Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about parity in the NL and imbalance in the AL, then preview the 2019 Dodgers (7:08) with Los Angeles Times national baseball writer Andy McCullough, and the 2019 Kansas City Royals (1:02:45) with The Athletic’s Royals beat writer, Rustin Dodd.
He wasn’t the majors’ first African American pitcher, or even the first to pitch for the Dodgers, but Don Newcombe collected some very important firsts in his role as an integration pioneer. Though he spent just 10 seasons in the majors in a career bookended by the color line and his own alcoholism — with a two-year detour into the Army during the Korean War to boot — Newcombe was the Dodgers’ ace during a period when they were a National League powerhouse. After his playing days ended, he found sobriety, and spent over four decades as the Dodgers’ director of community relations, as a counselor for players in their battles against alcohol and substance abuse, and as an exemplary ambassador for the game.
Newcombe’s full, rich life came to a close on Tuesday. He died at the age of 92 after battling a lengthy illness.
Alongside Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, who reached the majors ahead of him, Newcombe endured the indignities that came with being at the forefront of integration — the racial epithets, segregated and substandard accommodations, orders not to fight back — while helping the racially mixed Dodgers become the class of the NL. In his 10 major league seasons, the imposing, 6-foot-4 righty was part of three pennant-winning teams and two agonizing near-misses. Indeed, he became somewhat infamous for his hard and even heartbreaking luck in big games. Nonetheless, his talent was undeniable. On the mound, he went 149-90, with a 3.56 ERA (88 ERA-), 3.67 FIP (90 FIP-), and 35.9 WAR. He won 20 games three times, including in 1951, when he became the first African American pitcher to reach the milestone, and in 1956, when he won an NL-high 27 en route to the league’s MVP award and the first Cy Young Award, which at that point was given to just one pitcher for the two leagues. A legitimate threat with the bat as well, he often served as a pinch-hitter, and overall hit .271/.338/.367 with 15 homers, an 88 wRC+, and 8.7 WAR. After leaving the majors (1949-51, ’53-60), he spent a year in Japan as an outfielder and first baseman. Read the rest of this entry »
When publishing our lists — in particular, the top 100 — we’re frequently asked who, among the players excluded from this year’s version, might have the best chance of appearing on next year’s version. Whose stock are we buying? This post represents our best attempt to answer all of those questions at once.
This is the second year that we’re doing this, and we have some new rules. First, none of the players you see below will have ever been a 50 FV or better in any of our write-ups or rankings. So while we think Austin Hays might have a bounce back year and be a 50 FV again, we’re not allowed to include him here; you already know about him. We also forbid ourselves from using players who were on last year’s inaugural list. (We were right about 18 of the 63 players last year, a 29% hit rate, though we have no idea if that’s good or not, as it was our first time engaging in the exercise.) At the end of the piece, we have a list of potential high-leverage relievers who might debut this year. They’re unlikely to ever be a 50 FV or better because of their role, but they often have a sizable impact on competitive clubs, and readers seemed to like that we had that category last year.
We’ve separated this year’s players into groups or “types” to make it a little more digestible, and to give you some idea of the demographics we think pop-up guys come from, which could help you identify some of your own with THE BOARD. For players who we’ve already covered this offseason, we included a link to the team lists, where you can find a full scouting report. We touch briefly on the rest of the names in this post. Here are our picks to click:
Torres was young for his draft class, is a plus athlete, throws really hard, and had surprisingly sharp slider command all last summer. White looked excellent in the fall when the Rangers finally allowed their high school draftees to throw. He sat 92-94, and his changeup and breaking ball were both above-average. Pardinho and Woods Richardson are the two advanced guys in this group. Thomas is the most raw but, for a someone who hasn’t been pitching for very long, he’s already come a long way very quickly.
The “This is What They Look Like” Group
If you like big, well-made athletes, this list is for you. Rodriguez was physically mature compared to his DSL peers and also seems like a mature person. The Mariners have indicated they’re going to send him right to Low-A this year. He could be a middle-of-the-order, corner outfield power bat. Luciano was the Giants’ big 2018 July 2 signee. He already has huge raw power and looks better at short than he did as an amateur. Canario has elite bat speed. Adams was signed away from college football but is more instinctive than most two-sport athletes. Most of the stuff he needs to work on is related to getting to his power.
