Checking in on the Late Signees
As I’m sure you remember, this last offseason saw more free agents waiting for a home in late February than any time in recent memory. Missing part of spring training means something different to each player. Top prospects cherish the plate appearances they get at the big league level, while many veterans have organized their own rituals that are divorced from the organization. Pitchers need this time to stretch out their arms to be in game shape by opening day. So, today we’re going to have a completely anecdotal look at players who got a late start this spring.
1B Logan Morrison, Minnesota Twins
Spring Debut: 3/2
Morrison’s started off terribly, but it’s only 39 PA’s and he only missed a week of spring training. This is Morrison’s ninth year as a Major Leaguer, so I can’t pretend that a week-long absence is the cause of this.
3B Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
Spring Debut: 3/16
Moustakas didn’t seem particularly pleased to have to settle for a one-year pact with his former team, now stripped of its prior championship glory. But arriving in Arizona late doesn’t seem to have impacted his production at all! Moose has already launched 3 home runs in his first 54 PA’s.
SP Jake Arrieta, Philadelphia Phillies
Spring Debut: 3/22 (2 starts, 5 IP)
2018: 2 GS, 10.2 IP, 6 SO, 4 BB, 3.38 ERA
Pitcher’s are going to make for a much more fascinating subject of this exercise. Despite the MLBPA running their own makeshift spring training for free agents, camp shut down well before the season was ready to begin and teams cautioned free agents that they would not be considered ready if they weren’t in their camp by a certain date. Arrieta was pulled after 74 pitches in his first start eight games into the year and threw 88 pitches in his second start. Arrieta should be ready to ramp up to his regular routine now.
SP Lance Lynn, Minnesota Twins
Spring Debut: 3/13 (2 starts, 7 IP)
2018: 2 GS, 9 IP, 12 SO, 10 BB, 5.00 ERA
Lynn was thrown straight into the fire, tossing 95 pitches his first start and 105 pitches his next. Lynn gave out six free passes against Pittsburgh to begin his year, but settled down against Houston by throwing five shutout innings.
C Jonathan Lucroy, Oakland Athletics
Spring Debut: 3/17
Lucroy has started thirteen games for his new team in Oakland, all of them at catcher. He’s been around the block and we hope he can bounce back to being a top dynasty catcher.
SP Alex Cobb, Baltimore Orioles
Spring Debut: N/A; two starts in extended spring/minor leagues
2018: Debuted 4/14
I saw Cobb make his Orioles debut against Boston and it wasn’t pretty. Everything was missing up, he had no feel for his secondaries, and he failed to deceive batters in any way. The Orioles gave Cobb a handful of starts in extended spring to stretch him out, but if his debut was of any indication, this first month could be a rough stretch for him.
RP Greg Holland, St. Louis Cardinals
Spring Debut: N/A; two appearances in High-A
2018: Debuted 4/9
Holland only made two appearances in High-A before being called upon to close games for the big club. Holland’s debut was a disaster, walking four batters and only recording an out on a sacrifice. Relievers don’t need to be strategically stretched out in the same way starters do, but there is a need for a pitcher to prime his arm to throw at max effort every couple of days. The only reason Holland was signed was because the Cardinals had a sudden hole in their bullpen and needed immediate relief, so ironically they picked someone who wasn’t in shape to fill that hole yet. As a consequence, Holland isn’t seeing save opportunities at the moment and won’t until he’s caught up.
If we can take anything away from this, it’s that pitchers are more affected by missing time in camp than position players. Pitchers are delicate creatures who must be finely tuned before being sent out to throw meaningful innings. Whether you’re a starter or reliever, preseason reps are critical to your regular season success. It is my hope that we can avoid a situation like this next offseason so talented players won’t be rushed to perform at their highest level.