Looking around the camps of the Orioles, Brewers, and Rangers
In a team flush with youngsters, there are a few veterans left in the Orioles' camp. Chris Davis is perhaps the one with the most to prove. His season of 2018 made Mario Mendoza and his infamous line look deserving of a Silver Slugger. Slashing .168/.243/.296 in 522 PAs was epically bad. Davis had a 36.8% K% and his 7.9% BB% was his lowest since 2012. At FanFest over the winter he made some comments that implied he hadn't really tried to alter his swing or approach over the past few seasons as his production continued to sink. That gave a lot of credence to some blistering comments made by Jim Palmer last season, where the HOFer said that Davis didn't seem to be working hard and trying to turn himself around. There is new management on and off the field in Baltimore and with Davis' contract, he will get every opportunity to show that he can reclaim some of the ability that earned him the nickname "Crash." Davis says that he is now open to the analytical approach that the new brain trust brings. If he shows signs of life as camp moves on, he could be a sleeper for 2019. He certainly can't go much farther down.
Mark Trumbo returns after undergoing surgery for a knee injury that cost him the end of 2018. This was after a quad strain caused him to start the season late. In between he posted solid numbers in his 358 PAs, slugging 17 homers and posting a .261/.313/.452 slash line. The slugging percentage was Trumbo's highest since 2014. He is a contender for the open RF slot in Baltimore, but given the knee recuperation, it is likely he will see less OF time than the 19 games he played in 2018. This will limit Trumbo's value, but at the bottom of the draft in mixed leagues he could provide adequate production at a low price.
The Brewers had two positions that were in distinct need of upgrading during the offseason and managed to fill both with free agents. Mike Moustakis was resigned for the infield. Where he or Travis Shaw will be filling the hole that was 2B will be decided over the course of Spring Training. What that move did was likely delay the major league appearance of top prospect Keston Hiura. Hiura slashed .320/.382/.529 at High A before posting .272/.339/.416 at AA. In October and November in the AFL he slashed .323/.371/.563 with 5 homers in 96 ABs and was named MVP. Hiura's bat is considered major league ready, but it is possible that some time in AAA will help season him a bit more against some older competition. The 22-year-old was almost certainly not going to break camp with Milwaukee anyway due to service time concerns. For now he will be in reserve should a need arise.
The other weakness Milwaukee had in the lineup was at catcher. This was upgraded significantly with the signing of Yasmani Grandal. The Brewers' backstops as a group had an OPS of .657, ISO of .125, and fWAR of 1.1. Grandal's OPS was .815, ISO was .225, and fWAR was 3.6. Grandal may also be positively affected by the change of home field from Dodger Stadium to Miller Park. While he performed better at home overall (.251/.371/.464 slash line in LA versus .232/.330/.468 on the road) his BABIP was 36 points higher in Dodger Stadium. His ISO on the road was 23 points higher than at home. This bodes well for Grandal increasing his production.
The regional covers of preseason baseball magazines in central Texas have varied for the Astros. For example, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Gerrit Cole have graced the covers of various magazines. It's different for the Rangers. For them it's all Joey Gallo all the time. After hitting 41 and 40 homers in 2017 and 2018, respectively, it looks like Gallo has become the face of the franchise. He may have replaced Adrian Beltre in that regard, but will not be taking over for the future HOFer at 3B. Gallo will see the bulk of his playing time in the OF again, with some appearances likely at 1B and DH. He has been very consistent at the plate, with homers being the good and his averages of .209 and .206 being the bad. Gallo will almost certainly maintain his position as a highlight reel homer hitting machine while having a lot of holes in his swing. One piece of trivia about Gallo is that even with all of those homers he has yet to record a sac fly in 1082 major league ABs.
Entering Spring Training in 2018, there were expectations that Delino DeShields would man CF and improve on a solid 2017. Multiple injuries derailed those plans. When he was playing, DeShields ended up slashing just .216/.310/.281 in 393 PAs. On the plus side he did swipe 20 bases and was only caught 4 times. New manager Chris Woodward is reinventing DeShields' approach at the plate. Instead of striving to make contact at all costs and using his speed to get him on base, Woodward wants DeShields to get some more loft on the ball and drive it more often. In 2018, DeShields had the 2nd lowest exit velocity, 3rd lowest hard hit rate, 10th lowest average launch angle, and 17th highest ground ball rate of hitters with at least 200 batted balls. If it works, then DeShields will end up contributing in multiple categories. Keep a watch on his results in the cactus League to see how it seems to take.
Josh Harrison- 2B- DET- FYI- Harrison has reportedly signed a one year deal with the Tigers, pending a physical. They already signed former Pirate Jordy Mercer, so the same double play combo will be intact at a different address.
Bryce Harper- OF- FA- FYI- The latest rumors about Harper sound a lot like the oldest rumors. It looks like the Phillies are still the best bet to land the star outfielder. Despite the Padres inking Manny Machado, it seems like the Giants are not willing to pursue Harper on a long term instead of short term deal to keep pace in the NL West.
Dallas Keuchel- SP- FA- FYI- Keuchel's likely landing spot is rumored to be Philadelphia. However, it is not expected to be done until the Phillies' position with respect to Bryce harper is resolved. If Keuchel doesn't become a Phillie then another option is supposed to be a return to the Astros on a short term contract.
Odubel Herrera- OF- PHI- Player injury- Herrera suffered a slight hamstring strain yesterday. An MRI didn't detect anything serious. This shouldn't have any lasting significance.
Miguel Diaz- RP- SD- Player Injury- Diaz was scheduled to undergo knee surgery yesterday. He tore the meniscus in his right knee. That will keep him out at least 6-8 weeks and throws off his efforts to become the primary long man in the San Diego bullpen.
Miguel Sano- 3B- MIN- Player Injury- Sano will get a late start to Spring Training. He will be kept out of on-field drills for 7-10 days as his right foot is in a boot. Sano injured his heel during Dominican Winter league play. It was a laceration so there is nothing structurally wrong. It is expected that Sano will be ready to go for the opening of the regular season.
Gregory Polanco- OF- PIT- Inj Update- Polanco has been taking swings in a batting cage without restrictions. However, it is throwing that will keep him out of the lineup after offseason shoulder surgery. There is a wide window of when to expect Polanco's return. It could be anywhere from mid-April to mid-June.
Jed Lowrie- 2B- NYM- Plyer Injury- Lowrie will undergo an MRI today to examine what may be causing discomfort he has been feeling behind his left knee.
Matt Harvey- P- LAA- Inj Update- Harvey threw a bullpen session yesterday. It was his first trip to the mound since straining his glute a week ago. The session was several days ahead of Harvey's original timetable to return.
Dansby Swanson- SS- ATL- Inj Update- Swanson will miss the early part of the Grapefruit League season. He will be giving some extra time to his left wrist to recover from offseason surgery. Swanson should be ready to play when Opening Day rolls around.
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