Advanced Young Bats with Defensive Value
This is the group that produces the likes of Vidal Brujan and Luis Urias. Edwards is a high-effort gamer with 70 speed and feel for line drive contact. Marcano isn’t as stocky and strong as X, but he too has innate feel for contact, and could be a plus middle infield defender. Perez has great all-fields contact ability and might be on an Andres Gimenez-style fast track, where he reaches Double-A at age 19 or 20. Ruiz is the worst defender on this list, but he has all-fields raw power and feel for contact. He draws Alfonso Soriano comps. Palacios is the only college prospect listed here. He had three times as many walks as strikeouts at Towson last year. Rosario controls the zone well, is fast, and is a plus defender in center field.
Corner Power Bats
Nevin will probably end up as a contact-over-power first baseman, but he might also end up with a 70 bat. He looked great against Fall League pitching despite having played very little as a pro due to injury. Lavigne had a lot of pre-draft helium and kept hitting after he signed. He has all-fields power. Apostel saw reps at first during instructs but has a good shot to stay at third. He has excellent timing and explosive hands.
It’s hard to imagine any of these guys rocketing into the top 50 overall. Rather, we would anticipate that they end up in the 60-100 range on next year’s list. Gilbert was a workhorse at Stetson and his velo may spike with reshaped usage. Singer should move quickly because of how advanced his command is. Lynch’s pre-draft velocity bump held throughout the summer, and he has command of several solid secondaries. Abreu spent several years in rookie ball and then had a breakout 2018, forcing Houston to 40-man him to protect him from the Rule 5. He’ll tie Dustin May for the second-highest breaking ball spin rate on THE BOARD when the Houston list goes up. We’re intrigued by what Dodgers player dev will do with an athlete like Gray. Phillips throws a ton of strikes and has a good four-pitch mix.
Bounce Back Candidates
The Dodgers have a strong track record of taking severely injured college arms who return with better stuff after a long period of inactivity. That could be Grove, their 2018 second rounder, who missed most of his sophomore and junior seasons at West Virginia. McCarthy was also hurt during his junior season and it may have obscured his true abilities. Burger is coming back from multiple Achilles ruptures, but was a strong college performer with power before his tire blew.
Potentially Dominant Relievers
These names lean “multi-inning” rather than “closer.” Gonsolin was a two-way player in college who has been the beneficiary of sound pitch design. He started last year but was up to 100 mph out of the bullpen the year before. He now throws a four seamer rather than a sinker and he developed a nasty splitter in 2017. He also has two good breaking balls. He has starter stuff but may break in as a reliever this year.
Department: Baseball Research & Development Status: Part-Time Reports to: Director, Quantitative Analysis Deadline: March 1, 2019
The Los Angeles Dodgers are seeking an Associate Quantitative Analyst for the team’s Research & Development group within Baseball Operations. This position will run for 12 weeks during the 2019 MLB season.
Develop statistical/machine learning models to support player evaluation, development, and strategic decision-making
Perform ad hoc data analysis to answer urgent questions from the front office and other groups within Baseball Operations
Prepare reports and presentations to track progress and disseminate model/analysis results
Collaborate with other members of the Analytics team and organizational relationship-building
Pursuing a degree in Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, Operations Research, or a related quantitative field
Knowledge of recent advances within the public baseball research community
Experience building and validating mathematical, statistical, and/or machine learning models, preferably in Python or R
Some computer programming experience
Familiarity with SQL
Proficient in Microsoft Office
Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
Desire to work in a collaborative team environment
When applying for this position, please include answers to following questions in your cover letter, using 500 words or fewer:
What dates are you available for this internship?
Based on published baseball research and blogs, what areas are worth performing further research on, and would it be beneficial to a team/players, etc. Why?
What experience do you have building mathematical and/or statistical models?
Additionally, if you are enrolled in a university degree program, please include with your application, a complete list of the technical courses that you have taken or in which you are currently enrolled, along with course numbers and grades.
To apply, please visit this site and complete the application.
The Dodgers are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.
