2014 MLB Draft: Round 2 wrap – Blue Jays, Brewers take aim at falling stars

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There weren’t any huge stunners left on the board after the first round of Thursday night’s draft, though Baseball America’s 19th, 20th and 21st ranked players remained up for grabs, largely because of bonus demands. Those three players ended up going 49th, 50th and 41st, respectively.

The latter two there actually went to the same team, the Milwaukee Brewers, who also went with a high-risk, high-reward guy in round one: Hawaiian high school left-hander Kodi Medeiros. With their competitive balance pick after round one, the 41st overall selection, they grabbed high school shortstop Jacob Gatewood,  a 6’5″ shortstop with terrific power potential. His size suggests a move to third may eventually be necessary, especially if he fills out and becomes the 30-homer guy scouts are projecting.

Gatewood was the No. 21 player on the BA board. No. 20 was center fielder Monte Harrison, who was taken by the Brewers 50th overall. Considered one of the very best athletes in the draft, he has the option of going to Nebraska to play wide receiver. It’d seem to be an even more likely route now that he slipped in the draft. However, if the Brewers can land both he and Gatewood, they’ll look like the big winners of day one here. Even if they sign just one of the two, they will still have done pretty well for themselves.

No. 19 on Baseball America’s list was right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, and the Blue Jays made him the 49th overall pick. He’ll be a tough sign, but the Blue Jays are in position to accommodate him since they should be able to land ninth overall pick Jeff Hoffman for a reduced bonus after he underwent Tommy John surgery. They also might be able to skim a little bit off 11th overall pick Max Pentecost’s bonus. If it works out, they’ll have come away with three of draft’s top 25 talents.

– The Astros opened Round 2 by taking the University of Kentucky’s A.J. Reed, who hit .336/.476/.735 with 23 homers and 73 RBI as a first baseman this year and went 12-2 with a 2.09 ERA as the team’s ace starter. Unfortunately, while no one thinks he projects as a star as a hitter or a pitcher, he’s also too talented to go the Brooks Kieschnick route and try to make the majors as both. The Astros will groom him as a first baseman.

– The Twins and Yankees took the draft’s first pure relievers, with the Twins grabbing Louisville’s Nick Burdi at No. 46 and the Yankees going with Mississippi State left-hander Jacob Lindgren at No. 55, their first pick of the draft. First-round pick Nick Howard of the Reds (No. 19 overall) was also a closer this year, but he figures to be given an opportunity to start. Perhaps Lindgren will, too, but he’s also a candidate to be the first 2014 pick to reach the majors if the Yankees keep him in the pen. Burdi is a flamethrowing closer-type.

– The Dodgers took Alex Verdugo as an outfielder with the 62nd overall pick, even though most viewed him as a pitcher. He probably would have gone higher, except he much prefers hitting. Dodgers assistant GM Logan White already made it clear that while Verdugo will be used as an outfielder initially, a move to the mound will come if he doesn’t hit.

 

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.