MLB Short Season Strategy: Snapshots From Summer Camp July 13
Greg Jewett goes over the news and notes from Summer Camp around MLB as teams get ready to start the shortened 2020 season
Taking another tour around the major league summer camps, things should intensify this week with half of the preparation time almost expired. For those in redraft leagues or firing up to compete in the NFBC, this helps siphon tangible information from each team in one place. Enjoy and be well.
Toronto Blue Jays
While fantasy players anxiously await the debut of Nate Pearson this year, a new path to his debut emerged with Chase Anderson suffering a strained oblique. Tempering excitement, as covered already in this running column, Toronto gains an extra year of control keeping Pearson off the active 30-man roster for seven days. So, this translates to the possibility one of Ryan Borucki , Anthony Kay or Tom Hatch win the last spot in the rotation, or more likely the placeholder until Pearson can join the staff if the Blue Jays remain serious about contending. Stay tuned.
During camp, Trent Thornton threw an estimated 50-to-60 pitches in batting practice generating lots of weak contact deploying his arsenal.
There’s been no follow-up to this rumor floated on Twitter but fantasy owners await to see if it gains any traction with the season fast approaching:
The Orioles are interested in signing Yasiel Puig and have made at least one offer, according to a source.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 11, 2020
Not sure how adding Yasiel Puig helps a team in a steep rebuild but if he signed, Puig could be flipped at the deadline to a contending team looking to shore up its lineup if he surges in this shortened format. Just for fun, here’s a look at Puig’s line drives and fly balls the last three years with Camden as the backdrop:
Tampa Bay Rays
McClanahan flashed a 99 MPH fastball and an advanced breaking pitch. Baz arrived to the Rays as part of the fleecing of Pittsburgh in the Chris Archer trade. He’s making the most of working out in major league camp continuing his development towards making the majors though it's unlikely this year.
In other news from camp, both Yoshi Tsutsugo and Hunter Renfroe continue to make loud contact in camp giving a potential boost to the power Tampa Bay searched for this off-season to improve the offense.
Boston Red Sox
Staking a claim to the rotation, Brian Johnson retired nine of ten hitters faced on Sunday allowing only a walk in three hitless and scoreless innings. News turned sour on Eduardo Rodríguez being ready for Opening Day so plan accordingly. He’s yet to report to camp after testing positive for COVID-19 in Florida.
New York Yankees
While fantasy owners wrestle about how to handle this team's oft-injured power hitters. One suggests he’s ready to go for what it’s worth:
Giancarlo Stanton says he'll be ready for Opening Day: "The the progress back has been good. I'm good again and everything I need to be ready."— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) July 12, 2020
Information continues to arrive in fast and furious form including this nugget meaning Cesar Hernadez suddenly gets a huge boost if he’s hitting leadoff for Cleveland:
Terry Francona says Francisco Lindor will likely bat third this season.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) July 12, 2020
“That’s my sneaking suspicion.”
César Hernández may leadoff, and Francona suggested four switch-hitters might sit atop the order (Santana, Ramirez the others).
Almost always a fantasy afterthought, Hernandez owns a .275/.353/.395 slash the last three years with 38 home runs and 43 stolen bases. If he hits ahead of José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor , the runs could spike for him making him a shortened season steal at his price point. Key on the on-base percentage over 35 percent. Another underowned potential asset on Cleveland remains Aaron Civale seen here:
Civale strikes out Zimmer in fourth inning. pic.twitter.com/ItamKMnfN0— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) July 13, 2020
Civale finished 2019 with a 2.34 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while yielding only four barrels on 164 batted ball events. During 18 minor league starts across two levels (AA, AAA), Civale went 7-1 with a 92:25 K:BB and a 2.35 ERA.
Kansas City Royals
During a question and answer interview in The Athletic, this quote from Dayton Moore about handling young pitching this season raises some questions:
“That said, we’re going to be aggressive. When we set our 30-man roster, and even when we go down to 26, we’re going to be aggressive with the right players, assuming they have the ability to help us. We’re not going to shy away from that. We’re not going to manipulate service time or manage the roster in a way that puts the player in a spot where they get confused if you will. The most talented players are going to play.”
