Instant Analysis: Osuna Tommy John Surgery?

The Houston Astros’ ace reliever Roberto Osuna has been told today that he may need the dreaded Tommy John surgery.

Manager Dusty Baker did not confirm the news but said on a local talk radio show this morning that “the reality is it’s probably not really good news.”  Yikes.

If this is the case, Osuna will miss not only the rest of the truncated 2020 season, but assuredly considerable time in the 2021 season.  Recall while there have only been 10-11 games so far for most teams, it is August 4th today. This is a terrible situation for both Osuna and the Astros.

 

Leading Candidates

 

So who would be the leading candidates to take over this plum role for the Astros?  They are expected to contend all season but have a bullpen decimated by injuries right now.

 

Ryan Pressly

 

If Pressly is healthy, there is zero doubt that he gets the first crack at it.  Injuries have been a problem this year with a sore elbow and then a cut thumb.  But he appears healthy now and if that is the case, the job belongs to him.

Last year Pressly struck out 72 hitters in 54.1 innings, with a 2.32 ERA and minuscule .90 WHIP.

 

chart (26)

 

It is important to note why Pressly has been successful.  The 2020 sample size is small, but he has thrown his four-seamer 52% of the time.  Generally, his mix is that 95MPH four-seamer, a slider about 89 MPH, and a slower curveball at 81 MPH.  The velocity works well for him and his four-seamer has some natural sink to it, which leads to a higher number of groundballs compared to his peers. The command of the slider has been excellent as well.  Eliminating the sinker worked well for him starting in 2019 as well. Pressly is the guy for Houston, health-permitting.

 

Andre Scrubb

 

As i mentioned in yesterday’s “Closing Remarks,” someone named Andre Scrubb got a save last week for the Astros. A rookie this year, Scrubb throws only two pitches: a cutter and a curveball.  So far, in a limited sample size, he has thrown the cutter a whopping 68% of the time.  The chart below shows evidence that he is not giving up hard contact (look at hard hit % and exit velocity), which is great, but we don’t know enough about him.  Scrubb is a 25-year-old rookie with only two weeks’ worth of games under his belt.  It would be a tall order to close for a contending team, but he could get a shot if Pressly falters or is injured again.

 

Capture

 

Dark Horses

 

Brad Peacock

 

As of this writing, Peacock is playing catch on flat ground and attempting to return from early-season shoulder woes. This is progress but a return does not appear imminent. Recall that Peacock also struggled with shoulder issues in 2019.  His role has often been undefined in the Houston bullpen; they have also used him as a starter with mixed results in 2019.  The stuff profiles better in the bullpen.  Could he close if given an opportunity? Perhaps, making him a dark horse.

 

Chris Devenski

 

Devenski is also banged up right now with a sore elbow, and he hit the IL the same day as Osuna.  The Astros have preferred to use Devenski as a fireman over multiple innings in the past, but if the soldiers keep falling in front of him, and he returns to health, he could find himself in the mix.

 

Fernando Rodney

 

I know you don’t like it, and don’t want to consider it.  But the 43-year-old Rodney was just signed to a contract last week after appearing with the Sugar Land Skeeters this year. He won a ring last year with the Washington Nationals, even as a shell of his former self. He has 951 career appearances and the experience to get the job done with 327 saves.  But recall that with the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins in 2018 he was pretty darn good: 3.36 ERA and almost 10 K/9.  Is it likely he gets the ball in the ninth, for a contending team?  No.  Is it possible?  If the stars line up, yes. The chart below shows that the velocity is slowly dwindling; Rodney gets by now more on guile and smarts than he does on stuff.

 

chart (27)

 

In Conclusion

 

The job belongs to Pressly and I have no doubt that he can do it, given good health.  He has the best chance for success in the role based on the current outlook in Houston.

 

Possible Waiver Adds

 

Where could you get some saves if you need them?  And let me tell you, we are ALL looking for saves these days.

 

Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels

 

He appears to be back from injury.  I know it is early, but check out the velocity on these pitches:

 

chart (28)

 

Middleton has the octane back; the four-seamer which he throws about 54% of the time has gone from 94.1 to 97.1. Early results also show that he is throwing his change-up about four MPH harder at 88 MPH.  The change-up percentage is also higher at 29% thus far in 2020. These are encouraging results, and with Hansel Robles really struggling, Middleton could be next in line for the Los Angeles Angels.

 

James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians

 

He is probably already owned in most leagues, but scoop him if he is unclaimed on your waiver wire.  He could get chances in Cleveland with Brad Hand ailing. At the very least he will help you with strikeouts and ratio management, even if he does not get saves.

