Jedd Gyorko

Handicapping the NL Rookie of the Year race

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The AL had an historic Rookie of the Year class last year, but this year, the NL appears to have the stronger group of the two leagues. The one issue: a lot of these talents are likely to have to wait until June or July for their opportunities, if they come this year at all.

Wily Peralta (RHP Brewers) – 25:1 – Peralta enters the season with pretty high expectations for a guy who posted a 4.66 ERA and walked 4.8 batters per nine innings in Triple-A last year. The 23-year-old has a nice live arm and he should turn into a No. 3 starter in time, but I don’t expect it’s going to happen right away this year. Patience will be required.

Projection: 9-10, 4.24 ERA, 1.374 WHIP, 135 K’s in 155 IP

Yasiel Puig (OF Dodgers) – 25:1 – With a starting outfield making $54 million this year, the Dodgers weren’t going to carry Puig on Opening Day. It would have been much more interesting to see what they would have done had Puig played a position of need instead. For as ridiculously awesome as Puig’s spring was — he hit .517 with three homers, two triples and five doubles in 58 at-bats — he’s probably not ready to help a major league club. There’s good reason for excitement, but let’s see how he fares against some pitchers more focused on getting him out than getting their work in.

Projection: .243/.287/.425, 6 HR, 24 R, 23 RBI, 8 SB in 181 AB

Nolan Arenado (3B Rockies) – 20:1 – Arenado was a disappointment in 2012 after receiving plenty of hype last spring, but he impressed in Rockies camp this year and nearly won the starting job at third base over Chris Nelson. He’ll open the season in the minors instead, but it’d be no surprise if the Rockies revisit their decision at the end of April. I’m not very high on Arenado; he’s a line-drive hitter without great on-base percentages. Still, he can hit for average and he’ll have Coors Field on his side, making him a possible long shot candidate here.

Projection: .270/.310/.433, 8 HR, 30 R, 34 RBI, 1 SB in 252 AB

Adam Eaton (OF Diamondbacks) – 20:1 – As Chris Young’s replacement in center field in Arizona, Eaton was shaping up as a popular ROY pick before suffering a sprained elbow ligament in March. The hope now is that he’ll be back in mid-May, which would still give him a chance to make his way into the race. Still, even before the injury, I didn’t think he was a great bet for the hardware; his on-base percentage is a much bigger strength than his ability to hit for average and he won’t show much power at all.

Projection: .266/.355/.383, 6 HR, 59 R, 31 RBI, 18 SB in 379 AB

Jose Fernandez (RHP Marlins) – 18:1 – The Marlins made the stunning call Sunday that they were bringing up the 20-year-old Fernandez and intending to keep him in the rotation all year. Fernandez had made just one spring appearance in the Grapefruit League, and expectations were that he’d spend at least the first half of the year in the minors. Maybe the NL’s top pitching prospect, Fernandez certainly has the ability to be an above average starter as one of the NL’s youngest players. Still, he’ll probably be shut down for the final month of the year, which would hurt his ROY chances.

Projection: 9-9, 3.84 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 138 K’s in 152 1/3 IP

Oscar Taveras (OF Cardinals) – 18:1 – It’s a matter of opportunity for Taveras, who rates as the National League’s No. 1 prospect after hitting .321/.380/.572 with 23 homers and 10 steals for Double-A Springfield last year. The 20-year-old is likely ready to hit for average and modest power now, but the Cardinals aren’t going to sit Jon Jay or Carlos Beltran to make room for him. Barring an injury to Beltran or another outfielder, Taveras appears in line to spend the first half of the season in Triple-A.

Projection: .274/.323/.447, 7 HR, 28 R, 30 RBI, 3 SB in 215 AB

Christian Yelich (OF Marlins) – 15:1 – Yelich had to be disappointed to be send down after hitting a remarkable .364/.451/.818 with five homers and a 7/6 K/BB ratio in 44 spring at-bats. Once the Marlins went and called up Fernandez, one imagines that disappointment quickly transitioned into frustration and anger; if any of the Marlins’ top prospects deserved to make the team, it was Yelich. Still, that the Marlins did promote Fernandez suggests that Yelich might not be far behind, especially since the team seems to have soured on Justin Ruggiano in center. Yelich has all the makings of a future star.

