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Around the Horn: Cards elite at infield corners

Goldschmidt, Carpenter among MLB's top 10 bats over past 6 years
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- This is the second piece in a five-part Around the Horn series that is taking a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into the 2019 season. After examining the club's catching depth last week, let's move onto the corner-infield options now.

Projected starters: Paul Goldschmidt (1B) and Matt Carpenter (3B)

ST. LOUIS -- This is the second piece in a five-part Around the Horn series that is taking a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into the 2019 season. After examining the club's catching depth last week, let's move onto the corner-infield options now.

Projected starters: Paul Goldschmidt (1B) and Matt Carpenter (3B)

The December acquisition of Goldschmidt provided an instant upgrade to the offense and gives the Cards one of the best corner-infield duos in the game. Consider that since 2013, both Carpenter and Goldschmidt rank in the Majors' top 10 in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, hits, walks, runs, home runs and doubles. The Cardinals will keep Carpenter in the leadoff spot and are strongly considering having Goldschmidt hit right behind him.

Video: Carpenter blasts 6 homers over 5 games with 10 RBIs

Other candidates/reserves: Jedd Gyorko, Yairo Munoz, Jose Martinez, Drew Robinson

Gyorko has exceeded 400 plate appearances in each of his six MLB seasons, though reaching that number will become much harder in 2019 with Goldschmidt in the mix. Gyorko lines up to be the team's primary backup behind Carpenter -- assuming, of course, the Cardinals don't deal him before Opening Day. Munoz was a Swiss Army knife of sorts last season and can slot in anywhere on the infield. Martinez has the bat to provide coverage at first base, though his defensive troubles there make him an unlikely candidate for more than the rare spot start. And then there's Robinson, a mid-December addition who has tremendous defensive flexibility and the added benefit of swinging from the left side.

Video: MIL@STL: Gyorko robs Cain with diving stop, long toss

Prospect to watch: Nolan Gorman

Elehuris Montero, the reigning MVP of the Midwest League, would have been a solid choice here, but we'll go with Gorman, the first player born in the 21st century to be picked in the MLB Draft. Gorman, taken by the Cardinals in the first round last summer, shot up through both the system and the prospect rankings. He currently occupies the No. 2 spot on St. Louis' Top 30 prospects list, as compiled by MLB Pipeline. Gorman won't be ready to break through to the Majors this year, but after reaching a full-season affiliate at the age of 18, his rise could be rapid. Gorman hit .291/.380/.570 in 63 Minor League games last year.

Video: Top Prospects: Nolan Gorman, 3B, Cardinals

Biggest lingering question: How will Carpenter fare defensively at third base?

While Goldschmidt brings Gold Glove defense to the right side of the infield, there are questions about how Carpenter will handle a move back to third. Familiarity isn't an issue; he's actually started more games at third (488) than at any other position. But things haven't always been smooth for him there. Carpenter's unorthodox throwing motion has contributed to shoulder pains, and his range isn't elite. But perhaps there is a hint of promise: Carpenter is coming off his best defensive season at the position, ranking sixth in MLB with plus-six Defensive Runs Saved at third in 2018.

Video: STL@WSH: Carpenter reaches up to snag a laser liner

Notable number: 4.21

That's the average number of pitches per plate appearance for both Carpenter and Goldschmidt in 2018, according to Statcast™. The veteran infielders remain among the most patient hitters in the game, and their keen eyes contributed to the 192 walks Goldschmidt and Carpenter combined to draw last season. Carpenter is one of only two players in the Majors to draw 100 or more walks in two consecutive seasons. Goldschmidt beat him to that feat by reaching the century mark in '15 and '16.

Statcast™ note: Goldschmidt and Carpenter ranked second and third, respectively, in barrel rate percentage among the 110 National League hitters who put at least 250 balls in play last season. Goldschmidt's 13.6 percent barrel rate trailed only Max Muncy (16.9 percent) of the Dodgers. Carpenter finished with a percentage of 13.4. Goldschmidt's 57 total barrels tied for most in the Majors.

The term "barrel" was created to define any such combination of exit velocity and launch angle that has resulted in a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast™ was introduced MLB-wide in 2015.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt

Bart leads list of Top 10 Catching Prospects

MLB.com

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

There's a good amount of turnover on this year's Top 10 Catching Prospects list compared to the 2018 version. That starts at the top, with a member of the 2018 Draft Class, Joey Bart, leading the way.

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

There's a good amount of turnover on this year's Top 10 Catching Prospects list compared to the 2018 version. That starts at the top, with a member of the 2018 Draft Class, Joey Bart, leading the way.

Video: Top Prospects: Joey Bart, C, Giants

Francisco Mejia, now with the Padres, continues to be a mainstay, sitting in the top two for the third straight season. Keibert Ruiz of the Dodgers, the A's Sean Murphy and Danny Jansen from the Blue Jays are the other holdovers from last year's Top 10. Graduation caused some serious turnover, with Carson Kelly, now with the D-backs, Jorge Alfaro (Phillies), Chance Sisco (Orioles) and Victor Caratini (Cubs) all moving on to larger big league contributions.

Top 10 Prospects by Position

The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Joey Bart, Giants (2021)
2. Francisco Mejia, Padres (2019)
3. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers (2020)
4. Sean Murphy, A's (2019)
5. Danny Jansen, Blue Jays (2019)
6. Ronaldo Hernandez, Rays (2021)
7. Miguel Amaya, Cubs (2021)
8. Daulton Varsho, D-backs (2020)
9. MJ Melendez, Royals (2021)
10. Andrew Knizner, Cardinals (2019)
Complete list »

Top tools

Hit: Mejia (60)
Mejia has hit at pretty much every stop in the Minors, starting with his 50-game hitting streak and .342 average in 2016. Following his trade to the Padres last year in the Brad Hand deal, he showed what the fuss was about by hitting .328 with Triple-A El Paso en route to making his San Diego debut. His ability to swing the bat from both sides of the plate is well ahead of his defense behind it.

Video: Top Prospects: Francisco Mejia, C, Padres

Power: Bart (60)
The No. 2 overall pick in last June's Draft, Bart not only has a strong college power resume, with double-digit home runs as a sophomore and a junior, but he showed that it would translate immediately in the pro game when he hit 13 home runs in just 45 Northwest League games during his pro debut. He has the potential to hit at least 25 homers annually.