He is showing potential greatness with these rankings:

 

Capture 2

 

Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals

 

Yes, Rosenthal is back in the major leagues after being lost in the injury desert for the last two years. Manager Mike Matheny has been using last year’s closer, Ian Kennedy, as a fireman in sixth and seventh innings to kill rallies.  This has left Rosenthal, and to a lesser extent, Greg Holland, as possible ninth inning closers.  However, Holland has struggled with his command, which means Rosenthal should get save chances.  If he is on your waiver wire, pick him up.  But keep in mind that Kansas City might not win many games and that the bullpen management strategy could change at any time there.

Instant Analysis: Farewell Folty

Last night, Mike Foltynewicz’s time with the Atlanta Braves came to an end.

Folty was destroyed last night by the Tampa Bay Rays: just over three innings pitched, four hits, six earned runs, four walks and three home runs in his first start of 2020.

After the game, Foltynewicz was designated for assignment; in a subsequent move, the Braves brought up relief pitcher Chad Sobotka to replace him at this time. This ends his string of 117 starts dating back to 2015.

Manager Brian Snitker said after the game when discussing the move that “we didn’t see enough increase in the velocity…the stuff hasn’t been there.” Folty had a tough summer camp this year trying to find that velocity. The team wanted to give him a chance in real time, and yesterday’s start was an abject disaster.  The fall from grace has been precipitous as Foltynewicz started two games in the 2019 NLDS.

So let’s dive in and take a look at the stuff.

 

Folty

 

We can see immediately that after his breakout in 2018, Folty changed the pitch mix up. In 2018, he threw his four-seamer 40% of the time.  In 2019, that dropped to 26.3%, a staggering drop.  It is important to note that while the fastball had good velocity, it did not display much movement.  Subsequently, a drop in velocity makes this pitch more hittable. To offset that, he began using the sinker almost 10% more, going from 16.4% in 2018 to 25.6% in 2019. Slider percentage remained close to the same, with a slight increase of 1%, and the change-up usage was up about 3% in 2019.

Now let’s take a look at the velocity of his pitches over the last three years.

 

 

You don’t need to understand advanced statistics to read this chart: the velocity is down across the map, on all five pitches Foltynewicz has in his arsenal.  When he got the major leagues, Folty threw a hard four-seamer at 96.8 MPH, that during his breakout in 2018, hit 99 MPH regularly.  When trouble hit last year, that average dropped to 94.97.  While on the surface that might not seem like much, it’s an almost two MPH difference, and that can be the difference between success and failure at the game’s highest level.

The velocity on everything was down in 2019.  The hard sinker: 95 MPH to 90 MPH. The slider from 86.9 MPH to barely touching 85 MPH.

Last night, the four-seamer was down to 90 MPH.  His other offerings also seemed to lack any presence, and everything looked flat. Injury?  Out of gas?  The Braves will not wait to find out. It seems safe to assume that another MLB team may have an interest and give Foltynewicz time to work these things out or perhaps even get healthy and try again. He’s only 28 and is less than two years removed from a 13-10, 2.85 ERA, and 202 strikeout season in 2018. For his career, he stands at 44-42, with a 4.33 ERA, and an 8.6 K/9 rate. He will get another opportunity.

 

July 26 vs Tampa Bay

 

What does this mean for the Braves rotation moving forward? 

 

Short-term, as in this weekend, it seems likely they may turn to Jhoulys Chacin or Josh Tomlin, veteran swingmen who can make spot starts. Neither would appear to be long-term options for a contending team. The Braves had been counting on Foltynewicz, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Cole Hamels and maybe even Felix Hernandez to be their rotation.  An injury to Hamels, and opt-out by King Felix, and the ineffectiveness of Folty leave Soroka and Fried as the only guys standing.  Dubious beginning, but two good pieces to build around.  Lefty Sean Newcomb and right-hander Kyle Wright have filled in for Hamels and Hernandez thus far.

Snitker also said last night that the Braves could go with an opener for the time being until they settle on a replacement, so it remains unclear as to who will get Folty’s open spot for the near term.

 

Looking at their current 60 man roster, here are some candidates:

 

Bryse Wilson: he has some experience at the MLB level.  Wilson features a heavy four-seam fastball frequently clocked at 95 MPH that can touch 97-98 on some days. Interestingly, he also throws a variation of a two-seamer that shows some sink that might be a usable offering for him. He uses his changeup as his second pitch but struggles with consistency with the curveball.

