Yankees Need To Move Players Now

The Yankees seem to be running out of options as the all-star break approaches. They have been doing all they can to try and generate wins, but they have fallen short.

Their pitching has cost them games because they cannot play from behind. Starting pitchers have given up homeruns and that has been devastating for the Yankees because when their defense gets shaken up it has an effect on the offense as well.

The Yankees have been showing flashes of being able to be a good team, but they have not been showing that consistently and that shows in their record. They have another half of the season to right their wrongs, and depending on their attitude coming out of the all-star break that will determine if they can salvage their season.

There are difficult decisions that the Yankees have to make with only a month till the trade deadline. This season may be slipping away, but the future could look great if the Yankees trade for the right players.

They should be looking to get the most for the players they have to offer. They have plenty of talent on their roster that they could spread around and reel in younger players that are already established in the league.

They could also get younger player that could be groomed into better players in a few years. The rebuilding process can take a few years, but with the right moves that could speed up the process.

The Yankees being at .500 at this point of the season is not bad, but the way they have been playing is an indicator that the rest of the season could take a turn for the worst. The team can be on fire for a series and get swept the next series.

Breaking even in the American League does not guarantee a playoff spot for the Yankees because it is a tough division. It is important for the Yankees to make the right moves before the trade deadline not only for a better future, but also a better second half of the season.

Adjustments from game to game have not helped the Yankees in a big way, but it has kept them where they are. Switching the batting order has not produced runs and that means there has to been a new addition in the batting order.

The Yankees have to bring in a player that can drive in runs on a regular basis. They need someone who can come up with a big hit with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have seen plenty of young players that can do just that and they need a couple of them.

There have been reports from ESPN and Bleacher Report stating that the Chicago Cubs were looking to trade left fielder Kyle Schwarber for Yankees 8th inning setup man Andrew Miller. There are a few reasons this trade could favor both teams.

The Cubs are first place in the National League and having a pitcher like Miller in the bullpen for late innings or even becoming the closer can be great in the playoffs. Although Schwarber is out for the season with a knee injury he can be great next season for the team.

He is a young player with pop in his bat and he can be a great run producer for the Yankees. The Yankees would be potentially calling it quits on this season by making this move, but it would be great for their future.

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Chicago Cubs Redefining the Term Slump

Recent Results

After coming out with one of the best starts in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs have slowed down in the past week and a half. After losing a double header to the Padres, the Cubs lost their series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The team has lost 5 of its last 8 games against considerably weaker opponents and now will travel to San Francisco to the Giants and Saint Louis to play the division rival Cardinals. The level of competition is rising this week and the Cubs will have to adapt.

In their 5 loses, the Cubs have posted 4 runs or less. In their 3 wins, the Cubs scored a total of 19 runs, 17 of which came against the Pittsburg Pirates, a team the Chicago Cubs have dominated this season.

While individual players, such as Ben Zobrist, are hitting their stride, the Cubs offense is faltering. The Cubs have left a number of runners on base in scoring position. According to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs went 1-for-24 with men in scoring position against the Brewers. They left 24 runners on base in the series, 14 coming of Wednesday.

In the grand scheme of it all the Cubs still lead the NL Central by 6.5 games and still have baseball’s best record. Even the best teams have their slumps. Right now it doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Cubs.

Facing the Champs

On May 20th, the Cubs will begin their series against the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs also played the Giants last year and swept the would be champions.

This will be a good test for the Cubs. If they can rebound from their recent slump and beat the Giants in the series, they will be a good place going forward. The Giants are the real deal and still are a very good team.

Adding A Reliever

The Cubs recently signed Joe Nathan to a contract. Nathan is on the wrong side of 40 and is coming off Tommy John surgery. He could be a good pickup if he still has something left in the tank. He is currently on the disabled list rehabbing his throwing arm.

The Cubs have most of their relievers returning from last season. Guys like Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Travis Wood are still effective, but this move could further bolster their bull pen if Nathan pans out.

