- There are a few updates on some Reds hurlers who are working back from injury, as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Homer Bailey will throw a pen session early next week — his first since having bone spurs removed over the offseason. Fellow righty Anthony DeSclafani, meanwhile, is unfortunately still not ready to start throwing. Doctors will reassess his sprained UCL after allowing it a few more weeks of rest. And lefty Brandon Finnegan, who’s dealing with an oblique issue, is still a week away even from being examined again by physicians. The club is allowing him plenty of rest before taking stock of his path back tot he rotation.
Nineteen-year-old outfielder Luis Robert is the top international talent that is available on the amateur market and, after recently being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, has already begun hosting private workouts with interested teams, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler. The Athletics hosted a workout for Robert last Friday that was attended by GM David Forst, according to Badler, and Reds GM Dick Williams was on hand to watch him this past Tuesday in a workout. Prior to that, he’d worked out for the Astros, Badler adds.
Badler notes that Robert’s camp is also expected to set up private workouts with the Padres, Cardinals and White Sox in the coming weeks. It seems that of those three clubs, the heavy-spending Padres are up first, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports (via Twitter) that Robert will work out with the Pads tomorrow. To this point, the Padres have paced all 30 teams in terms of international spending during the current signing period, as their total investment (including luxury tax penalties for shattering their allotted bonus pool) is in the vicinity of $80MM.
The willingness to spend at such an aggressive level may be key for any club that wishes to sign Robert, as FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes in his latest Inside Baseball column that one source who closely follows the international market believes Robert already has a $25MM offer “in hand,” though Heyman notes that others have suggested to him no offers have been made to this point. There could, of course, be some semantics at play there in terms of what constitutes a formal offer. A price tag in the vicinity of $25MM for Robert would come with a 100 percent luxury tax attached to it, meaning he’d cost any team that signed him at that rate a total of roughly $50MM.
As Badler writes, though Robert has been declared a free agent, he won’t formally be cleared to sign until May 20. In the interim, he’ll host at least one more open showcase for teams, in addition to the remaining private workouts his camp will orchestrate.
It’s worth noting that of the teams linked to Robert, only the White Sox have yet to exceed their current international bonus pool. In other words, while other clubs would essentially only be parting with money in order to sign Robert, the ChiSox would need to determine if Robert is worth handcuffing themselves in each of the next two international signing periods; should the Sox decide to exceed their pool in the eleventh hour — the current signing period ends on June 15 — they’d be unable to sign any individual player for more than $300K in either the 2017-18 or 2018-19 signing periods.
In a similar vein, teams that are still in the metaphorical “penalty box” for crushing their allotted pools in previous signing periods won’t be able to compete for Robert’s services, as they’re each capped at that same $300K figure on individual signings. That eliminates the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays, Rays, Royals and Diamondbacks from serving as serious competition in the Robert market.
Though Robert is just 19 years of age, he’d already blossomed into a star, hitting a ridiculous .401/.526/.687 with 12 homers, 12 doubles, a pair of triples and 11 steals over the life of 53 games (232 plate appearances) in his final pro season in the Cuban National Series. Scouting reports on Robert note that he’s capable of playing center field right now, though he may ultimately wind up in a corner. Badler has previously written that both his bat speed and raw power are plus, and Heyman’s above-linked piece offers a number of favorable reviews of Robert’s skill set. Additionally, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has previously spoken to a number of international scouting directors who have heaped praise onto Robert, calling him the game’s best international prospect behind Japanese phenom Shohei Otani and labeling him one of the most talented young players on the planet.
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It has been exactly one year since Mesoraco last suited up at the major league level. This time last year, he was struggling to a .140/.218/.160 batting line over 55 plate appearances before suffering a shoulder injury. When he underwent surgery for a labrum tear, it marked the second consecutive year in which Mesoraco was shut down early with a significant injury after scuffing at the plate.
Mesoraco ended up not only having work done to his shoulder, but also another procedure on his hip. There’s now plenty of health uncertainty for the 28-year-old, who’ll be looking to prove again that he can handle MLB pitching both at the plate and behind it.
