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Wainwright and Soroka Duel Upstaged by Braves’ Rally in 9th

After narrowly escaping his ineffectiveness in Game 1, the Carlos Martinez Octobercoaster caused St. Louis to yack up a pivotal Game 3 at home, and cede a 2-to-1 NLDS series lead to the Atlanta Braves. A three-run Braves’ ninth on the back of three hits and two walks spoiled a timeless, if sometimes harrowing, 7.2 shutout innings from 38-year-old Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, and sent 47,000 fans home in stunned silence.

Up until the twist, Planet of the Apes-y ending, St. Louis had maintained a loose grip on a 1-0 lead first captured on a second-inning Matt Carpenter sac fly, enabled by an earlier Marcell Ozuna double. Throughout the six innings that followed, the Cardinals survived several well-struck fly balls that momentarily stopped the collective heart of Busch Stadium, before they died at the warning track and fell harmlessly into the waiting glove of Dexter Fowler. A Ronald Acuña Jr. laser in the third (107 mph off the bat), a Nick Markakis golf shot (100 mph) in the fourth, and a hanging curveball to Matt Joyce (102.5 mph) in the seventh all amounted to nothing more than a few seconds of concern.

Then came the ninth inning. A leadoff double by Josh Donaldson (who was replaced at second base by human blur Billy Hamilton) immediately put the tying run in scoring position. Consecutive Martinez strikeouts forced Cardinals manager Mike Shildt to make a two-out decision. Either a) have Martinez face lefty-hitting catcher Brian McCann, or b) walk McCann so Martinez could face the right-handed Dansby Swanson, who had doubled off of Wainwright earlier in the game. Shildt chose to face Swanson, who obliterated a first-pitch hanging slider and tied the game on his second double. Adam Duvall followed with a less emphatic, but more significant, single that plated Rafael Ortega (who ran for McCann) and Swanson. Read the rest of this entry »


Verlander Filets Rays, Astros Take Game 1

A ribbon-cutting lead off walk by Austin Meadows was perhaps the closest the Tampa Bay Rays came to threatening Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros this afternoon, who soundly took Game 1 of the ALDS from the Wild Card-winners.

Two pitches after Meadows’ walk, Tommy Pham rolled over a 1-0 slider that Houston turned into a double play — José Altuve made a great adjustment on an inaccurate feed from Alex Bregman to complete it — one of the game’s two twin killings off the bat of Pham, stifling Tampa Bay in the first. They never truly threatened again, and Verlander penned another chapter of what is already an epic postseason career: seven innings, one hit, three walks and eight strikeouts, enough for him to pass former Astro Roger Clemens for third on the all-time playoff strikeout list. With 175 career postseason punchies, Verlander is sneaking up on Andy Pettite (193) and John Smoltz (199) like a freight train.

Though he fell behind in counts early on, Verlander delivered several well-executed breaking balls when he did. Back-to-back changeups to Ji-Man Choi set the first baseman up to strike out to end the first, while the slider propelled Verlander through the next two innings, during which he faced the minimum. No Rays baserunner reached second base against Verlander, and aside from a fat 1-0 slider missed by Willy Adames in his first at-bat, they really weren’t given much chance to.

Verlander’s on-mound counterpart, the condor-like righty Tyler Glasnow, matched him in the linescore early on, but labored. Glasnow opened with an eight-pitch first inning that included two loud outs, then threw more than 20 pitches in the second and third. His stuff — a bunch of naturally-cutting fastballs, none beneath 95 mph, and two that touched 100, and an ungodly curveball — was electric, but he walked three in 4.1 innings and surrendered six balls in play hit in excess of 95 mph.

After Glasnow wiggled out of trouble in the second (Robinson Chirinos hit a two-out, laser liner to Pham in left) and the third (Glasnow pumped past Yordan Alvarez, ending with 99 on the black, and stranded two), he had an easy fourth inning that made it seem as if he was settling in for a few more smooth frames. But that’s when things spiraled out of control for the Rays. Read the rest of this entry »


Postseason Preview: The AL Wild Card Game

Talk of low payrolls and stadium issues will be afterthoughts when MC Hammer throws out the first pitch before Wednesday’s American League Wild Card tilt between Tampa Bay and Oakland. Both teams created necessary distance between themselves and Cleveland to take a bit of a breath in the season’s final days, though Tampa’s late-September gauntlet (they played consecutive series against the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees, then flew from Toronto to Oakland for this game) seems fairly exhausting. The reward for winning Wednesday is a Friday date with a juggernaut in Houston.

Oakland has yet to officially announce their starter (10 AM Wednesday is the roster deadline) though it’s expected to be lefty Sean Manaea, who will be on an extra day’s rest after throwing in Seattle on Thursday. Righty Mike Fiers threw on Friday and is also a possibility to start. Tampa Bay has already announced that 6-WAR righty Charlie Morton will take the ball. Let’s take a look at our starters (**denotes out pitch**).

