Archive for Diamondbacks

Descalso and Avila Hurl Their Way into Weird History

Even in these days of bloated, 13-man pitching staffs, it’s not uncommon for a position player to take the mound. With the season roughly halfway done, there have been 30 outings by position players thus far — not including two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who’s in a class by himself — which means we’re almost certain to see what, at the very least, is an expansion-era record (more on which momentarily). Despite that increasing commonality, Wednesday night brought a rarity that’s worth appreciating — a few of them, in fact — in the Rockies’ 19-2 trouncing of the Diamondbacks (box).

Yes, it was a game at Coors Field, where wackiness reigns thanks to the high altitude, and unfortunately, the circumstances were triggered by an injury. Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller, making just his fourth major-league start since returning from Tommy John surgery, was lit up for five first-inning runs via two walks and four hits, the most important coming in the form of an Ian Desmond homer.

Though he completed the inning, Miller needed 37 pitches — a bit extreme given his recent injury, but take it up with manager Torey Lovullo — and began feeling elbow tightness by the end of his abbreviated stint. Reliever Jorge De La Rosa, who knows all about the horrors of Coors Field as he spent nine freakin’ years (2008-16) calling it home, came on in relief and allowed four runs in the second inning and three in the third via homers by Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. He got the hook with two outs and the Diamondbacks trailing 12-1. While T.J. Mcfarland got the final out of the third, Lovullo pulled him due to stiffness in his neck, and then Yoshihisa Hirano allowed four straight hits and three runs after retiring Desmond to start the fourth.

At that point, Lovullo effectively said, “To hell with this,” and called upon second baseman Daniel Descalso — who had already pitched four times in his nine-year major-league career, including May 4 of this year against the Astros — to take the hill, with Chris Owings coming off the bench to play second base. It didn’t go well at first, Nolan Arenado greeting Descalso with an RBI single and then Gonzalez following with a three-run homer, bringing the score to 18-1. Fortunately, Descalso settled down and wore it like a champ, lasting 2.2 innings and 36 pitches and retiring eight of the next 11 batters he faced, with the only run in that span arriving via a solo homer by pitcher German Marquez.

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Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 16

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the sixteenth installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Clay Buchholz, Matt Moore, and Tyler Skaggs — on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.

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Clay Buchholz (D-backs) on His Split-Change

“I don’t throw it a lot, but there’s the split-change I’ll use against lefties. The first time I threw it was in 2012. We were in Tampa. I was in the bullpen warming up for a game and I couldn’t throw a changeup for a strike, so I went into the dugout and asked Josh Beckett how he held his little split-change. He showed me, I gripped it, and it felt good, so I brought it out to the mound.

“I think I threw six or seven innings, and struck out something like six or seven guys on that one pitch. There was nothing in my head. There were no expectations, it was just grip it, throw it, and see if it works. I was going through a grip episode with my changeup, and I figured that was better than bouncing changeups and throwing them over hitters’ heads. I literally took it from the dugout into the game. Read the rest of this entry »


Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 15

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the 15th installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers —Justin Anderson, Archie Bradley, and Brent Suter — on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.

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Justin Anderson (Angels) on His Spiked Slider

“Some people might think it’s a curveball, but it’s a slider. It kind of has the same plane as my fastball. That’s the idea. You want one pitch going one way, and one going the other. My thought process is to throw it as hard as I can and try to get break on it with my wrist flipping.

“It’s not a traditional slider grip by any means. It’s a grip I was always curious about. There’s a guy we’d always watch in the minor leagues — I played against him coming up — and we were like, ‘This guy has one of the best sliders ever.’ His name is Dean Deetz. I stole it from him. I finally saw his grip on a picture, on Twitter, last October or maybe in November. I was like, ‘OK, so this is how the guy throws it. I’m going to give it a go.’ That’s what I did. I ran with it.

Anderson’s spiked slider grip.

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Sunday Notes: Ian Kinsler Has Deserved More Gold Gloves

Ian Kinsler was awarded his only Gold Glove in 2016. He’s been deserving of several more. Presenting at SABR’s national convention last weekend, Chris Dial shared that Kinsler has topped SABR’s Defensive Index at second base in five separate seasons, and on three other occasions he ranked as the runner up. Another metric is equally bullish on his glove work. Since breaking into the big leagues in 2006, Kinsler has 115 Defensive Runs Saved, the most of anyone at his position.

I asked the 36-year-old Angel if he was aware of how well he stacks up by the numbers.

