Atlanta Braves Prospects Who Should Be Called Up in the Second Half

The Atlanta Braves (39-37) will be looking for a boost in the second half to propel them past the division-leading Washington Nationals (41-35).

Tommy La Stella has provided some much-needed production from the second base position following his late-May call-up.

However, the Braves still rank 14th in the National League in runs scored and 11th in average (.242).

Meanwhile, the pitching rotation became thinner with the serious elbow injury to Gavin Floyd.

General manager Frank Wren will be looking to boost his roster to ensure another playoff berth.

He will certainly test the trade market before the deadline but can also look within the organization at some of his prospects.

Here's a look at five guys who should get a call-up in the second half of the 2014 season.

 

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Because You’re Super: Personalized Superhero Action Figures

Personalised Superhero Action Figures

 

If you could be any superhero, who would you choose to be? The choices are limited when it comes to Firebox’s personalized superhero action figures, but they’re still awesome all the same. Guys can decide to be Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor, while the ladies can pick between being Catwoman or Wonder Woman.

The DIY kit contains a superhero action figure with its original head attached, epoxy putty, and a white tack. To truly make it your own, Firebox will print a model of your head in 3D and include it in the kit. All you have to do is take two pictures of your head (one front view and one side shot) and they’ll take care of the rest.


Personalised Superhero Action Figures2

Personalised Superhero Action Figures1

When you’re ready, just pop the original head off the action figure and replace it with your customized one. And voila–you’ve now got your own personalized superhero action figure.

The Personalized Superhero Action Figure kit is available from Firebox for £79.99 (about $136.)

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Holy Cool ]

The post Because You’re Super: Personalized Superhero Action Figures appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Predicting MLB Arrival Date of Each Prospect in the All-Star Futures Game

The baseball world is still buzzing following Tuesday’s announcement of the 2014 Futures Game rosters, as this year’s collection of talent will feature as many familiar names and fresh faces.

Trying to determine when a player might arrive in the major leagues is an important part of evaluating prospects, as it forces one to consider a player’s future potential in relation to his organization’s current outlook.

Though call-ups during the season tend to be at least partially tied to a player’s preseason development timeline, there also are many unexpected promotions that come from out of nowhere. (Marco Gonzales, anyone?)

So when can fans expect to see this year’s Futures Game selections in the major leagues? Here’s a breakdown of each team’s roster complete with ETAs for every player.

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Looking Inside the Numbers of MLB’s First Half of 2014

So, maybe not everybody has realized this yet, but the 2014 Major League Baseball season is already pretty much at the halfway point.

Yup. We've come that far. But rather than lament how we only have so much baseball left before a long, dark, cold winter, let's be more productive by taking stock of what's happened so far in 2014.

This being baseball, the best lessons and coolest tidbits are found in numbers. So that's where our focus is going to be, specifically on a dozen storylines involving super-interesting league and player trends.

Ready your calculators, spreadsheets and thinking caps, and follow me this way...

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked and are current through play on Monday, June 23.

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Report Cards for Every MLB Team at the Midseason Mark

With the 2014 Major League Baseball season careening toward the halfway point, it's time to take stock of what has happened thus far and grade each of the 30 teams. Heading into the last week of June, more than 66 percent of the league could legitimately be called contenders, speaking to the parity and even play throughout the sport. 

The report cards that follow include a rundown of what each team has been doing well, where they have room to grow as well as an overall grade for the first half of the season.

Half of the season still remains to be played, allowing for significant shifts to the narrative, franchise-changing trades and unexpected contributors to emerge down the stretch of the summer. 

Here is how all 30 teams grade out at the halfway point of the regular season. 

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects After Week 12

We're nearly halfway through the 2014 season, and the Boston Red Sox look more and more like they'll be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline this year.

On the one hand, it will be disappointing to see the reigning champs sell off veteran pieces and attempt to regroup for a run in 2015. On the other hand, freeing up some roster space could create new opportunities for many of the organization's top prospects and let fans catch a glimpse of many high-profile youngsters.

This week, the top of Boston's prospect rankings remains unchanged, but there's significant movement at the bottom, where one former first-rounder falls while another rises.

