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Cincinnati Reds’ Top Prospect Noelvi Marte Faces 80-Game Suspension

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Major League Baseball announced on Friday that Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect, Noelvi Marte, will serve an 80-game suspension for testing positive for Boldenone, a banned performance-enhancing substance. The suspension will commence on Opening Day, March 28, allowing Marte to participate in spring training and play in spring games until then.

The Reds released a statement expressing full support for MLB’s drug policy and its penalties, adding that they will refrain from making further comments on the matter. Marte, aged 22, was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the Luis Castillo trade during the 2022 deadline. Despite making his MLB debut last season and posting impressive stats of .316/.366/.456 in 35 games, Marte’s suspension will sideline him until June 26, which will be the final game of a 3-game home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Reds Adjust Plans in Absence of Marte

As the Reds’ top prospect and ranked 21st in all of baseball entering the current season, Marte’s performance was poised to be a cornerstone for the team’s success and was expected to be Cincinnati’s everyday third baseman in 2024. However, the Reds now find themselves adjusting their Opening Day plans and recalibrating their strategies for the summer. With Marte out, former NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India is likely to return to the everyday lineup. The team may also consider Jeimer Candelario or Spencer Steer for the third base position.

Reds manager David Bell expressed belief in Marte’s ability to overcome the suspension, stating that when he returns, Marte will be welcomed back with open arms. Before his call-up last season, Marte showcased a strong performance in Double-A and Triple-A, batting .279/.358/.454 with 20 doubles and 11 home runs in 92 games. Originally signed by the Seattle Mariners in July 2018, Marte was traded to the Reds in July 2022 as part of a package deal for All-Star right-hander Luis Castillo and received a $1.55 million bonus.

The Reds, who finished the previous season with an 82-80 record, just missing the postseason, are anticipated to improve in the upcoming season, with promising young players like Marte, Elly De La Cruz, and Matt McLain contributing to the team’s development.

What Does this Change?

Impact on Marte

Marte’s positive test for a performance-enhancing substance introduces a cloud of uncertainty. Questions arise about intent, prior use, and the perceived benefits sought. His suspension not only affects his playing time but also leaves a lasting stain on his reputation. Previously ranked as the 14th-best prospect in the minors by CBS Sports, Marte’s potential seemed promising. However, the suspension places him in a challenging position, where success upon return may raise suspicions, while struggles could lead to doubts about his prior achievements. Under the league’s rules, a first suspension entails an 80-game penalty, while a second offense results in a full-season ban. A third positive test would lead to a permanent ban for the player.

Reds’ Depth Chart

Marte’s suspension disrupts the Reds’ plans, particularly in the third base position where he was expected to start. The team, however, possesses infield depth, having retained players like Jonathan India, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer, and added Jeimer Candelario. The reshuffling may see Candelario taking over at third base due to his defensive prowess, while other players could be repositioned accordingly. Manager David Bell’s strategy will play a crucial role in adapting to this unexpected change.

Impact on Playoff Chances

While the Reds have viable options to cover Marte’s absence in the initial 80 games, the overall impact is substantial. The team, already predicted to win around 80 games by most projections, faces a tighter National League Central picture. Marte’s potential upside, despite a limited sample size last year, could have been a catalyst for the team’s success. Now, the Reds will navigate a competitive race without one of their promising young players, making each win crucial and every run more significant. Marte’s absence adds an element of challenge, with playoff hopes hanging in the balance. Unlike an injury, the blame falls squarely on the player involved, intensifying the consequences for the team.

A lifelong sports enthusiast with a recent interest in technology, Web3, and cryptocurrency. Every weekend you can find me watching football(soccer) and keeping up to date with stocks and crypto. Writing about the things I love and hopefully painting a picture for the reader.

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Biggio’s Arrival Leads to Vargas’ Departure to Triple-A

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Biggio's and Vargas trade

The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired super-utility man Cavan Biggio in a trade with Toronto, following the Blue Jays designating him for assignment last week.

In return, the Blue Jays received right-handed reliever Braydon Fisher, who has been playing between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Following the acquisition, the Dodgers optioned outfielder Miguel Vargas to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Vargas had appeared in eight games, hitting .250 with three doubles, one home run, and four RBIs.

Biggio’s Move

Biggio was in the lineup for the Dodgers’ home game against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, playing third base and batting ninth.

“To have a team like the Dodgers pick me up after my time in Toronto, where I spent so many years and built so many relationships, and playing against this team about a month and a half ago, is very special. I’m very fortunate and grateful to be here,” Biggio said.

