Cubs release Dontrelle Willis and former first-round pick Hayden Simpson

9 Comments

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs have released left-hander Dontrelle Willis and right-hander Hayden Simpson.

Willis came out of retirement to attempt a comeback this spring, but he had to leave his first appearance on February 25 due to shoulder tightness and didn’t pitch in another Cactus League game. This could be the end of the road for him.

While we ask what could have been with Willis, Simpson never was able to match the hype attached to being the No. 16 overall pick in 2010. It wasn’t all his fault, as the Cubs overdrafted him because they weren’t willing to spend on higher quality talent. While a lengthy bout with mononucleosis didn’t do any favors for his development, Simpson posted an ugly 6.42 ERA over 30 starts and 26 relief appearances with Chicago’s minor league system.

Michael Brenly, the son of former Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly, was also given his release today. The 26-year-old backstop owns a .251/.306/.334 batting line over five seasons in the minors.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

Getty Images
8 Comments

There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.