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Here are 6 potential landing spots for Hanley

MLB.com @feinsand

Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Friday, bringing his stint in Boston to a close earlier than expected.

Assuming the Red Sox are unable to trade Ramirez -- and given the vesting option in his contract that would pay him $22 million in 2019 if he accrues 302 more plate appearances this season under his current contract, it seems far-fetched to think any team would deal for him -- then he'll be released next week and become a free agent.

Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Friday, bringing his stint in Boston to a close earlier than expected.

Assuming the Red Sox are unable to trade Ramirez -- and given the vesting option in his contract that would pay him $22 million in 2019 if he accrues 302 more plate appearances this season under his current contract, it seems far-fetched to think any team would deal for him -- then he'll be released next week and become a free agent.

Boston would have to pay Ramirez the balance of his $22 million salary this season, meaning his next club would owe nothing more than the prorated portion of the league minimum.

So where might Ramirez wind up? Although the Red Sox decided they had better options on their roster, there are plenty of teams that could use Ramirez's bat in their lineup or on their bench.

Here's a look at a half-dozen clubs that could make a play for Ramirez if (when?) he hits the open market.

Twins
Joe Mauer landed on the DL last week with a cervical neck strain and concussion-like symptoms, taking the first baseman/designated hitter out of Minnesota's lineup for the foreseeable future. Although Ramirez's season hasn't lived up to his previous years, many of his numbers are better than what Mauer produced prior to his injury. He won't offer the same on-base skills as Mauer (Ramirez's .313 OBP is inferior to Mauer's .404), but he would bring more power to the Twins, whose four home runs from the DH spot are tied for the fewest in the American League.

Astros
Houston is fourth in the Majors in runs scored, yet its production from the DH spot has been woeful. The Astros, who have started five players at DH this season, have a collective .651 OPS from the spot, ranking 14th out of 15 AL teams. Evan Gattis has started 33 games as the DH, slashing .224/.286/.388 in 126 plate appearances. Ramirez would offer a better alternative against lefties in particular, as his .854 OPS vs. southpaws is significantly higher than Gattis' .698 mark.

Mets
The Mets gave Jose Bautista another shot, so perhaps they'll offer up a landing spot for Ramirez, who would bring another professional bat to a lineup ranked 27th in the league in runs scored. Ramirez hasn't played in the outfield since 2015, but Bautista hadn't played third base with any regularity since '11 before the Braves brought him in to play there.

Rockies
Ian Desmond is having a brutal year at the plate, slashing .181/.234/.374 in 48 games. Desmond's .608 OPS ranks 150th out of the 164 hitters with enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title, the biggest reason Colorado's .598 OPS at first base ranks 29th out of 30 big league teams this season. Ramirez would give the Rockies another option at the position, while a move to Coors Field -- where his career 1.040 OPS in 32 games is his highest in any ballpark -- could re-energize him.

Blue Jays
Kendrys Morales has struggled to get it going this season, leaving Toronto 12th out of 15 AL teams with a .666 OPS out of the DH spot. There have been countless calls for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to get the call as Morales' replacement, but if the Jays are resolved to keeping their top prospect in the Minors, Ramirez would give them a more productive option at the DH spot than Morales. One potential catch: Morales is owed $12 million next season.

Orioles
Chris Davis is owed nearly $85 million between 2019-22, so it's unlikely that the Orioles would replace him altogether, but the first baseman is off to a horrendous start, slashing .152/.240/.250 with four home runs. Davis' OPS is even worse than Desmond's, with his .490 mark topping only two of the 164 qualified hitters this season. If nothing else, Ramirez would give manager Buck Showalter a much better option against lefties, against whom Davis is hitting .125 this season.

Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.

Hanley Ramirez

Theo spikes rumors: 'Essentially zero trade talks'

Baez on taking grounders with Lindor: 'If I have a chance to do it again, I'll do it'
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein dismissed rumors that have linked the team to Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, saying "there are zero trade talks going on now."

"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player on another team ... but the simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there are essentially zero trade talks right now involving the Cubs," Epstein said Friday. "There's a real disparity between the noise and reality. Sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. It's my job to clarify there's nothing going on now."

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CHICAGO -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein dismissed rumors that have linked the team to Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, saying "there are zero trade talks going on now."

"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player on another team ... but the simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there are essentially zero trade talks right now involving the Cubs," Epstein said Friday. "There's a real disparity between the noise and reality. Sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. It's my job to clarify there's nothing going on now."

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Epstein pointed out that the early part of the schedule is the time when teams find out about themselves and he's not looking to add someone like Machado, who will be a free agent after this season.

"We have more than enough ability to win the division, to win the World Series," Epstein said. "We really need to focus on our roster and get the most out of our ability and find consistency.

"If you rush to those kind of judgments, you can often times make things worse," he said. "I think it's important to figure out exactly who you are and give guys a chance to play and find their level and see how all the pieces fit together before you make any adjustments."

Worth noting
• Both manager Joe Maddon and Epstein said that while the Cubs are hitting for power, not enough of that power is coming with runners in scoring position.

"We're not getting the bang for our buck," Epstein said. "A lot of our extra-base hits and home runs are with nobody on base. We're not performing at the same level with guys in scoring position. It should all even out."

Video: CWS@CHC: Rizzo clubs a three-run homer in the 1st

As of Friday morning, the Cubs had recorded 71 extra-base hits in May, with 79 percent of those coming with nobody in scoring position. Just 15 of those extra-base hits have come in their 239 plate appearances with RISP. The Cubs have come to bat 822 times this month.

Maddon said a lot of times pitchers alter their approach to hitters when there are runners in scoring position, throwing more offspeed pitches and breaking balls, which can make it harder to record extra-base hits. Other times, he said hitters try too hard to score multiple runs on one swing and, as a result, they swing at pitches they can't drive.

"Everybody wants to score three or four or two," Maddon said. "Just score one."

• Before Wednesday's Interleague game between Chicago and Cleveland, Javier Baez took advantage of being reunited with his Team Puerto Rico teammate, Francisco Lindor, to take grounders with the Indians' shortstop. Baez said he got some feedback about doing so from those who feel opposing players shouldn't mingle.

"It's so difficult to explain this -- it can go 50-50, the right way or wrong way," Baez said Friday. "It's 2018; we're not in the '80s, '90s. We don't hate the other team like it used to be. The game has changed so much."

Video: CHC@CLE: Baez wags finger at Lindor from first base

He said he learned a lot talking to Lindor.

"To me, it doesn't matter what they say out there," Baez said. "If I have a chance to do it again, I'll do it. It should be fun and it's a game -- it should be a fun. If we get a chance, we'll do it again and hopefully people understand."

Anthony Rizzo, a cancer survivor, spent Thursday's off-day visiting patients and speaking to families at OSF Health Care in Peoria, Ill. The organization serves patients and families in central and northern Illinois and upper Michigan.