Biggio, 29, was removed from the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster last week after struggling in the first third of the season, hitting .200/.323/.291 with two home runs in 131 plate appearances for Toronto, which holds a 33-34 record and occupies third place in the American League East.

“A lot of emotions that I sat and went through and processed,” Biggio said. “I put myself in a good position to make my next step forward being here, so I’m excited about it.”

Blue Jays manager John Schneider commented, “I think it’s good for Cavan. I was pretty sure he’d land on his feet. It’s tough to have him leave.”

Primarily a second baseman, Biggio has also played first, third, and right field this season. He joins a Dodgers team holding a 7½-game lead in the National League West but struggling to get offensive production from Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux, and Kiké Hernández. The team is also missing third baseman Max Muncy, who is on the injured list with a strained oblique.

“I just want to be a good piece for this team and, hopefully, be the last team standing at the end of the year,” Biggio said.

Biggio’s Background

Biggio debuted in 2019 and, along with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, was one of three sons of longtime major leaguers expected to form the core of a rising Blue Jays team. He hit 16 home runs in 100 games his rookie season and posted a .375 on-base percentage in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, positioning himself as a foundational element at second base.

Injuries limited Biggio in subsequent years, and he lost playing time this season to Davis Schneider and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. With the Blue Jays struggling offensively, they designated him for assignment to make room for Spencer Horwitz, who has started all four games at second since his recall. Biggio has one season of club control beyond this year and will be eligible for free agency after 2025.

Biggio’s father, Craig, accumulated 3,060 hits over 20 seasons with the Houston Astros. The younger Biggio fondly recalled a visit to Dodger Stadium with his dad.

“I don’t think I was allowed on the field, but I remember having a Dodger Dog or two,” he said. “The only thing I remember is Shawn Green was on the team.”

Does Miguel Vargas have a future with the Dodgers?

Last season, the Dodgers intended for Vargas to assume the role of their everyday second baseman, but he never fully secured the position.

Some of that was attributed to getting hit by a pitch during Spring Training and again early in the year, along with defensive growing pains while adjusting to a new position. Vargas’ struggles ultimately led to his demotion to Oklahoma City during the All-Star break.

He remained in Triple-A to finish the year and began this season with Oklahoma City. Vargas was added to the Dodgers roster just last month when Max Muncy landed on the 10-day injured list with a strained right oblique.

The Dodgers optioned Miguel Vargas to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Cavan Biggio on their active roster before Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers

While there doesn’t appear to be a role for Vargas with the Dodgers at present, he could factor more prominently in their outfield next season and beyond. Another possibility is that the former top prospect becomes a trade chip, similar to Michael Busch.

Read more: Yankees’ Trio of Excellence: Judge, Gil, and Soto Shine in May

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Yankees’ Trio of Excellence: Judge, Gil, and Soto Shine in May

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and starting pitcher Luis Gil dominated in May, earning them well-deserved accolades.

Monday morning, Judge was honored as the AL Player of the Month, while Gil earned both AL Rookie and Pitcher of the Month awards.

Judge’s Explosive May: A Historic Performance

After a lackluster April, Aaron Judge exploded in May, batting .361 with a 1.397 OPS, bolstered by a .479 on-base percentage. He also hit 15 home runs in 30 games, putting him on a 162-game pace of 81 home runs.

Judge’s May surge was both impressive and incomprehensible. He consistently barreled the baseball with a frequency rarely seen in MLB history. Over 97 at-bats in May, Judge posted a barrel percentage of 47.8 percent. In other words, nearly half of his batted balls were barreled up. This level of precision is extraordinary.

For context, during his record-breaking 2022 season with 62 home runs, Judge’s highest monthly barrel percentage was 32.3 percent. In his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign, his peak was 36.1 percent in September. The MLB league average for barrel percentage is over seven percent.

Judge’s blend of power and plate discipline in May was remarkable. Katie Sharp noted that Judge is one of only four players in MLB history to record over 25 extra-base hits and draw over 22 walks in a calendar month, joining legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, and Jimmie Foxx. Judge and Ty Cobb (in 1921) hold the record for most extra-base hits in May, with 26.

The turnaround from Judge’s tepid April to his scorching May was remarkable. At the start of May, Judge was tied for 60th in the league in WAR. By the end of the month, he was first in all of baseball, a meteoric rise in just 31 days. Judge now leads the league in home runs, slugging percentage, wRC+, and walk rate.

In terms of wRC+, where 100 is the league average, Judge posted a 282 wRC+ in May. The next highest was Jose Ramirez at 195.

