Author Archive

Bazzana Comes From a Land Down Under. You Better Run, You Better Take Cover

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Bazzana, the no. 2 draft prospect on The Board at the moment, had a big day Sunday against Oklahoma State. In four at-bats, the Oregon State second baseman hit four balls 108 mph or harder, coming away with a double and two home runs for his trouble. The first of those home runs was crushed so hard that the outfielders didn’t bother chasing it — one of baseball’s great subtle aesthetic signifiers. More than that, the DJ at Globe Life Field was able to spin up the theme from The Natural before the ball even landed:

That’s how you know it’s gone. Read the rest of this entry »

What About Cuas? What About All the Times You Said You Had the Answers?

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

This is the 10th season of Jose Cuas’ professional career, but he’s only been tagged in a FanGraphs article once before today. Back in August, he figured in Eric Longenhagen’s writeup of minor trade deadline moves when he (Cuas, not Eric) was traded from the Royals to the Cubs for outfielder Nelson Velázquez. And Eric unfortunately stepped on my two big Jose Cuas facts: First, that he used to be a position player. Second, he shared an infield at the University of Maryland with Brandon Lowe and LaMonte Wade Jr. I’ll go one step further: It was Cuas who led the team in home runs.

In their draft year, those guys combined to finish second in the Big Ten tournament; along the way they handed conference champion Illinois its first loss in months, in a game that ended at like 2 a.m. local time. You have no idea how far back “Late Night LaMonte” goes. Then, the Terps upset no. 1 overall seed UCLA in regional play and nearly made the College World Series.

Pro ball has been an absolute laugh riot for Wade and Lowe, but Cuas had a little rougher start. Read the rest of this entry »

Grichuk Plugs Arizona’s Last Hole

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick wants many things. Mostly, hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money with which to renovate his team’s aging and leaky home ballpark, but also, incidentally, a World Series. The D-backs came close last year, and even though they fell at the final hurdle, the outlook of the ballclub is optimistic. Their entire core is back, and young stars like Corbin Carroll and Gabriel Moreno should only improve with time. This offseason, Arizona has traded for third baseman Eugenio Suárez and signed lefty starter Eduardo Rodriguez to improve its rotation. Brandon Pfaadt should have a stronger sophomore season, and global top-10 prospect Jordan Lawlar should break into the lineup at some point this season.

Finally, the Diamondbacks have upgraded their designated hitter spot, which was a bit of a wild card last October. The most recent addition came this weekend, when they signed Randal Grichuk to a one-year deal worth $2 million in guaranteed money. Read the rest of this entry »

Hendriks, Woodruff Set Stage for 2025 Returns

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Worried that civilization is going to come to an end this year? Fear not. The Red Sox and Brewers have both made big bets that life will go on in 2025. Boston has signed reliever Liam Hendriks to a two-year, $10 million contract with a mutual option for 2026. In Milwaukee, Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff, who was non-tendered in November, will remain a Brewers ace for the time being; Jon Heyman reported Monday morning that Woodruff and the team were in agreement on their own two-year contract, the terms of which are as yet undisclosed.

Based on their performance over the past several seasons, both Hendriks and Woodruff would probably be in line to make way more money on much longer-term deals if either one were expected to pitch in 2024. Woodruff made only 11 starts in 2023 and underwent shoulder surgery in October. Hendriks underwent treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last offseason; cancer defeated, he returned to the field in May. His comeback was as short-lived as it was widely celebrated, though; less than two weeks after his first outing of 2023, Hendriks’ elbow started barking. The dreaded forearm strain turned into the even-more-dreaded torn UCL, and the avuncular Australian had Tommy John surgery in early August. Read the rest of this entry »

Phillies Take the Walt Whit-Man Bridge

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies have the most stable roster in the major leagues. Not the best, the most stable. All five rotation spots are spoken for, the bullpen is pretty well settled, and at least eight of their nine starting lineup spots have strong incumbents, all of them under team control through at least 2025. Four of them are under team control through 2027.

This is a team that loves to throw around big money in free agency, but after re-signing Aaron Nola in November, and with an extension for Zack Wheeler looking likely, there isn’t really anyone obvious for the Phillies to spend that money on. So, after shoring up some Quad-A rotation depth with split contracts for Kolby Allard and Spencer Turnbull, the Dave Dombrowski-Sam Fuld duumvirate has turned its quartet of eyes to Whit Merrifield. The former Royals and Blue Jays speedster will make $8 million guaranteed, with an $8 million club option for 2025.

