Archive for June, 2018

The Weirdest Player in the Minors Is Now in the Majors

When you do this as a full-time job, you spend a lot of time looking at the numbers. And when you spend a lot of time looking at the numbers, you start to notice certain outliers. Then you start to root for certain outliers. It’s hard to be a fan of a team, when you’re supposed to write about everyone objectively. So you settle on other interests. The Twins just called up an interest.

The Twins selected the contract of catcher/infielder Willians Astudillo from Triple-A Rochester. Astudillo appeared in 49 games for the Red Wings this season, hitting .290 (51-for-176) with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 25 RBI.

Astudillo is now on the roster at the expense of Felix Jorge. Or, if you want to look at it differently, he’s on the roster at the expense of Taylor Motter. Jorge was designated for assignment, and Motter was placed on the disabled list. And I don’t think the Twins want to be here; they’d rather be higher in the standings. They’d rather have a healthy Jason Castro. They’d rather have a productive Miguel Sano. The Twins would like to have a lot more things going right. But there’s the story of the team, and there are the stories of the team’s individual players. Circumstances have permitted Astudillo to reach the majors for the first-ever time. I’m sure he doesn’t care about the explanation. Astudillo has been a career-long outlier, and now he’ll receive his first major-league paycheck.

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Steve Pearce Is on the Move, Again, in the AL East

With his trade to Boston on Thursday night, Steve Pearce has completed a personal odyssey. By joining the Red Sox, Pearce has now been employed by all five clubs in the American League East. The last leg in his tour of the division moves him from a club with little chance of making the postseason — a Blue Jays team that is beginning to think about next year (or, really, 2020) — to one that figures to be competing with the Yankees into September for a division title.

The Red Sox acquire Pearce for a specific reason: to help against left-handed pitching. The Red Sox have been below average (97 wRC+) against lefties this season, ranking 14th in baseball and eighth in the American League.

Pearce, meanwhile, has always hit lefties well. He owns a career slash line of .264/.346/.494 and 127 wRC+ against left-handers, and this season he has a .306/.358/.531 slash and a 143 wRC+ in 53 plate appearances against lefties. He has played first, left, and right field for the Blue Jays, so he gives the Red Sox options for getting his bat into the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »


2018 International Prospect Board

We present the July 2, 2018 Board. It features scouting reports on players we have evaluated as a 40 FV prospect or better at the current moment (and we might add more reports over the weekend) as well as tool grades and some video. Specifics on the players in the class are reserved for the board itself, so head there if that’s all you’re looking for.

This is the second year of international amateur free agency under the current CBA, the rules of which were discussed here after they were first implemented. In short, teams now have a finite amount of money to spend on players. Here is each club’s cap for the period. The total pool space across baseball is about $159,000,000, or roughly $6 million above last year’s total.

Click here to see THE BOARD.

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Let’s Use Reason to Deduce When Archie Bradley Pooped Himself

I don’t know how exactly I came to occupy this particular beat, but it sure seems to be at least a little mine. One piece dedicated to wondering not if but why Adam Lind maybe visibly farted might be dismissed as a fluke, but this entry is likely sufficient to constitute a pattern. So here I am, the person who scrutinizes baseball players’ various public excretions. Today? Pooping!

On the June 26 episode of the Yahoo Sports MLB Podcast, Archie Bradley recounted a funny – if gross – story to Tim Brown. Per Mike Oz’s transcript:

“I was warming up to go in a game. I knew I had the next hitter. I knew he was on deck. The at-bat was kinda taking a little bit. As a bullpen guy in these big situations, I call ’em nervous pees, where like I don’t have to pee a lot, but I know I have to pee before I go in the game. I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” Bradley said to Yahoo Sports.

So it’s a 2-2 count, and I’m like, ‘Man, I have to pee. I have to go pee.’ So I run in our bathroom real quick, I’m ready to go. I’m trying to pee and I actually [expletive] my pants. Like right before I’m about to go in the game, I pooped my pants. I’m like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I know I’m a pitch away from going in the game, so I’m scrambling to clean myself up. I get it cleaned up the best I can, button my pants up, and our bullpen coach Mike Fetters says, ‘Hey, you’re in the game.’ So I’m jogging into the game to pitch with poop in my pants essentially.

It was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on the mound. And I actually had a good inning. I had a clean inning, and I walked in the dugout and I was like, ‘Guys, I just [expletive] myself.’ They didn’t believe me, then the bullpen came in and they’re like ‘Oh my God, you had to see this.’”

