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Steve Reed Jersey

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On Friday, Mayor Steven Reed unveiled a new transition plan that will guide the next four years of his administration, as well as 11 members of a diverse coalition that will assist him, including four women and a college student.

The Montgomery United Transition plan includes six committees that will help the new mayor set his agenda for the city by offering policy recommendations based on research and public input starting from Dec. 2.

“It is my expectation that these recommendations will not only align with my vision for the city, but also fuel the movement toward an innovative, inclusive, and united Montgomery,” Reed said in a press statement.

Chaired by retired Judge Vanzetta Penn McPherson and investment banker John Mazyck, the committees will cover education; economic development; infrastructure and transportation; public safety; health and human services; and cultural arts and entertainment. The coalition includes four women, two black women, and three black men.
The committee members

Jake Aronov: CEO of the Aronov company, a commercial and residential real-estate management firm that operates in 14 states. In Montgomery, the Aronov company has developed residential properties that house more than 10,000 families.

Lori David Boone: Realtor, juris doctor and philanthropist. She has supported local charities working to improve education through her nonprofit the Lori and LaBarron Boone Education Foundation.

Katie Boyd Britt: the president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama since January where she facilitates policies that encourage economic growth.

Dr. Brian C. Gary: Chief of Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Jackson Hospital where he has served in different capacities since 2006. He currently sits on the Alabama State Board of Prosthetists and Orthotists, and Alabama State University’s Masters program.

Lance Hunter: CEO of Hodges Warehouse & Logistics since 2000. The trucking firm specializes in third-party logistics in Central Alabama.

Ashley Jernigan: Founder of JDB Hospitality, a public relations firm that specializes in event management, marketing and media development. She is the project manager for Alabama’s Bicentennial celebration and currently serves on the board for Alabama’s Tourism Department, the Downtown Business Association and Montgomery Public Arts Council among others.

Tom Methvin: Managing attorney of Beasley Allen Law Firm. He was the lead attorney in a landmark case that resulted in the largest predatory lending verdict in U.S. history. Methvin was president of the Alabama Bar Association in 2009 where he focused on increasing free legal services for clients in need. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

Carl A. Stockton: Chancellor of Auburn University at Montgomery since 2016. He has worked 35 years in higher education and has a record of increasing enrollment and fundraising. Stockton serves on the board of various child advocacy organizations.

Boyd Stephens: Launched the I85 Cyber Corridor Initiative, a program aimed at creating services and infrastructure to feed a robust tech ecosystem throughout Central Alabama. He has worked with various Alabama technology firms including Netelysis, a company that analyzes organizations’ telecommunications infrastructure.

Laurie Jean Weil: Founder of Camp Sunshine, a summer program for kids and teenagers from low-income earning families. She has served on the boards of the Central Alabama Community Foundation, River Region United Way and the Jewish Federation of Central Alabama.

David Whitlow: President of Alabama State University’s Student Government Association. He is a graduate of Jefferson Davis High School and is currently a senior at ASU studying English and Secondary Education.

Reed’s administration has not yet specified which committees each member will serve on.

“I’ve been in Montgomery for 15 years and I’ve seen the growth it’s achieved,” said committee member Ashley Jernigan.

Dom Nunez Jersey

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By a single point, Dom Nuñez (and by extension all Rockies catching prospects) just avoided being shut out of the preseason 2019 Purple Row Prospects list. This keeps Nuñez’s streak of 12 straight PuRPs list appearances, dating back to the list immediately following the 2013 draft, where he was taken as a middle infielder in the 6th round. In between that first appearance and now, Nuñez has seen highs as a prospect (such as his ranking among the top 10 catching prospects in all of minor league baseball by preceding the 2016 season) and lows (getting passed over for a 40 man roster slot by fellow Double-A catcher Chris Rabago in late 2017). Throughout, Nuñez has been seen as a backstop with plus defensive ability, plate discipline, and makeup — skills which have kept him in the prospect limelight for six professional seasons now.

The 23-year old lefty batting catcher has seen his offensive production stagnate at higher levels. Since his promotion to High A ball in 2016, Nunez has posted no higher than a .689 OPS and 94 wRC+ and hit no better than .241 in that span. Still, Nuñez has maintained double digit walk percentages and has been over a year younger than the average pitcher at every level, despite repeating at Doub;e-A in 2018. In his repeat campaign with Hartford, getting slightly more than half of the reps at catcher over Rabago, Nuñez hit .222/.320/.343 with 21 extra base hits over 377 plate appearances (87 wRC+). Those aren’t bad numbers considering his position and youth relative to level, but they aren’t an indication that he’ll be able to handle major league pitching either.

Here’s some video of Nuñez, courtesy of the Baseball Census, from the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2017:

Prior to the 2018 season, Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus wrote this about Nuñez:

My notes on [Nunez] over a dozen looks or so do not speak well of his bat, but you could probably glean that from just looking at his triple slash. Sometimes the stats are a pretty good explanation on their own. He has a good idea of the strike zone, he can yank a fastball over the fence every once in awhile—and played in a home park that rewarded that approach—but the swing is grooved, despite being on the short side, and I don’t know if there is enough bat speed to handle better velo. It’s just not an exciting offensive profile.

On the defensive front, Nunez has everything you’d want in a backstop, well-above-average receiving and more than enough arm to control the running game. (FWIW, our minor league defensive numbers thought he was one of the best backstops in Double-A.) … I wouldn’t be shocked if Nunez only sees a cup of coffee as a third catcher or if he has a 15-year career. That’s a wider OFP/Likely range than we should be comfortable with at BP, so let’s split the difference and say he’s a good backup. has soured on Nuñez over the years, but they currently rank him 27th in the system:

With soft hands and more quickness than most catchers, Nunez has steadily improved into a solid receiver. He has arm strength to match and has gotten better with his transfer and accuracy. He impresses with his leadership skills as well, and there’s no doubt that he’ll be able to catch at the big league level.

Whether he’ll be able to hit is another question after he slid to .202/.335/.354 in Double-A last year, then went 4-for-44 in the Arizona Fall League. He has a nice left-handed stroke, the raw power to hit 15 homers per year and some patience, so there’s hope. While he doesn’t swing and miss excessively, pitchers goad him into a lot of weak contact to the opposite field.

As he enters 2019, Nuñez faces a make or break season. After all, he’s now been left unprotected and un-selected twice in the Rule 5 draft despite the plus defensive tools and positive intangible reports. After 2019, which may be spent at Triple-A Albuquerque, Nuñez will either be on the 40 man roster or he will be a minor league free agent.

