Archive for Teams

Drew Pomeranz and Beating BABIP

Drew Pomeranz is in the midst of a breakout season. He’s already surpassed his season high for innings and his ERA is a very low 2.47, while his FIP is a low — if not quite as low — 3.15. Those very good numbers netted the San Diego Padres a very good pitching prospect recently in the form of Anderson Espinoza.

Much of Pomeranz’s newfound success has been attributed to the addition of a cutter to his repertoire, which Jeff Sullivan detailed just before the trade last week. One notes, however, that the success is aided by a .240 BABIP and 80.8% left-on-base rate. Even if those numbers aren’t sustainable, the 3.15 FIP indicates Pomeranz’s success is real. But there’s reason to believe that Pomeranz isn’t as susceptible to regression as the average pitcher. Or there’s reason, at least, to believe that the Red Sox believe he isn’t.

Speaking with WEEI’s John Tomase, former major-league pitcher and current Red Sox assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister has indicated that Pomeranz’s cutter makes it more likely that he’ll sustain some of his batted-ball suppression in Boston.

From Tomase’s piece:

[Bannister] explained that like knuckleballers, whose BABIP numbers tend to skew low, pitchers who feature cutters tend to outperform league average on balls in play. He knows this because he did it over his first two years in the big leagues, posting BABIPs between .239 and .249.

“I was an example of it,” Bannister said. “[Cutters] generate a different batted-ball profile. There’s just different weak contact in there. Some guys it’s popups. Sometimes you get gyro-spin and it’s almost like a knuckleball. I mean, knuckleballers beat BABIP. It’s not always a given that a full regression is going to occur. When I look at a guy, if there’s a cutter involved or a knuckleball involved, you just can’t say for sure. I know a lot of people look at those two numbers — left on base percentage and the BABIP — and say, ‘Oh, he’s going to get worse in the second half.’ It’s not always a given.”

While we know pitchers tend to gravitate towards league average when it comes to BABIP, some pitchers are better than others at limiting hits on balls in play. Pop ups, like Bannister mentioned, can be a good way to induce easy outs. Fly balls and ground balls have different expected batting averages. Given a large enough sample size, we might be able to deduce which pitchers have these type of skills. With a smaller sample, perhaps looking at pitch types would help us determine which pitchers are likely to produce low BABIPs and thus more likely to outperfrom their fielding-independent numbers.

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Daniel Mengden’s Many Forms of Deception

You’ve seen Daniel Mengden pitch, right? If you haven’t, you have to. First of all, it looks like this.

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Do the Rangers Need Another Bullpen Makeover?

One year ago today, the Texas Rangers were 43-48, in third place in the American League West Division. The first-half bullpen looked terrible. Neftali Feliz started the year as the club’s closer and pitched himself right onto the disabled list and right out of town. Tanner Scheppers imploded. Anthony Bass threw more first-half relief innings than anyone, is maybe all you need to know. As a unit, the Rangers relief corps had a 4.38 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, and were in serious need of a shot in the arm if the club wanted to make a second-half run.

So, general manager Jon Daniels and the Texas front office identified a weakness and acquired right-hander Sam Dyson from Miami and left-hander Jake Diekman from Philadelphia, alongside Cole Hamels. Dyson and Diekman, paired with then-closer Shawn Tolleson and the emerging Keone Kela, formed a quartet that led a remarkable turnaround for the Texas bullpen. In the second half, Rangers relievers went from a 4.38 ERA to a 3.79. From a 4.48 FIP to a 3.98. From a bottom-five unit to a top-five unit. The team went 45-26 the rest of the way to launch themselves into the playoffs, and while the bullpen improvement wasn’t the entire reason why, it was certainly a large component.

Fast-forward to the present. The Rangers are in better standing than they were a year ago! Much better. They’re 55-40, and, according to our playoff odds, they’re looking at a better-than 50% chance to win their division with roughly a 70% chance to make the playoffs, one way or another. But lately, things haven’t been going well, and regarding the root of the struggles, the Rangers are experiencing déjà vu.

