- Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner underwent surgery on his problematic index finger last November. Now, he’s primed to enter 2020 at full strength, he tells reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of MASN). “I’ve started hitting. I can hit with 10 fingers, so it’s good,” Turner told reporters. As Zuckerman notes, Turner played almost all of the 2019 season with nine healthy fingers after fracturing the digit on a hit-by-pitch in the first week of April. The injury hardly seemed to hold him back, as Turner slashed .298/.353/.497 (117 wRC+) with 19 home runs and 35 stolen bases as Washington’s primary shortstop and leadoff hitter.
- Drew Pomeranz had upwards of six offers this offseason, he tells Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nevertheless, the Padres’ surprising decision to offer a four year deal, coupled with Pomeranz’s enjoyable experience in his prior stint in San Diego, inspired him to rejoin the Friars. As Sanders details, the 31-year-old is a much different pitcher than he was in 2016, when he earned his only All-Star appearance in San Diego. Pomeranz made a full-time move to the bullpen last season in San Francisco, and a velocity uptick and increased willingness to attack the strike zone helped him dominate following a midseason trade to the Brewers.
- Following their extension last week, the White Sox have now invested over $100MM in Luis Robert before his major league debut, observes Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. As Rosenthal explains, the Sox paid over $25MM in overage taxes while guaranteeing Robert $26MM as an amateur under the prior international spending rules. (Spending on international amateurs was hard capped following the 2016-17 signing period, so deals like Robert’s are no longer permissible). Nevertheless, Rosenthal argues, the extension makes perfect sense for the White Sox. Not only does it grant Chicago an extra season of team control, it creates a ceiling for Robert’s earnings in arbitration, he points out. While Robert was wise to secure the guarantee, Rosenthal opines, the agreement serves as the latest reminder that MLB’s economic landscape drastically underpays players at the beginnings of their careers, when they are likely to be their most productive. MLBTR readers certainly anticipate Robert’s becoming an impact player, with 56% of poll voters forecasting him to exceed 2.3 wins above replacement in his first season.
The White Sox recently made their latest bold move in a winter full of them, signing center fielder Luis Robert to a six-year, $50MM extension last week. Although the 22-year-old Robert has never played above the Triple-A level, setting his price for the foreseeable future came off as a worthwhile risk by the White Sox. Those types of gambles have become a trend for the club, which took the same approach before last season in inking left fielder Eloy Jimenez to a six-year, $43MM guarantee. Because Chicago was no longer concerned about Jimenez’s service time after extending him, he predictably cracked its Opening-Day roster. As expected, Jimenez went on to further establish himself as an integral long-term building block for the White Sox.
The team no doubt expects Robert to follow Jimenez’s lead this year in cementing himself as a foundational piece. Odds are that Robert, like Jimenez last year, will get a chance to do so from Day 1 of the season. Assuming that’s the case, he’ll take over for the White Sox’s most common center fielders from 2019 – Leury Garcia and Adam Engel – as their primary option. Garcia and Engel combined for a a passable 2.1 fWAR last season, though they didn’t offer much at the plate, totaling an unimposing .269/.308/.379 batting line with 14 home runs and 18 stolen bases.
Considering Robert has no experience in the majors, there’s no guarantee he’ll outproduce Garcia and Engel in his first taste of the majors. On the other hand, as en elite prospect (MLB.com ranks him third in the game) who has run roughshod over high-minors pitching, Robert’s a legitimate candidate to begin his career with a flourish. Robert hadn’t played above High-A ball until last season, when he destroyed Double-A (.314/.362/.518 in 244 plate appearances) en route to a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte. There was no shortage of offense in the International League, but the .297/.341/.634 slash Robert registered in 223 attempts was still 36 percent better than the league’s average hitter, according to FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric.
