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Leading off a game at Salt River Fields last week, Geraldo Perdomo took five fastballs, four of them wide of the strike zone, tossed his bat aside and trotted to first base. In his next trip to the plate, he took another fastball for a ball, then shot a curveball into center field for a single.

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Perdomo, the Diamondbacks’ young shortstop prospect, recognizes offspeed stuff well. He has good hand/eye coordination and makes consistent contact. He seems to swing at the right pitches. Most important, he finds his way on base at a steady clip.

During his time in the Arizona Fall League, Perdomo, who turns 20 this month, has exhibited the kind of offensive approach that has helped him quickly ascend through the minor leagues. It also is an approach the Diamondbacks are cultivating throughout their system.

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The first batch of position-player prospects under Diamondbacks General Manager Mike Hazen are nearing the majors. Many have attributes similar to Perdomo.

Catcher Daulton Varsho, first baseman Pavin Smith and Perdomo all are coming off seasons in which they rarely struck out. Three prospects acquired via trade – first baseman Seth Beer, infielder/outfielder Josh Rojas and infielder Andy Young – each had a relatively low strikeout rate, high walk rate or good on-base percentage, or some combination. The same could be said of young outfielders Alek Thomas, Kristian Robinson and Corbin Carroll.

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By and large, those players make up the organization’s next wave of hitters. To varying degrees, the Diamondbacks believe they all have a prevailing skill. They all have the ability to control the strike zone.

“We feel like the best hitters in baseball have that skill, have the ability to do that,” Hazen said. “Contact is important. We know that strikeouts are a part of the game – guys are going to strike out – and there are times you sell out to power. But being complete hitters is maximizing all those skills. Those guys have those skills. It’s something we value and we’re going to value moving forward.”

The Diamondbacks are not breaking new ground in their focus on controlling the zone, but it does stand in contrast to the type of team they were before Hazen and his group arrived. In 2016, the Diamondbacks had the fourth-highest strikeout rate and tied for the third-worst walk rate in the National League.

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That led to the front office putting an emphasis on approach in the 2017 draft. Smith, the Diamondbacks’ choice that year at No. 7 overall, not only had more walks (38) than strikeouts (12) as a junior at the University of Virginia – he had more home runs (13), as well. After a slow start to his pro career, Smith finished this season with solid numbers (.291 average, .835 OPS) in Double-A.

Making sound swing decisions leads not only to good on-base ability, it also “pretty much translates in all the damage you do,” Diamondbacks minor league hitting coordinator Joe Mather said.

In the first part of the series, you told us who would be the starting eight on the D-backs, selecting just from those players who finished the year under Arizona control. Now, it’s time to fill out the bench roster. This does require a little more than a straight vote, for a couple of reasons. One: we need to ensure coverage at all positions. Two: there will be a 26th man available next season, due to the roster changes. Will this be used on Opening Day to give the D-backs an extra bullpen arm, or to extend manager Torey Lovullo’s bench?

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To ensure coverage, I have gone for one backup catcher, a middle infielder, a corner infielder and two outfielders. We have seen the fondness of Lovullo for having three catchers, but that approach seemed to be quietly dropped as the season progressed, and I think we’ll probably see that again going forward. Part of the reason for having three catchers was to allow for greater offensive ability to pinch-hit. But that tactic makes rather more sense when you have Jeff Mathis on your roster, than when you have Carson Kelly. Two spare outfielders also makes sense, given Ketel Marte’s ability to go back to the middle infield when necessary.

So, here are the five players who received most votes for those positions, based on the 320 ballots filled in.

Backup C: Alex Avila (125 votes)
If the fans had their way, we’d probably only have one catcher, and just run Kelly out there every day. But that’s not practical: only two catchers in the majors last year reached even 115 starts (Yasmani Grandal and J.T. Realmuto). Despite missing five weeks early due to injury, Avila had a solid bounceback season. The BA wasn’t great (.207), but he had great plate discipline, with a 17.9% walk-rate; among hitters with 200+ PA, only Mike Trout and Brandon Nimmo were higher. He will be a free-agent, coming off a two-year contract worth $8.25 million, and turns 33 in January. It’ll be interesting to see whether he stays in Arizona, or if the team looks for a cheaper, perhaps more defensively-minded alternative.

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Backup CI: Kevin Cron (132)
Cron wasn’t able to reproduce his AAA numbers – but, then again, how could he deliver a 1.223 OPS? In the end, he came in slightly below average, with a 98 OPS+ in his rookie year. In a small sample size, the power was there – six home-runs in only seventy-eight PA. But so were the strikeouts, with a K-rate of 35.9%, and a K:BB ratio of 7:1. That’ll have to change in his sophomore campaign, if the graduate of Mountain Pointe HS here in Phoenix wants to become a solid back-up to Christian Walker. In his defense, most (24 of 39) of Cron’s appearances came off the bench, and he performed creditably as a pinch-hitter with an OPS of .815 in that role.

Backup MI: Ildemaro Vargas (231)
Quite surprised to realize this was actually Vargas’s third season in the majors. But we saw a lot more of him in 2019, appearing in 92 games, compared to 12 and 14 the previous two years. His positional flexibility is key to his securing a roster spot. While he played most at second-base, he also started at third and shortstop, and even played some inning in both corner outfield spots. He made just one error in approaching three hundred innings at second, and didn’t embarrass himself at the plate, with an OPS+ of 82. A few more walks would be nice, as he only had nine in 211 PA, though Vargas struck out just 24 times, so was clearly putting the ball in play.

