A.J. Reed

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.

 

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.