Inside Baseball from Jon Heyman brings you news, notes, rumors and more from all 30 MLB teams. For Jon’s top-40 trade pieces that could be available this summer, click here.
And now, around the majors…
- The Diamondbacks have something special going there.
- A.J. Pollock looks like he’s headed for a big free agency after finishing April with nine home runs and 22 RBI, then making it 10 homers the first day of May.
- Any contract talk with free-agents-to-be Pollock and Patrick Corbin has been tabled until after the year, it appears.
- Corbin is a smart guy, and he realized his quotes about his love for the Yankees in USA Today came out a little too effusive, even if D-Backs people hadn’t say anything – though they maybe gave him a hint to consider toning it down. (Anyway, the Yankees loved hearing it, as we wrote last week).
- The D-backs became the first NL team to win their first nine series since the 1907 Cubs. And they did it without to key starting players – Steven Souza and Jake Lamb.
- Robbie Ray went on the DL with a grade two oblique strain, so he’ll be out more than the 10-day D.L. stay.
- They need him, especially with Taijuan Walker out for the year.
- Don’t forget: Shelby Miller is on the horizon. June is a fair guess.
- Though he is thriving in the pen, Archie Bradley hasn’t given up his dream to start, he tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
- Mike Petriello took a look at the humidor’s effect on Chase Field.
- The entertaining Cody Decker (now in the D-backs minors) is among those on Team Israel featured in the new documentary “Heading Home” about the wonderful story of the team’s great run in the WBC. Also featured: Ike Davis, Sam Fuld, Josh Zeid, Ryan Lavarnway, Ty Kelly, others and of course The Mensch on the Bench. The film, directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel Miller and Jeremy Newberger, is premiering May 29 in New York City at the Marlene Meyerson JCC, at 334 Amsterdam Ave. Davis will be there to answer questions.
- All the attention is on Ronald Acuña Jr., and understandably so. But Ozzie Albies is off to a huge start, leading the majors in extra-base hits.
- Acuña made his mark early, hitting a ball 111.8 mph in one of his first games – the third-hardest hit ball by a Brave this year.
- More importantly, he was 10-for-27 with five doubles and a homer, and the Braves were winning.
- The call-up of Mike Soroka gave the Braves the three youngest players in the bigs.
- Say what you want about ex-GM John Coppolella, but he brought a lot of good players into the system. (Acuña was from the Frank Wren regime).
- As for the Acuña Hall of Fame talk I’ve seen on twitter, I’d say this: too soon. Remember César Cedeño. He was a similar talent who got off to a remarkable start, but never came close to Cooperstown.
- Julio Teheran’s velocity was down in his last start, presumably due to upper trap tightness, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution said.
- Tyler Flowers is back.
- Peter Bourjos was released. He’s a terrific defender. It’s easy to recall one spring when he and Mike Trout were considered the top two Angels prospects, and some actually favored Bourjos at the time. Which tells you this: It’s often hard to tell.
- GM Dan Duquette said in a phone interview that they are going to give it a few more weeks before deciding what to do about potential trades. “We’ve got to get to Memorial Day to see if we have any sort of (competitive) team,” Duquette told FRS Baseball.
- Alex Cobb is one of many late-signing free agents off to a rough start (though he looked much better Tuesday night in Anaheim/Los Angeles). Other lat- signers Lance Lynn, Greg Holland, Logan Morrison and Neil Walker also are struggling in the early going. Mike Moustakas seems to be the only avoiding the early jinx.
- Chris Tillman has looked better lately.
- Jerry Crasnick wrote about Adam Jones’ great off-the-field activities, and tackles the question of whether that helps in his coming free agency. My guess: not much.
- Nice story on Trey Mancini grinding through adversity, by Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
- Pedro Alvarez’s comeback is a nice story. The No. 2 overall pick years back seems to be back.
- Richard Bleier continues to impress out of the pen. He’s a guy who’s not afraid, even if he doesn’t throw very hard, leading to the nickname in the minors, “Big (Richard),” but not really Richard.
- There were rumors a few years back when the Blue Jays were interested in hiring Dan Duquette as their team president that manager Buck Showalter could move to the front office, with the Orioles’ iconic shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. taking over as manager. Could that happen in the future?
Boston Red Sox
- The Red Sox hit six grand slams in April, becoming the first team since the 1996 Expos to achieve that.
- Xander Bogaerts picked up where he left off before he went on the D.L.
