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SnakePit Round Table: The Beginning of the End?

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Or the end of the beginning?

Sackgasse... Photo by Henry Herrmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

So, how’s it going?

Michael: Considering the draft is over and the country has descended into chaos, my sanity is starting to fray a bit. Not much to do these days other than to lament what happened and figure out how to best deal with those things moving forward.

Turambar: Finally employed once more (as of Monday last week). Great to be out of the hotel world too, thank God. Besides that my wife and I are still stressing about the pandemic, society fraying and all other 2020 fun. We’re chugging along quite well despite all that, thank goodness she’s an amazing cook.

Makakilo: I strive to fill each day with beauty, wonder, conversation, challenge, surprise, appreciation of friends, and small adventure. There is no room for boredom. There is no room for fear.

As Oahu reopens, the daily average (latest three days) of new reported cases in Oahu is rising quickly, from zero on May 26, to 3 on June 5, to 16 on June 19. I will continue to wear my mask!

Jack: I feel so accomplished when I turn out a great batch of compost and it helps my veggies grow

James: Good times, bad times, you know I had my share. Still waiting for some answers that are going to significantly shape the next 3-5 years of my life (if not more). If someone could just get on that…

Wesley: I am doing better than I have in a very long time. I actually met someone, and I’m really happy. I’m actually looking for traditional work now, and really doing everything I can to make it work. It is nice to be motivated by love. I’m motivated enough that I’m learning Tagalog, since that is her first language. I’m actually learning it much faster than I thought I would.

Steven: Pretty good, all things considered. Work has been fulfilling and taking more walks has helped break up the monotony.

Are you more optimistic or pessimistic about a 2020 season than two weeks ago?

Michael: I still think it’s 50/50, so neither more or less optimistic. It’s going to come down to how much risk both sides, especially the players, want to take in terms of health and safety.

Turambar: Much less optimistic. Honestly we’re at a point where wave-2 of Covid could already be upon us, making this bickering between the MLBPA and MLB meaningless. I’m about 20/80 this season will happen at all, and I hate even thinking that.

Makakilo: I’m uncertain whether an agreement can be reached on money, and it’s likely that such an agreement would be denied the next day. Overshadowing that uncertainty is a rising rate of new COVID cases. Although I’m an optimist, the odds are 50% of a 2020 season agreement that sticks AND a 2020 season that is NOT ended by COVID before a World Series happens.

  • New COVID cases in traditional spring training states (Florida and Arizona) are at record highs. Conducting training before starting the season will be a challenge.
  • There are reports of infected baseball players and infected staff. Will new cases of COVID end the season well before the playoffs?

Jack: I think even if they start, they’ll never be able to finish. 0 % confident in a 2020 being concluded.

James: My overall confidence level has waffled considerably over the last few weeks, but has always leaned heavily towards not playing. After the last week of events, I would put it at about 70% convinced there is no season. I do think that there is a fear of baseball being gone for too long hurting the sport’s future. However, if the NBA begins to run into more problems or if the NHL has more positive tests, I could see MLB dodging the “gone for too long” bullet. However, I am firmly in the same camp as Jack on a season being completed. Even if Manfred does mandate a shortened season, I just don’t see it making it to the end, including playoffs, before they are forced to shut it all down again due to COVID-19.

Steven: 0%. COVID hotspots have destroyed any chance of a season.

Wesley: I am not very optimistic. As they keep going back and forth, and time keeps passing without an agreement place, it becomes less and less likely a season will happen.

Plans include advertising on shirts and extra innings beginning with a man on second. Are you in favor of these changes?

Michael: Covering that particular rule change for the minor league recaps last year, I will not mince words, it’s complete bull spit. I’d much rather see baseball have 3 extra innings at most and after 12 innings call it a tie. In regards to the advertising on jerseys, I don’t necessarily think it will be an issue with a team as new as the D-backs, but I’d like to see who steps up to the plate here. It’s been a thing for European soccer leagues and the NBA just recently had a policy change. I’m not sure who’d be on the D-backs jerseys (either left or right shoulder).

Turambar: Don’t care, give me baseball, even if it means Dbacks unis being sponsored by Castle Megastore.

Makakilo: Advertising on shirts is a great idea only if it makes possible an agreement between MLB and MLBPA.

The purpose of starting extra innings with a runner on second is to shorten the game. An alternative is to end the game as a tie after 9 innings. In my view, the alternative is less of a change to the rules of baseball.

Jack: I don’t like either proposal. Especially don’t like starting with a man on second. Probably ambivalent about the advertising on uniforms. Would prefer not, but it won’t bother me a lot if they eventually do that.

James: I’m already rather turned off by the Nike swoosh being on the jerseys. Advertising patches will be even worse. Talk is that it would be only for 2020, and possibly 2021 if there are still restrictions on fans in stadiums. I’m not sure I buy that. If it is true, I would probably get over it quickly. I fully appreciate that some steps need to be taken to try and recoup some of those revenue losses.

As for starting a man on second - HELL NO!

Wesley: If you have read my MiLB recaps of extra innings games, you’d know I HATE the autorunner rule with a passion. Advertising on jerseys doesn’t affect the game like that does. JUST GIMME MY BASEBALL BACK!

