A’s Sam Fuld Throws out Runner at Home Plate vs. Royals, Does a Barrel Roll

Oakland Athletics center fielder Sam Fuld had one of the most impressive plays of his career on Saturday.

During the fourth inning in a game against the Kansas City Royals, the 32-year-old Fuld caught a line drive in center field, then proceeded to throw a laser to home plate, doing a barrel roll in the process. The throw ended up getting to catcher Derek Norris just before Alex Gordon, who was tagged out at home plate.

[MLB.com]

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Paul Goldschmidt Injury: Updates on Diamondbacks Star’s Hand and Return

Updates from Sunday, August 3

Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com reported on Paul Goldschmidt's injury:

Original Text

While the Arizona Diamondbacks have struggled this season, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has certainly been one of the team's brightest spots. Unfortunately, according to a tweet from the team's official Twitter account, he'll be out of commission for a while due to a fractured left hand:  

Goldschmidt suffered the injury during Friday's 9-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, as pitcher Ernesto Frieri hit the All-Star first baseman in the hand with a 93-mph fastball in the ninth inning.

After toughing it out through the remainder of the game, Goldschmidt spoke about the incident during a press conference, via Adam Lichtenstein of MLB.com:

I've never had any broken bones or fractures or anything like that. It felt OK, but obviously there's still some pain because it hit it pretty good. I don't know what it would feel like if it was or wasn't anything wrong with it. ...

... It's part of the game, getting hit, so I'm going to stay positive and think it'll be OK. I guess we'll find out, hopefully tomorrow. But it's jut part of the game. This stuff happens, and hopefully it's not broken.

Well, the results weren't exactly comforting, as he'll now begin a stint on the disabled list while he recovers.

Jack Magruder of Fox Sports Arizona weighed in on what the injury means for the Diamondbacks:

Through 109 games played this season, Goldschmidt is batting .300 while accumulating 122 hits, 39 doubles, one triple, 19 home runs and 69 RBI. That kind of production will be difficult to replace.

Alfredo Marte will attempt to fill some big shoes. However, he got off to a glowing start earlier this season against the Philadelphia Phillies, per Steve Gilbert of MLB.com:

We'll see if he can recapture that magic in Goldschmidt's stead.

With the Diamondbacks currently 14 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, don't expect to see Goldschmidt rushed back to action, as the team will want to ensure he's able to make a full recovery.

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David Ross Injury: Updates on Red Sox Catcher’s Foot and Return

Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross left as quickly as he returned and has been placed on the 15-day disabled list after aggravating an injury Friday.

The team confirmed the news on Twitter and detailed further roster shuffling to make up for the lost production:

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald notes that the injury is a "rupture" but that the time span still calls for an optimistic outlook:

Interestingly enough, perhaps Lauber is on to something—Ross recently told the media, via Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com, that the injury would "feel a lot better" if it ruptured.

Now 37 years old, Ross has spent the past two seasons in Boston and performed as a solid platoon when not injured:

Friday, Ross returned against the New York Yankees for his first start since July 28 and had to leave the game in the seventh inning. His injury means 23-year-old Christian Vazquez—owner of a .250//295/.350 slash line—moves into a full-time starting role and provides some kick to the lineup at the plate.

Dan Butler also gets a shot at playing time after being called up and is happy about the opportunity, as noted by Tim Britton of the Providence Journal:

"I'm sure you guys have heard it every time everybody's come up: You can't explain how exciting this is," said Butler, who was recalled with David Ross landing on the 15-day disabled list. "It's a real exciting time for me right now."

For the 49-60, fifth-place Red Sox, the injury may prove to be a blessing in disguise as younger players get shots to prove their worth as the front office eyes next season.

With no indication based on recent trades that this is a long-term rebuild, the more young guys given a chance, the merrier. Perhaps a proverbial diamond in the rough will be unearthed as a result.

 

Follow Chris_Roling on Twitter

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Paul Maholm Injury: Updates on Dodgers Pitcher’s Knee and Recovery

Updates from Sunday, August 3

Michael Lalanna and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has the latest on Maholm from the pitcher himself:

Maholm said he meets with Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday to get the official course of treatment, but he knows his season is over and expects to undergo reconstructive surgery, followed by a long recovery.

"It is what it is," said Maholm, using crutches to get around. "I've been through worse. I expect to be normal in whatever the necessary time is. It's not breaking news."

Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register has the latest on Maholm's knee issue:

Original Text

The NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers received some bad news on Saturday, as the team's official Twitter account reported pitcher Paul Maholm's MRI revealed an ACL tear:  

Bleacher Report's Scott Miller has an update on Maholm and the Dodgers' corresponding roster move:

Maholm suffered his injury on Friday during an 8-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. In the early hours on Saturday morning, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported the injury as it happened:

After the game, manager Don Mattingly feared the worst during a press conference, via Michael Lananna of MLB.com:

"Paul's is the one that's pretty serious, it seems, like the way he came off the field and was moving around. He felt it the step before he got to the bag. He was walking good, but then we he got to the steps, it kind of gave out."

Now, roughly 13 hours later, the pitcher's season is all but over.

In his first year with the Dodgers, Maholm hasn't quite lived up to expectations. He's currently holding a 4.84 ERA, allowing 82 hits and 44 runs while striking out 34 batters in 70.1 innings pitched. He started eight games this season, earning a record of 1-5.

The injury comes at a terrible time for Los Angeles, as the team is already thin in the pitching department. Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register sure thinks so:

Despite Maholm's struggles, this injury should quickly put the Dodgers on the market for another southpaw reliever, should he opt for season-ending surgery, while the team continues its bid for the postseason.

For Maholm, it will be a long road back to full fitness following such a devastating injury.

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Detroit Tigers: Why Justin Verlander Is the Key to a Deep Playoff Run

Poised to win the American League Central for the fourth consecutive year, the Detroit Tigers' fortunes this October will rest squarely on the right arm of one Justin Brooks Verlander. 

Admittedly, that's a bold statement, especially when you consider Detroit's $164 million roster includes the likes of 2012-13 MVP Miguel Cabrera, 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, 2013 A.L. ERA leader Anibal Sanchez, five-time All Star Victor Martinez and new arrival David Price, who happened to win the Cy Young in 2012.

But Verlander is the Tigers' No. 1 starter. Their Big Dawg. Their hombre. Their bouncer. Their ace. And to win in October you need an ace.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, Verlander has done everything this season but pitch like an ace. In fact, his 4.66 ERA this season is more than a full run higher than any of the Tigers' other starters, and his WHIP of 1.42 also ranks as the worst among his rotation mates. Those are definitely not results the Tigers' front office envisioned when it gave Verlander a seven-year, $180 million extension last year in the hope he would be the horse the organization could ride to its first world championship since 1984.

It's imperative Verlander rights the ship before the start of the playoffs for three reasons. First, the rest of the Tigers' rotation does not eat enough innings to compensate for the team's weak, overworked bullpen, which will leave Detroit vulnerable in the late innings against playoff-caliber offenses like the A's, Angels and Orioles

Price is a horse, but in Scherzer and Sanchez, (we'll assume No. 5 starter Rick Porcello will head to the bullpen in the playoffs), manager Brad Ausmus has two capable starters who've averaged only 6.1 innings per start since the beginning of last season. This means Ausmus will be relying on the bullpen to get eight highly leveraged outs in what will likely be razor-tight pitching duels where one misplaced fastball or hanging curve could have disastrous results.

Let's look at Detroit's bullpen for a second. Closer Joe Nathan has enjoyed a stellar career with 363 saves and a 2.88 ERA, but this year he's already blown five saves in just 27 attempts, and his ERA is a bloated 5.45. 

Setup man Joba Chamberlain has had an excellent season, but he's just two years removed from Tommy John surgery and on pace to nearly equal his personal best of 73 appearances in a season. 

Right-hander Al Albuquerque has also posted good numbers this season; However, his heavy workload may already be affecting his dynamite stuff. His FIP, per Baseball-Reference.com, of 4.32 suggests his current ERA of 3.26 will rise and his K/9 of 10.5 is his worst mark by almost two full strikeouts.   

Finally, left-handed specialists Ian Krol and Phil Coke's aggregate ERA and WHIP of 4.77 and 1.60, respectively, have caused Ausmus to reach for the Rolaids on more than one occasion this season.

Recently acquired Joakim Soria is solid, but even after his arrival from Texas, Detroit's bullpen will still be a little short. This is where Verlander comes in. Vintage Verlander—assume the 2012 model when he had a 2.64 ERA to go along with a 1.06 WHIP and averaged 7.1 innings per start—would give his manager the luxury of saving his beleaguered bullpen for other games when an eight-out effort will be necessary to achieve a win.

The second reason why Detroit needs Verlander to return to form is that he and his fellow starters must mask an inconsistent offense. Although Detroit's 495 runs scored ranks fourth in the A.L., and its OPS of .765 paces the junior circuit, the Tigers' offense has gone in the tank for extended stretches this season and has been particularly susceptible to power pitching. 

