Sunday Notes: NYY Righty Stephen Ridings Wants to Blow Your Doors Off

Stephen Ridings strikes an imposing figure on the mound. He also misses a lot of bats. Straddling the rubber at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, the 26-year-old right-handed reliever is coming off a season where he recorded 42 strikeouts in 29 minor-league innings, and another seven in a five-inning cup of coffee with the New York Yankees. Moreover, he allowed just 20 hits and six walks in the 34 cumulative frames.

Drafted out of Division-III Haverford College by the Chicago Cubs in 2016 — the Yankees are his third organization — Ridings comes out of the bullpen with an attack-dog mindset.

“Right now, I’m the guy that wants to blow doors off,” explained Ridings, whom New York signed in January 2021 after he was released by the Kansas City Royals. “I’m trying to strike out as many guys as humanly possible.”

The 18% swinging strike rate that Eric Longenhagen noted when writing up Ridings for our 2022 Yankees Top Prospect list — the righty is No. 21 in those rankings — comes courtesy of three-pitch mix. A heater that sits mid-to-high 90s and tops out in triple digits is his bread-and-butter, and a slider he began throwing in spring training of last year is his best secondary. A knuckle-curve rounds out his repertoire.

The velocity gains Ridings has realized since being released by the Royals have played a big role in his ascent. He can’t pinpoint any one reason for the jump, but rather feels that it was a combination of things — cleaned up timing and a few extra pounds of good weight among them.

Asked about his movement profiles, the Long Island native said that his slider “comes out very gyro” and features a good amount of depth without much horizontal. His best pitch, meanwhile, has a mind of its own.

“I’ve been told I throw a heavy ball, but I’ve also been told it rides,” Ridings said of his fastball. “It kind of depends on the day. Last year in the minors, my numbers played more towards having a good amount of ride and not as much run. For whatever reason, I came up to New York and all of a sudden started having a lot more run than usual. But I still had ride. As long as I’m getting it up in the zone, I get plenty of whiffs.”

The whiffs were already there when Ridings played in the Cubs and Royals systems — his K rates were consistently in the double figures — but the walks were high as well. So too were the earned run averages. The reason he never gained a foothold in either organization was pretty straightforward.

“I wasn’t very good, to be perfectly honest,” said Ridings. “I came out of a D-III school and had solid velo, but then ended up having TJ. It was a tough comeback. That first year with the Cubs, I was throwing 88-91 [mph]. It ticked up a little bit the next year, and then I got traded to the Royals [in March 2019] and had an injury in spring training. I struck out everyone I could in the Pioneer League [a 14.1 K/9] when I came back, but also walked a ton of guys. That was pretty much my M.O. in professional baseball until last year.”

What happened last year was the aforementioned increase in velocity and a boffo strikeouts-to-walks ratio (10.5 down on the farm, 3.5 in MLB). The two are by no means unrelated.

“Having the confidence in my stuff allowed me to attack hitters and not try to nibble,” said Ridings. “I could put stuff over the plate and trust that even if it gets hit, it’s probably not going to get hit very hard. For the most part, I could just attack hitters with the fastball, then finish them with the slider. That’s my approach.”

It’s an approach currently in a holding pattern. Ridings has been on the shelf this spring due to shoulder soreness, although’s Bryan Hoch reported on Friday that the right-hander may be cleared to play catch soon. Ridings’ return to game action remains TBD.



Tommy Pham is 5 for 6 against Marcus Stroman.

David Fletcher is 5 for 7 against Julio Urías.

Javier Báez is 6 for 7 against Ross Stripling.

Justin Turner is 6 for 8 against Chris Archer.

Mitch Haniger is 6 for 9 against Corey Kluber.


Alex Lange nerded out on his curveball when he was featured here at FanGraphs a year ago last month. The now-26-year-old Detroit Tigers right-hander proceeded to make his MLB debut in April, then went on to finish his rookie season with a 4.04 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 35-and-two thirds innings. He made 36 appearances, all out of the bullpen.

Catching up with Lange prior to a recent Grapefruit League contest, I learned that his current focus isn’t on his hook, but rather on his heater.

“Working on more ride,” Lange said of his offseason-into-spring efforts. “I want to get less horizontal movement to keep it away from righties and above barrels. The swing-and-miss on my heater was pretty low last year, percentage-wise (11.4% per StatCast].”

The analytically-savvy LSU product went on to say that while spin efficiency and spin direction are factors, he’s primarily worked on lowering his release point, to “create the vertical approach angle a little bit higher,” Hearing that, I asked if he could elaborate on the process.

