The tireless Manny Machado.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There will be time for sleep on Monday, when the Baltimore Orioles have an off day, and Manny Machado needs it. He estimates that he had about 12 hours of sleep in the first 72 hours after he was called up to the big leagues, with the adrenaline rush, the phone calls and text messages fueling him. When a young player is summoned to the big leagues, the entire baseball community shares the joy.
The first to call was Yonder Alonso, a close friend who happens to also be the first baseman for the San Diego Padres, and Alonso was screaming. "See?" Machado remembers him yelling. "Hard work pays off! You worked your *** off!"
When Machado went out for his pregame sprints in his Thursday debut, he crossed paths with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals, and they had hugs for him. "Stay hungry and just do you," Hosmer said to him. "Don't try to do too much."
Machado walked up to the plate for his first major league at-bat, and Royals catcher Salvador Perez greeted him. "Congratulations," Perez said.
"Welcome to the big leagues," said home plate umpire Tim Tschida.
Machado ripped a triple in his second at-bat, scored a run, and when he got back to the dugout, Adam Jones met him. "Once you got that first hit out of the way," Jones told Machado, "you can really settle in."
His cell phone was filled with text messages by the time the game ended, and the phone rang afterward. Alex Rodriguez was calling. "How'd it feel?" Rodriguez asked. "Was it what you imagined?"
"I finally got the jitters off," Machado told him.
But as he prepared for his second game, Machado found he still felt the butterflies, the same level of excitement he had for his first game. Machado mashed his first home run of his career and then his second.
"The phone has been nonstop blowing up," he said early Saturday afternoon. "Jon Jay called. Yonder. We work out together in the offseason, and we're like brothers. Everybody has just been excited for me."
"I can barely sleep," Machido continued. "Now I'm going back to the ballpark and I'm going to play again."
He sounded similar to what a child would sound like on Christmas morning.
It was a long day at the park for Machado on Saturday because rain delayed the start of the game by three hours; he drove in a run in the Orioles' loss.
The Royals got some runs for Luis Mendoza, writes Bob Dutton.
Craig Kimbrel had trouble throwing a slider when he was at Wallace State Community College, and teammate Zach Ivey showed Kimbrel the grip he used to throw a spike curve. Kimbrel tried it, liked it, immediately put it to use in his next start, and he remembers racking up a lot of strikeouts right away.
His quick development of that pitch was one crossroad in his journey to becoming a dominant closer and a candidate for the NL Cy Young award this year. Another, he believes, was his shift from working from the windup to throwing all of his pitches from the stretch, which helped refine his command. "A big part of this is being able to repeat your mechanics time in and time out," said Kimbrel, who will be waiting for a save chance tonight when the Atlanta Braves play the New York Mets on "Sunday Night Baseball."
A key checkpoint for him is making sure that he doesn't rush through his mechanics. He has a good feel for when that happens, and catchers Brian McCann and David Ross will see it immediately, he says, so he can make the adjustment before his next pitch.
"For me, he's got the best fastball in the league," said McCann, "and the best curveball."
McCann says there have been moments when hitters will step into the box and say something along the lines of, Well, this should be interesting. Casey McGehee once said to Kimbrel, "How 'bout you throw something that doesn't look like it's [6 inches] off the ground?"
Kimbrel has 75 strikeouts in 43 innings, and only three of the 17 hits he's allowed have gone for extra bases. Left-handed hitters are 4-for-75 against him with 42 strikeouts. With runners in scoring position, hitters are 1-for-18 against him. With runners on base, they are 4-for-40 -- all singles -- with 20 strikeouts. "He's totally locked in," said McCann.
The Braves are playing with a lot of confidence these days, and they lit up Johan Santana and the Mets on Saturday. Dan Uggla is finding his swing, David O'Brien writes.
• Brandon Inge popped his shoulder back into place and got a big hit, Susan Slusser writes. It appears the Oakland Athletics have gone through about 20 closers this year, and Ryan Cook is getting a break from the role.
• Before the trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Rays may have had the most difficult buy-or-sell decision of any of the contenders, because they really didn't know what Evan Longoria might provide for them in the final two months of the season -- and they still really don't know, because the chance for a setback is real and he's hardly running at all. But Longoria is back in the lineup and providing a threat, the Rays' pitching has been incredible for the past month and Tampa Bay has a real chance to become the team nobody will want to play in the postseason. The Rays have five straight wins since Longoria was activated and got a nice start from David Price on Saturday.
From ESPN Stats and Information, how Price beat the Minnesota Twins:
A. Price threw 77 percent fastballs, his highest percentage this season.
B. Price worked his fastball to both sides of the plate, keeping it out of the middle of the zone. He threw just nine of his 78 fastballs (12 percent) over the middle (horizontally) of the zone, his lowest percentage this season.
C. All five of Price's strikeouts were looking, pushing his MLB-leading total to 68 this season. It's the most called strikeouts Price has had in his career. Four of his strikeouts came on his fastball, three of which were inside at 96-plus mph.
Most called strikeouts this season
Price, Tampa Bay: 68
Vance Worley, Philadelphia Phillies: 56
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia: 51
Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Dodgers: 48
James Shields believes it's time to pick up his share of the burden, Marc Topkin writes.
• Some contending teams were hit by major injury news, with the New York Yankees losing CC Sabathia to an elbow issue (they added Derek Lowe) and Joey Votto having a setback that will keep him out of the lineup an additional seven to 10 days.
The Cincinnati Reds have soared in the time that Votto has been out; with Saturday's comeback victory, they have an 18-8 record since Votto was placed on the disabled list.
Meanwhile, Scott Rolen's back issues are lingering.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Since Sabathia's first season in 2001, no pitcher has thrown more pitches (39,186) than the southpaw.
