Let’s be honest: part of the fun of baseball is making a huge deal out of something that’s nothing. This is “fun” when it’s done tongue-in-cheek: obviously we know that the Mariners won’t win at a 13-3 clip for the entire season [sob], nor will Jay Bruce run a negative BABIP (how is that even possible?), but it’s funny to talk and deal in the absurdity of these things. After a game, Tim Beckham was going to be a 34 WAR player! Amazing!
But I tell you, that’s not granular enough. We need to break it down more. GET MORE GRANULAR. DEEPER. ALWAYS DEEPER. So I present to you: Mariner Innings as Mariner Trades, June 3, 2019 edition
This one is pretty bad. Pretty, pretty, pretty bad. It leaves me thinking “what the hell” a lot, even as from a baseball process it was at least defensible. You know what else this inning reminds me of? When you wake up and before you can do literally anything a kid tells you he threw up in his bed. Yes, I, a grown man, have Cory Gearrin, another grown man, metaphorically knocking on my bedroom door and waking me up with news of vomit and/or a Josh Reddick triple. I HAVEN’T EVEN HAD COFFEE AND OR BEER YET LEAVE ME ALONE.
And lest you think this is just about Chris Taylor’s breakout, Zach Lee was billed as a high-floor guy. Much like Mitch Haniger and Dan Vogelbach walking in the same inning. Neither one worked out at all.
This is neat! It is. A quick inning in the top, and Shed Long doing Shed Long things in the bottom. That’s great. Here’s the problem: does it mean anything? David Bell was a neat acquisition and yet put up essentially no value on Mariners teams that could really use him, then put up bananapants numbers on a team that was so good it honestly didn’t matter. Again: What monkey’s paw was rubbed in 2001 to do things like make David Bell an elite defensive third baseman? Probably the same one Mallex Smith rubs in the dugout bathroom before his home runs. Hey, why doesn’t he do that more?
That, readers, is how you transition. Getting an Edwin Encarnacion home run is nice. Getting a Mallex Smith home run in the same inning? BONUS. Much like I feel like we got extra pieces in this trade, because while it was 1 for 1, the “1” for us was one of the best catchers in the AL, and the “1” for them was a reliever. A good one. But a reliever.
One person in this trade, and one person in this inning, would do something interesting and/or useful for the Mariners in the context of this inning and/or trade. Neither one would matter, because the Mariners missed the playoffs and the Mariners stranded Shed Long.
The great thing about baseball trades is, like innings, they come in literally all shapes and sizes. You can come up with whatever kind of inning and I guarandamntee you you can find a trade that matches. And like innings, most trades end up being a lot more boring than you think they might be. What do we have here? Power hitters for the Mariners coming to the plate, and the Astros, well, they’re the Astros. Fireworks galore, surely! Let’s get a Ken Griffey trade or a Randy Johnson trade. Nope. This is a trade that looked so neat and interesting. And yet? The best piece in here is, uh, I don’t know, a bit player first baseman? Remind me never to fall in love with a young Mariner again oh hey Jarred I didn’t see you over there.
Here’s the thing about this inning: like that ridiculous and abysmal trade, it mostly just upsets me to think about it. But like this trade, while it was not, uh, good, it didn’t end up being *all* that bad. Was that because of luck, partially or mostly? Yes. Do I care? No. Jesus Montero was very bad. But Michael Pineda blew out his arm was actually pretty good until he did that and much like this inning, in my head it didn’t seem that bad and in reality it was the nail in the coffin for this cursed franchise/anemic offense that can’t help do anything good
7th inning: Danny Tartabull and Rick Luecken for Scott Bankhead, Steve Shields, and Mike Kinger
There are a lot of angles to take on this trade. It was once covered on this site, for reasons that are unclear but entertaining.* Here’s the thing, with the benefit of hindsight. This trade did not make one bit of cow shit’s worth of difference to the Seattle Mariners. It would be 9 years before they would make the playoffs. Tartabull’s good years would be in years where the Mariners would not contend. The return on this trade was not useful, in terms of seeing actual on-field success. On balance, like the 7th inning, it was a slightly negative and meaningless experience. Hello and welcome to Lookout Landing.
