- Who's Taking the Mound in Charm City?
Tommy Milone was signed to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. The Orioles are his sixth organization in the last 5 seasons. With the Mariners last season Milone pitched more than 100 major league innings for the first time since 2015. His 4.76 ERA and 5.00 FIP are not outstanding. However, his 7.58 K/9 and 1.85 BB/9 were better than his career norms. Milone also had some extreme home/road splits. His home ERA and FIP were 5.46 and 5.92 while he had a HR/9 of 2.51. Away from Seattle Milone's numbers were far better with an ERA of 3.91, FIP of 3.89, K/9 of 7.99, HR/9 of 1.24 and WHIP of 0.95. Seattle's park factors were close to league average with the exception of a negative effect on homers by lefthanded batters, so there isn't anything that stands out as an obvious reason for those discrepancies. With a fairly long span of time between significant major league playing time, there could be more than pure chance at work here. As a southpaw Milone may have an advantage in the competition for one of the open roster spots. If he wins one of them, then it could be worth watching his performances at different venues. Milone could end up being a low cost option to add to a roster for selective starting if his splits continue to manifest themselves like 2019.
Wade LeBlanc served in a swing man role for Seattle in 2019, starting in 8 of his 26 appearances. He signed with Baltimore and is in camp as a non-roster invitee. LeBlanc threw 2 scoreless IP in his Grapefruit League debut Sunday, striking out 2 batters. He was pretty much a disaster as a starter last season, posting an ERA of 8.35 and yielding 12 homers in 36.2 IP. The key for LeBlanc will be to continue having impressive outings. In 2018 he posted a 9-5 record with a 3.72 ERA, 4.28 FIP, and 7.22 K/9 in a career-high 162 IP that covered 27 starts in 32 total appearances. That's the kind of performance the Orioles are hoping for. If LeBlanc shows those kinds of results in Florida his fantasy value will increase dramatically. Of course right now it's close to zero, so a significant increase would not necessarily require a lot.
- The Future of Texas Starters
Brock Burke will undergo surgery on a torn labrum on Friday. The procedure will end his 2020 season before it really began. Burke rocketed through the Texas system in 2019 pitching for four minor league teams and making his major league debut. He had problems in a relatively small sample size in Texas, with a 7.43 ERA and 4.73 K/9 across 26.2 IP in 6 starts. Burke spent the most time at AA Frisco, where he put up a 3.18 ERA, 2.79 FIP and 9.73 K/9 in 45.1 IP. The 23-year-old is losing this season, but the injury is not expected to linger beyond 2020. He should be back in the mix for at least a significant role at AAA in 2021. Burke's prospect status won't diminish and he can be watched in next year's Cactus League.
Joe Palumbo is one of a number of Texas pitchers who are being looked at as the future of the rotation. He made his major league debut in 2019 and it was brief but unsuccessful. Palumbo posted a 9.18 ERA in 16.2 IP. Such small sample sizes are not things to worry about too much. At AA Frisco he had a 3.19 ERA and 11.57 K/9 before getting promoted to AAA Nashville where he improved his numbers to a 2.67 ERA and 13.00 K/9. Those were also in small sample sizes of 53.2 and 27 IP respectively. Palumbo is ticketed to start 2020 in Nashville but he is one of the prime candidates to be called up and inserted in the rotation when needed. If his numbers at AAA are looking good when that happens the 25-year-old Palumbo can have potential to add fantasy value.
- New and New/Old Faces in Milwaukee
The Brewers have done a revamp of much of their team since exiting the postseason in the 2019 Wild Card Game. There are new players all around the lineup and the mound, including two players who are heading north from stints in Tampa Bay last season. In one case it's a return of a familiar face.
Eric Sogard is expected to take over 3B from the departed free agent Mike Moustakas. He had a comeback year when he joined the Brewers in 2017, posting a slash line of .273/.393/.378. The following season Sogard suffered some injuries and horrendous luck (in the form of a .134 BABIP) and found himself back in the minors and them released. Last season, he signed with the Blue Jays, earned a utility role after a short stint at AAA Buffalo and was traded to Tampa Bay later in the season. With a .316 BABIP more in line with his .311 of 2017 Sogard produced a .290/.353/.457 slash line in a career-high 442 PAs. Significantly Sogard also discovered a power stroke with the juiced ball, slugging 13 homers when his previous high was 3. His FB% of 42.3% was far higher than his 32.5% with Milwaukee in 2017. Sogard spent his major league career with Oakland prior to joining the Brewers. A change in launch angle from last season will be to his benefit in his Brewers encore. Sogard was a fan favorite while in Milwaukee, which will probably give him a longer leash if he struggles out of the gate. Google "eric sogard daughter crying" to get an idea why that is.
Avisail Garcia headed north to Milwaukee from Tampa Bay, signing a two-year contract with the Brewers in the offseason. His acquisition has moved Christian Yelich from right field to left field. Although Garcia will get the bulk of playing time in right field, Ryan Braun will probably spell him occasionally. The move has the potential to help Garcia's power, as he is going to a park with a HR factor of 107 for right handed batters and leaving one with a 95 park factor. He belted 20 homers for the Rays in 2019. Fantistics' preseason project has Garcia batting .274 and slugging .466 with 24 homers. That increases his value from last season.
Madison Bumgarner was the subject of one of the more bizarre stories coming out of Spring Training. The pitcher, who signed a five-year $85 million contract with Arizona in the offseason, is also "Mason Saunders," a professional rodeo calf roper. The Diamondbacks are taking an official stance that Bumgarner's hobbies are his business. Reading between the lines, however, it seems like they aren't too pleased. With Bumgarner missing 3 months of the 2017 season due to a dirt bike accident, it would be reasonable to put limits on his off field activity. His chances of staying healthy may have increased with this revelation, before you even knew he was taking these risks. It is going to be very difficult for Bumgarner to go back to relative anonymity on the rodeo circuit.