Ian Anderson: Anderson is actually a higher rated prospect than Wilson.  He pitched in the Futures Game in 2019.  Known for a big fastball clocked at 96 MPH, Anderson has averaged 10.7 K/9 through his stops in the minor leagues. Command has been an on-and-off issue for Anderson but as he adjusts to each level, he makes gains here.

 

 

Tucker Davidson: this may be more of a long shot, but maybe not.  Davidson has the stuff to compete and has quietly moved up the ranks to be a top ten prospect for Atlanta. He has a good fastball at 96-97 MPH and he throws two distinct curveballs.  These are intriguing; one he throws very hard, getting hitters to chase it. The second curveball is a slower one, which can be referred to as a get-me-over, but he is showing improved control and command of these and got to AAA last summer.

We will have to wait and see how Atlanta sorts this out in the coming weeks. They need a solution and fast.  Best wishes to Mike Foltynewicz as he searches for a new opportunity.

 

Instant Analysis: Lux , Puk, and Kim

As we get closer to Opening Day, there have been a ton of moves made by many teams. Some come with confusion, some with frustration and others with disapproval. That being said, with there only being 60 games to be played in 2020, it’s best to be informed so that you can make a decision for your team quickly and confidently. Here are some of the most recent changes and fall outs to the Major League rosters.

 

1.) Gavin Lux Optioned

 

 

* – as such, he won’t be able to start the season with the big league club as he will be with the Taxi Squad off-site.

What now:

Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez will be platooning at 2B. Both are avoidable in most drafts and should only be used in the deepest of leagues if that.

Fantasy Implications:

Lux will be up at some point this season, as his bat is too good. This move does give the Dodgers an extra year of control if that’s their motivation, but there’s also the unfortunate possibility that he has COVID. Chances are that Lux wasn’t your starting 2B, as he was the 17th highest-drafted second baseman in July. However, if he was your starter, here are some other options with a higher ADP that could be on your waiver wire:

Cesar Hernandez: has hit leadoff for most of the Indian’s Intrasquad games and will give you consistently everyday at-bats with stats similar to Lux.
Daniel Murphy: should start for the Rockies and could provide sneaky upside with a non-injured hand.
Kolten Wong: similar stats to Lux, yet more speed makes him and his everyday at-bats intriguing.

 

2.) Oakland Rotation Woes

 

 

What now:

The Oakland A’s came into the season believing that their depth at pitching was a strength. Before their first game, they’ll have to put that theory to the test, as already their rotation looks depleted. Frankie Montas remains their ace, while Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers, Christ Bassitt, and Daniel Mengden round out their starting five.

The biggest winner here is Bassitt, who looked solid last season. Over his 28 games played, he finished 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. His 23.0% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate were both above the league average. He increased his curve and change up to a combined 20% usage rate and held batters to a .170 batting average with both. The A’s play at home for five games to start the season (3 vs the Angels, 2 vs the Rockies) before heading to Seattle for four games. There’s a chance that Bassitt pitches well more than once.

 

Fantasy implications:

While we don’t know for certain how Luzardo will handle battling back from COVID, we do know that he was asymptomatic and that he felt well while self-isolating. Furthermore, he has said that he feels great being with the team and should be back on the field soon. Manager Bob Melvin has said he will start from the bullpen and go from there. For now, I would hold onto him.

A.J. Puk is a completely different story. He was immediately placed on the IL following the shoulder strains, and Melvin was concerned and frustrated for Puk because of the injury history of his young starter. Already previously recovered from Tommy John surgery, Puk now has shoulder strains that may not go away anytime soon. He’s definitely someone to keep on your IL, because the talent is there with the chance he gets healthy. That said, he may leave a hole at the end of your rotation. Some starters off the waiver wire could include:

Elieser Hernandez: just won a starter’s spot for the Marlins and has the stuff to back it up.
Spencer Turnbull: went through a complete lifestyle change in the off-season, trying to get himself healthier and more adept to surviving a long season. He’s looked great at camp, had a terrific first half in 2019, and is going almost undrafted.

 

Kim to close in St.Louis?

 

 

What now:

The Cardinals’ rotation fills itself out with Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, and Carlos Martinez. Kwang-hyun Kim leads the pack in that bullpen for saves, over Giovanny Gallegos, Andrew Miller, and Ryan Helsley.

Fantasy implications:

Carlos Martinez, when healthy, pitches well. With a career ERA of 3.36 and just under nine strikeouts per inning, he’s definitely someone to not only add but also start for your team. If he’s available (which I doubt), he’s a must-add now. On the flip side, there were a lot of Ryan Helsely and Giovanny Gallegos speculation adds over this past weekend within the industry as many leagues had their first FAAB’s of the season. All of those purchases are, for now, sunken costs, as Kim comes out the clear winner here. As the 472nd player drafted in July, I touched upon him briefly here, and I actually like his stuff going into 2020. I never did think he’d end up the closer, but it is what it is.