Of course, it wasn’t long ago that Mesoraco looked like a core piece for the franchise. In 2014, he slashed an excellent .273/.359/.534 and swatted 25 home runs in just 440 plate appearances. That led to a four-year, $28MM extension that bought up all his arbitration eligibility and also accounted for one would-be free agent season. But the deal expires after the 2018 campaign, so Mesoraco and his team will hope that he is able to regain his trajectory sooner rather than later.
Cincinnati will keep an insurance policy on hand in the even that Mesoraco struggles. Tucker Barnhart will presumably continue to see a fair bit of action as Mesoraco is eased back in. And Rule 5 selection Stuart Turner will keep his roster spot, meaning the team will carry three backstops — at least for the time being.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law provides his ranking of the top fifty amateur players (Insider link) who are eligible for selection in this summer’s Rule 4 draft. The group as a whole has generally disappointed, Law writes, perhaps leading teams to “flee to safety” by looking at safer collegiate performers with their top selections. Of course, such a strategy would also open up some greater opportunities for organizations with multiple early selections to take some risks on higher-upside, younger prospects.
- Like most analysts, Law has called right-handed pitcher and shortstop Hunter Greene the top overall draft prospect. As has been suggested previously, he will indeed no longer take the hill in high school competition in advance of the draft, as Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America writes. That’s unlikely to impact his stock, as teams have already seen plenty of triple-digit heaters and will continue to watch him play in the field — where he’s also considered a top talent. Greene and his family are taking a very active role in assessing organizations and their approaches to developing pitchers, Belinsky explains, with the Twins (who sit at first overall) and Padres (third) seemingly making for a better match than the Reds (who choose second).
- One of the draft’s other top prospects, South Carolina righty Clarke Schmidt, has unfortunately been diagnosed with a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery, as Belinsky also reports. The junior starter had risen to be seen as a clear first-round selection before this rough news. Of course, he could still end up being taken with a lofty selection; we have seen several hurlers nabbed quite early in the draft in recent years despite serious arm injuries.
- “The rumors of [Hunter Greene] and his family attempting to maneuver his way to the No. 3 pick with the Padres are a poorly kept secret,” Baseball America’s John Manuel writes as part of a mock draft. Greene, a high school pitcher/shortstop, reportedly wants to be a Padre for geographical (Greene is from Los Angeles) and baseball-related reasons, as the Padres’ throwing program more closely matches Greene’s own throwing program. Interestingly, Greene is believed to be shutting down as a pitcher, perhaps in part to lower his draft stock so that Minnesota and Cincinnati pass on him with the first two picks and Greene winds up in San Diego. Then again, the Reds “aren’t afraid to call Greene’s bluff,” Manuel writes.
- Manuel’s piece is well worth a full read, as he details potential needs, leanings, and first-round draft picks for all 30 teams. Sticking with the top of the draft, the Reds “covet” Dylan McKay, the Louisville two-way star who Manuel projects will be taken first overall by the Twins as a pitcher. Then again, Minnesota is also reportedly exploring deals with several players for the first pick, including high school position player Royce Lewis and Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith.
- Lefty Amir Garrett, who’s off to a fast start as a big-league rookie this year, has been in the Reds system since they drafted him out of high school in 2011, but in an unusual arrangement, the team allowed him to play college basketball at St. John’s in his offseasons, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Garrett averaged 6.2 points per game as a guard at St. John’s for two years while navigating the lower levels of the Reds’ farm system. “That experience, I’d never change it,” he says. “If I could do it all over again, I’d do the same thing. The education I got, becoming a better student, a better person. College taught me how to grow up and be a man.”
Star Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera left tonight’s game with a groin strain, as Evan Woodberry of MLive.com reports on Twitter. For now, there’s no real indication of the severity of the injury; Detroit will take a closer look tomorrow.
Here’s more on the injury front:
- Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca provides an update on some injured Blue Jays hurlers. While there had been some hope that J.A. Happ would be able to return after missing just one start, he was still feeling elbow discomfort when he played catch yesterday. There is still hope, though, that Aaron Sanchez will be ready to return from his blister issues to re-take his turn in the rotation.
- The Rockies have received promising updates on the injury front, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports. Ian Desmond’s hand has healed to the point that he was able to hit off of a tee. He’ll soon be followed by David Dahl, whose latest medical check-brought positive news.
