Archive for June, 2018

The Weirdest Player in the Minors Is Now in the Majors

When you do this as a full-time job, you spend a lot of time looking at the numbers. And when you spend a lot of time looking at the numbers, you start to notice certain outliers. Then you start to root for certain outliers. It’s hard to be a fan of a team, when you’re supposed to write about everyone objectively. So you settle on other interests. The Twins just called up an interest.

The Twins selected the contract of catcher/infielder Willians Astudillo from Triple-A Rochester. Astudillo appeared in 49 games for the Red Wings this season, hitting .290 (51-for-176) with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 25 RBI.

Astudillo is now on the roster at the expense of Felix Jorge. Or, if you want to look at it differently, he’s on the roster at the expense of Taylor Motter. Jorge was designated for assignment, and Motter was placed on the disabled list. And I don’t think the Twins want to be here; they’d rather be higher in the standings. They’d rather have a healthy Jason Castro. They’d rather have a productive Miguel Sano. The Twins would like to have a lot more things going right. But there’s the story of the team, and there are the stories of the team’s individual players. Circumstances have permitted Astudillo to reach the majors for the first-ever time. I’m sure he doesn’t care about the explanation. Astudillo has been a career-long outlier, and now he’ll receive his first major-league paycheck.

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Steve Pearce Is on the Move, Again, in the AL East

With his trade to Boston on Thursday night, Steve Pearce has completed a personal odyssey. By joining the Red Sox, Pearce has now been employed by all five clubs in the American League East. The last leg in his tour of the division moves him from a club with little chance of making the postseason — a Blue Jays team that is beginning to think about next year (or, really, 2020) — to one that figures to be competing with the Yankees into September for a division title.

The Red Sox acquire Pearce for a specific reason: to help against left-handed pitching. The Red Sox have been below average (97 wRC+) against lefties this season, ranking 14th in baseball and eighth in the American League.

Pearce, meanwhile, has always hit lefties well. He owns a career slash line of .264/.346/.494 and 127 wRC+ against left-handers, and this season he has a .306/.358/.531 slash and a 143 wRC+ in 53 plate appearances against lefties. He has played first, left, and right field for the Blue Jays, so he gives the Red Sox options for getting his bat into the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »


2018 International Prospect Board

We present the July 2, 2018 Board. It features scouting reports on players we have evaluated as a 40 FV prospect or better at the current moment (and we might add more reports over the weekend) as well as tool grades and some video. Specifics on the players in the class are reserved for the board itself, so head there if that’s all you’re looking for.

This is the second year of international amateur free agency under the current CBA, the rules of which were discussed here after they were first implemented. In short, teams now have a finite amount of money to spend on players. Here is each club’s cap for the period. The total pool space across baseball is about $159,000,000, or roughly $6 million above last year’s total.

Click here to see THE BOARD.

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Let’s Use Reason to Deduce When Archie Bradley Pooped Himself

I don’t know how exactly I came to occupy this particular beat, but it sure seems to be at least a little mine. One piece dedicated to wondering not if but why Adam Lind maybe visibly farted might be dismissed as a fluke, but this entry is likely sufficient to constitute a pattern. So here I am, the person who scrutinizes baseball players’ various public excretions. Today? Pooping!

On the June 26 episode of the Yahoo Sports MLB Podcast, Archie Bradley recounted a funny – if gross – story to Tim Brown. Per Mike Oz’s transcript:

“I was warming up to go in a game. I knew I had the next hitter. I knew he was on deck. The at-bat was kinda taking a little bit. As a bullpen guy in these big situations, I call ’em nervous pees, where like I don’t have to pee a lot, but I know I have to pee before I go in the game. I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” Bradley said to Yahoo Sports.

So it’s a 2-2 count, and I’m like, ‘Man, I have to pee. I have to go pee.’ So I run in our bathroom real quick, I’m ready to go. I’m trying to pee and I actually [expletive] my pants. Like right before I’m about to go in the game, I pooped my pants. I’m like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I know I’m a pitch away from going in the game, so I’m scrambling to clean myself up. I get it cleaned up the best I can, button my pants up, and our bullpen coach Mike Fetters says, ‘Hey, you’re in the game.’ So I’m jogging into the game to pitch with poop in my pants essentially.

