Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago
So fare thee well, Mike Hampton and Darren Dreifort, and fear not, Carls Crawford and Pavano. All of the other past qualifiers (Jason Bay, Kei Igawa, Chan Ho Park) can relax for now, and future challengers (Josh Hamilton, Rusney Castillo, anyone getting paid $200 million-plus) know they’ve got a mighty low bar to slum beneath.
Because with June just 10 days away and the Phillies somehow still well above .500, Howard is the pimple on the prom queen’s face. He highlights this week’s 10 Degrees of 2016 nonachievers. This is the dregs, and Howard is about the only thing on the roster at this juncture resembling the tankalicious team that was supposed to pollute Citizens Bank Park this spring. And with Tommy Joseph more than ready to take over at first base and …
1. Ryan Howard sporting a batting average that looks like it belongs to Bartolo Colon, the question is just how much longer Philadelphia bothers not just playing Howard but keeping him on its roster. As the Phillies continue exceeding expectations, the inevitability of a loyalty-vs.-pragmatism dogfight grows likewise, with Howard taking up one of 25 spots increasingly asinine.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Jackie Bradley Jr. arrived on campus at the University of South Carolina as a freshman, the first thing his new teammates did was ask whether the legend was real. A few months earlier, at a high school showcase event that uses radar guns to clock everything aside from the speed of the groundskeeper, a reading popped up on a Bradley throw from the outfield that seemed too high to believe: 101 mph.
"We ask him, 'Is it true?' " said Whit Merrifield, one of Bradley's college teammates. "He's in street clothes, kind of hanging out. He said, 'Give me a ball.' So he grabbed the ball, went to home plate and threw it over the batter's eye."
At Sarge Frye Field, the old home of the Gamecocks, the center-field fence was 390 feet away and the batter's eye past that. No warm-up. No stretching. Bradley just took a baseball, chucked it about 400 feet and let everyone there know that this was some different kind of talent.
"I'm just pleased," Bradley said, "with helping the team out."
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Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago
Earlier this week, after another age-defying night, David Ortiz received a text message from a friend: “Man, you’re [expletive] your retirement up!” Ortiz laughed, because what else could he do? He is 40 years old. For the first six weeks of what he said would be his last season, he was the best hitter in baseball. That’s what everyone knew. They didn’t understand that it hurts Ortiz just to walk. And the energy it takes to steel his mind against his own second-guessing, let alone others’. And here was a friend – a Yankees fan no less – telling Ortiz not to go, not yet.
There’s a magnetism about Ortiz, one that developed in 2003 and grew more ferrous by the year. He is outsized and beloved for it. He doesn’t talk; he thunders. He doesn’t hit; he wallops. He is Boston’s and the Dominican Republic’s and the world’s, and as much as the prospect of baseball without Big Papi feels like a donut without coffee to dunk it in, the reality of it is magnified by what he’s doing. It’s like Kobe putting up 60, only every night.
He laughed again.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago
Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is closing in on a deal with the Los Angeles Angels, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports. While the terms of the contract have yet to be finalized, the expectation is it will be a one-year major league deal.
Lincecum, 31, is returning from hip surgery and expected to need a few starts in the minor leagues before he joins the Angels’ injury-plagued rotation. Other teams interested included the San Francisco Giants, with whom Lincecum had spent his nine-year career and won three World Series rings, and the Chicago White Sox.
The Angels emerged as the most involved in recent days, hoping to reverse what thus far has been a disappointing season, with Lincecum helping to stabilize their rotation. He impressed scouts and executives in a recent showcase, hitting 92 mph with his fastball and spinning good curveballs and changeups.
It was the healthiest Lincecum has felt in years. The hip surgery sapped him of the freakish athleticism that was the hallmark of his finest years with the Giants.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago
All of which is to say: If this is more than a small sample and Cespedes actually has evolved in his approach at the plate, it only strengthens his case as the No. 1 free agent in the class of 2016-17 following the Washington Nationals spending $175 million to remove the incumbent, Stephen Strasburg. Cespedes’ case is strong: He is among the best hitters in the class, at 30 years old he’s a few years younger than the better bats, he has acquitted himself well enough in center field and this is the worst free agent pitching class since perhaps 2007, when Carlos Silva received the only multiyear deal among starters.
