Midseason NL Rookie of the Year

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The NL Rookie of the Year race has changed little since we checked in
one-third of the way through the season. Randy Wells and J.A. Happ were
neck-and-neck then, and I gave the nod to Wells, even though I expected
more from Happ the rest of the way.

At least a few hitters have started to play catchup now. As of June
5, the league had just three position players with a VORP of 5.0 or
better: Joe Thurston (7.3), Ryan Roberts (7.3) and Ryan Hanigan (5.1).
Now we have four over 10.0:

1. Casey McGehee – 16.3
2. Colby Rasmus – 14.0
3. Ryan Hanigan – 12.6
4. Andrew McCutchen – 10.3

Seth Smith is at 15.2, but he spent too much time on Colorado’s bench last year to qualify as a rookie.

Factoring in defense, Rasmus rates as the NL’s top rookie to date. He’s
hitting .278/.329/.478 in 270 at-bats and seemingly getting better
every week. McGehee has hit a surprising .329/.387/.541 in 146 at-bats.

The pitching crop remains much stronger, of course. Again going by VORP:

1. J.A. Happ – 25.8
2. Randy Wells – 23.5
3. Ramon Troncoso – 19.7
4. Ronald Belisario – 14.5
5. Mark DiFelice – 14.0
6. Tommy Hanson – 11.8
7. Alberto Arias – 10.6
8. Evan Meek – 10.3
9. Burke Badenhop – 10.1
10. Luke Gregerson – 9.5

Wells has a slight ERA advantage over Happ (2.72 to 2.90), but Happ
has pitched 11 more innings and faced the more difficult schedule. The
left-hander is the choice this time, and while both should see their
ERAs rise over the rest of the year, I expect Happ to retain more of
his value going forward.

Third place is between Troncoso and Rasmus. Troncoso not only has
the 1.75 ERA in 56 2/3 innings, but he’s been especially good in
high-leverage situations. He’s picked up five saves and eight holds,
yet he’s been charged with just one blown save to date. I’ll choose him
over Rasmus for now, though Rasmus will almost certainly rank ahead of
him by season’s end. My guess is that it will materialize into a
three-man race between Happ, Rasmus and Hanson.

Midseason NL ROY
1. Happ
2. Wells
3. Troncoso

Evan Gattis undergoes hernia surgery, recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his conditioning this winter, telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It appears the big man might have gone a bit overboard on those workouts, and now he’s in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.