Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 9/23

MDRlogobanner

With a week to go in the regular season, we feel we can do some reviews for the four MDR teams:

Brewers – The Brewers definitely had a rebuilding season, but won’t finish with as bad a record as many were predicting. In spring, they looked like a possible 100-loss team. Instead, they have played most of the season between 10-20 games under .500 (15 games under as of this writing).

Players like Jonathan Villar, Scooter Gennett, Chris Carter, Hernan Perez and Keon Broxton (before he was injured) showed they very well might have futures with Milwaukee, or at least some big league club. Orlando Arcia didn’t hit on a consistent basis after he was called up, but showed he is a major league shortstop in the field.

Ryan Braun had a good season. Jonathan Lucroy also performed well. Of course, Lucroy is gone. Braun could be over the off-season if you believe some of the national rumors.

The Brewers starting rotation had one of the best ERAs in baseball the last couple months. Zach Davies and Junior Guerra were the surprise standouts while Jimmy Nelson took a step back in his development and Wily Peralta spent part of the season in the minors.

Look for the Brewers to continue to make changes over the off-season and give some of their prospects a good look in the spring, as they hope to take another step in their rebuilding process.

Top Players – Ryan Braun and Jonathan Villar
Top Pitchers – Zach Davies and Junior Guerra

Cubs – The Cubs went into the season with high expectations and met, or even exceeded them. They might have fielded one of the most versatile and deep teams in several years.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo could either compete with each other, or share, the NL MVP honor. Addison Russell had an All Star season at shortstop, and drove in the most runs by a Cub at that position since Ernie Banks.

Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez and others showed they could play multiple positions. Willson Contreras came up and showed he can contribute at catcher and in the outfield. Veteran catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero provided depth behind the plate.

About the only disappointment at the plate was outfielder Jason Heyward, but he once again proved to be one of the best fielding outfielders in baseball.

Cy Young Award winning Jake Arrieta was only the third best pitcher on his team, behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. John Lackey and Jason Hammel were no slouches to finish out the rotation. The Cubs bullpen was solid, especially after Aroldis Chapman was added as the closer.

Joe Maddon was the maestro in putting it all together. Maddon should win his second NL Manager of the Year with the Cubs.

Of course, expectations remain high. Anything short of a World Series championship will probably be considered falling short.

Top Players – Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell
Top Pitchers – Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks

Twins – The Twins were the most disappointing of the four MDR teams. They were picked by many to be contenders after 2015, but got off to a bad start and flopped badly.

GM Terry Ryan left before the season was over. Paul Molitor looked like he could go from the Al Manager of the Year to being fired, but will probably survive.

Young players like Byung Ho Park, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton showed flashes of their talent, but overall fell short because of injuries and other factors. Joe Mauer ended up having a rather mediocre season.

The Twins pitching, thought to be improved, struggled. Injuries played a role in that.

Brian Dozier was a bright spot, reaching more than 40 homers and 100 RBI’s. Hitting for power, in fact, was one of the few overall bright spots for the Twins.

The Twins will have some tough decisions over the off-season on whether they stick with some of their young prospects, what they do with their pitching staff, etc. It will start with hiring a new GM. Several candidates have been rumored.

Top Player – Brian Dozier
Top Pitcher – Brandon Kintzler

White Sox

The White Sox didn’t flop as badly as the Twins, but after adding some firepower did fall well short of expectations.

Todd Frazier set a club record for homers by a third baseman. Jose Abreu has had another productive season. Adam Eaton also had a decent season.

But, otherwise the Sox had trouble mounting a consistent attack for much of the season. Injuries sidetracked Brett Lawrie. Decisions will have to be made on players like Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera and others.

Chris Sale and Jose Quintana had good seasons as starters, but both could be trade bait. Sale, especially, has clashed with Sox management ever since the Adam LaRoche controversy in spring training.

Robin Ventura’s job is probably on the line. An announcement could be made after the World Series.

Top Players – Todd Frazier, Jose Abreu
Top Pitchers – Chris Sale, Jose Quintana

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Chris Carter matched his career highs with his 37th homer and 88th RBI.

** The Brewers brought up catcher Josmil Pinto from Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Brewers claimed Pinto off waivers from the Padres this offseason after San Diego claimed him from the Twins organization.

** RHP Taylor Jungmann will start on Saturday.

Cubs

** The Cubs are three shy of their first 100-win season since 1935 and have a magic number of 2 to clinch home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series.

** Lefty reliever Jack Leathersich will forgo minor league free agency and re-up with the Cubs on a minors pact for the 2017 season.

** The Cubs are aware of, but not particularly concerned over, a decline in Jake Arrieta’s fastball velocity (and recent predilection for surrendering long balls), ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes.

Twins

** After visiting back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins in Southern California on Monday, Twins reliever Trevor May was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back.

** ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter) that while Mets assistant GM John Ricco has recently been linked to the Twins’ GM job, Ricco is no longer in the running at this point.

** Twins rookie right fielder Max Kepler left Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers in the eighth inning with a mild neck strain. He’s day to day and will be evaluated further on Friday.

White Sox

** LHP Chris Sale was among the frontrunners for the AL Cy Young Award, but was roughed up in his second shortest outing of the season.

** After the White Sox dropped their 14th of 19 games against Kansas City this season, Jose Abreu credited the Royals’ “hunger” and “desire to win,” as being superior to the Sox’s intangibles.

** Adam Eaton hit his ninth triple of the season.

Players of the Week

For the second straight week, the Twins’ Brian Dozier gets the honor after hitting his 42nd homer, 40th as a second baseman, to set an AL record for homers by 2B.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Scooter Gennett, who hit .333 and set a career high with his 14th homer; the Cubs’ Miguel Montero, who has a three-hit game and has hit .372 since Aug. 20; and the Sox’s Todd Frazier, who hit .391 for the week with two homers and five RBIs.

What’s Ahead

We will enter the final week of the regular season on Sunday. The MDR Blog will look at the Cubs’ chances in the post-season and reveal its All Star team next weekend. The Blog will remain weekly until the Cubs’ post-season ends. It will then go monthly during the off-season and remain monthly next spring training and regular season.

##
You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
** https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 9/16

MDRlogobanner

The celebration was delayed by a loss to the Brewers, but the Cubs still clinched the NL Central late Thursday.

When the Cardinals lost to the Giants on the West Coast well after the Cubs-Brewers game, Chicago won its first division title since 2008.

The Cubs became the third earliest “clinchers” of a division title in NL history, and sixth earliest overall. With a 17-game lead going into Thursday, it really was a matter of when not if for the Cubs for weeks, if not months. Plus, everyone expected the Cubs to win this season.

“This year, before we even reported to spring training, there were all these expectations that kind of crept into the clubhouse,” said Cubs president Theo Epstein. “The guys handled it incredibly well, embraced the challenge, and didn’t back down from any situations.

“This year’s team has distinguished itself for every challenge thrown its way, including expectations.”

The Cubs are 93-53, 40 games above .500, with easily the best record in baseball. They are on pace to finish with 104 victories, their best mark since 1910. It would be the first time since 1935 that the Cubs entered post-season with 100 or more wins.

Chicago jumped out to a 25-6 record, and 8 ½ game division lead in April, and were never threatened the rest of the season.

As for not clinching with a win, manager Joe Maddon said, ““I can’t get upset about anything that happened.. We have much larger baseball fish to fry in our skillet.”

Maddon’s right about the Cubs’ fish fry, and now he faces the challenge of resting some of his regulars while still keeping the team sharp for post-season.

“It’s not navel-gazing time just yet,’’ Epstein said. “It all boils down to how you perform in October. We’re rightfully proud of the regular season we’ve had, and it’s meaningful, but it’s never time to look back after that. If you have a good enough regular season, it’s time to play for what really matters.”

For the Brewers, they were determined to not let their I-94 rivals clinch by beating them. The win was Milwaukee’s first at Wrigley Field this season.

“It was just a flat-out good ballgame,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of the 5-4 win. “Obviously with where they’re at, there was great energy in the park tonight, and I thought it was a game we were going to do everything we could to win. We answered that energy and we used that energy for us. We played a very good baseball game.”

The Brewers and Cubs will play three more times this weekend. On Friday afternoon, the Brewers will send Chase Anderson against the Cubs’ John Lackey.

Zach Davies will match up with Chicago’s Jake Arrieta on Saturday. Wily Peralta will square off against Kyle Hendricks on Sunday.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Counsell will share more details this weekend about the starting rotation and how it will shake out for the rest of the season. He said it could include a start for right-hander Taylor Jungmann, who was demoted to the Minors in late April and spent most of the season working his way back.

** Michael Blazek threw his second simulated game Thursday since being reinstated from the 15-day disabled list, but he will throw at least one more before a definitive plan is made to get him back in a game.

** Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that an off-season deal to send Ryan Braun to the Dodgers, perhaps for Yasiel Puig, is actually “likely.”

Cubs

** Although there were cheers from the bars around Wrigley Field as soon as the Giants-Cardinals game ended, the Cubs’ party will come after Friday’s game, scheduled for a 1:20 p.m. CT start time.

** Cubs players and executives will try to convince catcher David Ross not to retire after the season. Ross declared in November that this would likely be his final year.

** The Rangers have announced that they’ve claimed right-handed reliever R.J. Alvarez off waivers from the Cubs.

Twins

** The Twins view Indians assistant general manager Derek Falvey as a “strong candidate” for a front office job, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (links to Twitter).

** CF Byron Buxton was clocked in 10.83 seconds on his way to third base on a triple. That’s the third fastest time by a righthanded batter in baseball this season.

** OF Miguel Sano was scheduled for an exam on his ailing back.

White Sox

** RHP James Shields had one of his best games as a White Sox with eight strikeouts and one run in six innings. He had been 0-5 with a 10.75 ERA in his last eight starts.

** Jose Abreu homered after promising he would to 11-year-old Shane Callighan, who is fighting bone cancer.

** White Sox ace Chris Sale has already seen his name tossed around quite a bit in trade talks, and he figures to be an intriguing trade candidate this winter, but he told Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago that he hopes to stay in Chicago.

Player of the Week

Brian Dozier has been one bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Twins. He hit .370 with two homers and six RBIs for the week and could reach 40 homers and 100 RBIs for the season. That earns him the MDR Player of the Week.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Junior Guerra, who had another good outing to move to 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA; the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler, who hit .360 with two homers and three RBIs; and the Sox’s Jose Abreu, who did a Babe Ruth legendary move by hitting a homer after promising a sick kid he would do so.

What’s Ahead

For this weekend, there is the series between the Cubs and Brewers to finish up.

Next week, the MDR Blog will start to summarize the four teams’ regular seasons. The weekend of Oct. 1-2, the MDR All Star Team and a preview of the Cubs in the playoffs will be posted.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
** https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 9/3

MDRlogobanner

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 9/3

For the last time this season, Miller Park will be transformed into Wrigley Field North next week.

It starts on Labor Day, when the Cubs come to town. The series runs three-games, concluding on Wednesday.

