Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley named Arizona Fall League MVP

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Mariners prospect second baseman Dustin Ackley was named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League today, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

Ackley, last year’s No. 2 overall pick, compiled a modest .267 batting average to go along with a .368 on-base percentage and an underwhelming .407 slugging percentage in 134 games between Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma this past season, but is back on track as a legit prospect after tearing up the AFL.

The 22-year-old led the league with a .424 batting average, .581 on-base percentage, .758 slugging percentage, 1.338 OPS and 28 runs scored. In addition to hitting four homers and driving in 15 runs, he also went a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts.

“That’s an awesome feeling,” Ackley said of receiving the award before Saturday’s championship game. “In April, I didn’t think I could hit any more. As far as I’ve come, with hitting and defense, it’s really special. I watched Grant Desme win it last year, the MVP, and he had put up great numbers during the season and in the Fall League. It’s really special to take it in after him.”

Ackley didn’t have it easy in his first professional season, beginning the year at Double-A while also making the transition to second base. There are still questions about his power and his glove, but he has plate discipline well beyond his years, as evidenced by his 90/101 K/BB ratio during his time between the minors and the Arizona Fall League.

Ackley will enter spring training with a chance to make the Opening Day roster, but Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told FOXSports.com that he could need some more fine tuning in the minor leagues. Perhaps he’ll change his mind somewhere around Memorial Day next year?

By the way, if you are jonesin’ for some real live baseball, the AFL title game between Ackley’s Peoria Javelinas and Bryce Harper and the Scottsdale Scorpions can be seen right now on MLB.com and MLB Network.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.