For example, during a 9-17 stretch from May 19 through June 18, Detroit faced hard throwers like Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Drew Hutchison and Chris Sale and hit only .258, or 20 points below their full-season average.

It will only get tougher in October, when the Tigers will probably have to face the likes of Gray (remember his eight shutout innings in Game 2 of the AL Division Series last year?), Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija, Felix Hernandez and Garrett Richards multiple times in a series. Detroit will need its starters to bring their "A" games for such matchups, meaning Verlander pitching like he has for most of this year simply won't cut it.

The Tigers' poor defense is the final reason why Verlander will need to regain his old magic once the leaves start to change color. Although second baseman Ian Kinsler and rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez make a solid double play combination, Cabrera and Nick Castellanos offer below-average range at the corners. And Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez, who has earned a starting job because of his hot bat, are among the A.L.'s worst outfielders according to Baseball-Reference.com's UZR rankings.

Simply put, Detroit's starters will need as many strikeouts as possible to negate the team's porous defense. While Scherzer, with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, has actually improved his pace from last season, Sanchez's and Verlander's K/9 are down significantly. Verlander's drop—from 8.9 in 2012 to a pedestrian 6.6 this year—is particularly alarming and will have to be improved.

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‘The Dude’ Abides by Throwing out First Pitch at Dodgers Game

Before the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the Chicago Cubs on Friday night, they invited quite a special guest to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Jeff Bridges, the actor who played Jeffrey Lebowski, or "The Dude" in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, tossed the first pitch. Before throwing a legitimate pitch, Bridges decided to bowl the ball to home plate as a tribute to the film.

[MLB.com]

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How the 2014 MLB Playoff Races Have Been Reshaped Heading into August

With the trade deadline now passed and the calendar switching over to August, we have officially reached the stretch run of the 2014 MLB season.

The entire MLB landscape has been wide open this season, and after one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent memory, the final two months of the year should be awfully exciting.

No division lead is bigger than four games entering play Saturday, and a grand total of 21 teams are within six games of a playoff spot, as parity has certainly reigned in both leagues here in 2014.

What follows is a quick division-by-division rundown of how each division race is shaping up heading into August.

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Yasiel Puig Avoids Getting Tagged Out at Home, Scores Run vs. Cubs

Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig is known for making some crazy highlight plays. And while this one didn't make much of a difference in the final score, it was still pretty impressive.

In the bottom of the sixth inning of Friday night's game against the Chicago Cubs, Hanley Ramirez hit a ground ball to third. On the resulting double-play attempt, Puig kept running past third base and charged toward home plate. After sliding past Welington Castillo, Puig faked him out to touch home and score a run.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the run only cut their deficit to six in an 8-2 loss.

[MLB.com, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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MLB Waiver Wire 2014: Teams That Will Use August Trade Deadline for Playoff Push

Although the July 31 trade deadline has passed, the activity across major league baseball is not yet finished.

The past week saw a number of blockbuster deals, including Jon Lester going to the Oakland Athletics and David Price being sent to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-team deal. All of these trades were completed before the non-waiver deadline.

Fortunately, front offices are still able to make moves to improve their teams over the next month if they go through waivers. A player has to be made available to the 29 other organizations before he is able to be traded. If he is claimed, the team has a choice to either complete a deal with that team or pull him back off waivers.

As a result, this period mostly features veterans with large contracts being dealt, as no one will want to take on more money.

Despite these obstacles, there are a few teams that can use an upgrade before August 31.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have one of the best teams in the National League, but it will be hard to compete for a playoff spot without upgrading the rotation.

Pittsburgh ranks just 10th in the NL in starter ERA, and there is simply no ace capable of taking control when needed. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted earlier in the week that Lester would have been an excellent addition:

Meanwhile, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Pirates were in the running for Price:

In the end, the squad was unable to bring in either of these players and are left with a rotation that will have to exceed expectations just to keep up with the rest of the league. Gerrit Cole should be returning soon, but the team could use a veteran capable of leading the group into the postseason.

Fortunately, there are players who fit this description and could be on the move in August. One of them is a familiar face in A.J. Burnett. The 37-year-old pitcher accumulated a 3.41 ERA over the past two years in Pittsburgh and could be had without giving up too much in the form of prospects.

Bob Pompeani of KDKA notes that Burnett is just one option from the NL East who could help:

Bartolo Colon has been inconsistent this season, but he is an experienced pitcher who can be a difference-maker in the final few months of the year. The added cost to the payroll would be worth it for a shot at contention.