 

Players who have exceeded 130 PA or 50 innings pitched in the majors are not eligible for these rankings. All stats as of June 23, 2014.

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Updating the Top 100 MLB Players at 2014’s Midseason

We have reached what can be considered roughly the midway point of the 2014 MLB season, and that means it's time for an updated look at the top 100 players in the game.

When putting this list together in the preseason and at the one-quarter mark, the rankings were established using a mixture of past performance, current performance and future expectations. 

Now that there is a big enough sample size to get an idea of who everyone really is here in 2014, this time around, the rankings will simply be a reflection of 2014 performance.

Guys like reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, recent 500-home run club member Albert Pujols and living legend Derek Jeter? Nowhere to be found on the following list.

It's not about reputation, it's about production in 2014. Nothing else.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and cover games through Monday, June 23. All injury and contract information via MLBDepthCharts team pages.

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Ian Kinsler Finding Sweet Success with Tigers After Bitter Rangers Departure

Some breakups are amicable, some less so.

File Ian Kinsler's split with the Texas Rangers firmly in the "less so" category.

When Texas traded Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder this offseason, the second baseman and three-time All-Star had some choice words for his former club.

"I hope they go 0-162," he told ESPN The Magazine

In the same piece, Kinsler called Rangers owner Jon Daniels "a sleazeball." Bridge officially burned.

"There was no remorse from the Rangers," Kinsler said of the decision to cut him loose after eight productive seasons. "They did not care."

Kinsler showed no remorse on Tuesday night in his return to Arlington.

Playing for the first time in front of his old home crowd, where he was greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers, Kinsler sent the third pitch he saw from Texas starter Colby Lewis over the left-field wall.

How much did he enjoy the moment?

Put it this way: Cameras caught Kinsler waving in the direction of the Rangers' dugout as he rounded the bases, possible future chin-music be damned.

Kinsler wound up going 2-for-5 with three RBI in his much-anticipated homecoming. More importantly, the Tigers won 8-2 and extended their lead over the surprising Kansas City Royals to three games.

The win was, no doubt, especially sweet for Kinsler. After a bitter exit from Texas, he's found plenty of sweetness in the Motor City.

Entering play Wednesday, Kinsler is hitting .295 with nine home runs and 38 RBI.

Plus, he says, he's content with his new team—and at peace with the way his Rangers tenure ended.

"I'm over it. I'm past it, I've moved on," he told ESPNDallas.com. "I'm a Detroit Tiger and happy to be where I'm at." (He added he has "nothing to say" to Daniels, indicating a reconciliation is not in the cards.)

Surely, though, it must give Kinsler some extra pleasure, some share of schadenfreude, to witness the Rangers' plight.

Entering the season, Texas was a favorite to win the American League West, due in no small part to the Fielder acquisition. 

Yet here the Rangers sit, 35-41, 11.5 games out and on a six-game losing streak.

Mostly that's due to injuries, including Fielder's season-ending neck surgery. No player wishes harm on anyone—that's just tempting the baseball gods—but as of now the Kinsler-for-Fielder swap is working out in Detroit's favor.

Interestingly, Kinsler's former and current teams have each recently suffered multiple gut-wrenching World Series defeats. 

In fact, the Rangers (2010 and 2011) and the Tigers (2006 and 2012) have been on the losing end of four of the last eight Fall Classics. 

Taking his new club to the promised land after narrowly missing twice with Texas would, obviously, be the ultimate revenge for Kinsler. The cherry on top of his schadenfreude sundae. 

In the meantime, he's focused on contributing. Kinsler dropped weight in the offseason, hoping to regain the form that saw him hit 32 home runs in 2011. And he has been hitting the ball with authority, particularly of late.

After batting .331 in May, Kinsler has hit .360 with a pair of home runs over the past week.

Said Detroit skipper Brad Ausmus of his new player, per the Dallas Morning News:

Kins has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve really enjoyed having him around. He’s a blue-collar player, a baseball rat. He never takes a day off, mentally or physically. If you ask his teammates, they love having him on the team. If you ask the pitchers, they love having him behind them on defense. And they all love having him in the lineup. He’s endeared himself to the team with both his play and his personality.