He did not provide any specific insights but if Kansas City takes an all hands-on deck mentality things could get interesting in the American League Central.
Arms may emerge at any point this season with teams so noting anyone showing progress in summer camps makes sense. With this in mind:
Beau Burrows looks like a different pitcher in summer camp than he did in spring training. More velocity, more life on his pitches, also more confidence from the former first-round pick.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 12, 2020
One under the radar name which keeps popping up in Tigers reports, Harold Castro . He went hitless on Sunday but if he keeps hitting, the Tigers could give him more chances this year in the lineup as a utility player.
Two intriguing tidbits from Twins camp on Sunday. First:
Falvey added that Edwar Colina has been cleared for participation following two negative tests and is building up in Fort Myers before he flies to the Twin Cities, likely within the next week.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) July 12, 2020
Almost every camp reports pitchers being ahead of hitters so any prolonged delay to arrivals could cap a player’s ceiling in this truncated season. Sano entered early draft season as a power upside play moving to first base, but with each passing day his stock falls with plate appearances being a major target when discerning value. Many teams will deploy piggy-back or tandem starts so this tweet proves prescient:
It's not Rocco's style to say anything about his rotation order, but for what it's worth, here's how the #MNTwins have lined up their pitching so far:— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) July 13, 2020
Chicago White Sox
Flamboyant and last year’s American League batting champion Tim Anderson seems ready to get started:
Many do not buy into his high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) repeating from last year, but the most poignant part of his shortened season could lie in health and his activity on the basepaths. Anderson stole 15 bases in 19 tries in the first half last year but after an ankle injury, only swiped two in three tries in the second half. Trying to mine as many counting statistics as possible, if Anderson hits at or above .280 with double digit steals, he’s still worth his price point.
Los Angeles Angels
Allaying fears about a tight back, Shohei Ohtani played catch on Sunday and also launched a bomb during the team’s scrimmage:
Recency bias can cloud fantasy owners' memory banks but Tommy La Stella hit a robust .300/.353/.495 in 77 games during the first half last year launching 16 home runs and scoring 49 runs for the Angels. He’s reunited with his former manager in Chicago and projected to hit leadoff this season. La Stella’s also taking ground balls at first base in case of emergency but should start against all right-handed pitching this season.
Even in this shortened format, the Astros cannot bank on Justin Verlander , Zack Greinke , Lance McCullers Jr. and rain when forming a rotation. With no Josh James or Jose Urquidy in camp, this opens a path for Austin Pruitt along with Framber Valdez to start games but how long they will pitch in games or their effectiveness remains unknown. More news will ensue but July 24th approaches quickly.
With fantasy owners taking note of a powerful first baseman at a shallow position, Oakland’s manager added fuel to the Olson fire shared by our own Howard Bender:
Melvin thinks Matt Olson goes under the radar a little bit because he’s so steady but Melvin believes he will be an MVP one day.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 12, 2020
Yes, home runs littered the landscape in 2019 but Olson’s rate of one every 13.4 at-bats cracking 36 last year cannot be ignored on a team projected to contend for their division.
Another day, another highlight from a top prospect in Seattle’s summer camp:
Sorry, just love the swing. Also, Kyle Lewis continues his power barrage against his own team’s pitching:
Again, late in drafts on any team looking for power, ignoring Lewis could be a mistake.
A quiet day on player reports but Levi Weaver explored how the new park will play. Reports suggest the outfield turf and walls received upgrades from their past stadium with the walls giving when crashing in. Positive reports on the infield turf as well from Todd Frazier . No one would say it’s a “pitchers park”, but Isiah Kiner-Falefa said it plays big. Take this for what you will.
Perhaps inspired by the viral videos on Twitter, Ronald Acuña Jr. shows his power in this tremendous clip:
A consensus top two pick in almost any draft, Acuna Jr. would appreciate the boost of a healthy Freddie Freeman in the lineup. For fantasy owners, they can take solace in the fact Acuna Jr. and teammate Ozzie Albies prefer to stay in playing video games which should keep them protected from exposure to COVID-19 during the season.