Was it one of the best months of baseball ever? Not exactly. Babe Ruth posted a higher OPS in July 1920, and Barry Bonds had nearly five better months between 2001 and 2004. However, it could be argued that it was Judge’s best month ever, surpassing his final month of 2017 and any month in 2022. It was a special month by a special player, perhaps deserving even more appreciation than it has received.

Kicking off June, Judge is already 4-for-6 with a home run, three walks, and three runs scored. We might be back here in a month for another chat about his incredible performance.

2 in 1 Gil

Luis Gil received his first career Pitcher of the Month award, becoming the first Yankee to earn the honor since reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole won it last April. Gil also joins an elite group as the fifth pitcher in MLB history, and the fourth in the AL, to win both the Pitcher and Rookie of the Month awards in the same month. He follows the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (August 2014), the Rays’ Chris Archer (July 2013), the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson (May 2011), and the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis (June 2003).

Over six starts, the right-hander went unbeaten with a 6-0 record and an impressive 0.70 ERA (3 ER/38.2 IP). He allowed just 14 hits, issued 12 walks, and struck out 44 batters, resulting in a 0.67 WHIP and a .109 opponents’ batting average, averaging 10.24 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. The 26-year-old led the Majors in wins, opponents’ average, and WHIP, ranked second in ERA and innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.

Gil’s standout performance included a career-high 8.0 innings pitched on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing just one run on two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. This dominant start lowered his ERA to 1.99, a significant improvement from the 4.01 mark at the beginning of May.

On May 18, the rookie struck out 14 batters over 6.0 innings, setting a Yankees’ rookie record, surpassing the previous record of 13 strikeouts by Orlando Hernández on August 13, 1998. During this game, Gil recorded seven consecutive strikeouts from the fourth through the sixth inning.

Gil pitched at least 6.0 innings and allowed no more than one run in all six of his starts in May, joining Steve Kline (1972) as the only pitchers in Yankees history to achieve this feat in six consecutive starts. Overall, he is only the 14th pitcher since 1901 under the age of 26 to make at least six consecutive starts of 6.0 innings while allowing no more than one run.

Back-to-back with Soto 

On the same day Aaron Judge and Luis Gil received their monthly honors for May, outfielder Juan Soto was named American League Player of the Week.

This marks Soto’s second Player of the Week award this season and the fifth of his career.

In six games last week, the lefty dominated, hitting .435 with three homers, nine RBIs, three triples, four walks, and seven runs scored. He posted an impressive 1.000 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage.

Soto capped off his stellar week with two home runs against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, including the go-ahead blast in the ninth inning.

For the season, Soto is slashing .322/.417/.614 with 17 home runs, 53 RBIs, 46 runs scored, and 40 walks, making a strong case for the AL MVP.

Read more: Inside MLB’s Bat-Speed Revolution: What We’ve Learned So Far

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Inside MLB’s Bat-Speed Revolution: What We’ve Learned So Far

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MLB's Bat-Speed Revolution

Statcast has introduced a groundbreaking bat-tracking leaderboard on Baseball Savant, revolutionizing how hitter performance is measured. Among the array of new statistics available, bat speed emerges as a crucial metric, gauging the velocity of the bat’s sweet spot upon contact with the ball. This metric holds particular significance for power hitters, as it directly impacts exit velocity and, consequently, fly-ball distance.

The Technology

Renowned physicist Alan Nathan underscores the importance of bat speed, noting its direct correlation to exit velocity. Each additional mile per hour of bat speed translates to a 1.2 mph increase in exit velocity, potentially adding six feet to fly-ball distance, particularly at optimal launch angles.

Utilizing the Hawk-Eye tracking system, which deploys 12 cameras around every major league stadium, including high-speed cameras operating at 300 frames per second, MLB meticulously refined its bat-tracking model over two years before releasing it on its Statcast platform. By measuring swings using the sweet spot about 6 inches below the bat’s head, MLB captures every hitter’s swing objectively, providing a wealth of data for analysis.

King of Speed

When Statcast emerged in 2015, thrusting exit velocity into baseball’s forefront, Giancarlo Stanton, then of the Miami Marlins, dominated nearly every leaderboard. That season, of the 12 balls hit at least 117 mph, nine belonged to Stanton, with one each from Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, and Carlos González.

The now New York Yankees hitter, Stanton’s bat-speed figures still hold up. His average swing velocity hovers around 80.6 mph, almost 3 mph faster than the next contender, Pittsburgh Pirates’ shortstop Oneil Cruz. Notably, Stanton maintains a consistently rapid swing pace, with over 98% of his swings clocking above 75 mph, far surpassing his peers.

