Friday’s trade that saw Pablo López and a pair of prospects go from Miami to Minnesota in exchange for Luis Arraez made sense for both teams. The Twins, who my colleague Ben Clemens wrote got the better of the deal, received a quality pitcher who will slot into their starting rotation, plus the promising-but-raw minor-leaguers. The Marlins got a 25-year-old infielder who just won a batting title and is a .314/.374/.410 hitter over 1,569 big-league plate appearances.
Miami’s top prospect is a big reason why parting with a pitcher of López’s quality is perfectly defensible. While recently-signed Johnny Cueto will take Lopez’s rotation spot in the near term, it is Eury Pérez who promises to make an already-good rotation even better. Arguably the best right-handed pitching prospect in the game — Baltimore’s Grayson Rodriguez and Philadelphia’s Andrew Painter are also on the short-list — Pérez has a Sandy Alcántara-ish ceiling. The 6-foot-8 native of Santiago, Dominican Republic excelled in Double-A this past year as a teenager, and there is a real chance that he’ll reach the big leagues at age 20.
“This kid just has an incredible presence about him,” said Miami GM Kim Ng. “His fastball is 96-99 [mph] with ride, and he’s got a really good breaking ball. And again, the presence, as well as the poise, is unbelievable. He’s not talented beyond imagination, but it’s close.”
Asked who the youngster comps to, Ng initially demurred. As she pointed out, not many pitching prospects are Pérez’s size. When she did ultimately offer a name, it was a notable one.
“I’ve heard one of our scouts talk about Félix Hernández,” said Ng, who proceeded to add a caveat. ”Not many of our scouts, but one scout.”
Hernández, who went on to make six All-Star appearances and win a Cy Young award, debuted in the big leagues as a 19-year-old. Ng wouldn’t predict when Pérez will make his own debut, but she did allow that he “is on the fast track.”
When Skip Schumaker met with the media during the Winter Meetings, I asked Miami’s new manager a two-part question: What makes Eury Pérez as good as he is, and what are your thoughts on fast-tracking talented young pitchers?
“I mean, he’s got an arm that you can’t teach,” said Schumaker, whom the Marlins brought on board after last season. “That’s number one. He’s a big kid. I would say his delivery is as repeatable as you want — it’s as simple as you want — so I think it’s going to play.
“I think a guy like him, you can fast-track,” continued Schumaker “You look at a number of different things: health, the number of innings they’ve had the previous couple of years, and can he help us win? Does he help us win in the bullpen? Does he help us win in the rotation? What does that look like moving forward? You can’t just rush him, but we are really excited about where he’s at.”
The Marlins have reason to be excited about their pitching, which Ng called the team’s strength, as well as what Miami is building around. A rotation of Alcántara, Cueto, Edward Cabrera, Jesús Luzardo, and Trevor Rogers, with Pérez soon to join the mix, is rock solid. Moreover, if Sixto Sánchez and Max Meyer ever get fully healthy and pitch to their potential, it will be downright formidable.
As for the likelihood that the Marlins will continue to deal from their strength to make further offensive upgrades — and further upgrades are clearly needed — Ng suggested that won’t be happening. Asked about the possibility following the López-Arraez swap. she said that “it would be tough for us to make that that type of deal.” For now, fans in Miami will have to settle for the addition of a line-drive machine who just won a batting title… this while waiting for an elite pitching prospect to join the starting rotation at a young age. Eury Pérez projects to be very, very good.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Which pitcher you’ve faced this year most had you walking away from the dish thinking, “Man, that dude is nasty”? I’ve asked that question to a number of notable minor-league hitters, most recently Zac Veen during the Arizona Fall League.
“I’d say Ricky Tiedemann,“ the Colorado Rockies outfield prospect told me. “He’s definitely a tough at-bat for lefty to go against. It’s going to be exciting to face that guy for for a long time. Any time you’re facing a lefty with a two-seam at 96 [mph] it’s always going to be a tough at-bat. And he’s definitely learned how to pitch. I think he’s as close to a big-leaguer as it gets.”
