Henry Rodriguez needs to be taken out of the closer role, 3 blown saves in 15 days and 2 in the last 5 games. We need Storen back ASAP.
Joey Votto is the man though.
Who would take over?
In 1967, Carl Yastrzemski hit .326 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs, leading the American League in all three categories. You might not be able to quote these numbers off the top of your head, but if you're a hardcore baseball fan, you likely know that Yaz's 1967 numbers represented baseball's 16th and most recent Triple Crown season. Given that the median age of Americans is 37 and Canadians is 41, the majority of North American baseball fans (myself included) weren't yet born the last time someone pulled off baseball's Triple Crown.
One aspect that makes the Triple Crown so tantalizing a record is that it's hard to do -- 12 of the 14 players who have done it are in the Hall of Fame -- and since it requires leading the league rather than hitting a particular number, it can be done in any scoring environment. An increase in the level of play can make it more difficult, but not to the extent hitting 50 homers would be in the dead-ball era or hitting .400 today.
In 2010, we had an intriguing Triple Crown race in that at various points well into the season, four players (Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, and Carlos Gonzalez) all had legitimate shots at pulling it off. Nobody managed it in the end -- not surprising, as it's a difficult feat -- so the dry spell continued for another year.
As we near the quarter pole, Josh Hamilton's hot start has put him into a realistic position to become the 15th Triple Crown winner (Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby did it twice). Over at FanGraphs, updated ZiPS projections for the rest of the season and the entire season appear daily. If you've checked the updated end-of-year projections in the past week or so, you will have seen that Hamilton is now projected to lead the AL in batting average, homers and RBIs when all is said and done.
And the reason why we should feel pretty good about Hamilton's chances of winning the Triple Crown is that this is without ZiPS projecting anything outlandish from Hamilton going forward. ZiPS projects Hamilton to hit .307/.363/.551 over the remaining three-quarters of the season, numbers only slightly above last season and well off what he put up in his 2010 MVP season.
What helps fuel Hamilton's chances is that he's put up an impressive cushion. Hamilton's not dominating the lead in one or two of the categories, but essentially lapping the league in all three. Hamilton has a lead of six in home runs, 15 in RBIs and 33 points of batting average (and Derek Jeter's the only one within 50 points). Helping Hamilton is that a lot of the likely suspects to derail him are farther back in the standings than one would expect. Jose Bautista, the biggest home run threat, is 10 back after a slow start, and that's a big lead to give, even for Joey Bats. Miguel Cabrera's having a solid season but still off his usual standards, and Prince Fielder is at 13 homers back in a tough park. Albert Pujols, one of the serious contenders for the Triple Crown in 2010, has been doing a better job at chasing Adam Dunn's record for OPS dropoff.
So, what are the odds that Hamilton manages the feat? To answer this, I simulated the rest-of-season for all the contenders using one of the swankiest tools for baseball nerds, a Monte Carlo simulation. Using the stats already in the bag (through Sunday's games) and rest-of-season projections, I simulated the season 100,000 times to get an estimate of Hamilton's odds. Given that the rest-of-season probabilities are in fact an educated guess rather than a certainty, I made sure that the simulation took into account that it's very hard to guess what a player's "true ability" is at any given moment. The simulation also considers a factor for injury risk, based on a players' previous health record.
After all the numbers are crunched, Hamilton remains essentially a coin-flip to lead the league in each of the Triple Crown categories (see table), even when taken into account that he's played 130 games in a season only twice. Injury risk definitely hurts his odds at leading the league in the counting categories, but as long as he gets to 502 plate appearances (or at least close), there's the potential to actually help his batting average odds -- he's not really a .400 hitter, so the fewer PAs remaining, the less time there is to fall back to the rest of the league. In the 100,000 seasons played, Hamilton won the Triple Crown 16.1 percent of the time, terrific odds for such a difficult feat.
Hamilton's not the only player threatening to lead the league in the Triple Crown categories, with both Matt Kemp and Carlos Beltran among the leaders in most of the categories. But neither Kemp nor Beltran have odds anywhere near Hamilton's. Kemp's having an amazing year of his own, but with more competition in each category rather than Hamilton's large cushion, ZiPS has Kemp currently at only 0.07 percent, or 140-to-1, to win the Triple Crown. Beltran's currently leading the NL in homers and RBIs, but he has a lot of players to pass in batting average and isn't usually a great hitter for average. That and his injury history puts him at nearly 2,000-to-1 per ZiPS.
So if you're looking for a Triple Crown bet in 2012, Hamilton is your man. While it's not "likely," he's about as good of a bet as you'll ever find this late in the season.
Dan Szymborski covers baseball for ESPN Insider. He has written about the sport since 2001 for the Baseball Think Factory, where he is an editor. He is also the developer of the ZiPS Projection system. You can find his ESPN archives here and follow him on Twitter here.
While there is strong competition from the Pac-12, and the Big 12 certainly deserves mention, the SEC remains the top conference in college baseball in terms of producing prospects for the draft. Using, as a gauge, Keith Law's most recent prospect rankings -- which stretches to 100 players -- the SEC stands at the top as they have many times in recent years.
The SEC has 11 players on the top 100, while the Pac-12 comes in at eight -- both boasting multiple prospects that are likely to be considered in round one. A year ago, the SEC had nine players selected in the top 100, while the Pac-12, then the Pac-10, shared second-place honors with the ACC with eight of the top 100 picks apiece.
The Florida Gators appear to be the loaded team this year, led by catcher and top college position player Mike Zunino, No. 4 overall on Law's list, joined by left-hander Brian Johnson (28), shortstop Nolan Fontana (44), and left-handed reliever Stephen Rodriguez (71). Outfielder/first baseman Preston Tucker and right-handers Hudson Randall and Austin Maddox are potential Top 200 picks.
Louisiana State's Kevin Gausman is currently the top ranked pitcher in the class and some sleepers from the SEC include Ole Miss infielder Alex Yarbrough (90), Arkansas infielder Matt Reynolds and Auburn outfielder Ryan Tella.
Zunino's struggles in SEC play continued this past weekend as the slugger collected just two hits in 10 at-bats, though he made them count, doubling and hitting home run No. 13 -- his fourth versus SEC opponents. While clubs aren't going to tip their hand, it doesn't appear these struggles will hurt Zunino's draft stock much, if at all.
It's difficult to see a scenario where he even gets past Seattle at No. 3, and it seems the only way that occurs is if prep outfielder Byron Buxton falls beyond the first two picks. Zunino enters the final week of the regular season batting .321/.381/.637 with 35 extra-base hits.