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Let’s Try to Solve a Mystery

In his latest trade rumblings column, Ken Rosenthal has a pretty fun story.

Here is an example of a trade that recently was discussed but never got close, and would have amounted to a bombshell if it had come to fruition.

The scenario, according to major-league sources, unfolded like this:

The Cubs tried to acquire left-hander Drew Pomeranz before the Padres sent him to the Red Sox for Class-A right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Simple enough.

The Cubs’ plan, though, wasn’t to keep Pomeranz, who is under club control through 2018. No, the Cubs wanted to spin Pomeranz for a starter who is under even longer team control.

I could not determine the identity of that starter — it was a pitcher whose “name is not out there (publicly), and probably is not going anywhere now,” one source said.

In any case, the Cubs balked at the Padres’ request of infielder Javier Baez for Pomeranz, believing it too high a price. The second part of the deal — the spinning of Pomeranz for the unidentified starter — would not necessarily have worked, either.

This is an intriguing idea for all kinds of reasons. For one, what do the Cubs need with another starting pitcher? Their rotation is already pretty excellent, so making a complicated three-way trade to either acquire a #6 starter or bump Jason Hammel from the rotation while he’s running a 3.34 ERA would be a bit weird. They could use some rotation depth in case of injury, but if you’re acquiring Pomeranz — potentially the most valuable starting pitcher to be moved this month — because you want to flip him for someone even more valuable, that guy has to be pretty good, right? You’re probably not going to pay the price for Pomeranz, only to ship him off for some guy you’d stash in Triple-A, if you’re a win-now contender like the Cubs. At least, I wouldn’t think so.

Of course, it’s not entirely unheard of. The win-now Dodgers inserted themselves into the Todd Frazier trade, getting a package of prospects they liked from Chicago more than the ones they sent to Cincinnati, rather than just keeping Frazier for themselves. Maybe the Cubs knew that some other team hunting for Pomeranz was willing to part with a guy they liked for the future, and they thought this was their best chance to get a young controllable starter from a team that they don’t match up well with in trade. And perhaps they’d think about using that starter as a reliever down the stretch, strengthening a bullpen that could use an upgrade, with the idea of moving him back to the rotation next year.

So, just for the fun of it, let’s try to figure out who this mystery pitcher might be.

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How Batters Have Done Against Aroldis Chapman’s Fastballs

Aroldis Chapman closed on Monday, and he threw some pitches incredibly hard. Now, on its own, that’s nothing new. That’s kind of his whole deal. Aroldis Chapman threw baseballs hard. The crow perched in the tree behind me was earlier literally flying in the sky. The world is amazing. But then, Chapman’s pitches were unusually hard, at least. Even by his own insane standards. He was buzzing 105 miles per hour, and other pitchers just don’t do that. Chapman was throwing pitches the likes of which we’ve barely ever seen.

So some attention is warranted. In response to Chapman’s outing, Dave asked how hitters have done and behaved against A++ heat. What’s happened when Chapman has thrown around his own personal maximum? I’ve done research. It’s all spit out for you below.

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Carlos Correa Looks Historically Great

Carlos Correa placed second last week on the trade-value list that Dave Cameron puts together every season. That placement seemed to surprise some, given that Correa is having a very good, but not great season. Correa’s 120 wRC+ is hardly spectacular, even if that number increases to 150 if you start with the latter part of May. He has improved over the last few months, but even with that improvement, the placement might seem high. What definitely seemed high was Correa’s ZiPS projections over the next five years, starting at 7.9 WAR next season and totaling more than 40 wins from ages 22 to 26. Cameron, too, was surprised, and in the comments, his explanation caught my eye:

I was shocked by the Correa forecast myself, and asked Dan to double check that there wasn’t an error in the code or something, given how bullish it is on Correa’s future. But Dan said the system just loves Correa, as the history of guys who can hit like this at 20/21 in the big leagues is almost universally fantastic. The age really is the key thing to keep in mind here; it’s easy to forget how big of a leap guys can make early on, and at 21, there’s still a lot of room for growth.

