Clayton Kershaw is 22 years old and really, really good

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I tend to think Clayton Kershaw doesn’t get enough attention in discussions about baseball’s best young pitchers and so his brilliant complete-game, 1-0 shutout of the Giants last night provides a perfect opportunity to heap praise on the Dodgers southpaw.
Kershaw has followed up his 2.79 ERA in 30 starts as a 21-year-old last season with a 2.85 ERA in 30 starts this season, and during that time he’s the only starting pitcher in baseball to allow fewer than 7.0 hits per nine innings.
As you might expect from someone who’s that tough to hit Kershaw has shown an exceptional ability to miss bats with 486 strikeouts in 471 career innings, including 201 in 192.1 frames this season.
Here’s a list of all the pitchers in baseball history who’ve started at least 75 games through age 22 while striking out more than a batter per inning:

Sam McDowell        9.52
Clayton Kershaw     9.29

That’s it. That’s the entire list. Kershaw and “Sudden” Sam McDowell, who’s one of the great flamethrowers of all time and led the league in strikeouts five times in six seasons during the 1960s. If you want to lower the threshold to 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings you can also add Dwight Gooden and Felix Hernandez to the list.
In addition to racking up strikeouts Kershaw has also made great strides with his control this season, cutting his walks by 25 percent from 4.8 to 3.6 per nine innings. If he can maintain the missed bats and make more progress in walk rate next season–say, to somewhere in the 2.5-3.0 range–Kershaw has a shot to emerge as one of the truly elite pitchers in all of baseball before many of the guys in that class were even in the majors.
Despite already having three seasons and nearly 500 innings of 3.15 ERA work under his belt Kershaw is still the youngest pitcher in baseball to make at least 25 starts this season. He has a chance to be scary good.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.