Diamond Digest http://diamond-digest.com/ Outside the Box Journalitics Mon, 05 Dec 2022 18:25:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://diamond-digest.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/cropped-Screen-Shot-2018-11-21-at-8.36.33-PM-32x32.png Diamond Digest http://diamond-digest.com/ 32 32 Outside the Box Journalitics Diamond Digest Outside the Box Journalitics Diamond Digest https://diamond-digest.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg https://diamond-digest.com 163433633 Report: Justin Verlander signs with Mets https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/05/report-justin-verlander-signs-with-mets/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/05/report-justin-verlander-signs-with-mets/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2022 18:25:22 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27765 Just a few days after losing Jacob deGrom, the New York Mets have added the 2022 AL Cy Young to the top of their rotation.

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According to multiple reports, Justin Verlander and the New York Mets are in agreement on a 2-year, $86 million contract with a vesting option for a third year. Andy Martino was the first to report the deal:

Verlander will now replace Jacob deGrom atop the Mets’ starting rotation. deGrom signed a massive 5-year, $185 million deal with the Texas Rangers on Friday.


This deal fits right into what we have come to expect from the now Steve Cohen-owned Mets; go out and spend money. They spent plenty of money last offseason and signed Max Scherzer to a similar short-term, high annual average value contract.

The Mets are getting one of the game’s best, and most accomplished, right-handed starting pitchers in recent history. Verlander is coming off a season in which he threw 175 innings, with 185 strikeouts and a 1.75 ERA. It was good enough to win the A.L. Cy Young Award, which was the third of his career.

For some insight into Verlander’s recent success, you can click here.

Coming off a season in which the Mets won 101 games, but lost to the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card Series, they are continuing to invest in their major league roster during its competitive window.

Verlander will be 40 at the start of the next season, and while many will question how well he can hold up at his age, he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down.

One day, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but for now, Justin Verlander will continue his career in Queens in hopes of helping the Mets win their first World Series since 1986.


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The Largest Free Agent Signing in Rays History Goes To… Zach Eflin? https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/05/the-largest-free-agent-signing-in-rays-history-goes-to-zach-eflin/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/05/the-largest-free-agent-signing-in-rays-history-goes-to-zach-eflin/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2022 17:21:16 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27742 The Rays surprised a lot of people by signing Zach Eflin to a three-year contract. What did the Rays see in him to take that chance?

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Baseball’s stingiest team just guaranteed 40 million dollars to a pitcher who has always struggled to find consistency, splitting time between the rotation and bullpen.

On the surface, this move can be a bit head-scratching. A team like Tampa Bay generally doesn’t even touch the free agent market and instead relies heavily on player development, but decided the one-time top prospect for Philadelphia was worth a three-year guarantee. This is the Rays were talking about here though, so you can already bet that there are going to be multiple angles that they must be looking at Eflin from. Let’s break them down.


For one thing, they nabbed the youngest free-agent starter off the market at 28 years old. The biggest bonus from that is the Rays will get guaranteed three years of Eflin’s prime years, according to average baseball age decline metrics. This falls into line with the Rays’ way of thinking and competing: they want to get the most cracks possible at the postseason with their winning core and want to keep their guaranteed money focused on players that are playing out their prime years. Tyler Glasnow and his recent short-term extension is a perfect example of how the Rays want to spend to keep their best players to try to win, but always have an eye on the future to make sure they can be flexible with their money for any possibilities.

Next, there’s the matter of Eflin and why the Rays like him so much. Joining a rotation that features flamethrowers and power pitchers, Eflin brings a balance that recently DFA’d Ryan Yarbrough brought for so many years. He’s a low-velocity, high-strike thrower. In no way will his pitch repertoire overpower hitters but it will induce lots of soft contact. His Baseball Savant page sums him up very well. When it comes to average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage, Eflin is among some of the most elite in the game, ranking in the top percentiles.

It’s also worth mentioning that he’s one of the best at not allowing free passes with his 4.8% walk rate last season. This too matches the Rays and their pitching philosophy. They were the best team in the majors at limiting walks this past season with a team 2.41 BB/9, and they now just added perhaps one of the best limiters of walks in baseball.

Eflin’s range of pitches has been evolving, much like his career has. A one-time starter that heavily relied on a four-seamer and slider, he has moved away from that mix to one much more suited to today’s modern game and with inducing soft contact, as he now relies on a sinker, cutter combo with a curveball. The year he scrapped the fastball and introduced his sinker happened to also be his best year in 2020 as he put up a 3.39 FIP over 59 innings. Eflin is one of those pitchers where his FIP is much more indicative of his performance than other surface stats. Since his best year in 2020, Eflin has been putting up FIPs that are always much better than his ERA, a consequence of playing with the Phillies’ defense and relying on them with his low strikeout, high contact profile. Now, he moves to Tampa Bay and a team that relies heavily on their defense to win games. I have a feeling that there will be a big difference in his stats with his time in Philly compared to Tampa Bay where he’ll now get the support of elite defenders like Taylor Walls and Jose Siri.


I wanted to finish off by comparing this deal to one that feels eerily similar to it from a couple of years ago. Back in 2018, Lance Lynn struggled as a starter and was moved to the bullpen for the Yankees’ playoff run and became a free agent the following offseason. Questions swirled around Lynn and which type of pitcher teams would get with him. Would they be getting the consistently above-average starter he was in his Cardinals days or the declining innings eater in his stints with the Twins and Yankees? It turns out he was neither of them. Lynn followed up the worst season of his career with an elite, 208-inning performance that netted a near 8 WAR and a fifth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. Lynn blew past everyone’s expectations and he did that to the tune of a 3-year/$30 million deal with the Rangers who showed they believed in his stuff as a starter and were rewarded mightily for it.

Compare this to Zach Eflin, and it’s almost uncanny how well his career trajectory lines up with Lynn. A starter in the early days of his career with the Phillies, Eflin showed promise with above-average, solid years before being moved to the bullpen this past season where he too found success. As a free agent, the question of what version of Eflin teams would be getting proposed themselves. A simply above-average starter who can eat innings, or a reliable reliever like he was for the Phillies in their 2022 postseason run? The Rays want something more. Much like the Rangers were hoping for with Lynn and were rewarded, the Rays identified an undervalued pitcher in Eflin and gave him a guaranteed three years like Lynn also was given.

Now, with the help of some of the top pitching minds in baseball, the Rays hope to see Eflin surprise many and elevate his game to a new height.


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The 2021 Rays Draft Class Is Shaping up to Be Elite https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/02/the-2021-rays-draft-class-is-shaping-up-to-be-elite/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/02/the-2021-rays-draft-class-is-shaping-up-to-be-elite/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2022 19:07:28 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27410 With a team like the Rays, building through the draft is incredibly important. Could 2021 be one of their best drafts yet?

