Dustin Ackley

Hank Aaron Award nominees announced (and then picked apart)

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The Hank Aaron Award nominees were announced on Monday.  The award is meant to honor the best offensive performers in each league.  As always, there’s one nominee from every team and the winner will be selected by a fan vote in combination with a vote of select Hall of Fame players.

Here are the nominees:

American League
Baltimore: J.J. Hardy
Boston: Adrian Gonzalez
Chicago: Paul Konerko
Cleveland: Asdrubal Cabrera
Detroit: Miguel Cabrera
Kansas City: Alex Gordon
Los Angeles: Mark Trumbo
Minnesota: Michael Cuddyer
New York: Curtis Granderson
Oakland: Josh Willingham
Seattle: Dustin Ackley
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria
Texas: Michael Young
Toronto: Jose Bautista

Of course, with one player from every team nominated, the fans can vote for Ackley for AL offensive player of the year, but not Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz or Robinson Cano.

The pretty awful pick here was Trumbo over Howie Kendrick on the Angels. Of course Kendrick didn’t match the first baseman when it came to RBIs, but he hit .285/.338/.464 to Trumbo’s .254/.291/.477.

Young was the Rangers’ fourth best hitter, but he played in 159 games, while Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton played in 113, 124 and 121 respectively. Napoli still deserves the nod, though. He hit .320/.414/.631 to Young’s .338/.380/.474.

National League
Arizona: Justin Upton
Atlanta: Brian McCann
Chicago: Aramis Ramirez
Cincinnati: Joey Votto
Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki
Florida: Mike Stanton
Houston: Carlos Lee
Los Angeles: Matt Kemp
Milwaukee: Ryan Braun
New York: Jose Reyes
Philadelphia: Ryan Howard
Pittsburgh: Andrew McCutchen
St. Louis: Albert Pujols
San Diego: Cameron Maybin
San Francisco: Pablo Sandoval
Washington: Michael Morse

Things were cut-and-dry for a lot of NL teams. It’s a shame Hunter Pence couldn’t get a nomination, considering that he was better than Lee in Houston and Howard in Philadelphia. Shane Victorino probably should have been the Phillies’ selection, but… yeah, fat chance.

St. Louis was the one I’d most argue against. Lance Berkman hit .301/.412/.547 to Pujols’ .299/.366/.541. That nearly 50-point difference in OBP is very significant, and Berkman only played in two fewer games over the course of the season.

I’m not going to complain about Maybin (.716 OPS). Chase Headley (.773 OPS) and Nick Hundley (.824 OPS) were considerably better hitters, but they played in 113 and 82 games, respectively.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.