More than anything, Kinsler seems to be benefiting from a change of scenery.

"In Texas, it was almost like my team," he said in his controversial ESPN The Magazine interview. "I go to Detroit, and it's [Miguel Cabrera's] team, it's [Justin] Verlander's team. I'm just a ballplayer. I can just go play and have fun." 

If fun is waving ironically at your old teammates after a round-tripper and rubbing it in your former GM's face, Kinsler is having it.

The breakup may not have been amicable, but so far the rebound relationship is working out well.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Previewing the New York Mets’ Run into the All-Star Break

With 18 games left before the MLB All-Star break, the New York Mets are bottom-feeders in the NL East and just half a game ahead of the last-place Philadelphia Phillies.

There are glimmers of hope for the Mets, however, to remind fans that the season has plenty left to look forward to—Tuesday's 10-1 interleague victory over the Oakland A's, for instance.

Behind a stellar performance from former Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon (8-5, 3.67 ERA), the Mets saw their bats come alive in the blowout, which featured two home runs from an otherwise slumping Chris Young, as well as bombs from Curtis Granderson and Travis d'Arnaud, playing in his first game with the team after a brief trip to the minor leagues.

"They’re starting to hit," said Bill Maher on the June 23 episode of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Maher is a Mets fan and partial team owner. "I'm telling you, weirder things have happened. Remember the '69 Mets?"

Host Jon Stewart, a lifelong Mets fan, proceeded to recall the 1973 Mets team that was 12 games below .500 with only 44 games left. They went on to win the NL East title with a record of just 82-79 behind legendary pitcher Tug McGraw's "You Gotta Believe" campaign.

Their .509 winning percentage may have been one of the lowest of any pennant-winner in the modern-era MLB, but they still somehow found their way to the World Series.

Due to the fact that, much like the '73 Mets, the 2014 Mets play in a division plagued with poor performances, Stewart said he believes they could end up with a similar fate. Maher agreed, stating that this year's Mets are a "come from behind" team like their predecessors.

Some fans are beginning to wonder if the front office will pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal that will help them reach these lofty expectations. 

Daniel Murphy, the Mets second baseman—who is currently enjoying a career season in several offensive categories—has reportedly gained trade interest from teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Francisco Giants.

Murphy currently leads Mets regulars in batting average (.300) and runs scored (48). Packaged with the right pitching prospect, Murphy could help the club land a long-coveted slugger like Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez.

Sources close to the organization, however, maintain that this kind of trade would be fairly unlikely from general manager Sandy Alderson, according to Andy Martino of The New York Daily News

Team insiders acknowledge that a signature deal is unlikely to occur, and that the vision for contention under Alderson looks more like Oakland and Tampa Bay than the 2000 Mets: Keep most of the high-end pitching, and construct an offense around more interchangeable pieces.

This means that—despite their record moving toward the All-Star break, and the fact that they fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens after losing 5-3 to Pittsburgh on Monday—the Mets hope to be looked at as "contenders" rather than "sellers" in the 2014 trade market and beyond.

It's possible they already have some of the tools they'll need.

Murphy's on-base percentage has improved thus far this season: He is at .355, and he finished 2013 at .319, and he is even on pace for a 200-hit season.

With 10 home runs and a slugging percentage of .459, Lucas Duda seems to have found a bit of the power scouts saw in him. Despite his age, Colon has a team-leading eight wins, and young Zack Wheeler leads Mets pitchers with 87 strikeouts. He also threw his first career shutout June 19.

"You stay positive, you stay upbeat, have some fun, get the guys ready to play, and go out and play hard and see if you can win," manager Terry Collins told Adam Rubin of ESPN.com

Take, for example, the latest success of the Kansas City Royals. After a nine-game winning streak, they overtook first place in the AL Central from Detroit on June 18. It was the latest in the season they had held the top spot in the division since 2003.

Though the Tigers' recent surge has them back at the top of the division, it's a good illustration that anything can happen with this much time left in the regular season.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Mets only have a 3.3 percent to 4.2 percent chance of making the playoffs as it stands with 85 games left. But that's not what the club should be focusing on.