• The Houston Astros shook up their scouting department.
• Dan Haren had another rough outing. It's not clear exactly what he can give the Los Angeles Angels down the stretch, and (perhaps) in the playoffs. The slumping Mark Trumbo got the day off.
Dings and dents
1. Ian Desmond is making progress, Adam Kilgore writes.
2. Colby Rasmus has a groin injury.
3. Will Middlebrooks has a broken wrist. The Danny Valencia trade proves to be timely.
4. Mike Napoli landed on the disabled list.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Chicago Cubs brought in a new scouting director.
2. Nate Schierholtz was given an opportunity to play center field.
3. Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona) will start for the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
4. As the Royals look for starting pitching, they are culling through some options in their bullpen, writes Dutton.
5. Ron Gardenhire wouldn't want to go anywhere else.
6. The St. Louis Cardinals decided to not tinker with their rotation.
7. The Arizona Diamondbacks called up a contact hitter.
8. Nick Hundley was recalled from the minors.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
5: number of different teams Padres pitcher Jason Marquis has thrown a shutout for after his two-hit shutout versus the Pirates on Saturday.
17: consecutive seasons Derek Jeter has collected at least 150 hits, a milestone he reached Saturday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's tied with Hank Aaron for the longest such streak in MLB history.
.443: batting average of Giants catcher Buster Posey since the All-Star Break, tops in MLB.
7.98: ERA of Mets pitcher Johan Santana since throwing his no-hitter on June 1.
AL West notes
• The Angels lost, but Mike Trout robbed another hitter of a home run; Jerome Williams' reaction to the play in this video is classic.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Trout made his third home run robbery of the season Saturday. No other player in baseball has more than one. The last players with at least three home run robberies in a single season were Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez, who both had three in 2010.
• Mike Olt was assaulted by teammates, in a good way.
• Hisashi Iwakuma pitched a great game for the Seattle Mariners, as Geoff Baker writes.
AL Central notes
• Francisco Liriano was inconsistent, and the Chicago White Sox lost.
• Zach McAllister had a strong outing.
• The Detroit Tigers came up on the short end of a great game.
AL East notes
• The injury-depleted Toronto Blue Jays have dropped five straight, Brendan Kennedy writes.
• The Boston Red Sox made mistakes.
NL West notes
• Buster Posey is ridiculously hot at the plate: He slammed another homer, in support of Matt Cain, writes John Shea. He reminds Alex Pavlovic of Joe Montana.
• Wade Miley had a short outing, and the Diamondbacks fell back to .500.
• Joe Blanton's solid effort fell to pieces.
• Marquis was The Man for the San Diego Padres.
NL Central notes
• The Astros have a winning streak.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates have hit a ditch; that's three straight losses and counting.
• The Cubs gave up a late-inning lead.
• The Milwaukee Brewers can't beat the Astros. Ron Roenicke ranted about the Milwaukee bullpen, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• Jake Westbook put the Cardinals on his shoulders.
NL East notes
• Cliff Lee is still winless at home.
• You can't stop the Washington Nationals, you can only hope to contain them: They've won eight in a row.
• Ricky Nolasco snapped his losing streak.
• There's just no way to tell exactly why Johan Santana has faded, whether it's just a matter of an older pitcher coming back from major surgery, or whether the 134-pitch no-hitter actually took something out of him, as manager Terry Collins feared the night that occurred. But Santana came off the disabled list Saturday and lasted only 1 1/3 innings.
His numbers since the no-hitter: nine starts, 44 innings, 61 hits, 11 home runs, 18 walks, 39 strikeouts, 7.98 ERA.
The Mets should think about shutting him down, writes Anthony McCarron.
Baseball's most dangerous team.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Every week, we post power rankings that reflect the won-loss records and the overall numbers during the long season. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have consistently been stacked near the top of the rankings all year, because they've won more games than any other AL teams, and it appears that both teams will cruise into the postseason, one way or another.
But here's a completely separate question: Who is the team nobody wants to play in the postseason?
In the American League, that team may well be the Tampa Bay Rays, who have six straight wins, all after the return of Evan Longoria to their lineup. CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are on the disabled list, the Rangers' rotation has been hammered by injuries and is looking for improvement out of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, and the Angels' bullpen has become a serious problem.
Meanwhile, the Rays' pitching -- so dangerous all along -- has come together.
David Price has been the staff leader all year and is among the three front-runners in the AL Cy Young conversation, but now Matt Moore is figuring it out. Moore's month-to-month ERA this season:
James Shields has been throwing more fastballs, as Roger Mooney writes, and he's allowed only three earned runs in his last 24 innings. Jeremy Hellickson has a 3.52 ERA.
The Tampa Bay bullpen has been spectacular, quietly, with Fernando Rodney having the type of year that even Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman would brag about; Rodney has allowed only 33 hits and eight walks in 54 innings. Tampa Bay's staff ERA is three-quarters of a run better than any other team's.
We are about 6½ weeks away from a brand of postseason we've never seen before, in which teams could repeatedly face one-game, winner-take-all situations by having to play wild-card and division tiebreakers before the actual wild-card games. It's possible that a team could face four or five elimination games in the span of those 10 days, and since pitching matchups are always the most important factor in a short series, the Rays hold an advantage because, right now, they have the best pitching.
So maybe we could consider a second power ranking of the most dangerous teams. As of today, my top five:
1. Tampa Bay: The Rays' rotation depth is the best in the majors.
2. Atlanta Braves: The Braves have an underrated rotation and an extraordinary bullpen. In any tie game in late innings, their bullpen of Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Kris Medlen should give them a major advantage.
3. Texas: The Rangers could have a great October bullpen, and their postseason experience can be a major weapon -- but only if Darvish or Holland get better.
