When the 2021 season begins, the Rangers’ starting shortstop will not be Elvis Andrus. He has been Texas’ everyday starter there since his debut in 2009 — a remarkable run of longevity — but earlier this week, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward announced that Andrus would enter spring training as a utility infielder. Replacing him as the everyday shortstop? A former backup catcher.
Describing Isiah Kiner-Falefa as a backup catcher is a little misleading; after all, he won a Gold Glove for his excellent fielding at third base this year. But he reached the majors as a catcher after spending much of his minor league career as an infielder. That was a sacrifice he was willing to make to reach the highest levels with other, more heralded infield prospects ahead of him in the Rangers’ organization. It’s a credit to his determination and dedication that he outlasted those other prospects to earn this opportunity.
As Andrew Simon of MLB.com pointed out, a player moving from behind the plate to the most difficult infield position is almost unheard of in baseball history: Kiner-Falefa could become the first modern player to play at least 50 games at catcher, shortstop, and third base. He was drafted as a shortstop out of high school and gained plenty of experience on the dirt as a minor leaguer, so this isn’t unfamiliar territory for him. Still, simply due to the way he had to make compromises to work his way up to the majors, he’s in rare company.
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After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for nine years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Washington Nationals.
There are a lot of names from the 2019 World Series championship that are no longer here, but the two most important ones are: Juan Soto and Trea Turner. After missing Opening Day due to a positive COVID-19 test result, Soto made up for lost time, playing like a man possessed and hitting .351/.490/.695, one of those lines mainly produced by players with Hall of Fame plaques. He now has a 152 wRC+ in 1,349 major league plate appearances and turned 22 a month after his season ended.
There are 14 players in major league history with a wRC+ of at least 130 in at least a thousand plate appearances before their age-22 season. The two other active players besides Soto, Mike Trout and Ronald Acuña Jr., are two of the other brightest young superstars in the game (or at least youngish in Trout’s case). Another is Tony Conigliaro, one of the game’s saddest examples of a brutal injury derailing a career. Everyone else on the list is a Hall of Famer. And I’m not talking run-of-the-mill Hall of Famers; this is a list that features Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, and Mickey Mantle. The worst of this group is either Ken Griffey Jr. or Arky Vaughan. As such, Soto gets Ted Williams as his top offensive comp at his age. Not the Ted Williams who played in the minors for the Mariners, not a data error that led to an odd result, but the Ted Williams. I believe this is a first.
No matter where the Nats go from here, the team’s first priority ought to be locking up Soto’s services with a very, very lucrative contract for a very, very long time. Whether rebuilding, retooling, or pushing in the whole stack of chips, Soto is a foundational talent any team can build around. I’m a fan of Bryce Harper, but he was no Soto. Read the rest of this entry »
This is Part Two of an interview with Jim Gentile, who played for five teams, primarily the Baltimore Orioles, from 1957-1966. Part One can be found here.
David Laurila: You mentioned Boog Powell earlier. What can you tell me about him?
Jim Gentile: “You could tell when he was 18 years old that he had all the makings. I knew he was going to be a first baseman after I watched him, because he had great hands. They put him in left field when he came up with us — that would have been ’62 — and he did a real good job.
“I didn’t have a very good year in 1963, so I kind of knew they were going to make a trade. They signed Hank Bauer to be the manager. All of us that were living in Baltimore — Jackie Brandt, Milt Pappas, and myself — went down to the ballpark and met with Hank. He gave us a big talk. I was asked, ‘You gonna be ready for this year?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ That night I get a phone call. I pick it up and [GM Lee] MacPhail says. ‘Jim, thank you for the great years you had with us. I just traded you to Kansas City. I think you’ll enjoy it.’”
Laurila: Were you surprised?
Gentile: “I was surprised I went to Kansas City — they usually made their deals with the Yankees — but I was lucky to meet a guy who became a dear friend of mine, Rocky Colavito. [Charlie] Finley said that he traded for the two of us because he wanted power. Well, it’s good to have power, but you’ve got to have pitching, too. A whole lot of clubs have proven that over the years. We weren’t very good. Anyway, I played there in ’64, and part of ’65. Last part of May, I was tied with Mickey Mantle for home runs, with 10, and Finley calls and tells me that I was sold to the Astros for $150,000, and two players [to be named later].” Read the rest of this entry »
The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
The youngest of the Oakland A’s Moneyball-era “Big Three” starting pitchers, and the last to join the organization and to debut in the majors, Barry Zito reached a higher peak than either Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder while helping the A’s to five postseason appearances from 2000-06. Renowned for a curveball that was considered the best in the game, he made three All-Star teams and is the only one of the trio to win a Cy Young award. He parlayed his success into a record-setting free agent contract with the Giants, though outside of his trademark durability, he rarely lived up to the expectations that it carried.
Then again, Zito rarely lived up to the standard expectations that come with being a high-profile professional athlete. Yes, he surfed, but he also played guitar, practiced yoga and meditation, traveled with scented candles and satin bed pillows sewn by his mother, and read books about the power of positive thinking. In the eyes of the often-hyperbolic agent Scott Boras, who netted him a seven-year, $126 million deal from the Giants in December 2006, he was “Zigasso… the artist-poet-intellectual.” Oookay.
