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Snake Bytes, 3/2: Cuba Libre

A quiet Sunday - not least for the Arizona offense - but there is news from Arizona’s two leading Cuban imports.

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Team news

[The Athletic] Keith Law’s farm system rankings for all 30 MLB teams - 4. Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks traded two major-league stars for a total of seven prospects, but those deals have little to do with their ranking here, with two already graduated and only one of the other five in the team’s top 10. It’s about everything else: very productive drafts, goosed by some extra picks and a little good fortune (e.g., the No. 4 player on my 2019 board, Corbin Carroll, getting to them at pick 16), and some strong early returns on international classes, including a payoff on an early, aggressive effort in the Bahamas. They’re even here despite trading their No. 1 prospect at the time, Jazz Chisholm, to Miami in July.

Reliever Yoan Lopez working to put last year’s struggles behind him - Lopez said he thinks his grip on his four-seam fastball might have been causing an issue with the spin. Though the spin rate on the pitch didn’t change much over the course of the season, it is possible the effectiveness of the spin did – that is, it spun the same but not on the proper axis. “It’s about letting that four-seam fastball grip be more natural,” Lopez said. “Not putting too much pressure on the ball, but letting it more slide off the fingers.” He said he could feel a difference while throwing during the offseason and has been able to confirm, by using pitch-tracking devices at Salt River Fields, that his spin has, in fact, improved.

[] Notes: Tomás sees time at 1B; Gallen's 2nd start - “My belief is that I am a big leaguer, and I’m just looking for the opportunity to show it,” Tomás said in Spanish. “I know what I can do, and I’m confident. I’ve had a lot of success at Triple-A. All I can do is control my work, and the rest is up to the front office. I can’t worry about it.” He is optimistic about his chances to make the club, but he’s also uncertain that anything he does will win him a spot on the big league roster. In the back of his mind, he knows there’s real possibility that he the final year of the six-year, $68 million deal he signed with D-backs before the 2015 season will be spent in the Minor Leagues again. Tomás said. “Everyone is always talking about defense, defense, defense with me. I can make the routine plays and maybe a little above that. I’m not a basestealer, either, but you have to look at me as complete player and what I can contribute.”

And, elsewhere...

[Sports Illustrated] MLB rule changes imminent in wake of Astros scandal - The cleanup in baseball is about to begin. In the wake of the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, Major League Baseball is informing clubs about planned in-game protocols to bar non-uniformed personnel from the clubhouse, close video rooms, turn off all live video feeds except for the replay review monitor, and crack down on the use of “engineered” substance mixtures by pitchers specifically designed to create more spin, not just a better grip—all under the threats of suspensions or firings.

[] Predicting the 2020 MVPs, a ranking - 20) Ketel Marte, 2B, D-backs. The Ketel Marte experience crept up on us all so quickly that it’s difficult to get perspective on it. I mean, if this is who he is -- a middle infielder (back where he should be, now that there’s another Marte in town) with a .981 OPS who’s only 26 -- the D-backs, a fascinating team that is admirably pedaling as fast as they can rather than retreating, suddenly have their own superstar, out of nowhere. Arizona is a tricky team, one that’s a little older than it probably should be, one that has already shown a savvy ability to find improvements on the margins, and they are committed to contending this year. If this is who Marte is now, he’s one of the most important, vital players in the NL. It still feels strange, though, doesn’t it? Ketel Marte … inner-tier superstar!

[Athlon Sports] The Juiced Ball Era is Here... Get Used to It - This season, MLB will implement small rules changes meant to move the game along a bit more smoothly and increase the frequency with which balls are put in play. Those changes, however, will fail to make a dent if the current trends in player development and instruction continue. Teams see hitters without power as essentially disposable, and guys who show promise but have below-average power are often asked to re-engineer their swings and approaches to generate more. A ball that flies as far as it did throughout last regular season will exacerbate that because of the reward for hitting it hard in the air.