The Future Of Cubs Catching

This is David Ross’ last season in the major leagues. He has made it known for a while now that he won’t be coming back. How much of a priority will it be for the Cubs to replace Ross?

The Cubs still have Miguel Montero and Tim Federowicz who are currently listed as catchers. They also have Kyle Schwarber, who is naturally a catcher, but is versatile enough to play outfield. While it may seem like a rather obvious answer, there is more to it than what is listed on paper.

The Cubs will have a number of young studs to pay in the near future. Should salaries become an issue, the Cubs could consider trading Montero and his large contract. Montero is currently making $12 million this year according to mlb.com and that number will rise to $14 million next year.

Should it come down to it, and the Cubs do trade Montero, Schwarber could move back to catcher in order to keep Jorge Soler in the lineup who is currently filling in for Schwarber.

 

 

 

 

Schwarber Out For The Season

According to both Yahoo Sports and MLB.com, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber has torn his ACL and LCL in his left knee, ending his 2016 season.

The injury occurred during an outfield collision Thursday night between Schawrber and Dexter Fowler, as both were chasing down a deep fly ball hit to left/center by Arizona Diamondbacks short stop Jean Segura in the bottom of the second inning. Schwarber’s left leg became entangled with Fowler, while Segura sped around the bases and was credited with an inside-the-park home run.

Worried Cubs fans looked on as Schwarber laid stomach down out on the warning track, as skipper Joe Maddon, numerous teammates, and the medical staff rushed out to aid the young slugger. Per MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, Schwarber was able to get to his feet with the help of athletic trainers PJ Mainville and Ed Halbur, and was taken out via stretcher shortly after.

It goes without saying but the loss of Schwarber is a significant blow for Chicago. The 23-year-old provided home run power at the plate and could also play behind it as well, with his primary position being catcher. The Cubs chose to start Schwarber in left this year to ensure his bat would be a part of an already potent lineup.

In just 69 games last season, Schwarber produced a respectable .246/.355/.487 slash line with 16 home runs and 43 RBI.

With Schwarber now indefinitely sidelined, Chicago will likely use a platoon in left consisting of Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur, and possibly rotate in third baseman Kris Bryant on occasion (Bryant had a short stint last season in the outfield, before locking down the hot corner).

The Cubs have also reportedly brought up Triple-A prospect Munenori Kawasaki to fill his slot on the 40 man roster.

 

 

 

 

 

The Youth Movement Taking Baseball By Storm

In the midst of a division race Friday night Bryce Harper hit his 30th home run of the season for the Washington Nationals, becoming one of seven players in the major leagues with 30 this year. Harper is only 22 and has not reached his ceiling yet, and is quickly already becoming one of the best players in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate.

Joined by Bryce Harper at the top is 24 year old Mike Trout, who has hit 33 home runs this year. Trout has been off the chart for the Los Angeles Angels and is likely on his way to winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. The Trout vs Harper debate will be around for years to come, but there are many other young superstars in the game that should be getting fans’ attention during this exciting season.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is only 24 years old, but leads the National League with 86 runs batted in and has hitting 29 home runs on the season. The 24 year old third baseman might not even be the best young player at that position, with 23 year old Manny Machado also having a prolific year and Kris Bryant learning the ropes for the Chicago Cubs.

The 2015 season has been taken over by young players led by Trout, Harper, Machado and Arenado and baseball is seeing a movement that will make the game more exciting for years to come. In the national league 24 years olds Shelby Miller, Gerritt Cole and Michael Wacha have all put up great years and all have ERAs under 3 for the season. Wacha’s teammate for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez, is only 23 years old and has a 2.59 ERA on the season for the St. Louis ball club.

Over in the American League Sonny Gray has dominated hitters and is leading the league in ERA at 2.06. At 25 years old he has a good shot at winning his first CY Young award for the Oakland Athletics. Gray has been overpowering and leads the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA.

In Houston we are seeing the emergence of a 20 year old shortstop that might already be the best at his position in baseball. Carlos Correa has been on fire since being called up by Houston this year and has 14 home runs in 227 at bats, good for a .537 Slugging percentage on the year. Correa has been a catalyst for the Houston ball club and is a big reason why the Astros are winning the AL West.