It’s too much to ask for Robert to hit that well in the majors this season, of course. Nevertheless, projections on his rookie season are bullish. For instance, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS system calls for 2.3 fWAR, a .265/.309/.455 line, 20 homers and 24 steals over 539 plate appearances. That would go down as a similar first full season to the one Nationals budding star center fielder Victor Robles recorded in 2019, an age-22, 617-PA campaign in which he posted 2.5 fWAR, slashed .255/.326/.419, swatted 17 HRs and stole 28 bases.
For the purpose of this poll, we’ll set the WAR over/under at ZiPS’ forecast, 2.3. Do you expect Robert to meet, exceed or fall short of that figure in 2020?
(Poll link for app users)
Here’s an early morning look around the American League…
- Even after losing right-hander Domingo German to an 81-game suspension for a violation of the league’s domestic violence policy, the Yankees “remain open to trading” lefty J.A. Happ, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. The Yankees were of the belief German would serve a significant suspension all along, so the league’s decision hasn’t affected their plans regarding Happ. The big question continues to be whether they’ll be able to find a taker for Happ, who’s 37 years old, coming off a poor season and due $17MM in 2020. Happ also has a $17MM option for 2021 that will vest if he amasses 165 innings or totals 27 starts this year. He posted back-to-back 30-start seasons from 2018-19.
- The Nationals reeled in the top reliever left in free agency on Thursday, agreeing to a three-year, $24MM contract with righty Will Harris. The 35-year-old entered free agency off a long and fruitful run in Houston, but Harris explained to Mark Berman of Fox 26 that the Astros “were eliminated pretty early on in the process” because they weren’t prepared to approach his asking price. “They weren’t in that ballpark, no. They had kind of admitted to me they would’ve liked to have done more, but they weren’t able to.” Harris is now the latest key Astro to leave last season’s AL pennant-winning club, joining Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley. Robinson Chirinos could be the next to go.
- In another of Thursday’s major news items, the White Sox locked up center field prospect Luis Robert to a six-year, $50MM guarantee. The two sides began negotiations back in September, and those talks gained steam at last month’s Winter Meetings, according to general manager Rick Hahn (via Scott Merkin of MLB.com). Now that Robert’s long-term future is settled, there’s no reason for the White Sox to worry about his service time, so it appears likely he’ll crack their roster out of camp. Robert’s fully confident that will happen. “I’m 100 percent convinced I’m going to be on the Opening Day roster,” the 22-year-old said.
1:33pm: The White Sox have announced the contract. Robert will earn $1.5MM in 2020, $3.5MM in 2021, $6MM in 2022, $9.5MM in 2023, $12.5MM in 2024 and $15MM in 2025.
12:07pm: The White Sox have reached a long-term agreement with center field prospect Luis Robert, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. The deal includes $50MM in guaranteed money over six years, and it features two club options, per Jeff Passan of ESPN. The max value is $88MM over eight years, including $20MM club options for 2026-27 with $2MM buyouts in each of the two seasons, Passan adds. It’s a record-setting accord for a player who hasn’t yet debuted in the majors.
This will already be the second lucrative contract for the 22-year-old Robert, whom the White Sox signed out of Cuba for a $26MM bonus a couple months into the 2017 season. Robert has justified his payday since then, as he’s now regarded as one of the majors’ premier prospects. He ran roughshod over the high minors last season, batting .297/.341/.634 with 16 home runs in 223 plate appearances during his first (and maybe only) taste of Triple-A action.
As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently noted when exploring a potential extension for Robert, he’s the latest White Sox outfielder to land a new deal before ever playing in the majors. The club signed outfielder Eloy Jimenez to a six-year, $43MM pact – then a record for an early career extension – shortly before last season started. Jimenez has more than lived up to the decision so far, having finished 2019 among the majors’ most successful rookies.
The Robert pact gives the White Sox an extra year of control over him, as they’re now slated to keep him through 2027 instead of ’26. Plus, if all goes well, it could tamp down massive arbitration earnings for Robert. Regardless, the White Sox now have at least two-thirds of an extremely enviable young outfield between him and Jimenez. And if recent trade acquisition Nomar Mazara, 24, begins living up to his vast potential, Chicago could possess one of the sport’s premier outfields for the foreseeable future.
