While I’m not having a ton of fun right now due to Gavin Lux‘s potential injury, there are a bunch of other stories about the Dodgers right now that could be worth paying attention to.
The Orange County Register: Mookie Betts has bulked up in the off-season in an effort to add strength, so that’s something to look out for.
The Dodgers outfielder reported to spring camp on Thursday and weighed in at 178 pounds – “eight, nine pounds” heavier than he was last season, Betts estimated.
The need to gain strength was Betts’ one takeaway from an offseason visit to Driveline Baseball in Seattle this winter. A sophisticated, data-driven baseball performance facility, Driveline is more known for its work with pitchers but has increasingly been used by hitters as well to analyze their swing.
The Athletic: Speaking of Driveline Baseball, a bunch of Dodgers made the trek this offseason, with an emphasis on their weighted bat program to increase bat speed.
Some, including Betts, also took the new weighted bats from it. The results were noticeable, according to the data — Driveline metrics indicated a jump in bat speed without Betts feeling the need to over-swing.
“It’s a night-and-day difference now than before,” Betts said. “When I tried to swing with the same intent, (back) then it said a certain number. Now, swing with the same intent and I get a different number … the number is the feedback.”
Muncy, 32, has also worked the weighted bats into his routine, hopeful it can at least set a baseline that prolongs his career and brings things back to his pre-injury norms.
“My swing was definitely a lot faster,” Muncy said. “My first couple of live (batting practices), I was really early on everything. So it’s like OK, this is working, so now I’ve got to make sure to dial everything back a little bit. That’s just going to help me a ton.”
One can see the implementation of this in a video recently posted to Mookie’s new YouTube channel.
MLB: A story that rarely gets covered in all the fawning over pitchers adopting a sweeper is those who it didn’t work for, including Ryan Pepiot last year.
His search for consistency started very early in the offseason. Pepiot experimented with a “sweeper” breaking ball last offseason, but it came with negative results. He wasn’t getting the impact he wanted with the pitch and it screwed up his mechanics and grip, particularly with his signature changeup.
Pepiot couldn’t make the adjustment last season, instead waiting until this winter to get back to the basics. He continues to work on a slider, which he believes could help him get even better — especially against left-handed hitters.
So far so good for Pepiot, who debuted yesterday by pumping strike after strike.
Baseball Prospectus: PECOTA still doesn’t believe in Tony Gonsolin, but Brian Menéndez says to believe in a breakout anyway.
This past year, however, he was mostly healthy, and was able to put it all together. While there was still quite a gap between Gonsolin’s 2.14 ERA and his 83 DRA-, he cut his walk rate in half, and his splitter emerged as one of the best pitches in its category. In fact, basically all of his secondary pitches were hard to square up in 2022. At this point, it’s time to just accept the fact that Gonsolin is going to be a DRA overperformer. There’s no more fighting it.
Inclined to agree, as run prevention has never shown to be a problem for him.
Lance Brozdowski posted an interesting video highlighting the specific characteristics the Dodgers seem to look for in a pitcher’s fastball (and also the Yankees with the slider).
FanGraphs: Catcher Yeiner Fernandez has been included in the sleeper candidates for prospects.
What I Like: Young-for-their-level catchers have enough on their plates that merely posting average batting lines can be a struggle. Putting up a superlative line like Fernandez did – nearly as many walks as strikeouts and 28 extra base hits – will always grab my attention. There’s a ceiling on how much power he’ll hit for given his size, but if he gets anywhere near that ceiling, he could hit enough to be a productive major leaguer thanks to the rest of his offensive skill set. Add in the fact that he’s a catcher, and I think there’s something here.
Warning Signs: Higher-level pitching might be tough for Fernandez. I’m skeptical that his 11% walk rate will hold up when he faces pitchers with command and stuff, and he’s going to see a lot of strikes until he proves he can make pitchers pay for it. One tenet of all of the models I’ve built is that contact matters more than power at the lower levels of the minors, but those numbers are based on aggregates across all minor league hitters and might not hold up for players of Fernandez’s stature. Eric compared him to Austin Barnes in his writeup this year. If Fernandez turns in a Barnesian career, I’d count that as a success, but that comp helps temper my enthusiasm somewhat.
FanGraphs: Speaking of prospect stuff, Dalton Rushing, River Ryan, and Josue De Paula were all named as potential candidate to leap into the Top 100 in 2024.
Sports Illustrated: An excellent true crime story for baseball, with the Dodgers getting hit hardest.
Reeves usually hit teams only on their departure, but the L.A. series was the Rockies’ last home stand of the year, and this time he struck on both the Dodgers’ way in and their way out.
The final tally: from the Padres, two Tatis jerseys and a pair of Tatis’s batting gloves; from the Giants, one Cueto jersey, one Sandoval jersey and a Giants COVID-19 face mask; from the A’s, one No. 26 Matt Chapman jersey; and from the Dodgers, three Bellinger jerseys, three Betts jerseys, three Kershaw jerseys, one No. 17 Kelly jersey and a pair of Betts’s batting gloves.
Hey, he knew what was in demand, I guess.
Fox Sports: A Rich Hill story, because who doesn’t love Rich Hill?
A typical pre-start bullpen for a pitcher is usually between 20-25 pitches, 30 at the most. But that night, unable to get his arm loose enough for his liking, Hill kept throwing and throwing and throwing. Wes Johnson, the Twins pitching coach at the time, saw what was happening, but got out of the way and let the veteran hurler cook. By Baldelli’s estimation, Hill’s bullpen ended up around 95 pitches.
“Before first pitch, Wes came up to me and said: ‘I don’t know how long he’s going to be able to go in this one.’”
Somehow, Hill gutted through five scoreless innings on just 68 pitches. He allowed only two hits, struck out just two batters and didn’t throw a pitch over 89 mph. The Twins won 3-0.
Including a sentiment that any Dodger fan would surely echo.
“That guy rules, man,” one quipped. “I’d go to war behind him.”
Finally, this is exactly why I enjoy the pitch clock, at least in theory.
Please … no more injuries.