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Has The NL Torch Been Passed?

This is not the rock solid 2022 LAD team waltzing into the 2nd half gearing up for their November parade, and sizing up their ring fingers.  No.  This team is legitimately good, just not elite.  This team as it is right now, is not as good as Atlanta.  Like LAD, Atlanta got hit hard with injuries to their top two starting pitchers, Max Fried and Kyle Wright, but kept on winning.  From June 1, Atlanta is 27-6.  Sounds like one of those LAD runs.

After five starts Max Fried, Fried was put on the shelf with left forearm strain.  Uh Oh!!  But the thought for him was rest and rehab, and on Sunday, Max had a rehab start at their AAA affiliate, Gwinnett Stripers.  How did he do?

He is obviously going to need a few to several more rehab starts to lengthen out for his ML return.  But the Braves are playing with house money as they have an 8.5 game lead over NL East 2nd place Miami, and have the best record in MLB.  He is looking for a late July return to Atlanta’s rotation.

Kyle Wright and his right shoulder sprain prognosis is a little murkier.  He was also sat down after 5 starts.  He has been cleared to throw, but is not yet scheduled for a rehab start.  He is penciled in for a late August return.

Atlanta has three solid starters and then a patchwork of starters for #4 and #5. The two with the most starts, Jared Shuster (9) and Dylan Dodd (5) are back in MiLB.  Mike Soroka (4 starts) has rejoined the rotation after a few years.  So just how deep will Atlanta’s starting rotation be when Fried and Wright are reunited.

That does not mean that we should discount what Atlanta has remaining in the rotation, as two of the three were 2023 All Stars: 24 year old RHP’s, Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder.

They also have 6 position player All Stars that are younger than 30.

  • Sean Murphy, catcher (28)
  • Orlando Arcia, shortstop (28)
  • Ronald Acuña Jr., outfield (25)
  • Matt Olson, first base (29)
  • Ozzie Albies, second base (26)
  • Austin Riley, third base (26)

Seven of the eight Atlanta All Stars are under long term deals that gives them team control through 2026.  Only Elder is not tied up long term.  I look for that to change this winter.  Arcia has a 2026 club option, while the others are controlled for a longer spell.

The Dodgers are very high on their stable of pitchers, and they absolutely should be.  But Atlanta also has a stable full of pitching.  9 of their top 11 prospects are pitchers.  6 of the 9 are at A or Rookie level.  Not nearly at the level of the Dodgers, but Atlanta has the ability to push their prospects through to the next level quickly, and they generally perform.  Bryce Elder joined the rotation as a 23 year old in 2022 and was very effective.  He was in 10 games, 9 starts.  54.0 IP, 3.17 ERA and 1.241 WHIP.  This year he is an All Star.  18 GS, 106.0 IP, 2.97 ERA, 1.198 WHIP.

Elder was a 5th round pick and was never considered a top 100 prospect by MLB Pipeline or Baseball America.  This year, the Braves promoted 20 year old RHP prospect AJ Smith-Shawver.  He was in four games, three as a starter.  He has 16.2 IP with a 4.32 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  Smith-Shawver is also not considered a top 100 prospect.  He was a high school teammate of Bobby Witt Jt., and was a highly recruited HS QB with a scholarship offer to Texas Tech.  He is now concentrating just on baseball, and the Braves are excited.

The Dodgers current top four rookie pitchers:

  • Emmet Sheehan (23) – 20.2 IP, 4.35 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
  • Bobby Miller (24) – 44.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
  • Michael Grove (26) – 47.0 IP, 6.89 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
  • Gavin Stone (24) – 12.0 IP, 12.75 ERA, 3.00 WHIP

I like all four, and the Dodgers have a bevy of near MLB pitchers.  The Dodgers have more depth (as they always do), but the Braves are younger and a couple might be better at this stage of their career.  Dodger fans are excited for Maddux Bruns who is 21 and at A+.  Atlanta has a 20 year old with 16.2 MLB IP.  I know.  Before I get harpooned, let’s all say it together.  Development is not linear.   By the way when does development is not linear turn into…he was just not that good.  Also, for clarification, I am not referring to Maddux Bruns.

The Braves do not come close to the depth the Dodgers have, but the Dodgers do not have the overall talent at the MLB level that Atlanta has.  Does that mean that Atlanta is going to win the NL Pennant and WS?  Having the best team did not get the Dodgers those championships.  They still have to play the games.

 

What’s is going to happen to Miguel Vargas?  He is headed to OKC to try to find his stroke.  He suffered some pinky and thumb injuries that he probably played through but should not have.  As I have discussed before, he has abandoned his gap to gap contact over power stroke for pull side power.  This is the same problem that Gavin Lux had when he first came up.  This is the same issue that Miggy Rojas was facing AFTER he got to LAD.

Miguel Vargas has had advice from his Cuban legendary father to go back to his old hitting style.  Miguel is stubborn (aren’t we all), and wants to be his own.  He does not want to be a clone to his father.