So where does Nuñez stand right now? He strikes me right now as a younger version of Tony Wolters as a plus defender but light hitter, right down to the middle infield flexibility in a pinch. For me, the profile of a near-ready MLB back-up catcher with enough potential to still become a solid major leaguer was worth a 35+ FV, but Nuñez just missed my personal list given that the Rockies (and the other 29 MLB clubs who twice had a Rule 5 crack at him) don’t seem to think he’s ready to play that role just yet.

Walt Weiss Jersey

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There are houses that are described as diamonds in the rough, but not many are described as having diamonds in the backyard.

Former MLB shortstop and manager Walt Weiss is selling a massive, 10,668-square-foot Colorado home, which comes complete with its own full-size baseball field out back. It’s a luxury you can afford when your home sits on a 35-acre lot.

The home in Castle Rock is listed with Erica Chouinard of Re/Max Professionals. On the market for an even $2 million, the residence takes full advantage of the awe-inspiring mountain views.

It’s loaded with amenities, including a heated pool, hot tub, and basketball court. It has five bedrooms, and the master suite has its own steam shower, jetted tub, and walk-in closets.

To top it off, the basement rec room features an indoor batting cage.

If you happen to be in the market for the ultimate baseball paradise, look no further. Weiss has had the home on and off the market since 2012.

Weiss, 55, made his MLB debut with the Oakland Athletics in 1987. He would end up being voted the American League Rookie of the Year. Weiss went on to play for the Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies, and Atlanta Braves before retiring in 2000. In 2013, he returned to the Rockies and managed the team for three years, before leaving to take another coaching position with the Braves in 2017.

“It’s been neat,” Weiss told ESPN in 2013 regarding his transition to coaching. “I’ve really enjoyed this role. It’s a lot easier to connect with the players. As a manager, you really have to go out of your way to make an effort to connect with players. It’s a little weird for a player around a manager. They don’t open up as much. I’ve really enjoyed that, being more hands-on with the players.”

Eric Alt has been a writer and editor for outlets as diverse as Maxim, Fast Company, Men’s Journal, Cosmopolitan, Mental Floss, Inked, “Attack of the Show,” and Spike TV, among others. He lives in New Jersey, where he tries desperately to keep his two children from tearing the state to pieces.

David Dahl Jersey

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Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

For the first time ever, David Dahl made an Opening Day roster in 2019. And he would have been on the roster all year if it were not due to more injuries.

I’m not going to run down the list of every injury Dahl has suffered in his career. We’re not writing a novel here. But there were a couple specific ailments that plagued him in 2019. It was a “left core side injury” that put Dahl on the 10-day injured list in April. He spent the minimum amount of time sidelined in that instance. But it was a high right ankle sprain that resulted in Dahl being carted off the field and sent to the IL on August 3 that would lead to him missing the remainder of the 2019 campaign.

When healthy, though, Dahl showed just how good he could be. In 100 games, he put up a .302/.353/.524 batting line (103 DRC+), with 15 home runs. And he was one of the Rockies’ representatives at the All-Star Game for his efforts.

On defense, Dahl spent most of his time in left field, but he started getting more reps in center field after the Rockies elected to move Ian Desmond to left. Unlike his previous two seasons in the majors, where defensive metrics graded him as a roughly average defender, Dahl was rated as decidedly negative in 2019 by Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Fielding Runs Above Average. DRS was the harshest, putting him at -11. However, Statcast’s Outs Above Average still had him in positive territory.

In last month’s post-season media briefing from general manager Jeff Bridich, manager Bud Black and co-owner Dick Monfort, Bridich made an interesting comment— ”Some guys that seem to be pretty injury prone got hurt again and it stinks, right?” It wasn’t too hard to view this as a bit of a swipe at Dahl. And it’s not a wrong take, per se. It’s true that the Rockies are at their best when Dahl is in the lineup, but he certainly isn’t the only one to blame for the team finishing at 71-91.

One thing is for sure, though—a healthy Dahl would go a long way to helping the team have sustained success going forward. He is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and projected to earn $3 million from MLB Trade Rumors.

We saw what Dahl was capable of in 2019. He was an All-Star. The next step is an All-Star who can remain healthy for the long haul.

Ellis Burks Jersey

Few players in the history of major-league baseball have displayed each of the prized “five tools,” meaning the ability to hit for average and for power, to run, to field, and to throw. On that short list belongs the name of Ellis Burks, who began his major-league career as a 22-year-old rookie for the Boston Red Sox in 1987 and concluded it as a member of the 2004 Red Sox team that ended 86 years of frustration for the franchise with their World Series title. Burks had stops with four additional clubs, most notably with the Colorado Rockies, where he spent five seasons and where in 1996 he produced one of the greatest individual seasons in Rockies history.

Ellis Rena Burks was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on September 11, 1964. When he was 3 his family moved to the state capital, Jackson, where he completed elementary school and his father worked as an electrician. As a child in Jackson he had no real opportunities to play organized sports but he learned to love baseball by playing sandlot games with his cousins. He was not particularly skilled at the game as a child, however, and his cousins used to tease him because he batted cross-handed and they liked to inform him, “You don’t know how to play, Ellis, you don’t know how to play.”1

At 10, the family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and Ellis started to get serious about baseball, playing in a summer league after his freshman year at O.D. Wyatt High School. His varsity baseball coach, Bill Metcalf, would become an important influence upon him. As a sophomore, Burks was more than happy just to earn a varsity letter but Metcalf conveyed to the 15-year-old that he had uncommon instincts for the game and could become a special player.2 As a senior, Burks transferred to nearby Everman High School, the local baseball powerhouse. He had an outstanding senior season at Everman, playing for coach Jim Dyer. It was at Everman that Burks adopted the batting stance of his favorite major leaguer, Jim Rice. “I tried to look exactly like that in high school,” he once said. “I had his number, 14. I adopted his stance. My feet were pretty much placed the same as his in high school, junior college, and the minor leagues.”3

Despite a torrid senior season at the plate, college scholarship offers were slow to materialize. On one occasion his grandmother, Velma Burks, asked him about his college plans and Ellis informed her that he would be going to Ranger Junior College, although the coaches at Ranger had not yet contacted him with an offer to play baseball.4 He also entertained the thought that he might be selected in the major-league draft, but he escaped the notice of scouts despite the fact that he capped his impressive senior season by being the first high-school player to hit a ball out of Arlington Stadium.5 (He did it in a high-school all-star game.) His grandmother died in March of his senior year but Ellis honored his promise to her and committed to Ranger even after other schools began to show interest.