- Drew Pomeranz has a velocity issue. Not good timing with free agency looming. He can win without throwing 90 mph, but that’s something teams stress nowadays.
- Alex Cora got a little taste of what it’s like to be a Red Sox manager when a decision to let Sandy Leon hit in a key spot was discussed, seemingly forever.
- The negotiation seemed to drag on forever, but so far J.D. Martinez has been worth every penny of the $110 million. He entered Thursday with a .984 OPS.
- Hanley Ramirez’s $22 million 2019 option vests with 1,050 plate appearances between this year and last (497 are needed in 2018). And with a .330 average so far, he certainly has a shot.
- At week’s start, the Red Sox had the highest OPS vs. right-handers (.864) and lowest vs. lefties (.546), noted Alex Speier of the Boston Globe.
- Great news: Craig Kimbrel’s baby girl Lydia Joy was home from the hospital following heart surgery, as @PeteAbe noted.
- Dustin Pedroia is targeting May 25 as a return date, according to Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic.
- Rusney Castillo is playing well at Triple-A Pawtucket and remains baseball’s best-paid minor leaguer. Perhaps there needs to be a rule allowing him to play in the majors without that affecting Boston’s tax. Or maybe he could be traded to a team under the tax; Boston and Washington are the only two teams over the tax.
- The Red Sox are actually a little more than $20 million over the tax, so give them credit in a year many teams seem to be counting pennies. “They don’t care about the tax. Roseanne had over 25 million viewers,” one baseball insider cracked, referring to Red Sox chairman Tom Werner’s hit show. That’s a joke of course…we think.
- Hector Velazquez, with a 2.10 ERA, has been a big help.
- K-Rod was scouted by the Red Sox before he went with the Phillies this spring. So if they have trouble in the set-up dept., they could be a candidate for him if he does well with the Long Island Ducks. Many a former MLB player has made a comeback starting back with the Ducks.
- The Cubs’ young nucleus is mostly thriving. Albert Almora and Javier Baez both lost an 11-game hitting streak the same day.
- The guess here is Anthony Rizzo (.159 BA) has tried to play through pain, because that just isn’t him.
- Joe Maddon had Rizzo bat leadoff in an effort to jump-start him, and the team’s offense, too. Of course, he hit a homer.
- Jose Quintana continued his domination of the Brewers, going to 24 scoreless innings in his last three starts against the Crew. Milwaukee was one of the teams that tried for Quintana last summer.
- On the occasion of the promotion of David Bote, Maddon had a funny comment, as per usual. “If you say David Bote very quickly it sounds like David Bowie. I am trying to convince him to use ‘Rebel, Rebel,’ as his walk-up music.”
- Loved Yu Darvish’s 64 mph curve.
- The Cubs can take it: They had 23 hit by pitches in April.
- The Cubs scored nine runs in a four-game series with the Brewers, and swept the Crew. Christopher Kamka pointed out the anomaly. (He is an anomaly expert, as well as everything to do with numbers.) He also pointed out the Cubs scored 14 in a seven-game span, and somehow had a five-game winning streak in there.
- The comments of Maddon and others about games that were played in unplayable weather may lead to at least one change. MLB seems likely to schedule more intra-division games early. One of the issues has been that teams hosting visiting teams who are only there once a year feel compelled to play games in terrible weather, since the visiting teams from outside the division won’t be returning later in the year.
Chicago White Sox
- ChiSox starters are last in ERA, K-percentage, walk percentage and groundball percentage. In other words, they need work.
- Someone clever rewrote the Royals’ Wikipedia page to reflect that Matt Davidson owns the Royals. Where the GM was listed, it was correctly listed as Dayton Moore; where the president was listed it was also correct (Dan Glass), but where the owner was listed, yes, Davidson’s name was written in.
- For better or worse, Tim Anderson has managed to get under the skin of Justin Verlander and Salvy Perez with his big celebrations. His enthusiasm is great, and we hate to be the fun police, but one came after a home run leading off a game (Perez) and the other on a steal attempt in which he was actually awarded second due to a walk as it turned out (Verlander), so perhaps he should temper it a bit. We know the kids love the unbridled excitement, but sometimes – especially when it isn’t even a steal, and you’re still down 5-0 – it’s a bit much, at least from here.
- This story got a lot of attention. J.R. Fegan of The Athletic did an in-depth piece on Anderson vs. Salvy.
