Inside Baseball news and notes from around the National League.
- The D-backs are catching on at home, and rightfully so. They drew 40,000 last Sunday, their biggest crowd since June 8, 2013, Jody Jackson of FOX Sports Arizona reported.
- Paul Goldschmidt, baseball’s most underappreciated superstar, reached base in 38 straight games at Chase Field.
- Tom Wilhelmsen was a surprise choice for a DFA after his big start. He was also bringing the extra leadership element.
- Zack Godley, a Dave Stewart pick up, is proving to be quite a fine pitcher. As is Robbie Ray, another Stewart pickup. So while he/they may have missed on Shelby Miller, he hit on some others.
- For all the early complaints, Fernando Rodney is second in the NL with 18 saves.
- Don Money’s grandson, Bobby Kennedy, who goes to Mike Trout’s Millville, N.J. high school, was the fifth-round pick of the D-backs. For those who don’t recall Money, he’s the guy who hit a homer at County Stadium that my father scooped up for a souvenir for me, circa 1973.
- The Braves are trying to win (exhibit A: Matt Adams), but they are expected to look at trades for their free agents, with Jaime Garcia expected to bring something significant and Brandon Phillips of interest.
- Garcia’s fine pitching puts him in a good position for free agency. He has hired Michael Moye as his agent.
- We’d love to see longtime coach/organization manager Brian Snitker succeed. And overall, he’s done a very nice job. But if the Braves decide to make a change – and Snitker doesn’t have a guarantee yet for next year – at least the Braves have multiple experienced managers in their midst. Ron Washington came in second with his interview. And Bo Porter, who was quietly interviewed, could be another good candidate. He is working in the front office, and with a difficult situation his first go-round in Houston with a boss that didn’t really want him and a seeming goal to lose (for the most part, they did), he is sure to be in better stead the next time. Very good candidate somewhere, if not Atlanta.
- No knock on Dansby Swanson, but Ender Inciarte may yet turn out to be the best thing about that Shelby Miller trade. He’s added power to his excellent, winning game this year.
- Matt Adams continues to pay dividends. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution has details.
- The Braves are close to a deal with No. 5 overall pick Kyle Wright. Here are the details, including the other player they had their eye on.
- Recommended reading: Tyler Kepner on baseball’s archaic 20-80 grading system in the #failing New York Times.
- The Cubs’ unimpressive start has extended way beyond what anyone, including they, believed possible, as they sit below .500 nearly 40 percent into the season. People around the team point to some extreme youth and inexperience on the team (nearly all their everyday players but Ben Zobrist are in their 20s and many have less than three years experience) has contributed to the surprisingly long stretch of so-so play. But there’s plenty of reason to believe in the Cubs, and one of them is the experience (and demeanor) of Joe Maddon, whose lack of panic has to seep into that clubhouse. “This is a perfect teaching moment for me,” is the way Maddon put it in an interview with FanRag Sports at Citi Field. That means Maddon is doing nothing different than usual. “They just need our support,” he said of the players. “You just talk to them normally, and you don’t change patterns.’’ There’s no talk of a hangover around the Cubs (not with these young pros) but there probably is some wear and tear on their emotions following two lengthy and stress-filled seasons. And it’s not just from last year when they won that historic World Championship. “These guys have been grinding pretty hard” for two years, Maddon points out. The players do seem a little down to be 13 games worse than they were last year when they started 44-19. It’s uncanny how almost the entire roster has underperformed compared to 2016 (some exceptions: Jason Heyward, Miguel Montero, Carl Edwards, Albert Almora). The hitting hasn’t been as good, and neither has the defense, a Cubs person said (though as Maddon colorfully put it, “I’m still digging on the defense”). There is some reason to worry. The offensive numbers are down almost across the board, and while Jake Arrieta has taken a disproportionate amount of heat among the vaunted rotation, as one other Cubs person put it, “all the (starting) pitchers are down a tick.” But they have the right idea. There are many reasons to keep the faith. Anthony Rizzo told the troops, “We’ve hit since we’ve come out of the womb.” Meanwhile, Maddon acts normal, and unsurprised. Considering all the variables, he said, “I should have expected it,” and he says that matter of factly.
- Arrieta’s up-and-down start inspired a major defense by his agent Scott Boras, but an exec with another team says he still thinks Arrieta gets “at least five years.” Arrieta has been shooting for seven years, or more realistically six, and the ease with which the rival exec suggested he’d get five at the least is a sign he could get the six. Hard to see him getting seven despite comparisons to Max Scherzer. And hard to see the Cubs going seven. That’s just not them. “Not a chance,” predicted one Cubs person.