“For me, it was more about keeping my head still and getting my arm in a more natural position, instead of pulling off and trying to climb with the arm— just kind of rotating around my shoulders, and not pulling off the torso,” explained Lange. “By keeping the head right on line, we started to see some good results. Again, more swing-and-miss on the heater is what we’re looking for. That and an ability to go to all four quadrants as opposed to being a guy that’s pigeonholed to just up, just down, or just in or away. Wherever a hitter isn’t as proficient, I want to be able to exploit those weaknesses.”

Lange is expected to be on the Tigers’ opening day roster.


A quiz:

Who holds the Chicago White Sox franchise record for most home runs in a single season?

The answer can be found below.



The Philadelphia Phillies have hired Jimmy Rollins as a special advisor to President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski. The 43-year-old Rollins played 15 of his 17 seasons in Philadelphia and finished his career with 49.9 WAR.

As reported by the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty, Sam Mondry-Cohen has joined the Phillies as a consultant. Formerly an assistant GM with the Washington Nationals, Mondry-Cohen was profiled here at FanGraphs in January 2020.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles have hired bothers Chris and Stefan Caray as their new radio broadcast team. The identical twins are the great-grandchildren of legendary broadcaster Harry Caray, and the sons of current Atlanta Braves broadcaster Chip Caray. The Sod Poodles are the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.


The answer to the quiz is Albert Belle, who homered 49 times for the White Sox in 1998. Jermaine Dye has the second-most in franchise history, having gone deep 44 times in 2006. Frank Thomas, who hit 40 or more home runs five times, had a career-high 43 in 2000.


Nate Pearson professes to be pleased with his curveball. The 25-year-old Toronto Blue Jays right-hander has thrown the pitch just 4.5% of the time in his 33 big-league innings, but he’s looking forward to utilizing it far more often in 2022.

“I’ve always been a fastball-slider guy, but my curveball has come a long way,” Pearson told me at Toronto’s spring training facility in Dunedin. “It has a really good shape right now. I’m pretty excited about it.”

The Blue Jays will be excited if the hard-throwing hurler can stay healthy. No. 1 on our Toronto Top Prospects list one year ago, Person has battled injuries since being drafted 28th overall in 2017 out of the College of Central Florida. Last season saw him pitch just 45-and-two-thirds innings — 15 at the big-league level — due to recurring groin issues. Sports hernia surgery was his first order of business for the offseason, and after recovering he went to work on his repertoire. Pearson worked trained in Tampa at KineticPro Performance, and also with former MLB reliever Anthony Telford. Once the lockout ended and he was finally able to throw live BPs to his Blue Jays teammates, the improved offering was missing bats.

“It’s a spike, like a knuckle curve,” Pearson said of the pitch. “My knuckle is completely down, and that helps me use my middle finger more, instead of using two fingers — it would come off my hand and be kind of gyro-y. I want the higher spin efficiency on it, and using just my middle finger really helps it spin off.”

An Edgertronic has helped him key in to what makes the pitch move efficiently.

“You see how it comes out of your hand,” explained Pearson. “You can see if it’s good spin or not, and which fingers… I know if it’s catching my index finger wrong, like before when I used two fingers, I would see it come off my index finger weird and that would mess up the spin. Once I switched the grip so that it comes off one finger, it spins more consistently.”

Pearson has recently been battling an illness — two COVID tests were reportedly negative — putting his opening day status in limbo.



Freddy Galvis is off to a 5-for-26 start with the SoftBank Hawks in his first NPB season. The former Philadelphia Phillies infielder signed with the Fukuoka-based club over the winter.

The Hawks have won all seven of their games and are NPB’s lone remaining team with a spotless record. The Hanshin Tigers have lost all eight and are NPB’s lone winless team.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw seven scoreless innings in his second start of the season as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-0. The 23-year-old Orix ace went eight scoreless in his first start.

The KBO season got underway yesterday with Wilmer Font’s nine perfect innings highlighting the opening-day action. Font got credit for the win, but not a perfect game, as SSG Landers beat the NC Dinos 4-0 in 10 innings

Charlie Barnes got the win in his KBO debut as the Lotte Giants topped the Kiwoom Heroes 7-2. The 26-year-old left-hander pitched in nine games for the Minnesota Twins last season.


Corporate-sponsored patches will adorn uniforms beginning with the 2023 season, and for good reason: The billionaires who own MLB teams need yet another revenue stream, lest they find themselves unable to comfortably add to their collections of vacation homes, luxury automobiles, and private jets. Tradition be damned, these people need more money!