In Minnesota 22 year old slugging third baseman Miguel Sano has hit seven home runs and ten doubles in 125 at bats and is hitting .280 for the season. He is joined by 21 year old center fielder Byron Buxton, who when healthy, is one of the most exciting players in baseball and is a top prospect.

Giancarlo Stanton has not played since June 26, but is still tied for fourth in the National League with 27 home runs on the year. Stanton at 25 years old has more power than any player in the big leagues, and is joined by Jose Fernandez as two of the most exciting players in the game.

Over in Chicago the Cubs have a team stocked with young talent headed by 23 year olds Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. At the age of 23 Bryant is already tenth in the majors in walks and has been as good as advertised. However as good as Bryant has been, he is not even the best young player on his team with the way that Kyle Schwarber has been swinging the bat since being called up.

Schwarber is a 22 year old catcher that is hitting .313 with 8 home runs in 112 at bats for the Cubs. He has been phenomenal and with Schwarber, Bryant, Soler and 21 year old Addison Russell the Cubs have their own young all-star roster.

In Los Angeles 23 year old Joc Pederson has had an impressive rookie campaign, hitting 23 long balls on the year for the first place Dodgers. Pederson is joined by 24 year old Yasiel Puig, who has had a down year, but still has managed to hit 10 home runs and when he is in the zone is one of the most dangerous hitters.

All around baseball young players are stepping up and making an impact for teams and the tide is changing in the major leagues. A game that was once dominated by veterans is being pushed aside as the exciting young superstars get their chance at glory and with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper at the helm, baseball is in great shape for years to come.

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Cubs Prospects That Will Lead Team To A WS Title

Indy Star

It’s an exciting time to be a Chicago Cubs fan as for the first time in awhile, the Cubs seem to be contenders for awhile.

After a busy past couple of off-seasons to lure over international talent , major league stars and even a new manager , GM Theo Epstein has developed a strong roster for the Cubs major league and minor league rosters. The Chicago Tribune, USA Today and Sports Illustrated along with other sports media outlets have expressed the potential success of the Cubs this year with stars like 1B Anthony Rizzo, newcomer ace LHP Jon Lester and young phenoms OF Jorge Soler and 3B Krix Bryant leading the way, but the future is even brighter than the present.

The Cubs have some impressive young players that will probably make their major league debuts within the next couple of seasons, and one can agree that it’s because of these players that the Chicago Cubs will finally win their first World Series since 1908:

3B Kris Bryant: #1 Cubs Prospect, Top 100 Prospects (#2) 

After an incredible 2014 Minor League campaign, Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant will make an impact for the 2015 Chicago Cubs at the Major League level all season long. (photo from: MiLB.com)

At this time, almost all baseball fans know who Kris Bryant is. He had a monster spring training and a monster season last year in the minor leagues. Last year, Bryant led the minor leagues in home runs (43), extra base hits (78), total bases (325), slugging percentage (.661) and OPS (1.098) while reaching the Triple-A level in his first pro season according to MiLB.com .

Drafted as the #2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Bryant will be manning third base for awhile if all goes well in Chicago. He’s the early season favorite to win the NL Rookie Of The Year and he debuted in the majors batting fourth in the lineup. He’ll probably be batting in the middle of the lineup for the Cubs for a long time and he’s expected to be a 30 HR hitter for years to come.

With Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant manning the corners of the infield and the number three and four hole, they easily will become the best 1B and 3B pair in the major leagues once Bryant fully develops.

On April 17, 2015 the Cubs called up 3B Kris Bryant to the Major League level according to USA Today .

SS Addison Russell: #2 Cubs Prospect, Top 100 Prospects (#5)

Prospect SS Addison Russell recently was called up to the Major Leagues. He will join 3B Kris Bryant as the farm system starts to take over the Cubs Major League roster. (photo from: Bleacher Report)

Russell is a young all around shortstop who will contend for playing time at shortstop against SS Starlin Castro and SS Javier Baez. According to MiLB.com, Russell has been compared to Hall of Famer Barry Larkn and former AL-MVP Miguel Tejada because of his all around ability as a shortstop. Scouts also believe that Russell is a better defender than both Castro and Baez so he seems to have the defensive advantage.

Drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 2012 draft as the #11 overall pick, Russell was one of two first round picks a part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland Athletics on July 5, 2014 according to MiLB.com . The deal gave the Cubs, who already had the best position player farm system, another piece to develop to make a run at a future World Series title.

His mature ability at the plate has been a big part of his early success as he knows how to hit and take some pitches for a walk. In his first three pro seasons, Russell has batted .300 with an OBP of .379 and a SLG of .522 in the Athletics and Cubs farm system. This is a hitter that can be seen batting anywhere in the lineup because he does have some power and he can hit for average. He has average speed so I can see the Cubs batting him second or in the bottom portion of the lineup. However, once Russell meets his full potential, he’ll overcome Castro and Baez as the everyday starter at shortstop because of his fielding ability.

On April 20, 2015 the Chicago Cubs promoted SS Addison Russel to the Major Leagues according to CBS Sports.

RHP C.J. Edwards: Cubs #3 Prospect. Top 100 Prospects (#46)

Cubs pitching prospect C.J. Edwards is regarded as the team’s top pitching prospect, but he missed all of 2014 due to a right shoulder strain. (photo from Cubs.MLB.com)

There’s a pitcher in the Cubs farm system that seems oddly familiar to the description of a famous retired New York Yankee.

C.J. Edwards is his name and he is currently ranked third in the Cubs farm system according to MiLB.com . He was discovered by a scout for the Texas Rangers named Chris Kemp. The Cubs would draft Edwards in the 48th round of the 2011 draft, and eventually trade him to Chicago as a part of the July 23, 2013 trade that sent Matt Garza to the Rangers according to ESPN .

He is described as a pitcher who throws a low 90’s heater that can top out at 97 mph. However, his fastball has a natural cutting ability. An example of his dominance in his 237 innings and three pro seasons is that hitters have only hit 2 home runs off of his fastball. He also has “an extremely skinny frame that may not be suited to taking the ball every fifth day.” Perhaps he can be reliever?

Let’s reevaluate: a skinny pitcher who will likely be reliever, and he has a cutting fastball that tops out at 97 mph. Sounds similar to future Hall of Famer New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera!

Unlike Rivera, Edwards throws a curveball and does not have excellent control. He will likely develop into a a very good pitcher, but let’s be honest, he’s unlikely to end up as good as Rivera.

For now, the Cubs seem pretty content with Hector Rondon as the team’s closer. In 2014 he had a WHIP nearly at 1.00, an ERA nearly at 2.00 and he saved almost 30 games after taking over the closer role in the middle of the season. We may see C.J. Edwards become a set-up man for Rondon in the near future. In order for this to happen, he first needs to bounce back in 2015 after missing most of 2014 due to a right shoulder strain.

C/OF Kyle Schwarber: Cubs #4 Prospect, Top 100 Prospects (#48)

Cubs C/OF prospect Kyle Schwarber proved to be a force to be reckoned with at the plate last year at the Single-A level, and should see some Major League at bats by 2016. (photo from: USA Today)

According to MiLB.com Scouts considered him the best all around hitter in the 2014 draft because of his strength and bat speed from the left side of the plate and his impressive plate discipline.

He was drafted as the #4 overall pick in the 2014 draft and batted .344 with an OBP of .428 and a SLG of .634 at the Single-A level for Chicago last year. He is known for making hard contact consistently and he is believed to have the tools to be a .280 30 home run hitter according to scouts.

Schwarber will mix in well in the middle of the lineup with Rizzo and Bryant. With Rizzo’s ability, Bryant’s potential and Schwarber’s potential, Chicago has a scary 3, 4, 5 hitter combination in the making.

