The 2020 draft was instructive to many teams, as it taught them how to scout off data and video since multiple in-person looks were made impossible by the pandemic. And while scouts are back on the road, data and video remain important tools, with some teams giving them the same weight as in-person reports. With access to many of the tools that teams lean on come draft season, I am able to view data and video from nearly every pitch thrown by Division I college arms. So in that spirit, I decided to write up some potential first rounders.
While a great deal of draft coverage when it comes to pitching has focused on Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, the two much-lauded Vanderbilt arms, there are somewhere between five and seven college pitchers who could also end up first-round picks and demand some attention. I start today with three of them — two who began the year highly regarded by the industry, and a third who has jumped up on boards considerably this spring.
Statistics: 107.2 IP, 71 H, 7 HR, 41 BB, 129 K
2021 Year in Review: Madden came out strong but had some hiccups in late April and early May as he struggled with his command. He finished the year on a high note, including a 7-4-2-2-2-10 line against Mississippi State in Omaha.
Physical Description: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. To use the scouting cliché, this is what they look like.
Delivery: Utilizes power frame well. Big kick, good hip tilt and leg drive with on-line landing. Finishes a bit wild with very high back leg coming around and creating big spin to the first base side. Leans into a high (12:30) arm angle that produces very good fastball shape. Read the rest of this entry »
Completing a trade before July — a real player-for-player deal that improves one’s playoff chances or prospect depth — can be exceptionally difficult. Sometimes the stars align, as they did in late May when the Rays sent Willy Adames to the Brewers in a deal that included three relievers swapping jerseys, but for the most part, things are quiet until the final weeks before the deadline.
That’s despite the fact that it makes sense for teams to address their needs early. An acquisition to help a team get into the playoffs has a much greater impact if he’s on the roster for 90 games instead of 60; you don’t need to be a quant genius to tell you that’s 50% more games. Buyers want to address their needs yesterday, and obvious sellers have players available immediately. For most, however, the waiting game just makes good business sense in terms of market dynamics. And there’s a new wrinkle to this year’s market that clubs are still figuring out how to navigate — one that will surely add to the delays in getting that stove truly hot.
Teams looking to make a playoff push are waiting for the market to expand. Depending on how you look at it, there are only six to eight obvious sellers right now, and many of them don’t have much of interest on the available menu. There are an equal amount of teams on the bubble in late June, and these are teams with better rosters full of plenty of players that winning clubs would like to have. The Cubs and Giants, who were seen as two of those bubble teams entering the year, are loaded with excellent players on expiring contracts, but at this point, they’re buyers.
But even with those options off the table, there are plenty of very good players who are not available today but might be two to four weeks from now. What if the Angels go cold and are suddenly willing to talk about Alex Cobb and Andrew Heaney? Are there scenarios where another losing streak for the Nationals makes (gulp) Max Scherzer available?
Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday afternoon, I was working on a piece about why the trade market doesn’t heat up until July, and per habit, I chose a game to have on in the background while I work. I usually flip between them, focusing on where the action is based on the score and runners on base, but with the day just starting, I began with Oakland at New York. The A’s had Sean Manaea on the mound, which made me think about his 2013 spring, and a wasted trip to Normal, Illinois.
It’s easy to forget that Manaea entered that spring as a candidate for the top pick in the draft. He was a six-foot-five, physical left-hander who entered Indiana State with a mid-80s fastball but suddenly was up to 98 mph in the Cape Cod League two years later. There, he was universally seen as the best prospect during the 2012 season, putting up a 1.22 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 51.2 innings and allowing just 21 hits and seven walks.
Manaea was living up to expectations early that spring, but things took a turn for the worse on March 15 in a game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Manaea couldn’t find a comfortable landing spot for his front foot and irritated his right hip. The injury would affect him for the remainder of the season; he missed starts and at times was scratched at the last moment. When he did pitch, he performed quite well, but the stuff was also down, and considerably so at times. Figuring out where he would (and more importantly should) go in the draft was becoming the biggest challenge of the tear.
