Yesterday George Bisselllaid out the speed landscape, which last year continued to appear significantly less densely populated than it had in years (and especially decades) past. Go forth and acquire speed, young bloods, for it is an asset in demand. Let’s take a look at some of the players who over- and under-performed relative to pre-season expectations in 2016, before diving a little deeper into the category later this week.
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Who surprised last year and what does that mean for 2017?
Yesterday, George Bissell gave a rousing introduction to our bloated American landscape of low innings totals, high earned run averages, and higher ace valuations in turn. With managers increasingly inclined to limit third-time looks, workhorse starters are becoming as rare as split-ticket voters, and an old-world strategic play of bulking up rotation back-ends with average innings-eaters may just be gone forever by the wayside. Before we get too lost in nostalgia, let’s take a look at a few guys who either over- or under-performed in the category of ERA.
Notes on Brandon Dixon, Spencer Turnbull, Anthony Alford, Jorge Bonifacio, and more.
Hitter of the Day
Brandon Dixon, INF, Cincinnati Reds (AFL Peoria Javelinas): 3-4, 2 R, 2 2B, HR, RBI, K, E. One of the pieces Cincy got back in the Todd Frazier three-teamer, Dixon flashes some interesting offensive traits. He’s crushed the ball in Arizona to the tune of a 1.002 OPS that currently sits fourth in the league. Unfortunately, that “E” you see up there in his box score? That’s his fifth one of those, in just 14 games. He’s jumped around the dirt to every position but short for Peoria, after playing six different positions at Double-A.
Yesterday George Bissell went deep into our brave new world of long-ball dominance, touching on all the pretty figures and shady conspiracy theories as to why big leaguers in 2016 hit more homeruns than any season in baseball history that didn’t end with Antonio Alfonseca leading the majors in Saves. Today we’ll look at some of the over- and under-achievers in the category, and what drove their production (or lack thereof).
Notes on Cody Bellinger, Andrew Stevenson, Ian Happ, Brett Phillips, and more.
Hitter of the Day:
Andrew Stevenson, OF, Washington Nationals (AFL Glendale Desert Dogs): 5-6, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, CS. Glendale hung a 15-spot on Peoria, and Stevenson was right in the middle of it leading off. He has torn it up in the AFL, with hits in his last nine games en route to a .999 OPS that rates fourth-best in the league. His hit tool has long been a question mark on account of an unorthodox swing with limited loft, and his production stalled after a second-half promotion to Double-A. The speed-and-defense profile gives him a nice floor, and there’s potential for a starting role down the line if the bat plays in full.
Scouting a pitcher for the first time, like most one-game endeavors of evaluation, is a hard thing to do. You can almost always get a pretty good read on what the raw stuff is about, though even there you’ll run into some misrepresentations of a breaking ball’s bite or fail to pick up on a guy’s feel for the change if he’s just having one of those nights. But unless the player is injured or battling flu-like symptoms, you’ll be able to see what his current velocity and movement trajectories look like. And once you see how big he is and how he moves, you can usually extrapolate out a most-likely projection for his physical development.
But pitching is a science. There are countless, subtle manipulations of the body that a pitcher must undertake in particular sequence in order to get the ball to go where he wants it to go. Figuring out how consistently a pitcher is likely to execute his delivery over, and over, and over again…that can be awfully tough to ascertain in a limited sample. The slightest kink in the progression of a given wind-up—particularly early on—can set off a negative chain of events that throws off timing and compromises the pitcher’s command of the baseball. Maybe on the day you happen to see a guy for the first time he’s having some trouble breathing out of his left eyelid. Maybe he walks six guys in three innings. Or gives up six extra-base hits. Or all of those things. It happens.
Notes on Yoan Moncada, Brett Phillips, Kyle McGrath, Francis Martes, and more.
Hitter of the Day:
Brett Phillips, CF, Milwaukee Brewers (AFL Salt River Rafters): 3-4, 2 BB, 3 R, 2B, 3 RBI, SB. Salt River put up 17 yesterday, and Phillips was right in the middle of it from the two-hole. His .229 average this season stole the headlines for statline scouters, but he drew walks at a 13 percent clip, and his .278 True Average was comfortably above average for the Southern League. He also continued to display an interesting power-and-speed toolset while young for Double-A. He’s continued to put together extremely patient at-bats during his time in the desert, logging 12 walks in 11 games, and profiles well as a solid top-of-the-order hitter.
Notes on Anthony Alford, Brent Honeywell, Nick Gordon, Lew Ford (!?) and, yes, Tim Tebow.
Hitter of the Day:
Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (AFL Mesa Solar Sox): 2-3, BB, 2 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI. Alford’s tantalizing tools were stuck in the garage for big chunks of this season, but he’s built quite the foundation in Arizona thus far. Seventy-grade speed and potentially plus defense in center set a nice floor for his profile, and his advanced approach for a player who is still relatively baseball-raw is encouraging given the physical gifts. He has the talent to emerge as one of the breakout stars of this year’s AFL if he can keep up anything close to his early pace.
It’s been about eleven months since the Dodgers plunked eight figures into Diaz’s then-19-year-old lap, and by season’s end things were really starting to come together for the kid. That signing bonus represented the third-largest ever given to a Cuban player subject to pool restrictions, and it paired him with right-hander Yadier Alvarez as the faces of Los Angeles’ massive international outlay during the 2015 signing period. Come spring time, the club made an aggressive decision to assign him to High-A after the briefest of cameos in Arizona. He spent the entire remainder of the season as the second-youngest regular in the California League.
That’s a lot to handle for any young player, let alone a kid coming to America for the first time and trying to learn a brand new language and set of cultural norms. The challenges he’d face certainly weren’t lost on those in the organization charged with helping him navigate them. “Baseball is all interconnected,” philosophizes Drew Saylor, Diaz’s precocious first-year manager at Rancho Cucamonga. “What we do off the field affects what we do on the field, and vice-a-versa. The primary growth opportunity at the beginning of the season was for him to get to be comfortable inside and out of the clubhouse.”
Notes on Bradley Zimmer, Ryan McBroom, Austin Voth, and more.
Hitter of the Day:
Ryan McBroom, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays (Mesa Solar Sox): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, K. More like Ryan Mc-Boom, amiright? Eh? Eh? Eh. McBroom was one of just three hitters to cross the 20-homer threshold in the notoriously stingy Florida State League this year. That production’s a good and necessary thing for his big-league aspirations, as his well-below-average speed and outfield instincts leave him pinned to first, where his questionable hit tool makes him a fringier prospect.