He’s expected to make his major league debut in 2016 so we probably will not see this second year pro in 2015 make an impact for the Cubs, but someday he’ll be a solid hitter in the MLB.

Other Top Prospects 

OF Albert Almora: A solid fielder and impressive line drive hitter with an aggressive approach at the plate.

SS Gleyber Torres: A young 18 year old Venezuelan with a swift, short stroke and a great arm that will help him play anywhere in the infield

RHP Duane Underwood: A young front line starter in the making known for his ability to make batters swing and miss against his 92-95 mph heater and secondary breaking pitches.

OF Billy McKinney: The other first round pick acquired by the Cubs in the Samardzija trade who has a sweet left handed swing batting .283 in hist first two seasons in the pros.

Although SS Javier Baez and OF Jorge Soler are not considered prospects anymore, they are still under the age of 25 like 1B Anthony Rizzo who is actually 25. Combining those players with the stars of tomorrow in the Cubs farm system should have Cubs fan feeling eager for the future if all the prospects develop into the stars they are predicted to become.

 

 

 

The Next Best Thing: Bryant, Buxton & Pederson

Kris Bryant. The best thing since Chicago pizza?

(Photo: CBSSports.com)

“It’s the best thing since ______.”

We’ve all repeated that statement at some point, but use a different word to finish the sentence when pledging allegiance to a product or idea we truly love.

Bread slicer circa 1920s/Photo: liveauctioneers.com

Nothing will ever compare to the invention of electricity, but sliced bread was a rookie in the 1920s and takes credit for being the initial subject of the sentence. Crude devices turned the trick.

In the 1960s it was the shirt pocket. Both sliced bread and shirt pockets could be considered hall of fame innovations, but they fall short of reaching the heights of electricity. Bread sometimes needs to get toasted and wrinkly shirts with a pocket eventually need to be ironed. Electricity makes it happen, although a tip of the cap to the toaster and iron.

None of this has to do with baseball, but there’s ways of modifying the expression to pertain to baseball.

Mike Trout’s the best thing since the iPhone.

Clayton Kershaw’s the best thing since the car pool lane.

You get the idea, even if you don’t commute in SoCal during rush hour, while trying to avoid breaking the law by interacting with your mobile device. Let’s add a word to the beginning of this statement to advance the story.

The search for the next  best thing since… is what can keep baseball fans interested in the future of their team especially after the new season smell wears off and their team starts to stink. Even fans of the really good teams can seek the next best thing when there’s a position on the ball diamond that might be lacking. The next best thing in baseball is often called a prospect.

A cornucopia of websites ranks the Top 100 prospects. The month of March is always a good time to review the list for the 1st or 20th time. No two lists or opinions are the same. Baseball America, MLB.com and BaseballProspectus.com provide a variance to these rankings. I need to build parameters so I’m going to work strictly from the list of the Top 20 prospects for 2015 featured on baseballamerica.com . This allows for a limited sample size of three teams who have the benefit of featuring more than one player in their Top 20.

It should be noted, MLB.com ranks the Red Sox farm system second between the Cubs and Twins. I’ll tackle Yoan Moncada and company once the Cuban puts together some stateside at bats.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to contend for a World Championship this season. Giants’ fans are probably like, “yeah whatever”, but that just helps make the NL West division a fun storyline to follow when also throwing the revamped San Diego Padres into the equation. The math that involves the D’Backs and Rockies isn’t as exciting to discuss right now.

The Dodgers have three top 10 prospects according to Baseball America. One is probably here to stay, one is most likely a year away, and the other is 18! Depending who you read the rankings of these players get flipped.

23-year-old projected starting center fielder Joc Pederson (8th by B.A.) is raking in the Cactus League. At the time of this typing the left-handed hitting Pederson is 17-41 with 4 doubles and 3 home runs. It yields a slash line of .415/.455/.732 and makes for a not gonna play that much as a 4th outfielder, possibly will get traded Andre Ethier. Pederson did get a small taste of the bigs last year, although his power/speed combo yielded only 4 singles in 28 at bats with 11 strikeouts and 9 walks. A better indication of his talent was becoming the Pacific Coast League MVP after posting the league’s first 30 HR/30 SB season in 80 years.