Projection: .266/.337/.403, 9 HR, 53 R, 44 RBI, 10 SB in 402 AB

Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP Cubs) – 10:1 – Never underestimate the power of the save when it comes to the Rookie of the Year balloting. Fujikawa already picked up one on Monday, and while the Cubs insist that they’re sticking with Carlos Marmol in the closer’s role for now, Fujikawa is pretty clearly their best option in the ninth.

Projection: 3-2, 25 Sv, 2.91 ERA, 1.193 WHIP, 55 K’s in 58 2/3 IP

Billy Hamilton – (OF Reds) – 10:1 – If I had gotten this column done prior to Opening Day as hoped, Hamilton probably would have been listed at 25:1. Now that Ryan Ludwick is about to undergo shoulder surgery after getting hurt Monday, Hamilton’s prospects seem a whole lot brighter. The Reds still won’t rush him, as he needs more time in center after making the switch from shortstop. Still, I imagine they’re eventually going to decide they’re better off with Shin-Soo Choo in corner. Hamilton is so spectacular on the basepaths that he could potentially debut in June and still lead the league in steals.

Projection (pre-Ludwick injury): .258/.331/.358, 1 HR, 24 R, 9 RBI, 31 SB in 151 AB

Shelby Miller (RHP Cardinals) – 8:1 – Just when it looked like Joe Kelly would be named the Cardinals’ fifth starter, closer Jason Motte got hurt, opening a spot on the pitching staff and making it easier to put Miller into the rotation. Maybe they would have gone that route anyway. Miller struggled in the first half of 2012, but he recovered velocity as the year went on and impressed in a late major league audition, amassing a 1.32 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. If his command holds up, he’ll prove to be a whole lot more than a No. 5 for St. Louis; he has No. 2 starter stuff.

Projection: 11-8, 3.90 ERA, 1.312 WHIP, 151 K’s in 159 1/3 IP

Jedd Gyorko (2B-3B Padres) – 8:1 – Gyorko essentially won his starting job in the first few days of the spring, hitting three homers and driving in nine runs in his first four games. From there, he hit .234 with one homer in 64 at-bats the rest of the way. My guess is that Gyorko will be a solid regular as a rookie, but not really anything more. Fortunately, PetcoPark won’t take quite as much of a toll on his numbers as it once would have. He’s one of the safer picks for Rookie of the Year honors, but I see him as more likely to finish second or third.

Projection: .258/.320/.419, 18 HR, 72 R, 60 RBI, 5 SB in 515 AB

Julio Teheran (RHP Braves) – 7:1 – Teheran made surprisingly little progress in 2012 and tumbled on offseason prospects lists as a result. Then he went and posted a 1.04 ERA and a 35/9 K/BB ratio in 26 innings this spring. Teheran was about as impressive as any pitcher in the Grapefruit League, and expectations are now far beyond “maybe he can be a decent fifth starter until Brandon Beachy returns.” Of course, he’s still just 22 years old, so growing pains are a possibility.

Projection: 12-9, 3.79 ERA, 1.270 WHIP, 159 K’s in 180 1/3 IP

Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP Dodgers) – 6:1 – The Dodgers spent $25.7 million on Ryu’s rights and then signed him for $36 million over the winter, essentially guaranteeing him a rotation spot in the process. After a shaky start to his spring in which his lack of conditioning led to some jokes at his expense, Ryu was dominant in his final three outings, allowing just three hits in 16 2/3 innings. The guess here is that Ryu’s success continues well into the season; his curveball and changeup are very good complements to an 89-92 mph fastball. He may wear down late, as he hasn’t thrown 200 innings in a season since 2007.

