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Injury Rundown: Kershaw, Megill, Luzardo Get Put on the Shelf

Clayton Kershaw
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitchers getting injured is never good news, even in a year in which pitching talent seems relatively easy to come by. Sadly, we got a bunch of high-profile names hitting the IL over the weekend, so here’s a quick Monday rundown in case you were doing something more fun on Sunday than stressing about injuries, like watching the baseball games (non-Giants fans, at least).

Tylor Megill, New York Mets

Given the monumental task of replacing Jacob deGrom in the Mets’ rotation at the start of the season, Megill took his job surprisingly literally, doing his best imitation of the team’s ace. Through six starts, his ERA stood at 2.43 with a nearly identical FIP at 2.44, improving significantly on his major league debut in 2021. Then came the worst start of his professional career — including the minors — as he surrendered eight runs and didn’t even make it through the second inning against the Nationals last Wednesday. Megill can’t point to bad luck either; it’s hard to complain too strenuously about BABIP when you have an xBA of .563 and an xSLG of 1.263.

On the plus side, Megill’s velocity wasn’t down during that disaster of a start, and he didn’t report any discomfort until after the game. One thing that struck me, however, is how much his horizontal release point has changed in a lateral direction throughout the season. From his first start to his last outing, Megill’s horizontal release point has shifted about five inches; those release points tend to be far more consistent in-season, as players are more likely to tinker with this in the winter and spring. Release point inconsistency is a concern, and at least one study that I’m familiar with has linked shifting lateral release points with an eventual need for Tommy John surgery, albeit with low odds (a roughly 5% higher chance of a UCL tear with every 10 centimeters of movement). That’s getting ahead of ourselves, but it’s something to file in the back of your mind.

The decision to put Megill on the IL was made after he experienced soreness during his bullpen on Saturday, with biceps tendinitis as the announced culprit. Colin Holderman got the immediate call-up to take Megill’s spot on the roster, though that may be short-lived, as David Peterson started on Friday. Trevor Williams will get Megill’s start on Monday night against the Cardinals.

In other Mets injury news — of course there’s more, it’s the Mets — catcher James McCann will be out six weeks due to a broken hamate bone. Patrick Mazeika was called up and likely endeared himself to Mets fans more than McCann has by hitting the go-ahead home run in the seventh on Saturday against the Mariners. McCann’s offense has disappeared so quickly over the last year-plus that there’s not likely to be any real consequence for the Mets other than a thinning of the depth chart.

Jesús Luzardo, Miami Marlins

Amid a promising comeback campaign, Luzardo took a step back last week, walking four and allowing four runs in 2.2 innings against the Diamondbacks, bloating his ERA to 4.03. Like Megill, there were no suspicious velocity dropoffs — something to watch for given Luzardo’s injury history — but he reported forearm soreness after the game. In “crossing our fingers” news, he did not believe the pain was similar to what he experienced before his first Tommy John surgery, back when he was a high schooler in 2016:

I just started feeling a little something in the San Diego game, towards the back end of it, but nothing when I was pitching or anything like that. It was more just a little soreness. I kind of backed off a little between my starts. There wasn’t really pain or anything, more like stiffness.

The Marlins held off until this weekend to place Luzardo on the IL, retroactive to his May 10 start, when it became evident that he would be unavailable. It seems that Cody Poteet, already stretched out a bit in relief of Luzardo against Arizona and not used since, will get the spot start on Tuesday, with Sandy Alcantara going on Monday.

As for replacing Luzardo long-term, it doesn’t appear as if the Marlins plan to recall top prospect Max Meyer to fill the spot. My reading of the tea leaves is that they’re not going to push Edward Cabrera up soon as a replacement either; while he’ll get another chance in the not-too-distant future, I think Saturday’s start against Triple-A Nashville would have been a few tune-up innings rather than a 90-pitch outing if a callup was imminent.

Short of any additional bad news, it’s entirely possible that, with two off days in the next week, Luzardo may only miss just the one start.

