Some bits from around baseball while you await tonight’s game ….
- Last Thursday, Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday took a 94 MPH Mike Montgomery fastball off his hand, resulting in a fractured right thumb. When presented with two options for treatment – letting it heal naturally, or undergoing surgery – Holliday chose the latter, which will reportedly give him a shot to return this season. If the season ended today, the Cardinals would sneak into the playoffs with the second Wild Card by a single game. Given that fact, and Holliday’s competitiveness, Manager Mike Matheny wasn’t surprised to hear his player’s decision. To that, I say hopefully, the surgery goes well and Holliday can return quickly. If fate does have Chicago facing St. Louis in the playoffs, I want the Cubs to beat them at full strength (or at least, as full-strength as they can be).
- Because – at a minimum – they’ll be without reliever Seth Maness for the rest of the season. According to Jenifer Langosch (MLB.com), Maness will undergo Tommy John Surgery on Thursday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which may keep him out for all of 2017, as well. Apparently, Maness had been pitching through discomfort in his elbow for most of the season (spending some early season time on the DL, too), and it never really went away. Despite having just a ridiculously low 11.9% strikeout rate, Maness had actually been pretty good this season, allowing just a 3.41 ERA through 31.2 innings pitched. In his place, the Cardinals have recalled right-hander Sam Tuivailala from Triple-A. Say what you will about the competitiveness of their team, but they have certainly experienced their fair share of injuries this (and really, last) season.
- Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi will also need to undergo Tommy John Surgery, after he left his last start in Boston in the middle of last week, as well as another surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his pitching arm. The Tommy John Surgery will be the second of Eovaldi’s career (the first came as a 17-year-old high schooler), and keep him out possibly up to 18 months. That means he’ll definitely miss all of the 2017 season and probably even the beginning of 2018, as well. Woof. Eovaldi may not have been having the best 2016 season (4.76 ERA, 4.97 FIP), but at just 26 years old, he has shown quite a bit of promise throughout his young career. Eovaldi is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, so this is quite a blow for the Yankees. There is apparently an outside shot he could return in the bullpen at the end of next season, but from the sound of things, 2018 is the more realistic target. Quite a bummer for a guy who’s huge fastball was a frequent topic of discussion early in 2016.
- Taking this to a slightly more positive note, the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft – Dansby Swanson – is scheduled to make his Major League debut on Wednesday with the Braves. Thus, Eric Longenhagen has a full scouting report up ahead of time at FanGraphs. Swanson signed with the Diamondbacks for $6.5 million just a year ago, before being traded as part of the package for Shelby Miller (talk about a regretful trade). Swanson had done quite well for the Braves at High-A this season (166 wRC+), but was slightly less productive upon his promotion to Double-A (116 wRC+ through 377 plate appearances). He hasn’t quite destroyed the Minors the same way other fast-tracked prospects have, then, but the Braves feel they have the need so they’re making the call, partly for the future. According to Longenhagen, Swanson is “a plus runner with terrific instincts on the bases and enough range for SS.” But while his defense grades out well, his offensive projection (for this season) isn’t quite as optimistic. He wouldn’t be the first player to step up his game, upon reaching the Major Leagues though, and for now, I’ll be rooting for an exciting debut.
- Recently DFA’d outfielder Carlos Gomez is still available, but according to Adam Rubin of ESPN, the New York Mets have shown no interest in trading for their former outfielder, with Justin Ruggiano expected back shortly. What a quick, precipitous fall for the formerly studly outfielder. The Mets are currently one game above .500, in third place of the NL East, but are just 3.0 games back of the second Wild Card.
- At MLB Trade Rumors, Mark Polishuk takes an early look at the upcoming free agent qualifying offer market. This year’s one-year qualifying offer is expected to reach $16.7 million, which might actually make some decisions a bit more difficult than they’ve seemed in the past (last offseason was the first time anyone accepted the offer). Polishuk then separates the impending free agents into several categories including the easy calls, the unique cases, the TBDs, and the unlikely candidates. There are certainly a bit more high-profile players than I had initially expected, so this should prove to be a pretty interesting class, in that regard. My guess is that, once again, a few players will accept their qualifying offers. I guess we’ll see.
- At The Ringer, Ben Lindbergh writes that Baltimore Closer Zach Britton isn’t just a surprise Cy Young candidate, he might even be the AL MVP. At a minimum, Britton makes a superficial case: he has a 0.54 ERA (2.00 FIP) across 50.0 innings, is 37-37 in save opportunities this season and has posted a ground ball rate above 80%(!), but … I’m not so sure I see it. Even still, Lindbergh is a smart guy and isn’t unaware of a player named Mike Trout. In fact, if you are simply selecting the single best player in the American League, Lindbergh agrees that Britton doesn’t really scratch the surface. With a slightly different take on what it means to be the most valuable player (the same yearly debate we have every season), Lindbergh makes a fairly interesting case. If you’re the slightest bit confused, angered, or intrigued, I strongly suggest giving the article a read. It’s a fairly interesting discussion. In short, Britton has had an enormously disproportionate impact on his team’s success.
- A bit of a controversy is sparking up in Oakland, where longtime A’s outfielder Coco Crisp is convinced that the A’s are deliberately not playing him in order to avoid a vesting option in 2017. “I’m extremely hurt, the way things are being handled,” said Crisp via Susan Slusser at SFGate. “I’m not calling anyone names, but this is really frustrating and disappointing. This has been my favorite organization going back to when I was a kid, because of Rickey Henderson, and I’ve enjoyed playing here so much, and I’ve put it all out there. … Up until recently, it’s been tremendously enjoyable.” According to Slusser, Crisp needs to play in 130 games this season, in order for his option to vest, and he currently sits at 93. In light of a recently light number of appearances off the bench, Crisp, 36, has called manager Bob Melvin’s use of the outfielder, “shady,” adding that everyone else is getting used off the bench ahead of him. Crisp has been particularly upset with his playing time against left-handed pitchers, although he is hitting just .221 against southpaws this year. Still, I’m guessing this is not quite something the A’s want to be known for.
- At ESPN, Commissioner Rob Manfred writes/discusses the fact that baseball is changing faster than ever – an especially important topic from an especially important man, considering the impending CBA negotiations/updates this winter. I don’t want to spoil too much of it, because it’s actually quite an enjoyable read. If nothing else, Manfred is an exceedingly open-minded commissioner. While that might scare some of you, I assure you it’s better than the alternative. Here’s a tease: “So the question is not whether there should be change — the game is going to change and evolve no matter what. The question is whether to let the change happen or, instead, to manage the change.” I rather like that.
- You already knew 21-year-old Japanese superstar Shohei Otani is one of the best pitchers outside of Major League Baseball, but did you know he is one of the JPL’s premier hitters. Scratch that, Shohei Otani has the best batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage in the entire JPL. He recently hit his 18th home run (in less than 300 plate appearances), oh, and he has just a 2.02 ERA. Ridiculous.
- Lastly, Mookie Betts is doing dangerous things:
43% of his 28 (28!) home runs have come in just 5 games. He is insane – already at 6.0 WAR. https://t.co/UOqCMHGT69
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 17, 2016
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