4. San Francisco Giants: Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner are capable of winning a short series by themselves, and Buster Posey has been baseball's best position player in the second half.
5. Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Cueto is arguably the best pitcher in the NL, and if Mat Latos -- the linchpin guy for this team -- can respond in a big moment, this is a team capable of winning it all.
For the readers: What teams do you regard as the most dangerous?
• The fact that we're even debating whether Rajai Davis' incredible catch Sunday is the best catch of the year says a lot about it. Here's the catch, perfectly timed (see 0:40 mark of video).
• Lance Berkman is facing a difficult decision about his future.
• The Mets' bullpen came within 90 feet of a frighteningly ugly blown lead on "Sunday Night Baseball." After Jon Niese handed the relievers a 6-1 lead after eight innings, the bullpen generated a rash of walks and a hit batter in the top of the ninth before Martin Prado punched a double into right field, suddenly making it 6-5.
Even the final out, registered by Jon Rauch, was way too scary; strike three got away from catcher Rob Johnson, who recovered the ball but then threw low to first base, as Michael Bourn sprinted homeward with the would-be tying run. First baseman Ike Davis dug the ball out, however, and Niese could walk onto the field to share handshakes with teammates.
We had him for the postgame interview, and the first question to Niese was about how he dealt with the anxiety of the ninth inning. A smile flashed across his face before he said that he knew the Mets' bullpen -- which is among the very worst in the majors this year -- would get the job done.
This is called being a good teammate.
The New York Mets got to Ben Sheets early, as David O'Brien writes.
• The Braves are strongly considering going to a six-man rotation now that Tommy Hanson is ready to rejoin the big league staff; Hanson had a strong outing Sunday in Triple-A.
• Cueto is a strong candidate for NL Cy Young Award, and he won again Sunday; he is 15-6 with a 2.45 ERA. Chapman is putting up crazy numbers.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Cueto won:
A) Cueto got 16 outs with his fastball and allowed only one hit with the pitch.
B) Sixty-one percent of his fastballs were in the upper third of the strike zone or higher, his highest percentage in more than two years.
C) Cueto's fastball averaged 93.9 mph, his second-fastest velocity of the season.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Baltimore Orioles made their 125th transaction.
2. Jordany Valdespin started in place of Jason Bay, who has looked lost at the plate.
3. The Pittsburgh Pirates are converting a left-handed starter into a reliever. Clint Hurdle reached out to his overworked bullpen.
4. Alex Anthopoulos intends to target starting pitching.
5. Daniel Descalso will get most of the playing time at second base.
6. Brett Hayes was sent to the minors.
7. The Houston Astros are compiling a lot of options.
8. Mark Kotsay signed a one-year extension with the San Diego Padres. I've heard him mentioned as a possible managerial candidate after he retires, so it's not surprising San Diego moved to keep him around.
9. Vernon Wells got a start, writes Bill Plunkett.
Dings and dents
1. Will Middlebrooks won't need surgery.
2. Carl Crawford has a sore wrist.
3. Sabathia said the pain in his elbow made him nervous.
4. Josh Tomlin is going to have his elbow examined.
5. Denard Span tweeted that he's OK.
6. Paul Konerko is going to be examined.
7. Logan Morrison is having a second knee procedure, in all likelihood.
8. Jhoulys Chacin is making progress.
9. Mike Carp got hurt.
10. Brandon Inge is going to have an MRI on his shoulder.
AL East notes
• Jon Lester was dominant, as Tim Britton writes.
• The Orioles salvaged a split, as Eduardo Encina writes. Manny Machado in the big leagues: 6-for-16, with three homers and seven RBIs.
From Elias Sports Bureau: Machado is the third player this season to start his career with an extra-base hit in each of his first four games, joining Middlebrooks (5) and Yoenis Cespedes (4). Prior to that, the last player to start his career with four straight games in which he had an extra-base hit (defining this as games in which he either had an AB or sacrifice fly, just as you would a hitting streak) was Bay in 2003 for the Padres/Pirates.
• Phil Hughes worked around the side of the baseball and it cost him.
• Ben Zobrist disagreed with his manager.
AL Central notes
• The Detroit Tigers lost, and a pitcher is getting his arm examined.
• Walks haunted the Kansas City Royals, as Bob Dutton writes.
• The Cleveland Indians were obliterated, writes Dennis Manoloff.
• Brian Dozier had a teachable moment.
• A.J. Pierzynski embraced some Cy Young talk about Chris Sale.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Sale beat the Athletics:
A) Seven of Sale's strikeouts came with his slider. The A's put just one of his sliders in play and grounded out on it.
B) To combat an Oakland lineup that featured eight right-handed hitters, Sale threw a season-high 28 changeups. A's hitters were 2-for-9 in at-bats ending with a Sale changeup and missed on 6-of-19 swings against it.
C) Sale got 19 swings and misses, matching his second-highest total this season. He got seven misses with his fastball and six each with his changeup and slider.
AL West notes
• Darvish and Josh Hamilton enjoyed a revival. Hamilton homered Sunday.
Longest average HR distance this season (min. 20 homers)
Mark Trumbo: 415.6
Josh Hamilton: 413.8
Edwin Encarnacion: 413.7
Miguel Cabrera: 413.4
Matt Holliday: 411.9
• Jason Vargas shut down the Los Angeles Angels, as Geoff Baker writes.
• Oakland had a rough game defensively.
• Jered Weaver couldn't stop the Angels' slide in the standings. Mike Scioscia called a meeting.
There may be more pressure on Scioscia to win now than there ever has been in his time as the Angels' manager. His contract runs into the 25th century, seemingly -- actually, he's got six years remaining after this year -- but Angels owner Arte Moreno has clearly ramped up the expectations, and there has been grumbling within the organization about Scioscia's hands-on style of managing.