Right now, it's important to take a season like this one day at a time. That means that there's no rush to move Noah Syndergaard up to the majors if he's not ready, and there's no rush to ship Daniel Murphy out of town if they like his production. 

If the Mets play well with the cards that they've been dealt, they could start to win enough games to put themselves in the playoff picture by the time All-Star break rolls around.

After their series with the A's, they have two entirely winnable series against the Pirates (39-38) and the Rangers (35-41).

In divisional play before the break, they have seven games against the Braves—considered one of the favorites in the NL East—and three against the Marlins, who are currently just two games ahead of the Mets in the division.

If the Mets perform well in the coming few weeks, the momentum could lead them to be taken seriously heading into the second half of the season.

If they fall on their face, it could be yet another long season in Queens.

Click here to follow @BryanKalbrosky on Twitter

All statistics and standings are current through the games of June 24, 2014.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Previewing the New York Mets’ Run into the All-Star Break

With 18 games left before the MLB All-Star break, the New York Mets are bottom-feeders in the NL East and just half a game ahead of the last-place Philadelphia Phillies.

There are glimmers of hope for the Mets, however, to remind fans that the season has plenty left to look forward to—Tuesday's 10-1 interleague victory over the Oakland A's, for instance.

Behind a stellar performance from former Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon (8-5, 3.67 ERA), the Mets saw their bats come alive in the blowout, which featured two home runs from an otherwise slumping Chris Young, as well as bombs from Curtis Granderson and Travis d'Arnaud, playing in his first game with the team after a brief trip to the minor leagues.

"They’re starting to hit," said Bill Maher on the June 23 episode of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Maher is a Mets fan and partial team owner. "I'm telling you, weirder things have happened. Remember the '69 Mets?"

Host Jon Stewart, a lifelong Mets fan, proceeded to recall the 1973 Mets team that was 12 games below .500 with only 44 games left. They went on to win the NL East title with a record of just 82-79 behind legendary pitcher Tug McGraw's "You Gotta Believe" campaign.

Their .509 winning percentage may have been one of the lowest of any pennant-winner in the modern-era MLB, but they still somehow found their way to the World Series.

Due to the fact that, much like the '73 Mets, the 2014 Mets play in a division plagued with poor performances, Stewart said he believes they could end up with a similar fate. Maher agreed, stating that this year's Mets are a "come from behind" team like their predecessors.

Some fans are beginning to wonder if the front office will pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal that will help them reach these lofty expectations. 

Daniel Murphy, the Mets second baseman—who is currently enjoying a career season in several offensive categories—has reportedly gained trade interest, according to NY Daily News, from teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Francisco Giants.

Murphy currently leads Mets regulars in batting average (.300) and runs scored (48). Packaged with the right pitching prospect, Murphy could help the club land a long-coveted slugger like Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez.

Sources close to the organization, however, maintain that this kind of trade would be fairly unlikely from general manager Sandy Alderson, according to Andy Martino of The New York Daily News

Team insiders acknowledge that a signature deal is unlikely to occur, and that the vision for contention under Alderson looks more like Oakland and Tampa Bay than the 2000 Mets: Keep most of the high-end pitching, and construct an offense around more interchangeable pieces.

This means that—despite their record moving toward the All-Star break, and the fact that they fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens after losing 5-3 to Pittsburgh on Monday—the Mets hope to be looked at as "contenders" rather than "sellers" in the 2014 trade market and beyond.

It's possible they already have some of the tools they'll need.

Murphy's on-base percentage has improved thus far this season: He is at .355, and he finished 2013 at .319, and he is even on pace for a 200-hit season.

With 10 home runs and a slugging percentage of .459, Lucas Duda seems to have found a bit of the power scouts saw in him. Despite his age, Colon has a team-leading eight wins, and young Zack Wheeler leads Mets pitchers with 87 strikeouts. He also threw his first career shutout June 19.

"You stay positive, you stay upbeat, have some fun, get the guys ready to play, and go out and play hard and see if you can win," manager Terry Collins told Adam Rubin of ESPN.com

Take, for example, the latest success of the Kansas City Royals. After a nine-game winning streak, they overtook first place in the AL Central from Detroit on June 18. It was the latest in the season they had held the top spot in the division since 2003.

