Chris Nelson was thought by many to be a lock to open the 2013 season as the everyday third baseman, but a strong spring by 21-year-old prospect Nolan Arenado has put some pressure on the incumbent. Arenado is hitting .308 with four home runs in 26 at-bats in the Cactus League while Nelson has started off slowly with a .192 average and no home runs.
MLB.com’s Thomas Harding cautions that Arenado is still not guaranteed anything if he keeps it up over the final two weeks:
Even if he deserves to make it, the Rockies will have to decide whether to put Arenado in the Majors in the beginning, or delay the callup to avoid starting his clock toward arbitration and free agency. With so much out of his control, Arenado’s maturity is already being tested while he tries to impress manager Walt Weiss and the big league coaches and club officials.
Arenado, rated the #52 overall prospect by Baseball America, got his first taste of Double-A last year with Tulsa, hitting .285 with 12 home runs.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.