Crowds might be smaller than summer crowds because kids are back in school. But, it undoubtedly will be solidly for the Cubs.

Why not? The Cubs have their best chance of going to a World Series in years, make that decades. The Brewers have fallen to almost 20 games under .500 and have shown the rebuilding process won’t be a quick one.

The Cubs moved to 40 games over .500 at 87-47 with a win on Friday night. Jon Lester went into the 7th inning with a no-hitter before giving up a solo homer to the Giants’ Hunter Pence.

“It’s pretty incredible,” manager Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ record. “I’ve always talked about increments of five, and I remember back when we were talking about just five. … There’s good energy on the field, there’s a strong belief that we’ll play a pretty good game. The defense and the pitching have really set the tone for the whole thing.”

Maddon could coast during the month of September, but he is more likely to rest some of the regulars while still trying to keep them sharp for the post-season.

The Brewers, meanwhile, are holding auditions for next season, as they try to determine whom among the current roster can be counted on. They also are likely to call up reinforcements once the Minor League season ends on Monday.

“I think really, September for us is a continuation of what we’ve been striving for the entire season,” GM David Stearns said. “Continue to create a positive culture and keep growing our core of young players. You’ve seen aspects of that through the season, and we’ve got five more weeks to progress toward that goal. These five weeks are as important as any others in the season.”

The Cubs acknowledge how much the fans at Wrigley Field help them, and appreciate when the faithful move north to Miller Park. “The thing that doesn’t get talked a lot about here is the atmosphere we play in front of every night,” catcher David Ross said. “It brings the best out of you as a player, especially when you get a little older like I am and get to play in front of 40,000 people every night, and they’re getting on their feet and the music and atmosphere is phenomenal.”

The MDR I-94 Rivalry does have one more series, Sept. 15-18, at Wrigley Field.

But, at Miller Park, Kyle Hendricks will face the Brewers’ Zach Davies on Monday. Jason Hammel will match up with Wily Peralta on Tuesday. Neither team had named their Wednesday starters as of Saturday morning.

Updated Notes

Brewers

** RHP Junior Guerra returned to the roster this weekend after a rehab assignment and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings Friday night.

** Before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, the Dodgers discussed a deal with the Brewers that would have sent outfielder Ryan Braun to Los Angeles, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The Brewers also won a waiver claim on the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, but no deal was struck.

** The Brewers activated reliever Jacob Barnes, as well as Guerra, on Friday night and called up pitcher Ben Rowen, who was claimed on waivers from Toronto in early August.

Cubs

** The Cubs recalled infielder/utility man Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Iowa and immediately put him into the starting lineup against the Pirates. It was La Stella’s first appearance in a game at the Major League level since the end of July, when he refused to report to the minors after he was optioned by the Cubs.

** On Thursday, the Cubs’ John Lackey threw his second bullpen session since going on the disabled list and is expected to start on Sunday in the series finale against the Giants. However, reliever Pedro Strop had a setback in his rehab from a torn meniscus in his left knee, and will need the full six weeks to rehab.

** The Cubs have cut ties with left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser. The 26-year-oldhad briefly reached the majors in each of the last two years, but he was having trouble at the Triple-A level with the Chicago organization, compiling a 4.55 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 over 27 2/3 innings.

Twins

** The Twins snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 8-5 win over the Sox on Thursday.

** Byron Buxton, the Twins’ center fielder who had homered in four straight games with Triple-A Rochester a week ago, made his presence felt immediately with a three-run homer in the second inning in his first Major League at-bat since Aug. 5.

** Danny Santana’s season is over, as the Twins utilityman has suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder and will require four to six weeks to recover from the injury, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

White Sox

** Todd Frazier set a Sox record for a third baseman with his 35th homer, eclipsing the mark of 34, set by his manager Robin Ventura.

** LHP Carlos Rodon won his third straight game Friday.

** Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reported that the Red Sox weren’t willing to include Jackie Bradley in a trade for either Chris Sale or Jose Quintana, and this morning, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports adds to that a bit. “If they didn’t get Jackie Bradley, there was no way they were doing the deal,” a person familiar with the talks told Heyman in reference to the White Sox.

Player of the Week

The White Sox’s Jose Abreu brought a streak of 29 games reaching base into the weekend. He hit .362 in August with eight homers and 18 RBIs, and had three hits, including a homer to start September. That earns him the MDR Player of the Week.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Chris Carter, who despite leading the league in strikeouts had a streak over 20 games of reaching base; the Cubs’ Jon Lester, who took a no-hitter in the 7th on Friday and won to improve to 15-4; and the Twins’ Byron Buxton, who returned to the big leagues with the big three-run homer mentioned above.

What’s Ahead

The White Sox and Twins will play out a series at Target Field this weekend. The Sox took the first game on Friday, 11-4. Of course, the Cubs and Brewers will start the series featured in the lede of this blog on Monday.

The September call-ups will start coming to the MDR teams after the minor league season ends.

The MDR Blog will not be published next week, as its writer takes a brief vacation. It will return Sept. 17 and continue weekly until MDR teams are no longer playing.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
** https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/26

MDRlogobanner

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/26

Keon Broxton looks like a centerfielder.

He’s tall (6-3), lean (195), can run like a deer and has a good glove. Now, it looks like he is proving that he could be the Brewers’ answer in center.

Broxton, who was acquired from Pittsburgh for Jason Rodgers over the winter, couldn’t break into the Pirates outfield, which already features tall, lean, fast outfielders like Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutcheon.

