MLB Short Season Strategy: Snapshots From Summer Camp July 11
Greg Jewett goes over the news and notes from Summer Camp around MLB as teams get ready to start the shortened 2020 season
Trying to remain ahead of the ever-changing world of summer camp baseball, team updates will ensue in this column but announcements like this will make a return to play difficult:
The Astros canceled their workout again today. GM James Click: “As part of MLB’s testing and reporting plan, we were alerted that a staff member was potentially exposed to a COVID-positive individual outside the organization.”— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) July 11, 2020
In an effort to encapsulate updates across the league, tidbits on each team from tweets and articles will be included along with fantasy thoughts going forward. Enjoy and be well.
Toronto Blue Jays
News of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. shifting positions comes as no surprise, it was discussed months ago on our podcast. However, the timing of it does:
Major development for Blue Jays: Vlad Guerrero Jr. will now focus on first base this spring per Charlie Montoyo— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) July 10, 2020
"He's going to focus on 1B and DH." Third will be an option, but not his main position anymore.
It makes sense to transition him earlier rather than later so this shifts Travis Shaw to third base, and hopefully allows for Rowdy Tellez to garner most of the designated hitter at-bats for the Blue Jays, here’s one of his two home runs from Friday’s scrimmage:
Plus, one of the reasons prompting Guerrero Jr.’s move, the arrival of their 2020 first round pick:
To no surprise, the Blue Jays added Martin to their 60-player pool in order to develop him this summer at their satellite camp.
Most should root for John Means who almost gave up on baseball. He will be the Opening Day starter for the Orioles and this piece of information could fuel his continued success in 2020:
Brandon Hyde said John Means ' fastball was sitting 93-94 mph in last night's intrasquad game, with a good changeup and two sharp breaking balls.— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) July 10, 2020
Means' heater averaged 91.7 mph last year, per Statcast.
Means won 12 games for the Orioles in 2019 with a 3.60 ERA.
Tampa Bay Rays
With Opening Day drawing closer, Yonny Chirinos , Tyler Glasnow , José Martínez and Randy Arozarena have yet to workout in summer camp. Austin Meadows just arrived but no Brendan McKay since Monday either. Just in case, Tampa Bay’s stretching out both Jalen Beeks and Trevor Richards to three inning sim games during the week in an effort to build up their arm strength if necessary. Stay tuned.
Boston Red Sox
One of the more difficult pitchers to project for 2020, Eduardo Rodríguez continues to muddle his outlook as he is still not in camp for Boston. The franchise spoke about using multiple openers to survive the start of the season but it’s looking like a necessity with only Nathan Eovaldi and Martín Pérez assured of spots in the rotation.
New York Yankees
A quiet day at camp on Friday but Thairo Estrada continues to flash power vying for a spot on the Opening Day 30-man roster. Encouraging news on Deivi Garcia as well early on in camp. He only worked one clean inning but may force his way into major league innings this season:
During a shortened season, using arms like Garcia and Clarke Schmidt may help the Yankees keep its bullpen fresh to shorten games.
Although playing in intrasquad scrimmages does not provide the same juice competing against other teams may, Francisco Lindor made the highlights from Friday’s action:
Luckily, Clevinger struck out Lindor twice in their first intrasquad match-up so there should be no hard feelings like the rift which developed years ago between Omar Vizquel and Jose Mesa in a similar circumstance.
Kansas City Royals
Mike Montgomery worked three innings giving up four hits, including a solo home run and struck out two on 60 pitches on Friday. He’s trying to build up to 90-to-100 pitches by opening weekend against the Indians. Two relievers stood out in camp, Trevor Rosenthal and Tyler Zuber. Rosenthal tossed a scoreless frame with a strikeout flashing his triple digit fastball. Zuber fired two scoreless innings striking out four putting him on the radar to break camp with the team.
Spring training star prospect Riley Greene continues to impress, but probably not appear in Detroit this season. Here’s a nice piece about his progress:
Riley Greene has been fearless against big-league competition, from Spring Training to Summer Camp. What scared the Tigers prospect was the prospect of no season at all.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 11, 2020
“I was kinda worried, man. I mean, baseball kind of keeps me sane.”https://t.co/nF2KA9n5gV
Not in a scrimmage, but two Twins pitchers worked on their pitch counts in batting practice:
How Minnesota deploys Kenta Maeda could determine how he fares this year. His former team manipulated his innings to depress his salary transitioning him to the bullpen late in the season but this truncated season could allow Maeda to make 12 starts and if he builds up to around 80-90 pitches his next two turns, could work five to six innings at the onset of the season.