Despite standing 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Zito was not a particularly hard thrower, but the rest of his repertoire made up for it, at least in the best of times. From a 2004 Sports Illustrated profile by Michael Silver:
Call it mind over batter: His unrivaled curveball with the roller-coaster drop and his crafty changeup set up a sub-90s fastball that isn’t nearly as hittable as it appears. “He throws strikes and dares you to hit it,” says New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, “and because you have to wait so long for that curve, it makes his fastball that much faster.”
Where Hudson — who’s also on this year’s ballot for the first time — finished his career with numbers worthy of a substantial Hall of Fame debate, Zito fell short; his JAWS is exactly half of the standard for starting pitchers. This figures to be his only appearance on a BBWAA ballot, but as this year’s only first-timer to win a major award, he gets a standalone One-and-Done entry in my series. Read the rest of this entry »
Location: This position requires you to work out of SIS’ office in Coplay, PA and cannot be done remotely.
SIS is looking for highly motivated individuals with a desire to work in the baseball industry. Video Scouts will have a chance to make an immediate impression on the company. Each Video Scout will be collecting data that is directly used by SIS clients (including major league teams) for advance scouting and evaluation purposes. Not only will the Video Scouts become more familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of hundreds of amateur and professional players, but they will also learn the ins and outs of the baseball statistics industry.
Former Video Scouts have risen through MLB front offices after getting their start reviewing two to three games per day at SIS. MLB teams frequently contact SIS for recommendations when they need to fill a position within their organization, and top video scouts each year routinely land team internships and/or full-time jobs. Three former video scouts recently won the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
SIS takes pride in making their internships great development opportunities for those looking to get their start in baseball. In addition to gaining invaluable experience reviewing thousands of players across different levels, they offer introductory classes that cover creating scouting reports and using the database management language, SQL. they also provide insight and advice from previous SIS Video Scouts who have branched out into a variety of areas in the sports industry.
SIS offers two unique start dates for this position:
Sports Info Solutions uses E-Verify and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
To apply for this position, please click on the link provided:
The content in this posting was created and provided solely by Sports Info Solutions.
Location: Based in Atlanta, GA, with travel throughout the US
Contract: 9 Month Fixed Term
Start Date: January 2021
Hawk-Eye Innovations, a Sony company, develops, markets, and delivers the most sophisticated officiating tools in sport. They are a fundamental part of officiating and broadcasting in over 20 international sports across their Ball Tracking, SMART (Synchronised Multi-Angle Replay Technology) and SMART Production products. Every year they cover over 30,000 events and games across 500+ stadiums in over 90 countries.
They now deliver services to 18 out of the top 20 most valuable sports leagues in the world. Their opportunities are endless, as they push the boundaries of technology in all areas of sport.
About the opportunity
They are recruiting to fill the 2021 Baseball Season Systems Operator role within their expanding team in the US. This nine month opportunity is based at their regional headquarters in Atlanta and will include on-site work at sports stadia around the US.
With new contracts to provide services to the MLB (as well as MLS, NASCAR, USTA, NHL and NFL), the role will encompass installation and operation of the technology at a variety of games and events.
This is an exciting opportunity to work at the forefront of sports technology in top-flight sports leagues as part of a young and dynamic team. Hawk-Eye will equip you with the technical training, support and full exposure to their systems to perform your day to day tasks but also to encourage development and progression to help make an impact on what they do. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about what went down at MLB’s non-tender deadline, touching on whether the news for arbitration-eligible players was as dire as forecasted, the more notable non-tenders, and the short- and long-term futures of free agency, then (29:36) talk to Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times about how the NPB’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have built a dynasty that has won four consecutive Japan Series titles (and seven since 2011), how the Hawks have influenced the rest of the league, the MLB futures of Oscar Luis Colás (the “Cuban Ohtani”) and ace Tomoyuki Sugano, the strength of women’s baseball in Japan, how the NPB dealt with the pandemic, and whether more foreign players may want to play in Japan.
Audio intro: The Mountain Goats, "High Hawk Season"
Audio interstitial: Superchunk, "Hello Hawk"
Audio outro: Shovels & Rope, "The Last Hawk"
Link to list of non-tendered players
Link to list of signed players who avoided arbitration
Link to Craig Edwards on non-tender takeaways
Link to FanGraphs Audio non-tender reactions
Link to FanGraphs international prospect rankings
Link to Jason on the Hawks’ recent dominance
Link to Jason on the Hawks’ latest Japan Series win
Link to Jason on the Pacific League/Central League imbalance
Link to Jason on the NPB’s COVID restrictions
Link to MLB.com story on Colás
Link to MLB Network segment on Colás
Link to Colás video
Link to Jason on Sugano
Link to Sugano video
Link to Jason on women’s baseball in Japan
Link to Jessica Luther on women’s baseball in Japan
Link to story about Ayami Sato
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The FanGraphs crew gets together to discuss Wednesday’s non-tender deadline and the many moves surrounding it, including a longer look at one of the league’s newest free agents.
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