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.

  • Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

    It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

    Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

    Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

    Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

    On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

    At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

    If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

    Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

    Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.