Trevor Strunk is an author of Baseball Prospectus and contributor to Short Relief.
Trevor Strunk: Hi everyone! I just got in from teaching and boy are my arms tired -- I'll start answering questions ASAP though, thanks for your brief patience!
For introduction's sake, I'm Trevor. I'm a Phillies fan, a fantasy baseball guy, and a philosophy/aesthetics writer here at Short Relief and elsewhere at BPro. I'm also on twitter at Hegelbon and I think a lot about video games.
Buddy (Peoria, IL): So is this the big break-out year for Sano as one of the AL's elite sluggers?
Trevor Strunk: I have this feeling I can't shake that Sano is never going to be exactly what we expected of him. Most of that has to do with the fact that his expectations were far too sky high to begin with, so it's not really his fault. But I also think he fits the sort of Dayan Viciedo mold too, in that he's a guy who has totally intriguing power and a huge huge propensity for strikeouts and bad OBP.
That's not to say I think he's Viciedo; I think his potential as an impact hitter is pretty special, and I think he could be a top 20 hitter next year. But my guess is that he'll look a bit more like a better OBP Todd Frazier. I'll admit I'd like to be proven wrong on this one.
JM (CT): Please project the top 5 AL closers by number of saves in the AL this season.
Trevor Strunk: Hmmm, good question. I think in terms of pure skills, Britton, Kimbrel, Allen, Diaz, Herrera, Chapman, and Osuna have the best (in no particular order) in the AL. You can make a case for Giles and Dyson or Colome too, but that league is uniquely stacked with incredible relievers.
That said, in terms of opportunity and skills meeting? I'd say, in order of most to least saves, my top five are: Britton, Allen, Diaz, Chapman, and Herrera.
Part of my leaving Osuna and Kimbrel out is that I think the Jays and Sox win more blow out games than the Royals or the Mariners, and I think Herrera and Allen will benefit from being part of one of those legion of doom style philosophy bullpens that keep teams to like .01 runs through the eighth.
Chopper (Indy): In a league that does not value strikeouts, who are the best bets to close most of the season in Miami, Arizona and Milwaukee?
Trevor Strunk: I'm most confident here in Milwaukee, because I actually believe in the strides Neftali Feliz has made (or at least has been reported to have made) in his velocity. I have some shares of AJ Ramos so it pains me to admit that it's likely Kyle Barraclough overcomes him if he even has half of his last year's season, but I think they split the share of saves pretty evenly.
I completely hate the bullpen situation in Arizona and would not want any part of it, so I'll make a bold prediction here. I think Fernando Rodney doesn't really latch on in any real way and that Jake Barrett (while the natural choice to take over as closer) is passed over in favor of Archie Bradley, who becomes a bullpen ace and a top 5 NL closer.
Accudart (VT): Highest ceiling or anyone you can give helium to?
SS Fernando Tatis
OF Taylor Trammell
OF Desmond Lindsay
Trevor Strunk: Out of the group -- and I'm not really super informed on these guys because of their youth, so take the grain of salt for sure -- I'd go with Desmond Lindsay. I think Tatis and Trammell are just as likely to hit in the bigs, but betting on young shortstops is always dicey, and Trammell seems to fit a profile the Reds already have underperforming in AAA. Lindsay's patience and power profile looks a little like a poor man's minor league Mookie Betts, which would have to entice a deep dynasty player or a Mets fan.
Accudart (VT): In order of ceiling and anyone who is a fav of yours..thanks
P Mitchell White
P Oscar DeLaCruz
P Jose Albertos
P Adonis Medina
Big time long term Scoresheet rebuild and these guys are still out there and I have patience and picks to spend on them.
Trevor Strunk: I think in order of ceiling, I'd go De La Cruz, White, Medina, and Albertos. I like all four as Scoresheet guys, inasmuch as you have three in White, De La Cruz, and Albertos who can develop that high K, low BB profile as starters, and one in Medina whose stuff isn't quite playing up to his stats yet, so he can come at a bargain (in the same pre-hype vein as Sixto Sanchez was a few months ago).
That said, I'm always the one lowest on guys like Medina because I stat sheet scout for strikeouts. You miss out on your Kyle Hendrickses that way, but it usually works for the minors. Meanwhile, Albertos has drool-worthy stats but not a ton of proofing time in pro ball to make me confident, and the same goes to a lesser degree with White. De La Cruz seems like the perfect bet overall because of his nice skillset and the relatively robust minor league career (similar in some ways to Medina).
Accudart (VT): Last one:)
Christian Pache, Dakota Hudson and Jhailyn Ortiz..are you high on any of them?
