Top prospect Pedro Alvarez could join Pirates as soon as tomorrow

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UPDATE: Sure enough, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that the Pirates will up Alvarez in time for Wednesday’s game.
Within the past three weeks the Pirates have called up prospects Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln, and general manager Neil Huntington has indicated that Pedro Alvarez could join them in Pittsburgh as soon as this week. In fact, Conlin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Alvarez could be promoted as soon as tomorrow.
Alvarez was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft and has played exclusively third base in the minors, so the clock is ticking on Andy LaRoche’s days as a starter. LaRoche was once a top prospect himself, but his stock has steadily declined and he’s now 26 years old with a measly .231 AVG/.312 OBP/.347 SLG line in 1,148 plate appearances.
Had LaRoche shown more promise this year the Pirates might be less inclined to push Alvarez to the majors until the second half, but LaRoche is dangerously close to flat-out bust territory and Alvarez is crushing Triple-A pitching to the tune of .285/.370/.549. That mark in 64 games at Triple-A is essentially identical to his .288/.379/.535 line in 126 games between Single-A and Double-A last season, with Alvarez averaging 31 homers and 37 doubles per 500 at-bats.
High strikeout rates and so-so batting averages are concerns, but Alvarez has shown good plate discipline along with the excellent power and his left-handed bat should eventually slot in the middle of Pittsburgh’s lineup. Not only do the Pirates rank second-worst in the league with just 45 homers in 63 games this season, they haven’t had a 35-homer hitter since Jason Bay in 2006.

Magic Johnson says the Dodgers will win the World Series

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Baseball, as we so often note around here, is unpredictable. Especially when it comes to the playoffs. You can be the best team in the land for six months but a few bad days can end your season once October hits.

In 2001 the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in the regular season but lost the ALCS to the Yankees, four games to one. In 1906 the Cubs won 116 games in a 152-game season and lost the World Series. In 1954 the Indians won 111 games in a 154-game season and lost the World Series. In 1931 the Philadelphia A’s won 107 games and lost the World Series.

More recently, with the advent of expanded playoffs, the chances for the team with the best record to win the World Series have been pretty dang terrible. Since the beginning of the wild card era, only five times has the team with the game’s best record gone on to win the World Series: The 1998 and 2009 Yankees, the 2007 and 2013 Red Sox and the 2016 Cubs. That’s it.

At the moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s best record. They’re 71-31 and sit 12 games up in their division. Their playoff chances are almost 100%. The above examples notwithstanding, if you had to make a prediction as to who might win the World Series, it would not be unreasonable to pick the Dodgers. Sure, you’d want to make sure they got Clayton Kershaw back by early September or thereabouts to make it a safer prediction, but it’d be a totally defensible pick. Maybe even the one most people make.

But it’d be the utmost in magical thinking to presume that one could make such a prediction with any degree of certainty, right? The Los Angeles Times, however, passes along some Magical thinking:

Magic Johnson called his shot Thursday night, and he wasn’t shy about it. The Dodgers’ co-owner did not hesitate when he predicted how the team would finish this year.

“The Dodgers are going to win the World Series this year,” Johnson said. “This is our year.”

The headline calls it a “guarantee.” I don’t know if I’d call it that — I think it’s more of a confident prediction — but it is a bold statement whatever you call it.

If I had to pick one team at the moment — and we could assume a healthy Clayton Kershaw — I suppose I would make them my World Series favorites too. And, yes, if I had an ownership interest in the Dodgers, I’d probably say what Johnson said.

But given the example of history, I think “field” would be a much safer bet.

Mariners trade Steve Cishek to the Rays for swingman Erasmo Ramirez.

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The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired reliever Steve Cishek from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for reliever Erasmo Ramirez.

Cishek had appeared in 23 games this season for Seattle after recovering from major offseason hip surgery. He’s 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA, with a 15/7 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He’s a setup man right now, but he has experience as a closer, saving 25 games for Seattle last year and as many as 39 back when he pitched for the Marlins in 2014.

Ramirez has appeared in 26 games for the Rays and has started eight games. He’s 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 55/16 K/BB ratio in 69.1 innings. This will be his second stint with the Mariners, having played for them from 2012-14.

Sort of a surprising deal given that both Tampa Bay and Seattle are competing for a wild card spot, but needs are needs.