The Dodgers probably won’t turn the page to 21-year-old shortstop Corey Seager (5th by B.A.) until 2016, as not 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins was traded for to play shortstop this season. Corey, the brother of Mariners’ third base thumper Kyle Seager is 4-14 this spring with 7 strikeouts and 7 walks. There’s no rush at the moment to have Seager in the majors, but I heard Dodgers’ hitting coach Mark McGwire speak on local radio last week. He said all kinds of nice things about the Seager bloodlines. It sounds like Corey is on the right track after winning the California League MVP in 2014 and getting a promotion to the Southern League.

Lastly, there’s 18-year-old left-handed pitcher Julio Urias (10th by B.A.) who was a non-roster invitee to Dodgers’ camp. He’s pitched a couple innings this spring for the Dodgers. Urias dominated at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014 as a 17-year old! He will continue his development in the minors this season. His best strikeout pitch according to David Hood of True Blue LA is probably the curveball with a developing change-up and a fastball that reaches the mid-90s which he controls well for his age.

Chicago Cubs

Baseball America gives the #1 prospect honor to 23-year-old third baseman Kris Bryant. Baseball in America is already becoming aware of Bryant outside the city of Chicago and the towns he terrorized with his power in Double-A (22 HR) and Triple-A (21 HR) last season. He’s up to 8 home runs in the Cactus League with an insane 2.072 OPS over 25 at bats which is impressive even for dry heat/wind blowing out Arizona. King Felix is a home run victim too. It’s the Cubs, so there is still the threat the best thing since Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez at third base could be abducted by aliens.

If Bryant remains on planet earth, it’s still no sure thing that he starts the year as the Cubs’ opening night third basemen against the Cardinals on April 5th. Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com has noted that Bryant will get some work in the outfield before the end of spring. Joe Maddon explained to Rogers “I think he understands the ability to play more than one position well, how that benefits you now and the future. Plus, his tools play in both spots.”

The alternative is Bryant keeping warm in Triple-A for a few weeks, which ultimately can delay those arbitration and free agent dollars based on service time figures. Agent Scott Boras does not approve this message. We’ll let the Cubs’ player personnel people decide what’s best so they can deal with the angry mob of Cubs’ fans and fantasy baseball gurus who would like Bryant to announce his presence with authority from day one.

21-year-old shortstop Addison Russell (3rd by B.A.) shouldn’t technically get full credit as a Cubs’ prospect. Russell was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. The A’s traded Russell to the Cubs in an early July 2014 deal for the pennant run rentals of pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Shark is now a White Sox and Hammel is a Cub again.

Russell is 9 for 22 this spring with a home run vs Felix Hernandez and a couple walks. The Cubs have Starlin Castro at shortstop and former minor league shortstop Javier Baez trying to figure out major league pitching at second base. Despite the logjam, Russell projects as a good enough defender with an offensive attack that labels him as the shortstop of the future. Because of Russell, it’s now commonplace for Castro’s name to be mentioned in trade talks by Cubs’ fans, if not the Cubs’ front office.

23-year-old right-fielder Jorge Soler (12th by B.A.) was 26 for 89 last season with 5 home runs for a .292/.330/.573 slash line. Soler’s the Cubs’ starting right fielder and clean up hitter. He hasn’t started beating his chest and blowing kisses to the fans in the bleachers, but could become just as beloved as the previous guy who did that stuff if he gets that good and the Cubs get those bleachers finished. Soler has a couple home runs and a dozen hits this spring over 34 at bats.

The final top-20 prospect the Cubs lay claim to is catcher Kyle Schwarber (19th by B.A). MLB.com has him rated 50th. Schwarber had a grand slam earlier this spring and the 22-year-old crushed every level of Single-A ball last season after being a first round pick in 2014. Schwarber should return to High-A Myrtle Beach to start 2015 and will attempt to progress through the system as a hit first, catcher second, maybe outfielder prospect.