Now that there’s no need to manipulate his service time, it seems likely Robert will open 2020 as the White Sox’s everyday center fielder. So, for the most part, the team’s Opening-Day lineup for the upcoming season appears set. The White Sox also have Jimenez (left), Mazara (right), Yoan Moncada (third base) and Tim Anderson (shortstop) as key members of their young offensive core. Sluggers Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion (DH/1B) and catcher Yasmani Grandal will supplement that group, with a potential-packed rotation set to consist of some combination of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease, Gio Gonzalez, Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon.
Last decade was one to forget for the White Sox, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 or finished above .500 since 2012. But judging by general manager Rick Hahn’s actions this winter, including Robert’s contract, they’re all-in on changing their fortunes as early as this year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Is there any prospect quite as exciting as a blue chip center fielder? White Sox fans have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Luis Robert ever since he signed for a $26MM bonus with the team back in May 2017. It was a contract that put the Sox in the proverbial “penalty box” under the old international signing rules, yet the splurge seemed more than worthwhile given the Cuban outfielder’s potential.
Robert’s early progress was hampered by ankle and knee injuries, as well as a thumb sprain. But, with a clean bill of health in 2019, Robert set upon tearing up the minor leagues, hitting a cumulative .328/.376/.624 with 32 homers and 36 stolen bases (out of 47 steal attempts) over 551 plate appearances for three different White Sox affiliates. Robert moved from high-A Winston-Salem to Triple-A Charlotte by season’s end, and though he only has 47 games and 223 PA at the Triple-A level, his .974 OPS in Charlotte left little doubt that the 22-year-old Robert is ready for the majors.
White Sox GM Rick Hahn feels the same way, telling reporters in his end-of-year press conference that the Chicago front office didn’t see center field as an area of need this winter since Robert was slated to handle the position for much of the 2020 season. As to when Robert could make his debut, however, is still up in the air, leaving open the possibility that the Sox could erase all service-time concerns and lock him into the Opening Day outfield by simply inking Robert to an extension.
If this scenario sounds familiar, the White Sox did the exact same thing with another star prospect in Eloy Jimenez last spring. Before even appearing in a Major League game, Jimenez signed a six-year extension worth $43MM in guaranteed money, and could end up earning $75MM over an eight-year span if the contract’s two club options are exercised. The deal far exceeded the previous record extension for a player without any MLB experience, which was a six-year/$24MM guarantee for Scott Kingery from the Phillies prior to the 2018 season. (The Mariners and first base prospect Evan White also agreed to a six-year pact for $24MM in guaranteed salary this past November.)
Robert’s representatives are obviously likely to aim for an extension that will surpass Jimenez’s deal, with the argument that their client offers more future value. Like Jimenez, Robert is a top-five prospect in the eyes of MLB.com and Baseball America — which rank him third on their top-100 prospect rankings — while Baseball Prospectus’ midseason top 50 ranking placed him fourth. While Jimenez’s batting ability is renowned, however, evaluators aren’t certain if he’ll be able to offer much defensively as a corner outfielder, and a move to first base could be necessary even within a few seasons.
In Robert’s case, while there is some question as to whether he’ll stick as a center fielder over the long term, he certainly projects to play up the middle for at least the opening portion of his career, which only adds to his five-tool potential. His 30-30 season across the minors in 2019 indicated his power and speed, and BA and MLB.com rank his throwing arm in the 55-60 range on the 20-80 scouting scale. Robert’s plate discipline is perhaps still a work in progress since he only posted 28 walks against 129 strikeouts last season, though it isn’t unusual for any young player to deal with a lot of swing-and-miss early in his career. MLB.com’s scouting report cites Yoan Moncada as a possible comp, and Moncada significantly reduced his own strikeout problems (a league-high 217 in 2018 to 154 in 2019) with the help of Chicago’s hitting coaches.