• Leading the Pac-12 is Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, who has a legit shot to be the top overall pick by the Houston Astros. He mowed down Washington State over the weekend, striking out 10 and yielding just two runs on six hits. He walked one and improved to 8-1 on the year with a 2.68 ERA and 95-21 K/BB ratio in 94 frames.
One senior scout said Friday night that Appel was as good as he's ever seen him, showing above-average to plus stuff across the board, and doing it in front of a truck load of decision makers and influential talent evaluators. "He pitched tonight like he should be [No.] 1," the scout added.
• Gausman was top notch, too, fanning 11 against one base on balls in a complete-game win over Vanderbilt. The draft-eligible sophomore also is 8-1 and boasts a 2.95 ERA and 112-21 K/BB ratio in 91 2/3 innings.
• Zunino faced Mississippi State right-hander Chris Stratton Friday and went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts. Stratton, who ranks No. 22 on the Top 100, was solid over seven innings even though he didn't have his best stuff. His defense hurt him -- two unearned runs -- but he struck out six and sports a shiny 2.22 ERA in 89 1/3 innings, as well as a 107-19 K/BB count.
• Oklahoma State's Andrew Heaney -- not to be outdone -- tossed another complete game, yielding one earned run on three hits. He needed just 101 pitches to skate by Alcorn State, 74 of which were strikes. He struck out 11 and did not walk a batter and while he's not as projectable as Appel, Gausman, Stratton and San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer, he's performed well in a big conference and he's sitting low-90s with a changeup and slider that project as big-league offerings.
• Jeff Gelalich, UCLA's right fielder, has displayed solid-average tools across the board, including this weekend in Seattle. He can throw, has enough range to stick in right field and make an impact and he homered twice -- once off a fastball middle-in and once off a breaking ball on which he drifted out early but kept his hands back and drove the ball out to right field.
• Stanford's Stephen Piscotty went 5-for-10 over the weekend, reaching base five times Saturday and improving to .344/.432/.513 on the season. He's struck out but 14 times in 46 games and is showing scouts he can handle left field, his likely position in pro ball, after previously playing primarily third base.
• One arm that didn't help his cause over the weekend was Eddie Butler from Radford. The right-hander has a chance to be a Day One pick, but struggled versus Campbell on Friday, allowing 10 hits and five earned runs in five innings, striking out just two of 26 batters faced.
The scouting term is "pop-up guy," and it's used more often in reference to the draft, when players go from just a name to somebody in line for an early pick and big money. But there are pop-up guys in the professional ranks, as well.
These aren't players bouncing back to a previously held reputation. These aren't players finally living up to expectations. These are players who were lucky to sniff their own team's prospect list heading into the season, but who have put up numbers this year and have scouts coming around on their talent.
In other words, these are some new names you should know.
A 13th-round pick in 2010, Austin gained some attention last year for a good showing in the short-season New York-Penn League, but it's his full-season debut that's started to generate real buzz. On a low Class A Charleston roster packed with some of the best prospects in the South Atlantic League, Austin has slumped a bit and is still hitting .314 AVG/.365 OBP/.752 SLG in his first 27 games while leading the circuit with 10 home runs.
The 20-year-old right-handed hitter is broad-shouldered and employs an upright stance, and while there is a significant amount of load in his swing, he makes up for it with excellent bat speed. He profiles to hit for both average and power, although he can be a bit of a free swinger.
A catcher and third baseman in high school, he struggled on the infield corners last year but has found a home in the outfield. His bat is by far his best tool, as he's an average runner and defender.
Cingrani was a third-round pick last year, but that was as a budget-minded senior sign out of Rice. Because of his age and experience level, a 1.75 ERA in the rookie-level Pioneer League last year with 80 strikeouts and just six walks in 51 1/3 innings was enough to generate only minimum attention, as scouts saw a future reliever who lacked a consistent breaking ball.
Things are starting to change this year. Pitching in the tough environment of high Class A Bakersfield in the Cal League, the 22-year-old has a 0.53 ERA after six starts, with 45 strikeouts in 34 innings, while limiting opponents to a .158 batting average. Cingrani is a unique pitcher, as his three-quarters delivery features an extremely long arm action that almost resembles a trebuchet, but the leverage in his delivery gives him above-average velocity.
His fastball sits in the low 90s, touching 95, and he misses just as many bats with a plus changeup that features plenty of deception with the same delivery. His hybrid breaking ball has shown some progress this year, and if it improves to merely average, he's suddenly a very real starting prospect. Either way, because of his age, he should be in Double-A soon.
No prospect in the game is more difficult to evaluate that Gattis. He has reached Double-A in his second full season while slugging .821 with 13 home runs in 106 at-bats, and he was moved from catcher to primarily left field to assist in his ascension, much of it because he turns 26 in August.
Gattis walked away from the game as an amateur, came back and got selected in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft. That meant he turned 24 years old just months after beginning his professional career, so he's trying to make up for lost time, yet he's still behind. Still, he's a big man with not only plus-plus raw power but a surprising ability to make contact, as well, which leaves scouts believing the Braves should keep moving him up to get as much of his prime in the big leagues as possible.
He could be at Triple-A Gwinnett soon, and a September audition is not out of the question.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Hanson hit .263/.352/.429 in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year, which is hardly enough to create hype out of rookie ball. But scouts saw a plus runner with a simple line drive swing and an idea at the plate.
Expected to begin his 2012 season this June in the short-season leagues, Hanson impressed Pirates brass enough this spring to earn a full-season job, and he has been among the best hitters in the South Atlantic League, batting .376/.408/.632 in 31 games with 12 stolen bases. The most shocking part of that line isn't the batting average, it's the power, as 22 of his 50 base hits have gone for extra bases, including four home runs for a player only slightly larger than his listed weight of 152 pounds.
He lacks the arm or consistency to be a shortstop long-term, but scouts are seeing a potential dynamo at second.
A second-round pick in 2010 out of Alabama, Nelson was seen as a wide body who could throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground coming out of college. Despite a 4.38 ERA during his full-season debut at low Class A Wisconsin last year, scouts noted increased velocity toward the end of the season, and with it came more strikeouts.
That trend has continued in 2012, as the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Nelson has been touching 98 mph with high Class A Brevard County while putting up a 2.45 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. With a plus slider and fringe-average change, he looks like a future No. 3 starter, and he has outpitched his two much more hyped rotation mates, 2011 first-round picks Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley.
It's taken scouts a long time to warm up to Straily. As a 24th-round pick in 2009 out of Marshall, Straily began his career as an "org player," but he has struck out about a batter per inning at every level. He has upped the ante in his first taste of the upper levels with 52 strikeouts in his first 40 1/3 Double-A innings, and scouts are impressed with the stuff he's missing bats with.