Run: Varsho (55)
There are some who feel Varsho is athletic enough to play second base if catching doesn't work out, and he certainly did nothing to dampen that evaluation during his first full year. Varsho stole 19 bases in 22 tries in just 80 California League games. He then went on to swipe eight more during his Arizona Fall League stint.

Video: Top Prospects: Daulton Varsho, C, D-backs

Arm: Mejia, Murphy (70)
Mejia has thrown out 33 percent of potential basestealers in his Minor League career. Last year, that was down to 28.9 percent, though he also spent less time behind the plate compared to other seasons. Murphy threw out 34.3 percent in 2018, which actually brought his career percentage down to 35.5 percent.

Video: Top Prospects: Sean Murphy, C, Athletics

Field: Murphy (65)
Murphy would be the runner-up on the All-Defense Prospect Team thanks to his all-around work behind the plate. In addition to his arm detailed above, he's agile with excellent blocking, receiving and game-calling skills. He gets very high marks for his ability to work with a pitching staff.

Superlatives

Ceiling: Melendez
The 2017 second-round pick showed off all of his skills during his first full season. He finished fifth in the South Atlantic League in home runs and slugging percentage, and he should tap into his raw power even more as he refines his approach. Behind the plate, Melendez used his plus arm to throw out nearly 42 percent of those trying to steal last season.

Video: Top Prospects: M.J. Melendez, C, Royals

Floor: Ruiz
Murphy could be a candidate if you wanted to focus solely on defense -- his glove will make him a big leaguer. But Ruiz's bat, with the ability to hit for average and power, provides a little more certainty that he'll be a big league regular at the position.

Video: Top Prospects: Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers

Rookie of the Year candidate: Jansen
There are several on this list ready to contribute in 2019, but Jansen appears to be the only one heading into the season as the No. 1 backstop on the depth chart. He had a solid big league debut in August and September last year to build a foundation for his first full year in the big leagues.

Video: Top Prospects: Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays

Highest riser: Hernandez
Hernandez began 2018 as the Rays' No. 20 prospect, but was up to No. 7 by the end of the season. Now he's jumping onto this Top 10 list for the first time after a year that saw him hit 21 home runs in his full-season debut while throwing out 36 percent of runners trying to steal.

Video: Top Prospects: Ronaldo Hernandez, C, Rays

Humblest beginnings: Knizner
The Cardinals have a knack for finding late-round talent and it looks like they've done it again with Knizner, a seventh-round pick in 2016. The North Carolina State product was a third baseman until he began his catching career as a sophomore and now he's ready to be a big leaguer, thanks to a .310/.373/.460 line and a 36.2 percent caught stealing rate.

Video: Top Prospects: Andrew Knizner, C, Cardinals

Most to prove: Mejia
Yes, Mejia has hit pretty much everywhere he's been in the Minors, but he has a .583 OPS in 76 big league plate appearances, a small sample size for sure. That, combined with questions about his ability to catch full-time and showing he was worth trading for, makes the spotlight a little brighter on him in 2019.

Keep an eye on: William Contreras, Braves
The younger brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, William had a very strong first taste of full-season ball, earning a promotion to the Class A Advanced Florida State League at age 20. He has a solid approach at the plate with some pop (11 homers in 2018) in addition to a strong arm and solid receiving skills behind it.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

First Spring Training workout dates for all clubs

MLB.com

Major League Baseball has revealed the first Spring Training workout dates for pitchers and catchers and those for the full squads for all 30 clubs. MLB also announced game times for all Cactus and Grapefruit League action in February and March.

Major League Baseball has revealed the first Spring Training workout dates for pitchers and catchers and those for the full squads for all 30 clubs. MLB also announced game times for all Cactus and Grapefruit League action in February and March.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The A's, fresh off their surprise run to the 2018 American League Wild Card Game, will be the first club to have its pitchers and catchers report. They'll do so on Monday, Feb. 11, followed by the Indians and Mariners on Feb. 12 and the remainder of MLB clubs in the days following. Oakland and Seattle will travel to Tokyo to stage two exhibition games each against Japanese teams on March 17-18, followed by the first two games of the 2019 regular season on March 20-21 at Tokyo Dome.

Complete Spring Training schedule

Oakland and Seattle will hold their first full-squad workouts on Saturday, Feb. 16, in Arizona, with the rest of MLB following suit in the days after. The Braves will be the last club to hold its first full-squad workout, doing so on Thursday, Feb. 21. The A's and Mariners open Cactus League action with a matchup on Feb. 21, and the Rays and Phillies open up Grapefruit League action the following day. The Red Sox and Tigers will play exhibition games against college teams on Feb. 22.

Here are first-workout dates for pitchers and catchers and full squads for each team:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Angels: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Astros: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Athletics: Feb. 11/Feb. 16
Blue Jays: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Indians: Feb. 12/Feb. 18
Mariners: Feb. 12/Feb. 16
Orioles: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rangers: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rays: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Red Sox: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Royals: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Tigers: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Twins: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
White Sox: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Yankees: Feb. 14/Feb. 19

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Braves: Feb. 16/Feb. 21
Brewers: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Cardinals: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Cubs: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Diamondbacks: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Dodgers: Feb. 13/Feb. 19
Giants: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Marlins: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Mets: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Nationals: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Padres: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Phillies: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Pirates: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Reds: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rockies: Feb. 13/Feb. 18

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Jose Martinez offers rare skills at the plate

Talented hitter remains in St. Louis despite numerous trade rumors
MLB.com

When the offseason began, the Cardinals' Jose Martinez looked like one of baseball's most obvious trade candidates, perhaps headed to an American League team that could take full advantage of his bat while mitigating his defensive shortcomings.

But with Spring Training fast approaching, and Martinez still on the St. Louis roster, the chances seem to be increasing that on Opening Day he will stay and serve as MLB's most overqualified pinch-hitter.

When the offseason began, the Cardinals' Jose Martinez looked like one of baseball's most obvious trade candidates, perhaps headed to an American League team that could take full advantage of his bat while mitigating his defensive shortcomings.

But with Spring Training fast approaching, and Martinez still on the St. Louis roster, the chances seem to be increasing that on Opening Day he will stay and serve as MLB's most overqualified pinch-hitter.

In such a scenario, Martinez would be valuable insurance in case Dexter Fowler can't put last season's struggles behind him, giving the club depth and pop off the bench along with Tyler O'Neill. Martinez also won't be eligible for arbitration until next offseason, which makes him a bargain. For those reasons, St. Louis' willingness to deal him may have been overblown all along, and could be even lower now, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal wrote recently at The Athletic (subscription required).