 

San Francisco Giants

Second base has been a black hole for the Giants this season. From Brandon Hicks to Joe Panik to Dan Uggla, not much has worked at the position.

Heading into the trade deadline, the squad ranked dead last in the majors with a .176 batting average from second basemen.

Despite this obvious problem, general manager Brian Sabean did not feel the need to make a deal, via John Shea of SFGate.com:

I’ve done this a long time, and I feel as good about not getting something done as any year we’ve done something....We just couldn’t execute the deal based on what the ask was. A lot of that had to do with too many buyers in the market, and we’d do the same thing if we were on the other side of the fence. (Teams) held out to the very end to get what we weren’t willing to give up.

Although a deal was not completed this week, Sabean has not ruled out a potential move before the August deadline.

Daniel Murphy represents a potential option, especially if the New York Mets start to fall down the standings in the next few weeks. However, it might take a decent package for the team to part with its only All-Star in 2014.

Another potential target is Aaron Hill, but he also comes with a $24 million price tag over the next two seasons. The good news is this almost guarantees that he will not be claimed on waivers.

If the Giants are willing to take on this salary, though, the Arizona Diamondbacks would likely be ready to part with the second baseman.

 

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have one of the best lineups, a solid rotation and an improved bullpen. However, this still might not be enough to keep up with the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.

Adding Lester to an already excellent rotation could make the A's almost unbeatable in the postseason. If the Angels want to win this season, they will need to add weapons to the arsenal.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times notes that the current pitching battle is not even close between the two:

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported a week before the non-waiver deadline that the squad did not want to make a move that would cost prospects:

The good news is this period could allow a team to acquire a player without giving up high-level prospects. The key factor is the willingness to take on an elevated contract, which the Angels apparently have the ability to do.

One possible option is Cole Hamels, who ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required) believes should dealt this month:

The Phillies should at least have a conversation with the claiming team about what they would offer in trade. By the time the Phillies are really good again -- maybe in the last years of this decade -- Hamels will either be overvalued in his salary or he will be retired. They might as well swap him for prospects to accelerate the franchise turnaround. 

While he is under contract through the 2018 season, it might not be the worst thing for the Angels to bring in a player who still has some great pitching left in him.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Follow TheRobGoldberg on Twitter

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Grading the Cleveland Indians’ Trade Deadline Performance

The Cleveland Indians were one of the more active teams at the July 31 trade deadline.

The club entered the deadline in a curious position, sitting 6.5 games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers and five games back of the final AL wild-card spot. Without all the necessary pieces to make a serious run at the division, the Tribe chose to ship off two of their more high-profile players.

Justin Masterson was the first to go, and the club moved him to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielder James Ramsey.

The second deal saw Asdrubal Cabrera move to the Washington Nationals in exchange for infielder Zach Walters.

Neither deal was groundbreaking in any way, but we'll take an in-depth look at both trades and grade them, and we'll also grade the team's performance at the deadline as a whole. Let's get started.

 

Indians Get: James Ramsey, Cardinals Get: Justin Masterson

It doesn't seem like the Indians were ever actually going to extend Masterson. There were numerous reports throughout the season that the two sides had discussed an extension, but nothing major came out of those talks. Because of that, dealing Masterson was the best thing the team could do.

Unfortunately for the front office, the 29-year-old pitched the Indians right out of a much bigger return package by posting a 5.51 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP over his first 19 starts in 2014. Where teams like the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox were able to bring in big returns for some of their pitchers, the Indians had to settle for Ramsey and Ramsey only.

Ramsey earns high marks for his IQ and leadership qualities. The 24-year-old was captain of the Florida State University baseball team and was also a Rhodes Scholar nominee, per the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

As far as his abilities on the field are concerned, he is average across the board and has the potential for a plus run tool.

At the plate, Ramsey and his future present a little more of a question mark. He sees the ball very well and draws walks at an above-average rate, with a 12.6 percent walk rate in the minors. He also strikes out quite a bit, though, averaging a 24 percent strikeout rate in 1,024 minor league plate appearances.

Because of this, Ramsey is an inconsistent hitter. He's had a lot of success this season, slashing .300/.389/.527 through 281 plate appearances, but his 23.5 percent strikeout rate shows that things haven't changed all that much.

Ramsey has shown some decent pop for a center fielder, logging 16 and 13 home runs in 2013 and 2014, respectively. At the big league level, the young outfielder doesn't figure to hit for as much power, however, and should be more of a gap hitter.

His immediate big league future is that of a fourth outfielder. The Indians have a bevy of outfield prospects ahead of him in terms of natural ability, but Ramsey is the second-closest outfielder in relation to a big league call-up.