Bradley’s story contains a great many details — too many, it could be argued. But after listening to the podcast and reading the abundant coverage that followed (baseball writers: we love pooping!), I was struck by what was missing. For all his detail, Bradley never specifically told us when this incident occurred. Sure, he gave us clues. A bunch of clues, even. But he left the “when” of it as a little mystery, and I love mysteries. And yes, I’ll acknowledge I could have just tried to ask him. I’m a professional baseball writer. I could have contacted the Diamondbacks and said, “Hey, get Archie on the phone, will you?” But I didn’t. Despite his candor, it somehow felt overly familiar to ask a stranger when it was exactly that he suffered this (now) public indignity. So I began an investigation of my own; I set out to solve an icky mystery.

First, let’s review what we know. We know this occurred during a home game. We know the hitter up to bat immediately before Bradley entered the game was in a 2-2 count when the nervous pees struck, which suggests another pitcher or pitchers appeared in the inning prior to his outing. The podcast confirms he was wearing white pants. We know that, despite his plight, he threw a “clean inning.” We know all that — and also that he had some amount of poop in his pants. We assume he is a reliable narrator. What choice do we have?

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 6/29/18

9:06

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:06

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:07

Nick: Who is the biggest threat to the Mariners in the second AL WC spot. Is it really the A’s?

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: Basically has to be the A’s

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: They’re seven back. The next-closest team is the Angels, at ten back, and they’ve been completely decimated by injuries

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: Rays are 11 back. Blue Jays, 13. Twins, 13.5. It’s the A’s or it’s nobody

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Is Javier Baez Breaking Out or Is It Just Loud Noise?

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has claimed previously tha Javier Baez has a chance to become Manny Ramirez, the hitter, if he could just lay off the out-of-zone breaking ball. That’s a big claim for a player who had never recorded even a league-average line before this season. Maddon made this comp again after Baez blasted two home runs and recorded four hits against the Dodgers on Tuesday night.

“I have been saying for a couple of years, the moment he stops swinging at sliders in the dirt, he becomes Manny Ramirez and he’s getting closer,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez. “And I think he is a better defender than Manny was and baserunner. And Manny, I still love you.”

Baez is enjoying a breakout season. He dominated Dodgers’ pitching in the clubs’ recently completed three-game series. He left Los Angeles with a 130 wRC+ on the year. This is notable, as his top career mark before that was just a 98 wRC+. His 2.3 WAR already matches his season-best total of a year earlier. Baez has been a star for the first half of the season.

It’s easy to get swept up in making unfair comps after swings like Baez’s on Tuesday.

Like his grand slam in the sixth:

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Matt Carpenter’s Turnaround

On Tuesday night against the Indians in St. Louis, Matt Carpenter enjoyed one of the best nights in the history of a Cardinals hitter, going 5-for-5 with a double and a pair of homers. Given a chance to become the first Cardinal to hit for the cycle since Carlos Beltran on May 11, 2012, and the 19th since 1908 — all he needed was a triple — Carpenter instead capped the team’s 11-run outburst with a 399-foot homer off reliever George Kontos. He had collected a 368-footer off Corey Kluber in the first.

As colleague Craig Edwards pointed out in the wake of that performance, Carpenter has been the game’s hottest hitter this side of Mike Trout lately:

Admittedly, May 16 is an arbitrary endpoint, but it not only coincides with the offensive nadir of the 32-year-old infielder’s season, it happened to mark the halfway point between Opening Day and his big night. The Cardinals had played 39 games up to the point when Carpenter broke out by going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles against the Twins at Target Field, and his 5-for-5 showing came during the team’s 78th game. Here’s the split through Wednesday’s game:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jake Hager, SS, Milwaukee (Profile)
Despite having been selected out of high school in the first round of a relatively recent draft — or, as recent as one is prepared to consider 2011 — Hager isn’t really a prospect. After contending with a knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2015 season and then stumbling through his 2016 and -17 campaigns, Hager was not only granted minor-league free agency this past winter but was sufficiently pessimistic about his chances of finding work in affiliated baseball that he signed with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association.

