Inside Baseball NL Notes | Bellinger returns to Dodgers

Inside Baseball news and notes from around all 15 NL teams. For notes on all 15 AL teams, click hereClick here for managers on the hot seat during the season’s final month.

Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Zack Cozart would be the perfect pickup for the Diamondbacks now considering all their shortstop casualties. However, sources tell FanRag Sports that Cozart was claimed on waivers and pulled back by the Reds, meaning he is staying put. Nick Ahmed recently suffered a broken wrist when hit by pitch on a rehab assignment. Ketel Marte has done a nice job filling in for Ahmed and Chris Owings, but he is day-to-day with a hamstring thing at the moment.
  • The D-backs are strengthening their hold on a Wild Card spot, winning six straight.
  • J.D. Martinez was one of the best July pickups going.
  • Zack Greinke told Jarrid Denney of MLB.com that Paul Goldschmidt is as good as anyone in the game save Mike Trout. Seems like a fair analysis – though Giancarlo Stanton has probably pulled ahead in that great NL MVP race.

Atlanta Braves

  • Ronald Acuna just may be the best prospects in the game. It isn’t easy for a 19-year-old to star at Triple-A. He was signed originally for 100K.
  • The Braves’ rebuild seems to be on the right track on the field.
  • Off it, Ken Rosenthal recently wrote about an unexpected potential divide at the upper reaches of the Braves’ hierarchy on the just-launched The Athletic, and as almost every commenter on twitter said, if there’s really a power play at the very upper reaches, that’s not only a shock but a shame. Current GM John Coppolella already has shown a great knack for trades, and the rebuild under president John Hart and Coppolella appears to be in great shape. Ex-Gm John Schuerholz, a Hall of Famer, obviously had his time and has his own thoughts about how things can be done. And his son Jonathan, who’s the farm director, may one day have his. But for now, based on the early returns and Hart/Coppolella building what seems like one of the best farm systems in baseball, if not the best one, it’s probably best to just let Hart and Coppolella do their jobs.
  • R.A. Dickey, who passed through waivers, could definitely help someone the way he’s pitching.

Chicago Cubs

  • Jake Arrieta has a 1.44 ERA in August, setting himself up for a big payday; he’s a free agent this winter.
  • Kyle Schwarber is hitting to his potential now, and that could once again be a major October plus for them.
  • Players Weekend plus: “Carl’s Jr.” for the clever Carl Edwards Jr. (though I prefer In-n-Out Burger, as do most people).

Cincinnati Reds

  • Zack Cozart was claimed and blocked on waivers, FanRag Sports has learned.
  • A quartet of young pitchers are showing promise, providing hope that they may not be too far away. Luis Castillo is “the real deal,” according to one scout, and Tyler Mahle looks like a “very composed” (the scout’s words) 22-year-old, giving the Reds two solid pieces for next year’s rotation. Robert Stephenson and Sal Romano also are showing some promise, so they might have four. So once again, the Reds’ rotation is dominated by rookies; if only Rookie Davis would join them, that’d be a nice capper.
  • The bigger hope is probably that Homer Bailey and Anthony deSclafani return to health/form next year, giving them the potential of a solid rotation.
  • The Reds could have at least four guys with 30 homers, which would be pretty special. Joey Votto and Adam Duvall are there, while Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett and Scott Schebler are candidates to get there.
  • Joey Votto’s five-walk performance earned raves from his fans who appreciated his second such game, and he was the first to walk in six straight plate appearances since Brad Hawpe in 2008. According to Jayson Stark, previously of ESPN, only two players have had more than two five-walk games. Mel Ott had four, Barry Bonds three. Indeed, Brian Kenny would be proud of the Prince of Process.
  • No. 2 overall pick Hunter Greene threw 98 to 100 mph in his pitching debut for Class-A Billings (Mont.). He also showed good control. He should get two more pitching outings before the winter. He’s also done some DHing there.