*note to self: make “unclear but entertaining” personal brand in 2020
At this point, ennui starts to settle in at a truly spiritual level. Rather than excitedly evaluate a trade you start to look ahead to fall: apple cider, thanksgiving, college football’s postseason. Like that 2017 season, it’s at this point in a 7pm start that I start to let my mind wander to the pillow. There’s just one problem: Mike Marjama retired to pursue a laudable career and Luis Rengifo is lobbing bombs all over the AL. Another sleepless night for me.
Honestly, who cares? All of these players are bad and useless. Dustin Ackley is worse than every single current Mariner and was once drafted second overall. Three different franchises gave him four different opportunities and couldn’t fix him, and one of those franchises was maybe the most storied sports enterprise of all time. He’s bad, and remains bad, and the return was bad, and remains bad. On balance, this trade was the epitome of a quiet 9th inning in a meaningless game in a lost year, all played on draft night where we can dream on future Dustin Ackleys, or Jarred Kelenics, or Jake Fraleys, or DJ Petersons. The Mariners lost this game 4-2, and the real game was played in Seacaucus, New Jersey.
Prepare yourselves. Everett is going to have a rotation from hell.
With their final selection of Day 1 of the MLB Draft, the Mariners went out and got themselves an Arkansas Hoss. Isaiah Campbell represents quite possibly the highest upside selection of the day.
Armed with a mid-90s fastball that flashes plus potential, Campbell worked all offseason to develop secondary offerings the supplement his heater. He now brings an above-average slider, as well as average-yet-promising split-finger and curveball offerings. All four pitches have the potential to play at the major league level.
“...extremely consistent and poised. I think he moves fast with four very legit pitches.” - Kendall Rogers, D1Baseball.com
Another tall starting pitcher, Campbell sits at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. In 103 innings with the Razorbacks in 2019, Campbell punched out 108 and issued just 19 free passes. Considering his array of secondary stuff, that’s pretty impressive.
According to Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com, Campbell has the makings of a very strong pro.
“He really showed me something this year,” Rogers said. “...extremely consistent and poised. I think he moves fast with four very legit pitches.”
Isaiah Campbell Prospect Video, RHP, University of Arkansas - YouTube
Opposing hitters managed a measly .207 average against Campbell this year, a good reflection of how un-hittable his stuff can play up.
One scout on Campbell:
“We had Campbell graded out as a second round pick,” he said. “He’s a good pitcher, even better kid. He’s a good rotation prospect, but I really think he has game-changing stuff out of the bullpen.”
Quite possibly the best part of Campbell is his inner nerd. A biochemistry major, Campbell is fully invested in data analytics. He gets it. He wants to know the numbers behind the numbers, a trait sure to help accelerate his progression.
Born in Portugal into a military family, Campbell grew up on several different air force bases. He’s no stranger to relocation or changes of scenery. Before too long, he may find himself back in Arkansas, this time leading the AA Travelers rotation to victory.
Campbell will head to Everett where he will continue to tinker with his mechanics in an effort to gain more consistency with his delivery. You’d best get up there in June or early July, because there’s no promises he’ll be there long.
Likely an under-slot value, Seattle now has flexibility
TCU pitcher Brandon Williamson may not be the sexiest pick, but he’s certainly a projectable left hander with a reasonable ceiling.
He also likely carries an under-slot bonus designation, allowing Seattle to go after pitcher Isiah Campbell with their next selection.
Brandon Williamson, TCU LHP - YouTube
Williamson is an interesting pick. When he’s right, he’s a lanky starting pitcher who has a long stride to home plate, allowing his low-90s fastball to play up. His slider sits low 80s and he’s still developing a changeup, which he’ll need to do to be effective at the next level.
At 6-foot-6, Williamson creates a good downhill plane, especially for his breaking stuff. His stride mitigates some of the depth he could create, but again, it all sneaks up on batters faster than expected.
In 77 innings last season, the Horned Frog struck out 89 batters and walked 36. But Seattle isn’t drafting him for what he is. They’re drafting him for what he could be.
One National League scout said Williamson was on his radar as well, but to be frank, not this early.
“I haven’t seen enough from him to pull the trigger this early,” he said. “There’s no doubt there’s something there, but with the hip, I’d need to see more.”
