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Article: Upcoming Rule Changes Greatly Benefit Tyler Austin’s Future

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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 10:32 AM

There’s no place in today’s game for a weak-side platoon bat who offers little defensive value. It’s really difficult for me to see the value in the Twins keeping Tyler Austin on the active roster.

That all changes in 2020.

The MLB announced a series of rule changes that will dramatically change a player like Austin’s future outlook. He’s exactly the type of player who will benefit most from these updates.One of the challenges the Twins face in retaining Austin will be trying to fit him on the roster, which will more than likely feature a three-man bench for the majority of the season. He’s out of options, and power is typically very expensive. If the Twins place him on waivers, I have little doubt the majority of rebuilding teams would be salivating over the thought of bringing him in.

We learned today that an extra roster spot will be added next season, making it much easier for a team to carry a bat-only type player. That’s huge for a guy like Austin. One of the other significant changes coming is the three-batter minimum for pitchers. But there’s a twist.

Starting in 2020, a pitcher must either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. So it’s not a strict three-batter minimum rule, but it will make it more difficult for teams to deploy specialist pitchers. Austin has been phenomenal against left-handed pitching over his young career (.937 OPS), but right-handers have mostly had their way with him (.664 OPS, 39.0 K%). As it stands right now, it’s not always easy to take advantage of that platoon split, but it will become much easier with these new restrictions.

A lot of the focus on this rule change has revolved around how it impacts bullpen usage. While that’s certainly the most obvious element to the rule and the thing it aims to adjust, I believe this change (in addition to the extra roster spot) means pinch hitters suddenly become a great deal more valuable than they’ve been in the era of the 13-man pitching staff.

These tweaks have the potential to change a slugging pinch hitter from a luxury most teams cannot afford to shoehorn onto their rosters to a potential integral part of the makeup of each team’s bench.

While Austin’s potential value is boosted by these changes, there were already some good reasons for the Twins to try to keep him in the org. Nelson Cruz has been arguably the best power hitter in baseball over the past few years, but nobody escapes Father Time. He does an incredible job at taking care of himself but you never know when a dropoff or significant injury may come. C.J. Cron had a breakout year last season and is a much more established player than Austin, but what if he can’t replicate that success? What if he's LoMo 2.0?

The Twins are only committed to Cruz and Cron for this upcoming season, though both can be brought back in 2020 if the team so chooses – Cruz has a $12 million option and Cron has one more year of arbitration eligibility. Austin, meanwhile, isn’t set to become a free agent until 2024. The Twins also have some nice bats down on the farm who figure to be factoring into the 1B/DH conversation before too long. Brent Rooker also seems to be a big beneficiary of these rule changes, but a bat in the hand is worth two in the rack.

I have not been a big supporter of Tyler Austin in the past because it’s difficult to see much value in a player of his profile the way the game is being played today. With a tweak in the rules must also come a reevaluations of how we value certain players. While these rule changes aren’t so dramatic to cause any kind of a seismic shift, I do believe they have a significant impact on players of Austin’s specific profile.

The only question is can they find room for Austin throughout the entire 2019 season?

Full Rule Changes
Here’s a link to the full press release.

For 2019:

-Inning breaks reduced to two minutes. They were previously 2:05 for local games and 2:25 for national broadcasts.

-There will be a single July 31 trade deadline. No more separate wavier trade deadline.

-Updates to All-Star Game voting and a $1 million bonus to the Home Run Derby winner.

For 2020:

-Active roster to expand one spot to 26.

-Rosters will only expand to 28 in September instead of 40.

-Undetermined cap on the number of pitchers on an active roster. This will be determined by a joint committee.

-Pitchers will need to either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning.

-Injured list goes back up to 15 days instead of 10.


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#2 nasu1970

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 10:49 AM

Austin has just 400 career PAs and a 100 OP+ to go with it.Not many hit the ball harder.I sure hope he can get a longer look.

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#3 Aerodeliria

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 10:54 AM

Despite the big advantage to Mr. Austin, I'm stunned that they will actually have the three batter rule. This will have a dramatic effect on bullpens and strategy imho.
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#4 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:07 AM

I like these rule changes.

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#5 Vanimal46

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:08 AM

I'll be interested to see how teams utilize the extra roster spot next year. It does give additional value to bat first 1B/DH types who've otherwise been phased out of baseball.
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#6 Vanimal46

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:10 AM

I like these rule changes.


Concur. I like the roster reduction to 28 players in September the most. While it eliminates the cute stories like James Beresford getting a cup of coffee, it should keep teams honest and competitive.
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#7 yarnivek1972

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:15 AM

MLBPA is going to fight the 3 batter minimum tooth and nail. It is going to eliminate loogy types completely.


I don’t think I like going back to 15 day DL. I think it may put teams in the position of asking a guy to “tough it out” when slightly injured (thus possibly risking further damage) whereas with a ten day DL the player would go on it right away.

The days of rewarding a prospect with a September cup of coffee likely die with a 28 man limit. You almost need that. It will also be problematic when injuries come up in September. Now, you will be forced to DL a guy and bring up someone who hasn’t played in 2-3 weeks or longer.
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#8 Danchat

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:36 AM

Wow, these are some huge changes and some big surprises too. No more August waiver trades, only 2 extra roster spots in September... and most shocking of all, the 3 batter minimum. I always thought that was more of a fantasy, but next year it’ll be a reality.
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#9 Tom Froemming

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:37 AM

 

MLBPA is going to fight the 3 batter minimum tooth and nail. It is going to eliminate loogy types completely

This was a joint announcement from the MLB and MLBPA, they've already agreed to the new rules. It is unfortunate for relief specialists, but there will be 30 more players collecting a big league check starting in 2020, a huge victory for the players.

