Jaime Garcia leads strong cast of NL ROY candidates

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Cardinals rookie Jaime Garcia put on a show Sunday afternoon in St. Louis, tossing a three-hit shutout against the Giants in what became a 9-0 Cards victory.

The young left-hander needed only 89 pitches to get through his nine innings of work and he did not allow a runner past first base.  According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it was the first shutout by a Cardinals rookie since Bud Smith fired a no-hitter against the Padres in September of 2001. 

Garcia has been fantastic all year for the second-place Redbirds with an incredible 11-6 record, 2.42 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 111/54 K/BB ratio through 24 starts.  He must be considered the front-runner for the National League Rookie of the Year Award at this point, but he does have competition:

Starlin Castro – SS – Cubs:  The 20-year-old shortstop was thrown into the fire in early May and has done everything that the Cubs have asked.  Through 94 big-league games, he’s batting .316/.363/.438 with three home runs, 37 RBI and six stolen bases.  Castro has also shown improved range at the shortstop position.

Jason Heyward – OF – Braves:  An early favorite for the ROY, Heyward may still win it if he is able to finish the year strong and lead his Braves to the postseason.  The 21-year-old has posted an .830 OPS with 14 homers and 57 RBI in 104 games for Atlanta this year.  His .378 on-base percentage ranks ninth in the National League.

Buster Posey – C – Giants:  Posey got a late jump on his competition thanks to a delayed call-up, but he’s been truly excellent since finally landing that late-May promotion.  Over 74 games this season he owns a .341 batting average, a .903 OPS and nine home runs.  The 23-year-old has begun playing catcher more with Bengie Molina out of the picture.

Mike Stanton – OF – Marlins:  Stanton was called up to the majors on June 8 with a reputation for taking pitchers deep.  He’s done just that, blasting 14 home runs in only 227 major league at-bats and posting an impressive .848 OPS along the way.  His plate discipline does need work, but Stanton has legitimate 40-homer pop and he is already showing it age 20.

Mike Leake – SP – Reds:   The Reds have already shifted him to the bullpen in an effort to limit his innings total, but Leake’s performance this season is certainly worthy of all sorts of accolades.  He currently boasts an 8-4 record, a 3.85 ERA and a total of 90 strikeouts over 138 innings.  Garcia’s numbers are far better, but Leake has defied the odds in going from a college pitcher to a successful major leaguer without a hint of affiliate baseball and his Reds are headed for their first postseason birth since 1995.

Fringe Candidates: Chris Johnson (3B, Astros), Jonny Venters (RP, Braves), (Stephen Strasburg (SP, Nationals), Gaby Sanchez (1B, Marlins), Tyler Colvin (OF, Cubs).

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.

Cardinals and Pirates prepare to play unusual finale in first-ever MLB Little League Classic

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The Pirates and Cardinals will switch things up for Sunday’s series finale, moving from the spacious PNC Park to the renovated Minor League confines of BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field. Normally the home stadium for the Phillies’ Short-Season Single-A Williamsport Crosscutters, Historic Bowman Field will set the stage for an unusual — and unprecedented — matchup between the NL Central rivals as they take the field for the first-ever MLB Little League Baseball Classic.

The game will cap a packed day for Major League and Little League participants alike, as four Little League double-elimination games will be played in the morning and afternoon before the Pirates’ Ivan Nova and Cardinals’ Mike Leake face off at 7:00 PM ET. Despite drawing national attention, the Classic will be invitation-only, and its projected 2,366 attendees will comprise the lowest capacity attendance figure in Major League history.

The event is designed to spark more interest in the sport, especially among young players, and Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny called it “grassroots marketing at its finest.” “We all fell in love with the game and started dreaming about playing on a field like this at the age of these kids we’re going to go see in Williamsport,” he told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. “I hope there are some kids that we can encourage and maybe give a different look of the game and create some lifelong baseball fans that might not have been there otherwise.”

Judging by the excitement that infused the pregame festivities among the players, it looks like they’re already on the right track.