Here is an outstanding article.  I believe I have provided this before, but it bears repeating in light as to where he is now.

https://www.mlb.com/news/featured/miguel-vargas-lazaro-vargas-connect-through-baseball-journeys#:~:text=LOS%20ANGELES%20%2D%2D%20When%20asked,his%20two%20Olympic%20gold%20medals.

Not all players are designed to swing hard and elevate.  Lux isn’t. Rojas isn’t. Vargas isn’t.  And yet they have all been coached to do just that.  Lux went away from it last year, and remarkedly he was successful as a contact hitter.  Thank you Freddie.

Rojas has seemingly abandoned that method after a very slow start.  I remember in the Spring, the announcers were reporting that Miguel was told to let it loose.  Go for the power.  On May 19, Rojas was hitting .188/.244/.225/.469.  Since that day, Rojas has hit .265/.299/.333/.633.  Not all that prolific, but with his defense, he is doing what he is capable of.  Just a question.  Not an indictment.  Why are the contact first hitters not producing as well as they might otherwise be?

Since June, Vargas is batting .146/.273/.293/.565.  Remember in ST when he was told to stand in the batter’s box and just watch the path of the pitch?  Just a question, and not a complaint.  Did Vargas lose some of his aggressive approach to hitting?

Vargas has the ability to be a .300 hitter or very near.  I do think he is capable of putting up Alex Verdugo numbers.  Will he?  Verdugo abandoned the power desire for hit.  IMO Vargas needs to do the same.  He has more power potential than Verdugo, but he doesn’t need it.  The HRs will come.  He is not a Joey Gallo, Edwin Rios, or Max Muncy three outcome approach hitters.

I have made it clear that I am not a RVS fan.  But the Dodgers score a s*** load of runs, except in the playoffs.  They rely on the HR (too much IMO).  As a team they do not have a good 2-strike approach.  Freddie does.  I think Will Smith does as well.  They are very good as a team WRISP.  They score a lot of runs with 2 outs.  They do a lot of things a good hitting team should. I remain not a fan of RVS, because I think the players are capable of putting up those numbers.  But they do not know how to manufacture runs, something that will be needed in the playoffs.  It is hard to fault a hitting coach for a team that scores as many runs as the Dodgers do.  Except, does he have any clue how to change and coach for the non-power hitters?  I am not in the dugout so I have no idea how he is received or whether he does change his tactics for the non-power hitter?

As an aside, RVS also did not seem to do all that well with Cody Bellinger.  Some are calling for Belli to come back to LAD.  That ship has sailed.  Is he  going to end up in NYY or Houston?

I expect Vargas to find his stroke at OKC and rejoin LAD in short order. When he comes back, let Vargas be a contact gap to gap doubles hitter with an occasional HR.  There is nothing wrong with a .300 hitter with 30+ doubles and 15 HRs.  I refuse to believe that Miguel Vargas reached his peak at AAA.

 

 

 

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Badger

Is development the same as progress?

Vargas. What my untrained now 20/40 eye tells me is he is making contact, it’s just weak. Conclusion: his hands are not fully healed. He broke a finger and got hit on the thumb. He needs time to heal. He’s had a week off. I’d give him another weak, I mean week. You gotta have strong hands in baseball.

Atlanta is better. Fangraphs playoff odds have them nearly twice as better than the Dodgers. So does 538. If I was betting, which I’m not, I’d bet on them. But, all that could change.

Our young pitchers look great at times. I think the reason their ERAs are so inflated is they lose focus at inopportune times. They miss their spots. You can get away with mistakes over the middle in the minors.

Ohtani in the “where’s he going” news again this morning. He acts like money is not as important as winning is. I guess he knows at this point the money is easy. It’s coming. What big city is best for him? Matsuzaka says Boston is a welcoming place for Japanese players. Says he still lives there. NY is great place for millionaire celebrities. Shohei said he likes Seattle. My prediction? Not Anaheim.

Last edited 9 months ago by Badger
Oldbear48

First chink in the armor? Betts disagreed with Roberts about his splits. Mookie rarely disagrees with anyone. I think all of baseball should get away from the three true outcome hitting and get back to where it was when I was young. Hit line drives, the homers will come. Imagine someone trying to tell Willie Mays how to hit? Batting coaches are supposed to make suggestions, not totally change what got them there in the first place.

Badger

For the most part I agree with your take on line drives. It’s my opinion the three true outcomes misrepresents what it is the Dodgers are teaching. I think their approach is – get a good pitch, exit velocity and launch angle, in that order. I’ve come to accept it. If I could have easily hit fly balls 400’ I most certainly would have done it. Watching those guys in the Home Run Derby (only saw the highlights) tells me 400’ is a piece of cake for some of those guys. Hit it hard, and get a launch angle between 15-30 degrees.

The bottom line for me is even with several guys near or below the Mendoza line, our team scores runs. What they are doing is working. Imagine how well it will work when Vargas, Muncy and Taylor start hitting. I believe they all will have a better second half. I think Outman might too. He’s learning.

