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How MLB.com writers voted in HOF balloting

Election results to be revealed 6 p.m. ET Wednesday
MLB.com

Thirteen MLB.com writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2018 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The results of the 74th BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

Thirteen MLB.com writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2018 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The results of the 74th BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

As many as five candidates -- and possibly more -- could be elected, according to the public ballots amassed online. Here's a look at how the 13 voted, and at the bottom you can see what the totals look like among this group:

Barry M. Bloom
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Larry Walker

I've been voting since 1992, and this was my easiest and least controversial ballot. I knew this was going to be my group of 10 immediately after the 2017 election. Bonds and Clemens are gaining. Jones and Thome are first-ballot no-brainers. And I'm confident enough that Guerrero and Hoffman will make up the scant amount of votes they needed last year to get in. Martinez may make it as well. If not, he'll be right on the cusp for '19, his 10th and final year on the ballot. If we elect a record-tying five this year, it will go a long way to empty the ballot. It means that we will have elected 17 very worthy players to the Hall since '14. I'm very good with that.

Video: Lifetime Mariner Martinez deserving of HOF nod in '18

Mark Feinsand
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome

I returned Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Mussina, Ramirez and Sheffield from last year's ballot, while Jones and Thome got my vote in their first year of eligibility. I voted for Martinez after leaving him off last year, not because I didn't feel he was worthy, but because of the 10-vote limit. 

Jeffrey Flanagan
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Larry Walker

I pledged last year that I would revisit the Walker debate, and even with some concerns about his road splits and the Colorado effect, I think as an all-around player (defense, baserunning, etc.), he is a worthy candidate. I also continue to vote for Martinez, which may seem like a contradiction because he was mostly a specialist (as a DH). But he was a dominant specialist, as was closer Hoffman, whose 601 saves are second only to Mariano Rivera. If I had a Pro Football Hall of Fame vote, I'd vote for kickers, too.

Chris Haft
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel

Guerrero confounded pitching staffs by hitting any pitch in any location. Thome and Jones were formidable as rookies and never changed. Covering Vizquel during his National League stint with the Giants prompted my vote for him. I still can't fathom Kent's lack of support, and I jumped to supporting Bonds and Clemens last year; their conviction in the court of public opinion isn't enough.

Video: MLB Now: Kenny's Cooperstown justice for Jeff Kent

Paul Hagen
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker, Billy Wagner

There were some tough decisions filling out the last four spots on this ballot. And I hope Vizquel gets at least the 5 percent he needs to remain under consideration in 2019. But for me, the two first-time eligibles (Thome and Jones) and the two near-misses from last year (Hoffman and Guerrero) were no-brainers. And as I've said before, since nobody knows for sure who did or didn't use PEDs, that can't be used as a factor in voting.

Richard Justice
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Billy Wagner

These 10 were an easy call, but there are at least four other deserving players on the ballot. Bonds and Clemens were the best of their generation. Mussina and Schilling were dominant at a time when ballparks and strike zones got smaller and hitters got bigger. Guerrero, Martinez, Jones and Thome were good enough to be above the usual debate. Do closers belong in the Hall? That's the question with Hoffman and Wagner. If they belong, then these two should be in. My struggle was submitting a ballot without Walker, Rolen, Andruw Jones and Ramirez.

Jon Paul Morosi
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker

The Hall ought to honor the greatest players of every generation, judged within the unique context of each era. And so I voted for Bonds and Clemens, just as I did in each of the previous two years. Walker vs. Vizquel was my major dilemma. Vizquel is a Hall of Famer, especially if one compares his career to that of Ozzie Smith, but he's early enough in his eligibility timeline that I wanted to prioritize Walker. Walker's seven Gold Glove Awards and 141 OPS+ (tied with Jones, ahead of Guerrero) show that there is little doubt as to his Cooperstown worthiness. And while the right-handers have different career profiles, Mussina and Schilling are Hall of Famers by virtue of their consistent excellence in a hitter-friendly era.

Morosi explains his 10 picks for Hall of Fame

Carrie Muskat
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel

Jones, Thome and Vizquel were easy selections. I didn't want to miss Jones' or Thome's at-bats. Vizquel was so gifted athletically, he was someone I never wanted to miss playing shortstop. Guerrero is an add to my ballot after re-evaluating his numbers, while Bonds and Clemens are carryovers. To those who object, I feel my responsibility is to judge players in the context of their era and vote for the best players. Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game in May 1998 is my favorite of all time, but that wasn't enough for me to check his name.

Video: MLB Network debates if Vizquel will make Hall of Fame

Mark Newman
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker

Rolen ranks 10th all-time among third basemen with 70.0 career WAR. Walker ranks 12th in WAR (72.6) among all-time right fielders. Those two candidates had to be on my ballot, and for the first time I omitted Hoffman, who is No. 11 on my top 20. His case is not heavily supported by newer analytics -- in stark contrast to next year's newly eligible candidate, Rivera. Saves mean less today, although they mattered when Hoffman closed. I would expand the ballot beyond the maximum 10 votes, and I also would tweak the 5 percent rule to prevent mistaken one-and-dones like Kenny Lofton, Jorge Posada and likely, Johan Santana. 

Joe Posnanski
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker

I voted for first-timers Jones and Thome without hesitation. I voted for Bonds and Clemens because I believe that they're two of the 25 greatest players in the game's history. I voted for Mussina and Schilling; their careers are massively underappreciated, and they both should have been first-ballot picks. Martinez is an all-time great hitter, Walker is one of the best all-around players and Guerrero was obviously great and might have been the most fun player of my lifetime. That left one spot, and numerous good choices for it. I went with Rolen, who is one of the 10 best third basemen ever, in large part because I believe strongly he should stay on the ballot.

Video: Joe Posnanski reveals his 2018 HOF ballot

Tracy Ringolsby
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Larry Walker

Walker won't make it into the Hall of Fame, but he should. Too much is made about Coors Field, but he only had 31 percent of his career plate appearances at Coors Field, and his career road average is higher than 233 players in the Hall of Fame. He was the most complete player of his generation. I can't ignore Bonds and Clemens. They were dominant even before the suspected steroid era.

Video: Will Larry Walker make it into the Hall of Fame?

Phil Rogers
Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Larry Walker

Voting for Thome was a pleasure, as was covering him. I did it long enough to remember him as the Indians' third baseman. He wasn't bad, either, and was really good at first base when he moved across the diamond. He hit a Major League-record 13 walk-off home runs in his career and delivered an eighth-inning shot that allowed the White Sox to beat the Twins, 1-0, in the 2008 division tiebreaker. Thome and Jones may have been the least discussed candidates over the last couple of months, but we'll have plenty of time to dissect their legacies between now and the induction ceremony.

T.R. Sullivan
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, Larry Walker

This is going to be a big class, but it is more troubling who won't get in. Mussina belongs in the Hall of Fame, Fred McGriff deserved more consideration and Wagner was Hoffman's equal as a closer.

Vote totals of the 13 MLB.com writers
With 75 percent of the vote needed for entry to the Hall, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Jones, Thome, Martinez and Mussina received enough support -- appearing on a minimum of 10 of the 13 ballots -- from MLB.com writers, with Walker and Hoffman knocking at the door.

1. (tie) Vladimir Guerrero: 13
1. (tie) Chipper Jones: 13
1. (tie) Jim Thome: 13
4. (tie) Barry Bonds: 12
4. (tie) Roger Clemens: 12
6. (tie) Edgar Martinez: 10
6. (tie) Mike Mussina: 10
8. Larry Walker: 9
9. Trevor Hoffman: 8
10. Curt Schilling: 7
11. (tie) Scott Rolen: 4
11. (tie) Omar Vizquel: 4
13. (tie) Manny Ramirez: 2
13. (tie) Billy Wagner: 2
15. (tie) Jeff Kent: 1
15. (tie) Gary Sheffield: 1

 

History says J.D.'s 5-year outlook is strong

Slugger's historic comparables continued to hit for several years
MLB.com @mike_petriello

J.D. Martinez is easily the most elite bat available on the free-agent market, and it's not even really close. Yet with just weeks remaining before Spring Training begins, Martinez remains unsigned, though he's reportedly received offers of five years and in the range of $100 million to $125 million.

