MLB Draft – Picks No. 1-8

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Nationals selected RHP Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick in Tuesday’s draft.
We’ve known it was coming for months, so now it’s just a matter of
getting him signed. The Nationals probably won’t rush to get a deal
done, since he’s been worked hard this year and doesn’t really need to
throw any additional innings. Ideally, they’d just get him ready for
2010, when he could be in the rotation right from the start of the
year. Of course, it’d make more sense to delay his arrival to postpone
free agency, but it might save them money in negotiations if they
promise him a rotation spot right away. With his high-90s fastball and
top-notch slider, he is ready now, and he could soon be a major league
ace.

Mariners chose North Carolina first baseman-outfielder Dustin Ackley with the second pick in the draft.
Ackley, a 6-foot-1, 184-pound left-handed hitter, has been a first
baseman since undergoing Tommy John surgery, but the Mariners are
drafting him as an outfielder and will stick him in center. He has the
speed to last there, and he should be able to hit for average. He may
not develop into more than a 12- or 15-homer guy, but he could
contribute as soon as 2011.

Padres selected high school outfielder Donovan Tate with the third pick in the draft.
Tate has a scholarship waiting for him to play cornerback at North
Carolina, but the Padres should be able to get him signed. Tate is a
fantastic athlete, but he’s a raw product who figures to take a long
time to develop. The assumption is that he’ll hit for power and turn
into an excellent defensive center fielder. Still, drafting him this
early is a risky move.

Pirates drafted Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez fourth overall.
A polished product, Sanchez is a fine catch-and-throw guy with an iffy
bat. If he turns into a .250 hitter with 15-homer power, the Pirates
should be pleased. He’s advanced enough to potentially debut next year.
The Pirates would prefer not to need him then, but Ryan Doumit is so
injury prone that the quality alternative is a necessity.

Orioles selected high school RHP Matt Hobgood with the fifth overall pick in the draft.
Hobgood, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound righty, bares a little too much of a
resemblance to Sidney Ponson for comfort. He’s not as hard of a thrower
as his build suggests, as he tops out at 92 mph, but he does have an
excellent curveball. He’ll have to come up with a changeup over the
next few years.

Giants selected high school RHP Zack Wheeler with the sixth pick in the draft.
It’s no surprise to see the Giants go with another high school pitcher.
They’ve done well with that strategy recently, and Wheeler looks like
another pretty good pick. He already throws 90-93 mph, and he could add
velocity as he fills out. His curve is a quality second pitch. A future
as a No. 2 starter is a possibility.

Braves selected Vanderbilt LHP Mike Minor with the seventh pick in the draft.
The Braves usually prefer upside, but they’re going for a polished
lefty here. Minor throws 88-91 mph with a pretty good slider and
changeup. He went 6-6 with a 3.90 ERA, 109 H and 114/37 K/BB in 110 2/3
IP for Vandy this year. A future as a No. 3 starter is a possibility,
and he’s far enough along that he could begin next year in Double-A.

Reds selected Arizona State RHP Mike Leake with the eighth pick in the draft.
A bit of a surprise, but a good one. Leake doesn’t possess more than an
average fastball, but both his slider and changeup are major league
quality right now and he has a curve that he’ll use occasionally. With
his command, he should move quickly.

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.