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More often than not, the success of drafts is measured by which top-tier talent is picked in the first rounds. Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Carlos Correa are prime examples of players who were the number one overall prospect in their respective draft classes and have had fantastic MLB careers since. A top prospect has the potential and power to completely change an organization’s future and direction. This is evident in today’s game of baseball too. The Adley Rutschman and Julio Rodriguez eras just began this year, as those two franchise icons have the budding talent to be leaders of future winning cores.

But baseball is also a game where roster depth tends to win more games than individual stars. I could go on by comparing the success of the star-studded and perennial loser Angels to the deep rosters of unknowns on the consistent playoff Rays and Guardians, but the narrative is clear: it takes a village to last an entire 162-game season. That’s why I think it’s perhaps more interesting to analyze some of the deepest draft classes.


A good gold standard for one of the most successful drafts by a team in one year would have to be the 2016 Dodgers. A very good Dodgers team coming off of a division title and 92-win season had a middle-of-the-road pick in the following year’s draft at 20th overall. While many teams can’t even get an all-star within the top 5 picks, the Dodgers utilized this 20th overall pick and the several other rounds after it to build up a good chunk of their current core. Current second-baseman, Gavin Lux, was picked in the first round. One of the best catchers in the game, Will Smith, was picked in the second. Fearsome flamethrower, Dustin May, was picked in the third. Tony Gonsolin, perhaps the breakout of the year in 2022, was picked in the ninth. The rest of the picks in this draft feature names used in the Yu Darvish and Manny Machado acquisitions and other depth pieces that were later sold for useful pieces at the trade deadline. Essentially, the Dodgers knocked this draft out of the park. Two elite rotation arms, a top 5 catcher in baseball, an everyday infielder, as well as minor leaguers used to acquire names that could help win championships are prime examples of how to successfully scout and utilize every round of a draft.

So, why is it not surprising then that a team that has regularly been putting together winning seasons recently like the Dodgers also could have composed a masterful draft? Let me introduce the 2021 Rays draft and the loaded potential within it.


For the Rays, the 2021 draft class looks to be paying dividends for a team that relies so heavily on its development system. Initially in a tough situation as the team going into that draft with the 28th overall pick, Tampa Bay knew the pickings were going to be slim for what type of talent they could get at such a low spot in the first round and the following ones. In terms of how they handled that low pick, Tampa Bay did not view this draft as any type of limited opportunity:

  • Carson Williams, SS (Torrey Pines HS): With the 28th overall pick, the Rays followed a growing trend among scouting and prospect development of going with a toolsy, high-ceiling, high school shortstop at a lower first-round spot in Carson Williams (other recent examples: Anthony Volpe at 30th and Jordan Walker at 21st). The appeal of Williams is his powerful bat combined with an athletic frame that he could still fill out at the age of 19. Put that together with great glove skills at perhaps the most challenging position of shortstop, and that’s a player that would earn a double take from any scout. Anytime a prospect features lean athleticism and strong home run potential at such a high-value position like shortstop, the potential for a generational, game-changing type of player is definitely there.

    So far in his minor league career, Williams has shown an ability for hitting for the fences with 19 homers (albeit striking out at a ridiculous high while doing it) and manning shortstop fantastically. This is incredibly encouraging for the Rays as they now most likely hope for Williams to fill out his frame, add even more power, and take the leap to a possible top-20 prospect. The potential for boom is evident, and while the potential for bust with alarmingly high strikeout rates with a launch angle approach is there, the Rays identified a hopeful future star at a pick where players are usually seen as a major step down from the top crop of talent.
  • Kyle Manzardo, 1B (Washington State): A part of MLB’s Prospect Team of the Year, Manzardo was perhaps one of the biggest minor league breakouts of the year. A bat-first player, the 22-year-old Manzardo tore apart both High-A and AA pitching with an overall .327/.426/1.034 slash line featuring 22 homers and an elite walk-to-strikeout ratio. Obviously, stats like those instantly make Manzardo a top name to watch in the Rays system, but what makes him stand out from just being someone to look out for and a truly possible elite prospect is his plate discipline. One of the most telling signs of the best prospects that went on to be great hitters in the majors is how well they can see strikes and balls. Counting stats a player collects over a season has the potential to be skewed by the level of competition the player goes up against, therefore making those skills not so easily translated as they move to tougher levels, like the majors. But the most telling attribute a player can have that seems to travel consistently over every level is plate discipline. The players who control the zone the best will recognize better pitches to hit and amass more walks in the process.

    A comparison for Manzardo and his powerful, patient approach at the plate that earns him elite walk rates would have to be another fearsome slugger in Yordan Alvarez. Manzardo might not have the glove skills to stick in the Rays’ defensive position churn system they do with so many of their flexible players, but his bat has shown more than enough production that I’m sure Tampa Bay’s offensively starved offense would love his presence in the lineup in a couple of years time.
  • Mason Auer, OF (San Jacinto JC): In his first full minor league season, Mason Auer certainly impressed, putting up a .290/.372/.859 slash line with 15 homers and 45 stolen bases while showing an ability to play all over the outfield. He’s even continued this success in the AFL (Arizona Fall League) and lit up more scouts’ radars in the process. Auer demonstrates one of the widest range of tools among prospects in the Rays system, which makes him an easy player to dream on. He can play all over the outfield, has the ability to hit for pop while consistently taking walks, as well as prowess on the basepaths making him a multi-dimensional player that has the versatility to fit in a crowded Rays outfield.

    In a sense, a good comparison for Auer would be fellow Ray Randy Arozarena who carries that similar profile of a versatile outfielder who racks up a lot of extra-base hits and stolen bases. Interestingly, Auer was a pitcher first with potential for power, but after his move to San Jacinto JC, his bat took off, and it was quickly established that his bat would be his best tool going forward. Auer will be fascinating to watch going forward, as all five-tool prospects are, but usually, five-tool prospects don’t keep every one of their tools as they age and develop. But with two very strong showing in the minors and AFL, Auer has now demanded the attention and looks from the prospect community.
  • Mason Montgomery, SP (Texas Tech): A power lefty starting pitcher, Montgomery stands at 6-foot-2 and employs a three-pitch mix of a brilliant fastball and changeup with a weaker slider as a complement. In his first full season, Montgomery dazzled with a 2.10 ERA over 124 innings and was able to make the transition from A ball to AA with relative ease. Montgomery does not overpower hitters with his skillset, however. He’s a lefty who uses craft and dual-wields his heavily thrown fastball with a disappearing changeup. Much like how current/former Rays Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming have been developed as polished college lefties with premier control and soft contact rates, Montgomery also falls in line to follow them. However, the one thing Montgomery has over them is speed on his fastball with a complement to the offspeed. This makes me think he has the skills to be a good comparison to LA Angel Patrick Sandoval.