No matter how Miami uses Jonathan Villar , this swing bodes well for his temporary new home this season:
New York Mets
Still no news on Robinson Canó , missing from camp since July 6th. New York can weather his absence at the start of the season with their added depth and versatile Jeff McNeil in tow. An overlooked player on this team could turn in a strong 60-game stretch if he channels this look all season long:
Over 69 games in the second half last year, with health, Conforto slashed .271/.366/.519 with 17 home runs and 48 RBI. More good news in camp regarding the potential fluid high leverage roles with a free agent signing showing a spike in velocity:
Differering protocols in cities within the major leagues hampers the Nationals in their summer camp workouts. Juan Soto and Victor Robles remain away from the team due to restrictions put forth in Washington D.C. before they can rejoin the team which differs from MLB policy. It’s also keeping Howie Kendrick , Roenis Elías and Wander Suero from joining camp.
As for actual results of players in camp, Max Scherzer remains on track to start Saturday’s exhibition on Saturday and Opening Day against the Yankees. Stephen Strasburg threw 52 pitches last Friday, Patrick Corbin 43 pitches on Saturday and Aníbal Sánchez tossed 65 pitches on Sunday. Later today, Sean Doolittle and Tanner Rainey will face hitters for the first time in camp.
Amidst all the social unrest, Andrew McCutchen maintains a positive spin to exact change covered here:
Andrew McCutchen wants to create change. He discusses the USA Today editorial about police reform that he co-authored in June and why he won't kneel for the national anthem this season. https://t.co/6NL5DXG130— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) July 13, 2020
Monday will be a big day at camp with Zach Eflin throwing off a mound for the first time and Aaron Nola looks to log three innings. Héctor Neris pitched live batting practice on Sunday commanding his pitches and will throw again on Wednesday. Enyel De Los Santos hitting 95 MPH on the radar and being stretched out in case the Phillies need spot starts or him to work as a piggy back arm.
As if reliever Josh Hader needing to get any filthier on the mound, he may be adding a change-up to his already imposing arsenal:
This appears to be a solid changeup from Hader. Last year Yaz said a number of different times that Hader had a good change and that he really wanted him to start trusting it. It would definitely be a real nice addition to the repertoire... pic.twitter.com/YENlUw1dZL— Spencer Michaelis (@smichaelis234) July 12, 2020
Hader generated a league best swinging strike percentage of 22.9 percent last year among all qualified relievers with second place going to Nick Anderson (19.5 percent). Just keep in mind Craig Counsell said if Hader works more than one inning in any outing this season he will not pitch the next day. However, even if Hader gets fewer save chances (think 2018 usage) his strikeout rates and ratio protection protects his value for fantasy purposes.
It’s doubtful teams will allow any views like this in an actual game, but the vantage point from a catcher in this clip is amazing:
Last but not least, deep league players need to remember Ben Gamel . He’s been hot in camp and probably rates as the team’s best defensive outfielder:
St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis will take Monday off from summer workouts but once they resume on Tuesday Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas will continue their battle to start in left field. In Sunday’s game action Miles Mikolas tossed two perfect frames. Andrew Miller ended the game in a tie striking out two of the three hitters he faced including Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter .
Staff “ace” Yu Darvish assuaged fears about opting out saying he’s committed to playing due to the diligence shown by the Cubs staff. More good news for the team with Anthony Rizzo taking batting practice and facing live pitching from Colin Rea .
It remains to be seen how well Gregory Polanco bounces back from shoulder surgery but the Pirates will give him every chance to reclaim his 20-plus home run power from the past. How the staff continues to evolve and improve under the tutelage of Oscar Marin may determine how the franchise proceeds in the off-season.
Another player to watch, Cole Tucker . He mashed in spring training and could be a super-utility player for Pittsburgh, especially if he can manage playing outfield.
One does not wish to label any player injury prone, but once again Nick Senzel dealt with a slight setback in Cincinnati’s camp:
With a hat top to C. Trent Rosencrans he’s made these observations so far in summer camp:
- Shogo Akiyama looks fast down the first base line making infield outs close. He’s also hit doubles down both lines in the outfield.
- Joey Votto hopes to start fast in this spring and 3-for-6 so far with five walks.
