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Thanks for Reading

January 21st, 2011. That’s the day I got a phone call from David Appelman that changed my life.

I’d moved to California and was trying to make a full-time go of writing about fantasy baseball for a living, but my wife — as amazingly supportive as she’s been — had been wondering when I might be able to contribute more to the household. David’s call was a lifeline, a rope to a sinking writer, and I’ll never forget it. A job. Writing about baseball. Amazing.

Other than giving me a chance to do this for a living, David also gave me a chance to connect with you readers here at FanGraphs, readers I count as probably the best of the internet, and sometimes I feel like I’ve written for all of the internet. Maybe I have some authority on the matter. You guys are awesome, believe me.

This will be my last post for FanGraphs for now, post number 2,202 when you add them all up. Details to come, but I’m excited for this new chapter, and I will still see you around, but not on these pages.

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What Could Brandon Nimmo Become?

Brandon Nimmo’s elite selectivity helps carry his offensive profile.
(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

The Mets reportedly continue to look for infield help this winter with a view to improving their team for the 2018 campaign. According to Ken Rosenthal, three of the targets for New York are free agents — specifically, Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, and Neil Walker. Pirates infielder Josh Harrison is a fourth. The cost of acquiring any of the first three is pretty straightforward: about $30-40 million, according to our crowdsourced estimates. As for Harrison, the issue of “cost” is more complicated.

According to Rosenthal, the Pirates want Brandon Nimmo in return for their versatile infielder. Superficially, that seems to make sense for the Mets. Nimmo is probably a fifth outfielder after Michael Conforto gets healthy. As for Harrison, he’d probably start. That’s a good trade-off for New York, right?

In one way, yes. But then there’s also that agonizing question every club is compelled to face when pondering the trade of a young player: what could he become? What’s his upside?

One way of answering that question with regard to Nimmo, specifically, is to focus on his process and look at other players who have a similar one. Nimmo is a player with a good eye, a nearly even batted-ball mix, and a certain degree of power. Also, his outfield defense looks decent. Let’s get exact about those facets of his game and look at other players with similar games.

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The Prospect Who Dropped the Most in the Rankings

This is the time of year when top-100 lists begin to emerge. Baseball America and Keith Law, for example, have both released their annual lists just in the past week. Other outlets will follow soon.

While our eyes tend to look for new additions, for the players who have zoomed to the top — Ronald Acuna and Shohei Ohtani are sexy names, after all — there are also players who drop off the lists each year. Maybe most visible this year was Mickey Moniak, who fell off the Baseball America top-100 list entirely after appearing 17th there last year. Maybe he’ll recover; it wouldn’t be the first time. And even if he doesn’t, maybe there will be the slight solace that his won’t be the biggest such decline in list history.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 1/25/18

12:56
Eno Sarris:

12:02
Matt: What’s your take on Ohtani’s cost in ottoneu? I initially put a $20-25 band on him at first pass, but now I’m wondering if I’m at least $10-15 low after reading reports…

12:02
Eno Sarris: I dunno. I mean, I’m excited, you’re excited, he just had elbow surgery last year and probably can’t throw more than 150 innings. I think James Paxton level is about right.

12:02
Blue Jay Matt: What’s your favourite type of cheese? Don’t say melted…

12:03
Eno Sarris: Just to like, pick up and eat? Emmenthaler, Gruyere — swiss.

12:03
Blue Jay Matt: What’s your snack food of choice?

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What Jack Flaherty Has in Common with Clayton Kershaw

Cardinals righty Jack Flaherty didn’t have what you’d call a “flawless” introduction to the majors. While he had some luck missing bats over his roughly 20 innings, he allowed too many walks and really struggled once batters made contact. His 6.33 ERA was 50% worse than league average after accounting for park and league.

The 22-year-old did, however, do one thing right: he threw 87 excellent sliders. The sliders were so excellent, in fact, that Flaherty recorded better numbers on the pitch than anyone else in the second half — just better than the ones thrown by Clayton Kershaw and Garrett Richards. Maybe he can learn something from those other two and help parlay his excellent slider into more excellent outcomes.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 1/18/18

1:12
Eno Sarris: is this title about my struggle against the beer belly or

12:01
Jimbo Slice: Why did the Pirates system fail Gerrit Cole?

12:02
Eno Sarris: I think they need to relax a bit on the four-seamer thing. They really pound four-seamers hard, to the point of taking away two-seamers from prospects, in order to promote good command. But then they need to learn two-seam command, or they throw the four-seamer more than they should, like Cole does.

12:03
John M.: Do you really believe the Cardinals will go with Gregorson as their closer going into April? I just can’t seriously believe that after stating they wanted to upgrade the pen

12:06
Eno Sarris: Maybe going into April, but they have some pieces, could be Cecil or Lyons depending on how good and healthy they are this year. I don’t think they want to pay full freight on Holland, and I don’t blame them with his mechanics and history.

