Top prospect Mike Stanton beating down the door in Florida

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Jason Heyward casts a pretty massive shadow, but the NL East is home to three more terrific right field prospects in Philadelphia’s Domonic Brown, New York’s Fernando Martinez and Florida’s Mike Stanton. Stanton may even have a chance to become the best of the bunch.
Heresy? Perhaps. I’d certainly take Heyward, but Stanton’s incredible strength gives him similar upside. The 20-year-old former second-round pick hit two homers Sunday and three on Monday, giving him nine in 65 at-bats for Double-A Jacksonville this season.
But everyone knows about Stanton’s power. Far more encouraging is the progress he’s displayed elsewhere so far this season. Stanton started off last year at .294/.390/.578 in 50 games in the Florida State League, only to fall to .231/.311/.455 in 79 games after a promotion to Jacksonville. He finished with a 144/59 K/BB ratio in 479 at-bats.
This year, Stanton is both making more contact and showing increased patience. He’s already walked 17 times in his 17 games. He’s struck out 18 times, but that’s still an improvement over his usual pace. Surely part of the reason for the spike in his walk rate is that he’s getting worked very carefully — he’s the only real power threat in Jacksonville’s lineup — but he’s reacting very well to it.
I’ve long been pretty skeptical that Stanton would develop into more than a low-OBP slugger in the majors. Sure, I figured he’d have some 30-40 homer seasons, but that’d he’d be far from a superstar in the process.
However, if Stanton can keep making adjustments, then the sky is the limit. We still need to see how he handles quality breaking balls from more experienced pitchers, but that he’s already doing a better job of waiting for his pitch is a very good sign. Maybe he won’t be a legitimate .300 hitter, but it’s possible he could be Ryan Howard with a plus glove in right field, making him extremely valuable.
At this rate, it may not be much longer before everyone gets a first-hand look. The Marlins have plenty of financial incentive to keep Stanton on the farm until the Super-Two threshold passes late next month, but if he’s still tearing the cover off the ball at that time, he’ll have to get a shot. Cody Ross isn’t a long-term piece of the puzzle in Florida, and the Marlins will have the option of sending Chris Coghlan back to Triple-A if he continues to struggle.
The Marlins promoted Miguel Cabrera right from Double-A to the majors in June 2003. Something very similar could happen this year.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.