Opening day is right around two weeks away, and although summer camp has only recently opened, the various clubs are sorting out their rosters. With the division races being even more important than before, I’m going to be keeping you informed of the twists and turns of all the clubs in the NL Central this year.
7/1/20: Added 3B Elehuris Montero to the Summer Camp Roster. 45 players on both the Summer Camp Roster and the Club Player Pool (CPP) (37 40-man roster players, 1 player on the 60-day IL and 7 NRIs).
Initially the Cards announced a 44-man Summer Camp Roster, and only RHP Alvaro Seijas and Montero were left off of the list. It wasn’t too long after it was announced that the Cards were adding Montero to the list that he tested positive for COVID-19 along with Genesis Cabrera and Ricardo Sanchez. As of yet, there is no need to make a COVID-19 Related Injury List move, because the Cards still have several spots to reach the 60-player threshold. Seijas is still being treated as on optional assignment to the minors. He may not be recalled from optional assignment until he is first added to the CPP, but this is unlikely to be a concern.
7/7/20: Added RHP Seth Elledge, LHP Rob Kaminsky and LHP Zack Thompson to the Summer Camp Roster. 48 players on both the Summer Camp Roster and the CPP (37 40-man roster players, 1 player on the 60-day IL and 10 NRIs).
This was not announced on the Cardinals’ Twitter page, and it looks like the club is being a little lax in the transaction reporting. Credit goes to Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch for reporting it first. Elledge was invited to the first spring training, but was assigned to the minor leagues in the first cut. Both Kaminsky and Thompson lasted until the shutdown. I’m not sure if there’s any conclusion you can draw at all from adding Elledge at this stage. Jesus Cruz, Bryan Dobzanski, Even Kruczynski, Matthew Liberatore, Tommy Parsons and Roel Ramirez were all NRI pitchers that made it until the end of the shutdown of the first spring training, and thus lasted longer than Elledge. None of them have been invited to camp yet. Maybe it’s just a matter of logistics, and maybe it means nothing at all. I just found it interesting. These three newly-added players are expected to join the Alternate Training Site in Springfield, which is scheduled to open on July 14th.
Jordan Hicks is still in a weird transactional space. He is not on the 40-man roster. He was placed on the 60-day IL back in February and has not been activated. Players on the 60-day IL do not count against the 40-man roster or the CPP. Yet he is on the Summer Camp Roster and CPP, most likely because the club wanted to get Hicks screened so that he could get some work in the presence of the coaching staff before the Alternate Training Site opens. Mike Shildt has said that Hicks will not be ready to pitch by opening day, so I’m not sure where they are going to put him. My guess is that he will be sent to Springfield to try to stay sharp. While it is a little strange, there is apparently no rule that says a club may not use a CPP spot on a 60-day IL player. The Pirates took a similar course with Jameson Taillon, who is also recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Carlos Martinez has a reprieve, for the time being anyway. He was on the tainted flight with Genesis Cabrera, Ricardo Sanchez and Elehuris Montero, but he has been screened and cleared, and participated in workouts for the first time last night. Of the 48 players in camp, Genesis Cabrera, Ricardo Sanchez, Giovanny Gallegos, Alex Reyes and Elehuris Montero have yet to work out with the club. With Hicks unavailable to start the year, Brebbia out for the year, Gallegos stuck in Mexico, Reyes still having not worked out, Carlos Martinez just starting, and both Cecil and Andrew Miller coming off of injuries, you would not be wrong in worrying a bit about our bullpen, even with a 16-man or 17-man staff. Who would have though that would be an issue going into the year?
7/7/20: Invited IF Hernan Perez to summer camp as an NRI. 51 Players now on the CPP.
This move is not a big splash, and I’m unsure whether Perez has been assigned to the summer camp roster or the Alternate Training Site in South Bend. My guess would be South Bend, because the primary site has Javier Baez, David Bote, Daniel Descalso and Nico Hoerner as 40-man roster middle infielders. Jason Kipnis is a non-roster 6-year free agent on a minor league deal that can opt out of his contract if he is not added to active roster by opening day. He’s a strong candidate to make the club. I can’t figure Perez will get much work there. He’s more likely going to be sent to South Bend, where 40-man infielder Robel Garcia is working, and that assignment would place 12 players at that location.