But what is it, exactly, that makes Martinez's bat so desirable in the first place? Why might the Cardinals continue to overlook his shaky glove, beyond the practical roster considerations?

You could point to the 30-year-old's impressive slash line (.309/.372/.478) over two-plus MLB seasons, or the fact that his 130 wRC+ during that time is tied for 25th highest in MLB. As MLB.com's Matt Kelly showed earlier this offseason, Martinez possesses a rare ability to both put the bat on the ball and hit it hard when he does.

Video: COL@STL: Martinez smacks a walk-off 2-run hit in 9th

Martinez's appeal really comes down to this: No matter how opponents pitch him, he has the ability to win the battle.

Consider this list of five hitters: Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Martinez, Anthony Rendon and Christian Yelich. Besides Martinez, those are the two league MVPs from 2018, plus two other well-known stars who received votes. What do they all have in common?

For the answer, let's turn to expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA), a Statcast-based metric that incorporates quality of contact (exit velocity and launch angle), walks and strikeouts. For context, the xwOBA across MLB last year was .311, and Martinez's overall mark of .380 ranked 12th among qualifiers, just behind current teammates Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt.

The five aforementioned hitters -- Betts, Lindor, Martinez, Rendon and Yelich -- were the only ones last season to reach each of the following xwOBA benchmarks:

• At least .340 vs. pitches in the top third of the zone (minimum 50 plate appearances) -- Martinez .418
• At least .340 vs. pitches in the bottom third of the zone (minimum 50 PA) -- Martinez .364
• At least .340 vs. pitches in the left third of the zone* (minimum 50 PA) -- Martinez .407
• At least .340 vs. pitches in the right third of the zone* (minimum 50 PA) -- Martinez .355
• At least .380 vs. pitches in the middle of the zone (minimum 30 PA) -- Martinez .495
• At least .300 vs. pitches out of the zone (minimum 100 plate PA) -- Martinez .322
*From the catcher's perspective

Tweet from @AndrewSimonMLB: Stay warm this winter with Jose Martinez's very red expected wOBA heat map. pic.twitter.com/8YYxZhRsvc

In other words, Martinez can hit the ball hard, just about wherever it's pitched. Really, the only place for pitchers to attack with any confidence is his low-and-way corner or the area outside it. But even there, his numbers are well above the MLB average for a right-handed batter (.241 xwOBA).

Here is Martinez fighting off a 97 mph fastball to that spot for a two-run double. And here he is homering off a high pitch from Zack Greinke, a low pitch from Josh Hader and an inside pitch from Corey Kluber.

Video: CLE@STL: Jose Martinez crushes a 3-run homer to left

Those pitches all were fastballs, but Martinez isn't just a dead-red hitter.

Here is another highly accomplished group of hitters to consider: Betts, Alex Bregman, Aaron Judge, Martinez, Anthony Rizzo and Mike Trout. Those six are the only ones last year who reached each of these expected wOBA benchmarks:

• At least .380 vs. fastballs (minimum 200 PA) -- Martinez .397
• At least .330 vs. breaking balls (minimum 100 PA) -- Martinez .344
• At least .330 vs. offspeed pitches (minimum 30 PA) -- Martinez .364

So not only did Martinez handle every possible pitch location, he also handled every pitch type. Here he is jumping on a 98 mph heater from Luis Castillo for a home run, staying back on an 83 mph changeup from Brandon Finnegan for a run-scoring double, and waiting long enough to rip an RBI single off a 72 mph curveball from Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Video: STL@LAD: Martinez opens the scoring on an RBI single

There is still time for a team, especially one in the AL, to seek exactly that sort of well-rounded offensive player to add to its lineup before Opening Day. While the options seem to be dwindling, it's not too difficult to imagine a fit with a club such as Cleveland, which needs a corner/DH bat and wouldn't need to inflate its payroll.

Such a trade would offer the Cardinals the opportunity to address another area of the roster or bolster their stable of prospects. But if Martinez indeed stays put, his unusual and enviable skills at the plate could continue to make an impact in St. Louis -- even in a reduced role.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jose Martinez

The MLB.com Hall of Fame ballot results are ...

MLB.com

Six MLB.com writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2019 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

• Complete Hall of Fame coverage

Six MLB.com writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2019 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

• Complete Hall of Fame coverage

As many as four candidates -- and possibly more -- could be elected, according to the public ballots amassed online. Here's a look at how the six voted, and at the bottom you can see what the totals look like among this group:

T.R. Sullivan
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Fred McGriff
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Billy Wagner
9. Larry Walker
10. Michael Young

There are many offensive players who could/should be elected based on their career numbers. I strongly believe McGriff is unfairly overlooked because he was one of the last great hitters before the offensive explosion of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mussina also thrived as a starting pitcher in the American League right in the thick of that era. It should not have taken him this long to be elected. I'm not big on comparables, but Wagner was every bit as good of a reliever as Rivera or Trevor Hoffman.

Video: MLB Tonight on Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame case

Mark Feinsand
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Mike Mussina
6. Manny Ramirez
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Curt Schilling
9. Gary Sheffield
10. Omar Vizquel

Three of the players I voted for a year ago -- Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome -- were inducted into the Hall, so the holdovers (Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, Mussina, Manny, Schilling and Sheffield) took up the first seven spots on my ballot.

That left me with up to three open spots to fill. Rivera was an obvious choice for one of them in his first time on the ballot, as was Halladay, who, despite a modest win total (203), was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. Although I delved into their statistics to confirm what I already knew, these two were no-brainers.

Video: Roy Halladay's case for the Hall of Fame

The final spot was a little more difficult. After a first examination of the 26 players, I narrowed down my choice to Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Andy Pettitte, Scott Rolen, Vizquel, Larry Walker and Vernon Wells. (OK, Wells wasn't really on my list, but he was one of my favorite players I ever covered, so I considered using my last spot for him for about 30 seconds.)

Although I probably would have voted for five or six of these players had the ballot been open-ended and without the 10-man limit, my choice ultimately came down to two: Pettitte and Vizquel.

Pettitte is viewed by many as a borderline candidate, a take I can't argue with. While his candidacy might be seen differently by voters, I think he belongs in the conversation. (Based on my voting history, I'm obviously not holding his HGH admission against him.) Having seen similar players such as Jorge Posada, Kenny Lofton and Johan Santana fall off the ballot in their first years, I considered voting for Pettitte in an effort to help him get the requisite 5 percent for him to be on the ballot again next year.