But, the Brewers acquired him and were waiting for one of several candidates to step up in center. Coming out of spring training, Broxton was sharing the spot with Ramon Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

“It’s been a friendly competition,” said the 26-year-old Broxton. “I think all the outfielders, we’re a family. We look after each other regardless of what position we’re playing or fighting for. We’re still out here trying to help each other. We’re human and we care about each other regardless of what’s going on out on the field, so it’s been very friendly. We’re also teammates. We all want to do the same thing, help this team win games.”

Broxton struggled in his first stint with the Brewers and was sent down. That started a season of ups and downs between the Brewers and the minors. But, this time it’s been different.

In 87 plate appearances since coming back up, Broxton was hitting .361/.465/.667 with five of his six home runs on the year, good for a 196 wRC+. That ranks him as the fifth-most productive hitter in baseball over the last 30 days (minimum 80 PA).

Broxton

told Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel that he came up with what has turned out to be a key mechanical change while laying in bed watching video: “I was wondering how I could get my hitch out of my swing, because it was making me late and I wasn’t really recognizing pitches very well. I was just thinking to myself, ‘Well, since I like my hands to go down and then I bring them back up again, why not just start them low and just bring them up?”

It’s worked and Broxton has been living up to his ability. Ability, especially athletic ability, consistently comes up when Broxton is discussed. He had so much of it in high school in Lakeland, Florida, that that he considered football and baseball.

“I thought about football,” Broxton said. “I love the game of baseball a little bit more than football. Baseball is a harder sport than football on a consistent basis. I think that’s something that drew me to baseball, how difficult it is.

“When you succeed in baseball, it becomes more of a bigger accomplishment because it’s hard, it’s a hard game. To see your work progress on a daily basis and you become better at your craft, it’s awesome. It’s something that drives me every day to become the best I can be.”

Along with Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez, Broxton has become one of the young Brewers — acquired from other teams — who could end up playing a longer term role for the rebuilding club.

The Brewers have Brett Phillips and others in the minors who could challenge for center, but right now Broxton looks like the best bet at a key position in the outfield.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** RHP Taylor Jungmann, who started the season in the starting rotation, could be among the September callups.

** Outfielder Ramon Flores has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Colorado Springs, according to an announcement from the Brewers.

** The Brewers are 36-30 at Miller Park vs. 20-41 elsewhere, representing baseball’s widest disparity between home and road results.

Cubs

** The Cubs have placed right-handers John Lackey and Hector Rondon on the disabled list for precautionary measures due to arm injuries, as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reported. The Cubs have the luxury of placing both pitchers on the DL to avoid risk of worsening their minor injuries and will recall left-hander Rob Zastryzny and right-hander Felix Pena from Triple-A Iowa.

** The farewell tour for 39-year-old David Ross, who is retiring after this season, will be in Los Angeles this weekend when the Cubs play the Dodgers in a three-game series, starting Friday. Ross was the Dodgers’ seventh-round pick in the 1998 Draft, and he made his Major League debut on June 29, 2002.

** Despite giving up two runs over six innings on Wednesday, RHP Kyle Hendricks still leads the Major Leagues with a 2.19 ERA.

Twins

** Prospect Jose Berrios was optioned to Triple-A Rochester along with fellow right-hander Tyler Duffey. Lefty Andrew Albers will be called up on Friday, while the other roster move is to be announced.

** The Twins have promoted left-handed pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia from Triple-A Rochester, optioned first baseman Kennys Vargas and signed right-handed reliever Edward Mujica to a minor league deal, per a team announcement.

** Twins designated hitter Byung Ho Park will undergo season-ending surgery on his right wrist, the team announced to reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link). The operation will repair a subluxation of the tendon on the back of Park’s right hand, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

White Sox

** GM Rick Hahn vehemently denied that there is any discord in the Chicago front office, as has been suggested, saying that the members of the organization’s upper management “are of a similar mindset as to how best to proceed.”

** LHP Carlos Rodon averaged 95.6 mph with his two-seam fastball and 95.7 with his four-seamer, reaching 98 mph with both, in a win this week.

** RHP James Shields cleared waivers and now could be traded by the Sox.

Players of the Week

The Cubs’ Kris Bryant hit .484 in the last seven games, with five homers and 13 RBIs. That qualifies him for the MDR Player of the Week honor.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week include: the Brewers’ Jonathan Villar, who hit .345 with a home and six stolen bases; the Twins’ Brian Dozier, who hit .333 with four homers and four RBIs; and the Sox’s Jose Abreu, who hit ,400 with three homers and five RBIs.

What’s Ahead

Before the season started, the Sox series with the Twins at Target Field looked like it could be a big one in the AL Central. Instead, it will be a series with two disappointing teams with losing records. It starts next Thursday.

The Cubs have a commanding lead in the NL Central, but a series against intra-division rivals, the Pirates, still is worth mentioning.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
**
https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
**
http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
**
http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/19

MDRlogobanner

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/19

The Cubs demonstrated their dominance and showed how many ways they can beat you in a sweep of the Brewers this week.

First, spot starter Trevor Cahill pitched five scoreless innings and the bullpen took it from there in a 4-0 win in the first game of a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Then, Jason Hammel continued the pitching dominance in a 4-1 win in the nightcap.

Jon Lester again gave up only one run in a 6-1 win on Wednesday. Jorge Soler and David Ross homered for the Cubs.

When the pitching faltered somewhat on Thursday, Kris Bryant, who along with Anthony Rizzo might be the leading candidate for NL MVP, had five hits, including his 29th and 30th homers, and drove in five runs in a 9-6 win to complete the sweep.

You can argue that the Brewers are sliding, and lost starter Chase Anderson and leftfielder Ryan Braun, to injuries in the series. But, the Cubs have been playing dominant baseball against everybody since the All Star break. Chicago has won 24 of the last 32 games since the All-Star break.