- Miguel Montero credits his improved play to taking up yoga, and says he feels better than he has in years. He’s a free agent after the year.
- Zobrist has a wrist concern and Kyle Hendricks a hand that’s concerning.
- Joe Maddon’s call to bat Anthony Rizzo thrilled him, and looks like a stroke of genius after Rizzo led off the first two games in that role with a home run. Ultimately, the one drawback is that Kris Bryant has less protection. And Maddon said, “I do believe in that. I know there are some people who don’t believe in that – for all the wrong reasons. But they’re human beings.”
- Sign of Heyward’s resurrection: He is in the top 10 in hardest to fan (one every 7.4 at-bats).
- The Cubs picked Chris Singleton of Charleston Southern in the 19th round. He is the son of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, one of the victims of the Charleston church shootings two years ago, almost to the day. Singleton gave a beautiful speech after the shootings. The speech was about lover over hate, a great message.
- Hunter Greene is expected to get a deal near slot. He’s one piece of a draft class that a rival exec believes is a haul.
- Zack Cozart leads NL shortstops in the All-Star vote. Much deserved. He’s having the best year, even better than Corey Seager.
- Scott Schebler and Joey Votto led the NL with 18 home runs (and ex-Red Jay Bruce was in a pack tied for third at 17).
- Cuban SS Jose Israel Garcia, who was signed for $5 million, is said to be an excellent defender
- Scooter Gennett’s four homer day shocked the world. He has been worth every penny of his salary.
- Gennett won Player of the Week honors. Of course, he did.
- Charlie Blackmon may be the best most under-publicized player. He looks like an MVP candidate from here. He was leading the NL in hits, total bases, triples and fewest GIDP.
- The Rockies have 23 wins from four rookie starters (Antonio Senzatela 8, Kyle Freeland 7, Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez 4 apiece).
- Hoffman, who came in the Tulo trade, has been a big add to the surprising rotation.
- The Rockies have always had trouble pitching and doing anything at all on the road. And they have the best road record in baseball (23-10) and have also pitched better than anyone on the road.
- Greg Holland is still perfect in saves, and outside experts say he could easily get something along the lines of the Mark Melancon deal, which was $62 million for four years. But, citing his two years with 45 saves and a sub 2 ERA (and a possible third this year), word is that agent Scott Boras will instead cite the Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen deals.
- While talks with Carlos Gonzalez were said to have “bled into the season,” there’s no evidence they ever got close to a deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Could the Dodgers be a surprise entry in the Jose Quintana sweepstakes? They certainly have the prospects to get a deal done, and there’s a belief ChiSox people are eyeing them. While the Astros, Pirates and Yankees have been suggested to be the most likely landing spots, the White Sox were frustrated by Houston’s offers and the Pirates don’t look like a contender to this point. Quintana’s salary would fit the Dodgers’ aim to keep a semi-reasonable payroll. Though they already have more potential major-league starters than anyone (and five left-handers if Scott Kazmir returns to join Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu) but they seem to strictly adhere to the bromide: you can never have too much pitching.
- Wood, who is recovered from last year’s foot injury, was the latest Dodger pitcher to put up a scoreless streak. It’s long been a tradition, and an amazing one at that.
- Some are predicting a big deal for Yasmani Grandal, who is considered about the top pitch framer in baseball, along with Buster Posey. (MLB seems to love this skill).
- Yasiel Puig seems to struggle with fastballs 95-mph plus, a scout claimed.
- There’s a little more buzz Bryce Harper could be pursued two winters from now. It would be interesting to see Harper and Mike Trout in the same town (or sorta the same town).
- Cody Bellinger continues to rake, with a record four multi-homer games as a 21-year-old. There’s little question he’s going to be a productive big leaguer for years to come, but asked whether he could be better than Corey Seager, one ex-Dodgers exec answered with one word: “No.”
- The Dodgers seem to have gotten a bargain at pick No. 25, landing Vandy OF Jeren Kendall, a former hockey player from western Wisconsin who has great potential. This continued that Dodgers’ trend of taking Cheeseheads, as noted cheesehead Adam McCalvy, the MLB.com Brewers beat writer mentioned on Twitter.