Ultimately, Vizquel's excellence in the field (he took home 11 Gold Gloves and is in the conversation as the best defensive shortstop ever) won out. He might not have been an offensive force, but Vizquel was far from an automatic out, finishing his career with 2,877 hits. Pettitte had a great career and will likely be in the mix for my vote again next year, but my belief that Vizquel should be in the Hall outweighed my hopes of seeing Pettitte remain on the ballot.

Jeffrey Flanagan
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Andruw Jones
5. Edgar Martinez
6. Mike Mussina
7. Manny Ramirez
8. Mariano Rivera
9. Curt Schilling
10. Larry Walker

It was difficult leaving off McGriff and Rolen, but we only get 10 spots, which is why I've always favored a binary system -- simply yes or no to each candidate. As for the PED issue, my stance hasn't really changed: If what they did (or didn't) do is so egregious, the Hall of Fame should take those players off the ballot. Don't make us be the morality judges.

Video: MLB Network debates Bonds, Clemens' merits for HOF

Richard Justice
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Mike Mussina
6. Mariano Rivera
7. Scott Rolen
8. Curt Schilling
9. Billy Wagner
10. Larry Walker

Easy calls on nine of the 10. All belong in the Hall. As for Wagner, he's one of greatest closers ever, and if they're part of the game (same for DHs), the best of them should be in the Hall. I didn't like leaving off Andruw Jones, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield, who at least deserve to be in the conversation longer.

Jon Paul Morosi
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Fred McGriff
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Scott Rolen
9. Curt Schilling
10. Larry Walker

I voted for Bonds and Clemens, as I have every year. For now, at least, my policy regarding players tied to PED use remains unchanged: I do not vote for players suspended under MLB's drug policy from 2005 to present, but I support the best all-around players from the complicated era that preceded it.

Rivera is one of the clearest first-ballot Hall of Famers in history, and Halladay's dominant peak (in a hitter-friendly ballpark, against AL East competition) makes him worthy of the Hall. McGriff, overlooked for far too long, hit more home runs -- with a better adjusted OPS -- than first-ballot Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Carl Yastrzemski; McGriff is eminently qualified for Cooperstown.

My toughest decision came among Rolen, Vizquel and Sheffield for the last of my 10 spots. I opted for Rolen, given the overall quality of his career, at a position underrepresented in the Hall. Rolen is one of only three third basemen in history with at least seven Gold Gloves and seven All-Star appearances. The others are Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.

Video: MLB Network on Edgar Martinez's case for the HOF

Chris Haft
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Jeff Kent
5. Edgar Martinez
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Curt Schilling
9. Omar Vizquel
10. Larry Walker

Rivera's career forestalls debate. And if you feel free to vote for closers, you should feel free to vote for other specialists, such as Martinez the designated hitter. I dismounted my moral high horse regarding Bonds and Clemens two or three years ago. I needed some persuasion to vote for Walker; by contrast, I remained stubbornly loyal to Kent. Mussina embodied consistency; Schilling dominated the postseason and Halladay finished 98 games above .500 in just 390 starts. As for Vizquel, I pity those who can't or won't comprehend his excellence.

Vote totals of the 6 MLB.com writers

With 75 percent of the vote needed for entry to the Hall, Bonds, Martinez, Rivera, Mussina, Clemens, Halladay, Schilling and Walker received enough support -- the first six appearing on all six ballots, and the other two appearing on five of six ballots (83 percent) -- from MLB.com writers.

Barry Bonds -- 6 votes
Roger Clemens -- 6
Roy Halladay -- 6
Edgar Martinez -- 6
Mike Mussina -- 6
Mariano Rivera -- 6
Curt Schilling -- 5
Larry Walker -- 5
Fred McGriff -- 2
Manny Ramirez -- 2
Scott Rolen -- 2
Omar Vizquel -- 2
Billy Wagner -- 2
Andruw Jones -- 1
Jeff Kent -- 1
Gary Sheffield -- 1
Michael Young -- 1

Gomber ready to build on first look at Majors

Cardinals lefty takes part in rookie program for off-field lessons
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Seven months after making his Major League debut and ahead of a Spring Training in which he'll compete for a rotation spot, lefty Austin Gomber joined three other members of the Cardinals' organization at Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program last week.

Gomber, right-hander Giovanny Gallegos, left-hander Genesis Cabrera, and outfielder Justin Williams were among the 107 prospects to gather in Miami for an annual seminar designed to prepare future big leaguers for what's ahead. Players sit through sessions on topics such dealing with the media, how to handle situations in the clubhouse, inclusion, financial planning and drugs in baseball, while also meeting with former Major League players for more individualized discussions.

ST. LOUIS -- Seven months after making his Major League debut and ahead of a Spring Training in which he'll compete for a rotation spot, lefty Austin Gomber joined three other members of the Cardinals' organization at Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program last week.

Gomber, right-hander Giovanny Gallegos, left-hander Genesis Cabrera, and outfielder Justin Williams were among the 107 prospects to gather in Miami for an annual seminar designed to prepare future big leaguers for what's ahead. Players sit through sessions on topics such dealing with the media, how to handle situations in the clubhouse, inclusion, financial planning and drugs in baseball, while also meeting with former Major League players for more individualized discussions.

While most of the participants have yet to ascend to the Majors, Gomber, who pitched in 29 games for the Cardinals last season, entered the event with a unique perspective.

"I was fortunate to be up for a good portion of last year, so I kind of know what they're talking about or kind of know coming in what I'm looking to get out of the program," Gomber said. "So I think it's a little easier to relate to if you've had the opportunity to be out there."

Gomber will lean on the lessons learned from his first taste of the Majors as he reports to camp next month eyeing a spot on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster. One of approximately 10 candidates competing for a rotation job, Gomber will also be considered as another lefty option out of the bullpen.

He made 18 relief appearances last year in addition to his 11 starts, finishing with a 4.44 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. Gomber was one of 12 players age 24 or younger to appear for the Cardinals in 2018.

Video: STL@COL: Gomber hurls 6 innings, hits 2-run single

"To be able to go up there and be in the middle of a playoff race as a bunch of young guys was more than we hoped for," Gomber said.

The other players representing the Cardinals at the RCDP were acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last July. The three -- Williams (No. 8), Cabrera (No. 13) and Gallegos (No. 23) -- also rank on the Cardinals' top 30 prospect list, as compiled by MLB Pipeline.

