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.

Jeurys Familia’s domestic violence suspension to be announced today

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Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the announcement of Jeurys Familia‘s domestic violence suspension is expected some time today.

Familia was arrested in October following an incident at his home. Criminal charges were dropped in December. As we know, however, MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require criminal proceedings to be commenced, let alone completed, before the leveling of league punishment. MLB has been investigating the incident for the past several months.

Billy Witz of the New York Times reported Monday that the suspension is “almost certain” to be lighter than the 30-game suspension Aroldis Chapman received one year ago. However much time Familia misses, the Mets are expecting Addison Reed to fill in at closer until he returns.

2017 Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. 

Let’s look first at the strengths. There’s Mike Trout, the undisputed best player in the game. That’s always a good start. I could bore you with a bunch of stats and historical comparisons here but we’re friends here and, let’s be honest, we don’t need or even want that. The guy is good, ’nuff said.

Indeed, I had an impulse to simply photoshop Trout’s head on this poster and be done with the entire Angels preview:

 

You could almost stop reading now and know what’s up in Anaheim this year.

But honestly, Trout isn’t the only strength here. The Angels have the best defensive shortstop in the league in Andrelton Simmons and a lot of other good defensive players as well, from Kole Calhoun in right, Cameron Maybin in left, Luis Valbuena at first (or wherever he’s slotted once he comes back from a hamstring injury) and Danny Espinosa at second. Their catching corps — Martin Maldonado and Carlos Perez — are solid too. When you lack team depth and have pitching challenges like the Angels do, not kicking the ball all over the field is a good thing. The Angels have kicked the ball a lot in recent years but they’ll be pretty good with the leather in 2017, and that can make up for a lot of faults.

But I ain’t gonna lie, there are a lot of faults here.

Garrett Richards is back from a UCL injury that sidelined him most of last season. He didn’t get Tommy John surgery — he went with stem cell treatment — so the recovery time is lower. Still, it seems like a lot of guys who go the rehab route end up going under the knife eventually anyway, so everyone will have their eye on the Angels’ ace as the season goes on.

Beyond Richards the rotation is suspect. Matt ShoemakerRicky NolascoTyler Skaggs — also coming back from injury — and Jesse Chavez do not, as a group, strike fear into anyone’s hearts. I guess the hope here is that Nolasco’s pitching after he came over from Minnesota is more indicative of what he can do than what he did earlier in the year. Or, for that matter, for the past three seasons. If Richards is healthy he’s an ace. The rest of these guys are basically average at best.

The pen has issues. Cam Bedrosian had a fantastic 2016, but it was definitely a huge step up for him and may have been an aberration. closer Huston Street did not have a fantastic 2016, is recovering from a strained lat now and it’s fair to ask whether he’s got what it takes to close in the bigs anymore. Even if that’s too pessimistic an assessment, he’s missed a lot of time this spring. Andrew Bailey, like Nolasco, pitched well after coming to Anaheim last summer but poorly before that, with the poorly looking more like his true level than the well. Otherwise Mike Scioscia has a lot of young arms but not a lot of particularly good ones. Look for his bullpen to feature a cast of thousands.

As for the lineup: Trout is Trout. Albert Pujols is recovering from yet another foot issue. He still has old man strength and can hit some dingers, but he’s a shell of his former self and it’s fair to ask how many lower body maladies a guy whose primary value is tied up in power can tolerate. Yunel Escobar, Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron are useful and predictable, even if they’re not game-changers. The Angels were 10th in offense in the AL last year. It’s hard to see them making a big leap from that level this year, even if they’re not likely to be too much worse either.

Ultimately, there’s not enough pitching here and there’s not a scary enough secondary or tertiary offensive threat behind Trout to make the offense difficult to deal with. If you play the Angels you’ll score some runs and you can pitch to everyone who isn’t wearing the number 27. That’s not gonna cut it in the AL West this year.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League West.