If he's able to stick in center field and hit somewhere near 10 home runs a season, he could profile well as a starting center fielder and No. 2 hitter on an average team.

Grade: B

 

Indians Get: Zach Walters, Nationals Get: Asdrubal Cabrera

Realistically, the Indians should have traded Asdrubal Cabrera after his All-Star campaign in 2012. With free agency just two years away, Cabrera staked himself out to a .270/.338/.423 slash line with 16 home runs, 68 RBI, 70 runs scored and a 90/52 K/BB ratio.

Since then, the veteran shortstop has been trending downward, posting a .244/.301/.395 slash line over 978 plate appearances between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Cabrera's abysmal performance in the last two seasons hurt his trade value significantly. The shortstop market ended up being much thinner than once projected, and with players like Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and others staying put, he would have commanded a much higher return package.

Instead, from the Nationals, the Indians were able to get shortstop (and sometimes third base) Zach Walters.

Walters ranked as the Nationals' No. 14 prospect, according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He has great pop, racking up at least 12 home runs in each of the last three minor league seasons. The 24-year-old fails to recognize as much of that power as he should, however, striking out at a 23.5 percent clip over the course of his minor league career.

If he continues to swing so freely at the big league level, Walters will get eaten alive by more advanced pitchers.

Defensively, the University of San Diego product is more of a project and requires some additional work if he's going to find a permanent home at either shortstop or third base. If he's able to improve his route-taking and also his first step (unlikely), then he could work as a starting shortstop.

The more likely path for Walters is that of a utility man—think Martin Prado but with less speed and maybe a bit more power.

The move is somewhat puzzling, though, as the Indians already possess a wealth of players with similar career paths. Even so, it cleared a spot for Francisco Lindor to be promoted in the very near future, and that's never a bad thing. 

Grade: C+

 

Overall 

It wasn't a great deadline by any means, but most of that wasn't the Indians' fault. They weren't likely to re-sign both Masterson and Cabrera—especially not Cabrera—so both moves were warranted.

In addition to that, the poor performances put forth by both players hurt their trade value, leaving the Indians with little wiggle room to acquire better prospects in exchange for expiring contracts.

Perhaps the most important result of either trade was the fact that the Indians were able to open up the starting shortstop gig for top prospect Francisco Lindor. The 20-year-old has torn up minor league pitching and ranks as the best defensive shortstop in the minor leagues.

Getting him some experience in a non-pressure situation will be key to his development, so the team should be commended for that.

All in all, it wasn't a great deadline, but it wasn't horrible, either.

Overall Grade: B-

 

*All stats current through play on August 1, 2014, and are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Jose Abreu Evolving from Home Run Freak Show to Next Great Triple Crown Threat

Jose Abreu can hit home runs. That much has been obvious from the moment he put on a big league uniform. But his talents, clearly, go well beyond the long ball.

Excitement has trailed the Cuban star since he inked a six-year, $68 million contract with the Chicago White Sox last fall. But his reputation, by and large, was that of a single-tool slugger.

Two-thirds of the way through his rookie MLB season, Abreu is shattering expectations.

After going 3-for-3 in Friday night's 10-8 win over the Minnesota Twins, Abreu owns a .310 batting average to go along with 31 home runs and 84 RBI. The latter two stats lead the American League, meaning Abreu is suddenly a Triple Crown threat.

He'd have to hike his average, but that's not beyond the realm of possibility considering he's currently on a 21-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 39 of his last 40 games, per MLB.com's Scott Merkin.

To their credit, the White Sox saw more than dingers when they signed Abreu.

"He's the only player that I've seen work out and then play in a game that I wanted to give a standing ovation to," Chicago Executive Vice President Ken Williams told Merkin in October 2013. "One of the things that we did not want to entertain was a guy who was just one dimensional. This guy is a hitter."

Unfortunately for the White Sox, and Abreu, his talents are being squandered on a club that's mired under .500 and essentially out of the playoff picture.

But that's this year. Going forward, Chicago has its hands on a legitimate, franchise-defining player. A guy you build around. A guy who belongs in the conversation with Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera and the AL's other top-tier talents.

He's certainly the prohibitive front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors. What about MVP? Is he in the running there?

White Sox skipper Robin Ventura thinks so.

"He is one of the best players in the league. That's a fact," Ventura told Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. "Whether people put him in it, I don't know, but I know he's up there with anybody that's running for it."

The most obvious comparison for Abreu is probably Cabrera, who has already ascended the Triple Crown mountain. 