With a 91-93 mph fastball that can touch 94, Straily throws strikes to set up two quality secondary pitches: a plus changeup that neutralizes left-handed hitters, and a slider that gives righties fits. With a big frame and simple mechanics, he's looking more and more like the rare late pick who can start in the big leagues.
Kevin Goldstein covers baseball for ESPN Insider. He has worked for Baseball Prospectus since 2006, where he is a national writer, and has covered the sport for a decade, with a focus on scouting, prospects and player development. He has previously worked for Baseball America and the self-started The Prospect Report. You can find his ESPN archives here, and follow him on Twitter here.
After a strong 16-4 record and 3.70 ERA in his rookie campaign, success hasn't come as easily for Ivan Nova in 2012. He's maintained a strong record thanks to the Yankees' run support, but his ERA has ballooned over 5.00 despite a higher strikeout rate and lower walk rate. He's given up a few too many home runs, yes, but if he's looking for others reasons for his tough start, he can also turn around a point a finger at his shortstop.
It's no secret that a defense can significantly help or hurt a team and its pitching staff. Thanks to Baseball Info Solutions' defensive runs saved and other defensive metrics, we know approximately how many runs a defense can help or hurt the team over the course of a season. However, not every pitcher is affected the same way.
In Nova's case, observant Yankee fans might have noticed the number of ground balls which trickled between Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter and second base during Nova's recent starts, particularly on April 27 and May 2. The plus/minus system we use at BIS looks at the average velocity of those ground balls through the infield and the direction they were hit, and calculates the frequency that shortstops turn those ground balls into groundouts. Every time one of those ground balls sneaks by Jeter, the plus/minus system penalizes him. Of the 19 ground ball hits that Nova has allowed this year, 15 of them have been between where the second and third basemen play.
Altogether, the plus/minus system estimates that Jeter has cost Nova almost five runs already this season compared to an average shortstop. With five fewer runs on his record, Nova's current 5.02 ERA would drop to over a run to 3.82, right in line with his 3.70 ERA from 2011.
Only one other player has been as detrimental to one particular pitcher as Jeter has been to Nova this year (see table on right). Despite his Gold Glove reputation, Matt Kemp has not been a ball magnet in center field with Chad Billingsley on the mound. Take April 22, for example. Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro led off the fourth inning with a rope to center field, right at Kemp. Unfortunately, Kemp misread the ball off the bat and sprinted in, only to have the ball sail over his head for a triple. The Astros went on to have a big inning, which was partially Billingsley's fault, but Kemp's bad read ultimately cost the Dodgers an out and a run. That isolated play isn't alone, however. As with Jeter and Nova, Kemp has cost Billingsley almost five full runs compared to an average center fielder.
Sometimes, however, a pitcher is his own worst enemy. Derek Lowe gets a lot of ground balls; no surprise there. But, he tends to fall off to the first-base side of the mound after the pitch, leaving him vulnerable to ground balls back through the middle. On May 5 alone, Lowe allowed four separate grounders back through the box that went for hits. As a result of these ground balls, the plus/minus system estimates that Lowe has cost himself and the Indians nearly four runs already this year.
Three-time Fielding Bible Award winner Troy Tulowitzki is off to an uncharacteristically bad start in the field this year, and veteran Jamie Moyer has paid for it. Tulowitzki will likely rebound, and Moyer should get better support from the Rockies' defense the rest of the season.
On the other side of the spectrum (table on right), James Shields has benefited from Sean Rodriguez's defensive play this year. Rodriguez has saved 4.5 runs compared to an average shortstop while Shields is on the mound. With those extra runs, Shields' ERA would balloon from 3.23 to 4.09, and the Rays' ace might not be sitting on a league-leading five wins as he is now.
As discussed recently, the Jays have been implementing shifts more frequently this year, and Brandon Morrow has been the biggest beneficiary to date. Brett Lawrie and Kelly Johnson have each saved between three and four runs with Morrow on the mound. The Jays' Henderson Alvarez and the Braves' Brandon Beachy have enjoyed seeing Colby Rasmus and 2010 Fielding Bible Award winner Michael Bourn, respectively, chase down their deep fly balls this year.
Not every pitcher will continue to get especially good or bad defensive support over the rest of the season. We fully expect Tulowitzki to be more supportive of Moyer, for example. However, it's important to realize that pitchers aren't entirely in control of their own destiny; even the best pitchers need some help every once in a while.
Ben Jedlovec is a research analyst with Baseball Info Solutions and co-author of The Fielding Bible -- Volume III. You can follow him on Twitter (@BenJedlovec).
Jake Peavy won a Cy Young Award years ago and pitched in memorable playoff games, and when he tells stories, he speaks with the perspective of someone about to take the field in an Old Timers' game. It's easy to forget that Peavy is still only 30 years old; he turns 31 at the end of this month. But he has reminded hitters again this year just how good he can be.
Peavy is 4-1 with a league-best 1.89 ERA, and he's allowed only seven walks in 52.1 innings; his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.29 is easily the best of his career. But this is not a case of an old pro learning a trick pitch or successfully adapting with a set of tools greatly diminished by age. Peavy's velocity readings are not that much different than they were in the spring of 2009, when he last pitched for the San Diego Padres.
"It just comes down to being healthy," Peavy said the other day from Chicago. "I know it sounds too simple to be true, that's what it is."
Peavy was on the disabled list when the Chicago White Sox traded for him in the summer of 2009, and although he had assumed his season was over before the deal was made, he worked his way back to pitch in four games at the end of the year for Chicago. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, Peavy wonders if coming back to pitch that September was a bad thing, the first domino that led to other problems.
He altered his delivery in order to compensate for the physical effect of his injury, struggled in 2010 and then got hurt. But Peavy could tell right away this spring, when he first threw, that he was back to throwing the way that he had for the Padres.
"I really believe in being aggressive," he said. "I'm not a finesse guy. I can't have another mentality. I want to be aggressive and attack the hitters. If I'm healthy, I believe in what I can do, and that's where I am now."
He's averaging a little more than seven innings per start and has thrown as many as 122 pitches in his starts. The White Sox hold a $22 million option on Peavy for 2013, and even if they contended all summer and kept the right-hander throughout this season, it would be a surprise if they exercised that option, which would make him one of the highest paid pitchers in the majors for 2013.
As Peavy takes the ball today against the Detroit Tigers and Max Scherzer, the White Sox are 2 1/2 games out of first place. Some officials are beginning to compile lists of possible midseason trade targets, and Peavy has been mentioned as a possibility. "If he's healthy," an assistant GM said last week, "he's really attractive, because he's been through it all, and he knows how to pitch."