Though the Tigers' recent surge has them back at the top of the division, it's a good illustration that anything can happen with this much time left in the regular season.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Mets only have a 3.3 percent to 4.2 percent chance of making the playoffs as it stands with 85 games left. But that's not what the club should be focusing on.

Right now, it's important to take a season like this one day at a time. That means that there's no rush to move Noah Syndergaard up to the majors if he's not ready, and there's no rush to ship Daniel Murphy out of town if they like his production. 

If the Mets play well with the cards that they've been dealt, they could start to win enough games to put themselves in the playoff picture by the time All-Star break rolls around.

After their series with the A's, they have two entirely winnable series against the Pirates (39-38) and the Rangers (35-41).

In divisional play before the break, they have seven games against the Braves—considered one of the favorites in the NL East—and three against the Marlins, who are currently just two games ahead of the Mets in the division.

If the Mets perform well in the coming few weeks, the momentum could lead them to be taken seriously heading into the second half of the season.

If they fall on their face, it could be yet another long season in Queens.

Click here to follow @BryanKalbrosky on Twitter

All statistics and standings are current through the games of June 24, 2014.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Stock Up, Stock Down for Oakland A’s Top 10 Prospects for Week 12

Three months into the 2014 season, it's time once again to check in on the top 10 Oakland A's prospects.

As a refresher, here's how each player looked after one week. The format will stay the same here. I've provided their prior stock watch (up, down or even) and this week's. I've looked at both the last 10 games as well as the season as a whole to see how they're doing overall and how they have been doing lately.

There are a few things you might notice.

For one, the top 10 prospects are all here this time. In the last edition, Dillon Overton was still recovering from an injury, so 11th-ranked prospect Michael Ynoa replaced him. Ynoa is out; Overton is in.

Another noticeable trend is that nearly everyone's stock changed—all but two that is.

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Oakland A’s Top 10 Prospects for Week 12

Three months into the 2014 season, it's time once again to check in on the top 10 Oakland A's prospects.

As a refresher, here's how each player looked after one week. The format will stay the same here. I've provided their prior stock watch (up, down or even) and this week's. I've looked at both the last 10 games as well as the season as a whole to see how they're doing overall and how they have been doing lately.

There are a few things you might notice.

For one, the top 10 prospects are all here this time. In the last edition, Dillon Overton was still recovering from an injury, so 11th-ranked prospect Michael Ynoa replaced him. Ynoa is out; Overton is in.

Another noticeable trend is that nearly everyone's stock changed—all but two that is.

Begin Slideshow

With Break Approaching, Pittsburgh Pirates Are Right Where They Want to Be

After reaching the postseason for the first time since 1992 in 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the 2014 regular season feeling good about the team's chances.

However, after a 12-20 start through the team's first 32 regular-season games, many were quick to write them off.

After defeating the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 6-5 Tuesday evening, the Pirates are back over the .500 mark at 39-38 for the first time since April 14, when they were 7-6.

The All-Star break is quickly approaching, and for a while, it didn't look like the Pirates would head into the break with a glimmer of hope.

Now, Pittsburgh is slowly climbing back into the playoff picture, as its victory Tuesday night put it just 3.0 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second wild-card spot.

The Pirates have now won five out of their last six games, as stellar pitching has kept the team in games.

Pittsburgh's pitching staff has allowed 19 runs in the past six games, which is good for an average of just over three runs per game. If that holds up throughout the second half of the season, the Pirates will be a tough team to beat.

Since former closer Jason Grilli was removed from his role at the back end of the bullpen, Mark Melancon has thrived, picking up three saves in the last five games.

The Pirates have also come up with some timely hitting to go along with the great pitching, squeezing out two one-run victories in the past six games.

Pittsburgh also received a major boost to the lineup Tuesday when second baseman Neil Walker was activated from the disabled list.

Walker went 0-for-3 in his first game back, but he did drive in a run. Walker is batting .277 on the season with 11 home runs, and he has become a dangerous force in Pittsburgh's lineup.