Eventually, though, the 25-year-old received a minor-league deal with the Brewers. The results thus far have been very promising: in roughly 250 plate appearances with Biloxi, he produced the equivalent of the second-best WAR in the Southern League. His performance over the past month, in particular, has been exceptional: since May 30th, he’s produced a .310 isolated-power mark but just 13.1% strikeout rate in 99 plate appearances — and has also, meanwhile, recorded every defensive start this season at shortstop, where the defensive numbers suggest he’s been totally fine. Hager was promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. He’s on the old side, certainly, but could have some value in the majors if he’s able to translate any of his Double-A success to higher levels.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1237: Bedtime for Trout

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about Jose Alvarado, Shohei Ohtani’s power and possible return as a hitter, Shane Bieber’s velocity, the minor-league breakouts of Chris Paddack and Colin Poche, FanGraphs readers vs. average fans, Brandon Nimmo’s latest HBP antics, the Mets’ recent struggles and Mets-fan fatalism, the recoveries of the Reds and Wilmer Font, what teams would trade to enter the awful AL Central, Edwin Jackson’s journey, the decline of the 2018 free-agent class, and more, then answer listener emails about Jonathan Holder, the thresholds for “qualifying” performance, Peter Moylan’s age and indecisive 2017, Randy Cesar’s record-setting hitting streak and the Astros’ player development, pitcher hitting vs. hitter pitching, a pitcher who can’t remember his previous pitch, Mike Trout with an early bedtime, listening to games without commentary, and “climbing” into the batter’s box, plus Stat Blasts about Waxahachie Swaps and the best single (and rookie) seasons by career sub-replacement players.

Audio intro: The Blank Tapes, "Feels Like Summer"
Audio outro: Florence + The Machine, "June"

Link to Jeff’s post about the Rays’ Waxahachie Swap
Link to story about Ohtani’s BP power
Link to Jeff’s post about Colin Poche
Link to Jeff’s post about predicting second-half records
Link to Ben’s post about the AL Central
Link to Jeff Passan’s 2015 article about the 2018 FA class
Link to 2015 episode about the 2018 FA class
Link to Ben’s article about the 2018 FA class

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Effectively Wild Episode 1236: Local (and National) Color

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about Jeff’s lost and found voice, then bring on MLB on TBS and SNY analyst Ron Darling (5:33) to discuss preparing to call games, talking stats on TV, local broadcasting vs. national broadcasting, the beloved Mets broadcasting team, building booth rapport, positivity and negativity on TV, dealing with broadcasting criticism, calling AL games vs. calling NL games, 1980s baseball vs. modern baseball, facing Barry Bonds and Tim Raines, and pitcher hitting. Then they talk to EW listener, MIT PhD grad, and incoming Rays R&D analyst Michael McClellan (36:50) about getting a front-office job, the overlap between atmospheric science and baseball science, the physics of baseball, baseball construction and home runs, visiting all 30 ballparks, and more.

Audio intro: Matthew Sweet, "Your Sweet Voice"
Audio interstitial: Wilco, "My Darling"
Audio interstitial 2: Crowded House, "Weather With You"
Audio outro: Elvis Costello, "There’s a Story in Your Voice"

Link to Michael’s writing at Banished to the Pen
Link to Michael’s writing at FanGraphs

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 Email Us: podcast@fangraphs.com


The Most Unhittable Arm in the Minors

The most unhittable arm in the minors is a 24-year-old lefty reliever. Two months ago, he was selected as a player to be named later in a major-league trade swung in February. He’s never made a prospect list of any significance, be it league-wide or organizational, and he doesn’t have any video clips on the official Minor League Baseball website. Whenever we write posts here, we’re supposed to include photos to go out to accompany the tweets, and I had to use a photo of the player from his previous club. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the guy’s last name until this morning.

The most unhittable arm in the minors is Colin Poche. Last year, he led the minor leagues in strikeout rate. This year, he again leads the minor leagues in strikeout rate, having increased his own strikeout rate by a dozen points despite going up against much stiffer competition. When Poche pitched in High-A last year, he struck out 37% of the hitters. In Double-A this year, he struck out 60% of the hitters. In Triple-A this year, he’s struck out 50% of the hitters. All year long, over 41.1 innings, he’s allowed just three runs. He’s allowed an OBP of .185, and he’s allowed a slugging percentage of .184. Colin Poche is turning in one of the most unbelievable performances you might ever see. Better still, it’s not entirely clear how he’s doing it.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/27

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Jabari Blash, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 28   Org Rank: NR  FV: 35
Line: 3-for-3, 3 HR, BB

Notes
Blash is no longer rookie-eligible, so while he’s a fun player to watch hit bombs and had a hell of a game last night, he’s on here today as a conduit to discuss what’s going on with some of the Angels hitters in the lowest levels of the minors. This is Trent Deveaux last fall, when he first arrived in the states. His swing was largely the same early this spring, albeit with a stronger, more involved top hand, which helped him drive the ball with more authority. This is what he looks like right now, which bears quite a bit of resemblance to Blash. No offense to Blash, who has had a long pro career and will probably play for another half-decade or so, but I’m not sure I’d proactively alter an ultra-talented 18-year-old’s swing to mimic that of a notoriously frustrating replacement-level player. Deveaux isn’t the only low-level Angels hitting prospect whose swing now looks like this.