Carlos Correa is currently in the midst of his age-21 season, and he’s accumulated 820 career plate appearances. Over the last 100 years, only 59 players have received at least 800 plate appearances before the end of their age-21 season and then eventually made their way to a Hall of Fame ballot. One finds that — without regard for how they played or for how long — an astonishing 36% (21) of those players eventually made in the Hall Of Fame. If you move the bar up to 1,000 plate appearances, 21 of 44 players are in the Hall of Fame. Of more recent players, it looks like that trend might continue. Edgar Renteria, Starlin Castro, and Elvis Andrus probably will not make the Hall of Fame and Justin Upton and Jason Heyward have a ways to go, while Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, and Andruw Jones all have at least decent statistical cases.

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The Pirates Have the Easiest Schedule Left

Baseball schedules aren’t totally balanced. They get most of the way, but they’re well short of perfect, part by accident, and part by design. At this point, every team in baseball has something like 70 games left before the start of the playoffs. Among the remaining team schedules, it looks like the Pirates have the easiest one. The Yankees, meanwhile, would appear to have the hardest one. Good for the Pirates. Bad for the Yankees.

You can leave now if you want. You’ve already got two pieces of information, and I’m not one to mess around with you. Imagine all the time you could save! But maybe you want to see the rest of the landscape. Maybe you want a bit of an explanation. It’s your call — I’m writing this now no matter what. I’m also now moving to the next paragraph.

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Did the Red Sox Really Overpay for Drew Pomeranz?

Last week, when the Red Sox jumped the starting pitching market — surrendering Anderson Espinoza, their best pitching prospect in the deal — to acquire Drew Pomeranz from San Diego, the general consensus was that the team overpaid, like they did in acquiring Craig Kimbrel some months earlier, as the team tries to take advantage of David Ortiz‘s last year in baseball. After all, Pomeranz was traded for Yonder Alonso a few months earlier, and despite a great start to the year with the Padres, no one really knows how well he’ll hold up down the stretch, given that this size of workload isn’t something he’s handled before. And just days before the trade, Baseball America had rated Espinoza as the #15 prospect in baseball, 24 spots ahead of Manuel Margot, the primary chip the Padres acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for their closer over the winter.

Giving up a top-15 prospect for a guy with as many question marks as Pomeranz comes with is certainly a gamble, as the deal will look disastrous if Pomeranz can’t hold up through October and Espinoza reaches his upside. But I can’t help but wonder if this deal is perhaps an example of how public prospect ratings and a player’s current market value can diverge pretty significantly.

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Matt Shoemaker on Splitter-Heavy Aggression

Matt Shoemaker dominated the White Sox this past Saturday. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim right-hander threw a complete-game, six-hit shutout while walking no one and striking out a season high 13. Per Brooks Baseball, 58 of the 114 pitches Shoemaker threw were splitters, 49 were either two- or four-seam fastballs, and seven were sliders.

The splitter usage jumps out even more than the pitching line. Shoemaker throws his signature offering 35% of the time — the most of any starter — but Saturday’s 50%-plus ratio was akin to that of relievers like Koji Uehara, Hector Neris and Zach Putnam. A heavy diet of splitters for nine innings is highly atypical.

Just last month, Jeff Sullivan wrote about Shoemaker’s increased reliance on the pitch, and how it has helped him to elevate his game. Intrigued by the article, and having recently written about Putnam, a longtime friend of Shoemaker’s, I went directly to the source for further information. It turns out that the splitter is only part of the reason he’s been pitching as well as he has.

Shoemaker, who has a 2.37 ERA over his last 11 starts, shared his thoughts on the subject in early July.

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Shoemaker on upping his mental game: “The biggest thing for me has been a mental adjustment. There are small mechanical things I’ve worked on in bullpens, like trying to keep my weight back, but it’s more of a mental thing. Every time I go out there, I need to have good intent with every pitch. Every one needs to have a purpose. When you focus that way, you’re more aggressive and there’s more behind the ball. There’s no fussing around.