- Ed Sherman documents Chris Volstad’s remarkable comeback.
- The Reds are “playing better” under Jim Riggleman, one rival exec said. That exec said the team is trying more things, putting runners in motion, double stealing and squeezing. Experience counts.
- The Reds are aiming to fix Luis Castillo, who’s slipped early this year after looking like a potential ace last year, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports.
- Joey Votto continues to be great after a slow start. He’s up to an OPS over .800.
- Jose Peraza is still trying to prove he belongs as starting shortstop.
- Suggestion for stat-listers. Zach Weiss, who allowed four runs in no innings, should not be listed among all the pitchers with a 0.00 ERA. His ERA is infinity, so he should be listed last.
- Josh Tomlin is called a “marvel” by a rival exec for his ability to win on 88 mph straight fastballs. He definitely has a big heart and bigger stones, but with a 9.16 ERA, his start Friday vs. the Yankees is a big one for him.
- The Indians have the right guy to manage their depleted bullpen in Terry Francona. But it won’t be easy without Andrew Miller and of course Bryan Shaw (not to mention a couple others) who left via free agency last winter.
- Trevor Bauer’s complaint via twitter suggesting a star Astros pitcher or two used pine tar came off as unnecessary trolling. Astros pitcher Lance McCullers looked better sticking up for his teammates.
- Zack Meisel of The Athletic wrote about Corey Kluber’s search for a third Cy Young award, which would put him in elite company. Seven of the 10 men with three such awards are in the Hall, and of the other three, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer will be in, and the 10th is Roger Clemens, who won seven — though who knows how many legitimately.
- Jose Ramirez is red hot.
- Don’t forget Melky Cabrera is in Columbus if they need him.
- Triston McKenzie is a can’t-miss pitching prospect according to all who have seen him.
- Adam Ottavino, a brainiac, has used a camera that hones in on his release point, and it appears to have turned him into a strikeout machine. Some see his efforts as over the top, though. Anyway, this is good timing as he heads to free agency.
- Miguel Cabrera seems to be back in form. But he still isn’t being listed in the July trade list due to his $32 million salary, which would still seem to make him untradeable.
- Auburn right-hander Casey Mize is the clear No. 1 choice, but some are wondering whether the Tigers’ choice will come down to spending a higher percentage of their draft allotment on him, or a bit less on someone else. Teddy Cahill of Baseball America wrote about the Mize-Brady Singer (of the U. of Florida) matchup.
- Daniel Norris will miss two months.
- Paul Voelker had a rough outing in the minors, allowing five runs in one inning. It isn’t known what he knows about economics.
- Joe Jimenez
- Charlie Morton really is something else. Few have ever improved as he has – though some say his past issues always revolved around health, not ability.
- Some credit has to go to Astros pitching coach Brent Strom, who’s overseen stark improvement from both Morton and Gerrit Cole – who both came from the Pirates, the team most famous for pitching improvement.
- Some believe Cole is better off now, and actually pitching to his style, which is to throw more four-seamers and breaking balls and fewer sinking two-seamers.
- Ken Giles appeared to land a punch on himself on the way out of the game against the Yankees in which he gave up the game-winning home run to Gary Sanchez. Giles is generally solid, but closer is one spot where the Astros could consider upgrading.
- Dante Pettis, son of Astros coach Gary, was selected in the draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
- Nobody figured Jose Altuve’s new deal would affect his performance, and it hasn’t. He is at .347, which seems typical.
Kansas City Royals
- Alex Gordon lost his dad in February. He invited his brother Eric to join the team’s annual Fathers Trip, and as Rustin Dodd of The Athletic wrote, “On Tuesday they both went deep at Fenway Park.” Eric hit one out in BP, Alex in the game.
- Jorge Soler is doing what they expected and hoped when they traded star reliever Wade Davis for him. Dodd called it “the Summer of Jorge.”
- That may be a good way to look at it since their other top players may hit the trade market. Soler still have two years left after this one.
- Good thing they brought back Mike Moustakas.
- Lorenzo Cain’s return to K.C. was heart-warming. There was genuine affection there.
- GM Dayton Moore in this space last week said he’d like manager Ned Yost back, and as Moore suspected, there’s no reason to think Yost doesn’t want to return.
Los Angeles Angels
- Injuries and a lack of depth has led one rival exec to declare that “the Angels need pitching.”