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kershaw was a late scratch on Friday against the Phillies, pushing Walker Buehler’s start up a day on normal rest. Kershaw has a history of lower back pain and at least one instance (2012) of hip impingement, so the Dodgers are being careful with him. The culprit this time is inflammation of the SI joint, which, I believe, is the sacroiliac joint and not the Sports Illustrated joint; on the pelvis, it’s between the hip and the spine. As I did not attend Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, and my medical knowledge is primarily evaluating how sick I’ll feel if I eat some deliciously spicy food, let’s consult actual doctors here:

Biomechanically, the sacroiliac joint performs several functions. Primarily, its purpose is to attenuate the distribution of force loads from the lower extremities. It functions both as a shock absorber for the spine above and converts torque from the lower extremities into the rest of the body.

As pitching largely involves transfers of force between body parts, it’s understandable why the Dodgers see the need to be cautious. Last year was the first time Kershaw was placed on the IL with elbow issues, and given that it scared them enough to shut him down quickly for the postseason, this is not unexpected caution.

To replace Kershaw on the roster, the Dodgers called up Michael Grove, who got the start on Sunday and may get another down the road, though with a very quick hook. Andre Jackson looked like a rotation fallback option at the start of the season, but he’s failed to finish the third in each of his last three starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City, allowing 10 walks in just 3.1 innings.


Dodgers Prospect Landon Knack Is Overpowering (When Healthy)

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Landon Knack has been a beast when healthy. Selected in the second round of the 2020 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of East Tennessee State University, the 24-year-old right-hander allowed 50 hits while fanning 82 batters over 62-and-a-third innings last year between High-A Great Lakes and Double-A Tulsa. Injuries limited his action. Knack missed the first month of his initial professional season with a hamstring strain, and later missed three weeks when the issue recurred.

He’s seen his 2022 season delayed by a month, as well. Hampered by what The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya reported as “a minor soft tissue injury,” Knack has yet to take the mound. That will soon change. The hard-throwing hurler is expected to be activated by the Tulsa Drillers this weekend.

No. 12 on our newly-released Los Angeles Dodgers Top Prospects list, Knack discussed his power arsenal late in the Arizona Fall League season.

———

David Laurila: What stands out about what you’ve learned since joining the Dodgers organization?

Landon Knack: “I’ve learned a lot on how to adjust my pitches. I’ve learned to manipulate pitches a little bit to fit a better pitch profile, to get more swings and misses. The coaches and coordinators do a very good job of educating us, and making sure that we actually understand the numbers — understand what we’re looking at, and what we want to push toward with our individual pitching plans.”

Laurila: What is your repertoire right now, and what do you consider to be your best pitch? Read the rest of this entry »


Los Angeles Dodgers Top 51 Prospects

© Ron Holman / Visalia Times-Delta / USA TODAY NETWORK

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »


Cody Bellinger Is on the Rebound

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At 12-5, the Dodger are off to their hottest start since, um, last year’s 13-4 opening run, and they’ve done it by once again combining the league’s highest scoring rate with its best run prevention. After winning 106 games last season, it’s not a surprise that they appear to be a powerhouse again, but as opposed to last year, this time they’re doing it with the help of Cody Bellinger, who has shown signs of turning the page on a miserable, injury-marred 2021 campaign.

Thanks to a six-game stretch in which he hit three homers and collected three additional extra-base hits, Bellinger was the NL Player of the Week for the week of April 18-24. After generating some concern with a spate of strikeouts during spring training, he’s hitting .238/.294/.508, which may not look like much but in this new dead-ball era is still good for a 133 wRC+. His numbers looked a lot better (.273/.333/.582, 165 wRC+) before he went 0-for-8 across the first two games of the Dodgers’ current series in Arizona — the point at which I began mulling this piece — but such are the perils of analyzing early-season baseball. The samples are small and the stats unstable, but even with those caveats in mind, we can start by noting that Bellinger’s four home runs are as many as he had during the entire first half of last season. Some highlights from his latest jag:

In large part, Bellinger’s 2021 problems were traceable to the high point from his previous fall. After hitting what proved to be the decisive home run in Game 7 of the 2020 National League Championship Series against the Braves, he dislocated his right (non-throwing) shoulder — not for the first time — on a celebratory forearm bash with then-teammate Enrique Hernández. He continued to play through the Dodgers’ World Series victory over the Rays (though he went just 3-for-22), then underwent surgery in mid-November, and didn’t make his Cactus League debut until mid-March of last year. Read the rest of this entry »


Welcome to Hitless Baseball

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

By his own definition, Max Scherzer had a shot at a no-hitter. In the nightcap of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Giants at Citi Field, in his first home start since signing with the Mets, he held San Francisco hitless for 5.2 innings before Darin Ruf lined a single to left field, ending the 37-year-old righty’s quest for his third career no-no. “My rule of thumb is when you get one time through the order, you got something going. You get two times through the order, you got a shot,” said Scherzer afterwards. He had turned the lineup over for the second time earlier in that inning; Ruf was the 21st batter he faced.