- They also like Vanderbilt, it seems. For the third year in a row, they picked a Vandy player among their top two. Andrew Friedman’s connection to Vanderbilt goes all the way back to David Price.
- Kenley Jansen still hasn’t walked a batter.
- The Dodgers used a pick on Logan White Jr., the son of the legendary former Dodgers scouting director who’s now with the Padres. Nice touch.
- Could the Marlins consider trading Giancarlo Stanton? It might be up to the new owners.
- A third interested owner has entered the mix.
- Tom Koehler seems to be the one Marlins player already available in trade.
- New Mexico prep pitcher Trevor Rogers, pick No. 13, is a very nice young man (I happened to meet him at MLB Network). He’s a cousin of Cody Ross, also a New Mexican, and a former Marlin.
- Pick No. 51 overall, Joe Dunand, is A-Rod’s nephew from Miami. He once hit nine straight home runs in high school. He is reminiscent of his uncle, as a tall, charming infielder (I interviewed him after that unbelievable feat).
- Lewis Brinson, who came up Sunday, has star potential.
- The Brewers called up several prospects. Which likely means one thing: the super-two cutoff has passed us by.
- Regardless, folks continue to be impressed by the Brew Crew, as Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports writes here.
- Highly recommend the feature from Scott Miller of Bleacher Report on the tragically short life of promising pitcher Donny Everett, who was picked late by the Brewers and offered $2.5 million but who decided to pitch for Vanderbilt. One of the saddest stories ever told.
New York Mets
- Steven Matz always performs when healthy. His return is huge, perhaps as huge as that of Yoenis Cespedes, who’s playing yet still not quite 100 percent.
- Seth Lugo, coming back after a partial UCL tear, also looks good, giving the Mets further hope. They should be able to separate themselves from the second-division pack in the NL East.
- Cespedes went out with a heel injury soon after returning but seems to be playing through it. He’s one tough guy, Cespedes. He admitted in quotes to Marc Carig of Newsday that he wasn’t completely healthy when he came back, and he certainly wasn’t running like it. We admire his interest in getting back on the field as soon as possible. But the hamstring injury he had was a bad one.
- Meanwhile, Asdrubal Cabrera is back on the D.L. with his injured thumb. So it goes.
- And Neil Walker looks like he will join him with hamstring trouble. However, the Mets say they won’t promote Amed Rosario until they believe he will have the chance to stay for good.
- Wilmer Flores continues to rake. He is right, and has been right, that he’s deserved more playing time, and certainly more than Jose Reyes. More speed doesn’t make up for 140 points on the batting average.
- The Mets have used an NL-high 11 starters.
- Jeurys Familia has an appointment for a checkup with the doctor Robert Thompson in St. Louis Friday.
- Jerry Blevins could score as a free agent after being the most reliable Met pitcher this year.
- I think I’ve found the Mets’ real issue. They need to be in the AL. So far their DHs have an OPS of 2.270.
- Daniel Bard has his latest chance with the Mets. He hasn’t been the same since the Red Sox tried him as a starter.
- Congrats to good guy Curtis Granderson on his 300th career home run.
- The Phillies may be pretty terrible (they’ve lost eight in a row), but the good news is that they have only one player under contract even next year (Odubel Herrera). With high revenues, they are in position to play with the big boys for the big starts in 2018 – if the players want to come to Philly, a tough town that will likely be coming off another losing season.
- J.P. Crawford, considered the team’s No. 1 prospect, isn’t hitting at Triple-A. I mean at all. One scout said one possible explanation is that he was “over-graded.”
- On the plus side, 2B Scott Kingery is raking in the minors, And Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams are looking pretty good this year, too. Cozens hit .136 in April but has come on so strong he’s close to .250 now.
- You’ve got to have faith they made some right picks with legends Andy MacPhail, Pat Gillick and Terry Ryan putting their heads together. Athletic University of Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley was the first pick, at No. 8, and it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t make it.
- Vince Velasquez could be a future closer.
- Pat Neshek has given up a run only once this year. He, Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava could wind up being the most desirable trade pieces, with Joaquin Benoit being another possibility.
- Hard to see Jeremy Hellickson bringing anything in trade, considering he was pitching better last year and making less than half as much as the $17.2 million he makes now.
- Extensions are expected to come soon for manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington, Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network and FOX Sports reported. We said here a couple weeks ago that Hurdle’s future will be up to him, contrary to that New Jersey casino which claims to offer a bunch of nonsensical odds on such things as who’ll be fired next, with no basis in reality.
