Mad Dash for Madrigal

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David Shovein
·12 min read
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Jeff Passan of ESPN reported Friday morning that the White Sox were on the verge of calling up top prospect Nick Madrigal – and just after noon the move became official.

The 23-year-old was the fourth overall selection from the 2018 draft class and had slashed .311/.377/.414 with four homers and 35 stolen bases over 120 games across three minor league levels during his first professional season in 2019.

He jumped right into the team’s starting lineup on Friday, starting at second base and batting ninth against the Royals. While he went hitless in three at-bats during that game, manager Rick Renteria indicated that Madrigal would function as the club’s everyday second baseman going forward.

Make no mistake, this move is going to have major fantasy implications this season. While Madrigal’s power is basically non-existent, he has a tremendous hit tool and should hit for a plus batting average right out of the gate.

His most important asset though, is really is speed. Over the course of a full season, Madrigal would probably be projected for around 40 stolen bases. Speed is an increasingly-difficult commodity to obtain in fantasy leagues, and Madrigal offers it in spades. Not to mention, he’s going to spend every day hitting in one of the deepest lineups in the American League.

In most deep mixed leagues, Madrigal was drafted already and is likely to be owned. In leagues where he’s available on the waiver wire though, he could be worth a substantial free agent bid this weekend. Speed like this doesn’t grow on trees, and this may be the best opportunity all season to positively impact that category with a waiver addition.

We’ve Got to Do a Better Job

The resounding words of Rays’ manager Kevin Cash on Friday – echoing across Major League Baseball.

On Friday, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred gave the MLB Players Association an ultimatum. Do a better job managing the coronavirus, or the season will be shut down – perhaps as early as Monday.

In what was another terrible day in a year of seemingly endless terrible days, Friday began with the breaking news that a pair of Cardinals’ pitchers had tested positive for COVID-19. Their game with the Brewers on Friday night had been postponed (the third total postponement on Friday) and the rest of their weekend series was in jeopardy.

Multiple players who were briefed on the call between Manfred and the Players Association confirmed that the season could be on the brink of shutting down if the players continue to disregard the league’s protocols. Players have been seen during broadcasts spitting, high-fiving, not wearing masks and not adhering to recommended social distancing.

ESPN’s Keith Olbermann reported Friday that networks broadcasting MLB games have been alerted to look for possible alternate programming to air, should this shutdown come to fruition. It doesn’t sound like posturing by Major League Baseball – the threat is very real.

One high-ranking MLB official declared Friday, “There are some bad decisions being made.”

The two positive tests from the Cardinals were among 29 around Major League Baseball – 20 players and nine staff members – that have tested positive over nearly 12,000 samples collected over the past week.

The Rays’ skipper spoke to reporters on Friday and explained, “We’ve got to do a better job as a whole, as an industry, if we want to see this thing through, just to make sure that we're all adhering to the protocols that are put in place to keep us safe.”

While the fault in this certainly isn’t entirely with the players, it’s now on them to really buy in and adhere to the protocols that are in place. If this 60-game season is going to work (or anything even close to it) – things need to be fixed now.

We can all agree that the health and safety of the players, coaches and team personnel are paramount and should be the top priority. We can also agree that having an MLB season in 2020 is much better than not having one.

I know that I can say personally that this past week and a half has been far more enjoyable for me than any other time during the pandemic – and a big reason for that has been the return of baseball. Let’s hope that it’s able to continue.

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Closer Conundrums

Mets manager Luis Rojas said after Thursday's game that "we need to talk" about possibly removing Edwin Diaz from the closer role.

Diaz retired just one of the five batters he faced Thursday. "We need to talk," Rojas said. "That's something that we're going to do as a staff, me as the manager, and we'll talk with the player. We want to keep him on track to what he showed us in camp that he didn't show tonight. It's something that, from our coaching standpoint, we've got to detect right away and just work on it, fix it quick. Because we liked what we saw in the first two camps and what we saw earlier in the season. Tonight was definitely different."

So naturally, all eyes were on Rojas to see what he would do if a save situation would arise during Friday’s game against the Braves.

While we didn’t get to see who would get the ball in the ninth inning, we did get a glimpse into the eighth inning at a few of the candidates who could replace Diaz if he were to be ousted.

One candidate, Dellin Betances, gave up four runs on two hits and a pair of walks on Friday, helping the Mets to blow a 10-6 lead by giving up five runs in the eighth. The last of those runs was given up by Seth Lugo – who still seems too valuable in his multi-inning role to be a serious candidate to unseat Diaz.

That would leave Jeurys Familia as the most likely candidate to pick up saves in the event that Diaz is removed from the closer’s role. The 30-year-old hurler owns a 4.91 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 3/1 K/BB ratio over 3 2/3 innings on the young season. He also has experience in the role, having saved 124 games in his career – including a league-leading 51 with the Mets in 2016. He’s worth a speculative add where available.

Elsewhere around the league, 2019’s saves king had his own meltdown on Friday as Kirby Yates was yanked from a save chance against the Rockies in Colorado. After Wade Davis had blown a save on the other end – giving up four runs in the ninth inning – Yates did his best to give it right back in the home half of the frame.

He allowed a one-out single to David Dahl and a two-out RBI single to Charlie Blackmon to get things started. Yates then gave up an infield single to Nolan Arenado and walked Daniel Murphy to load the bases.

Ryan McMahon then worked him for a run-scoring walk, bringing the Rockies to within a run and forcing Padres’ skipper Jayce Tingler to turn to Drew Pomeranz to bail Yates out. Pomeranz was able to do just that – getting Chris Owings to fly out to center field to end the threat and the ballgame.