Chicago White Sox
Well, the hits keep on coming regarding the roster with one of the latest opt-outs this season a talented young pitcher on the mend from surgery:
After not showing up on time for summer camp, the White Sox placed Yoán Moncada on the injured list fueling doubt he will be ready for Opening Day. One of the toughest things to do during summer camp will be trying to figure out how each team will use its added pitching depth as evidenced in this tweet:
Keuchel today, Lopez and Cease look to be starting Sat with Rodon pitching some point in relief but pitching schedule remains fluid and subject to change at this point with White Sox— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) July 10, 2020
Again, when doing drafts or streaming, be sure to know how teams will use starters and tandem arms before paying full retail on them. In game action, Dallas Keuchel tossed 2.1 scoreless innings his first outing of camp. Also, in the scrimmage Tim Anderson homered to center and José Abreu to right-center.
Los Angeles Angels
Noting the Angels will use a six-man rotation, the only spots assured right now belong to Andrew Heaney , Dylan Bundy and Griffin Canning Yes, Shohei Ohtani ’s on track to take a spot but what day he works will be important to plan on how to use him as a hitter in fantasy. Patrick Sandoval arrived at camp on Thursday and will work on building up his pitch count. Positive reviews about Jason Castro hitting the ball well during summer camp. He’s an overlooked second catcher with upside this year.
Losing a day of workouts on Saturday, at least Houston’s Zack Greinke pitched on Friday with his velocity reported to be the same as during the World Series. Good news on Greinke who remains a steady target at his price point in drafts.
One of the wild card candidates in the A’s rotation A.J. Puk looks to build on his debut as a reliever last year hoping to make 12 starts this season. At full health and with less hair, Puk’s workload early on will need to be monitored closely. One name which keeps appearing for long relief or a bulk pitcher, Daniel Mengden . If he works after Puk, Mengden could be a sneaky streamer to mine wins.
Looking to build on his strong finish last year, Kyle Lewis rates as one of the Friday standouts during his power display in Seattle:
Upon promotion last year, Lewis homered in his first three games and hit six in his first ten. It remains to be seen how Lewis will fare with his batting average, but those trying to find cheap power late in drafts should keep him in the queue since he’s a fantasy free play at this point. Seattle will give him plenty of leash to see how Lewis does this year.
An overlooked part of summer camp lies in prospects facing major league pitching in scrimmages. Check out the swing of Atlanta’s young catcher:
Evolution of #Braves catching prospect William Contreras' swing:— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) July 11, 2020
I took the one on the left in February 2018. The one on the right is from this week. It's reminiscent of Ronald Acuña's throughout. pic.twitter.com/m6PH5aGiez
Without any official timeframe on arrival, another young Marlin to keep an eye on will be this first base prospect:
Diaz slashed a combined .270/.321/.530 across three levels averaging a home run every 16.9 at-bats. Miami will not rush him but at a position of need in fantasy, do not forget about Diaz in keeper formats.
As for the rotation, Pablo Lopez allowed two runs over five innings during Friday’s scrimmage while José Ureña pitched four scoreless. Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith threw on Thursday with these four projected for the rotation with four others fighting for the fifth spot in it.
New York Mets
For the third straight day, no Robinson Canó at Mets summer camp. His absence opens the door for more playing time in the infield and questions about how productive he will be in this truncated season knowing he’s a slow starter.
Confirming initial reports, the fifth spot in the rotation will be a battle between Erick Fedde and Austin Voth . On Friday, Stephen Strasburg tossed 52 pitches and hopes to build up to 60-to-65 his next outing. Still no Victor Robles in camp, and afterthought Adam Eaton could hit first or second in the lineup. In the World Series, Eaton slashed .320/.433/.560 with two home runs, six RBI and scored five runs.
Featured in a mailbag segment in The Athletic, Scott Kingery trying to get to camp returning from COVID-19 opens the door for Josh Harrison to start the season in the lineup for the Phillies. Kingery had been slated to take over at second base with Jean Segura shifting to third and free agent acquisition Didi Gregorius at shortstop.
Also, it talked about Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm starting at the satellite site when rosters cut down to 30 to ensure service time manipulation for the first week. It feels like Howard will be up sooner than Bohm due to the need for pitching in Philadelphia. Last, a potential platoon in center field could occur between Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley for those in daily lineup leagues.
Backing up the news from Thursday, Corey Knebel remains on track to open the year on the Brewers active 30-man roster. He pitched on Friday sitting at 92-to-93 MPH with his fastball but said his curve felt great. Hopefully the next two weeks will allow Knebel to build up his velocity and arm strength returning from Tommy John surgery.
Woodruff represents the only known commodity in Milwaukee’s rotation and should be treated as such. Eric Lauer reported to camp on Friday and hopes to rejoin competing for a spot in the rotation with Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta .
St. Louis Cardinals
Knowing Jack Flaherty starts on Opening Day for the Cardinals comes as no surprise, but as this tidbit from beat writer Derrick Goold indicates, St. Louis seems to be tracking a savvy veteran for the mound its second game of 2020:
A pitcher who threw yesterday could throw every fifth day and be on turn for opening day.— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) July 11, 2020
Jack Flaherty faced hitters yesterday.
