Robinson Cano

Where have all the superstar left-handed hitters gone?

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Last night’s Home Run Derby included just one left-handed hitter (Justin Morneau) among the eight contestants and tonight’s All-Star game will feature only two left-handed hitters (Chase Utley, Robinson Cano) among the 18 starters.

So where did all of the star-caliber left-handed and switch-hitters go, exactly?

Looking back to last year, the All-Star game starting lineups featured left-handed bats Cano, Chris Davis, David Ortiz, Joe Mauer, Carlos Beltran, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, and Bryce Harper. Injuries knocked most of those guys out of consideration this season.

Going back two years, the All-Star game starting lineups in 2012 featured left-handed hitters Cano, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Votto, Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Rafael Furcal, and Curtis Granderson.

In other words, yeah, this season is a whole lot different.

Of course, it’s worth noting that this year’s All-Star game reserves include quite a few left-handed bats in Victor Martinez, Charlie Blackmon, Matt Carpenter, Freddie Freeman, Dee Gordon, Miguel Montero, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rizzo, Erick Aybar, Michael Brantley, Brandon Moss, Kyle Seager. And switch-hitting Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was chosen as a starter, but won’t be playing due to an injury.

So there are plenty of left-handed-hitting All-Stars, just not many left-handed-hitting superstars, or at least not many left-handed-hitting superstars who’ve been both healthy and at the top of their respective games this season.

Who are some young left-handed and switch-hitters capable of emerging as perennial All-Star starters? Bryce Harper stands out, certainly, but beyond that there aren’t many 25-and-under left-handed hitters currently in the big leagues who strike me as sure-fire future superstars. Guys like Dickerson, Freeman, Rizzo, Lonnie Chisenhall, Matt Adams, Billy Hamilton, Christian Yelich, Jason Heyward, Kolten Wong, Eric Hosmer, Rougned Odor, Oswaldo Arcia, Jon Singleton, and Jackie Bradley Jr. certainly have big-time potential, but who knows?

It really does seem like we’re in a bit of a lull in terms of superstar left-handed hitters and that might continue for a while until a few prospects like Oscar Taveras, Gregory Polanco, Francisco Lindor, and Joey Gallo start taking over and/or former MVPs and MVP candidates like Votto, Mauer, Gonzalez, and Fielder get back on track.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.