“”It’s a difficult lineup on a tough day to pitch,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said of the Cubs. “They did a good job all series. It’s a good lineup.”

That good lineup extends to the pitching staff. Jake Arrieta, Lester, Hammel, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks form what is probably the most solid starting rotation in baseball. Add Travis Wood and Cahill when needed.

The bullpen, especially with the addition of Aroldis Chapman, also has become solid, despite some injuries to Joe Smith and Pedro Strop in recent weeks.

Manager Joe Maddon has such depth that he can go with completely different outfields and catchers in successive games. Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez, Matt Szcur, Willson Contreras, Bryant and others are very versatile.

About the only slouch this season has been free agent Jason Heyward, but Maddon is sticking with him.

“We’ll continue to work through all these moments,” Maddon said. “I do believe there’s going to be a tremendous reward at the end of all this, for him and for us. I know it’s difficult, outside looking in, but our record’s pretty good and he’s been on the field for most of those games. He’s a winner. He’s an absolute winner.”

Of course, the key for the Cubs is to not exhaust it all in the regular season. They already have a huge lead in the NL Central, so Maddon might start resting some regulars so the club has their best left for the post-season.

This isn’t about just having the best regular season record in baseball. This is about finally breaking the Billy Goat jinx and the World Series.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Ryan Braun is day-to-day with a sprained knee and ankle after crashing into an outfield wall at Wrigley Field.

** Left-hander Brent Suter, a 31st-round Draft pick in 2012, will make his Major League debut Friday, becoming the first southpaw to start a game for Milwaukee in nearly three years.

** The Brewers have lost 24 of their last 32 road games. They are 0-6 at Wrigley this season.

Cubs

** Kris Bryant became the fifth Cubs in history to reach 30 homers at age 24 or younger. The others are Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Anthony Rizzo and Ron Santo.

** Joe Maddon on the MVP competition between Bryant and Rizzo: “Maybe ‘Bryzzo’ could be named MVP.”

** Tommy La Stella ended his holdout and reported to the minors.

Twins

** Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki cleared revocable trade waivers and is free to be traded to any team, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter).

** Twins third baseman Miguel Sano’s MRI on his right elbow came back clean today, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 23-year-old slugger has been playing through some soreness in his elbow that has impacted his throwing in recent weeks.

** Twins left-hander Andrew Albers has cleared waivers after his Friday designation for assignment and been optioned to Triple-A Rochester, per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link).

White Sox

** Todd Frazier hopes to stay with the White Sox even if the team undergoes a rebuild, as Frazier tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin that he would embrace the role as veteran leader of a younger clubhouse.

** Robin Ventura wants to return as the White Sox manager in 2017, though he tells Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times that “you have to have somebody ask you to do it and all that. That’s stuff that happens after the season is over, if you get there.”

** The Sox play their next nine games at home.

Player of the Week

Kris Bryant’s big day and overall good series against the Brewers makes him a no-brainer for MDR Player of the Week. In case you missed it above, he had five hits and five RBIs and reached 30 homers, all on Thursday.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Keon Broxton, who hit .316 in six games; the Twins’ Brian Dozier, who hit .346 with four homers and seven RBIs in seven games: the Sox’s Adam Eaton, who hit .417 with two homers and six RBIs in six games.

What’s Ahead

The Cubs will try to keep their hot play going when they travel to Colorado this weekend. Kyle Hendricks, who has been on a hot streak himself, will open the series.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
** https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

 

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/13

MDRlogobanner

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/13

Two former Brewers and MDR stars made news with sad stories this week. Even though, they are no longer MDR players, their stories are worth leading with for this week’s blog.

Slugger Prince Fielder announced he cannot play anymore because of a second neck injury in three years. Centerfielder Carlos Gomez, a fan favorite in Milwaukee, was designated for assignment by the Astros.

At a Rangers’ press conference Wednesday,

Fielder announced that he will not be able to resume his career after undergoing neck fusion surgery in late July.

“I can’t play Major League Baseball anymore,” said Fielder, who was placed on the DL last month with a herniated disk in his neck before having surgery. It was the second season in the last three he has had season-ending neck surgery, also having undergone fusion surgery in 2014.

Gomez’s designation represents a fall from grace for the 30-year-old, whom Houston acquired from Milwaukee last July in a blockbuster deadline deal that also saw right-hander

Mike Fiers join the Astros in exchange for four prospects.

Gomez’s career began going down hill after the Astros acquired him. He hit a meager .242/.288/.383 in 41 contests down the stretch in 2015. But that line looks appealing compared to the .210/.272/.322 Gomez has compiled this season in 323 trips to the plate.

“It’s not a secret that I’m not doing my job and I’m really disappointed in myself,” Gomez admitted to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (Twitter link).“I still have a long career. I wish the best to this organization, this team.”
A couple points about both moves: First, this writer and others more or less called them. When Fielder was first drafted and came up to the majors, you could see by his body type and how hard he swung that he likely would not have a long career.

The Brewers caught some flack when they allowed him to sign as a free agent with Detroit, but one team insider told me Fielder already had a body of a veteran player beyond his age and that the club had concerns about a long term contract.

Fielder is 32 and under contract through 2020 at $24MM per year. Given that Fielder is medically unable to play and not technically retiring, the Rangers will still owe him $9MM per season through 2020, with $6MM annually coming from the Tigers (as per the terms of the trade that brought Fielder to Texas) and $9MM coming via insurance payments due to Fielder’s inability to play. Those figures could be on the Brewers’ budget if they had re-signed him.

