- Joc Pederson and Dustin May were both limited during Spring Training, but Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick) that the two players are “essentially recovered” and should be ready to fully participate whenever a second Spring Training camp opens. Pederson missed time with a hip injury, while May was bothered by a side problem and was largely limited to playing catch at the time of the league shutdown.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has already run through the American League Central and the American League West in previewing some of the interesting young talent that could surface in the Majors this season. We’ll tackle the NL West next — a particularly interesting division given the enviable bevy of young talent that has been cultivated by both the Dodgers and Padres. Los Angeles and San Diego have two of the game’s best systems, but there are varying degrees of high-end talent bubbling to the surface for all five NL West clubs…
Jon Duplantier is a former top 100 prospect whose debut effort in 2019 was slowed by shoulder troubles. He notched a 4.42 ERA and 34-to-18 K/BB ratio in 36 2/3 innings when on the roster, though he was optioned to Triple-A five times. There’s no room in Arizona’s rotation at the moment, but Duplantier and his career 2.54 minor league ERA with 10.5 K/9 will be one of the first lines of defense should a need arise. Righty Kevin Ginkel also got his feet wet in the big leagues and, after posting a 1.48 ERA and a 28-to-9 K/BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings of relief, should have the inside track on a bullpen spot whenever play resumes.
Elsewhere in the D-backs’ system loom catcher Daulton Varsho, infielder Andy Young, first baseman Seth Beer and right-hander J.B. Bukauskas. Varsho is a homegrown talent who’s considered to be among baseball’s 100 best prospects, although the presence of Carson Kelly in the big leagues puts a roadblock in his path to Phoenix. He’s yet to play above Double-A, but a big Triple-A showing and an injury to Kelly and/or Stephen Vogt could propel Varsho to the bigs.
Young, Bukauskas and Beer were all acquired in trades — Young alongside Weaver and Kelly in the Paul Goldschmidt swap and the others in the Zack Greinke blockbuster. Arizona’s infield is stacked at the moment, but Young can play anywhere in the infield, so he’s a nice depth piece … who happened to bash 21 homers and slug .611 in 277 Triple-A plate appearances last year. Beer showed big pop of his own in a pitcher-friendly Double-A setting last season. Bukauskas will be looking for a rebound after a poor showing in Double-A.
Rox fans have been waiting since 2015 to get a good look at Brendan Rodgers, the No. 3 overall pick in that year’s draft. Rodgers has ranked among the game’s elite prospects each season since being drafted, and he finally made his big league debut in 2019 … only to undergo shoulder surgery after all of 81 plate appearances. He might open the year in the minors, but Rodgers will be looming in the event that Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson struggle or get hut. Either way, if he’s healthy, Rodgers should force the team’s hand.
Elsewhere on the roster, expect to see Sam Hilliard play a prominent role in the outfield mix. He received a similarly sized cup of coffee to Rodgers and made the most of it, raking at a .273/.356/.649 clip. Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl are locked into two spots, but Hilliard will vie for at-bats with Raimel Tapia as Ian Desmond slips further into a reserve role. Yonathan Daza could also factor in as a bench option, depending on the health of those ahead of him on the depth chart.
Someone asked me in this week’s MLBTR chat who might step up in the event of a Nolan Arenado trade, and the club isn’t short on options — including Arenado’s own cousin, Josh Fuentes. He’s already 27, though, and had a rough showing in Triple-A this past season. More intriguing options include Tyler Nevin — yes, Phil’s son — and Colton Welker.
Southpaw Ben Bowden could emerge in the bullpen, and given the uncertainty at the back of the big league rotation — Chi Chi Gonzalez might’ve been the favorite in the fifth spot — we could see either of righty Ashton Goudeau or Antonio Santos get a look.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Gavin Lux, one of the game’s top 1o prospects, will get the opportunity to claim second base as his home for the foreseeable future. He didn’t do much in 82 MLB plate appearances last season, but if you want a laugh, check out Lux’s line in 49 Triple-A games: .392/.478/.719 with 13 home runs, 18 doubles and four triples in 232 plate appearances.
