Hao-Yu Lee will be one of eight Detroit Tigers prospects participating in the forthcoming Arizona Fall League, and while he doesn’t possess the highest profile of the bunch, he does have the most-traveled backstory. Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline in exchange for Michael Lorenzen, the 20-year-old infielder hails from Taiwan and began dreaming of playing professionally in the United States at age 16 after a strong performance in a U-18 tournament, in Korea. Two years earlier he’d excelled in a tournament that took place 15-plus miles southwest of Comerica Park.
The Phillies signed Hao-Yu in June 2021—the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays were among the other MLB teams that had expressed interest — once he’d finished high school. No. 8 on our Phillies Top Prospects list with a 40+ FV coming into this season, he slashed .273/.362/.399 before going on the shelf with a quad strain in mid-August. He ended up playing in just eight games for the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps before missing the duration of the campaign.
The first big-league game Hao-Yu attended was in 2017 when he was competing in the Junior League World Series, which is held annually in Taylor, Michigan. He doesn’t remember if the Tigers won that day, but he does recall his first impression of Comerica Park. “I told my teammates that I was going to play here someday,” the confident youngster said of the experience.
He also remembers the tournament, and for good reason. Not only did Taoyuan, Taiwan capture the international bracket, they went on to beat Kennett Square, Pennsylvania in the finals. Moreover, Hao-Yu “raked that tournament; five games, five homers!”
The AFL-bound infielder has a big personality, and it came out when I asked him how he would describe his game. “I’m a shower, not a teller,” Hao-Yu said with a smile. “What you see is what I am.”
Hao-Yu’s parents — his father is a bus driver, his mother a dental assistant — had yet to see him play in the United States when I spoke to him during his short stint with the Whitecaps. He fully expects that to change.
“The flight is too expensive for them to come now,” Hao-Yu explained. “So here in the minors, no. When I get to the big leagues, yes.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
I’ve recently been asking MLB managers which opponent has most impressed them this season, and I added a twist when posing that question to David Ross earlier this week. I asked the Chicago Cubs skipper which American League team has most impressed him.
“I would probably say Houston,” Ross replied. “They were good when we played them [in mid-May]. Baltimore was good. We took two of three. When you beat a team you feel like they’re not as aggressive as when they beat you, right? That’s how it is. We handled Tampa Bay pretty well. Anaheim swept us, too. It’s like you go in there and it’s, ‘Wow, they’re better than you think they are,’ blah blah blah. We played well against Texas and Seattle when they came in here.”
The Cubs won 10 of the 15 series they played against AL teams. The Angels and Astros were the only clubs they didn’t post a W against.
“Houston had firemen there,” Ross recalled. They’ve got some power hitters. They’ve got some pitching. Their lineup felt deeper. They’re well-rounded, versatile. Sure, that all kind of changes as a season goes along, but I think I’m biased to when you play. I say that a lot. It’s not who you play, but when you play them.”
Dusty Baker had 39.7 fWAR during his playing career, the most among current MLB managers. Which of his contemporaries ranks second in that category?
The answer can be found below.
The Chicago White Sox announced three additions to their baseball operations department on Friday. Josh Barfield, who had been serving as the director of player development for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was hired as an assistant general manager. Brian Bannister, who’d been the director of pitching for the San Francisco Giants, was hired as senior advisor to pitching. Gene Watson, who was VP of major-league scouting/assistant general manager with the Kansas City Royals, will be the ChiSox’s director of player personnel.
Steve Klauke, the voice of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees (formerly the Salt Lake Buzz) for the last 29 years, is retiring following today’s season finale. Klauke was named Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year in 2014.
Roric Harrison, who had 30 wins and 10 saves while appearing in 140 games for four teams— primarily the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles — from 1972-1978, died earlier this week at age 76 (per Baseball Player Passings). The right-hander went 15-for-124 at the plate with six of his hits leaving the yard.