Minnesota Twins

The third and final team with multiple prospects in the Baseball America top-20 is the Minnesota Twins. It was a bumpy or non-existent ride for their next best things in 2014.

HandyManny

The many tools than Manny Garcia.    Photo: handymanny-games.com

21-year-old center-fielder Byron Buxton (2nd by B.A.) is a 5-tool talent, but is not to be confused with Handy Manny who does him three tools better if you count Stretch the tape measure, Flicker the flashlight, and Dusty the handsaw as tools. Buxton hammered A-ball in 2013 with a .944 OPS, but his wrist tool was a problem in 2014 and limited him to 31 games.

A left wrist sprain occurred when diving for a ball last March. He aggravated the wrist injury again in May while at High-A Fort Myers. He got promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, struck out in all three at bats and was then carted off the field following an outfield collision (concussion). In October, he played in the Arizona Fall League, but suffered a fractured left middle finger that required surgery. He’s running out of leagues to get injured in and hopefully doesn’t have to give the middle finger to 2015. Buxton is 1 for 8 with a couple walks this spring.

Third baseman Miguel Sano is one of those 80 power guys like Rangers’ top prospect Joey Gallo. You can’t get higher than 80 on the scouting scale. The 22-year-old Sano missed all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Sano is an abbreviated 2 for 10 this spring with 3 walks, but both hits landed on the other side of the fence. His last collection of stats was in 2013 when he clubbed 35 home runs spanning High-A and Double-A.

Buxton and Sano both have work to do in minor league camp and are slated for Double-A duty at Chattanooga. They could make an appearance with the Twins in late 2015, but why jinx them? It’s more realistic to anticipate them competing for full time jobs on the 2016 Twins.

There are certainly other young players to discuss who could become electric, but will any of the current top prospects become the best thing since the invention of the light bulb? Probably not. “Clap off!”

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Fractured Pence, Slammin’ Schwarber, and Switch Pitching

Pat Venditte from either side.

Photos Courtesy: SI.com and MLB.com

Entering the first weekend of spring training games I’ve had enough time between business travel and sales meetings to notice there have been some on field performances worth noting. Work is already getting in the way of baseball. What’s up with that? Let’s break it down a little to discover if there is anything to see here, but let’s also remember the famous line from ESPN’s Bill Patrick, or maybe it was Jack Edwards. I just can’t remember so maybe it’s not that famous of a line. “Florida’s Grapefruit, Arizona’s Cactus, they play these games, just for practice.”

Before we launch into a few short stories, there are a some injury situations concerning notable players. My limit is three because discussing injury situations can be sad and boring or it’s just not as exciting as home runs and switch pitching.

INJURIES

Hunter Pence

The biggest injury news of the week concerns Giants’ outfielder Hunter Pence. The Giants social media team and X-rays have confirmed Pence has a non-displaced fracture in his left forearm. He’s expected to be sidelined 6-8 weeks. He was hit by a pitch just above his wrist during Thursday’s Cactus League game vs the Cubs. Pence has a streak of 383 consecutive games played and it looks like that will come to an end as he begins his fourth season with the Giants.

UH OHS

Mike Minor

According to Mark Bowman the plan is for Mike Minor’s shoulder and I guess the rest of Mike Minor, to be evaluated by Dr. James Andrews next week. Tightness is in the throwing shoulder for the Braves’ left-hander, who was down this road in 2014 when the shoulder contributed to allowing lots of base hits (165 in 145.1 IP). Many of the trips to Birmingham to visit Andrews results in getting a lollipop for holding still, followed by a DL stint. Hopefully a future visit to the O.R. is not required.

Yu Darvish

Anthony Andro’s blue birdie tweets that Yu was pulled from his Cactus League debut after one inning on Tuesday due to right triceps tightness. Darvish had a clean inning, but he too has been bitten by the injury bug. Darvish missed seven weeks last season because of right elbow inflammation.  It’s March, so it’s wise to be cautious. He will get reevaluated by team docs on Friday.

Now for the fun stuff.

