Josh Bell

2011 MLB Draft – Round 2 wrap: Josh Bell goes to Pirates

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The Pirates grabbed the best player available to start round two, taking Texas prep outfielder Josh Bell with the 61st overall selection.  Bell, who would have gone in the middle of round one on talent, told teams not to select him because he was planning on honoring his commitment to the University of Texas.

A switch-hitter, Bell should offer 25-homer power down the line.  He was a center fielder in high school, but he’s expected to move to a corner in the pros.  That would have been the case even if he didn’t go to a team that already had Andrew McCutchen.  He’ll be a very tough sign, but if the Pirates can get both he and No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole under contract, they’ll look like the big winners from this year’s draft.

Some other round two thoughts:

– Daniel Norris, the other big tumbler, went to the Blue Jays at No. 74.  They’ll have to try to buy him out of a Clemson scholarship.  It won’t be an easy assignment, but since they had another second-round selection just four picks later (which they used to grab right-hander Jeremy Gabryszwski), they could afford to gamble.  With his low-90s fastball, curve and changeup, Norris would have gone in the 15-25 range on talent.

– Vanderbilt third baseman Jason Esposito was taken by the Orioles at No. 64 after a somewhat disappointing junior season.  He lacks star potential, but he could be an average regular in time and he’s polished enough to potentially progress to Double-A next year.

– After playing it safe with their two first-round picks, the Brewers grabbed Puerto Rican right-hander Jorge Lopez at No. 70.  He might have a higher ceiling than either Taylor Jungmann or Jed Bradley with his fastball-curve combo.

– Arkansas catcher James McCann was plucked by the Tigers at No. 76.  No relation.

– The Red Sox, who may well have been hoping that either Bell or Norris would fall into their laps, went with NYC high school outfielder Willams Jerez. He has tools aplenty, but there are questions about whether he’s really 19.

– Some suspected the Giants might take a catcher in round one, but they waited and still got Oregon State’s Andrew Susac at pick No. 86.  He’s a better talent than the guy they actually got at No. 29 (shortstop Joe Panik), but as a draft-eligible sophomore, he probably won’t sign for less than first-round money.  He’s a fine defender, so he’ll only need to be so good offensively to make it as a regular.

– After the Red Sox came into their backyard, the Yankees went down to Texas to grab Longhorns lefty Sam Stafford with the 88th pick.  If one trusts Baseball America, he was a second straight big overdraft for the team after Dante Bichette Jr. was picked 51st overall.  Stafford wasn’t in BA’s top 200.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.