Steven: Don’t mind the advertisements, and actually not too concerned about the runner on 2nd. We use the same rule set for softball and it cleans up extra inning games pretty quick.

How will you react if the 2020 season ends up being canceled?

Michael: It depends on what reason the season gets nuked, I might be less inclined to watch until the next CBA is done with (I still will do the Minor League stuff and perhaps invest more time and energy into that). I think it will be because of financial reasons that separate the union and owners, although I expect some statement to come out blaming the virus if that happens. There’s a lot of things that have to be sorted out, such as what determines who gets lumped in the high-risk bracket (in my opinion, it should extend only to the players and immediate families/whoever lives in their households in the US) and the protocol for dealing with players who test positive for the virus. I still think once the financials are figured out, the rest will come into place and the season will be put into motion.

Turambar: Depressed. No season will signal how much worse this Covid crisis has become and it will also signal the downfall of baseball. No that’s hyperbole, that’s very much a distinct possibility. Baseball’s already been on the downswing for years and a cancelled season could signal the end of MLB as we know it.

Makakilo: Stay calm, control my breathing, and bounce back quickly.

Jack: I’m already in the latter stages of mourning the 2020 season. Acceptance.

James: I will continue living vicariously through simulated seasons and move on. I have already come to terms with there being no baseball in 2020. The question I am still not certain of the answer of is, how am I going to feel about baseball when it eventually returns? A ton of changes could be coming and so could a lot of ugly negotiations. How much will my love of the sport suffer?

Wesley: I’m already mourning this season, so I will just accept it, much like jack.

Steven: I’ve already accepted it, like most others.

The 2020 MLB draft took place. Did you notice, and if so, what did you think?

Michael: I have two articles up on the Snake Pit, recapping each day of the draft, that I welcome everyone to read and discuss. Bryce Jarvis wasn’t originally on my radar at 18 until I saw the mock drafts the morning before the draft. Jarvis himself is about as close to a sure thing as an MLB contributor as you can get that deep in the draft given the number of L/L outfielders the team drafted and signed up the last two years. After reading about Jarvis and his ability to easily grasp concepts of modern pitch design and the work ethic he showed in improving his body last summer, I am very optimistic about his ability to succeed in MLB. He only needs about a year and a half of work in the minors (at least a full year’s worth of pitching for at least High A and above) before I think he’s ready to pitch in the rotation.

While I consider Jarvis a sure thing, the other 4 players in the draft class are anything but. Each of them have significant risks and hurdles to overcome to reach their ceiling.

  • Slade Cecconi: Can he improve his conditioning so he can maintain his stuff when he’s 75 pitches into his starts and will be able to develop a 3rd reliable pitch to keep hitters off his bread and butter FB/SL combo. If not, we’re probably looking at a bridge or fireman reliever then. Like Jarvis, Cecconi has experience working out at Driveline so I think he’ll take the necessary venues to get better. Prediction: Signs for full slot value ($2.2M)
  • Liam Norris: Can Norris throw strikes with any reliability? He’s not exceptionally athletic (which is what separates him from guys like the uber-athletic Blake Walston and Robbie Ray, who is a workout freak), but is at peak physical projection (6’4” 215) and solid raw physical stuff. He’s the type of guy who could benefit with an offseason or two working out at a facility like Driveline. Prediction: Signs for $1M
  • AJ Vukovich: I’m not worried about what position he’ll play, I’d put 90% odds he ends up at either 1B/LF/DH (probably looking at -1.0 dWAR at best per season anyway) as his primary position in MLB instead of 3B (if he can stick at 3B, then this pick is a steal IMO). The three stats I’ll be monitoring are GB%, BB%, and BB/K, because what will make/break his offensive value is his ability to impact the game when he’s not hitting home runs and he’ll hit a lot. By the time he completes AA, I want to see under 40%, above 10%, and above 0.4 for all 3 metrics. Prediction: Signs for $800K
  • Brandon Pfaadt: I see this mostly as a pick that’s significantly under slot (probably looking at a 5-figure bonus here) where the savings that he and Jarvis (who I think signs for around $3MM) provide at their picks makes all possible. Despite the D-2 pedigree, there is a small track record of success going back to the last summer at the Cape. He’ll need to develop a change-up in order to stick as a bottom of the rotation arm, but the FB/CB combo could play up as a reliever otherwise.

Based on the direction they went in the draft, it looks like the organization is pushing all their chips into 2022, where most of the current core is still around the first tsunami (Carroll, Thomas, Robinson, Jarvis) of prospects is expected to arrive in MLB.

Makakilo: Three observations of the Diamondbacks:

In the first round, the Diamondbacks took two college pitchers. Perhaps it’s wise to pick pitchers from college instead of high school, judging by the first-round-picks of High-School-pitchers was the lowest ever.

Outfielder Pete Crow Armstrong (PCA) was available but the Diamondbacks picked pitcher Bryce Jarvis instead. My question is, “Did they pick the best prospect available or did they need to pick a pitcher?”