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Trea Turner and the Recent History of Outfield Conversions

Nearly a month ago to the day, Dave Cameron wrote an article for this very site praising the Washington Nationals for their patience regarding Trea Turner‘s place as the club’s shortstop of the future, in deference to veteran Danny Espinosa. Espinosa had hit well up to that point, and has long graded not only as a plus defender at a premium position, but as a plus base-runner as well. In other words, Espinosa’s play at short was as good or better than what could’ve been reasonably expected from the rookie Turner, validating the team’s decision to hold Turner down in the minors for further development and/or for service time reasons.

Since that post was published, Espinosa’s been on fire. He’s essentially had the best 20-game offensive stretch of his career, putting up a 144 wRC+ over 79 plate appearances, and if it wasn’t clear already that Turner wouldn’t be taking over shortstop anytime soon, it is now. Espinosa is in no position to lose his job. Neither is Daniel Murphy, the club’s second baseman (the only other position at which Turner had played at the time of Cameron’s article), who’s arguably been the National League’s best hitter.

Turner couldn’t appear more blocked, which is why, even though he was recalled from the minors two weeks ago when Ryan Zimmerman hit the disabled list, manager Dusty Baker offered the following quote:

“Right now, there’s no real place for Trea to take.”

Except, something else has happened since the publication of Cameron’s article. Turner began to learn the outfield. He made his center-field debut in Triple-A on June 27, and started six games in center before his recall to the majors. He worked with minor-league outfield coordinator Gary Thurman on deep routes, playing balls off the wall and reading spin. He went errorless in his six games and recorded an outfield assist to third base following an overthrown caught stealing attempt at second.

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Projecting Nationals Right-Hander Reynaldo Lopez

Less than a month ago, the Washington Nationals called up top prospect Lucas Giolito, with the hopes that he’d fill a hole in their rotation. However, as often happens with promising young pitchers, Giolito looked a bit overmatched in his first taste of the big leagues. He recorded more walks than strikeouts in his two starts with Washington, and was subsequently sent back to the minors to further refine his breaking stuff. Giolito will surely be back sooner rather than later, and still appears to have a bright future ahead of him. For now, though, the Nationals are turning to another electric young arm: hard-throwing 22-year-old Reynaldo Lopez debuts tonight against the Dodgers.

Lopez was signed out of the Dominican back in 2012, and his stuff has landed him on top-100 prospect lists for a couple of years now. But up until this season, he his minor-league performance hadn’t quite matched up with his stuff for any extended period. He spent the 2015 season in the High-A Carolina League, where he posted a mediocre 4.09 ERA. His peripherals suggest he pitched much better than that, but his 23% strikeout rate still underwhelmed.

He opened 2016 at the Double-A level, and soon began missing bats at a rate commensurate with his stuff. His 30% strikeout rate is tops among qualified Double-A pitchers this year. He also managed to keep his walk rate under 8%. Though he wasn’t super sharp in his two most recent starts at the Triple-A level, the body of Lopez’s 2016 campaign bodes well for his future in the bigs.

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Andrew McCutchen’s Reminder That Baseball Is Cruel

Every baseball player has bad days — it’s an inevitability in a sport so deeply tied to failure. For the most part, these failures are quickly dismissed and/or forgotten. A rough seven-run outing for a pitcher is a day when he just didn’t have “it” or batted balls had eyes. An 0-for-4 game at the plate is barely a hiccup in the span of a 162-game season. But, on occasion, there are days so bad that they elicit sympathy from even the most hardened baseball fans. You know the ones I’m talking about, the games that make you cringe when you check a box score. The games like the one Andrew McCutchen had on Sunday.

It wasn’t all McCutchen’s fault. Eighteen-inning games are freaks of nature which result from a convergence of a great many (un)lucky coincidences. If Mark Melancon had thrown a different pitch to Daniel Murphy in the ninth inning, McCutchen’s day may have ended up much differently. If any hitter for either the Pirates or Nationals had executed just one more quality swing earlier in the game, McCutchen could have been spared. But none of those things happened and, instead, McCutchen stepped to the plate eight times on Sunday and failed to reach base even once.