    The Rays love developing killer changeups, which made Brooks Raley and Jason Adam relief targets that were incredible successes for them in the 2022 season. Seeing how his season starts at AA, Montgomery is definitely a prospect to keep your eye on, as fans could see him if proves himself in AAA and gets the call-up.
  • Austin Vernon, P (North Carolina Central): One of the more unknown prospects in the Rays system who didn’t even crack MLB’s top 30 for the team, Vernon is pitching his way to that list in a big way. Standing at a massive 6 foot 8 and 265 pounds, Vernon has earned himself the moniker “mount Vernon” for his imposing stature on the mound. He uses his huge body to throw a fastball that consistently ranks in the upper 90s with two breaking pitches, a slider and curveball, that utilize sweeping action to throw hitters off if they’re expecting the high velo. His first full season in the Rays system was a raging success, as he tossed 78 innings of 2.40 ERA baseball, though he saw his numbers take a hit when he made the jump from low A to high A.

    Vernon has a lot of moving parts in his windup and he utilizes his giant frame very successfully, but with that comes a max effort delivery that scouts project will make him more of a bullpen arm than a rotation piece. A pitcher who instantly came to mind when comparing Vernon was former top reliever Jonathan Broxton, who also utilized a power fastball and sweeping slider combination that propelled him to a prosperous 13-year career. Vernon’s high age (23) at such a low level makes him a candidate to be moved quickly through the minor league levels in the upcoming year meaning fans could see him as quickly as next year

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In Houston, the rich got richer https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/02/in-houston-the-rich-got-richer/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/02/in-houston-the-rich-got-richer/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2022 18:43:48 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27717 After winning the World Series, this week, the Astros continue to bolster their dynasty, signing Jose Abreu to a three-year deal.

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Even without a general manager, the Astros manage to pull off signing the 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu on a three-year, $58.5 million deal. The Cuban native had spent nine years as a member of the Chicago White Sox, becoming a three-time all-star and silver slugger.


Fits Like a Glove

Only the Pirates got less offensive production from their first basemen in 2022, as Yuli Gurriel and Trey Mancini struggled mightily at the plate. That combo netted Houston a -1.4 fWAR, whereas Abreu posted 3.9 fWAR in 2022. It is hard to find a better 1-6 in any lineup with Abreu in Houston.


Still Got It?

Entering his age-36 season after posting a career-low slugging percentage in 2022, it’s fair to question if the Astros overpaid – but rest assured that Abreu is every bit worth his $20 million per year price tag. For one, he is still hitting the crap out of the ball, evidenced by his 51.8% Hard-Hit Rate, which places him in the 97th percentile of all hitters. Abreu is the rare power hitter that can also hit for contact, ranking in at least the 92nd percentile in both expected batting average and slugging. The big reason for the power decrease was his less-than-optimal launch angle of eight degrees, which was two and a half degrees lower than his career average. However, Abreu has already stated this will be a working point in the off-season, and Minute Maid’s cozy confines should help Abreu see more balls leave the yard. With the power decrease came increased discipline, posting a career-high 62 walks in 2022 and the lowest strikeout rate of his career.


What’s Next?

Jim Crane is fully in control and is ready to spend money to prolong the Astros’ dynasty. Crane said in Abreu’s introductory press conference the team would continue to look for a catcher, outfielder, and even more pitching. Given the high per-year dollar amount and the already loaded rotation, it appears Justin Verlander will be wearing different colors come next spring. But, the Astros certainly aren’t out on big-name free agents yet. Multiple reports indicated they are still interested in Wilson Contreras and Brandon Nimmo. Currently, the outfield appears to be the most pressing need to relieve Yordan Alvarez of everyday left-field work. Ideally, this outfielder would also bat left-handed, as Alvarez and Kyle Tucker are the only two current lefties – so, hello Brandon Nimmo.


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November Recap: Philadelphia Phillies https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/02/november-recap-philadelphia-phillies/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/12/02/november-recap-philadelphia-phillies/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2022 18:09:20 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27683 With December upon us, there was plenty of Phillies news in the month of November. Take a look back at some of the main talking points.

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With the calendar turning to December, it’s a good time to look back at the month of November for the 2022 National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies.


Roster Moves

The Phillies haven’t made any moves involving their big league club just yet. They did make some minor moves in November, though.

The following players were outrighted to Triple-A:

The following players were activated from the 60-day injured list:

The following players were claimed off waivers:

The following players were signed to minor league contracts:

The organization also added CF Johan Rojas to the 40-man roster, which currently sits at 37 players.


Bryce Harper’s Injury

Bryce Harper underwent successful Tommy John Surgery the day before Thanksgiving. The team’s current outlook on Harper’s 2023 season is for him to be back as the DH around the All-Star Break, with the possibility of returning to the field later in the year.

Even though the team’s official statement on Harper’s return says he’ll be back in the middle of the year, it is possible he returns before that. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia tweeted that Harper could be back hitting competitively by mid-May:

With that being a possible timeline, Harper could be back with the team before July even begins, but only time will tell. Once Harper begins to take competitive at-bats, there will be a much more accurate understanding of when Harper could return to the big league lineup in 2023.

Harper’s absence won’t be new to the Phillies. He missed time during the 2022 campaign after suffering a broken thumb in late June. He returned in late August. The team went 30-22 while Harper was out.

How the club decides to handle the lineup while Harper is sidelined will likely be similar to how they handled it this year. They could mix and match the DH based on starting pitching matchups. Another possibility is to use the DH as a spot in the lineup to give a player time off from playing in the field.

During an end-of-the-season press conference, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski was asked if Harper’s unavailability to begin the year would impact how the organization handles the offseason.

He said it could and there would be discussions, but there may be nothing done. He went on to add that they have other players who could be the DH. Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm, and J.T. Realmuto were named as possibilities for that position.

Darick Hall, Matt Vierling, Edmundo Sosa, Nick Maton, and Dalton Guthrie could receive more playing time as manager Rob Thomson shuffles the lineup card around to find the best fits on any given day.

Another important detail to point out is the Phillies are rumored to be looking into the shortstop market this offseason. If they sign someone like Trea Turner or Xander Bogaerts, that would easily add offense to the lineup early in the year as they wait for Harper to return.


End-of-Season Media Availabilities

On November 16th, General Manager Sam Fuld, Dave Dombrowski, and Rob Thomson were made available to the media.

Along with Bryce Harper, there were other topics discussed such as the struggles of Nick Castellanos, whether or not Rhys Hoskins would be back in 2023, the pitching staff moving forward, and the offseason plans and needs.

Dombrowski noted that Nick Castellanos did struggle in 2022, and believes he could turn things around next season. He said Castellanos’ strike zone discipline needs to be improved upon if he wants to have more success. Dombrowski also stated, “he’s always hit and when you look at people that are hitters, they do have a downtime,” in reference to Castellanos.

On the topic of Rhys Hoskins, Dombrowski mentioned that Hoskins is a streaky hitter and isn’t a perfect player. He stated Hoskins isn’t a gold glove first baseman, but he is a hard worker and throughout a long season, players have ups and downs. Dombrowski also said Hoskins is the leading candidate to be the team’s Opening Day first baseman.