The hip the scout is referring to is actually two hips. Williamson had surgery to repair the labrum in both of his hips last fall, something that he apparently recovered from quickly given his innings posted this season.
Regardless, Williamson is a project, but one with a higher ceiling than many give him credit for. When pressed for a comparison, this scout admitted it’s too early to call for someone like Williamson.
“He’s probably going to be a different pitcher in three years but he reminds me of a young Drew Smyly.”
Williamson likely slots into the late teens as far as Mariners top prospects lists go.
Look forward to seeing Williamson in Everett in a couple weeks, just so long as signing him doesn’t lead to any hiccups.
Wait, I thought Nintendo sold its ownership stake?
With the 20th selection in the 2019 MLB Draft, Seattle elected to shore up one of its bigger areas of need: starting pitching. Elon SP George Kirby is going to be a sight for sore eyes for those fans looking to relish in the “C the Z” mantra. Having only walked six (!) batters in 88 innings of work this season, Kirby is excellent at controlling the damage and keeping himself out of trouble.
Indeed, by selecting Kirby, the Mariners have effectively absorbed the power of some of their opponents: good starting pitching.
“Classic Jerry,” he said. “George fits right into their ‘C the Z’ mentality. He’s a Jerry guy.” - NL scout
At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Kirby is an imposing force on the mound. His mid-90’s fastball and strong, but still developing, breaking balls allow him to go right after hitters with an array of different pitches. His stuff, as it stands, is good, not great. He pounds the strike zone and allows hitters to chase pitches off the corners when he’s ahead.
One National League scout familiar with Dipoto thinks the pick is right in line with what the organization is trying to accomplish.
“Classic Jerry,” he said. “George fits right into the mentality. He’s a Jerry guy.”
“I know a lot of teams who were hoping he’d fall a little further,” he said. “There’s not a lot of sure bets in this class, but I think Kirby is one of them. He’ll move as fast as his breaking ball development allows him to.”
The curveball and slider, as well as the changeup, are still a work in progress. All three pitches have shown flashes of plus potential, but they’re inconsistent at best right now and will need fine-tuning — something that should come with time. The slider is considered the most advanced pitch right now, but should not be considered an “out” pitch just yet.
Kirby is thought to have an incredibly clean, repeatable delivery. His mechanics are sound, mitigating future injury risk.
MLB Draft 2019 - George Kirby - YouTube
Few pitchers in this draft can match the collegiate career he put together. In three years as an Elon Phoenix, Kirby threw 240 innings, striking out 258 batters and walking just 50. His 4.9 BB% ranks among the best in all of college baseball over that period, and the very best for pitchers who have thrown at least 150 innings. Honored with the CAA Pitcher of the Year award in 2019, Kirby goes down as one of the more decorated pitchers in Elon history.
This past season, Kirby took his game to another level. His 0.89 WHIP topped the ranks in the Colonial Athletic Association, while his 107 strikeouts ranked second. His six walks, obviously, topped the conference as well for pitchers that threw at least 50 innings.
So what does the future look like for Kirby? What can Mariners fans expect from their new prized prospect? A second scout I spoke with spoke highly of Kirby’s ceiling.
“If you had to ask me today, I’d say Mike Fiers,” he said. “Mike Fiers or Kyle Hendricks would be my answer.”
As for now? Seattle’s new starting pitcher probably slots in somewhere between 8 and 10 on their top prospects list depending on who you ask. He will almost certainly head to Everett to begin his career, though it isn’t out of the question to see an advanced college arm like his moved to West Virginia soon thereafter.
We’ll see what happens, but in a few years time, we may be referring to T-Mobile Park as Kirby’s Dream Land, and that would be okay by me.
The Mariners take on the Astros tonight in a game that...might be lightly attended, to put it nicely. Even with the Astros missing a lot of their major firepower, things do not stack up nicely for the struggling Mariners.
Programming note: Tonight’s game is on ESPN, not ROOT. Game time is at 7:10 and the game will be available on the radio on 710 as usual.
Meanwhile, the draft is still going on and the Mariners have two more picks to make on Day One, after taking RHP George Kirby from Elon University in the first round at #20.
Welcome to Seattle, George Kirby!
