First-third awards – NL Rookie of the Year

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I’m tempted to just skip this one, as no one is worth of the honor. Not
one NL rookie pitcher ranks in the league’s top 40 in innings pitched.
Here are the ERAs of everyone to have made at least seven starts:

Kenshin Kawakami – 4.63 ERA in 58 1/3 IP
Josh Geer – 5.44 ERA in 48 IP
Shairon Martis – 5.62 ERA in 57 2/3 IP
Jordan Zimmermann – 5.71 ERA in 52 IP
Felipe Paulino – 6.21 ERA in 42 IP

That’s it. But it’s no less impressive than the list of position players. Here’s the top 10, according to VORP.

1. Joe Thurston – 7.3
2. Ryan Roberts – 7.3
3. Ryan Hanigan – 5.1
4. Edwin Maysonet – 4.9
5. Jason Jaramillo – 4.7
6. Micah Hoffpauir – 3.7
7. Dexter Fowler – 3.6
8. Drew Macias – 3.4
9. Colby Rasmus – 3.3
10. Tyler Greene – 2.9

That 7.3 figure puts Thurston 57th overall among NL position
players. Seth Smith comes out a little higher at 7.8, but he doesn’t
technically qualify as a rookie after spending too much of last season
on Colorado’s bench.

Fowler does deserve additional credit for his defense, but he’s been
a well below average regular since his five-steal game made headlines
in late April.

So, basically, the NL Rookie of the Year candidates through one-third of the season are mostly relievers.

The top pitchers, according to VORP.

1. J.A. Happ – 14.1
2. Randy Wells – 13.3
3. Mark DiFelice – 11.6
4. Ronald Belisario – 10.6
5. Juan Gutierrez – 9.0
6. Luke Gregerson – 8.2
7. Jason Motte – 7.2
8. Dan Meyer – 6.9
9. Bobby Parnell – 6.4
10. Jesse Chavez – 6.3

Ramon Troncoso is ineligible because of the time he spent in the majors last year.

I prefer Happ for the rest of the season, but I think Wells deserves
the nod here, even if he’s gone 0-2 while posting a 1.69 ERA in his
five starts. He allowed three runs over seven innings in his worst
outing to date, and it’s hardly his fault that Kevin Gregg and Aaron
Heilman keep letting him down.

First-third NL Rookie of the Year

1. Wells
2. Happ
3. Fowler

Josh Hamilton has knee surgery, out 2-3 months

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.

As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:

That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.