Notes from around the game’s western divisions…
- The A’s are “not giving up” on Kyler Murray, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Murray’s widely perceived as first-round selection in the forthcoming NFL Draft – he’s the 8th best ranked prospect on Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest big board – and recently checked in at an encouraging (for NFL teams) 5’10 and 207 lbs, just a half-inch shorter than Seahawks QB Russell Wilson during his combine appearance in 2013. His status, in fact, continues to soar: NFL Network reports suggest that the QB/OF is now “universally” projected to go first overall in April’s draft. Still, as Rosenthal reminds us, the A’s can still beat any NFL offer for Murray by offering him an unrestricted major-league deal that would guarantee him a spot on the 40-man. Baker Mayfield, last year’s first overall selection in the NFL Draft, signed a guaranteed deal worth nearly $33MM, so any investment of the kind in Murray, a player with only 238 AB in two college seasons, would be a significant risk. Still, the gamble may yet prove to be a worthy one under the current rookie-scale structure, where even the best players struggle to eclipse $5MM combined in their first four full major league campaigns.
- Mariners righty Felix Hernandez, who clung ardently to a world-beating changeup at the height of his reign, has bluntly been informed that his best pitch is now his curveball, as the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish writes. Indeed, per FanGraphs’ pitch value metrics, the curve was easily tops among Hernandez’s offerings in 2018, the worst in a storied Seattle career for the Venezuelan. With just 0.7 combined fWAR in over 230 IP the last two seasons, and an average fastball velocity that reached a career-low 89.3 MPH in ’18, Hernandez knows his grip on the last rotation spot in the Mariner rotation is tenuous at best. Remarkably, the King, who’s thrown nearly 2,700 innings at the big-league level since his teenage debut, will be just 33 years old for much of the year, and may yet have a second act left in him.
- Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo is tired of waiting for an opportunity, as Bill Plunkett of the OC Register explains: “I hit .330 for two years. I mean – at a certain point, numbers don’t lie. I’ve hit in the minor leagues. I think I’m a career over .300 hitter. Everybody wants to talk about ‘It’s the minors. It’s not the big leagues.’ I hit over .300 against lefties in my career. I hit righties and lefties very well in my career.” Verdugo, who’s been knocked in multiple circles for makeup issues dating back to high school, may again have a bird’s-eye view of the action this year – per Plunkett, the Dodgers “expect” to align their outfield with Cody Bellinger in right and A.J. Pollock in center; Joc Pederson, too, comes in with a career 118 wRC+ total under his belt, and Verdugo wouldn’t seem the logical choice to spell him against his left-handed kryptonite. The 22-year-old isn’t wrong about his batting average totals, but the power numbers – a .122 and .143 ISO in the last two seasons, respectively – leave plenty of room for improvement.