Colorado Rockies

  • Greg Holland is going through his first slump of the season, and wasn’t used as the closer for the first time in a closing situation this year. Of course, he still will opt out of his contract, assuming health. That said, sources say he loves it in Colorado, where pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes are both close to him. Holland knew Foster from the Royals, and Holmes is a neighbor in North Carolina.
  • Word is, Jonathan Lucroy was seeking something in the range of Brian McCann’s $85 million, five-year deal when he was talking to the Rangers about a deal last winter, and that certainly made sense as an asking price at the time (though Texas is probably relieved it didn’t go for it). But of course, after an uncharacteristic first half in Texas, Lucroy will undoubtedly have to set his sights quite a bit lower. It’s possible Lucroy was affected adversely by his coming free agency, and that’s as good a theory as any, as some players enjoy the challenge of playing for a contract while others may find it more distracting than playing for one’s team. Because he clearly wasn’t himself. Lucroy has a long history of solid all-around play (and he’s played much better in Colorado and has a month to go) so there’ll definitely be interest. The question is: at what level?
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Chuck Nazty” for Charlie Blackmon.
Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black, left, confers with catcher Jonathan Lucroy during batting practice before the team's baseball game against the New York Mets on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Manager Dave Roberts made the hard call to make clear right up front that Cody Bellinger would have first base back once he returned from his ankle injury – meaning they’d have to consider a bench job for Adrian Gonzalez. That had to be a tough conversation, but it isn’t a shock that’s the way the Dodgers are going; they’ve played so great all year with Bellinger at first, they like what Logan Forsythe gives them at second and of course Chris Taylor – a revelation this year – wasn’t losing his spot.
  • Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times wrote about the decade-long friendship between Roberts and A-Gon. Nice story.
  • The five-year anniversary of the trade that sent A-Gon and other big names to the Dodgers – and saved the Red Six $200 million plus – was marked this week. The Dodgers’ new ownership group showed they meant business with the deal, but from the Red Sox perspective, it was one of the better deals of the decade. It helped set them up for a World Series title in 2013.
  • There was skepticism when ex-scouting director Logan White used a fourth-round pick on Cody Bellinger. And there was more skepticism when he showed up at camp for the first time, and everything off his bat was a ground ball. Hitting coordinator Damon Mashore deserves credit for helping turn him into a star.
  • Taylor hit yet another home run on his birthday. Of course he did. This season has been nothing short of magical for him. All but one of his career homers have come this year.
  • Curtis Granderson has had a nice start with the Dodgers.
  • Players Weekend plus: “El Cuervo” (The Raven for Josh Ravin). Also: “Chicken Strip” for Ross Stripling.
  • Houston product Scott Kazmir donated $130K to the relief efforts. Bravo!

Miami Marlins

  • Some believe Gary Denbo, a Yankees exec, could be in line for a big job in a Derek Jeter-run front office. Jeter is very close to Denbo, his first and probably his favorite hitting coach over the years. Mark Feingold of MLB.com first mentioned this possibility.
  • Don Mattingly, another of Derek Jeter’s hitting coaches, has two more years to his contract, and he’s had a terrific year, maintaining composure and focus when things were going haywire.
  • There’s no new evidence Jorge Mas will join the Jeter-Bruce Sherman group, as Sherman will be the control person. So Sherman and Jeter will have to firm up their finances and strengthen their local ties another way. Jeter is expected to commute from Tampa, but Sherman, who lives in Naples, is thought to be building a home in nearby Boca Raton.
  • Mas, meanwhile, is still working on gathering investors in case the Jeter-Sherman team doesn’t make it. And so is a third finalist Wayne Rothbaum, who has added some big investors to his stable, just in case.
  • Giancarlo Stanton looks like the MVP from here now. Over his last 25 games, he has a 1.149 slugging percentage, as Ryan Spaeder noted on twitter. Good enough for me.
  • Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report wrote an interesting take on what 62 home runs would mean. Stanton is currently on a 63-homer pace, BTW.
  • Brad Ziegler has been really good in the closer’s role. But the Marlins – with the team suddenly on the cusp of the NL Wild card race and the franchise sale the main objective now — aren’t currently talking about trades with anyone. Ziegler did clear waivers, as reported by FanRag Sports, in case they have a late change of mind.
  • Players Weekend plus: “Weigh-In” For Wei-Yin Chen.
  • Ichiro may be 43 but he’s 30-for-his-last-92 (.326), Christopher Kamka points out.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Corey Knebel has 16 straight scoreless outings, and 13 straight saves, helping the Brewers stay in it.
  • Best wishes to Julio Mendez, Brewers minor leaguer who suffered a cardiac episode after being hit by a pitch and is hospitalized in critical but stable condition.
  • Players Weekend plus: “Bat Boy” for the youngish Zach Davies. Also: “Nerd Power” for the bespeckled Eric Sogard.

