Mackenzie Gore is Crushing the Arizona Fall League Competition

If you are a Padres fan, Mackenzie Gore is a name you should familiarize yourself with, if you have not already. Gore was drafted 3rd overall in this year’s draft after absolutely crushing his high school competition. He went 11-0 with a 0.19 ERA (you read that right, zero point one nine) in 74 1/3 innings with 158 strikeouts to counter his whopping five walks for Whiteville High School in North Carolina. Gore, somewhat unsurprisingly, won this year’s Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Award to go along with his third state championship MVP award in four years.

Gore was phenomenal during all four years at Whiteville, allowing only 16 earned runs total during his high school career, but he really turned the corner this past offseason when he added 15 pounds and saw his fastball velocity jump to 95 mph. That velocity spike, coupled with increased stamina and a solid four pitch repertoire made him a consensus top-five pick coming into the draft.

While his numbers have been great throughout high school, Gore’s throwing motion has generated almost as much hoopla as his utter dominance. His prominent high leg kick is reminiscent of former Padre great, Trevor Hoffman. The Padres front office envision Gore as a future ace, but I doubt they would be greatly disappointed if he ended up with as storied career as number 51.

Padres fans are always somewhat reticent of high schoolers being selected in the first round after the Matt Bush fiasco (triggered!!!) in 2004, but Gore has done his best to calm any fears with his performance so far in the Arizona League this summer. Through 8.2 innings, he has allowed zero runs on only three hits, one walk, and has struck out 13 batters. Of those four baserunners, Gore has picked off three of them. Thanks to his outstanding performance so far this season, Gore debuted at #31 in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list (one spot behind #1 pick Hunter Greene), giving the Padres three prospects in the top 50.

All eyes will be on Gore as he continues to progress through the minor leagues toward the Big Show. Between Gore, Cal Quantrill, Adrian Morejon, and don’t forget Anderson Espinoza, Padres fans have a lot to be excited about for the next few seasons. The future is undoubtedly bright for the most beautiful city in America.

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Padres Youth Movement Continues to Impress

Tuning into the Padres games lately might be a bit odd for someone who isn’t following closely. Some of the names are unfamiliar, especially when compared to 2016, or even just Opening Day 2017. As the Padres continue to rebuild, swapping major league contributors for future upside, the faces of the Padres continue to change as the season progresses.  If I had told you on Opening Day, that I was extremely familiar with names like José Pirela, Carlos Asuaje, and Phil Maton, I would have been lying. However, in the last month or so, we have been treated to a great exhibition of some new Padres talent, and the results have been impressive. In a season where the silver lining is not being in dead-last place, let’s take a closer look at three new Padres and how they have performed in the 2017 campaign.

José Pirela

At 27 years old, it might be a bit of a stretch to call José Pirela a youngster. He seems unlikely to be a player that the Padres consider a big part of the future, and has been playing professional ball for 10 years. With that being said, the 6-foot righty has gotten the job done for the Padres, wherever, and whenever they have needed him. Since his 2017 Padres call-up on June 6th, Pirela has played 1B, 2B, and 3B, as well as LF and RF. In 170 AB, Pirela is batting .288, with 22 extra base hits and a streak of reaching base 13 games in a row. José has also batted all around the lineup and has been able to produce wherever he has been plugged in. The Padres have definitely been mixing up the outfield, with short term injuries to Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, and Travis Jankowski still on the mend from an early injury. In the infield, the Padres had to piece it together during a lengthy absence for Yangervis Solarte and the recent injury to Erick Aybar. Pirela’s versatility has been incredibly handy for the Padres, who have seen fellow OF/IF combo man Allen Córdoba beginning to show signs of fatigue and inexperience in his own rookie season. After averaging a .239 average in parts of 3 previous MLB seasons, it remains to be seen if Pirela can continue his success, but so far he has stayed hot. Overall, I am really impressed with his ability to adapt to the different scenarios he has seen this year and continue to be an asset wherever needed.