- “I don’t know how (Mike) Scioscia has won 16 games,” one rival said, suggesting the pitching needs reinforcements.
- Shohei Ohtani is fantastic. But as a rival points out, “he’s a once-a-week pitcher,” which adds a need for extra starters, and rotation depth is a perennial Angels issue. That said, he’s obviously super valuable, and really, a one-in-a-billion talent.
- Kenyan Middleton has an elbow issue.
- Ohtani took coach Eric Hinske’s advice to go to a toe tap instead of a leg lift on the cusp of the season, which is being given credit for his turnaround. Another possibility: Ohtani was playing possum in spring training.
- Kole Calhoun’s offensive slippage was mentioned here in this space last week. But he is deserving of Gold Glove consideration in right field. He won back in 2015, and continues to get better with the glove.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- The Dodgers tried for Manny Machado over the winter, and they are talking again behind the scenes about him now that they have an opening at his shortstop position. However, to this point there isn’t overwhelming optimism that there will be a deal to be made.
- Manager Dave Roberts’ quote that “when it’s all said and done, the Dodgers will be at the top of the division” didn’t age well. In fact, it looked worn out within 24 hours.
- Roberts has tried a few things, issuing that ill-timed strong statement and even benching nice guy Cody Bellinger for failing to hustle on a double into “triples alley.” Bellinger seemed to slip out of the box, the Giants outfield was playing deep for him and he said later that he was concerned about making the first out at third, so his less-than-100-percent run to second was understandable, even typical, in today’s game (especially when you consider Yasiel Puig had already gone out for hustling maybe too much). At the same time, Roberts probably calculated that Bellinger could take it (while he disagreed, he didn’t create a disturbance; he said he didn’t quite get it, which is understandable since his 80 percent or so run to second is very typical in today’s game), and he probably felt it was time to send a message. So we get it.
- Matt Kemp is faster than he’s been in three years, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu regained his old form.
- Corey Seager, whose torn UCL ended his season, has been dealing with the arm soreness and had been toughing it out longer than most realizer — over two years, as far back as early 2016 — agent Scott Boras said. The tear was known about, but apparently worsened with a few throws early this season. That’s when he got the MRI that ultimately showed the tear had grown.
- Noted Dodgers writer Jon Wesiman has written “Brothers in Arms,’’ about the Dodgers’ unbelievably rich history of pitchers, starting with the Brooklyn years (Ralph Branca, Carl Erskine, aka “Oisk,” etc.) to the great Kershaw.
- Caleb Smith has joined Jarlin Garcia as surprise success stories in the Marlins rotation. Smith, who’s not necessarily a hard thrower, started his season with two big strikeout games.
- It looks like our ranking the Marlins last in our first-ever Weakness Rankings last week spurred on the team. The Marlins had won six of seven and three straight series through Tuesday, as Jessica Blaylock of FOX pointed out.
- Miguel Rojas, the fill-in shortstop, had four home runs. Or as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald pointed out, one fewer than ex-Marlin Giancarlo Stanton (three fewer, now, after Stanton’s two homers Wednesday). Half of the homers came against Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw.
- Could Wei-Yin Chen’s return give the Marlins a chance to save a few bucks via trade?
- If Chen can be dealt, it should be to an AL team. He is now 1-for-59 as a hitter.
- Chen may be the poster boy for the trend not to give mid-rotation starters huge deals. His contract for $80 million over five years seems ridiculous now, even if you don’t think about the injury.
- Tayron Guerrero hit 101.8 mph, the fastest pitch of the year, by anyone, to that point.
- Liked to see Steelers great Antonio Brown, from Miami Gardens, throw out the first ball. Who says there aren’t stars at Marlins Park?
- The Brewers need a starter if they hope to return to the playoffs.
- Wade Miley’s return could be bigger than one would think. He was fantastic in spring and looked good on his rehab.
- Harvard’s Brent Suter went to the pen.
- Josh Hader is becoming the Brewers’ biggest star and most interesting player. The former late-round draft choice is on pace for 211 strikeouts out of the pen, as Peter Gammons of MLB Network noted. He’s already the first to close out a save with eight outs all on strikeouts.
- Hader became the first pitcher to average more than two strikeouts per inning over a full month, with 19.5 over nine innings. The previous best was Eric Gagne, at 17.654 in August, 2003. And we know now Gagne had…um…help.