12:07
Eno Sarris: Maybe they sign Bud Norris? Maybe they trade for Bearclaw, Soria, Herrera? Maybe they do both.

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Manny Margot and the Stickiness of a Launch-Angle Breakout

Manny Margot had a breakout within a breakout last year. After accounting for his offensive and defensive contributions, the Padres’ rookie center fielder was worth roughly two wins in slightly less than a full season’s worth of plate appearances. Even for a player who was highly touted as a prospect, producing league-average work at 22 years old represents, in itself, a kind of breakout.

Hidden within that strong end-of-year line was a drastic change in the second half, though. Margot started hitting the ball in the air. That’s a change that has powered many other breakouts. But before we book the skinny center fielder for all of the homers next year, we have to ask: what’s happened with launch-angle surgers in the past?

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The Astros Might Be the Perfect Team for Gerrit Cole

After a couple false starts earlier in the week, the Houston Astros finally acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates last night. As Travis Sawchik notes, the deal makes sense for both teams: the re-tooling Pirates get a collection of useful players, all within close proximity to the majors; the Astros, meanwhile, receive two years of a pitcher with a great arm and history of success. It’s mutually beneficial.

There’s a third party that might benefit from the deal, however, and that’s Cole himself. He might be worth more in Houston than anywhere else.

As a major leaguer, Cole has been either good or really good in each of his five seasons. There’s always this sense, however, that the former No. 1 pick could be great. Earlier this week, Travis Sawchik proposed one way that Cole could perhaps unlock the remaining upside in his 27-year-old arm –namely, by throwing his fastball less. In this way, his move to the Astros represent an opportunity: not only is Cole’s secondary stuff ready for more action, but his new team is uniquely suited to help this adjustment along.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 1/11/18

1:28
Eno Sarris: god I love the Hammond organ

12:01
Chad: The Giants’ outfield woes aren’t exaggerated, are they?

12:01
Eno Sarris: 1.4 win projection for the whole outfield. Worst in the big leagues. By almost a win behind the Royals. And it’s all in a bounce back from Pence, who looked pretty toasty last year.

12:02
Chris : The Mets need to shake this roster up. Would a Lagares/Wheeler/Nimmo for Herrera and Merrifield be doable? At least start the conversation.

12:03
Eno Sarris: I’d like them to keep Nimmo, but this would be interesting. They still need an infielder, and I’m not sure how much they have left to spend.

12:03
Mark: ENO! It’s still like a month until mock drafting on Yahoo! Where can I get my fix?

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Neuroscience Can Project On-Base Percentages Now

I have an early, hazy memory of Benito Santiago explaining to a reporter the approach that had led to his game-winning hit moments earlier. “I see the ball, I hit it hard,” said Santiago in his deep accent. From which game, in what year, I can’t remember. Also, it isn’t really important: it’s a line we’ve heard before. Nevertheless, it contains multitudes.

We know, for example, that major-league hitters have to see well to hit well. Recent research at Duke University has once again made explicit the link between eye sight, motor control, and baseball outcomes. This time, though, they’ve split out some of the skills involved, and it turns out that Santiago’s deceptively simple description involves nuanced levels of neuromotor activity, each predictive of different aspects of a hitter’s abilities. Will our developing knowledge about those different skills help us better sort young athletes, or better develop them? That part’s to be determined.

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Yangervis Solarte and the Blue Jays’ Attempt to Thread the Needle

The Blue Jays traded a couple prospects for a versatile infielder this weekend following a season during which their own infielders had trouble staying on the field. That much about the Yangervis Solarte trade makes sense.

What makes a little less sense? A Toronto team projected to finish almost 10 games worse than the best two teams in their division just improved their 2018 roster at a potential cost down the road. It might be a fine trade in a vacuum, but is it a well-timed one?

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Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, and Passing the Torch

Recently, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak was asked about his starting rotation in 2018. He said he was mostly content to go to battle with the players he had. Consider this, for example, from Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

It’s unclear if there’s a design behind the order in which Mozeliak names the staff, but he does single out Adam Wainwright as a somewhat unknown variable.

Now there’s a rumor that the Cardinals are in on Jake Arrieta, which, especially when seen next to this discussion of pitcher roles next year, might mean that the 36-year-old Wainwright is losing his grip on his rotation spot.

As bad as last year was for the veteran Cardinal righty — and it was, since he was somewhere between the 18th-worst and 36th-worst starting pitcher who threw at least 120 innings last year — the way the season progressed may have been even more disheartening than even the overall results.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 1/4/18

12:36
Eno Sarris: sometimes you long for a time that came before even though you know that time was rife with its own troubles and

12:02
Eno Sarris: I am HERE for this. sorry for being late. Kids are home, so if there’s an extended absence, one is running around naked or one is trying to climb the tree again.

12:03
Jimmy Ballgame: Whats the fantasy outlook for Josh bell this year?

12:04
Eno Sarris: If he regresses on the power a bit, I bet he improves the batting average and retains aobut the same overall value.