Carlos Asuaje

After two brief MLB stints in late 2016 and early 2017, Carlos Asuaje was recalled from AAA on June 23rd. With Yangervise Solarte on the disabled list, the left handed hitting, right handed throwing Asuaje, has been seeing every day playing time at 2B. Previously listed as the Padres #19 prospect, Asuaje has held down 2B defensively, while raking at the plate.  In 103 ABs Carlos holds a team-leading .320 batting average, with almost a third of his hits going for extra bases. Like most Padres fans, I was very concerned with how the infield was going to work out with Solarte on the DL. Moving Cory Spangenberg into the 2B position seemed conceivable, although Spangenberg has spent most of his time at the hot corner this year. Acquired in the deal that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox, Asuaje was largely considered a footnote in the trade, despite showing much promise in the minor leagues. With a .416 BABIP, Asuaje isn’t likely to hit .320 for the rest of the year but has shown great patience and contact skills so far. I’m certainly a little cautious in my optimism for Asuaje, as Allen Córdoba also started out batting at a .300+ clip too, before struggling more recently. With Solarte returning, it remains to be seen what kind of playing time will remain for Asuaje rest of season. Assuming Carlos is part of the Padres future, I would love to see him continue to get playing time against big league pitching and see how he develops for the remainder of the year.

Phil Maton

If I had to choose a face for the Padres youth movement, I would choose Phil Maton. Maton looks like he should still be in high school, but lately, he has been shutting hitters down out of the Padres bullpen. After showing great poise and potent stuff in AAA El Paso, the young right hander was promoted to the majors on June 11th. Since his promotion, Maton has held opposing hitters to a .205 average while striking out 9.9 batters per 9 innings. Phil relies primarily on his fastball, throwing it over 75% of the time, and mixing in a curveball while very rarely using a sinker and changeup. In 21 MLB appearances, Maton holds a 3.15 era with 22 K’s. With the Padres bullpen missing staples Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter, a young arm like Maton to anchor the later innings is something the Padres need badly. Before his promotion, Maton was leading the AAA Chihuahuas with 13 saves, and that kind of composure makes him a necessary part the of diminished pen. The best part is that I don’t think these early numbers are unrealistic. In his minor league career, Maton held a 1.84 era with 167 strikeouts in just 109.2 innings. One of the most impressive stats is his .93 career WHIP. Not only does he whiff an absurd number of hitters, but he doesn’t allow baserunners either. In just his 3rd professional season, watching Maton dominate is incredibly entertaining. To see a 24-year-old with this much talent really blows me away, and I can’t wait to see what he does for the rest of the year.

The Padres continue to play many unfamiliar faces around the diamond. A lot of players who began the year in AAA have made their way into the lineup, and I love it. Seeing Pirela, Asuaje, and Maton perform at a high-level is definitely something to root for going forward. The energy and maximum effort that we are treated to from these guys, is something that all Padres fans should definitely appreciate. Another aspect of the productivity from these young players, particularly Asuaje and Maton, is the future potential. Pirela might not be a part of the long term plan, but his versatility has been vital. But Asuaje has filled a glaring hole while Solarte has been injured, and Maton has absolutely dominated out of the pen. All three of these guys have stepped up in some huge spots, and that’s exactly what the 2017 Padres have needed. While the team is rebuilding, the Padres have been picking up the pace a bit lately, and although they aren’t going to make a run at the wild card slot, they are becoming a lot more fun to watch.

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Arizona Diamondbacks Acquire J.D. Martinez

On Tuesday, July 18th at about 3:40 pm MST the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King. The Diamondbacks will take on the nearly $5 million remaining on Martinez’s contract.

My initial reaction is of joy to be sure, especially seeing that we did not need to give up Socrates Brito nor Anthony Banda in the trade. While losing Lugo is certainly a blow to the upper levels of the system, I would certainly not consider this to be a crippling blow, or an overpay by any stretch of the imagination. My early inclination is to say the Diamondbacks win this trade despite Martinez being a rental, though this could certainly change, as is the case whenever young prospects are involved.

J.D. Martinez’s abilities are certainly not a secret, as he will bring prodigious power to the middle of an already potent Diamondbacks lineup featuring two of the top RBI- getters in the National League in Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb, as well as strong pieces in A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, and Chris Owings. Another positive that Martinez will bring to the lineup is strength against left handed pitching, which had been a thorn in the D-backs side all season, especially with the injuries to Yasmany Tomás and Nick Ahmed. In 642 career at-bats, Martinez is hitting .293 against lefties, with 38 HRs. This addition will surely shore up the lefty-issue.