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Masahiro Tanaka’s Sinker, or Nothing We Know Is Real

Earlier today, FanGraphs contributor and dealer in vulgarities Paul Sporer submitted footage of the pitch featured here, annotated by a brief comment of his own to the effect that it (i.e. the footage) cultivated within him pleasures analogous to the sort derived from coitus.

The pitch appears courtesy not only MLB Advanced Media but also, more immediately, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka — and seems to possess arm-side movement which one might reasonably describe either as unconscionable or totally unconscionable.

The data, however — as is often the case — cause the scales to fall from the eyes and all hopes concerning the existence of miracles to fall with them. Because, in reality, it actually seems as though the movement depicted here is very conscionable — to the point, in fact, that Tanaka threw 14 pitches against the Red Sox on Sunday that possessed more arm-side run.

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Mike Foltynewicz Is Almost There

Earlier today I wrote about how the Braves should feel motivated to trade Julio Teheran, given all of the circumstances of the market. I believe what I said in that post, and I do think that, from a rational perspective, the time now is right to sell Teheran while he’s cruising. That all being said, this is sports, and at the core of this whole endeavor, there are fans, fans driven mostly by emotions. You know who likes Julio Teheran? Braves fans. You know who likes young, home-grown, up-and-coming players? Fans of teams like the Braves. Sure, it makes sense to sell high on Teheran. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. Losing sucks, and it makes a team do sucky things.

One way to feel better about this stuff, though, is to shift focus. Teheran has been a good young pitcher on a team that hasn’t had enough good young players. That’s part of why trading him would be painful. He’s not alone, however. There’s been a little bit of concern over who would start the game to open the new park next year, if Teheran goes away. Looks like there could be a fine internal option. If you want to think about the next No. 1 of the Braves, might I interest you in Mike Foltynewicz?

Foltynewicz has been a prospect for a long time because of his big and powerful fastball. Like many pitchers known mostly for big and powerful fastballs, Foltynewicz has a history of throwing an insufficient number of strikes. He was a part of the Astros’ trade for Evan Gattis, and back then, it was unclear whether Foltynewicz would be a starter or a reliever. He’s been with the Braves now for a year and a half.

To get to the point fast, two tables. One metric I like to play around with is a pitcher’s rate of pitches thrown while ahead in the count. Sure, strike rate works fine enough, but I like thinking in these terms. Let’s look at Foltynewicz’s last few seasons.

Mike Foltynewicz’s Developing Command
Split Ahead% League Ahead% Difference
2013 AA 33% 36% -3%
2014 AAA 34% 35% -1%
2014 MLB 35% 37% -2%
2015 AAA 39% 35% 4%
2015 MLB 39% 37% 2%
2016 MLB 44% 37% 7%
SOURCE: StatCorner

Foltynewicz was traded in January 2015. Before that, in the upper levels with the Astros, Foltynewicz threw a below-average rate of pitches while ahead in the count. As a Brave, Foltynewicz has moved forward, and he’s done so this year in a big way. How big? Well:

Top 10 Ahead Rates
Pitcher Ahead%
Mike Foltynewicz 44.2%
Clayton Kershaw 43.6%
Steven Matz 43.2%
Max Scherzer 43.1%
Noah Syndergaard 41.8%
Michael Pineda 41.7%
Collin McHugh 41.6%
John Lackey 41.5%
David Price 41.4%
Jordan Zimmermann 41.4%
SOURCE: StatCorner
Starting pitchers only, minimum of 500 pitches thrown.

This is just a snapshot in time, and between now and the end of the year, some numbers will shift around, but here you see Foltynewicz in the big-league lead. He’s thrown a greater rate of pitches while ahead in the count than anybody else, given the same role, and when you do that you give yourself a hell of an advantage. Foltynewicz keeps hitters on the defensive, and he’s doing this as a starter, a starter who the other day lasted 107 pitches. This isn’t the guy the Astros traded. This is a guy that guy could’ve become, but usually, pitchers stop short of developing this successfully.