With the 20th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Mariners select the right-hander out of Elon University. He went 8-2 with a 2.75 ERA this year, striking out 101 and walking only six. pic.twitter.com/d07D3CTSkD
Join us as we look towards the future and get irate about who people pick.
Happy draft day, y’all! If you’ve been with us the entire way, welcome. If you’re just parachuting in, hello! Here’s our 2019 MLB Draft section where you can peruse our conference previews, mock draft, player profiles, and reviews of prior drafts.
Today the Mariners pick 20th, 59th, and 76th, as the first and second rounds (including the supplemental rounds) will be held. We’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time, and we’ll have reactions and analysis up for you this afternoon and evening. To streamline things, when Seattle makes a pick we will immediately drop that info in the article here, so feel free to refresh the page every so often once the draft gets underway at 4 PM PT. We will ALSO have separate articles for each pick today, which we will drop links to into this thread article.
With that in mind, let’s get drafty!
Draft Time: 4 PM PT TV: MLB Network Radio: I mean probably the At-Bat App but why? Online: MLB.Com will stream MLB Network’s coverage live.
We command you to sound smart to your friends when these people get drafted tonight.
Through a series of articles over the past month we’ve familiarized you with a variety of guys who the Mariners may select with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft today. The route the club opts to take with the first selection will in all likelihood have a significant impact on the following two Day 1 picks the Mariners possess at 59th and 76th overall.
The M’s picked up an extra pick—76 overall—in the trade that sent Carlos Santana to Cleveland following an illustrious Seattle Mariners career that can only be rivaled by Mallex Smith Pt. I. With a trio of picks today, here are a smattering of players who would make sense for Seattle that should be available in the 2nd and supplemental rounds.
The College LHP Pile
Since being burned badly in using the second overall pick of the 2011 draft on Danny Hultzen, the Mariners have been gun-shy regarding the selection of left-handed pitching. There’s a group of tantalizing southpaws that are projected to go off the board around of between the Mariners’ second and third of three Day 1 picks. The selection of any of the following guys would make them the highest-drafted LHP by the organization since Hultzen, which is in order considering the dearth of high-upside lefty pitching; particularly when you consider the highest-drafted lefty from last year’s draft class--LHP Michael Plassmeyer in the fourth round last June--was traded away over the offseason.
LHP John Doxakis, Texas A&M (MLB.com #44, FanGraphs #88, Baseball America #53)
While MLB.com doesn’t expect Doxakis to be available to the M’s at 56, FanGraphs thinks they should have the choice to grab him with their next pick at 76.The 6’4” 20-year-old has advanced feel of his secondary offerings, and while he sits in the high-80’s and low-90’s with his velocity, he’s used elite command to produce results this season, posting a 2.06 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, and 2.2 BB/9 through 104.2 IP this season. He looked strong on the big stage on Friday, striking out nine while allowing four earned runs and walking nobody through 7.0 innings against Duke.
John Doxakis (3-1-2019) vs Baylor Univ. at the Shriners College Baseball Classic (Houston, TX). - YouTube
LHP Ethan Small, Mississippi State University (MLB.com #56, FanGraphs #62, Baseball America #45)
Small fills a dire organizational need for an advanced left-handed starting pitcher, and also fits Jerry’s type as a late-career breakout. He’s excelled since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017, seeing his strikeout rate jump north of 15.0 K/9 despite losing a couple of ticks on his fastball, which now sits in the low-90’s. Baseball America threw out a Yusei Kikuchi for Small, who Fangraphs lists at 6’3” 214lb. He won the SEC Pitcher of the Year Award for his impressive junior campaign this year after posting a line of 96.0 IP, 1.88 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 160 SO, 27 BB. A selection of Small at pick 59 or 76 would be the highest the Mariners have drafted a LHP since Danny Hultzen was the second overall pick in the 2011 draft.
LHP T.J. Sikkema, Missouri (MLB.com #57, FanGraphs #72, Baseball America #80)
Like the two guys mentioned before him, Sikkema is a left-hander who sits in the low-90’s but is coming off a breakthrough season. His 1.32 ERA through 88.2 innings ranked him fourth among NCAA qualifiers in ERA, and while his strikeout rate rose to 10.3 K/9, his walk rate climbed slightly to 3.2 BB/9 on the year. He profiles as a high floor prospect, but lack the projectability of some of these options based on his stout 6’0” frame and may land in the bullpen at some point.
