Tampa Bay calling up stud pitching prospect Matt Moore is getting all the attention–and rightfully so–but the Rays have also promoted Russ Canzler to the majors after the 25-year-old took home International League MVP honors by hitting .314 with 18 homers, 40 doubles, and a .930 OPS in Durham.
Canzler signed with the Rays as a minor-league free agent this offseason, so he’s far from a top prospect, but he also hit .287 with 21 homers and a .938 OPS at Double-A in the Cubs’ system last year.
As for how much or even where he’ll play for the Rays, that remains unclear. Canzler saw significant action for Durham at third base, first base, right field, and left field, but was primarily a first baseman prior to this season.
Dan Johnson, Steve Cox, Kevin Witt, and Toby Hall previously won the International League MVP award while in the Rays’ farm system and that didn’t exactly lead to future stardom, but Canzler at least has a chance to be an interesting player if given an opportunity.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.