The extent to which Kansas City qualifies as one of this season’s most disappointing teams is a matter of opinion. Unlike the Cardinals, Padres, and the two New York-based clubs, they weren’t viewed as serious contenders. At the same time, they weren’t expected to be this bad. Even with nine wins in their last ten games, the rebuilding Royals have gone 53-102. Only the Oakland Athletics, who are intentionally being run into the ground by ignominious owner John Fisher, have won fewer games.
Earlier this month, I asked Kansas City manager Matt Quatraro about his level of disappointment with the team’s won-loss record.
“I tried to come into the season without a lot of expectations as far as what our record would be,” said Quatraro, who replaced Mike Matheny at the helm following last year’s 97-loss season. “I knew it was a young team. We’re disappointed with what our won-lost total is. The thing I’m not disappointed with is the effort [and] and the processes they’ve been following. Hopefully they’re going to start to see some of those things come to fruition. So, I don’t have an answer for you on what I thought our record would be, but am I disappointed with what it is? Yes.”
Following up, I asked the former Tampa Bay Rays bench coach if it’s possible to explain why the team has underperformed to the extent that it has.
“At various points of the year we have done everything poorly,” replied Quatraro. “At some point or another we’ve pitched poorly, we’ve hit poorly, we’ve struggled defensively, we’ve given away outs on the bases — not all at the same time, but at varying times. Those things lead to losses.”
Quatraro didn’t use injuries as an excuse — this despite numerous notables having missed time — nor did he want to point to the youthful roster. My suggestion that lack of experience has been a factor elicited a certain amount of pushback.
“Some of it is that, but some of it is just not playing well,” responded Quatraro. “Veteran teams do those things as well. I didn’t say that [it was inexperience]. That’s baseball, right? There are plenty of times where your team underperforms, and it doesn’t have anything to do with youth.”
Trevor May provided an answer I wasn’t expecting when asked about standout moments in his nine-year big-league career. I posed the question to the Oakland A’s reliever on the ninth of July, and the game he cited had taken place just a handful of weeks earlier.
“There are a few really cool ones,” replied May, who has now made 356 regular-season appearances plus six more in the postseason. “Honestly, getting the save in the reverse boycott game [on June 13] was something I won’t forget anytime soon. Being able to do that against the team with the best record in the league [the Tampa Bay Rays] and win our seventh in a row, especially with how the year has gone, was the highest of the highs after the lowest of the lows. That was a big one for me.”
The Orix Buffaloes captured their third consecutive NPB Pacific League pennant this week and have NPB’s second-best record at 80-47. The Osaka-based club finished in last place four years ago.
Hanshin Tigers outfielder Koji Chikamoto became the first NPB Central League hitter to log at least 12 triples in a season since 1960 when he reached that mark on Wednesday. The 28-year-old outfielder is slashing .286/.378/.435 on the year.
Guillermo Heredia is slashing .325/.385/.472 with 12 home runs for the KBO’s SSG Landers. A veteran of seven MLB seasons, the 32-year-old outfielder played for the Atlanta Braves last year.
Chang-ki Hong is slashing .339/.456/.426 with the LG Twins. The 29-year-old outfielder leads the KBO in OBP, runs scored, doubles, walks, and HBPs. He is 21 for 41 in stolen base attempts.
William Cuevas is 9-0 with a 2.86 ERA in 91-and-a-third innings for the KT Wiz. The 32-year-old right-hander, who briefly pitched for the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers from 2016-2018, signed with the KBO club after being released by the Los Angeles Dodgers in June.
Ian Hamilton is having a good year with the New York Yankees. Working primarily out of the bullpen — he’s served as an opener three times — the 28-year-old right-hander has a 2.65 ERA over a career high 37 appearances. Arguably more notable is that he features a “slambio.”
“It’s essentially a cut-change that kind of just drops a little bit,” explained Hamilton, who previously pitched for the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins. “It’s low spin, almost gyro-y, and according to my catchers it sometimes moves erratically, almost like a knuckleball. If it backs up, it kind of shakes a little bit. It’s unique, I guess.”