At Ranger Junior College, Burks played for coach Jack Allen. Allen was a master of homespun homilies delivered to full effect with a Texas drawl and he had quite the influence on the 18-year-old Burks. On one occasion, Burks hit a routine groundball to shortstop and was running to first at slightly less than full speed. Allen surprised Burks by inquiring if he was, perhaps, nursing an injury of some sort. When Burks informed him that he was fully healthy, Allen lectured him in no uncertain terms and stated, “By golly, I don’t care if you can throw a strawberry through a battleship or run a hole in the wind … on this team we play at full speed!”6 It was a lesson Burks would never forget and his hustle became a trademark of his professional career. The Ranger team was a real powerhouse during Burks’s freshman year and he led the parade by tearing the proverbial cover off of the ball throughout the fall season. He was excited because a number of scouts planned to attend a coming game, and he was shocked when game day arrived and Allen told him he wouldn’t be in the lineup because the coach was afraid the scouts would see him and that Allen would lose Burks, his best player, in the coming January draft. Burks assured his coach that, even if drafted in January, he would not sign with a pro team until the end of the spring season and Allen relented and allowed Burks to play the game.

Indeed, the scouts had a very favorable opinion of Burks and on the advice of scout Danny Doyle, he was selected by the Red Sox with the 20th overall pick of the January 1983 draft. Five of Burks’s teammates were also selected in that draft, including future major-league pitchers Mike Smith and Jim Morris. As Burks had promised Coach Allen, he did not sign with the Red Sox until the end of the spring college season.

Burks made his first stop in professional baseball with the Elmira (New York) Pioneers of the New York-Pennsylvania League as an 18-year-old playing short-season A ball in 1983. At the plate he hit just .241 that season with two home runs but demonstrated his range of abilities as he stole nine bases and contributed five outfield assists. He was promoted to high-A ball at Winter Haven in the Florida State League the following season where he was a full three years younger than the league average but displayed a mature set of skills. In 112 games for Winter Haven, he stole 29 bases and contributed 12 outfield assists. Burks had the good fortune of meeting his idol, Jim Rice, then still with the Red Sox. “I met him in spring training. I was in ‘A’ ball, and I got called up for a split-squad game. He was in the clubhouse. I said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Rice, my name is Ellis Burks. It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know who you are, kid.’” Burks added, “I was like, whoa, how does he know who I am?” I happened to sit beside him on the bench that day. I was pretty much in awe. I was too scared to ask him any questions. The next year, I was on the roster, and he told the spring-training clubhouse attendant to put my locker next to his. It was unbelievable to grow up idolizing a guy, and now he wanted my locker next to his.”7

Burks spent the 1985 and 1986 seasons at New Britain in the Double-A Eastern League and it was here that he really caught the attention of the big club. Red Sox coach Johnny Pesky became an admirer and declared that Burks “can run, hit, throw, and catch the ball. He may be ready for the big leagues sooner than people may think.”8 Burks’s ascent through the Red Sox system was slowed slightly by two right-shoulder injuries but his power began to blossom with 24 home runs over the course of the two seasons. It was the 31 stolen bases that he collected during the 1986 season in New Britain, however, that really caught the attention of the Boston front office. The Red Sox system had many promising young hitters in addition to Burks, including Mike Greenwell, Brady Anderson, Todd Benzinger, and Sam Horn, but it was the baserunning abilities Burks displayed that made him stand out from the other quality hitting prospects as the big-league club was sorely deficient in basestealing. (The 1986 Red Sox finished a distant last in the major leagues in stolen bases with just 41, of which six were by 36-year-old first baseman Billy Buckner.)

Burks made a strong impression on the Red Sox with an outstanding spring training in 1987. He was the team’s last cut, optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Red Sox did not have a strong sense of urgency to bring up their younger players to start the 1987 season; the team was coming off of a tremendously successful and memorable 1986 season in which they won their first American League pennant since 1975, and a heartbreaking seven-game loss to the New York Mets in the World Series. Lofty expectations for the 1987 Red Sox were misplaced as the team floundered to open the season. In late April, they had a 9-12 record and were in fourth place, 9½ games behind the high-flying Milwaukee Brewers. The Red Sox suddenly looked like a team that was past its prime and needed contributions from some of its talented prospects.

Burks had played a mere 11 games at the Triple-A level for Pawtucket when he was summoned to the big-league club. On the night of April 30, 1987, Boston manager John McNamara inserted 22-year-old Burks into the starting lineup as the Red Sox center fielder. Burks was batting ninth as the Red Sox faced pitcher Scott Bankhead and the Seattle Mariners in the Kingdome. Burks was hitless in three at-bats in a career that began with a weak groundball back to the mound, followed by a strikeout and a foul popup. He also dropped a line drive on which he had attempted to make a diving catch during the 11-2 Mariners victory. The game marked the first occasion that Burks had played on artificial turf,9 a circumstance that contributed to a base hit skipping past him in the outfield. Burks reflected great dismay and determination. “I felt bad after that first game. Everything happened so fast and I was not happy at what happened. I just wanted to come right back in my next game and show it wasn’t me,” he told a sportswriter.10 Skipper McNamara assured Burks that he would be in the starting lineup again the next game.11 The next night in Anaheim brought out the “real” Burks as he collected his first major-league hit in the second inning, a double down the right-field line off Urbano Lugo that brought home two runs. He went 3-for-3 as he shook off the jitters. In that series against the Angels, he showed a dazzling display of speed by sprinting from shallow center field to haul in a drive hit by Gary Pettis. Burks apparently liked Angels pitching because he connected for his first major-league home run, against future Hall of Famer Don Sutton, in the third inning of a game back in Boston on May 10. He later hit five home runs during a single road trip and brought his home-run total to 10 by June 18. When he hit a go-ahead home run off the Yankees’ Bob Tewksbury on June 21 it was the third time the rookie had provided the Red Sox with a game-winning blast.

Burks’s success fueled the Boston youth movement. In short order, Todd Benzinger, Sam Horn, and Jody Reed were promoted to the big-league club to join Burks and Greenwell and the look of the team began to change. Burks split time in center with Dave Henderson and they became close friends rather than rivals. In fact, Henderson provided great help to Burks in outfield positioning and in reading hitters and Burks later identified Henderson as one of his greatest influences and closest friends in the game.12 The front office liked what it saw from Burks so much in center field that it traded Henderson to Oakland on September 1. General manager Lou Gorman said, “Henderson’s home run put us into the World Series. He did everything we asked of him, but Burks just came along and took his job.”13 Don Baylor, who had provided enormous offensive and leadership contributions during the previous season, was also traded, to Minnesota. The 1987 Red Sox finished 78-84 but the infusion of young talent brought great excitement to Beantown.