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Backup OF #1: Josh Rojas (268)
A bit of a surprise here, to see rookie Rojas receive most votes among the bench candidates. Might be some home cooking here, Arizona fans feeling a special attachment to a man born and brought up locally, just a few miles from SnakePit Towers. Josh is probably the first to play for the D-backs, who was a fan growing up. He was also the first prospect received from the Astros in the Zack Greinke trade to reach the majors. While his impact was limited (OPS+ of 64, 0.0 bWAR in 41 games), he didn’t embarrass himself in his rookie season. As the outfield is an area where we don’t have much depth at the higher end of the minors, he will potentially be useful next year, at minimum cost.

Backup OF #2: Steven Souza Jr. (232)
The first two seasons of Souza’s time here have been an almost unmitigated disaster, with just 72 games played, none of them in 2019, and a value below replacement level. Steven is under team control for next year, in his final year of arbitration. But Souza has to be considered a non-tender candidate, even if he will get little or no increase from this year’s salary of $4.125 million. On the other hand, the lack of credible alternative candidates mean that price-tag would not be bad value, if he was able to return to the level of production seen when fully healthy, prior to 2018 (OPS+ of 105, 2.6 bWAR per 650 PA). Keyword in that sentence is, obviously, “if”…

26th man: Jake Lamb (122)
If the team were to go with an extra bench bat, Lamb was selected by readers to fill that spot. That might not be a bad position for him. As a left-hander, he would be a platoon partner for Walker/Cron at first, and Lamb can also play on the other corner of the infield. However, MLB Trade Rumors project a $5 million arbitration figure for Jake, which is high for an occasional player. He also struggled even against RHP this year, batting .177 with a .607 OPS, when previously that was his biggest plus: “Well, at least Lamb rakes against righties.” In 2019, not so much. Whether the team decides that was a blip or not, may well determine whether or not he is tendered a contract or follows Chris Owings into the wilderness.

Not selected
Jarrod Dyson (119)
Domingo Leyba (109)
Caleb Joseph (84)
Abraham Almonte (79)
Adam Jones (73)
Blake Swihart (29)
Yasmany Tomas (13)
Some free-agents to be of note here, including Dyson and Jones. It seems most people see Tim Locastro as a cheaper alternative to Dyson. And for all the benefits of Jones’s clubhouse presence, he’s clearly on the downside of his career, putting up his lowest OPS+ (87) in more than a decade. The rest are a combination of those whose future is still in front of them (Leyba and Joseph), apparently fungible outfield types (Almonte and Swihart)… And, in last place, the albatross which is Yasmany Tomas. He received just 13 votes. I’ll have to check the IP address those came from, I’d not be surprised if they were all over towards the East of the country… :)

Next up, probably after the weekend, the starting pitchers!

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“Guys who are pretty aggressive are going to see fewer pitches in their zone because the at-bat is going to be over sooner,” Mather said. “For a guy like Perdomo, who does a really good job of taking pitches out of the zone, it forces pitchers back in the zone, which is going to give him far more opportunities to hit balls over the middle of the plate.”

Arizona Diamondbacks catching prospect Daulton Varsho during spring training workouts on Feb. 15, 2019 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Arizona Diamondbacks catching prospect Daulton Varsho during spring training workouts on Feb. 15, 2019 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic)

As it happens, Perdomo is the only one of the aforementioned players that the Hazen regime inherited. The Diamondbacks signed him out of the Dominican Republic in July 2016, some three months before Hazen was hired. Still, Hazen has opted to keep him; the same is not true of the strikeout-prone Jazz Chisholm, another shortstop prospect whom the Diamondbacks traded to the Miami Marlins in July for starting pitcher Zac Gallen.

Before a fall league game last week, Perdomo described his approach as being dependent upon how he is pitched. If a pitcher is throwing strikes, Perdomo said he will appear aggressive. If not, he will wait him out. Asked how he was able to learn to hit like this, he said he considers himself fortunate.

“I was born like that,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “That’s me. Nobody taught me how to hit like that.”

The Diamondbacks believe there is some universal truth to that. Hazen thinks an ability to control the zone is more innate than, say, good swing mechanics, but the club puts significant time into honing hitters’ approaches in the minors. One way it does that, Mather said, is to make batting practice more game-like by having hitters take rounds of BP in which they might not swing the bat if the pitches don’t call for it.

“We have them really lock into their pitch,” Mather said. “We’re not worried about them getting their five full swings. We’re worried about them making the right decisions.”

The organization also tries to be proactive with prospects who aren’t as advanced in their approaches. One example came early this season, when coaches sat down with Low-A infielder Blaze Alexander to encourage him to be more selective.

“It’s important because you have to learn this at the lower levels or you’ll never figure it out up here,” Diamondbacks Assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye said. “You’re trying to teach him that approach and hopefully it all meshes when he gets to Double-A or Triple-A.”

It will be years before anyone knows for sure if this wave of young position players can develop into successful major leaguers. But the Diamondbacks are hopeful they have a future core of hitters that has many of the same attributes as those who populate the lineups of teams still playing this October.

“The guys we’re going out and getting, they (already) get on base and have a good eye, and I think that’s a great start,” Mather said. “Power usually comes later.”

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The St. Louis Cardinals and star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt have agreed to a five-year extension worth around $130 million, according to ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported Thursday the two sides were nearing a deal. Goldschmidt is due to hit free agency after the 2019 season. Rosenthal added it’s unclear whether Goldschmidt’s contract includes any opt-outs or a no-trade clause.

The Cardinals acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks in December.

This move would continue the recent trend of top stars signing long-term extensions well before they hit the open market.