“I secretly knew that,” smiled Kinsler, who then proceeded to balance appreciation with a touch of old-school skepticism for defensive metrics.

“It’s always nice to be valued in one way or another,” acknowledged Kinsler, who spent eight seasons in Texas, and four more in Detroit, before coming to Anaheim. “I don’t know if analytics are always correct. They don’t take into account everything this game offers, and I don’t know if they ever will, but to be thought of in that regard is flattering.”

Kinsler credits hard work, as well as the tutelage of coaches and teammates, for his having developed into a plus defender. Read the rest of this entry »


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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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.

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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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Jon Jay Is a Whole Thing

This post begins with a very crude and also lame test of the reader’s observational powers. What’s necessary to know before beginning the test is that FanGraphs’ player linker features an option that allows one to link players just once. If a player’s full name appears on multiple occasions in a document, only the first of those appearances will feature a link to the relevant player’s profile. Subsequent instances of the player’s full name are presented just in plain text.

These finer points of the player linker’s functionality having been reviewed, I will now move on and present a set of three tables. Each table features the top-10 hitters by BABIP over the last three seasons — in the first two cases, among the batters with 350 or more plate appearances and, in the third case, among this year’s qualified hitters (because a relatively small population has hit the 350 mark).

Here they follow with little comment. First, for 2016:

Top-10 Hitters by BABIP, 2016
Name Team PA BABIP
1 Tyler Naquin Indians 365 .411
2 DJ LeMahieu Rockies 635 .388
3 Cameron Maybin Tigers 391 .383
4 Starling Marte Pirates 529 .380
5 Paulo Orlando Royals 484 .380
6 J.D. Martinez Tigers 517 .378
7 Tim Anderson White Sox 431 .375
8 Jonathan Villar Brewers 679 .373
9 David Freese Pirates 492 .372
10 Mike Trout Angels 681 .371
11 Jon Jay Padres 373 .371
Min. 350 PA

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Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 14

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the fourteenth installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Yoshihisa Hirano, Joe Musgrove, and James Paxton — on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.

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Yoshihisa Hirano (Diamondbacks) on His Splitter

“I started throwing it when I turned pro in Japan. The truth is, when I was in college, I was able to get hitters out without having a splitty. A fastball and a slider was enough. When I got to the pros, there was a lot of talk of needing a pitch that comes down and about how there’s more success with that pitch. I started toying with it a little bit my last year of college, and when I got to the pros I started using it.

Kazuhiro Sasaki was a big splitty-forkball thrower. There are some books about him, and I studied those. No one really taught me anything. I just went out and started playing with it, checking the books on how he grips it. I found a grip that was comfortable for me. There are some guys who throw it the same way, but there are other pitchers in Japan who grip it differently, too. They have a different placement within the seams.

Hirano’s splitter-forkball.

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Sunday Notes: Snapshots from SABR 48 in Pittsburgh

A pair of PNC Park official scorers spoke at SABR’s 48th-annual national convention on Thursday, and both shared good stories. One came from Evan Pattak, who explained why beat writers are no longer hired into the position. The precipitating incident occurred on June 3, 1979.

Bruce Kison took a no-hitter in the late innings against San Diego,” recounted Pattak. “A Padre (Barry Evans) hit a ball down the third base line that the third baseman (Phil Garner) couldn’t handle. The official scorer was Dan Donovan of the Pittsburgh Press, and he ruled it a hit, ending the no-hitter. Everybody at the park agreed with the call except Kison.

“This created a very awkward situation for Dan, who had to go into the locker room after game. He asked Kison, ‘What did you think of the call?’ Bruce let him know, in no uncertain terms. At that point, the newspapers realized they were placing their beat writers in untenable situations. At the end of the 1979 season, they banned beat writers from scoring, a ban that exists to this day.”

Bob Webb told of a game between the Brewers and Pirates on August 31, 2008. In this case, he played the role of Donovan, albeit with a notably different dynamic. Read the rest of this entry »


Goldschmidt, Trout, and the Greatest Weeks of the Century

One week’s worth of at-bats isn’t going to tell you a lot about a player. Hitters can look very good or very bad for entire weeks or even months, and it doesn’t necessarily represent their talent level or tell you a whole lot about it. For example, on April 9, Shin-Soo Choo began what has been thus far the worst week of the entire season. He came to the plate 29 times and got one hit, a single, which was good for a -70 wRC+. However, on the season, he has a 134 wRC+, which is not too far from his career line. Didi Gregorius had a 336 wRC+ the second week of the season and a -66 wRC+ the second week of May. Crazy things can happen in 20-30 plate appearances, and two of the craziest stretches of this century happened in the past two weeks.