Sorry, this is first reference, and I forgot to use his full name: Whitley David Merrifield, Whose 11th-Inning Walk-off Single Led South Carolina to Its First College World Series Title in 2010. It’s a mouthful. (At the risk of overdoing the Gamecock baseball trivia up top, Merrifield just missed overlapping with Bryce Harper’s older brother Bryan, who pitched for Carolina the year after Merrifield got drafted.) Read the rest of this entry »

The Seven College Baseball Teams You Need to Know

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY NETWORK

If you’re cursing the obstinance of winter, wishing for baseball to return in earnest, you’re in luck. The Division I college baseball season starts today. The real sickos among you already knew this, and have no doubt been studying Jac Caglianone’s Trackman data exhaustively since Thanksgiving. But if you’re new to the college game, you might not know where to start.

A proper exhaustive college baseball preview takes half a dozen writers weeks to compile. As one guy with less than 4,000 words to work with, I’ve chosen to highlight seven teams I believe will be interesting and/or important to the coming season. I expect all seven to make the NCAA tournament, and my national championship pick is among them, but this is not a College World Series preview or an ordered ranking.

Instead, I tried to add in a little variety, in terms of quality, region, and conference. Most of these teams are interesting because I don’t know exactly how good they’ll be. But I’ll be going out of my way to track them throughout the spring, because I believe they’ll each have an outsize impact on the college baseball landscape. Here they are, in no particular order. Read the rest of this entry »

David Bell Has a Problem Any Manager Would Love to Solve

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds have had many problems over their long and convoluted history, but few so wonderful as this: They have more good infielders than they can use. And not just good, but young, and mostly on pre-arbitration deals. The oldest and most expensive, Jeimer Candelario, they’ve just signed to a three-year, $45 million contract. He’s only 30, and coming off a season in which he posted a 117 wRC+.

The other six guys include a recent rookie of the year, Jonathan India, and five talented youngsters age 26 or younger: Spencer Steer, Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Noelvi Marte. Steer had a cameo at the end of 2022, but the other four got their first taste of major league action last year and performed somewhere between competently and superbly. Read the rest of this entry »

The Billy Pulpit

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets were born in farcical circumstances, and have spent 62 years trying to wipe clean the memory of their ludicrous infancy. Now that they have the richest owner in the league and one of the top executives in baseball manning the tiller, we’re probably close to the end of the Mets’ reign as baseball’s pre-eminent (and I apologize for stealing an idiom from soccer) banter club.

But Billy Eppler gave them a hell of an encore before the curtain drops for good. Last week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Eppler until after this year’s World Series. That sanction comes after a four-month investigation into the former Mets GM’s misuse of the injured list as a de facto taxi squad during the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Jesse Rogers of ESPN reported that Eppler directed the team to fabricate injuries for “up to a dozen players.” Read the rest of this entry »

What if Blake Snell Asked for All His Money Now?

© Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I don’t expect this to happen. If a Scott Boras client turned down a reported $150 million over six years from the Yankees, he’s not going to settle for a one-year contract. Blake Snell is 31, coming off a Cy Young season, with a less-than-encouraging track record for durability. He should ring the bell now; he’s never going to be more valuable. And he probably will. There will be a lucrative long-term deal for him somewhere, at a high enough dollar figure that Boras can sell it as some kind of record.

But it’s the last proper week of the offseason, and the reigning NL Cy Young winner is still out of work. So let’s speculate a little. More than speculate: Let’s imagine what would happen if Snell and Boras decided to throw caution to the wind and try to max out on a one-year contract. Read the rest of this entry »

To Heck With the Four-Seam Fastball

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The best pitch in baseball is a well-located four-seam fastball. It is the rhythm guitar of pitching, the rock upon which the church is built. To establish the fastball first is fundamental; to pitch any other way is backwards.

Maybe you don’t need it at all.

In the late 20th century, rock and roll evolved into different popular forms that either de-emphasized the role of the guitar or eliminated it altogether. Some artists went forward and embraced electronic instruments; others went back in time and rediscovered the piano. Of the 603 pitchers who threw at least 250 pitches last year, 49 didn’t throw a single four-seamer. Many of them were quite successful. The anti-four-seamer crowd includes top relievers like Josh Hader, Camilo Doval, and José Alvarado, as well as elite starters like Corbin Burnes and Framber Valdez. Read the rest of this entry »