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Monday, April 27, 2020

Sunday Notes: The D-Backs’ Run Production Coordinator Has a Good Backstory

Drew Hedman’s title with the Arizona Diamondbacks is Major League Run Production Coordinator. The 33-year-old Pomona College graduate was promoted to that position in January 2019 after spending the previous 12 months as a pro scout. His backstory is interesting, in part because he bypassed business school along the way.

Hedman played four seasons in the Red Sox organization, and while he topped out in Double-A, that alone qualifies an accomplishment. A total of 1,521 players were selected in the 2009 draft, and only three of them went later than Hedman. As a 50th-round pick, the writing was on the wall by the time the ink dried on his first contract. Not that he didn’t give pro ball the old college try.

“I certainly knew the odds weren’t in my favor, but with that being said, I always tried to be stubborn enough to think I’d be the exception,” Hedman told me. “I did everything I could to put myself in the best possible position to make it. Obviously it didn’t happen.”

Staying in the game beyond his playing days was a goal even before his release. The question was, in which capacity? A front office role made sense — Hedman has a B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, with a focus in Economics — but his alma mater wasn’t yet the baseball breeding ground it’s become. Over a dozen Pomona alums have gone on to work for MLB teams since Guy Stevens, who now runs the Kansas City Royals’ R&D department — broke the ice in 2013. Hedman was cut loose in spring training that same year.

Now trying to figure out what a “Run Production Coordinator” does…..


Monday, April 20, 2020

Sunday Notes: Taylor Trammell Loves Fans (and Wishes More Looked Like Him)

I’m not privy as to whether the Cincinnati Reds assign a grade to character in their draft reports. I also don’t know how much the San Diego Padres weigh that attribute when pondering possible acquisitions. I do know that Taylor Trammell projects as more than a quality big-league outfielder. He projects as a role model.

Trammell became a Padre last summer. Part of the trade-deadline deal that sent Trevor Bauer to the Queen City, he’d been selected 35th overall by the Reds in the 2016 draft out of Kennesaw, Georgia’s Mount Paran Christian School. Blessed with plus raw tools, Trammell is slotted No. 69 on our 2020 Top 100 Prospects list.

A prima donna he’s not. When he reaches the big leagues, Trammell will do so with a genuine appreciation for what life has presented him. Moreover, he doesn’t just embrace the game of baseball. He embraces the people who come to see it played.

“I have thoughts on fans,” Trammell told me in Padres camp last month. “I love them. There are people who come to games and want to heckle, and they have the right to do that. Do I agree with it? No, but if you want to pay money to come yell at us, I mean, do whatever you want. Go to a boxing match. Go to a baseball game. Go to a basketball game. Any game. When there are a whole bunch of fans in the stands, whether they’re rooting for you or not rooting for you, it’s great for baseball. They want to see a game and we’re putting on a show for them.”

Come for the stories about prospects- stay to argue the relative merits of Willie Randolph and Jeff Kent!

 


Monday, April 13, 2020

Sunday Notes: Was Jim Edmonds Better Than Andruw Jones?

Who was better, Jim Edmonds or Andruw Jones?

I asked that question in a Twitter poll earlier this week, expecting that it would be a close call. Centerfielders both, they played 17 seasons each and finished with similar WAR totals (Jones 67, Edmonds 64.5). Making the comparison especially intriguing was the fact that one was clearly the better defender, while the other was clearly the better hitter.

Instead of a nail-biter, I got a landslide. A total of 4,017 people voted, and a resounding 71.4% opted for Jones. Edmonds, despite having a huge edge in wRC+, garnered a meager 28.6%.

Let the debate begin!

 


Monday, April 06, 2020

Sunday Notes: Keston Hiura Can Hit, But The Book He’d Write Would Be Boring

The first time I interviewed Keston Hiura was over the phone. This was a few months after he’d been taken ninth overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2017 draft. Kiura was playing for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and he called at the assigned time from a Midwest League ballpark after batting practice. I don’t recall which ballpark.

I was in Lowell, Massachusetts at a New York-Penn League game that had already started. It was loud at LeLacheur Park, so I talked to Hiura from the relative quiet of a stairwell down the left-field line. The interview went well. I found the former UC Irvine Anteater to be both forthcoming and articulate.

The second time I interviewed Kiura was at the Brewers spring training complex, four weeks ago. Standing face-to-face — closer than the six-foot distance now deemed necessary — I accused him of being boring.