The highly anticipated arrival of top prospect Gregory Polanco finally came to an end on June 11 when he was called up to the majors. Since then, Polanco has hit safely in 13 of his first 14 games played.

Polanco is bursting onto the scene in many ways the same as Yasiel Puig did with the Dodgers in 2013 when he helped spark an incredible second half and led them into the playoffs.

He is proving that he belongs at the top of that lineup, and fans in Pittsburgh are hoping that he can provide that spark as well for the Pirates in 2014.

The Pirates are 7.5 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division, so there is a lot of ground to cover if they wish to win the division title.

However, the Pirates will be fully loaded in the second half of the season, and a 7.5-game lead can be erased in only about a week's worth of games. They have the pieces needed to make a run at the playoffs again in 2014, and this season is still very young for a team full of promise and potential.

 

*Statistics courtesy of MLB.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ian Kinsler Waves to His Former Rangers Teammates After Home Run

Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was traded from the Texas Rangers for Prince Fielder prior to the 2014 season, and on Tuesday night, Kinsler reminded them what they were missing. 

Kinsler homered to left field in his return to Arlington in the first inning, and then gave his former teammates a wave as he rounded the bases. 

The home run was Kinsler's ninth of the season.

[MLB]

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Second-Half Predictions for Every Cincinnati Reds Player

It only took until June, but the Cincinnati Reds are finally healthy. Now that they are, fans should expect some big things out of the team's star players.

The first half of Cincinnati's 2014 season has been plagued by numerous injuries. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Mat Latos have all missed time with injuries this season, and they are still working their way to get back to producing up to their capabilities. 

It should come as no surprise that the Reds have started to play better since getting healthy. They have been able to battle to get over .500 for the first time all year, and as everyone begins to get into a groove, they should be able to make a serious run at the postseason.

No matter how the first half went, each player will get a chance to finish the season on a good note with a strong second half. 

Due to recent roster moves, it's unclear who the 25th man on the roster will be moving forward. Note that only 24 players are on this list because they are the only ones who are projected to be a part of the team for most of the second half, barring injuries.

Keep reading to see projections for each Reds player in the second half of the 2014 season. 

*All stats are via MLB.com

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2014 MLB Futures Game Roster: Breaking Down Team USA and the World Team

The 25-man rosters for the 2014 Futures Game were released Tuesday, via MLB, giving fans an idea of which prospects will be suiting up for the U.S. and World teams on Sunday, July 13.

Since its introduction in 1999, the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game has evolved into the hidden gem of All-Star weekend.

The event offers fans a unique opportunity to watch baseball’s brightest prospects on the same field.

Each year the event serves as a stepping stone for prospects destined for greatness, as 22 players from last year’s game have already reached the major leagues.

Though some of the younger players are in the early stages of development, a majority of the participants in this year’s game are within striking distance of the major leagues and could potentially debut before the end of the season.

Here is a look at the 50 prospects selected to play for the U.S. and World teams in this year’s Futures Game.

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Hanley Ramirez Injury: Updates on Dodgers Star’s Shoulder and Return

Updates from Wednesday, June 25

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times confirms that Hanley Ramirez is not in today's lineup:

Original Text

Los Angeles Dodgers star shortstop Hanley Ramirez will miss Tuesday night's road game against the Kansas City Royals with an irritated AC joint in his shoulder.   

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported the news of Ramirez's ailment:

As the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin noted back on June 12, this shoulder seems to be a recurring problem for the three-time All-Star:

Ramirez has been getting dinged up lately. This nagging injury adds to the right ring finger contusion he suffered last week. Some speculation swirled that the finger contributed to Ramirez's throwing error that broke up Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's perfect game against the Colorado Rockies.

Such an excuse wasn't to be found from Ramirez after the game, though.

"Tough play, you know?" said Ramirez, per the Los Angeles Times' Everett Cook. "You just have to catch the ball and throw it. In that situation you would rather have the error than just let it go."

Kershaw will be getting his first start since throwing that no-hitter on Tuesday versus Kansas City. With the way Ramirez is now making headlines for yet another health setback, that Ramirez error is likely to be discussed a lot leading up to the game.