But as always, the standings will dictate who becomes available, and with the addition of an extra wild card in each league this season, teams may be even more reluctant to surrender.
Some other starting pitchers who may or may not become available for trade this summer:
2. Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs: Never has this statement been more appropriate than in Dempster's case: Wins and losses mean almost nothing. Dempster, a free agent in the fall, has a 1.74 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, and 41 strikeouts in 41.1 innings. He's allowed one home run, and opposing hitters have a .463 OPS. Dempster is 35 years old, he's had a couple of runs through the postseason, he's throwing well, he's known as a good clubhouse guy, so yeah, he'll have value before the trade deadline.
Dempster is making $14 million in the final year of a four-year, $52 million deal. That high salary may discourage the interest of some teams, because Dempster would be owed almost $5 million for the final two months, a budget-busting number for a lot of clubs.
This why the Los Angeles Dodgers -- who have room to grow their payroll after opening this season with a relatively miniscule $90 million budget -- are poised to perhaps be the most aggressive team before the trade deadline.
3. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies: A couple of things would have to happen before Philadelphia dealt the left-hander, who will be eligible for free agency in the fall. The Phillies' ownership would have to become convinced that the team wasn't good enough to win this year, and they'd have to essentially decide that Hamels isn't going to re-sign with Philadelphia, given the likelihood that he could command six-year offers as a free agent.
While the Phillies have called around and loosely floated Hamels' name in trade discussions, it seems very unlikely that a franchise that has had such incredible success in recent years would unload one of the National League's best pitchers in June or July. Hamels is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA.
4. Carlos Zambrano, Miami Marlins: Time and again, we have seen that poor behavior is overlooked if a player is performing, and so far this year, Zambrano is pitching well for Miami. His fastball velocity is up, his ERA is down to 1.88, and he has been among the better pitchers in the NL. If the Marlins remain in contention -- and right now, Miami is four games out of first -- there would be no reason for the Marlins to deal him. Zambrano would probably be smart to re-sign with the Marlins after his contract expires in the fall.
But if Miami fell out of the NL East race, Zambrano could be an attractive find. The Marlins are responsible for only $2.5 million of the $18 million salary that Zambrano is making this year, so he would be among the cheaper trade options this summer, and Miami might get something decent in return.
5/6. Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee Brewers: The right-handers are eligible for free agency in the fall, and after losing Prince Fielder to free agency last fall and then suffering an early-season rash of injuries, Milwaukee may struggle to hang in the NL Central race. But keep in mind that the Brewers' ownership has developed a strong covenant with its fan base during the last five years -- the team works like crazy to compete, and the Milwaukee faithful consistently fill Miller Park. The Brewers may or may not be able to keep Greinke (3-1, 3.35 ERA) and Marcum (2-1, 3.07 ERA) after this season, but this is not an organization prone to giving up.
7. Derek Lowe, Cleveland Indians: There would be interest from other teams if the Indians placed him on the trade market this summer, given his strong start (5-1, 2.47 ERA), his experience and his versatility. But that may not happen, with Cleveland currently holding a two-game lead in the AL Central.
8. Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics: Oakland is among the great early-season stories, with a record better than .500, but the Athletics are chasing the best team in the majors at the top of the division. If somebody wants to call Oakland and make an offer for Colon, the Athletics will listen. He's 3-3 with a 3.96 ERA so far.
9. Carl Pavano, Minnesota Twins: He has started slowly, and so long as that continues -- he's 2-3, with a 5.02 ERA -- there probably won't be a lot of interest. But the Twins could be among the first teams that look to be a seller.
10. Joe Blanton, Phillies: He's unspectacular, he's been nagged by injuries, and from time to time, the Phillies have tried to dump his salary. But Blanton has been good this year and had another strong start on Monday night.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Blanton won:
A) Blanton used his changeup as a strikeout pitch, which has been a rarity this season. Blanton had three strikeouts with this changeup on Monday; entering Monday, he had just two strikeouts on the pitch this season. Blanton got eight outs with the pitch on Monday; he had gotten just 10 outs with his changeup in his previous four starts.
B) Blanton threw 45 of his 106 pitches from ahead in the count. Blanton has had 40-plus pitches when ahead in the count twice this season, and he went 7-plus innings with 7-plus strikeouts in both (2-0).
C) Blanton returned to his success on the ground after a rough outing against the Mets in his last start. Blanton recorded eight groundball outs on Monday and has now gotten 8-plus groundball outs in six of his seven starts this season. His 54 ground-ball outs ranks in the top 15 among NL starters.
• Meanwhile, Anthony Rendon says his season is likely over. I checked with the Nationals again this morning, and they said they still expect Rendon to play in July or August.
• The Royals' luck has been all bad this year: Now Danny Duffy is looking at reconstructive elbow surgery, as Sam Mellinger writes. You cannot overstate how important Duffy's development is to this organization, so you cannot overstate how devastating this injury is.
• John Moores is pleased with the folks bidding on the Padres.
• The Giants' ownership should do what's right and allow the Athletics to move, writes Mark Purdy.
• The AL East is playing out like a NASCAR race, with 20 yellow flags in the first quarter of the race, and this time it's the Tampa Bay Rays who got dinged up: Jeff Niemann suffered a broken leg. Desmond Jennings went on the disabled list.
1. Nick Cafardo wonders: Should Kevin Youkilis be handed his job back? Here's the thing: In order for the Boston Red Sox to establish any trade value in Youkilis, he's got to play again and demonstrate that he's physically able. "That's the question about him -- is healthy?" said one GM last week. "If so, he can help somebody."
Such as the Dodgers, who might be looking for an alternative at first base if James Loney doesn't start to hit, or maybe the Cincinnati Reds, who could be looking for a third baseman now that Scott Rolen is on the disabled list -- Cincinnati could use a right-handed hitter who could hit in the middle of a lineup. Keep in mind, too, that Youkilis is a Cincinnati native.
2. The Baltimore Orioles continue to scramble with their roster: They've made 22 roster moves since their 17-inning game in Boston on May 6. The Texas Rangers, mind you, have made zero roster moves in the first six weeks, because they haven't had injuries.
3. Neil Huntington should get credit for his pitching acquisitions, writes Ron Cook.
8. The Cubs are keeping Alfonso Soriano in the cleanup spot. Here's the bottom line: Once the Cubs decide to end the Soriano chapter in the team's history, then they will promote Anthony Rizzo and move Bryan LaHair to the outfield. Rizzo's time could be coming soon, writes old friend Chris De Luca.