Here's White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers on the two AL Central mashers, per Kane:

(Abreu is) not Miguel Cabrera, but he has a chance to be something like that. Every at-bat, every day, the way he works, that's how I imagine Miguel works. It seems like he has just as much power, and a similar kind of swing too. He can take balls in and drive them out to right-center. He doesn't seem to get fooled too often. He's a complete hitter.

Baseball is a game of adjustments. Just as Abreu has adjusted to big league pitching and carved out a reputation as one of the game's most exciting young hitters, so too will pitchers adjust to him. There will be slumps. There will be struggles.

For now, though, he's riding high. Hitting home runs, yes, but also doing much, much more.

Maybe it shouldn't be such a surprise. Here's Abreu himself, to Merkin last October:

So much has been said about my power and the home runs I hit, but more than hitting home runs, when I'm at the plate, my mindset is to make sure I do what's needed for the team, whatever is needed at that moment, whatever the team needs of me. That's my strategy of play. I'm not thinking of home runs more than anything, it's just delivering what I'm asked to do.

As he wraps up his first MLB campaign, he's unequivocally doing what's been asked—and then some.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Re-Ranking Chicago Cubs’ Top 10 Prospects After the Trade Deadline

This trade deadline, the Cubs added to an already loaded system of young talent. Even though they've yet to add any elite pitching prospects to the system, the team continues to claim it can build the pitching staff through trades and free agency. 

They better hope that plan works because almost every one of their top prospects is a hitter. It's a good bet that most of those players will eventually see time in the major leagues while a few will be shipped away for pitching. Here is what the team's top-10 prospect list looked like at the beginning of the 2014 season according to Baseball America.

1. SS Javier Baez

2. 3B Kris Bryant

3. RHP C.J. Edwards

4. OF Albert Almora

5. OF Jorge Soler

6. RHP Pierce Johnson

7. 2B Arismendy Alcantara

8. 3B Jeimer Candelario

9. 1B Dan Vogelbach

10. RHP Arodys Vizcaino

 

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Carlos Gonzalez Injury: Updates on Rockies Star’s Ankle and Return

Updates from Sunday, August 3

Patrick Saudners of The Denver Post confirms Carlos Gonzalez's status for today's game: 

 

Updates from Saturday, August 2

Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reported on Carlos Gonzalez's status:

 

Original Text

Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is going through something of a lost season due to various injuries, and it appears he may have to fight through yet another setback after aggravating an ankle sprain in the team's Friday night game against the Detroit Tigers.

The Colorado Rockies PR account relayed the news regarding Gonzalez's injury:

Detroit Tigers beat writer Matthew B. Mowery noted how his injury came to pass:

The Rockies are currently 44-64 and in last place in the NL West; Gonzalez's struggles have factored into the team's dour performances. Another long-term injury could be a major setback for the two-time All-Star.

After batting over .300 for four straight seasons, the 28-year-old lefty's numbers have taken a huge dip this season. He's sporting a .239/.289/.425 slash line with 10 home runs and 36 RBI in 65 games.

Gonzalez has struggled with knee and ankle injuries in this season. He missed nearly all of June and the majority of July with pain and inflammation in his left index finger.

Doctors eventually discovered a tumor in his finger and removed it in early June, per The Denver Post's Nick Groke. Things haven't been easy for Gonzalez since he returned to the field, as he hit just .176 in July, per Baseball-Reference.com.

A smart if not particularly speedy baserunner, Gonzalez has just three stolen bases on the year, another disappointing downturn considering his 87 thefts over the course of the past four seasons. 

Gonzalez's talents have not disappeared; baseball revolves around finely tuned mechanics, even if you're a contact hitter in the batter-friendly confines of Coors Field. The nagging finger issue is indeed the culprit. Hopefully, the injury won't have any lingering effects on his mental and physical recovery from the finger tumor issue.

Gonzalez is a star on this team and the second-most important player in the lineup, after the incomparable Troy Tulowitzki. It may be a lost season in Denver, but Gonzalez needs games to get back into the swing of things and try for a comeback season of sorts in 2015.

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McKayla Maroney Throws 1st Pitch for White Sox, Does Cartwheels from Mound

McKayla Maroney is showing the world her supreme athleticism once again. 

In case you need a refresher, Maroney became famous after silver-medaling in the vault during the 2012 Summer Olympics, when she made this face on the podium:

She and her other four Team USA teammates won the gold medal in women's artistic team all-around. 

Now this. How would you grade the acrobatic throw?

[White Sox]

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3 Bench Players Who Have Helped Toronto Blue Jays Carry Offensive Load

While Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes may be the top performers in the Toronto Blue Jays lineup right now, it’s important to not overlook the team’s bench, which has quietly been serving as the catalyst for Toronto’s offense.