Of the three prospects the Diamondbacks are giving up, Dawel Lugo is the headliner, as he is the Number 4 prospect in the Diamondbacks system according to their Top 30 Prospect Watch. Lugo was acquired in the 2015 Cliff Pennington trade, and is projected as somewhere between a solid super utility man, and an everyday Third Baseman, which means he was expendable for the Diamondbacks thanks to Jake Lamb at the hot corner. Sergio Alcantara was the next prospect, the No. 15 in the system. Sergio is quite the slick fielder, however questions remain as to how he would fare against Major League pitching. The last player, Jose King, is currently in the AZL. The 18 year- old shortstop appears to be a throw in piece, as there are not many projections for him in the majors, and he is outside of the D-backs top 30 prospects.

Overall, this trade seems to really be a benefit to the Arizona Diamondbacks, as they address a concern they had with the lineup, and they look poised to continue their path to October.

 

 

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Why Panda Won’t Work

Oh, I love the smell of a good burn out. And Pablo Sandoval is burnt so bad. $95 million in small bills burning over the city of Boston and San Franciscans laughing all day. Until they remember we traded Matt Duffy to Tampa.

But now that he’s failed spectacularly, and the Red Sox have given up, there really aren’t too many prospective landing spots for the Venezuelan. With roughly $50 million headed his way regardless of what he chooses to do, his stats don’t really lend themselves to the cause. He hit just .212 in 99 at-bats to start the 2017 season and that’s after a disappointing 2015 and a non-existent 2016 (he was injured for the majority of the season). Even at his best for the Red Sox, he only hit .245 in 2015 with 10 home runs. In San Francisco, he never went below .268 and that was the 2010 World Series year.

Pablo himself has admitted that he had trouble in Boston and most everyone saw the writing on wall. But is there somewhere else that the Kung Fu Panda could succeed? Somewhere he has succeeded before? With the right staff to get him in shape, a ball park he’s previously dominated and better clam chowder than Boston? You know…San Francisco? Probably not.

Honestly, Bobby Evans isn’t answering my calls still, and I’m beginning to suspect he’s avoiding me. Or I have the wrong number, I don’t know.

While it would be so hilariously redemptive to see him back in Orange and Black on a minimum contract, it’s not likely you will see him on the field in AT&T Park anytime soon. If the Red Sox fail to trade him and no one picks him up, there are still a number of factors in the way.

First off, he’s not playing so great at the moment, and that’s never helpful in professional sports. Secondly, Pablo has publicly (famously) said that he was pretty excited to get out of San Francisco as soon as he became a free agent after the 2014 World Series. Thirdly, Bruce Bochy has a plethora of choices at 3rd base that all look better than the Panda has in recent times. Veteran Eduardo Nuñez (who plays in left as well), Conor Gillaspie, Christian Arroyo and Jae-gyun Hwang have all been good options when they can remain healthy. Arroyo looks to be the long term candidate, but is out for a chunk of this season with a recurring finger injury.

But at least one outlet has stated sources have discussed a trade to reunite Sandoval with the Giants, but it doesn’t sound like they are ever going to fall for the $95 million joke that is one of the worst contracts in history. However, with Boston basically paying for their own mistake now, it would be very low risk for Bobby Evans to make the phone call and see what Pablo’s plans are.

If he is willing to work his way up from the minor leagues, watch the weight and train the way he once did, then Evans and Bochy may strike gold. They certainly didn’t mind signing Michael Morse to a minimum contract to pinch hit and pep up the club house. Worst case scenario, they are out $535k from a team payroll that is in the hundreds of millions.

There is no reason to believe that if Pablo didn’t want to go to the Red Sox minor leagues he would be happy to come back to the Giants in such a diminished role. Based on the way he left, the money he has coming in, and flat out statistics, I just don’t see it.

But come on! Would it not be the most wonderful thing if Pablo Sandoval and Mike Morse led a 2017 San Francisco team to the World Series? I would cry tears of joy, Brian Sabean would finally get some sleep, and we would all finally forget about Matt Duffy!

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Diamondbacks Approaching the Deadline

As we inch closer to the July 31st Trade Deadline, the Diamondbacks find themselves in quite a favorable situation. The team has an outstanding record, despite their recent play, and are still firmly in the driver’s seat for the NL Wild Card, with the Rockies nipping at their heels. The NL West, while not being completely out of reach, seems an unrealistic goal with the Dodgers playing with some sort of divine intervention working in their favor. Man I hate the Dodgers. But, the question that begs to be asked is whether or not the D-backs will be buying this deadline… or if they will stand pat and hope that no more major injuries occur.