Widely regarded as the top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, the 20-year-old Tiedemann allowed 39 hits and fanned 117 batters in 78-and-two-thirds innings last year across three levels. He finished his first professional season in Double-A.
Ryan, who garnered 79.5% of the votes cast, finished his career with a 112 ERA+, 83.6 bWAR, and 106.7 fWAR. Blyleven, who received just 21.5% of support, finished with a 118 ERA+, 96.1 bWAR, and 102.9 fWAR.
Ryan is obviously MLB’s all-time leader in strikeouts, and he allowed a mere 6.6 hits per nine innings. An undeniable legend, he was the most overpowering starting pitcher the game has seen. But was he actually “better” than Blyleven? That’s debatable.
None of the top three leaders in career pitching appearances — left-handers Jesse Orosco, Mike Stanton, and John Franco — are in the Hall of Fame. The next three on the list — right-handers Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, and Hoyt Wilhelm — are all in the Hall of Fame. Who are the non Hall-of-Famers who rank seventh and eighth on the all-time-appearances list?
The answer can be found below.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have hired Veronica “Ronnie” Gajownik to manage their High-A affiliate, the Hillsboro Hops. Gajownik joined the D-Backs organization in November 2021 and will be the first woman to manage at the High-A level.
Shawn Murnin has been named the new radio play-by-play voice of the Texas League’s Northwest Arkansas Naturals. An August 2021 guest on FanGraphs Audio, Murnin spent the last four years with the High-A Bowling Green Hot Rods. In related news, Riley Edwards will take over as the Naturals’ lead broadcaster after spending this past year working alongside Emma Tiedemann with the Portland Sea Dogs.
Travis Leonardi has been hired as the media and broadcast assistant for the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas. The Western Michigan University grad will share a booth with Tim Hagerty, a guest on FanGraphs Audio this past August.
Ted Savage, an outfielder who played for eight teams over parts of nine seasons, died last weekend at age 85. Originally with the Philadelphia Phillies, Savage had by far his best season with the Milwaukee Brewers, logging a 144 wRC+ in 1970.
Frank Thomas, an outfielder whose career spanned the 1951-1966 season, died earlier this week at age 93. A three-time All-Star who spent eight of his 16 seasons in Pittsburgh, Thomas went deep 35 times for the Pirates in 1958, and 34 times for the first-year New York Mets in 1962.
Another former player who died this week was 80-year-old Bill Davis, a 6-foot-7 first baseman — his nickname was “The Jolly Green Giant” — who saw action with Cleveland in 1965 and 1966, and with San Diego in 1969. Davis’s lone big-league home run came on September 9, 1966 when he pinch-hit for shortstop Larry Brown with two outs in the tenth inning and took California’s Jack Sanford deep with Max Alvis on base to give Cleveland a 7-6 win.
The Phillies selected Matt Vierling in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, two picks after the Tigers tabbed University of Louisville southpaw Adam Wolf. I recently asked the outfielder if there was a chance he’d have begun his professional career in the Detroit organization, and not in Philadelphia’s.
“I think I met with the Tigers, but I never heard from them in that round,” said Vierling, a University of Notre Dame product whom Detroit acquired via trade earlier this month. “My agent had talked about the Phillies all throughout the fourth and fifth rounds, so I knew I had a chance to go to them, but I didn’t hear anything from the Tigers around that time.”
Alex Ramirez and Randy Bass were voted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this month. A Lawton, Oklahoma native who played in MLB from 1977-1982, Bass batted .337 with the Hanshin Tigers from 1983-1988 and had back-to-back seasons with 54 and 47 home runs. Ramirez, a native of Venezuela who played in MLB from 1998-2000, batted .301 and hit 380 home runs — most of them with the Yakult Swallows — from 2001-2013.
Freddy Fermín was named MVP of the Venezuelan Winter League after hitting .404 with a 1.048 OPS for Leones del Caracas. The 27-year-old, Puerto Ordaz-born catcher has been in the Kansas City Royals organization since 2016 and has three MLB games on his resume.