Charlie Morton Scouting Report
Pitch Type Type Use % Velo (mph)
Fastball Mix of 4-seam and 2-seam 49% avg 94, t97
**Curveball** Power/Vertical 37% avg 79
Slider/Cutter Two-plane 11% avg 85
Changeup Split 3% avg 85
Heavy curveball usage. Slider shape can vary into cutter look. For swings and misses works middle away with slider, beneath zone with curveball.

Read the rest of this entry »


Eric Longenhagen Chat: 9/6/19

12:33
Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning from AZ, where we’re waiting for the heat to start to break.

12:33
Tank: A few weeks back in a chat you said you didn’t really trust pitchers stats in the Texas League. Any reason?

12:37
Eric A Longenhagen: did I phrase it like that? and did I say Texas or Southern? If I said Texas, I meant Southern. It’s just been a putrid offensive season in the Southern League, most team ERA’s are below 4 and the ones that aren’t are just barely above it. So what I meant, more specifically, is that pitcher’s stats should be viewed through that lens

12:37
Nick A: Over/under on Yermin Mercedes career homers: 19.5

12:37
Eric A Longenhagen: under, but the wager is void if an electronic strike zone gets implemented

12:38
Guest: What do you make of the Yankees trading for international slot money right after missing out on Diaz? Also does reneging on that deal affect their ability to sign J2 prospects in the future?

Read the rest of this entry »


Analyzing the American League September Call-Ups

September call-ups, both high-profile and totally innocuous, have been trickling in over the transaction wire for the last several days. As always, there are some who will have real impact on the playoff race and some who are interesting for the purposes of player evaluation, like your usual spare lefty reliever and catcher (by far the most common types of September additions). Some teams with no new names at all. Below I’ve compiled notes on every player brought up by an American League team since the start of the month, no matter how inconsequential; I’ve slipped some rehabbers and August 31 acquisitions in here, too. It’s a primer for you to get (re)acquainted with players who might impact the playoff race or the seasons to come. (The National League’s complement can be found here.)

Contenders’ Reinforcements

Houston Astros– OF Kyle Tucker, C Garrett Stubbs, RHP Josh James, RHP Jose Urquidy

Kiley and I have Tucker projected as an above-average regular, ranked 15th overall among prospects in baseball. I have no idea what kind of playing time he might get this month. Stubbs (24th in the org) has begun playing a little bit of second base and outfield. A part time, multi-positional role might help keep his tiny frame from breaking down, and enable Houston to get his long-performing bat in the lineup, as well as create flexibility on other parts of the roster.

James was 94-97 in rehab outings before he returned, then reached 99 on Monday. Urquidy projects as a strike-throwing fifth starter.

New York Yankees– OF Clint Frazier, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP Ryan Dull, RHP Chance Adams, LHP Tyler Lyons, INF Brenny Escanio (prospect)

I think it’s likely Frazier, who many scouts/teams continue to think has everyday ability, gets traded this offseason, both because he’s part of a crowded outfield/DH mix and because he and the org don’t seem to be a great fit. Read the rest of this entry »


Analyzing the National League September Call-ups

September call-ups, both high-profile and totally innocuous, have been trickling in over the transaction wire for the last several days. As always, there are some that will have real impact on the playoff race, some that are interesting for the purposes of player evaluation, such your usual spare lefty reliever and catcher (by far the most common types of September additions), and some teams with no new names at all. Below I’ve compiled notes on every player brought up by National League teams since the start of the month, no matter how inconsequential, and I slip some rehabbers and August 31st acquisitions in here, too. It’s a primer for you to get (re)acquainted with players who might impact the playoff race or seasons to come.

Contenders’ Reinforcements

Atlanta Braves — INF Johan Camargo, RHP Chad Sobotka, RHP Jeremy Walker, LHP A.J. Minter, RHP Bryse Wilson

Camargo didn’t hit with the big club at all this year, not even in late July or all of August when he was handed pretty regular at-bats filling in for an injured Dansby Swanson. But he hit .483 over the few weeks he was down in Gwinnett after Swanson returned and Camargo was optioned. He’ll be a versatile, switch-hitting bench piece for the stretch run, and he projects as that sort of premium bench player long-term.

Sobotka and Walker were optioned to make room for the multiple relievers Atlanta acquired at the deadline. Sobotka, who sits 94-98 with life and has a plus, 2900-rpm slider, posted a 16-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio at Triple-A since being sent down. You may see him pitching big innings this month. Walker has been throwing 25-pitch, 2-inning outings with three days of rest in between. He may be on mop-up or long relief duty. Read the rest of this entry »


Eric Longenhagen Chat: 8/30/19

12:06
Eric A Longenhagen: Hey everyone, hope you’re having a good day so far. And if you’re not, hang in there. Let’s get to some questions

12:06
Brandon J: Mitch White, Josiah Gray, Leo Crawford, Gerardo Carillo. Who are you taking long term, and which one is least likely to pan out?

12:09
Eric A Longenhagen: Gray is in our overall 100. White is near-term potential starter who has had injury/consistency issues. Carrillo has more variance but def a relief risk. Crawford sits 86-90.

12:09
John: Hey Eric, you guys had a brief glowing paragraph on Jeferson Espinal. Am I right to be really excited about him?