As always, it's about results, and after a tremendous run of success that included a championship in 2002, Scioscia's Angels are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Angels are eight games behind the Rangers in the AL West and two games out in the wild-card chase, trailing four other teams.
NL East notes
• Somebody finally beat the Washington Nationals.
• Juan Pierre got the job done.
• The Miami Marlins were shut down.
NL Central notes
• Clint Barmes had a moment of retribution.
• The St. Louis Cardinals had their guts ripped out by a bullpen meltdown.
• Kameron Loe closed out a game for the Milwaukee Brewers. Michael Hunt writes that Ron Roenicke just can't win with this bullpen.
• The losses are piling up for the Chicago Cubs.
• The Astros fell short of a sweep.
NL West notes
• Posey teed up a pitcher, and Hunter Pence threw the knockout blow.
• If the Arizona Diamondbacks are going to be a factor this season, they need to draw a line in the sand really soon -- and Paul Goldschmidt did that for them Sunday.
• Ross Ohlendorf had a rough homecoming.
• Chris Capuano was The Man for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
6: Go-ahead hits in the eigth inning or later by Pence this season, tied with Hanley Ramirez for the most in MLB
11: Unanswered runs scored by the Pirates on Sunday after falling behind 5-0; it's the sixth time this season Pittsburgh, which won 11-5, has scored at least 10 runs
Pitchers who get most 'routine' outs.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In a recent interview, Washington Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty expressed his antipathy for the strikeout. McCatty called the strikeout an "arbitration stat" and said that "Outs are outs. If you don't need the strikeout, why use all the pitches to get one?" The thinking here is that his pitchers can generate weak contact and get easy outs on fewer pitches than they would need to record a strikeout, so the strikeout is wasteful.
It makes some sense, right? An out is an out, and why should we value strikeouts higher than lazy fly balls to left or routine grounders to short? The name of the game is to get outs, not necessarily to get strikeouts, and, if a pitcher can induce routine balls in play, then that should be his focus, not getting strikeouts.
Baseball Info Solutions assigns a probability to every ball in play for how likely that ball is to become an out. These probabilities are calculated off the historical odds for balls with similar hang times, velocities, trajectories and locations. If we consider a "routine" out to be any ball in play that has at least a 90 percent chance of being successfully fielded, "routine" balls in play account for about 34 percent of all balls in play over the past three seasons. Which pitchers do the best job of inducing "routine" balls in play?
Pitchers with highest percentage of balls with 90 percent or greater probability of being fielded (minimum 100 BIPs in 2012)
Pitcher 2012 % routine balls in play 2011 % routine balls in play
Roy Halladay 46.7% 37.3%
Jered Weaver 46.6% 38.0%
Kris Medlen 43.6% 0%
Felix Hernandez 43.6% 32.4%
Justin Verlander 43.5% 35.7%
Mat Latos 42.6% 33.2%
Ervin Santana 42.5% 32.2%
Jeremy Hellickson 42.5% 34.1%
When we look at Roy Halladay's .287 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), there's a tendency to automatically say "Well, he's been lucky," but in fact he's been very good at inducing very weak contact. It's not luck, it's Halladay. If he can keep doing that, he doesn't need so many strikeouts.
The problem is that it's especially difficult to maintain these levels of production. In 2011, Halladay generated only 37.3 percent "routine" contact, as opposed to his 46.7 percent this season. No pitcher in baseball with at least 100 balls in play in 2012 and at least 150 balls in play in 2011 managed to generate more than 39 percent routine contact in both seasons so far. It simply is not much of a sustainable, repeatable skill.
What happens if we increase our target area for what we consider a routine out? Let's say any ball that has a 75 percent probability of being converted into an out is considered "routine." Now we're talking about around 59 percent of all balls in play since the start of the 2010 season. In this sense, McCatty was correct; the odds are generally in the pitcher's favor to get easy outs on balls in play.
Pitchers with highest percentage of balls with 75 percent or greater probability of being fielded (minimum 100 BIPs in 2012)
Pitcher 2012 % routine balls in play 2011 % routine balls in play
Jered Weaver 73.0% 64.0%
R.A. Dickey 71.5% 56.8%
Josh Tomlin 70.2% 64.0%
Tommy Milone 69.3% 69.7%
Kevin Correia 68.8% 59.8%
Wade Miley 68.4% 70.1%
Justin Verlander 68.2% 60.3%
Chris Sale 68.0% 71.1%
Now our 2012 leader in routine contact is Jered Weaver, with 73 percent of the balls in play he gives up being your everyday can-of-corn fly ball or a grounder hit right to an infielder. Weaver has a .230 BABIP this season, the lowest in baseball, and a significant part of that is all of this weak contact he gives up. But again, this is not something he has shown an ability to do in the past.
Of pitchers with at least 100 balls in play in 2012 and at least 150 in 2011, the highest percentage of routine balls, according to this expanded definition, that anybody has been able to carry over from one season to the next is 63.9 percent. Cole Hamels and Ryan Vogelsong have accomplished this so far. In 2010, though, Vogelsong was in the minors and Hamels got only 56.3 percent routine balls in play. These two likely can't sustain that level, either.
Generating routine contact isn't an ability as much as statistical noise. Yes, there are a lot of balls in play every year that are very easy to field. That's why the average BABIP is about .300 and not higher. But inducing an especially high number of easy outs in one year doesn't show much correlation with a pitcher's chances of doing so again the next year.
Without an ability to generate above-average rates of routine contact, the strikeout remains one of the most vital tools in a pitcher's repertoire. The best pitchers in baseball are still the ones who get the most swings and misses. That includes the pitching staff with the majors' best ERA, which also has the fourth-highest strikeout rate in the game. I'm talking, of course, about McCatty's Nationals.