Truth be told, the pertinent ground had already been covered. In our earlier long-distance conversation we’d gone over the toe tap into a high leg kick, the inside-out swing with a high finish, the way he kept both hands on the bat. For good measure, we’d touched on his patience-paired-with-aggression approach.

For those who want to hear about unpaid bets from the 1980s, players who spent a year playing baseball in Japan, and the manager we hate this most.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Sunday Notes: Zach Davies Plans to Rely Less on Changeups

Zach Davies threw a lot of changeups last season. Taking the hill for the Milwaukee Brewers, the now-27-year-old right-hander relied on the pitch an eyebrow-raising 31.3% of the time. In 2018, that number was 12.2%. In 2017, it was 14%.

Why the notable uptick in change-of-pace pitches?

“I was getting guys out in any way possible,” explained Davies, who was dealt to the San Diego Padres this past November. “Going into last year, I was coming off injuries [rotator cuff inflammation and lower back tightness] and wasn’t guaranteed a starting spot. I wasn’t able to go into spring training and work on pitches, and best way for me to get outs was fastball-changeup. That’s why the numbers were skewed. This year there will be a lot more of a mix.”

Not having a feel for his curveball, Davies threw his bender just 3.5% of the time last year, down from the 15-16% range he’d been accustomed to. His cutter usage was also down, albeit by only a few percentage points. I asked the command-artist what returning to more of a mix will entail.

Come for the consideration of pitches- stay for the story concerning a prominent pitcher and an unexpected visitor.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Sunday Notes: Mariners Prospect Jarred Kelenic Embraces The Art of Hitting

Jarred Kelenic is No. 11 on our 2020 Top 100 Prospects list, and his bat is the main reason why. As Eric Longenhagen wrote in the 20-year-old outfielder’s scouting profile, “[H]e’s been one of the — if not the — best hitters his age from the time scouts began to see him.” The New York Mets selected Kelenic sixth overall in the 2018 draft out of a Waukesha, Wisconsin high school, then shipped him to the Seattle Mariners in the seven-player mega-deal headlined by Robinson Cano.

Kelenic possesses marquee potential. In 500 plate appearances last year, split between three levels, he slashed a healthy .291/.364/.540, with 23 home runs. Moreover, Kelenic spent the final three weeks in Double-A, a heady accomplishment for a prep-draftee playing in his first full professional season.

I caught up to the fast-tracking youngster two weekends ago as he was taking part in big-league camp. Our conversation began with one of my favorite ice-breaker questions: Do you view hitting as more of an art, or more of a science?

“I think it’s an art,” answered Kellenic. “It’s something that’s developed over time. Kind of like a painting. It takes time to get all of the detail. Hitting is the same way.”

Come for the discussion of prospects- stay for the stories concerning hard-drinking HOFers.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Sunday Notes: MacKenzie Gore is a Power Pitcher Who Doesn’t Hunt Punchouts

What will possibly be the last of these for quite some time:

MacKenzie Gore struck me as a straightforward sort when I talked to him in San Diego Padres camp last Sunday. Polite but not loquacious, the 21-year-old southpaw perfunctorily answered each of my inquiries about his repertoire and approach. This is something he’s used to doing. As baseball’s top pitching prospect, Gore gets more than his fair share of media attention.

I didn’t walk into the conversation expecting to glean a boatload of fresh insight. I’m familiar with the scouting reports — all glowing — and as a FanGraphs reader you likely are as well. Even so, an opportunity to hear directly from the horse’s mouth wasn’t something I wanted to pass up.

A look at some numbers before we get to his words. In 20 starts last year between high-A Lake Elsinore (this in the hitter-friendly Cal League) and Double-A Amarillo, Gore logged a 1.69 ERA and won nine of 11 decisions. Moreover — this is the eye-popping part — he had 135 strikeouts, and allowed just 56 hits, in 101 innings.

“I’m a guy who attacks the zone with his fastball,” Gore told me. “I’m going out there looking to throw a lot of innings, so I’m trying to get people out early. I’m trying to throw the least amount of pitches possible.”

 

QLE Posted: March 16, 2020 at 01:08 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: andrew vaughn, mackenzie gore, michael chavis, nick madrigal, statistics, sunday notes

Monday, March 09, 2020

Sunday Notes: Nick Madrigal Doesn’t Try To Hit Home Runs Anymore

There’s no question that Nick Madrigal can hit. The Chicago White Sox drafted the sweet-swinging infielder fourth-overall in 2018 after he slashed .361/.422/.502 at Oregon State University — and he’s continued to rake. Last year, Madrigal put up a tasty .311/.377/.414 slash line between three levels, reaching Triple-A in his first full professional season.

