The Brewers announced today that a mild right hamstring strain will cost All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy four to six weeks of action in Spring Training. Obviously, that news brings into question whether or not Lucroy can be ready for Opening Day with the Brewers. As Adam McCalvy of MLB.com writes, however, Lucroy recently had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his hamstring to speed the recovery process and believes he will be ready come Opening Day. The team does have a serviceable backup in Martin Maldonado, should Lucroy’s recovery take longer than expected, but even missing a few weeks of Lucroy’s bat and elite glove could be a significant detriment in what figures to be a highly competitive NL Central Division. (For more on Lucroy’s defense, check out this excellent article by Rob Arthur of Baseball Prospectus detailing the effect of pitch-framing not only on called strikes but on expanding a hitter’s swing profile.)
Here are a few more notes from the game’s Central divisions…
- Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias, signed by the Reds to a seven-year, $27MM contract last summer, has a legitimate chance to end up in Cincinnati’s rotation, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer in looking at 10 pertinent questions facing the Reds as Spring Training approaches. Scouts in the Arizona Fall League and manager Bryan Price all raved to Fay about Iglesias’ AFL performance. “Four pitches with command — that spells out starting pitcher, especially when it’s plus-stuff across the board,” Price said. “He was 93-97, so the velocity is there. The action on his fastball is there, much better changeup than I anticipated seeing and two quality breaking balls and a good feel.” If Iglesias can indeed crack the rotation, that could be a significant boost to a team that saw both Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon depart via trade this winter.
- Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN writes that he has been asked by Twins fans, and wondered himself, why Minnesota didn’t go on a Padres-like tear to restructure their roster into a win-now club. While Mackey concedes that Minnesota’s deep farm system makes it possible to have done something similar, he points out that the Padres had a lower payroll to start with than the Twins and even after their flurry of moves are now on par with Minnesota. Additionally, San Diego’s method comes with plenty of risk, as Justin Upton looks to be a one-year rental, and the team has taken the risk that Matt Kemp’s arthritic hips will hold up, and James Shields’ productivity will continue through age 36. Mackey looks at recent winter remakes by the 2008 Tigers and Mariners, the 2012 Marlins and 2013 Blue Jays and notes that none have been successful (though Detroit eventually emerged as a perennial contender). Ultimately, he concludes, his preference is for a long-term, sustainable run at success with a deep farm system, such as the one currently possessed by the Twins.
- Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and several scouts were on hand today to watch Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez in the Dominican Republic, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Just 18 years old, Alvarez was clocked between 93 and 97 mph and received positive words from Fangraphs prospect/scouting guru Kiley McDaniel earlier today.
- Though the Royals will miss Shields’ arm in their rotation, he gave them exactly what they needed at a time they needed it the most, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Shields helped instill a winning culture in the Royals’ clubhouse, bringing a “swagger and a level of confidence that we didn’t have before,” GM Dayton Moore explained to Flanagan. Shields created a belief among his teammates that they could win on any given night and orchestrated elaborate victory celebrations. Not only that, but he became a role model for young arms such as Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. “He was a tremendous help to me,” Duffy told Flanagan. “You learn so much just talking to him.” In addition to those intangible benefits, of course, the Royals got two years of excellent production and the No. 33 pick in the 2015 draft.