Scrounging around for saves isn’t easy, and chances are all of the closers and closers by committee have been drafted and snagged up from the waiver wire. My advice would be to look for the next in line from the teams listed here:

 

 

Closers won’t be going back to back too often, and the next in line, whoever that is on those teams, should at least get opportunities.

 

4.) History Is Made

 

Last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the history that was made on Monday night:

 

 

Well deserved for a lot of reasons, Nakken joined the Giants in January and became the first female to have a full-time coaching job in major league history. After her promotion, she talked about her sense of responsibility for showing women everywhere about how they can coach in baseball. Congratulations to her for being a pioneer in something that has been male-dominated until now. Hopefully, she is the start of many deserved opportunities to come for women everywhere as all people have equal rights to follow their passions and see those dreams turn into reality.

Instant Analysis: Vive la Franchy!

With about a week left until the start of the MLB season, the unexpected happened late last night: we got a trade! Yes, we, the fans, got something we never thought we’d see so close to Opening Day, but here we are.

 

It’s an interesting one for sure, with some possibly big implications. Let’s start with the biggest part of the deal.

 

Franchy Cordero, OF

 

2018* stats: .237/.307/.439, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 19 R, 5 SB
ADP: 489
*missed most of 2019 due to injury

 

What he brought to San Diego:

 

During his three inconsistent years in San Diego, Cordero amassed a .240/.306/.431 line with ten home runs, 29 runs batted in and seven steals over 273 plate appearances. He showed flashes of power as he was in the Statcast Top 50 Leaderboard for hardest-hit balls of 2018 three times. With an 89th percentile Sprint Speed, he’s also someone that can be aggressive on the base paths, and his 70% stolen base success rate is about average.

He, unfortunately, missed some of his 2018 season due to a forearm injury and then even more of his 2019 season with quad and elbow injuries.

 

What he brings to Kansas City:

 

The biggest boost here for Cordero is the fact that he should get a chance to play. He’s been effective at all three outfield positions over his short career, and the Royals could use someone with his skill set out there in 2020.

 

 

Looking more at his 2018 tendencies, he’s someone who likes to spread the ball all over the field, though he does seem to go to straightaway center field a lot. While his power may take a slight dip in the vaunted outfield of Kauffman Stadium, this should play well into his speed.

 

 

– via Ballpark Factors at RotoFanatic, numbers in the boxes are league rankings

What I don’t like is that the power in Kansas City dips significantly from other stadiums, though it is to be expected with those LCF, CF and RCF walls being so far away from home. That said, I do love those rankings for singles and extra-base hits, as Franchy’s speed may come into play in 2020. He will also have speedy teammates such as Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield, so we know that the Royals will the running. Here are the results from all of his at-bats from 2018:

 

 

Assuming he doesn’t improve anywhere, it’s safe to say that he will spread the ball all over the field. However, with more consistent at-bats due to steady playing time, I do see Cordero improving his bat to ball skill and striking out less than his career rate of 38.8%. His Hard Hit rate of 51.7% and his walk rate of 9.1% in 2018 both show that when he does put the bat to the ball, he can do so with ferocity. To me, he’s worth a shot in standard mixed leagues (and a must in AL Only leagues) due to the playing time factors and the skill set.

 

What he leaves behind:

 

The Padres were probably not going to use Cordero in their lineup for much or any of 2020. While the Padres liked the raw talent of Cordero, he was never going to beat out guys like Tommy Pham, Wil Myers and Trent Grisham. With Ty France and Josh Naylor there as well, Cordero felt like the odd man out. And with the emergence of Edward Olivares during Spring and Summer Camps, the need for Cordero lessened to the point of almost nothing.

 

 

What sealed the deal:

 

Left-handed relief pitcher Tim Hill became a necessity once Jose Castillo strained his lat a week ago. He’s someone the Padres will now use in certain situations, but most likely low leverage.

 

 

San Diego already has Drew Pomeranz and Matt Strahm as left-handed options in the bullpen, so Hill will get sporadic opportunities and probably isn’t in line for any save opportunities.

Ronald Bolanos is a mid-tier pitching prospect who has a handful of Major League innings accumulated over his short career. He comes armed with a mid 90’s fastball and a decent curveball, but needs some refinement before he has any fantasy significance. That said, for a team like the Royals who are short on arms, it’s a worthwhile shot for them.