12:04
Bort: If I put on my Scott Boras thinking cap, it seems to me that a heavily front-loaded deal with an opt-out after two years with Colorado makes a bunch of sense for Hosmer. It incentivizes him to opt-out (good for Colorado, which might need the $$$ to resign Arenado) after 2019, and gives him an opportunity to pump up his numbers a bit and re-enter the market at a reasonable age. For Colorado, it gives them a short-term option to fill a short-term hole.

12:05
Eno Sarris: If he’s already gotten two seven year $147 offers as the rumors say, he doesn’t need to do this.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 12/21/17

8:07
Eno Sarris: …

12:01
Broseph: You pointed me toward Sam dyson in 2016, and James Paxton in 2017. Whose your 2018 difference maker who can be acquired cheaply now?

12:01
Eno Sarris: Yo I am here

12:03
Eno Sarris: I’ve been into Walker Buehrler (best curve by movement and velo, opportunity, going back to starting), Carlos Rodon (third best starter’s changeup by movement and velo last year), and I still like Treinen and Manaea as lower cost back end pitchers at their positions.

12:04
Art Vandelay: Gordon, Granite, and a couple lower Twins’ prospects for Archer. Do the Rays hang up?

12:05
Eno Sarris: probably not enough for a pitcher getting paid less than ten mill a year.

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What Front Offices Have to Say About the Changing Game

We’ve been writing here — perhaps ad nauseum — about the changes the game is undergoing currently. The ball may be different, the launch angles may be changing, power is definitely up, and starting-pitcher innings are down. Are these fundamental changes, though? Is this a different game we’re watching than the ones our elders enjoyed? And if so, is it necessary to alter the way we think about building successful teams?

I thought it would be interesting, at last week’s Winter Meetings, to ask front-office members of all kinds if they thought the game had really changed. If so, I wondered, had these insiders changed the way they approach their jobs over the last few years? To get better answers, I asked most of these generous people to talk off the record — meaning, in some cases, I’m unable to reveal their particular roles.

These answers do run the gamut, and the sources are varied — from former players to former business-school graduates. In sum, the responses offer us a peek at a fundamental choice in front of every team-builder right now, the same choice, ironically, that players face every day — namely, is it time to adjust?

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Walker Buehler May Be Key to What Comes Next for Dodgers

The Dodgers made a big trade with the Braves over the weekend, and Jeff Sullivan did a great job of illustrating how, for Los Angeles, it mostly represented a trade of debt this season for debt next season. The deal allows the club to avoid the tax threshold for a year, resetting their penalty and allowing them (if they choose) to cross back over the threshold next year at less cost.

There’s certainly a reason they’d make that choice: next year’s offseason features a number of top free agents, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper chief among them. But we’re not done yet with the current offseason yet, and it’s an offseason following a World Series appearance for the Dodgers. What’s left for them to do? And what does Walker Buehler’s curveball have to do with it?

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Carlos Santana Makes It a Crowd in Philly

Santana’s combination of power and patience are likely to age well over the next three years.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

Carlos Santana is trading Polish Boys for cheesesteaks, looks like, agreeing this afternoon on a three-year, $60 million deal (with an option for a fourth, at $17.5 million) to join the Phillies. The deal probably makes sense from a money standpoint, and Santana is a really good switch-hitting slugger with power and patience, but… does it make sense from the Phillies’ perspective?

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Let’s Dream Up a Michael Fulmer Trade

The Yankees are currently in the process of shoving all their chips towards the middle of the table, going all-in on their young core of premium position-player talent. Trading for Giancarlo Stanton was part of that effort. Even trading away Bryan Mitchell in order not to pay Chase Headley was part of it, too. It allowed the club to situate themselves at something like $30 million under the tax threshold. Now there’s a link forming between the Tigers and the Yankees, with Michael Fulmer as the prize. Let’s dream this one up.

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Baseball in Japan Is Surprisingly Similar

With two important players coming to Major League Baseball from Nippon Professional Baseball this season — Miles Mikolas and Shohei Ohtani, of course — we’re hearing a lot about how differently baseball is played in Japan. While it’s true that they take Mondays off and starters generally pitch just once a week, it’s also true that some of the differences between the two leagues are probably overstated.

Part of that might have something to do with the metrics on which we dwell when discussing the two leagues. Home runs certainly receive a lot of attention. Velocity readings, too. But what about other aspects of the game?

Curious, I decided to look through the lens of plate discipline and batted-ball spray to see how similar Japan’s league is to America’s leagues, major and minor.

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Just How Much Awesome Will Brandon Morrow Be For the Cubs

It looks like the Cubs have signed Brandon Morrow for two years and something like $22 million, as Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman are reporting. Right now, he’ll slot in as their fourth closer in four years. He should be excellent, considering how superlative his stuff was out of the pen last year, and really for most of his career. But there’s that other question that has dogged him for most of his career, too: just how healthy will he be?

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