New York Mets

  • The Mets’ daily medical updates (they just started providing them) are helpful yet depressing. The news seems to get worse by the day.
  • The Mets may need to re-evaluate their training regimen after such a disastrous season, opines one rival. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN did an in-depth story on the issues. The rival says they’ve gone too much into weightlifting and strength-building.
  • Matt Harvey is making his return Saturday in Houston in the first game back following the devastation of the awful hurricane by the same name. A scout thought he looked “ordinary” in a rehab game, but Harvey’s an adrenalin guy.
  • If David Wright has to retire – he is visiting a doctor after the latest setback and that looks like a real possibility at this point – he will have homered in his final three games (via Christopher Kamka).
  • Kevin Plawecki has now pitched twice. Not a good sign for the season.
  • Wilmer Flores has 17 home runs as a part-time player. Not bad.
  • Seth Lugo’s “Quarterrican” was maybe the best of any Players Weekend nickname; he is apparently a quarter Puerto Rican.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Rhys Hoskins is the story of the year for the Phillies. His 11 homers in his first 18 games match the record for anyone in their first 29, according to Ryan Spaeder. Of course, the Phillies were only 6-12 in those games.
  • The funny thing is, there was some serious skepticism about Hoskins before his call-up. He was a fifth-rounder out of Sacramento State who signed for a 350K bonus, and some saw his 38-homer total for Double-A Lehigh Valley as a product of a generous ballpark.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 20: Philadelphia Phillies First base Rhys Hoskins (17) celebrates home run hit during the 9th inning at the San Francisco Giants versus Philadelphia Phillies Game on August 20, 2017 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. (Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire)

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Shortstop Jordy Mercer told Pirates beat writer Rob Biertempfel, “I don’t think there’s any high sense of urgency or anything like that. We know what we have in front of us. We have a lot of division games where we can make up a lot of ground in a hurry. It’s just a matter of getting back to how we know how to play.” 
  • Gerrit Cole’s 1-0 win over the Reds where he homered was the first such game against Cincinnati since Bob Welch homered to beat Mario Soto 1-0 in 1983.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Davehuman” for David Freese. Also: “Cole Train” for Gerrit Cole.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • The Cardinals could afford to trade Mike Leake since they have Luke Weaver obviously in the rotation. Plus, besides veteran Adam Wainwright, they have a whole host of upper-level pitching prospects: Dakota Hudson, Jack Flaherty, Zac Gallen and others, plus Alex Reyes will be back next year after Tommy John surgery this spring.
  • The benefit to the Leake deal for the Cardinals is a savings that will allow them to redistribute money to enhance the middle of their order next year. Sources suggest they are paying only a small portion of Leake’s $16M salary. They have been linked in talks to Giancarlo Stanton.
  • The Cardinals are full of surprises. Tyler Lyons has been the most dependable reliever lately, with 16.2 straight scoreless innings.
  • Kolten Wong in the last few games has been one of their bigger threats, too. Yet another surprise.
  • The Tommy Pham-tastic show continues. Nice, too, that he homered on Players Weekend while wearing designs on his shoes by a couple talented children who are cancer patients.
  • Matt Carpenter is donating $10K per home run to the Harvey relief effort. Adam Wainwright is matching him, and the Cardinals as a team are, too. Carp then made good, hitting a home run the first night he made the pledge. Terrific.
  • They have 14 straight games vs. teams with losing records, whatever that means in this year of surprises. They also finish with 22 straight against division rivals.