The content in this posting was created and provided solely by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for more than half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Overall, the Dodgers still project as being among the best teams in baseball, but something feels curiously unsatisfying about the team’s offseason. The team appears to be shuffling the outfield again, but is the Cody Bellinger/A.J. Pollock/Guy in CF While A.J. Pollock is Injured/Maybe Alex Verdugo configuration really any better than the Bellinger/Joc Pederson/Yasiel Puig option — while still having Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer but not the Reds prospects — would have been? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Pollock is a better player than Pederson, but riskier given his health history, and ZiPS has always been slightly underwhelmed by Verdugo. Given the team’s positional flexibility and their theoretical pocketbook, this depth chart could still change considerably over the next month; despite the tea leaves suggesting they’re out on Bryce Harper, I remain less than 100% convinced.
One wonders how much of Los Angeles’ apparent lack of interest in a big name isn’t a matter of feeling miserly, but is simply a reflection of the state of the NL West, which looks a lot less dangerous for the reigning champs than last year. Barring big changes, Arizona’s in a mostly-rebuilding phase, the Giants probably saw their last real opportunity to compete with their current core end last summer, and only part of San Diego’s prospect crop will be reaped this year, though a move for Manny Machado or J.T. Realmuto could accelerate the Padres’ timeline. That just leaves the Rockies, who while improved with Daniel Murphy at first, are unlikely to get quite as much awesomeness from their best players as they received in 2018. Colorado’s the biggest threat to the Dodgers in the division, but they’re also a passive team apparently content with their holes.
ZiPS is sold on Max Muncy, in large part due to his velocity data, the magnitude of his 2018 breakout, and the fact that his translated 2017 performance of .264/.351/.420 was more-than-adequate. That’s enough to effectively counteract his disappointing prior major league performance and meh-minus minor league translations of .218/.317/.346 and .219/.282/.359. In the end, ZiPS sees a lot more downside risk in Muncy’s batting average than his power, power being a difficult trick to fake.
Pitchers Clayton Kershaw’s projection has to be the best OMG THAT’S HORRIBLE projection that ZiPS has ever spat out. The fact is, he’s missed time due to injury in four of the last five seasons and while no individual injury has been of the severe variety — the sort where ligaments are replaced or shoulders reconstructed — there’s evidence that he’s just not at the same level as he was from 2013-2016. ZiPS is still projecting him to be a star, but you can’t ignore his continued velocity decline and the loss of 20% of his strikeouts. That was enough to drop his yearly top comp from Sandy Koufax to “only” Tom Glavine. A brief aside: Kershaw was actually slightly easier to make contact against in 2018 than the average pitcher, which is really weird.
The bottom-line WAR projections aren’t generally in the stratosphere for the Dodgers, but that’s in large part due to the fact that the pitching staff has a checkered health record and ZiPS is only projecting Kershaw to qualify for the rate stat leaderboard. What the Dodgers don’t have in health they’ve been forced to make up for in depth, and of the pitchers on the 40-man roster, ZiPS projects a shocking 15 to have a league-average ERA or better (when adjusting for park, of course). Just on the major league roster, ZiPS sees both Caleb Ferguson and Ross Stripling as perfectly adequate fallback options if (when?) the rotation starts making DL trips.
I believe that Kenley Jansen is the first player to get a top comp of a prime Mariano Rivera (a few have gotten him as a minor-league starter). Seems kinda poetic given Jansen’s cutter, which ZiPS doesn’t actually know about, though he’s unlikely to retire as the best reliever in major league history. From a comp standpoint, a team shouldn’t be able to complain too much when a quarter of their pitching staff has Hall of Famers — easy ones rather than guys that just happened to be Frankie Frisch’s teammates — as their top comparisons.