It's not hard to see why Martinez is looking for a historic contract, thanks to that bat. He's coming off a massive .303/.376/.690 (166 wRC+) season, which made him (on a rate basis) the third-best hitter in baseball, and this wasn't something new. Over the past four seasons, Martinez's line of .300/.362/.574 (148 wRC+) has him tied with Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt as baseball's fourth-best hitter. At the plate, he's a stud. This is not arguable.

J.D. Martinez is easily the most elite bat available on the free-agent market, and it's not even really close. Yet with just weeks remaining before Spring Training begins, Martinez remains unsigned, though he's reportedly received offers of five years and in the range of $100 million to $125 million.

It's not hard to see why Martinez is looking for a historic contract, thanks to that bat. He's coming off a massive .303/.376/.690 (166 wRC+) season, which made him (on a rate basis) the third-best hitter in baseball, and this wasn't something new. Over the past four seasons, Martinez's line of .300/.362/.574 (148 wRC+) has him tied with Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt as baseball's fourth-best hitter. At the plate, he's a stud. This is not arguable.

But it's not hard to see why teams are hesitant to hand out the six- or seven-year deal Martinez apparently wants, either. He is already 30, at a time when the sport has been trending to youth. Martinez is not a strong fielder, as he's piled up minus-27 Defensive Runs Saved and minus-15 Outs Above Average in 2016-17, and he's likely headed to a designated hitter role sooner than later.

The point is, it's a little complicated to know what Martinez's future holds. How can we guess how he might produce as he ages? By looking back to find similar players and see how they aged into their 30s, just as we recently did for Lorenzo Cain.

In order to find those comparables, we need to set some ground rules. We're looking back to find outfielders who put up stellar offense without strong defense, and we're trying to find those who did it over the last few years of their 20s. We're not considering career stats, because Martinez famously struggled for the first few years of his career with Houston (.251/.300/.387, 87 wRC+) before completely revamping his swing.

Video: COL@ARI: Statcast™ measures Martinez's 447-ft. homer

So in order to achieve that, we looked back over the past four decades to 1977, and we looked only for retired or unsigned outfielders who did the following in their age 27-29 seasons.

• wRC+ over 135 (to find elite hitters)
• Slugging percentage over .500 (to find only true power bats)
• Negative defensive value (per FanGraphs)

That gave us 21 names. It's a fascinating list. There are Hall of Famers, All-Stars and those who were close to the end of the line.

Bobby Abreu
Albert Belle
Lance Berkman
Adam Dunn
Cliff Floyd
Kirk Gibson
Juan Gonzalez
Shawn Green
Pedro Guerrero
Vladimir Guerrero
Josh Hamilton
Matt Holliday
Kevin Mitchell
Dale Murphy
Magglio Ordonez
Dave Parker
Kirby Puckett
Manny Ramirez
Gary Sheffield
Danny Tartabull
Bernie Williams

There are a lot of different outcomes here. Let's see how this group aged, both in terms of good/poor outcomes and simply year-by-year.

Though some of these players continued to play into their 40s, that doesn't matter much right now. No one expects Martinez to sign a 10-year contract. Since the sticking point seems to be a contract between five and seven years, let's first look at performance between ages 30 and 35, or six seasons.

Best-case scenarios
If we consider a season of 3 Wins Above Replacement to be an above-average year, then six of our players averaged at least 3 WAR annually over the remaining six years: Sheffield, Berkman, Holliday, Ramirez, Abreu and Williams. Call this a very good outcome. Berkman made three All-Star teams after 30 while hitting 186 home runs, though he played far more first base than outfield in his 30s.

Holliday is actually a fantastic comparable because he entered free agency at the same age as Martinez and led up to it with a similar three-year wRC+ (145) as Martinez has (147). He signed a seven-year deal worth $120 million with St. Louis and was an above-average hitter (though not fielder) each year for the length of the deal.

Video: SF@ARI: Martinez golfs a grand slam to right-center

Worst-case scenarios
Health is obviously a concern as players age, and while Martinez isn't considered injury-prone, he has had two serious injuries in the past two years, breaking his elbow in 2016 and missing the first few weeks of '17 with a sprained foot.

Among our group of players, a few struggled to stay healthy. Belle played his final game at 33 due to a hip injury. Hamilton's final full season was at 32, thanks to multiple knee and shoulder surgeries, though obviously his off-field issues make him a unique case. By age 35, Dunn, Belle, Tartabull, Hamilton and Green were all out of baseball, and Puckett and Gonzalez were playing their final seasons.

As far as production goes, every single player remained an above-average hitter through 35, though of course that obscures two things. First of all, "above average" may be useful, but it can also be a big step back from present-day stardom. Second, declining defense can hurt overall value. Floyd, Gonzalez, Mitchell, Parker, Green and Tartabull were all worth less than 10 WAR between 30 and 36.

Here's how our group performed in their 30s, year by year.

At age 30
Averages: .290/.369/.516, 24 HR, 128 games, 544 PA, 132 wRC+, 3.1 WAR  

Stardom, mostly. Fourteen of our 21 players hit at least 20 homers, while Berkman and Guerrero each had third-place MVP Award finishes. Every player had an above-average offensive season, though injuries affected several. Guerrero and Ordonez missed significant time due to knee injuries, and Mitchell got into just 99 games due to rib and foot problems.

Overall, this was a successful year, though it marked the end of Tartabull's time as a regular outfielder and the beginning of his tenure as a primary DH.

At age 31
Averages: .294/.378/.518, 27 HR, 135 games, 576 PA, 134 wRC+, 3.6 WAR  

This was a very good year for Gibson, who took home the 1988 National League MVP Award, and for the group as a whole. Nine slugged over 30 homers, and 15 put out 20 or more. No one (with one exception) had a poor hitting season, and for the most part, everyone stayed healthy and productive. Nineteen of the 22 hitters in our group received at least 450 plate appearances. This was the final time Gonzalez played a full year, and the last time Murphy had a star-level season.

The outlier here was Dunn, who suffered through a miserable .159/.292/.277 (60 wRC+, -2.9 WAR) in his first year with the White Sox.

Video: SD@ARI: Statcast™ measures Martinez's 461-ft. homer

At age 32
Averages: .283/.367/.491, 24 HR, 137 games, 582 PA, 126 wRC+, 2.9 WAR  

Another solid season overall. Puckett finished second in the 1992 American League MVP Award voting, and Berkman finished fifth in the 2008 NL MVP Award ballot. Those two, along with Williams, Sheffield, Holliday and Mitchell all had star-level (4 WAR) years. Dunn bounced back to crush 41 homers, though since he was now a DH, it was worth only 2 WAR.

Again, health was relatively strong here. Only Gibson (hamstring), Gonzalez (calf) and Tartabull (ribs) failed to get into 100 games due to injury.

At age 33
Averages: .283/.361/.475, 22 HR, 137 games, 577 PA, 122 wRC+, 2.2 WAR  

Mitchell took a year off to play in Japan, while the remainder of our group began to show some large divisions. Ordonez had his best year, hitting .363/.434/.595 (8 WAR), and Williams, Sheffield, Holliday, Abreu and Guerrero all had 3 WAR or better seasons. Berkman, Gibson, Ramirez and Guerrero were more or less average.

But of our 20 active names this year, half suffered through poor years, and they mostly looked identical. Belle (104 wRC+, 0.9 WAR), Parker (101, 0.9) and Dunn (107, 0.3) combined average offense with little defense, limiting overall value. Belle retired after the season.

At age 34
Averages: .269/.361/.445, 17 HR, 109 games, 448 PA, 116 wRC+, 1.5 WAR

Tartabull played in just three games before an injury ended his career. We have to account for the possibility that this is a potential path for Martinez, too, so their absences are included. Fourteen others had below-average seasons, some due to negative defensive value bringing down decent offense (Abreu, Ordonez), others being injured (Gonzalez, Hamilton), and some simply not hitting (Murphy). Dunn, Hamilton and Green were finished after this year.

