Former top prospect Andy LaRoche unclaimed on waivers

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Not so long ago Andy LaRoche was considered one of the elite prospects in baseball.

He ranked among Baseball America‘s top 20 in both 2006 and 2007, placed in BA‘s top 100 for two other years as well, and was arguably the centerpiece of the package Pittsburgh received when trading Jason Bay in mid-2008.

Last week the Pirates dropped LaRoche from the 40-man roster and today the 26-year-old third baseman passed through waivers unclaimed to become a free agent.

In other words, none of the 30 teams felt his upside warranted a spot on the 40-man roster.

And it’s tough to blame them. LaRoche posted very strong numbers in the minors and the Pirates gave him plenty of chances to establish himself, including 142 starts in 2009, but he’s hit just .224 with a .304 on-base percentage and .338 slugging percentage in 1,228 plate appearances as a major leaguer.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.