When discussing the offseason plans and needs, Dombrowski mentioned a need for starting pitching, the middle infield, and the bullpen.

He said they will be keeping a spot open in the rotation for a young starting pitcher such as Bailey Falter or Cristopher Sanchez, along with the organization’s top three pitching prospects Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry. They will also be looking to add another arm or two to the rotation for depth, and want to add to the bullpen.

Throughout the press conference, the subject of the shortstop position came up multiple times. The Phillies have been linked to the shortstop free agent market this winter, but Dombrowski, to no surprise, wouldn’t give a straight answer as to whether or not the Phillies would be targeting one of the four big shortstops available.

Both he and Rob Thomson said they would be comfortable with Edmundo Sosa being the shortstop next season and did not rule out the possibility of bringing Jean Segura back. Thomson also noted that he had a discussion with Bryson Stott about whether he prefers to play shortstop or second base, and Stott answered by saying he just wants to play at the big league level.

The Phillies went over the luxury tax in 2022, and when asked about the possibility of exceeding it again in 2023, Dombrowski had this to say:

“Without any declaration, you’d always like to stay under…and rather not be penalized. We’re open minded to having the best club possible and see where it takes us.”


Other News and Notes

  • The Phillies announced they signed President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, who was hired in December of 2020, to a 3-year contract extension that will keep him in Philadelphia until 2027.
  • Since it looks as though the Phillies are interested in some players who were tendered a qualifying offer, the penalties for signing one, or multiple, players who were offered the qualifying offer are as follows:
    • If the Phillies sign one player who turned down the qualifying offer, they will forfeit their second and fifth-highest draft picks in the 2023 draft, along with $1 million from their international bonus pool.
    • If they sign multiple players who turned down the qualifying offer, they would forfeit the draft picks and money previously mentioned, along with their third and sixth-highest draft picks remaining.

For a more detailed look into the offseason for the Phillies, click here.


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Has the Brewers’ Window Closed? https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/30/has-the-brewers-window-closed/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/30/has-the-brewers-window-closed/#respond Wed, 30 Nov 2022 20:48:21 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27678 After a disappointing 2022 season that features some front office missteps, how can the Brewers set things right?

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Milwaukee missed the playoffs for the first time in four years despite the addition of a third wild card, and it’s time we start asking questions about how they will move forward. This team went into the 2022 season boasting perhaps one of the best 1-2-3s in a rotation with the best closer and relief corps in baseball. The offense just had to work as intended, and in years past it had with a lineup that relied heavily on platooning. But a lot of that fell apart this past season. 2022 set the Brewers back in a big way and now has management assessing their options for how they should move forward with a smaller budget than most teams and a core that isn’t getting any cheaper or younger.


Problems Up Top

While a fair amount of this blame can be placed on many players who underperformed, this was also one of the first years we saw Milwaukee and their front office make some ill-fated moves that were very uncharacteristic of what we’ve seen in the past from Matt Arnold and David Stearns.

There’s no mentioning this past season for them without talking about the Josh Hader trade. On paper, the move might’ve been smart. Cashing in on Hader’s trade value while it’s at its highest was the right thinking, but the execution was all wrong. Instead of asking for an MLB-ready bat that could’ve helped their offense, the Brewers opted for quantity over quality and paid the price. The two prospects, Ruiz and Gasser are fine, but their profiles don’t suggest the type of all-star player they had in Hader. The bounceback candidate Dinelson Lamet was DFA’d immediately following the trade, and Taylor Rogers probably did more to hurt the team than help them, with his seven-blown saves and ERA above 5 down the stretch. This was the only notable deadline deal they swung, and it would spell their fate out as they fizzled out of the postseason race with a season-ending series in Miami that they choked away, which would be the nail in the coffin.

After a stretch that saw Milwaukee make some of the best front-office decisions in baseball in the past years that have made them such a consistent contender, doubts now arise about Arnold and Stearns and their capabilities moving forward. To make matters worse, a bad sign that showed already following 2022 was the news that David Stearns is stepping back into a more advisory role, signaling to many that the doubt could be creeping in with Stearns and his longtime team. The New York native has been linked to the Mets several times in their search for a more permanent GM than Eppler, as president Sandy Alderson looks to hand the reigns over sooner than later. He would be perfect for the Mets job and also in Houston where they just departed with their championship-winning GM, James Click. Any team would be lucky to have a brain like Stearns working for them, and it is now turning into a matter of not if he will stay in Milwaukee but how much longer before he gets poached by another team. Matt Arnold who has been Stearn’s assistant GM since 2015 is more than ready to take over but the writing is on the wall for Milwaukee. The man who built their entire winning core looks ready to move on to a shiner and newer team, a move that could soon usher in a new era and look for the Brewers.


The “Yeli” Sized Problem

The next question we move onto is what to do about Christian Yelich. The scenario with him is not one that fans haven’t seen: a consistent MVP candidate gets a large contract as a reward for his services and commits to a city to play the rest of his days there, only to never put up production nearing the MVP performances he had. 

Is Christian Yelich still a good player? The simple answer would be yes. A 2.5 WAR lefty outfielder with a consistently high walk percentage would be a solid starter for any team, but teams don’t hand out 9-year, $215M contracts for solid starters. The Brewers are already penny-pinching enough, and a team that has question marks all over the roster must be wondering what to do about Yelich and his contract.

The straightforward direction would be to keep him and watch as his projected trajectory and value plays out to be like Alex Gordon while earning $26M a year. The Brewers know that he’s probably not going up from here and the best solution might be just eating their losses and letting him ride out his time. They could try convincing some team to take him with the hope of a return to that MVP-level performance, but that will also most likely mean them paying for most, if not all the remaining money. Whichever way they go next will include them having to carry Yelich with them for the foreseeable future, so it’s now just a question of if he will be on a rebuilding or contending team during that time.


The Clock is Ticking on Key Players

To put it plainly, the Brewers do not win without Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Willy Adames. The three of them are integral pieces and consistent team WAR leaders that keep them winning. The only problem is that all three of them are under team control for only two more seasons before they will hit free agency, and I think Milwaukee has realized that two top-20 starters and a franchise shortstop are a bit out of their price range. Of course, I assume they’ll try to offer an extension to some of them, but if any of them have capable agents, they know that the real money for them is on the open market. So in a sense, Milwaukee’s now reached the crossroads for their competitive window because of these star players.

Committing to winning with them for the next two years and building around them could net winning seasons if they play their hand right, but miss out on the playoffs and they are then faced with three departing marquee free agents for whom they got no trade value. On the flip side, they could cash in their chips right now and trade Burnes, Woodruff, and Adames for top 100 prospects that’ll make an impact in the near future and integrate them with a young group that already features Luis Urias, Garrett Mitchell, Brice Turang, and Joey Wiemer, to name a few. The pitching would be well stocked still with Peralta and Ashby leading the way, but it comes down to if the Brewers think they can win while playing Moneyball. The Hader trade left a bad enough taste in their mouths by trading away a star in his prime, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Brewers do go through with trading away any of these three.

