Previewing Saturday's Rising Stars Game

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afl.pngAs Aaron noted on Friday, Stephen Strasburg was scratched from Saturday’s Rising Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League due to a strained muscle in his neck.
Bummer. But for those of you who are jonesin’ for some live
baseball, many of baseball’s top prospects will still be on display
tonight on MLB Network at 8pm ET.




Tommy Mendoza (Angels) will replace
Strasburg on the roster for the East team and oppose 2009
first-round pick Mike Minor (Braves), who starts for the West.




Rising Stars East lineup:
CF Jose Tabata (Pirates), SS Starlin Castro (Cubs), 1B Brandon Snyder
(Orioles), LF Grant Desme (Athletics), DH Brandon Allen (Diamondbacks),
C
Buster Posey (Giants), RF Domonic Brown (Phillies), 3B Joshua Bell
(Orioles), 2B Jemile Weeks (Athletics), RHP Mendoza (Angels).




Rising Stars West
lineup:

CF Dustin Ackley (Mariners), RF Jordan Danks (White Sox), 3B Mike
Moustakas (Royals), LF Chris Heisey (Reds), 1B Yonder Alonso (Reds), DH
Darryl Jones (Cardinals), 2B Lance Zawadzki (Padres), C Jason Castro
(Astros), SS Carlos Triunfel (Mariners), LHP Minor (Braves).

Full rosters can be seen here, although Mendoza replaced Strasburg, Bell replaced Josh Vitters (Cubs) and Brandon Erbe (Orioles) will replaced by a player to be announced.


Just a few quick items of note out of the AFL:



– Starlin Castro has been a
sensation for the Mesa Solar Sox, leading the league in batting at .424
(28-for-66) with one home run, nine RBI, five stolen bases and 13 runs
scored in 18 games. It’s dangerous to look too much into AFL numbers,
but the 19-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic
is already drawing comparisons to Hanley Ramirez and Derek Jeter.
He batted .299/.342/.392 with three home runs, 49 RBI, 28 stolen bases
and 56 runs scored between High Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee
this season. Look for him to rise on prospects lists over the winter.




– Grant Desme has been a monster for
the Phoenix Desert Dogs, leading the league with 10 home runs in just
79 at-bats. How well is he swinging the bat? Chris Heisey (Reds),
Brandon Laird (Yankees), Corey Brown (Athletics) and Russ Mitchell
(Dodgers) are tied for second in the league with five home runs.




– While Strasburg has garnered much
of the attention since being drafted by the Nationals in June, their
other first-round pick Drew Storen (No. 10) might be ready to make the
jump to the big club next season. After posting an impressive 1.95 ERA,
0.74 WHIP and 49/8 K/BB ratio in 37 innings between three levels in the
Nationals system in 2009, the 22-year-old right-hander has an 0.93 ERA,
two saves and a 9/1 K/BB ratio 9 2/3 innings in the AFL. He’s leaving
little doubt to the notion that he will be the Nationals’ closer before
very long.

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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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 Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.