You’ve probably heard that Mike Trout has been on a roll lately. That last statement has almost always been true for the past seven seasons, but it was particularly true last week. From June 11 to June 17, Trout came to the plate 28 times. He reached base via a hit 13 times, including four homers and a double. He was walked on seven occasions and was hit by a pitch once. He struck out five times. That leaves just two occasions where Trout made contact with the ball and got out. Once he hit a sacrifice fly and once he grounded into a double play. He was not named the American League Player of the Week.

That Trout was not named Player of the Week is a surprise, but sometimes consistent greatness doesn’t get rewarded. What’s more surprising is that Trout’s week wasn’t the best offensive week of the season. More specifically, it was not even the best offensive performance this month. That honor goes to Paul Goldschmidt one week earlier. From June 4 through June 10, Goldschmidt came to the plate 29 times. He reached base via a hit 16 times, including four homers, one triple, and six doubles. He also walked three times and was hit by a pitch. He struck out four times and made an out on a ball in play six times. His 455 wRC+ narrowly edged out Trout’s 439 in a week’s time.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/20

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen running slightly later than usual due to travel for the FanGraphs meetup in Denver this weekend. Read previous installments here.

Clay Holmes, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 25   Org Rank: 27  FV: 40
Line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 R

Notes
Holmes has had mediocre command throughout his career and has generally projected to a bullpen role where he’d theoretically be a mid-90s sinker/slider guy. In the past month, he has thrown 66% of his pitches for strikes and has been locating his slider to the back foot of left-handed hitters effectively. He looks more like a backend starter than a reliever right now, but it’s a four-start run juxtaposed against more than a half decade of fringe control.

Alexander Montero, RHP, Boston Red Sox (Profile)
Level: Short-Season   Age: 20   Org Rank: NR  FV: 35+
Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 R

Notes
Montero’s presence and early success is a welcome sight for one of the worst systems in baseball. He’s a relatively projectable 20-year-old with a three-pitch mix led by a fastball that’s up to 95 mph and a diving split changeup. Montero signed late for an amateur IFA last summer, inking a deal just weeks before he turned 20. He pitched in the DSL last year and was skipped directly to the New York-Penn League this summer after finishing extended.

Brandon Wagner, 1B, New York Yankees (Profile)
Level: A+  Age: 22   Org Rank: NR  FV: 35
Line: 3-for-5, 2B, HR

Notes
Wagner has had an odd developmental path. He was a chubby high school first baseman from New Jersey who spent two years at a Texas JUCO and became a 6th rounder as he improved his conditioning. He has displayed a career-long ability to discern balls from strikes and is a .365 OBP hitter over four pro seasons. During that time, Wagner has moved his batted-ball profile like a glacier from 50% ground balls down to 40% and has now begun to hit for significant in-game power. Six-foot first basemen with average, pull-only power are still long shots, but if Wagner keeps performing if/when he’s promoted to Double-A, he’ll at least force re-evaluation the way Mike Ford did.

Jackson Kowar, RHP, University of Florida (draft rights controlled by Kansas City)
Level: CWS Age: 21   Org Rank: NR  FV: 45
Line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 13 K, 0 R

Notes
Kowar was dominant in his College World Series start against Texas yesterday, reaching back for 95-97 toward the end of his start and was flashing a 70 changeup. He also threw 121 pitches.

Jacob Amaya, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (Profile)
Level: Short-Season  Age: 19   Org Rank: HM  FV: 35
Line: 1-for-1, 4 BB

Notes
Amaya’s tools have a utility vibe because his frame limits his power projection to something around average or just below it, but he’s an average athlete with defensive hands befitting a middle infielder and advanced bat-to-ball skills. If he grows into a 6 bat, which is unlikely but possible, it won’t matter that he doesn’t hit for a lot of game power.

Notes from the Field

I’m just going to drop a bunch of D-backs notes from yesterday’s AZL action. Alek Thomas went 0-for-3 but ground out tough at-bats and spoiled several good pitches while he did it. He also made two impressive defensive plays, one which might have robbed a homer and another in the left-center gap that robbed extra bases. Jake McCarthy looks fine physically (of note since he was hurt for most of his junior year at UVA) and took a tough left-on-left breaking ball the other way for a single in his first pro at-bat. Twenty-year-old righty Luis Frias was up to 96 mph, rehabbing Brian Ellington was up to 97. Finally, lefty reclamation project Henry Owens (Allen Webster, Owens, and Clay Buchholz have all been D-backs for some amount of time during the last year, which isn’t surprising if you know the roots of this current front office) K’d 5 in 2.1 innings with some help from the umpire. He was 87-90 with an above-average changeup, an average breaking ball, and arm slot closer to what he had as a prospect with Boston after he was side-arming last fall.


