Former top prospect Wladimir Balentien is headed to Japan

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Wladimir Balentien consistently crushed minor-league pitching at every level and hit .283/.351/.535 with 67 homers in 302 games at Triple-A, but he’s now headed to Japan at age 24 after struggling in 559 plate appearances for the Mariners and Reds.

Balentien has tons of power, smacking 15 homers and 31 doubles in 511 at-bats even while struggling overall in the majors, but he hit just .221 with 149 strikeouts and a ghastly .281 on-base percentage while flailing away at off-speed stuff.

Flaws and all I’m still convinced that he could be a solid platoon player, starting against left-handed pitching as a backup corner outfielder, but instead of trying to work his way back to the majors by crushing more Triple-A pitching he’ll take what is surely a higher salary for a chance to be a star in Japan.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.