Burks’s 1987 batting line exceeded all expectations with 20 home runs and 27 stolen bases to accompany 59 runs batted in and a .272 batting average. He became only the third Red Sox player to total 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season. He had 15 outfield assists, which as of 2017 remain the most in a season for a Red Sox center fielder. But Burks stood out for his entire game and his unusually refined skills, such as the ability to correctly read the flight of the ball off the bat. These defensive skills caught the attention of Lou Gorman who stated that Burks reminded him of a young Amos Otis.14 Don Baylor was notably impressed by Burks’ defensive prowess and paid him the highest of compliments by comparing him to Paul Blair.15

The young but talented Red Sox entered the 1988 season with high hopes. Burks set a personal goal of 40 stolen bases.16 However, a bone chip in his ankle required offseason surgery and he was unable to open the season with the team. Upon returning, he compiled six multihit games in his first nine games. A jammed left wrist slowed him temporarily but he finished the 1988 campaign with a .294 average, 18 home runs, 92 runs batted in, and 25 stolen bases. On September 4, the Red Sox assumed a permanent hold on first place in the American League East on their way to an 89-73 record and the American League East title. Postseason play was less noteworthy as the Sox were swept in four games by the Oakland Athletics as former Red Sox pitcher Dennis Eckersley saved all four games and Dave Henderson threw some salt in Boston’s wounds by going 6-for-16 with a home run. Burks was 4-for-17 in the series.

The 1989 season proved challenging for the team and for Burks. The team stumbled out of the blocks and was slow to recapture its form from the previous season. On April 30, the Red Sox faced the Texas Rangers in a game at Arlington as Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens faced off on the mound. It was not much of a homecoming for Burks as a Ryan fastball in the first inning glanced off his shoulder and caught him behind the left ear. He was removed from the game and was not pleased with the situation. Burks said, “Why should I be when a guy who throws 100, throws one at my head?”17 The same two pitchers were matched up in their next start, at Fenway Park on May 5. This time Burks exacted some revenge against Ryan and the Rangers by going 3-for-4 with a stolen base. In the seventh inning a Ryan fastball zipped under Burks’s chin, causing Ellis to glare out at the mound and Ryan to take a step toward home plate. “I was making a statement,” Burks commented.18 In return, Ryan said, “Everyone was on edge because of what’d been said or written after the incident in Texas.”19 When order resumed, Burks fouled off a couple of pitches and then singled home Jody Reed to give the Red Sox the lead for good in a 7-6 victory.

New Red Sox manager Joe Morgan was very impressed with Burks and considered him to be highly capable in every aspect of the game. “He’s way above average in everything,” Morgan said. “Hitting, hitting with power, throwing, running, catching the ball. Everything. And he’s a good fellow. The other day I yelled out to him, ‘Burks, I hope you never change,’ and he said, ‘I won’t change.’”20 The biggest challenge Burks faced seemed to be staying healthy. While attempting to make a diving catch in a game against Detroit on June 14, he tore cartilage in his left shoulder. He underwent surgery and missed the next 41 games. The season came to an abrupt end for Burks during a September 6 game in Oakland in which Burks had gone 3-for-3 before he suffered a shoulder separation in a collision with Mike Greenwell in the outfield and surgery became necessary. Burks was limited to 97 games in the 1989 season, batting .303 with 21 stolen bases.

Burks completed a strong 1990 season that led to some overdue recognition as one of the top players in the game. He batted .296 and contributed 21 home runs and 89 runs batted in as the Red Sox compiled an 88-74 record and won the AL East Division title. His clutch hitting was particularly important as 23 of his first 43 runs batted in were delivered with two out. Against Cleveland on August 27, he became the 25th major leaguer to hit two home runs in one inning. The team’s stay in the postseason was again brief; they fell once again in four straight games to the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS. Burks went 4-for-15 in the series. Burks received a Silver Slugger Award as a recognition of his excellence over the 1990 season. He was the only 20-home-run hitter that season for a Red Sox franchise traditionally known for its power. He also earned his first Gold Glove Award, joining fellow outfielders Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Pettis. He was selected for his first All-Star team although he did not play in the game due to injury. Burks finished 13th in the American League MVP voting.

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The subsequent two seasons in Boston brought a steady diet of frustration. The 1991 season was seriously compromised by tendinitis in both knees and continual back pain. The tendinitis disrupted Burks’s timing and power at the plate and he had only two home runs in his first 29 games. The back pain increased over the course of the year and kept him out of the lineup for 11 games during a key late-September stretch run. The back problems proved to be a persistent foe over the coming years and Burks was later diagnosed with a bulging disk. His totals for the season reflected the extent to which he played hurt as he had only a .251 average with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. A better reflection of the effects of the injuries was his uncharacteristically poor success rate on the bases with only 6 stolen bases in 17 attempts.

Trade talk percolated after the 1991 season but new Red Sox manager Butch Hobson was committed to Burks and batted him primarily in the leadoff spot in 1992. The knee problems compromised Burks’s speed and these issues were compounded when he played on artificial turf. The back problem did not respond to rest and medication and his season was limited to 66 games and 235 at-bats, which yielded an uncustomary .255 batting average with 8 home runs and 30 runs batted in. The Red Sox did not tender Burks a contract for 1993 and he was left off the team’s original 15-man protected list for the expansion draft, only to be pulled back when the Rockies selected Jody Reed.21 Nonetheless, the Red Sox made no effort to sign him.

The Chicago White Sox emerged as the club with the greatest interest in Burks and he signed with the team in early January of 1993. The White Sox had assembled a talented and experienced team, and in spring training, GM Ron Schueler commented, “ … Right now, Ellis looks as good as I’ve seen him look since I was scouting him years ago. If we can keep him going, he would give us a whole added dimension.”22 On April 16, and in his ninth game as a member of his new team, Burks made his return to Fenway Park. Facing Danny Darwin in his first at-bat of the game, Burks turned on a 3-and-2 pitch and launched a shot well over the left-field wall. As he rounded the bases, Burks received a standing ovation from the 26,536 fans. He commented, “It hasn’t been an easy transition. … I gave it a lot of thought this winter how it would be in this game. In spring training it hit me — I was wearing different colored socks.”23 The 1993 season marked a strong return to form for Burks. He batted .275 with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs. More importantly, he was able to stay free of serious injury and played in 146 games. The White Sox realized expectations in winning 94 games against 68 defeats and claimed the American League West title. They met the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series but fell, four games to two. Burks went 7-for-23 with a home run.