There were a few success stories, though. Holliday put up his final above-average year (3.4 WAR), while Sheffield and Parker each had Top 3 finishes in the MVP Award voting.

Video: MIA@ARI: Martinez launches 42nd homer of 2017

At age 35
Averages: .254/.329/.417 13 HR, 85 games, 352 PA, 99 wRC+, 0.9 WAR  

Again, we're counting the zeros of the retirees in the games, PA and WAR averages (though not the rate stats) to account for that possibility. Of those still playing at 35, only two, Berkman (.301/.412/.547, 163 wRC+, 4.8 WAR) and Sheffield (.390/.393/.534, 141 wRC+, 3.8 WAR) had all-around star-level seasons.

Several others -- Puckett, Williams, Abreu, Parker, Ordonez, Ramirez -- hit well, but either provided negative defensive value or didn't play the field much at all. This might be the most likely path for Martinez.

Beyond
Of our original 21 players, 14 made it beyond 35, though some only barely -- Floyd, Murphy, Mitchell and Guerrero all got into fewer than 60 additional games. Only Sheffield and Ramirez put up considerable value after this point.

We don't really need to worry about what Martinez does at this age, though. Based on what we can see, it's a strong bet that his new team might expect three very good seasons.

After that? Well, it could take several different paths. You can only see so far into the future.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

 

J.D. Martinez

Giants find center fielder, sign free agent A-Jax

Outfielder could solidify position or platoon after club added Cutch to play right
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants completed their outfield upgrade, at least on paper, by agreeing with free-agent center fielder Austin Jackson on a two-year, $6 million deal on Monday.

The club confirmed the accord shortly after a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that the sides had reached a deal that could be worth up to $8.5 million with incentives.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants completed their outfield upgrade, at least on paper, by agreeing with free-agent center fielder Austin Jackson on a two-year, $6 million deal on Monday.

The club confirmed the accord shortly after a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that the sides had reached a deal that could be worth up to $8.5 million with incentives.

Adding Jackson, who will turn 31 on Feb. 1, conceivably represents the final step in San Francisco's attempt to improve its outfield defense. Jackson gives the Giants a legitimate center fielder, though Steven Duggar -- their No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline -- will compete for playing time during Spring Training. Former Pirates star Andrew McCutchen, obtained in a trade last week, is expected to play right field. Hunter Pence, the Giants' regular right fielder since he was acquired from Philadelphia at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2012, will play left or become the fourth outfielder.

Giants general manager Bobby Evans said in a statement that Jackson "is a talented and versatile player who will strengthen our roster and provide additional depth at all three outfield positions."

Video: KC@CLE: Jackson scores on RBI single thanks to error

This indicated that Jackson, a right-handed batter, could platoon with the left-handed-swinging Duggar. Playing left field part-time is also a possibility for Jackson, who has made 42 appearances there during eight Major League seasons.

Jackson thrived with the Indians last season, recording a slash line of .318/.387/.482 with seven home runs in 85 games while mostly occupying a platoon role against left-handed pitchers. In 141 plate appearances against lefties in 2017, he posted a 1.013 OPS with four homers.

Jackson owns a lifetime slash line of .275/.336/.403, with 111 stolen bases and 62 home runs. The Giants limited him to a .231 batting average (3-for-13) while sweeping the Tigers, with whom he spent his first 4 1/2 seasons, in the 2012 World Series.

Video: CLE@SEA: Jackson's running grab begins double play

Though Jackson's defensive statistics aren't stunning, his presence ought to help improve the Giants' outfield defense overall. According to Statcast™, they ranked next-to-last in the Majors with minus-16 Outs Above Average (OAA) last year. Jackson had a minus-2 OAA. Denard Span, San Francisco's primary center fielder, and Pence ranked among the National League's bottom 20 outfielders in terms of average arm strength.

The Giants were said to have interest in other free-agent center fielders, including Jarrod Dyson (plus-7 OAA in 2017), Cameron Maybin (plus-2) and Jon Jay (minus-3).

According to FanGraphs, San Francisco also recorded minus-45 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), worst in the Majors last season. Its minus-11.4 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) ranked third-to-last among the 30 teams.

Jackson had a minus-2 DRS and a minus-4.4 UZR in 2017.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

 

San Francisco Giants, Austin Jackson

Feinsand: Lynn, Cobb may wait on Yu, Arrieta

MLB.com @feinsand

Yu Darvish made some news this weekend with a playful tweet, leading some to project that the top available arm on the free-agent market might be getting closer to deciding where he'll play in 2018 and beyond.

Jake Arrieta, the consensus No. 2 starting pitcher on the market, continues to be linked to more than a half-dozen teams, showing no signs of an imminent decision.

Yu Darvish made some news this weekend with a playful tweet, leading some to project that the top available arm on the free-agent market might be getting closer to deciding where he'll play in 2018 and beyond.

Jake Arrieta, the consensus No. 2 starting pitcher on the market, continues to be linked to more than a half-dozen teams, showing no signs of an imminent decision.

The next two starters available are Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, both of whom could be fallback plans for teams that come up short in their bids for Darvish and Arrieta.

With that in mind, it's fair to ask: Are Lynn and Cobb essentially obliged to wait for Darvish and/or Arrieta to sign before they can land their own respective deals?

According to one long-time executive, while either starter would help a rotation, neither Lynn nor Cobb will make any club feel better about losing out on one of the top two.

"I see them both as No. 3 or 4 starters," the executive said. "Neither gets me excited, but I'd take them both on my team."

Video: MLB Now: Brewers reportedly jump into chase for Yu

At a certain price, anyway. Reports have indicated that both Cobb and Lynn are seeking deals worth $15-20 million annually over four, five or even six years. The contracts signed in recent years by Ian Kennedy (5 years, $70 million), Wei-Yin Chen (5 years, $80 million), Mike Leake (5 years, $80 million) and Jeff Samardzija (5 years, $90 million) would help make a case for Lynn and Cobb, but in this year's slow-moving market, it remains to be seen whether they'll get the deals they seek.

The executive pointed to the four-year, $50 million deal Matt Garza signed four years ago as the type of contract he would give either Lynn or Cobb, though he wouldn't be surprised to see either pitcher sign a deal similar to the three-year, $38 million pact the Cubs gave Tyler Chatwood in early December.

That feels a little light for both starters, especially Lynn, whose overall body of work is far deeper than Cobb's.

Lynn missed the entire 2016 season following Tommy John surgery, while Cobb was out for all of '15 and the first five months of '16 after undergoing the same procedure. But Lynn has topped 175 innings in all five of his full seasons, surpassing 200 twice. Cobb's 179 1/3 innings over 29 starts last season represented career highs in both categories.

Video: MIL@TB: Cobb fans six, allows one run over six frames

To his benefit, Cobb is the youngest of the top four starters; he turns 31 in October, while Lynn turns 31 in May, Arrieta turns 32 in March and Darvish turns 32 in August.

"You can dream on a little more upside with Cobb," a Major League scout said. "But there's more risk, too."

The scout tabbed Lynn as "a solid No. 4 starter," so while he might not provide the front-line presence of Darvish or Arrieta, the former Cardinal would be an asset for a team seeking dependable rotation depth.

"He does it mostly with the variation of one pitch and clearly is capable of logging competitive innings," the scout said of Lynn. "His ability to pitch with the fastball -- sinker and cutter -- and ability to execute and induce weak contact are real."

The executive also noted Lynn's heavy reliance on his fastball -- he threw fastballs nearly 80 percent of the time in 2017, according to Statcast™ -- as a drawback, though one that would concern him less than Cobb's lengthy injury history.

Both pitchers rejected $17.4 million qualifying offers, meaning any team that signs them will be subject to the loss of one or more Draft picks, depending on their payroll and luxury-tax status.

Video: Smyly wants Cobb to join him in Chicago

The Cubs have been a popular prediction for Cobb, who has history with both manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey from their time together in Tampa Bay. The Twins, Brewers, Rangers, Cardinals and Phillies have also been mentioned as possibilities.