Fox 26′s Mark Berman reported Tuesday the Houston Astros agreed to a six-year, $100 million deal with Alex Bregman that will cover his remaining arbitration years and what would’ve been his first two free-agent years. Also on Tuesday, Passan reported Mike Trout agreed to a 12-year, $430 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

Passan also reported Thursday the Tampa Bay Rays inked American League Cy Young winner Ian Snell to a five-year, $50 million extension.

Goldschmidt may be content to get long-term security now rather than risk going unsigned for a large chunk of the 2020 offseason and potentially settling for a salary below what many would’ve expected.

Manny Machado and Bryce Harper—both of whom are in their respective primes—didn’t sign until February, while Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel remain without a team. Considering he’ll turn 32 in September, Goldschmidt might have found a lukewarm market in free agency.

At potentially $22 million a year, re-signing Goldschmidt is a no-brainer for the Cardinals.

Over the past five years, he ranks sixth in WAR among position players (26.8), per FanGraphs. During that span, he has a .301/.408/.539 slash line, 145 home runs and 477 RBI, and his .398 weighted on-base average is fifth-highest in MLB.

The six-time All-Star has generally been a model of consistency at the plate, and he has shown little sign of declining. Even if Goldschmidt’s performance starts slipping a bit, he should more than justify St. Louis’ investment.

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PHOENIX — Triple-A Reno Aces right-handed pitcher Taylor Clarke will be recalled to make the start against the Giants on Saturday for the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Torey Lovullo said Friday.

Clarke, who was on the 40-man roster but not the team’s 25-man active roster before Friday’s game, had a locker in the clubhouse. He’s on the “taxi squad,” a term that refers to players who have traveled to their next assignment but whose next assignment hasn’t actually been made official with the league.

Clarke’s helping the big-league club comes after the team placed left-hander Robbie Ray on the 10-day injured list on Thursday. Ray, who has a 3.99 ERA in 26 starts this season, went only two innings in his start on Wednesday. He was diagnosed as having back spasms.

“We pieced things together the best that we can. It’s going to give the ability to give us an extra day for [Merrill] Kelly and [Zac] Gallen,” Lovullo said. “The guys have been getting after it. To be able to push them back and give them that extra day was well-timed.
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“Taylor deserves this opportunity. He’d been throwing the ball extremely well before he was sent out, so I know he’s excited to be back here and I’m excited to see what he can help us out with.”

The 26-year-old Clarke has a 5.46 ERA through 14 games (13 starts) this season, his debut season in the major leagues. In his last four starts before his most recent assignment to Reno, Clarke had a 3.92 ERA over 20.2 innings pitched.

In nine of his 14 starts this year, Clarke has allowed three earned runs or fewer.

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No, this is not about a pitcher that gets better with age. This is simply about how a fan favorite and team ace can, in just a couple of years, become forgotten and seemingly disappear.

Brandon Webb’s career started with a bang, debuting in New York in 2003 and out-dueling Tom Glavine with seven scoreless innings and ten strikeouts. He finished his rookie season 10-9 with an ERA of 2.84. He was spectacular.

His sophomore season was a struggle. He battled control all season, leading the league in losses (16), walks (119), and wild pitches (17). In his defense, there was no defense behind him (Alex Cintron and Scott Hairston were his middle infielders) and the team was terrible. Even still, his ERA was a solid 3.59.

After a much improved 2005 campaign, he earned himself a $28 million contract.

With his new contract, Webb became a star in 2006, winning the National League Cy Young award with 16 wins, three shutouts, and only 50 walks. His sinker was considered the best in baseball.

The 2007 season saw him continue as an ace, but on a magical team. The Diamondbacks won their division and made it to the NLCS, all while sporting one of the youngest teams in the league.

Webb also put together his own magic, running a streak of 42 consecutive scoreless innings. I personally remembered the Orel Hershiser 1988 streak and how magical that was for me as a Dodger fan at the time.

I saw a lot of parallels between Webb and Hershiser. Both threw incredible sinkers, although Hershiser threw his a little harder and was called a “sinking fastball” as opposed to a “sinker” because it was thrown harder. Both wore No. 55 (Webb changed to 17 in ’07), both had amazing streaks, and both played for teams that overachieved to make the playoffs (I was in awe of how similar the ’07 D-backs were to the ’88 Dodgers and thought at the time that it was going to be another special championship year. It could have been).

Webb was the team’s best player and was loved by Phoenix fans not only for his performance, but also for his small-town charm and overall likability.

However, something happened during the 2008 season.

It was arguably his finest season, even when the team could not hold it together after a torrid start. He went 22-7 with an ERA of 3.30, and many believe should have won his second Cy Young. He finished second, behind Tim Lincecum.

Amid the success he had, things changed. The team began to negotiate contract extensions for him and for teammate Dan Haren. Everyone knew that it was going to cost a lot, but that he would get one done.

Oddly, Haren got his extension first. Then, strangely, negotiations with Webb were “tabled” for unknown reasons. This was after the framework was reportedly in place for a three-year, $54 million deal.

Since the reasons were kept quiet, some fans started talking about how he was trying to cash in and being selfish. Webb was hurt by this, and even went on the radio to plead his case.

Although he never came out and said it, nor did his performance go down, he seemed hurt by how things were handled.

There was also an ESPN The Magazine feature on him and his off-day routine. It did one of two things for fans. It either made him look amazingly talented that he didn’t work out much, didn’t study video or scouting reports, and played around between starts, or it made him look lazy.

The fact that he did not end up winning the Cy Young award seemed to bother him, too. He frequently mentioned his win total and how no one with his amount of wins had not won the award unless another had that many as well.