Trevor Strunk: Out of that group, I'm most acquainted (natch) with Jhailyn Ortiz, and I'm surprisingly high on him. After all the rumors that he was a bust or not really the kind of prospect that anyone would expect him to be, he hit the ground running for the Phillies, and reports from some of my friends who scout the minors a bit more than me are positive. Fangraphs' Eric Longenhagen has a Phillies background so he's on point in this regard and he sees him in the same way a lot of folks saw Domingo Santana back in the day.
A. Postate (Dayton): Aside from the statistical implications, do you think there are philosophical implications for every batter supposedly reworking their swing into an uppercut? What about the endless media coverage of the new batting fad?
Trevor Strunk: Ah, interesting! Two answers.
One, I think the aesthetics of the game might suffer for a while as a result. People always gripe about the strikeout being boring from a hitting standpoint, but I can't think of much less I'd like to watch than a lazy deep or pop fly. Obviously, not every hitter is suddenly going to mash 60 home runs because of stat cast, but if even one does, everyone is going to try to emulate it, and we're going to miss out on some of the strange allure of the slap hitter or fine aesthetic appeal of the gap doubles player, which is a shame.
Two, I think the media coverage is going to be brutal. Every streak, we're going to hear about how the player might have changed his swing or how maybe the game needs to be changed. It'll be like the steroid era except we'll just have computer numbers as the scapegoat for lots of dingers. That is, it'll be that way *if* it works. If it doesn't, you're going to be in for a long summer of reporters and bloggers wondering when the power surge will come and positing X struggling player try lifting his launch angle a bit more.
On the other hand though: DINGERS
murber74 (ATL): Do you think the Orioles have a chance of competing in the AL East with their current rotation and bullpen?
Trevor Strunk: I think they do. They have a solid lineup, and I think the Red Sox are more vulnerable than we make them out to be, especially post-Price injury. The Yankees are young, and I think the Blue Jays worked their way into an even firmer 85-88 win window somehow.
That said, you're dead on in your concern. Britton obviously is a special player, but the rest of the bullpen (including, sadly, O'Day) is kind of ordinary. And the rotation is a little rough. You have to squint to see breakouts from Bundy and Gausman, as well as a surprising performance or two from players like Ynoa to see a real surge to a decisive division win. But I think they'll be wild card competitive for sure, and with a couple of breaks, they can contend with a Red Sox team I think is a little overrated (though still quite good!!).
Buddy (Peoria, IL): Obviously Kyle Hendricks won't repeat last year's performance, but how good do you think he'll be in 2017?
Trevor Strunk: My gut says he'll be something like a 3.25 ERA guy with a whip closer to 1.10 than 1.00. I think the strikeout rate is real, as is the walk rate, and he's clearly a good groundball guy, but I also think that park and his stuff mean the home runs have to uptick just a little bit. Still a top 30 pitcher, but probably not a Cy Young candidate.
Buddy (Peoria, IL): Cub fans seem obsessed with the "everyday" lineup this year, even though Maddon used something like 130 different lineups last year. What am I missing?
Trevor Strunk: I think people just want the core to play basically. It's more fun in baseball if you can watch like, a team you grow to appreciate and grow with play together for a full season, gives the team more of a personality. And, especially with Javy Baez who everyone loves, it gets a little personal.
Ultimately, Maddon always makes it feel like even the guys who get 20 AB are part of the core, though, so Cubs fans are just worrying about like the one thing that's even conceivably troubling about their incredibly good team.
Buddy (Peoria, IL): Does Matt Thaiss move quickly through the Angels' system?
Trevor Strunk: He might. It's not like the Angels have a ton of reasons to keep C.J. Cron in an everyday role, not to mention Luis Valbuena. But, I worry about first basemen in the minors. You need to absolutely rake, and he certainly has hit, but too often teams kind of sit back with first basemen until they're fully marinated, or at least that's what I'm inclined to think. I'd say he might get his first cup of coffee this year and be up for good after the trade deadline in 2018, especially if the Angels aren't competitive.
Jim (Boston): If Blake Swihart ever gets 600 at bats what kind of numbers could he put up? Everyone raves about his bat but will we ever see it?
Trevor Strunk: Tough to say, especially with the kind of bat he has. He'd have to be a catcher full-time to really be special as a bat, and if they want to play him in the outfield, he'd have to out-hit already special players to stick. I think, given 600 PA, he could make a run at a 290/350/450 line, which is a top 3 catcher. But as an outfielder, I worry he's not going to see the field enough to make it happen.
Then again, I thought Gary Sanchez wasn't ever going to mature as a prospect, so you can take what I know about catching development and three bucks and be able to buy a cup of coffee.
Buddy (Peoria, IL): Are you on board the Gsellman train?
Trevor Strunk: Yep, I'm definitely there. He's got that whole Warthen Guy Makes Something Out Of Nothing mystique, and he has a spot in the rotation now. I'm buying on him whereever I can in fantasy.