Beyond the argument that Robert has the higher ceiling than Jimenez, Robert can also seek the higher deal since he has less incentive to sign an extension. Robert already has that $26MM, remember, so he has already banked one life-changing fortune from his baseball career. (Jimenez, by contrast, had “only” his initial $2.8MM signing bonus from the Cubs.) Unless the White Sox were to offer Robert something far above and beyond Jimenez’s contract, Robert might prefer to just bet on himself and see how his initial season or seasons progress before considering long-term deals.
Without an extension in place, the White Sox could keep Robert in the minors for at least the first few weeks of the season, or at least long enough to ensure that they’ll get a seventh year of control over his services. This would be the latest instance of a team manipulating a top prospect’s service time, and this entire practice has been put under the microscope this offseason now that Kris Bryant’s service time grievance is currently being examined by an arbitrator. While the arbitrator is widely expected to rule in the Cubs’ favor, a decision reducing Bryant’s remaining team control from two years to one would send many shockwaves around the baseball world, and impact how every club handles promoting its best minor leaguers in the future. As such, the White Sox might wait until the arbitrator’s ruling before fully diving into extension negotiations with Robert.
Beyond Jimenez, Hahn has extended several other promising White Sox players (i.e. Tim Anderson, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Chris Sale) early in their careers over his seven-plus years as general manager. A potential Robert contract could be the most unique and, in fact, most expensive of the bunch, though it would mark the latest aggressive move in a winter that has already seen Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, Dallas Keuchel, and Gio Gonzalez come to the South Side in free agency. Since the club’s rebuild is clearly over, making Chicago’s center fielder of the future into part of the present could be the next step in the lead-up to the most anticipated White Sox Opening Day in years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
In advance of the winter meetings, let’s take a moment to quickly preview a couple teams from the American League Central…
- The Kansas City Royals will look for value buys on the free agent market, per Lynn Worthy of The Kansas City Star. Given the sale of the team and the managerial transition underway, the Royals have more justification than usual for patience this offseason. With Kansas City, however, there’s often a sense that internal valuations of the talent on hand differs from those of the general public. The Royals continue to present the idea that they are happy with their core, an impression bolstered by the “moon, sun, and stars” type packages the Royals are demanding for players like Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy. Senior VP of Baseball Ops & GM Dayton Moore refined his fence-walking trick recently while saying both, “…we’re very encouraged with where we are based on how our players performed individually last year,” and also, “I think we’ve got to upgrade everywhere, really.” Pitching is definitely a target, and Moore has been active in trade discussions already, enough to have a sense of where trades might happen – though from Moore’s comments, it seems the Royals are disinclined to be major players on the trade market unless opposing GMs become more amenable to Moore’s ask(s). They do have four open spots on the 40-man roster and should be active in the Rule 5 draft, per The Athletic’s Alec Lewis.
- After being spurned by Zack Wheeler, the White Sox remain in the hunt for starting pitching, per MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Chicago was also among the teams in on Jordan Lyles before the righty signed with the Rangers, tweets the MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Their rotation candidates are currently made up of high-ceiling but largely-unestablished youngsters, fronted by 2019 breakout superstar Lucas Giolito. Speculatively, Dallas Keuchel fits nicely from a culture perspective as the perennially-attention-starved White Sox have already added Yasmani Grandal from the nobody-believes-in-us free agent pool – and they like playing with a chip on their shoulder on the southside. As for position players, Chicago boasts close to a full house now that Grandal and Jose Abreu are officially on board. With prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal expected to play a large portion of 2020 in the big leagues, they have one of the more intriguing groups on that side of the ball. Still, there’s definitely room to tinker around the edges, especially in the outfield, where Luis Alexander Basabe, Daniel Palka, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, and Luis Gonzalez make up the flexible collection of candidates to join Eloy Jimenez and Robert in the outfield.
Starting pitching, designated hitter and right field are among the areas that have been problematic for the White Sox this year, their 11th season in a row without a playoff berth. General manager Rick Hahn could address those spots during the winter, he told James Fegan of The Athletic and other reporters Friday (subscription link).
