Welcome to Notes on Baseball, a Sunday rundown of my favorite writing and stories in baseball this past week.
Too soon for Kelenic?
Jarred Kelenic, heralded centerpiece of the Mariners’ youth movement, was called up to the Majors just under a month ago. In his second game, he homered. Now, Kelenic is mired in a brutal 0-35 stretch, and is hitting a crisp .096.
And his troubles may be accelerating, if that’s possible:
The increasing rate of strikeouts might be the most concerning — he had eight in 12 appearances in three games in June before Saturday night. He had 17 in his first 76 plate appearances this season.
Whenever a big-time prospect sits at the Triple-A level, fans inevitably clamor for his promotion and claim the parent club is messing with his service time.
Sometimes it’s better not to rush it. Sometimes, it can look like what Kelenic is going through.
There was much consternation and strife in the off-season after the Rays briskly dealt staff ace Blake Snell to the Padres and let eminently reliable starter Charlie Morton leave for Atlanta.
Surely that huge gap at the top of the rotation would harm the ever-self-replenishing Rays, right? Even the Kings of Reloading would struggle to get back to their 2020 World Series level.
Along with newly asserted ace Tyler Glasgow, forty-one year old Rich Hill has stepped into the rotational breach, and is dealing:
A left-hander who at 41 is the oldest player in Rays’ history, he did not throw a single pitch that broke 90 mph yet improved to 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA against the Yankees this season. Hill need just 56 pitches and allowed three hits, helping by a diving stop on AL batting champion DJ LeMahieu that third baseman Yandy Díaz turned into an inning-ending double play from his knees. Five of New York’s first 16 batters hit his first pitch and six more hit his second.
Hill was 3-1 with a 0.78 ERA in six May starts, the third-lowest ERA in a calendar month for a pitcher 40 or older behind Cincinnati’s 41-year-old Eppa Rixey (0.60 in August 1933) and the Washington Senators’ 42-year-old Johnny Niggeling (0.64 in May 1946), according to STATS.
Hill was named the American League pitcher of the month in May:
The Rays will deal any player at pretty much any time. So what did they do while the team got on a roll after a slow start? They traded starting shortstop Willie Adames:
First, the Rays are *loaded* at shortstop in the upper minors. Second, the Rays don’t compete by letting surplus talent rot on the vine. Adames will be eligible for arbitration after this year, so his presence on the major league roster blocked those cheaper minor leaguers.
The Rays currently own the American League’s best record as the Yankees and Red Sox play a cute little series for second place.
And they might not be done. On the Ballpark Dimensions podcast, MLB.com's Matt Meyers and Mike Petriello speculated the Rays could deal starting center fielder Kevin Kiermaier for more prospects, simply because the Rays have plenty of young outfielders waiting for a chance.
The Rays have created a very unique—and highly cost-efficient—flywheel. They draft well and use advanced analytics and training to get the most from those players. Then they trade those players for prospects before their deals are up. Rinse and repeat.
The process keeps the Rays competitive with the cash-rich Yankees and Red Sox, who are playing a cute little series this weekend for second place in the A.L. East.
In fact, the Rays are feeling so good about life they even brought back the old Devil Rays uniforms a couple of weeks ago:
For the Rays, it’s rinse, repeat—and drip—indeed.
Thanks for reading! See you next Sunday.