Scouting the Area Code Games.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The crop of talent at this year's Area Code Games lacked the elite layer of no-doubt first-rounders that I've seen at the six previous ones I've covered, but the usual depth of arms was there and we did have a few standout athletes worth noting for next year's draft.
Scott Kurtz/ESPN Rise
Top HS talent can't beat the "Area Code" jersey.
• The best all-around player in Long Beach was Trey Ball, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder from New Castle High School in Indiana. His body is extremely projectable at 6'6", 180 pounds, although he's a little old for his class, having turned 18 in June. At the plate, he's got quick hands and shows good plate coverage, with the strength to make solid contact on pitches down or away. He's a well above-average runner and I think there will be future power there, since he rotates his hips well and seemed to understand which pitches he could drive and which ones he had to take the other way. On the mound, Ball was 86-91 mph with a quick arm, a long stride, and great extension out front. I've got him as a hitter right now rather than as a a pitcher, but in either role he stands out as one of the best athletes on the field and I wouldn't be shocked if his fastball shot up next spring and changed his projection.
• Left-hander AJ Puk, Ball's teammate on the White Sox club, comprising players from all over the Midwest, also stood out for his athleticism and size. Puk, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was 91-92 with a good curveball at 74-75, showing two-plane break, and a fringy changeup. Like Ball, he's a left-handed hitter who can swing the bat a little but isn't as smooth a hitter as Ball is and projects much better on the mound.
• First baseman Michael Hoard of Salpointe Catholic in Tucson was one of the best pure hitters this week, homering once, just missing a second one, and making a lot of hard contact with a swing that gets a little uphill but not so much that it might hurt his ability to make contact. He's listed at 6'0", 185, and is probably limited to first base or maybe left field, so he's really going to have to rake to overcome those factors.
• Two SoCal pitchers who stood out in Durham last month at the Prospect Classic also threw well in Long Beach -- Madison HS (San Diego) lefty Ian Clarkin, up to 93 again, and Cathedral Catholic HS (San Marcos) lefty Stephen Gonzalves, 89-91 with command although he didn't have great feel for the curveball this time around.
• Deer Park, Texas, lefty Tyler Allen, an LSU commit, threw twice and was very aggressive both times, attacking hitters with an 88-91 mph fastball and a two-plane curveball at 74-75 that he threw for strikes. He was a bit less effective out of the stretch.
• The best prospect from the northeast at this event was Christopher Oakley, a 6'8", 220-pound right-hander from Egg Harbor Township (I don't know if that's West Egg or East Egg), New Jersey, who attends St. Augustine College Prep School. The size is obviously appealing and he was 88-91 with some feel for a curveball and a changeup; his velocity dropped a tick in the stretch and he needs to work on keeping his front shoulder closed.
• Matt Krook only threw once, but the 6'4" lefty from St. Ignatius High School in Hillsborough, California, was 87-90 with a really sharp curveball at 77-82 that had consistent shape and tight rotation. He gets on top of the ball well to generate some plane. He did lose the strike zone a little in his third inning, although that was a pretty common problem all week.
• Hunter Simmons of St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California, made several good plays at first base (although he was listed as a third baseman) and had one of the better-looking swings in the event. His lower half is a little noisy but his swing path was very consistent, with good loft in his finish and strong hands. He's a 20 runner which may push him to first base permanently.
• Davis HS right-hander Trevin Haseltine of Vacaville, California, was 90-91 with a fringy curveball but good command side-to-side of the fastball and showed the ability to drop down to run a slider away from a right-handed hitter. He has good size at 6'3" 200 pounds and did show a fringy changeup as well.
• Corey Simpson (Sweeny HS, Texas) hit a huge home run in his first game and doubled over the centerfielder's head another time, but I think he's a power-before-hit guy and he clearly doesn't like offspeed stuff. He's listed as a catcher but Texas scouts tell me he's a 20 defender there and has to move to first. I thought Tres Barrera (Sharyland HS, McAllen, Texas) was a better overall hitter, with an actual two-strike approach.
• Kohl Stewart is a top football recruit, committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback, but hit 94 in his one outing at the Area Code Games and has been up to 97 consistently in the past. He'll thrown an inning in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco on Sunday, which I'll be attending. After Ball, Stewart might be the most likely first-rounder from this event, assuming football doesn't get in the way of him signing.
• The best BP session belonged to a player listed only as a pitcher -- Nick Longhi of Venice HS in Florida, who showed plus raw power and hit several balls out to the gaps during the games. His swing is simple, with really quick hand acceleration and good hip rotation for power, without much extraneous movement. He's also a first baseman (but with a 60 arm) and is committed to LSU.
• Centerfielder Matt McPhearson of Riverdale Baptist School in Columbia, Maryland, took several good at bats and showed plus speed on the bases and in center. As a hitter he reminded me a little of Aaron Hicks, another player who can work the count but doesn't recognize offspeed stuff as often as you'd like. He has the hand speed to catch up to good velocity and should stay in center.
• Mossyrock, Washington, right-hander John Pomeroy has size (6'5", 215) but drops down during his delivery so he doesn't get the same angle on the fastball that he could if he stayed taller through release. He was 89-92 with a quick arm and threw a couple of curveballs with depth, although it was inconsistent and he didn't always finish the pitch, leaving several up.