Burks became a free agent after the season and all indications were that he would re-sign with the White Sox, where he felt wanted and appreciated. “I’ll take anything — three years, five years, ten years — whatever they want,” he said. “It’s been great here. One of the reasons I wanted to come here in the first place was a chance to win, and we’re doing that.”24 But the White Sox offered only a two-year deal and wanted Burks to play right field25 and so he was willing to consider other offers. The Colorado Rockies sorely needed a quality center fielder and offered Ellis a three-year, $9 million deal, which Burks accepted.

A new chapter in Burks’s career began when he signed with the Rockies but the story had some familiar elements. In Colorado he was reunited with two teammates from his rookie year in Boston in manager Don Baylor and hitting coach Dwight Evans. Playing for the Rockies had an additional allure as the franchise had just set a major-league attendance record in their inaugural season by drawing nearly 4.5 million fans to Mile High Stadium. Playing there was a hitter’s dream and a pitcher’s nightmare as the altitude and reduced air resistance translated into additional carry on batted balls. Defense became a priority in this park, and particularly in the outfield, where outfielders needed speed and arm strength to handle the largest outfield in the majors. Playing 81 games a year in Denver also came with costs, including the physical demands of playing long games and chasing down a lot of batted balls yielded by a pitching staff that had the National League’s highest ERA during the previous season.

The 1994 season was the second and final season for the Rockies at Mile High Stadium. They moved to Coors Field in 1995. Burks began the 1994 season just as he and the Rockies had hoped. He hit a home run off Curt Schilling of the Philadelphia Phillies in his first at-bat at Mile High Stadium and he was batting a lofty .354 with 12 home runs through his first 34 games. However, in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 17 he tore a ligament in his left wrist on a checked swing. He missed the next 70 games and when he returned to the club, every swing of the bat proved to be painful. He was limited to 42 games but still managed to hit .322 with 13 home runs. The 1994 season was shrouded by the specter of labor unrest and there was little movement in talks between owners and players as the season progressed. Indeed, the players union struck and the season concluded for the Rockies and all of the other major-league teams on August 11, and the 65,043 fans in attendance that night witnessed the last major-league baseball game to be played in Mile High Stadium, an otherwise forgettable 13-0 pasting of the home club by the Atlanta Braves. The Rockies finished 53-64 in their abbreviated season. Burks underwent surgery immediately after the season ended and his wrist remained in a cast for three full months following the surgery.

Resolution of the labor dispute was not reached until April 2, 1995, after a 232-day work stoppage that wiped out all 1994 postseason play. After an abbreviated spring training, the Rockies opened the 1995 season on April 26 in their brand-new ballpark, Coors Field. The 1995 lineup featured the “Blake Street Bombers,” so named because Blake Street bordered the new ballpark on the east side and the lineup contained an assemblage of certifiable sluggers that included Burks, Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette, and Larry Walker. Vinny Castilla proved to be an unexpected but formidable additional power source and became the fifth member of the brigade. On April 26, the Rockies baptized their new park in unforgettable fashion as Bichette hit a three-run walk-off home run in the 14th inning off Mike Remlinger of the New York Mets to provide the 47,228 fans with an 11-9 victory. Burks was not able to join the fun until May 5 when he came off of the disabled list. The strong play of Mike Kingery in center field in his absence, and the presence of Bichette in left field and Walker in right field resulted in limited playing time for Burks for the rest of the season. His first home run of the season did not come until June 2 when he launched a walk-off pinch-hit three-run homer against Dan Miceli to beat the Pirates. Burks was able to play in only 103 games with 14 home runs and a .266 batting average to show for his injury-limited 1995 season. The team finished just one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West and they earned their first postseason berth courtesy of the wild-card spot. The Rockies lost three games to one in the first round of the postseason to the eventual champion Atlanta Braves as Burks went 2-for-6 in limited postseason playing time.

Burks arrived at spring training three days early in 1996 knowing that quality preparation and good health were going to be the keys to his success during the coming campaign. “For years I’ve just been trying to stay healthy and to get rid of that stereotype that I can’t stay away from injuries,” he said.26 More than anything, he was determined to erase the memories of 1995 when he was relegated to a role as the Rockies’ fourth outfielder. He was slotted to spend more time in left field during the season as manager Baylor wished to minimize the wear and tear on Burks and to see if center field might be a fit for the athletic Larry Walker.

A full season of good health enabled Burks to have a remarkable turnaround in 1996 and he carried the Rockies offensively as injuries to Walker and Bichette severely affected the team’s attack. Burks played in a career-high 156 games, and 129 of those games were spent in left field. His .344 batting average was second in the National League only to Tony Gwynn’s .353 mark, and he led the league with 142 runs scored and also drove in 128 runs. Burks’s 93 extra-base hits, 392 total bases, and .639 slugging average all led the league. Although some skeptics attributed his numbers to the “Coors Field Effect,” his road statistics were more than sufficient to reject that notion. Away from home, Burks hit .291 with 17 home runs and had 49 runs batted in with a .903 OPS in 75 games.

As Burks went, so went the Rockies in 1996. He batted .413 with 10 home runs when leading off an inning. He hit .362 with runners in scoring position and .369 with two outs and runners in scoring situations that year. Against the vaunted Atlanta Braves staff that featured three future Hall of Famers (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz), Burks hit .380 (19-for-50). His 32 stolen bases were more than he had compiled in the previous five seasons combined. He joined Henry Aaron as the second player in history to record 40 home runs, 200 hits, and 30 stolen bases in a season. He finished third in the NL MVP voting behind Ken Caminiti and Mike Piazza and he received his second Silver Slugger Award. His WAR of 7.9 led the Rockies. Galarraga (47), Burks (40), and Castilla (40) became the first trio of teammates to reach 40 home runs in a season since Davey Johnson, Darrell Evans, and Henry Aaron accomplished the feat for the 1973 Atlanta Braves.

Burks became a free agent but was re-signed by the Rockies for the 1997 and 1998 seasons with an $8.8 million deal that included incentives. Burks had no regrets about re-signing and commented, “I signed early because I knew what I wanted. I’m sure I could have gotten a lot of money elsewhere. But money isn’t the main issue with me.”27 Preseason expectations were high for the club in 1997 as Walker and Bichette were expected to make stronger contributions after their previous injury-plagued seasons. In fact, Walker contributed even more than expected with 49 home runs, 140 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases to accompany a .366 batting average that earned him the National League MVP Award. Burks began 1997 slowly but his first four hits were home runs. His biggest nemesis during the season was a groin injury that caused him to miss a full month and he reinjured the groin in his second game back. He also had wrist and ankle injuries that lingered throughout the season and limited him to 119 games. Nonetheless, he batted .290 with 32 home runs and 82 RBIs and had a .934 OPS. His season total of just seven stolen bases, however, was evidence of the physical limitations he encountered during the year.