"It's the biggest hospital outside of [Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago] that deals with pediatric cancer," Rizzo said. "It was special. There was a good showing of all the kids."

Tweet from @Cubs: .@ARizzo44 visited with patients in Peoria, Ill. today! #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/Glphm5mSTQ

Matt Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo

These are the 10 most exciting players in MLB

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Mike Trout does everything well. He's that rare player who does not need to collect a hit to help his team win. Even better, Trout gets it. He understands that running down a ball in center field or throwing out a runner can impact a game as much as hitting the ball over the fence.

Also important is his attitude. He plays with a joy and energy that is captivating. To watch him play is to be reminded again and again of the greatness of this sport.

Mike Trout does everything well. He's that rare player who does not need to collect a hit to help his team win. Even better, Trout gets it. He understands that running down a ball in center field or throwing out a runner can impact a game as much as hitting the ball over the fence.

Also important is his attitude. He plays with a joy and energy that is captivating. To watch him play is to be reminded again and again of the greatness of this sport.

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When I set out to come up with baseball's 10 most exciting players, I used Trout as one of the gold standards. These are the players you subscribe to MLB.TV to watch.

What matters? Power certain does. Speed matters, too. That is, players who do things that bring you out of your seat and make you think, "Did he really just do that?"

Defense and baserunning matter, too.

In the end, something like this comes back to the pure pleasure of watching someone play. For pitchers, that means emotion and stuff and a raging competitive fire.

When the Braves were putting together a game-winning six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, it was impossible not to look at their dugout and see all those happy players hanging onto the railing and cheering for one another.

Video: Must C Comeback: Braves score 6 in the 9th to win it

If there was a "Most Exciting Moment" for a young season, the Braves' rally would be high on the list.

After the World Series last fall, that's the sort of question I got most about the Astros: "Are they really like that? Are they that happy?"

Yes, they really were that happy. That was true in 2017, and it's also true this year.

So with all those intangibles in mind, here's one man's list of baseball's 10 most exciting players. No team is represented more than once, which took some deserving players out of the running. We'll offer a hat tip to them after the Top 10 list.

Your cards and letters -- via Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, comments below, etc., -- are welcome. Here goes:

Video: LAA@TEX: Trout knocks 441-ft. HR, thrills young fan

1. Mike Trout, Angels, CF
Many of us did not see Ted Williams or Willie Mays play. But we saw Mike Trout, and someday baseball fans who missed out will wonder if he was really that good. Yes, he was.

Video: Must C Classic: Betts slugs 3 homers to lead comeback

2. Mookie Betts, Red Sox, RF
If the season ended today, Trout would not be the American League MVP Award winner. Betts would be honored for a season in which he's putting power, speed and plate discipline on display. Did we mention his Gold Glove Award-worthy defense?

Video: NYM@ATL: Albies homers on Thor's 99.6-mph heater

3. Ozzie Albies, Braves, 2B
Word began getting around four years ago, when Albies hit .364 in Rookie League ball. He was 17 at the time, and Braves officials would say things like, "Wait until you see Albies." He's all that and then some, especially after adding power to a game that had been built primarily around speed. The 21-year-old quickly has become the happy, energetic face of the Atlanta turnaround.

Video: Must C Catch: Herrera leaps to take HR from Freeman

4. Odubel Herrera, Phillies, CF
Now that the Phillies are winning again, it's easier to appreciate all this 26-year-old All-Star brings to the table. His defense remains a work in progress, but his passion, smile and production have become the symbols of the return of competitive baseball in Philadelphia.

Video: NYY@TEX: Judge crushes homer 471 feet vs. the Rangers

5. Aaron Judge, Yankees, RF
How could a larger-than-life figure on a larger-than-life franchise not make a list like this one? Judge's size and power, combined with his humility and demeanor, make him as compelling as any player on the planet.

Video: Scherzer is fastest ever to 100 strikeouts in season

6. Max Scherzer, Nationals, RHP
His every start is an event as he piles up strikeouts, flirts with no-hitters and thoroughly entertains with all those emotions bubbling to the surface. Scherzer has 71 games of at least 10 strikeouts, five of at least 15. In four seasons with the Nationals, he has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning 11 times (and finished two of them).

Video: Must C Classic: Hader K's 8 in 2 2/3 IP for 4th save

7. Josh Hader, Brewers, RHP
Take a look at this guy. Hader is a slightly built 6-foot-3 with a whip-like delivery and hair streaming from beneath his cap. Hader's game is simple: power. His fastball averages 94 mph, and he's terrific working the corners, then finishing off hitters with sliders. In his first full Major League season, Hader has emerged as one of baseball's most unhittable relievers, having struck out more than half the hitters he has faced.

Video: Must C Combo: Machado hits 2 HRs, flashes leather

8. Manny Machado, Orioles, SS
During Machado's six seasons at third base, Orioles fans found themselves doing something they never thought possible: they dared compare someone to Brooks Robinson. That's how electric Machado was as he almost routinely stabbed balls down the line and threw out runners while he was falling toward foul territory. Machado is back at shortstop -- where he played in the Minors -- and he is having his best offensive season.

Video: Must C Combo: Lindor's 2-HR, 2-double game

9. Francisco Lindor, Indians, SS
He joined the Indians a few days after the Astros summoned Carlos Correa to the Major Leagues, and the two of them probably will be compared to one another forever. Lindor's smile is his trademark -- and it is reflective of his attitude about pretty much everything -- but the rest of his game is pretty good, too.

Video: Must C Classic: Springer's historic six-hit effort

10. George Springer, Astros, CF
He symbolizes everything the Astros have accomplished these past four seasons. Springer does that by playing 100 mph all the time, from defense in the outfield to running the bases to hitting cannonball shots out of the park. Perhaps the greatest tribute to his contribution was Astros manager AJ Hinch asking Springer to stay with the club even when he was on the disabled list. Hinch thought Springer's presence would not be a small thing.

ALSO DESERVING OF MENTION: Tommy Pham, Cardinals, CF; Jorge Alfaro, Phillies, C; Shohei Ohtani, Angels, RHP/DH; Andrelton Simmons, Angels, SS; Justin Verlander, Astros, RHP; Bryce Harper, Nationals, RF; Ronald Acuna, Jr., Braves, LF; Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees, DH.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Williamson off DL, promptly nails runner at home

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

CHICAGO -- The Giants hope that Mac Williamson can perform as if those 27 games he missed were a mere nuisance.

The Giants activated Williamson from the disabled list Friday and immediately installed him in left field for the series opener against the Cubs. Williamson hadn't played for the Giants since April 24, when he sustained a concussion in a collision with the left-field wall.

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CHICAGO -- The Giants hope that Mac Williamson can perform as if those 27 games he missed were a mere nuisance.

