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Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado off to hot start this spring

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Chris Nelson entered spring training as the overwhelming favorite to open the season as the Rockies’ starting third baseman, but prospect Nolan Arenado is doing his best to force his way into the conversation.

Arenado homered in his third consecutive game this afternoon against the Mariners, taking fellow prospect Taijuan Walker deep in the fourth inning. The 21-year-old is now hitting .412 (7-for-17) over seven games this spring while his four homers are tied with Indians’ non-roster invitee Ryan Raburn for the most in the Cactus League.

Baseball America ranked Arenado as the game’s No. 22 prospect last offseason, but his stock took a tumble after he batted .285/.337/.428 with 12 home runs, 56 RBI and a .766 OPS in 134 games with Double-A Tulsa. The modest power output saw him drop to No. 62 overall in BA’s rankings this spring. It’s dangerous to make major roster decisions based off spring training results and there are service time considerations involved, so the most likely scenario is that Arenado begins the season with Triple-A Colorado Springs, but the Rockies could be faced with a tough choice if he continues to tear the cover off the ball.

Report: Phillies want a top-five prospect for Jeremy Hellickson

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20: Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the second inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on July 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Starter Jeremy Hellickson has become the Phillies’ most enticing trade chip as he’s put together a solid month of July. After shutting out the Marlins on one hit and one walk over six innings on Monday, the right-hander lowered his July ERA to 1.97 and his overall ERA to 3.65. As a result, the Phillies are telling teams they want a top-five prospect to part with Hellickson, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Obviously, a top-five prospect means something different if you’re the Marlins as opposed to the Rangers. And the Phillies’ price point for Hellickson isn’t likely to stay that high, but GM Matt Klentak is setting a lofty starting point so that the return might end up being higher than market value.

ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates that the Phillies could end up holding onto Hellickson and giving him a qualifying offer after the season. He notes that the Phillies have only $25 million tied up for the 2017 season, so they could afford to pay Hellickson in excess of $16 million if he were to accept.

Video: Matt Cain launches a three-run home run

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 26: Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants hits a three run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at AT&T Park on July 26, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Madison Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants pitcher who can rake. Matt Cain crushed a three-run home run during Tuesday’s game against the Giants.

Cain stepped to the plate with runners on the corner and one out against Reds starter Cody Reed in the bottom of the second inning. Reed threw a 1-1 fastball down the middle and Cain hit it about 20 rows back in the left field seats.

It’s Cain’s first homer of the season, his first since 2012, and the seventh of his 12-year career. He still has some work to catch up to Bumgarner, who has two homers this year and 13 in his career.

On the pitching side of things, Cain got the win against the Reds on Tuesday night, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He currently holds an ugly 5.95 ERA.