If last year’s $2.5 billion offseason showcased MLB’s largesse, this class offers teams an ability to show some discipline. Because it’s not that …
1. Yoenis Cespedes is unworthy of sitting atop a free agent list. It’s just, well, here are the best players from the last five Ultimate Free Agent Trackers:
5. Carlos Gomez was going to turn into a pumpkin like this?
And the unlikeliest of all may be …
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago
At some point this season, Julio Urias will arrive in Los Angeles, the finest pitching prospect to wear a Dodgers uniform since some kid named Kershaw came up in 2008 to the sort of breathless hype he somehow managed to exceed. Those were the nascent days of prospect fetishizing. Now it's a full-on industry and Urias is its pure embodiment.
From the moment he played full-season minor league ball as a 16-year-old, he was different: preternaturally confident, unnaturally talented beyond his years like a particularly supple new vintage that tastes a couple decades old. The Dodgers let him ripen even more, and here he is now, throwing six-inning no-hitters at Triple-A that ended only because the Dodgers needed to return the 19-year-old to his glass case.
It would feel wrong if anyone else led off the year's first Prospect Heat Check, a look around the minor leagues at who's hot, who's not and who's next. Urias' arrival isn't necessarily imminent, but it will happen at some point this season – maybe, The Los Angeles Times suggested, as a reliever – and soon enough that Kershaw comparison might not be as far-fetched as it seems.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago
Eight days before Bryce Harper got himself suspended for furrowing his brow, pointing at an umpire and unleashing a vitriolic F-bomb that TV cameras caught in all their high-definition glory, he was talking to me about the importance of his relationship with young baseball fans. In retrospect, it's an interesting conversation that shows the chasm between the place Harper is and where he wants to be.
In Harper's mind, he is the player trying to Make Baseball Fun Again. He is the most marketable player of his generation, the reigning MVP who happens to match his talent with a cool coif of hair and a big personality. All of these things are true. They do not exist in a vacuum, though. When you foist yourself into the center of a sport whose customs and traditions don't necessarily dovetail with your whole vibe, certain requirements exist. It's not kissing the ring so much as acknowledging who wears it and what it's going to take to win them over.
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Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago
The Nationals, Stephen Strasburg and the scar that traces his right elbow – and understand, the scar is more than your average accessory – finalized a seven-year, $175 million contract extension during Strasburg’s start Monday night. The deal will include opt-outs after the third and fourth seasons if the 27-year-old Strasburg decides to test the free-agent market.
Washington lavished enough cash on Strasburg to make what seemed like a free-agency fait accompli instead a monumental signing that smashed the previous record for a Tommy John recipient. Strasburg underwent the surgery during his rookie season in 2010, following his debut as a once-in-a-generation arm and preceding the 160-inning cap in 2012, his first full season back, that kept him out of the Nationals’ aborted playoff run.
So, in a nutshell: The Nationals guaranteed $175 million to a guy best known for the games he didn’t pitch.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago
Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals agreed on a seven-year, $175 million contract Monday, a league source told Yahoo Sports, wedding perhaps the most hyped pitching prospect in history to the team that drafted him and saw him through a controversial shutdown after his Tommy John surgery.
The news, first reported by The Washington Post, shocked a baseball industry that had expected Strasburg, 27, to test free agency this offseason. Instead, Strasburg agreed to a contract that makes him among the 10 highest-paid pitchers in history despite the injury issues that have limited him to just one 200-inning-plus season.
Strasburg was in the midst of his worst start of the season when the news of the deal, which a source said includes an opt-out after the third or fourth season, broke. The deal also includes a $1 million bonus for each year he throws at least 180 innings, the source said. Strasburg entered Monday’s game with a 2.36 ERA, 47 strikeouts and nine walks in 42 innings and just one home run allowed.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 16 days ago
No great unifying explanation seems to exist. Some are hard throwers who aren’t throwing as hard. Some have considerable mileage on their arms. Some are showing the vagaries of age. One, actually, is purposely not throwing as hard. Not all velo dips are the same, though all do raise eyebrows at a time when pitches zoom in faster than ever.
A year-over-year drop in April doesn’t necessarily portend doom. Pitchers can find their stuff in a snap. (See: Mat Latos, whose fastball averaged 91.4 mph in his last start after sitting at 89.3 mph for all of April.) The fear, of course, is that when fastball velo goes, it’s often for a permanent vacation. And while that, too, is far from a death sentence, it can force a pitcher to evolve on the fly, a task often fraught with peril.
The average April 2015-to-April 2016 velocity drop among starters with at least 20 innings in both years is about 0.3 mph – just as it was in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to PITCHf/x data carried by FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball. Generally, when the April-over-April drop exceeds 1 mph, it’s worth at least asking questions. And considering …
Gio Gonzalez -2.3
Kyle Hendricks -1.9
James Shields -1.8
Mike Pelfrey -1.6