The Giants activated Williamson from the disabled list Friday and immediately installed him in left field for the series opener against the Cubs. Williamson hadn't played for the Giants since April 24, when he sustained a concussion in a collision with the left-field wall.

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This wasn't a mere one-day, knock-the-rust-off start for Williamson. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that Williamson, who hit a robust .316 (6-for-19) with three homers and six RBIs in five games before being sidelined, will receive "the lion's share" of playing time in left.

Williamson hurt himself when he stumbled and collided with the left-field wall adjacent to the Giants' bullpen at AT&T Park in pursuit of a foul ball.

"I'm excited to be back," Williamson said. "My body feels good. It's encouraging."

Video: WSH@SF: Williamson belts a solo home run to center

Williamson contributed immediately by throwing out Albert Almora Jr. at home plate in the first inning. Statcast™ stracked Williamson's throw at 94.6 mph.

The Giants optioned left-hander Josh Osich to Triple-A Sacramento to clear roster room for Williamson. This trimmed San Francisco's pitching staff to 12 -- one fewer than usual, which is not an ideal situation with a three-game series at Coors Field looming ahead beginning Monday. Expect the Giants to add a reliever by that date.

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, Mac Williamson

Red Sox part ways with Hanley

Veteran infielder designated for assignment to make room for Pedroia
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- In a stunning move, the Red Sox designated slumping slugger Hanley Ramirez for assignment on Friday to clear a spot on the roster for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was activated from the disabled list.

All the speculation leading up to Friday was that Blake Swihart, who is out of Minor League options and has been used sparingly by manager Alex Cora this season, would be the one to get DFA'd.

BOSTON -- In a stunning move, the Red Sox designated slumping slugger Hanley Ramirez for assignment on Friday to clear a spot on the roster for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was activated from the disabled list.

All the speculation leading up to Friday was that Blake Swihart, who is out of Minor League options and has been used sparingly by manager Alex Cora this season, would be the one to get DFA'd.

Instead, the Red Sox parted ways with Ramirez, who was hitless in his last 21 at-bats.

The move will allow manager Alex Cora to play first baseman Mitch Moreland on a near everyday basis. Swihart, who has started just four games this season, all at DH, should also see more time with the revamped roster.

Ramirez thanked Red Sox fans in a tweet shortly after the move was made official. "Thank you #RedSoxNation. It's been real. Love you always," wrote Ramirez.

Tweet from @HanleyRamirez: Thank you #RedSoxNation. It���s been real. Love you always🙏

The 34-year-old hit .254/.313/.395 with six home runs and 29 RBIs in 44 games for the Red Sox this year. Ramirez had a solid start to the season, hitting .311 with three homers and 17 RBIs in his first 103 at-bats.

"It was a baseball-related move for us," president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "We've been looking at making a move because we knew that this day with Dustin would come, where he'd be coming back, probably since February, since Spring Training. We talked about different possibilities when somebody would be ready, when they won't be ready. We talked about all type of possibilities. So for us it really was a baseball move, one that I talked to Alex about yesterday. We were prepared to maybe go in a different direction with our move. He called me, was about 11:30 in the morning, I was getting ready to go for a run. And Alex says, 'I've got a thought for you with what we're doing. And he said that this was a move that I would like to make. I recommend making it.'

"It comes down to my final decision, but [Cora] said. 'I really want to play Mitch Moreland more. He's a good player, he's played very well for us. I don't think that Hanley is a person that sits idling on the bench well. It gives us an opportunity to keep Blake Swihart. Also we'll be in a position to give Blake some more playing time.' So he said this is something I'd recommend us doing. And I said, 'You sure?' And he said, 'Yeah.' And he went through some different reasons behind it from his thought process. And what I asked him to do at that point was to make sure that he went to the ballpark, because he gets there earlier than me, meet with his coaching staff, and be in a position where that's what he really wanted to do. And when I got to the ballpark yesterday, Frank [Wren, senior VP/player personnel] and I drove over and I said, 'This is what we would like to do. So we're proceeding in that direction."

Once Boston's top prospect, Ramirez was traded to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in November on Nov. 24, 2005. That trade worked for both sides, as Beckett and Lowell helped the Red Sox win a World Series in '07, and Ramirez emerged into a star for the Marlins, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in '06.

A key wrinkle to this move is a vesting option in Ramirez's contract. The Red Sox reacquired Ramirez as a free agent, signing him to a four-year, $88 million contract that includes a $22 million vesting option for 2019 if he reaches 497 plate appearances this year. Ramirez already has 195 plate appearances and was well on his way to reaching the threshold that would cause the option to vest, but by letting him go now, the Red Sox will assure that does not happen with them.

When a player is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

Unless he's claimed, the Red Sox will pay about $15 million that remains on Ramirez's contract, which runs through the end of this season. It should not be assumed that the Red Sox are just going to eat the money and let Ramirez sign elsewhere. In fact, there is some recent precedent for a team DFAing an impending free agent and working out a reasonable trade. The Mets designated Matt Harvey for assignment on May 5 and then swung a deal with the Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco a few days later. Both players are eligible for free agency this offseason and have been performing well with their new clubs.

In his four seasons with Boston since 2014, Hanley hit .260/.326/.450 with 78 home runs, 255 RBIs and 71 doubles.

Ramirez was at his best in 2016, helping the Red Sox win the American League East title by belting 30 homers to go with 111 RBIs and an .866 OPS. Hampered by discomfort in both shoulders last season, Ramirez was inconsistent but came up big in Boston's Division Series loss to the Astros, going 8-for-14 with two doubles.

The charismatic Ramirez came into this season optimistic he would have a rebound season, and spoke with enthusiasm of how following Tom Brady's "TB12" exercise regiment and diet would help him. Ramirez also noted last winter that he was going to be "Miami Hanley" again.

A three-time All-Star for the Marlins, Ramirez finished second in NL Most Valuable Player voting in 2009, hitting .342 to win the league's batting title. In that season, Ramirez had 106 RBIs and 24 home runs with 42 doubles in 151 games at shortstop. He won Silver Slugger Awards in '08 and '09 and was the NL Player of the Month in June '08.

Afterward, he had some good moments for the Dodgers, producing an .874 OPS over parts of three seasons.

As recently as Thursday, Ramirez was still batting third for the Red Sox. But he hit just .163 with three home runs, 12 RBIs, four walks, two doubles and 14 strikeouts in 19 games in May.

It remains to be seen if the Red Sox will miss Ramirez in their "rivalry" games against the Yankees. This season, Ramirez belted three homers in 22 plate appearances against the Bronx Bombers, slashing .389./.455/.889.

The label of "big-game player" would be a fair way to characterize Ramirez, who is a .380 lifetime hitter in 80 postseason at-bats.