Yoshihisa Hirano and Deceptiveness in Action

Baseball is often simultaneously a kind and cruel sport. In 2018, nothing could’ve been kinder to us as fans than the Shohei Ohtani experience. We marveled at his ability on the mound and at the plate as we watched a level of complete player unseen since the early days of the sport. But Ohtani was also placed on the disabled list with a UCL sprain, an injury that could rob the game of his gifts for an extended period. And now, because of that, we’re forced to search elsewhere for what the kind side of baseball has given us.

Well, how about looking no further than one of Ohtani’s most experienced opponents? One who has seen Ohtani step into the batter’s box 15 times over their respective careers and has dominated the Angels’ superstar, to the tune of seven strikeouts and only one measly infield single allowed?

You might be able to guess — given the number of plate appearances against this pitcher — that this would likely have to be another former NPB player. However, rather than a big name such as Masahiro Tanaka or Kenta Maeda, this Ohtani kryptonite is Yoshihisa Hirano, a name that probably isn’t too well known in America outside of Phoenix. With Archie Bradley looking slightly more human and Brad Boxberger having had trouble with the homer, the 34-year-old Hirano has been a key component for a D-backs team that, despite a merely average relief corps, leads the NL West.

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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.

*****

Josh James, RHP, Houston (Profile)
Every time James produces a strong start — an event that has occurred with considerable frequency this season — FanGraphs contributor and traveler within the world of ideas Travis Sawchik sends a note to the present author that reads, “His name is JOSH JAMES.” While I can’t argue with the literal sense of Sawchik’s message — namely, that this right-hander’s given name literally is Josh James — I suspect that my colleague is attempting to communicate something more profound than a single datum from James’s biography. Have I pursued the topic? No. Not because I’m afraid to, either — but rather because I am infested by indifference.

James made one start this week, recording an 11:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 23 batters while facing Houston’s affiliate in Fresno (box).

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Paul Goldschmidt’s Troubles with Velocity

Pop quiz, hot shots: what does this video…

… have to do with this one?

Obviously, they’re both Paul Goldschmidt, and they’re both base hits. They’re actually the first two hits he’s collected all season long against four-seam fastballs thrown at 95 mph or above. By comparison, the Diamondbacks’ five-time All-Star slugger had 21 such hits last year, and an average of 19 from 2015 to -17.

Two hits against high velocity. Two measly, stinkin’ hits. That grim tally — a May 28 single off the Reds’ Tanner Rainey and Wednesday’s double off the Giants’ Reyes Moronta — appears to be be the primary reason why the 30-year-old first baseman has struggled so mightily this year.

I’ve checked in on Goldschmidt twice already this year, first in a dedicated look a couple weeks into the season and then more in passing shortly after A.J. Pollock went down. Almost immediately after the first piece, he went on a brief tear that raised his wRC+ to 145 (.273/.395/.505 line) by the end of April, seemingly providing an object lesson in the dangers of dwelling too long on a single bad month. But then he was utterly dreadful in May (.144/.252/.278, 48 wRC+), his worst calendar month since… well, since last September (.171/.250/.305, 35 wRC+).

New information has come to light in the wake of each piece — or new to me at least. A few days after the Pollock injury, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote about Goldschmidt in the context of over-30 players struggling with high-velocity fastballs, though he drew the line at 96 mph and considered only batting average. More recently, both Goldschmidt and Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo have fielded questions about any connection between the slugger’s current slump and a bout of inflammation in his right elbow that sidelined him for five games at the beginning of September 2017, the presumed cause of the aforementioned late-season struggle.

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D-backs Upgrade to Adequacy with Jon Jay

The Arizona Diamondbacks are currently tied for first place in the National League West with the Colorado Rockies, entering play today with a 32-29 record. If the D-backs don’t feel like a first-place team, that’s understandable: they just endured one of the worst months ever for a major-league club. As both the midway point of the season and the trade deadline approach, however, Arizona is still in reasonably fine shape. They’re projected for a winning season. They have a decent shot of making the playoffs.