12. The Rangers' Jackie Moore was back in the dugout after a hospital stay.
4. Matt Kemp's consecutive-games streak ended.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Friedrich is the 11th pitcher since 2000 -- and the first in Rockies history -- to have 10 or more strikeouts in one of his first two career appearances. Shawn Chacon was previously the fastest Rockies player to a 10-plus strikeout game, getting one in his eighth career game.
How Friedrich struck out 10 Giants:
A) Friedrich used location rather than speed. His fastball averaged 91.5 mph, and he did not throw a pitch 94 mph or harder.
B) Friedrich threw only one pitch with a three-ball count all night. He threw 27 pitches with two strikes.
C) Friedrich registered five strikeouts on pitches in the strike zone and five strikeouts on pitches outside the strike zone. Rockies starters have registered five strikeouts on pitches outside the strike zone in just three games this year. All of them have come in the last week, and the Rockies lost all three games by fewer than two runs.
From Elias: Harper is the youngest player to homer in a major league game since Adrian Beltre on Sept. 25, 1998 for the Dodgers vs. the Brewers (19 years and 171 days). Harper is also the youngest player in Nationals/Expos history to homer -- Gary Carter had been the youngest.
5. Adam Dunn homered again, but this time it was off a lefty -- and lefties had been a problem for him.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Dunn's homer off Drew Smyly was his first off a lefty since Aug. 6, 2010, when he hit two off Clayton Kershaw. Before Monday, Dunn's last 30 home runs had come off right-handers. He now has 12 home runs for the season overall, surpassing his total of 11 last season.
By The Numbers, from ESPN Stats and Info:
8: Nationals scored eight runs against the Padres; entering Monday, they were the only team in the majors that hadn't scored eight or more runs in a game.
51: Percent of pitches thrown by Jon Lester outside the strike zone against the Mariners, who did not draw a single walk.
399: Number of consecutive games played by Matt Kemp prior to missing Monday night's game against the Diamondbacks.
429: Distance, in feet, of Bryce Harper's first major-league home run.
We're 20 days away from this year's Rule 4 draft, and virtually nothing is settled at this point, starting with the first overall pick. As always, this is based on my conversations with sources throughout the industry, not my personal rankings of players.
The Astros' decision is still apparently up in the air, but the general feeling is that they'll take the college arm over the higher-upside, higher-risk outfielder, Byron Buxton … or that they'll take the best player who'll cut a deal below the $7.2 million slot figure and transfer the money to later picks.
They were presumed to be on San Francisco right-hander Kyle Zimmer until the past few weeks, when Zimmer's velocity slipped and he missed a start with a hamstring injury. Appel seems to be the other option here, or perhaps prep right-hander Lucas Giolito now that teams are getting more and more comfortable with reports on his elbow injury, which caused him to miss most of the year.
They were supposedly on Florida catcher Mike Zunino, but now the word is they want pitching and are on Giolito, Max Fried (Giolito's high school teammate) and Oklahoma State southpaw Andrew Heaney. But I'm also hearing Puerto Rican prep shortstop Carlos Correa is a possibility. It's worth noting that their first-round pick last year, Danny Hultzen, stunned almost everyone, so if we think the Mariners are on someone, they probably are not.
Baltimore is looking for the best player available; that could be Gausman, who I currently have ranked as the top pitcher in the draft, or Correa or any of the players named above, although the Orioles are not really linked to Giolito.
The Cubs also have their eyes California prep lefty Fried and Puerto Rico's Correa. Almora, who has an advanced feel for hitting and good range in center, is the likely favorite here.
Correa has as much upside as anyone in this draft, with incredible hand-eye coordination and athleticism, but it's likely he ends up at third. This could also be San Francisco right-hander Zimmer or Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer, and they're just waiting with open arms if someone should fall.
Most people saw Marrero as a top-five pick coming into the season, but he didn't have a great year for the Sun Devils. However, the entire industry seems to think the Pirates want him here. I have also heard them on Mississippi State right-hander Chris Stratton.
Fried, who is very polished for a prep pitcher, and Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins are the most likely picks here, with some rumors around Duke righty Marcus Stroman (Heath Bell's replacement?) and Oklahoma prep righty Ty Hensley (perhaps just because his father and Stan Meek are friends).
Hawkins might have the quickest bat of anyone in this draft, though he sometimes struggles to make contact. I'm also hearing Ty Hensley and David Dahl here. I would have to think they'd re-evaluate if someone such as Fried fell this far.
McCullers has been moving up boards with some strong showings of late and has more scouts believing he can remain a starter. The A's are also considering Florida prep shortstop Addison Russell; Las Vegas high school slugger Joey Gallo and his crazy power; Shaffer; Hawkins, if he's here; and some of the college arms. Where they pick, it makes sense for them to be on a lot of guys, as they're just outside the top tier of 8-10 names.
Wacha doesn't have a ton of upside, but his advanced changeup and likelihood of reaching his ceiling make him appealing. Also hearing the Mets on Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini and Hawkins or Fried if either should get here.
Shaffer has the most raw power of any college hitter in this class and has a very good chance of being a solid big league regular, but probably not a star. It'll be interesting to see if ownership allows the scouting department to spend up to the new, higher slot numbers, since they almost never exceeded the old figures. I've also heard them tied to Ohio prep lefty Matt Smoral.
Zimmer's hamstring issue has clouded his draft status a bit, and while he throws hard he doesn't have a lot of downward plane on his fastball. The Reds have been linked mostly with college arms so far, with Zimmer heading a group that would include Heaney, Stroman and Stratton.
The best college lefty in the draft has had impressive results in a tough conference, but he's not overpowering. As with the Reds, I'm hearing college arms here, too, including Wacha and Heaney, but I think scouting director Brad Grant proved last year -- when he grabbed high school shortstop Francisco Lindor in the first round -- that he's not afraid to take a prep player.
Hearing arms here, mostly college but including a possible prep arm such as Lucas Sims. Stratton has put up impressive strikeout numbers in the SEC, but needs to prove he can pitch more off his fastball in pro ball.
The younger brother of Red Sox third-base prospect Garin Cecchini is a better hitting and fielding prospect. Also hearing the Jays linked to Florida prep righty Nick Travieso, Louisiana high school catcher Stryker Trahan, Mississippi high school outfielder D.J. Davis and Gallo. In other words, the Blue Jays sound like they're going for ceiling.
A big, hard-throwing Midwestern arm with a hammer curveball. Don't tell me that doesn't sound like a Dodgers pick to you. Arizona prep outfielder Mitch Nay could also be a fit.
This is the compensation pick the Cardinals got from the Angels for Albert Pujols. St. Louis is linked to lots of bats, including Cecchini if he's here, Davis, Russell and Stanford's Stephen Piscotty. Haven't heard Gallo here, but he'd make a lot of sense if they believe he'll hit. Sims is one pitching possibility.