All four of the Cardinals who participated in this program a year ago -- Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Tyler O'Neill and Adolis Garcia -- went on to make their MLB debuts in 2018.

"Coming up through the system, when I was in A ball and Double-A, it was very clear to me and other players that the Cardinals are an organization that always promote the most deserving guy," Gomber said. "When you play for the Cardinals, you know if you go out there and you take care of your business and you perform, you're eventually going to get the opportunity."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Austin Gomber

Inbox: Will Cardinals take a look at Marwin?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answers questions from fans
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Here's another round of your Qs and my As to get you thinking about summer days and baseball season while preparing for another weekend of being snowed in.

Has there been any talk of taking a look at Marwin Gonzalez? Seems like a super-utility guy that would fit that bench player they'd be looking for.
-- Steve O. (@citylightssteve)

ST. LOUIS -- Here's another round of your Qs and my As to get you thinking about summer days and baseball season while preparing for another weekend of being snowed in.

Has there been any talk of taking a look at Marwin Gonzalez? Seems like a super-utility guy that would fit that bench player they'd be looking for.
-- Steve O. (@citylightssteve)

• Submit a question to the Cardinals Inbox

Lots of questions coming my way about Gonzalez this week, so let's examine his case now. The fit clearly makes a lot of sense. Not only can Gonzalez play just about anywhere on the field (including shortstop), but he'd offer a switch-hitting presence off the bench. That would instantly help balance the Cardinals' offense.

The issue, though, isn't so much the Cardinals' interest in Gonzalez, but rather what his interest would be in them. He's accrued 500-plus plate appearances in each of the last three seasons and averaged 125 starts per year during that span. He's looking to land somewhere where he can match that playing time, and the Cards don't have it to offer. That's why I'd expect Gonzalez to end up elsewhere.

What will the Cardinals do if Dexter Fowler doesn't pan out as they think he will?
-- William B. (@Wmb0127)

Right now, the club has insurance behind him in the form of Jose Martinez and Tyler O'Neill, and the Cardinals are comfortable leaning on either one if Fowler struggles again. That's one of the reasons why the Cards haven't been quick to deal Martinez this winter. He still offers important value, defensive issues aside. The outfield depth extends further, too, with Adolis Garcia, Lane Thomas and Justin Williams also on the 40-man roster.

Video: CIN@STL: Fowler homers to right-center field

In a bigger-picture view, though, if the Cardinals don't get the necessary production out of Fowler this year, his time here likely ends. Even though his contract runs through the 2021 season, it's hard to see the organization retaining him for that long if he endures another season like his last one. Of course, both parties are optimistic that won't be the case.

The Cardinals had the money for Jason Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton. All of a sudden, they don't have it for a 26-year-old power-hitting right fielder who is a once-in-a-generation player. Why?
-- Eric C. (@ericcleveland)

No one has said the Cardinals don't have the money. It has nothing to do with what they have, instead it has everything to do with how they plan to allocate it. If the Cardinals wanted to make a competitive and compelling offer to Bryce Harper today, they could. There remains flexibility in their payroll -- both in the short- and long-term, which is one of the reasons why many thought the Cardinals were among the teams best positioned to wade into the deep end of the free-agent market this offseason.

Video: ATL@WSH: Harper slugs an opposite-field solo homer

The issue tugging at the Cardinals is more about whether to invest those dollars into this particular player for his desired number of years. The team is balancing that within the context of its current roster and player projections.

What's the backup plan if Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna leave in free agency?
-- Brandon D. (@LyleDozier)

If the Cards lose both hitters after the 2019 season, without question their offense will require a makeover. Plan A, of course, is to retain at least one of them. Goldschmidt is the primary target, and don't be surprised if the club opens extension talks before the first baseman even reaches free agency.

Video: ATL@ARI: Goldschmidt ties it in 9th with solo jack

As big a boost as their farm system has been in recent years, the Cardinals don't appear to have any high-impact everyday position players on the cusp of the Majors. That means replacing Goldschmidt and/or Ozuna would require once again looking outside the organization for help. There will be marquee free agents available next winter -- including Nolan Arenado -- but the preference would be to retain who they've got, assuming production is as expected this year.

How much do you see the addition of Goldy helping Paul DeJong offensively? [He] seemed to make good strides fielding, but regressed as a hitter last year.
-- Scott B. (@49erboivie)

I'm not sure if you'll see much of a cause and effect here, unless the Cards were to hit DeJong ahead of Goldschmidt. The more likely scenario, though, is that Goldschmidt will bat in front of the shortstop in manager Mike Shildt's order. If there's a benefit, it would seem to be that DeJong would see increased opportunities to hit with men on base, and the two hitters in front of him (both of whom are among the most patient hitters in the game) will give DeJong a better look at a pitcher's repertoire.

Video: STL@ATL: DeJong mashes a 2-run jack to left-center

Instead, I'd argue that the biggest impact on DeJong's offensive outlook this season is his health. After undergoing one final procedure on his hand this offseason, he can now put that injury behind him.

When do pitchers and catchers report?
-- Mark R. (@1jurisconsultus)

Finally, an easy one. Here's a rundown of key dates related to Spring Training:

Feb. 12: Pitchers and catcher report

Feb. 13: First workout for pitchers and catchers

Feb. 17: Position players report

Feb. 18: First full-squad workout

Feb. 23: First Grapefruit League game (at Marlins)

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals

MLB stars, celebs take field for CA fire victims

California Strong softball game attracts large crowd to Malibu
MLB.com

MALIBU, Calif. -- Green shoots now carpet the scarred Santa Monica Mountains, nature's initial healing from the deadly November Woolsey Fire.

But nature can heal only so much, and Malibu residents Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas and Mike Attanasio wondered soon after the blaze: What can we do?

MALIBU, Calif. -- Green shoots now carpet the scarred Santa Monica Mountains, nature's initial healing from the deadly November Woolsey Fire.

But nature can heal only so much, and Malibu residents Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas and Mike Attanasio wondered soon after the blaze: What can we do?

Video: Yelich, Braun on charity softball game for California

What they did on Sunday was pretty amazing. A couple text messages two months ago led to Sunday's California Strong Celebrity Softball Game at Pepperdine University in Malibu, where the breathtaking Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island backdrop belied the devastation wrought by a wildfire and mass shooting that physically and emotionally buckled this community.

A standing-room-only crowd at Eddy D. Field Stadium attended on Sunday, with all proceeds going directly to victims of the California wildfires and the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting in nearby Thousand Oaks. 