To make that decent shot a reality, however, the D-backs were going to need some help in the outfield. As for why that is, I’ll address that below. For the moment, however, the relevant point is that the club required some kind of of reinforcement. Jon Jay might not seem like the solution to a contending club’s problems, but Jay is a decent ballplayer. What’s more, he’s a decent ballplayer who addresses Arizona’s greatest need. So Arizona traded for him, sending a pair of prospects to the Kansas City Royals, as noted here.

D-backs receive:

  • Jon Jay

Royals receive:

Eric Longenhagen wrote a bit on the prospects the Royals are set to receive, so we won’t get into that here, but it appears the Royals spent about $1 million paying Jay and received two players for their troubles, which isn’t a bad deal for them. As for the D-backs, they didn’t necessarily need Jay, but they needed someone like Jay, so the actual thing fits the bill.

Back in February, there was still some hope that the D-backs might be able to bring back J.D. Martinez after his great run last year pushed the club into the playoffs. Martinez signed with the Red Sox, so Arizona explored other options and reached decent solutions rather quickly. They inked Jarrod Dyson to a two-year deal that seemed like a good value for a plus defensive player who can play anywhere in the outfield. Then, a few days later, the team added Steven Souza Jr. in a trade from the Rays. In just a few days, the D-backs outfield had four quality outfielders with A.J. Pollock in center, David Peralta in left, Souza in right, and Dyson getting playing time everywhere.

Move forward to June and Chris Owings has started 34 of the team’s 61 games in the outfield, including 14 of the last 17 outings. Socrates Brito or Kristopher Negron have started in another half-dozen games over the last couple weeks. When Souza went down in the spring with a strained muscle, that was okay for Arizona because they had Dyson to fill in as a starter and A.J.Pollock started the season on fire. Owings, currently projected to be a replacement-level player or worse, was getting some time as the fourth outfielder, but his playing time was expected to be limited. Read the rest of this entry »


Scouting the Royals’ Return for Jon Jay

Just a few quick notes on the prospects Kansas City received from Arizona today, in exchange for CF Jon Jay. Those minor leaguers are RHP Elvis Luciano and LHP Gabe Speier.

Signed: J2 2016 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 184 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/55 50/55 40/50 35/45

Luciano is a live-armed 18-year-old Dominican righty who spent most of 2017 in the DSL, then came to the U.S. in August for a month of Rookie-level ball, then instructional league. I saw him during instructs when he was 90-94 with an average curveball, below-average changeup, and below command, especially later in his outing as he tired. He was an honorable-mention prospect on the D-backs list.

His velocity has mostly remained in that range this spring, topping out at 96. Luciano’s delivery has been changed to alter his glove’s location as he lifts his leg, probably to help him clear his front side a little better. He’s still had strike-throwing issues and might be a reliever, but he has a live arm and can spin a breaking ball. Though 18, Luciano’s frame doesn’t have much projection, so while he might grow into some velocity as he matures, it probably won’t be a lot. He’s an interesting, long-term flier who reasonably projects as a back-end starter.

As for Speier, he’s repeating Double-A. He’s a sinker/slider guy, up to 95 with an average slide piece. He projects as a bullpen’s second lefty and should be viable in that type of role soon.


The Diamondbacks Were Just Impossibly Bad

Even though the Diamondbacks lost on Wednesday, they did still win the series against the Reds. Now, granted, many teams have won series against the Reds, but for Arizona, this was a much-needed step forward. You might remember that the Diamondbacks opened the season on a tear; they didn’t lose their first series until the middle of this month. Through play on May 1, no team in either league had a better record. Critically, nine games in the standings separated the Diamondbacks from the Dodgers. That particular gap is now down to two games, as Arizona fell on hard times. Since play on May 2, no team in either league has a worse record. After winning 21 of 29, the club has dropped 19 of 26. It’s not a lethal collapse, but all the early gains have been erased.

Here’s the Diamondbacks’ season, in visual form:

Since getting to 21-8, the Diamondbacks’ playoff odds have dropped by 50 percentage points. That’s easily the biggest drop over the span of time — the Blue Jays are down 36 points, and the Mets are down 27. There remains plenty of time to turn this around. The injury bug has been especially hungry. But it’s worth reflecting on exactly what’s happened. In certain ways, Arizona’s May has been historic.

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Sunday Notes: Richard Bleier’s Brilliance is Unique (and Under the Radar)

Since the beginning of the 2016 season, four pitchers who have thrown 100-or-more innings have an ERA under 2.00. Three of them — Zach Britton (1.38), Andrew Miller (1.72), Kenley Jansen (1.75) — rank among the most-accomplished bullpen arms in the game. The other name on the list might surprise you.