Scherzer wasn’t the only pitcher to make a run at a no-hitter this week. In the span of just over 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, five starters made it through at least five innings without yielding a hit. Just hours after Scherzer’s effort, the Braves’ Max Fried retired the first 15 hitters he faced at Dodger Stadium before Hanser Alberto lined a single to right field. The next day, the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff, the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin, and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani all found the holes in opponents’ bats. While none of them made it as far as the nail-biting time in the eighth or ninth innings, the conditions appear primed for the 2022 season to pick up where last year — a season that featured a record nine no-hitters — left off.

Through the first two weeks of the season, starters have taken no-hitters into the sixth inning 10 times:

No-Hit Bids of 5 Innings or More in 2022
Player Date Tm Opp Broken IP H R BB SO Pit
Clayton Kershaw 4/13/22 LAD MIN 8th, 1 out* 7 0 0 0 13 80
Sean Manaea 4/8/22 SDP ARI 8th, 0 out* 7 0 0 1 7 88
Yu Darvish 4/7/22 SDP ARI 7th, 0 out* 6 0 0 4 3 92
Max Scherzer 4/19/22 NYM SFG 6th, 2 out 7 1 1 3 10 102
Brandon Woodruff 4/20/22 MIL PIT 6th, 1 out 6 1 0 2 9 95
Shohei Ohtani 4/20/22 LAA HOU 6th, 1 out 6 1 0 1 12 81
Matt Brash 4/17/22 SEA HOU 6th, 1 out 5.1 2 2 6 5 85
Shane Bieber 4/12/22 CLE CIN 6th, 1 out 5.1 2 3 3 5 79
Max Fried 4/19/22 ATL LAD 6th, 0 out 7 2 0 0 8 93
Tony Gonsolin 4/20/22 LAD ATL 6th, 0 out 6 1 0 3 3 83
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
* = first hit was surrendered by a reliever

Even before the controversy involving Kershaw — who became just the second pitcher pulled from a perfect game in the seventh inning or later — and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Padres manager Bob Melvin pulled starters with no-hitters in progress in back-to-back games. What’s more, they were his first two regular-season contests with his new team! Like Roberts, Melvin made his moves in light of the fact that his starters hadn’t fully built up their pitch counts after shorter-than-normal spring trainings, and like Kershaw, both Darvish and Manaea publicly supported their manager’s decision. Read the rest of this entry »


In-Person Scouting Looks, Headlined by Dodgers Prospect Joel Ibarra

As we accumulate enough scouting notes to fill an article, we’ll publish dispatches from our in-person looks. Below are some of those observations from our most recent excursions. Past In-Person Looks can be found here.

Eric’s Notes
I began my Saturday morning at a Giants/Rockies extended spring training game and ran into two of last year’s notable Rockies DSL pitchers, Alberto Pacheco and Angel Chivilli. Pacheco, who was an Honorable Mention prospect on this year’s Rockies list, was up to 95 mph, sitting 91-94, and had a better breaking ball than our reports from 2021 indicated, a two-plane slurve in the 82-85 mph range. He had better feel for landing it as an in-zone strike than he did for burying it as a finishing pitch. His changeup was in the 84-87 mph range, consistent with reports from last year. There are ways you could frame it (teenage lefty up to 95!) to justify a re-evaluation and a move up the Colorado pref list, and Pacheco is certainly a pitcher in their system to know, but let’s see how the velo trends this summer. Pacheco has three pitches in the 45/50-grade area and is still several years away from the big leagues, so he probably still belongs in the Others of Note area.