As for Lynn, the same group of teams have largely been rumored as potential suitors. Not surprisingly, most of them have also been connected to Darvish and/or Arrieta, contributing to the belief that, like Cobb, Lynn is a realistic Plan B for many of them.

It's still conceivable that Lynn and/or Cobb will wind up in that Kennedy-Chen-Leake-Samardzija territory, as all it takes is two teams to begin bidding against each other to drive up the price. But like most other notable free agents, they'll have to continue to exercise patience. Until Darvish and Arrieta make their decisions, the starting-pitching market will likely continue to face its current logjam.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

 

Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn

MLB Buzz: Darvish, Cubs reportedly in talks

MLB.com

The Hot Stove is open for business. As the top free agents begin to ink new deals and clubs begin to make the moves they think will vault them into contention or put them over the top, MLB.com will have you covered with all the latest buzz right here.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Hot Stove is open for business. As the top free agents begin to ink new deals and clubs begin to make the moves they think will vault them into contention or put them over the top, MLB.com will have you covered with all the latest buzz right here.

Hot Stove Tracker

Cubs setting sights on Darvish?
The Cubs are having "active talks" with pitcher Yu Darvish, according to a report Monday night by the Associated Press.

There is no agreement in place, according to the AP. Still, it appears the market for Darvish is beginning to pick up. Earlier Monday, ESPN reported that Darvish had received a five-year offer from an unknown team.

In addition to the Cubs, the free-agent right-hander has been linked to the Twins, Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees and Brewers.

News of talks between the Cubs and Darvish comes on the heels of a report that Chicago has agreed to a Minor League pact with veteran catcher Chris Gimenez, a former teammate of Darvish's with the Rangers.

Darvish, who finished last season with the Dodgers and started Game 7 of the World Series, beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

Mets interested in reunion with Colon
At 44 years young, Bartolo Colon is still angling for one more year in the Majors, and the right-hander may already have one suitor. The Mets are interested in a potential reunion with Colon, according to former Twins teammate Ervin Santana, who discussed Colon in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Colon was a fan favorite with the Mets from 2014-16, a span in which the veteran went 44-34 with a 3.90 ERA and 3.79 FIP. The reunion could make sense for both sides, as the pitcher figures to carry a low price tag and has a specific goal to reach before retirement.

Colon has reportedly been striving to play another season in an effort to pass Dennis Martinez as the Majors' all-time winningest Latin American pitcher. With 240 wins, Colon is just five victories behind Martinez's record. Colon already holds the record for Dominican-born pitchers, having passed Pedro Martinez in 2016.

Working against Colon's goal is the fact that he posted a career-worst 6.48 ERA last season with the Braves and Twins. Colon did manage to add seven more wins -- along with 14 losses -- to his career total last season, but he will likely have to improve on last year's performance if he wants an opportunity to reach his goal.

Indians discussing Moylan
The Indians may be interested in signing veteran reliever Peter Moylan according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Cleveland is looking to fill the bullpen vacancies left by Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith, each of whom departed via free agency (Shaw to the Rockies and Smith to the Astros).

Moylan, 39, was tied with Shaw for most appearances (79) in MLB last season. He posted a 3.49 ERA in 59 1/3 innings for the Royals, though his walk rate per nine innings was 3.8. He missed the entire 2014 season and part of 2015 recovering from a second Tommy John surgery on his elbow, but in three seasons since then, has a 3.46 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

After two years out of big leagues, Craig will try to make a comeback
The Padres have signed the 33-year-old veteran outfielder and first baseman Allen Craig -- who last played a Major League game in 2015 -- to a Minor League deal, according to a report from SB Nation's Chris Cotillo on Monday. The team has not confirmed the report.

Craig was a Cardinal from 2010-14 and helped St. Louis win the 2011 World Series, with some memorable hits in the Fall Classic, including the go-ahead home run against the Rangers in Game 7.

He was traded to the Red Sox at the 2014 Trade Deadline and struggled for the next two seasons, then spent 2016 and '17 in the Minors before being released last June.

In 534 career Major League games, Craig is a .276/.333/.435 hitter with 59 home runs and 296 RBIs. He was an All-Star with the Cards in 2013.

Koji eyeing one-year deal
Koji Uehara may still have one more season in him. The 43-year-old free-agent reliever said that he wants to play one more year before retiring -- assuming he gets a Major League contract offer.

Uehara talked about his future at a baseball clinic in Fukushima, Japan, as first reported by Kyodo News.

One key stipulation for Uehara is that he would not be interested in signing a Minor League contract with a team. The veteran right-hander said that he's been talking with teams but hasn't received an offer, so retirement remains an option.

Despite his age, Uehara was very serviceable last year with the Cubs. He held a 3.98 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 12 walks over 43 innings. Uehara also held a 1.16 WHIP, which, while still impressive, broke a streak of seven straight seasons with a sub-1.00 mark.

If Uehara plays in 2018, it will be his 10th Major League season after spending 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants in Nippon Professional Baseball. However, Uehara hasn't completely shut the door on playing beyond then.

"If I get a major league contract, and I do put up good numbers, then I'll think about another year," Uehara said, "but right now I'm focused on just this one year."

Orioles may be a fit for Dyson
The Orioles are looking for a left-handed hitter to play right field and back up center fielder Adam Jones, and Jarrod Dyson remains a possibility, according to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports.

The speedy Dyson, who has stolen 204 bases in 661 career games, could be ideal for Baltimore, which has placed last in the Majors in stolen bases each of the last four seasons. Dyson was limited to 111 games with the Mariners in 2017, spending time on the disabled list in August with a right groin strain before undergoing season-ending hernia surgery in September. If his health checks out and he's ready by Spring Training, the O's may be interested in platooning Dyson for his defense and speed.

Dyson, 33, hasn't played more than 120 games in a season throughout his eight-year career. Dyson slashed .251/.324/.350 with 13 doubles, three triples, 30 RBIs, five home runs and 28 stolen bases in 35 attempts last season.

Red Sox's offer to Martinez reportedly $125 million
The Red Sox's much-discussed interest in free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez reached a new level on Friday with a report from the Boston Herald that the club has made Martinez an offer of five years and approximately $125 million. The club hasn't confirmed the report.

It had been reported recently that the Red Sox had extended an offer to Martinez of five years and about $100 million.

Martinez's agent, Scott Boras, told MLB Network insider Jon Heyman that the reports of the first offer, which was said to be less than what Martinez was seeking, were "not accurate." Heyman reported last week that Martinez is looking for a six-year deal valued at $30 million per year. Boston has been seen as the favorite to land Martinez.

Heyman reported last week that Martinez is willing to hold out until Spring Training for a contract that he believes meets his market value, which indicates other clubs are also involved in negotiations. Martinez was a catalyst for the D-backs last year in helping them reach the postseason for the first time since 2011, and Arizona is reportedly still interested in bringing him back, per Heyman.

Martinez hit 29 homers with 65 RBIs in just 62 games for the D-backs after being acquired on July 18, trailing only National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton in each category during that span. Martinez hit 45 homers during the 2017 season, despite playing in just 119 games. He became the first player in MLB history with that many home runs in so few games.

If the Red Sox do indeed sign Martinez, that would create a dilemma in the outfield. Martinez would reportedly prefer to play outfield, but Boston already has Gold Glove Award winner Mookie Betts, along with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. That means Martinez would likely be the club's designated hitter, which in turn may give Arizona an edge, in addition to the fact that the club recently hired Martinez's personal hitting coach.

Twins have interest in Miley
The Twins have been connected to several starting pitchers on the free-agent market this offseason, and left-hander Wade Miley is also on that list, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis.

According to Wolfson's report, the Twins "are maintaining regular dialogue" with Miley's agent, in addition to agents for Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Chris Tillman, among others.

Video: BAL@TB: Miley fans Longoria to end the 1st

Miley, 31, posted a 5.61 ERA with 5.3 walks per nine innings in 32 starts for the Orioles last season. He hasn't posted an ERA below 4.34 since 2013 with the D-backs. He was an All-Star and runner-up in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012, finishing with a 3.33 ERA in 32 appearances (29 starts) for Arizona.