His lack of height will scare some teams off, but the stuff is very real. Florida southpaw Brian Johnson is also a possibility here, as is Piscotty.
Rahier is one of the most advanced prep bats in this class and at least has a chance to stick at short, though his body looks like that of a third baseman. I heard Missouri State righty Pierce Johnson a lot here before he got hurt. Atlanta is also in on Brian Johnson, Davis and Smoral if the team is sufficiently comfortable with the reports on the foot injury that caused him to miss some time.
This is a compensation pick the Blue Jays got for failing to sign first-rounder Tyler Beede a year ago. (Beede ended up at Vanderbilt.) In addition to Travieso, I've also heard Toronto linked to Georgia high school right-hander Duane Underwood, but more likely in the sandwich round.
Stanford tends to stress an extremely mechanical approach to hitting that often robs hitters of power and flexibility, but it hasn't hindered Piscotty as much as previous Cardinal prospects. As noted earlier, the Cardinals are looking for bats.
They could play the board and go for a college guy here, hoping to get Davis at 31, but I doubt he gets by the Rangers and Yankees.
Kelly is a two-way prospect who has strong hands but a noisy lower half. He's the best player available for the Rays, a team with a history of drafting top talent from the Pacific Northwest, such as 2011 supplemental first-rounders Jeff Ames and Blake Snell.
He could have gone in that 13-16 range if healthy, but a forearm strain has left his status unclear. He could still go that high if the medicals come back clean.
This Arizona State commit may not stay behind the plate, but there's little doubt that he'll hit, and he has the arm strength to shut down the running game. (This is a compensation pick from the Tigers for Prince Fielder.)
Sims generates a lot of arm speed from his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame and features a low-90s fastball and a sharp, if inconsistent, curveball. This is probably the dream scenario for Milwaukee -- landing a bat and an arm, with one of their top choices for each -- although I understand they'd like to get one college guy in these first two picks.
If Elfin hadn't missed a little time with a strained triceps, there's no way he gets here. At 6-5, 200 pounds, he has a ton of projection and has touched 95 mph this spring. Could see Underwood here, too.
I've heard them with Davis, if he gets here, and Washington prep outfielder Mitch Gueller as well. The Phillies are on Gueller hard in the sandwich round.
This selection is compensation from the Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon. Gallo, who could be a first-rounder as a pitcher for his power arm or for his 80-grade power, shouldn't get this far, really. Have also heard the Sox linked with North Carolina prep third baseman Corey Seager, but both kids could carry high price tags.
Sometime on Thursday, baseball owners are expected to formally ratify the new playoff format, locking in the system of six division winners and four wild-card teams for this season and beyond.
A general manager noted on Tuesday that nobody really knows the practical impact this will have on the summer trade market.
Will the new format make teams wait longer to declare themselves sellers? If so, will the worst teams wait until the end of July, or will they wait until August?
Will the fresh memory of how the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays scrambled into the postseason last year -- while the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves collapsed -- be a talking point between notoriously optimistic owners (meaning: unrealistic) and their GMs? Will there be owners who convince themselves that they're destined to be the 2012 version of Bill DeWitt, holding up a championship trophy at the end?
Will the additional playoff teams also impact the number of buyers, because with more teams making the playoffs, GMs won't feel quite so much pressure to add to stay in contention for a berth? The Giants' Carlos Beltran deal was the latest example of how surrendering a top prospect for a midsummer dream doesn't guarantee anything.
But no matter how the rest of the market plays out, there are three teams that executives believe will be the most aggressive:
1. Detroit Tigers: Owner Mike Ilitch bet heavily on 2012, investing a nine-year deal in Prince Fielder and loading up his team's lineup. As one executive noted, you don't make a move like that and then operate tentatively during the summer; the Tigers presumably will go all in at some point, aggressively plugging holes.
Maybe that will be in the bullpen; maybe it'll be at second base; maybe it'll be in left field, given Delmon Young's struggles. Keep in mind that later this summer, the Tigers' lineup could be improved by the return of Victor Martinez at DH.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: They have a Rust Belt-size payroll now, starting this season at $90 million, leaving the team's new owners with lots of room to grow. The early-season star performances of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis and some pitchers have masked a lot of possible trouble spots. Shortstop Dee Gordon has struggled, and so has first baseman James Loney, and the Dodgers have had some pitching injuries.
Not many teams are in position to take on dollars during the season, but the Dodgers likely will be. Should they go after Kevin Youkilis? Carlos Lee? A.J. Pierzynski? Shane Victorino? Zack Greinke? Shaun Marcum? Joe Blanton? We'll see.
3. St. Louis: The Cardinals have a terrific team with potential for returning to the World Series, GM John Mozeliak is poised to be executive of the year considering how strong his Albert Pujols decision appears to be, and Mozeliak has experience at making a big deal. Last summer, he made a whopper trade of Colby Rasmus that was initially criticized -- and the pitching depth that the Cardinals landed turned out to be difference-making for the franchise.
At this point, the Cardinals' needs haven't been clearly defined, because they don't yet know what Chris Carpenter might provide or how good the rotation could be in the second half or if injuries will need to be addressed. But rival GMs expect that the Cardinals will be active when they need to be active.
Youkilis will start to work his way back today.
• This is a stunner, because of the relationship between manager Mike Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher: The Angels' hitting coach was fired. The Angels have grossly underperformed, says the GM. This move, more than any other, demonstrates the diminishment in Scioscia's power within the organization.
From ESPN Stats and Info: The Angels' offense is struggling, and it's not just Pujols. The Angels' team-wide OPS of .680 is the lowest mark the team has produced since 1992.
The Angels have been shut out eight times through the first 37 games of the season. The most recent American League team shut out eight times through 37 games was the 2003 Tigers, a team that finished 43-119.
• Brett Lawrie could be facing a lengthy suspension. He bounced his helmet at the feet of umpire Bill Miller, as this video shows. The guess here: 10 games. Lawrie says it was not his intention to hit Miller. Somebody threw a beer at the umpire.
A) Lowe got 22 groundball outs, the most since Joel Pineiro got 22 on June 23, 2009, against the Mets.
B) Lowe threw his sinker more than 90 percent of the time (115 of 127 pitches), his highest percentage in the last four seasons.
C) With so many sinkers, more than two-thirds of Lowe's pitches were down in the zone, the first time he's done that this season.
D) He threw only five pitches up in the strike zone (3.9 percent), the lowest percentage by a starter this season.
It was Lowe's first shutout since 2005 and fourth of his career.
Lowe is the first pitcher with a shutout but no strikeouts since Scott Erickson on April 28, 2002. He's just the fourth pitcher in the expansion era to throw a shutout in which he finished with zero strikeouts and at least four walks (Doyle Alexander did it last, with five walks in 1989).