- Folks who know Hader cite his unflappable personality as a key. Stuff that’s reminiscent of Chris Sale doesn’t hurt, either. He signed as a 31st-round pick by his hometown Orioles. It is believed the bonus was in the $20K range.
- Boone Logan is making progress toward a return.
- Lorenzo Cain can still play the heck out of center field.
- There are a lot of theories as to what’s going on with the Twins, a surprise playoff team last year that made several logical and seemingly smart moves this winter and spring. The Twins’ rough start is a bit of a shocker. But they aren’t making any excuses. “We’re kind of getting what we deserve,” manager Paul Molitor said. In any case, we have a few theories.
- Miguel Sano’s absence isn’t helping, either.
- Phil Hughes was sent to the pen, and though he has a high salary, his roster spot could be in jeopardy if things don’t get better.
New York Mets
- Matt Harvey’s appearance on Page Six for reportedly being at a club in L.A. the night before he pitched in San Diego elicited a cutting response from GM Sandy Alderson, who said he couldn’t be disappointed since it’s not unexpected. No one figured Harvey’s tenure with the Mets was going past this year, anyway. But it appears they could be headed for an ugly, and perhaps early, ending.
- The Mets did a great job adding key pieces over the winter. But to this point, they have been oddly unaggressive in addressing the catching situation.
- Yoenis Cespedes says he may take golf back up after his strikeout-laden start. He seems very energized, and I’d say go ahead since it’s an effort to regain his stroke. When he took up golf in Detroit, that’s when his career really took off.
- Cespedes supposedly had a bad thumb injury, and he missed only one game. He seems all in this year.
- Asdrubal Cabrera continues to be very valuable.
- The spin on Adrian Gonzalez’s slow start was that he’s “not as bad as you think.”
- Jay Bruce is taking groundballs at first base. Which makes you wonder whether the Mets are concerned about A-Gon.
- Or maybe they just want to make sure Brandon Nimmo plays more. He certainly should.
- There never was any traction toward a Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard extension this winter. The Mets seem to have an aversion to going ultra-long with anyone in recent years. Not sure where that comes from, whether it be Madoff or the unfortunate turn captain David Wright’s career took due to back, neck and shoulder injuries. Or maybe just a change in philosophy. It may turn out to be the right course. Obviously, they appear to have made the right move never locking up Matt Harvey, and the jury’s still out on Steven Matz and whether he can remain healthy. On the other hand, deGrom and Syndergaard are the heart of the team.
- deGrom left his start Wednesday with what is being called a hyperextended elbow, but an MRI showed no ligament damage, per Anthony DiComo. Looks like the Mets may have dodged a bullet.
- The Mets may also have regrets about the Juan Lagares deal since he has yet to develop as a hitter.
- New pen lefty Buddy Baumann is quite a nice story of perseverance.
- Jose Reyes’ signing, and now spot on the team, would seem to be an ownership decision. It’s hard to find other executives who are in favor at this point.
New York Yankees
- Aaron Judge definitely should get a day off here and there. But how about it not being the first game against the Astros on a nine-game winning streak? Seems like a rookie mistake by Aaron Boone, who has fit quite well in terms of demeanor and setting a great tone, but has made a curious move or two.
- Judge had 62 home runs over his first 203 games, first all-time, and Gary Sanchez had 61, good for second place (obvs.), according to YES Network. Following them were Mark McGwire (60) and Rudy York (59).
- Giancarlo Stanton weathered his first crisis in New York. He seems to be thrilled to be there — and just hit two home runs on Wednesday.
- One theory on Stanton’s early struggles: a lot of sliders in the American League.
- Didi Gregorius, mentioned here as an MVP candidate in a couple past columns, was leading MLB with a 2.4 WAR.
- Sonny Gray looked more aggressive in his most recent start vs. the Astros. He was getting the rep of a nibbler among Yankees people.
- Miguel Andujar had 12 doubles over a 12-game stretch. That is not a misprint. And for that reason, the Yankees couldn’t possibly demote him.
- Something has been made of Aroldis Chapman’s decreased velocity. But his slider is spectacular, and he is throwing it with absolute confidence. He also is throwing it a lot – 27.9 percent, up from 17.2 percent.
- Masahiro Tanaka dominated Shohei Ohtani over in Japan, it was revealed this week. Ohtani was 0-for-11 with six strikeouts. Of course, that all came in 2013, when Ohtani was basically a child.