Personally, I think they should try a combination of the two. Keep two out of the three stars, and cash in on one of them. These next two years they have with this core have the potential to put together playoff-caliber squads, and chances like those don’t always come around too often. By keeping two-thirds of their most important players, while keeping an eye on the future by getting prospects for the other one, the Brewers would position themselves well to both win now and later.


The Brewers have yet to make any of these large franchise-altering moves yet, but they have possibly signaled their direction early on with the Hunter Renfroe trade. Renfroe was set to make around $11 million in arbitration, and in a move that could be seen as concerning to many Brewers fans, they decided that was too much for a player that was worth nearly 3 WAR with 29 homers. One of the many signs of an upcoming rough offseason for teams is when they start selling clearly valuable pieces because they’re slightly expensive. It usually lets fans know that the team is looking to shed payroll and sell helpful pieces instead of adding them. And with other key players like Kolten Wong earning around $10 million, this trading trend could very well continue.

Star players don’t like being a part of a team that trades the supporting cast away, as it foretells the team’s attitude toward winning, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Burnes, Woodruff, or Adames wants out of Milwaukee soon. Much like how a badly injured animal is circled by vultures waiting for its demise, Milwaukee is limping into the offseason with every team in the industry wanting to take advantage of a possible firesale of star players.

With uncertainty in the front office, an albatross of a contract in Yelich weighing them down, and crucial decisions needed to be made on the team’s stars, the Brewers must choose to either gamble on their current core or strip down the main parts and try again in a few years time.


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New York Yankees 2022-2023 Offseason Plan https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/30/new-york-yankees-2022-2023-offseason-plan/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/30/new-york-yankees-2022-2023-offseason-plan/#respond Wed, 30 Nov 2022 20:01:49 +0000 https://diamond-digest.com/?p=27626 After falling short of the ultimate prize again in 2022, the Yankees have a lot of questions to answer this offseason.

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2022 Recap

The 2022 season had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for the New York Yankees. From Aaron Judge setting the American League home run record and the Yankees going 56-23 from April-June to getting swept by the Astros in the ALCS and only scoring 9 runs in 4 games.

Offensively, things were pretty solid for the Yankees. They finished top 5 in the league in runs, home runs, RBI, total bases, walks, OBP, SLG, and OPS. While the bats might have been hot for most of the season, they cooled down in the playoffs when they were needed most.

Defensively, the Yankees were also a top 5 overall defensive team according to Fangraphs.com which included two Gold Glove winners in Jose Trevino and DJ LeMahieu. To complement the defense, the Yankees saw some flashes of big-league experience from newcomers Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza as they were both called up this year.

The starting pitching was one of the biggest question marks this year for the Yankees, and this staff was going to need to be stellar in order to give the Yankees a chance at making a run. The Yankees staff finished top 10 in K/9, BB/9, HR/9, BABIP, ERA, and FIP.

With such stellar statistics all across the board, it might be tough to see why the Yankees didn’t make a better effort in the playoffs this year. However, that’s a different article for a different day.


Free Agents

Aaron Judge is without a doubt the biggest free agent name in all of baseball. After having the best season of his career and leading the American League in home runs with 62, Judge hit the free agent market at the perfect. After turning down a 7-year/$213.5M extension in March, Judge is at least listening to offers from multiple teams (as he rightfully should). I believe that Judge will land himself somewhere between the $35M-$40M AAV price range for around 7-9 years.

Some other notable free agents for the Yankees include Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Andrew Benintendi, and Jameson Taillon. I will go over later what I think should happen regarding free agents this offseason.


Offseason Needs

#1: Bring Back Judge. Now. Do it.

As the days go by, Judge is one day away from not becoming a Yankee in my opinion. I think that the Judge Yankee relationship is comparable to those of young people in today’s generation. The Yankees (and fans) love Judge and Judge loves the Yankees. However, there are always problems with every relationship, even the great ones. While Judge might love the city and the fans and the players, he loves to win, and regular-season wins don’t cut it anymore. It’s been years of just never closing, never finishing, and ultimately being disappointed. It’s like having a significant other who does the little things right and for the most part, is cool, but there’s just one thing where if they fixed it, things would be absolutely perfect.

Before you propose to this significant other and get locked down for the rest of your life, you start to think, “Maybe things are better somewhere else. Maybe I’ll find someone back in my home town can fill the holes.” That’s where the Giants come in. They have the money, they are close to his home where Judge grew up, and most importantly for Judge, they’re proven winners (at least more recently than the Yankees). This sounds like the perfect recipe for Judge. He could go there, however, what if they never win and he realizes things were okay in NY?

So before that happens, the Yankees need to open up the checkbooks and bring Judge back.

#2: Don’t be Afraid to Cut Ties

The Yankees bring guys from all over the league to help them win, and while some guys might be successful in this, there are a lot of cases where this isn’t the case. One of those cases is Josh Donaldson. Don’t get me wrong, Donaldson played a solid third base defensively. However, his offense was absolutely terrible and he was a liability at the plate, especially during the playoffs. Nobody on this amazing green earth would want that contract, so if getting rid of Donaldson means eating some of the contract, that is what needs to be done. See ya.

Adding to the list of people who need to leave is Aaron Hicks. He signed a 7 yr/$70M extension in 2019, but that contract needs to be cut short. Hicks hasn’t had a wRC+ over 100 since 2020, and his offense just isn’t good. The only reason he still gets innings in this lineup is because of his slightly above-average defense and the fact that he is a switch-hitter. Assuming the Yankees can resign Judge as well as another outfielder such as Benintendi or Brandon Nimmo, to go along with Harrison Bader and Oswaldo Cabrera, I think the Yankees wouldn’t be too bad without Hicks.

#3: Attack Free Agency

If the Yankees want to be the Yankees that the Yankees think they are, they need to go out and attack free agency. Obviously, resign Judge. Okay now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to other signings that need to happen.

The first thing that needs to be done is to get an outfielder. That may mean bringing back Benintendi (which seems like the better/easier option) or going out and getting another free agent like Nimmo, Conforto, or (and stay with me here) Bellinger. Bellinger is 27 years old, and the Yankees have money to blow. If you can somehow fix him, he would thrive in Yankee Stadium.

After losing Jordan Montgomery in the Bader trade, it seems that the trade might not have been the best and the Yankees may need to add to their rotation. Bader was solid, so it is no knock on him, but Montgomery was a great piece of the rotation, so to let him walk really hurt. Another starting pitcher would only benefit Cortes and Cole, and there are a few premier guys the Yankees have a legitimate shot at getting. A few of these names I believe should include Rodon, Bassitt, and Manaea.

