Michael Pineda has yet to throw a pitch for the Twins, but he’s healthy now and ready to make his Twins debut in 2019, per Betsy Helfand of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. The Twins signed Pineda to a two-year, $10MM guarantee last December as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, hoping he might be ready for the latter half of the season. Just when it looked like Pineda was ready to return, he was diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee, ending his season before it began. Injuries have been a constant for Pineda’s career, though he did put together back-to-back healthy campaigns for the Yankees in 2015 and 2016. His overall 4.05 ERA is boosted by a particularly strong rookie campaign, but across 680 innings in Seattle and New York, he did turn in 9.1 K/9 to 2.1 BB/9. The Twins are perhaps the most wait-and-see team in the league, with many volatile assets equally capable of All-Star seasons and bottoming out (Pineda, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jonathan Schoop, among others). With no guaranteed money on the books for 2020, recent speculation has Minnesota as a sleeper team for either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, but Thad Levine threw some water on that idea, as he believes significant acquisitions of that variety are more appropriate for frontrunners atop a division, rather than a young team on the rise, per MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park (via Twitter). Certainly an interesting take from the Minnesota GM. Now, some more recovery news from around the league…
- The Brewers will return an intriguing arm to their rotation this spring, as Jimmy Nelson is healthy and ready to go, per Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Twitter). Nelson will have no restrictions heading into Spring Training, and he’s not backing down from high expectations either, making clear his goal to get the nod on Opening Day – unlikely as that may be. Nelson put together an impressive campaign in 2017 that launched him to the top of the Milwaukee rotation, but it’s probably best to temper expectations after a torn labrum took his 2018. For Milwaukee, the tide is turning on what was seen as a rickety rotation leading up to the playoffs, as their starting staff now looks to be a source of potential strength. Jhoulys Chacin made himself irreplaceable in their run to the NLCS, and he’s backed by Zach Davies and Chase Anderson, both rebound candidates after subpar seasons. Add Nelson, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, among others, as contenders to join what now looks like a high-ceiling and deep, if unstable, unit.
- Rosiak also notes (via Twitter) that prospects Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon are ready for a big year, rested in the former’s case and healthy after ACL surgery in the latter’s. While both will return to big league camp this spring, they’ve been told they won’t be with the team on Opening Day, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt (via Twitter). None of this should come as a surprise, as it’s become the norm for top prospects to begin their debut seasons in Triple A, but it’s safe to say Hiura, at least, is hopeful to make an impact at the ML level sometime in 2019. Dubon, for his part, was ripping through Triple A before the surgery, hitting .343/.348/.574 in 27 games with Colorado Springs.
- Corey Seager hasn’t taken batting practice since his injury last May, but he’s long-tossing in preparation for an important spring back in the middle of the Dodgers infield, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Seager isn’t yet mobilizing for groundballs or throwing across the diamond, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery has gone according to plan thus far and hope remains that he’ll be ready by Opening Day. He’s hitting off a tee, with the next steps being batting practice in the cage before going against live pitching. The Dodgers have the depth to cover for Seager if he’s not ready by Opening Day – with Chris Taylor the most likely stand-in – but he’s obviously a huge part of their team moving forward.
- The Royals fanbase is still waiting for the long-heralded debut of former top draft choice Kyle Zimmer, but it seems nearly time after he signed a major league contract this winter, per the Kansas City Star’ s Lynn Worthy. Zimmer was the 5th overall pick of the 2012 draft, but he missed the entirety of 2018 while training at the Driveline Baseball pitching program. Even so, he was clocked in the mid-90s this fall, and the Royals weren’t alone in competing for Zimmer’s services, hence the major league contract. Said GM Dayton Moore of the deal, “I would rather have him fail with us than go somewhere else and succeed.” While that’s not exactly a rousing sentiment, and it could be read as vindictive, that does not appear to be Moore’s intent, who praised Zimmer for his mindset and toughness. For Zimmer’s part, he spoke glowingly of the Royals longstanding support and loyalty in his continued journey to toe a major league rubber. If he can stay healthy, there’s opportunity enough for Zimmer to make his debut at Kauffman Stadium sometime in 2019, and despite Moore’s omission of Zimmer’s potential success with the Royals as one of his potential futures, that’s surely the goal for both parties.