Quick Hits: Jeter, DeShields/Gallo, Bryant

Derek Jeter recognized the social divides that developed in the clubhouses of his playing days between Spanish-speaking players and native English speakers, but since taking over the Marlins in Miami, where Spanish is omnipresent, Jeter has made it a priority to develop the language skills of everyone in the organization – including himself, per James Wagner of the New York Times. While emphasis is often placed on international players developing their English-language skills, Jeter’s programming ensures that the education highway runs in both directions. Major league players cannot be mandated to take language classes because of the collective bargaining agreement, but players in lower levels of the organization are now required to take classes, as are some coaches and Jeter himself, who attends a 90-minute weekly class with the executive team. The branding here is positive for Jeter, who has yet to make much headway in terms of fan engagement in Miami, but the internal benefits of a growing language program will have no end to its usefulness. Tangible effects may not reach the playing field for some time, but it’s encouraging nonetheless to see the Marlins taking a proactive approach to community engagement, emphasizing relationships with players from Latin America, and broadening avenues of communication within the organization. Let’s take a look at a couple of on-field situations throughout the league…

  • After another lackluster start at the plate for Delino DeShields, he finds himself back in Triple-A to work on developing a more line drive approach at the plate, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Deshields is one of the fastest players in the league, fifth overall with 16 Bolts this season (individual run times of 30+ ft/sec sprint speeds) and ninth in Sprint Speed, per Statcast. His speed is obviously an asset in the field as well, where Statcast has him tied for 7th with three Outs Above Average this season (three four-star catches). None of which was enough to keep him in Texas after hitting .182/.321/.284 through 108 plate appearances. How much time the 26-year-old spends in Triple-A may have as much to do with his ability to drive the ball as it does Joey Gallo’s ability to stick in center. It’s certainly uncommon for a third baseman-turned-corner-outfielder to transition into center, but the hulking 6’5″ Gallo hasn’t looked wholly out of place for the Rangers thus far, -1 DRS and -0.3 UZR through 88 innings this season, but over 188 career innings as the outfield captain, Gallo grades out at 1 DRS, 1.4 UZR. Replacing DeShields, a career 77 wRC+ hitter, with Gallo’s 115 wRC+ upgrades center field offensively for Texas, but this is a head-to-head battle worth tracking as the season moves along.
  • Chicago’s Kris Bryant finally found his power stroke for the Cubs this season, with credit going to his new Axe Bat, per The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma. Bryant never tapped into his power after returning from a shoulder injury last season as he finished the season with an uncharacteristically low, but still solid .188 ISO. He has hit four home runs in his last six games, raising his 2019 isolated power to .268, and while that would be a career high if he keeps it up all season, it’s also closer to his career average of .232 ISO than his numbers from 2018. This season’s power surge tracks back to a broken bat on April 26th, when Bryants switched to an Axe Bat and promptly homered. An Axe Bat’s defining feature, unsurprisingly, is a handle shaped more like the handle of an axe, though this particular handle is unique to Bryant, christened as the “Bryant Handle” as it was geared specifically towards Bryant’s rather unique grip. Whether it’s the bat, or something mental, or simply the strength in his injured shoulder finally being built back up to normal levels, a maintained resurgence of power from Bryant could make the difference for a Cubs lineup that has struggled at times since Bryant’s shoulder injury last season.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/308tnod

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