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#10 yarnivek1972

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:49 AM

This was a joint announcement from the MLB and MLBPA, they've already agreed to the new rules. It is unfortunate for relief specialists, but there will be 30 more players collecting a big league check starting in 2020, a huge victory for the players.


30 guys making $600 K (or whatever minimum is these days) isn’t quite the same as basically every team rostering a loogy type for $2-3 mil or more.

As for it being a “joint announcement”, that’s kinda meaningless. MLB can implement changes with a year’s notice per the current agreement so the MLBPA has no choice but to aquiesce.
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#11 markos

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:53 AM

In my opinion, capping the number of pitchers on the active roster is the biggest potential change. I'm really curious what they end up with for that cap. The cap, combined with 15-day DL, could really force teams to look for multi-inning relievers and encourage their starters to work deeper into games.


#12 spycake

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:01 PM

I'd rather see the 20 second pitch clock than any of these other moves, really. But we'll probably never see it (in MLB, anyway).


#13 markos

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:01 PM

 

30 guys making $600 K (or whatever minimum is these days) isn’t quite the same as basically every team rostering a loogy type for $2-3 mil or more.

As for it being a “joint announcement”, that’s kinda meaningless. MLB can implement changes with a year’s notice per the current agreement so the MLBPA has no choice but to aquiesce.

LOOGY usage has been steadily deteriorating over the past few seasons anyway. Only 11% of LHP relief appearances lasted for only one batter last year, which is way down from the peak usage in the 1990s and 2000s when it was over 15%. 

 

My guess is that a combination of overall better relievers, higher strikeout rates, and shifting is rendering that role obsolete. 

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#14 spycake

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:07 PM

 

As for it being a “joint announcement”, that’s kinda meaningless. MLB can implement changes with a year’s notice per the current agreement so the MLBPA has no choice but to aquiesce.

When the joint announcement includes clear benefits for the players (an extra roster spot), I think it has meaning. I don't think there is any evidence that the MLBPA was strong-armed into accepting the 3 batter minimum now, or that they plan to fight it at a later date.

 

The MLBPA apparently flexed their muscle to fight the pitch clock, which has been tabled indefinitely. I suspect that, even if they didn't like the 3 batter minimum, they didn't oppose it that strongly, and/or they were willing to trade it for other benefits like the extra roster spot.

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#15 70charger

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:09 PM

 

30 guys making $600 K (or whatever minimum is these days) isn’t quite the same as basically every team rostering a loogy type for $2-3 mil or more.

As for it being a “joint announcement”, that’s kinda meaningless. MLB can implement changes with a year’s notice per the current agreement so the MLBPA has no choice but to aquiesce.

 

Why would you automatically assume that every team would just call up a minor leaguer for the 26th spot? Seems to me like that's about as likely to go to a free agent as any other. Speaking of which, there are a couple of pitchers still on the market that would make great 26th men if the rules were effective immediately.

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#16 nicksaviking

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:09 PM

 

I'll be interested to see how teams utilize the extra roster spot next year. It does give additional value to bat first 1B/DH types who've otherwise been phased out of baseball.

 

And it should present an opportunity for some of the aging players stick in the league longer. 

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#17 Jim Hahn

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:12 PM

TOM, I am not sure I agree with you that power is typically very expensive. I think power needs to be paired with at least one other skill to be expensive. In their prime, guys with good power and defensive ability are expensive. Having good on base skills paired with power can be very expensive.

It is possible that an additional roster spot will change that, and one dimensional sluggers will tend to occupy that spot. It might be that spot will go to guys like Arraez, guys with minimal positional flexibility but good contact skills. The other possibility is that they will just add another pitcher unless MLB limits the number of pitchers.
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#18 jkcarew

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:15 PM

I agree these rules should at least slow the extinction of the "bench bat" player. But at the cost of the LOOGY.

 

I would have added the roster spot, capped pitchers at 13 (some challenges...consideration for two-way players, etc....but there would be ways to do it that would be fair). I didn't mind the managers having the option to deploy a LOOGY strategy...but the 3-batter requirement will impact that in a major way. I get that the idea is to reduce mid-inning pitching changes, but not sure it will reduce that many in practice. We'll see.

 

Overall, the changes are fine, not great, IMO...but, better than no changes and letting current trends continue unabated.


#19 Vanimal46

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:15 PM

And it should present an opportunity for some of the aging players stick in the league longer.


Can we implement this immediately and sign Big Sexy?
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#20 nicksaviking

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 12:16 PM

 

LOOGY usage has been steadily deteriorating over the past few seasons anyway. Only 11% of LHP relief appearances lasted for only one batter last year, which is way down from the peak usage in the 1990s and 2000s when it was over 15%. 

 

My guess is that a combination of overall better relievers, higher strikeout rates, and shifting is rendering that role obsolete. 

 

Good riddance to LOOGYs. Not to the actual human beings, just to the position. 

 

It was always uneconomical from a roster stand point, now combine the three batter minimum (kind of) with the additional roster spot and maybe we get to see some bold team carry a 5, dare I dream 6, man bench!

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