team in some capacity, they’re both among the first fill-in options in the event a starter gets injured or struggles.

Phillies

• Zack Wheeler’s baby watch is for late July

In fact, there could be an open spot in late July because Zack Wheeler’s wife is expected to give birth to their first child around that time.

“I have talked to his agent a few times,” Klentak said. “The plan right now — and this is up to him, obviously, it’s not up to us — but when it comes time for his wife to give birth, he’ll take some time to be there, but we don’t think it’s going to be an especially long period of time, not much longer than the typical paternity leave list time. It’s subject to change, but right now we’re not anticipating an extended absence.”

• Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard are not expected to be on the Opening Day roster.

Neither prospect [Bohm and Howard] is expected to make the Opening Day roster because of service time considerations, but both should get the call eventually.

Pirates

• Colin Moran will start the season as the third baseman.

There’s no shortage of candidates for the job. Hayes, incumbent Colin Moran, Erik González, José Osuna and Phillip Eans will be among those working out at PNC Park. On Wednesday, however, manager Derek Shelton revealed his plan for third base.

“I don’t think it’s an open competition,” Shelton said. “You’re going to see Colin there a lot. I think you’re going to see other people there … but you’re going to see Colin there.”

Rockies

• The team will go with a five-man rotation but only three to four innings for the starters.

The Rockies, Black said, will use a traditional five-man rotation and work on a tight pitch-count control system that caps a starter at three to four innings early in the season. Ideally, he said, the starter will be followed by a long reliever with two more innings to bridge into regular late-inning bullpen work. “It’s going to look a lot like the early games of spring training,” Black said, “where there are a number of pitchers being used.”

• The plan is to cycle players in-and-out of the DH spot.

Now that the designated hitter will be universal, Black said he will not use one player primarily in that role. Instead, he will cycle through hitters as a way to give them rest without having to remove them from the lineup.

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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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Chase Anderson was traded from the Brewers to the Blue Jays last November.