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

Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez

Mock Draft: College players in demand

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

This first-round projection looks an awful lot like my previous one from two weeks ago, with only the fourth and fifth picks flipping among the first nine. And it closely resembles Jonathan Mayo's predictions from last week, with our first seven selections matching.

This first-round projection looks an awful lot like my previous one from two weeks ago, with only the fourth and fifth picks flipping among the first nine. And it closely resembles Jonathan Mayo's predictions from last week, with our first seven selections matching.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

That's not to say the top of the Draft is locking into place. While Auburn right-hander Casey Mize remains the front-runner to go No. 1 overall, the Tigers still are considering four alternatives. It continues to look like college players will monopolize the first six picks, and clubs are busy scurrying from conference tournament to conference tournament this week to evaluate them, and others who will fit later in the first round.

Further complicating matters is the high school pitching. It's plentiful, with at least 11 legitimate first-round candidates, but it's also a demographic that scares a lot of clubs because of the risk involved. All 11 won't go in the first round, several will go lower than where their talent alone will dictate and three of them (Mason Denaburg, Ethan Hankins, Mike Vasil) missed time this spring with physical ailments.

Ten days away from the start of the Draft, here's our best guess as to how the first round plays out:

1. Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn

Mize's last two regular-season starts were his worst of the year, but his combination of stuff and precision is still unparalleled in this Draft. Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart appears to be Plan B, and Detroit also is keeping tabs on Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm, Wisconsin high school outfielder Jarred Kelenic and Florida right-hander Brady Singer.

2. Giants: Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech

Mize and Bart, easily the best catcher available, likely will go 1-2 or 2-1. If San Francisco decides to take a deep discount to save extra money for later picks, it could cut a deal with California high school right-hander Cole Winn.

Video: Draft Report: Joey Bart, College catcher

3. Phillies: Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State

All of the teams in the top four are doing their due diligence on Bohm, the consensus best college position player in terms of hitting for both average and power. Philadelphia almost certainly will take a college performer, with Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal and Singer the other leading candidates.

4. White Sox: Brady Singer, RHP, Florida

If the top three picks unfold as expected, Chicago will choose between Kelenic, Madrigal, Singer and South Alabama outfielder Travis Swaggerty. MLB Pipeline's No. 1-rated prospect entering the year, Singer would be the best fit for the White Sox current needs, not that need will drive a choice this high.

5. Reds: Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State

Cincinnati would pounce on Bart or Singer. If that's not an option, the choice will come down to Madigral, Arizona prep left-hander Matthew Liberatore and Jonathan India. Madrigal is the best hitter in the Draft, just like Nick Senzel was when the Reds made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2016.

Video: Draft Report: Nick Madrigal, College 2B/SS

6. Mets: Jonathan India, 3B, Florida

Unless one of the five selections above unexpectedly drops, New York will consider India, Kelenic, Liberatore and Swaggerty. The Mets are leaning college and that probably means India, who had a breakout season as the Southeastern Conference player of the year.

7. Padres: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Glendale, Ariz.)

The run on collegians figures to stop here, though San Diego does like Swaggerty. The Padres are expected to choose from the top tier of high school arms: Liberatore, right-hander Carter Stewart (Florida), left-hander Ryan Weathers (Tennessee) and Winn. Liberatore is the consensus top prep pitching prospect, but all four guys are in play.

8. Braves: Nolan Gorman, 3B, O'Connor HS (Phoenix)

Atlanta is associated with mostly high schoolers. The Braves appear to prefer Gorman -- the best power hitter in the Draft, but also a bit of a polarizing prospect who might slide into the mid-teens if he doesn't go here -- to Kelenic. The prep pitchers also will be in play, starting with Weathers.

Video: Draft Report: Nolan Gorman, High School 3B

9. Athletics: Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama

Oakland looks destined to take a position player, though Liberatore could change that. Swaggerty has some of the best all-around tools in the college ranks and gets the nod over Kelenic and Gorman.

10. Pirates: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS (Nacogdoches, Texas)

Rodriguez has more helium than any first-rounder right now, which could vault him all the way into the top 10 to a club focusing on high school arms. Stewart, Weathers and Winn also are in Pittsburgh's mix.

11. Orioles: Cole Winn, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS

Baltimore is targeting the same prep pitchers as Pittsburgh. If the Orioles go for a college arm, this could be the high-water mark for Stetson right-hander Logan Gilbert.

12. Blue Jays: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS

Every Draft has a guy who seems to be considered by several teams, but doesn't quite make it to their top choice, and this year that may be Kelenic. The best high school hitter available, he may not be able to overcome the preference for collegians at the top or for prep arms right ahead of Toronto. If he's gone, the Blue Jays are on more prep bats such as Gorman, outfielder/wide receiver Jordyn Adams (North Carolina) and others who could drop into the 20s if they don't go 12 or 13: shortstop Xavier Edwards (Florida), third baseman Jordan Groshans (Texas) and catcher Noah Naylor (Canada).

Video: Draft Report: Jarred Kelenic, High School outfielder

13. Marlins: Triston Casas, 1B, American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.)

Miami is pursuing a lot of the same high school bats as Toronto, as well as two more in Casas, who has power to rival Gorman's, and outfielder Connor Scott (Florida).

14. Mariners: Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi

After sliding out of the top 10 and possibly into the 20s, Rolison reversed course with a strong outing Wednesday at the SEC tournament. The best bet is that Seattle takes him or one of the other college arms on the second tier behind Mize and Singer: Gilbert, Florida right-hander Jackson Kowar and South Florida left-hander Shane McClanahan. The Mariners likely would take one of the college hitters projected above here and possibly Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach.

15. Rangers: Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (Melbourne, Fla.)

With a fastball that reaches 98 mph and a super-spin curveball, Stewart shouldn't last 15 picks, but high school right-handers often last longer than they should. If he's gone, Winn or Weathers also would be attractive.

Video: Draft Report: Carter Stewart, High School pitcher

16. Rays: Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (Tampa)

Tampa Bay is another club in the market for high school bats. The Rays have three first-round choices and the second-largest bonus pool at $12,415,600, so they're in great position to make a run at Adams, who is signed to play football at North Carolina, where his father Deke is a defensive line coach. Or they could take another speedy outfielder in Scott and save their cash for later picks.

17. Angels: Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS

College arms such as Gilbert, Kowar and McClanahan would be tempting, but Weathers would be hard to pass up. Los Angeles also has shown interest in Adams and Georgia prep right-hander Ethan Hankins, MLB Pipeline's top-rated high school prospect, until he battled a muscular issue in the area of his pitching shoulder.

18. Royals: Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS (Cary, N.C.)

Kansas City can match Tampa Bay's three first-rounders and has the largest bonus pool at $12,781,900. If the Royals want Adams, they probably have to take him here to ensure they get him. The same is true of Groshans, whom they have covered heavily. One of the top-tier high school arms would be hard to pass up if they got to 18.

19. Cardinals: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson

Unless some of the first tier of prep pitchers lasts longer than expected, the second tier of college arms should start to come off the board around here. St. Louis gets mentioned mostly with pitchers ...

20. Twins: Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida

... as does Minnesota, which wouldn't be adverse to a high school arm, but figures to be mostly looking at collegians. The Twins also are monitoring a number of high school shortstops such as Edwards, Jeremiah Jackson (Alabama) and Osiris Johnson (California) -- but apparently not the more expensive Brice Turang (California).

21. Brewers: Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida

A lefty who can hit 100 mph and mix in a plus changeup, McClanahan looked to be solidly in the 6-12 range until he started scuffling with his control and command over his last six starts. Falling this far might be a bit extreme. Milwaukee isn't wed to any particular demographic and is one of several landing spots for Larnach in the 20s.

Video: Draft Report: Shane McClanahan, College pitcher

22. Rockies: Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS (Ringgold, Ga.)

Wilcox has the potential for three plus pitches and isn't far behind the top group of high school pitchers. Colorado also has been tied to another Georgia prepster, switch-hitting and switch-throwing catcher Anthony Seigler.

23. Yankees: Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (Corona, Calif.)

Turang was mentioned as a candidate to go No. 1 overall entering last summer, and while he hasn't lived up to those expectations, he's still a talented shortstop in a Draft thin at that position. A variety of high school position players get mentioned with New York, including Adams, Casas, Edwards and outfielder Mike Siani (Pennsylvania).

24. Cubs: Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State

Chicago has had a lot of success taking the best college bat available in the first round, which would make Larnach a fit. The Cubs would love for one of the prime college or high school arms to get to No. 24. They're also the peak for players such as Indiana high school outfielder Nick Schnell or Stanford shortstop Nico Hoerner, though this would be a bit high for both.

25. D-backs: Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma

A year after taking an accomplished college bat in Pavin Smith at No. 7, Arizona could go the same route with Walker. Other college position player options include Clemson first baseman Seth Beer, Duke outfielder Griffin Conine, Missouri State shortstop Jeremy Eierman, Larnach and Virginia outfielder Jake McCarthy. It's no secret that the D-backs love prep shortstop Matt McLain, but No. 25 is rich for him.

Video: Draft Report: Steele Walker, College outfielder

26. Red Sox: Jordan Groshans, 3B, Magnolia (Texas) HS

Unless someone with a higher ceiling slides, Boston could grab one of the better all-around high school bats in Groshans. The Red Sox probably would consider several of the college position players mentioned with the D-backs above.

27. Nationals: Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island (Fla.) HS

Washington has had a lot of success buying low on pitchers with physical questions such as Lucas Giolito (first round, 2012), Erick Fedde (first round, 2014) and Jesus Luzardo (third round, 2016). That makes it an obvious target for Denaburg (biceps tendintis), Hankins and Massachusetts high school right-hander Mike Vasil (elbow soreness). Back on the mound Tuesday, Denaburg struck out Casas twice and showed the same upper-first-round form he displayed before getting sidelined.

28. Astros: Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)

A run of high school outfielders should start around here. Adams and Scott won't last much longer if they haven't been taken, while Parker Meadows (Georgia), Schnell, Siani and Thomas may not get to pick No. 40. Naylor and Seigler are two non-outfield possibilities.

Video: Draft Report: Alek Thomas, HS outfielder

29. Indians: Noah Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS (Mississauga, Ont.)

Cleveland has two selections toward the end of the first round and could double up on prep bats unless one of the premium high school arms makes his way to No. 29. Besides Naylor, the Indians also are watching the outfield group mentioned with the Astros, plus Edwards and Georgia high school catchers Will Banfield and Seigler.

30. Dodgers: Jameson Hannah, OF, Dallas Baptist

An outfielder is a good guess for Los Angeles, whether it be sweet-swinging collegians Hannah or Walker or one of the high schoolers.

31. Rays: Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)

Hankins does have a clean MRI and could go much higher than this, though only Kansas City can match Tampa Bay's ability to pay him. If the Rays take a pitcher at 18 and Adams is still on the board, he'd be an obvious choice.

Video: Draft Report: Ethan Hankins, High School pitcher

32. Rays: Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson

Scouts either love Beer's track record of production or hate his all-bat profile and lack of success with wood bats. He'll go in the first round somewhere and there's buzz that he could land in the top 20, but he's a total wild card.

33. Royals: Anthony Seigler, C, Cartersville (Ga.) HS

Groshans would be the guy if he gets this far, which probably won't happen. Seigler has the up-the-middle athleticism Kansas City covets. The Royals also could take a shortstop such as Oregon State's Cadyn Grenier or Jackson.

34. Royals: Mike Vasil, RHP, Boston College HS (Boston)

Kansas City figures to take at least one pitcher with its three first-rounders. Vasil looked healthy while touching 95 mph on Tuesday. The Royals also could grab high school right-handers J.T. Ginn (Mississippi) or Kumar Rocker (Georgia), who have first-round arms and will command those type of bonuses even if they slide into the second round.

35. Indians: Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.)

The high demand for shortstops and the relatively short supply makes it increasingly unlikely that Edwards and his all-around skills make it out of the first round.

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

This might be the weirdest play of 2018

Weird outs happen a lot in baseball. Pitchers catch line drives with their stomachs and runners get thrown out at first by right fielders (or left fielders).

But during Thursday's Royals-Rangers game, we were presented with a putout straight out of the Twilight Zone.

This weekend: Ohtani hits vs. Tanaka, Cole-Bauer

MLB.com @RichardJustice

To the baseball gods, we offer thanks for a moment this weekend cool enough to ripple across two continents. We've even got a proper amount of time to prepare for Shohei Ohtani the hitter vs. Masahiro Tanaka.

Some fans have looked forward to this matchup of these two stars from Japan from the moment Ohtani signed with the Angels in December. At some point, we hoped that the paths of two of the most accomplished Japanese players of our time would cross.

To the baseball gods, we offer thanks for a moment this weekend cool enough to ripple across two continents. We've even got a proper amount of time to prepare for Shohei Ohtani the hitter vs. Masahiro Tanaka.

Some fans have looked forward to this matchup of these two stars from Japan from the moment Ohtani signed with the Angels in December. At some point, we hoped that the paths of two of the most accomplished Japanese players of our time would cross.

• Up-to-the-minute standings | Weekend probable pitchers

We were excited about an Ohtani-Tanaka pitching matchup this weekend, but Ohtani's start has been pushed back. Instead, we could have something even better: Tanaka pitching to Ohtani.

Now let's keep our fingers crossed that he's in the lineup on Sunday afternoon, with a chance to take aim at Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field. That the Yankees pursued Ohtani as intensely as any team is an interesting subplot.