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This Might Not Be the Angels’ Year

In terms of playoff odds, Mike Trout gives the Angels a pretty good head start over the rest of the field every season. Where Los Angeles has had trouble over the last few years, however, is surrounding Trout with enough talent to make the postseason. They tried spending big, bringing in Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, and C.J. Wilson and extending Jered Weaver. That netted them exactly one playoff appearance, in 2014, when they were swept in three games. They’ve slowed down spending a bit in recent years, but made a savvy trade to bring Andrelton Simmons aboard, brought in Justin Upton and signed him to an extension, jumped on Ian Kinsler in a trade, signed Zack Cozart, and then lucked out in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes.

Despite what appears to be a collection of good moves, the results are still lacking. Now, news that Cozart will miss the rest of the season diminishes the Angels’ chances even further.

At the moment, there are only seven teams with at least a 5% chance at the playoffs in the American League. In the National League, there are nine teams with a similar chance. A week ago that number was 11 (sorry, Pirates and Rockies), and two weeks ago it was 12 (sorry, Mets). The National League looks very competitive this season, with a bunch of teams in the hunt and no single club possessing more than a 90% playoff probability. The American League, on the other hand, looks like this:

Four of the five playoff spots appear to be locked up, with the Mariners currently looking likely to take the final one. The pennant race is not without intrigue — the Yankees and Red Sox will battle to avoid a one-and-done Wild Card round — but Cleveland looks to be running away with the AL Central, and unless the Mariners have another gear, the Astros are going to take the West. As for the non-Yankees/Red Sox Wild Card, the Mariners have a seven-game edge over the Athletics and a nine-game lead over the Angels. If the Mariners win half the rest of their games, the Angels would need to win 50 to catch them. That’s 62% of their remaining dates, close to a 100-win pace over the course of the rest of the season.

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Eric Longenhagen Chat: 6/28

2:07
Eric A Longenhagen: What’s up everyone? Howdy from Arizona, where it is officially ‘Hot AF’ and the AZL is now underway.

2:07
Eric A Longenhagen: Some housekeeping:

2:07
Eric A Longenhagen: We’ll have a July 2 board up tomorrow

2:07
Eric A Longenhagen: Daily Prospect Notes are back and can be found here: We’ll have a July 2 board up tomorrow

2:08
Eric A Longenhagen: Submitted today’s to Carson just moments ago, will link if he gets it up during chat

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Why Can’t the Rockies Put Together an Outfield?

This past Saturday, with the FanGraphs staff in attendance at Coors Field, the Rockies honored their 25th anniversary team, which was selected last December. The pregame ceremony was a chance for fans to cheer franchise favorites such as Todd Helton, Larry Walker and Ellis Burks — and a missed opportunity as well, because given the state of the Rockies’ offense, you might be forgiven for thinking that those old-timers could outplay the team’s current regulars. Save for a four-game sweep during which they piled up 37 runs on the hapless Mets, the Rockies have gone 4-17 since May 29, falling from first place to fourth in the NL West race at 38-42.

I kid about the old-timers, but not entirely. As I sat in the Captain’s Deck in high right field, viewing the sprawling expanse of grass while chatting with my colleagues, I conceded for the umpteenth time that I simply don’t know why the Rockies can’t assemble a productive outfield. I’ve puzzled over it at Sports Illustrated. I’ve puzzled over it on a weekly basis in my FanGraphs chats. Now I’ve puzzled over it in person, and I still have more questions than answers.

The current unit, which primarily consists of Gerardo Parra in left, Charlie Blackmon in center and Carlos Gonzalez in right, entered Wednesday hitting .274/.326/.437, which wouldn’t be awful if it were produced at sea level, but their 90 wRC+ ranks 14th among NL outfields. Because of the club’s home park, there’s a lot of air in those raw numbers; the Padres’ outfield is at 96 wRC+ based on a .251/.312/.397 line. The Rockies look even worse when defense is brought into the equation, as that trio — plus Noel Cuevas, David Dahl, Ian Desmond and Mike Tauchman, the others they’ve used — has combined for -6 UZR (10th in the league), and lest you think they’ve been shortchanged by that metric, their -26 DRS is dead last by five runs. It’s UZR that’s included in our version of WAR, and even with that more favorable number, their 0.6 WAR is last as well. (All stats through Tuesday unless otherwise indicated.)