It’s not like he’s an ace now. There’s polishing yet to be done, as Foltynewicz looks to get hitters to more often expand their zones. As has been the case for a while, he could stand to improve the secondary stuff. And! Bone chips. Foltynewicz is pitching with bone chips. But just look at where things are: Foltynewicz is a 24-year-old who can buzz triple digits, and he’s now frequently getting ahead in the count. More than ever before, Mike Foltynewicz is looking like he’s in command. The Braves have been collecting big arms with big risks. Here’s one that’s working out.


How You’d Argue MVP Kevin Kiermaier If You Wanted To

Kevin Kiermaier is not going to be voted American League Most Valuable Player. I personally would not vote for Kevin Kiermaier as American League Most Valuable Player. He’ll be on zero radars, and that’s perfectly fine. Other players will be more deserving — I just want to quickly expand on something that came up during my chat last Friday.

Let’s say you really really really wanted to make the Kiermaier MVP case. I don’t know why. Maybe you’re a family member. Maybe you have money on the line. Maybe you just enjoy getting into statistical arguments. Where could you start? I’d recommend starting on May 21. That’s when Kiermaier sustained an injury that knocked him out of action for almost two months. After the Rays game on May 21, they stood at 20-20. They had a strongly positive run differential. Since then, the Rays have posted the worst record in the majors. The run differential has sucked. Kiermaier just returned Friday.

Kiermaier is a decent hitter, all things considered, but you’re a FanGraphs reader and you know him for his defense. So let’s focus on that defense for a second. To what extent could we consider Kiermaier a difference-maker in the outfield? This year, when Kiermaier has started, the Rays have allowed a team BABIP of .260. Meanwhile, when Kiermaier hasn’t started, the Rays have allowed a team BABIP of .341. That’s not all Kiermaier, of course, because not all balls in play are directed toward center field, but that’s an absolutely enormous difference. When Kiermaier went down, the Rays’ run prevention cratered, and that probably isn’t all on the pitchers.

That would have to be around the core of the Kiermaier argument. That, when Kiermaier has been unavailable, the Rays defense hasn’t been able to make up for it. It’s not just center field — Kiermaier’s presence allows the other outfielders to position themselves differently, too. Kiermaier would be thus presented as the keystone. You don’t have to buy it. Obviously, Kiermaier alone isn’t responsible for that whole difference. But there are still so many people who downplay the importance of an elite-level defender. The Rays would argue the opposite.

As long as I’m here, what if we were to expand beyond just 2016? Kiermaier has been a regular or semi-regular going on three years, now. How valuable has his outfield defense been to the Rays? This is one way you could choose to look at it. It would suggest that he’s been extremely valuable.

Kevin Kiermaier and Rays Pitchers
Split IP BIP R/9 BABIP
Started 2328.7 6316 3.84 0.277
Didn’t Start 1389.0 3884 4.54 0.315
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
2014 through 2016. Numbers shown grouped by whether or not Kiermaier started in the outfield.

I know there are a lot of variables folded in here. I know this captures more than just Kiermaier by himself. But we already have numbers that try to capture individual defenders by themselves. This looks from the team perspective, and when Kiermaier has started in the outfield, Rays pitchers have allowed fewer runs per nine, by 70 points. There’s a 38-point gap in BABIP, which works out to nearly a hit a game. Kiermaier has a career DRS of +63 runs. He has a career UZR of +50 runs. The team-level numbers do nothing to make those look silly. If anything, they make them look like under-estimates. Which sounds crazy, but here we are.

The Rays know that Kevin Kiermaier is valuable. You presumably already knew that Kevin Kiermaier is valuable. Could be he’s even more valuable than we thought. And he could be a crucial reason why the Rays are seemingly about to start selling. In a way, when Kiermaier got injured, they just didn’t have a chance.


Scouting Carson Fulmer and Other White Sox Prospects

Carson Fulmer was perhaps the 2015 draft’s most polarizing prospect. He was, on one hand, a college prospect with a career-long track record of success (sub-2 ERAs as a sophomore and junior, 167 Ks in 127.2 IP in ’15) and objectively hellacious stuff, while, on the other hand, both inefficient and the owner of an ugly-duckling delivery that scared off many more scouts than just the usual cross section of xenophobes. Mostly, three camps formed: the group that thought Fulmer could start, the group who thought he’d end up in relief and was bothered enough by that to move him down their board, and the group that thought he’d end up in relief but didn’t care.