The White Sox’s rotation has been one of the game’s worst this year, but it’s clearly not a unit devoid of talent. The success of Lucas Giolito, who has given the team long-awaited front-line production, has arguably been the most encouraging development of the season for Chicago. Meantime, although their numbers are below average, there’s vast potential with Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease. The club also has stellar pitching prospect Michael Kopech, who missed all of this year because of Tommy John surgery but could earn a spot in its rotation from the outset in 2020. Carlos Rodon’s another recovering TJ patient, but he didn’t go under the knife until this past May. Consequently, Rodon won’t be an early season option for the White Sox next year. As such, Hahn suggested the team could bring in more than one starter during the winter.
On the offensive side, it seems any moves the White Sox make will be geared toward bettering their paltry on-base percentage. “That’s something we need to improve upon,” admitted Hahn, whose team ranks 22nd in the majors in OBP (.314) and dead last in walk percentage (6.3).
The DHs and the outfielders the White Sox have utilized this year have been some of the main contributors toward their deficient OBP. The club released Opening Day DH Yonder Alonso back in the first week of July after he got off to a terrible start, even though it still owed the offseason acquisition almost $5MM at the time. The White Sox have since turned to a revolving door of players there, including first baseman Jose Abreu, a pending free agent. The 32-year-old Abreu and the White Sox have made their affinity for each other known on many occasions, so it wouldn’t be any kind of a surprise to see a new deal come together between the two.
Meanwhile, in the outfield, it seems left and center are spoken for heading into next season. Prized left fielder Eloy Jimenez will return for the second year of his career, while Hahn “confirmed” standout prospect Luis Robert will be in the majors early enough in 2020 that center won’t be an offseason priority, per Fagan. The White Sox have relied on Adam Engel and Leury Garcia there to mediocre results this year. They’ve been worse off in right, where Garcia, Ryan Cordell, Jon Jay, Charlie Tilson and Daniel Palka have combined for woeful production. Free agents-to-be Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig, Corey Dickerson and Brett Gardner would provide easy corner outfield upgrades on paper, though Hahn and the Sox could take the trade route instead.
Second base has been yet another offensive weak spot for Chicago, which has seen Yolmer Sanchez post a .254/.321/.322 line with almost zero power (two home runs, .068 ISO) in 543 trips to the plate. Nevertheless, it doesn’t appear the keystone will be on the White Sox’s offseason to-do list. Just as Hahn looks for Robert to come up in the early going next year, he expects fellow top 100 prospect Nick Madrigal to do the same and help solidify second base.
Thanks in part to the White Sox’s collection of young talent, they’re “very, very pleased with the progress” they’ve made, according to Hahn, who did admit they haven’t won enough games in 2019. Chicago’s sitting on 70 victories with a couple days left in the season, and it’s clear Hahn will have a lot to address in the next several months in order to get the team closer to playoff contention next year.
This is Year 3 of an extensive rebuild for the White Sox, who, as expected, aren’t in contention. While the club was in the wild-card hunt at the midpoint of the season, owning a 42-44 record at the All-Star break, reality has set in during the second half. Chicago’s now 58-69, on its way to a seventh straight sub-.500 showing and an 11th consecutive season without a playoff berth.
As you’d expect, White Sox fans aren’t enamored of the franchise’s long-running skid, which general manager Rick Hahn addressed Thursday. Hahn told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times and other reporters he understands the fans’ frustration, saying, “Oh, I get it it. We all get it. We all get the impatience. We feel the impatience.” At the same time, though, Hahn’s not audacious enough to promise a return to contention a year from now.
“Let’s talk in Glendale,” stated Hahn, referring to the team’s Arizona-based spring training headquarters. In Hahn’s view, there is “a lot to be excited about” in regards to what the White Sox are building, but he acknowledged there will be plenty of work ahead once the season ends. “In terms of putting ourselves in a position to contend, let’s get to the offseason and then set some priorities and see how good we are being able to convert on hitting those priorities before we assess it,” he said.