• I don't like to focus too much on players who struggled, but I will mention two names who are already familiar to the draftniks among you. Joey Martarano, a football recruit to Boise State who comes from Fruitland, Idaho, scuffled at the plate and at third base, with pitch recognition a major issue -- not shocking for a player who splits his time between two sports. Dominic Smith has a lot of hype but I don't see any plus tools here, maybe not even any above-average tools; he glides out over his front side, steps in the bucket when he swings, and was chasing breaking balls in the dirt much of the week. On defense, he's probably limited to first base, so like Hoard he's going to have to show a big hit tool in the spring to be a high pick.
• Finally, some names to remember for 2014: Alexander Jackson, a catcher from Escondido, California, who looks like a potential star with the bat and glove; Jack Flaherty, a third baseman from Harvard-Westlake who played with Lucas Giolito and Max Fried this spring; Jacob Gatewood, a shortstop from Clovis, California, with bat speed and pop with a lot of room to fill out his frame; and Dany Toussaint, a slight, long-limbed right-hander from Coral Springs Christian Academy in Florida, who broke several bats with a 89-91 fastball he ran in on right-handed hitters' hands.
Top 12 prospects: Skaggs back in.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Top 12 for '12 lost two more in the past week, with Josh Vitters joining the Chicago Cubs and Adeiny Hechavarria heading to the Toronto Blue Jays. The big miss was the surprising move by the Baltimore Orioles to bring up top prospect Manny Machado, who I profiled Thursday. At this point of the season, we're in long-shot mode, but let's shake up the list a bit by including some potential September call-ups.
1. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals (Last week's rank: 1)
Last week's stats (at Triple-A Omaha): 8-for-23 (.348), 1 RBI
Season totals: .309-33-93, 6 SB in 110 games
Update: When will Myers get the call? At this point, it's hard to see it happening before September, and Myers isn't helping himself by continuing to post a high strikeout rate.
What he can do: Even with all the strikeouts, Myers should produce immediately in the big leagues thanks to a plus approach and plenty of power. He is a must-have in keeper leagues, but he is running out of time to help non-keeper league owners.
2. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Last week: unranked)
Last week's stats (at Triple-A Reno): 13 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BBs, 15 K's
Season totals: 9-5, 2.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 117 1/3 IP, 112 K's
Update: In his first Triple-A start following his July promotion, Skaggs allowed five earned runs. In seven starts since, he has allowed a total of four. That has put the 21-year-old in position for a big league look this season, as the D-backs have begun to surge into semi-contention in the National League West.
What he can do: With a plus fastball and one of the best curveballs in the minors, Skaggs is among the top left-handed pitching prospects. Thanks to plus command and control, he is likely to need less adjustment time, and scouts are quick to point out that he is more efficient than fellow prospect Trevor Bauer.
3. Rob Brantly, C, Miami Marlins (Last week: unranked)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Former Tigers prospect Rob Brantly has been tearing it up offensively since being traded to the Marlins.
Last week's stats (at Triple-A New Orleans): 10-for-21 (.476), 1 HR, 3 RBIs
Season totals: .299-5-41 in 95 games
Update: The Marlins' playoff chances? Little to none. Starting catcher John Buck's production? He's doing nothing, and I mean nothing. The shiny new toy at Triple-A acquired in the Anibal Sanchez deal? Raking. It all adds up as good news for Brantly, but trying to make sense of what's going on in Miami can be a foolhardy task.
What he can do: Getting anything offensively out of a catcher is a good thing, but let's be clear: Brantly won't be a multicategory contributor. His only fantasy value comes from his ability to hit for average, as there's little power or speed to his game.
4. Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, San Diego Padres (Last week's rank: 2)
Last week's stats (at Triple-A Tucson): 4-for-19 (.211), 3 RBIs
Season totals: .312-23-82, 5 SB in 108 games
Update: Gyorko is still stuck at Triple-A due to the combination of Chase Headley not being traded and the fact that he is not playing second base regularly. All Gyorko can do is keep hitting, which at some point could force the Padres' hand.
What he can do: Despite big numbers at Triple-A and a constant presence on this list, Gyorko is not a future star as much as he is a solid future big league starter who can post a good batting average and display a bit of power. He should get his first look at big league pitching next month, if not before then.
5. Jacob Turner, SP, Marlins (Last week's rank: 5)
Last week's stats (at Triple-A New Orleans): 6 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BBs, 2 K's
Season totals: 6-4, 2.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 101 1/3 IP, 65 K's
Update: Since moving to the Marlins' system, Turner has kept runs off the board, but he is not missing many bats, which is becoming a minor concern. Still, it's runs (or the ability to prevent them), not strikeouts, that win games, and Turner could be part of a late-season game plan in Miami that focuses on restoring the team's reputation among the fan base.
What he can do: Turner doesn't have a monster offering, but he throws a good three-pitch mix for strikes. His game is mature enough for what is becoming an expected September debut.
6. Johnny Giavotella, 2B, Royals (Last week's rank: 4)
Last week's stats (at Triple-A Omaha): 6-for-25 (.240), 5 RBIs
Season totals: .327-10-65, 6 SB in 82 games
Update: Giavotella couldn't stay red-hot forever, but he still has the numbers to deserve a look, especially in Kansas City. For a team trying to figure out their future, the Royals keeping Giavotella at Triple-A doesn't make much sense.
What he can do: Giavotella is an easy plus hitter who should provide a good batting average, but he is not a base stealer and has only a little power. His poor defense is an issue, but his bat should be able to make up for it.
7. Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (Last week: unranked)
Last week's stats (at Triple-A Memphis): 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BBs, 8 K's
Season totals: 7-9, 5.25 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 106 1/3 IP, 115 K's
Update: Well look who's back! After one of the most disappointing first halves in prospect land, Miller is back to his old self, with a 2.79 ERA in his past five starts and just three walks in 29 innings. He was never a lost cause, but now he is a potential September contributor.