Sticking with the pitching, it looks as if Chapman’s time with the Yankees might be coming to a close. The addition of Scott Effross helped tremendously, and it looks like Clay Holmes is going to take over as the closer moving forward. If the Yankees can sign two more big arms like Luke Weaver, Danny Duffy, or Taylor Rogers, they can solidify themselves as one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.

Last but not least is the catcher position. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Jose Trevino. His defense was so refreshing after having to put up with Gary Sanchez for the past few years. Trevino took control of the starters and seem to be able to handle anyone who threw to him. However, with Sean Murphy on the market, I think this is someone that the Yankees NEED to go after. He is only 27 and in 2 seasons has 35 home runs to go along with 3 out of 4 seasons with an OPS + of over 100 (in the fourth season he had a 98 OPS+). Murphy is a good enough catcher defensively with a plus bat that needs to be in Yankee Stadium.


Summary

Even though I listed a ton of changes that need to happen this year, I truly do believe the Yankees are in a good spot to make a run. However, I feel like I, as well as most Yankee fans, say this every year. It all starts with a Judge contract. If he stays, that sends a message to free agents and other teams around the league that the Yankees are for real and they want to win.


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Featured Image: @Yankees / Twitter

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Reid Detmers Second Half Success https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/28/reid-detmers-second-half-success/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/28/reid-detmers-second-half-success/#respond Mon, 28 Nov 2022 23:33:36 +0000 https://diamond-digest.com/?p=27337 Reid Detmers' second half pitching success for the Angels in 2022 gets put under a microscope. Read on for an analysis of his pitch mix.

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It’s tough to look at the Angels 2022 season through a positive lens. Yes, two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani had another historical campaign. However, fans can still come away frustrated at the results of another disappointing season. They recorded their seventh straight losing season, this time going 73-89. The Angels missed the playoffs for an eighth straight year. That streak is now tied with the Detroit Tigers for the longest current playoff drought in MLB. The season also included a 14-game losing streak that led to their manager getting fired. It’s safe to say that the Angels season did not go as planned.

The sky isn’t falling completely for the Angels. The starting pitching for the Angels was a real bright spot for the team. In 2022, the Angels starting pitching ranked sixth in fWAR, sixth in ERA, eighth in K/9 and fourth in HR/9. This amounts to a pretty good year based on recent Angels pitching standards. However, the second half of the season was when the pitching staff’s performance really started to turn heads. The Angels ranked second in fWAR (only behind Houston), fourth in ERA/FIP, and second in HR/9. Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and Shohei Ohtani all had pretty good second halves of the season, but for this article let us focus on the youngest pitcher of the group, Reid Detmers.

Reid Detmers

In his first full season with the Angels, Reid Detmers threw 129 innings and finished with a 3.77 ERA. One of his 25 starts ended up being a complete game no-hitter against the Rays on May 10th. His no-hitter was only one out of three no-hitters thrown this season and the only single pitcher no-hitter. However, there wouldn’t be much success following that no-hitter for the Angels nor Detmers. Detmers was demoted to Triple-A after his June 21st start, but that move worked out well for the young pitcher.

His pre-demotion numbers would make you question how he was even able to throw a no-hitter in the first place. Reid Detmers had a 4.77 ERA with a 5.35 FIP, a 6.83 K/9, a 3.26 BB/9, and a 1.71 HR/9. He found himself being in the bottom five in BB/9, HR/9 and batter swing and misses in all of MLB. Despite all of that, he only allowed a .204 batting average during that span. Detmers only allowed 43 hits, which was the fifth lowest in the league out of 109 starters (min. 50 innings IP). Unfortunately, the home run ball was his weakness. Detmers allowed 11 home runs in 12 games. Combine that with being average in terms of walks allowed, and those home runs proved to be costly.

Detmers was sent down to Triple-A in the middle of June. Now, whether it was the Salt Lake City drinking water or he simply caught fire, the demotion worked out. He didn’t pitch a lot when he was down there, he started one game where he went 6 innings and allowed a solo home run, but it didn’t look like he went down there to pitch a lot. Detmers was demoted for a total of 16 days. At the time, the demotion seemed like it was due to more than just his pitching on the mound or to work on his fundamentals.

Since July 8th, Detmers had a 3.04 ERA and a 2.51 FIP. He also increased his K/9 to 9.89, dropped his HR/9 to 0.25, and accrued 2.4 fWAR the rest of the season. He would end up allowing only two home runs in his last 13 games pitched, which was the killer in his pre-demotion part of the season. The key to fix this problem was tweaking a specific pitch, his slider.

So what Happened?

As the graph indicates, the slider became an important pitch for Detmer’s during the second half of his season (post-demotion). The first half of his season (pre-demotion), he used his slider 16.65% of the time, his third most used pitch. In the second half, his slider usage jumped to 32.62%, falling just behind his four-seam fastball usage (41.27%). His overall swing and miss percentage increased as well, but there was a much larger increase in the slider swing and miss percentage, which propelled that jump.

This appears to have been a philosophical change by the Angels as a whole. Ohtani, Sandoval and Suarez all saw their slider usage increase as the season progressed. Ohtani’s slider was already producing a 20% swing and miss percentage, making the increase in slider usage warranted. Detmers on the other hand, did not have as effective of a slider to warrant that increase. Detmers was sent down to improve his slider. The difference in movement is displayed below:

Slider Analysis

His slider changed quite a bit following his demotion. His sliders are in the orange circle and there is a significant difference in the movement of his slider from pre/post-demotion. The vertical break on his slider decreased from -7.3 inches to -1.43 inches following his demotion. His average vertical break changed as well, going from -2.38 inches to 0.016 inches. The velocity on his slider also jumped about 4 mph, going from 82.9 mph to 87.1 mph. However, the biggest difference in his pitch profile was his spin axis. When we look at the second graph we see the difference between pre/post-demotion spin axis for his slider.

There is a big range when it comes to how he throws his slider. His slider has some aspects of top/back and even side spin to it. However, the biggest difference between his pre/post-demotion slider is the usage of backspin on that pitch. The effect of throwing the slider with some back spin is what it does to the fastball. More backspin will increase the velocity, which makes sense why his velocity jumped. However, it is also not a cutter. The spin axis indicates it is a pitch that is thrown like a fastball (back spin), but the spin does not indicate to baseball savant that it is a slider. So what does this do to the fastball?

Well for starters, the average spin axis of Detmers’ four-seam fastball is about 137 degrees, which puts the average right where the slider’s thrown (on the graph in between 120 – 150). These are two vastly different pitches with a similar spin axis. So, this allows the two pitches to look exactly the same when they leave his hand. This produces a tunneling effect that makes it difficult to distinguish between both pitches. His slider saw an increase in swing and miss percentage, going from 8.07% pre-demotion to 18.9% post-demotion. Despite a slight decrease in usage, his four-seam fastball saw an increase in swing and miss rate going from 9.35% to 12.4% and his curveball jumped from 9.09% to 11.2%. Both of these pitches did not see a drastic difference in his pitch profile, but they were able to benefit from the success of his slider.

