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Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks suffered yet another setback in his return from back surgery i a rehab game on Sunday, according to James Schmel of MLive.com. Dirks sustained the second hamstring injury of his rehab assignment, and while the results of a Tuesday MRI have yet to be disclosed, it’s looking unlikely that he will play for the Tigers at all this season, writes Schmel. There are just 13 games remaining in the minor league regular season, and Dirks may not have enough time to rehab and prepare himself to suit up for the reigning AL Central champs this year.
Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…
- Much has been made of the Cubs‘ plan to pursue top-of-the-rotation arms this offseason, but GM Jed Hoyer said to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times this weekend that a veteran position player is a priority as well. “…[T]here’s a lot of positions on the field that we want to dedicate to the guys that are here or to young players,” said Hoyer. “But I do think it’s important to have some veteran guys with good approaches that these guys can lean on… … It’s certainly something we want to find.”
- Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton was originally placed on the disabled list for a hip issue, but he has now been diagnosed with a sports hernia, he told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Morton will try to return in 2014, but that doesn’t appear to be a certainty, and even if he does, offseason surgery remains a possibility.
- Twins top prospect Alex Meyer is right where he should be in regard to the team’s projected innings limit, GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ryan will watch Meyer’s final home start of the year next week but is not ready to concretely say that the flamethrower will receive a September call-up. The Twins would need to add Meyer to the 40-man roster to do so, but as Berardino notes, that would happen following the season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft anyway. Meyer ranked on the midseason Top 50 prospect lists of ESPN’s Keith Law, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, placing as high as 12th overall (on B-Pro’s list).
- Following the Reds‘ recent four-game losing streak — each of which featured the bullpen blowing a lead — John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines that it’s time to shift the focus to 2015. Fay examines the club’s chances of contending and writes that they won’t be big players on the free agent market, as is typically the M.O. of owner Bob Castellini. Fay also notes that the Reds debated moving a starting pitcher at the non-waiver trade deadline, but Castellini wouldn’t sign off on a sale. Fay feels that a starter, such as Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos, could become trade bait in the offseason with the Reds in need of a bat.
We’ve already had one batch of AL Central news items earlier today, but here are a few more from around the division…
- It seems “certain” that the Tigers will extend a qualifying offer to Victor Martinez this winter, MLive.com’s Chris Iott writes as part of a reader mailbag. Though Martinez turns 36 in December, he’s still swinging a live bat, bringing an .859 OPS over 99 PA into today’s action. This is just my speculation, but given Martinez’s age and defensive limitations, I wonder if he could actually accept the one-year qualifying offer (which should be worth roughly $15MM) to stay in a familiar situation in Detroit rather than risk facing a Kendrys Morales -esque extended wait in free agency.
- Torii Hunter did a bit of recruiting to bring Joel Hanrahan to the Tigers, both players tell MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Hunter and Hanrahan are both represented by agent Larry Reynolds and work out together during the offseason.
- Kyle Zimmer, the fifth pick of the 2012 draft, skipped Spring Training and will see his first game action this coming week, Jim Callis writes for MLB.com. While Zimmer is presently healthy, he had a bout of late-season biceps tendinitis and said his arm still didn’t feel when throwing in December. As such, the Royals are taking it very easy with their star prospect and plan to cap him around 148 innings, though they could call on him for a pennant race. “If he pitches like we expect him to, we’ll have a fresh Kyle Zimmer in September,” Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo said. “He’s as important as anybody in the organization for this year and the future, and this just made more sense.”
- In other prospect-workload news, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony hinted to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Alex Meyer could see roughly a 30-percent increase in his innings from 2013. “I think 30 percent is pretty much the standard,” Antony said. “It’s kind of the guideline you work under. You monitor it….We just want him to stay healthy throughout the year and continue to progress.” This projects to around 156 IP for Meyer in 2014, and since he’s pitched so well in five Triple-A starts, the big righty could be a late-season callup. Antony didn’t address that possibility other than to say “The intensity is a lot different (in the minors).”