- Great to see Jameson Taillon back on a mound, and winning, only five weeks after his testicular cancer diagnosis.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Mike Matheny’s three-year extension doesn’t begin until next season, and there’s no overriding reason to believe he’s in trouble, but upper management’s call to make a couple changes to the coaching staff relating to the team’s hitting could be seen as a bit of a warning, at the least. As longtime St. Louis columnist and radio personality Bernie Miklasz noted, hitting coach John Mabry is Matheny’s “BFF,” so any change affecting Mabry is important. Miklasz has a full and interesting explanation of what went down.
- You have to wonder if the Cardinals made a mistake not trying to keep Matt Holliday at all. The two main complaints about the underperforming Cardinals is 1) their defense isn’t very good, and 2) they don’t have a 3 or 4 hitter. Holliday was B for them for a while, and he also provided leadership.
- With Adam Wainwright pitching well, they have arguably the best rotation in the game, which makes their standing all the more perplexing. But they do have those issues A and B.
- Carlos Martinez has been nothing short of brilliant lately, and looks like an All-Star from here.
- Luke Weaver suffered an injury in his most recent start. He is their best starting insurance.
- After a solid year on defense for the Cubs, Dexter Fowler seems to have reverted to 2015 form. Miklasz points out he is a negative-seven on defense and says that’s what fans should be worried about, moreso than offensive underproduction.
- The Cardinals chose LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson, son of Baylor women’s hoops coach Kim Mulkey.
San Francisco Giants
- Folks have their eyes on the Giants as a potential seller.
- Poor Michael Morse who came out of retirement, and landed on the DL with a concussion and other assorted pains after running head-on into teammate Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame football star.
- Madison Bumgarner has begun facing live hitting.
- I know it’s been a rough year, but I think I’ve read enough about Hunter Pence’s socks for a lifetime.
- Heliot Ramos, the Giants top pick and an outfielder from Puerto Rico, could be a “five-tool” player who may stay in center, says scouting director John Barr. Based on track record, hard to doubt Barr. He is signing for $3.1 million slot, Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America reported.
- Barr grabbed Luis Gonzalez’s son Jacob in the second round.
San Diego Padres
- North Carolina prep MacKenzie Gore is expected to get a slot deal.
- The Padres are last in the NL in hitting and fielding. But .03 separates them and Philly from last in pitching.
- Big loss: public relations director Shana Wilson is leaving to return to her roots at UCLA.
- Nats ownership apparently put the kibosh on a deal that was at least on the table for David Robertson, which would have sent lefty Jesus Luzardo and infielder Drew Ward to Chicago. Bob Nightengale of USA Today first reported that combination of players.
- They also tried for Greg Holland, as was noted in this space last week, but a source said he believes they were short of the $7 million the Rockies gave Holland, and also possibly a vesting option short.
- While A.J. Ramos’ name has come up as a possible trade target, he’s down on their list.
- Adam Eaton told Nats writers he is ahead of schedule. It would still be quite an upset if he made it back for any part of this year, even for the playoffs.
- The Nats sense the competition for Bryce Harper could come most prominently from the Dodgers, one Nats person said.
- Gio Gonzalez is pitching well enough that he might not want to hit 180 innings, which triggers a vesting option for $12 million. He’d surely do better than that as a free agent the way he’s pitching.
- Only Pedro Martinez faced fewer batters than Max Scherzer to get to 2,000 strikeouts. According to Ryan Spaeder, Scherzer actually faced seven batters fewer than Randy Johnson to get there (even though it came in more innings).
- The Nats picked Jake Boone in the draft, who could make it a fourth-generation Boone in the majors. He is the son of Bret Boone, the grandson of Bob and the great grandson of Ray.
- Top pick Seth Romero would have gone even higher had he not been booted from the University of Houston baseball team. The Houston Chronicle reported his infractions included failing a drug test, missing a curfew and holding a bong while pictured in team uniform.
- Not a surprise that the Nats in the first round took Romero, a Boras client. Currently, 44 percent of the Nats’ roster are Boras clients. One advantage to this one: though GM Mike Rizzo told Jamal Collier of MLB.com they’d ultimately like to make Romero a starter, scouts think he may be the quickest of the draftees to the majors, with a chance to even help their beleaguered pen this year.
- They also recently moved Erick Fedde to AAA and also to the bullpen, so he could be another option to help in their area of need.