3. Oakland added another Australian.
5. The Rays called up a pitcher.
2. There is word on the progress of catcher Salvy Perez in his rehab from injury, within this Bob Dutton notebook.
5. The White Sox blew a big lead.
By The Numbers, from ESPN Stats and Info:
0: Teams in the AL Central with a positive run differential
5: Starts this season in which Lincecum has allowed at least four earned runs; he had seven such starts all of last season.
The last team in the majors to reach triple-digits in runs this season was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have crossed the plate 102 times, 18 less than any other club.
If things change, it likely won't be the result of outside reinforcements, reports Bill Brink of the Post-Gazette.
GM Neal Huntington insists the plan is to stick with the players the club has, at least for now. The Pirates are still waiting for a return on their combined $14.5 million investment in Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas, both of whom are hitting well below .200.
As for minor league reinforcements, Biertempfel says top hitting prospect Starling Marte, batting just .261 at Triple-A Indianapolis, is nowhere near ready for a call-up.
- Doug Mittler
The first notable casualty of the Los Angeles Angels' 16-21 start was Mickey Hatcher, who was dismissed as hitting coach Tuesday night and replaced by Jim Eppard, hitting coach at Triple-A Salt Lake City.
The dismissal of a coach can be meant as a message that more serious house-cleaning is on the way, a practice that George Steinbrenner made famous in the Bronx. We're not saying that bigger moves are forthcoming, but ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney writes in Wednesday's blog that the firing demonstrates the diminishment in Mike Scioscia's power within the organization.
Eric Sodheimer of the LA Times says Scioscia has been one of Hatcher's most loyal supporters, but the coach angered new Angels slugger Albert Pujols last month when he talked to reporters about what was said at a closed-door hitters meeting. Given that Pujols isn't going anywhere, Hatcher was quickly on shaky ground.
- Doug Mittler
A statue of Tony Gwynn stands outside of Petco Park. Could the Hall of Famer walk past it everyday as part of a new ownership group for the San Diego Padres?
The speculation regarding the franchise icon picked up steam Tuesday when Gwynn reportedly met for two hours with Thomas Tull, movie mogul and prospective Padres purchaser, at a downtown hotel. Gwynn was then back on his job as the baseball coach at San Diego State, but left a few innings into his team's eventual 13-7 victory over Loyola Marymount.
Exactly what role Gwynn would have in an ownership group remains an open question, but the initial response is favorable. "Whether Gwynn is being wooed as a partner and/or PR man by Tull or anyone else interested in taking the Padres off John Moores' hands, we can only surmise. And hope," writes Kevin Acee of the Union Tribune.
- Doug Mittler
An outside shot is better than no shot at all, but the D-backs want to make sure Young is healthy. Young, who hurt his shoulder crashing into the fence in an April 17 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, played in his first rehab game for High-A Visalia on Monday night.
Given that the series is in Kansas City, Gibson has the option of easing Young back into the lineup as a designated hitter. Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock have been playing center field in Young's absence.
- Doug Mittler
A furious Lawrie slammed his helmet to the ground after he took strike three and it struck plate umpire Bill Miller in the hip.
The Jays will have to make a roster move and call someone up from the minors once the penalties are handed down. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star says the only options for third base on the current roster are Edwin Encarnacion and Omar Vizquel.
- Doug Mittler
Wedge dismissed the notion of moving Kyle Seager from third base to short in place of Ryan, who is 1-for-14 in his last four games, dropping his batting average to .140. Liddi, who played some shortstop at Triple-A, is hitting .293 in 58 at-bats.
Wedge said left field also is an option for the native of San Remo, Italy.
- Doug Mittler
The Athletics will need to make a roster move Wednesday after picking up reliever Travis Blackley on waivers from the Giants.
Oakland already has four left-handers in the bullpen, so rookie southpaw Pedro Figueroa might be the choice for demotion Wednesday rather than right-hander Andrew Carignan, says Susan Slusser of the Chronicle. Blackley is expected to be used in long relief.
- Doug Mittler
Reimold, sidelined with a neck injury, said Tuesday that he still is experiencing tingling in his thumb and forearm and weakness in his left shoulder several days after undergoing an epidural injection.
With Reimold sidelined, left field at Camden Yards has been a revolving door. Six different players have started there this season, including rookie Xavier Avery, who has been there the last three games.
- Doug Mittler
Colorado Rockies ownership awarded Jim Tracy an "indefinite extension" in spring training because the club wanted to avoid the distraction of having the manager begin the season in the final year of his contract.
The Rockies have the third worst record in the majors at 14-21, leading to speculation as to just how definitive the club will be regarding the future of Tracy and his staff. While less than pleased, general manager Dan O'Dowd told Troy Renck of the Denver Post there are no plans for a major shake-up involving the coaching staff.
History would seem to be on Tracy' side since the team normally is patient with mangers. While Clint Hurdle was fired 46 games into the 2009 season, that team was billed as a pennant contender and O'Dowd felt that Hurdle had lost the clubhouse.
If the 2012 season continues to spiral out of control, Rockies ownership must take a very hard look at the entire front office, opines Patrick Saunders of the Post.
- Doug Mittler
The San Francisco Giants lack outfield depth on their future rosters, including the outfield. Aside from prospect Gary Brown, there's not much down on the farm, either. In turn, Melky Cabrera, a free agent at the end of the season, is off to a hot start at the plate and could be a player the club looks to keep beyond 2012.
General manager Brian Sabean said he would be open to midseason contract extension talks with Cabrera, and the outfielder had a non-committal response. "To me, I'm open for whatever," Cabrera tells Henry Schulman. "If it happens, it happens."
The 27-year-old is making $6 million this season in the final year of arbitration eligibility and could warrant a long term deal as a result of his torrid start. Through Sunday's games, Cabrera is batting .348/.396/.504 with five stolen bases and 14 extra-base hits. All this while playing well defensively in left and right field.
The deals handed to Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer could serve as the standard for Cabrera, though the switch hitter is younger and a better glove than either of the two veterans. Both received three-year deals worth between $7 million and $10.5 million. Cabrera could net a deal longer than three years with an AAV of at least $8 million.
The fact that he can play center field, too, could significantly help him max out his contract. Angel Pagan is manning center for the Giants this season, but he's no guarantee to return, which could make Cabrera all that more attractive to the club. Pagan told Schulman that the contract extension was the furthest thing from his mind at this point.
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
Bay, the Mets' $66 million outfielder who is sidelined with a fractured rib, was cleared by team doctors Monday to resume some baseball activities and is expected to be back in about 10 days. "He didn't come here to be an extra player," Collins said.
