Anthony Rizzo probably isn’t going to get a chance to go after the Pacific Coast League Triple Crown after all. The Cubs, seemingly preparing for his arrival, have Bryan LaHair in right field and David DeJesus in center field in Monday’s game against the White Sox.
It’s the first outfield start for LaHair this season. Expectations were that the veteran minor leaguer would simply fade away once Rizzo was ready to take over at first base for the Cubs, but given his .297/.380/.560 line and 12 homers in 182 at-bats to date, that’s clearly not going to happen. Putting Rizzo at first, LaHair in right (where he started nine games after his callup last year) and DeJesus in center would seem to give the Cubs their best possible lineup, though it comes at the price of outfield defense.
The 22-year-old Rizzo is hitting .364/.426/.745 with 23 homers and 59 RBI for Triple-A Iowa. He ranks sixth in the league in hitting, first in homers and second in RBI. While the PCL is certainly an offense-heavy league, Rizzo has an OPS a full 161 points higher than anyone else in the circuit, and Iowa isn’t nearly as hitter friendly in some of the parks. In fact, Rizzo has a 1.239 OPS in road games. He’s also hitting .400 with six homers in 50 at-bats during June.
Assuming all goes well with the new outfield, don’t be surprised to see Rizzo up as soon as Friday. That would give him three games in Arizona before the Cubs return home for six games next week.
Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.
Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.
Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.
Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.
Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.