Few doubt that the just-turned-23-year-old will be a solid big-leaguer, as his bat-to-ball skills come with strong defense at the second base position. The question is whether he’ll ever produce more than a modicum of in-game power. Madrigal stands 5’ 7”, and he’s gone deep just four times in 705 minor-league plate appearances.

Could he one day display pop? Mindful that 5’ 6” Jose Altuve homered 31 times last year, I asked Madrigal how much raw power he actually has.

“I have some in my swing,” Madrigal told me on Friday. “I’m getting stronger and stronger every year, so I do think power could be part of my game. I’m not too worried about it, though. People say, ‘When will you start doing that?’ or ‘When will you start doing this?’ But I know what kind of player I am. My job is to get on base. I can drive the ball, but I’m not going to go up there trying to hit home runs, or anything like that.”

Open thread for any baseball news of significance that we’ve otherwise missed.

 


Monday, March 02, 2020

Sunday Notes: Red Sox Prospect Jarren Duran is a Speedy, Intense Anomaly

My first ever conversation with Jarren Duran took place prior to spring training when the Red Sox held their annual rookie development camp. Things started off clumsily. The speedy outfield prospect has a certain intensity about him, and his responses to my initial inquiries came couched with edgy caution.

Duran has a 50% ground-ball rate since turning pro, and when I noted that worm-killing isn’t exactly de rigueur in today’s game, his reply was a terse, “Yeah, but I can’t beat out a fly ball. That would be a waste of my speed, so why not use the tool that I have?”

Fair enough. Duran has plus-plus wheels — he swiped 46 bags last season — and he profiles as a table-setter as opposed to a bopper. Even so, is a willingness to stay on the ground really in his best interest?


“I’m willing to accept any ball that will give me a hit,” Duran proclaimed. “Ground balls. Line drives. Even fly balls. I’m just trying to make hard contact.”

As always, feel free to jump in with stories not given entries of their own.

 


Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday Notes: Dodgers Prospect Kody Hoese is Calm, Cool, and Collects Hits

Kody Hoese exploded last season at Tulane. In a breakout junior campaign that saw him shoot up draft charts, the right-handed-hitting third baseman slashed a preposterous .391/.486/.779, bashing 23 home runs along the way. Duly impressed, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Hoese with the 25th pick of the first round.

He proceeded to acclimate well to pro ball. The numbers weren’t nearly as loud as they were with the Green Wave, but his .299/.380/.483 line between rookie-level Arizona and the low-A Great Lakes Loons was more than adequate. In terms of getting his feet wet, Hoese did just fine.

Asking Hoese about the sudden-rise path he took from Tulane to top-shelf prospect unearthed no great revelations. The 22-year-old Griffith, Indiana native feels that he simply matured and grew into having a more-advanced approach at the plate. “There weren’t really any mechanical changes, or anything like that.”

Hoese’s setup and stroke are anything but complicated. He presents with a “little-lower-hands slot” and a simple load where he “kind of gets into [his] back side, and then strides.” He tries to stay balanced — “centered through my body, upright” — with minimal head movement. His primary objectives are a consistent swing path and focusing on driving the ball up the middle and to the opposite-field gap.

For discussion of all those stories that we’ve otherwise missed…..


Monday, February 17, 2020

Sunday Notes: Twins Prospect Royce Lewis Has a Cacophonous Swing and a Sky-High Ceiling

The swing is noisy and needs refining, but Lewis has the physical ability for superstardom.

That line, written by Eric Longenhagen, led Royce Lewis’s writeup in our 2020 Top 100 Prospects rankings, which were published earlier this week. Both halves of the sentence are intriguing. While the first is potentially a red flag, the second is indicative of a blue-chip up-and-comer with a sky-high ceiling. Selected first overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2017 draft out of a San Juan Capistrano high school, Lewis holds down the No. 13 slot on Longenhagen’s list.

Alex Hassan isn’t all that concerned with the 20-year-old shortstop’s swing. According to the Minnesota farm director, the underlying characteristics are what really matter. Lewis possesses plus bat speed, a good bat path, and “when he makes contact, he does a lot of damage.”

While nothing is actually broken, Lewis isn’t exactly quiet in the box.

An open thread, for any points of importance we’ve missed.

 


 

 

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