The Twins have been pursuing frontline starters to add to a rotation that features Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, but the interest in Miley is in keeping with chief baseball officer Derek Falvey's comments that the club is also looking for "value adds."

Miley could fit the bill if he continues being as durable as he's been in his career, and proves that the career-high walk rate, which doubled from the prior season, was an outlier.

Yankees, Rangers, Marlins favorites for Cuban prospect Martinez
Twenty-one-year-old Cuban outfield prospect Julio Pablo Martinez is still waiting to be cleared by Major League Baseball to sign, but three teams have emerged as favorites to sign him if and when he becomes eligible.

The Marlins, Rangers and Yankees have separated themselves as favorites to sign Martinez, who is among the top young players from Cuba, sources tell MLB.com and as was first reported by Baseball America. Because of his age, Martinez will be subject to international bonus pool rules.

Martinez's talent is on par with a first-round Draft pick and that he would likely be ready for a Class A Advanced or Double-A assignment. At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, the left-handed hitter has a promising combination of speed, power and athleticism that should allow him to stick in center field.

Martinez slashed .333/.469/.498 with six home runs and 24 stolen bases last season in the Cuban Serie Nacional while walking 52 times compared to 30 strikeouts. He also competed in the Canadian-American Association in 2017 and posted a .297/.345/.449 line with seven home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Martinez is likely to be cleared by Major League Baseball before the current signing period ends on June 15, but depending on which team he chooses, he could opt to sign in either the 2017-18 or 2018-19 period.

Because the Marlins and Yankees -- both of whom have held private workouts for him this week in Florida -- have limited bonus pool space left, Martinez would likely wait until July 2 to sign with either team. The Rangers, however, have significant international money left after failing to sign Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani and would likely choose to sign him in the current period.

Nunez works out for Red Sox
Free-agent utility infielder Eduardo Nunez recently worked out for the Red Sox in the Dominican Republic, according to the Boston Herald. Nunez spent part of last season with Boston, slashing .321/.353/.539 with eight home runs in 38 games following a trade from the Giants.

Nunez injured his right knee on Sept. 9, and though he tried twice to return -- once in the American League Division Series against the Astros -- he ended up aggravating the injury. According to the Herald report, doctors have declared the knee fully healthy, and Nunez's market is gaining steam, as he has been in contact with at least eight clubs.

If the Red Sox were to sign Nunez, they'd likely play him at second base to start the season, with veteran Dustin Pedroia recovering from knee surgery.

Per MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Mets are also showing serious interest in signing Nunez, particularly with their own need at second base.

Reynolds wants to return to Rockies on Major League deal
Free-agent first baseman Mark Reynolds would like to return to the Rockies, but not on a Minor League deal like he signed prior to the 2017 season, according to the Denver Post.

The 34-year-old Reynolds slashed .267/.352/.487 with 30 home runs in 148 games for Colorado in 2017, providing a lift when Ian Desmond, whom the club signed to a five-year, $70 million contract to play first base, was injured to open the season.

Despite slumping in the second half (.762 OPS with 11 homers), Reynolds produced a 105 OPS+ overall, his best since 2012. He did have stark home-road splits, however, slashing .294/.393/.584 at Coors Field, and .242/.311/.392 away from Denver.

When the Rockies signed Reynolds to a Minor League deal last February, he was coming off an injury-shortened season in which he posted an .806 OPS with 14 homers in 118 games for Colorado.

"I think I proved last year that I can produce and help a team," Reynolds told the Post. "I am looking to sign a Major League deal. ... Things are different this year."

The Rockies could use a first baseman, with Ryan McMahon waiting in the wings. Signing Reynolds could open the possibility of a platoon between him and McMahon, especially given that the 148 games Reynolds played in last season were his most since 2011.

Video: LAD@COL: Reynolds reaches 30 homers with two-run shot

Marlins want Acuna in a Yelich deal with Braves
Christian Yelich's name has been in the trade rumor mill for much of the offseason, and the buzz has picked up again after the center fielder's agent said Tuesday that Yelich hopes to be traded before Spring Training starts. According to MLB Network insider Peter Gammons, any deal would have to bring a "huge return" for Miami.

Citing conversations with teams that have called the Marlins about Yelich, Gammons said Wednesday on MLB Tonight that the Marlins won't move the 26-year-old unless they get back "star-level talent." As one example, Gammons said Miami has told the Braves that uber-prospect Ronald Acuna would have to be included in any trade for Yelich.

"The Marlins told the Braves, 'Look, we'll do a three- or four- or five-for-one, but Ronald Acuna has to be in it or we don't go even to the second player,'" Gammons said on MLB Network.

Acuna is one of baseball's very top prospects. He currently ranks as MLB's No. 6 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and could move up even further on that list in the upcoming 2018 rankings. The 20-year-old outfielder seems likely to be promoted to the big league club early next season.

Gammons said Acuna is a player the Braves won't trade, and the fact that the Marlins would tell the Braves that he would have to be the minimum headliner of any Yelich deal indicates that they're "shooting very high."

Following Miami's trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon to the Yankees, Cardinals and Mariners, respectively, Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto have been floated as the next players the team could potentially move as part of its rebuilding effort.

Gammons also mentioned Realmuto in the segment, saying that other teams' general managers think the Marlins might wait to trade Realmuto closer to the 2018 Trade Deadline.

Video: Gammons on Marlins asking for Acuna in Yelich deal

 

Chipper, Thome, Vlad shined against the best

Potential HOF newcomers stepped up vs. Pedro, Unit, Glavine
MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB

It's likely that at least three legendary hitters will gain entry to Cooperstown on Wednesday, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America announces the 2018 Hall of Fame election results.

While Trevor Hoffman and Edgar Martinez appear to be on the bubble for induction, first-timers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, along with Vladimir Guerrero, who fell just short in his initial round of eligibility last year, look like locks based on the roughly 50 percent of ballots that have been revealed publicly. All of them are tracking well above 90 percent, with 75 percent needed for induction.

It's likely that at least three legendary hitters will gain entry to Cooperstown on Wednesday, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America announces the 2018 Hall of Fame election results.

While Trevor Hoffman and Edgar Martinez appear to be on the bubble for induction, first-timers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, along with Vladimir Guerrero, who fell just short in his initial round of eligibility last year, look like locks based on the roughly 50 percent of ballots that have been revealed publicly. All of them are tracking well above 90 percent, with 75 percent needed for induction.

Each of these three sluggers showed he belonged among Hall of Famers, even before getting the opportunity to join the club. They all did some damage during their careers against pitchers who since have received baseball's highest honor. And uniting all three is a measure of success against perhaps the nastiest pitcher of their (or any) generation -- Pedro Martinez.

Here is a closer look at how they fared. (Note: All numbers include the postseason.)

More Hall of Fame coverage

Chipper Jones

Jones' overall performance against Martinez was more solid than spectacular. The switch-hitter posted a .339 on-base percentage and .408 slugging percentage in 59 career plate appearances from 1995-2009. That line includes three home runs.

The first came on July 5, 1997, at Olympic Stadium in Montreal against the Expos. The game remained scoreless in the top of the third, when Atlanta loaded the bases with two outs. Martinez, on his way to an MLB-best 1.90 ERA, missed out over the plate. Jones didn't miss, crushing a grand slam well over the center-field wall to pave the way for a 5-3 Braves victory.

That feat has only grown in stature, considering that Martinez went on to make upward of 300 more regular-season starts without allowing another slam.

Video: ATL@MON: Chipper hits grand slam off Pedro

Meanwhile, Jones managed to do some of his best work against another future Hall of Famer, Randy Johnson. The two tangled 47 times, and the Big Unit did notch 17 strikeouts, but Jones more than made up for those whiffs.

The resulting slash line of .349/.404/.791 gave Jones the second-highest OPS (1.195) for any player with at least 30 plate appearances against Johnson, trailing only Albert Pujols. Jones' six homers also tie Pujols for the most off the electrifying lefty, and are two more than Jones collected against any other southpaw.

