Leading up to the Home Run Derby last Monday in Minnesota, we heard several players — Jose Abreu and Mike Trout among them — cite the myth that the Derby leads to second-half woes. Perhaps Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton can serve as evidence in the opposite direction.
The slugger, who lost 1-0 in the semifinals of the Home Run Derby to Todd Frazier, homered on Friday and Saturday against the Giants, the first two games back from the All-Star break. Stanton went into the break slumping, going homerless with a .580 OPS in his previous 15 games. As MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports, Stanton credits the Derby for helping rediscover his swing:
“Having to lock in for the Derby made me feel better,” Stanton said. “I wasn’t myself the last couple of weeks. The short time off and the Derby kind of helped me out. I think it will be all right.”
Stanton leads the National League with 23 home runs. He is locked in a tie with Paul Goldschmidt for the league lead in RBI with 65 and he carries an impressive .295/.394/.551 slash line.
As Ken Woolums and Daniel R. Braunstein explained at Five Thirty Eight, a hitter’s second-half decline has more to do with expected regression rather than messed up mechanics caused by the Home Run Derby.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.