2012 OPS projections: top 10 left fielders

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A couple of names I’m sure no one expected to see make the top 10 for left field:

.957 – Ryan Braun (Brewers) – 419 AB – .994 in 2011
.914 – Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) – 585 AB – .889 in 2011
.910 – Matt Holliday (Cardinals) – 582 AB – .912 in 2011
.868 – Josh Hamilton (Rangers) – 508 AB – .882 in 2011
.844 – Logan Morrison (Marlins) – 532 AB – .797 in 2011
.834 – Jason Kubel (D-backs) – 472 AB – .766 in 2011
.827 – Michael Morse (Nationals) – 571 AB – .910 in 2011
.812 – Alex Gordon (Royals) – 572 AB – .879 in 2011
.801 – Jason Bay (Mets) – 510 AB – .703 in 2011
.796 – Delmon Young (Tigers) – 573 AB – .695 in 2011
.796 – Carl Crawford (Red Sox) – 548 AB – .694 in 2011

– It’s a shallow list, but that shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Left fielders finished with a .728 OPS on the whole last season, compared to .782 for right fielders. Even center fielders were better, coming in at .735. 12 teams got a sub-.700 OPS from left fielders, with the Twins faring worst at .622. As terrible as Crawford was, the Red Sox still finished 13th in MLB with a .723 OPS from their left fielders.

– Even though it is so shallow, I had to go to 11 to account for the virtual tie. I had Crawford around .810 (and over 600 at-bats) before his wrist surgery last month. His projection could take a larger hit this spring based on how he’s recovering.

– I’m sure many will be skeptical about Bay, but he did rebound to .758 after the All-Star break last year and he should benefit more than anyone on the team from the Mets’ decision to bring in the fences a bit.

– When it comes to the worst, I’m sticking with the Twins: Ben Revere’s .683 is the lowest projected mark among regular left fielders. Rene Tosoni, one of last year’s preferred fallbacks, is worse at .677.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.