Despite opening the year with one of the best minor league systems in baseball, the Minnesota Twins' collection of young talent continues to get stronger. The club's system entered the year as one of the top five systems, according to two different publications: Keith Law of ESPN (2nd out of 30 — subscription required) and Baseball Prospectus (4th). Baseball America had a slightly different opinion and ranked the system 10th overall.
When looking at the three Top 10 lists for those publications (Keith Law, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America – subscriptions required), a total of 14 players were represented: Oswaldo Arcia, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Danny Santana, Luke Bard, Travis Harrison, Jorge Polanco, Alex Meyer and Trevor May. We can delete both Kepler and Bard because they're in extended spring training and have yet to appear in an official game. Santana appeared on just one list (Baseball America's) and has struggled in Double-A. The highest profile name — outfielder Aaron Hicks — is hitting just .144 in the majors after being touted by some as an early American League Rookie of the Year candidate. The other 10 players are thriving in 2013.
Arcia, called up to the Majors in mid-April, has posted a .746 OPS while helping to compensate for the loss in offense as fellow rookie Hicks finds his footing. Strikeouts have been an issue for Arcia but his three home runs have put him in a four-way tie for third on the team in that category despite appearing in just 28 games.
Both Sano and Buxton were ranked either first or second on each of the three publications' top prospects lists. Sano, age 20, has produced an eye-popping OPS of 1.165 OPS in 42 High-A games. The fourth-year pro has some of the best usable power in the minor leagues and he's slugged 13 home runs, more than any other hitter in the minors. According to a front office contact, the young prospect is not just a one-trick pony. "Miguel learned a lot about patience at the plate last season and that's one of the reasons he's off to a good start," he told MLBTR. "He also has a very strong arm at third base and has made good progress defensively this season."
Buxton, 19, is in his first full pro season after being selected second overall in the 2012 amateur draft. After hitting .392 in April, the center fielder's average has dipped in May but he's flashing five tools and still getting on base at a .420 clip. The talent evaluator that spoke with MLBTR said Buxton's natural skills have helped him get off to a hot start although pitchers have started to make adjustments against him. "He's going through a learning process now since he's been seeing mostly off-speed stuff this month," he explained. "He will need to continue to develop that patience and be selective at the plate."
Meyer was obtained from the Nationals during the offseason trade that sent outfielder Denard Span to the National League. The 6'9'' pitching prospect has produced both above-average strikeout and groundball rates while settling in nicely at the Double-A level. When asked what has stood out about the new Twin, the contact stated, "Coming into a new organization isn't easy but Alex has adjusted quite well. He may have the best fastball and the best curveball in the organization."
Gibson continues to rebuild his prospect value after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late 2011. The injury slowed down his big-league timetable but he's looking good at Triple-A in 2013, averaging almost six innings per start. With three big league starters struggling – Mike Pelfrey, as well as recent demotion victims Vance Worley, and Pedro Hernandez — Gibson could become a key contributor by the second half of the year.
The 32nd overall selection of the 2012 draft, Berrios has produced solid results so far this year despite being one of the younger arms in his league. He has a 2.86 ERA with 32 strikeouts and just five walks in 28 1/3 innings of work. Another offseason acquisition, May was part of the package that the Phillies sent to the Twins for outfielder Ben Revere. He's struggled to retire left-handed hitters in 2013 but he's shown the potential to develop into an innings-eating workhorse.
Converted from outfielder to second baseman in 2012, Rosario has spent the early part of this year making strides at the keystone while continuing to hit for a high average in High-A ball. Harrison, 20, needs to tighten his approach at the plate but the third base prospect has flashed good pop with 21 of his 43 hits going for extra bases at the Low-A level. Just 19, Polanco is already in his fourth pro season but his first in full-season ball. The switch-hitting middle infielder is batting .325 with surprising gap power and solid control of the strike zone.
First baseman Chris Colabello was a surprise promotion to the big league club on May 22nd. He didn't make any Top 10 or Top 100 list this year but he's been an impact player for the Twins at the Triple-A level. Colabello, 29, hit .358 with 29 extra base hits — including 12 homers (the second highest total in the minors) — in 46 games. In his last 10 appearances, Colabello was hitting .500 (19-for-38). Perhaps in preparation of this call-up, he was recently given playing time in the outfield.
