The Hangover: NOtani (And Other Notes)

Wil Myers

The super obvious is not necessarily the bread-and-butter of The Hangover, but sometimes we have to stop to acknowledge it. Wil Myers has been great.

Myers slugged his sixth and seventh home runs over the weekend, bringing his season slash line to .310/.325/.593, with a shiny 142 wRC+. His home run from Saturday night is too graphic to post here, but yesterday’s dinger falls just within the bounds of wholesome family-friendly entertainment:

Among first basemen so far in 2017, there’s one tier of guys doing their best Barry Bonds impressions, and it consists of Eric Thames, Freddie Freeman, and Ryan Zimmerman. After that, per the FanGraphs wRC+ leaderboard anyway, there’s Paul Goldschmidt, Yulieski Gurriel, Mark Reynolds, and then Myers.

It’s fun to watch Myers turn into the player we once envisioned him as. So many great prospects end up falling short of expectations, often because the expectations are simply too high . . . and baseball is hard. Myers hasn’t quite established himself as a bonafide, no-doubt, start-’em-on-your-DFS-team-every-night kind of slugger just yet, but he’s seemingly getting closer and closer every day.

The one concern—there’s always at least one concern—is the walk rate. Myers is walking at just a 1.8 percent clip, a number that makes Will Middlebrooks look like a discerning hitter. If Myers keep hitting like this, the walk rate should rise naturally, though, as pitchers start to work around him more in fear of a rising ERA. It’s up to Myers to simply let the walks come, because it’ll be tough to keep up this kind of offensive performance without a few more free passes mixed in.

Is Austin Hedges playing too much?

After a terrible start, Austin Hedges has shown a surprising amount of power, and a solid overall offensive approach. Even the pitch framing numbers are creeping back up. In short, the Padres main catcher has been really good, but he’s also played a ton. That’s good, of course, because it means he’s been healthy and effective. But the catcher position is ridiculously demanding (kneel, stand, throw, take foul ball off the mask, repeat*), and it’s important to give backstops more time off than regular position players for that reason.

Further, the Padres have no reason to run Hedges out there too much. Sometimes teams play their catcher a bunch because they’re trying to win the pennant, and they have no other reliable options. Think Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals, a man who once caught 143 games in a season. You could argue—pretty damn successfully, actually—that the Padres don’t have any other reliable catchers, despite rostering two of them, but they’re also not trying to win the pennant. The Padres can give Hedges a reasonable workload because they simply don’t have to play him every day; whatever the downgrade from Hedges to Luis Torrens or Hector Sanchez, well, it just doesn’t matter all that much.

There’s the Perez path—the Royals catcher has averaged 134 starts behind the dish since 2013—and then there’s the Buster Posey path. The Giants have always carefully managed Posey’s starts at catcher; his career high, which came last year, is 122 starts. (In fairness, Posey has played a good bit at first base when he’s not at catcher, an option the Padres can’t really afford given Hedges’ bat and first base belonging to Myers.) Currently, Hedges is on pace for 132 starts at catcher, which is squarely into Perez territory.

Following a path more similar to Posey, sans the starts at first, should keep Hedges fresh, helping his bat later in the year while theoretically keeping him healthier for the balance of his hopefully long career. At least give him a breather when there’s a day game after a night game.

*These demands include, in rough order of importance, working with the pitching staff/calling a game, catching/framing pitches, fielding bunts/foul pop ups, etc., blocking pitches, controlling the running game, covering home on plays to the plate, backing up first base, etc. Oh yeah, and trying to hit. As much as it takes a toll physically, it’s easy to imagine catching a major-league game to be a particularly draining experience mentally.

Luis Robert update

Ben Badler’s latest report on Luis Robert notes that three teams—the A’s, Reds, and Astros—held private workouts for the Cuban outfielder recently, and that Robert hit a home run off live pitching in each session. Shucks, if only it were that easy for everyone. In all seriousness, that’s really impressive. Imagine having the amount of dough you ultimately earn decided, in some way, by how you perform in a few at-bats against a pitcher who’s trying to impress scouts himself. Now imagine hitting a bunch of home runs. Congrats, you’re rich.

The Padres are scheduled to hold a workout for Robert tomorrow. They should sign him.

What’s the deal with Shohei Otani?

First off, he’s injured, delaying the two-way star’s encore in Japan for at least a few more weeks.

Bigger picture, though, is there any chance he joins the Padres someday?

Umm, probably not. There’s been some speculation in Padres land that San Diego might be interested in adding Otani once he decides to come to the majors. That speculation is probably correct; the Padres would be interested in adding him, just like 29 other teams. Only they probably can’t.

If Otani is posted to the majors after either of the next two seasons, barring a rules change, the Padres will simply be unable to sign him. Since they spent gobs of money on international amateur players in this signing period, they’re barred from spending more than $300,000 on a single player for each of the next two years. Since Otani is under age-25, he’s considered an international amateur, meaning he’ll be subject to the silly international amateur rules. He’ll go for way more than $300,000, so the Padres won’t have a shot at him (unless A.J. Preller decides to really go rogue).

There are, in theory, two ways in which the Padres could sign Otani. One, MLB changes the rules for him. It’s possible, although unlikely, that MLB creates some type of Otani exception, allowing him to come stateside without having to be restricted by the international amateur rules. Under this scenario, the Padres would be eligible to sign him for any dollar amount. Two, if Otani waits to post until he’s 25, he would no longer be considered an international amateur. Under this scenario, the Padres would also be able to sign him. Like scenario No. 1, it’s unlikely, because all reports indicate that Otani is jonesing to get to the bigs ASAP. In either scenario, the Padres would be competing with all 29 other teams for his services.

Let’s focus on Robert for now.

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