All that said, every young hitter is different. Trying to change what it was that got them here could be a mistake. I’ve read in a few places that might be what is going on with Vargas. I don’t know that is true, but it’s possible.

Last edited 9 months ago by Badger
Bluto

Jeff, I COULD read into this article that the AAA hitting coaches are not aligned with those at the MLB level.

Do you think this? Or am I reading too much (once again) into it.

Bluto

I will leave it to your son and RVS to debate strategies and viability. I see the date of that article is 2018. Is that when the launch angle movement was beginning or in full bore?

I just don’t understand how AAA allows Vargas the opportunity to diverge from how the Dodgers teach hitting up and down their minor and major league teams.

What I am writing makes sense to me, but I fear it isn’t coming across.

Last edited 9 months ago by Bluto
Bluto

I am realizing how silly it is that I say anything further.

I know nothing about coaching, hitting or approaches.

I have hope though! I hope Vargas hits better and gets back to MLB where his contemporaries like his game.

Bumsrap

Another question might be when did the shift go full bore? If the shift caused the launched angle maybe the lack of a shift might eliminate it.

Badger

Backspin. That’s the exact opposite of what I was taught. Line drives with topspin hit into gaps. Tommy Davis reinforced that.

But very few of the baseball players I played with and against were the size of Major League players today. I just read the average MLB player is 6’2”, 208 pounds, and all of them have professional strength coaches. These guys can hit backspin fly balls out of the small parks they play in.

Last edited 9 months ago by Badger
Bumsrap

Top Post and comments made so far are right on.

Singing the Blue

Jeff, you asked this question with regard to Belli:
 “Is he going to end up in NYY or Houston?”
If I were a betting man, I’d put my first bet on the Yankees. He fills a need for them, his father played there and he could wind up playing outfield, first base and/or DH for them.
My last pick would be Houston with all the other teams more likely. Cody was one of the loudest and longest commenters on the cheating and unless they offer the most money by far (not a Houston strategy normally), he’ll tell his agent to keep him out of Houston.

Badger

Would you trade Outman for Bellinger? Would Bellinger want to come back here?

Dionysus

Hell no

Singing the Blue

Ah, I was only thinking long term and not considering the next few months. If he gets traded to Houston this season, he won’t have any choice. He’s not going to retire, that’s for sure.

The Astros, having a need for a Bellinger-type player might very well trade for him in the hopes that once he gets into their clubhouse, he’ll form some friendships and want to re-sign.

My comments were just related to his free agency choices.

Last edited 9 months ago by Singing the Blue
Badger

Cubs aren’t going anywhere. They would be wise to trade someone who’s leaving anyway.

Scott Andes

I think he’s just a roster placeholder, or AAA depth.

Bluto

Something Dodgers VP of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino noted tweaked draft strategy some: the minor league roster limits that will limit orgs to 165 players in 2024: “(They have) squeezed us in a lot of ways. We’re disappointed obviously. We think we don’t think it’s enough.”

Singing the Blue

Anybody know approximately how many players we have in the organization this year? In other words, how many will we have to eliminate to get to 165?

Bluto

Using this page:
https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/daily.fcgi?request=1&type=b&dates=lastndays&lastndays=90&since=2023-07-01&fromandto=2023-07-01.2023-07-31&level=all&franch=LAD

with great liberty, I came up with:
123 position players and 173 pitchers.

This includes major league players. So. Subract the IL people and the major league roster?

I’m totally guessing.

Singing the Blue

That’s 296 players, total. If you subtract the 26 players on the MLB roster or maybe closer to 36 if you count the 60 day IL, you’re still looking at having to get rid of almost 100 players?

That can’t be right. I hope.

Singing the Blue

Just found this excerpt from an article in The Athletic after the new CBA was ratified:

“The maximum size of the domestic reserve list for this year is 180 in the regular season and 190 in the offseason. The league has the ability to cut the roster sizes to 165 in the regular season and 175 in the offseason starting in 2024. ”

So based on that, it doesn’t seem all that drastic a cut and also it says the league has the ability to cut roster sizes, not that they necessarily will.

Dionysus

2nd half sleeper

Bumsrap

Did he have 2 good games or just the one you reported on earlier?

Dionysus

Yes

Bumsrap

I get headspin thinking about spin.

The Cubs traded Pederson to Atlanta in 2021 and I think they will trade Bellinger to the Yankees this year. They will probably trade Stroham as well to somebody.

I was jealous of the Yankees shortstop prospects. Not so much anymore. I will be more than happy with Betts and Lux up the middle.

Will it be Bieber or Goleta or both that joins the Dodgers?

Yes, the Dodgers are scoring runs but a lot of runs resulted from Smith having a career year start to 2023 and with Betts recently playing better than we can hope for from here on out.

The Dodgers might have lost some needed input when Billy Gasparino left.

Last edited 9 months ago by Bumsrap
nonicnamebumfan

The Dodgers might have lost some needed input when Billy Gasparino left.???

Farhan Friedman

Ditto???

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