The Dodgers have an embarrassment of wealth in terms of young pitching, headlined by righty Dustin May, who’s already posted a 3.63 ERA and 32-to-5 K/BB ratio in 34 2/3 MLB frames. Fellow righty Tony Gonsolin impressed in his own ’19 debut, and the Dodgers added some triple-digit heat to the bullpen by acquiring Brusdar Graterol from the Twins. Behind that trio? Josiah Gray, acquired in the Homer Bailey salary dump with the Reds, posted a 2.28 ERA with 147 punchouts in 130 Double-A innings in ’19.
Catcher Keibert Ruiz is somewhat blocked by fellow youngster Will Smith, but he could be in line for a promotion should Smith sustain an injury. If there’s an injury (or multiple injuries) elsewhere on the roster, any of corner infielder/outfielder Edwin Rios, center fielder DJ Peters or Swiss army knife Zach McKinstry could get the call. Rios hit well in a limited debut last season, and McKinstry is cut from the Chris Taylor/Enrique Hernandez cloth, having appeared at shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield slots in recent seasons. (Sometimes it feels like the Dodgers grow these guys on trees.)
San Diego Padres
You won’t find many (any?) organizations with a more tantalizing pairing of pitching prospects than lefty MacKenzie Gore and righty Luis Patino. Either or both could conceivably reach the Majors in 2020. Gore is particularly touted, generally ranking inside the game’s top 10 overall prospects after posting a sub-2.00 ERA in 20 starts between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.
Center fielder Taylor Trammell still hasn’t tapped into his raw power, but his tantalizing package of tools landed him among the game’s top 100 prospects for a third straight offseason. The Padres’ outfield has turned over in a major way, and while Trammell might need a big showing in Triple-A to force the organization’s hand, he’s not far off after spending all of 2019 in Double-A.
The Padres have plenty of players with rookie eligibility who briefly saw the big leagues this past season. Righty Michel Baez and lefty Adrian Morejon aren’t quite on that same level as the Gore/Patino combo, but they were both high-profile international signings — Baez commanding a $3MM bonus and Morejon landing $11MM — and have both been top 100 entrants themselves. (Morejon still is.) Righty Ronald Bolanos also commanded a seven-figure bonus (just north of $2MM) and briefly debuted in ’19. Reliever David Bednar was sharp in Double-A and logged 11 MLB frames with San Diego, too.
If there’s a particularly intriguing prospect here, it could be Jake Cronenworth. He’s not considered a premium prospect, but the 26-year-old posted a .949 OPS in Triple-A with the Rays last year and has been developing as a two-way player. He’s more in the Michael Lorenzen mold, so he might not get two-way designation anytime soon thanks to MLB’s bizarrely stringent eligibility requirements — essentially, only Shohei Ohtani or Brendan McKay could qualify — but he brings a unique skill set to the table all the same.
San Francisco Giants
Expect Mauricio Dubon to get a long look, perhaps even in center field. The former Brewers/Red Sox middle infield prospect played there earlier in spring and could be an outfield option, depending on how the team uses Wilmer Flores and (if he makes the roster) Yolmer Sanchez. Slugger Jaylin Davis didn’t hit much in a 17-game September cameo, but he cranked 35 long balls between Double-A and Triple-A, which should get him a look on a power-starved Giants roster.
Logan Webb could end up as the team’s fifth starter — particularly now that Tyler Beede will miss the 2020 season. Webb didn’t fare well in eight MLB starts a year ago and has been hobbled by injuries since being a fourth-round pick in 2014, but he shoved with a 1.84 ERA across three minor league levels in 2019 prior to his promotion.
The big question for Giants fans is, of course, when will they get their look at Buster Posey’s heir apparent? Joey Bart, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, has flat-out raked at every stop and is a rare, fast-rising catching prospect. He won’t turn 24 until next offseason, but Bart is a .284/.343/.532 hitter in the minors — including a .316/.368/.554 effort in a 22-game showing at Double-A last year.
On a per-inning basis, left-hander Alex Wood has been one of the most effective pitchers in Major League Baseball throughout his career. He debuted in 2013, just one year after the Braves chose him in the second round of the draft, and has regularly kept runs off the board at an excellent clip. Now 29 years old, the soft-tossing Wood owns a terrific 3.40 ERA/3.49 FIP with 8.24 K/9, 2.55 BB/9 and a 49 percent groundball rate over 839 innings.