Bench and Prospects
ZiPS doesn’t see the Dodger farm system as being as strong as it did in the last few years, but there’s still a lot of future major league value here. ZiPS isn’t on the Alex Verdugo star bandwagon, but at least sees him as an above-average starter in his prime, and the projections for Keibert Ruiz are of a similar level of quality. ZiPS thinks that both Dustin May and Dennis Santana wouldn’t embarrass themselves if dragooned into duty on the major league roster, and even Yadier Alvarez, a pitching prospect who a set of algorithms ought to have issues properly appreciating, gets a projection in the same zip code as league-average. ZiPS thinks that both Will Smith and Gavin Lux will be league-average regulars, but sees a significant quality dropoff after that pair. That’s not including Jeter Downs, who will get a projection for ZiPS Top 100 list, but I avoid giving official seasonal projections for players who’ve only played in the Midwest League outside of rookie ball unless I’m forced to by circumstance.
One pedantic note for 2019: for the WAR graphic, I’m using FanGraphs’ depth chart playing time, not the playing time ZiPS spits out, so there will be occasional differences in WAR totals.
Disclaimer: ZiPS projections are computer-based projections of performance. Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2019. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future.
Players are listed with their most recent teams, unless I have made a mistake. This is very possible, as a lot of minor-league signings go generally unreported in the offseason.
ZiPS’ projections are based on the American League having a 4.29 ERA and the National League having a 4.15 ERA.
Players who are expected to be out due to injury are still projected. More information is always better than less information, and a computer isn’t the tool that should project the injury status of, for example, a pitcher who has had Tommy John surgery.
Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR — which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR.
Tony Gonsolin made a name for himself last year. After meriting a mere mention in last spring’s Los Angeles Dodgers top prospect rundown, the 24-year-old right-hander went on to be named the NL West team’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. A role change jumpstarted his breakout.
Primarily a reliever in his four years at St. Mary’s College of California, Gonsolin continued in that role after the Dodgers selected him in the ninth round of the 2016 draft. That changed once the forward-thinking organization got an extended look at what he brings to the table. Intrigued by his velocity, multi-pitch mix, and 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame, they decided to try him as a starter.
The results were a resounding success. Pitching between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa, the St. Mary’s graduate — he earned a business degree before turning pro — Gonsolin logged a 2.60 ERA and allowed just 104 hits, while fanning 155 batters, in 128 innings.
Gonsolin discussed his development, including his transition from reliever to starter, earlier this month. Also weighing in on the promising young pitcher was Brandon Gomes, the Dodgers director of player development.
Gonsolin on pitching analytics and his fastball: “I feel like every team is moving in that direction — they’re getting into more of the analytical side of baseball. Here, we have things like video with instant feedback where you can throw a pitch in your side work and by the time you get the ball back from the catcher you know how much it spun, and the axis in which it spun. That makes it easier to make pitch-to-pitch adjustments within the training element. Once you’re in-game it becomes, ‘What you have that day is what you have that day.’ You work with that. Read the rest of this entry »
Because of who they are, and because of their extensive resources, the Dodgers have long been linked to Bryce Harper. When Harper’s market didn’t develop quite as expected, the Dodgers seemed a more likely fit. When they cleared some money by means of a large December trade with the Reds, the Dodgers seemed all the more likely a fit. Harper’s market at the moment isn’t entirely clear. We know the Phillies are in there. We don’t know who else is in there, if anyone. The Los Angeles connection has been increasingly easy to draw.
But now, it would seem the Dodgers have officially gone in another direction. Harper was maybe baseball’s best player in 2015, and while he’s been good since then, that season set the expectations awfully high. In a sense, Harper’s been a minor disappointment. Much of the same could be said of A.J. Pollock, who broke out to become a top-ten player in 2015. He hasn’t been quite the same player since. But he is now the newest player on the Dodgers. He’s getting, technically, a $60-million guarantee, spread over five years.
Pollock doesn’t completely close the door on Harper, in theory. The Dodgers could make it work if they wanted. We know they’re sufficiently creative. Yet it looks like the Dodgers are now focused on trying to add J.T. Realmuto. I wouldn’t say their Harper odds have improved. It’s Pollock who’s the man of the hour.
In a trade that sent Russell Martin back to Los Angeles, the Blue Jays acquired two interesting, but drastically different, prospects in teenage second baseman Ronny Brito and Double-A righty Andrew Sopko.
Sopko is the more likely of the two to wear a major league uniform, as his skills are constantly desired among teams seeking to build starting pitching depth at Double and Triple-A in the event of big league injuries. He’s an efficient strike-thrower with spot starter’s stuff; a fastball that resides in the 88-92 range, an average changeup that flashes above, and a slurvy breaking ball with enough depth that it will be an issue for hitters who struggle to square up break.
