Keith Low: I was wrong to deal with MLB players, from Spencer Strider to Andres Jimenez

At the end of each season, I look at the players who have succeeded in the major tournaments beyond the expectations I had for them and explain where my expectations for these players were wrong. Sometimes it’s what I’ve seen (or haven’t seen), sometimes it’s about incomplete information from sources, but whatever the reasons, they’re my mistakes, and I have to learn from them to improve my expectations for other players who might show similarities to these people in the future. last year, I only wrote about one playerAnd the Austin Riley, delves deeper into the massive changes he made to his approach to go from a minor man’s 0.300 OBP to a viable MVP candidate. This year, I’m going back to my old pattern of identifying several players who made material changes or otherwise collected what I wrote about them and threw them in the trash. Good for them, if not for me.

The Guardians are back in the competition this year thanks to several big steps forward from hitters in their mid-twenties who didn’t live up to the expectations placed upon them when they were potential. Amid Rosario He has his best season on the plate and in the field, with a total of 3.5 WAR which is nearly double what he was worth a year ago. (He can stand up for a walk now and then.) Josh Naylor Entering the season with a 0.2 career WAR, he deserved a full win this year, nearly doubling his home run total and staying healthy for most of the season. But no one on the roster has been as much of a surprise as Andres Jimenez, who now sits at 6.4 WAR, one year after hitting .218/.282/.351 and looks like he might struggle to land a job in the major league.

Giménez made my top 100 list only once as a prospect, landing 97th ahead of the 2019 season, praising his extra defense in a short and brilliant game, but I wondered off the bat: “On the board, though, he doesn’t envision to have much of an impact. – At the very least, he has to get much stronger, and he doesn’t have the body or the swing to be a big strength guy at all.” That seemed accurate until this year, but Giménez made several small changes that added a huge boost in both power (16 homers) and call quality.

Jimenez’s hit rate was below average in 2020 at 26.4 percent, crawling back to the appropriate level last year at 30.4 percent, and there’s still something to write about. (Does one write home about hard hit rates? Do I have to? You never call, never write about prices that have been hit hard.) this year he’s 37.5 percent, which is the equivalent of another 25 hits this year based on his hits during Sunday’s games. If I told you that a hitter could turn a soft or medium hitting ball a week into a hard hit ball, you’d take it, wouldn’t you?


Andres Jimenez (David Richard/USA Today)

He’s also improved his production for the not-quick stuff, especially, rather oddly, on change, the pitch he’s ruined this year, logging 0.400 in changes with 0.738 lags, with a 51 percent hit rate on that pitch. It hit 0.160/.250 in changes in 2021, for comparison. He doesn’t hit them much, but when he hits them he hits them harder. To be fair, I’ve never seen a problem with him hitting non-fast balls; I just saw a guy who never hit the ball hard, and didn’t have the swing to do it.

Guardians new hitting coach Chris Valica spoke about the small changes that made a big difference with Giménez, especially getting rid of the leg kick. “His big issue was getting to that front side,” Valaika says. “We wanted to move him to a more consistent place where he could use the ground. With the leg kick, he was losing ground early. The results limited him to that, and he’d get those low top singles.”

By ditching the leg kick, Giménez now uses his lower half more to generate more power, and also comes in at the ball from a slightly lower starting point, so his angle through contact is better – his average launch angle goes up from 8.8 degrees last year to 12.8 This year, its rates in the optimal ranges are up quite a bit as well (for example, between 26-30 degrees, it’s up from 5.8 percent last year to 6.8 percent this year). I think that’s a smaller part of the equation than the way he generates more energy from his legs; Swinging is a little different, but he has gone from slapping the ball using only upper body force to using his entire body to drive the ball, especially along with his drag side. The Guardians take a lot of industry credit for the development work they’ve done on the promotion side, turning a group of right-handers from college into above-average or better freshmen in the big league, but they have a solid reputation. Get less of their striking predictions over the same time period. That may be about to change if their work with Giménez is any indication.

I saw Zach Gallen for the first time in spring training in 2017, nine months after basics Taking it in the third round, he wrote, “It’s a 90-93 cross-body delivery that probably makes it very difficult for right-handers to see the ball against him, but there’s no plus pitch there and I don’t like cross-body deliveries at the start potential. If he doesn’t arrange that, He is a fairly high-risk man for injury.” I think I got one part right, Galen had some arm issues, notably a UCL sprain in 2021, but he has an added advantage – fast ball.