A line I read in a recent report was especially eye-roll inducing. Per the Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman, “If fans want to buy a jersey that has the corporate patch on the sleeve, they can do so only at the club store within the ballpark; replica jerseys sold elsewhere will not include the patch.”

The idea that people would want corporate advertising on the team apparel they purchase is every bit as absurd as the besmirching of the apparel itself. Can you imagine going into a sporting goods store and being disappointed because you can’t get a jersey with the name of an investment firm or insurance company on it?


Which of future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols has more gas left in the tank? I asked that question in a Twitter poll earlier this week, and the younger of the two aging sluggers won handily. The soon-to-turn 39-year-old Cabrera copped 80.6% of the 253 votes cast, while the 42-year-old Pujols polled far in arrears with just 19.4%.

Last year’s second-half performances presumably influenced the results as much as their respective ages. Rebounding from a cringe-worthy first half, Cabrera put up a .274/.333/.428 slash line, with a 107 wRC+. He did so over 249 plate appearances.

Pujols, who likewise had a cringeworthy first half, was also better in the second half — but not markedly better. He came to the plate 88 times and slashed .225/.284/.388, with an 80 wRC+.

ZIPS projects 13 home runs and an 82 wRC+ for Pujols in what he’s said will be his final season. Cabrera is projected to hit 14 home runs with an 85 wRC+ in what could very well be his final season. Based on what they did over the final months of last year, those gaps will likely be wider. Cabrera is clearly capable of more.



Iconic New York City baseball bar “Foley’s” permanently closed in 2020 during the pandemic, and longtime owner Shaun Clancy is now working at a Publix in Clearwater, Florida. Steve Buckley has the story at The Athletic (subscription required).’s Bill Ladson wrote about the inaugural Women’s College Club Baseball championship.

At The Athens Post, Ashley Beach wrote about how faculty and staff at Ohio University are discussing the importance of biomechanics in pitching.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times told us about how Manuel Margot has been a huge help to the Rays’ younger, less-experienced, Spanish-speaking players.

Our Esquina’s José de Jesus Ortiz wrote about how Yuli Gurriel is giving back to the next generation of Cuban ballplayers.



Dusty Baker has 1,987 regular-season managerial wins and needs 13 more to reach 2,000 for his career. Bud Black has 998 regular-season managerial wins and needs two more to reach 1,000 for his career.

The New York Yankees had a winning record at home every year from 1918-1964. The 47-season streak is the longest in MLB history. The club is currently on a 30-year streak, its last season without a winning record at home being 1991.

Miguel Cabrera has 249 home runs in home games, and 253 home runs in away games. He has a .312 batting average and a .924 OPS in the first half of the season, and a .312 batting average and a .923 OPS in the second half of the season. (Numbers per B-Ref.)

Shohei Ohtani has 1,606 plate appearances and a 135 wRC+ since debuting with the Angels in 2018. Mike Trout has 1,595 plate appearances and a 180 wRC+ over that same period of time.

Tim Anderson had a .335 batting average and a .357 OBP in 2019. He 167 hits and 15 walks. Eddie Yost had a .231 BA and a .412 OBP in 1956. He had 119 hits and 151 walks.

Zack Greinke is 219-132 with a 3.41 ERA in 3,100 innings.
Tim Hudson went 222-133 with a 3.49 ERA in 3,126 innings.

The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Athletics finalized an earlier 13-player trade on today’s date in 1958. Billy Martin and Gus Zernial were the most notable players who changed teams.

The Chicago White Sox signed Bo Jackson to a free-agent deal on today’s date in 1991. The two-sport star went on play in 108 games, and hit 19 of his 141 career home runs, in his two seasons on the South Side.

Players born on today’s date include Guy Hecker, who went 52-20 with a 1.80 ERA over 670-and-two-thirds innings for the American Association’s Louisville Eclipse in 1884. An outfielder when he wasn’t on the mound, Hecker logged a 132 wRC+ in 328 plate appearances that year.

Also born on today’s date was Henry McHenry, a pitcher/outfielder whose 11 big-league seasons included eight with the Negro National League’s Philadelphia Stars between 1938-1948. McHenry also played for the Kansas City Monarchs and the New York Black Yankees, as well as in the Mexico League for the Mexico City Red Devils.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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2 years ago

It looks like in the first paragraph you accidentally swapped Ridings strikeouts (42) with his innings pitched (29).