On Friday, I took in No. 4 pick Kohl Stewart’s start at Single-A Cedar Rapids. I was also on a date with a young lady from Tinder. I probably should have led off with that. Since this was a first date, and I couldn’t reveal my true nature to her, I didn’t mention that we were sitting there on that specific night not because of our work schedules, or fate, or whatever, but due to the vagaries of the Kernels’ rotational alignment.
This clever little piece of multi-tasking, as you may already have predicted, backfired quickly: By the second inning, my attention was arguing against itself for custody. Back and forth it went: Kohl/young lady. Young lady/Kohl. Kohlady. So a truce: I began discussing Mr. Stewart’s mechanics in the precise way of somebody who reads too many prospect blogs. She didn’t respond as I pointed out Kohl’s “sturdy frame” and “surprising athleticism.” She didn’t respond, during a two-run fourth inning, when I became frustrated at Kohl’s “ridiculous pitch sequencing,“ ”propensity to overthrow,” and “control of Lindsay Lohan at a distillery.” I realized that I’d only been making statements, so I tried out a question: “It would be super hard, as a Single-A hitter, to figure out timing against a guy that can ring it up to the mid-90s but can also toss a 75 mile per hour breaking pitch... don’t you think?”
In related news, I’m still single. After we were shown on the Jumbotron—which I missed, because Kohl was making a pitch, and then adorably mopping some sweat off his brow, and then gently redistributing the dirt around the bump with his big piggy—she revealed, in a yawn to the sheer mundanity of being shown on the screen so often, that not only had she gone to two dozen games the season before, but she owned a Kernels’ jacket given to her by a player on last year’s team. Was this was an Annie Savoy situation? Was Eskimo Brotherhood with a Twins’ farmhand in my future?
Questions for another episode; or, if the censors win, never. That was the highlight of my week, but let's also check in on the goings-on in MLB from The Week That Was...
- As I spent my Friday evening looking towards the future, Astros’ management devoted Tuesday night to bringing the future to Houston. All-World prospect George Springer has hit safely in all four games since—could you believe that the ‘Stros went 0-4 anyway?—though he’s also struck out in every game. The swinging and missing is going to continue—Springer struck out 334 times in 284 minor league games—but it’s going to come with a smooth and crunchy mix of speed and power.
Many experts discuss Springer’s strikeout totals, but omit the fact that the No. 11 pick from the 2011 draft has improved his pitch selection and strike-zone awareness as he’s gone William Quantrill on minor league baseball over the past few years. Sure, more than a quarter of his farm at-bats ended in Strike 3, but the guy reached base in nearly 40-percent of his plate appearances (.397 MiLB OBP) and managed to hit .302. This is not a hacker who sells out for power. Springer’s long swing can be exposed, particularly by clever pitchers, so it’s been interesting to see big league pitchers navigate him over the past few days. He’s shown a great willingness to make adjustments and improve, so I won’t be concerned if it takes him a month or so to truly get going. Have no doubt: He will be a star, a perennial 30/30 threat. It won’t happen this year, but it’s coming.
- Lost amidst the silliness of Saturday’s 16-1 laugher and Dean Anna’s first pitching appearance since before high school was the reemergence of one of fantasy baseball’s most disappointing early batters. Wil Myers entered this weekend with an ugly .192/.276/.231 slash line to go with no homers, four RBI and five runs scored through 58 plate appearances over 14 games. Over his past two games, he’s 6-for-9 with a walk, double, two homers, seven RBI and four runs scored.
The double was a freebie off Anna on Saturday, but Myers had already taken real life pitchers Ivan Nova and Matt Daley deep earlier in the game. He’s officially woken from slumber. In six of the last eight games, Joe Maddon has hit Myers lower than cleanup after slotting him No. 2 in the first eight contests. Perhaps Myers has earned a ride back up the lineup card, a change that would bring with it more at-bats and additional run scoring opportunities.
- Lineup alert: Cole Hamels will make his season debut on Wednesday against the Dodgers. He’s been on the shelf with left biceps tendinitis. If his rehab starts are any indication, Hamels should make up for lost time quickly. Following his seven-inning, one-run salvo on Thursday with High-A Classwater, the southpaw ended his three-start rehabilitation stint with a 2.12 ERA and 12/1 K/BB ratio over 17 innings. I haven’t seen a rehab stint that successful since... Oh, what’s that? I already used the column’s Lindsay Lohan joke? Can I have a do-over? No? Alright, let’s move on...
- Casey Janssen, who tried to start his rehab stint too soon (Lil' Wayne once said: "I'm an addict, I'm addicted to success. Thankfully, there is no rehab for success."), is currently shut down due to recurring pain with a strain in his lower back and abdominal muscle. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Friday that Janssen will miss at least the next two weeks. Presumably, that’s the soonest Janssen will re-start his next rehab stint.
Gibbons has to be even more disappointed than Janssen himself. Watching Thursday night’s eight-walk, six-run eighth-inning debacle—which I described to a friend as the most surreal half inning of baseball I’d ever seen—Toronto’s bullpen could use a helping hand. Fill-in closer Sergio Santos walked three in that frame and somehow managed to throw three run-scoring wild pitches. Santos currently owns a 7.11 ERA, though three of the five runs he’s allowed obviously came Thursday. Because of Janssen’s health history, and Santos’ shakiness, AL-only owners speculating on saves will want to sniff around Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar.
- Ivan Nova left Saturday’s disaster in the fourth inning with a sore right elbow. Nova’s arm gesticulations summoned Joe Girardi to the hill. The skipper waved for the bullpen after a few minutes and Nova trudged to the dugout with a hung head. The Yankees say he will be evaluated further.
- Mets manager Terry Collins insinuated that he was going to yank Jose Valverde from the closer’s role on Saturday, saying he had to address the team first. We haven’t yet heard who the replacement will be, so now might be your only shot to secure some free saves. Kyle Farnsworth and Gonzalez Germen are the targets on the big league roster. Vic Black is probably the best man for the job, but he’s currently in Triple-A, albeit lights out. The Mets were peeping on Joel Hanrahan, so keep an eye on that situation, too.
- Nationals manager Matt Williams yanked Bryce Harper from Saturday's loss to the Cardinals for not running out a groundball. Now everybody will overact about it.
- Brett Anderson will miss 4-6 weeks after undergoing successful surgery Thursday to repair his fractured left index finger. Now everybody will yawn about it.
- Breakout alerts: Kyle Gibson is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA through three starts and Wily Peralta is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA through his own three outings. The 30-year-old Jesse Chavez is more of a late bloomer than a breakout, but he’s ridden his cutter to a 1.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 22/2 K/BB rate in the early going. The weapon of a pitch allows Chavez to attack the corners of the plate in a way he couldn’t earlier in his career as an unsuccessful reliever. All three of these guys should be owned in all formats. When the cost to finding out if a blazing start is for real is “free,” I pay up as much as possible. People get too clingy with their back roster spots. Those slots should be like Tinder: Flick left, flick right, flick left, flick left.
- Expected breakout SP Danny Salazar’s first three starts haven’t gone so smoothly, ending in a 7.71 ERA and 17/8 K/BB ratio over 14 frames. Flick right on him (that means “retain Salazar”, 30-and-ups).
- Josh Johnson has an appointment with Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday. Many expect that he’ll be told that season-ending Tommy John surgery is in his future.
- Manny Machado (knee) will be cleared for a minor league rehab assignment in the coming days, barring a setback.
- Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik announced that Taijuan Walker, who was scratched from his scheduled rehab start on Tuesday, will be shut down for two weeks with a right shoulder impingement.