LHP Erik Miller, Stanford (MLB.com #61, FanGraphs #62, Baseball America #105)
Another southpaw who typically sits in the low-90’s (although he’s reached 97 at times), many scouts think his shaky control will land him in the bullpen down the road. His arsenal consists of a heater and an average to above-average slider and change-up. At 6’5” 240, MLB.com mentions the potential of a Josh Hader career path for one of the more interesting arms in the PAC-12. He posted 10.9 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 through 80.0 innings this year and struck out 12 through 5.2 innings on Sunday for Stanford. A win for the Cardinal on Monday night vs. Fresno State could lead to a Small-Miller pitchers duel in the Super Regionals this weekend.
LHP Graeme Stinson, Duke (MLB.com #70, FanGraphs #68, Baseball America #84)
The 6’5” 260lb Stinson was ranked higher than all the guys on this list, in fact, he was the top ranked pitcher in the entire draft by many outlets coming into the 2019 college season. Armed with mid-to-upper-90’s heat and a plus-plus wipe-out slider, he was set to work exclusively as a starter this season and did just that four five starts before being shut down with what was called a “hamstring injury” in mid-March. He hasn’t thrown since and was far less effective when he did pitch, seeing his velocity dip into the mid-80’s after posting a career strikeout rate north of 14.0 K/9 through 90.0 career innings entering 2019. There’s plenty of red flags surrounding him, but he seems like a worthy candidate for a club with an extra pick, like the M’s have at 76. Fangraphs linked the Mariners to him in their final mock draft just this morning.
LHP Ben Brecht, UCSB (MLB.com #126, FanGraphs n/a, Baseball America #87)
Brecht would be a bit of a stretch at 76 but he’s a 6’7” lefty strike thrower whose velo currently sits in the low 90s but might be a candidate for the Mariners’ gas camp due to his excellent command. He’s struck out 101 batters in 90 innings while walking just 18 thanks to a three-pitch mix consisting of a fastball that plays up in the zone, a promising changeup, and a sweeping slider. Brecht has a collegiate polish with some big potential upside if he’s developed well.
The Mariners have long been devoid of left-side infield depth, consistently swinging and missing or dealing away guys that have showed any hope on that side. While somehow still-just-recently-turned-21-year-old 3B Joe Rizzo is apparently breaking out offensively this season, reports regarding his defense at the hot corner are skeptical at best. Newly acquired Jake Scheiner could also add depth, but he’s 23 and will be splitting time with Rizzo in High-A. The organization could stand to use an early pick on Kyle Seager’s heir apparent, with some thinking that will be the purpose of the club’s top pick at 20. If they don’t invest early on the likes of Josh Jung, Kody Hoese, or Keoni Cavaco, here’s a few guys that could likely be had at 59 or 76.
SS Josh Smith, LSU (MLB.com #76, FanGraphs #53, Baseball America #68)
The left-handed hitting Smith led the Tigers in hitting in his first season back after missing essentially all of his sophomore season with a back injury, slashing .346/.436/.533 and stealing 20 bags in 24 tries. He’s regarded as a high-floor prospect who may develop into a second base or even utility role should his bat fail to improve in pro ball, but his success with a wood bat during 2017 Cape Cod League ball would seem to indicate there’s untapped potential for him. His plate discipline has waned since he walked more than striking out as a freshman, but he still doesn’t strike out all that much, doing so just 42 times in 64 games this season.
3B Nick Quintana, Arizona (MLB.com #77, FanGraphs #43, Baseball America #81)
Nick Quintana Prospect Video, 3b, University of Arizona - YouTube
The Pac-12’s leader in RBI with 77, Quintana was originally selected in the 11th round by the Red Sox when he was coming out of his school in 2016 but elected to join the Wildcats. After getting his OPS up over 1.000 as a sophomore last year, he’s flirted with a mark of 1.100 this season, slashing .342/.462/.626 and swatting 15 home runs in 56 games. He rivaled his 20.1% strikeout rate with a 17.0% walk rate in 2019, however it’s his 38.1% strikeout rate through two summers-worth of Cape Cod League action that have some scouts worry. He’s switched from shortstop to third base since arriving on the U of A campus, and there’s few who doubt his ability to stick at the position.