Chivilli came in in relief and worked a couple of innings sitting 95-98 mph. He is super loose and projectable and might still throw harder, but his secondary stuff (a mid-80s slider and changeup) is currently below average. There’s one obvious impact pitch here in the fastball, and Chivilli only needs to develop one other offering to project in relief. Because he signed in 2018, the 2022 season is technically his 40-man evaluation year. He’s a developmental prospect at this stage, likely too far from the big leagues to be added to the 40-man after the season, and also too raw to be taken (and stick) via the Rule 5 Draft. We’re looking at a two-to-three year timeline for Chivilli to work towards a 40-man spot, probably still in relief. Read the rest of this entry »


The Sweeping Success of the Overhauled Andrew Heaney

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Clayton Kershaw isn’t the only Dodgers lefty who has been putting up zeroes. So far in the young season, Andrew Heaney has thrown 10.1 innings without allowing an earned run through his first two starts, including one on Sunday, when he held the Reds to just one hit over six innings while striking out 11. In the wake of a disappointing 2021 campaign, Heaney has overhauled both his delivery and his repertoire, and it has quickly paid dividends for the Dodgers.

The 30-year-old Heaney signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal with Los Angeles on November 10, a surprisingly quick and lucrative signing for a pitcher coming off such a forgettable season. He didn’t crack our Top 50 Free Agents list, but he was the first free agent signed to a major league deal last fall, that after reportedly more than a dozen teams, including the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Nationals, Red Sox, and Reds, expressed interest.

Heaney spent the first four months of the 2021 season with the Angels, whom you may recall actually acquired him from the Dodgers in exchange for Howie Kendrick in what was effectively a three-way deal with the Marlins back in December ’14, at the dawn of the Andrew Friedman era. On the heels of three years of more or less league-average work with the Angels — and fewer injuries than usual — Heaney was hit for a 5.27 ERA through the first four months of last season, though his FIP was a more promising 4.06. As suggested by his .319 BABIP at the time, the gap between those two numbers owed something to his pitching in front of one of the majors’ worst defenses, and so his July 30 trade to the Yankees in exchange for prospects Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero made some sense. Old friend Eno Sarris summarized Heaney’s appeal:

Heaney began his Yankees career in inauspicious fashion on August 2, serving up four homers in four innings — or really, four homers in the span of six batters while making his second run through the Orioles’ lineup. Things went downhill so quickly that by the end of the month he had lost his rotation spot, and made just one relief appearance after September 13. He was tattooed for a 7.32 ERA and 6.93 FIP in just 35.2 innings for New York, and finished the year with a 5.83 ERA and 4.85 FIP, his worst marks in any of the five seasons in which he’s pitched at least 50 innings.

Even given those gaudy numbers, it’s not hard to see the more tantalizing aspects of Heaney’s performance, some of which Sarris referenced. He stuck out 26.9% of all batters while walking just 7.3%; his strikeout-walk differential of 19.5% ranked 31st among the 129 pitchers with at least 100 innings last year, and was within 0.3% of the likes of Joe Musgrove, Walker Buehler, Alex Wood, and Frankie Montas, all of whom had successful seasons. Per Statcast, his 32.5% chase rate placed him in the 91st percentile, and the 2,443 rpm spin rate on his four-seam fastball put him in the 90th percentile.

That good stuff was undone by his allowing 2.01 homers per nine, the majors’ sixth-highest rate among pitchers with at least 100 innings. Heaney’s 89.3 mph average exit velocity (36th percentile), 40.8% hard-hit rate (32nd percentile) and 9.4% barrel rate (21st percentile) were nothing to write home about, either. His fastball averaged 92.0 mph, but on contact, it was hit for a .271 average and .537 slugging percentage.

As The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya summarized, the Dodgers and other teams interested in Heaney liked his skill set enough to overlook last year’s results:

“His fastball possesses the type of characteristics teams crave. When he’s right, he’s shown an ability to miss bats. Los Angeles has shown an ability to better access that with certain arms, tailoring their pitching development to individualized results in a collaborative effort from the front office on down.”

In short order, the Dodgers have worked with Heaney to rebuild his mechanics, adjusting his arm slot, correcting his tendency to become too rotational, and placing him in the middle of the rubber instead of moving from side to side in search of a fleeting advantage. Their biggest move, however, was to junk Heaney’s curveball, which had below-average horizontal and vertical movement, in favor of a sweeper, a popular new variant of the slider that gets more horizontal movement. According to Sarris, on the Dodgers’ staff alone, seven pitchers including Buehler, Julio Urías, Blake Treinen, and Evan Phillips added a sweeper or adjusted their breaking balls to become one last year (Urías calls his version a slurve). Wrote Sarris in October. “[F]or most Dodgers sliders, the difference between the spin axis the batter sees, and the movement he expects from that spin axis — a phenomenon known as seam-shifted wake — is significant. That unexpected movement is up and out, so these sliders generally have less drop and more sweep than they appear they will as they spin out of the hand.”