In an ironic twist best suited for baseball, Fulmer has essentially proven each camp right while simultaneously remaining difficult to project, even as he’s ascended to the majors. His stuff remains incredible, each offering in the four-pitch repertoire ready to miss major-league bats, but he’s walked 51 hitters in 87 innings this season.

I like, in these call-up pieces, to talk about things like pitch sequencing and pitch utility so we can have a deeper and more intricate understanding of how these guys are getting outs. With Fulmer, that’s not possible. Because Fulmer is just as likely to throw a strike with his fastball as he is with any other pitch, he’ll throw any of his four pitches in any count to both left- and right-handed hitters. This is strangely liberating. Fulmer’s fastball was 93-94 mph at the Futures Game and in his debut on Sunday. All the secondaries (cutter 89-91, curveball 77-81 with 11-5 movement, changeup 85-89 with arm-side run) are above-average to plus and could be coming at any time.

Fulmer’s delivery is paced like a hummingbird’s heart beat and lots of scouts think it’s the primary cause of his wildness. It’s also part of what makes him so unique and difficult to hit. It appears as though the White Sox plan on using Fulmer in an upscaled relief role, which is probably going to be good for (a) maximizing his impact on the club this year by frequently deploying him for more than three outs at a time and (b) giving him more opportunities to hone his command than he’d be getting as a standard, one-inning reliever. It’s hard to project better than 40 future control for Fulmer, but there is a chance he figures out how to throw an acceptable amount of strikes sometime during his mid-20s — the way it looks like Trevor Bauer has, for example — and makes it work as a starter. If he does his stuff is good enough to carry him to a #3 starter’s value despite his likely inefficiency.

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The Braves Should Be Motivated to Trade Julio Teheran

Let’s be clear about the reality of baseball trades. Despite all of the rumors and all of the posturing, every team has the same stance on just about every player: The player is available for trade, given a good-enough offer. That second part is where it gets complicated, because “good enough” can mean very different things. Not all teams value all players in the same way, so when you’re trading, you’re looking for guys who might be undervalued, or you’re looking to move guys who might be overvalued. Ultimately, though, all you need is a match. When you have a match, you have a trade, no matter what’s been said to the public.

What the Braves have said to the public is that they’re not real interested in trading Julio Teheran. They’ve said this on multiple occasions, in response to rumors that would have Teheran joining any number of current contenders. The point the Braves are effectively getting across is that they’re not motivated to move Teheran. They want other teams to know they value him highly. And, you know, they should! Good pitcher. Good contract. He shouldn’t be cheap to acquire, but at the same time, I don’t think the Braves should be that interested in holding steady. The present market circumstances might never repeat.

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Picturing a Complete Yankees Teardown

The first sure-fire sign of any good, impending mid-season selling frenzy is upper-management coming out and insisting to the public, “Who, us? No, no way. We’re definitely not selling. Which, that’s fine. Makes sense. Job of upper-management is to make money, and letting all the fans know a month in advance that the team is throwing in the weol of the now for a towel of the future isn’t a great way to keep fannies in the seats, even while the team’s still intact. Despite those claims, though, word always gets out, and the second sure-fire sign of any good, impending mid-season selling frenzy is the resignation that, “Yeah, OK, you caught us; we’re probably sellers.” The third sign is the sale itself.

The New York Yankees have exhibited the first two symptoms of fire-sale fever. After dropping the first series out of the All-Star break to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees are now 45-46, fourth place in the American League East, and owners of a 6.1% chance to make the postseason, according to our playoff odds. The last three days have represented the club’s lowest points of the season.

And, given the unique construction of the Yankees’ roster, the club seems poised for a rare sell-off, one that, if executed to the fullest extent, could have the second-half version of the team appearing unrecognizable to the first. It seems likely that very few players of the next good Yankees team currently exist on this one. The Yankees are going to make some moves. The question is: how many? Let’s take the lever and push it all the way up. Just for fun, let’s imagine what a complete Yankees teardown looks like.