A slightly down year with some errors might push Cannon to the back end of his projected draft position, but he’s hit for average every year as a Sun Devil, although the power is more gap-to-gap than over the fence, even in Arizona’s offense-happy environment. He’s a high floor guy more than anything who would be a steadying presence at an area of weakness in Seattle’s system.
SS Kyren Paris, Freedom HS, Oakley, California (MLB.com #50, FanGraphs #39, Baseball America #70)
Joe wrote up Paris a bit last week so I’ll give you the skinny (like Paris himself!). At 6’0, 170, he’s a line-drive hitting 17-year-old with plus speed, smooth defense, and has the frame to add more power. I like his bat speed and easy athleticism from the right side, but as Joe noted his swing is currently too flat to produce power at the pro level. That should be an easy enough transition as he grows in strength, and the rest of the tools can help him stay at short or handle any infield spot long-term.
These guys don’t fit a super-specific and glaring team need other than that they project to be useful pieces that can help fuel a championship run in the future. There’s a few question marks here, but those can sometimes prove to be some of the draft’s greatest gems.
1B/OF Michael Toglia, UCLA (MLB.com #40, FanGraphs #38, Baseball America #63)
Michael Toglia,1b, UCLA, Home Run vs East Carolina University - YouTube
College bats archetypally offer refinement at the expense of projection, but Toglia is as intriguing as they come for a junior at a Pac-12 stalwart. The switch-hitting, lefty throwing 6’5, 200 lbs local product (shoutout Gig Harbor) is just 20 years old on draft day and, like many switch-hitters, has some trouble with consistency mechanically and production-wise. Still, a .316/.390/.617 line and .417 wOBA in 53 games this year matched his strong sophomore year almost perfectly. His swing-and-miss issues could help him fall on some boards, but he’s regarded as a plus defender at first and a capable corner OF. Most enticingly, his raw power is immense, and a pedigree of handling three years of major conference pitching is more than most players of his projection can boast.
C Ethan Hearn, Mobile (Ala.) Christian HS (MLB.com #67, FanGraphs #72, Baseball America #66)
Regarded as the best prep backstop in the class, Hearn profiles as more of a power bat than anything else at the moment; however scouts believe the ceiling on his defense is high and that the 6’0” lefty-swinging ‘Bama boy is a can’t-miss catching prospect. With the organization picking up a few interesting catchers in last year’s draft, they could possibly afford to use their second selection on Hearn and attempt to lure him away from him Mississippi State commitment but it would likely cost them. This would seem far more likely if they take a college player in the first round.
Ethan Hearn 2018 Under Armour All-American - YouTube
RHP Noah Song, Navy (MLB.com #68, FanGraphs #49, Baseball America #65)
The Mariners are position nicely to potentially benefit from question marks surrounding standout ace Noah Song. He’s got a combination of the skills, projectability, and track record that would make him a surefire top-10 selection were in not for complications regarding his ability to immediately start his career due to an obligation to serve two years active-duty in the military upon graduation. Unless he’s able to somehow get that waived, he won’t be eligible to start his professional career until age 24. He led the nation in strikeouts with 161 in 94.0 innings, and ranked sixth in ERA at 1.44. The M’s, armed with their extra pick from the Carlos Santana trade, could stand to potentially burn a selection on a guy that could possibly return first-round value.
OF Jordan Brewer, Michigan (MLB.com #108, FanGraphs #68, Baseball America #158)
Obviously the Mariners system is rich in outfield talent but that doesn’t mean they can stop drafting OFers entirely. Michigan’s Jordan Brewer is a potential five-tool player who would be a great organizational fit and might be the sleeper of the draft. Kate has strong feelings regarding Brewer and made an excellent case to reach for him earlier this week.
The Mariners host the Astros for four-games this week. How bad could it get?
With the amateur draft beginning this afternoon and the major league club reeling, no one would blame you if you simply forgot this four-game series against the Astros was even happening. All eyes are on the future of the organization because the present is just ugly.
In an alternate universe where the Mariners were contending this year, this series would be ripe for excitement. This would be the ideal time to face the Astros since they’re missing three of their superstars right now—José Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa are all out with various injuries. Or maybe not. Since losing both Springer and Correa last weekend, they’ve won five of their six games. That’s a testament to both the amount of depth in the organization and the strength of their pitching staff.
