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Major league outfielders are getting smaller and faster

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At FanGraphs, Eno Sarris did some digging and found that in 2016, for the first time since 1925, Major League Baseball saw only league-average production from its outfielders. He derived that by using wRC+, or adjusted Weighted Runs Created, a statistic that individually weights a player’s various offensive contributions, then adjusts for league and park effects. The offensive decline, Sarris finds, has a lot to do specifically with a decline in power, which is coupled with outfielders getting smaller and faster.

While we do have the stereotypical outfielder build in Mike Trout (6’1″, 235 lbs.) and Bryce Harper (6’2″, 230), we’re seeing lots of young players who defy that mold: Mookie Betts (5’9″, 156), Adam Eaton (5’9″, 180), Jackie Bradley, Jr. (5’10”, 195), Ender Inciarte (5’11”, 165), and Billy Hamilton (6’1″, 160), for example.

Sarris also compares current fourth outfielder types to those 30 years ago and finds that, indeed, clubs have eschewed power in favor of speed and defense. He suggests that this could lead to a market inefficiency in which these speedy, defensive types are overvalued and the slower, power-hitting types (like Brandon Moss) are undervalued.

Reds acquire Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers

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The Reds acquired utilityman Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reports.

This is the second time that the Dodgers have traded Sweeney. The club sent him to the Phillies along with John Richy in August 2015 for Chase Utley. The Phillies sent him back to the Dodgers this past offseason with Darin Ruf in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

Sweeney, 26, made his major league debut in 2015 with the Phillies, hitting a meager .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances. With Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, he hit .227/.290/.412 in 131 PA. While Sweeney’s bat hasn’t proven to be anything special, he has played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, so his flexibility will make him useful at some point.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.