TUESDAY

Marcus Semien    

Tuesday afternoon, MLB teams started to face each other like when the Giants played the Athletics in Phoenix. The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner allowed 5 hits and 4 ER over 1.2 IP in a reminder that it’s early March and this stat line means absolutely nothing. What might mean something is Athletics’ SS Marcus Semien taking Bumgarner and Hunter Strickland deep during a 3-3, 4 RBI effort. Semien then added a couple more hits, a walk, and 3 ribbies on Wednesday. The 24-year-old came over from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade and is slated to be the A’s starting shortstop.

With this being the A’s, Semien’s performance could be an early indicator that they have found value from another non-household name for the umpteenth time, although he may not even be the best story of A’s camp so far. More on that later. Semien slashed .234/.300/.372 for the White Sox last season in 64 games of action as a 2B/3B option.

WEDNESDAY

ARod   

He had a base hit to left field against Kevin Slowey in his first Grapefruit League at bat. It looked like a line drive in the box score. There was much rejoicing by Alex following a 17-month absence from the news a lineup. He also walked and talked to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch saying, “This is as much fun as I’ve had in a long time in Spring Training, I’m just feeling really good that I get to play the game that I love.”

THURSDAY

Kyle Schwarber

Chicago Cubs’ birthday boy Kyle Schwarber hit a grand slam in the 2nd inning vs the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong. The left-handed hitting Schwarber was the Cubs’ 1st Rd pick (4th overall) in the 2014 draft out of Indiana. The now 22 -year-old is a 6-foot, 235 lb specimen who intends to play catcher full-time a High-A Myrtle Beach, although his middle name is not Molina. Slammin’ Schwarber is yet another Cubs’ prospect that non-Cubs fans will be sick of hearing about by the time the Wrigley Field bleacher project finishes construction in time for the Slammin’ Sammy number retirement ceremony sometime in 20??. Schwarber slugged to the tune of a 1.061 OPS with 18 HRs in 311 plate appearances across all three levels of A-ball in 2014.

What did we learn here? Not everything, it’s just March 6th, but story lines are beginning to take shape. Early spring heroics could mean something or nothing. Usually March is about keeping an eye on injuries and hoping we don’t see too many of them. Chris Sale’s foot and Hunter Pence’s forearm are the first bummers. We can also figure that middle infield position battles, 4th OF slots, back ends of rotations and bullpens will come into focus during the coming weeks.

Stay tuned. Regardless of what letter in the alphabet they use to identify your local Winter Storm, spring baseball stories from warms locales can be as cool as switch pitchers like the A’s Pat Venditte. Thursday, Venditte warmed up with his right hand while Cubs’ switch hitter Dexter Fowler worked his way to the batter’s box after some left-handed practice swings. Right before Fowler entered the box, Venditte – per the rule that’s beared his name since 2008 – indicated his intention to throw left-handed to Fowler during his entire at bat. Fowler had to change batting helmets so his protective flap would be on the correct side.  A slightly confused Fowler told MLB.com’s Jane Lee “My whole thing was, I should be able to take practice swings right-handed instead of just walking up there and having to hit. It was kind of weird. You get up there and you’re getting your timing and stuff left-handed, and then he switches around.”

Venditte Glove

Venditte’s been using a glove like this since childhood Photo courtesy: milb.com

The 29-year-old Venditte most recently had a K/BB ratio of 83/22 in 78.1 IP for the Yankees at AA and AAA last season. He’s hardly a new story. Venditte’s pitched in exhibitions for the Yankees – they drafted him in 2007 and again in 2008 after he opted for a year at Creighton – but the Athletics have afforded him the first opportunity to be officially invited to spring training. Venditte, armed with a special glove, had a 1-2-3 inning vs Fowler, Rizzo, and Castro and has retired all 5 batters he’s faced this spring. Of course the opportunity to compete for one of seven potential relief spots occurs with the A’s because A stands for ambidextrous and awesome if he happens to make the Oakland bullpen for any amount of time after seven successful minor league seasons .

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