Thoughts on McLouth to the Braves

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Braves acquire outfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates for RHP Charlie Morton, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and LHP Jeff Locke.

– First impression – I’m very surprised to see the Pirates parting with
McLouth just 3 ½ months after signing him to a three-year, $15.75
million contract, especially with no legitimate top-30 prospects coming
in return.

– Second impression – This is a pretty good haul for a guy the
Pirates thought was a fourth outfielder a couple of years ago. Still,
it’s pretty depressing that the one position prospect they got is a
lesser version of Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates’ priorities should have
been a power hitter for the outfield corners or first base and a
legitimate shortstop/second baseman of the future. Hernandez might turn
into a capable leadoff hitter, but he could just as easily be a bottom
of the order guy. He’s not going to develop any power. The 21-year-old
was hitting .316/.361/.387 with 10 steals in 18 attempts for Double-A
Mississippi.

Morton is a step up on the pitchers the Pirates got from the Yankees
in the Xavier Nady deal, but he may work out best as a setup man. He
was 7-2 with a 2.51 ERA, 52 H and 55/16 K/BB in 64 2/3 IP for Triple-A
Gwinnett. Locke offers more upside, though his command has taken a step
backwards this year. He was 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA, 47 H and 43/26 K/BB in
45 2/3 IP for Single-A Myrtle Beach. I expect him to make it as a No. 3
starter anyway.

McLouth is a big-time upgrade for the Braves, but that’s in no small
part because the alternatives had been terrible. He’s not a Gold Glove
center fielder, no matter what NL managers think. Still, he’s a great
stopgap there for now and he can move to left or right field next year
when Jordan Schafer is ready to establish himself. Better for the
Braves if he were a right-handed hitter. However, that they were able
to get him without parting with Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie
Freeman, Schafer or Kris Medlen makes this a fine trade for them. They
still have a real chance of going to the postseason this year, and this
move should be good for at least two wins.

– I’m very interested in seeing how Andrew McCutchen performs as
McLouth’s replacement. McCutchen has beened view as a top prospect
since being drafted 11th overall in 2005, and he’s continually put up
solid numbers while being young for his leagues. However, it’s
typically been the case that he’s dominated lefties and been just
mediocre against righties. This year, he was at .361/.400/.672 against
southpaws in Triple-A and .279/.344/.414 against righties. The overall
line of .303/.361/.493 with quite impressive for a 22-year-old in the
International League, but the way he got there leaves me skeptical that
he’s ready to help as a regular right now.

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.