Tweet from @Brewers: Speaking of the MVP...@CAstrongfund #CaliforniaStrong pic.twitter.com/lI9pCo3DjO

"The conversations started because we live in Malibu and we didn't know if our houses survived," said Braun. "When we realized our houses survived, the conversation quickly turned to, how can we use our platform and wealth of people in the area to help the people rebuild? In times of need, look at all of the people that banded together and do something awesome for the community."

Tweet from @CAstrongfund: Just a few of the stars that came to support #CaliforniaStrong! Happy to have you @tylerhoechlin @PSchwarzenegger @ZacharyLevi and @Cary_Elwes! pic.twitter.com/rnDoNjADKh

The three players who were teammates in Milwaukee last year called on the Major League community for support. Attanasio, son of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, marshalled resources and arranged for a partnership with the YMCA of Southeast Ventura County.

The Hollywood community joined to assist those impacted not only by the wildfire, but the mass shooting that occurred two nights before the fire erupted. Leading into Sunday's event, the California Strong campaign had raised $450,000 in donations.

"This isn't a short-term fix," said Mike Attanasio. "We're here for the long run, to make sure people know they haven't been forgotten."

Tweet from @CAstrongfund: Thank you so much to the sheriffs and first responders! We are so proud to put this event together for you and the affected families #CaliforniaStrong pic.twitter.com/I3upZIUoCZ

The celebrity turnout on Sunday was Malibu eclectic: Charlie Sheen, Jamie Foxx, Brad Paisley, Adam Sandler, Robin Thicke, Rainn Wilson, Mira Sorvino and Pia Toscano.

"When you get the call personally from Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich, you can't say no," said Sheen, who was limited to coaching by a shoulder injury.

"I grew up in these parts. I see houses where my friends lived -- just gone. The night of the fire, I couldn't find my parents for 10 hours. The community was torn apart and we're here today to lend our names and talents and baseball skills to do something good. If what we're doing today gives somebody affected one moment of relief or hope, then our efforts here are successful."

Tweet from @Brewers: "Juuuusssst a bit outside....How can guys lay off pitches that close?��� pic.twitter.com/oxxONq3OJN

Foxx lives only minutes from the site of the Borderline shooting and close to the Hill Fire, which broke out hours before the Woolsey Fire.

"You see fires destroy a lifetime of belongings, you see a shooting in Thousand Oaks, the safest place in the world, but when was the last time you heard about it?" said Foxx. "My thing is not just to raise money, but have a conversation. We're the smartest country in the world. When something happens, we adjust. We need to adjust, so our kids don't have to wonder if there will be anything left for them."

Video: Moose talks about charity softball game for Calif.

Country music superstar Paisley splits time between Nashville and Montecito near Santa Barbara, an area still recovering from last year's Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides.

"We were real close to the fires last year. Next thing you know, there's a shooting at the Borderline club, where so many of my friends frequented," said Paisley. "It's so hard to see these things happen, let alone the double-whammy of the fire afterwards. So, when Justin Turner called to rope me into this thing, I'm happy to make a fool of myself for this cause and for this community."

Video: Turner on California Strong celebrity softball game

The NFL was represented by Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. There was a Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart, former NBA stars Reggie Miller, Dennis Rodman and Don MacLean, plus MMA star Chuck Liddell.

Among the retired Major Leaguers was Derrek Lee, whose home one mile away suffered major damage in the fire, as well as Royce Clayton, Jered Weaver and Jack Wilson.

Of course, with Brewers Yelich, Braun and (free agent) Moustakas headlining, their fellow Major Leaguers were all over campus, including Turner, Joc Pederson, Eric Hosmer, Jon Jay, Jack Flaherty, Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Plouffe, Jake Marisnick and Max Fried.

Video: Hosmer discusses charity softball game for California

"We're a tight-knit brotherhood, and when something like this happens we try to come together and take advantage of our platform and do some good," Turner said.

Brewers Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker shared public address announcer duties.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

1 per team: Players who could stay put until 2025

MLB.com

The 2013 season doesn't seem that long ago, does it? It seems like it just happened. (The passage of time is a crazy thing.) But in the world of baseball, it was a long, long time ago. How long? Look at the top 10 hitters and the top 10 pitchers in WAR in '13. Of those 10 hitters and 10 pitchers, only two players on each list (Mike Trout and Joey Votto among the hitters, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright among the pitchers) are still on the same teams they were just six years ago. That is an astounding amount of turnover, and reminds us how difficult it can be to predict the future.

Nevertheless: Let's try. Today at the Thirty, we attempt to pick the one player on each team's current 40-man roster who is most likely to still be on that roster in six years. Sticking to the current roster raises the level of difficulty. Otherwise, I could just pick Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Blue Jays, and every other team's top prospect, and be done with it. For this list, you have to be here now and in 2025. The crazy thing about this experiment of guesses: There will be multiple, maybe double-digit, teams that have none.

The 2013 season doesn't seem that long ago, does it? It seems like it just happened. (The passage of time is a crazy thing.) But in the world of baseball, it was a long, long time ago. How long? Look at the top 10 hitters and the top 10 pitchers in WAR in '13. Of those 10 hitters and 10 pitchers, only two players on each list (Mike Trout and Joey Votto among the hitters, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright among the pitchers) are still on the same teams they were just six years ago. That is an astounding amount of turnover, and reminds us how difficult it can be to predict the future.

Nevertheless: Let's try. Today at the Thirty, we attempt to pick the one player on each team's current 40-man roster who is most likely to still be on that roster in six years. Sticking to the current roster raises the level of difficulty. Otherwise, I could just pick Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Blue Jays, and every other team's top prospect, and be done with it. For this list, you have to be here now and in 2025. The crazy thing about this experiment of guesses: There will be multiple, maybe double-digit, teams that have none.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EAST

Blue Jays: Danny Jansen, C
Unlike Vlad Jr. and Bo Bichette, he's already on the 40-man roster; he hit three homers in 81 at-bats last season. Like them, he's currently a top-75 prospect.

Orioles: Trey Mancini, OF
The toughest call on the board. The Orioles are starting over in every conceivable way, and there will be a lot of turnover here in the next few years. The guess here is Mancini, who is a fan favorite already and could maybe hang around long enough to be a platoon or bench bat in 2025, when he'll be only 32.

Rays: Willy Adames, SS
Attempting to guess who will be on the Rays' roster in two years, let alone six, is a fool's errand, but Adames is the centerpiece of everything the Rays are going to be trying to do over the next decade.