12:10
Eric A Longenhagen: Swing efficacy is behind but he’s so young. 70 runner with some physicality and hand-eye coordination. Yeah, he’s fairly exciting.

12:11
Cubs Boi: Which MI should Cubs fans be more excited about — Luis Verdugo or Pedro Miguel Martinez?

Read the rest of this entry »


2019 Arizona Fall League Rosters Announced, Prospects on THE BOARD

The 2019 Arizona Fall League rosters were (mostly) announced today, and we’ve created a tab on THE BOARD where you can see all the prospects headed for extra reps in the desert. These are not comprehensive Fall League rosters — you can find those on the AFL team pages — but a compilation of names of players who are already on team pages on THE BOARD. The default view of the page has players hard-ranked through the 40+ FV tier. The 40s and below are then ordered by position, with pitchers in each tier listed from most likely to least likely to start. In the 40 FV tier, everyone south of Alex Lange is already a reliever.

Many participating players, especially pitchers, have yet to be announced. As applicable prospects are added to rosters in the coming weeks, I’ll add them to the Fall League tab and tweet an update from the FanGraphs Prospects Twitter account. Additionally, this tab will be live throughout the Fall League and subject to changes (new tool grades, updated scouting reports, new video, etc.) that will be relevant for this offseason’s team prospect lists. We plan on shutting down player/list updates around the time minor league playoffs are complete (which is very soon) until we begin to publish 2020 team-by-team prospect lists, but the Fall League tab will be an exception. If a player currently on the list looks appreciably different to me in the AFL, I’ll update their scouting record on that tab, and I may add players I think we’re light on as I see them. Again, updates will be posted on the FanGraphs Prospects Twitter account, and I’ll also compile those changes in a weekly rundown similar to those we ran on Fridays during the summer.

Anything you’d want to know about individual players in this year’s crop of Fall Leaguers can probably be found over on THE BOARD right now. Below are some roster highlights as well as my thoughts on who might fill out the roster ranks.

Glendale Desert Dogs
The White Sox have an unannounced outfield spot on the roster that I think may eventually be used on OF Micker Adolfo, who played rehab games in Arizona late in the summer. He’s on his way back from multiple elbow surgeries. Rehabbing double Achilles rupturee Jake Burger is age-appropriate for the Fall League, but GM Rick Hahn mentioned in July that Burger might go to instructs instead. Sox instructs runs from September 21 to October 5, so perhaps he’ll be a mid-AFL add if that goes well and they want to get him more at-bats, even just as a DH. Non-BOARD prospects to watch on this roster include Reds righties Diomar Lopez (potential reliever, up to 95) and Jordan Johnson, who briefly looked like a No. 4 or 5 starter type during his tenure with San Francisco, but has been hurt a lot since, as have Brewers lefties Nathan Kirby (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) and Quintin Torres-Costa (Tommy John). Dodgers righty Marshall Kasowski has long posted strong strikeout rates, but the eyeball scouts think he’s on the 40-man fringe. Read the rest of this entry »


The Conversion Arm Compendium

Every year, hapless hitters with premium arm strength get moved to minor league mounds. With the help of Sean Dolinar, who combed the last few years of stats to scrounge up a more comprehensive list of converts than I was otherwise able to remember off the top of my head, I assembled the list below of former position players who are now prospects of note as hurlers. This is not a comprehensive survey of every recent conversion arm in the minors. Instead, these are the pitchers I think are interesting enough to include on an offseason list in some capacity.

Conversion arms who pan out typically put it together quickly. For example, it only took Kenley Jansen about a year after he first toed an affiliate’s rubber to reach Dodger Stadium. He likely threw during 2009 Extended Spring Training, then spent the back half of the summer at Hi-A before making a Fall League appearance. He breezed through Hi- and Double-A the following year, and was in Los Angeles by late July of 2010. Jason Motte started his conversion in 2006 and got his first big league cup of coffee in September of 2008. Joe Nathan’s first pro innings came in 1997; he was first called up to the majors early in 1999. Sean Doolittle threw just 26 minor league innings before the A’s brought him up. (Conversely, Alexi Ogando and Carlos Marmol each took about three years after moving moundward to become big leaguers.)

Who in the minors might be next to have impact, big or small, on a big league pitching staff? Here are some candidates. All of the 35+ FV and above players are now on THE BOARD, if they weren’t already.
Read the rest of this entry »


Called Up: A.J. Puk

When A.J. Puk debuts today — and even though he has been in the bullpen since late-June, he is likely to pitch this evening against the Yankees — he’ll be the 51st player from the 2016 draft to play in the big leagues. He does so, despite missing more than a year recovering from Tommy John surgery, before every high school pitcher selected in 2016, other than Dustin May. Among 2016 draftee prospects still eligible to be on THE BOARD, Puk is ranked sixth; were I to include graduated players from that draft, he’d be seventh. Nick Senzel would slot ahead of him, but I’d still take the next half decade of Puk ahead of Pete Alonso, who I worry will have an early, precipitous decline phase. Read the rest of this entry »