The Week Ahead: The Strasburg era begins

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Finally, it’s Stephen Strasburg time.

On Tuesday, the man with the million-dollar arm (or $50 million, if
Scott Boras gets his way) will be the first player selected in the
First-Year Player Draft.

After months of hype and wonder over Strasburg, he of the 100-mph
fastball and ridiculous control, he’ll finally be a pro. Well not
exactly. He’ll have to sign first, and don’t expect that to happen
quickly. But you get the point.

The MLB draft obviously doesn’t compare to the NFL or the NBA when
it comes to hype and excitement, but the presence of Strasburg, the
greatest pitching prospect since — well maybe, ever? – should make Tuesday fun.

After the Nats make him the top pick, things will get a little more
complicated, as teams stock up on more mortal talents like Dustin
Ackley and Aaron Crow.

You can see a nice mock draft here, and a good list of the top 33 prospects here.

There’s yet another list here.

On Tuesday, return to Circling the Bases for a recap of the draft. You’ll be able to find bios of the top players on Rotoworld.com.

Now, on to a great week of baseball action …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

  • Yankees at Red Sox, June 9-11: They’re the top two teams in
    the AL East, fierce rivals, and longtime antagonists. Their fans hate
    each other even more than the players do. What’s not to like?
  • Phillies at Mets, June 9-11:
    These two teams have been trying to create their own version of Red
    Sox-Yankees. And while it hasn’t reached that level, it still makes for
    some entertaining baseball. It helps, too, that they’re No. 1 and 2 in
    the NL East.
  • Mets at Yankees, June 12-14: In the latest version of the Subway Series, these two teams bring their rivalry to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time.
  • Red Sox at Phillies, June 12-14:
    Could this be a preview of the World Series? Way too early to say, of
    course, but it’s an interesting idea to think about. Also gives Boston
    a chance to rest Big Papi.
  • Dodgers at Rangers, June 12-14: Heck, maybe THIS matchup is a
    World Series preview. The Dodgers are dominating the NL, and the
    Rangers just keep on making fools out of everyone who expects them to
    start losing.

    ON THE TUBE

    Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Rays at Yankees (ESPN)
    Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Yankees at Red Sox (ESPN)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Indians (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: White Sox at Brewers (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Yankees (FOX)
    Sunday, 1 p.m.: Mets at Yankees (TBS)
    Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Cardinals at Indians (ESPN)

    *Check local listings

    And finally, for some fantasy tips for this week, click here.

  • Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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    The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

    In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

    Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

    This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

    Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

    Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

    The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

    Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

    Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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    Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

    Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

     

    And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

    Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.