San Diego Padres

  • Carlos Asuaje homered in his first game before friends and family in Miami. He has turned into quite the young player after humble beginnings at Nova Southeastern University, where he was an 11th-round pick of the Red Sox.
  • Hunter Renfroe has a 1.600 OPS for El Paso in the PCL, and he just seems a little too good for that league. He was sent down to work on his plate discipline. But he would seem to be MLB-worthy for a rebuilding team such as the Padres.
  • FanRag’s John Perrotto listed five players who could go by Thursday’s deadline, a list that included three Padres pitchers.

San Francisco Giants

  • There’s less than a day to go if the Giants want to trade Jeff Samardzija. It never seemed like something that’s likely to happen since the Giants don’t want to do a complete rebuild, he has a 21-team no trade list (or eight-team trade list, technically) and likes the idea of staying. Also, one rival says, “I don’t think the Giants would look to pay any of (Samardzija’s contract).” Indeed, someone familiar with their thinking suggested he’d be surprised if there was a deal for Samardzija by the Thursday deadline.
  • Of course Johnny Cueto isn’t opting out now. Had he had his usual year, he would have. But he’s had enough physical issues this year to kill just about any thought about opting out of the $92 million and four years he has to go on his deal.
  • Cueto, as of Monday, wasn’t put on waivers, as players on the DL can’t be put out there.
  • Matt Moore sailed through waivers.
  • The Giants are the “most interested” in a trade for Giancarlo Stanton, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
  • They are said by Jon Morosi of MLB.com to be interested in a late-year trade for Justin Upton. It doesn’t have to be by Aug. 31 since the Giants aren’t setting a playoff roster. However, his opt-out would seem to complicate any potential trade. So that seems like quite a long shot.
  • Nobody can blame the Giants for aiming to get back to the playoffs next year; they are a competitive lot, and this season has really hit them hard. “We want to put ourselves in position to compete next year,” GM Bobby Evans said by phone. That’s an admirable goal.

Washington Nationals

  • Jayson Werth made his presence felt right away with a homer in his first game back. This offense, if intact or close to it, is the best in the NL.
  • They’ve scored double digits in runs 20 times, the most in the league this year. (Boston led the majors with 20 total last year.)
  • As said here last week, Bryce Harper is still a ways away from returning. Late September was the hope, but Harper revealed in a story in the Washington Post he also suffered a calf injury along with the knee injury and others said he isn’t even close to running. Anytime before the playoffs would be considered positive.
  • With all their injuries, Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor and Wilmer Difo are among the kids to make a good impression.
  • Erick Fedde’s velocity was down to 89-91 the last time out, and that seems unusually low for him. There hasn’t been a lot of concern expressed, at least not publicly.
  • Gio Gonzalez has a 1.03 ERA in August, and by one measure, he has the top WAR among NL starters, at 6.7. He will get his $12 million option for 180 innings, which was an unfortunate trigger for him since he could have scored a long deal had he been a free agent. It’s also the reason he changed agents.
  • Best wishes to Nats owner/good fellow Mark Lerner, who had surgery to remove part of his leg following a cancer diagnosis and is recovering.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Doooooooo” for Sean Doolittle. Also: “Blue Eye” for Max Scherzer. (Though, I wonder why he didn’t go with “Brown Eye.”)

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