The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament was set to begin on Tuesday, April 20 at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Illinois, on the campus of Illinois State University. Indiana State would take on Creighton in the first game, with first pitch at 10:00 AM and Manaea scheduled to pitch. It was quite possibly the last chance to see him before making a multi-million dollar decision on the player, and I was asked to attend.
It’s the only thing anyone in baseball is talking about, and we aren’t immune, with another sticky edition of Chin Music. Coming out from the shadows, former Orioles, Mets and Yankees beat writer and current deputy editor at The Athletic Marc Carig joins me for nearly two and a half hours of fun. Marc and I talk about the controversy de jour and try to figure out why baseball has the most miserable fan base in sports before being joined by special guest Jerry Blevins. The ex-big leaguer discusses his personal experience with foreign substances and how this could all be solved with a better baseball. Then it’s your emails, a long discussion on the future of baseball media, a Russian film and associated Hollywood remake, and even some gardening talk.
As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening.
Music by Drunken Logic.
Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Ask us anything at email@example.com. Read the rest of this entry »
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Start your weekend with another episode of Chin Music. It’s a bit of a dark episode in terms of subject matter, but we get through it with plenty of laughs. The wonderful David Roth of Defector Media joins me from New York (where else) for a show that, in terms of baseball, mostly focuses on the biggest story in the game — the sticky stuff. David and I get into that as well as the general angst among Yankee fans before being joined by special guest Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic, who provides her thoughts on how Major League Baseball is complicit in the scandal of the moment. Then it’s the usual, with emails, a discussion on separating artists from artistry, the future of Defector and the general media landscape, before finishing with a Moment of Culture.
Music by Breathtaker.
Building off yesterday’s National League scripts for teams’ reach-out calls, today I move on to the American League.
Tampa Bay Rays
Obviously, we don’t have a ton of room to add in terms of budget. There are some right-handed hitting first baseman out there who could be good fits for us without adding too much to our payroll. We love what Kevin Kiermaier brings to the clubhouse and with his glove, but we could use a center field upgrade. As usual, we have a bunch of no-name relievers pitching like stars, and there are some ‘pen arms out there who check our data boxes who might be of interest, but only if the price is right.
Boston Red Sox
We’re surprised we’re here, too, but we’re also convinced this team is good, so we’re looking to bolster the roster. Our biggest issue is first base, as we can’t afford to keep throwing Bobby Dalbec out there and clearly need an upgrade. With Franchy Cordero cratering and Enrique Hernández not hitting, an outfield piece that allowed us to move Hernández back to more of a utility role, where we think he’d be more productive, would interest us. We’re quite happy with our pitching, but like the rest of the world, we have some bullpen targets to improve upon our depth there. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I wrote about how June is reach-out call season and how teams gather beforehand to establish an agreed upon outbound messaging to other teams about their plans. In that spirit, I tried to insert myself into each team’s discussions, and craft a suggested script for each club’s initial calls. We begin today with the National League.
New York Mets
We’ve had a ton of injuries and some big players haven’t really gotten going yet, but at the same time we are in first place, so we’re definitely going to be making a push. We feel good about the top of our rotation, but will be looking for some second tier starters for the last one or two slots. They’re the kind of guys who help get us to the playoffs, but probably don’t start in a series and so are lower acquisition cost types, unless Kevin Gausman or Max Scherzer become available. We’re also in the market for a center fielder, but there’s not much out there and we would want them to be a clear upgrade. We have financial room and we can be aggressive, but it’s going to take something really wild to access any of our top prospects like Francisco Álvarez, Ronny Mauricio and/or Brett Baty.
