Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow for the Rangers. Pitching was where Texas made the most noise in the offseason, particularly in their rotation.
Corey Kluber was their biggest acquisition in a trade with the Indians. He had a lost season in 2019, making only 7 starts before being knocked out of a game with a broken arm from a line drive. Kluber was then shut down in August after starting a minor league rehab assignment when he strained an oblique. The former Cy Young winner wasn't performing that well overall when he took that line drive in the arm. His ERA was at 5.80. However, digging a little deeper shows some promising signs. His FIP was 4.06. that's not great, but his numbers were skewed by a start on April 14 where he was charged with 6 runs in 2.2 IP. In only one other start did his single game FIP rise above 3.51 and 4 of them were at 2.61 or lower. Kluber will turn 34 in April but his usage hasn't been extreme over the years prior to his injury. He only tossed a handful of starts each year from 2016-2018 that were over 110 pitches. With a year off due to reasons that are not shoulder or elbow related, the odds are good that Kluber will come back strong.
Jordan Lyles was signed after he caught fire with the Brewers for the end of the 2019 season. In 11 starts for Milwaukee he posted a 7-1 record with a 2.45 ERA. Lyle's FIP of 4.42, though, wasn't that much better than the 4.79 he had with the Pirates in 17 starts before being traded. He also saw his K/9 drop from 9.84 to 8.59. Lyle's 3.38 BB/9 with the Brewers was less than his 3.61 with Pittsburgh, but still higher than his career mark of 3.12. He owns a career road ERA of 5.36 which shows his performance hasn't been biased by having Minute Made Park and Coors Field as his home parks for 6+ seasons in his 9-year career. Lyles has an overall career ERA of 5.11. Expecting him to continue his performance of late 2019 looks like a bit much.
The Orioles will see their pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Florida tomorrow.
John Means burst on the scene last year. He made the team out of spring training and ended up as an All Star and runner up for AL Rookie of the Year. This year he is the favorite to take the mound for Baltimore on Opening Day. There are some warning signs for Means in his sophomore campaign. He posted a 3.60 ERA, but his FIP was 4.41 and his xFIP was 5.48. Means had a FB% of 50% overall. It was 52.1% at Camden Yards with a HR/FB ratio of 7.9% at home. If his road HR/FB ratio of 12.9% was duplicated in Baltimore his season wouldn't have been nearly as good. Means will turn 27 in April so should be at his physical peak. In order to retain value he will need to continue to avoid mistakes at the same rate as he did last year. That's going to be tough.
Adley Rutschman will have a lot of eyes on him this spring. However he will not be heading north with the big club barring a major surprise. Rutschman was the first pick I the 2019 draft and is ranked as high as the #4 prospect in baseball. He is a switch hitting catcher with potential for big power numbers. Coming out of Oregon State, Rutschman has showed a lot of polish in his defensive game as well. This should help accelerate his progress. While 2020 shouldn't see him with the Orioles, 2021 is a strong probability for Rutschman taking over the starting catcher slot in Baltimore. In keeper leagues that allow drafting anyone, Rutschman is a no brainer.
The Brewers are opening spring training a day later than some other teams. Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Phoenix on Wednesday. This will be a very different Milwaukee team than the one that lost the Wild Card game in 2019. Only 12 of the 25 players on that roster are still with the team.
Omar Narvaez will be the primary catcher. He is celebrating his 28th birthday today. The Brewers acquired him from Seattle to fill a lineup hole caused by the departure of free agent Yasmani Grandal. Offensively, the two were not that far apart. Grandal had a .848 OPS with 28 homrs, while Narvaez was at .813 with 22 homers. The gap in homers was partly due to a difference in playing time. Where Grandal is a switch hitter who made 632 PAs for Milwaukee, Narvaez is a LH hitter who had a career-high 482 PAs for the Mariners. Of his 132 games, 98 were at catcher. He also posted a slash line of .227/.379/.320 against southpaws. Narvaez also has a reputation as a poor defender. Add that together and he will probably produce decent numbers when he is playing but won't have the same load as some other starters.