Quincy Latimore is slashing .285/.338/.455 for the Australian Baseball League’s Adelaide Giants. The 33-year-old outfielder, who played affiliated ball with six different organizations from 2007-2017, spent last season with the independent Atlantic League’s High Point Rockers.
Donnie Ecker was the featured guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and if you’re a hitting nerd, the conversation was right up your alley. Ditto if you’re a Rangers fan. Ecker is the club’s bench coach/offensive coordinator, and among the subjects he addressed were hitters in the Texas lineup. Notable among them were Marcus Semien and Josh Jung.
“Physically, he operates off of some of the highest vibrancy of feel,” Ecker said of Semien. “Kinesthetically, he really needs to feel certain things to be at his best… so, physically he’s high on the feel spectrum. Mentally he’s one of the more advanced guys in terms of what he wants to look for, probabilistic thinking with pitch counts.”
Jung was featured in our Talks Hitting series a year ago this month, so I knew in advance what Ecker’s response would be when I asked if the young infielder is a hitting nerd. His answer didn’t disappoint.
“Josh drives that bus,” said Ecker. “You will bore him if you just stick to standard stuff. Josh, right now, is actually in Baton Rouge at the Marucci lab, trying to do a little test to see where he’s at, here in the middle of January. Everybody that meets him kind of knows this, but he’s really a throwback. He kind of reminds me of how people talk about Peyton Manning, and some of those quarterbacks that are just… they’re in it, man. They love it.
“Every morning Josh wakes up, and in his Slack channel is a major-league pitcher that has a game plan attached to it. It’s a little bit of an exercise that we do with him. He’s recreating what it feels like to prepare that day, all the way from, ‘How would I train; what feels do I need?’ If we’re facing [Framber] Valdez, or facing [Gerrit] Cole, what angles do I want to set up? Where are my eyes? What is the discipline in my eyes that day? And then, what are those in-game adjustments for me? That’s something he’s like enthusiastically attacking. When guys want that type of preparation, you’re going to bet on [them] every single time.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
The Los Angeles Angels, who have a Mexican-American owner, are the only MLB team in Southern California without full-time Spanish-language broadcasts. Sam Blum has the story at The Athletic (subscription required).
At Sports Illustrated, Jack Sommers wrote about how the percentage of innings pitched by starters isn’t a current-era phenomenon, but rather a century-old trend.
AZSnakepit’s Jim McLennan wrote about the unimportance of productive outs.
Christina Whitlock, who will work at High-A Peoria, will be the first uniformed female coach in St. Louis Cardinals organizational history. Daniel Guerrero has the story at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville had 585 extra-base hits and was charged with 631 errors.
Wes Ferrell hit nine home runs in 1931, the most for a pitcher in a single season. On the mound, the Cleveland right-hander surrendered nine home runs in 276-and-two-thirds innings while going 22-12 with a 3.75 ERA.
Rogers Hornsby led the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in 1920… and again in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, and 1925. His slash line over that six-season stretch was .397/.467/.666. Hornsby also led the league in each of the triple-slash categories in 1928.
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Sixto Lezcano to a free-agent contract on today’s date in 1985. An underrated slugger who logged a 125 wRC+ over parts of 12 big-league seasons — his best years came with the Milwaukee Brewers — Lezcano limped into the sunset with a career-ending 72 games in the Steel City.
The New York Mets signed Juan Berenguer as an amateur free agent on today’s date in 1975. The right-hander from Aguadulce, Panama made his MLB debut three years later and went on to appear in 490 games while pitching for seven teams from 1978-1992. Berenguer won World Series rings with the Detroit Tigers in 1984 and the Minnesota Twins in 1987.
Players born on today’s date include Diomedes Olivo, a Dominican baseball legend whose MLB career comprised 85 pitching appearances, all but 19 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, from 1960-1963. The southpaw was 41 when he threw his first big-league pitch; only Satchel Paige debuted at an older age.
Also born on today’s date was Timber Mead, a right-handed pitcher who played in the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds organizations from 1985-1991. Timber Arden Mead was born and raised in Oregon.