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Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 6/28/18

12:04
Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to today’s chat, my first in two weeks after time spent on Cape Cod with family and in Denver meeting our readers and my fellow staffers — and checking out Coors Field for the first time.

That visit had me wondering about the Rockies’ recent problems in assembling a productive outfield, which I wrote about for today https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/why-cant-the-rockies-put-together-an-o…

Meanwhile, I’ll have an InstaGraphs page for this up later today, but if you’re a Washington DC area resident a visitor who will be in town for the All-Star Futures Game, you’re invited to a book signing at the great Politics and Prose, where Keith Law (ESPN Insider prospect expert and author of Smart Baseball) and I (author of Cooperstown Casebook) will sign and discuss our respective books on Saturday, July 14 at 6 pm. See https://www.politics-prose.com/event/book/keith-law-smart-baseball-jay… for more details in the interim.

12:04
Jay Jaffe: With that out of the way, let’s get to the questions!

12:04
Jeff: So with no Mets baseball to watch all summer, what should I do with all this free time?

12:05
Jay Jaffe: Read some books, spend time with family/children, devote yourself to a cause, sign up for MLB TV and watch other teams… there’s plenty to do, and you will survive. You might even be healthier for it.

12:06
Fred: What kind of HOF case is Arenado building, and how do you think playing in Coors will affect his chances?

12:10
Jay Jaffe: Arenado’s years old and in his sixth season. If he keeps playing as he has been thus far in 2018, he’ll have four seasons in the vicinity of 6 bWAR (or better), a strong foundation to build upon along with the more traditional measures. Voters have had a hard time figuring out what to do with the credentials of Larry Walker given his time at Coors, and they’re likely to do the same when it comes to Todd Helton, who become eligible this winter and is in the vicinity of the JAWS standard at first base (https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/jaws_1B.shtml), above on peak and below on career WAR. I think Arenado will be in better shape because of the perception and impact of his highlight-film defense, but it’s still probably an uphill battle for any Rockies player.

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Offseason Spending on Relievers Isn’t Working Out

While this past winter moved slowly for a number of free agents, the offseason’s available relievers actually found work pretty quickly. By the time the calendar turned, 13 relief pitchers had received multi-year contracts worth more than $10 million, totaling more than $250 million overall. Addison Reed and Greg Holland would later ink deals for more than $10 million, as well. Much has been made of the fiscal restraint exercised by teams this past winter, but teams didn’t really apply that same sort of caution to reliever deals. Perhaps they should have.

In total, there were 30 deals in excess of $1 million dollars signed by relief pitchers this past offseason. With half the season having passed, it seems like an opportune moment to review how those deals are working out for the players and their clubs. Because of how relievers are typically utilized, we are necessarily dealing with small sample sizes, but that’s also just how things operate with relievers: the difference between a good and bad season might be a few rough innings.

The graph below shows WAR and the amount of guaranteed money the player signed for in the offseason.

Teams would hope that the trendline here slopes up and to the right. That would suggest a general correlation between the money received by a player and his on-field production. The graph above, however, doesn’t look anything like that. Indeed, if a slope exists at all, it goes down and to the right. And even if we omit the Rockies from it — they were responsible for the winter’s three biggest relief contracts — this graph would still pretty much look like a jumbled mess. Seven of the 11 players with more than 0.5 WAR this season signed contracts for less than $10 million total. Of the 13 relievers at replacement level or below, eight received eight-figure guarantees. There appears to be little rhyme or reason at all when it comes to money and performance.

Perhaps the total money skews things somehow. To see if that’s the case, here’s a similar graph, except with average annual value instead of total money.

Still nothing, right? It appears that way.

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It’s Not Just Luis Severino’s Velocity

Luis Severino currently ranks second among all major-league pitchers in WAR. He’s third by park-adjusted ERA, he’s first by park-adjusted FIP, and he’s sixth by park-adjusted xFIP, and he’s done this while facing the seventh-toughest average opponent, among everyone with at least 50 innings. There was a time when a lot of the attention was on the development of Severino’s changeup. The changeup is there, and it’s not like Severino is afraid of it, but he’s blossomed into one of the best pitchers in either league largely on the back of his fastball and slider. Two pitches can be all you need, when said pitches are elite.