Galen belongs to the class of shooters that I think has been a blind spot for me over the years — right-handed shooters with normal looking fast balls. Some saw their speed improve just after getting into a professional ball, or with a new organization. Shane Pepper Probably the best example, because he was a middle-speed guy in college with elite leadership for his age, then Cleveland elevated Floyd and made him an ace.

According to Baseball Savant, Gallen’s four-pointer has been 14 runs above average this year, even though he’s throwing it about half the time, so hitters are sure to have a look on the field. The pitch rotates at 2,420 rpm, which puts him in the 90th percentile between four threads, and he gets both a whiff and poor contact on the pitch. It probably doesn’t hurt that his tailor-made four-wheel speed has crept in over 1 mph since 2019, although I don’t think that’s the secret to his success or why I’ve been so light on him. Diamondbacks The staff say it’s among the best they’ve ever seen preparing for the games, learning the tendencies of hitters and understanding court sequences and digging tunnels to make better use of his four pitches.

Arizona traded its highest prospect at the time, shortstop Jazz Chisholm Jr., to get Gallen on the deadline to trade in 2019, a deal I criticized because I thought Chisholm would be a star and Galen wouldn’t. Chisholm played as a star when he was healthy and was on his way to the 5+ war season this year when his season ended with a stress fracture in his back. But Gallen is the most valuable player at the moment, and this trade appears to be a win-win and not an easy win for Marlins Which I thought it would be.

Spencer Strider was part of the 2020 Draft class, held in the fourth round by Atlanta because he had a huge fast ball that played all the way around, with speed, spin and movement. At the time, his breaking ball was still a question mark, but I wrote in the last season, when I ranked him as Top 12 Chances in Atlanta (Oops), the plus slider can end up. I’ve also said he’d need a third pitch to be a starter, but that hasn’t been the case at all this year, as he’s been cruising through right and left hitters on his way to what will likely be a Rookie of the Year award-winning season.

Strider fast ball game has been announced; Baseball Savant ranked third in the Four Most Valuable Tailors category in the majors this year, with only 20 throws saved behind it. Justin Verlander‘sand Carlos Rodon‘s. Among the starters, he had the seventh best average on the field, ahead of Verlander and basically tied with Rodon. And this all comes despite the fact that Strider casts Quartet Tailors more often than any other beginner MLB This year: It accounts for 67 percent of his pitches thrown, making him one of only two starters to throw them more than 62 percent of the time along with Washington’s Joan Adon (65 percent), excluding Adon’s fastball It was equal to 17 times less than the average. So maybe he should try decaffeinated coffee.

The Strider slider has gone a step further this year, and that’s a big part of its success, but not where I was wrong. You said he would need a third pitch to be able to turn the line-up a few times, because most Fastball/break ball players end up with huge platoon defections. Strider has a change but it’s an afterthought; He’s thrown it only 8.4% of the time this year against the left, throwing more than eight tailors for four in each change, and he’s even thrown the slider more than twice on the left as he does the shift. It turns out that it is the slider that explains his 22% success against the left. Left-handed hitters swing and miss the Strider slider 2.4 times as much as they used it.

In fairness to the industry, Strider was mostly unknown at the time of the 2020 project; He missed 2019 after Tommy John’s surgery, then only threw 12 innings before the pandemic ended his 2020 college season early. At the time, he was mostly gassing, and there were several reasons to believe he would end up as a savior – the lack of a clear second floor (not to mention a third), the recent injury, and his high walking rate. A full season for Clemson. The development of his passer on the field that left and right hitters spit out was at least somewhat unexpected, and Atlanta officials credit him for the work he did last season to get to this point.


Another quick note about a player I haven’t written about since before the 2019 season: I wrote in my country Astros Deer. Report that spring Framber Valdez He had what made him an elite, but not leadership or control. It took a while, but he got there, cut his walking rate for the third year in a row (not counting the shortened 2020 season), and got under 10 percent for the first time. I don’t think I’ve ever dismissed this as a possibility for Valdez, but I certainly didn’t think it was remotely a possibility.

(Strider top photo: Dale Zanine/USA Today)