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.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.