For now, the White Sox have seen several major leaguers spring up as potential long-term cogs this season. The face of their position player cast, third baseman Yoan Moncada, has turned into the star the White Sox thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Red Sox in the 2016 Chris Sale blockbuster. Tim Anderson has further established himself as the White Sox’s solution at shortstop. Left fielder Eloy Jimenez hasn’t posted an eye-popping rookie season along the lines of, say, Yordan Alvarez or Pete Alonso, but he’s still an indispensable building block. And though he’s not particularly young (29), James McCann has been surprisingly effective this season, which could make him Chicago’s starting catcher again next year.
Turning to the rotation, Lucas Giolito – another of the fruits of the team’s ’16-17 offseason teardown – has morphed into a front-line starter at the age of 25. Meanwhile, Reynaldo Lopez (acquired in the same trade as Giolito) has put up a solid second half after a woeful first couple months of 2019. Those two and fellow past trade pickup Dylan Cease will return to Chicago’s rotation next season, while Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon should factor in after recent Tommy John surgeries. The White Sox aren’t nearly as well off in the bullpen, but 25-year-old lefty Aaron Bummer at least gives the team another youthful, highly talented core member.
That’s an enviable group overall, though an injection of further talent remains necessary. For one, the Sox will need to address first base and-or designated hitter, whether that means re-signing pending free agent Jose Abreu or bringing in an outsider(s). Second base, where Yolmer Sanchez hasn’t provided much offense, has been a sore spot. The same applies to the outfield, while Chicago still must find more aid for its rotation and bullpen. But whether the franchise will open the coffers in the offseason to add high-priced talent remains to be seen.
The White Sox made some attempt to sign $300MM-plus free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper last winter, though their efforts ultimately came up well short. To this point, despite its big-market status, Chicago hasn’t inked a player to a larger deal than the six-year, $68MM contract it gave Abreu going into 2014. If it wants to make an earnest effort to sign, say, ace Gerrit Cole in free agency, it’ll likely need to make an offer worth at least triple the value of Abreu’s pact.
Fortunately for the White Sox, they do have yet another enticing prospect knocking on the major league door in outfielder Luis Robert. Hahn touched on Robert’s status (via Bruce Levine of 670 The Score), saying he’s “doing fantastic” with Triple-A Charlotte, but the executive expressed uncertainty as to whether the 22-year-old will make his major league debut this season.
Keeping Robert down until next year would benefit the White Sox from a service-time standpoint, as Levine notes. Should Robert reach the majors this year, he’d be on pace to become a free agent after 2025, whereas holding off on a call-up into mid-April of next season would keep him in the fold through ’26. Regardless, Robert has justified his status as one of the game’s premier prospects this year. Robert crushed High-A and Double-A pitching to start the year and has done the same since a promotion to the minors’ highest level, where he has slashed .310/.364/.665 (150 wRC+) with 13 home runs in 176 plate appearances.
Robert’s among a slew of young White Sox who could help the club return to relevance soon. In the meantime, Hahn & Co. will work this offseason to augment the roster around Chicago’s core.
Alcides Escobar returns to the Royals with a not-so-lofty goal in sight, Rustin Dodd writes in a piece for The Athletic. Kansas City’s long-time shortstop wants to finish the season with an on-base percentage above .300 for the first time since the 2014 season. He says that he’s working on “taking a lot of pitches each at-bat” and trying to avoid swinging at bad pitches, both of which seem like obvious things to work on. Escobar owns a career OBP of just .294, and his .272 figure last year was the second-lowest among qualified MLB hitters (Rougned Odor’s .252 was the lowest, for those keeping track). That .272 mark for “Esky” was the result of drawing just 15 walks, his lowest full-season total ever.