A pitcher who threw today could throw every fifth day and be on turn for Game 2 of season.
Adam Wainwright just finished Live BP today.#Cardinals #MLB
Also, from camp it seems like Paul DeJong gets overlooked in drafts despite the power he provides as a later round target at shortstop or middle infield, he could be batting fourth this year for St. Louis:
After 4 RBIs in #Cardinals sim, DeJong texted how he relished idea of being team's answer at cleanup: 'I'm planning on having a lot of ABs (w/ RISP) this year. So I can see some ABs ahead of me, letting those guys get on and get a read on the pitcher.'— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) July 10, 2020
And, Matt Carpenter appears to be healthy spraying the ball all over the yard, even to the opposite field. Not sure a full rebound lies in the offing, but it does not cost much to find out.
During an interview, Theo Epstein would not provide a definitive answer but if push comes to shove in this shortened season there’s a possibility the Cubs could trade Kris Bryant who enters free agency after the 2021 season. It’s been a strained relationship of late and adds another layer to the slippery slope for fantasy players to navigate this season.
On the heels of reporting no Keone Kela in camp yet, Pittsburgh beat writer Rob Biertempfel wrote a nice piece about a player featured on Fantasy Alarm as a closer of the future:
Closer-in-waiting Nick Burdi reinvented himself during MLB’s recent lockdown with the help of a 20-year-old former junior college pitcher who began working as a coach only nine months ago. The results could be huge for the #Pirates.https://t.co/NPprfVTFGP— RobBiertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) July 10, 2020
Some patience by the fantasy community may be required but before the shutdown in spring, Burdi owned a 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and a 15.4 strikeouts per nine rate. He retooled his mechanics to stay healthy and hitting triple digits on the radar again in camp.
Building on the news from yesterday suggesting the Reds will use their outfielders as the designated hitters, Jesse Winker should log many at-bats in the role in a division laden with right-handed starting pitchers. Shogo Akiyama and Nick Senzel rate as better defensive players than Winker prompting the move. Players will share the role but any wrinkle which allows Winker more swings sounds fine by me.
As Cincinnati builds up its rotation and depth, this quote resonates on how teams differed in their approach to the layoff between spring training and summer camp
Putting a small bet on the Reds for the division or participation in the World Series could pay off for the risk averse if things go their way this year.
Already noted in our National League rotation primer, Robbie Ray enters free agency after this season and appears ready to make the most of this sprint:
Robbie Ray is out here pumping 96 mph— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) July 10, 2020
And this update only warms the hearts of people targeting his possible upside later in drafts:
Los Angeles Dodgers
Amidst all the comings and goings of the Dodgers rotation, it feels like acknowledging that both Kenley Jansen and Pedro Báez lack of appearance at camp yet makes waves in fantasy. This article by Bill Plaschke suggests Los Angeles needs a more reliable late inning option:
In the Dodgers new normal, their need for a reliable closer remains unchanged https://t.co/IVKhRimgUv— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) July 10, 2020
His candidate, Julio Urías which raises eyebrows but here’s his splits for his career in the majors so far:
- Urias as an SP: 123 IP, 3.66 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 125:49 K:BB
- Urias as an RP: 61 IP, 2.21 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 62:23 K:BB
Not sure this could happen but for a team looking to win at all costs this season, anything could happen with the pitching staff on this team.
San Francisco Giants
Ending all the rumors about his season, Buster Posey announced, with good reason he will be opting out of 2020:
Buster Posey and his wife are adopting identical twin girls. That is why he has missed time in camp. The twins were born prematurely and stable but will be in NICU for some time. He is opting out of the season.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 10, 2020
This fueled many to believe Joey Bart would be the likely beneficiary of this announcement, but San Francisco may be tempering the enthusiasm:
Perhaps Bart will debut later this year, but it sounds like he needs more seasoning accruing only 79 at-bats at Double-A last year.
San Diego Padres
Trying to discern how San Diego will deploy its outfield depth remains to be seen but some good news emerged on Friday with one of their off-season acquisitions nearing a return to workouts:
Tommy Pham , who tested positive for the coronavirus during intake screening, has received two negative tests and gotten full clearance from doctors. He is eligible to join Padres camp.— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) July 10, 2020
Although it seemed like Charlie Blackmon could be ready for Opening Day, he’s still in MLB protocol to return to play and each passing day makes it more difficult to plan on him when the season starts. Pitcher Peter Lambert suffered a strained forearm in spring training and not being at full health at the summer restart clouds his availability as well for a team starved at the position. Colorado maintains its plans to contend this season, but a fire sale could ensue prior to the trade deadline if they struggle out of the gate.
This wraps up Saturday’s trip through the noise. For those interested, some teams will air their scrimmages live like this one, so check it out if you miss baseball:
Remember to stay with Fantasy Alarm to remain ahead of the competition across all fantasy formats and be well.