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Sunday 25th Feb 2018

Another week is gone, and once again we are reminded about what a tough--and unforgiving game--baseball can be as three players, Ernesto Frieri, Nate Schierholtz and Dan Uggla (for the second time this year) were all released. Last year, Frieri had 37 saves while Schierholtz hit 21 homers. Uggla's struggles are well documented. Right now, none has a team. Tough.

The jettison of Schierholtz by the Cubs made the promotion of Javier Baez doable. Baez, who caused a stir during the spring, raising speculation the now 21-year-old would make the opening day Wrigley roster. Baez wound up back in Iowa to start the year, and posted a .260-23-80 line over 104 games.

This kid has a huge upside, but, he could face some lumps as Major League pitchers exploit his lack of plate discipline with just 88 walks to 350 whiffs over 314 minor league games, and he has yet to walk in the Bigs while having struck out ten times.

I have already started touting this, but the Cubs are indeed on the verge of serious redemption, with Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Arismendy Alcalantara among their future choices, but there is more.

For the Cubs have Theo Epstein, the guy who ended the Boston World Series drought, along with arguably the best cluster of position playing prospects on Earth at this moment in time and space. In a year, that team will start to really coalesce, and in 2016 they will emerge as a serious contender, if not the dominant team in the National League.

Cleveland does not really have the same scenario ahead, though they too have some interesting players in the chain, though they are way ahead of the Cubs on the curve, with Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Corey Kluber leading their renaissance rush. This past week, the Tribe promoted 21-year-old Dominican Jose Ramirez to fill the Asdrubal Cabrera void.

Ramirez already has a more selective stick than Baez, with 96 minor league walks to 114 strikeouts over 291 minor league games to go with 86 steals, a .306 average and 201 runs.

The diffficulty for Ramirez' future is that the Indians also have Francisco Lindor as a potential shortstop, and we should expect Lindor in Cleveland before the season is done, so again the question becomes who is playing where? Ramirez has played four games in the outfield at Columbus this season, so perhaps his future lies there, but the youngster is defintely in the future spin for the team. And, he could make an acceptable middle infielder in an AL format to finish off the year.

We will return to the prospects, but I want to look at a couple of pitchers I think could be a help to your team, starting with the Orioles' Ubaldo Jimenez. Now, I agree, he is crazy erratic, not just his year, but over his Saberhagen-metric career.

Jimenez went 6-5, 1.80 over 84 second half innings last year and he is coming back from the DL on a contending team that will surely drop him from the rotation if he cannot get the job done. I am betting he will harness some of that great stuff he does have, and concentrate, and keep his gig. As we have seen just this past week with Frieri and Schierholtz, Ubaldo is indeed fighting for his job in a merciless industry. I am betting he will get it together.

Similarly, Kevin Correia now returns to the NL West, where he got his start, first as a Giant, then as a Padre. Correia was drafted by San Francisco in the fourth round of the 2002 June fete, and I got to see him pitch a lot during his early Major League career. The righty does give up hits (1498 over 1380.6 innings) but he is going from a poor team to a pennant race, and gets to spend the bulk of the final six weeks of the season pitching against the Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks and Rockies--offensively challenged all--and that should be helpful to a veteran hurler. He is worth a couple of bucks of crapshoot in an NL-only league if you need innings or are chasing wins.

Correia's departure allowed the Twins to advance Trevor May, whose first big league start I watched on Saturday. A fourth round pick in 2008, May has pitched well this year at Rochester, going 8-6, 2.93 over 95.3 innings. He was not convincing to watch on Saturday though, and while he has pitched well this year at Triple-A, May, now 24, put in two years at Double-A, going 19-22, 4.69 over 301.3 frames, with a 1.437 WHIP. Pass.

Back to how tough the game is, both Brooks Brown and Corey Brown are former first round picks.

Southpaw Brooks was drafted #1 out of the University of Georgia, Athens, in 2006 and has an unimpressive minor league line of 50-65, 4.29 over 237 games (129 starts) and 931.6 innings with just 671 strikeouts and a 1.418 WHIP.

Corey, the Athletics #1 in 2007, was subsequently swapped for Josh Willingham. Now 28, this Brown has had his shots at the Show, going .175-2-4 over 40 plate appearances. Not much to cling to there.

As if that was not enough, Steven Souza, Jr. was a third-rounder of the Nationals in 2007, and he slowly climbed the minor league ladder, starting 2014 at Triple-A Syracuse, where he ripped it up to the tune of a .354 average with 18 homers and 70 RBI over 91 games. He walked 48 times to 61 strikeouts (.435 OBP), stole 24 bags and logged a 1.036 OPS. 

So at 25, he is brought to the Majors and after 12 uneventful at-bats (.083-0-0), he made it to the DL today.

Like I said: It's a tough game.


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