Additionally, Stanton ranks near the top in swing length, trailing only Baez. Standing tall at 6-foot-6, it’s no surprise that Stanton’s swing spans an impressive 8.4 feet.

However, as Stanton’s recent struggles highlight, sheer exit velocity or bat speed alone doesn’t guarantee success. Despite boasting the hardest-hit ball of the MLB season at 119.9 mph and leading in average exit velocity on his hardest-hit balls, Stanton’s overall performance has been only slightly above league average, with a batting line of .230/.283/.452.

The takeaway: While having the fastest swing is impressive, it’s clear that success at the plate involves more than just raw power.

On the Flip Side

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies San Diego Padres’ artisan Luis Arráez, whose slow bat speed of 62.4 mph earns him a new distinction in baseball: the slowest bat in the league. Arráez trails behind the next slowest hitter, Cleveland Guardians’ outfielder Steven Kwan, by 2 mph, showcasing a unique approach to thriving in Major League Baseball without elite bat speed.

Arráez and Kwan exemplify the controlled, short swings that consistently make solid contact. Arráez’s swing covers just 5.9 feet, while Kwan’s extends to 6.4 feet. Joining them in the category of sub-68-mph bat speed and sub-6.4-foot swing length are Milwaukee Brewers’ second baseman Brice Turang (128 OPS+), Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo (107), and Toronto Blue Jays’ DH Justin Turner (111), all of whom contribute significantly offensively.

Some may argue that their success is despite their swings, but perhaps it’s time to recognize that their hitting prowess is intertwined with their unique approach. Arráez leads MLB by making solid contact on 43.9% of his swings. This metric is determined by comparing bat speed and pitch speed to determine the maximum exit velocity, with a ball considered squared up if it reaches at least 80% of the peak velocity. 

When hitters square up the ball, they boast an impressive .372 batting average and slug .659. In contrast, when they fail to square up, their average drops to .127, with a meager .144 slugging percentage. Therefore, players like Arráez and Kwan, despite not possessing immense power, deserve recognition for their mastery of the art of hitting.

The Hardest Hitters

AL East

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (75.6 mph)

While Guerrero’s traditional stats may suggest a downturn in 2024, with his slugging percentage (.390) and OPS (.753) potentially hitting career lows, his bat speed hints at a comeback. Averaging 75.6 mph (14th in MLB), Guerrero ranks impressively in metrics like xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate, indicating that his performance might be better than it appears in Toronto.

NL East

Phillies: Kyle Schwarber (77.0 mph)

Known for his boom-or-bust hitting style, Schwarber’s average bat speed ranks third in MLB, trailing only Stanton and Cruz. With a hard-swing rate of 73.9%, he consistently delivers powerful contact, evident in his nine homers for the Philadelphia team. While unconventional for a leadoff hitter, Schwarber’s success speaks for itself, ranking second in MLB with 11 “swords” behind Zach Neto.

AL Central

Tigers: Javier Báez (75.4 mph)

Báez boasts the longest swing among MLB hitters, spanning 8.7 feet, yet he holds the fastest swing speed among Detroit’s roster. Despite a high chase rate (44.7%), Báez manages to swiftly connect with the ball, with 57.4% of his swings categorized as fast, showcasing his ability to make quick contact.

NL Central

Pirates: Oneil Cruz (77.7 mph)

Cruz’s exceptional bat speed places him second in MLB, just behind Stanton, showcasing his prowess at the plate. As a towering 6-foot-7 shortstop, Cruz leads his fellow Pirates teammate Rowdy Tellez by a significant margin in bat speed. Supported by a 73.5% fast swing rate, Cruz consistently crushes the ball, boasting the hardest-hit ball (122.4 mph) of the Statcast era (since 2015).

AL West

Angels: Jo Adell (76.3 mph)

Once hailed as the Angels’ top prospect for his blend of power and speed, Adell is starting to showcase his potential in his fifth MLB season. With 64.7% of his swings surpassing 75 mph, Adell ranks among the top 10 in fast swing rate, demonstrating his evolving offensive prowess.

NL West

Giants: Matt Chapman (76.9 mph)

While not fitting the modern power hitter mold, Chapman consistently ranks among the top hitters in hard-hit rate. His fourth-highest average bat speed among MLB qualifiers, behind Stanton, Cruz, and Schwarber, highlights his ability to generate impressive contact. Chapman’s presence near the top of the leaderboard speaks volumes about his hitting prowess and consistency.

Read more : MLB Revives Players’ Weekend: A Fresh Take on Tradition for 2024

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