Robert Stephenson

2011 MLB Draft – picks 26-33: Reds select high school right-hander Robert Stephenson


Red Sox selected high school catcher Blake Swihart with the 26th overall pick in Monday’s draft.

Swihart has great arm strength, but the Red Sox could quickly decide to move him away from catcher to save his legs. The 19-year-old from New Mexico swings well from both sides of the plate and could develop 20-homer potential. He’s committed to Texas, so the Red Sox will have to lure him away from college life.

Reds selected high school right-hander Robert Stephenson 27th overall.

With most of the high-profile college pitchers already selected, the Reds went with a young right-hander with some serious upside. Best known for throwing back-to-back no-hitters this season, Stephenson sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his heater and throws a promising curveball. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, there’s still some projection left.

Braves selected FSU left-hander Sean Gilmartin with the 28th pick. 

The Braves don’t go the college route in the first round very often, but they were known to be on the lookout for a left-hander. While Gilmartin doesn’t have the ceiling of current Braves’ left-hander Mike Minor, he is similarly known for his plus-changeup.

Giants picked St. John’s shortstop Joe Panik 29th overall.

It’s bit of a reach, as there were players with higher upside (Michael Levi) left on the board at the time, but the Giants decided to play it safe and draft for slot. Panik, a left-handed hitter, may eventually have to move to second base due to his arm, but could be a No. 2 hitter because of his pitch recognition and contact ability.

Twins selected North Carolina shortstop Michael Levi with the 30th overall pick in the draft.

If Michael was a lock to stay at shortstop, he would have gone in the top 15. Many, though, believe he’s destined to end up at second base. He has a nice all-around bat and pretty good speed. He’s also about as close to the majors as any college position player in the draft.

Rays selected LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook with the 31st overall pick.

Quite a nice get for the Rays, as Mahtook fell a bit from early projections. The 21-year-old led the Southeastern Conference this season in stolen bases, walks and slugging percentage. The big question is whether he’ll be able to stick in center field. If he does, he has the chance to be a solid regular.

Rays selected high school shortstop Jake Hager with the 32nd overall pick in the draft.

Hager would be a reach under normal circumstances, but the Rays have so many picks that they can afford to gamble on someone who may take a few years to develop. While the 6-foot-1 shortstop has a commitment with Arizona State, it’s very likely he’ll be swayed if he is paid first-round money.

Rangers selected high school left-hander Kevin Matthews with the 33rd pick.

Matthews is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, yet he still manages to sit in the low-90s with his heater. However, with durability concerns, it’s very likely he ends up in the bullpen in the long-term. The young southpaw is currently committed to the University of Virginia, though the Rangers don’t expect to have trouble signing him.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.