Gyro Slider?

The great thing about Baseball Savant is that it allows us to see which pitchers have similar profiles. Detmers’ pitcher profile shares similar qualities with a pitcher named Daniel Lynch, who pitches for the Kansas City Royals. If you go to FanGraphs and look at his overall career numbers, it doesn’t show someone who has dominated the league. However, the key similarity between the two is Lynchs’ gyro slider and how it’s thrown. In 2021, Pitching Ninja tweeted out a photo of Detmers’ grip on his slider back in August of 2021 (his MLB Debut):

There is also an article at the Athletic that discusses Daniel Lynch’s slider and included within the article is a photo of Lynch’s slider grip:

Photo Taken by Alec Lewis, writer for the Athletic.

It appears they both throw a spiked slider, although on different areas of the baseball. If we look at both of their spin axis usage for their sliders, we see a wide range of usage:

Lynch has a much wider range in his spin axis compared to Detmers. There isn’t an updated picture of his slider grip but it seems that Reid Detmers was able to alter his spiked slider grip to allow it to have more gyroscopic movement on it. I wrote about gyroscopic movement here, but essentially this pitch is thrown like a football and it lets gravity do all the work, rather than relying on the movement applied by the fingers to dictate the spin. They both throw their sliders with a low spin rate (Lynch – 2020 rpm, Detmers – 2125 rpm), so gyroscopic sliders would be beneficial for them.

Detmers has an active spin percentage of 29%. That is probably too high given Lynch’s active spin percentage is around 15%. However, this number can be lower for Detmers if we filter out sliders thrown before he was demoted. Regardless, it looks like the Angels were able to tweak Reid Detmers’ slider to have more gyroscopic movement overall. This tweaked gyro slider improved his overall repertoire, elevating his game in the second half of the season.

Feature Image Via: @Angels

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Projecting the long-term value of free agent shortstops https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/28/projecting-the-long-term-value-of-free-agent-shortstops/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/28/projecting-the-long-term-value-of-free-agent-shortstops/#respond Mon, 28 Nov 2022 17:10:19 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27651 For the second consecutive season, the MLB's shortstop market is the talk of the offseason. But will they be worth their paydays?

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The MLB’s premium shortstop talent has entered the open market for the second consecutive offseason. This winter, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson are all set to receive new contracts.

Like all free agency periods, buzz about contract projections has been a hot topic in the chaotic rumor cycle. And fans have jumped to analyze these projections in terms of perceived value. Buzzwords like overpaid and underpaid are frequently used to answer one question: which contract maximizes this player’s value to a team over its number of years?

I came across a tweet from MLBExecutiveBurner that piqued my interest. They asked this question with imaginary contracts for the aforementioned four players.

Some of the replies employed different strategies to answer this question. For instance, which contract may avoid declining production? Whose tools will stay consistent the longest? Who’s the best player? In this article, I’ll attempt to quantify the projected value of these players over their contracts in order to put a more concrete answer to the question at hand.


In order to quantify each of these four players’ projected value over such large timespans, I’m going to employ the use of Tom Tango’s Marcels projection system. It centers around the performance stat Wins Above Replacement (WAR), using a player’s previous three years of play, simple regression, and an age factor to project their WAR for next season. It also provides a framework for their next four years of WAR. It’s a simple system with weights I was unable to fact-check, so there are likely better systems out there than this. But for all intents and purposes, this should do just fine.

I’ve adjusted Tango’s methodology slightly to apply it to the research question. Firstly, I omitted the shortened 2020 season and instead used the 2019 season when projecting for the 2023 season. So a player’s previous three years of play would be 2022, 2021, and 2019. Secondly, I extrapolated the four-year framework over the rest of their contract duration, as the formula is constant the longer it goes. Finally, I factored in playing time by adjusting each player’s WAR to 150 games. This’ll help mostly for Correa, who only played 75 games in 2019.

These are each of the four’s projected Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs WAR (rWAR and fWAR, respectively) over their contract durations. Their projected 2023 WAR values are numbered. It’s important to note that these WAR values are different despite their shared purpose but including both helps cast a wider net.

In 2022, teams paid, on average, about $7.7 million and $8 million per one rWAR and fWAR. When multiplying that by the sum of these WAR values for each player, I got a rough estimate of their total value provided over their contracts in dollars. It’s likely that this value will fluctuate over the next few years but not significantly. These values are tabled below, with their contracts and WAR in millions of dollars.

PlayerYearsrWAR ValueContractfWAR Value
Trea Turner9193.3288251.2
Carlos Correa10318.8325267.2
Xander Bogaerts7187.9196195.2
Dansby Swanson7134182178.4

I’ve also graphed them below to better visualize discrepancies.

What immediately stands out to me is that no projection surpasses the contract value. This may be due to how simple of a system Marcels is or due to arbitrary contract values (likely a mix of both). MLB Trade Rumorsprojected contracts, for instance, are all lower than the original tweet. While Correa’s and Turner’s are due to year reductions, it provides much-needed perspective for the fluctuations we’re dealing with.


With those observations noted, this data gives us better angles to evaluate the research question. For instance, Bogaerts’ historical data tells us that he projects to fall within at least 95 percent of his contract. So he’s likely the safest. But Correa projects to provide the most value over his contract by both metrics, even surpassing $300M per rWAR.

We can also look at it from the perspective of which contract minimizes the player’s value. As aforementioned, none of their projections match or surpass their contracts. But some gaps are larger than others. Turner’s projected rWAR, for instance, is about two-thirds of his contract value. His highest projection falls within 87.2 percent of his contract, easily the lowest of the four. Swanson’s falls within 98 percent, Correa’s 98.1 percent, and Bogaerts 99.6 percent.

I acknowledge that there’s more to this puzzle than just WAR. Clearly, different factors of WAR have different levels of predictability across multiple seasons. It’s a highly nuanced stat that deserves a deeper look than I gave it. But the goal of this experiment was to create a basic projection without focusing too much on minute details. So while it has room for improvement, it still gives a base-level understanding of how we can answer the research question effectively.


To conclude, I want to focus on my original research question. It was stated as follows: which contract maximizes this player’s value to a team over this number of years? But when asking this question, I didn’t seek one single answer. Hence why every team won’t exclusively target one shortstop. Rather, I sought a better understanding of an answer. In this case, it was using one metric that could be converted to the same unit as a contract (dollars) to compare the two.

I made a point to acknowledge how diverse peoples’ reasoning for their answers was in the tweet’s replies. It’s imperative to think about those viewpoints when attempting to answer the research question. Those nuances become more impactful as contract projections become more complex. Oftentimes, it’s not as easy as assuming a player has played 150 games each season.


