The Rays ace was back, for a night. Meanwhile: Noah Syndergaard, Taijuan Walker, Francisco Lindor, and more from Monday.
The Monday Takeaway Chris Archer woke up Monday with as many losses as he had starts, and the blame for most of them laid on the right-hander, a popular preseason Cy Young Award pick, considering his alarm clock rang with his ERA at 7.32. The strikeouts were there—29 of them in 19 1/3 innings—but they were joined by 11 walks, and 30 hits, and six home runs.
Outstanding arms from week three, including Strasburg, Jose Fernandez and Drew Smyly.
We're now three weeks into the baseball season, such that the relative quality of opponents is beginning to wash out as pitchers continue to tour the league, while emerging trends start to become more reality and less fluke. Let's take a look at a trio of starters who had multiple starts last week, and whose performances left an impression.
After a breakout 2015 season, the Rays' top prospect gets at least a spot start.
The Rays drafted Snell with the seventh of their 10 first-round picks that year, as a supplemental pick for the loss of Brad Hawpe. He will be the third member of that class to make it to the bigs (Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Goeddel being the other two). Snell didn’t get off to the greatest start in his pro career, as he struggled to throw strikes and prior to 2015 had a walk rate of 4.9 in 287 innings. But he did showcase a premium arsenal with a strikeout rate of 9.5. Things finally clicked for the tall lefty in 2015, as he lowered his walk rate to 3.6, improved his strikeout rate to 10.9, posted an ERA of 1.41, and finished with a masterful nine starts in Triple-A. All of this made Blake Snell our Top Prospect for the Rays for 2016, as well as 21st in our top 101
When he was drafted Snell was a raw, inconsistent lefty out of the Seattle area, flashing feel for pitching as well as a long projectable body to dream on. It took a while for the command and pitches to take a step forward, but he firmly blew down the door in 2015. His fastball is 92-94 and will touch 96 when he needs it, but the pitch plays to double-plus with plus movement that generates a lot of weak contact and awkward movement. His primary off-speed pitch is a slider with really hard downward tilt, and he is comfortable throwing away to LHH. (He's also comfortable burying the hopes and dreams of RHH.) His changeup flashes plus because of his arm speed and the offering's late drop, though the pitch is behind his others in terms of overall command as he struggles to leave the pitch up. He always had a feel to pitch but the numbers finally backed it up, as he showcases above-average control and average command of his arsenal. His long-term outlook has top-of-the-rotation stuff, but pitching in the big leagues is hard and it needs to be seen how his strike-throwing ways will do against big-league hitters.
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A little over five years ago, I wrote my first piece for Baseball Prospectus. It was an unmemorable, bad Unfiltered post about a long-forgotten transaction (Justin Duchscherer signing with the Orioles). Having wanted to write for BP since discovering the Annuals as a teenager, I relished the opportunity and hoped to stick around for a while. I’ve been fortunate to do so, and always figured that BP’s leadership and/or readership would push me out before I left on my own.
No, Really: The Rays are pretty good for really cheap.
As it stands today, the Rays have about $59.8 million committed to their major-league roster for 2016; barring any earth-shattering deals or massive trades, they’ll run the second-lowest payroll in baseball behind the drastically rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers. Unlike the Brewers, the Rays are poised to compete in 2016. Just check out the PECOTA projected standings for this upcoming season: The Rays are projected for the second-most wins (91) in the American League, only one win behind the Cleveland Indians.
The Rockies have done some things the past eight months. They did a thing a couple weeks ago. Like most of the things the Rockies have done lately, trading four years of Corey Dickerson for two years of Jake McGee has caused much head-scratching. The reaction to the trade was a combination of said head-scratching and “LOL Rockies” with a splash of “hey, McGee’s really good and his fastball-heavy approach might be a good fit for Coors.” The analyses of the trade all generally led to the conclusion that the Rockies do not really have a plan and that, if they do, it is simply a plan to try and be mediocre.
I do not think that this is likely. If the plan is to be mediocre or there is no plan, then why do anything at all? Why trade Troy Tulowitzki? Why sign an outfielder, just to trade another and add more payroll along the way? To me, these actions and the motivation to be mediocre do not jibe. That said, we can believe that these moves are unlikely to be successes, while having a different theory as to what is motivating this behavior.
In the career trajectories of seven (or eight) young(ish) shortstops, we see the volatility of baseball careers at this level.
This is an interesting phenomenon, though one that (for various reasons) has gone largely unnoticed: There were seven (or eight, if you’re feeling generous) regular big-league shortstops in 2015 who were born in the seven months between early September 1989 and late March 1990. I’ve been tracking their progress for years, wondering when one or another edged ahead of the field as the most valuable, trying to gauge their relative market standings. It was always hard to tell, though, because for each player, development has been anything but linear, and their values have seemed to be very volatile. The group even flexed in size and membership over the years, reaching (probably) its maximum size in 2015.
This winter, we finally got a little clarity (though only a little). Four of these shortstops changed teams this winter, all via trade. At least two permanently moved on from being shortstops. From here on out, the careers of these seven (or eight) players with so much in common might seem thoroughly disparate, even though (perhaps most remarkably, of all the interesting things about them) their paths to this point in their careers have often crossed—and in some cases, have even altered one another. Thus, I want to take a moment to consider their respective situations, weigh them against each other, and revel in the entropy that defines baseball, an entropy this group embodies as well as anyone.
Detroit's baserunning was a major contributor to the club's last-place finish. How they, and other AL teams, will look on the bases this year.
The 2015 Detroit Tigers won just 74 games, and that doesn’t happen to a team without significant flaws. A lot of things went wrong for them, from the prolonged absence of Miguel Cabrera to the catastrophic collapse of Victor Martinez, to yet another impossibly implosive bullpen.
If one thing most stood out about the Tigers, though, it was how old they played, especially offensively. It was back in 2013, when the team was running out (too generous a phrase, perhaps) Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Cabrera, and Martinez, that everyone worried the Tigers’ offense would sputter to a stop because of its key cogs’ old, heavy legs. In 2015, though, with Hunter and Fielder gone, it actually happened. Detroit basestealers succeeded at a clip of just 62 percent. They grounded into the most double plays of any team in baseball. They racked up -21.9 baserunning runs (BRR), according to our calculus the second-worst in the league. They batted .270/.328/.420, raw figures that ranked first, second, and fifth in the AL, respectively. They were second in team OPS+ and seventh in TAv in the AL, but they finished 10th in runs scored. Baseball Info Solutions estimated that the team created 736 runs, but they only scored 689. Some of that, to be sure, is just bad sequencing—bad luck. Surely, though, some of it also must be chalked up to their miserable baserunning.