Let’s face it: most of the good news for the Twins this year has come from the minors, as Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have emerged as two of the game’s top five prospects. What’s happened with the major league club has been mostly bad.
That’s especially the case with Scott Diamond, the team’s best starter while going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA as a rookie last year, and Aaron Hicks, the team’s former No. 1 prospect who won the center field job this spring. Both were demoted back to the minors on Thursday.
Diamond, whose season didn’t start until mid-April following December surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow, was 5-10 with a 5.52 ERA and just 45 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings. He had turned in just three quality starts in 2 1/2 months, and he gave up six earned runs in a loss to the Royals on Thursday. The Twins felt it was time to take a look at someone else, probably Andrew Albers, and now that the trade deadline passed without a Mike Pelfrey trade, that opportunity is coming at Diamond’s expense.
The 23-year-old Hicks showed improvement in June and the first half of July, but he had slumped again of late, leaving him at .192/.259/.338 in 281 at-bats for the season. The Twins took quite a risk this spring when they opted to have him skip Triple-A and go right to the majors, and it’s clear now that it didn’t pay off. Still, Hicks is young enough that no one is giving up on him yet. He’ll be back in September, and he’ll probably get another chance to play regularly then. In the meantime, the Twins will go with Clete Thomas in center and give Oswaldo Arcia another chance in a corner. The 21-year-old Arcia was recalled today after hitting .375/.490/.725 with four homers in 13 games for Triple-A Rochester last month.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP