First-quarter awards: AL Rookie of the Year

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austin jackson catch.jpgThe NL rookie class is leaps and bounds better than the AL group so far, with the Senior Circuit boasting the game’s top three first-year players. The American League class is largely pitching dominated. Only two AL rookies have served as regulars throughout the entire first quarter of the season and one of those, Lou Marson, has just one RBI to show for it.
Here are the candidates:
Austin Jackson: .329/.383/.447, 1 HR, 10 RBI in 161 AB
Brennan Boesch: .387/.397/.680, 3 HR, 19 RBI in 75 AB
John Jaso: .302/.424/.415, 1 HR, 12 RBI in 53 AB
Mitch Talbot: 5-2, 3.23 ERA, 19/21 K/BB in 47 1/3 IP
Wade Davis: 3-3, 3.38 ERA, 27/21 K/BB in 40 IP
Brian Matusz: 2-3, 4.18 ERA, 39/18 K/BB in 47 1/3 IP
Neftali Feliz: 1-1, 11 Sv, 3.43 ERA, 23/4 K/BB in 21 IP
Sergio Santos: 0-0, 0 Sv, 0.63 ERA, 18/7 K/BB in 14 1/3 IP
Jackson is on pace to strike out 180 times, but he’s hitting .329 anyway. He’s also on pace to score 100 runs, and he’s playing some very good defense in center field.
His teammate Boesch has been one of baseball’s best hitters since debuting April 23, the day after Carlos Guillen got hurt. He has as many extra-base hits (14) as Jackson in fewer than half as many at-bats. He also leads AL rookies in RBI.
The starting pitchers are an interesting group. When it comes to OPS against, the three are remarkably similar: Davis is at 707, Talbot at 719 and Matusz at 726. Still, the records are quite different. Talbot has the ugly K/BB ratio, yet he does the lesser things so well. Not only is he a very good fielder, but basestealers are 1-for-6 against him this year. And one could argue that Matusz has been incredibly unlucky to give up 53 hits this year when he’s allowed just two homers and struck out 39. However, he was also very “unlucky” in that area in his eight major league starts last year.
Of course, Matusz has had the most difficult schedule in the group, having had to face the Rays and Yankees twice apiece and make a start at Fenway Park. Davis faced the Yankees and Red Sox in his first two starts of the season, but he’s gotten the White Sox, A’s (twice), Royals and Mariners since. Just one of Talbot’s seven starts have come against one of the AL’s top five offenses to date, though he’s also mostly stayed away from the true cupcakes.
At this very second, I’d probably give Talbot the edge in the group. However, Davis faces the Yankees tonight and another strong outing would put him on top.
Then there are the relievers. Feliz may well outdistance all of the starters if he remains in the closer’s role all season long. However, he simply wasn’t very good in April. He’s been much better this month, with just one run allowed and a 10/1 K/BB ratio in 9 1/3 innings.
Santos has been lights out, but only as a mop-up man to date. He’ll earn more responsibility soon if this keeps up, but through 15 appearances, he’s yet to factor in a decision and he has just one hold.
At this point, I think Jackson is the choice. I still don’t see him hitting well over .300 for the full season, but his strikeout rate has come down as the year has progressed. Plus, he has contributed a whole lot with the glove.
After Jackson, it’s Boesch versus the three starters and Feliz for two ballot spots. Boesch’s exceptional .447 average with runners on, even in such limited action, has to get him a spot. He’s had two at-bats with the bases loaded and delivered a homer and a double. Of the pitchers, Feliz has the best chance of winning the hardware at season’s end, but I think the starters have been more valuable to date.
First quarter NL ROY
1. Jackson
2. Boesch
3. Talbot

Minor League Baseball established a political action committee to fight paying players more

DURHAM, NC - JULY 28:  The Chicago White Sox play the Most Valuable Prospects during the championship game of the 2011 Breakthrough Series at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on July 28, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina.  Most Valuable Prospects won 17-2 over the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
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Josh Norris of Baseball America reports that Minor League Baseball has established a political action committee to continue fighting against a lawsuit brought by a group of former minor league players seeking increased wages and back pay.

You may recall that, earlier this year, two members of Congress — Republican Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Democrat Cheri Bustos of Illinois — introduced H.R. 5580 in the House of Representatives. Also known as the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” H.R. 5580 sought to change language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In doing so, minor leaguers wouldn’t have been covered under a law that protects workers who are paid hourly. Minor League Baseball publicly endorsed the bill. Bustos withdrew her support after receiving widespread criticism.

The whole thing started when Sergio Miranda filed a lawsuit in 2014, accusing Major League Baseball teams of colluding to eliminate competition. The lawsuit challenged the reserve clause, which binds minor leaguers into contracts with their teams for seven years. That suit was dismissed in September 2015. However, another lawsuit was filed in October last year — known as Senne vs. the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball — alleging that minor leaguers were victims of violations of state and federal minimum wage laws. Senne et. al. suffered a setback this summer when U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco dismissed class certification. That essentially meant that the players could not file a class-action lawsuit. As a result, the players’ legal team led by Garrett Broshuis amended their case to only include players who play in one league for an entire season. As Norris notes, that means that the included players’ experiences are uniform enough for inclusion in a class-action lawsuit.

So that’s why Minor League Baseball established a political action committee (PAC). A PAC, for the unfamiliar, is an organization created with the intent of raising money to defeat a particular candidate, legislation, or ballot initiative. In other words, they’re getting serious and want Capitol Hill’s help.

Minor League Baseball president Stan Brand said, “Because of procedurally what has happened in the Congress and the difficulties in getting legislation, we’ve got to adjust to that. We were lucky. We had the ability because of the depth of the relationships and involvement in the communities to not have to worry about that. And now we do, I think. The PAC . . . gives us another tool to re-enforce who we are and why we’re important.”

Norris mentions in his column that Phillies minor league outfielder Dylan Cozens received the Joe Baumann Award for leading the minors with 40 home runs. That came with an $8,000 prize. Cozens said that the prize was more than he made all season. The minor league regular season spanned from April 7 to September 5, about six months. Athletes aren’t paid in the other six months which includes offseason training and spring training. They are also not paid for participating in instructional leagues and the Arizona Fall League. Minor leaguers lack union representation, which is why their fight for fair pay has been such an uphill battle.

Report: White Sox, Nationals making “strong progress” on a Chris Sale deal

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox deliivers the ball against the Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field on September 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the White Sox and Nationals are making “strong progress” on a trade involving ace Chris Sale. Most reports coming out on Monday night suggest that a deal isn’t likely to be consummated until Tuesday at the earliest.

Sale, 27, has pitched in the majors over parts of seven seasons. He owns a career 74-50 record with a 3.00 ERA and a 1,244/260 K/BB ratio in 1,110 innings. The lefty will earn $12 million in 2017, then has a club option for 2018 worth $12.5 million with a $1 million buyout as well as a 2019 club option worth $13.5 million with a $1 million buyout. Relative to what he would earn if he were a free agent today, Sale’s remaining salary is a bargain.

The Nationals would likely have to part with several of their top prospects. MLB Pipeline lists pitcher Lucas Giolito, outfielder Victor Robles, and pitcher Reynoldo Lopez in the club’s top-three.

Adding Sale would arguably give the Nationals claim to the best starting rotation in baseball as he would join 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

There are other teams in the mix for Sale. The Red Sox and Astros have also talked with the White Sox about the lefty’s services.