It was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on the mound. And I actually had a good inning. I had a clean inning, and I walked in the dugout and I was like, ‘Guys, I just [expletive] myself.’ They didn’t believe me, then the bullpen came in and they’re like ‘Oh my God, you had to see this.’”

Bradley’s story contains a great many details — too many, it could be argued. But after listening to the podcast and reading the abundant coverage that followed (baseball writers: we love pooping!), I was struck by what was missing. For all his detail, Bradley never specifically told us when this incident occurred. Sure, he gave us clues. A bunch of clues, even. But he left the “when” of it as a little mystery, and I love mysteries. And yes, I’ll acknowledge I could have just tried to ask him. I’m a professional baseball writer. I could have contacted the Diamondbacks and said, “Hey, get Archie on the phone, will you?” But I didn’t. Despite his candor, it somehow felt overly familiar to ask a stranger when it was exactly that he suffered this (now) public indignity. So I began an investigation of my own; I set out to solve an icky mystery.

First, let’s review what we know. We know this occurred during a home game. We know the hitter up to bat immediately before Bradley entered the game was in a 2-2 count when the nervous pees struck, which suggests another pitcher or pitchers appeared in the inning prior to his outing. The podcast confirms he was wearing white pants. We know that, despite his plight, he threw a “clean inning.” We know all that — and also that he had some amount of poop in his pants. We assume he is a reliable narrator. What choice do we have?

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 6/29/18

9:06

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:06

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:07

Nick: Who is the biggest threat to the Mariners in the second AL WC spot. Is it really the A’s?

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: Basically has to be the A’s

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: They’re seven back. The next-closest team is the Angels, at ten back, and they’ve been completely decimated by injuries

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: Rays are 11 back. Blue Jays, 13. Twins, 13.5. It’s the A’s or it’s nobody

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Is Javier Baez Breaking Out or Is It Just Loud Noise?

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has claimed previously tha Javier Baez has a chance to become Manny Ramirez, the hitter, if he could just lay off the out-of-zone breaking ball. That’s a big claim for a player who had never recorded even a league-average line before this season. Maddon made this comp again after Baez blasted two home runs and recorded four hits against the Dodgers on Tuesday night.

“I have been saying for a couple of years, the moment he stops swinging at sliders in the dirt, he becomes Manny Ramirez and he’s getting closer,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez. “And I think he is a better defender than Manny was and baserunner. And Manny, I still love you.”

Baez is enjoying a breakout season. He dominated Dodgers’ pitching in the clubs’ recently completed three-game series. He left Los Angeles with a 130 wRC+ on the year. This is notable, as his top career mark before that was just a 98 wRC+. His 2.3 WAR already matches his season-best total of a year earlier. Baez has been a star for the first half of the season.

It’s easy to get swept up in making unfair comps after swings like Baez’s on Tuesday.

Like his grand slam in the sixth:

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Matt Carpenter’s Turnaround

On Tuesday night against the Indians in St. Louis, Matt Carpenter enjoyed one of the best nights in the history of a Cardinals hitter, going 5-for-5 with a double and a pair of homers. Given a chance to become the first Cardinal to hit for the cycle since Carlos Beltran on May 11, 2012, and the 19th since 1908 — all he needed was a triple — Carpenter instead capped the team’s 11-run outburst with a 399-foot homer off reliever George Kontos. He had collected a 368-footer off Corey Kluber in the first.