The 2009 season lasted four innings for Webb. Shoulder tightness took him out of the game and he hasn’t pitched for the team since.

Not long after this, it was leaked that the reason for his contract talks being tabled was because of abnormalities in his shoulder, meaning his contract could not be insured.

Then, the shoulder issue went from not missing a start, to a few weeks, to no surgery needed, to yes, he needed surgery. Of course, surgery didn’t happen until August so five months passed that were essentially wasted.

The local media and fans wondered why it took so long for the decision.

When his shoulder surgery happened I was reminded again of Orel Hershiser who had reconstructive shoulder surgery in 1990 just two years after his magical 1988 season. He was never the same dominant pitcher he was, but he went on to win another 107 big league games and was a very good player.

The team decided to exercise the $8.5 million option for the 2010 season, citing that basically they had no choice if they wanted to compete as a team. That turned out to be a very poor business decision.

Move forward to 2010 spring training and there was hope that he would be ready to pitch early in the season. No progress was made.

He missed the start of the season, hoping to pitch for the team by June. Then July. Then six-to-eight starts total. Now it is doubtful he will pitch again this year. At this point, it would actually surprise me if he pitches another big league game ever.

The worst part is that there has been nothing physically wrong with his shoulder for months. He just hasn’t been comfortable and has been fighting mechanics.

It hasn’t been a loud clamoring but there have been whispers by fans and media that he is just sitting on his option money. Louder has been the criticism of his mental toughness and dedication (which leads us fans to believe the ESPN The Magazine feature was an indictment of his laziness or lack of toughness).

It really is a shame. Webb was a true ace, a streak-buster, a guy you could send to the hill and feel all but certain of a victory. He was a difference-maker. He goes down, and the team falls apart.

Now he is a dead man walking (at the very least, he should be a dead man pitching or should have been one of the trades). No one sees him the way they once did. He is not exactly despised, but he is basically an afterthought, something puzzling with a former ace.

I wonder what will happen in the future. Obviously, there will be no big contract coming. If he comes back and is the Brandon Webb we all saw from 2003 and from ’05-’08, then we can figure that there was something personal going on with him and the team or something.

From the perspective of a baseball fan in general, I hope that Webb makes a full recovery and can dominate like he once did.

From the view of the Diamondbacks fan, I secretly hope he is never the same because then it would mean all of it was real and not some spiteful way of getting back at the team for not giving him the extension to begin with.

On the bright side, there is a young pitcher in Barry Enright that reminds me of Webb’s rookie year. I may be way off the mark but with two years of terrible baseball in Arizona and wasted money (Webb, Eric Byrnes, Bobby Howry, the GM/manager combo), I’m looking for anything to grasp onto.

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The Phillies have two huge job openings to fill in their baseball operations department.

Obviously, they are looking for a new manager, and that process ramped up on Monday.

The team also needs to fill the important scouting director’s role. That job opened when Johnny Almarez stepped down in September.

The search for a new scouting boss is being led by assistant general manager Bryan Minniti and it is apparently well underway.

According to multiple major league sources, the Phillies have conducted a number of recent interviews for the position. Among those to interview are in-house candidates Greg Schilz, Mike Koplove and Darrell Conner.

Outside candidates, according to sources, include David Crowson of the Miami Marlins, Sam Hughes of the Chicago Cubs, Brian Barber of the New York Yankees, Dan Ontiveros of the Kansas City Royals and Scott Meaney of the Cleveland Indians. All have high-ranking scouting positions with their organizations.

It’s possible that there are other candidates or more will emerge. But these are the names being talked about in baseball circles at the moment.

Schilz ranked No. 2 in the Phillies’ amateur scouting staff behind Almaraz. He joined the club in the fall of 2016 after 12 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was elevated to assistant scouting director in the fall of 2017.

Koplove is an interesting candidate. He is a Philadelphia native who pitched at Chestnut Hill Academy and the University of Delaware before spending parts of seven seasons in the majors with Arizona and Cleveland. He earned a World Series ring with the Diamondbacks in 2001.

Koplove spent six seasons on the scouting staff of the Anaheim Angels before joining his hometown team as a special assignment scout prior to the 2018 season.

Conner is a longtime Phillies scout who has risen to the role of national scouting coordinator. He was influential in identifying Cole Hamels as having first-round potential and staying on the pitcher after he broke his left arm the summer after his sophomore year.

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On May 24, the Arizona Diamondbacks called up Kevin Cron to the big-league club. At the time the 26-year-old led all minor leaguers with 21 home runs. He was called up to help an offense that needed a boost. On June 6, he hit his first big-league home run. Since then, he was sent down when Arizona needed another pitcher, then returned to provide pinch hitting duties and some occasional time at first base. He is also being utilized as the DH when the team is in an American League city.
Arrival to Arizona

Cron attended high school in Phoenix. He was originally drafted out of high school by the Seattle Mariners in the third round of the 2011 draft but decided to attend Texas Christian University instead. A catcher in high school, he was moved to first base at TCU. In 2014, after his junior season, the Diamondbacks selected him in the 14th round of the MLB draft. He signed with them on June 23, 2014.

Playing in the Minor Leagues

Cron made his professional debut with the Missoula Osprey of the Rookie-level Pioneer League, and quickly moved up to the Hillsboro Hops of the Class A-Short Season Northwest League. He finished 2014 with a combined .291 batting average along with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.

He spent 2015 with the Visalia Rawhide of the Class A-Advanced California League in 2015 where he hit 27 home runs and had 97 RBIs. In 2016 he was with the AA Mobile BayBears. He added 88 RBIs and 26 home runs to his stats.

After the 2016 season, he played in front of the local Arizona fans when he was assigned to the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League. In 2017, Cron played for the AA Jackson Generals. He was named the league’s most valuable player after batting .283 with 25 home runs and 91 RBIs. Cron spent last year with the AAA Reno Aces, improving his batting average to .309 while hitting 22 home runs and adding 97 RBIs to his lifetime totals.
Improved his Power Swing Potential

We know that since he came out of college Cron has a ton of power. At 6-foot-5, and around 245 pounds, his strength is obvious. His swing power is above average.
However, while he hit all those home runs in his three full seasons, he also struck out more than 130 times each year as well, leading some to question if he could make enough contact to tap into his power at the highest level.

He worked persistently with each minor league hitting coach on swing-and-miss issues and on the lack of plate discipline, two things that previously held him back and a key indicator on why he played Double-A ball in 2017. The work has paid off. His pitch recognition has improved. That has led to increased walks helping to offset what will always be a big strikeout total.
Baseball Family

Kevin Cron’s life has revolved around baseball, the game and the clubhouse. His father, Chris Cron, was an MLB player with both the then California Angels and Chicago White Sox. Currently, he is the manager of the AAA Reno Aces. Kevin’s brother, C. J. Cron, plays for the Minnesota Twins and their cousin is former Diamondbacks catcher Chad Moeller. Being around pro baseball at a young age certainly goes along way to help learn the ways players handle themselves and what it takes to be a professional. Not only that, but hanging around the players and managers and hearing their stories and their game breakdowns, you learn the in-outs of the game that are often overlooked or missed by those without this experience. This, too, has helped Cron.

Future in MLB

Since being recalled by the Diamondbacks, he has been limited mostly to pinch-hit duty. Jake Lamb’s return from injury and Christian Walker have pushed Cron’s to a limited role. But, we could see him get more playing time in the second half of the season if the Diamondbacks decide to become sellers and trade Lamb. A lot of that will depend on the team’s playoff chances. Stay tuned.

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The Diamondbacks have worked out a last-minute deal for Mariners righty Mike Leake, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). Infield prospect Jose Caballero is going to Seattle in return, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Arizona is taking on only $6MM of Leake’s remaining obligations, according to John Gambadoro of ArizonaSports.com.

It’s been a precipitous drop for the 31-year-old Leake, who’s now accrued nearly 1,800 big-league innings since debuting straight from Arizona State in 2010. Leake’s walk and strikeout rates have remained mostly intact, but he hasn’t been able to withstand the league-wide homer onslaught this season, having allowed an easily-career-high 1.71 per nine in 137 IP thus far. His average fastball velocity’s cratered to a career-worst 88.3 MPH, though the always-crafty mix-and-match artist has adjusted: his cutter and changeup, long his go-to out pitches, have each seen an uptick in usage, with the former being deployed nearly 27% of the time at current.

Leake’s park-adjusted peripherals still place firmly in the fourth/fifth starter range – thanks mostly to a string of sterling outings in the latter half of this month – and his presence should stabilize the back half of a Diamondbacks rotation that’s leaned heavily on the mostly ineffective arms of Taylor Clarke and Merrill Kelly of late. After the trade of Zack Greinke to the Astros, Leake will line up with the newly-acquired Zac Gallen, the still-here Robbie Ray, and some combination of Clarke, Kelly, and rookie Alex Young, whose peripherals lag far behind the 2.51 ERA he’s posted in his first six big-league outings.

It’s perhaps a bit chastening for the M’s, who acquired the righty from the Cardinals in a now-defunct August swap two seasons ago, to recoup only $6MM from the some $25MM remaining (through 2020) on the his deal. Caballero, 22, didn’t assert himself as a top organizational prospect for the Snakes, so the swap mostly seems centered around the marginal amount saved and opportunity for the club to insert a young hurler, perhaps lefty Justus Sheffield, into its rotation for the remainder of ’19. Righty Matt Wisler, acquired after being designated for assignment by San Diego, should also be afforded a look: the one-time top prospect has finally flashed the bat-missing stuff that was so often absent from his repertoire in seasons past.

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Jays…..please make some news.

Former Blue Jays’ first baseman Lyle Overbay turns 42 today.

Lyle came up to the majors with the Diamondbacks, he played a handful of games in 2001 and 2002 before making the Diamondbacks out of spring training in 2003, after being listed as Baseball America’s 65th best prospect. He didn’t do great and was sent back to the minors after playing in 86 games. In December of 2003 he was sent to the Brewers as part of a 10 player trade. The big name, going to the Diamondbacks, was slugger Richie Sexson. Sexson only played 21 games for the Diamondbacks, in an injury filled 2004.

Overbay played two seasons for the Brewers before being traded to the Jays with Ty Taubenheim for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson. Bush won 46 games (while losing 53) over 5 seasons, Gross played a bit hitting .251/.357/.440 in parts of 3 seasons and Jackson pitched 42 innings, for the Brewers, so the trade could be counted as slightly to the win side for J.P. Riccairdi. And, considering Eric Hinske played first for us in 2005, Lyle was a step up at the position.

The trade was the subject of the second post ever on Bluebird Banter. Marc Normandin liked the trade:

He’s a great defensive first basemen, one of the best in the league. He hits well for a first basemen, although he lacks home run power. He makes up for it with doubles though, and his plate patience is good. Acquiring Overbay most likely means that Shea Hillenbrand or Eric Hinske is on their way out of Toronto. The good news? The Jays may actually get a useful part in exchange for one of them, which would be a plus.

Lyle had a pretty good first season for us, he hit .312/.372/.508 with 22 home runs and 92 RBI in 157 games in 2006. He set his career high for home runs, RBI and batting average, as well as finishing 4th in the AL in doubles with 46.

After the season J.P. signed Lyle to a 4-year, $24 million contract. The contract didn’t help make him a favorite with Jays fans. mark w wasn’t sure about the signing, at the time. In his BBB post about it:

My views are on this signing are rather mixed. At first glance, it appears to be a thrifty signing, as the Blue Jays lock up a somewhat gifted hitter at a relatively cheap price. On the other hand, however, couldn’t the Blue Jays have waited another season, thus hedging their bets? I can’t imagine that Overbay’s value will skyrocket at this point of his career, especially considering he’s a likely candidate to “age quickly” — at least based on the career trends of statistically similar players from the past. In the end, I don’t think this contract will come back to bite them, if only because of its low cost to the organization. And Overbay appears to be a safe bet for at least the next 2-3 years.

Well, it did come back to bite them.

2007 wasn’t a good a year for Lyle. He missed more than a month with a broken hand, after being hit by a John Danks pitch June 3. He was hitting .256/.332/.464 when he was hit, but finished the season .240/.315/.391 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI. It’s pretty had to hit ball when your hand is hurting. He did manage to hit 30 doubles. Lyle had a big reverse split, that year, having a .794 OPS vs. LHP but just .676 against RHP.

Lyle bounced back a little, in 2008, hitting .270/.358/.419 with 15 homers, 32 doubles and 69 RBI in 158 games. He set a team record for getting on base 12 straight times at the end of May. Unfortunately, he couldn’t hit lefties at all, batting just .215/.285/.255 against them. It was the start of a bad trend, before 2008 he was able to hit lefties, at least not too badly, after, he couldn’t.

Overbay had a pretty good 2009, hitting .265/.372/.466 with 16 home runs (including his first walkoff homer against the A’s in April), 35 doubles and 64 RBI in 132 games. FanGraphs credited him with a 2.4 WAR, the best in his time with the Jays. They liked his fielding much better than back in 2006. He hit just .190/.256/.278 against left-handers (his platoon partner was Kevin Millar, who didn’t hit lefties all that much better that year).

2010 was Lyle’s last year with the Jays, and it wasn’t very good, he hit .243/.329/.433, with 20 home runs (his second highest total in his career), 37 doubles (his 7th consecutive season with 30 doubles) and 67 RBI. He played in 154 games, Cito wouldn’t platoon him as he was a free agent after the season (Cito had some strange ideas, as a often he was more interested in ‘doing right’ by his veteran players than doing what was needed to win games). On defense, Lyle lead AL first basemen in double plays (150) and assists (101). He had the 1000th hit of his career at the end of June.

After leaving the Jays, Lyle has bounced around, playing for the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. He retired after the 2014, finishing with a .266/.347/.429 line, 151 home runs and 675 RBI in 14 seasons. 83 home runs and 336 RBI were as a Blue Jays.

Happy Birthday Lyle. Even though your time with the Jays wasn’t a huge success, but you were still a favorite of mine. I do wonder how much better his offensive numbers would have been if he hadn’t broken his hand.

It is also Bob File’s birthday, he’s also 42. Bob came up as a reliever with the Jays and had a very good rookie season, in 2001, putting up a 3.27 ERA in 60 relief appearances, 74.1 innings, but there was some luck involved. He only struck out 38 and walked 29. The .233 BABIP wasn’t something that was repeatable. Over the next two seasons he pitched 37 innings, with a 6.08 ERA and that was the end of his major league career.

Happy birthday Bob, hope it is a good one.

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NEW YORK — Zac Gallen had just moved into his Miami apartment.

Two weeks later, he needed to move out.

A day after making his seventh career start with the Marlins and lowering his ERA to 2.72 with seven innings of two-run, eight-strikeout ball, the rookie right-hander was summoned to manager Don Mattingly’s office.

Gallen, who was just beginning to get acclimated to his new surroundings, initially assumed the coaching staff wanted to go over his last outing. But the Marlins had other plans on July 31 — and they weren’t sending Gallen back down to the minors.

Instead, Miami sent the 24-year-old to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade-deadline deal. In exchange, the Marlins received middle infield prospect Jazz Chisholm. Mattingly and Michael Hill, Miami’s president of baseball operations, delivered the news.

Well, sort of.

“At first, they didn’t tell me what team I’d been traded to. So at the end of the meeting, I was like, ‘Hey, where am I going?’” Gallen, who will match up against Reds righty Trevor Bauer on Sunday, told Yahoo Sports.

“They didn’t say. But at the time, I didn’t know what to do. I was just like I’ve got to pack up my stuff within like 12 hours. It was crazy.”
Different city, same results

Gallen found out about the trade at 2:30 p.m. He left Marlins Park two hours later after cleaning out his locker, saying his goodbyes and talking to reporters. Next, it was time to pack. Fortunately, Gallen had a close friend in town, who proved to be a huge help with the move.

“My phone was blowing up all day,” Gallen said. “And it was tough because I had to decide what to bring with me and what I was going to get shipped in my car a couple weeks later. I’m kind of a paranoid packer.”

Nevertheless, after taking a flight out west, Gallen found himself in another meeting with Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo. And this one went a bit differently.

“‘We’re excited to have you. We wanted you for a few months now, and we were finally able to make it happen,’” Gallen was told.

“So that was awesome to hear,” he said. “When you get traded, it’s good and bad. One team doesn’t want you, I guess you could say, but another does, so it’s cool. I was really glad to hear that they had so much interest in me.”

While the Diamondbacks have sputtered of late, their playoff hopes hanging by a thread after a four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets at Citi Field, Gallen hasn’t slowed down. And Arizona has yet to feel the sting of losing staff ace Zack Greinke, who they moved to Houston at the deadline.

In seven starts with the Diamondbacks, Gallen has compiled a 2.61 ERA. On Sept. 4, he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. In his last outing, against the Mets, he struck out nine — including All-Stars Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso a combined five times in six plate appearances.

Zac Gallen, Filthy 87mph Changeup (release/spin axis/slow). pic.twitter.com/C6HdG4NOQz
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 11, 2019

He is the second NL pitcher to begin his career with 14 consecutive starts allowing three or fewer runs. Over that span, he has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings.

“He’s really good,” Arizona veteran Robbie Ray said. “He knows how to pitch.”

Or, as one Diamondbacks source put it, “Sure, we had to give up Jazz. But he’s been a damn good pickup for us.”

Gallen didn’t necessarily expect to be traded, though he had been before — a young player on a rebuilding team — but he’s enjoyed his new environment so far.

“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t expect I’d be anywhere close to a playoff hunt,” he said. “And then here I am two months after I made my debut and we’re right in the mix. It’s pretty cool.”
Oh, what could’ve been in Miami

In an alternate universe, Miami would still have a Big Three. It just wouldn’t consist of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

A new trio of Luis Castillo, Chris Paddack and Domingo German would dominate on the mound. And with a potent lineup featuring Christian Yelich (Brewers), Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees), Marcell Ozuna (Cardinals) and J.T. Realmuto (Phillies), the Marlins would be among the favorites to reach the World Series in 2019.

But none of that is going to happen.

Castillo has emerged as an NL Cy Young award candidate — in Cincinnati. Paddack just wrapped up a solid rookie year with six shutout innings against the Cubs — in San Diego. And German became an unsung hero, winning 18 games — in the Bronx.

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For most of his career, the only time the word “second” appeared in the same sentence as Roberto Alomar was when someone was describing his position in the field.

At the plate, with the leather or in the final standings, Alomar was usually on top.

Born Feb. 5, 1968 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Alomar had baseball in his blood. His father, Sandy Alomar Sr., was an All-Star second baseman in his 15-year major league career. Like his father, Roberto played second, threw right-handed and switch-hit. Alomar’s brother, Sandy, Jr., also made it to the big leagues as a catcher.

At 18, Roberto Alomar signed with the San Diego Padres and won the California League batting title in his second year in the minors with a .346 batting average. By 1988, he was with the parent club, making a splash with his defense and speed and finishing fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting. He earned his first All-Star selection in 1990.

Following that season, Alomar was traded to Toronto – where his offense took off. Alomar raised his average over .300, helping the Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-1993 while finishing in third in the AL batting title race in 1993. He hit a combined .354 in four postseason series in those two championship seasons.

“Everybody can see the skills on the field,” said teammate Dave Winfield, himself a Hall of Famer. “He’s acrobatic, flamboyant, he’s got his style.”

Following the 1995 season, Alomar signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Forming a Hall of Fame double-play combination with Cal Ripken Jr., helped his team get back to the playoffs – advancing to the ALCS in 1996 and 1997. Following the 1998 season, Alomar signed with the Cleveland Indians and played with his brother Sandy for the first time.

“He reminds me of some of the great players that I’ve played with, who seem like they write their own script,” said Davey Johnson, who managed Alomar with the Orioles. “Frank Robinson’s one, Henry Aaron was the other.”

It was in Cleveland that Alomar had two of his best seasons. In 1999, he hit .323 with 24 homers, 120 RBI and 37 stolen bases. He finished third in MVP voting and led the league in runs scored (138) and sacrifice flies (13). In 2001, he hit .336 with 20 homers, 100 RBI and 30 stolen bases.

Teamed with Omar Vizquel, the double-play combo won three consecutive Gold Gloves together. The Indians advanced to the postseason in both 1999 and 2001.

Alomar was traded to the Mets in 2002 before later stops with the White Sox and Diamondbacks. He retired after the 2004 season.

In 17 major league seasons, Alomar tallied 2,724 hits, 210 home runs, 1,134 RBI, a .300 batting average and .984 fielding percentage. He made 12 consecutive All-Star appearances.

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Reno Aces pitcher Jon Duplantier has funk in his arm.

“He’s just funky, no other way to put it,” Aces pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru said. “He has some nastiness to him and hitters don’t like it.”

The Arizona Diamondbacks top pitching prospect went three innings, surrendering one earned run on three hits and three strikeouts in the Aces’ 9-5 loss to the Fresno Grizzlies on Wednesday. He has a 1.04 ERA and 10 strikeouts with Reno this season.

Duplantier’s unconventional approach on the mound all starts with his long-arm, low three-quarter slot delivery. Once the right-hander winds up, he hides the ball behind his head before he delivers a strike to the plate, a routine he’s developed growing up in Katy, Texas.

“I’ve been throwing this way forever,” he said. “There’s pictures of me at 10 years old throwing the way I throw now. I didn’t realize it was all that weird until one of my teammates told me in college.”

Opposing batters can’t hide from his devastating four-pitch arsenal. He gets ahead of the count with a mid-90s two-seam fastball with plenty of sink that runs off the plate. In two-strike situations, he’ll showcase a hard-breaking slider to whiff right-handed hitters. Duplantier also has developed a mid-80s change up and effective curve to force ground balls.