Yates, 33, has yet to record a save this season while registering a miserable 15.43 ERA and 3/4 K/BB ratio in 2 1/3 innings of work.

After the game, Tingler gave Yates the dreaded vote of confidence, telling reporters, “Kirby Yates gets the ball” when asked about his plan for the next save situation, adding that he feels “very confident” with Yates out there.

While it’s a nice sentiment, Pomeranz needs to be owned in all formats at this point.

Moving onto the Cubs – Craig Kimbrel was already on the hot seat after another deplorable outing his last time out. He was given an opportunity to pitch in a lower leverage situation on Friday and again failed miserably.

Entering with a five-run lead to protect in a non-save situation in the ninth inning, Kimbrel served up back-to-back home runs to Josh Bell and Colin Moran to begin the inning. While he was able to battle back and retire the next three hitters to end the night, the damage was already done.

It would be surprising to see Kimbrel get the ball for the Cubs’ next save chance. Jeremy Jeffress seems like the most likely candidate to displace him, but Rowan Wick has done a nice job in the eighth inning and could be in the mix as well.

American League Quick Hits: Athletics manager Bob Melvin announced that Jesus Luzardo will make his first career Major League start on Tuesday against the Rangers… Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced Friday that right-hander Tommy Kahnle will undergo Tommy John surgery… The Tigers placed Cameron Maybin on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain… Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Friday that he's "very optimistic" Ken Giles (forearm) will pitch again relatively soon… The Blue Jays expect to have Randal Grichuk (back) back in the lineup for their series against the Braves next week… The White Sox designated Kelvin Herrera for assignment… The Astros signed 43-year-old right-hander Fernando Rodney to a minor league contract… Jose Iglesias (quad) remained out of the Orioles’ lineup on Friday… Austin Nola (knee) returned to the Mariners’ lineup on Friday… Julio Teheran is expected to pitch at least one more time at the team's alternate training site before joining the Angels' rotation… Astros' manager Dusty Baker said Friday that Ryan Pressly (elbow) could return on Saturday or Sunday…Josh Donaldson was removed from Friday's game against the Indians due to tightness in his right calf. His exit was deemed precautionary and he’s considered day-to-day… Tim Anderson was removed from Friday's game against the Royals due to soreness in his right hip.

Spencer Turnbull struck out six over six innings of two-run baseball against the Reds to earn his first victory of the season… Aaron Judge homered for the third consecutive game, powering the Yankees past the Red Sox… Kris Bubic allowed three runs (two earned) over four innings in a loss to the White Sox in his MLB debut… Adam Engel clubbed a three-run homer to lead the White Sox to victory over the Royals… Eddie Rosario went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI as the Twins topped the Indians… Hanser Alberto went 3-for-5 with a homer, walk, stolen base and two runs scored, leading the Orioles past the Rays… Taylor Williams worked a scoreless ninth inning against the Athletics to record his second save of the season… Taijuan Walker allowed just one hit while striking out eight over seven shutout innings in an impressive victory over the Athletics… Mike Clevinger struggled in a loss to the Twins, allowing four runs on six hits and five walks over four innings… Randy Dobnak blanked the Indians for five innings to earn a win for the Twins… Brian Goodwin homered, tripled and walked twice in a loss to the Astros… Kyle Tucker went 3-for-5 with a double, four RBI and a stolen base as the Astros dispatched of the Angels.

National League Quick Hits: Clayton Kershaw (back) will make his 2020 season debut on Sunday against the Diamondbacks… The Nationals placed Will Harris on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain… Craig Mish of SportsGrid reports that Matt Joyce has tested negative for COVID-19 on his intake and can now join the Marlins when their season resumes… Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Marlins’ second baseman Isan Diaz is considering opting out of the remainder of the season… Ozzie Albies was held out of the Braves lineup on Friday due to stiffness in his right wrist. He’s considered day-to-day… Touki Toussaint will start on Sunday for the Braves, taking the rotation spot of Mike Foltynewicz who was outrighted off of the 40-man roster earlier in the week… Braves’ southpaw Will Smith (COVID-19) threw another bullpen session Friday and is slated to face hitters in a couple days… Giants’ right-hander Sam Coonrod landed on the 10-day injured list with a right lat strain… Marcus Stroman (calf) threw four innings in a simulated game on Friday, though there remains no clear timetable for his return… Eric Hosmer (illness) remained out of the Padres’ lineup on Friday… The Marlins acquired left-hander Richard Bleier from the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Travis d’Arnaud went 3-for-4 with a walk and five RBI in a comeback victory over the Mets, including a go-ahead bases-clearing triple in the bottom of the eighth inning… Colin Moran belted his fourth home run of the season in a losing effort against the Cubs… Yu Darvish piled up seven strikeouts over six shutout innings in a win over the Pirates… Darin Ruf went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI as the Giants blasted the Rangers… Wilmer Flores crushed a go-ahead three-run homer in that one for the Giants… Charlie Blackmon went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in a tough-luck loss to the Padres… Mookie Betts went 3-for-5 and hit his first home run as a member of the Dodgers in a loss to the Diamondbacks.

Christian Walker delivered a go-ahead three-run double to lead the D’Backs past the Dodgers… Zac Gallen fanned nine over six innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Dodgers… Fernando Tatis blasted a game-tying solo homer off of Wade Davis with two outs in the ninth inning as the Padres rallied to beat the Rockies… Tommy Pham went 2-for-5 with a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth for the Padres.