This also halts, at least for the time being, some recent momentum Ramirez generated in the batter's box, per the Dodgers' official Twitter account:

Part owner Magic Johnson has faith in his club when they're firing on all cylinders—and implicates Ramirez being at his best:

Sometimes MLB players tend to sit out with trivial injuries, or simply to get a day off. Having discomfort in a shoulder is rather excusable for Ramirez to ride the pine for the evening, though. He is too important to the Dodgers' cause moving forward that it's worth letting him rest the joint and hope that the irritation dies down soon.

Trailing the San Francisco Giants by just four games in the National League West, this figures to be a year-long race for the divisional crown. Although Ramirez is batting just .269, which pales in comparison to his full-season peak of .342 in 2009, he is hot recently at the dish. His fielding warrants criticism, yet Ramirez is still a key cog in LA's bid to contend for the World Series.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Grady Sizemore and Phillies Agree to Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Grady Sizemore's next stop in his attempted career resurrection has taken him to the Philadelphia Phillies. The three-time MLB All-Star signed a minor league contract with the organization and will report to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Thursday, per MLBRosterMoves:

According to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, Sizemore will have the option to opt out in July:

By now, most fans are aware of the 31-year-old's career trajectory. He was one of the most exciting players in the league with the Cleveland Indians from 2005 to 2008. Sizemore ran into injuries in 2009 and never fully kicked the problem.

The Boston Red Sox took a flier on him this year, but in 185 at-bats, he hit a meager .216 with two home runs and 15 RBI. The Red Sox designated him for assignment on June 17.

FanGraphs' David Cameron joked about the Phillies needing another player 30-plus years old with a checkered medical history:

Zachary D. Rymer of Bleacher Report echoed the sentiment, calling the move typical of general manager Ruben Amaro:

The last-place Phillies aren't exactly in a position of strength, though. When Sizemore was designated for assignment by the Red Sox, Ace of MLB Stats compared his slash line with that of Domonic Brown, who has started 73 games for Philadelphia:

At the very least, signing Sizemore, especially to a minor league deal, carries very little risk. Last year, nobody thought Scott Kazmir would be a viable starting pitcher for the Indians and then he went on to win 10 games and earn a nice contract with the Oakland Athletics in the offseason.

Sometimes, teams catch lightning in a bottle with oft-injured former All-Stars.  

Maybe Philadelphia is the right place at the right time for Sizemore and he returns somewhat to the player he was in his prime. If it doesn't work out, the Phillies have little invested financially and can let him go later in the year.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB System Check 2014: Cleveland Indians’ Top Prospects

The Cleveland Indians Systems Check video offers a quick overview of the team's farm system, addressing its strengths and weaknesses and how it can improve moving forward.

The video also provides a breakdown of the Tribe’s top prospects for 2014, shortstop Francisco Lindor and outfielders Clint Frazier and Tyler Naquin, including each player's ETA in the major leagues and potential long-term role within the organization.

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Let the Buyer Beware on David Price Blockbuster Trade This July

The Tampa Bay Rays are likely going to trade David Price in July. And when they do, they're likely going to get some really good stuff in return.

But here's a warning for all interested parties: Be careful on this one, man. Price is still a very good pitcher, but neither his present nor his future is as bright as his past.

A few days after Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote how it's becoming "increasingly obvious" that a Price trade is going to happen, ESPN's Buster Olney is saying rival officials believe the Rays are ready to deal "right now."

Olney cited additional sources who said the Rays "aren't actually close" to trading Price, mind you. Nonetheless, he is right in thinking that, thanks to the Rays' 31-47 record and Price's looming free agency after 2015, "the climate is right" for the 2012 American League Cy Young winner to be dealt.

As for the 28-year-old's value, the notion that Price has pitched better than his 3.81 ERA is already widespread. There are numbers that support this, starting with these from ESPN Stats & Info:

Price has earned his remarkable K/BB ratio. According to FanGraphs, he's throwing more first-pitch strikes, more pitches in the strike zone and getting more whiffs than he ever has as a starter.

And it's largely because of his K/BB ratio that Price fares a lot better in metrics that value strikeouts and walks when determining what a pitcher's ERA should be. Those include FIP, xFIP and SIERA, which agree that Price deserves better than a 3.81 ERA.

