Darick Hall was an under-the-radar prospect when he was first featured here at FanGraphs in June 2018. A 14th-round pick two years earlier out of Dallas Baptist University, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound first baseman went into that season unranked. That part of his profile hasn’t changed. Hall logged a 101 wRC+ in Triple-A last year, and came into the current campaign once again absent from most prospect lists.
He’s proceeded to crush expectations. The now-26-year-old slugger earned his first big league call-up on Wednesday, this after bashing 20 home runs with a 132 wRC+ at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Last night, in just his second game, Hall launched a pair of home runs in a 14-4 Phillies win over the Atlanta Braves.
Hall discussed his evolution as a hitter late in spring training.
David Laurila: How have you evolved as a hitter since we talked four years ago?
Darick Hall: “It’s changed, but at the same time, it hasn’t changed much. I had been learning how to hit line drives more. Coming into pro ball, if the ball wasn’t up, I would drive it into the ground, because I would come over the top. Through the years, I’ve learned how to… I have a flat path, right? I don’t really have that vertical barrel, up through, so I had to learn how to use my legs to go down and get level with that ball to where I can hit it on a line. Obviously, sometimes I’ll drive it up for [home runs].” Read the rest of this entry »
Pitches are hard to classify, and the interactions between them are even more fraught. Mix up a slider and a cutter, and you’ll make the aggregates look all — wait, I started too specific. Let’s back up. Baseball is a game played between two teams, each of whom take turns trying to hit a ball thrown by the other team using a bat. The object of the game is to advance safely — wait, now this is too general. Let’s see if we can hit a happy medium.
Keegan Thompson throws a lot of pitches. Depending on how you count them — and boy, will we get into how you count them in this article, don’t worry — he throws as many as six different pitches, all with distinct properties in one way or another. Need a grounder? Keegan has a pitch for that. Strikeout? Sure thing. Want to beat a lefty, or induce a pop up, or regulate local power plants? Thompson can do the first two of those, if he picks the right pitch for the right situation.
This year, it looks like that previous paragraph is only partly hyperbole. In his 2021 major league debut, Thompson mainly worked out of the bullpen and had mixed success. He struck out an average number of batters but also ran a walk rate of nearly 13%. He went into 2022 without a clear role on the team — we projected him for a few starts and plenty of bullpen work — but with a pressing need for improvement on the command front.
Read the rest of this entry »
The Learning and Developing a Pitch series is back for another season, and we’re once again hearing from pitchers on a notable weapon in their arsenal. Today’s installment features St. Louis Cardinals rookie left-hander Zack Thompson on his big-bending curveball.
Drafted 19th overall in 2019 out of the University of Kentucky, the 24-year-old Thompson made his major league debut on June 3, and he’s gone on to log a 3.31 ERA and a 4.05 FIP over 16-and-a-third innings. Working primarily out of the bullpen, he’s allowed 13 hits, issued five free passes, and fanned 13 batters. No. 9 on our newly-released St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospect list, Thompson has thrown his arguably-best-in-the-system curveball 32.8% of the time.
Zack Thompson: “Growing up, my dad was always protective of me throwing breaking balls, so I didn’t start throwing one until I was a junior in high school. That’s when we began messing around with a curveball. We started out duct-taping two tennis balls together — my high school pitching coach, Jason Dudley, came up with the idea — and I just kind of flipped those to get the shape. It’s actually a lot easier to get feedback off of that. That’s kind of how it got started for me, and I ran with it from there.
“As I got older, I obviously started refining it more. The shape has essentially stayed the same, although I did have to cut down a little bit on the movement. That happened in college. Honestly, it was just too big. It was also too slow. Cutting down on the movement, my command got better, and the pitch also got a little bit sharper. Read the rest of this entry »
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.
A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.
All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »
This week, we talk to a reporter covering the St. Louis Cardinals before meeting the author of a book about the unique Cleveland team that won it all in 1948.
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The Yankees and Mets have the best records in their respective leagues, but both teams took their lumps in the past week when the Astros came to town. Houston even threw a combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium last Saturday while splitting a four-game series, halting the Yankees’ streak of seven straight series wins dating back to the end of May, then held the Mets to a grand total of one run in their two-game sweep. Yet the Astros didn’t escape from New York unscathed, placing Michael Brantley on the injured list due to right shoulder discomfort and shuddering as left fielder Yordan Alvarez and shortstop Jeremy Peña left Wednesday’s game after colliding in the outfield.
Alvarez and Brantley have split the left field and designated hitter duties pretty evenly this season; with the latter sidelined, the former got the call on Wednesday afternoon. In the eighth inning, Peña and Alvarez converged towards a shallow fly ball off the bat of Dominic Smith, with the shortstop making an over-the-shoulder grab but running into the much larger left fielder (Alvarez’s listed five-inch, 23-pound advantage seems conservative). Peña’s left arm hit Alvarez’s face, while Alvarez’s right arm hit Peña’s face. Both players got tangled up, went down hard, and stayed down for a few minutes while the Astros’ training staff tended to them.