After the Blue Jays lost Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind to injuries one after another over the course of a month, the team’s offense was expected to stagnate as a result.

After all, Encarnacion had hit .277 with 26 home runs and 70 RBI before going down with a quad strain. Lind was hitting .320, and Lawrie was one of the top clutch hitters on the team, batting .323 with runners in scoring position.

But despite those injuries, the Blue Jays have been able to maintain a top-five offense in the major leagues. Entering play on Friday, Toronto ranked third in the majors in runs scored.

This offensive success has largely come thanks to a deep bench that has been able to provide consistent production and to complement the remaining core hitters in the lineup.

Let’s take a closer look at three of these bench players who have provided such a huge spark to the team.

 

Munenori Kawasaki, 2B/3B/SS

Munenori Kawasaki gets a lot of attention because of his charming and energetic personality, but what often gets lost is his success at the plate this season.

The 33-year-old has hit .287/.336/.333 in 129 at-bats. The left-handed hitter’s numbers only get better as the game goes along, as evidenced by his .359 batting average during the seventh inning and later.

Defensively, Kawasaki has played all over the infield this season. He’s played second base the majority of the time, but he has also seen action at third base and shortstop.

Kawasaki was called up from Triple-A Buffalo after the Blue Jays had a spate of injuries. But after his performance up to this point, it’s hard to imagine him being sent back down, even after all the other regulars on the team are healthy again.

 

Juan Francisco, 1B/3B

Juan Francisco may not hit for a very high batting average and he may strike out a lot, but his power has been really valuable for a team that has lost one of the top sluggers in the game in Encarnacion.

In 236 at-bats this season, Francisco already has 16 home runs and 42 RBI. His left-handed power bat has been invaluable for the team when it faces right-handed pitching.

If the 27-year-old Francisco can figure out how to cut down his nearly 42 percent strikeout rate and put the ball in play more often, he has the potential to become an everyday player for the Blue Jays next year.

But for now, the team will take his current production.

 

Anthony Gose, OF

Once a hyped prospect in Toronto’s system, Anthony Gose’s ceiling at the major league level is probably closer to that of a fourth outfielder at this point.

In a part-time role with the Blue Jays this season, Gose has hit just .243. But because of an improved eye at the plate, he also has 20 walks in 180 plate appearances. This has boosted his OBP to a very respectable .347.

Despite having plus speed, Gose hasn’t been very active on the basepaths and hasn’t developed into a proficient base stealer. He has just 11 steals in 15 attempts this season.

That speed has served the 23-year-old well in the field, though, as he has the ability to get to hard-hit balls in center field quickly and has become one of the top defensive players on the team.

 

All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com and are current entering play on August 1, 2014.

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Flashback Friday: David Price Sends Rays to 2008 World Series with 4-out Save

David Price may be one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball right now, but as a rookie, he was just a hard-throwing reliever.

The southpaw appeared in only five regular-season games, including one start, with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. However, when it came time for the most important game in franchise history, Rays manager Joe Maddon wasn't afraid to hand the ball to the rookie.

Tampa Bay was clinging to a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2008 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. With the bases loaded and two outs in the inning, Maddon called upon Price to face Red Sox slugger J.D. Drew. It turned out to be a brilliant move. 

Price struck out Drew to get out of the jam. He ended up picking up the four-out save, thanks to three strikeouts, and sent Tampa Bay to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. 

The Rays wound up losing the World Series in five games to the Philadelphia Phillies.

On Thursday, the Rays traded Price to the Detroit Tigers. Price won the 2012 AL Cy Young award and made four AL All-Star teams in seven seasons with the team. All of those accolades are nice, but Rays fans will never forget his performance that helped get the team to the World Series.

[MLB.com]

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What the Oakland Athletics Need to Do to Win the AL Pennant

The Oakland Athletics have had the American League's best record for virtually the entire season, but any A's fan knows in-season success doesn't guarantee playoff wins. Winning in October takes a deep roster, a couple of top-level players and a whole lot of luck.

After consecutive Game 5 losses to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series, the A's have gone all-in to win this year, trading for starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester and Jason Hammel.

Building a starting rotation of four aces didn't come cheap, as general manager Billy Beane dealt top prospect Addison Russell and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. To deliver on Beane's gambles and win the pennant for the first time since 1990, the A's need to continue their overall dominance, get past the one team they can't beat and hope for success in the few games that matter most.