Via FanGraphs:

Ordinarily, I recommend taking these metrics' word for it when it comes to assessing a given pitcher's effectiveness. By focusing largely on strikeouts and walks, they focus on the two most important things a pitcher can control better than ERA does.

But Price is a special case. For all the stats that say he's perhaps never been harder to hit, a deeper dive says the exact opposite is the real truth.

We can begin with the obvious: Price's heat is not what it used to be. After a two-mile-per-hour drop in average fastball velocity in 2013, according to FanGraphs, Price's average velocity is down again to a career-low 92.9 miles per hour in 2014.

And while Olney noted that Price's velocity has gotten better, there's a catch to that. He did go from an average of 92.1 in March/April to 93.6 in May, but he is back down to 93.1 in June. Outside of May, he has indeed been working with career-worst fastball velocity in 2014.

It's to Price's credit that he's still been able to get whiffs with his hard stuff. In fact, there's a chart at Brooks Baseball that shows how all his pitches are experiencing increased whiff rates.

But there's also this one, which shows the rate at which Price's pitches have been turned into fly balls:

Focus on the black and gray lines. Those represent Price's four-seamer and sinker, otherwise known as the hard pitches he's using most often. Both have clearly been easier than usual to elevate in 2014.

This helps explain not only Price's diminished ground-ball habit, but his home run problem as well.

Price has already matched his 2012 and 2013 totals with 16 home runs allowed in 2014, and Brooks Baseball tells us seven homers of those homers have come on four-seamers and sinkers. This after giving up only six homers on those two pitches in all of 2013.

That Price's diminished velocity has something to do with this is a safe enough assumption. With his hard stuff generally coming across slower than before, hitters stand a better chance of squaring it up.

But that's not the only apparent problem that Price's diminished velocity is causing. It also appears to be impacting his offspeed stuff.

The whole point of offspeed pitches is to fool hitters. One way to do that is getting them off-balance. One thing that can do that job is good velocity differential between a pitcher's fast stuff and slow stuff.

And going off the velocity figures at FanGraphs, good velocity differential between his changeup and curveball and his heat is something Price is lacking in 2014:

The velocity differential between Price's heat and his changeup has never been smaller. The velocity differential between his heat and his curveball, meanwhile, is only slightly bigger than last year's low.

The lack of velocity differential between Price's heat and hook cost him last year, and it's costing him again in 2014:

Meanwhile, things aren't much better with Price's changeup:

Further compounding matters is that Price isn't putting these pitches out of reach. After accounting for just 7.5 percent of his pitches between 2009 and 2012, BaseballSavant.com says changeups and curves inside the strike zone have accounted for 12.0 percent of Price's pitches in 2013 and 2014.

And so far this year, opponents are hitting Price's changeups and curves in the strike zone at a .383 clip with a .728 slugging percentage and seven home runs. He's thus being burned not just by diminished stuff, but by predictability as well.

[As a side note, by pal Jake Dal Porto has more on what's going on with Price's changeup over at Beyond the Box Score.]

All told, there's a pretty good picture of why Price's 3.81 ERA is actually an accurate measure of his effectiveness. His diminished velocity is a problem with both his hard stuff (obviously) and his slow stuff, and his over-willingness to throw his slow stuff in the strike zone isn't helping.

Now, granted, a pitcher who can maintain an ERA at 3.81 or thereabouts is hardly a lost cause. There are a lot of teams that could stand to add a guy like that, especially one who eats innings seemingly by the dozen. Whoever trades for Price will be acquiring an asset for a playoff push. No question about it.

Any team that makes a deal for Price expecting to get a true ace in return, however, is likely to be disappointed.

Convincing Price to throw more offspeed pitches outside the zone can be done, but his old velocity is likely only going to be there in spurts. There's no fixing that, and living with it will mean having to live with more hard-hit balls than Price gave up in his glory days.

And that's just this year. Remember, whoever trades for Price will have him in 2015, too. And at the rate he's going, the diminished talents he has now at age 28 are going to be even more diminished at age 29.

Buyers should be interested, but buyers should also beware.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

 

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