Chin Music returns, whether you like it or not. The traveling co-host chair finally leaves New York and arrives in Tempe, Arizona. And with the great Eric Longenhagen becoming the first repeat co-host of the show, most of the discussion revolves around baseball below the big league level. We begin by trying to set realistic expectations for Seattle’s rookie crop before delving into what is becoming a very complicated 2021 amateur draft. Then we are joined by special guest Alex Coffey of The Athletic, who explains what is actually going on with the Oakland Athletics’ ballpark situation, and boy is it complicated. Then it’s emails on TV broadcasts, housing for minor league players, and some cultural moments before we depart. As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening.
Music by Couch Flambeau.
Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Ask us anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the rest of this entry »
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There’s a very messy cubby hole in my desk crammed with various pieces of baseball-related paper. It’s filled with things like the roster sheets from the international workouts where I saw Rafael Devers and Marcos Diplán, an Arizona Fall League lineup that included George Springer, Joc Pederson and Nick Castellanos, and various other ephemera. Why I hold on to this stuff is beyond me, but I was looking for something the other day and found an ancient wonder — the starting lineups for the April 29, 2004 Midwest League game between the Yankees’ Battle Creek team and the A’s Kane County club. The game was more than 17 years ago now, but I remember the day very well, as it featured left-hander Steven Bondurant taking a no-hitter into the ninth.
The discovery, and the recent rash of major league no-nos, led to an afternoon spent down an internet rabbit hole as I furiously tried to find a box score from the game (hat tip to Cory Schwartz at MLB for his assistance) and, ultimately, to me tracking down Bondurant himself. As it turns out, he also recalls that day quite well. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” he told me on the phone on Wednesday.
There’s a solid chance you’ve never heard of Bondurant. He never reached the major leagues, and pitched his last professional game in 2007. A 15th-round pick in the 2003 draft out of South Carolina, Bondurant wasn’t the type of pitcher who made a lot of prospect lists, as he was a fifth-year senior sign who rarely cracked the 90s with his fastball. He readily admits that in today’s power-driven game, he might not have even gotten the opportunity to play professional baseball. “I was 85-88 mph in college, if that. The A’s at the time were focused on production,” said Bondurant. “They didn’t go off being 6-foot-4, 230 and throwing 95. I was the Friday night guy at an SEC school, threw strikes and got outs, and I think that went a long way at the time.” Read the rest of this entry »
On February 18, the Reds signed outfielder Tyler Naquin to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to major league spring training. It’s not the kind of transaction that generally generates analysis here at FanGraphs. It was just a standard depth move at the time, the kind of signing every team makes multiples of every off-season. Flash forward nearly three months later, and after an impressive spring training, Naquin is among the top 15 in wRC+ in the National League and part of the best offense in the senior circuit. The Reds utilize a daily strategy of trying to outslug their opponent to make up for what has been a miserable pitching staff, and the results so far have them hovering around .500.
Hot stars happen all the time, and while one week should be readily dismissed as a small sample not worthy of any kind of real scrutiny, a month merits looking into. Where did the player come from? Has anything changed? Is this sustainable? In Naquin’s case, the answers are a bit murky.
Naquin’s background is unique. The 2012 draft was weak in terms of college position players, but Naquin was nonetheless the second one selected at 15th overall. And while there was much debate over his ability to stay in center field, as well as his ultimate power ceiling, scouts were universal in their praise for the Texas A&M product’s hit tool after he led the Big 12 conference in batting average during each of his final two years as an Aggie.
His minor league career was filled with good-but-not-great seasons as he moved up the ladder (probably more slowly than Cleveland anticipated), but he got the call in 2016 and showed unexpected power on his way to 2.1 WAR in 116 games. It’s a figure he’s yet to match, as the following years were defined by injuries and inconsistent performance that saw him waver between fourth outfielder and Quad-A status. Out of time, and out of patience, Naquin was suddenly a six-year free agent looking for work this winter. The Reds offered him the best deal in terms of the combination of money and opportunity, and he’s certainly taken advantage of it. Read the rest of this entry »
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Chin Music is back on schedule. The traveling co-host chair stays put in New York as the sole proprietor of the Joe Sheehan Newsletter (that would be Joe Sheehan) joins me for a rousing discussion of baseball and, of course, other things. We begin by discussing the breaking news of Albert Pujols‘ release, John Means‘ no-no, parity in the standings and whether the San Francisco Giants are real. Sadly, we had a guest, an interview took place, and it was wonderful, but I regret to inform you that technical issues took it all away from us. The internet can be cruel sometimes. All is explained before the show starts. We finish up with emails on minor league assignments, the perks of working for a team, and how to get into baseball media, before delving into Joe’s career path and the wonderfully relaxing Pokemon Snap. As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening. Note: We had some audio issues with Joe, especially in the first segment; we did our best with it.
Music by Nice Ghost.
Building off of yesterday’s American League conference call agendas, let’s move on to the National League and see what’s on the docket for the teams of the senior circuit.
Throughout the season, most teams hold weekly meetings with their baseball leadership group, usually involving those at a director level or higher. These are often done via conference call or Zoom, as sometimes there is an executive with the team on a road trip and various scouting officials can be spread across the country (or even internationally) checking out players. Sometimes it’s a brief check-in just to see what everyone is up to, but around once a month, it’s time to dig deep on the road ahead and talk about some specific tasks to address needs and issues. While one month in the books is still a small sample size, it’s enough to get a vibe of where your team is at, and where it at least might be going, so I put together some bullet points for each team’s call this week. Read the rest of this entry »
Chin Music comes a day early this week due to a scheduled COVID-19 vaccine dose. The co-host chair is considering claiming permanent residency in New York as Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Stephanie Apstein joins me to babble about baseball. We begin by discussing the Dodgers/Padres rivalry, the upside-down AL Central standings, using a home run derby as a tie breaker, and as happens on most shows, a quick check-in on the CBA situation. Then we are joined by Nick Groke, Rockies beat writer for The Athletic, who provides a frank and entertaining discussion of what’s going on in Colorado, from the resignation of GM Jeff Bridich to where we go from here. We finish up with emails on Zack Greinke and how the Astros scandal effects players’ Hall of Fame chances, before delving into Stephanie’s upcoming trip (maybe, probably) to Tokyo to cover the Olympic Games. As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening.
Music by Mint Mile.