Consider what Jones accomplished against Johnson from 1999-2000, seasons in which the Unit posted a 2.56 ERA, struck out 711 batters and won two National League Cy Young Awards for the D-backs. Over five games, Jones went 8-for-14 with a double, six homers and eight RBIs. That incredible run of success included two multihomer games exactly a year apart -- Sept. 5, 1999, and Sept. 5, 2000 -- in which Jones also drew a walk and swiped a pair of bases.

Jim Thome

On one hand, Martinez struck out Thome 18 times in 51 plate appearances and held him to a .167 batting average (7-for-42). On the other hand, Thome battled for nine walks, slammed four home runs and slugged a stellar .476.

Thome is one of only six players to homer at least four times off Martinez, a group that also includes Hall of Famer Mike Piazza and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. The first of those came in Game 1 of the 1998 American League Division Series in Cleveland, and the next came on Aug. 3, 1999, at Fenway Park, amid one of the most dominant pitching seasons in baseball history. Martinez allowed a grand total of nine big flies in 213 1/3 innings that year, while going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA in an offensively charged environment.

Video: 1998 ALDS Gm1: Thome cranks a solo homer to right

Thome also more than held his own against Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, batting .259/.333/.556 over 30 plate appearances.

They first clashed in the 1995 World Series, with Thome going 2-for-6 in the NL Cy Young Award winner's two starts for the Braves. In Game 5, with the Indians fighting to stave off elimination, Thome's go-ahead RBI single off Maddux in the bottom of the sixth inning -- along with his homer off Brad Clontz two frames later -- played a key role in a 5-4 Cleveland victory.

More than a decade later, in 2006, Thome faced Maddux for the final times in a pair of White Sox-Cubs Interleague tilts. Thome went 3-for-5 for the South Siders with a double, a walk and two home runs against the 40-year-old.

Vladimir Guerrero

During Guerrero's 1997 rookie campaign, Martinez was an Expos teammate and mentor, before his trade to Boston that November. The two didn't go head to head often after that, but when they did, Guerrero had the upper hand, putting up a slash line of .286/.476/.571 in 21 plate appearances.

Vlad made things miserable for Martinez in 2004, his first season with the Angels and Martinez's last with the Red Sox. On June 2 in Anaheim, Guerrero drove in five runs off Martinez with a homer, a double and a sacrifice fly, on his way to a career-high nine RBIs. Then, in Game 2 of the ALDS at Angel Stadium, Guerrero's two-run single against Martinez in the fifth inning gave the Halos a 3-1 lead (Boston later rallied to win).

Video: NYM@MON: Vlad hits for the cycle against the Mets

Meanwhile, Guerrero faced Hall of Famer Tom Glavine more times (75) than any pitcher other than Kevin Millwood over the course of his career, and tasted no shortage of success. The two faced off in every season from 1996-2003 in the NL East, with Guerrero batting .323/.413/.554 with nine extra-base hits, nine RBIs and 10 walks.

Their second-to-last meeting came with Glavine's Mets visiting Montreal on Sept. 14, 2003. Against the veteran lefty, Guerrero smacked a ringing double in the second inning, lined a single in the fourth and sliced an RBI triple off the right-field wall in the fifth. He added a two-run homer off Dan Wheeler in the seventh, completing the final cycle in Expos history.

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

 

Guerrero Jr. leads Top 10 3B Prospects list

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Baseball features a wealth of young talent at third base. Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Jose Ramirez and Anthony Rendon were the four best players at the position in 2017, and Rendon was the old man of that group at age 27.

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Baseball features a wealth of young talent at third base. Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Jose Ramirez and Anthony Rendon were the four best players at the position in 2017, and Rendon was the old man of that group at age 27.

Alex Bregman, Joey Gallo, Jake Lamb, Manny Machado, Miguel Sano, Travis Shaw and Eugenio Suarez also had strong seasons, and none of them was older than Shaw at 27. Rookies Jeimer Candelario, Matt Chapman and Rafael Devers graduated from the Top 100 Prospects list to the Majors and fortified the American League even further at the hot corner.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

More exciting third basemen are on the way. Nick Senzel (Reds), Miguel Andujar (Yankees), Christian Arroyo (Rays) and Brian Anderson (Marlins) look ready to claim starting jobs in the Majors this year. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays), who can stake a claim to being the best prospect in baseball, is on course to arrive in 2019 -- unless he forces his way to Toronto this summer as a 19-year-old.

This is the sixth in the series of MLB Pipeline's Top 10 Prospects list and will be followed by shortstops on Wednesday and outfielders on Thursday. We'll unveil our overall Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with an MLB Network special (simulcast on MLB.com) at 8 p.m. ET.

The Top 10
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
2. Nick Senzel, Reds
3. Miguel Andujar, Yankees
4. Michael Chavis, Red Sox
5. Christian Arroyo, Rays
6. Austin Riley, Braves
7. Ryan Mountcastle, Orioles
8. Colton Welker, Rockies
9. Brian Anderson, Marlins
10. Jake Burger, White Sox

Top Tools

Best Hitter: Guerrero (80)
In his full-season debut, he hit .323/.425/.485 between two Class A stops at age 18, walking more than he struck out while finishing second in the Minor Leagues in on-base percentage. With his advanced feel for hitting, mature approach and exceptional hand-eye coordination, Guerrero should contend for batting titles on an annual basis. Senzel might be the second-best hitter in the Minors, but he takes a back seat to Guerrero.

Video: Top Prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays

Best Power: Guerrero (65)
Guerrero stroked 13 home runs and 43 extra-base hits as a teenager and his power will only continue to grow. He has a penchant for making hard contact, not to mention impressive bat speed and physical strength. His soon-to-be Hall of Famer father averaged 33 homers per full season in the big leagues, and Vladimir Jr. has the tools to do the same.

Fastest Runner: Senzel (55)
Third base isn't a position known for speed, and he's the lone above-average runner in our Top 10. Senzel has 32 steals in 187 pro games, and while he won't be that prolific in the Majors, he's an asset on the bases.

Video: Top Prospects: Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds

Best Arm: Andujar (70)
While he has the ability to hit for average and power, Andujar's best pure tool is clearly his cannon arm. He could stand to improve the accuracy of his throws, but scouts estimate that he'd immediately have a mid-90s fastball if he moved to the mound.

Video: Top Prospects: Miguel Andujar, 3B, Yankees

Best Defender: Anderson, Senzel (60)
Senzel edged Anderson for the third-base spot on our All-Defense Team. They both have plus arms, can make throws from different angles and cover a lot of ground at the hot corner.

Superlatives

Highest Ceiling: Guerrero
Guerrero has the highest offensive ceiling of any prospect in baseball. He could be his dad with more selectivity at the plate or the next Miguel Cabrera, and the Blue Jays will be thrilled with either outcome.

Highest Floor: Senzel
All five of his tools grade as solid or better, which is why Senzel ranks as one of the game's elite prospects. He's a safe bet to hit and get the job done defensively, and his ceiling ranks second only to Guerrero's on this Top 10.

Rookie of the Year Candidate: Arroyo
The headline prospect in the December trade that sent Evan Longoria from the Rays to the Giants, he offers the best combination of readiness and opportunity. Arroyo is a pure hitter with a career .300 average in the Minors, and his steady approach should help him adapt to big league pitching.

Video: Top Prospects: Christian Arroyo, 3B, Rays

Highest Riser: Chavis
The 26th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, he tried to do way too much at the plate in his first three pro seasons and wound up hitting .235/.301/.396 in his first three pro seasons. When Chavis stopped trying to yank every pitch out of the park in 2017, he batted .282/.347/.563 and ranked third in the Minors in extra-base hits (68) and fifth in homers (31).

Video: Top Prospects: Michael Chavis, 3B, Red Sox

Humblest Beginning: Anderson
This Top 10 includes five first-round picks, a supplemental first-rounder, two international bonus babies and no truly humble beginnings. Anderson received the lowest bonus, $600,000 as a third-rounder out of Arkansas in 2014, when he played second base and there were questions about his power that he has answered in pro ball.

