Welcome to the Spring Training recap for March 18th! Every day throughout spring training we’ll be providing a rundown of the top news and performances from the previous day’s games, as well as highlighting things to watch for in today’s matchups. It was a short slate yesterday as there were only nine games but there’s still plenty to cover so let’s get right to it!
- Carlos Carrasco suffered a right hamstring tear, where he could potentially be out for six to eight weeks.
- Amir Garrett will pitch the Reds’ “B” game on Saturday.
- Stephen Strasburg (calf) is scheduled to throw a four-inning simulated game today.
- Noah Syndergaard (elbow) threw off the mound Thursday morning.
- Dinelson Lamet threw a multi-inning simulated game on Thursday.
- White Sox manager Tony La Russa said that Yasmani Grandal is an option to bat second this season.
Top Hitting Performances
Duvall crushed two fastballs from Cardinals starter Daniel Ponce de Leon yesterday, one for a home run and another for a two-run triple — of course, that’s no surprise as he crushed four-seamers (.445 wOBA/ .464 wOBA) last season. Despite a slow start in Grapefruit League play (.167 AVG, .733 OPS), the 32-year-old should be in line for a starting gig in Miami’s outfield and could result in a 30 homer campaign.
Bellinger broke out in his second game this spring, hitting a home run in his final at-bat. The 2019 NL MVP is using a new open stance this season, and the results showed in this game as three of his four batted balls were hit over 95 MPH — the home run left the bat at 107.5 MPH. Recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, more hard-hit balls will be needed to ease concerns over health.
Rojas had his fifth multi-hit game of the month against Bellinger and the Dodgers, continuing a hot spring in which he’s hitting .381 with three home runs. The former Astro didn’t hit the ball too hard last season in 17 games with an average exit velocity of 86 MPH but has shown an increase in max exit velocity from 104.2 last season to 109.9 this spring. With 38 and 37 stolen bases in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Rojas can be a steal from the second base position if he taps into some of that raw power.
Josh Bell now has back-to-back games with a home run, as yesterday’s long ball went to the opposite field from the right-side. Bell has been hot this spring — .333 with a 1.184 OPS and three home runs — seemingly doing his best to make people forget about his incredibly poor 2020 season which resulted in a 77 wRC+. With notable platoon splits (.845 OPS v RHP, .725 OPS v LHP), Bell will need to hit southpaws with authority to stave off Ryan Zimmerman in sharing first base duties.
Khris Davis (DH, Texas): 1-for-2, R, HR, RBI
Entering Thursday’s contest, Khris Davis had only two hits in 22 at-bats in Cactus League play. In a throwback performance, ‘KD’ went yard twice — totaling three hits — and driving in four men. Davis has had a poor run since 2018 when he was coming off a career-high of 48 homer campaign, his third straight season of at least 40 home runs. Since most of Texas’ power hitters are left-handed — Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Rougned Odor, Nate Lowe, Ronald Guzman, and Willie Calhoun — manager Chris Woodward is likely giving KD every opportunity to grab the everyday DH role. It’s a long shot, but just imagine Gallo and Davis hitting back to back in the same lineup. Boy, would that be something…
Here was our list of starters to watch from yesterday’s games:
SPs to watch on TV today:
Stroman: New Splitter + solid cutters?
Plesac: Still dope?
Bubic: Good command?
Keuchel: Hitting corners?
Price: 94 mph?
Manaea: CH/SL for whiffs?
Burnes: Still a dope cutter?
Heaney: FBs up?
PabLo: New Slider?!
Ponce de Leon: CBs for strikes?
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) March 18, 2021
Here is how some of them fared:
Keuchel’s first start of 2021 was poor, to say the least. Not only did the left-hander walk two, but was nowhere near the corners, leaving a number of pitches in the middle of the zone — particularly, one on a three-run double by Hunter Dozier and another resulting in a Salvador Pérez RBI single. The 33-year-old admitted that he was a “little bit amped up” ahead of this start, so there shouldn’t be much concern going forward.
After pitching a clean three-inning effort against Cleveland last time out, Price followed it up with a clunker against the Diamondbacks, giving up seven hits, two walks, and two runs while not exiting the third inning. The veteran southpaw peaked at 92.5 MPH with his two-seamer (averaged 91.4 MPH) — not too far away from 94 MPH — but didn’t fool any of Arizona’s hitters, getting only three whiffs on 26 swings in Thursday’s outing. There has been speculation as to whether Price might spend time in the bullpen this year, though he’s currently projected to be the fifth starter in the Dodgers’ rotation.
Manaea’s second spring start was rather odd. In the first, the tall left-hander had already allowed a hit, walked two men, and hit Jurickson Profar with a pitch before Eric Hosmer lined a ball off Manaea’s throwing arm for an RBI single. A couple of batters later, Montana DuRapau came in to retire Brian O’Grady for the final out in the initial frame. With the new rules for the spring, Manaea recuperated from the blow and returned to pitch the following inning, settling down in the process with three perfect innings. There was not much information on how Manaea’s changeup and slider were, but the heater was definitely a plus, sitting between 92-94 MPH while touching 95 MPH. Manaea attacks hitters in the zone often, walking few men but often throwing in the middle of the plate. With an uptick in velocity, which started towards the end of last season, Manaea’s margin for error will increase and he’ll possibly generate more whiffs with his offspeed given the greater separation in velocity.
Heaney made quick work of the Brewers across five innings, striking out eight hitters. Heaney felt comfortable with all three of his pitches but was most happy with his fastball, noting he got a number of swings and misses on it. That can probably be attributed to throwing it up in the zone, as the left-hander got four of his eight strikeouts on whiffs against high fastballs. The other four strikeouts came on curveballs below the zone, which were likely set up by high heaters. While Heaney can be dominant like he was here, you can also look at his last start where he gave up four earned runs in a little over two innings, and see why he isn’t higher on fantasy draft boards.
Ponce de Leon struggled against the Marlins — specifically, Adam Duvall — in five innings. ‘Ponce’ was exceptional with his fastball (40% CSW) generating nine whiffs on 21 swings against it, but did not get much help from his changeup (17% CSW) and curveball (13% CSW). Considering the right-hander got only one called strike combined between his two offspeed offerings (0 for CH, 1 for CU), it’s a miracle he wasn’t hit harder in this outing. Ponce de Leon is projected to start the season in the bullpen in favor of John Gant for the fifth rotation spot, making the former irrelevant for fantasy.
What to Watch for Today
SPs to watch on TV today:
Rich Hill: 88?
Eovaldi: Cutters great?
Taijuan: Solid whiff pitch?
Bundy: 91/92? Sub 40% FBs?
Singer: Solid whiff pitch?
Urias: Breaker good?
Caleb: 92? Few walks?
Houser: FB dominant?
Ian Anderson: Strike heavy?
Lynn vs. Gonzo: Be good
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) March 19, 2021
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)