Born in Massachusetts, Colabello spent his childhood in Italy and played for that country during the recent World Baseball Classic. He went to a small U.S. college and was never drafted by a Major League Baseball organization. He signed with the Tigers as a non-drafted free agent after impressing the organization during a tryout camp in 2006 but was released less than a month later. He spent seven years playing independent league baseball before agreeing to a deal with the Twins prior to the 2012 season.
A front office contact told MLBTR that he wasn't shocked by the success that Colabello has had since signing with the Twins because of the consistent success he showed in independent baseball. "It was just a matter of someone giving him an opportunity," he said. "He has power to all fields, has a good plan when he goes to the plate, and stays on an even keel. He's a tremendous teammate and he's always working to get better."
Whether or not Colabello truly has the offensive chops to be a big league regular remains to be seen but he should at least be able to provide help off the bench while also backing up at designated hitter, first base and both corner outfield spots. The organization now has roster flexibility with the rookie — both in terms of positions that he can play and with his three option years. Should the need arise, he can be shuttled back and forth between the Majors and the minors for three seasons without the risk of having to pass him through waivers.
In a piece for USA Today, Ray Glier got reaction from Colabello after the prospect learned of his promotion.
For the fourth straight year, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down with Jesse Lund of SB Nation's Twinkie Town to discuss the state of affairs with his team. Antony and Lund discussed the Twins' offseason at length, ranging from the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere to the Twins' pursuit of starting pitching. Here's a look at some of the highlights, but bear in mind that entire piece is well worth your time…
- The Twins never intended to trade both Revere and Span, but the Phillies' offer of Trevor May and Vance Worley was too strong not to pull the trigger. Antony identifies May as someone who could get a September call-up in 2013 if he enjoys a strong season.
- The Twins had conversations with both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, but were unable to agree to terms with either one. In particular, the Twins sought a club option for Baker, who wanted strictly a one-year deal. Antony said they didn't want 2013 to "be a donation" to Baker in the event that he wasn't healthy and effective for most of the season. That decision looks wise, with Baker on the 60-day disabled list for the Cubs.
- Mike Pelfrey identified the Twins as a team he wanted to pitch for and was aggressive in working out a deal, according to Antony. The Twins did quite a bit of homework on Pelfrey's recovery from Tommy John surgery in order to ascertain that the right-hander would indeed be ready for Opening Day, as he promised.
- The Twins made several "competitive offers" to free agent starting pitchers, in some cases making better offers than the ones those pitchers ultimately took. The Twins had conversations with nearly every free agent starting pitcher and spoke with around 15 agents for pitchers at the Winter Meetings in December.
- Following the Span trade, most teams didn't believe that the team would also trade Revere. Antony says four teams were in the mix for Revere, but the Phillies were the most aggressive and ultimately landed him with the aforementioned offer.
- The Twins were willing to do a one-for-one swap of Span and Alex Meyer because they believe Meyer is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation candidate who can be a "dominant" strikeout pitcher.
- The decision to bring Aaron Hicks north as the team's Opening Day center fielder was a result of Hicks' strong play in Spring Training and his poise off the field. The Twins' front office was never overly concerned with delaying Hicks' free agency by a season: "If he's that good of a player we're going to do what we can to sign him long term and none of that's going to matter."
- Antony, GM Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office prefer to gradually expose their top prospects to the Major Leagues so as not to field a team of all rookies. Additionally, that line of thinking prevents mass arbitration and free agency issues: "If you can bring a couple guys, a couple rookies in each year, it helps infuse that and it helps to spread it out so that not everybody becomes arbitration eligible at the same time or free agents at the same time, all that stuff."
- The Twins "admire" the Royals' bullpen of power arms and would like to build a similar bullpen. The team prioritized power arms in the 2012 Draft, selecting a number of hard-throwing college relievers.
- Antony offered a definitive "No," when asked if the team had interest in Aaron Harang prior to his trade to the Mariners. The Twins feel they have a number of similar arms in the organization already.
- There's been no contact between the Twins and Jim Thome for "a couple of months," and the two were never on the same page. Minnesota had interest in Thome, but they were far apart in discussions.