- Aligning with most, Nick Castellanos should rake in Great American Ballpark.
- Phillip Ervin continues to push for more playing time with a strong performance so far.
Missed this tidbit the other day, but at some point Arizona may call upon Daulton Varsho to develop in the majors. If they need a third catcher or some help in the outfield, it could expedite his arrival. Varsho handled games in center at Double-A and if anything occurred to Stephen Vogt or Carson Kelly , things may get interesting for Varsho.
Kevin Ginkel returned to the mound on Sunday tossing a scoreless inning working around a hit and a walk. A brief Kole Calhoun sighting. He reported this weekend but did not work out on Sunday casting some doubt if he can be ready for the start of the season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
One of the most difficult things to do this season will be filtering out manager talk compared to how they will handle individual cases. For instance, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts intimated prior to summer workouts he’d limit his starting pitchers to three-to-four innings per outing at the onset of the season, yet:
Kershaw Final Line:— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) July 13, 2020
5+ IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 8 K, 0 BB. 91 pitches
Opposing Kershaw and facing a tough lineup, Ross Stripling yielded two runs over 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts against the home batting lineup:
Headed to Doc’s office to demand Chico as my left-fielder. Wish me luck https://t.co/jtKGPl6Qb3— Ross Stripling (@RossStripling) July 12, 2020
Also, happy birthday to a top-five pick in many redrafts right now:
Today is Cody Bellinger 's 25th birthday.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 13, 2020
Since entering the majors in 2017, he's won an award each season: NL Rookie of the Year (2017), NLCS MVP (2018), NL MVP and Gold Glove award (both in 2019).
His 111 HR since '17 are the 2nd-most by any NL player (Nolan Arenado - 116). pic.twitter.com/dZQxgQ4dgH
San Francisco Giants
There’s no nickname associated with the influx of talent awaiting the future of San Francisco, but in today’s highlight the arm of Heliot Ramos :
San Diego Padres
Two of the biggest questions for this team, how will they set up the rotation and clear up the logjam in the outfield. Starting with the staff, this quote from new manager Jayce Tingler along with a reference to the team’s schedule could yield insight:
"[Our starters] are probably not going to have a lot of wiggle room to work out of jams, depending on where our bullpen situation is," he said. "In general, when we're fresh, we're going to go as long as we can, as hard as we can, and be ready for the next guy up."
That's especially likely to be true at the start of the season, Tingler said. The team's five starters should be built up to their normal Opening Day capacity. But the Padres might play it safe with pitch counts early on, Tingler said, with rosters set to expand to 30 for the first two weeks, then 28 for the next two.
In that sense, the Padres may have been given an advantage by the league’s schedule makers. While rosters are expanded during the first four weeks, they play 27 games in 28 days. But with their standard 26-man squad, they'll have five off-days in a 38-day span.
Also in this report, Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet will start with a longer leash along with Garrett Richards if healthy. However, Joey Lucchesi struggles a third time through the lineup so he could receive a quicker hook along with Zach Davies working with a piggy back reliever like Drew Pomeranz .
As for the outfield, the return of Tommy Pham cements left field with Trent Grisham and Wil Myers leading to start in center and right field accordingly. One name which continues to surface, Edward Olivares . He turned heads in spring training slashing .389/.421/.722 in 11 games and ranks as one of the top 30 players in summer camp right now. At Double-A last year, Olivares hit .283/.349/.453 with 18 home runs and 35 stolen bases. Things which make you go, hmmmm….
Colorado does not plan on rushing pitching prospect Ryan Rolison, but he turned some heads in summer camp on Sunday:
Defined as a crafty lefty, Rolison did not allow a run in two innings working around a walk to Trevor Story . Not too shabby for a pitching starved franchise.
Riding the wave of a strong September during which Garrett Hampson slashed .318/.368/.534 in 24 contests, he swung some fantasy leagues as a waiver hero stealing nine bases. Reports indicate Hampson made adjustments from his slow start last year and he’s excited about a utility role with the Rockies:
Be sure to remain with Fantasy Alarm to remain ahead of the competition across all fantasy formats. Until tomorrow, be safe.