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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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