All of Wood’s above-average production has come as a Brave and a Dodger. He spent last season with the Reds, who acquired him in a blockbuster deal a few months before the campaign began. Wood, the Reds hoped, would help their rotation reverse its fortunes after a horrid 2018. It turned out that the Reds made enormous strides in that area in 2019, but Wood had nothing to do with it. Rather, they can thank Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Anthony DeSclafani and the now-departed Tanner Roark for the progress they made.
The Reds could have retained Wood in the offseason and anticipated a bounce-back effort, but they instead saw him leave via free agency. That came after a poor year in which Wood was limited by injuries, which have been a problem for him all too often. Wood has racked up fewer than 155 innings four straight years, including 35 2/3 last season. Back troubles limited the Reds’ version of Wood, keeping him from debuting until the final week of July. Wood only lasted a month after that, totaling seven starts of 5.80 ERA/6.38 FIP ball with 7.57 K/9 and 2.27 BB/9. His groundball rate (38.2) dropped by almost 12 percent from the prior year along the way.
The 2019 season was undoubtedly a disaster for Wood, though he nonetheless entered the free-agent market as one of the most accomplished hurlers available. He does, after all, rank 28th among starters in ERA and 32nd in FIP dating back to the beginning of his career. New teammate and fellow southpaw David Price is among several prominent names grouped with Wood in those regards.
Wood and Price may well end up playing significant roles for the World Series-hopeful Dodgers’ rotation this season. Price is a lock after coming over in a headline-grabbing trade with the Red Sox, and Wood might join him after reuniting with the Dodgers on a one-year, $4MM guarantee as a free agent. Despite his impressive track record, Wood couldn’t land a job via the open market until Jan. 12. Still, it’s tough to find fault with the gamble on the deep-pocketed Dodgers’ part.
This has been a difficult year-plus for Wood, but he has been an asset for almost all of his time in the majors. With that in mind, it would be fair to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. If Wood’s healthy in 2020, he may emerge as a steal for Los Angeles, arguably the favorite to win the World Series this year. With Wood complementing Price, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias, and with Dustin May in reserve, maybe this will finally be the season the Dodgers return to the top of the MLB mountain.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Images.
We don’t really know whether or to what extent extension talks will continue during the coronavirus hiatus. But as I wrote recently, it seems reasonable to think they’ll be explored. Some may already have advanced nearly to completion before the global pandemic intervened.
While we may have to wait to learn who the targets are and see what deals get done, there’s a silver lining: more time for rampant speculation! Okay, we’re not going to speculate here; rather, we’ll tick through some interesting possibilities on paper. Remember, we’ve seen an increasing prevalence of deals with less-experienced players (even some without any MLB service) and with new player types (early-career relievers and utilitymen).
The Snakes have managed to control costs, compete, and build their farm system all at the same time. It’s a tricky balancing act to manage over any length of time. And extensions are a key component. Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed, Eduardo Escobar, and David Peralta are already playing on extensions. There are some other candidates on the roster as well.
Several Arizona veterans are conceivable candidates, not that any seems particularly likely to agree to terms. Hurler Robbie Ray is heading into a walk year, but comes with a pretty wide risk/upside spread. Recently acquired outfielder Starling Marte is already 31 years of age, so the club probably won’t be in a rush to work out a new deal with two years of control remaining. Reliever Archie Bradley is also two years from the open market; an extension could make sense in his case. The team will be looking at a big arbitration bill next year if Bradley racks up saves, while he’d surely be open to eliminating some personal health/performance risk.
The younger class of players contains some rather intriguing possibilities. Catcher Carson Kelly and starter Luke Weaver are both entering their final pre-arbitration season (the former via Super Two status). Though 2019 trade deadline addition Zac Gallen isn’t even close to arbitration, it could be an opportune moment to get something done.
When the Dodgers acquired superstar outfielder Mookie Betts, they knew they were giving up significant value for just one season of performance. Now, with the season on hold, there’s newfound uncertainty for all involved — particularly given that it’s not even clear yet whether Betts will hit the open market as expected this coming fall. After a few happy weeks together this spring, could the sides take advantage of the lull to discuss a longer-term relationship?