Red Sox: Mookie Betts, OF
He's a free agent after the 2020 season, but the Red Sox should never let a star like this get away. And he wants to stay

Video: Betts signs record deal to avoid arbitration

Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton, RF
As the guy who is signed through 2027, he's the obvious pick here. Aaron Judge hits free agency in 2023, by the way.

CENTRAL

Indians: Francisco Lindor, SS
It's tough to imagine the Indians letting Lindor go … though they may have to choose between him and Jose Ramirez.

Video: Lindor gets his second career Silver Slugger Award

Royals: Salvador Perez, C
He survived the last teardown. He's their Yadier Molina -- he'll survive any future ones.

Tigers: Jeimer Candelario, 3B
He's more likely than anyone else here to be a member of the next contending Tigers team.

Twins: Max Kepler, OF
Kepler feels like the type of player the Twins would come to some sort of modest, Paul DeJong-esque extension with, doesn't he?

White Sox: Yoan Moncada, 2B
With any luck, Eloy Jimenez will be there right alongside him.

WEST

Angels: Mike Trout, OF
Put it this way: If Mike Trout isn't on the 2025 Angels, everything about that franchise is radically different than it is right now.

Video: Guardado on the latest between Angels and Trout

Astros: Jose Altuve, 2B
Alex Bregman seems like the most likely extension candidate -- Altuve's deal runs out after the 2024 season -- but the Altuve-Astros relationship feels like one that shouldn't be broken.

Athletics: Matt Chapman, 3B
The ideal extension candidate, Chapman could be the face of the franchise whenever it moves into its new digs.

Mariners: Justus Sheffield, LHP
He made his debut in September, so he's on the Mariners' 40-man, even if he might not start the season in the Majors.

Rangers: Rougned Odor, 2B
He, Elvis Andrus and Joey Gallo will be free agents following the 2022 season. Here's betting Odor is the one who sticks around, if anybody does.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
He'll actually reach free agency after the 2024 season, if you are counting the days. (That's to say: If you're every other team in baseball.)

Video: Snitker on best lineup spot for Acuna Jr. in 2019

Marlins: Lewis Brinson, OF
Considering he remains the primary haul from their trades last offseason, Brinson will get every possible opportunity to prove himself.

Mets: Brandon Nimmo, OF
Though maybe only because first base slugging prospect Peter Alonso isn't on the 40-man yet.

Nationals: Juan Soto, OF
If the Nationals don't extend him, he'll hit the free-agent market with Acuna.

Phillies: Rhys Hoskins, 1B
This answer could very well change depending on how free agency shakes out this offseason.

CENTRAL

Brewers: Josh Hader, LHP
Yes, yes, he's a reliever, but still: He seems like one of the few relievers on earth worthy of talking long-term, under-market extension with, yes?

Cardinals: Paul DeJong, SS
The extension he signed last year gives the Cardinals team options on him in both 2024 and '25, and if he keeps playing like he has been, they'll happily pick them both up. (It's also possible the answer here is Yadier Molina, and may be through 2035.)

Cubs: Kris Bryant, 3B
This will be the most-watched are-they-gonna-extend-him-soon? story in baseball over the next couple of years.

Video: Kris Bryant is the No. 8 third baseman right now

Pirates: Mitch Keller, RHP
He's already on the 40-man, and he might be the best pitcher in an already underrated rotation by season's end.

Reds: Eugenio Suarez, 3B
He's signed through 2024, and the Reds have a club option on him for '25. Also, top prospect Nick Senzel isn't on the 40-man yet.

WEST

D-backs: Ketel Marte, SS
He's already got options for 2023 and '24, and he'll just be into his 30s when the D-backs have to make their next decision on him. Newly acquired catcher Carson Kelly could be the answer here as well.

Dodgers: Corey Seager, SS
Isn't right now the perfect time to start talking extension with Seager?

Giants: Buster Posey, C
As long as Posey is still playing, he'll be a Giant … right, Farhan?

Padres: Franmil Reyes, OF
It's tough to even imagine this kid being 30 someday.

Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B
They did a mega-extension with Charlie Blackmon last offseason, so they are clearly willing to go that route. Arenado is eligible for free agency next winter, so we'll find out his long-term fate pretty soon.

Video: Arenado seeks record $30 million in arbitration

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

These teams could improve from within in '19

Prospect callups, injury returns can equal impact of a star free agent
MLB.com

With so much focus on the free-agent market and trade winds, it can be easy to forget about the other players whose first games will be worth paying just as much attention to next season. The marketplace is one way for teams to improve, but sometimes the answers can be found right within a club's own roster.

Diverting from the Hot Stove for just a second, here's a mix of veterans and rookies we're looking forward to seeing just as much in 2019.

With so much focus on the free-agent market and trade winds, it can be easy to forget about the other players whose first games will be worth paying just as much attention to next season. The marketplace is one way for teams to improve, but sometimes the answers can be found right within a club's own roster.

Diverting from the Hot Stove for just a second, here's a mix of veterans and rookies we're looking forward to seeing just as much in 2019.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
You can be forgiven if Miggy slipped off your radar for a while; most of his 2018 highlights came in either bitter cold temperatures or dreadful rain, and a torn bicep ended his season by mid-June. But since it's been a while, it's worth a reminder that Cabrera was as lethal as ever in many ways at the plate -- even if the homers were slow to come. Here's where some of Cabrera's contact metrics stood among qualified hitters by the time he tore that bicep tendon on June 12.

• 54.6 percent hard-hit rate (6th)
• 98.1 mph average line drive/fly ball exit velocity (T-17th)
• .315 expected batting average (T-8th)

Cabrera should be back in the Tigers' Opening Day lineup, and while he'll be entering his age-36 season, Detroit is hoping Cabrera can stay on the field enough to showcase that significant talent still left in his bat.

Corey Seager, Dodgers
Here's another big name who's been off the grid for a while, especially after the incredibly deep Dodgers managed to reach the World Series even without one of their bona fide stars. A quick refresher: Seager's 134 league-adjusted OPS+ in 2016 tied for the highest by a rookie shortstop in modern history, and his '17 season was nearly as good despite some elbow issues.

