Thursday was the biggest day of the year for the game of baseball, as we ushered in another season. As to be expected, media coverage was non-stop with Twitter feeds all across the country packed with initial roster and play-by-play analysis. Unfortunately, that level of coverage isn’t necessarily sustained beyond Opening Day. Luckily, we at Baseball Essential have you covered throughout the season. While five college classes, and the added responsibility of three jobs hinders my ability to promise the exceptionally long and in-depth weekly round-up pieces from last season, I will certainly do my best to continue helping the rest of our excellent staff in keeping you as informed as humanly possible. Without further ado, let’s get into the news from day two!
The Seattle Mariners picked up catcher Tom Murphy from the San Francisco Giants in a minor move that cost them right-handed pitching prospect Jesus Ozoria. While the Mariners had an open 40-man roster spot, David Freitas was optioned to Triple-A to accommodate the move. This is a solid move for the Giants, as they took advantage of their waiver priority to acquire a pretty solid pitching prospect in Ozoria.
Ozoria is a 20-year-old right-handed hitter who is currently pitching in Rookie Ball. He had a nice 2018, posting a 2.19 ERA with a 2.24 FIP, as well as a 10.76 K/9 and a 1.28 BB/9. His BABIP and LOB numbers were sustainable, but I’m not so sure about his HR/FB rate. He has allowed two home runs over his career, both coming in 2018, despite a 41.0 percent fly ball rate next to a 39.3 percent groundball rate. He’s also a bit older than his competition at this point. My expectation is that he begins the 2019 season with the Arizona League Giants. I don’t love making predictions for players below full-season ball, but I will say that there is legitimate major league potential here.
The one thing that I don’t love about this move for the Giants is that it also cost them Merandy Gonzalez, who was claimed by the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday, after being designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Tom Murphy. While he’s by no means a guarantee, he has an above average changeup and solid velocity. I, personally, wouldn’t give up on him as a starter just yet, but the expectation is that he’s moved to the bullpen in the long-term.
As for the Mariners’ side of the deal, Murphy is a nearly 28-year-old catcher who has very strong power potential. At this point, he’s going to serve as Omar Narvaez‘s primary backup. My projections have him at a .204/.258/.434 batting line with a 162-game counting stat projections of 32 doubles, three triples, 22 home runs, and 75 RBIs. That being said, it’s highly unlikely that he comes anywhere near that game total for the Mariners this season. His glove isn’t great, but he should be a decent fill-in for the time being. It wasn’t that long ago that he was ranked as the 97th best prospect in baseball by baseballamerica.com (pre-2016), and he’s done nothing but mash in Triple-A since, albeit in the Pacific Coast League; there’s some level of intrigue in this deal.
The Cleveland Indians brought in Cameron Maybin on a minor-league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus. The nearly 32-year-old outfielder struggled in camp, both on and off the field, posting a .163/.250/.233 batting line while being arrested for a DUI midway through camp. Maybin joins a crowded outfield mix in Columbus that also includes Oscar Mercado, Brandon Barnes, Andrew Calica, Carlos Gonzalez, Trayce Thompson, Mike Papi, Connor Marabell, and Daniel Johnson. As the deadline to set minor-league rosters approaches, there is sure to be some roster shuffling.
The Baltimore Orioles made a pair of additions to their minor-league system. The first, and more notable name, is outfielder Mason Williams, who was cut loose by the Cincinnati Reds last week. While the 27-year-old struggled over 20 plate appearances in camp, he’s coming off a 2018 season in which he slashed .293/.331/.398 over 132 plate appearances for the Reds. While his .370 BABIP suggests that he’s likely to face some level of regression, his Triple-A batting line of .280/.341/.418 seemed to be more sustainable, as it came with a .324 BABIP over nearly triple the plate appearances. My projections have him slashing .237/.282/.334 with a 162-game projection of 25 doubles, five triples, six homers, 48 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. He lands in a nice situation with the rebuilding Orioles and could earn himself a call-up sooner rather than later.
The other addition, infielder Yeltsin Gudino, is a 22-year-old in A-ball. He’s an excellent fielder, as he’s posted range factors of 4.74 (shortstop), 4.96 (second base), and 2.97 (third base), all of which are well above average. Offensively, however, he’s nothing special. He doesn’t strike out much and walks at an average to slightly above average rate, but lacks power, contact ability, and stolen base speed. He’s probably going to be assigned to Class A Advanced Frederick, and could eventually make it up as a strict defensive replacement, but is more likely to provide depth.
The Cubs brought in infielder Dixon Machado on a minor-league deal. Machado has spent a lot of time in the major leagues since 2015 and has been an excellent defensive infielder. My projections have him slashing .250/.326/.325 while posting excellent defensive numbers at both middle infield positions. He doesn’t offer much else in terms of offensive tools, but serves as a more than capable depth piece in Triple-A.
Finally, it was announced that Angels outfielder Justin Upton will miss eight-12 weeks due to his toe injury and Brewers closer Corey Knebel will undergo Tommy John surgery. For the time being, Josh Hader and Jacob Barnes will receive the majority of save opportunities in Milwaukee while Peter Bourjos handles left field in Anaheim. I would imagine that Bourjos will be given every opportunity to hold it down for the time being, but the Brewers could very well look outside for some help. Craig Kimbrel is obviously still available and seems to make too much sense for the Brewers. This is purely speculation, but it should be an interesting storyline to follow.