Five to keep an eye on

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Okay, so we’ve taken a look at some first-half
standouts and disappointments, now on to some players to watch for the
second-half.

Howie Kendrick: I’m gonna go
out on a limb and say that Kendrick will hit better than .231 in the
second half. He did nothing but rake after being demoted to Triple-A
Salt Lake on June 13, compiling a .346/.414/.526 line with two homers,
six doubles and 11 RBI in 78 at-bats on the farm. While you can usually
count his walks on two hands, remember that Kendrick was a .306 career
hitter entering the 2009 season. It wasn’t too long ago that people
were touting him as a future batting champion. He’s one of the better
bounce-back candidates for the second half.

Jorge De La Rosa: Dan Haren has
been robbed of several wins already, but De La Rosa is among the
unluckiest pitchers in the sport right now. On the surface his 5-7
record, 5.14 ERA and 1.44 WHIP offers little hope for rebound, but if
you take a closer look you’ll see that his FIP (Fielder Independant
Pitching) is a more-palatable 3.81. Only two starters (Cole Hamels and
Carl Pavano) have a bigger disparity between their ERA and FIP.
Remember, De La Rosa averages 9.37 K/9 — only six pitchers are better
— while he has allowed three runs or less in four of his last six
starts, highlighted by a season-best eight shutout innings against the
Diamondbacks on Friday night.

Franklin Gutierrez: Watching
Adam Jones make his first All-Star team as a member of the Orioles is a
little less painful knowing that Gutierrez is showing signs of a
breakout season of his own. When the Mariners acquired him as part the
J.J. Putz trade over the winter, they knew they were getting an
excellent glove-man, but he’s been so much more than that. In addition
to the +12.0 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) to lead all center-fielders,
Gutierrez has a solid .300/.362/.447 line with seven homers and 22 RBI
since a poor .230/.299/.328 showing in April. He’s even hit
right-handers at a .274 clip. Maybe this guy can hit after all.

Joel Hanrahan: Hanrahan was in
the midst of a nightmare season for the Nationals (7.71 ERA and 1.96
WHIP in 24 appearances) before being dealt to the Pirates as part of
the Nyjer Morgan trade last week. The 27-year-old right-hander already
has a shaky appearance under his belt as a Bucco (two runs on three
hits and a walk on Friday night against the Marlins) but he stands to
benefit if the club decides to trade Matt Capps, as rumored. Keep in
mind that the hard-throwing Hanrahan is among the bullpen elite with a
9.21 K/9 in his career. He’s also gotten incredibly unlucky with a
64.1% strand rate and a 4.34 gap between his ERA (7.79) and FIP (3.44)
— the largest such disparity in the majors this season.

Bud Norris: This might be a
selfish choice considering I own him in my Scoresheet league, but the
2006 sixth-round pick from Cal Poly has absolutely picked apart the
hitter-friendly PCL this season, leading the league in ERA (2.52) and
all of Triple-A in strikeouts (92). He recently jumped Tommy Hanson,
who struck out 90 in just 66 2/3 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett. The
strong first half has earned the 24-year-old a start for the PCL
All-Star team on July 15. Norris, who was named second-best prospect in
the Astros system by Baseball America over the winter, features a
plus-fastball, slider and developing change-up. He’s just biding his
time in the minors.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.