Video: LAD@SF: Seager hammers 2-run homer to right

We just saw Gleyber Torres come back from Tommy John surgery and make an immediate impact for the Yankees. Fangraphs' Steamer projections are similarly optimistic about Seager -- likely due back in May -- believing he'll be somewhere between a 5- to 6-WAR player. The Dodgers might still wind up signing Bryce Harper or trading for J.T. Realmuto, but getting a healthy Seager back in the lineup would be just as impactful.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
There might be no better reflection of the excitement surrounding Guerrero than his Steamer projection, which places him between Aaron Judge and Nolan Arenado among the 20 or so best players by WAR in 2019. Projections are typically conservative, but that's just how much MLB's top prospect has raked in the Minors. Guerrero's OPS hasn't finished below .800 at any level, and his strikeout rate has never risen above 13.4 percent -- still nearly 10 points below the Major League average last season.

Video: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks to impress in the Majors

We don't know exactly when Guerrero will make his Major League debut, but his first big league at-bat figures to be one of the biggest moments on the 2019 calendar.

Eloy Jimenez, White Sox
Baseball's No. 3 prospect isn't far behind Guerrero in terms of his prodigious skill with the bat. Jimenez was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte last June and proceeded to hit .355, compile a .996 OPS and knock 12 homers in 228 plate appearances, ramping up expectations on the South Side for the White Sox biggest piece from their Jose Quintana trade with the Cubs.

"We're hoping that this young man's career for us is going to be one of those future impact guys," White Sox manager Rick Renteria told Baseball America last month. "I don't want to call him a Hall of Famer, because that's a lot to put on a kid's plate, but he has the skill set to potentially be a very, very impactful frontline Major League player."

Jimenez probably could have made it to the big leagues last September, but the White Sox outfield figures to get a lot more potent whenever he arrives this spring. Perhaps Jimenez and Guerrero could give the American League its own version of last summer's thrilling Rookie of the Year race between Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto.

Video: Cassavell on the excitement around Tatis Jr.

Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias, Padres
It's not every day that a team can envision the middle of its infield fortified by two top-50 prospects, but that's the enviable situation San Diego finds itself in with MLB Pipeline's top-ranked prospects at shortstop and second base. Tatis and Urias are 20 and 21, respectively, so they'll take their lumps. But with everything pointing toward 2020 and beyond, Padres fans have to be excited to see two significant pieces of the team's future step closer toward the present.

Jimmy Nelson, Brewers
Milwaukee got within one game of its first World Series appearance since the Reagan administration, and it did so with a new-age mix of bullpenning and diamond-in-the-rough starters like Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley. But here's the type of ace the Brewers hope can step back into the fold this year:

Nelson's ranks among qualified NL starters, 2017

ERA: 8th
FIP: 3rd
K-BB%: 7th
WAR: 4th

Nelson became a breakout ace, but unfortunately his shoulder injury took him away much too quickly. Nelson's rehab went slower than expected last summer, but if he can break camp atop the Brewers' depth chart, he represents a huge boost to their hopes of repeating in the NL Central.

Video: Reyes on returning from elbow surgery

Alex Reyes, Cardinals
This is almost a copy-paste from last year at this time, when Cardinals fans were anxious for Reyes to return from Tommy John surgery and slot in as either a lights-out closer or electric starter. His first game back in 2018 didn't go according to plan, as his velocity dipped after three innings and he wound up needing more surgery for a torn lat. But there's still reasons to be optimistic with Reyes: He hit 97.7 mph in that May 30 start against Milwaukee, and the Brewers were late on many of their swings before his velocity dropped. If Reyes can find that easy gas again and stay on the field, this righty could boost several areas of the Cardinals' pitching staff depending on how they decide to use him.

Michael Pineda, Twins
It's hard to overlook the fact that Pineda has pitched just 89 games since he made the All-Star team as a rookie in 2011, but the big right-hander is cleared for Spring Training and has a chance for his first healthy season in years. There's a lot to unlock if Pineda can take the mound: As MLB.com's Andrew Simon pointed out, he's ranked among the game's upper echelon at missing bats and limiting walks even in his more injury-riddled times as a big leaguer.

Video: CHC@CIN: Darvish strikes out 7, limits Reds to 1 run

Yu Darvish, Cubs
Darvish's injury-riddled 2018 had ripple effects across Chicago's roster: The Cubs picked up Cole Hamels' $20 million option this offseason partly as insurance in case Darvish gets hurt again, and that might have kept them financially hamstrung for shopping sprees like the Harper sweepstakes. But a full-strength season from Darvish would be just as beneficial for the North Siders as picking up Harper. Darvish is a dominant staff leader when he's right (a reminder that he's on pace to be one of the game's all-time strikeout-per-nine innings leaders), and the Cubs need him to be that pitcher more than ever with Hamels and Jon Lester continuing to age.

Darvish says he's ready for Spring Training and 2019, and Chicago fans have roughly 101 million remaining reasons to hope he's right.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Cardinals avoid arbitration, sign 3 to contracts

Ozuna, Wacha, Leone ink one-year deals for 2019
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals avoided arbitration with Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha and Dominic Leone by reaching one-year agreements with all three players Friday.

Ozuna will make $12.25 million in 2019, while Wacha and Leone agreed to salaries of $6.35 million and $1.26 million, respectively, according to a source. The Cardinals have no outstanding arbitration cases remaining. 

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals avoided arbitration with Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha and Dominic Leone by reaching one-year agreements with all three players Friday.

Ozuna will make $12.25 million in 2019, while Wacha and Leone agreed to salaries of $6.35 million and $1.26 million, respectively, according to a source. The Cardinals have no outstanding arbitration cases remaining. 

These were among a flurry of contracts finalized across Major League Baseball on a day when teams and their arbitration-eligible players were slated to exchange desired salary figures. Though negotiations could have continued beyond Friday, the Cardinals set the date as an unofficial deadline to find a middle ground.

That's the result of recently adopting a file-and-trial policy as it relates to arbitration matters. In what's become a common practice across baseball, the Cardinals let representatives of their players know that they intend to end negotiations once numbers are exchanged and instead turn their focus toward preparing for a hearing.

This year, there is no such need.

Ozuna, who earned a salary increase from the $9 million he earned in 2018, returns as the team's starting left fielder. He slashed .280/.325/.433 over his first 148 games with the Cardinals. Shortly after the season ended, Ozuna underwent a cleanup procedure in his right shoulder to address inflammation that had bothered him all year.

Both Wacha and Leone also fought through injuries in 2018. Wacha, who made $5.3 million last year, seemed poised to be an All-Star when his season came to an abrupt end in June due to an oblique strain. Leone was limited to 29 appearances out of the bullpen because of a nerve issue.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Dominic Leone, Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha