Dustin Pedroia, Ichiro Suzuki, Rafael Furcal among worst hitters since May 15

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I wrote yesterday about how Albert Pujols has recovered from his awful start to lead the entire American League in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS since May 15.

Based off that I thought it would also be interesting to look at the least productive hitters during that same span, which accounts for about 70 games.

Braves second baseman Dan Uggla has baseball’s lowest batting average since May 15 at .161, but because he’s hit seven homers and drawn a ton of walks his .647 OPS is only the 26th-worst mark during that period.

Here are the “trailers” in OPS among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances since May 15:

Tony Gwynn Jr.    .549
Clint Barmes      .550
Rafael Furcal     .561
Justin Smoak      .566
Jordan Schafer    .589
Cameron Maybin    .596
Ichiro Suzuki     .596
Dustin Pedroia    .597

Tony Gwynn Jr., Clint Barmes, and Jordan Schafer aren’t surprises, as they’ve never really hit. Justin Smoak has been such a big disappointment that the Mariners demoted him to Triple-A last month.

More noteworthy is the inclusion of former MVPs Dustin Pedroia and Ichiro Suzuki, although Pedroia hasn’t been at full strength health-wise for seemingly the entire season and Suzuki has been unproductive since last year. And while not a former MVP, Rafael Furcal started the All-Star game for the NL less than a month ago.

The standard “small sample size” and “arbitrary endpoints” caveats apply, of course.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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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.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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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.