Just Tuesday, Severino blanked the Phillies over seven innings, whiffing nine without issuing a single walk. In all, 95% of his pitches were fastballs or sliders, and Severino’s 101st pitch clocked in at an even 100 miles per hour. It’s been said before that high velocity affords a pitcher a greater margin of error. That’s true, and part of the story behind Severino’s emergence simply comes down to how hard he can throw. Yet there’s more there, more that underscores how difficult Severino is for hitters. Let’s take a look at how his pitches play off of one another.

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The Manager’s Perspective: Torey Lovullo on Conferring with His Coaches

Torey Lovullo relies a lot on his coaching staff. Each has his own role and responsibilities, and the Arizona Diamondbacks skipper is well aware of the value they provide. He’d be the first to tell you that 2017 NL Manager of the Year honors — ditto the D-Backs’ playoff berth — wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of his coaches.

He interacts with them frequently. Communication is vital to any relationship, and Lovullo is a big believer in getting input before making a decision. It’s common to see him conferring with one of his coaches during a game, and behind-the-scenes conversations are a constant. Managers may ultimately have the final say — that’s the case here — but when Lovullo makes a move, there’s a pretty good chance collaboration was part of the process.

———

Torey Lovullo: “[Bench coach Jerry Narron] understands the strategy of the game — the moving parts of the game — as well as anybody I’ve been around. He understands the rules as well as anybody. And Jerry’s ability to communicate is something I’m really thankful for. We can hit on any range of our daily communication and not miss.

“I rely on him mostly as my backbone. He’s watching the game in much the same way I am, projecting a lot of moves. I can throw an assortment of things out there — machine gun five thoughts — and he’ll quickly find the information whether it’s on one of the iPads or something we have on paper in the dugout. He’ll give me his thoughts on a particular move.

“He’s projecting what’s happening inside their dugout, or in their bullpen, and then giving me options — two or three options at a time — of what we should do. They’re thoughts I’m having, but I haven’t quite got there. And his timing is perfect. He know when, and how, to say things for a given situation.

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Eddie Rosario Has Surpassed His Peers

A little more than four years ago, on the cusp of the 2014 big-league baseball season, you could have been forgiven for not paying all that much attention to Eddie Rosario. His performance as a 21-year-old between High-A and Double-A in 2013 had been good but not exceptional (a .275/.324/.415 line over 746 plate appearances), and he’d just been popped for use of a banned substance, which would keep him off the field for the first 50 games of 2014. He was a back-end top-100 prospect — No. 60 on BP’s list, 76 on ours, and 119 on Minor League Ball’s — but sufficiently outclassed by the four Twins ranked above him on all three lists (Byron Buxton at No. 1 on our list, Miguel Sano at No. 10, Alex Meyer at No. 23, and Kohl Stewart at No. 32) that he missed out on much of the national attention then showered on his colleagues.

Four years later, it’s a different story in Minnesota. Stewart is in Double-A, Meyer is in Anaheim, and Rosario’s 9.0 career WAR outclasses every single one of the Twins’ prospects from that loaded class, including Sano and Buxton — even if you throw the rest of our 2014 Twins top-10 list into the hopper for comparison’s sake:

2014 Twins Top 10 Prospects
Player 2014 Rank 2018 Age Career WAR
Byron Buxton 1 23 4.6
Miguel Sano 2 24 5.3
Alex Meyer 3 26 1.0
Kohl Stewart 4 23 N/A
Eddie Rosario 5 25 9.0
Jose Berrios 6 23 4.9
Max Kepler 7 24 3.4
Jorge Polanco 8 22 1.7
Danny Santana 9 25 1.5
Josmil Pinto 10 26 0.8

Now, let’s be clear about what I’m not saying here: I’m not saying that Rosario will end his career with more WAR than Buxton, Sano, or even Berrios, who’s had a pretty nice start in the majors, as well. At 25, Rosario is older than all three of those men, and more than a third of his career WAR has come in the last three months. We’re nowhere near being able to render a final verdict on the Twins prospects of recent vintage. So I’m not saying Rosario has “won” anything or that his peers have flopped.

What I am saying, though, is that it’s perhaps at least a little surprising that Rosario — and not any of the other men on this list — has been the most productive member of that loaded Twins farm system to date and, further, that perhaps his performance to date merits a little bit of examination as a result. So let’s examine, shall we?

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