Video: Top Prospects: Brian Anderson, 3B, Marlins

Most To Prove: Mountcastle
After breaking out by hitting .314/.343/.542 in Class A Advanced and winning the Carolina League batting and slugging titles, Mountcastle dipped to .222/.239/.366 in Double-A during the final six weeks of last season. He's better suited for third base than his former position of shortstop, but concerns remain that his lack of arm strength could push him to left field.

Video: Top Prospects: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Orioles

Keep An Eye On: Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pirates
The son of 14-year big leaguer Charlie Hayes, Ke'Bryan has produced just eight homers in three pro seasons since the Pirates made him the 32nd overall choice in 2015. Nevertheless, he's an advanced hitter and defender with good athleticism, and he has some raw power but just hasn't tapped into it yet.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

NL West could get more wild in 2018

Division with '17's best winning percentage improved in offseason
MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

The National League West is MLB's sleeping giant. It's not just about the Dodgers and the Giants anymore. From top to bottom, the division is starting to flex its muscles.

Yes, the Astros -- from the American League West -- are the defending World Series champions, thanks to knocking off the Dodgers in the full seven games.

The National League West is MLB's sleeping giant. It's not just about the Dodgers and the Giants anymore. From top to bottom, the division is starting to flex its muscles.

Yes, the Astros -- from the American League West -- are the defending World Series champions, thanks to knocking off the Dodgers in the full seven games.

However, the NL West had the best overall winning percentage (.517) of the six divisions last year, with the Dodgers, D-backs and Rockies compiling three of the five best NL records. The NL West claimed both NL Wild Card slots as the D-backs and Rockies joined the division-champion Dodgers in the postseason.

And the division has been aggressive this offseason, maintaining at the top and improving at the bottom, showing no signs of taking a backseat in 2018.

Consider:

• The Dodgers will be favored to repeat as division champions in their quest to win their first World Series championship since 1988. Given the fact they have a young nucleus -- six position players 27 or younger, one starting pitcher going into the spring older than 30 and a bullpen led by 30-year-old Kenley Jansen -- the Dodgers haven't felt pressured to make major offseason additions.

• The D-backs won more games (93) in 2017 than any NL teams other than the Dodgers and Nationals. Former first-round Draft pick Archie Bradley moved from the rotation to the bullpen a year ago, and he created confidence he can handle a late-innings role. Arizona added insurance by acquiring Brad Boxberger, who had 41 saves as a closer with Tampa Bay in 2015 before being limited in availability the past two years.

Video: Analyzing the D-backs' closer situation for 2018

• The Rockies benefited from pitching depth in the farm system, and featured as many as four rookies in the rotation for more than two months. The four rookies -- German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman -- were a combined 38-28 and Colorado won 53 of their 93 starts. They are the focal point of a rotation that opens the spring with seven candidates, all in their 20s, and only one of whom has three years in the Majors -- Chad Bettis. The Rox also bolstered the bullpen, acquiring Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw.

• The Giants suffered a wakeup call, losing an NL-most 98 games last year on the heels of a seven-year stretch in which they not only made the postseason four times, but won three World Series championships. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner was injured in a dirt bike accident during an April off-day in Colorado and was limited to 17 starts and four victories. And Mark Melancon, signed as a free agent last offseason to handle the ninth inning, was bothered by a right forearm problem that limited him to 32 appearances and 11 saves in 16 opportunities before undergoing surgery in September. San Francisco added Sam Dyson from Texas last July, and he converted 14 of 17 save opportunities to give the club support for Melancon in the late-inning role. Then the Giants made bold moves this offseason to reinforce the offense, swinging a deal with the Rays for third baseman Evan Longoria and acquiring outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates, giving them reason to believe they will be a factor again in 2018.

Video: Longoria excited to join Giants' winning tradition

• The Padres have made bold bids to shake up their roster, but they have come up short in efforts that included the pursuit of Shohei Ohtani, the two-way player from Japan who wound up with the Angels. Their major offseason addition was the return of third baseman Chase Headley from the Yankees with the hope he can provide a veteran influence on a lineup that does not have a projected starter who is 30.

Tracy Rinbolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Baseball continues to blossom in Colombia

34 prospects on display for scouts this week at showcase
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

CARTAGENA, Colombia -- Jhonier de Avila darted far to his left, fielded the ground ball and hurled it across the diamond so hard that it popped the first baseman's mitt.

The shortstop picked up another one cleanly, this time with his backhand, and he whipped it to first in one motion.

CARTAGENA, Colombia -- Jhonier de Avila darted far to his left, fielded the ground ball and hurled it across the diamond so hard that it popped the first baseman's mitt.

The shortstop picked up another one cleanly, this time with his backhand, and he whipped it to first in one motion.

"Manos de seda! Mano de seda!" his teammates howled from the dugout. "Suavecitas, suavecitas. Vamos, vamos, Niño, vamos!"

Hands of silk, they called him. "Soft hands, soft hands. Go, go, boy, go!"

On Monday, de Avila was one of 34 prospects from Cartagena, Barranquilla and Cali at the showcase organized by the Colombian Association of Baseball Agents and Trainers at Estadio Takurika.

In many ways, de Avila, 16, and his friends represent the future of baseball in the country. Colombia's team fared well in last year's World Baseball Classic -- finishing 1-2 in its pool, dropping two extra-inning games -- and the nation's professional baseball league is looking to expand from four teams to six teams. But Colombia's youth is its driving force.

Colombia is in the spotlight this week as the site of Major League Baseball's showcase for Venezuelan teens eligible to sign when the international signing period begins on July 2.

"Colombia is an important baseball market and we saw it as fitting to hold such a large event here in Cartagena," said Joel Araujo, MLB's senior manager of international talent development. "We are certain our club evaluators will continue to scout the country heavily during the next few days."

There have been 21 prospects from Colombia to sign with Major League Baseball teams since the international signing period began last July 2, and close to 30 total signed during the previous international signing period.

There have only been 20 players from Colombia to play in the Major Leagues, a list that includes names like former infielders Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria, pitchers Ernesto Frieri, Julio Teheran and Jose Quintana, infielder Giovanny Urshela and catcher Jorge Alfaro. But there have been hundreds to sign professional contracts since Luis Castro became the first player from Colombia to play in the Major Leagues in 1902.

There are currently 102 players from Colombia in the Minor Leagues.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: There are 34 prospects from places like Cartagena, Barranquilla and Cali here at the showcase at Estadio Takurika. The 60-yard run is a staple at these type of events. Here���s what it looks like from the ground in Colombia. pic.twitter.com/gBwRi7uSKF

"Baseball in Colombia is in good shape, maybe in the best shape than we have ever been" Cabrera said. "We have so much interest from players and so much faith in what we are doing. We have the facilities, we have the coaches and we have had professional baseball in our country for many, many years. What you are seeing now is the next generation of Colombian Major Leaguers in the making."

Cabrera has been working teenagers through his Prospect Sport baseball academy since 2007 and currently trains 18 prospects. The site of Monday's showcase at Estadio Takurika was his home field.

"Growing up, I never had the chance to be trained properly to become a professional baseball player," Cabrera said. "I was lucky enough to have my father and my brother, who had been in professional baseball during that time, to help me with everything I needed to know. These kids deserve the same chance."

Former Minor League infielder Edinson Renteria, the older brother of former All-Star Edgar Renteria, is the president of the Colombian Professional Baseball League and has experienced the ups and downs that comes with management. The league is made up of teams from Baranquilla, Cartagena, Monteria and Sincelejo. It could eventually include teams from Santa Marta and Medellin.

"We have a few new stadiums and we are working on more," Renteria said. "There's progress and there's a lot of talent here. I think people are seeing that. We just want to continue to grow internationally."

Teheran is the only Major Leaguers not to participate in the country's league since its creation in 1948. However, the long list of the league's alumni includes Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey, Cecil Fielder, Vladimir Guerrero and Magglio Ordonez.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: More from Cartagena, Colombia. These teens are chasing their big league dreams. pic.twitter.com/gKrRa1HGLy

"Baseball in Colombia has had phases where it's stopped, started, stopped, started, and now in the phase where has started again with some sponsors that have been able to keep the program at a very competitive level," said Danny Laboy, a former general manager with the Monteria team that has worked with several Major League teams during his 30-year career.

