Spring Training is kicking into high gear, with 16 matchups on February 24 and most games featuring at least 15 pitchers. We got the chance to get glimpses into the health of plenty of big names throughout the league, but less of a chance to see the big changes we’re looking for.
- Yasmani Grandal (calf) is being held out of the Grapefruit League for another 7-10 games
- Brock Burke will undergo season-ending labrum surgery
- Seth Lugo (toe) was able to run as is scheduled for a bullpen session on Saturday
- Marc Rzepczynski signed a minor-league contract with the Blue Jays and was invited to Spring Training
- Terry Francona suggested that injuries to both Emmanuel Clase (lat) and Aaron Civale (groin) are minor
- Chris Archer was scratched from his outing due to neck tightness
- Brian Anderson was not injured after being hit by a pitch to his previously broken left hand
- Stephen Piscotty will be sidelined for at least a week with a strain to his left side
- Jesse Winker did not fracture his wrist after being hit by a pitch
- Clayton Kershaw joined teammates Kenley Jansen and Alex Wood at Driveline Baseball during the offseason
Top Hitting Performances
Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins): 2-for-3, HR, R, 2 RBI
Cruz was dealing with a bruised wrist late last week, but clearly showed no real signs of problems. We expect a healthy Cruz to be among the best hitters in the MLB this year—and this is a clear sign that he’s healthy.
Jose Ramirez (3B, Cleveland Indians): 1-for-2, 2B, BB, R, 2 RBI
Similarly to Cruz, Ramirez started his spring training with an injury scare. Ramirez burned many owners with his injury-dampened first half last year, so seeing him walk and hit a double is extremely encouraging.
Albert Almora Jr. (OF, Chicago Cubs): 3-for-3, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
Almora Jr. reportedly brought a new swing to camp this year in hopes of earning the job in center for the Cubs. While Almora has been reliable at hitting for contact, the power he showed yesterday was not something that had been in his toolkit. His future returns deserve a look, and his stock should rise if the power remains.
Yoshi Tsutsugo (1B/OF/DH, Tampa Bay Rays): 1-for-1, HR, R, RBI
Tsutsugo faces lineup congestion issues in Tampa this year and questions about what positions he can be counted on to play. There were fewer concerns about his power. He hit a solo shot in his only at-bat of the day against a split Red Sox squad, batting out of the fifth spot alongside what looked like a starting lineup for the Rays.
Chad Spanberger (1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers): 1-for-2, HR, R, RBI
Spanberger replaced Keston Hiura in the order and proceeded to hit his second home run of the spring. Power is the only plus tool projected for Spanberger, who projects as a corner outfielder or first baseman., but he’s shown off that tool so far this spring. Whether he can improve his contact abilities is probably more worth watching than just the raw home run totals.
Here’s what we watched for from yesterday’s televised games:
SPs to watch today:
Velasquez: FB sitting 94+? SL/CU working?
Cobb: Split-change solid?
Eovaldi: FB upper 90s + Cutters effective?
Maeda: Lots of SL/CH please
Alcantara: Sinker heavy?
Stripling: CH good?
Woodruff: FB up + SL/CH working?
Alzolay: Command? Mechanics still violent?
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) February 24, 2020
Some of them were hits, and some of them gave up too many hits. Here’s how they fared:
Vince Velasquez (SP, Philadelphia Phillies): 2 IP, 1 Hit, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
A pessimistic reading of Velasquez’ outing would be that he only struck out one. His secondaries looked improved, though, and the results showed. Some observers thought that his fastball command could have been better, but this was a solid start for him. It’s hard to be disappointed if he needed just 26 pitches to get through two frames.
Alex Cobb (SP, Baltimore Orioles): 1 IP, 1 Hit, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Cobb left the outing early with an illness, and batters did manage to put the ball in play to end every at-bat. But aside from Rhys Hoskins‘ double, the Orioles defense was able to handle what the Phillies mustered, including a popup and a ground ball to second. We’ll need to see more, and while it is somewhat reassuring the Cobb was ready to pitch two innings, it’s disappointing that he was forced off the mound for other reasons. Here’s hoping he’s able to resume his spring schedule quickly.
Nathan Eovaldi (SP, Boston Red Sox): 2 IP, 2 Hit, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Eovaldi’s stuff showed up out of the gate, with his fastball topping 100 mph and his cutter mixing in to earn him three strikeouts in a row, and four in total. After an injury-plagued 2019, Eovaldi will need to show more of this to earn back the trust of fantasy owners, but he couldn’t have done too much more in two innings.
Kenta Maeda (SP, Minnesota Twins): 1 IP, 2 Hit, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Andrew Benintendi took Maeda deep on his second pitch of the day—a fastball high and inside. His next two batters also reached base before he settled into the game, forcing a flyout and a double play to end the first and then recording a 1-2-3 second inning. His fastball sat in the 91-92 mph zone, and his secondary pitches did come through once he settled in.
Sandy Alcantara (SP, Miami Marlins): 2 IP, 2 Hit, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
Several components seemed to let Alcantara down yesterday. He was able to throw just 19 of his 38 pitches for strikes, and his sinker sat at just 95 mph instead of the 98 that it was registering last season. He also committed a throwing error and balked in the second inning, plating two in total. While he did rely on his sinker, it clearly wasn’t working for him, and he’ll have to sharpen his command as the spring goes on.
Ross Stripling (SP/RP, Los Angeles Dodgers): 1 IP, 1 Hit, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Stripling was reportedly working on a new changeup grip during this outing, and the very early results were encouraging. He recorded two strikeouts and a popup in one inning, with his one hit being a fly ball to center. It’s hard to predict where Stripling will be used or if he’ll still be wearing a Dodgers uniform, but if this changeup takes, he should have the repertoire to last more than two times through the order—if only he can get the chance.
Brandon Woodruff (SP, Milwaukee Brewers): 1 IP, 0 Hit, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Woodruff’s outing was even shorter than the line above suggests—Brian Goodwin was caught stealing after his walk to end the first. His first pitch did hit 98 mph, though, suggesting the pitch that has thus far buoyed his success should be ready for opening day. We’ll need more time to watch his secondaries, though.
Adbert Alzolay (SP, Chicago Cubs): 1 IP, 3 Hit, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Observers liked the movement on Alzolay’s curveball, and the strikeouts it delivered are a good sign. But his fastball seriously let him down, and batters made him pay. A 1.000 BABIP isn’t to be expected, but all three of his hits were line drives to the outfield. If Alzolay is going to compete for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ rotation, he’ll have to show a sharper fastball and the results to match.
What to Watch for Today
SPs to watch on TV today:
Musgrove: 93/94 still there? SL/CU/CH usage up? Sinkers gone?
Luzardo: FB/CH/SL command
Lucchesi: Legit Changeup?
Bundy: More SL/CH & Fewer FB?
Brandon Bielak: Could he start?
Bieber, Pearson(!), Morton, Means, Folty, and Turnbull are not televised 😐
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) February 25, 2020
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)