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My Favorite Under-the-Radar Trade Deadline Target

We are now officially two weeks away from MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline, and one thing is clear: over the next 14 days, you’re going to see a lot of relievers on the move. The teams that are definitely selling don’t have many starting pitchers to move, and the crop of walk-year hitters isn’t so great either, but what these non-contenders do have an excess of are relief pitchers.

Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller from the Yankees. Alex Colome and Xavier Cedeno from the Rays. Tyler Clippard and Daniel Hudson from the Diamondbacks. Ryan Madson and John Axford from the A’s. Jeanmar Gomez from the Phillies and Joe Smith from the Angels will probably be on the move, and that isn’t even counting guys like Mark Melancon or Steve Cishek who could get moved if things go south for their teams over the next couple of weeks. With nearly every contender looking at bolstering their bullpen, there’s enough demand to clear the supply of available relievers, but we’re definitely not looking at a shortage at the position like there are at other spots this year.

But yet, if I was hunting for a relief pitcher over the next two weeks, my first call would be to the Milwaukee Brewers. They’ve been baseball’s most aggressive team in remaking their roster since David Stearns took over last year, and you know that front office is looking for any opportunity they can to add long-term value, knowing their chances at contention over the next few years are slim at best.

Jeremy Jeffress, the team’s closer, is already generating plenty of trade chatter, as you’d expect from a closer with 23 saves, a 2.35 ERA, and a 96 mph fastball, but he’s not the guy I’d be after. Will Smith would have been a really interesting name if he hadn’t blown out his knee in Spring Training, and while he’s recovered enough to get back on the mound, he doesn’t really look like his old self right now; missing velocity and strikeout rates lead me to guess that the Brewers hold onto Smith and hope he rebuilds some value as he gets further away from the injury, then look to move him over the winter or next summer.

No, the guy I’d want is Tyler Thornburg.

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Astros Add Yulieski Gurriel to Suddenly Crowded Infield

Luis Valbuena has a 157 wRC+ since the beginning of June playing third base for the Houston Astros. Super-prospect Alex Bregman is beating down the door with his performance at Triple-A. Perfect fits be damned. Try and tell a contending club it’s got too many good players. They’ll find some room.

MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez just broke some news:

Let’s get brought up to speed. Gurriel (previously spelled Gourriel) is 32, and he’s been considered Cuba’s best baseball player for about a decade. He’s primarily played third base, and also kicked around at shortstop and, more recently, second base. In 15 years between Cuba and Japan, Gurriel hit .335/.417/.580 with 250 homers and 121 steals. In early February, Yulieski and his younger brother Lourdes Jr., 22, defected from the island. In June, Yulieski was declared a free agent, able to sign with any club free of international spending limits. He’d been linked to the Dodgers, of course. The Mets had shown some interest. The Angels seemed to make some sense. Now, he’s an Astro.

BaseballAmerica’s Ben Badler worked up a scouting report on Gurriel last April in which he called him a plus defender at third with quick reactions, athleticism, a 70-grade arm, and the occasional mental lapse. He’s a complete hitter who bats from the right side, able to hit for average and draw a walk, and scouts see good bat speed that should translate to plus power in the majors. At the time, Badler drew comps to Hanley Ramirez and David Wright, which don’t sound so great anymore, but remember this was before the beginning of the 2015 season; Ramirez was coming off a 135 wRC+ at third base with the Dodgers, Wright was still Wright. Brian Cartwright does good work translating international player’s stat lines to MLB equivalents, and he projected Gurriel for a .283/.330/.458 line back in February, good for a .340 wOBA. There’s no expectation that Gurriel won’t hit.

Five years for a 32-year-old is perhaps a bit scary, and it’s a little more than what Dave Cameron estimated he might get last month, but Gurriel makes the Astros better now. Or, more accurately, in three weeks or so, which is when FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal reports he’ll be ready to join the club. The Astros plan to keep Gurriel at third base, which creates an interesting positional logjam in Houston.

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