The Pirates have made velocity an organizational focus

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Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote an intriguing column about the rise in fastball velocity across Major League Baseball. In 2008, the average fastball in the Majors registered at 90.9 MPH; in 2013, it was 92 MPH. A change of 1.1 MPH over a six-year period may seem small, but when hundreds of thousands of fastballs are thrown every year, it becomes a statistically significant change.

Sawchik adds that more pitchers are hitting triple digits (100-plus MPH) more consistently than they have since velocity-tracking has become a regular part of the game. Some teams have begun to prioritize velocity over other traits, and the Pirates — one of baseball’s most forward-thinking organizations — are among them. From Sawchik’s column:

Under general manager Neal Huntington, the Pirates made targeting and acquiring velocity a key part of their strategy, adding pitchers such as A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, and placing a premium on velocity in the draft.

“(Velocity) gives you a larger margin for error,” Huntington said. “Ninety-four (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate has much more margin for error than 88 (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate.”

In Huntington’s first season as general manager, the Pirates ranked 18th in fastball velocity at 90.8 mph. The Pirates’ fastball velocity has improved every year under Huntington, averaging 92.5 mph last season, 10th in baseball.

Per Sawchik, Pirates 2011 first round pick and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole threw 22 pitches that registered at 100 MPH or faster last season. Reliever Bryan Morris averaged 94 MPH on his fastball last year, but showed up in camp throwing 97 MPH, drawing the attention of scouts. Other pitchers who averaged 93 MPH or better last season included relievers Mark Melancon, Vin Mazzaro, Tony Watson, and Justin Wilson, as well as starter Francisco Liriano, a bargain bin pick-up who was a key reason why the Pirates snapped a 20-year-long playoff drought.

White Sox may shut down Eloy Jimenez following quad injury

Eloy Jimenez
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White Sox’ no. 1 prospect Eloy Jimenez is likely to be removed from Dominican Winter League play following a recent quad injury, Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM reports. While the injury happened fairly close to the end of Jimenez’s scheduled playing time this offseason, it’s still of some concern for the club as the 22-year-old outfielder continues to move closer to his major league entrance in 2019.

Jimenez made a considerable jump from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte in 2018. He obliterated the competition at both levels and capped his season with a combined .337/.384/.577 with 22 home runs, 75 RBI and a .960 OPS through 456 plate appearances. By season’s end, he not only topped the charts in the White Sox’ own farm system, but was ranked first among all outfield prospects and third among all MLB prospects (per MLB Pipeline).

This isn’t Jimenez’s first brush with injury, though he has yet to contract anything serious enough to slow his rocket-like ascent through the minors en route to his first major-league gig. The young slugger was sidelined for several weeks with a left adductor strain in July and suffered some late-season flu symptoms in August, but even with this most recent complication, remains on track for his debut in the spring of 2019.