Before we look into who the Diamondbacks may try to acquire, it would be good to see how they stand in terms of buying power. A quick glance at MLB.com’s top prospects for the D-backs does not paint a pretty picture. So we can essentially rule out any fun big time trades, though I am not too sure how helpful one would be anyway, as we have key contributors already working well on the team. However, the Diamondbacks have about $5 Million in available cash to spend, meaning that any veteran pieces or middle relievers should be within our budget, and be available for only a few middle tier prospects. Overall, our buying power is not strong, but with Mike Hazen’s demonstrated ability to pick out valuable role players in Jeremy Hazelbaker and Daniel Descalso, I think that he may be able to find cubic zirconium in the rough. Not too valuable, but will do the job.

Now looking towards actual players, there are very few substantial rumors going at the moment. Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweeted that the D-backs have expressed interest in J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Martinez is hitting .308 with 16 HRs with the not-so-great Tigers, despite a foot injury that limited his play early on. Martinez would be an upgrade over Yasmany Tomás out in the outfield, but would only be a rental, becoming a free agent this offseason. This also hurts on an appearance level, as it pushed Tomás to the bench, making him quite the overpaid bench piece. With the injury to Nick Ahmed, the Diamondbacks may seek out another middle infield piece, utilizing Chris Owings’ outfield experience, as well as upgrading the lineup with the addition. When looking at the available players though, I don’t see any moves coming about for a SS or 2B. They could pursue Zack Cozart, though it is not entirely clear what the Reds asking price may be for their All-Star shortstop. Freddy Galvis and Jose Iglesias are also names that have been thrown about, and Iglesias is the player we would have the best chance for, since he is on the Tigers. If a deal could be swung to acquire both him and Martinez, both areas of need would be addressed in one swift stroke.

The last idea I have may be a bullpen piece, though this took a big hit this weekend with the Nationals acquiring both Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. However I still see the Diamondbacks looking to upgrade. Jorge De La Rosa has an ERA in the 4’s, and a FIP that is almost to 5. In addition, they have had to use Randall Delgado in an emergency reliever role, stretching him further from his long relief role. So, if the Snakes could seek out a decent reliever to eat innings, it would only improve the team.

At the end of the day, I don’t expect a lot of fireworks out of Chase Field’s front office as we approach July 31st. The most exciting addition would be rental J.D. Martinez, which would strengthen an already good offense, though ignore some of the pitching deficits that have plagued the D-backs. The best bet would be to add a bullpen piece, as it would be less cost, and would provide a better bridge to get from a starter to Andrew Chafin, Archie Bradley, and the ever inconsistent Fernando Rodney. For now, let’s hope the Diamondbacks turn things around, push into October, then slither past the Wild Card game and into the Divisional Round.

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com

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Giants 2017 Trade Deadline Outlook

How do you even begin to fix a problem like the 2017 San Francisco Giants? Some of the best players in the game, and very well paid at that, are falling far short of expectations. It’s not an even year, there doesn’t seem to be much magic in the clubhouse, and some reports even claim there is friction in the clubhouse. So, what kind of changes do you make? Who goes? Who stays? Is it worth trading some of your home grown, core players?

The Giants are in dire need of help in two places: the mound and the outfield (left field more specifically). With more than ten different players getting starts in left field this year, it’s likely management will look for some stability defensively. Power at the plate should be high on the list as well, with a team batting average (sans pitchers) at a lackluster .249 to end the first half.

The pitching staff is also a little bit of a messy situation. As Ty Blach pitched fairly well in Madison Bumgarner‘s absence it looks like Matt Cain may graciously head to the bull pen for a new role. But as Matt Moore continues to disappoint, the G-men would be wise to look long and hard at fresh opportunities for the rotation. A team wide 4.68 ERA is higher than last years total and the bats aren’t helping out much.

So before I call Bobby Evans on his personal line to pitch my ideas, (Yes! I would be so great in the Giants war room!), I thought I should write them out.

Truth be told, as much as the Giants are supposed to be “sellers” heading into the trade deadline, that’s not really a promising prospect for would-be suitors. They do have skill in the farm system, but trading someone like Tyler Beede or Chris Shaw would likely be a regretful decision in the future.