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2022-2023 Cleveland Guardians Off-Season Preview https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/28/2022-2023-cleveland-guardians-off-season-preview/ https://diamond-digest.com/2022/11/28/2022-2023-cleveland-guardians-off-season-preview/#respond Mon, 28 Nov 2022 16:55:28 +0000 http://diamond-digest.com/?p=27623 The Cleveland Guardians are coming off of a season in which they exceeded expectations. How can they get back to the playoffs in 2023?

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Coming off of a surprising 2022 season, the Guardians will be looking to continue their momentum and repeat as division champions. Last week Terry Francona was announced as AL Manager of the Year, and he will be back at the helm in 2023 leading what is expected to be one of the youngest teams in the Majors.


2022 Season-In-Review

2022 Record: 92-70, First Place in AL Central

Team MVP: Jose Ramirez,

Team Cy Young: Shane Bieber

The 2022 Guardians outperformed preseason expectations to win what was a pretty ugly AL Central division. They were the youngest team in all of Major League Baseball. That young roster was led by Ramirez, Andres Gimenez, Steven Kwan, Bieber, and Emmanuel Clase. Clase was the only one of these heroes to not be in the running for any awards this past week, although he was an All-Star in July. Jose and Andres finished 4th and 6th in AL MVP, Kwan finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year, and Bieber finished 7th in AL Cy Young votes. 

Coming into the season FanGraphs had Cleveland at 15.2% to win the division, just ahead of Detroit at 12.31%. But baseball is unpredictable, that’s one of the reasons we love it.

While Jose Ramirez was this writer’s pick for MVP, Andres Gimenez was a close second. Gimenez made his first All-Star game in 2022 and finished the year with his first Gold Glove award, being one of four Guards to make the list. Gimenez finished with a 140 wRC+ and was worth 6.1 fWAR. But, I picked Jose in a bit of a toss up. 

NameAgeGPAHRSBBB%K%ISOBABIPAVGOBPSLGwOBAwRC+BsROffDefWAR
Jose Ramirez29157685292010.1%12.0%.235.279.280.355.514.3631396.036.01.06.2
Andres Gimenez2314655717206.1%20.1%.169.353.297.371.466.3641403.428.312.06.1
Table via FanGraphs

When picking which hair to split between these two, BB%, K% and BABIP stood out to me. Jose Ramirez is the heart and soul of Cleveland Baseball. His contract extension at the beginning of the year changed the whole vibe around the organization. 

Shane Bieber had another electric season, despite his four-seamer losing a little of its velocity. He pitched to a 2.88 ERA over 200 innings while striking out 198 batters against 36 walks. This gave him a 4.9 WAR, good for 4th in the American League. His K/9 was the lowest of his career to this point but his walk rate and home run rate both set career bests. The 27-year-old found new ways to be successful. Bieber increased his usage of his slider and cutter this season while relying less on his curve, per Baseball Savant. His whiff rates didn’t improve, but the percentage of balls that were hard hit decreased by about 10 percent off his cutter. Overall Bieber proved to be as successful as ever.


Off-season Preview

Free Agents: Austin Hedges

I would not be surprised if Hedges does not return next season. The team is pretty high on Bo Naylor, who Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranks as the team’s second-best prospect. Bo moved from AA to AAA in 2022 where he hit 15 home runs in 66 games. His BB% and K% did each go in the wrong direction upon promotion; he still posted at 131 wRC+ in Columbus. 

Potential Free Agent Targets

Let’s be honest with ourselves, the Cleveland Guardians are not going to enter into any sort of bidding war for guys like Judge, Correa, DeGrom, or Verlander. But, they might make a smaller move to add some extra pop to their lineup. Someone like Matt Carpenter might make sense here. Right now, RosterResource has Will Brennan slated at DH. I am not against Will Brennan long-term, but if the Guardians are going to be serious contenders they will need more power out of that spot. 

Another potential free agent is Mike Zunino; he is coming off of an injury but was an all-star in 2021. He can provide plus defense and some power on a one-year, buy-low deal. He has a good reputation for handling pitchers. The Guardians can have him along with Naylor for this season and if Naylor proves ready for the full-time position, Zunino could DH or spot at first base. 

Trades:

This is one area that the Guardians have already been active in. They have already made a prospect swap with Colorado, sending Nolan Jones in exchange for Juan Brito. This trade was a little confusing at first, but it seems to be a reflection of Cleveland’s high contact, low strikeout philosophy. The Guards, it seems, can never have too many middle infield prospects that have bat-to-ball skills. 

There was also a trade sending reliever Carlos Vargas to Arizona for pitching prospect Ross Carver. The swap of minor leaguers seems to be mostly about roster constriction for Cleveland and Arizona trying to address their weak bullpen. 

I do not think these two teams should be finished talking. Arizona just made a trade with Seattle to acquire Kyle Lewis, the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year. This creates a bit of a logjam for the Diamondbacks in their outfield. You can only play three outfielders, and looking at the D-Backs roster they have more than three that seem to be deserving of major league at-bats. As mentioned by Nick Deeds of MLBTradeRumors, Arizona should be looking to relieve this jam. Daulton Varsho and Corbin Caroll more than likely will be building blocks for the future. But, they might be interested in moving someone like Jake McCarthy or Dominic Fletcher in exchange for a bullpen arm.

A dream move would be one for Sean Murphy from Oakland, but I am not sure how the Guardians would feel about spending the prospect capital a move like that would take given what we’ve already said about Bo Naylor. 

Projected Roster

  1. Steven Kwan LF
  2. Amed Rosario SS
  3. Jose Ramirez 3B
  4. Josh Naylor 1B
  5. Andres Giminez 2B 
  6. Oscar Gonzalez / McCarthy RF
  7. Matt Carpenter DH
  8. Mike Zunino C
  9. Myles Straw CF

Projected Bench: Luke Maile, Gabriel Arias, Owen Miller, Will Benson, Will Brennan, Bo Naylor

Projected Rotation:

  1. Shane Bieber
  2. Triston McKenzie
  3. Cal Quantrill
  4. Aaron Civale
  5. Zach Plesac 

Projected Bullpen: 

Closer: Emmanuel Clase

Set up: James Karinchak, Trevor Stephan

Middle: Nick Sandlin, Enyel De Los Santos, Sam Hentges, Cody Morris

Konnor Pilkington


Final Thoughts

The Guardians are in a very winnable division in 2023. They currently are projected to have a payroll in the mid-70 million dollar area. I do not foresee ownership splashing the cash this offseason, so the moves will most likely be on the periphery of the roster. Adding power at DH and in the outfield or catcher should solidify this team as an 89 to 94-win team. The Guards’ AL counterparts – the White Sox and the Twins – could do better than their previous year, making the division more competitive in 2023. A trade deadline move might make the difference in who is watching from home and who is taking on the Astros and the Yankees next October. 

Please let me know what you all think! Hoping to be proven wrong about the spending!


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