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.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.