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.

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.