When Heaney signed, Baseball Prospectus‘ Michael Ajeto correctly anticipated that the Dodgers would work to add a sweeper to his repertoire, given the mediocrity of his curve and changeup. Wrote Ajeto:

“Sweepers are great pitches in a vacuum, and if Heaney succeeds in folding one into his repertoire, he’ll almost certainly add more whiffs to his profile. But, like any pitch, its success is still dependent on its relationship with the pitcher’s fastball. Heaney’s fastball and changeup get more arm-side movement than average, and so it only makes sense that Heaney would take his curveball and make it move more side-to-side.”

Spoiler alert, that’s more or less what’s happened:

Via Statcast, Heaney’s curve averaged 46.8 inches of drop last year, whereas the new slider has averaged 39.9 inches. The new pitch actually gets less horizontal movement in an absolute sense (5.6 inches versus seven), but more movement relative to its vertical drop.

Given a spring training compressed by the lockout, the Dodgers and Heaney had a lot of ground to cover, and they could be forgiven if this overhaul wasn’t yet ready for prime time. So far, however, the results have been eye-opening. In his first appearance, on April 12 against the Twins, Heaney threw 4.1 shutout innings, allowing just three hits and an unearned run while striking out five. He generated 15 swings and misses on just 67 pitches, nine of which came from among his 34 sweepers (sliders, as Statcast records them, though at Baseball Prospectus, the Pitch Info leaderboard separates them out), including two put-aways apiece against Byron Buxton and Gary Sánchez:

Heaney also got six whiffs and eight called strikes from among his 30 four-seam fastballs, for a 47% CSW on the pitch and a 37% CSW overall.

On Sunday, Heaney retired the first seven batters he faced, five of them by strikeout. He struck out leadoff hitter Kyle Farmer and then four and five hitters Joey Votto and Tyler Stephenson via sliders, finishing the side off in the second by getting Aristides Aquino looking at a low fastball. He began the third by getting Mike Moustakas swinging at a slider, but walked Brandon Drury, and two batters later served up a double to Farmer, though Drury held at third. He escaped the jam, and worked around a two-out walk of Stephenson in the fourth while striking out Tommy Pham, Votto, and Aquino all swinging at sliders. He ended the fifth by whiffing Jake Fraley on a slider, and sandwiched strikeouts of Tyler Naquin (fastball) and Votto (slider) around a two-out walk of Pham in the sixth. Whew!

That was the first time Votto struck out three times in the same game against one pitcher since August 25, 2020, when Brandon Woodruff did a number on him. To find the last time a lefty did it to him, one has to go all the way back to September 10, 2010, when the Pirates’ Paul Maholm did so, joining the Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez (April 25, 2008), the Brewers’ CC Sabathia (four times on September 10, 2008), and Kershaw (August 30, 2009). Welcome to the club, Andrew Heaney.

According to Statcast, on Sunday Heaney got 14 whiffs from among his 39 sliders; throw in those four called strikes and that’s a 46% CSW for the pitch, and again a 37% CSW overall. For the two outings, the slider has produced a 36.5% swinging strike rate, and a 51.1% whiffs per swing rate. When batters have connected on the pitch, they’re 2-for-20, with both hits doubles.

Which raises a cautionary point: While Heaney is missing bats galore with his new toy, he’s also giving up a lot of hard contact. Batters have averaged a 93.3 mph exit velocity on the 20 balls they’ve put in play across his two starts, with a 55% hard-hit rate; all four hits he’s surrendered have been doubles, and loud ones at that, two by the Twins’ Carlos Correa (100.3 mph and 105.5 mph), one by Max Kepler (106.5 mph), and one by Farmer (97.3 mph). Hitters have only barreled one ball against him — a 108.2 mph third-inning lineout by Naquin that Cody Bellinger had to run down in center field — but of the eight balls the Reds put into play, five had xBAs of at least .370. Additionally, while sweepers tend to cause a lot of popups, Heaney has yet to generate a single one. But even with those hard-hit balls, the mix has still been favorable enough for Heaney that his xERA based on his Statcast numbers is 1.99.