- Likewise, the Orioles have reason to hope they’ll welcome back closer Zach Britton in short order. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets, manager Buck Showalter says that Britton’s MRI results were very promising. Britton, who hasn’t been quite his dominant self thus far in 2017, hit the DL with forearm soreness.
- Rangers righty A.J. Griffin is heading to the 10-day DL with what the team is describing as ankle inflammation caused by gout. It doesn’t seem likely to require an extended absence, but the issue arises at an unfortunate time for the 29-year-old (and the struggling ballclub). Griffin is off to a solid start, having allowed seven earned runs on nine hits — and an excellent 16:4 K/BB ratio — over 15 1/3 innings.
- There were a few updates from the Reds, as provided by Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter links). Righty Homer Bailey could be ready for mound work as soon as the end of the month, per skipper Bryan Price. Bailey has made just eight starts since the start of the 2015 season; he’s working back from surgery to remove bone spurs. Southpaw reliever Tony Cingrani, meanwhile, was placed on the 10-day DL with an oblique strain, with outfielder Phil Ervin taking his place on the active roster.
- Alex Meyer made a start tonight for the Angels, taking the roster spot of reliever Mike Morin, who is headed to the DL with neck stiffness, as Maria Guardado of MLB.com tweets. Morin, who’ll soon turn 26, has been hit hard in his 6 2/3 frames to open the season.
- Meanwhile, Angels righty Garrett Richards is said to be making some progress but isn’t yet able to begin throwing, Guardado tweets. Continued biceps weakness is still the culprit. The Halos are understandably taking care to ensure that Richards is at full health before pushing him forward.
- Rays lefty Xavier Cedeno is experiencing forearm tightness will require at least a brief DL placement, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. It’s not seen as a significant injury, but the loss of Cedeno does leave Tampa Bay without a southpaw in the pen. The 30-year-old has not looked sharp early; as Topkin notes, he has struggled to prevent inherited runners to score. And Cedeno has surrendered four walks without recording a single strikeout in his seven appearances.
- Dodgers lefty Scott Kazmir is still dealing with hip tightness that is preventing him from progressing back to the hill, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter. The veteran southpaw is not yet nearing a rehab stint, per the report.
- The Brewers will welcome back righty Matt Garza from the DL to make a start on Monday, per a team announcement. Garza was not ready to open the year due to a groin strain. He’ll bump southpaw Tommy Milone to the bullpen.
- After catching full games on consecutive days, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco seems about ready to be activated, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes. It seems the club will wait to see how Mesoraco feels before making a call, though manager Bryan Price also hinted there’s more to the evaluation. “This is kind of the point in time where we’ll re-assess what he needs for any type of finishing touches or polish before he’s activated,” Price said of the backstop, who is working back from hip and shoulder surgeries. Mesoraco has struggled at the plate in limited action thus far.
- Bronson Arroyo earned his first Major League win in 1,038 days against the Orioles yesterday, though he told reporters after the game that he’s still a bit uncertain about how well-equipped he is to continue on as a big league starter (video link via the Cincinnati Enquirer). Arroyo said that after 75 to 80 pitches, his arm is now feeling like it used to at 100 to 105 pitches, though it’s of course still early in his comeback season. C. Trent Rosecrans of the Enquirer provides more quotes from Arroyo and Reds manager Bryan Price than are available in that video. “I want to give this team the best opportunity to win the most ballgames and that’s just the way it has to be,” says Arroyo. “…if I’m feeling tired after 75, 80 pitches all the time, there might be a time where some of the young guys step into my role and I have to be the long guy in the ’pen or something like that.” Arroyo’s candor shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of confidence, though, and Price voiced plenty of faith in the 40-year-old veteran’s ability to continue to build arm strength as the season wears on.
- The Reds released right-hander Carlos Portuondo after just one relief outing for their Double-A affiliate. Portuondo was notably acquired as part of the Brandon Phillips trade this winter, coming to the Reds along with southpaw Andrew McKirahan and $1MM in salary relief. Portuondo’s release leaves the Reds with even less to show for the former All-Star second baseman, though it was clear that the deal was a case of Cincinnati simply wanting to move on from Phillips to create room for Jose Peraza at second base.