The Marlins are adding a pair of new faces to their coaching staff in 2021, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Keith Johnson is joining Don Mattingly’s staff as first base/outfield coach, while Lee Tressel has been promoted to strength and conditioning coach. Johnson managed Miami’s Triple-A affiliate between 2018-19; he’ll replace Billy Hatcher on the MLB staff. The rest of Mattingly’s assistants are expected to return in their previous roles, Frisaro notes.
Some other notes from around baseball:
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News profiles new Rangers GM Chris Young. The 41-year-old brings a blend of playing experience and a “strong unique analytical capability,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred tells Grant. Young has worked for Manfred in the league office the past three seasons and quickly rose to a position of overseeing on-field operations. The former pitcher will initially work as president of baseball operations Jon Daniels’ chief lieutenant. However, Grant notes the pair is expected to form “a more equal partnership” when Young gains more experience in the team’s front office.
- Pirates general manager Ben Cherington discussed the club’s shortstop competition with reporters (including Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) earlier this week. Each of Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman and Erik González will be given a shot to win the job in spring training, the GM says. All three struggled offensively in 2020 but each is still fairly young and comes with a decent prospect pedigree. Cherington noted that whichever players don’t win the shortstop job could find themselves in the mix for utility roles. Newman and Tucker can also be optioned to Triple-A. González seems a good bet to make the MLB roster in some fashion; the out-of-options infielder agreed to a one-year, $1.225MM deal to avoid arbitration earlier this week.
I would love to watch a left side of the infield of Tucker and Hayes. Nothing would get through. Although, Newman probably has the upper hand for at least one middle infield position, assuming they trade Frazier. This year will be a real deciding year as to if Newman plays a role in the Pirates’ future. They have so many other talented middle infield prospects. Peguero and Gonzales are probably who they want to man SS/2B in 2023/2024 when they’re trying to re-enter contention. If Newman bounces back, I’d be ok with him in a utility role. They might also use him as a trade chip if he bounces back. Could bring back a solid prospect or a mid-level MLB player with a few years of control.
I’d like to believe Newman had a “sophomore slump”. But then again, it can be Freddy Sanchez 2.0. Evey player through the Pirates that had one stellar year, 9 out of 10 times fall back to earth. I think Hayes will fit the mold with this too. There is so much hype about Hayes offense (like Newman’s after last year) production and having it next year. I even questioned if McCutchen could be consistent offensively his first 3 years. Bell should be another to be considered to lose their job after next season. He had one out of 3 good season and it’s hard to believe he is going to be better than 2019 Bell. There is a dim light in Pittsburgh and as a fan, it crushes me to see us back to where the Pirates was through nearly 30 years of losing. We got 3 years of good or excellent baseball out of it. One of the years Pirates had the second best record in the season but lost to Cincy in that wild card game. I never thought I’d see Pirates in any playoff picture in my lifetime after the early 90s.
Newman and Hayes are completley different players. Newman has consistently been among the bottom rankings in hard hit rate while posting ground ball rates nearing 50%. Hayes has a bit of a worrying ground ball rate, but he absolutley demolishes the baseball. Average exit velocity at AAA last season was around 92 MPH. He was working on getting the ball in the air more and most of the projections (those being his expected stats, the projection on BBREF, Steamer on FanGraphs and his deserved runs created plus/DRC+ which is one of the best predictive 100-based offensive numbers). I’ve seen say he’s going to be really good. Very underrated simpily because he isn’t a huge power hitter.
I want to see Phillip Evans start at 2B. He impressed me in the small sample he played last season.
Additional or advanced numbers haven’t done much for a player since everyone has gone to them. I am not buying into Hayes offensively yet. I have no questions about him defensively, he’s got the goods there. Newman is similar in more ways than you believe. Bell is just not the guy everyone believes. He will probably never touch his 2019 numbers offensively again. I see him as a LaRoche type. But Newman can very well be similar to Billy Hamilton with a bat in his hands but without the speed of Hamilton. Again, the future looks dim and it’s hard to watch this circus show that Pirates writers and analysts put out for us fans
The only thing Hayes and Newman have in common hitting wise is ground ball rate. However, Hayes had a 92 MPH exit velocity at AAA in 2019 and 92.8 MPH exit velocity in his short stint in the majors. Hayes also has a 60 hit grade and average game/raw power grades on FanGraphs while Newman has well below average grades. Just because neither are big power hitters doesn’t mean they’re similar. I’m not too high on Bell. While he does have the potential, he is the definition of inconsistent. If he turned into an Adam Laroche, I’d be thrilled. You’re really putting down the Pirates further than they really are. Since arriving in Pittsburgh, Cherington has really gotten the train back on its tracks. He did very well in the draft and four of the Pirates’ draft picks rank as top 30 organizational prospects on FanGraphs, including Nick Gonzales who ranks as the 80th best prospect in baseball. Luckily, it looks like Cruz will return. He got a great return for Starling Marte last off season. Malone was a first round draft pick in 2019 and Liover Peguero ranks as a top 100 prospect on FanGraphs. Many overlook Tahnaj Thomas. Pirates are great at developing pitching prospects and Thomas saw his walk rate go from 16.5% with the Indians to just 7% with the Pirates. Swaggerty’s bat is a bit questionable, but he did have a 120 wRC+ in 2019. He could easily be a .260/.350 leadoff hitter with plus speed and Gold Glove level defense. At the major league level, it’s not a concidence that Richard Rodriguez, Chris Stratton, Steven Brault, Joe Musgrove career best years when Oscar Marin took over as pitching coach. When you look at their pitch usage year by year, there are some massive changes in what they threw under Searage compared to Marin and it got results. Plus, Cherington moved Larry Broadway out of the role of farm director for John Baker. I get the Pirates sucked last year, but it was for the greater good because now they can draft either Rocker or Leiter. Cherington really has a plan in place, which is refreshing because for years, it felt like this team had no direction.
The Rangers need all the GM’s/POBO they can get.
I’m not all that sure of why the Pirates even brought back Gonzalez, let alone giving him a shot to start at SS. I mean, he’s a decent enough player, but he’s put up consistently mediocre offensive numbers for four years now, and I don’t see him as Pittsburgh’s shortstop of the future. They might as well let either Tucker or Newman prove themselves. Newman may well have had a similar sophomore slump as Reynolds, at least we can hope so. Tucker, he may never hit much, but his glove is so good that he just has to put up Gonzalez-type numbers to make him playable.
Gonzalez has been extremely streaky. In the last month of the season in 2019, he had a .300 BA. I know it didn’t come with many XBH, but with his defense, anything resembling offense is a plus. In 2020, he had a 116 plate appearance stretch where he had a .849 OPS. He had an above average hard hit rate in 2020 so I guess they thought why not try him again. No real risk right now.
Career OPS+ of 72. Gonzalez is unplayable even as a bench piece.
I really liked Evans myself ! He looks like a bat you want in lineup. If he is for real it would be big plus to the team. Any lineup needs 4 to 5 contact hitters plus power never hurts. They have in past had that type of lineup. Madlock Parker Stennett Oliver Stargell Garner now that’s a lineup!