- Khris Davis wants to stay long-term with the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic had reported the sides were hoping to work out a deal for next year, when Davis is arbitration-eligible.
- Wilmer Font allowed eight home runs in 12 innings (as noted by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle), which isn’t easy to do. So put that in boldface.
- Gabe Kapler, who continues to get more headlines than a rookie manager should, says teams that passed on Jake Arrieta screwed up.
- J.P. Crawford hadn’t showed he was ready for the bigs before he went out with a forearm strain. Statistically, he was struggling both offensively and defensively. It isn’t an easy adjustment.
- Odubel Herrera obviously wasn’t affected to be left out of the starting lineup on Opening Day, as he’s hitting .300. He also made an amazing catch against a tree at Citizens Bank Park.
- K-Rod is back at it, agreeing to a deal with the Long Island Ducks in an attempt to get back to the bigs, as first reported by FRS Sports. K-Rod was encouraged by his last couple outings in spring for the Phillies, when his velo was back up over 90 mph.
- Nick Kingham was a big prospect before Tommy John surgery had sidelined him, so his huge debut shouldn’t be a total shock. ESPN did a study of 15 such starts (at least seven innings and five K’s and fewer than three hits) since 2000, and found that some of those pitchers became major stars (Johnny Cueto, Jered Weaver) and some became Rob Bell or Brian Tolberg.
- Kingham became the 14th pitcher this year to take a no-hitter into the seventh, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com noted. Sean Manaea was the only to make it through nine.
- Francisco Cervelli, who once hit zero home runs in a season, already has four.
- Gregory Polanco was showing signs of fulfilling his big potential early, but has gone into a tailspin.
- Josh Bell has only one home run. Look for him to heat up with the weather.
- There will be no additional punishment for Jung-Ho Kang beyond his delay in getting to the states, by either the Pirates or MLB, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reported. That’s all well and good, but the Pirates should at least invest in a driver for him. Three DUIs is a trend.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Tommy Pham is showing last year was no fluke. It looks like he made the right decision not to take a safe deal through 2019, and his arbitration process should pay off big for the late bloomer.
- Matt Carpenter is the unluckiest hitter in the bigs, according to figures on MLB Network. His wOBA compared to his expected wOBA is -1.41. Fourth on the list of the unfortunate was teammate Yadi Molina.
- Miles Mikolas has 34 strikeouts and only two walks.
- Jordan Hicks hit 102 mph soon after the Marlins’ Tayron Guerrero did it. It was almost like answering a challenge.
San Diego Padres
- The Padres did a nice job on the Joey Lucchesi draft. By signing him for only $100,000 in the fourth round, as a fourth-year senior, at a reasonable rate, they were able to spend big bucks on their third-rounder (and others) such as Reggie Lawson (about $2 million) and Mason Thompson (about $1.85 million). Lucchesi, a walk-on in college, defied critics by becoming the first pitcher to debut in the majors from the 2016 draft (he was pick No. 114), and second overall player, after Baltimore’s Austin Hays, who was picked 91st by the Orioles.
- Brad Hand was missing his slider in his Monday outing. He needs his slider.
- Christian Villanueva, another of the late bloomers, had 13 home runs in his first 33 games, tied for second all-time with Wally Berger, Dave Hostetler, Mike Jacobs, Wally Joyner, Kevin Maas and Jose Abreu, but four behind Rhys Hoskins.
- Franchy Cordero has big-time power. His 116.9-mph shot was his third homer that traveled 450 feet. He also has two of the three hardest hit balls by a left-handed hitter off a left-handed pitcher (Jason Vargas was the victim).
- Wil Myers has an oblique strain.
San Francisco Giants
- Hunter Strickland credited John Smoltz of MLB Network and FOX for suggesting a different sort of slider.
- Good to see Brandon Belt has recovered from the concussion that curtailed his 2017 season. He has six home runs and a 1.2 WAR already.
- Joe Panik will be missed. Kelby Tomlinson is a candidate to replace him. The torn ligament in Panik’s left thumb was first reported by Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Mark Melancon quietly went to the 60-day D.L..
- Pablo Sandoval not only proved to be a brilliant pitcher, but he worked so fast that manager Bruce Bochy might have to try that again.
- Andrew McCutchen isn’t helping his free agency case.
- Will Smith has been activated. So he’s back with the men in black (uniform color).
- Good job by the Giants to stay under the luxury-tax threshold. They are pennies under (actually, a couple hundred grand). Not easy.
