Did you guys see that new trailer for Avengers: Infinity War?! I’m super in, and can’t wait to see more banter between Chris Pratt’s Starlord and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. It’s just gonna be so awesome.
Here’s some news from around the league.
- The huge news, if you missed it, is Jose Altuve getting a monster extension from the Astros.
- As promised the Tampa Bay Rays will, indeed, start the season with a four-man rotation, but with a bit of a twist:
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 15, 2018
- After Nathan Eovaldi pitches, Jake Faria will get the start on the fifth day. So basically, the Rays are planning to use just four different starters in their rotation, HOWEVER, they will each go on normal rest, thanks to a bullpen day every fifth start (to act as the “fifth” starter). The idea, according to Manager Kevin Cash, is a reflection of who the team has on the roster, but also about limiting exposure of one pitcher multiple times through a single game (at least, on those bullpen days). It’s definitely not a true four-man rotation, because all the pitchers are going on normal rest, but it’s clearly something different. I’m interested to see how it works out.
- In case you were unaware, World Series MVP George Springer has a stutter, but has been raising awareness for the issue publicly through his charitable organization, Say.Org. Recently, he was interviewed by a reporter, who also happens to have a stutter, and I thought it was just to good and positive not to share:
- As you can imagine, Tessa Andrade, the reporter, later commented that it was the coolest interview she’s ever done:
— Tessa Andrade (@tessaandrade) March 14, 2018
- The ongoing Zack Greinke saga continues, and now it looks like he might not be ready for Opening Day (right groin tightness). “He’s going to have to get ahead of it and be well ahead of it before he puts himself in (position to start Opening Day),” Manager Torey Lovullo said. “My mind-set is to not have him play catch-up for one day during the season. We want to make sure he’s strong from Day 1 until the end of the season.” If you remember, Greinke was already dealing with depleted velocity and some confidence concerns ahead of the season, so the right groin strain just pushes everything back even further. At this point, I wouldn’t expect him to be the D-Backs ‘Opening Day starter.
- At MLB.com, Anthony Castrovince has his list of seven cinderella stories that could happen in 2018, and, as you can imagine (and as I hoped), both the Cardinals and Brewers are listed among the field. But Michael, why would you be happy to see the Cubs biggest rivals listed in this story? Because, kids, you know what’s better than being an underdog? Being the favorite by so much that it would take a fairy tale for someone to beat you. (Something something, sorry UVA.)
- For what it’s worth, Castrovince lists the Cubs’ bullpen as their biggest potential weakness – and if Pedro Strop misses more time than expected, Brandon Morrow is still hungover from the World Series, and/or Justin Wilson never gets it back, it could get off on the wrong foot. Overall, I’m still confident in that group and think the lineup will carry much more of the weight than we’re expecting.
- Also at MLB.com, Mark Bowman talks to one scout – a former Atlanta outfielder who played with Hank Aaron – who believes Ronald Acuna (baseballs top prospect) could be a future Hall-of-Famer: “If I put [the 20-year-old] Aaron and Acuna side by side, I think they would do the same thing,” Garr said. “Unless he gets injured or something, I think he has a chance to be in the Hall of Fame. I really do.” Dang, that’s some serious confidence right there. If you’re wondering, Acuna slashed .344/.393/.548 (162 wRC+) as a 20-year-old in Triple-A last season. Kyle Schwarber (173 wRC+), Kris Bryant (164 wRC+), Anthony Rizzo (178 wRC+) all produced bigger offensive numbers in Triple-A, but all three players were older than Acuna is now *and* he plays center field. Oh, and he’s a base-stealing threat. Yeah, he’s gonna be good.
- Carlos Gonzalez’s recent deal with the Rockies has yet another unique/quirky contract structure. For the season, Gonzalez is guaranteed $5 million, but he can earn up to $3 million more by accruing 125, 150, and 175 days of Major League *service time* – which includes the active roster and disabled list. It’s very unusual for a baseball contract (in fact, these bonuses are basically just roster bonuses for not being released – almost like a football contract), but this offseason has been unusual from the start.
- Jeremy Hellickson has found a home on a minor league deal with the Nationals, where he’ll compete to see some time in the rotation. Hellickson, 30, is just a year removed from receiving, and accepting, a qualifying offer. That’s how good he was in 2016. But one down year in 2017, plus some always-dicey peripherals, and now he’s a guy who has to take a minor league deal in mid-March.
- At The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold has the latest on rookie/prospect Alex Reyes and how the Cardinals plan to use him this season. If you recall, Reyes, 23, is a year removed from elbow surgery and has been making his way back to the Majors. However, he’s not expected back until sometime in May. After that, the team plans on using him in a hybrid role – starter and reliever – that sounds not all unlike Mike Montgomery’s plan.
- After this season, however, the gloves will come off: “Officials have described a goal of 90 innings to 100 innings so that Reyes will be ready for a full workload as a starter in 2019.” I think the Cubs would’ve been fine either way, but it is a bit of a break that Reyes won’t be pitching until May and won’t be a full-time starter at all this season. He’s pretty good and the Cardinals rotation has some question marks.
- Eric Hosmer has one of the lowest launch angles in all of baseball, according to Travis Sawchik (FanGraphs), and that’s been a problem for him throughout his career – at least, it would appear so in this current fly ball revolution/juiced ball era. But when Sawchik approached him with some of this information, he didn’t seem to be particularly receptive (it’s an unusually intimate share from Sawchik/Hosmer). “A lot of guys like to look at the numbers and judge a player based off of that stuff. [Other] guys like to watch the game, have that eye, and judge it off that,” Hosmer said. “Analytically, the stuff doesn’t add up in my favor. Me, as a player, I’m not going to change who I am because of what the analytics say.” Yeesh. I’m so sure that’s a very common belief, but what a weird stance to take.
- Also at FanGraphs, Sawchik writes about how Dee Gordon looks ready to be a really good center fielder, writing “Perhaps Dee Gordon Was Out of Position Until Now.” And that gives me the perfect opportunity to re-share his awesome outfield assists from the other day:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) March 8, 2018
- The World Baseball/Softball Confederation has unveiled the rules for a new version of baseball called “Baseball5.” Basically, the idea of the game is to make the sport more accessible to everyone, by removing the need for most of the equipment. In short, it’s street-baseball:
- I’d play that in a heartbeat.
- At EPSN, Travis Sawchik (again!?) writes about which new faces in new places will thrive in 2018, and for the Cubs, it’s not Yu Darvish, but Tyler Chatwood who gets the nod. We’ve discussed Chatwood’s potential outside of Coors a lot this offseason, and I really can’t wait to see him in action throughout the regular season. If he can dial things up just a notch, the entire Cubs rotation will be so formidable. And remember, Anthony Rizzo just mentioned that he has the nastiest stuff on the team, so that’s something to keep in mind.
- Former Joe Maddon first-mate, Dave Martinez, is pulling out all the stops to make his first Spring Training as manager a memorable, fun one for the players:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) March 16, 2018
- And finally, I stumbled upon this random, fun memory of Manny Ramirez running out of the Boston dugout with a tiny American flag on the day he received his American citizenship:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) March 16, 2018
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.