No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley looking good in move to second base

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While the Nationals decide whether or not last year’s No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg needs any time in the minors, the Mariners are definitely sending No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley to the minors and he’s also learning a new position.
Ackley played primarily first base at the University of North Carolina after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, but clearly has the range and athleticism to handle a tougher position now that he’s fully recovered.
Center field would probably be the first choice, but because the Mariners already have world-class fly-catcher Franklin Gutierrez there Ackley is getting a try at second base. And so far so good, according to infield coach Mike Brumley:

He has really come along well. A lot of guys in our minor league system have spent a lot of time with him and they have done such a good job that it looks like he fits there. He’s very athletic, quick, a smooth-type player, so maybe he doesn’t look as quick as he really is. It’s kind of like hitting. He has such a smooth transition in anything he does. He has great timing with his body. Now, it’s a matter of game experience. It is very encouraging and he is going to be a joy to watch.

Ackley can always shift to the outfield if the transition to second base hits a snag, but it makes sense to see if he can handle the much tougher position first. Not only would his bat be significantly better compared to second baseman than corner outfielders, Ackley sticking at second base would allow the Mariners to fill the lesser defensive position he might otherwise have played with another big bat.
Plus, while Gutierrez is signed through 2014 the Mariners could easily clear room for Ackley at second base by trading incumbent Jose Lopez (or simply declining his $4.5 million option for 2011). Lopez is a solid player, but he’s hardly a long-term building block and there were already some rumors that the Mariners shopped him during the offseason.

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.

Pirates’ Nick Leyva selected as senior advisor of baseball ops

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Coach Nick Leyva #16 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 17, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.

Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:

The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.

In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.

This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.

Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.

Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:

We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.