Just as an aside, Fielder lasted just about as long as his father, Cecil, with whom he was estranged at one time. They both had 319 lifetime homers.

Gomez’s trade also caused some flack, since he was a fan favorite. But, he too had started to suffer some nagging injuries because of his reckless style of play. He also struggled in the big leagues until he got to Milwaukee.

Once there, former coach Dale Sveum and others worked with Gomez. The fans also embraced him, and he took off. In a different, less nurturing environment, the chances of Gomez not enjoying the same kind of success were rather high.

Gomez has said he would like to end his career in Milwaukee. The Brewers did not rule that possibility out, but would be foolish to bring him back unless they could get him for a song.

Fielder and Gomez will always be part of Brewers’ history. Their stories this week are sad ones. But, the Brewers are better off having parted with them when they did.

Updates Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** The Brewers became just the 19th team since 1900 to plate at least one run in every inning on Thursday against the Braves

** Catcher Manny Pina hit his first big league homer Friday.

** The Brewers have announced that lefty Wei-Chung Wang is moving from Double-A Biloxi to Triple-A Colorado Springs and RHP Devin Williams is heading from Class A Wisconsin to Class A+ Brevard County.

Cubs

** The Cubs won their 11th straight Friday, hitting five homers in the process. It’s the first time the Cubs have won 11 in a row since a 12-game streak in 2001.

** Cubs reliever Pedro Strop has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus, the club announced (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Twitter links). He’ll undergo surgery, with the expectation that he could be back within four to six weeks.

** Tommy La Stella remained on the temporarily inactive list after refusing to report to Triple A Iowa.

Twins

** The Twins have designated lefty Andrew Albers for assignment, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press was among those to tweet.

** The Twins demoted Byron Buxton to Triple-A, the fourth time the heralded prospect has been sent back to the minors since his initial call-up in June 2015.

** Twins right-hander Phil Hughes hopes to begin throwing again in three to four weeks after undergoing surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome earlier this summer.

White Sox

** Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was put on the disabled list Friday with a right groin strain and right-handed reliever Chris Beck was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte.

** Over 11 innings covering 11 appearances entering Thursday, closer David Robertson had yielded nine runs on 11 hits and five walks.

** During an appearance on WSCR Radio’s “Inside The Clubhouse” show (hat tip to CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine), White Sox GM Rick Hahn said that discussions with manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff about their futures with the team will wait until the end of the season.

Players of the Week

The Cubs’ Jorge Soler continued his comeback from the DL by hitting .471 with two homers in five games. That earns him the MDR Player of the Week honor.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Keon Broxton, who hit .471 in five games; the Twins’ Jorge Polanco, who his .357 in seven games; and the White Sox’s Adam Eaton, who had four hits on Friday and hit .333 for the week.

What’s Ahead

The Cubs will try to stretch their winning streak even farther against the Cardinals this weekend at Wrigley Field. They then host the Brewers next week.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
**
https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
**
http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
**
http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/5

MDRlogobanner

Brewers’ fans knew they were going to have to endure during a rebuilding effort. This week, they got a sign that their patience might eventually be rewarded.

The franchise’s minor league system improved from ninth in a pre-season poll to first in a mid-season poll of MLB Pipeline, an online service that covers the minors for MLB.com.

MLB.com’s Jim Callis wrote: “Thanks to a strong draft and a commitment to rebuilding, the Brewers improved their farm system more than any other organization did from the beginning to the end of 2015. First-year general manager David Stearns has continued to build for tomorrow throughout 2016, including a pair of dazzling deals at Monday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.”

The deals at the trade deadline included sending Will Smith to the Giants for hard-throwing right-hander Phil Bickford (No. 65 on MLBPipeline.com‘s recently revamped Top 100 Prospects list) and young big leaguer Andrew Susac. The Brewers also shipped Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers for five-tool center fielder Lewis Brinson (No. 21), precocious righty Luis Ortiz (No. 63) and a player to be named.

Some observers believe the Brewers didn’t get enough for Lucroy and Jeffress, but of course that will be determined later.

Callis continued: “The additions of Bickford, Brinson and Ortiz, all former first-round picks, pushed Milwaukee’s system from good to the best in baseball. Only the Astros can match the Brewers’ total of eight Top 100 Prospects: shortstop Orlando Arcia (No. 13), Brinson, outfielder Corey Ray (No. 35), left-hander Josh Hader (No. 43), Ortiz, Bickford and outfielders Trent Clark (No. 74) and Brett Phillips (No. 76). They have a nice balance of hitting and pitching talent, as well as depth at the top and bottom levels of the minors.”

Arcia was called up during the week and inserted at shortstop, with Jonathan Villar moving to third base.

Callis also wrote: “The Brewers, whose system placed ninth in MLBPipeline’s preseason rankings, have amassed this talent in a variety of ways. Arcia is a product of a revitalized international program that also has landed youngsters such as shortstop Gilbert Lara and right-hander Miguel Diaz. Ray was the fifth overall pick this year in the Draft, an avenue that also has produced Clark, righty Cody Ponce and lefty Kodi Medeiros.”

In his analysis, Callis praised former GM Doug Melvin for starting the rebuilding process last season, as well as giving Stearns credit. He also acknowledged it could be a while before the revitalized farm system leads to winning at the big league level.

“The rebuilding process is far from over in Milwaukee, which will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year, but there’s definite cause to be optimistic about the future,” Callis wrote.