Brandon Woodruff starts spring training as the #1 starter for the Brewers. Like his batterymate Omar Narvaez he is celebrating a birthday today, his 27th. He was in the majors for the full season for the first time in 2019. Technically he wasn't active for the entire season as he spent a couple of months on the IL with an oblique strain. Woodruff's final numbers were 121.2 IP over 22 starts with an 11-3 record, 3.62 ERA, 10.58 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9. He had a solid 32.1% FB%. Woodruff has not had a heavy workload, so he should not be susceptible to arm troubles. The Brewers may not be done with player moves and will want some more help in the rotation, but Woodruff is poised to take advantage of an excellent fastball that ranked 14th in the majors in whiffs (26%.)
The following notes can be found in our 2020 Player Projections Player Projections and Draft Program:
Hays, Austin Austin Hays (OF-BAL) enjoyed a pleasant cup of coffee in 2019, batting .313 with 4 homers, 13 RBI, and a pair of stolen bases through 71 plate appearances. The 9% walk rate he's posted in the majors far exceeds the 4% that he recorded in 257 Triple-A plate appearances while his 17% strikeout rate is a nice improvement on the 24% that he posted at the Triple-A level. While that's encouraging, his hard-hit rate sits at just 30% in this admittedly small sample size. Overall, though, this has been a quality audition for the 24 year-old who should be able to snag a starting role with the Orioles depending on how things shake out through spring training. If he is able to earn a starting role, Hays should be on your radar because of his ability to hit for a solid average, provide some pop, and chip in a little speed. - ahodge 2019 BABIP: 0.333(0.060)| Contact Rate: 74%(8%)| HR Distance: 390ft(0)| HR BBS: 101.2(-1.8)| HardHit%: 30.9%(-0.2%)| Avg Velocity: 90(5.0)| Elevation%: 11.5(3.2)| Barrels%: 5.5%(0.0%)| HR/FB%: 20%(12%)| GB/FB Rate: 1.1(-0.8)| EYE: 0.54(0.41)| ISO: 26.5%(16.5%)
Reynolds, Bryan Reynolds struggled a bit in September hitting just .232 with 2 home runs, which dropped him a few spots in the NL Batting race. Regardless he has proven himself a quite capable bat posting a .880, OPS with 16 home runs, 67 RBIs and 83 runs scored. He has been able to maintain a nearly .400 babip through most of the 2019 season so it will be interesting to see if he can replicate a number close to that in 2020. He did always high for a high average in the minors with little power but seems a lock to hit in the top of the Pirates batting order in 2020. - dbertolino | In favor of his elevated BABIP was a 43% HardHit%, but the BA is going to take a hit as it doesn't justify the 387 BABIP from a season ago. He can develop into a power hitter when and if he starts to lift his swing (9% elevation). | 2019 BABIP: 0.387(0.387)| Contact Rate: 76%(76%)| HR Distance: 401ft(401)| HR BBS: 104.0(104.0)| HardHit%: 42.6%(42.6%)| Avg Velocity: 90(89.6)| Elevation%: 9.4(9.4)| Barrels%: 6.7%(6.7%)| HR/FB%: 14%(14%)| GB/FB Rate: 1.6(1.6)| EYE: 0.38(0.00)| ISO: 18.9%(18.9%)
Gurriel, Lourdes Crushed it in limited ABs (314) with 20 HR/50RBI/.277BA. The 20% HR/FB rate is legit based on the elite 43.5 HardHitRate and the 11.2% Barrels. Gurriel is a bit of a free swinger though as evidenced by his 69% contact rate and 39% Outside of the zone swing rate. That could dampen his production in 2020, if he doesn't become a little more selective at the plate. 2019 BABIP: 0.318(-0.008)| Contact Rate: 69%(-8%)| HR Distance: 409ft(8)| HR BBS: 103.8(-1.0)| HardHit%: 43.5%(12.9%)| Avg Velocity: 90(-0.1)| Elevation%: 14.1(3.7)| Barrels%: 11.2%(3.4%)| HR/FB%: 20%(3%)| GB/FB Rate: 0.9(-0.4)| EYE: 0.23(0.08)| ISO: 26.4%(9.9%)