We’ve been under .500 for most of the year, but we’re in second place and feel like we are a better team than this, so we will be looking to add. It’s tough because we’re owned by a corporation and not a person, so budget stuff is always going to be in play and we’ll need clarity from the top. We’re operating under the assumption that Marcell Ozuna’s tenure as a Brave has come to an end, so between that and Cristian Pache not hitting, the outfield is a point of focus for us, both in terms of finding a bopper for the middle of the lineup and someone to provide some depth. Travis d’Arnaud is arriving for the second half, so we’re fine at catcher for now. We feel good about our rotation, especially once Huascar Ynoa comes back from his silly injury, but we’ve had problems in the bullpen, especially with the bridge innings that get us to the end game; we should be players in the reliever market.
It’s hard to say where we are at right now. We’re scuffling around .500 and feel like we’re better than this, but we’re not ready to get aggressive in terms of buying or selling. Let’s check back at the beginning of July? We’re happy with the everyday lineup for the most part, but our bench is pretty barren, so we’ll be looking to shore up there and get some ‘pen help should we decide to make a push.
We are not ready to open up for business yet, but we are close, so we would like your thoughts on Max Scherzer should we start listening on him in the coming weeks. Keep in mind that Max has 10-5 rights, so we will need to get approval from him for any trade. He’s aware of that, obviously, but we haven’t had specific talks with him yet in terms of potential destinations. And while he’s technically a rental, he also has all sorts of deferred money, so how we handle that will help define the return we are looking for. If we decide to sell, it will be a full court press. Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson make any bullpen better, and Jon Lester isn’t what he used to be, but he provides some stability and presence in the back of a rotation. In terms of position players, Starlin Castro and Josh Harrison should be decent infield depth pieces for someone, and Kyle Schwarber provides a lefty power source. We’re just putting out feelers for now, but unless something really positive happens over the next two weeks, expect things to pick up and get serious by the end of the month.
We don’t have the biggest names available, but we have a lot of players on the table, and might be your best option for a package deal that addresses multiple concerns. Keep in mind that we are already down the road on some of these players with teams, so if you want to get in, you might not want to wait until next month. Starling Marte is our best player as well as our best performer this year and will be the one we are looking to get the greatest return for. In terms of outfielders, Corey Dickerson hasn’t had a great year, but he has a track record of hitting and could be the lefty bat you are looking for. We’re getting a lot of calls on Jesús Aguilar; he’s a good power source and great guy to have in the clubhouse. Miguel Rojas can be a solid everyday shortstop or downright outstanding utility player for the right team. And while he’s obviously not a guy who is going to give you a lot of offense, Sandy León is a veteran catcher who knows how to fold up back there in the playoff setting. We’re holding on to our young starters, but in terms of ‘pen arms, Yimi García has been really good for us in a closer role and could set up for most playoff teams. On a smaller scale, Ross Detwiler can provide some lefty depth. It’s an expansive menu and we’re all ears.
We’re unlikely to move on anything big, as much as we are looking to make a series of incremental improvements. We’re still not comfortable with our first base situation and would like to find a mid-range bopper we can just plug in there who hits in the five or six hole every day. We’re very happy with our rotation, especially the potential playoff parts of it, so in terms of arms, we’re shopping for some bullpen improvement. Brent Suter has been up and down, and we’re hoping Hoby Milner will help, but an upgrade from the left side would help us feel better about it. That said, we’re not restricted to lefties and the way we use our starters, any additional ‘pen pieces would be of interest.
The team is playing very well of late, so we’re not taking any calls on the impending free agents; it would take quite a collapse for that to change. We will feel better about our lineup once everyone is healthy, but we could use some more outfield depth. I know we told Joc Pederson that he would play every day here, but we can’t keep throwing him out there against lefties if we are making a playoff push, so a platoon piece to give us more firepower against southpaws would help. Our bullpen has exceeded all expectations, but we’re not comfortable at all with our rotation, especially in a playoff setting. If we get the green light from ownership, we will be laser focused on starting pitching.
