J.T. Chargois

MLB draft round two: Twins go for bullpen fixes with two picks

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Notes from round two of the MLB draft…

– The Twins spent both of their picks on likely relievers, taking Northwestern State’s Mason Melotakis at No. 63 and Rice’s J.T. Chargois at No. 72.  Melotakis has uncommon velocity for a left-hander, reaching the mid-90s, but he lacks the plus second pitch that would have made him a higher pick. Chargois also lacks polish, having served as Rice’s first baseman in addition to his closing duties. Neither pitcher figures to make the quick impact one would typically want from a reliever drafted this high.

– The Yankees also had two picks, but they mixed it up, going for very different players. No. 89 overall selection Austin Aune is a shortstop/quarterback committed to TCU. The Yankees announced him as an outfielder, suggesting they see him fitting best in center field. At No. 94, they went with Miami’s offensive-minded catcher, Peter O’Brien. O’Brien was the Rockies’ third-round pick last year as a junior, but didn’t sign. He should be an easier get this time.

– Cincinnati grabbed the player the Baseball America rated as the top left on the board headed into round two, picking prep shortstop Tanner Rahier with the 78th selection. He figures to be a difficult sign after slipping, but if the Reds can lock him up, it’d be a nice get. Rahier projects as a third baseman, but he has nice power potential.

– Brenden Kline, who went No. 65 overall to the Orioles, projects to be the first player to reach the majors from the second round. A closer at Virginia, he projects as a setup man in the bigs, but he should be able to move very quickly.

– The Cardinals took their third third baseman of the draft already, grabbing high school product Carson Kelly out of Oregon. Supplemental first-round picks Stephen Piscotty and Patrick Wisdom were also labeled third basemen upon being drafted. The Cards are going to have quite a logjam at that position in the low minors next year, and while they’re certainly focusing more on talent than need, it makes one wonder if they think David Freese’s injuries will prevent him from being their long-term solution at the hot corner.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.