As we preview the weekend's storylines, this is where we begin:

Shohei Ohtani vs. Masahiro Tanaka (hopefully)

Once upon a time, Tanaka was someone against whom Ohtani could measure himself. When they faced one another in Japan in 2013, they were at different places in their careers.

Tanaka was 24 years old and on his way to a 24-0 season that helped catapult him into Yankees pinstripes the next season. Ohtani was an 18-year-old rookie who could only dream of doing the things Tanaka had.

Tanaka held Ohtani hitless in 11 at-bats and struck him out six times in 2013. But as Tanaka said last week, "There's no comparing him physically now with how he was when I pitched against him."

Five years later, Tanaka has established himself as a smart, resilient competitor who, despite some recent struggles, is on pace to pitch 200 innings and win 18 games.

As for Ohtani, 23, he's having one of the most remarkable seasons in Major League history, doing the thing virtually no one thought possible. He's not just a two-way player. He's excelling as a two-way player.

Here's what Ohtani has done:

Hitter: .319 batting average, .991 OPS, seven doubles, one triple, six home runs in 104 plate appearances -- good for nearly 1.0 WAR.

Pitcher: 4-1, 3.35 ERA, 1.066 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, seven starts, 0.9 WAR.

Video: TB@LAA: Ohtani strikes out 9 to collect his 4th win

From Statcast™:

• As a hitter, Ohtani has hit 50.8 percent of his batted balls at 95 mph or higher, 17th highest in the Majors.

• Ohtani has a 97.1-mph average fastball, the third hardest in the Majors among starters, trailing only Luis Severino (97.6) and Noah Syndergaard (97.4).

There is so much we do not know about how this is going to play out. Will fatigue catch up to Ohtani? For that matter, how will he adjust as scouting reports reveal his weaknesses? Those are discussions for another day. For now, we should all sit back and enjoy the ride.

You didn't count out the Mariners, did you?

The Mariners return home for a 10-game homestand against the Twins, Rangers and Rays after a remarkable stretch. Playing without Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon, their two most important offensive pieces, the Mariners saw their five-game winning streak end on Thursday afternoon in Oakland.

The Mariners are clearly going to be offensively challenged for a while -- Cano was suspended for 80 games after violating the league's Drug Agreement, while Gordon's fractured right toe is expected to sideline him for a couple of weeks -- but the pitching has been tremendous.

Video: SEA@OAK: Gonzales earns win with 7 shutout innings

Perhaps the most positive sign is lefty Marco Gonzales, who threw seven scoreless innings against the A's on Wednesday. As James Paxton emerges as the new staff ace, the Mariners are hopeful Felix Hernandez can get back on track and give the team a chance to push the Astros in the AL West race.

Suddenly, the Dodgers are looking a lot like the NL West favorites

Funny how things change when a team gets its best player on the field. Shortly after the Dodgers got third baseman Justin Turner back, they've played their best baseball of the season, winning six of seven and cutting their NL West deficit from 8 1/2 games to 3 1/2 as the Padres come to Dodger Stadium for a weekend series.

Video: LAD@MIA: Turner clubs 2 doubles, tallies 5 RBIs

With Clayton Kershaw expected to return in the next couple of weeks, the Dodgers (22-27) will add to a rotation that has had a 1.43 ERA during the 6-1 stretch. Their everyday lineup still has issues, but the Dodgers are a far cry from when they were 16-26.

Here's our latest World Series preview: Braves at Red Sox

Why not? The Red Sox are as good as advertised, thanks to Mookie Betts leading baseball's second-highest-scoring offense. Meanwhile, the Braves are having the kind of turnaround season every franchise dreams of. In Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., they have two of the most electric performers in the game. They do not have a dominant pitching staff, but they have so many high-ceiling young arms that the problem seems fixable either internally or via trade.

Are the Cubs going to get out of fourth place?

It's never about just one thing. For the Cubs, though, it's actually not all that complicated. With the Cubs' offense and bullpen performing at a high level, the rotation seems to be the area of most concern, and this weekend's series against the Giants could offer some clues.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is handing the ball to Jose Quintana on Saturday and Yu Darvish on Sunday. Quintana is coming off a start of seven scoreless innings in Cincinnati, his best of the season. He has allowed one or zero earned runs in four of his last five starts and is headed in the right direction.

Darvish, too, has been at his best lately, coming off a six-inning, one-run performance in Cincinnati.

Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and a UCLA family feud

Thank goodness for Indians right-hander Adam Plutko. In 2011, he was the No. 3 starter on a Bruins rotation headed by Cole and Bauer. This weekend, his role will be to play peacemaker and maybe stand between the two of them if somehow they'd agree to a group photo for, you know, the UCLA alumni magazine.

Video: Hinch reacts to Bauer's social media posts on Astros

Cole and Bauer do not hide the fact that they didn't like one another when both were in college. Bauer took the rivalry to another level earlier this season when he accused Astros starting pitchers of doctoring baseballs.

Specifically, he wondered how pitchers could join the Astros staff and suddenly have higher spin rates, which translates to better stuff. He said secretly applying pine tar -- which is against the rules -- would do the trick.

He did not mention Cole by name, but with Cole being the newest member of the Astros' rotation, it wouldn't take a member of the UCLA math department to figure it out.

But on Thursday, Bauer took a step toward patching things up by praising Cole. Anyway, these former Bruins will be pitching against one another on Sunday at Progressive Field when the Astros and the Indians wrap up a four-game series. Let's everyone play nice.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Podcast: When is time right for Vlad Jr.?

MLB.com

Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Tim McMaster weigh in on the homer-filled big league debuts of Nationals' No. 2 prospect Juan Soto, Rays' No. 2 prospect Willy Adames and Pirates' No. 2 prospect Austin Meadows. The guys also discuss when the right time is for No. 2 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to make his debut. With just 10 days to go before the MLB Draft, they talk about the best tools in this year's MLB Pipeline Top 200 Draft Prospects list.

Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Tim McMaster weigh in on the homer-filled big league debuts of Nationals' No. 2 prospect Juan Soto, Rays' No. 2 prospect Willy Adames and Pirates' No. 2 prospect Austin Meadows. The guys also discuss when the right time is for No. 2 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to make his debut. With just 10 days to go before the MLB Draft, they talk about the best tools in this year's MLB Pipeline Top 200 Draft Prospects list.

On the MLB Pipeline Podcast, Callis, Mayo and McMaster are your tour guides through all the unfolding stories and breaking news of baseball's top prospects. Each week, you'll find out about the stars of tomorrow from the guys who know today. Look out for new episodes on Thursdays. Download, subscribe and help others find the show by leaving a rating and review on iTunes or your favorite platform.

These are the top 200 Draft prospects

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

We're getting down to crunch time.

