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Notes: Eloy, Andújar, O’Hoppe

Eloy Jimenez

Eloy Jimenez

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

On the trade block for at least a year with no real takers, Miguel Andújar landed on waivers last week and was quickly snatched up by the Pirates. Four years removed from his near-Rookie of the Year campaign, he ended his Yankees career at .273/.303/.449 in 990 plate appearances.

Just five days earlier, Willie Calhoun cleared waivers for the second time this year. He wound up getting traded to the Giants after clearing waivers with the Rangers the first time. An opportunity never really came with his new team, as he was injured in Triple-A when the Giants might have used him in August. He was called up in mid-September, but he appeared in just four games before being bumped from the roster.

Besides Andújar being right-handed and Calhoun swinging lefty, the two have a lot in common. Both are 27 and made their major league debuts in 2017. Both have three years of service time and are making $1.3 million this year. Andújar had the big 2018 and very little since. Calhoun’s one nice year was 2019, when he hit .269/.323/.525 in 337 PA. Neither offers much defensive value, though Andújar might at least turn into a decent first baseman. Calhoun, nominally a left fielder, is simply a natural DH. Both have had durability issues.

Even with those negatives, though, I’d rather take my chances with Calhoun. He has the far superior approach at the plate, and while both players have nice strikeout rates, Calhoun’s is better; he’s struck out just 14.2% of the time the last four seasons. His exit velocity numbers are pretty average, but average exit velocities with low strikeout rates should make one an above average hitter. In 721 at-bats the last four years, Calhoun has 249 hard-hit balls and 112 strikeouts. It really seems like that should have produced something better than a .241/.302/.416 line. I like to think it will going forward.

Andújar’s modest strikeout rates are mostly a function of his aggression; he swings early and often and makes enough contact that he doesn’t get to three strikes all that often. Unfortunately, he’s never hit the ball overly hard. He was at his best there in 2018, as one might have guessed, but even then, he was fortunate that his 29 barrels turned into 27 homers. Statcast thought he should have slugged .430 then, rather than his actual .527 mark. His career hard-hit rate of 35.3% is lower than Calhoun’s 38.6%.

The Pirates’ priority was first base, so it makes sense that they grabbed Andújar. Also, there wasn’t much reason for anyone to claim Calhoun this time around when he should be available on a minor league contract this winter. Still, it seems likely to me that Calhoun has the better chance of being helpful going forward. A thrifty NL team with room at DH should give him a shot.

National League notes

- While I certainly wasn’t always thrilled with his lineups, my main annoyance with Don Mattingly as a manager through the years has been his inclination to hand out intentional walks like candy on Halloween. So, it’s kind of ironic that he’s done in Miami just as he’s finally developed some restraint in that department. He’s issued only 15 this year, putting him right at the league average. At his peak, he’d issue that many in a month, and his teams led the majors in IBBs by significant margins in each of his first four seasons in Miami. Of course, intentional walks are down throughout the NL with pitcher hitting out of the mix. Mattingly loved walking the No. 8 hitter to face the pitcher, a strategy that would often hurt teams the following inning.

Mattingly is obviously well respected throughout the game, and intentional walks or not, it seems likely that he’ll land another managerial gig this winter, assuming that he wants one.

- One of the tougher calls the Marlins are going to face this winter is whether to commit to Lewin Diaz at first base. The left-handed-hitting Díaz has hit just .169/.226/.303 in 155 plate appearances this season, leaving him at .182/.228/.350 in 324 plate appearances to date. That’s really, really bad. On the other hand, he’s come in at a respectable .250/.325/.504 in 680 plate appearances in Triple-A, and he’s a top-three defensive first baseman in the majors. He’s also making the minimum, which helps a bunch given that the Marlins have other holes to fill. Ideally, he’ll step it up enough to make himself a league-average platoon first baseman.

- Mike Siani got the call from the Reds last week after Nick Senzel suffered a season-ending injury and has started three games thus far, going 2-for-9. Siani is interesting to the Reds because he’s a top-notch defensive center fielder, and he’s interesting to fantasy leaguers because he went 52-for-64 stealing bases in the minors this year. Siani had a career .344 slugging percentage in the minors until stepping up with a .252/.345/.404 line in a 2022 campaign spent mostly in Double-A. The bat probably won’t ever be very good, but the Reds might live with it in order to take advantage of his defense and speed. He could be someone to watch next year, though if steals become more plentiful and get devalued some for fantasy purposes because of the rule changes, someone like him would offer less upside.

American League notes

- I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to stop myself from projecting a huge season out of Eloy Jimenez in 2023. I was all in on him going into 2021, but he suffered a ruptured pectoral tendon that spring, costing him much of the year. I didn’t bet big this year, since I was concerned about injuries and down on the White Sox lineup as a whole. That paid off, but look at what Jiménez has done while healthy; he’s currently hitting .305/.369/.511 in 78 games. His strikeout rate has dropped from 25% the previous two years to 21% this season. His hard-hit rate is currently fourth best in the majors. His barrel rate is 15th best (or seventh best, if one goes by barrels/plate appearance). He’s ninth in xwOBA.

It’s going to be painful for the White Sox to let go of free agent-to-be José Abreu, who remains an excellent hitter at age 35. But it’s really the only thing that makes sense for them, given that they need to be using Andrew Vaughn at first base and Jimenez at DH. If Abreu departs, leaving Jiménez plugged in as the primary cleanup hitter and DH (which definitely helps with the injury likelihood), it’s going to be awfully tough for me to hold back.

- It’s kind of bizarre how long in took the Guardians to give Will Brennan a try and, yet, once they did, they seemed to commit to him more than they ever did Nolan Jones or Will Benson. All three of those guys had similar cases for callups for months, but Brennan didn’t debut until last Wednesday. Since then, he’s started five times in six games, sitting only in a lefty-lefty matchup. Brennan doesn’t have the power of Jones or Benson, but he hit .316/.367/.471 with just a 12% strikeout rate and 15 steals in 16 attempts in Triple-A this year. He might be better suited for a reserve role for the long haul, but he’s going to deserve a chance to overtake Myles Straw in center next year, even if that would be a clear downgrade defensively.

- The Angels are giving 22-year-old catcher Logan O’Hoppe a very late callup after he hit .306/.473/.673 in 29 games for Double-A Rocket City. Up to this point, both the Halos and Phillies have to be pleased with the results of Brandon Marsh-O’Hoppe deadline swap, as Marsh has come in at .288/.308/.433 for his new team. O’Hoppe’s offense is ahead of his defense, but he’s skilled enough behind the plate to remain there for the long haul. It’d be pretty ambitious for the Angels to pencil O’Hoppe in as their 2023 starter, and odds are that he’ll begin the year in Triple-A while Max Stassi holds down the fort. He’ll definitely be expected to take over at some point, though.