Hey Razzfaithful, back in the saddle after returning from a family vacation. With renewed clarity and a sunburn, I’m ready to take on a midseason review of my sleepers and deep dives from the early going. Call it a furthering need for authenticity. I do my best to practice this with my work and family, why would I not do it here as well. And much like last year, I had a vision of St. Willink before me. He challenged me to take full ownership of my life and own all my wins and losses. Especially the losses. Nothing is someone else’s fault. Variance and regression are part of the process, just ask Reid Detmers!
I am responsible for all my takes, and all my taeks. Whether they are good or bad… I am the captain of my ship. I am a capable and willful person that can tilt the scale; if I fail, I need to learn from it and better myself. If I succeed, I need to learn from that and replicate it. Like last year, I’ll be reviewing all my deep dives from the preseason through the end of April. Here. We. Go.
Since I’m a delicate flower, I want to talk about the positives first. Feel free to leave me glowing praise in the comments about how awesome my deep dives are, and that they have been an indispensable resource for you to smite your foes and lead you onward to victory.
Zach Eflin – We’re going to start this thing off with good vibes. For three years in a row now, I’ve nailed a top-20 starting pitcher (if he keeps up). As of today, he’s the 5th ranked starter on the player rater ahead of names such as McClanahan, Cole, Gausman, and pretty much any other pitcher you might have taken in the first 4 rounds aside from Strider. In January, I predicted some pitch tweaks that the Rays would guide him through, and I was right on most of them. The one I didn’t nail was the re-incorporation of the four-seamer (stuck with 2-seamer). Let’s review what he has done:
- Tweaking changeup to “generate 30+ inches of drop and effectively slowing the pitch in order to increase its separation. The goal will be to get it below 85 mph with more fade.” As of this post, his changeup has increased its aerage drop to 32 inches and break to 15.9 inches on the season. That is a transformation from meh to well above average and has a .180 xBA.
- I thought they would retool the slider into a “hybrid cutter to separate the velocity from his changeup and his curve to around 88 mph” but instead Eflin did the inverse, sticking with the cutter and backing off its velo some to 88 mph and increasing its drop 3.7 inches. Same effect! It’s now comparable to Rasmussen’s cutter last year.
- Committed to the curveball as his primary offspeed pitch for change of pace and working more around edges with his command like Springs.
The Rays used the formula which they had perfected with Springs and Rasmussen to get the most out of another pitcher, this time one with more pedigree. Zach Eflin had the extension and command they like, and the building blocks of a pitch mix they like to target. Through the first half, Eflin has accumulated 10 W in 102.1 IP with a 3.25 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 105 Ks. In the closing paragraph, I said, “If the Rays’ magic works like I think we could see a K/9 close to 10 again like he flashed last year with an ERA around 3.30ish.” He’s well on his way towards that including a 10 K/9 over the last two months. You can read my full deep dive on Zach Eflin, here.
Kodai Senga – In February I gave you my Kodai Senga fantasy and outlined the history of pitchers of his caliber coming to the States from the NPB. The key takeaway from that background is that pitchers with velocity and splitter like his will bring their K-rate with them but typically issue more walks. There have been a few rough patches due to his command, but he has been everything I expected and more posting 7 W in 89.2 IP with a 3.31 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 113 Ks. As I surmised his forkball has done a lot of heavy lifting and carrying him past my projection of “a 10 K/9 and likely a 4 BB/9 that could result in ratios around 3.60/1.23ish.” His current rates are 11.3 K/9 and a 4.7 BB/9. Wild thing, you make my heart sing.
Yandy Diaz – In the early going, I pointed out that Yandy was hitting more balls in the air than ever before. The home runs weren’t just sneaking over, they were actually flyballs and his was driving balls more with higher barrel rate. The power gains have been mostly real, as he’s still on track for more HR than ever, even with regression and the IL stint in the first half. His hard-hit rate is still above 56% even with his average launch angle dropping and flyball rate returning to norms. League has adjusted some to his selective approach. You can read my full breakdown here.
The Injured – A Look At Chaos
Certain areas (or players) we know are prone to more chaos, and the dice is say, a 4-sided one versus a 6-sided one or a 10-sided one which leads us to examine if was it just bad “luck” or bad process? That then begs the question, was it a worthy roll or misallocated resources? This can become subjective and situational, but later picks don’t cost much draft capital, so the dice roll most often is factored into the cost. The chaos of the injury dice has never been more evident than with…
Drew Rasmussen – How could you have predicted an injury that would need TJ a third time? I feel so bad for him. In my breakdown, I pointed out how he found a way to get even better this year that would likely increase his K-rate. Rasmussen tweaked his cutter to become a strikeout pitch whereas it used to be a groundball machine. To which I said, “that’s a big deal and could result in raising his 2-year K-rate of around 22% up around the neighborhood of 27%.” Through 44 IP prior to the injury, he had a stat line of a 2.62 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 47 strikeouts that amounted to a 26.6% K-rate. He did it, only to be cut down by chaos along with Springs. What might have been… you can read my full deep dive here. The draft day cost was worth the risk; so while the process was right, luck was not on our side.