As the 1998 season opened, Burks said he felt he could not continue to play center field beyond the current season due to the effects of the hamstring, back, and knee problems that continued to limit his mobility.28 One of the major highlights of his season occurred on April 2, when he connected off the Diamondbacks’ Brian Anderson for his 100th home run in a Rockies uniform. The Rockies fell from contention early in the season and they made a move to fill their need for a younger center fielder capable of patrolling spacious center field at Coors. At the July 31 trading deadline, they sent Burks to the San Francisco Giants for center fielder Darryl Hamilton and minor-league pitcher James Stoops. They later received another minor leaguer, Jason Brester, to complete the deal. Burks concluded his time with the Rockies with a .306 batting average and 115 home runs in 520 games, and his 1996 season will be remembered as one of the greatest individual seasons in Rockies history.

Burks was a solid contributor to the Giants, batting .306 with 5 home runs and 8 stolen bases as the team went 31-23 following his arrival to conclude the 1998 season in second place in the National League West. Manager Dusty Baker planned to play him in right field during the 1999 season and to provide Burks with scheduled rest days to reduce his injury risk. Two offseason knee surgeries resulted in pain and soreness that compromised his power as he began the season. As the season progressed, Burks began to drive the ball into the gaps. Despite playing just 120 games in 1999, he concluded the year with 31 home runs and 96 runs batted to go with a .282 batting average and a .964 OPS. He nearly became the first National League player to drive in 100 runs in fewer than 400 at-bats as he fell just four short of 100 in 390 at-bats. The Giants once again finished second in the NL West.

The 2000 season marked a strong return to excellence for Burks despite two additional knee surgeries in the offseason. He batted.344, which equaled his best mark, set in 1996 with the Rockies, and he complemented the high average with 24 home runs and 96 RBIs. Burks’s contributions in San Francisco were duly noted as the team had the best record in the National League with a 97-65 mark and won the NL West title by 11 games over the Dodgers. They fell in four games to the New York Mets in the National League Division Series, in which Burks was 3-for-13 with a home run.

Burks became a free agent after the season and the American League seemed like the logical destination: He could serve as a team’s designated hitter and limit his time in the field to accommodate the knee issues. In only 284 games in a Giants uniform, Burks had hit .312 with 60 home runs and 214 runs driven in. Remarkably, Burks had a better OPS with the Giants (.971) than he had in his previous five seasons in Colorado (.957).

The Cleveland Indians signed the 36-year-old Burks to a three-year, $20 million offer in 2001 with the hope that he could play 100 to 120 games a year. Burks broke his right thumb in mid-July but still hit 28 home runs and drove in 74 runs with a .290 batting average. The Indians won their division with a 91-71 record and headed to the ALCS, where they faced a Seattle Mariners team that had compiled an all-time major league record of 116 wins. Burks went 6-for-19 in the series with a home run but the Mariners prevailed in five games.

Burks assumed the designated-hitter role for the Indians during the 2002 season and showed what he could do when provided a full season with the bat. He played 138 games and had 32 home runs and 91 runs batted in to accompany a .301 average. He completed his fourth consecutive season with an OPS above .900 (.903) with each coming after the age of 34. After the season, Burks required surgery on his left shoulder but he was in the Indians’ starting lineup again on Opening Day in 2003. He began the season well and continued to drive the ball with authority through the early part of the year. However, right elbow pain hampered his swing and he was required to end his season on June 7 in order to undergo ulnar nerve reconstruction surgery. In his abbreviated third season with the Indians, Burks batted .263 with 6 home runs and 28 RBIs. The Indians released Burks after the season, but he was not yet ready to retire from the game.

Burks’ career came full circle when he signed with the Red Sox as a free agent on February 6, 2004. At a press conference he said, “I can let you know that I will retire a Red Sox.”29 He was attracted to Boston by his wish to finish out his career where it had started and also felt that the team had a chance to reach the World Series. In turn, the Red Sox felt that Burks’s leadership abilities provided an important contribution to a team hoping to finally end their World Series drought.

Burks appeared in nine of the team’s first 17 games but underwent additional knee surgery in late April. Although he was unable to resume playing for many months, Burks remained with the team and even accompanied the Red Sox on road trips as he recovered from his injury. His commitment to the team was duly noted and appreciated by his teammates and Burks later commented that he wanted to contribute in whatever way that he could to a team that he felt was destined to win the World Series.30 After missing nearly five months with the injury, he returned to the lineup on September 23. In the season’s next-to-last game, at Camden Yards in Baltimore on October 2, manager Terry Francona inserted Burks into the lineup for his 2,000th major-league game. Batting fifth and in the DH role, he singled in his first at-bat in the second inning of that game for his 2,107th and final career hit. In the bottom of the fourth inning he was replaced by rookie Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox capped their dream season with their first World Series title since 1918 by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series although Burks was not on the roster for the playoffs.

The 2004 World Series title vanquished the bitter memories of previous seasons and will always be regarded as one of the greatest accomplishments in Boston sports history. A largely unknown part of the story involves the team’s triumphant return home from St. Louis. As the plane approached Boston, Pedro Martinez asked for everyone’s attention and delivered an impromptu speech in which he recognized the contributions of the players on the field in contributing to the historic accomplishment. As Martinez continued, he singled out “The Old Goat” in reference to Burks and provided special praise for the teammate who had remained with the club and who had contributed his knowledge and leadership over the five long months of his injury rehab. At the request of Martinez and his teammates, Burks led the team down the steps of the plane to the tarmac at Logan Airport carrying the World Series trophy overhead.31

Ellis Burks retired after the 2004 season with a .291 lifetime batting average to go with 352 home runs. He is one of just a few major-league players to have hit 60 or more home runs with four separate teams. Injuries robbed Burks of the opportunity to put up even more impressive numbers and a possible berth in the Hall of Fame, but he looked back on his career with no regrets and said that he “loved every minute of it.”32 Burks received the respect of his peers for his professionalism and his willingness to play with pain. He remained in the game, working for the Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, and San Francisco Giants.

The Ranger College baseball team now plays at Ellis Burks Field. As of 2017 Burks worked for the San Francisco Giants as an instructor, scout, and talent evaluator. He, his wife, Dori, and their daughters, Carissa, Elisha, and Breanna, resided in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. His son, Chris, began his own professional career in the Giants’ minor-league system in the summer of 2017.