What he can do: Miller's plus fastball/curve combination has future No. 2 starter written all over it, and now that he is pounding the strike zone again, he is back on track for a possible big league look this season.
8. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Last week's rank: 6)
Last week's stats (at Double-A Springfield): 8-for-22 (.364), 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 2 SB
Season totals: .323-20-80, 8 SB in 107 games
Update: Taveras slides two rankings spots this week, but not because he has stopped hitting. Instead, he drops because the man playing in front of him, Jon Jay, has started hitting again in a big way, going 10-for-15 in his past four games to raise his batting average 24 points. For now, Taveras is looking like nothing more than a September call-up.
What he can do: Taveras has the rare combination of a violent, powerful swing with incredible bat control. Scouts think he could hit right away in the big leagues, and he is going to create a difficult decision for the Cardinals at some point in 2013, if not before.
9. Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks (Last week: unranked)
Chris Pondy/Icon SMI
Trevor Bauer is back in our good graces following a few good starts at Triple-A.
Last week's stats (at Triple-A Reno): 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BBs, 5 K's
Season totals: 11-1, 2.16 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 104 IP, 125 K's
Update: Bauer delivered an efficient Triple-A start his last time out, which addressed his biggest issue, both in the minors and during his brief, shaky big league stint. One start does not equal a turnaround, but it's a step in the right direction. For now, he is behind Skaggs in the pecking order.
What he can do: Bauer has the stuff to blow away hitters at any level, but he gets too cute with his stuff instead of being aggressive within the strike zone. His last few starts of the year will be watched closely to see if he has begun a new trend.
10. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Last week: unranked)
Last week's stats (at Double-A Tulsa): 13-for-26 (.500), 1 HR, 3 RBIs
Season totals: .279-9-46 in 112 games
Update: Arenado was a regular in the Top 12 for '12 earlier this season, as he began the year with a shot at breaking camp in the big leagues and was close to getting an early call when he didn't. That all changed when he started posting mediocre numbers in the Texas League. He is in the midst of his hottest streak of the season, which has him on the radar for a September look.
What he can do: Arenado is a contact machine, but his ability to make contact has led to him swinging at bad pitches and thus making bad contact. Questions about his power and patience remain, but he is going to hit for a high average.
11. Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds (Last week's rank: 10)
Last week's stats (at Triple-A Louisville): 8-for-29 (.276), 1 RBI, 14 SB
Season totals: .312-2-38, 133 SB in 103 games
Update: Look at those numbers again. That's 14 stolen bases in a week. Fourteen. His offensive production has slowed a bit at Double-A, but we haven't seen impact speed like this in a long time. There remains a decent shot for him to come up in September as a pinch runner deluxe.
What he can do: Hamilton has 80-plus steals potential, and even that might be a bit conservative. Who cares about his lack of power; we're talking about a guy who can steal 80-100 bases, maybe more. Think about what that does for your fantasy team.
12. Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles (Last week: unranked)
Last week's stats (at High-A Frederick): 5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BBs, 7 K's
Season totals: 7-3, 1.92 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 84 1/3 IP, 103 K's
Update: Bundy was just moved up to Double-A Bowie, and the 19-year-old will make his Eastern League debut Tuesday. While it might be crazy to think of him being in the big leagues this year, it seemed that way about his organization-mate Machado as well. Remember when David Price came up in 2008 as a late-inning reliever down the stretch? There's an outside chance that happens with Bundy in 2012.
What he can do: Seen by many as the best pitching prospect in the game, Bundy has monster stuff, with mid-to-upper-90s heat, a nasty power curveball and an outstanding cutter. Despite his youth and inexperience, he probably could hold his own right away in short stints.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Gardenhire has no plans to leave
AM ETRon Gardenhire | Twins Recommend1Comments0EmailA little more than seven weeks remain in the season and we have not had a managerial change, even if rumors have popped up recently regarding the job status of Bobby Valentine in Boston and Manny Acta in Cleveland.
The model of managerial stability in recent years has belonged to Ron Gardenhire, who is finishing up his 11th season in Minnesota. The Twins, however, are in danger of their second straight last-place finish, so those six AL Central crowns seem a little more distant in the rear-view mirror.
Gardenhire has a year left on his contract and tells John Shipley of the Pioneer Press he has every intention of living up to the terms. "I love it here. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else," Gardenhire said. "But if they want to make a change, I've always said, 'That's up to them.'"
The Twins are a franchise proud of their stability, so the odds of owner Jim Pohlad seeking a change would be remote at best. But if Gardenhire wanted out, he would immediately become an attractive candidate for any available opening.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
Bell's future on South Beach
AM ETHeath Bell | Marlins Recommend0Comments1EmailOne of the rumors circulating before the July 31 deadline had the Miami Marlins discussing a deal with the New York Mets that would send reliever Heath Bell and catcher John Buck to Queens for outfielder Jason Bay.
The exchange of Bell and Bay - two underperforming players with bloated contracts - never materialized, but it does call into question whether the Marlins will hold on to Bell, whose first season on South Beach has fallen well short of expectations. The latest setback came Sunday, when Bell surrendered four consecutive hits to the Dodgers.
Bell's demeanor aboard the sinking ship hasn't endeared himself to the Marlins' front office, either. David Lennon of Newsday writes Bell hasn't bent over backwards to insist he made the right choice by signing with the Marlins, which is in contrast to comments made by teammates Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.
Bell is due $16 million in 2013 and another $18 million in 2014, a mammoth sum for a set-up reliever. It seems almost a certainty the Fish will make Bell available over the winter, but finding a taker won?t be easy unless they absorb plenty of cash.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Miami Marlins, Heath Bell
Another setback for Papi?