Both players remained responsive and wanted to stay in the game but were pulled, with Alvarez, who missed all but two games in the 2020 season due to a torn patellar tendon, carted off the field; Peña walked off under his own power. Both players were evaluated for concussions, with Peña known to have additionally suffered a laceration in his mouth. Chas McCormick took over in left field for the remainder of the game while Mauricio Dubón assumed shortstop duties. Read the rest of this entry »
With the 2022 KBO season halfway through, it seemed like a good opportunity to summarize the ins-and-outs of baseball over in Korea so far. Since I’m doing this in order of the standings, part one (in case you missed it) covered the SSG Landers, Kiwoom Heroes, LG Twins, KIA Tigers, and KT Wiz. Part two will focus on the remaining five teams: the Samsung Lions, Doosan Bears, Lotte Giants, NC Dinos, and Hanwha Eagles. Without further ado, here’s the latest on the Korea Baseball Organization.
What do you do when you lose Hae-min Park, your All-Star centerfielder, to free agency? Casually replace him with a 20-year-old prospect, that’s what. A second-round pick in 2021, Hyeon Joon Kim is filling in some big shoes with a .307/.401/.394 slashline so far. That doesn’t mean he’s an instant star, though. Contact-orientated hitters do fare better in Korea than they do in the States, but Kim’s utter lack of slug forewarns BABIP complications, and he’s not a particularly amazing fielder. Still, it’s great that the Lions have found a suitable replacement so quickly.
As for the Lions’ foreign players, Jose Pirela’s 167 wRC+ leads the team, dispelling the shroud of doubt created by his meager second half in 2021. The power hasn’t gone anywhere, and he’s even trimmed his already excellent strikeout rate. Since arriving in Korea in 2020, David Buchanan has gone from “solid No. 2/3 starter” to “bonafide ace.” And his latest partner, Albert Suárez, is looking like a successful acquisition (2.31 ERA/2.96 FIP). Most KBO teams have qualms with at least one of their foreign recruits; the Lions certainly do not.
But there’s a reason why they are in sixth place. Despite a career-best season in 2021, veteran lefty Jung-hyun Baek has crashed and burned this year and is practically unusable. Chae-heung Choi, a rotation stalwart, has left to complete his mandatory military service. On the position player side, rightfielder Ja-wook Koo looks nothing like his normal, hard-hitting self, and his trips to the injured list are likely to blame. What’s worse, the entire infield save for first baseman Ji-hwan Oh is on track for less than 1 WAR.
Looking back, it’s surprising that the Lions climbed all the way to second place last season. This feels more like a knock-back from fourth place to sixth. New contributors are providing the Lions a step forward, but the departures of old ones are dragging them two steps back. They aren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination; it’s just that the losses have piled up. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been thinking a lot about two Yankees hitters recently. That’s less common than you’d think for me; out on the west coast, the TV isn’t overrun with Yankees highlights, and there are just so many baseball teams, so many interesting players to ponder. But I heard an announcer discussing one of my favorite baseball tropes, and it brought Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo to mind.
“Hard in, soft away” is a pitching adage, and one that makes plenty of sense. There’s a mechanical aspect to it, for one: to hit an inside pitch on the barrel, a hitter has to rotate more, which naturally takes more time. On the other hand, a slow pitch has the best odds of eluding a batter’s swing, or at least the most dangerous part of the bat, if the hitter swings too quickly; in a regular swing, the barrel gets to the outside part of the plate first (on a plane to hit the ball the other way) before rotating around to the inside of the plate (on a plane to pull).
I’m not a hitting mechanics expert, and that doesn’t describe the whole story. The batter could pull his hands in to try to get the bat head through the zone more quickly, or employ different swings for differently located (or angled) pitches, or any number of counters. But the default assumption – batters want to get the bat around on inside pitches, so pitchers should give them less time to do that, and vice versa – is at least a decent approximation of the physical reality in play. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley are joined by Jake Mintz of Céspedes Family BBQ to talk about Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson leaving the team midseason to join LSU, why MLB teams are hiring coaches from college and why colleges are hiring them back, whether MLB teams should pay coaches more, the state of player development in college, Jake’s experience at the College World Series, his short summary of what non-college baseball fans should know about the just-completed college season, the arrival of Royals rookie Vinnie Pasquantino, the Astros’ extremely low-offense catchers, the importance of pitch-tipping, Rafael Devers heating up and sitting down, Clay Holmes’s improvement after leaving the Pirates, the unwritten rules of closer entrance song etiquette, Justin Turner’s walk-up song consistency, and more. Then (1:00:19), Ben and Meg banter about yet another Tyler Wade/Taylor Ward broadcaster mixup, how Freddie Freeman leaving Atlanta is like Ben leaving grammar school, and whether wearing two gloves could actually be legal, plus a Past Blast from 1869.
Audio intro: Shy Boys, “In Gloves”
Audio outro: Monophonics, “Let That Sink In”
Link to Dan Hayes on Johnson
Link to SI post about Johnson
Link to article about Fetter
Link to Ben on college player dev
Link to story on Twins’ college coaches
Link to ESPN on the CWS outcome
Link to Jake on Houston’s catchers
Link to team catcher offense
Link to Trout pitch-tipping GIF
Link to Jordan on Devers
Link to Speier on Devers
Link to article about Holmes post-Pirates
Link to Ben Clemens on Holmes
Link to Jordan on Holmes
Link to Cameron Grove on pitch usage
Link to Rob Arthur on pitch usage
Link to Rob on pitch usage again
Link to sinker usage leaderboard
Link to grounder rate leaderboard
Link to Ken Rosenthal on Freeman
Link to Jay Jaffe on Freeman
Link to Kershaw comment on Freeman
Link to article on Flores crying
Link to wicket-keeper wiki
Link to wicket-keeper image
Link to Richard Hershberger’s Strike Four
Link to 1869 story source
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