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On the 161st Street subway platform, and massed in and around Yankee Stadium for Games 3 and 4 of the American League Championship Series, plenty of fans were adorned in Yankee jerseys bearing No. 2, the number of franchise icon Derek Jeter. But there was also a new number emblazoned on many jerseys and T-shirts: No. 26, the identifier of DJ LeMahieu. The first-year Yankee star has won over skeptical fans who were initially disappointed that he was the club’s big position player free-agent signee last winter, not Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

But it shouldn’t be surprising that LeMahieu has won over so many in New York. No player since Jeter has hit more like Jeter than LeMahieu.

Jeter’s trademark inside-out approach to hitting gave him an unusual batted-ball profile and helped him to 3,465 career hits. Of all major league hitters with at least 1,000 at-bats since 2002, the only right-handed batter to hit a higher share of opposite-field balls than Jeter and also come close to hitting his share of ground balls1 — all while batting .300 — is LeMahieu.2 Jeff Sullivan noted the similar profiles last offseason for FanGraphs after the Yankees signed LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million contract. And LeMahieu has only continued to hit more like Jeter.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters earlier this month that his front-office assistants were pounding the table for signing LeMahieu last winter, and none more so than Jim Hendry, special assistant to Cashman. Hendry, the former Cubs GM, is close friends with LSU’s Paul Mainieri, who coached LeMahieu on the 2009 national championship team. Hendry had followed LeMahieu at LSU and through the minor leagues, and he thought the second baseman’s swing — and his versatile glove — would play anywhere.

“What I loved about him in college was that his natural swing was to right field and dead center, and he did it with a little bit of authority,” Hendry told FiveThirtyEight. “You can teach a guy to pull the ball down the road a lot easier than if you’ve got a pull guy, who isn’t a 40-homer guy, to hit the ball hard the other way. His natural swing was what I loved about him to begin with.”

That natural swing should feel very familiar to Yankee Nation.

While most ground balls are pulled, balls in the air are typically distributed more evenly around the outfield. Yet Jeter and LeMahieu own some of the most prolific opposite-field line-drive and fly-ball seasons on record since 2002, when batted-ball data became available. Among batters with at least 1000 at-bats since 2002, Jeter and LeMahieu rank second and third, respectively, in terms of the share of balls hit in the air to the opposite field. In an age of trying to pull the ball, LeMahieu is doing the opposite — just like Jeter did. Consider the Jeter and LeMahieu spray charts of balls hit in the air, from their five most recent seasons:

In his age-27 to age-30 seasons, Jeter produced a .305/.373/.456 slash line with a 118 OPS+, while LeMahieu compiled a .316/.373/.463 slash line with a 111 OPS+ in those corresponding seasons.

There were concerns that LeMahieu’s stats had been inflated by the thin air in Coors Field, where he spent seven of his first eight years in the big leagues. But LeMahieu’s offensive production has never been dependent on home run totals, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that he has succeeded away from Denver. If anything, the switch to Yankee Stadium and its short right-field porch helped him hit a career-high number of home runs (26) this season. Twelve of those home runs — including 11 at Yankee Stadium — were to right field, which tied for the fourth-greatest total in baseball.

“That’s his natural swing,” Hendry said.

LeMahieu’s batted-ball distance on fly balls to the opposite field also jumped by 22 feet to 324 feet this season, seventh in baseball. He hit a combined nine home runs to the opposite field from 2015 to 2018. Moreover, he has produced the most batted balls — including ground balls — to the opposite field this year. Those batted balls have come with a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 185, meaning that his opposite-field hits are 85 percent above league average in offensive performance.3

LeMahieu’s high-contact approach has made him even less dependent on ballpark environment. That method is perhaps aided by letting pitches travel longer before making contact, explaining his opposite-field tendencies.

LeMahieu’s approach might also be shift-proof, at least when it comes to infield defense. He led baseball this season in terms of plate appearances with a ball put in play when a shift was not in place. But in 2017, his batted-ball profile on balls in the air was so dramatic that teams employed some unusual outfield shifts. Since 2017, he has faced the second-most shifted outfield defenses in baseball.

While he doesn’t run like Jeter did in his prime or play shortstop — New York was drawn to him in part for his defensive versatility — LeMahieu does hit like Jeter. And Hendry also believes that LeMahieu excels in pressure situations. “He’s quiet, but the moment never gets to him,” Hendry said. And with New York trailing the Astros in the ALCS, the Yankees now need that calm under pressure more than ever.

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The Rockies have released veteran left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, Thomas Harding of relays (Andersen Pickard of MLB Daily Dish first reported the news). De La Rosa had been with the club since it signed him to a minor league pact April 5, his 38th birthday, though an oblique injury prevented him from taking the mound.

This unceremoniously ends De La Rosa’s second go-around as a member of the Colorado organization, with which he has spent the majority of his career. The Rockies first acquired De La Rosa from the Royals in a 2008 trade, and he went on to become one of the most successful starters in franchise history. From 2008-16, an 1,141 1/3-inning span, De La Rosa overcame hitter-friendly Coors Field to post a 4.35 ERA/4.24 FIP with 7.77 K/9, 3.79 BB/9 and a 48.1 percent groundball rate.

After his first Rockies stint ended, De La Rosa joined the Diamondbacks in 2017, lasting one-plus season in Arizona’s bullpen before the team released him last August. De La Rosa quickly caught on with the Cubs and pitched well in relief with them, though his performance didn’t persuade Chicago or any other team to give him a guaranteed deal last offseason. Between the D-backs and Cubs over the previous two years, he combined for a 3.77 ERA/4.47 FIP with typical strikeout, walk and groundball numbers (7.71 K/9, 4.02 BB/9, 48.2 GB%).

Some notes out of Denver to kick off Thursday morning…

The Rockies are likely to promote right-hander Jeff Hoffman to start Friday’s game, Thomas Harding of reports. It’s been a rough start to the season for the once-premium pitching prospect, as Hoffman will lug a 7.57 ERA with him from Triple-A to the Majors if he does indeed get the call. It’s been a boom or bust year for Hoffman so far, as he’s had two absolutely disastrous starts but also mixed in a series of impressive outings; Hoffman yielded 10 earned runs in four innings on April 16 and another eight earned runs in his most recent start, but he was quite good in the interim (1.96 ERA, 27-to-5 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings of Triple-A ball, plus a respectable outing at the MLB level). This is a make or break year for Hoffman in many regards, as it’s his final option season. Tyler Anderson’s knee injury could create a long-term opening in the rotation for him, but Hoffman will obviously need to earn that spot moving forward rather than have it handed to him.