- There’s a good Felipe Alou book out, written by Peter Kerasotis.
- Johnny Cueto is seeing Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion about his elbow. There’s obviously a lot of worry.
- The deal to send Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker to the D-backs for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger has been one of Jerry Dipoto’s most interesting deals of many. At different times, the emergence of all four of those players has tipped the scales in that trade, and the latest is Haniger, who hit 10 home runs in April and looks like an emerging star.
- Hisashi Iwakuma suffered a setback.
- Nice to see the Mariners and A’s are opening in the Tokyo Dome next year. Unfortunately Ichiro won’t be going as a player, as he transitioned to an advisers role on Thursday.
- The M’s can hit, no doubt about that.
Tampa Bay Rays
- Besides being overly cost-conscious, they are extraordinarily unlucky this year. Yonny Chirinos was the latest to go on the D.L. with a “forearm strain,” which can be a precursor to something worse.
- The Rays already have lost Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon, who needed Tommy John surgery.
- Two more prospects came in the Steven Souza trade, one of many the Rays made that looks to the future.
- Joey Venters should get a perseverance award. He’s back after a third Tommy John surgery, which is a record.
- Strange but true: The Rays were leading the AL in batting on the final day of April, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times pointed out.
- The Rays may be better than we figured, which is something they make a habit of doing.
- Texas didn’t get as much attention for its abject lack of action this winter. But one baseball person calls them a “hidden tanker.”
- “Colon is their best pitcher,” one scout said, who was (sorta) kidding.
- Martin Perez is out with an injury to his non-pitching arm, what they are calling a “forearm irritation.” Presumably, it’s quite irritating since it landed him on the D.L. He was getting hit hard before going out.
- Jake Diekman returned from a severe digestive ailment and extensive surgery, so this is one tough guy. And he stayed in the game after being drilled by a 112-mph liner off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion that hit his left triceps, and then his back.
- The Rangers can ill afford any more injuries.
Toronto Blue Jays
- The Jays suddenly had an infield logjam, and Devon Travis was optioned to make room (mlbtraderumors.com predicted this surprise outcome).
- Looks like manager John Gibbons was right about Teoscar Hernandez. He belongs (.712 slugging percentage).
- J.A. Happ is a great under-the-radar free agent. Would be a solid choice for many (disclaimer: like me, he went to Northwestern).
- Justin Smoak is “the slowest man in baseball,” opines Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- The trade for Adam Eaton looks like even more of a gamble today, as Eaton has had some bad luck with injuries. The thing that’s hard to forget is that the Nats thought they were close to getting Chris Sale – what a devastating rotation they would have had – for some of the same prospects (one more big one would have had to go to get Sale, presumably either Victor Robles or Juan Soto) before the Red Sox stepped in to take Sale.
- Bryce Harper’s 38 walks in April were the most since Barry Bonds had 39 in 2004. And when you think about it, Harper’s total was even more impressive in that Bonds was more drastically pitched around (in a depleted lineup, Harper was pitched around, too, though not quite to the extent of Bonds).
- Harper is reinforcing his value with his huge start. There continues to be no evidence of talks between Harper and the Nats. But don’t be shocked if the sides work it out once he’s a free agent. The Lerners, who are thought to be baseball’s richest owners, bought the team for $450 million, and it’s now probably worth $2.4 billion (double the Marlins perhaps?). It would be interesting to see if Harper would approach, or match, the original purchase price of the team.
- No timetable has been mentioned for Daniel Murphy yet.
- Robles is out until after the All-Star break with a hyperextended elbow. They are resting it in an effort to avoid Tommy John surgery.
- Meantime, Soto is off to a torrid start at Class-A. Some scouts suggest he reminds them of Tony Oliva. He’s only 19.
- The Washington Post suggested Seth Romero has been given a to-do list before he can return to the team. He was sent home for habitual curfew issues with a girlfriend.
- Davey Martinez took ownership of his rookie mistake. He mistakenly thought Chris Owings had been announced as a pinch hitter when he was only standing on deck, leading him to mistakenly call upon right Austin Adams to face lefty Jarrod Dyson. He was said to have been very apologetic to the team.
- The players are said to love Martinez for just that sort of thing. (Harper indicated as much in a comment to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post).
- The Nationals were one of two teams over the luxury-tax threshold. Though it was only by a couple million. And more importantly, it wasn’t showing on the field.