Tony Kemp

2013 MLB Draft: Round 4-5 notes – Astros try another tiny second baseman

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– Now the Astros are showing some sabermetric roots, going with Vanderbilt teammates in the fourth and fifth rounds. First baseman Conrad Gregor hit .314/.443/.418 with 53 walks in 220 at-bats this year, while second baseman Tony Kemp came in at .398/.480/.496 with 35 walks in 256 at-bats. The two had three homers between them, all Gregor’s. Kemp stands just 5-foot-7, though he’s still a giant next to Jose Altuve.

One wonders if the Astros might draft another Vandy product later on; outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, Carl’s grandson, is another player on the team with modest tools and subpar power but a nice track record nonetheless.

– Virginia closer Kyle Crockett seemed like great value for the Indians in round four. He’s no future major league closer, but he could be a setup man or at least a lefty specialist in short order.

– Second baseman L.J. Mazzilli went back into the draft after going to the Twins in the ninth round last year and moved up to the fourth round with the Mets this time around. That’s the team his father, Lee, was most identified with during his 14 years in the majors.

– Cody Bellinger, son of Clay, went to the Dodgers at pick No. 124. The former Little League World Series participant gets rave reviews for his defense at first base, and while his bat is in question, he has plenty of time to develop; he won’t even turn 18 until next month. The Dodgers also drafted right-hander J.D. Underwood, son of Tom, in the fifth round. His father, Tom, lasted 11 years as a journeyman left-hander.

– Rice University aces tend to go on to be first-round draft picks (and then often major league busts). However, the school’s top starter this year, Austin Kubitza, lasted until No. 126, when he landed with the Tigers. A sinker-slider guy, he may not miss enough bats to make it as a starter in the pros.

– Kean Wong, little brother of Cardinals prospect and former first-round pick Kolten Wong, was taken by the Rays at No. 128. Like his brother, he’s a second baseman. However, some suspect he’ll need to move to third, and he may lack the power for the position.

– Right-hander Dylan Covey, a first-round pick of the Brewers in 2010, was grabbed by the A’s late in round four. He was expected to sign out of high school, but after he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, he decided on school instead. His stock slipped this year while he was posting a 5.05 ERA and walking 43 in 76 2/3 innings for the University of San Diego.

– The Marlins took Chad Wallach, son of Tim, in round five. A catcher out of Cal State Fullerton, he projects as a major league backup if all goes right.

– Milwaukee seems to be targeting relievers as a draft strategy; third-rounder Barrett Astin, fourth-rounder Taylor Williams and fifth-rounder Joshua Uhen all project as bullpen guys. Astin, who split time between the rotation and the closer’s role at Arkansas, is the closest of the group to being ready to help.

– Rangers fifth-rounder Joe Jackson, out of The Citadel, is the great grandson of Shoeless Joe Jackson. A catcher, he hit .386/.495/.658 with 13 homers and 67 RBI in 60 games against largely modest competition this year.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.