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.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.