Yu Darvish throws 11 pitches. I found it skeptical at first, and maybe some of the pitches are just one pitch that changes speeds, but this article shows a video of a new split-finger/two-seamer combination pitch. I wonder if he’s named it the Eliminator? Within that article is a link to another article that shows video of Darvish’s 10 other pitches.
The Reds have announced Sonny Gray as their opening day starter. Of all pitchers that threw at least 500 curveballs last year, Gray has the highest average spin rate (2988 RPMs). That’s right, Skyric learned how to Statcast. Hide your kids, hide your wife. Hide your husbands too, because once I learn how to embed graphs from Statcast onto this site, it’s going to be a wild season. The Reds’ rotation could be very dangerous, particularly if Luis Castillo gets even better. Of all pitchers that threw at least 500 changeups last year, he got the most swings and misses by far on that pitch (277, with the next closest being Joey Lucchesi at 169). Warning: if you learn how to play around with the Statcast search features, you will have fun, but it can lead to an hours-wasting, never-ending rabbit hole.
On a transactional oddity front, the Reds assigned OFs Aristedes Aquino, Travis Jankowski and Scott Schebler as 40-man roster players to their Alternate Training Site in Mason, Ohio. That by itself is not odd. The interesting thing is that those players were not optioned to the minor leagues before the first transaction freeze in March. These assignments have not been reported as options to the minor leagues. It has been announced in the Operations Manual that players that are optioned will be treated as being optioned to the ATS. Jankowski and Schebler are both out of options. So I am going to say that MLB is treating pre-opening day assignments to the ATS as just temporary placements and not official transactions/options. Then, when opening day rosters are officially set, we’ll officially see teams option the 40-man roster players who don’t make the cut to the ATS. The Reds just have appeared to make those assignments to balance out the squads.
The Pirates have announced that Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, Mitch Keller and Derek Holland will be the first four starters, at least for now. They have discussed using Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl as a piggyback option for the fifth spot. Brault was shut down early in the first camp with a shoulder problem and Kuhl missed all of 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t thrown in a major league game since June 26th of 2018.
Holland is not even on the 40-man roster, having been invited to camp as an NRI after the Chicago Cubs declined his 2020 option. He began 2019 in the Giants rotation, was banished to the bullpen after he pitched terribly, then was sold to the Cubs for cash.
I’m not going to continue to provide a running update of all the known COVID cases in my articles this year, because to do so would just artificially inflate the length of each piece. I’ll keep you apprised of any issues within the division or any eye-popping cases. For the most recent update on the number of positive tests, check out this ESPN article by Marly Rivera. It looks like the official count of positive intake tests is now 66, with 58 of that number being players.
For now, just understand that potential COVID cases are being officially listed as placements on the 10-day IL without a reason, IF they are officially reported at all. Any time you see that, you can fairly conclude that that player has been placed on either the major league or minor league COVID-19 Related IL. Actually, there may not be separate major and minor league lists for COVID like there is for every other list. The fact is, however, that every time a club has announced a COVID case and then made a transaction with that player, the MLB.com transaction page, without fail, has described that player as being placed on the 10-day IL without a reason. The only thing I can figure is that the MLB.com website and its associated team pages haven’t been properly coded to reflect that there is a COVID-19 Related Injury List. If true, this would not be a surprise, because those pages still don’t report selections in the Rule 5 draft as Rule 5 draft selections. Instead they call selections in both the major league and minor league phase as “waiver claims,” which is not even close.
It’s also a mystery, because we have been told that the COVID-19 Related Injury list will not be public. Some of the players that have been placed on the list have been discussed publicly, others have not. If you want to find out when teams make a COVID-19 related transaction, just watch for 10-day IL placements without a reason. Clubs that don’t need the extra CPP space may not even bother.