February has finally arrived and we here at Bless You Boys couldn’t be happier. Obviously, the current state of our beloved Detroit Tigers is plenty of cause to have found the past four months excruciating. Having games to watch, and young players to dream on is the only cure for a bleak (and just plain dull) offseason. But this extends well behind the home team.
Whatever Major League Baseball’s hopes were entering this offseason, the narrative hasn’t exactly been good news for the game. Yes, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign free agent contracts sometime in the coming weeks. The emergence of the San Diego Padres as a possible player has given a bit of late seasoning to that mix, as well. They will be followed by a tide of smaller deals as the board finally resets itself fully for the 2019 season.
Unfortunately, for the second consecutive season, a point in the year that should be full of optimism and intrigue remains decidedly negative in tone. Most analysis has centered around players’ flaws, rather than their strengths. And too many pundits seem to be locking in step with intricate rationalizations of what simply appears a desire among MLB owners to pocket a bigger share of a growing pile of cash flowing into the game. It isn’t helping popular opinion that MLB is working to pass even more legislation through state governments to exempt minor league players from state minimum wage laws and other worker protections.
There were a few bits of news on Thursday
Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies agreed to a $26 million deal, breaking Josh Donaldson’s previous record of $23 million for an arbitration-eligible player. Here we see the potential path ahead to avoiding labor strife, with players getting paid more earlier in their career. Of course, few are as good as Arenado, so we will have to see if more players take their cases to arbitration, and whether the estimates and awards increase.
Meanwhile, the Houston Astros broke their silence, inking veteran starter Wade Miley to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, plus incentives. Our friends at The Crawfish Boxes like the move. This time of year, a lot of baseball preview magazines are set to hit the newstands; it will be interesting how they forecast teams with so much uncertainty remaining. They might have to start pushing back those release dates next year. Of course, if you think free agency is weird now, check out the tale of Nap Lajoie.
Keith Law ranks 3 Tigers in top 100 prospects
ESPN’s Keith Law released his top 100 list this week — behind the Insider/ESPN+ paywall — and the Tigers aren’t exactly blowing him away with their rebuilt farm system. That said, they did place three players on the list. Law was just about the highest we have seen on Casey Mize, ranking him 15th overall. Matt Manning and Daz Cameron checked in at 65th and 68th, respectively. It’s good to see Cameron get a nod after a strong 2018 season. As for Isaac Paredes and Franklin Perez, they have a little convincing still to do for a lot of prospect watchers, which is interesting.
Flatground is finding a home for pitchers
Many of you who read the site are familiar with the Twitter account @PitchingNinja. Rob Friedman, the man behind the account, uses gifs to highlight the best in pitching and in pitching instruction, and is probably the best baseball follow this side of Ken Rosenthal. In recent weeks, Friedman has developed another project called FlatGround. Simply put, unattached pro and amateur pitchers send in clips of themselves pitching, and get free advice from coaches, including several from Driveline Baseball, and even the occasional major leaguer who drops by. The exposure is sometimes just for fun, such as a lot of great videos of little leaguers showing off their nastiest stuff.
You get stuff like this.
Got our work in today. No excuses. All gyms were being used by our basketball teams and it was raining sideways. Proud of my pitchers and catchers for getting after it. @FlatgroundApp featuring my uncommitted 2019 3B/P Miguel Martinez Jr. #800Hallway pic.twitter.com/eusBW2WCIW— Davis Falcons (@_davisbaseball) January 31, 2019
Or you get the eye-popping dodgeball form of this truly ill-intented young hurler.
Dodgeball Girl deserves a PitchingNinja gif. pic.twitter.com/2WRRXwXb2e— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) January 29, 2019
With FlatGround, things have taken on a whole new dimension as a host of uncommitted pitchers have been noticed by coaches and snatched up.
And then there’s the story of Chris Nunn. As brought to you in a fine longform piece by R.J. Anderson for CBS Sports, Nunn broke Twitter as a 6’5 lefty throwing 99 miles per hour in his clips. The former Milwaukee Brewer had all but retired by 2016, but cited a short stint with the Astros in 2017 for opening his eyes to the possibility of training with real-time data. He rebuilt himself mentally and physically in true do-it-yourself style. And on Thursday, thanks to FlatGround’s reach and exposure, Nunn signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.
Around the horn
Former SB Nation writer Marc Normandin has a piece for Deadspin on how baseball’s luxury tax became the hard salary cap it was meant to avoid. The Chicago Tribune smells something fishy in MLB free agency. Jason Beck answered reader mail over at MLB.com. ESPN took a look at each team’s worst free agent contract on the books. Commissioner Rob Manfred has reinstated former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia after he was banned from the game for life for failing three PED tests. Meija signed with the Red Sox, and players, including Justin Verlander, are not happy. Finally, Driveline Baseball has a good explainer on Bauer Units, and what they mean for pitcher spin rate and axis. Enjoy.