Jackson (NY): Does Steven Matz have Ace upside? Obviously an injury risk but how good is his stuff?
Trevor Strunk: I go back and forth on Matz. His numbers have sort of that soft-ace upside of a Danny Duffy or Aaron Sanchez, which is deeply valuable, but I also don't really think he has another gear at this point. In this way he's kind of similar to his teammate in Jacob deGrom, who is incredibly good at pitching, but not a Syndergaard, Kershaw, Scherzer type True Ace.
I guess the bottom line is, he's probably good enough to head up a staff, but if you're talking best 10 pitchers in baseball, I'm skeptical.
Terry (Philly): Aaron Nola gets rave reviews everywhere but gets rocked everywhere he pitches... even this spring.. what gives?
Trevor Strunk: The easy answer here is injury and bad luck, though that's not exactly satisfying. I think those have a lot to do with his struggles, particularly as a low innings count magnifies a few bad games, and his underlying skills look incredible. I think he has the makeup and the stuff to succeed of course, but just handwaving the bad results away is problematic.
If you twisted my arm, I'd say Nola is probably homer prone his whole career. The Phillies took him at 4 knowing he was a fast riser who has a ceiling as a 2 and a floor of a 4, which is a pretty savvy way to lock in value on a team that's desperate for talent. That said, that kind of player has deficiencies, and I think the longball is gonna be Nola's, talent notwithstanding.
dianagram (VORGville): Fill in the blanks:
Jorge Alfaro will be the starting catcher for the (MLB team) no later than (Month/Year).
Trevor Strunk: Jorge Alfaro will be the starting catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies no later than April 1, 2018.
RDBL2014 (San Francisco): Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna or Mickey Moniak?
Hunter Greene or Michael Kopech?
Trevor Strunk: Soto in fantasy, Moniak in real life. Kopech for both because he's just closer.
Buddy (Peoria, IL): Which player makes a quantum leap from being good to great this year?
Trevor Strunk: I want to say Alex Bregman because I'm hoping it's true for my fantasy team, but I'll go with my gut and say Addison Russell. Obviously, 3.9 fWAR is good, and he was solid last year for the Cubs. But I think he's tinkering with his launch angle (see previous skeptical post about launch angles), and he has power potential yet given his youth. If he can add pop to his repertoire, that would be something special.
Buddy (Peoria, IL): I kind of like Zach Davies as a breakout candidate this year. What say you?
Trevor Strunk: Love that pick, honestly. If we've seen anything over the past few years, it's that pitchers who don't have that classic strikeout power profile sneak under the radar badly, and Davies has done that up until this year. I think the hype he's getting is justified, and if he can tick up his strikeouts while softening his home runs, he'll be effectively the best pitcher on the Brewers.
Bubba Gump (the boat): should Brewer fans be content with more food and beer kiosks and a $60m payroll until it makes sense to spend the money or is fat, drunk and stupid no way to go through life?
Trevor Strunk: I disagree with America's esteemed Dean -- life is tremendous if you're full of good food, and I don't think my book learnin' has got me all that much happiness. Plus I mean drunk my lord. I think we were never meant to take him seriously at all -- the Animal House is clearly the hero of that film.
Anyway where was I? Ah yes -- just enjoy it, I'd say. There's nothing better than a non-committal trip to get food and beers outside to see a bad baseball team. No stress, no expectations -- and with good leadership in place, the Brewers will compete again in a couple of years, so you can say you were there from the start.
dianagram (VORGville): You are the manager of the Phillies (congrats). Where do you bat Maikel Franco this year, and where should you have batted him last year?
Separately, what do you see as Franco's most likely slash line in his prime?
Trevor Strunk: Wow, what an honor. I think Franco should have been batted 6th last year, even though he was likely the best power hitter on the team, because his profile is such that he can really suffer if he starts to press. Since he did really suffer when he started to press, I'd probably hit him 7th to start the year, and then slowly bump him up as he picked up steam (if he picked up steam). The nice thing about the 2017 Phillies is that they won't compete, so you don't have to worry about strategy in lineup formation, if such a thing even exists. You can just use it to boost Franco's confidence, which is your bigger longterm concern.
In terms of slash line? I think 270/320/500 is a nice Best Year Scenario for Franco.
Buddy (Peoria, IL): Is that guy still sending Tom Cruise lines from "A Few Good Men" to all the BP chats? Haven't seen them posted in a while.
Trevor Strunk: Lol, perfect last question. No he did not send me any quotes, and it's because HE CANT HANDLE MY TRUTH.
Trevor Strunk: All right, thanks everyone! I had a blast -- can't wait to do it again soon.