The start of the 2018 Draft is just over a week away, with the Detroit Tigers on the clock to get things started on Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m. ET. The teams behind Detroit are eagerly waiting to see what the Tigers are going to do as they work to line up their own Draft boards.

We're getting down to crunch time.

The start of the 2018 Draft is just over a week away, with the Detroit Tigers on the clock to get things started on Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m. ET. The teams behind Detroit are eagerly waiting to see what the Tigers are going to do as they work to line up their own Draft boards.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

As teams worked on their boards, the MLB Pipeline staff worked to expand theirs and those efforts are reflected in the new Draft Top 200 list, an expansion and reshuffling of the Top 100 list released a month ago.

While teams have to use things like signability in determining their lists, MLB Pipeline looks only at talent and upside. The total of 200 would go into the seventh round, should they all be taken in order, deep into the second day of the Draft. Coverage of the entire Draft begins on the 4th on MLB Network and MLB.com and continues on MLB.com on June 5-6.

There are quite a few changes to the list, but not at the very top. Auburn right-hander Casey Mize, the front-runner to go No. 1 overall, remains at the top of the rankings, where he was placed when the first Top 100 came out. There is a change at No. 2, however, with Brady Singer, the Florida ace who was No. 1 on the Top 50 list put out late last fall, moving up from No. 5 to No. 2. Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal has come back healthy and raking, cementing his spot at No. 3. The college trio is backed up by a pair of high school arms: Arizona area lefty Matthew Liberatore, holding steady at No. 4, and Florida prep right-hander Carter Stewart, who moves down from No. 2 to 5 in this expanded list.

Three of the remaining five in the Top 10 were in the same area a month ago. Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, who some see going as high as No. 2, and perhaps in the conversation for the top spot, moves up from ninth to sixth. Florida infielder Jonathan India, who was No. 10 on the Top 100, is now at No. 8, flipping spots with Wisconsin high school outfielder Jarred Kelenic. The final two spots in the top 10 are new names, with Wichita State corner infielder Alec Bohm going from No. 11 to 7, and SoCal prep right-hander Cole Winn shooting from No. 15 up to No. 9 overall.

Opinions on Draft prospects always vary greatly from team to team, not to mention as the Draft season wears on. Performances this spring obviously are weighed when teams line up their boards and they've helped reshape the MLB Pipeline rankings.

Biggest risers

No. 65 -- Braxton Ashcraft, RHP, Robinson HS, Waco, Tex. (+34)
Ashcraft was No. 99 on the Top 100, a high school arm more about projection than current stuff, not to mention a signability issue with his commitment to Baylor, for much of the spring. But his stock took off when his velocity spiked during his playoffs, when he was topping out at 94 mph, with much more in the tank to come.

Video: Mayo on players rising up Draft boards

No. 42 -- Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS, Chicago (+25)
He's the son of White Sox strength and conditioning director Allen Thomas and he's super-athletic with a good feel to hit. Think Jacoby Ellsbury with a more advanced understanding of the game. His name has popped up in conversations at the end of the first round.

No. 77 -- Trey Riley, RHP, John A. Logan College, Cartersville, Ill. (+24)
Riley wasn't on the Top 100 a month ago, but has risen quickly thanks to a dominant season in the junior college ranks. Riley transferred from Oklahoma State after his freshman year, has a fastball that touches 97 mph and a plus slider that misses a ton of bats.

No. 40 -- Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia (+20)
The younger brother of Joe McCarthy, also a Virginia product who was a fifth-round pick of the Rays in 2015, Jake is an athletic center fielder who had a big sophomore year. A broken wrist kept him out of action for much of this season, impacting his stock, but a return late, during which he's shown he's healthy and had all his tools on display, has put an up arrow back next to his name.

No. 58 -- Jeremiah Jackson, SS, St. Luke's Episcopal HS, Waco, Tex. (+20)
Jackson has one of the better offensive profiles of any prep middle infielder in this year's class, with the ability to hit for average and perhaps 15 homers annually. He's solid defensively at short, though some see a move to second base eventually. Either way, his bat should have him come off the board in the top three rounds.

Geographically speaking

Certain states are known as hotbeds for amateur baseball and it shouldn't be a surprise to see which states lead the way in terms of representation on the list.

1. Florida (28)
2. Texas (24)
3. California (21)
4. Georgia (11)

California is still third despite it being what most have called a down year talent-wise in the state. These are the only four states that reached double-digits on the Top 200. Arizona and North Carolina are next, with nine players each on the list. A total of 39 states or provinces (Ontario has two representatives) have players on the list.

Youth movement

Obviously the Draft is all about the future and young talent. But that youth comes across a variety of ages. There will be 11 players on the Top 200 who will still be 17 years old when the Draft begins. Georgia high school catcher Taj Bradley (No. 172) is the youngest on the list. He doesn't turn 18 until next March. On the other end of the spectrum is injured Oregon State right-hander Drew Rasmussen (No. 200). He is the oldest of six 22-year-olds on the list, and will turn 23 in late July.

College students do the rule the day, though by just a narrow margin. There are 105 players from four-year colleges on the Top 200, while high schoolers take up 89 spots. That leaves six on the list from the junior college ranks.

Positional breakdown

Not surprisingly, pitching leads the way (You can never have enough of it, right?). Starting with Mize at the very top, there are 85 right-handers on the list. Add in the 26 lefties and that's 111 pitchers out of the 200. In terms of position players, there are more outfielders (39) than anyone else, followed by 17 shortstops and 12 catchers. There are nine third basemen, seven first basemen and five second basemen to round out the list.

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

MLB reveals plans for Memorial Day donations

Royalties from apparel to provide support for those who've lost military loved ones
MLB.com @DKramer_

Major League Baseball is adjusting the way it recognizes Memorial Day this season -- specifically in how it distributes charitable contributions -- in an effort to lend its financial support to those who have been directly affected by the loss of a military loved one.

MLB announced on Friday that 100 percent of all royalties earned through the sales of on-field apparel on Memorial Day will be given to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Folds of Honor Foundation, for a minimum $500,000 collective donation.

Major League Baseball is adjusting the way it recognizes Memorial Day this season -- specifically in how it distributes charitable contributions -- in an effort to lend its financial support to those who have been directly affected by the loss of a military loved one.

MLB announced on Friday that 100 percent of all royalties earned through the sales of on-field apparel on Memorial Day will be given to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Folds of Honor Foundation, for a minimum $500,000 collective donation.

"For the first time in 2018, we are donating our royalties to two specific charities that really follow the true meaning of Memorial Day," said Melanie LeGrande, MLB's vice president of social responsibility. "They are working with families that are grieving the loss of a military loved one. So it's appropriate and we're proud to support their efforts."