There is depth on 3rd in the form of Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones, Jae-Gyun Hwang, Eduardo Nuñez, Conor Gillaspie and more. But depth has been necessary as injuries have nagged the squad in the first half. Nuñez would likely be the best bargaining chip for San Francisco, but a ham string injury put him on the 10 day DL leaving only a short window of time for scouts to see him before the July 31 trade deadline. Honestly, Nuñez has been one of the more versatile contributors to the team since his arrival last year, spending time in left field as well as at 3rd so losing him could be costly.

Some have been crying for SF to deal Johnny Cueto at the soonest possible chance, but with a player option in his contract next year the lack of control may not be appealing to buyers. He also has not looked amazing lately with a 4.51 ERA, so he may not fetch what the Giants are looking to get in return.

But with the Giants hot stove getting even hotter as they drop out of contention, it is becoming more and more clear that they need a change. So will we see some core players dealt? Management has said that MadBum, Posey and Crawford are untouchable, Panik doesn’t look to be a likely candidate to leave, but perhaps Belt (who is showing some above average power this year) can fetch something worthy. And while there is a lot of uncertainty, there does still seem to be hope. AAA Sacramento has sent some gold to the bay in the form of Austin Slater (.290 BA 3 HR’s), Jae-Gyun Hwang, and Christian Arroyo (for a time).

With a little over two weeks until the trade deadline Giants fans may be in for the most entertaining stretch of the season. One can only hope that San Francisco’s management will be able to supplement Madison Bumgarner’s return with some fresh talent and power. Without a doubt Orange and Black’s faithful will be waiting patiently to see what happens.

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Pondering the Dodgers’ Bullpen Depth

Around this time every year, trade rumors swirl around like a spirograph. Even though the Dodgers hold the best record in the MLB, just past halfway through the regular season, there are talks of acquiring a right-handed #2 starter to round out the rotation, and maybe another right-handed bat to lengthen the lineup. Discussions for another time. One area that the Dodgers can improve on without needing to give up a serious load of prospects is the bullpen. Bullpen help is a big talking point among speculating Dodger fans this year. Rightfully so, as relief pitching has become a crucial part of the success or failure of postseason-contending teams.

 

Despite having, arguably, the best bullpen in the game, the Dodgers do have a few pieces that have not quite impressed so far. Chris Hatcher strikes out a lot of hitters with his powerful stuff, but he does give up more runs than the Dodgers should be comfortable with. The slider-hurling Sergio Romo, is another pitcher struggling to pitch well consistently. Josh Fields has put up solid numbers overall, but has had an issue giving up the long-ball lately. This has resulted in him being sent down to AAA for a short stint. The common thread through each of these players, other than those they wear on the field, is that they are all right-handed relief pitchers.

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Manager Dave Roberts pulls Josh Fields out of the game. (Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dodgers do have some great, reliable RHPs in the bullpen. Kenley Jansen is the greatest reliever in the NL. Pedro Baez has been a very pleasant, trustworthy cannon to rely on. Yet, clearly, those arms aside, there seems to be a need for RHP relievers. To have 3 “righties” in the bullpen that are less than very trustworthy doesn’t seem like something the Dodgers would want in October. As it turns out, there are more arms to test out before trade talks need to be revved up. In other words, the Dodgers have a ton pitching depth. Shocker.

 

Brandon Morrow was signed to a 1-year deal by the Dodgers this past offseason. Considered a low-risk (a.k.a. low-cost) signing with a potential for high-reward, he has shown great value in his limited playing time. In 14 innings this year, he has allowed 11 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs (ERA of 1.93, 2 of the runs scored on a home run allowed by Kenley Jansen). While a small sample size, he is definitely worth keeping an eye on as we approach the deadline.

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Brandon Morrow mid-pitch at Dodger Stadium (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

Brock Stewart made his MLB debut last year and, while he struggled to be consistent, showed great potential. That was as a starter. As a reliever this year, he’s come in for 9 innings and has only allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, all while striking out 7.

 

For clarity’s sake, it would not hurt for the Dodgers to, at the very least, look and ask around at the deadline. They can probably find a few diamond-in-the-rough types, or maybe make a bit of a splash acquiring a big name reliever. Or maybe they’ll pass on every available reliever. Either way could make perfect sense, primarily depending on the performances of the aforementioned players over the next few weeks. It may come to be that the Dodgers are all ready, set, and going to win the division with the current roster. With the best record in the majors, most would agree they’re poised for much more than simply winning the division again. After all, it’s been quite a long time since 1988.

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