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MLB draft picks 21-31: Blue Jays land potential impact reliever

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No. 21 – Atlanta Braves – High school right-hander Lucas Sims

The Braves taking a local product? Get outta here. Sims is highly-regarded for his velocity, topping out at 97 mph on his heater, but his breaking ball is considered one of the best of from this year’s high school crop of talent.

No. 22 – Toronto Blue Jays – Duke right-hander Marcus Stroman

Here’s someone we were hearing about much earlier in mock drafts, so it’s a bit of surprise to see him fall this far. Despite standing at just 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Stroman has one of the most electric arms in the entire draft, earning comparisons to Tom Gordon. Many believe he could make it the majors this year as reliever.

No. 23 – St. Louis Cardinals – Florida State outfielder James Ramsey

Ramsey doesn’t blow scouts away with plus-tools, he has a pretty well-rounded game and could be used at either second base or center field as a pro. The Cardinals already chose Texas A&M right-hander Michael Wacha at No. 19, so there was likely some strategy involved in picking a college senior, as he should be a pretty easy sign.

No. 24 – Boston Red Sox – Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero

Another name we saw pretty high on mock drafts, Marrero was considered one of the top college position players available. Scouts like him most for his defensive abilities and he should be able to stick at shortstop as a pro. Just how much he’ll hit is the question. One side bonus is that he should be pretty popular with second baseman Dustin Pedroia, also an ASU alum.

No. 25 – Tampa Bay Rays – Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer

Standing at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Shaffer is considered one of the top power hitters in the entire draft. Evan Longoria obviously blocks him at the major league level, but the Rays will worry about that later. Some think he could be destined for first base or right field, anyway.

No. 26 – Arizona Diamondbacks – High school catcher Stryker Trahan

Now that’s a baseball name. Scouts love Trahan’s pop from the left side, so it would obviously be ideal if he sticks behind the plate, but he’ll likely end up as a corner outfielder in the long term.

No. 27 – Milwaukee Brewers – High school catcher Clint Coulter

This is one pick most draft experts got right, as Coulter has been linked to the Brewers for a while now. Coulter checks in at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds and has good pop from the right side. He has some work to do to stick behind the plate in the long-term, though.

No. 28 – Milwaukee Brewers – Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache

We would have seen Roache go much higher if he didn’t break his left wrist attempting to make a diving catch in February. Assuming he can bounce back from the injury, the Brewers may have landed the top power bat in this draft.

No. 29 – Texas Rangers – High school outfielder Lewis Brinson

Brinson was a bit of a surprise pick this early, but he has some intriguing tools. With above average speed and a strong arm, he could be a plus-defender in center field. Long and lanky (6-foot-4 and 185 pounds), he’s still considered quite raw with the bat, though.

No. 30 – New York Yankees – High school right-hander Ty Hensley

Hensley was projected to go much higher, so this is quite a coup for the Yankees. While he has good velocity on his fastball, some scouts think his curveball might end up being his best pitch.

No. 31 – Boston Red Sox – University of Florida left-hander Brian Johnson

The Red Sox wrapped up the first round with their second college pick. Johnson doesn’t throw all that hard or possess front-end starter upside, but he has four average or better pitches in his arsenal and should move pretty quickly.

 

Pick 1: Astros select shortstop Carlos Correa                          .

Picks 2-5: Mariners take catcher Mike Zunino at No. 3           .

Picks 6-10: Pirates halt Mark Appel’s free-fall                              .

Picks 11-15: A’s, Mets select high school shortstops                .

Picks 16-20: Nationals roll the dice on RHP Giolito                .

 

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.