There’s no evidence of that happening, but it’d be a potential coup for the Dodgers. It would also be extremely costly. No doubt the team is at least as intrigued by the idea of finding some savings by locking in superstar slugger Cody Bellinger. Trouble is, the 24-year-old just landed a whopping $11.5MM contract as a Super Two. His arbitration eligibility could easily set an overall record and he’ll expect a long-term deal to reflect that and pay at a premium rate for any future free-agent campaigns.
There was a time when Corey Seager would’ve seemed an obvious extension target, but his place in the team’s plans is uncertain after some injury-limited campaigns. More interesting at this point are some of the newest members of the L.A. roster. Backstop Will Smith and infielder Gavin Lux each carry huge promise and some MLB experience. Though the Dodgers haven’t led the league with aggressive early-career extensions, both of these players are sensible targets.
Yikes. It’s not a good sign to see a roster that lacks for extension candidates — unless, perhaps, many young players have already agreed to deals. In this case, the Giants have a combination of veterans playing out underperforming contracts and largely un-established younger players who don’t really seem in line for any long-term commitment.
If you squint hard enough, you could see Mauricio Dubon as a candidate if the team has really fallen in love since acquiring him last summer. But that’s probably unnecessarily aggressive. Otherwise, basically every conceivable possibility has too many areas of concern to warrant serious consideration. Perhaps the situation will look different this time next year — someone might step up with a big season; top prospects like Joey Bart or Heliot Ramos may turn into candidates for early-career extensions — but it’s hard to see much reason for talks at the moment.
The ideal outcome would be to secure the services of Fernando Tatis Jr. with a deal along the lines of the Braves’ pact with Ronald Acuna Jr.. The Friars will probably have to keep dreaming about that team-friendly arrangement, but there has been some reporting indicating the sides could hold talks. Tatis himself said in late February that nothing was cooking, but there’s every reason to keep a conversation going if there’s mutual interest. Righty Chris Paddack could certainly also be a candidate as well, though perhaps the added risks on the pitching side will keep the sides apart for the time being.
There are other younger players that could hold appeal in the right situation. On the position player side, Trent Grisham, Franchy Cordero, and Francisco Mejia could be considered. And among pitchers, you could easily see the merit of locking in Dinelson Lamet or Joey Lucchesi.
Oh, and the Friars do have one notable veteran in an obvious extension stance: closer Kirby Yates. There’s reason to believe the sides have some interest, but it’s not clear how likely it is a deal will come together. Yates is a late-emerging star reliever who’s two days from his 33rd birthday and one season away from free agency. His age limits his overall contractual upside, but he was absurdly dominant in 2019. It’s certainly possible to imagine both player and team seeing the sense in a deal.
The Rox already have long-term control over German Marquez and Nolan Arenado. So … why not add Jon Gray and Trevor Story, making a strong core four over the long haul? Well, it’s not a simple situation for the Colorado organization. Trouble is, some brutal fortune in the free agent market has left little financial flexibility and a top-heavy roster. We can’t rule out deals for Gray and/or Story, but they’ll both cost a ton and would be hard to pull off — particularly given the ongoing drama with Arenado.
That’s not to say the Rockies couldn’t still look to other ways of achieving value. In particular, outfielders David Dahl and Sam Hilliard could be interesting targets. The former has had quite a few injuries and the latter has only spent about a month in the majors, but those factors might also drive down the price tag and with it the contractual upside. Otherwise, you could perhaps see some daylight for a deal with reliever Carlos Estevez if the Rox are fully sold on his 2019 showing. But the team already made a deal with its best reliever (Scott Oberg) and probably doesn’t need any more long-term bullpen entanglements.
MLBTR’s preseason series ends with National League West pitchers looking to bounce back in 2020. These 10 talented hurlers are hoping to get off the mat after difficult seasons…
Alex Wood, LHP, Dodgers:
The 29-year-old Wood is back in Los Angeles, where he experienced a great deal of success in 2015-18, after a Murphy’s Law season spent in Cincinnati. A back injury limited Wood to 35 2/3 innings of 5.80 ERA/6.38 FIP pitching last year after Cincinnati acquired him from Los Angeles expecting high-end production. Not unreasonable on the Reds’ part, as Wood had combined for a 3.29 ERA/3.36 FIP with 8.27 K/9, 2.57 BB/9 and a 49.5 percent groundball rate in 803 1/3 innings as a Brave and Dodger from 2013-18. The Dodgers brought him back on a low-risk guarantee ($4MM) in the offseason. They may strike gold if Wood can stay healthy.
