Midseason NL Rookie of the Year

Leave a comment

The NL Rookie of the Year race has changed little since we checked in
one-third of the way through the season. Randy Wells and J.A. Happ were
neck-and-neck then, and I gave the nod to Wells, even though I expected
more from Happ the rest of the way.

At least a few hitters have started to play catchup now. As of June
5, the league had just three position players with a VORP of 5.0 or
better: Joe Thurston (7.3), Ryan Roberts (7.3) and Ryan Hanigan (5.1).
Now we have four over 10.0:

1. Casey McGehee – 16.3
2. Colby Rasmus – 14.0
3. Ryan Hanigan – 12.6
4. Andrew McCutchen – 10.3

Seth Smith is at 15.2, but he spent too much time on Colorado’s bench last year to qualify as a rookie.

Factoring in defense, Rasmus rates as the NL’s top rookie to date. He’s
hitting .278/.329/.478 in 270 at-bats and seemingly getting better
every week. McGehee has hit a surprising .329/.387/.541 in 146 at-bats.

The pitching crop remains much stronger, of course. Again going by VORP:

1. J.A. Happ – 25.8
2. Randy Wells – 23.5
3. Ramon Troncoso – 19.7
4. Ronald Belisario – 14.5
5. Mark DiFelice – 14.0
6. Tommy Hanson – 11.8
7. Alberto Arias – 10.6
8. Evan Meek – 10.3
9. Burke Badenhop – 10.1
10. Luke Gregerson – 9.5

Wells has a slight ERA advantage over Happ (2.72 to 2.90), but Happ
has pitched 11 more innings and faced the more difficult schedule. The
left-hander is the choice this time, and while both should see their
ERAs rise over the rest of the year, I expect Happ to retain more of
his value going forward.

Third place is between Troncoso and Rasmus. Troncoso not only has
the 1.75 ERA in 56 2/3 innings, but he’s been especially good in
high-leverage situations. He’s picked up five saves and eight holds,
yet he’s been charged with just one blown save to date. I’ll choose him
over Rasmus for now, though Rasmus will almost certainly rank ahead of
him by season’s end. My guess is that it will materialize into a
three-man race between Happ, Rasmus and Hanson.

Midseason NL ROY
1. Happ
2. Wells
3. Troncoso

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
4 Comments

Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
2 Comments

Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.