"The league has some quality coaches. We have an influx of players now committing to play in Colombia in terms of prospects from organizations, not just from the Atlantic and independent leagues. I saw a regression in terms of some sponsorship, but I like the direction that they're heading in."

He's not the only one to like how the sport is developing in the country.

"I am so happy because these kids are tremendous and we are signing more players every year," Cabrera said. "These kids want to be professionals. That's what their mindset is. We want to help that become a reality and help baseball in our country grow."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB.

 

Lindor on R.B.I. 18 cover: 'It's a huge honor'

Iconic game's latest update includes franchise mode, Home Run Derby and historic players
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- After setting down an oversized rendering of the new R.B.I. Baseball 18 cover at Tribe Fest this weekend, Francisco Lindor was asked if he is as good at video games as he is at playing shortstop for the Indians. Lindor did not hesitate at all with his answer.

"I'll take on anybody," said Lindor, who then laughed. "No, my nephew beats me all the time."

CLEVELAND -- After setting down an oversized rendering of the new R.B.I. Baseball 18 cover at Tribe Fest this weekend, Francisco Lindor was asked if he is as good at video games as he is at playing shortstop for the Indians. Lindor did not hesitate at all with his answer.

"I'll take on anybody," said Lindor, who then laughed. "No, my nephew beats me all the time."

Lindor will have a chance to reignite that family rivalry this March, when R.B.I. 18 is released worldwide, not only with the Tribe's energetic shortstop on the cover, but with an array of new features. The iconic video game, which was relaunched in 2014 by Major League Baseball, will introduce a franchise mode, Home Run Derby and historic players to the latest update.

R.B.I. Baseball 18

R.B.I. 18 will be available for PlayStation 4, the Xbox One family of devices, Nintendo Switch, iPhone, iPad and Android-supported phones and tablets. While the game is continuing to introduce more realistic elements into the presentation, it is also staying true to what has made R.B.I. Baseball so popular among fans: Fast-paced play and easy-to-use controls.

Tweet from @Indians: Your RBI Baseball 18 cover athlete:@Lindor12BC! pic.twitter.com/A8H6XnhaiV

Prior to the selection of Lindor, R.B.I. Baseball chose Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (2017), Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts ('16) and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo ('15) as its cover athletes. Lindor, who was shown the newest cover at Tribe Fest on Saturday in Cleveland, was thrilled to have the Indians represented on the newest edition.

"It means a lot," Lindor said. "I love this organization. I love the city of Cleveland, and being on the cover of R.B.I. Baseball 18 and representing them, it's a huge honor."

Video: Lindor proud to grace R.B.I. Baseball 18 cover

Here are some of the updates R.B.I. fans can look forward to in the new version:

Franchise mode
Fans will have the ability to take total control over their favorite MLB team. That means making trades, signing free agents or calling up rookies, among other options, over a span of multiple seasons. There will be a new player progression system that allows players in the game to develop, improve over time and eventually retire.

Home Run Derby
Gamers will now have the option to take on a friend or go head-to-head with the CPU in Derby environment. Included will be a leaderboard to see how a fan's skills stack up against their friends or other gamers around the globe.

MLB legends
More than 100 retired MLB stars will be available for a gamer's team in franchise mode and other game features. Some of the names available include Jeff Bagwell, Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench, George Brett, Bob Feller, Reggie Jackson, Chipper Jones, Nolan Ryan, Ozzie Smith and Ted Williams.

Those are the three main areas of change, but the R.B.I. 18 will be enhanced in other ways, too.

The pool of authentic MLB players will come with completely redesigned player models, including more than 300 digitally modeled likenesses. Also included will be hundreds of new animations and player-specific animations for a new in-game experience. The ballparks will have enhanced lighting, textures, 3-D crowd elements and new dynamic camera angles, along with specifically-crafted cinematic sequences for all 30 MLB stadiums.

Tweet from @Indians: Hang on to that jersey, kid. #TribeFest pic.twitter.com/ivHoEQgfJQ

The user experience will include an online multiplayer option, allowing players to jump into ranked and friendly exhibitions with friends and others around the world. The game's soundtrack will be updated with new music from more than a dozen popular recording artists, and the team rosters can be kept up-to-date throughout the 2018 season, even in franchise mode.

Visit rbigame.com and follow @RBIGame on Twitter for more information.

Count Lindor among those who are looking forward to the launch of R.B.I. Baseball 18.

"It's fun," said the Indians shortstop. "I love whenever you can play against somebody and see what they've got. Competition, wherever it is, it's always cool."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor

Sale takes prospect Groome under his wing

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

MANSHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale's leadership has extended this offseason to one of the most important arms in the organization.

Left-hander Jay Groome is ranked the No. 1 Red Sox prospect by MLB Pipeline, and Sale wants to make sure the ultratalented 19-year-old gets the most out of his considerable ability.

MANSHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale's leadership has extended this offseason to one of the most important arms in the organization.

Left-hander Jay Groome is ranked the No. 1 Red Sox prospect by MLB Pipeline, and Sale wants to make sure the ultratalented 19-year-old gets the most out of his considerable ability.

The unique partnership between the ace of the Major League staff and the top arm in the farm system started when Sale heard from mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez that Groome was relocating to Fort Myers, Fla., for the offseason.

Sale lives in Southwest Florida, not far from Boston's Spring Training base.

"I figured hey, you know, young guy in our organization, all the talent in the world," Sale said at Red Sox Winter Weekend on Saturday. "I mean, the kid's been throwing 98 [mph] since he was 14. He's got all the tools. I'm not reconstructing this guy. I'm just working out with him and picking his brain a little bit, just trying to maximize his potential."

Sale's intense offseason workouts are legendary. For Groome to tag along at this stage of his development can only be a good thing.

Video: Sale discusses preparing for the 2018 season

"It's been fun," said Sale. "He's done a really good job. It's fun to see. He's young and this is his first go at it. I'm just trying to get him prepared and show him, 'Hey, this is what it takes to get through a big league season.' He's got all the tools you can possibly ask for. That guy is an animal. Just trying to give him some ins and outs and try to get him here sooner rather than later."

The Red Sox took Groome with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. That is one selection earlier than when Sale was taken by the White Sox in the '10 Draft.

Sale thinks Groome's raw stuff is better than his own.

"Obviously we have similarities, being pitchers and being left-handed," Sale said. "But he's got me by a pretty good amount. Like I said, he's young and it's great just being able to show him on this platform what it takes and the work that goes in. You can't just roll out of bed and expect to go out and be effective. Just being able to talk to him, tell him what to expect and what to be ready for. He's been getting after it. He's a good kid."

The work Sale is doing with Groome isn't sporadic. It is regular. And right-hander Rick Porcello also has been a participant.

"We work out Monday nights," said Sale. "And then me, Rick and Jay, we do Pilates on Wednesdays. And then me and Jay work out Thursday and Friday. So about four times a week."

Groome's 2017 season was limited to 14 starts due to a left lat injury that occurred in his first start. The injury kept him off the mound for more than two months. There were struggles once he got back out there, and Groome finished the year 3-9 with a 5.69 ERA while making four starts for Class A Short-Season Lowell and 10 starts for Class A Greenville.

Video: Top Prospects: Jay Groome, LHP, Red Sox

But such early lumps aren't uncommon for a pitcher who was drafted out of high school.

"Well, he's in a unique situation," said Sale. "I was in college and I had teammates in college and coaches in college pushing me in the right direction."

What Sale has conveyed to Groome this offseason is that he is a fully available resource to tap into.

"Sometimes you learn more from your teammates and your peers than you do from coaches," Sale said. "I've done this for a while. So I'd like to think I know a little bit of something about it and can share it with him. And, you know, the sooner he can realize what he can be, the better off we're going to be in the long run. You know, I look forward to the day that me and him are pitching in the same rotation."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

 

Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale

'Patient' Lewis wise beyond his years

Twins' top prospect slashed .279/.381/.407 in Minors as 18-year-old
MLB.com @RhettBollinger