Pirates clinch MLB's worst record and next year's No. 1 pick

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Last night the Pirates won for just the 56th time this season and still managed to clinch the worst record in baseball. That and an 18th consecutive losing season is obviously the bad news. The good news is that they’ve also secured the No. 1 overall pick in next June’s draft.
Right now Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon is considered the draft class’ top prospect, with UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole and TCU left-hander Matt Purke among those also in the mix as possible first selections.
During the current 18-year losing streak Pittsburgh has picked first overall twice, selecting Clemson right-hander Kris Benson in 1996 and Ball State right-hander Bryan Bullington in 2002. Both pitchers were sidetracked by major injuries and have combined to win just 71 career games, with Bullington contributing one victory to that total.
Rendon already has health-related question marks, as he’s recovering from a major ankle injury suffered in June. Asked to comment on whether Rendon was likely to be atop the Pirates’ draft board, general manager Neal Huntington said:

I’ll be able to give a lot more information about who we take No. 1 in the country after we take him. There’s a good list of guys available, some college arms, and there could be some college bats. Prior to the injury, Rendon’s a very interesting player. We’ve got to see where he is post-injury.

Also of note is that the Pirates already have their “third baseman of the future” in Pedro Alvarez, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Of course, one of them could always move to first base and … well, I guess having to figure that out would qualify as a nice problem for the Pirates to have.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.