AM ETDavid Ortiz | Red Sox Recommend0Comments0EmailDavid Ortiz had hoped to return from the disabled list over the weekend in Cleveland, but the Red Sox designated hitter remains in neutral after he was unable to make it through a workout routine Sunday.
"It's a roller coaster, bro," Ortiz tells the Boston Herald about the up-and-down nature of his sore heel.
Ortiz will test his strained Achilles before Tuesday's series opener against the Orioles in Baltimore, which would seem to indicate he is at least a few more days away before returning. The Red Sox have used more than a half-dozen different players at DH since Ortiz was sidelined in mid-July.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Garcia on his way to DC?
AM ETWashington Nationals Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Washington Nationals' list of September call-ups is expected to include 26-year-old reliever Christian Garcia says MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
Garcia, a former Yankees prospect, is a combined 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA and 16 saves in 38 games for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. The Nationals rank sixth in the majors in bullpen innings, increasing the need for an innings-eater for the season's final month.
- Doug Mittler
Strasburg has limits
AM ETStephen Strasburg | Nationals Recommend0Comments1EmailWhile Stephen Strasburg may not have limitations on the mound, the Washington Nationals will put the shackles on him at some point to avoid overworking his surgically-repaired elbow or any other part of his body that could overcompensate for such an injury.
What the magic innings limit is, exactly, remains unknown, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweets Friday afternoon that Strasburg will not exceed 180 innings this season.
He's thrown 133 1/3 innings thus far, suggesting he has in the range of 50 left for the entire season, despite the fact that the Nationals are in first place and appear headed for October baseball.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson cites a source who says Strasburg will miss two or three regular season starts and will not pitch in the offseason once he is shut down. That would seem to end the speculation that the Nats might try to save some of those bullets left in Strasburg's arm for October.
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
ETA for Rolen
AM ETScott Rolen | Reds Recommend0Comments0EmailScott Rolen got up on the wrong side of the bed Thursday morning in Chicago, and the accompanying stiff lower back forced the 37-year-old third baseman to miss the entire weekend series with the Cubs.
Rolen insists he is feeling better and hopes to return on the upcoming seven-game homestand that begins Tuesday. A .358 average and 11 RBI since the All-Star break demonstrate that Rolen is still a productive player, but keeping healthy remains a problem.
The Reds need a healthy Rolen now more than ever given the return of Joey Votto has been pushed back. It means continued at-bats for Todd Frazier, who has started at first and third base over the last few days.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Scott Rolen, Cincinnati Reds
Could Saunders be shopped?
AM ETJoe Saunders | Diamondbacks Recommend0Comments0EmailJoe Saunders could be "an interesting trade piece" if the Arizona Diamondbacks feel they are not a viable playoff contender, says Nick Cafardo in Sunday's Boston Globe.
Saunders is a free agent after the season and the D-backs, who have depth in their rotation with Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer, are not expected to re-sign him. We all know that pulling off waiver deals isn't easy, but one possible fit could be the Orioles, who did not land a pitcher before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Baltimore was among the teams linked to Saunders earlier this summer.
The D-backs are on the fringe of contention for a wild card berth - 6 1/2 games behind the second spot with a couple of teams ahead of them.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Joe Saunders, Arizona Diamondbacks
The battle for Bourn
AM ETMichael Bourn | Braves Recommend1Comments1EmailJosh Hamilton may be the marquee name of this offseason's free agent outfield class, but the most spirited battle at the position could be for the services of Atlanta's Michael Bourn.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney wrote last week the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies could soon be jockeying for the rights to sign the 29-year-old who is at the peak of his career.
In Sunday's Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo says the Braves aren't holding out much hope that they can re-sign Bourn, in part because they don?t seem to do well with Scott Boras clients.
Bourn has been linked for months to the Nationals, who have remained a first-place team without a top-shelf center fielder and recently parted ways with Rick Ankiel. A challenge could come from the Phillies, who still have some burdensome salaries on the books but freed up some money with the recent deals involving Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton.
Olney has more on Bourn's leverage:
- Doug Mittler
NL East battle for Bourn?
"If the Phillies make a strong push for Bourn, it's unclear whether they would be willing to outbid the Nationals. Washington opened this season with a payroll of $92 million and if its wealthy ownership is willing, it has a lot of room to grow under the luxury tax cap. Bourn figures to get a multi-year deal for something in the range of $16 million to $22 million annually, and as has been well-documented over the last six weeks, the Phillies already have a lot of payroll obligations well into the future, with $20 million-plus commitments to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard on the books. The Phillies also will have to find a third baseman, a starting pitcher and at least one outfielder, depending on their internal evaluations of Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr."
Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Michael Bourn
Wilson to Pirates' pen?
AM ETPittsburgh Pirates Recommend0Comments0EmailUnable to land a lefthanded reliever prior to the deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the process of converting Triple-A southpaw Justin Wilson into a reliever.
GM Neal Huntington says the Pirates will pitch Wilson on back-to-back days and send him out in the middle of an inning to get accustomed to relief work. The 24-year-old Wilson is 9-5 with a 3.88 ERA in 24 starts for Indianapolis, including a rain-shortened no-hitter last week.
Tony Watson and Jeff Locke are the two southpaws currently in the Pirates' bullpen.
- Doug Mittler
Oakland deal for Aviles unlikely
AM ETMike Aviles | Red Sox Recommend0Comments1EmailThe odds of the Oakland Athletics adding a shortstop before the August 31 deadline for playoff-roster eligibility appear slim, reports Susan Slusser.
Boston's Mike Aviles has passed through waivers but a deal is unlikely because the asking price remains high. The A's have no intention of parting with a top prospect such as Dan Straily for a short-term improvement at the position.
The A's were in the market for several shortstops before the deadline, including Toronto's Yunel Escobar.
- Doug Mittler