A roundup of some other news items out of the AL Central…
- Recent Twins signee Logan Morrison reportedly suffered a right glute strain while running the bases on Wednesday, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. He was held out of Friday’s game, and is expected to miss today’s matchup as well. However, the injury isn’t considered serious. Minnesota brought the former Tampa Bay first baseman into the fold with a $6.5MM guarantee that includes a vesting option. He hit .246/.353/.516 last season with the Rays while smacking a career-high 38 home runs.
- The White Sox are dealing with a more significant injury. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribute tweets that farmhand Luis Robert has a moderate thumb sprain. Daryl Van Schouwen provides further details on the situation with his own tweet, adding that GM Rick Hahn expects the young outfielder to be immobilized in a cast for six weeks, and to be held out of game action for ten. Robert hit a phenomenal .310/.491/.536 in Rookie ball last season; Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the South Siders’ fifth best prospect, and number 55 overall.
- Continuing with injury news, Indians prospect Julian Merryweather will officially undergo Tommy John surgery after recently being diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. The right-hander was a fifth-round pick by the Tribe during a 2014 draft in which the club also landed Bradley Zimmer, Triston McKenzie and Bobby Bradley. Merryweather had been solid at all levels of the minors before struggling to a 6.58 ERA across 16 starts at Triple-A Columbus last season, though his 3.89 xFIP suggests he dealt with some unfortunate homer/fly ball luck.
- Auburn right-hander Casey Mize is “the name to watch” for the Tigers as we approach the 2018 June amateur draft, says Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. After skidding to a 68-94 record last season, Detroit owns the number one overall pick in the draft, and as Passan notes, the club loves big college arms. Mize threw a no-hitter last night and was throwing 96 MPH up through the ninth inning. Scouts in attendance say he was throwing a “filthy split” as well.
Five games back of a playoff spot, the Royals aren’t ready to sell yet, but contending clubs are eyeing their potential trade chips, reports Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. The changed qualifying offer system in the new collective bargaining agreement could impact the Royals’ decisions, per Dodd, who notes that draft-pick compensation isn’t as appealing as it was previously. Had the Royals been in this situation last year, they could have kept impending free agents such as Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, issued them qualifying offers and landed first-round picks had they signed elsewhere. Now, in order to secure a first-rounder, KC would need to offer a QO, have the player reject it and then join another team for $50MM-plus. Otherwise, if a player signs someplace else for less than $50MM, the Royals will get a pick after the second round.
More from the Central divisions:
- The Cardinals will have to decide before the trade deadline whether their current lineup will suffice, observes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ranking 26th in the majors in runs and 21st in wRC+, the Cardinals’ offense lacks a hitter capable of inspiring fear in opposing teams, several talent evaluators told Goold. They’re unlikely to acquire that type of hitter if he’s only a short-term rental, though, as Goold relays that the Redbirds “remain reluctant” to sacrifice significant assets for a stopgap. Internally, St. Louis isn’t convinced it needs to make a notable upgrade offensively. Rather, the club could pin its hopes on Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Aledmys Diaz recovering from slow starts. All three, especially Carpenter, have been resoundingly successful offensive producers in recent seasons.
- Writing for MLB.com, Cuban outfield prospect Luis Robert acknowledges that the White Sox “probably were the team that offered more money” than anyone else, which was key in his decision to sign with the team for $26MM last weekend. It also helped the White Sox’s cause that they’ve never shied away from adding Cuban players. That includes first baseman Jose Abreu, who “can be a big help for me, because he is a veteran and has experience in this league,” posits Robert. The 19-year-old believes he’ll need a full year in the minors before he’s ready to contribute at the big league level.
- Third baseman Travis Shaw has been a steal thus far for the Brewers, opines Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Shaw, whom the Brewers acquired in an offseason trade with Boston, has slashed .296/.341/.538 with 10 home runs and five steals across 214 plate appearances with his new team. The 27-year-old is relishing his time in Milwaukee, telling Kepner: “I miss the guys over there, but coming over here was a blessing for me,” Shaw said. “I get a chance to play every single day. They wanted me, the ballpark fits my strengths a little bit more, and so far everything’s gone very smoothly. I’m glad I’m over here.”