Ugh, now for the less glamorous part of our story. Time to take my lumps as part of this extreme ownership exercise. Please be nice in the comments below and tell me everything will work out in the end.
Luis Rengifo – Despite growing in plate discipline, Luis started slow and then lost playing time when the Angels promoted Zach Neto early to everyone’s surprise; and rightly so I’ll add. Neto was on fire in the minors and the Angels didn’t have a true SS on the active roster. Rengifo and Urshela were just keeping it warm ultimately. Neto’s defense was as advertised but his hitting really took off and that relegated Rengifo to a bench role. He gained more time as team injuries surfaced but then lost out again to the addition of Escobar and Moustakas. And Neto should return after the break. C’est la vie. You can read my doomed Rengifo fantasy here.
Oscar Gonzalez – Tito has a fascination with Gabriel Arias, and to a lesser extent Will Brennan. We didn’t get to see what the emerging power could do because he didn’t hit the ball. In 73 AB this season Oscar Gonzalez is batting a putrid .192 with only 1 HR. That slow start and Tito’s love for Arias has sent Oscar down to AAA never to be seen again (maybe). Is he okay? You can read the full post here (of what isn’t happening); a ghost and a memory.
Reid Detmers – From the early going Detmers had his share of bad luck. That led to his struggles going deep in games and that kept him from getting wins. With his newfound velocity, his slider gained velocity too but this led to a slip in command. This indirectly hurt him and was exacerbated by his bad luck at the mercy of a high BABIP that was almost .400 at one point. His BABIP was also influenced by a shuffling defense that settled down after Neto was called up and Urshela was moved to his natural position. That stability plus him easing back on his slider (creating more separation) in June led to a 30+ IP of 2.05 ERA and a .167 opp BA. In the first half Detmers has 4.31 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 11.24 K/9. He was “this close” to making it to the break with the 3.71 ERA he had prior to the trouncing by the Dodgers. Not what we had hoped for the first half, but all the pieces are there for him to have a good second half. You can read my full breakdown here.
Joey Meneses – I gave you my Joey fantasy in which I advocated for a 30-year-old rookie having an encore season. Crazy huh? Part of my case was that he was very disciplined and a professional hitter. Unlike other lifelong minor leaguers, he didn’t have a glaring hole in his approach—his problem was opportunity—and I speculated he would continue to hit. At the break, he’s batting .284 and both his K% and BB% have been in line with last year. The only problem is he’s had almost no power. I had him pegged for a 25-HR season, but after a flurry of four in the last week, he only sits at six.
Sean Manaea – Banana in the tailpipe. SF didn’t fix him as I had hoped. Velocity alone can’t save you when you throw too many pitches down the pipe. He couldn’t handle starting but has excelled in middle relief where he doesn’t have to see a lineup twice. He’s posted a 7.54 ERA as a starter, and a 4.15 ERA with a 31% K-rate as a reliever. You can find my futile post on him here. Today’s lesson, velocity isn’t everything.
David Villar – If Detmers has the worst BABIP luck as a pitcher, then Villar is the equivalent as a hitter. Absolutely brutal. Through 127 PAs, Villar has a batting average of .159 with 5 HR and an atrocious BABIP of .183, ouch! Could this turn around? Absolutely, he just needs PT but might not get it until later in the year. My hype post for David Villar can be found here. At least in the intro, I told you the post should have been about Josh Jung! How true it was!
Patrick Sandoval – I gave you my Sandoval fantasy here. Where to begin? His changeup has been great, holding batters to a .191 BA. The problem has been his fastball. Having watched most of his starts, I can tell you that he’s struggled to hit his spots and that has put him into hitter’s counts in which he’s found himself trapped into using a fastball. This is evident in his crashing K% which has fallen below 20% for the first time in 3+ years. If he can get that back there’s hope, but so far he’s been a disaster for half his starts. Maybe I shouldn’t highlight more than one Angel player in the preseason lol.
Thanks for coming with me on this journey of self-examination and ownership and feel free to discuss your assessment with me in the comments below!
If you want more Coolwhip to top off your baseball experience, fantasy or otherwise, you can follow me on Twitter: @CoolwhipRB.