- "It would be great if he could be a Twin for life," Antony said of Justin Morneau. "He's a guy who's meant a lot for this organization and we'd love it if he were to play his entire career here, but you just don't know how things are going to work out in the end."
- Antony feels that too much has been made of the decision not to extend Ron Gardenhire prior to this season. Many have speculated that Gardenhire is on the hot seat following a pair of 90-loss seasons, but Antony said it was intended to be an organization-wide message that they're looking to get better from top to bottom. He adds that he hopes Gardenhire is the Twins' manager for years to come, and that in three years people are surprised there was even a debate.
The Nationals avoided the busy free agent center field market by acquiring Denard Span from the Twins today in exchange for highly-touted pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Here is some of the early buzz about the trade and how it affects the Nationals, Twins and several other teams around the league…
- The trade seems to leave Adam LaRoche without a spot in the Nationals' lineup, meaning the first baseman could go elsewhere as a free agent. In a conference call with reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider), Washington GM Mike Rizzo said the trade "gives us some options" with player moves and noted that the team is still talking to LaRoche. Rizzo said teams have called about Michael Morse, so the Nats could potentially re-sign LaRoche and deal Morse instead.
- While a Morse trade is a possibility, some executives feel the Span deal will lead to LaRoche signing with the Red Sox, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports looks at how the trade impacts LaRoche, Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and the Phillies.
- The trade was "a huge win" for the Nationals, opines Fangraphs' Dave Cameron, who thinks Minnesota could've gotten more than Meyer in exchange for an affordable center fielder. "The Twins got a real talent back in return for Span, but it’s a talent with too many question marks to be the piece they’re getting back in return for a three win player under team control at a fraction of his market price," Cameron writes.
- Conversely, ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required) likes the trade for the Twins. The club sorely needs young pitching and Meyer's potential is worth "an average regular in center whose value will fluctuate with his BABIP," as Law describes Span. Law also notes that this deal should help the Rockies get more in a trade for Dexter Fowler, as Fowler is younger and has more power than Span.
Span, 28, provides the Nationals with an established center fielder. His presence will presumably keep Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in outfield corners. It could also impact the Nationals' interest in Adam LaRoche, since Michael Morse's primary position might now be first base. Alternatively, the Nationals could move Morse to a team seeking offense and continue pursuing LaRoche.
Span posted a .283/.342/.395 batting line in 568 plate appearances with Minnesota in 2012, numbers that compare closely to his career mark of .284/.357/.389. The five-year MLB veteran will earn $4.75MM in 2013 and $6.5MM in 2014. His contract includes a $9MM club option for 2015 with a $500K buyout.
Meyer, the 23rd overall selection of the 2011 draft, pitched well in 2012, his lone season as a pro. He pitched at Class A, posting a 2.86 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 129 innings. The 6'9" 22-year-old might rank sixth among Twins prospects, John Manuel of Baseball America notes (on Twitter).
No one, the Washington Nationals included, expected Adam Dunn to be this unproductive in 2011. The slugger, whose home run hitting ability seemed all but automatic from 2004-10, has an unexpectedly low .161/.294/.296 line with only 11 home runs this year. If the Nationals had anticipated this kind of dropoff for Dunn, they wouldn’t have maintained interest in him for as long as they did.
A year ago this time, Washington was still considering the possibility of extending Dunn, who was having a characteristically strong season and the plate on his way to free agency. After posting a .260/.356/.536 line with 38 homers, Dunn signed a four-year, $56MM deal with the White Sox, turning down overtures from rumored suitors such as Detroit and Oakland.
Because Dunn turned down the Nationals’ three-year offer to join the White Sox, the Nats obtained two compensatory draft picks in June. Last night they signed both of those picks, right-hander Alex Meyer, selected 23rd overall, and outfielder Brian Goodwin, selected 34th overall, in addition to their other top picks. By reaching deals with the 6’9” Meyer and Goodwin, a former Cape Cod League standout, the Nationals added significant talent to their system and even though the two players cost $5MM in total, Washington is already drawing praise for its aggressive approach.