His third strikeout on Wednesday night was an 85-mph slider that broke at the hands of Fresno third baseman Matt Reynolds.

“My off-speed stuff is huge,” he said. “Guys are throwing real hard so my slider can and breaking ball can take a load off my fastball and it can add to it. It’s all just a means of keeping the hitter off balance. … They have to honor one or both, and they complement each other really nice in the way they move.”

Duplantier, 24, who pitched with Double-A Jackson last season, made his big-league debut for the Diamondbacks on April 1. He posted a rare three-inning save with two strikeouts against the San Diego Padres.

“I had no idea I even got the save,” he said. “Now it’s one of the coolest moments of my life.”

Duplantier appeared in two games with the Dbacks before being optioned to Triple-A Reno on April 9. He’s returned to his starting role with the Aces on a limited pitch count, throwing 97 total pitches in 8.2 innings pitched this season.

“The mentality is different between the two,” he said. “In the bullpen, it’s about getting the out at all costs and go to work. Starting, it’s a little bit more like a chess game. You have to go back to the at-bat before and the next (player) in the order. It’s a whole different ball game.”

Duplantier’s arm hasn’t only been seen on a diamond. He was a Houston high school quarterback for the Silver Lakes High School Spartans in 2012 and 2013. The two-sport star lettered in football and baseball during his junior and senior seasons.

Duplantier had a smooth touch with the football compared to his mechanical release on the mound. His 6-foot-3, 224-pound frame was a good size for the gridiron.

“I never threw footballs the way I throw a baseball,” he chuckled. “I had a tight, compact quick stroke with it. My arm was pretty stock when I launched (the ball) downfield. I could stand in there and take a hit, as well.”

Multiple injuries to his collarbone and wrist forced Duplantier to stick with one pair of cleats. A torn meniscus ended his senior football season with the Spartans and forced him to permanently stick to baseball.

“It was a tough decision, but I couldn’t take the beating of both (sports),” he said. “Football was fun, but baseball was my real passion. So I just stayed with that.”

The decision paid off handsomely. Arizona selected Duplantier in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft after three college seasons with the Rice University Owls.

The right-hander has been and up-and-coming star since he was assigned to the Dbacks’ minor league system. Duplantier has not recorded a higher ERA than 2.69 over three seasons in High-A, Advanced-A and with Double-A Jackson. He was a Futures Game Selection during his time with the Visalia Rawhide in 2017.

Currently bouncing between the Dbacks and the Aces, Duplantier is getting used to the Biggest Little City.

“When you drive around here, the scenery catches your eye,” he said. “It’s beautiful out here. I’m not used to seeing so many mountains coming from Texas, let alone mountains with snow on them. … I’ve sent my parents a bunch of pictures.”

Duplantier may not be with the Aces for long. His strong arm and impressive stuff can help Arizona’s depleted bullpen or slot in the back-end of the team’s starting rotation.

He is the 69th ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline.

“He had a great spring training and opened a lot of eyes,” pitching coach Bajenaru said. “He works his butt of and is a competitor at heart. … I hope I don’t see him that much this year. I want to see him up there.”

Tomas goes yard in Aces loss

Yasmany Tomas’ eighth-inning homer was too little too late for the Aces.
Tahoe Onstage

Yasmany Tomas

Tomas jumped on a hanging fastball and launched it over the party zone in right field. He has six home runs on the season, tied with Kevin Cron for the team lead. Tomas went 1-for-4 with two RBIs on Wednesday.

The Aces had nine hits. Tim Locastro went 1-for-4 with a triple and RBIs. He made a diving catch in center field in the second inning. Locastro was optioned back to Triple-A on April 20.

Reno catcher Tyler Heineman made his first home start, going 2-for-3 with one RBI. Like Benito Santiago throwing from his knees, he erased two baserunners attempting to steal third base.

Second baseman Juniel Querecuto went 2-for-4 with an RBI. The ex-San Francisco Giant, shortstop Kelby Tomlinson, added two hits.

Fresno scored three runs in the first and fifth innings. Carter Kieboom heated things up on a breezy 75-degree night. The No. 24 ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, Kieboom went 2-for-4 with a homer, double and two RBIs.

Grizzlies center fielder Collin Cowgill made a return to Greater Nevada Field. The outfielder had 13 homers and 70 RBIs at a .354 clip in 2011 for Reno. Cowgill finished 0-for-4 on Wednesday against his former team.

Fresno plated three runs in the first inning off Kieboom’s RBI double. The Aces responded with a two-run third inning off Locastro’s RBI triple to right-center.

The Grizzlies added two more in the fourth. Reno chipped into its deficit with another run in the bottom of the fourth. Fresno pulled away with three runs in the fifth and another in the seventh. Tomas’ two-run blast in the eighth marked the final runs for the Aces.
Tahoe Onstage

Taylor Widener starts for Reno on Thursday.

Notes: Paid attendance was 3,054. …Reno has surrendered 18 runs in the first inning and a team-high 19 runs in the second. The team has a combined 6.32 ERA thus far this season. The team is outscored 18-4 in the sixth inning. … Former Reno Aces’ first baseman Christian Walker is off to a scorching start with the Dbacks. He leads the MLB with a 70.6 percent of hard-hit balls. … The Aces are 81-81 all-time against the Grizzlies. They are 48-34 all-time against Fresno at Greater Nevada Field.

On Deck: Reno, 5-14, faces Fresno for the second game of the five-game series Thursday at 6:35 p.m. Right-hander Taylor Widener is expected to start for the Aces. Henderson Alvarez will get the nod for the Grizzlies.