On another positive note, the new-look Heaney has so far held lefties to a 1-for-13 showing, that after they cuffed him at a .280/.340/.451 (.339 wOBA) clip over the previous three seasons, compared to .243/.305/.463 (.324 wOBA) by righties. Small sample, obviously, and with regards to the new pitch, demonstrative of the extremes illustrated above: he’s finished five lefties off with the slider (including Votto three times), but of the two put into play, Naquin not only scorched that liner to Bellinger but also hit a similarly hot grounder (108.3 mph), albeit right at second baseman Gavin Lux.

For as impressive as his new offering is, it’s worth noting that Heaney is basically just working with two pitches; he’s thrown the four-seamer 48.7% of the time this year, the sweeper 48.1%, and his changeup just 3.2% (five times). Odds are that those limitations, and the hard contact, will catch up to Heaney, but for the moment his performance stands as an impressive testament to the quick makeover he and the Dodgers have undertaken.


Imperfect Circumstances Foiled Clayton Kershaw’s Perfect Game

© Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers couldn’t have asked for much more from Clayton Kershaw than what he gave them in his first start of the 2022 season, and so they didn’t. Faced with the unenviable choice of letting the future Hall of Famer push himself into the red in pursuit of a perfect game — under frigid conditions in Minnesota, no less — or take a more prudent course with a 34-year-old hurler whose last regular-season appearance placed his future in doubt, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went against all sentimentality. He pulled Kershaw after seven spotless innings and 80 pitches, a move that the pitcher later called “the right choice,” and the Dodgers settled for a combined one-hitter and a 7-0 victory at Target Field.

For those seven glorious innings, it felt as though the three-time Cy Young winner had turned back the clock. Kershaw struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced, generating 20 swings and misses, including 17 (out of 27 swings) with his slider. He added another 13 called strikes, including four with the slider and seven with his four-seam fastball, which averaged a modest 90.6 mph, 0.7 mph below last year’s mark. His 41% CSW% for the day was a mark he surpassed only twice last year, first with a 44% CSW% in his 13-strikeout June 27 outing against the Cubs — his last unfettered start of the season, as he landed on the injured list with inflammation in his left forearm following a four-inning start on July 3 — and then a 42% CSW in his September 19 start against the Diamondbacks, the best outing of his abbreviated September. Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Prospect Notes: 4/13/2022

© Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

This season, Eric and Tess Taruskin will each have a minor league roundup post run during the week, with the earlier post recapping some of the weekend’s action. Those posts will typically run Monday or Tuesday (since Monday is widely an off day for the minors), though they will occasionally be featured later in the week, as Eric’s notes are here.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Level & Affiliate: High-A Cedar Rapids Age: 22 Org Rank: HM FV: 35
Line:
10-for-14, 3 HR, 2 2B, 1 SB, 15 RBI (!)

Notes
Wow! Encarnacion-Strand ended up at the bottom of our Twins list because we think he’s destined for first base and has more swing-and-miss going on than we’re comfortable with at that position. After transferring from Yavapai to Oklahoma State, he only struck out in about 19% of the plate appearances during his lone Division-I season, which is less than I’d have guessed based on my in-person notes on his contact ability. He certainly has big power, though. The universal DH helps Encarnacion-Strand’s cause since there are more 1B/DH jobs in the majors now, and teams are more open to platooning there and/or carrying a positionless bopper on their bench. Read the rest of this entry »


Szymborski’s 2022 Breakout Candidates: Hitters

© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite yearly preseason pieces is also my most dreaded: the breakout list. I’ve been doing this exercise since 2014, and while I’ve had the occasional triumph (hello, Christian Yelich), the low-probability nature of trying to project who will beat expectations means that for every time you look smart, you’re also bound to look dumb for some other reason.

Let’s start things off with a brief look at last year’s breakout hitter list and see how they fared.

On the plus side, nobody really embarrassed me. Alex Kirilloff came closest, but in his defense, he was playing with a wrist injury that eventually required surgery. Read the rest of this entry »