Blake Treinen, RHP, Dodgers:
Like his new teammate Wood, Treinen was excellent in the recent past before falling off a cliff last season. Just two years ago, Treinen – then an Athletic – turned in one of the greatest seasons a reliever has ever had. But last year went awry for Treinen, who dealt with multiple injuries and logged subpar numbers. Treinen wound up with a 4.91 ERA/5.14 FIP and 9.05 K/9, 5.68 BB/9 and a 42.8 percent grounder rate over 58 2/3 innings. He lost his job as the A’s closer along the way, and they non-tendered him after the season. The hard-throwing Treinen landed on his feet, though, with a $10MM guarantee from the Dodgers.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies:
The soft-tossing Freeland was an NL Cy Young candidate back in 2018, so no one could have expected such a miserable showing in 2019. As it turned out, though, Freeland struggled so mightily that the Rockies optioned him to Triple-A at one point in the season. In the majors, he ended up with a brutal 6.73 ERA/5.99 FIP (compared to 2.85/3.67 the prior year) and 6.81 K/9 against 3.36 BB/9 across 104 1/3 innings, averaging fewer than five frames per start along the way. The 26-year-old’s severe drop-off was among the reasons the Rockies went from playoff team in 2018 to bottom-feeding club last season.
Wade Davis, RHP, Rockies:
Speaking of stunning declines from members of Colorado’s pitching staff … Davis continued his descent in 2019. In the second season of a three-year, $52MM contract, the once-untouchable Davis recorded an abysmal 8.65 ERA/5.56 FIP and walked more than six batters per nine over 42 2/3 innings. Davis also rated as one of Statcast’s worst pitchers, finishing toward the bottom of the league in average exit velocity, expected weighted on-base average and strikeout percentage, among other categories.
Johnny Cueto, RHP, Giants:
Even though he only pitched 16 innings last season, it’s tough not to include Cueto on this list. The former ace is hoping for his first full season in a while, as injuries (including Tommy John surgery in 2018) held him to a mere 216 1/3 innings over the previous three years. During his halcyon days, Cueto – now 34 – used to throw around that many innings in a single season. The Giants still owe Cueto $47MM through 2021, so a rebound effort would be all the more welcome for them.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Giants:
Gausman, whom the Giants added for $9MM in free agency, is in line to join Cueto in their rotation. The hope for the club is that he’ll fare much better than he did in 2019 – a disappointing season for a pitcher who has been consistently respectable. Gausman performed so poorly as a Brave that they placed him on outright waivers in August, but he did turn his season around as a strikeout-heavy reliever in Cincinnati. However, despite 10.03 K/9 against 2.81 BB/9, Gausman could only muster a 5.72 ERA (granted, with a much more encouraging 3.98 FIP) in 102 1/3 frames divided between the two teams.
Dereck Rodriguez, RHP, Giants:
Rodriguez came out of nowhere to serve as one of the most effective rookies in the sport two years, but the dreaded sophomore slump took him down last season. The 27-year-old split 2019 between the Giants’ rotation and bullpen, registering a woeful 5.64 ERA/5.69 FIP (he was at 2.81/3.74 in 2018) in 99 innings. Rodriguez underwhelmed in the strikeout/walk department along the way, putting up 6.45 K/9 with 3.27 BB/9, and lost about a mile per hour on his low-90s fastball. Whether he’ll work more as a starter or reliever is in question heading into the new season, whenever it begins.
Tony Watson, LHP, Giants:
The normally reliable Watson wasn’t quite himself in 2019, in which he tallied career worsts in ERA (4.17), FIP (4.81) and home runs per nine (1.5) through 54 innings. Watson walked just two per nine, and there were no dips in his velocity (93.5 mph) or swinging-strike percentage (12.7), yet he still slumped to the second-lowest K/9 (6.83) of his career. Surprisingly, same-handed hitters – whom he has usually contained – did the most damage against Watson, teeing off on him for a .391 wOBA. In other words, Watson turned the average lefty into Anthony Rizzo. The Giants are banking on a better showing from Watson in 2020, though, as they re-signed him for a $3MM guarantee during the winter.