Colorado plans to use Scott Oberg as the primary closer while Wade Davis is sidelined by an oblique injury, manager Bud Black told reporters last night (Twitter link via Nick Groke of The Athletic). Oberg’s 1.77 ERA makes him a logical first candidate for ninth-inning gig, but the numbers beyond that point are far more questionable. He’s punched out just 13 hitters against 11 walks in 20 1/3 innings so far this season while benefiting immensely from a .196 average on balls in play and a sky-high 89.6 percent strand rate. Those red flags lead metrics like FIP (4.70), xFIP (4.91) and SIERA (5.31) to forecast some substantial regression for Oberg over the long haul if he can’t rebound to his 2018 form. Last season, Oberg averaged 8.7 K/9 against just 1.8 BB/9 with a 56 percent grounder rate, so there’s certainly hope for improved peripherals moving forward, but it should be noted that his average fastball has dipped from 95.3 mph last year to 94.0 mph in 2019.

Groke also tweeted yesterday that veteran lefty Jorge De La Rosa could pitch in a minor league game in the near future after being sidelined by an oblique issue early this season. Colorado inked the 38-year-old to a minor league contract last month on the heels of a solid 2018 campaign split between the D-backs and the Cubs. Left-handed relief has been a tough area for the Rockies all season, as Harrison Musgrave has struggled, Jake McGee has been injured and Mike Dunn has pitched to a 5.02 ERA (despite more encouraging K/BB numbers). De La Rosa would likely need at least a few weeks to build up before he’s a viable option, but a return could be a possibility at some point next month if he shows well in the minors.

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Last of a five-part series looking at the Rockies of 2020. Today: catchers

Rockies manager Bud Black is not prone to hyperbole. So it meant something when, late in the season, he said: “Tony Wolters has made himself into one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.”

The eye test and statistics back him up.

Wolters, 27, the former second baseman, has harnessed his athleticism — nimble feet, quick release, solid glovework — to become an excellent receiver. He was charged with just one error and four passed balls and threw out 34% of would-be base stealers this past season. Among National League starting catchers, only Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto (47%) had a better throw-out rate.

“Tony’s improved in lots of different ways, and it all goes back to his preparation and his work ethic,” bench/catching coach Mike Redmond said. “The way he blocks (the ball) to save runs, the way he receives, the way he’s continued to improve each year whether statistically it shows it or not. The impact he has on our team is huge because he’s been a difference-maker in the way he plays defense and the way he controls our (pitching) staff.”

Wolters, who supplanted veteran Chris Iannetta as the regular catcher, made 102 starts and caught in 112 games, the most for the club since Wilin Rosario’s 103 starts in 2013. Iannetta, 35, was released in early August.
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Because of the demands of catching games in Denver’s mile-high altitude, Wolters’ workload likely reached its top end in 2019, so it will be vital for Colorado to find a solid backup this offseason. The Rockies would be wise to sign a journeyman catcher because it’s doubtful they will attempt to sign free agent Yasmani Grandal.

Wolters is never going to provide power. He hit just one home run with a .666 OPS. The Rockies’ .667 OPS from the catcher’s spot ranked 13th in the National League and their nine homers tied with Pittsburgh for last in the NL. And Iannetta hit six of those home runs. That power outage will likely continue in 2020.

Wolters, however, using a more consistent, simplified approach, made big strides as a hitter in 2019. After batting .197 with four doubles in 182 at-bats in 2018, he hit .262 with 17 doubles in 359 at-bats in 2019.

He did, however, slump in the second half. He hit .285 with a .732 OPS and 11 doubles before the all-star break and .233 with a .583 OPS and six doubles afterward. Fatigue might have been a factor, but like many of his teammates, Wolters struggled to hit away from Coors Field. He hit .281 at home vs. .241 on the road, including a 1-for-24 road funk at the end of the season.

Wolters doesn’t care much about his stat line.

“The team’s success is all I’m focused on,” he said. “There’s always room for individual growth, and I feel like I’m taking the necessary actions to do that. I love being a catcher and I plan on playing for a while.”
Masked men

Manager Bud Black places a high premium on a catcher’s ability to receive and call games. Finding a solid platoon catcher will be a priority for Colorado in 2020:

Tony Wolters (.262 batting average, 1 home run, .666 OPS): Wolter’s ability to call games impressed his coaches and teammates, but he provides little pop at the plate.

Dom Nunez (.179, 2, .643): Nunez ran hot and cold in the minors and he’s likely not ready to be Colorado’s primary backup. He played in just 16 games.

Drew Butera (.163, 0, .643): He’s a free agent and the Rockies could attempt to re-sign him to a minor-league deal to provide depth. If that’s the case, Colorado will have to find a low-cost veteran to pair with Wolters.

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The Yankees have acquired left-handed hitting outfielder Mike Tauchman from the Rockies for lefty relief prospect Phil Diehl, the team announced. Jordan Montgomery was placed on the 60-day injured list to clear a 40-man roster spot. Tauchman has a minor league option remaining for 2019.

“We’re excited to get a guy that we feel is pretty talented and can play multiple positions in the outfield. He has options, so we’ll determine which way we’ll go,” said Aaron Boone to Bryan Hoch, indicating Tauchman may crack the Opening Day roster. Could be bad news for Greg Bird or Tyler Wade.

Tauchman, 28, was a tenth round pick in 2013. He’s a career .153/.265/.203 (17 wRC+) hitter in limited MLB time, and last year he authored a .323/.408/.571 (153 wRC+) line with 20 homers and nearly as many walks (12.7%) as strikeouts (14.9%) in 112 Triple-A games. As Alex Chamberlain wrote recently, last year Tauchman had one of the minors’ best power-contact seasons within the last few years.

Diehl, 24, was the Yankees’ 27th round pick in 2016. He had a breakout season last year, throwing 75.1 relief innings with a 2.51 ERA (2.24 FIP) and 36.2% strikeouts for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. I did not rank Diehl among my top 30 prospects. No major scouting publication did either. Boone mentioned Diehl as a young pitcher who impressed him throughout Spring Training.

The Yankees are loaded with pitching in the farm system right now and they’re short on upper level outfielders, so they used a surplus to address a weakness. Also, with the three-batter minimum rule and 28-man September roster limit set to take effect next year, a potential left-on-left matchup guy like Diehl could have a tough time cracking the roster. His usefulness could be a bit limited.