Shelby Miller

Minor league K leaders: Edwar Cabrera, Shelby Miller at the top

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Here’s a quick look at the minor league leaderboard for strikeouts.

1. Edwar Cabrera (23 – Rockies) – 68 K – 4.14 ERA in 50 IP for low-A Asheville
2. Shelby Miller (20 – Cardinals) – 59 K – 3.15 ERA in 40 IP for high-A Palm Beach
2. Tyler Skaggs (19 – D-backs) – 59 K – 3.20 ERA in 45 IP for high-A Visalia
4. Matt Moore (22 – Rays) – 56 K – 3.54 ERA in 40.2 IP for AA Montgomery
4. Brad Peacock (23 – Nationals) – 56 K – 2.13 ERA in 42.1 for AA Harrisburg
4. Eric Surkamp (23 – Giants) – 56 K – 1.88 ERA in 38.1 IP for AA Richmond
7. Jake Odorizzi (21 – Royals) – 55 K – 2.45 ERA in 36/2 IP for high-A Wilmington
8. Josh Smith (23 – Reds) – 54 K – 1.91 ERA in 42.1 IP for low-A Dayton
8. Allen Webster (21 – Dodgers) – 54 K – 2.47 ERA in 47.1 IP for high-A Rancho Cucamonga
10. Chad Bettis (22 – Rockies) – 51 K – 3.26 ERA in 47 IP for high-A Modesto
10. Jose Cisnero (22 – Astros) – 51 K – 5.94 ERA in 33.1 IP for high-A Lancaster
10. Brad Meyers (25 – Nationals) – 51 K – 2.61 ERA in 48.1 IP between AA/AAA
10. Juan Nicasio (24 – Rockies) – 51 K – 1.90 ERA in 42.2 IP for AA Tulsa
10. Joseph Wieland (21 – Rangers) – 51 K – 1.62 ERA in 44.1 IP for high-A Myrtle Beach

– Cabrera’s name certainly isn’t very well known, and as a 23-year-old in low-A ball, he’s not nearly the same kind of prospect as the next few guys on this list. His fastball is a bit below average, so he’s not going to be taken very seriously unless he can do it at higher levels.

– After Cabrera come the big names.  Of guys yet to make their major league debuts (basically, a qualification that allows me to rule out Julio Teheran), Miller may well be the top pitching prospect in the game.  Skaggs is showing incredible potential as well, though his walk rate is a bit high.  Of course, he’s the youngest pitcher on the list.

– Moore isn’t quite dominating the Southern League the way I thought he would, mostly because he’s given up six homers.  He has an outstanding 1.03 WHIP, and he’s striking out five batters for every one he walks.

– Peacock and Surkamp could be factors this year.   Peacock, blossoming in his fourth year in the Nationals system, has picked up velocity and now occasionally hits the mid-90s with his fastball.  A debut in the second half is a possibility, and he could be part of a very exciting rotation with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann next year.  Surkamp, another young lefty for the Giants, doesn’t have the fastball of either Jonathan Sanchez or Madison Bumgarner, but with two excellent offspeed pitches, he projects a mid-rotation guy.

– A few other names worth mentioning: Detroit’s Charlie Furbush is the strikeout leader for pitchers who have spent all season in Triple-A.  He’s fanned 47 while amassing a 2.90 ERA in 40.1 IP.  2010 first-rounder Drew Pomeranz would have made the list if the Indians weren’t being so careful with him; he has 48 strikeouts in just 32.2 IP.  And the top reliever on the board is Boston’s Juan Rodriguez.  He has 43 strikeouts in 24.1 IP for low-A Greenville.

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.