Previously, MLB's Memorial Day royalties funded the Welcome Back Veterans program, which provides services to assist the mental health needs of veterans and their families. Roughly $30 million in grants have been made through WBV since it was founded in 2008, largely supporting Centers of Excellence -- treatment venues that are internationally recognized for aiding veterans and providing research for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The essence in this year's shift is largely rooted in MLB relaying the meaning of the holiday: remembering those who died in active military service.

TAPS, which has assisted more than 75,000 families since 1994, operates as a peer-based initiative that provides emotional support to those affected by losing a loved one while serving, and Folds of Honor, founded in 2007, lends its hand by providing educational scholarships.

"In the past, we supported our Welcome Back Veterans initiative, and that really was focused on mental health and resilience for military families," LeGrande said. "We've decided to move forward in a different direction. It doesn't mean that we won't be supporting grants that are in that focused area, but for this particular holiday, we plan to make some positive changes to align them with the spirit of Memorial Day."

All teams on Monday will wear commemorative apparel that include caps, uniforms and socks with camouflage designs. For all U.S.-based teams, New Era's specially designed cap will feature a side patch that includes five stars to showcase the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Blue Jays' caps will include four maple leafs to commemorate the Canadian armed forces. All Majestic jerseys will have matching sleeve patches and green twill that would otherwise fill as the club's normal color, as will the socks.

Additionally, on Monday -- as has been the case since 1997 -- the National Moment of Remembrance will be recognized at 3 p.m. local time at all ballparks, with in-game action and pregame ceremonies being paused to observe an extended moment of silence in honor of those who have given their lives in service to the country.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Will trade for an ace shake up playoff race?

MLB.com @feinsand

Of all the stars that move on every year leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, few have the same impact as a No. 1 starter.

From Randy Johnson's superb stretch with the 1998 Astros to Justin Verlander's remarkable run with Houston last year, a bona fide ace can turn a fringe contender into a championship-caliber team in the blink of an eye.

Of all the stars that move on every year leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, few have the same impact as a No. 1 starter.

From Randy Johnson's superb stretch with the 1998 Astros to Justin Verlander's remarkable run with Houston last year, a bona fide ace can turn a fringe contender into a championship-caliber team in the blink of an eye.

The Brewers rode CC Sabathia's powerful left arm to a postseason berth in 2008, while Cliff Lee paid dividends for the Phillies in 2009, then again for the Rangers in 2010. Remember David Price's second-half performance for Toronto in 2015? Dominant.

Who could be this year's version of these season-altering acquisitions?

"There aren't that many good names out there," one National League general manager said.

Granted, there are still more than two months before the July 31 deadline, leaving plenty of time for teams to go into sell mode. But a quick scan of rosters around the league indicates that the biggest arms likely to be moved might not be of a race-changing caliber.

"If there are frontline starters out there, they're probably already on good teams," another NL executive said. "There does seem to be a lull in the market when it comes to frontline starters, so teams may pivot away from that."

Of the seven teams that have already lost at least 30 games this season -- a decent proxy for teams that might be "sellers" -- the most interesting names include Texas' Cole Hamels ($22.5 million salary this season; $20 million club option for 2019 with $6 million buyout), Kansas City's Danny Duffy (owed $46 million from 2019-21), San Diego's Clayton Richard ($3 million in 2019) and Tyson Ross (free agent after the season), Miami's Dan Straily and Baltimore's Kevin Gausman (two more arbitration-eligible years each beyond 2018).

Aside from Hamels, it's not the most proven group of arms we've seen heading into trade season.

"The teams that have sold have already sold those assets," an American League GM said. "Chris Sale was moved, [Jose Quintana] was moved, Verlander was moved. Before that, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake were moved. There are guys off the second tier of teams that could become available, but sitting here in mid-May, I can't say, come hell or high water, that they will be there. Could Chris Archer be on the market? Could one of the Twins or Blue Jays pitchers be on the market? Chances are, somebody that we can't prognosticate right now will be in that group."

Tampa Bay's Archer and Detroit's Michael Fulmer are the two names most often mentioned in potential trade conversations, but neither team appears to have any urgency to move them. Archer is owed $7.5 million next year and has a pair of club-friendly options for 2020 ($9 million) and 2021 ($11 million). Fulmer won't even reach the first of his four arbitration-eligible seasons until the end of this year, meaning the Tigers control him through 2022.

Video: DET@PIT: Fulmer K's nine over six shutout innings

What's more, each comes with some red flags. Fulmer missed most of last season after undergoing elbow surgery, while Archer's ERA currently sits at 4.68, and was above 4.00 in each of the previous two seasons.

"The Rays have been very unrealistic in their expectations to this point," said the second NL executive. "If that doesn't change, they'll probably keep him."

Sonny Gray joined Verlander and Yu Darvish as the big-name starters moved last summer, going from the Athletics to the Yankees in one of the bigger pre-Deadline deals. The consensus within the industry is that the Yankees will try to add another starter this summer, though Brian Cashman's modus operandi in recent years has been to acquire younger, controllable players, which wouldn't fit the description of a pitcher such as Hamels.

"They talked about [Gerrit] Cole in the offseason, they talked about Fulmer in the offseason; that's what they're looking for, not a rental," the NL GM said. "Cash just got a new deal, he has a young team; I don't think there's any pressure on him whatsoever."

For teams seeking a high-impact rental, the most notable starters potentially headed for free agency are Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin and Charlie Morton, none of whom figures to be traded by their respective teams.

Lance Lynn hasn't been able to replicate his years of National League success in the American League, so even if the Twins throw in the towel, it's hard to imagine that Lynn would be the difference-making arm a contender would turn to. Perhaps Ervin Santana, who has missed the entire season thus far following finger surgery, or Jake Odorizzi (one more year of control) could get moved, though neither adds much intimidation factor to a team's rotation.

"Trying to predict who the big starter will be at the deadline will be difficult," a second AL GM said. "It's going to be a lot of bullpen pieces. Teams are going to pluck off a lot of relievers."

The biggest wild card of the summer pitching market might wind up being Matt Harvey, who is working to regain his old form in Cincinnati after being designated for assignment and later traded by the Mets.

Video: PIT@CIN: Harvey punches out 5 in 6 strong innings

No matter how you slice it, the current landscape doesn't appear to include the potential for a race-altering starter to be moved. But that doesn't mean we won't see teams deal for arms with the hope of catching lightning in a bottle.

"The good money is that somebody will be available who has a chance to be at least a mid-rotation starter," the first AL GM said. "I think it will be more in the Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana types -- a nice pitcher that, if you really like him, he's a 2; if you're more realistic, he's a 3 -- than anybody who is going to do what Verlander did last year. The free agent class might offer that up. I'm not sure the Trade Deadline will."

Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.

Chris Archer, Michael Fulmer, Cole Hamels, Matt Harvey, Justin Verlander