I’m sorry this has taken so long. I saw your tweets wondering where I was and when the next podcast would post, but I couldn’t say anything yet. When you go to work for a team, getting from agreeing to terms to actually starting involves dotting all sorts of I’s and crossing all sorts of T’s.
But now I can tell you that last week, I accepted a position with the Minnesota Twins. I’ll be serving as the team’s Special Assistant, Player Personnel; my streak of baseball titles that contain a comma continues. I will be providing individual player assessments, as well as broader process advice across the team’s international, pro, and amateur player evaluation groups. The role is similar to the one I had in Houston. I used to joke that I had the best job in the organization, only I wasn’t joking. I didn’t think I’d get to say that again while working for a team, but getting to know the front office group in Minnesota convinced me that it was time to step back into the fray. They’re an incredible group of people and I can’t wait to be a part of the organization.
I had plenty of discussions with other teams during my year-plus away from that side of the industry. I turned down some deeper talks and one out-of-the-blue job offer, but it just never felt right. Maybe it was me, maybe it was them, maybe it wasn’t the time. Quite frankly, I was at peace with never working for a team again. That’s not even the right phrase. I was exceptionally happy working at FanGraphs, and as excited as I am to be joining the Twins, it comes with some bittersweet feelings regarding my exit from this wonderful place. Read the rest of this entry »
When we released our Top 100 Prospects list last month, one of the questions we heard most frequently was, “Where is Seiya Suzuki?” It was the subject of considerable internal debate, but the larger discussion revolved around whether or not the Japanese superstar even belonged on a prospect list.
While in terms of service time and rookie eligibility, Suzuki is technically a prospect, it just doesn’t feel right to rank him amongst unfinished products. He is not a player who requires development, or one where we’re talking about the gap between who he is now and what he can become. At 27, Suzuki is a player in his prime, with an impressive track record of performance at Japan’s highest level since his teens. This is not a prospect; this is an established talent who just hasn’t played in Major League Baseball yet.
That’s about to change. After a flurry of inaccurate Twitter reporting on Tuesday, Suzuki ended all speculation about his future on Wednesday morning by signing with the Cubs on a five-year, $85 million deal (when combined with his posting fee, Chicago will spend nearly $100 million for his services), where he’ll step right into the middle of the lineup as the everyday right fielder.
Suzuki’s performances in Japan have been nothing short of outstanding, with an OPS north of 1.000 in each of the last four seasons, including a career high of 1.073 with Hiroshima in 2021, when he hit .317/.443/.639 in 132 games with 38 home runs. Still, statistical projections for him can be challenging, as is the case with any player who has never been in the big leagues; there are skills, tools and traits that may lead to success elsewhere yet not translate at the game’s highest level. Still, Dan Szymborski gave it his best shot and in the end nearly hit a bullseye with a contract projection of five years and $83 million.
Scouts are just as optimistic as Dan as to Suzuki’s ability to produce in the big leagues. He’s a well-rounded player, but the beginning of any discussion about his potential begins with what he can do with a bat in his hands, and luckily for the Cubs and their fans, there’s a lot to like. He features the much desired combination of excellent swing decisions with a very good contact rate and rarely chases outside the zone, which you can reasonably expect will continue with the Cubs; breaking balls in Japan, while rarely matching the velocity he will see in the majors, do move just as much, if not more. Read the rest of this entry »
I hope you’ll allow a quick personal story. In December of 2018, while I was still working for the Astros, I engaged in talks with then-free agent Nelson Cruz’s representatives. Like many teams, the Astros were hesitant to give anything more than a one-year deal to a designated hitter who had turned 38 during the previous season. Ultimately, there was no multi-year pact to be had, and the Twins ended up winning a fierce competition for Cruz’s services with a one-year, $14 million deal that included a $12 million 2020 club option. Cruz would go on to have one of the best seasons of his career in 2019, making exercising that option a no-brainer; following the 2020 season, he signed another one-year, $13 million deal with Minnesota. Heading into this offseason, Cruz was still a much in-demand bat, particularly after it became clear that the National League would adopt the designated hitter, with the rumor mill linking him to as many as six teams. On Sunday, he landed with the Washington Nationals on a one-year, $12 million deal that includes a mutual option (which in reality isn’t really an option at all, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
Cruz has been an ageless wonder. From 2015-20, his age 34-to-39 seasons, he posted wRC+ marks ranging from 133 to 164. He slipped to a 122 wRC+ in 2021, including a 96 wRC+ in 55 games following a trade to the Rays; while a partial season, that represented his first sub-100 mark since 2007. It’s difficult to figure out exactly what went wrong while he was with the Rays, but it feels silly to simply assume that father time suddenly caught up to him after a strong first half of the season with the Twins. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
On October 1, in the 160th game of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2021 season, Clayton Kershaw faced 10 Milwaukee Brewers batters and recorded just five outs. He didn’t look right, and it would soon be revealed that he was experiencing left forearm discomfort. Three weeks later, the Dodgers watched from the dugout as the Atlanta Braves celebrated winning the National League pennant. It marked the conclusion of a disappointing postseason run that did not feature an appearance from Los Angeles’ rotation stalwart.
The public speculation about his future began. Was that the last time we would see Kershaw in Dodger blue? Would the proud Texan and dedicated family man decide to spend the latter part of his career with his hometown Rangers? As it turns out, the answer to both of those questions was “no.” On Friday afternoon, the pitcher signed a one-year deal to return to the only team he’s ever known, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. He’ll receive a base salary of $17 million, with incentives that could get him closer to the $20 million-plus AAV most projected for him. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s so much going on in the world that I screwed up the intro twice and even got the episode number wrong. Nonetheless, join me and FanGraphs’ very own Ben Clemens for a discussion about the long and ultimately frustrating week-plus of labor talks, the openly available financial records of the Atlanta Braves, the politicization of Derek Jeter’s surprising announcement, and, just because everyone else seems to be talking about it, Elden Ring.
Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Ask us anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Warning One: While ostensibly a podcast about baseball, these conversations often veer into other subjects.
Warning Two: There is explicit language.
Run Time: 1:03:35.
Podcast (chin-music): Play in new window | Download
Every offseason, we work diligently to produce prospect rankings for every team in baseball — when all is said and done, our lists typically incorporate well over 1,000 player write-ups. And based on the engagement with last week’s Top 100 Prospects list and our other Prospects Week content, our readers are as excited about prospects as we are. I’m proud of the work we do here at FanGraphs, but there is one area in which we haven’t done as well as we could, and that’s in helping you properly manage expectations.
We see it in the comments, on Twitter, and in pieces at other publications that reference the work done here. People line up a team’s prospect list and assume that is what the team will look like in two, three, or more years. Look up a system’s top five pitching prospects and that’s what the big league rotation will look like down the road. Three good middle infield prospects? That’s too many! What will the club ever do? We’ve tried our best to communicate the exceptionally real (and yet still underrated) failure rate when it comes to projecting prospects, but it’s become clear that we haven’t done a good enough job. Read the rest of this entry »
Nothing complicated this week, as Eric Longenhagen and I open up the FanGraphs Top 100 Prospects list and talk about prospects for a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s best to just keep it simple.
Run Time: 1:56:30.