I’m going to be working through news and game action this spring providing bits which may change a player’s talent or playing time projections.
Continuing concerns about areas of weakness around Carlos Martinez’s right shoulder prompted the Cardinals to transfer the right-hander to a two-week, no-throwing program that now puts his readiness for Opening Day in jeopardy.
Manager Mike Shildt relayed the change in plan on Tuesday, one day after Martinez was sent away for an MRI of his shoulder. Though the scan showed no change from a baseline test in 2016, the club is concerned about possible adverse effects if Martinez was to continue pitching through weakness in the surrounding muscles.
Martinez was candid, too, in telling the Cardinals’ medical staff that he “felt a little bit of inflammation and weakness” while throwing his last bullpen session. He won’t throw again until at least March 5.
This injury is not good for a pitcher with already suspect health. I wonder if it pushes him more towards the bullpen. I’d not be surprised to see his ADP drop from 126 to near 200 with the news.
Smith’s situation could complicate the Mariners’ early roster maneuvering, however. It appears unlikely he’ll be ready to play the outfield by the March 20-21 regular-season openers in Tokyo against the A’s, though it might be possible to compete by then as a designated hitter or pinch-runner.
The Mariners have six days after returning from Japan before resuming play, with their home opener March 28 against the Red Sox, which might be a more realistic target for Smith’s debut.
Baldelli said the injury was sustained around the time of the celebration of the Dominican Winter League playoffs last month, when Sano won the league championship with his team, Estrellas Orientales. He isn’t worried about Sano’s timeline to prepare for the regular season.
“Most of the time, as long as these things are fairly minor as we think this is, you have plenty of time to get ready,” Baldelli said.
I guess the Yoga lessons are on pause.
● Jorge Soler is projected to be the Royals regular right fielder and DH some. The news isn’t as important as the type of hitter he represents, bad but with a job (see Randall Grichuck). Most projection systems put him at 450 or fewer plate appearances and that’s for a season average knowing he might need a replacement.
His value is going to be from volume and if he’s sitting any, he need to be on the waiver wire. For these guys, I just bump up their plate appearance total to a full season and if they disappoint, no big loss. But if they hit, I end up with the 2018 version of Nick Markakis.
● While not “new” news, here is a reminder that Cesar Hernandez struggled in the second half because of a broken foot.
“I’m not going to lie,” Hernandez said. “It was tough playing with a broken foot.”
That foot healed this offseason with rest after it took its toll on Hernandez’s final three months. When Hernandez broke the foot July 6 in Pittsburgh, his on-base percentage was .379 and nearly identical to the mark he had posted the previous two seasons. The Phillies were receiving the production they expected from their leadoff hitter.
But with his foot broken. Hernandez posted just a .329 on-base percentage and batted .236 over the season’s final three months. It was a struggle.
“It affected me in every single way,” Hernandez said. “I couldn’t really stand hard on that foot. If I was batting lefty, it was the foot that I had in front. If I was batting righty, that’s where I put all my weight. I just wanted to keep playing because we were in first place.”
Projections may be a little low on him because of the struggles and he could be a nice buy at a current 169 ADP.
● Damn …
Dave Martinez had a conversation with Trea Turner earlier today about finishing with many more steal attempts in 2019. Martinez told reporters he'd like it to be in the 75-80 range. Trea attempted 52 last year.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) February 19, 2019
During his offseason, Votto spent a lot of time conditioning and wanted to not be even 99 percent ready for camp, but the full 100. He also dissected his swing and without explaining in detail, understands why his power dipped so drastically.
“I thought there was something in my swing, the angle as it came through the zone,” Votto said. “A lot of my hard-hit balls were poorly directed. I think it was very much a mechanics thing and not a physical thing.”
I just figured he was getting old.
During the offseason, McMahon worked on his swing with Rockies assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar and Albuquerque hitting coach Tom Doherty. A key improvement is making contact further in front, which could unlock some of his pull power, even though Black believes the ability to spray the ball around the field is an asset.
And then manager Bud Black said.
“He’s not changing his swing,” Black said. “It’s a beautiful swing. It’s a swing that plays in the big leagues. But there are some other components of hand position, bat path. Those are things he’s trying to work on.”
The swing isn’t changing, just the bat path. O-key, dokey.
Desmond also will take a fresh approach offensively. Last year, he had a .235/.307/.422 slash line, with the highest percentage of ground balls in the Majors. Desmond did hit 22 homers to go with 88 RBIs (a combination accomplished 53 times in Rockies history).
Desmond had a chance meeting with new Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan at a Bradenton, Fla., golf course — around the time Magadan was hired — during the offseason to begin communication.
“Everyone knew him when he played as a pure hitter. That’s certainly not something I’ve ever been tabbed,” Desmond said. “To be able to pick his brain and to have him keep an eye on me, be able to talk approach, it’s going to be an exciting year. We hit it off, and I’m hoping the relationship can maintain throughout.”
The quotes aren’t the most sincere sounding. We’ll see if Mr. 62% GB% can air out a few more balls.
● Delino Deshields is another hitter working on a new plate approach.
In the past, the Rangers wanted DeShields to emphasize on-base percentage, putting the ball in play and using his speed to get on base. Woodward doesn’t see that as the right approach, and last year’s results bear that out.
The data shows DeShields made some of the weakest contact in the game last year. Among hitters with at least 200 batted balls, he had the second-lowest average exit velocity (79.6 mph), third-lowest hard-hit rate (14.4 percent), 10th-lowest average launch angle (3.7 degrees), and 17th-highest ground-ball rate (53.8%).
“I want him to be a hitter,” Woodward said. “I want him to learn how to hit. If you hit the ball on the ground today, you are going to be out. You are not going to make a living hitting the ball on the ground. If he gets a pitch in the strike zone, especially before two strikes, I want him to think about hammering balls and making outfielders run after it.”
The quote says a ton on his weak approach. If he makes some of the choices stated, he could have a 2018 Jose Peraza type breakout.
General manager Jed Hoyer said this spring that Baez “organized his strike zone” better, helping make up for his low walk rate (4.5 percent, 10th lowest in MLB) and high strikeout rate (25.9 percent, 14th highest in MLB).
“I’m just trying to get more walks,” Baez said of his goals for 2019. “Obviously, people are talking about my walks and strikeouts. It’s only going to make me better if I walk more and I see the ball better.”
“For the most part, it’s what I was doing in the Minor Leagues,” Bell said. “Focus on driving the ball the other way, then with offspeed pitches, my barrel would automatically sync up to them.”
He rediscovered that approach in September, and improved results came along with it.
Bell has already hit it off with Eckstein and assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz this spring. He said he’s “all in” on the technology they’ve introduced, and they’ve encouraged him to hit the ball hard where it’s pitched rather than trying to alter his swing and force something.
“Where the ball ends up, that’s where it’s going to end up,” Bell said. “If I put my ‘A’ swing on it and stay inside it, I should be able to drive the ball to all fields.
Maybin said he’s looking forward to unveiling his overhauled swing with the Giants, who expressed interest in him early in the offseason as they looked to add multiple experienced outfielders to their roster. Even before signing his contract, Maybin sent videos of his swing to Giants hitting coach Alonzo Powell.
Everyone’s doing it.
● Jake Lamb will be a decent late corner infield option this season and will quickly be able to fill in at first and third. But Yasmany Tomas could steal some of his plate appearances against lefties.
Join me this Friday in the Whoop Jeff Zimmerman’s Ass to a Pulp RotoWire Online Championship League with an overall prize of $125,000. It’s a 12-team, standard roto league with in-season FAAB bidding.
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.