 

Big Bats Must Stay Hot

The A's have one of the league's top offenses even without Cespedes, but some of the heavy hitters can be streaky. With a maximum of five games in the ALDS and seven in the ALCS, postseason success is entirely dependent on who gets hot at the right time.

Much of the responsibility will fall on third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit a dismal .181/.223/.286 in June. With Cespedes out of the lineup, Oakland needs Donaldson to post something more like the .318/.426/.614 line he's had since the All-Star break.

Right fielder Josh Reddick has been riddled with injuries since his breakout 2012 campaign, but he has two home runs and four doubles in nine games since coming off of the disabled list. If Reddick can permanently regain his 2012 form, he would be a quality replacement for Cespedes in the middle of the order.

 

Beat the Tigers

The A's and the Tigers engaged in a beautiful arms race this summer, each team striving to push ahead as the best team in the AL. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski countered Beane's moves by trading for Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price, giving the Tigers three former Cy Young winners in the rotation.

The Tigers' dominance over the A's extends to the regular season as well. Oakland has done well against other contenders like the Angels (6-3) and the Baltimore Orioles (4-2) this year, but is 2-5 against Detroit.

At some point or another, the A's are likely to run into the Tigers in the playoffs. In a series of Jon Lester vs. Max Scherzer, Jeff Samardzija vs. David Price, Scott Kazmir vs. Anibal Sanchez and Sonny Gray vs. Justin Verlander, the A's might finally have the upper hand on pitching.

Pitching dominance will be key in getting past sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez and Torii Hunter. The road to the World Series will run through Motor City this year.

 

Keep on Keepin' On

To misquote Bill Hader's "Stefon" character from Saturday Night Live: This team has everything. Hitting, pitching, defense, a scruffy man slamming the door in the ninth inning and Halftain America (it's that thing where Captain America plays against left-handing pitching).

With the exception of second base, the A's roster has no real holes. The offense has scored more runs than any other team in baseball, while the pitchers are holding opponents to a .232 batting average. The result is a plus-162-run differential, nearly double the Angels' second-best plus-90-run differential.

This is the most complete team in the majors, and seven All-Stars give the A's the kind of star power they lacked in the past. Beane's constant tinkering and smart pickups have put the A's in the driver's seat. It won't be easy, but the American Leagueand the World Series, for that matteris Oakland's to lose.

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Allen Craig and Joe Kelly Found out They Had Been Traded Via TV and Twitter

Many Major League Baseball players are on edge on the day of the trade deadline, so if a player gets traded, his team should at least be the first to tell him. That's not what happened with a couple of (now former) St. Louis Cardinals players.

First baseman/right fielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly were traded from the Cardinals to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher John Lackey on Thursday afternoon. 

Here's how Craig and Kelly found out that they had been traded, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold:

Craig, an All-Star just a year ago, was sitting in a room off the clubhouse with teammates when he heard about the trade on the television. Kelly read it first on Twitter. Other players heard about it first from the media or a website.

Craig, who was drafted by St. Louis back in 2006 and debuted with the team in 2010, and Kelly, who was drafted by St. Louis in 2009, had to find out that they were traded by someone other than a team official.

The Cardinals are known for treating their players the right way, but finding out that you had been traded via television and Twitter has to sting a bit.

[h/t HardballTalk]

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Chicago’s Jose Abreu Now 2nd Rookie in Last 65 Years with 2 18-Game Hit Streaks

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who pushed his hitting streak to 20 games Thursday afternoon, is just the second player in the last 65 years with multiple 18-game streaks during his rookie season, per Lee Sinins' Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. Abreu joins Ichiro Suzuki, who racked up hitting streaks of 23 and 21 games on his way to winning the American League MVP award as a rookie in 2001.

Per the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia (via GammonsDaily.com), Abreu is also the first White Sox player—rookie or not—to have collected two such streaks in the same season since Eddie Collins did so in 1920.

Over the course of his first 18-game streak—lasting from June 15 to July 4—Abreu registered 24 hits in 71 at-bats (.338 batting average), with eight home runs, 18 RBI and an impressive 1.100 OPS.

This second time around, Abreu's run started July 6, just a day after his earlier streak ended. Over the course of the ongoing 20-game hitting streak, the slugging Cuban has 33 hits in 80 at-bats (.407 BA), albeit with somewhat modest totals of four home runs and 14 RBI. That said, 10 of his 33 hits have been doubles, contributing to a 1.153 OPS.

Set to challenge a slew of rookie records, Abreu has already joined Nomar Garciaparra (1997) as the only rookies in MLB history to record both 30 home runs and a hitting streak of 20-plus games, per STATS on Twitter.

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