The Nationals had interest in Dunn on a multiyear deal last year, so they were wrong about him just like the White Sox and many other teams (I was wrong, too). But their decision not to outbid Chicago turned out to be an excellent one. Instead of an expensive, positionless and now unproductive player, they added two potentially impactful prospects for a fraction of the price.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
The Nationals have signed first round pick Alex Meyer for $2MM, according to John Manuel of Baseball America (on Twitter). The Boras Corporation represents the 6'9" right-hander, who was the 23rd overall selection in the June draft. The Red Sox selected Meyer out of high school in the 20th round of the 2008 draft.
You can keep track of which top picks have signed with MLBTR's list.
Keith Law of ESPN.com has written up his final projections for tonight's draft. Here are some of the latest highlights (Insider subscription needed):
- The D'Backs select UCLA righty Trevor Bauer with the No. 3 pick, meaning two of the first three picks will be Bruins after the Pirates take Gerrit Cole at No. 1 overall.
- The Orioles, turned off by Virginia lefty Danny Hultzen's hefty contract demands, take prep righty Archie Bradley out of Oklahoma at No. 4. Dylan Bundy then falls to the Royals at No. 5, which Law says would be a steal, and Hultzen slides back to the D'Backs at No. 7, a "dream scenario" for Arizona. That could lead to tricky negotiations considering Hultzen's demands and the fact that the pick is unprotected after Barret Loux didn't sign last year, but Bauer and Hultzen would represent quite a boon to the D'Backs' rotation in the near future.
- The Mets meet their organizational mandate to take a pitcher at No. 13, selecting UConn righty Matt Barnes.
- The Brewers, with an unprotected pick at No. 15, need to take a signable player, and may be looking at Vanderbilt righty Sonny Gray or Oregon lefty Tyler Anderson.
- The Red Sox probably won't spend too wildly at No. 19 and could focus on a high-probability player like Alex Meyer of Kentucky as they did a year ago with Kolbrin Vitek.
This year’s draft is deep, particularly in terms of power pitchers. Here are the details on some draft-eligible players and the teams that are eyeing them…
- Texas A&M righty Josh Stilson received a second opinion on his injured shoulder from Dr. James Andrews, who believes surgery can be avoided with a six-week rehab program according to Baseball America's Jim Callis. Stilson, a projected first round pick, suffered a SLAP tear in his throwing shoulder and will miss the rest of the season.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick wrote about Rocco Baldelli's front office job with the Rays, which involves evaluating amateur position players for the draft.
- Astros assistant GM and scouting director Bobby Heck told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he has been impressed with the crop of power arms in this year's draft.
- Odds are the Astros will take a pitcher with the 11th overall pick, according to Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner (Twitter links). High school pitcher Archie Bradley told Goff that "the Astros have been in pretty good contact" with him.
- High school right-hander Dylan Bundy is a fitness freak who is mature beyond his years, as Nick Piecoro shows at the Arizona Republic. Bundy's pre-season goals? "To hit 100 mph, have a zero ERA and not walk anybody." His fastball touched 100 and he posted a 0.25 ERA with a 158K/5BB ratio.
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson hears that the Nationals, who select sixth overall, are looking at Bundy, Danny Hultzen, Bubba Starling, Jed Bradley, Trevor Bauer and Alex Meyer.
- The Royals entered the season with the best farm system in the game, yet GM Dayton Moore told MLB.com's Dick Kaegel that there are many areas in which the organization's prospect depth can improve.
- The Rays have 12 of the first 89 selections this year and executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says those selections boost the team's odds of finding elite talent. "The more arrows you have, the more likely you are to hit the bulls-eye," Friedman told Bill Chastain of MLB.com.
- The Padres, who have five of the first 58 picks in the draft, are looking forward to their selections with equal enthusiasm, according to MLB.com's Corey Brock. GM Jed Hoyer says the Padres need to get their picks right.
- The Red Sox, Hoyer's former team, also have extra picks, something that GM Theo Epstein is looking forward to. “I think it energizes the scouting staff the whole year because they know going in and seeing players, there’s a much better chance you can actually get a guy," he told Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com.
- The Twins will look to add pitching early on, according to MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger.
- Mets executives Paul DePodesta and Sandy Alderson agree with the consensus that the draft is deep in pitching, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.