Hamilton isn’t completely sure why it moves like it does. The pitch is delivered with a circle-change grip, his middle finger is the last contact point as he releases the ball, and it simply does what it does. He began “messing around with it in high school [in Vancouver, Washington], throwing it at a stationary target,” and from there was born… well, what exactly is it?
“Honestly, I think there have been five names for it throughout my whole baseball career,” said Hamilton. “It’s been a circle-change, a cutter, a cut-change, a slider, and now people are calling is a slambio. It is what it is, I guess.”
Austin Shenton has 45 doubles this year, the most in the minors. The 25-year-old corner infielder in the Tampa Bay Rays organization is slashing .304/.422/.578 with 28 home runs between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.
Yunior Severino and Shay Whitcomb co-lead the minors with 35 home runs each. The former is a 23-year-old infielder in the Minnesota Twins organization who is slashing .274/.355/.551 between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul. The latter is a 24-year-old infielder in the Houston Astros system who is slashing .242/.301/.474 between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugar Land.
Justyn-Henry Malloy has drawn 110 walks, the most in the minors. The 23-year-old outfielder/third baseman in the Detroit Tigers system is slashing .280/.419/.478 with 23 home runs for Triple-A Toledo.
Nick Avila is 14-0 with three saves and a 3.04 ERA for Triple-A Sacramento. The 26-year-old right-hander in the San Francisco Giants organization has made 55 appearances and has 63 strikeouts in 71 innings.
Orion Kerkering is 4-1 with 14 saves and a 1.51 ERA over 49 appearances across four levels in the Philadelphia Phillies system. The 22-year-old right-hander began the year in Low-A Clearwater and is finishing it with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Yu-Min Lin went 6-5 with a 3.86 ERA between High-A Hillsboro and Double-A Amarillo. A native of Taitung, Taiwan, the 20-year-old left-hander in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization had 140 strikeouts in 121-and-a-third innings.
Jake Rogers is putting up solid power numbers this year — the Detroit Tigers backstop has 20 bombs in 349 plate appearances — and a college teammate now pitching for the Houston Astros is among those taking notice.
He’s having a good year,” said J.P. France, who was with Rogers at Tulane University. “We were able to catch up for the first time since 2016 when we went Detroit, and it was awesome for us to be playing against each other in the big leagues. To this day, he’s one of the top catchers I’ve thrown to. He’s great back there. He’s also got a cannon for an arm and a good bat. On top of that, he’s a great guy. It’s exciting to see him playing well.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
A data science and economics student at Northeastern University named Nick Calvin is currently doing data analytics with NPB’s Hiroshima Carp. Cody Mello-Klein has the story at Northeastern Global News.
Which teams hold the tiebreakers heading into the finals week of the season? MLB.com has the answer.
The Arizona Fall League rosters can be found here.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Cody Bellinger’s 438-foot blast on Tuesday was the 15,000th home run in Chicago Cubs franchise history (they now have 1,506). The New York Yankees (16,998) and San Francisco Giants (15,365) are the only franchises to have hit more home runs.
Jack Morris finished his career with the independent Northern League’s St. Paul Saints in 1996. The Hall of Fame right-hander, then 41 years old, pitched in 10 games and went 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA.
On today’s date in 1982, the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians 4-3 in the completion of a suspended game that had begun on June 9. The 18-inning affair at Tiger Stadium ended when Alan Trammell scored on an Ed Glynn wild pitch.
Players born on today’s date include Gorman Heimueller, a southpaw out of California Polytechnic University — Ozzie Smith was a college teammate — who went 3-6 with a 4.67 ERA while appearing in 22 games for the Oakland Athletics in 1983 and 1984. The last pitch Heimueller threw in the big leagues was hit for a 10th-inning walk-off grand slam by Boston’s Jim Rice on the Fourth of July.
Also born on today’s date was Kewpie Pennington, a right-handed pitcher who threw a scoreless inning for the St. Louis Browns in his lone big-league appearance. Eddie Cicotte tossed a no-hitter for the Chicago White Sox against Kewpie’s club in the April 14, 1917 contest.