Trevor Cahill, RHP, Giants:
Cahill is the fifth member of this Giants-heavy list, but this will be his first year with the club. He spent last year with the Angels, who signed him for $9MM after he revived his career with the Athletics as a starter during the previous season. However, Cahill couldn’t carry that renaissance into 2019; he instead spent the majority of the season in the bullpen and logged an ugly 5.98 ERA/6.13 FIP. Compared to 2018, Cahill struck out one fewer batter per nine (7.12 overall) and saw his groundball rate drop by almost 8 percent (45.9). He also yielded a whopping 2.2 homers per nine – up from a paltry .65 the prior season. Now, it remains to be seen whether Cahill will even crack the roster in San Francisco, which signed him to a minor league contract. If he does, it may be as a reliever.
Garrett Richards, RHP, Padres:
Richards has been quite valuable when he has taken the mound. The problem is that appearances from the oft-injured ex-Angel have been rare in recent seasons. He hasn’t even touched the 80-inning mark in a season since 2015, when he amassed a career-high 207 1/3. Richards totaled just 8 2/3 frames last season after returning from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in July 2018. Of course, the Padres knew they’d get little from Richards in 2019 upon signing him to a two-year, $15.5MM pact. They’re hoping the investment pays dividends this season.
Dodgers outfielder Connor Joe announced that he has undergone surgery after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. MLBTR extends its best wishes to him for a swift and complete recovery.
Joe, now 27, spent a brief stretch in the big leagues last year with the Giants. He was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Reds and eventually traded on to the San Francisco organization. Joe logged his first big league hit with the Giants but struggled in eight games before being sent back to the Dodgers.
Despite that messy start, Joe had a rather nice 2019 season. He turned in an even .300 batting average and hefty .426 on-base percentage in 446 plate appearances at Triple-A. Joe doesn’t have a ton of power by the standards of the offensively charged PCL, but did pop 15 home runs on the year.
Our preseason series focusing on notable hitters and pitchers hoping to rebound from less-than-ideal 2019 outings wraps up in the National League West. We’ll start with six hitters who enjoyed productive 2018 campaigns before falling short last season…
Manny Machado, 3B, Padres:
By no means did the 27-year-old Machado perform poorly in 2019, his first season as a Padre. He just didn’t offer the type of production the team likely expected when it signed him to a then-record free-agent contract worth $300MM over 10 years. Whereas the four-time All-Star thrived with the Orioles and Dodgers the year before he joined the Friars, he has been more good than great in San Diego so far. Across 661 trips to the plate last season, Machado batted .256/.334/.462 – enough for a 108 wRC+ (he was at 131 in 2018). He did mash 32 home runs and finish in the majors’ 87th percentile in average exit velocity, but Machado struck out in nearly 5 percent more plate appearances compared to 2018. Furthermore, according to Statcast, Machado’s hard-hit percentage fell by just over 4 percent.
Jurickson Profar, 2B, Padres:
The former can’t-miss prospect finally looked to be turning a corner at the major league level in 2018, his last year with the Rangers. Unfortunately, though, Profar’s output tanked in his lone season with the Athletics in 2019. The 27-year-old switch-hitter could only muster a .218/.301/.410 line (89 wRC+) and 1.3 fWAR in 518 PA, and Statcast rated him near the bottom of the league in several important metrics. As a second baseman, Profar garnered all negative reviews (minus-15 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-3 Outs Above Average, minus-1 Ultimate Zone Rating). Still, the Padres are taking a chance on a bounce-back year for Profar, whom they acquired in a winter trade. The move reunited him with ex-Rangers executive and current Padres general manager A.J. Preller.
David Peralta, OF, Diamondbacks:
Peralta had a terrific year in 2018, smacking 31 home runs and accounting for 3.9 fWAR, but a nagging right shoulder injury prevented him from a proper encore last season. The 32-year-old wound up with just 12 homers in 423 plate appearances, in which he registered an overall line barely above average (.275/.343/.461 – good for a 107 wRC+), saw his isolated power number fall by 37 points and his expected weighted on-base average plummet by 49 points. Nevertheless, the Diamondbacks are giving Peralta the benefit of the doubt, evidenced by the two-year, $22MM extension they handed him in January.
Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants:
Crawford entered last year with six straight seasons of at least 2.0 fWAR, but he dropped to 0.4 in that category in 2019. Crawford hit just .228/.304/.350 (74 wRC+) in 560 PA, and even his well-regarded defense declined. For the first time in his career, the 33-year-old graded negatively in both DRS (minus-4) and UZR (minus-0.4). Not reassuring for the Giants, who still owe Crawford $30MM through 2021.
Enrique Hernandez, UTIL, Dodgers:
The versatile Hernandez was quite effective in 2018, during which he posted 3.2 fWAR, but that number checked in at a far less impressive 1.2 last season. The problem? A massive decline in offensive production. Hernandez’s wRC+ (88) represented a 30-point fall, while his OPS (.715; .237/.304/.411) lost 91 points. It didn’t help that Hernandez endured a 4-plus percent increase in strikeouts and a 3 percent decrease in walks.
Daniel Murphy, 1B, Rockies:
Count Murphy as another recent free-agent signing gone awry for the Rockies, who inked him to a two-year, $24MM contract in December 2019. Year 1, perhaps the weakest offensive season of his career, couldn’t have gone much worse for Murphy. The 34-year-old ’s .279/.328/.452 line doesn’t look terrible on paper, but when adjusted for ballpark, it only amounted to a wRC+ of 86. Murphy also had a miserable season in terms of Statcast output and recorded a negative fWAR (minus-0.2) for the first time ever.
11:10am: Teams throughout the league have been sending scouts home this morning, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that “just about every team, if not every team” has taken this step. Meanwhile, in an unlocked article that is not behind the web site’s paywall, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal runs through several potential pandemic-related issues and courses of action for the league.
As for any actual action from the league, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that the league is likely to provide some clarity today. At this point, it feels inevitable that the league will make a statement on the status of Spring Training games and the regular season in the very near future.
1:55am: The coronavirus outbreak led the National Basketball Association to suspend its season on Wednesday. It’s unclear how Major League Baseball will react before its regular season is scheduled to begin March 26, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that the pandemic will have a sizable effect on its plans.
It’s possible, for instance, that some of the league’s teams will start 2020 by playing regular-season games outside of their normal home venues. That already seems to be the case for the Mariners, who are “likely” to host their season-opening series in the Phoenix area instead of in Seattle, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. But they may not be the only club in that situation. The state of California has recommended limiting public gatherings to 250 people for the rest of March, which means the Dodgers, Padres and Athletics could either play their initial series elsewhere or have those sets postponed, Passan tweets. All three of those teams are scheduled to play at home until early April.
For now, MLB executives aren’t slated to discuss how they’ll proceed until a Friday conference call, per Passan. However, with the NBA shutting itself down and the National Hockey League possibly poised to make a similar announcement on Thursday, perhaps MLB will reach a decision on how it will move forward sooner than expected. The hope is that the league will come up with a plan “within days,” three high-level team officials told Passan.
- He wasn’t considered a legitimate prospect at this point a year ago, but now the Dodgers are of the belief that minor league utility player Zach McKinstry will turn into a contributor at the MLB level this season, Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times writes. A 33rd-round pick in 2016, McKinstry put himself on the map in 2019 with excellent production at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, leading the Dodgers to add the 24-year-old to their 40-man roster in November. The multi-positional McKinstry has continued to impress team brass this spring, notes Castillo, who adds that he could become the Dodgers’ latest Chris Taylor or Enrique Hernandez type. “He can play anywhere on the diamond, he’s an intelligent player,” manager Dave Roberts told Castillo. “He conducts really good at-bats. He’s a guy that I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him sometime this year.”
- Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register has the latest on a few Dodgers’ health situations. Mookie Betts has missed a few games of action with food poisoning, but he could return to the lineup Monday, manager Dave Roberts tells Plunkett. Meanwhile, Joc Pederson will make his first spring training start in minor-league camp today as he recovers from a hip injury, while right-hander Jimmy Nelson is set for a bullpen session. Nelson was briefly shut down with groin discomfort two weeks ago.