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2020 Baseball Recap and Off-Season Primer

With the World Series ending last night, it’s a good time to catch up on how Alabama players did in the short season that’s just concluded, and take a look at what our guys face going into the off-season. 

Alex Avila

Minnesota Twins

2020 Recap:  23 games, 49 AB, 1 HR, 2 RBI.  Slash line of .184 / .355 / .286.  Avila was brought in to play a back up role to Mitch Garver, so his playing time was expected to be limited. By the end of the season, with Garver injured, Avila was playing a back-up role to Ryan Jeffers. While Avila’s average and power numbers were down, he did manage to walk about once every five plate appearances. Couple of novelties: (1) his lone homer tied Jim Tabor’s record for most career homers by an Alabama player in the majors, and (2) he was called twice in one game for catcher’s interference, and it was the only instance I could find where that had ever happened to one catcher in a game.

Off-Season Status:  Free Agent.  Twins have two catchers (Garver and Jeffers) ahead of Avila in the pecking order, so it’s unlikely that Avila will be back in Minnesota, unless the Twins trade Garver and re-sign Avila to back up Jeffers.

Matt Foster

Chicago White Sox

2020 Recap:  28.2 IP, 2.20 ERA, 9.7 K/9IP, 0.872 WHIP, 3.44 K/BB.  Foster started the season at the White Sox’ alternate training site, and received a call-up on August 1.  Foster made the most of the opportunity, and was a valuable piece of the White Sox pen, as he could be used in 2-3 inning stints.  Season ended on a sour note, with Foster issuing a couple of bases-loaded walks in his lone playoff appearance for one of his few rough outings. Foster also finished with a 6-1 record out of the pen in a 60-game season, so he had a knack for being in the right place at the right time to be the pitcher of record.

Off-Season Status:  Under team control.  Foster should figure into Chicago’s bullpen plans in 2021.  He’ll also still have rookie status.

Taylor Guilbeau

Seattle Mariners

2020 Recap:  7.2 IP, 1.17 ERA, 3.5 K/9IP, 1.826 WHIP, 0.50 K/BB.  Guilbeau’s secondary numbers lagged behind his 2019 MLB debut numbers, but 2020 was an extremely small sample size.  Guilbeau was shuffled back and forth between the major league team and the alternate training site, and went on the Injured List in mid-August with a shoulder strain.  The Mariners eventually shut him down for the season and put him on the 45-Day IL, which took him off of the 40-man roster.

Off-Season Status:  Under team control.  Off-season churn has already begun for Guilbeau.  When Seattle activated Guilbeau from the 45-Day IL, the team attempted to get him through waivers with a minor league assignment.  Arizona claimed him, so he’s now a Diamondback.  Guilbeau still has two option years left, and is still has rookie status despite having pitched in parts of two seasons.

For now, Guilbeau is on Arizona’s 40-man roster, but it’s not unconceivable that the Diamondbacks could take him off the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft.  If so, he’d have to pass through waivers and would likely be claimed again.

Tommy Hunter

Philadelphia Phillies

2020 Recap:  24.2 IP, 4.01 ERA, 9.1 K/9IP, 1.135 WHIP, 4.17 K/BB.  Hunter’s season got off to a delayed start due to a COVID bout this summer, and he later spent some time on the IL.  Still, Hunter was one of the more effective relievers in a beleaguered bullpen.  He was used primarily in high-leverage situations, and picked up his first save since 2018.

Off-Season Status:  Free Agent.  Philadelphia is going through a rebuild, with a new GM and new pitching coach, so Hunter will likely be pitching elsewhere in 2021.

Wade LeBlanc

Baltimore Orioles

2020 Recap:  6 starts, 22.1 IP, 8.06 ERA, 3.2 K/9IP, 1.567 WHIP, 1.63 K/BB.  LeBlanc’s first two starts were promising enough, but he was hit hard in the next three starts.  On August 23, LeBlanc left in the first inning of his start with elbow tightness.  He was placed on the IL with what was diagnosed as a stress reaction, though surgery was not required.

Off-Season Status:  Free Agent.  Given his age (36), his ineffectiveness with Baltimore, and now an elbow issue, LeBlanc won’t have many offers this off-season.  He’ll likely have to take a minor league deal, if he doesn’t decide to retire.

Adam Morgan

Philadelphia Phillies

2020 Recap:  13 IP, 5.54 ERA, 11.1 K/9 IP, 1.538 WHIP, 2.67 K/BB.  Morgan’s numbers were somewhat skewed by the small sample size (only gave up multiple runs in 3 of 17 outings).  He was placed on the IL in early September with shoulder fatigue, and after the season ended, he had surgery to repair a flexor tendon.  He’ll miss the start of the 2021 season.

Off-Season Status: Arbitration eligible. Morgan enters this season in his last year of arbitration eligibility, and projects to have a salary of approximately $2 million. Given the change in the Philly front office and the fact that he will miss the start of 2021, Morgan is a strong candidate for being non-tendered, which would make him a free agent.

Updated 10/30/2020: Philadelphia decided to assign Morgan outright to the minor leagues. Once Morgan cleared waivers, he refused assignment, and is now a free agent.

Jimmy Nelson

Los Angeles Dodgers

2020 Recap:  Did not pitch.  Prior to the pandemic, Nelson was shut down in spring training with groin and back issues.  In summer camp prior to the re-start, Nelson was diagnosed with a lower back problem and had season-ending surgery.

Off-Season Status: Dodgers have a club option for $2 million, with a buyout of $500,000. Normally, one would expect a team to decline an option on a player that missed the previous season, but $2 million isn’t the same risk for Los Angeles that it is for most teams. I’d expect Los Angeles to decline the option, but there’s still a possibility that the Dodgers bring him back.

Updated 10/30/2020: Los Angeles declined Nelson’s option, making him a free agent.

David Robertson

Philadelphia Phillies

2020 Recap:  Did not pitch.  Robertson has Tommy John surgery late in the 2019 season, and was expected to miss most of 2020.  He did start throwing in August and September, with an eye towards possibly being available for post-season.  However, Robertson had a setback in his throwing program, and was shut down, ending any shot at making a 2020 appearance.

Off-Season Status: Phillies have a club option for 2021 for $12 million, with a buyout of $2 million. Robertson pitched 6.2 innings over two seasons in Philadelphia, so it’s a foregone conclusion that the Phillies will decline the option. He’ll probably end up signing a one-year, incentive-laden “prove it” deal elsewhere.

Updated 10/30/2020: Philadelphia declined Robertson’s option, making him a free agent.

Spencer Turnbull

Detroit Tigers

2020 Recap:  11 starts, 56.2 IP, 3.97 ERA, 8.1 K/9IP, 1.341 WHIP, 1.76 K/BB.  Turnbull firmly established himself as the ace of the Detroit staff.  Pitching for a bad team, Turnbull managed to have an ERA of 3.97 while the rest of the Tiger staff had an aggregate ERA of 7.15.  Turnbull had MLB career bests in WHIP, Hits/9IP, HRs/9IP, and Ks/BBs.

Off-Season Status:  Team control.  Turnbull can be penciled in as Detroit’s #1 starter for the beginning of the 2021 season.   Because Turnbull is under team control for 4 more seasons, it’s going to be tempting for a rebuilding Tiger team to listen to offers from other team, but Turnbull is someone the Tigers should build around.

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