St. Louis Cardinals
We’re a little stuck in terms of both our roster and payroll, so while we expect to make some moves, they will likely be on the margins unless we can find a clear upgrade to play a corner outfield. Like everyone, we’ll look at some bullpen arms and starter depth, but with our performance over the last week, we’re back in assessment mode, so feel free to check in a little bit later in the month while we figure out where we are going.
We’re only a handful of games out of first place, but there are also three teams ahead of us in the standings and we know that this division is highly unlikely to produce a Wild Card team. Right now we are standing pat, but we would talk about Tucker Barnhart right now in order to allow us to play Tyler Stephenson every day once Joey Votto comes back from the Injured List.
We’re ready to move on deals right away, we just don’t have much to deal. We’d listen on Adam Frazier, but with one year of arbitration remaining, we see him as much more than a rental and will want something real in return. We’ve already taken a lot of calls on Bryan Reynolds, and unless somebody wants to really blow us away, we’re not looking to move him. He’s still a Pirate for at least four more years and we’re hoping to turn this ship around faster than that. Yes, Gregory Polanco has been bad, but maybe a change of scenery would do him well, and if you want to get creative we can eat some of the money in order to improve our prospect return. We know it’s not a lot in terms of pitching, but Tyler Anderson doesn’t impact your payroll and might give you some consistency at the end of the rotation. In terms of bullpen arms, we’d listen on Richard Rodríguez and spin king Chris Stratton, but both still have two years of control left, so we’ll need to get back something we really like.
San Francisco Giants
Look, we are in first place and have the best record in baseball. We’re in no position to talk about moving our impending free agents. Maybe in a month if something bad happens, but we’re not even considering it right now and making no plans for it. We’re going to make a run here, but anticipate incremental improvements as opposed to a headline deal. With Evan Longoria’s injury we’d like to improve our infield situation, especially at second and third base. On a smaller scale, a veteran backup catcher to help get Buster Posey through the season would be of interest to us, and while we’re happy with the back of our bullpen, we’d like to improve our middle relief depth.
San Diego Padres
We’re the Padres, we’re splashy, and we’re going to look to make more waves in July. Interest is in any and all impact players available, and we have the prospects to get a deal done. We’d love to find a big bat we can plug into our outfield, allowing us to transition Tommy Pham into more of a flex role in the grass. It’s hard to find starting catchers in the middle of a season, but finding one to move Victor Caratini to a backup role would be a low-key big upgrade for us. We just don’t need any pitchers unless they’re absolute studs who win postseason games for us.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Yeah, I can’t believe we’re in third place either, but nothing has really gelled for us and we still think we have one of the, if not the, best teams in baseball. Once Corey Seager returns, our lineup is kind of locked in, but we might have interest in a bench bat or two. Like everyone else, we will be looking to lengthen our bullpen.
Trevor Story will be healthy soon and as soon as he is, let the bidding begin. We would prefer to get one or two prospects we really like as opposed to a bigger package that includes more players but ones we’re not as crazy about. We need to get into the top of your prospect list to start a discussion. The same goes for Jon Gray. His imaging came back clean, and he’ll be back on the mound soon. The ways things are going, he will likely be one of the better starters on the block, and we’re going to treat him that way in regards to discussions. We’d be willing to eat some of Charlie Blackmon’s money in order to get a real prospect back. On a smaller scale, C.J. Cron provides some pop and on-base skills from the right side and doesn’t impact your payroll much. Mychal Givens is a consistently solid reliever who can be had for a rental price. We’re ready to talk about any of these guys starting yesterday, but frankly would discuss anyone on our roster if we thought a deal would make us better in the future.
Phones are open, so call now. We’ve already had a few inquiries on David Peralta as a veteran hitter at a decent price, while Eduardo Escobar and Asdrúbal Cabrera are both infielders who could play a starting or bench role on the right club. It’s early, but Josh Reddick has been hitting well and could be had for a low acquisition price. We don’t have much in the way of pitching, but if you get a little desperate for a starter, we’d give away Madison Bumgarner just to get out from under the contract.