ALPB Weekly Roundup will be a weekly recap post going out (typically on Mondays) during the Atlantic League offseason. These will soon be accompanied by an audio component as well as, eventually, video content through YouTube. Once the season begins, Weekly Roundups will continue, but we’ll also be producing Daily Roundups so our readers, listeners, and viewers will be able to quickly catch up on Atlantic League game recaps, stat-blasts, and transactions throughout the season.
York adds power and depth to kickoff 2021 signings
The first official signing of the Atlantic League offseason was York’s addition of former Saranac Lake Surge catcher Tyler Hill. Revolution manager Mark Mason had the opportunity to coach Tyler with the Surge after the 2020 Atlantic League season was canceled and must have identified something he liked in Tyler. York has had some past success with Empire League signings, which tend to be gambles for Atlantic League teams. Projecting to be the team’s backup catcher, Hill at least isn’t a very big gamble and he certainly shows potential.
We only have small samples to work with, but Tyler’s D-II and Empire League experiences both show good up-side, though not without some risk. Don’t sleep on Hill’s 33% caught stealing rate and .325/.429/.424 slash over 2 EPBL seasons.
The official projections for Tyler come out to a .234/.330/.312 with substantial room for outplaying those numbers. A lot of Hill’s results will depend on how quickly he can make the jump to Atlantic League level play and THAT will likely depend on how he’s deployed early in the season. There is plenty still up in the air for York and Hill, but that won’t be unusual for any players signed after shortened/canceled 2020 seasons.
York’s more noteworthy signing this week was technically a re-signing, as they look to replace Telvin Nash‘s 2019 power by playing eenie meenie miney NELLIE Rodriguez. Rodriguez was supposed to make his Atlantic League debut with the Revs last season after 8 seasons in the Cleveland (*Team Name TBD*) organization.
The most attention-grabbing things you notice looking at Nellie’s resume are his power (127 MiLB HRs) and his K rate (31% in 3454 MiLB PAs). It’s safe to assume Nellie is going to hit for power, especially when he’s able to pull fly-balls over the Arch Nemesis (see career spray chart below). However, Rodriguez may not see a ton of good pitches unless York can add a solid bat behind him, especially at home. If that’s the case, bringing down that K rate will be even more important than it already is for Nellie.
Regardless of what the rest of the lineup looks like, Rodriguez and his York coaching staff may want to regularly be checking his swing path to ensure he doesn’t fall into the trap of swinging specifically to loft balls onto Arch St. That’s one habit that could open up holes in the 26-year-old’s swing that he can ill-afford considering his pre-existing issues with contact.
The defending Atlantic League Champs add 2 versatile switch-hitters
Sal Giardina was a great first signing for the Ducks. Giardina’s projections are hampered by a difficult 2019 and no 2020 season but make no mistake, a switch-hitting catcher with utility experience and a bat that has .800+ OPS potential in AAA is VERY valuable in the Atlantic League.
About 25% of Sal’s work has been at positions other than C since 2016, so he brings more than just a catcher’s mitt to the party. His inflated GB rate and K rate are consistent with the type of elbow issues that ended Sal’s 2019 (we can’t know how much of an effect that had, but it’s worth noting.) During the final 3 seasons of the 6 that Giardina spent in the Braves organization, he changed teams 5 times, never playing more than 39 games with 1 team in a season. Some consistency could go a long way for Sal, especially as a catcher, considering that the time and effort spent learning a new pitching staff makes offensive production even more difficult to come by. GB and K rates coming back to normal and consistent at-bats could bring Sal’s projections up to a 3.5+ WAR player in 2021.
Long Island is also bringing back a familiar face in Steve Lombardozzi. Lombardozzi is well-liked by our projections. Even his low-end projections are as good, if not better than, his injury-shortened 2019 campaign.
Lombardozzi promises to put the ball in play. He had a K rate of 10.6% last season and walked as many times as he struck out (34) in 320 PA. Steve had a BABIP .019 below league average and would have batted .280, rather than .262, if his BABIP was at that league-average mark. This isn’t to say that batting average is the be-all and end-all, but the .262 from 2019 feels like an unfair blemish on Lombardozzi’s stat line.
Like Giardina, Lombardozzi also offers positional flexibility in the field and can switch-hit. That’s the type of roster building that puts and keeps teams in contention during an Atlantic League season.