Collins will face an interesting lineup dilemma when Bay returns. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has started in left and has made the most of his first taste of the big leagues (.294/.370/.412). Collins will likely do his best to get the rookie his share of at-bats. One possibility is Nieuwenhuis cutting into the playing time of Andres Torres in center field.
- Doug Mittler
Bay's fantasy outlook
"There's little reason for fantasy owners to be excited about Bay's return. While Nieuwenhuis can't hit .300 for long with his strikeout rate and .429 BABIP, it might be a good thing for his owners to see playing time cut, since he couldn't continue at this rate. It would be a shame if Torres, one of ESPN's most added outfielders in the past week, loses playing time. Ultimately, Torres is a better bet than Bay and Nieuwenhuis but still only a borderline own for 10-team leagues."
The trade deadline is still 10 weeks away, but it's just a deadline. Deals can happen anytime, and there could be some clubs already considering such a philosophy as the summer nears.
We'll assume the Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers will out their sluggish starts before making any decisions, but the following group could be aggressive early. For the record, I left out the Pirates, for now, partially because they are just three games out and partially due to their lack of veterans that fit the profile of a deadline trade target.
The Twins could field calls for centerfielder Denard Span, right-handers Carl Pavano and Matt Capps as well as Justin Morneau if they feel they can reload quicker by dealing the former MVP.
The club is already nine games back in American League Central and have banished Francisco Liriano to the bullpen, suggesting he, too, could be trade bait to some extent, though it'd be a sell-low scenario. Catcher Joe Mauer may be the only safe player on the roster.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals' pitching staff has struggled and they could use some young arms to add to their roster to build around Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and other young position players. Perhaps putting 1B/DH Billy Butler on the trade market could attract a starting pitcher. Right fielder Jeff Francouer could be made available, too.
Joakim Soria might have been a candidate, but he's out for the season after having Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.
The Cubs are certainly in a rebuilding year and have already traded outfielder Marlon Byrd. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano, right-handers Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster and former closer Carlos Marmol could all be dealt away this summer. Catcher Geovany Soto could also be shopped, as he's getting pricey and inching closer to free agency.
The Cubs have holes everywhere, but particularly on the mound, in the outfield corners and at second and third base. It would not be a surprise if they went fishing for a catcher of the future.
The Astros are tied with the Cubs and Brewers at 15-20 on the season, but their future is grim and any chance they get to move a veteran to add young talent, new GM Jeff Lunhow is likely to jump.
San Diego Padres
The Padres may not have a lot left to trade after dealing Adrian Gonzalez prior to the 2011 season and trading right-hander Matt Latos this past winter. Veteran infielders Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett are struggling and could be moved, but they could also end up designated for assignment.
The most valuable piece of bait for the Friars is third baseman Chase Headley, who is a switch hitter who gets on base and hits for some average. He handles third base well enough and is two-plus years from free agency. He lacks the ideal power numbers clubs want from third basemen, but he hits, is just 28 and there aren't a lot of options at the hot corner in baseball right now.
Huston Street, once he's back healthy, is likely to hear his name in the rumor mill throughout the summer and right-hander Luke Gregorson could be this year's Mike Adams; a player that wasn't expected to be moved but was.
The Mariners could entertain offers for left-hander Jason Vargas, closer Brandon League and catcher Miguel Olivo, but GM Jack Zduriencik, who probably needs to start winning sooner than later, could have something bigger up his sleeve.
Others that could be moved include centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez, but he's still on the disabled list and would have to get healthy and hit for a month or so before clubs would give up anything of value.
Felix Hernandez is having a terrific season and his contract is up after 2014. He's not likely to be a mid-summer trade candidate, however, as clubs generally feel theyc an get more during the winter months when more clubs can get involved.
- Jason A. Churchill
FanGraphs Prospect Stock Watch – 05/16/12.
Who? Bond has been kicking around the minor leagues since being selected by the Giants out of a Missouri high school in the 24th round of the 2007 draft. A pure hitter, he hit well over .300 during his three seasons in A-ball and double-A. He was then a triple-A all-star in 2010 before missing almost the entire year in ’11 due to injury. Healthy once again, Bond is hitting .385 with 10 walks and just nine strikeouts in 24 games. He’s always controlled the strike zone exceptionally well but has little-to-no power and doesn’t run much. As such, his offensive profile is limited because his value is tied solely to his ability to hit for average. He’s also an average fielder and has seen some time at second base, third base and left field. Bond, 26, could make an excellent 25th man – a switch-hitting pinch hitter and occasional infield back-up – for a National League club. As we’ve seen with the early 2012 success of pinch hitters like Chad Tracy and Mike Baxter, these players can be quite valuable.
The Texas organization does an amazing job of identifying amateur talent through the draft and while scouting the international free agent market. It scored once again – this time with former first round pick Loux who was the sixth overall pick by Arizona during the 2010 draft. He failed to come to terms with the Diamondbacks when a shoulder injury caused the organization to back away, not wanting to risk $2+ million on him. Then declared a free agent, Texas stepped in and signed him. Assigned to high-A in 2011, Loux pitched very well in high-A ball with 127 Ks in 109.0 innings. Moved up to double-A in 2012, the right-hander has been equally as good with 42 whiffs in 43.1 innings. He’s produced an above-average ground-ball rate but he’s already given up five home runs after allowing just six last year. If his health holds up (He also had elbow sugery in college for bone chips), Loux could develop into a solid No. 3 starter; he does have a relatively low stress delivery, which works in his favor.
There are not many hitters in all of baseball that are as hot as Myers. In his past 10 games the 21-year-old outfielder is hitting .371 with six home runs, 11 runs scored and 10 RBI. Repeating double-A for the second straight year, the former third round draft pick is hitting .343 with 13 home runs (25 extra base hits) in 35 games. Myers is one homer shy of his career high for a season (447 A-ball at-bats in ’10) and he hit just eight in 354 at-bats last year. The former catcher, who projects as a right-fielder, has been playing center field this season and recently spent some time at the hot corner to increase his versatility. With some hard work the athletic player could probably become at least average at the position but Kansas City already has a potentially-plus young defender at the hot corner at the MLB level in Mike Moustakas. Myers was promoted to triple-A today.
The 36th overall pick of the 2011 draft, Owens was aggressively assigned to full season ball in ’12 despite the fact he signed too late to play pro ball last year. The lefty has shown very promising stuff with 47 Ks in 29.1 innings of work. In his last three starts he hasn’t allowed an earned run and he’s given up just five hits with 18 whiffs in 15.0 innings. His control has been a big issue, though, with 21 walks. Standing 6’6