Needed a pitcher:

  • They have three very talented outfield prospects who are (or should be) in the top 100 prospects in baseball (Kristian Robinson, Alek Thomas, and Corbin Carroll), not to mention two dark horses (Daulton Varsho who could switch from catcher to outfield, and Ben DeLuzio who has extreme speed).
  • They picked Bryce Jarvis instead of PCA with the 18th pick, when Keith Law had ranked PCA as the 11th highest prospect. Also, PCA has mental strengths.

Jarvis was the best prospect:

  • They picked Bryce Jarvis over Cade Cavalli, a highly ranked college pitcher who was available. The Diamondbacks ranked Jarvis higher than Cavalli!
  • Bryce Jarvis used Driveline technology to improve his pitching. His ability to improve made him a better prospect than PCA.
  • “He is fluent in pitch-development technologies like Rapsodo and motion-capture training software.” – Zach Buchanan.
  • In the fall he added 25 pounds of muscle which will improve his pitching.
  • As a sophomore he had mononucleosis which impacted his results in the short term but not in the long term.

In the 33rd pick, the Diamondbacks picked Slade Ceccini over Justin Lange. Both pitchers have potential but need a third pitch. Perhaps the deciding factor was Slade Ceccini was a college pitcher and Justin Lange was a High School pitcher.

Observations on draft order: Players who were picked sooner than expected included Kjerstad (2, OF), Crochet (11, P), Yorke (17, P), and Tucker (23,SS). Players who were picked later than expected included Martin (5,SS), Armstrong (19, OF), Mitchell (20, OF), Cavalli (22, P), Bitsko (24, P), and Soderstrom (26, C).

Jack: I was mostly hoping they came away with one or two guys that had the potential to be an ace starter. Is Jarvis that guy ? I don’t know. I’m more encouraged now than I was when they first made the pick. I wanted Jared Kelley. White Sox took him on the 2nd day. We’ll see what happens.

James: I was doing plenty of pre-draft research, so yes, I noticed that the draft came and went. I still think that limiting the draft to five rounds was a farce. I also think dragging the five rounds out over two days was completely unnecessary, especially given the other issues going on. Did we really need Rob Manfred dedicating two whole days to this event while negotiations for holding a 2020 season were in a perilous state? Couldn’t Manfred have sent someone else to take care of the draft and stayed focused on making sure games can be played amicably?

As for the talent selected, I give the Diamondbacks a B+. I might even go so far as to give them an A-. I guess this comes down to how one feels about the talent level of Bryce Jarvis. I’m not convinced he was the best talent available on the board. I personally think he was probably in the 5-7 range. But, I also feel that the talent levels were close enough that any of the names towards the top of the “best player available” list could be shuffled. It is not as though Peter Crow-Armstrong was head and shoulders better in the talent department than Jarvis.

Turambar: There was a draft? In all seriousness though, no I didn’t pay attention, especially with the Minor Leagues effectively destroyed and this season almost toast. Do we even know how rookies will get in to the majors going forward?????

Wesley: Since I helped with the draft coverage, obviously I noticed it. Not terribly thrilled with our first round pick Jarvis, but I actually like him more now than when we selected him. I’m pretty happy with the draft, though a five round draft is terrible.

Steven: I followed it, purely out of boredom honestly. And I don’t know much about any of the guys to make any kind of call. Seemed like they were trying to replace the guys they traded away in the Starling Marte deal.

What one place in the world would you most want to visit?

Michael: If you asked me a year ago, I would have said a Games Done Quick event and do a speedrun in front of 2000 people live and another 150k on the internet. I’m still interested in trying to do something like that again, perhaps either in Orlando in January or in Sweden during the next summer. The goal will be to try to assemble a relay race of the 3 NES Castlevania titles (I don’t hold any world records, but I can hold my own against them in a race).

Makakilo: After I am vaccinated against COVID-19, I most want to visit Phoenix to see a Diamondback game! That’s a significant decision in light of how much I enjoyed visiting Japan. After Phoenix, I want to visit Japan.

Jack: Tell you what Mak, let’s coordinate. You can stay at my house a month and while you’re here I’ll stay at yours. Save each other a ton of money. ;) Seriously, I’d really like to spend a couple of months exploring the Hawaiin Islands. I also want to take my wife someday on a fall foliage tour back east in Upstate New York and New England. She’s never seen that.

James: I absolutely loved England while I was there in 2018. The entire country just runs at a different speed than here in the States, especially if you get into the northern half of the country, up around Harlaxton or Lincoln. If though, I am choosing to visit a place I have not yet been to, it would probably be Japan or Sweden, depending on the time of year and how long I would be staying.

Wesley: My lady is from Cardona, Rizal on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, and she’s stuck there with the travel restrictions. So I’d go there if I could go to anywhere right now. Outside of that, there’s a lot of places I’d like to visit. Canada, Europe, Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. I want to travel and see the whole world

Turambar: Always wanted to visit Scotland, and Rachel and I might make that a honeymoon destination once Covid slows down. Scotch, history and more scotch. Good stuff.

Steven: Japan just fascinates me to no end and I’d love to travel there with a group.