Rather than calling up their top offensive prospects to replace their injured stars, the Astros have promoted Myles Straw and Derek Fisher. These two speedy outfielders should see plenty of opportunities to make an impact during the next month or so. To replace Correa, Alex Bregman has simply shifted over to his natural position like he did for a while last season. His versatility is a huge bonus for the Astros as he’s in the midst of another strong offensive season.
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Despite being drafted just a few years ago in 2017, Corbin Martin beat fellow top prospects Forrest Whitley and J.B. Bukauskas to the majors this year. Both Whitley and Bukauskas have really struggled in the minors this year, and the Astros needed some reinforcements in their rotation after the injury to Collin McHugh, so Martin got the call. He was a solid performer in college but the Astros drafted him after his junior year in the second round—a reach simply based on his pedigree. But the Astros saw the potential for a middle of the rotation starter with some development. He quickly took to the adjustments the Astros proposed and he’s quickly moved through their organization. He throws a hard fastball in the mid-90s with a plus slider and an above average changeup. He’s made four starts in the majors and has really struggled so far.
One of the biggest reasons why the Astros didn’t try to re-sign Dallas Keuchel is because they were able to sign a replica for a pittance. Wade Miley completely reinvented himself with the Brewers last year, fully embracing some newfound contact management skills. He scrapped his slider in favor of a harder cutter and started throwing that pitch almost half the time at the expense of his mediocre fastball. With three pitches that induce contact on the ground more than half the time the batter puts the ball in play, he easily generated a career-high ground ball rate. Even more impressively, he allowed just three home runs all season long, holding opposing batters to just a .330 slugging percentage. The cutter itself isn’t all that notable from a stuff perspective. But he uses it like Marco Gonzales uses his cutter, busting it inside to right-handed batters to generate weak contact. That new pitch also helped his fastball play up since he didn’t have to rely on it as much. The Astros have had Miley lean even more into these changes he made last year and he might now be an even better contact manager than Keuchel himself.
Miley has seemingly found a useful combination of the contact management skills developed last year with a strikeout rate in line with what he was posting before. There was no way he was going to be able to replicate the miniscule home run rate from last year. Indeed, he’s allowed at least one home run in all but two of his starts. But because he isn’t allowing very many baserunners, all those additional dingers haven’t really hurt him that much.
Bouncing from the rotation to the bullpen and then back to the rotation in successive years really hasn’t fazed Brad Peacock. Back in 2017, he made 21 solid starts for the Astros during their championship campaign. A year later and he was bumped to the bullpen to make room for Gerrit Cole. As you’d expect, his strikeout rate improved as a reliever and he was able to drop his walk rate as well. Some trouble with the long ball pushed his ERA and FIP into the mid-threes though. His strikeout rate has dropped back down as a starter this season, but he’s managed to maintain his improved walk rate. He’s also cut his home run rate despite a big jump in hard contact allowed.
From the previous series preview:
Joining the Astros has helped Justin Verlander discover the fountain of youth. At 35 years old, he arguably posted his best season ever last year, setting career-bests in strikeout rate, walk rate, and FIP. He also allowed the highest fly ball rate of his career as his high-spin, “rising” fastball rose even further. Of course, with all those fly balls comes a pretty high home run rate as well. That seems to be his one weakness in his old age. But when you’re not walking anyone and allowing very few base hits, a few solo home runs don’t really hurt all that much. When he needs to generate weak contact, he can turn to either of his breaking balls. Opposing batters managed just four extra-base hits off his curveball last year and posted a .144 ISO off his slider.
Verlander just continues to dominate the American League. His peripherals have slid a little the wrong way with his home run rate really hurting him. But he’s managed to keep his ERA down by stranding 95% of the runners that reach against him.
The Big Picture:
The Mariners have moved up a spot in the 2020 draft order because the Giants won their series in Baltimore over the Weekend. The Astros swept the A’s over the weekend pushing Oakland into a four-way tie in the Wild Card race with the Angels, White Sox, and Cleveland. The Rangers won their four-game series against the Royals and now hold the second Wild Card spot outright.