Thoughts on McLouth to the Braves

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Braves acquire outfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates for RHP Charlie Morton, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and LHP Jeff Locke.

– First impression – I’m very surprised to see the Pirates parting with
McLouth just 3 ½ months after signing him to a three-year, $15.75
million contract, especially with no legitimate top-30 prospects coming
in return.

– Second impression – This is a pretty good haul for a guy the
Pirates thought was a fourth outfielder a couple of years ago. Still,
it’s pretty depressing that the one position prospect they got is a
lesser version of Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates’ priorities should have
been a power hitter for the outfield corners or first base and a
legitimate shortstop/second baseman of the future. Hernandez might turn
into a capable leadoff hitter, but he could just as easily be a bottom
of the order guy. He’s not going to develop any power. The 21-year-old
was hitting .316/.361/.387 with 10 steals in 18 attempts for Double-A
Mississippi.

Morton is a step up on the pitchers the Pirates got from the Yankees
in the Xavier Nady deal, but he may work out best as a setup man. He
was 7-2 with a 2.51 ERA, 52 H and 55/16 K/BB in 64 2/3 IP for Triple-A
Gwinnett. Locke offers more upside, though his command has taken a step
backwards this year. He was 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA, 47 H and 43/26 K/BB in
45 2/3 IP for Single-A Myrtle Beach. I expect him to make it as a No. 3
starter anyway.

McLouth is a big-time upgrade for the Braves, but that’s in no small
part because the alternatives had been terrible. He’s not a Gold Glove
center fielder, no matter what NL managers think. Still, he’s a great
stopgap there for now and he can move to left or right field next year
when Jordan Schafer is ready to establish himself. Better for the
Braves if he were a right-handed hitter. However, that they were able
to get him without parting with Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie
Freeman, Schafer or Kris Medlen makes this a fine trade for them. They
still have a real chance of going to the postseason this year, and this
move should be good for at least two wins.

– I’m very interested in seeing how Andrew McCutchen performs as
McLouth’s replacement. McCutchen has beened view as a top prospect
since being drafted 11th overall in 2005, and he’s continually put up
solid numbers while being young for his leagues. However, it’s
typically been the case that he’s dominated lefties and been just
mediocre against righties. This year, he was at .361/.400/.672 against
southpaws in Triple-A and .279/.344/.414 against righties. The overall
line of .303/.361/.493 with quite impressive for a 22-year-old in the
International League, but the way he got there leaves me skeptical that
he’s ready to help as a regular right now.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.