Projection: 13-7, 3.48 ERA, 1.172 WHIP, 158 K’s in 170 2/3 IP

The field – 5:1 – Gerrit Cole (RHP Pirates), Pete Kozma (SS Cardinals), Rob Brantly (Marlins), Zack Wheeler (RHP Mets), Tyler Skaggs (LHP Diamondbacks), Michael Wacha (RHP Cardinals), Trevor Rosenthal (RHP Cardinals), A.J. Ramos (RHP Marlins), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS Marlins), Travis d’Arnaud (C Mets), Evan Gattis (C-OF Braves), Matt Adams (1B Cardinals), Hunter Morris (1B Brewers), Darin Ruf (1B-OF Phillies), Kolten Wong (2B Cardinals), Anthony Rendon (3B Nationals), Matt Davidson (3B-OF Diamondbacks), Brett Jackson (OF Cubs), Gary Brown (OF Giants), Tony Cingrani (LHP Reds)

A whole lot of talent here. Cole would be right behind Ryu and Teheran on my list if the Pirates didn’t appear committed to keeping him in the minors for the first two months. Wheeler and Wacha are also big-time arms with no opportunity right now. Also, fantasy leaguers shouldn’t sleep on Rosenthal and Ramos. The Cardinals are hoping to get Jason Motte back in May, but if it doesn’t happen, Rosenthal should eventually overtake Mitchell Boggs for closing duties. Ramos is behind a perfectly fine reliever in Steve Chisek, but he’s the future in the closer’s role for Miami.

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Handicapping the AL Rookie of the Year race

Darvish wins 1st start since 2014 as Rangers top Pirates 5-2

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Yu Darvish struck out seven in five strong innings in his first start in the majors in almost 22 months, and the Texas Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Saturday night.

The Japanese right-hander allowed three singles with a walk in his return from last year’s Tommy John surgery, ending Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak.

Adrian Beltre had a two-run homer in the first inning off Juan Nicasio (3-3) to become the fourth third baseman with at least 1,500 RBIs, finishing with 1,501.

Mitch Moreland snapped a 1-for-27 skid with a solo home run in the fourth.

Four Texas relievers allowed four hits and a run with four strikeouts in four innings.

The “Yuuu” calls from a sellout crowd started early for Darvish, who last pitched in the big leagues on Aug. 9, 2014. He missed the rest of that season with right elbow inflammation, and ended up needing ligament reconstruction surgery after his only spring training appearance last year.

Darvish (1-0) had a 0.90 ERA in five rehab starts this month, culminating with an 87-pitch outing. He threw 81 against the Pirates, hitting 98 mph with his fastball in the first inning and displaying his usual array of breaking pitches, some as slow as 70 mph.

John Jaso had a leadoff single on Darvish’s second pitch before Andrew McCutchen struck out. The Pirates didn’t get another hit until Francisco Cervelli‘s sinking liner in front of rookie right fielder Nomar Mazara in the fifth.

No. 9 hitter Cole Figueroa ended Darvish’s shutout bid by pulling a hanging slider into right-center field for a single that scored Cervelli from second. Darvish then struck out Jaso for the second time to finish his outing.

Beltre’s homer just cleared the wall in center field after Prince Fielder‘s RBI groundout to score leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar, who had two hits filling in for suspended second baseman Rougned Odor. It was the second game of Odor’s seven-game ban.

SHORT HOPS

Joey Gallo, who had just one at-bat in his five-day stint, was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to make room on the roster for Darvish. … Pirates lefty reliever Tony Watson came off the paternity list and pitched a perfect eighth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: Manager Clint Hurdle planned to give 2B Josh Harrison the night off after he came out of the series opener early. He’s been battling an illness that kept him out of the lineup Thursday as well.

Rangers: C Robinson Chirinos is expected to start a rehab assignment Tuesday with Double-A Frisco. He’s been out since April 10 with a broken right forearm and could be activated as soon as he is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on June 9.

