Is Stephen Strasburg ready for the majors right now?

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Strasburg debut.jpgIt’s the obvious question following Stephen Strasburg’s debut on Tuesday. And, for now, manager Jim Riggleman is sticking pretty close to a “never say never” approach:

“The consensus of this organization, top to bottom, is that the plan is
to start him in the minor leagues,” said his manager, Jim Riggleman.
“But I’m not saying that — because we might eat those words. So we’re
leaving that open, in case something unforeseen changes our mind.”

The Nationals have been conservative about Strasburg’s ETA, but even Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider has picked up on Riggleman’s change of tone:

So the question had to be asked again this afternoon: Is Strasburg
competing for a spot in the Opening Day rotation. Jim Riggleman’s answer
was slightly tweaked from previous ones.

“We’ll make a decision
about whether he’s on the ballclub or not,” the manager said. “But I
think in his mind, he’s doing the right thing. He’s just competing to
get hitters out, and if that puts him on the ballclub, that would be his
wish I’m sure. I guess indirectly, he is competing for a spot on the
club in his mind. We’ll make that call as an organization. But as far as
he knows, he’s like everybody else trying to make the club.”

No
talk of “respecting the process.” No “unlikely” qualifiers. No firm
answer one way or the other.

Maybe it’s the increased focus on youth in this game, but with Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman and Jason Heyward, I can’t remember a time where we had three more promising young players in spring training with legitimate chances to contribute in the major leagues right away. It’s a great time to be a baseball fan, regardless of your rooting interest.
 

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.