While Nationals manager Dusty Baker is entering a contract year, that won’t be the case for long, suggests Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com. By the time the Nationals begin spring training in mid-February, Kerzel expects the club to extend Baker’s deal. The soon-to-be 68-year-old Baker is only one season into his Nats tenure, but it was a successful campaign for the franchise. Washington went 95-67 in 2016 en route to a National League East title and a five-game NLDS loss to the Dodgers. Baker, formerly with the Giants, Cubs and Reds, is now 17th all-time in managerial wins (1,766) and should vault into the top 15 next season.
A couple more notes from around baseball on a quiet first day of 2017 (happy New Year, readers!):
- Two-way superstar Shohei Otani understandably receives almost all the attention when it comes to players currently in Japan, but he’s not the only member of Nippon Pro Baseball with major league upside, as Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues details. Four pitchers – right-handers Kohei Arihara, Shintaro Fujinami, Takahiro Norimoto and southpaw Yusei Kikuchi – and infielder Tetsuto Yamada are names to watch, per Axisa. Interestingly, Fujinami rivaled Otani as a pitching prospect in 2012, though he obviously hasn’t taken off to nearly the same extent since. The 22-year-old Fujinami is nevertheless a strikeout machine who logged a 3.25 ERA in 169 innings last season; unfortunately, though, he’s likely at least a few seasons away from coming to the majors because of the new collective bargaining agreement.
- The Red Sox remain one of the majors’ most talented teams despite losing designated hitter David Ortiz to retirement, but filling his leadership void could be a significant obstacle next season, opines Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. Among the current Red Sox, highly respected second baseman Dustin Pedroia stands out as the likeliest to take over for Ortiz, writes Mastrodonato. Pedroia, for his part, is confident the club will be fine without Ortiz’s clubhouse presence. “We’re in good shape,” Pedroia said. “I think, especially what David did leadership-wise with a ton of guys, he’s leaving us in good shape. We’ll be all right.”