Pitchers with this kind of stuff are typically found at the very back of the rotation or waiting to pick up a start due to injury. The frequency with which pitchers get hurt makes teams’ 6th-8th starters very important, as they may have to make meaningful starts at some point during the year. Sopko projects to be a very competent version of this.
Brito is more boom or bust. After dealing with injury and struggling badly throughout his first full pro season, Brito had a monster year in the offense-friendly Pioneer League, slashing .288/.352/.489 with 11 homers in 53 games at age 19.
While the dizzying elevations of the Pioneer League drastically inflate offensive performance, Brito does have legitimate, above-average raw power, and he’s capable of hitting balls out to all fields, even as a teenager, something not typical of middle infield prospects.
What eyeball scouts are skeptical of, though, is Brito’s bat. He’s free-swinging and prone to the strike out. His swing has gone through several iterations — a leg kick was implemented and then uninstalled for a while last fall, for one — and all of this mechanical variability makes it harder to evaluate Brito as a hitter. But a lack of plate discipline makes Brito’s contact profile high risk, even if there’s natural feel for contact here once his swing gets dialed in.
He has a chance to stay at second base, but he hasn’t really improved there since signing, and some scouts think his defense has actively gone backwards as his frame has thickened. His body is also pretty much maxed out, so he’s not likely to grow into much more power as he ages, though he already has enough to profile at any infield spot provided he becomes a competent defender and takes better at-bats. If that stuff comes, Brito will be an everyday player, but scout-to-scout optimism for improvement is highly variable.
Because the Dodgers have two of the best young catching prospects in baseball, we knew they didn’t necessarily need a long-term solution behind the plate. But because the Dodgers lost Yasmani Grandal to free agency — and, ultimately, the Brewers — we knew they needed at least short-term help, to pair with Austin Barnes. One name that was frequently connected to Los Angeles was Francisco Cervelli, who the Pirates have considered moving. The Dodgers have gone in another direction, bringing back a familiar face, albeit a face that’s displaying more wrinkles.
Martin was available. Martin was obviously available. He’s almost 36 years old, and the Blue Jays like Danny Jansen. They also have Luke Maile, Reese McGuire, and, if he still deserves to be included, Max Pentecost. Martin was out of room to play in Toronto, so the team looked to shed some of his $20-million final-year salary. I don’t think that much of the salary is being shed here at all, but then, any savings count. The Jays are out from underneath at least a little bit of money. And the Dodgers have their veteran stopgap.
The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2019 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
At last, we’ve reached the final installment of my round-up of the 14 players on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot who are certain to fall below the 5% threshold, with most of them being shut out entirely. It’s no tragedy that they’ll miss out on plaques in Cooperstown, but their triumphs and travails are worth remembering just the same.
Known mainly for his durability, Garland was the perfect embodiment of a League Average Innings Muncher (LAIM), a term coined by blogger Travis Nelson in late 2003, generally describing dogged but unspectacular sorts such as Dave Burba, Jeff Suppan, and Steve Trachsel who rarely deviated from average run prevention by more than 10%. Over a nine-year span from 2002-2010, the heavy sinker-reliant Garland never made fewer than 32 starts or threw fewer than 191.2 innings, only once finishing with an ERA+ outside of the 91-to-111 range. In 2005, he put it all together, making his lone All-Star team and helping the White Sox to their first championship in 88 years.
Born September 27, 1979 in Valencia, California, Garland grew to 6-foot-5 1/2 and 200 pounds by the time he was a senior in high school (1997), able to throw 90 mph when that was a big deal. That year, he made a variety of pre- and postseason All-America teams, and planned to go to the University of Southern California, but when he was chosen with the 10th pick of the amateur draft by the Cubs, he signed for a $1.325 million bonus and was on his way. Less than 14 months later, he was traded to the White Sox straight up for reliever Matt Karchner in a rare crosstown deal; the Cubs got all of 60.2 innings of 0.1 WAR relief work in exchange for their top pick from the previous season.