Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make his first spring training start next Tuesday against the Tigers, but manager Jim Riggleman indicated again this morning that the 21-year-old phenom will likely begin this season in the minors.
I think it’s going to come down to a philosophical decision more so than a performance decision. We anticipate that he is going to throw great. I think it’s going to come down to, what is going to be best for Stephen Strasburg as an organization. I have been very impressed and I continue to be impressed. I’m not trying to dodge the question at all, but I’m going to be impressed with a lot of guys, but some of them are not going to make the club.
At this point Strasburg’s entire professional track record consists of 19 innings in the Arizona Fall League and he won’t be 22 years old until mid-July, so with the Nationals unlikely to contend for much of anything in 2010 it makes little sense to rush him. If he’s indeed already capable of dominating in the majors Strasburg can prove it by first blowing away Triple-A hitters for a dozen starts.
At that point the Nationals can call him up for remaining two-thirds of the year and also delay the start of his service time enough to push back his free agency another season. Obviously everyone wants to see what Strasburg can do now and Nationals fans could use something to get excited about, but ultimately having him around for 2016 is probably more valuable than having him around for the first two months of 2010.
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.
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.