Hilliard, Sam Hillard is one of the more interesting players to make his debut in 2019, as he has showcased a blend of speed and power in the minor leagues not seen in quite some time. He hit 21 home runs and stole 37 bases in 2017 and hit 35 home runs and stole 22 bases this past season at AAA. Strikeouts have always been an issue for Hillard as he has generally whiffed at a rate above 25%, he is a name to keep an eye on next season. - dbertolino | 2019 BABIP: 0.298(0.298)| Contact Rate: 74%(74%)| HR Distance: 414ft(414)| HR BBS: 102.5(102.5)| HardHit%: 37.0%(37.0%)| Avg Velocity: 91(90.8)| Elevation%: 8.4(8.4)| Barrels%: 13.0%(13.0%)| HR/FB%: 33%(33%)| GB/FB Rate: 1.1(1.1)| EYE: 0.39(0.15)| ISO: 37.7%(37.7%)
Laureano, Ramon Displayed above average Velocity on batted balls last season (90) and 40% Hard Hit rate. The 74% contact rate is not optimal, but something he will probably improve on as he works up his meager 5.6 BB%. What is likely not sustainable is his 19% HR/FB rate, look for that to settle somewhere around 16% in 2020. Even with a drop, we could see an increase in his RBI count. His BA was fueled by a non sustainable 342 BABIP, so expect a drop there as well. | 2019 BABIP: 0.342(-0.046)| Contact Rate: 74%(1%)| HR Distance: 403ft(4)| HR BBS: 103.4(-1.0)| HardHit%: 40.0%(0.2%)| Avg Velocity: 90(-0.3)| Elevation%: 14.8(4.5)| Barrels%: 9.7%(-1.4%)| HR/FB%: 19%(5%)| GB/FB Rate: 0.9(-0.5)| EYE: 0.22(-0.10)| ISO: 23.3%(4.7%)
Robert, Luis Robert was a high profile international signing for the White Sox, out of Cuba in 2017, a 26 million dollar deal. He made scouts swoon in his workouts before his signing. He's 6-3/185 with enticing power, speed, and athleticism but little was known about how he'd handle quality pitching. What we know is that he has 20-HR power (because almost everyone does and he shows a reasonably-average amount of raw power) and he has double-plus speed that could make him a near-elite speed contributor (and truth be told I am underselling his physical speed a bit just to be conservative for the time being). Many compare Luis to fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada with his hit tool and his erratic contact rates. Yoan's contact issues are (were?) a little weird, so I'd prefer to compare him to fellow Cuban Jose Abreu, not because he has Abreu's power potential but because he has Abreu's swing issues. He's long. For Jose that didn't cost him contact, it cost him power consistency, and Jose has been a somewhat erratic power supply. With Robert, I think it might affect his hit tool. Still, it's hard to draw conclusions with so little data and no data above high-A. So we don't know a lot yet beyond his physical gifts, but we can see (ok I can see) a 25/35 ceiling if he can handle pitching at the MLB level. We aren't going to know that for a while, but if he stays healthy why can't he hit his way (acclimate his way) to AA this summer. At that point, he becomes very interesting. He also starts to gather hype again. This is a sale right now. You are buying a projection, but you are getting a good price for a cathedral-ceiling player. This is the type of player I like to speculate with. Long Term Fantasy Grade - A--Lou Blasi
Reyes, Franmil What we love about Reyes is the quality of contact. His 47% Hard Hit rate is elite as is his 93 MPH average velocity on his batted balls. His 407 distance and 106.4 BBS are beast like, but his 31% HR/FB rate is likely to settle in closer to 25-27%. There is upside in his BA, as his 279 BABIP seems unfortunate. On the plus side should be h is RBI count which seems a little under appreciated in 2019. 2019 BABIP: 0.279(-0.066)| Contact Rate: 65%(-4%)| HR Distance: 407ft(-1)| HR BBS: 106.4(1.5)| HardHit%: 47.3%(3.1%)| Avg Velocity: 93(1.0)| Elevation%: 9.5(2.7)| Barrels%: 14.8%(3.2%)| HR/FB%: 31%(2%)| GB/FB Rate: 1.3(-0.4)| EYE: 0.30(0.00)| ISO: 26.3%(4.5%)
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