Moustakas swinging

Royals’ prospect Mike Moustakas may skip winter ball

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It’s a painfully slow day news-wise, so while we patiently wait for Game 6 of the NLCS between the Giants and Phillies to begin, I thought I’d use this opportunity to bring you up to speed on a position prospect we’ll probably be hearing a lot about next season.

Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that the club is considering having top prospect third baseman Mike Moustakas skip playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

“When we made that decision (to send Moustakas to winter ball) in July,” Picollo said, “it was to see whether he can handle better pitching. But I saw him in the last week of the season in Omaha, and he faced a soft lefty, a hard-throwing lefty, a power righty, guys pitching backward – and he handled all of it.

“So the things we wanted to see him do in the Dominican, he’s already done them. Some guys still want him to go. We’re still discussing it.”

Moustakas, 22, batted .322/.369/.630 with 36 home runs and 124 RBI between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha this season before he joined team USA for the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Baseball America recently ranked him as the top prospect in the Texas League for the 2010 season and the No. 2 prospect in the Pacific Coast League. Buster Posey, who played in 47 games with Triple-A Fresno before getting called up to the majors, ranked No. 1 in the PCL.

So, from Picollo’s comments, it sure sounds like Moustakas has nothing left to prove against minor league pitching, right? Probably not, but like Giants GM Brian Sabean did with Posey earlier this spring, look for the Royals to think of some sort of excuse before conveniently calling him up right around Memorial Day next season.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.