The Yankees and Astros ranked second and third in the ranking. No other MDR teams’ farm system ranked in the Top 10.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Jonathan Lucroy on being traded: “Afterward I felt a little sad, a little excited. Honestly, I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was thinking about my wife, Sarah, and our young daughter, Ellia. If I got traded, how would it impact them? How would we get our stuff to our new city? They’d be by themselves, sorting things out, and I wouldn’t be there to help. But I had to keep going like nothing was going to change in our lives.”

** The three earned runs allowed by Junior Guerra in the first inning of Wednesday’s 12-3 loss were one shy of the total Guerra had allowed in the first innings of his first 16 starts. The loss was just his second since the start of June.

** The Blue Jays announced that right-hander Ben Rowen, who was designated for assignment by Toronto following Monday’s acquisitions of Francisco Liriano and Scott Feldman, has been claimed off waivers by the Brewers. He’ll head to Triple-A, according to an announcement from the Brewers.

Cubs

** Addison Russell has moved to second on the Cubs in batting with runners in scoring position (.261) behind Anthony Rizzo.

** The current trip is the Cubs’ first to the West Coast since they played the Giants from May 20-22. They’ve been enjoying home cooking since the All-Star break, and they boast the best home record in the National League (37-17).

** RHP Jason Hammel was placed on the bereavement list. Justin Grimm was called up to take his roster spot.

Twins

** Minnesota left-hander Hector Santiago took the loss Thursday in his debut with his new team, allowing four runs on five hits.

** Struggling Miguel Sano could be sent to the minors to work on his swing.

** Long-time Little League® supporter, Torii Hunter, will soon be honored with enshrinement into the Little League Hall of Excellence. Hunter, who played in the National Little League in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, during the 1980’s, will be honored in an on-field ceremony prior to the 7:30 pm game of the 2016 Little League Baseball® World Series on Wednesday, August 24.

White Sox

** LHP Chris Sale recorded his 32nd career game with 10 or more strikeouts (first since 9/1/15 at Minnesota), extending his franchise record over Ed Walsh (17)

** Newly acquired outfielder Charlie Tilson suffered a season-ending hamstring injury.

** Rookie shortstop Tim Anderson is day-to-day with a hand injury.

Player of the Week

The Twins’ Brian Dozier hit five home runs in five games and took a 13-game hitting streak into the weekend to earn the MDR Player of the Week honor.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included the Brewers’ Manny Pina, who went 2-for-5 in his debut at catcher; the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist, who hit ,389 in five games: and the White Sox’s Melky Cabrera, who hit .357 in six games.

What’s Ahead

Some featured series are:

The Brewers play the D-Backs, who they beat three of four in Milwaukee, in Phoenix this weekend before returning home to host the Braves.

The Cubs play two AL teams, the Athletics and Angels, before hosting their arch-rivals, the Cardinals next week.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
** https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 8/1

MDRlogobanner

All four MDR teams pulled off trades before the deadline Monday.

The most impact, at least short term, will be felt from the Cubs’ acquisition of Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees, which actually happened about a week before the deadline. The flame thrower strengthens the back of the bullpen, which continues to also have Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon.

Closer to the deadline, the Cubs acquired reliever Joe Smith from the Angels. The Halos will receive minor league pitcher Jesus Castillo from the Cubs.

The deals make the Cubs’ bullpen very strong from the sixth inning on. That should be valuable as the club moves to win the NL Central title and go deep into the post-season.

On the other side of Chicago, there was rampant rumors about trades of LHPs Chris Sale and Jose Quintana and reliever David Robertson, but no deals involving the three had been announced at the trade deadline. Discussions with the Red Sox and others continued right up to the deadline, according to reports.

Sale has acted like a player who would like to be traded since spring training when he protested management’s treatment of Adam La Roche, who retired after a disagreement about having his son in the clubhouse. Sale was suspended for five days last week after he tore up some retro uniforms the Sox were supposed to wear.

The Sox did send left-handed reliever Zach Duke to St. Louis in exchange for outfielder Charlie Tilson,

The Brewers were sellers, sending Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers for top prospects Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz and a player to be named later.

Lucroy actually was traded to the Indians a day earlier, but vetoed that deal because Cleveland was on his no-trade list. Lucroy wanted the Indians to waive an option for 2017 and allow him to go free agent after this season, but the club refused.

The Brewers also sent left-hander Will Smith to the Giants for a top pitching prospect and a young catcher in a Trade Deadline deal that re-emphasized the high demand for relievers.

Milwaukee gets 21-year-old right-hander Phil Bickford, who was No. 1 on MLBPipeline.com‘s list of the Giants’ Top 30 Prospects and No. 65 among the Top 100 Prospects in the game, plus 26-year-old catcher Andrew Susac, a former top prospect who was blocked in San Francisco by Buster Posey.

The Twins announced that they’ve picked up left-hander Hector Santiago and minor league RHP Alan Busenitz from the Angels in exchange for Ricky Nolasco and minor league righty Alex Meyer.

Steve Adams wrote in www.mlbtraderumors.com: “The move is certainly a curious one for both clubs, as neither would’ve been pegged to add starter that is only controllable through the 2017 season. However, the Twins’ signing of Nolasco has been a bust, and they’ll now swap him out for a starter that has had considerably more success in recent seasons. Minnesota will come away with the superior big league arm in this deal — a positive if the team intends to contend in 2017, as they’ve previously indicated.”

The Twins sent reliever Fernando Abad to the Red Sox for relief prospect Pat Light earlier on Monday.

Trades can still be made up to Sept. 1, but players now must clear waivers before a deal can be made.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.nlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** It’s not clear who will emerge as the closer now that Jeffress and Smith have been traded.

** Keon Broxton will get extended playing time in center as the Brewers try to figure out what they have in the young outfielder.