As colleague Craig Edwards pointed out in the wake of that performance, Carpenter has been the game’s hottest hitter this side of Mike Trout lately:

Admittedly, May 16 is an arbitrary endpoint, but it not only coincides with the offensive nadir of the 32-year-old infielder’s season, it happened to mark the halfway point between Opening Day and his big night. The Cardinals had played 39 games up to the point when Carpenter broke out by going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles against the Twins at Target Field, and his 5-for-5 showing came during the team’s 78th game. Here’s the split through Wednesday’s game:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jake Hager, SS, Milwaukee (Profile)
Despite having been selected out of high school in the first round of a relatively recent draft — or, as recent as one is prepared to consider 2011 — Hager isn’t really a prospect. After contending with a knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2015 season and then stumbling through his 2016 and -17 campaigns, Hager was not only granted minor-league free agency this past winter but was sufficiently pessimistic about his chances of finding work in affiliated baseball that he signed with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association.

Eventually, though, the 25-year-old received a minor-league deal with the Brewers. The results thus far have been very promising: in roughly 250 plate appearances with Biloxi, he produced the equivalent of the second-best WAR in the Southern League. His performance over the past month, in particular, has been exceptional: since May 30th, he’s produced a .310 isolated-power mark but just 13.1% strikeout rate in 99 plate appearances — and has also, meanwhile, recorded every defensive start this season at shortstop, where the defensive numbers suggest he’s been totally fine. Hager was promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. He’s on the old side, certainly, but could have some value in the majors if he’s able to translate any of his Double-A success to higher levels.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1237: Bedtime for Trout

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about Jose Alvarado, Shohei Ohtani’s power and possible return as a hitter, Shane Bieber’s velocity, the minor-league breakouts of Chris Paddack and Colin Poche, FanGraphs readers vs. average fans, Brandon Nimmo’s latest HBP antics, the Mets’ recent struggles and Mets-fan fatalism, the recoveries of the Reds and Wilmer Font, what teams would trade to enter the awful AL Central, Edwin Jackson’s journey, the decline of the 2018 free-agent class, and more, then answer listener emails about Jonathan Holder, the thresholds for “qualifying” performance, Peter Moylan’s age and indecisive 2017, Randy Cesar’s record-setting hitting streak and the Astros’ player development, pitcher hitting vs. hitter pitching, a pitcher who can’t remember his previous pitch, Mike Trout with an early bedtime, listening to games without commentary, and “climbing” into the batter’s box, plus Stat Blasts about Waxahachie Swaps and the best single (and rookie) seasons by career sub-replacement players.

Audio intro: The Blank Tapes, "Feels Like Summer"
Audio outro: Florence + The Machine, "June"

Link to Jeff’s post about the Rays’ Waxahachie Swap
Link to story about Ohtani’s BP power
Link to Jeff’s post about Colin Poche
Link to Jeff’s post about predicting second-half records
Link to Ben’s post about the AL Central
Link to Jeff Passan’s 2015 article about the 2018 FA class
Link to 2015 episode about the 2018 FA class
Link to Ben’s article about the 2018 FA class

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Effectively Wild Episode 1236: Local (and National) Color

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about Jeff’s lost and found voice, then bring on MLB on TBS and SNY analyst Ron Darling (5:33) to discuss preparing to call games, talking stats on TV, local broadcasting vs. national broadcasting, the beloved Mets broadcasting team, building booth rapport, positivity and negativity on TV, dealing with broadcasting criticism, calling AL games vs. calling NL games, 1980s baseball vs. modern baseball, facing Barry Bonds and Tim Raines, and pitcher hitting. Then they talk to EW listener, MIT PhD grad, and incoming Rays R&D analyst Michael McClellan (36:50) about getting a front-office job, the overlap between atmospheric science and baseball science, the physics of baseball, baseball construction and home runs, visiting all 30 ballparks, and more.

Audio intro: Matthew Sweet, "Your Sweet Voice"
Audio interstitial: Wilco, "My Darling"
Audio interstitial 2: Crowded House, "Weather With You"
Audio outro: Elvis Costello, "There’s a Story in Your Voice"

Link to Michael’s writing at Banished to the Pen
Link to Michael’s writing at FanGraphs

 iTunes Feed (Please rate and review us!)
 Sponsor Us on Patreon
 Facebook Group
 Effectively Wild Wiki
 Twitter Account
 Get Our Merch!
 Email Us: podcast@fangraphs.com