UP NEXT

Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (4-3, 4.30) has won his last four starts against the Rangers and is 5-1 with a save and a 2.89 ERA in nine career games against them, most of those with Minnesota. His last appearance against Texas was Sept. 10, 2013.

Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (2-4, 3.13) makes his team-high 11th start and has gone 2-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his past six starts. He threw six shutout innings in a 4-1 win over the Angels in his last start

Utley answers with slam, solo HR as Dodgers rout Mets 9-1

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NEW YORK (AP) After the New York Mets missed, Chase Utley connected twice.

Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing New York 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch – which certainly appeared to be his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year’s playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers’ bench to keep teammates calm – and later responded by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

“I think a loud, energizing environment gets the best out of you. I think it’s fun,” said Utley, who has 19 RBIs this season, nine in the first two games of this series. “It kind of gets the adrenaline going a little bit, makes you kind of dig down deeper.”

Asked if he thought Syndergaard delivered a purpose pitch, Utley said: “Possibly, but I understand it.”

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets’ 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Howie Kendrick and Corey Seager also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that hit him on the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings. The right-hander yielded two hits, both singles in the first, and stopped his three-game losing streak.

“Pretty impressive. You wouldn’t see too many other pitches staying in the game at that point,” Utley said.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets – and their fans – were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night; Utley played all four games without incident May 9-12 when the teams split a series in Los Angeles.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

“The ruling was that he intentionally threw at the batter,” crew chief Tom Hallion told a pool reporter. “We can either warn or eject. And with what happened in that situation, we felt the ejection was warranted.”

Hallion said no warnings were issued before the series.

“We take each game individually,” he said when asked if last year’s playoff series played a role in the ejection. “We have to make a snap decision. We can’t think about, OK, well this guy did this or he did that in Game 6 of whatever. We don’t have enough time to think that way. We make a decision on what happens in the game.”

Collins said he had never before seen a pitcher get ejected without a warning.

“My argument was, nobody got hit,” Collins said. “There was a time when, in this game, where you had a shot and nothing happened, the ball went to the backstop. So that was kind of my argument.”

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

“It was just a pitch that got away from me. That’s all I got,” Syndergaard said. “I can understand why he did what he did. I still think a warning would have been better.”

Collins acknowledged he’s a little concerned Syndergaard might get suspended.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett’s first pitch of the sixth for a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, making it 6-0 with his 38th homer against the Mets.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

“We came together as a group,” Utley said. “We battled, and it was a good win.”

WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

UP NEXT

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts vs. the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May – including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Mets Syndergaard ejected after throwing behind Utley

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NEW YORK — In a scene that has seemed inevitable since October, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard has been ejected for throwing a 99 mph fastball behind Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since his late takeout slide in last year’s playoffs broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.

New York was incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules on slides at bases this season. But the Mets had not attempted to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman’s back by a considerable margin.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting irate Mets manager Terry Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected.

Indians’ Brantley unsure of return from shoulder injury

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CLEVELAND — Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

“I wasn’t bouncing back quick enough to keep playing back-to-back games, which is very important,” he said. “I want to be healthy each and every day and I have to play at a high level. This is the major leagues. You have to be at the best of your ability and the highest health-wise you can be.”

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn’t think he returned from the surgery too soon.

“I was ready,” he said. “We talked about it. We had a great process laid out. Everything went smoothly. It was just a bump in the road.”

Brantley has been hitting off a tee but isn’t sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage. He is playing catch since he throws left-handed but wants to be cautious about resuming a hitting program.

“Surgery is nothing to play with,” he said. “You have to be smart and understand your body.”

Brantley visited Dr. Craig Morgan, who performed the surgery, in Wilmington, Delaware after he returned to the DL. An MRI showed no changes in the shoulder.

“He said everything checks out good, just make sure to take your time and we’ll see what happens from there,” Brantley said.

Brantley finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.