Since making his big-league debut on May 30, 2016, Baltimore Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier has boasted a 1.84 ERA in 112-and-two-thirds innings.

Bleier’s under-the-radar effectiveness has come over the course of 103 relief appearances, the first 23 of which came with the New York Yankees. His efforts went unappreciated in the Bronx. Despite a solid showing — five earned runs allowed in 23 frames — the Bombers unceremoniously swapped Bleier to Baltimore for a PTBNL or cash considerations in February of last year.

The 31-year-old southpaw attributes an August 2016 addition to his repertoire for his late-bloomer breakthrough. Read the rest of this entry »


Top 23 Prospects: Arizona Diamondbacks

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

All the numbered prospects here also appear on THE BOARD, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. Click here to visit THE BOARD.

D-backs Top Prospects
Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV
1 Jon Duplantier 23 AA RHP 2019 50
2 Kristian Robinson 17 R CF 2023 45
3 Jazz Chisholm 20 A SS 2022 45
4 Pavin Smith 22 A+ 1B 2020 45
5 Daulton Varsho 21 A+ C 2021 45
6 Drew Ellis 22 A+ 3B 2021 40
7 Marcus Wilson 21 A+ CF 2021 40
8 Matt Tabor 19 R RHP 2022 40
9 Taylor Widener 23 AA RHP 2019 40
10 Taylor Clarke 24 AAA RHP 2018 40
11 Eduardo Diaz 20 A CF 2022 40
12 Domingo Leyba 22 AA 2B 2019 40
13 Yoan Lopez 25 AA RHP 2018 40
14 Jhoan Duran 20 A RHP 2022 40
15 Gabriel Maciel 19 A CF 2022 40
16 Joey Krehbiel 25 AAA RHP 2018 40
17 Jared Miller 24 AAA LHP 2018 40
18 Wei-Chieh Huang 24 A+ RHP 2019 40
19 Socrates Brito 25 MLB CF 2018 40
20 Jimmie Sherfy 26 MLB RHP 2018 40
21 Christian Walker 27 MLB 1B 2018 40
22 Andy Yerzy 19 R C 2022 40
23 Michael Perez 25 AAA C 2019 40

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Rice
Age 22 Height 6’4 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 50/50 45/55 45/50

Duplantier was held back in extended this year due to a minor hamstring issue but has had no arm issues as a pro after dealing with shoulder trouble at Rice. He sits 93-96, will touch 98. His delivery is odd, but it’s been a while since Duplantier has been hurt, so, for now, it’s not a concern. He projects as a mid-rotation starter.

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Diamondbacks Get Permission for New Stadium

Judges love it when litigants reach a settlement. Some judges love it so much that they give each side’s lawyer a token of appreciation for finalizing a deal. I’ve been in front of judges who handed out everything from stickers to candy bars. Last week, the Arizona Diamondbacks settled a lawsuit with Maricopa County. They got themselves a baseball stadium for their efforts.

But first, let’s back up a bit. The Diamondbacks have long wanted a new ballpark. Maricopa County, which owns the current park, wouldn’t let the team leave. So the team sued the county last year.

From Rebekah Sanders of the Arizona Republic:

The Diamondbacks’ lease with the county, which owns the stadium, prevents the team from talking with outside groups until 2024, and requires the team to play in its current home until 2028.

The Maricopa County Superior Court lawsuit is the latest twist in a long-running conflict over which party is responsible for as much as $187 million in repairs and upgrades to Chase Field. The team threatened to sue last year after negotiations with the county broke down.

The county argues that a portion of the upgrades are cosmetic and the team’s financial responsibility, and that the county will have enough money over the long term to meet its share of the obligations. The Diamondbacks counter that the county-run stadium district has not set aside enough money for needed upgrades and is risking safety.

The idea of a new stadium for the Snakes might seem, on the surface, to be ridiculous. After all, Chase Field was only just built in 1998. It’s younger than both Ronald Acuna and Gleyber Torres. That being said, the Team and County have been involved in a protracted legal battle, predating even that lawsuit, over the maintenance of the stadium. That’s because the stadium has had its share of maintenance misadventures in recent history, from burst pipes to failed HVAC systems. And each side blamed the other, with the team saying MLB would require them to move unless the county agreed to pay for repairs, while Maricopa County’s attorney, Cameron Artigue, had a more colorful response.

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