** The Brewers are 64-17 against Pittsburgh at Miller Park since 2007. Sunday’s win stretched the Crew’s home winning streak over the Bucs to nine games.

Cubs

** The Cubs have reinforcements coming in Trevor Cahill and Jorge Soler, who are both rehabbing in the Minor Leagues. Cahill (patellar tendinitis in right knee) was starting for Triple-A Iowa, while Soler (left hamstring strain) was playing for Double-A Tennessee.
The Cubs recently optioned infielder Tommy La Stella and right-handed reliever Justin Grimm to Iowa to open roster spots

** Travis Wood pitched well and made a great catch in left field in the Cubs 12th inning win over the Mariners on Sunday night.

** On Monday, Ichiro Suzuki arrives at Wrigley Field for the start of a three-game series between the Cubs and Marlins. Suzuki is two hits shy of 3,000. The only player to collect his 3,000th hit at Wrigley was Stan Musial, who did so on May 13, 1958, with a pinch-hit double off Moe Drabowsky in the sixth inning.

Twins

** Right-hander Jose Berrios, the No. 1 prospect in the Twins’ organization, received his long-awaited recall to the Major Leagues on Saturday night and will make his fifth MLB start on Monday night against the Indians.

** Twins center fielder Byron Buxton exited in the second inning of Sunday’s 6-4 win over the White Sox with right knee soreness and is considered day to day. He will not travel with the team to Cleveland and will undergo an MRI in Minnesota.

** After playing 11 years with the Twins, earning four All-Star nods and being named the 2006 American League MVP along the way, Justin Morneau returned to Target Field on Friday as a member of the rival White Sox, starting at designated hitter and batting fifth against his former team.

White Sox

** The Sox went 3-4 against two MDR rivals during last week. They split with the Cubs, winning 5-4 and 3-0, and losing 8-1 and 3-1. Over the weekend, the Sox lost two of three against the Twins, losing 2-1, winning 6-5 and losing 6-4 Sunday..

** RHP James Shields got off to a brutal start when he came over to the Sox in a trade with the Padres, but he has turned in six straight quality starts and is 3-3 with a 1.71 ERA during that stretch.

** Radio announced Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, who cut back on his schedule this season, said he will return in 2017.

Player of the Week

The Cubs’ Travis Wood earned the MDR honor for his versatility in the afore-mentioned 12 inning game against the Mariners. Wood pitched, then went to left in a double switch, made a spectacular catch up against the ivy that was shown on every highlight film and then went back to pitch. Not a bad day’s work.

Other MDR teams Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Scooter Gennett, who hit .440 in his last seven games; the Twins’ Brian Dozier, who hit .385 in six games and had two homers; the White Sox’s Melky Cabrera, who hit .444 in seven games.

What’s Ahead

The Cubs continue their homestand at Wrigley Field against the Miami. It will be interesting to see how Joe Maddon configures his bullpen and uses Jorge Soler, when he returns from the DL.

Again, deals can still be made if players clear waivers. So, you could still see some from MDR teams.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
** https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 7/21

MDRlogobanner

Coming off series wins against contenders Texas and the Mets, the Cubs will travel north this weekend to Miller Park and try to avoid stumbling against their MDR rivals, the Brewers,

Milwaukee is well below .500 coming into the series. The Cubs are 57-37 and fighting for the best record in baseball.

But, the Brewers have extra incentive because of the I-94 rivalry. Any win against the Cubs gives the Brewers credibility and shows they can compete against the best teams, as they try to rebuild.

The Cubs cooled off some before the All Star break, but the series wins against the Rangers and Mets seem to have re-established them as one of the top 3-4 teams in baseball.

They hope to stay among the elite, especially as they get reinforcements with players coming off the DL and via other sources.

The series comes one weekend before the July 31 trade without waivers deadline. Rumors circulate around both teams. The Cubs are considered buyers and, in fact, made a deal on Wednesday.

LHP Mike Montgomery came from Seattle to bolster the bullpen. See details of trade in the Updated Notes section of this blog.

Before that deal, the Cubs had been rumored to be pursuing the Yankees’ Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. It’s not clear whether getting Montgomery means the Cubs have given up on acquiring either of those pitchers.

The Brewers’ main trade rumor has been catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Several teams have reportedly been interested in him since last winter. The Indians are the latest and hottest rumor.

LHP Will Smith also has been mentioned in rumors involving the Indians and other teams.

Jason Hammel will face the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson on Friday. John Lackey and Milwaukee’s Zach Davies match up on Saturday. Jon Lester and Junior Guerra will face each other in the series finale on Sunday.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from

www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** The Brewers’ win on Wednesday marked the 100th time they have beaten the Pirates since 2007.

** Lucroy is hitting .338 with 31 RBI over his last 42 games

** The Brewers and 620 WTMJ extended their radio contract.

Cubs

** In the deal for Montgomery, the Cubs also received minor league right-hander Jordan Pries from the Mariners. In exchange, the Cubs are sending Triple-A first baseman Dan Vogelbach and Double-A right-hander Paul Blackburn to Seattle.

** Montgomery, plus Dexter Fowler and reliever Joe Nathan, could join the Cubs by this weekend.

** With the Cubs looking at any number of possible means of upgrading at the deadline, GM Jed Hoyer says to “expect the unexpected,” as Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com writes.

Twins

** The Twins announced to the media that right-hander Neil Ramirez has been outrighted to Triple-A Rochester (Twitter link via Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Left-hander Buddy Boshers has been recalled in his place, giving the Twins a third lefty alongside Taylor Rogers and Fernando Abad.

** The Twins are receiving the most trade interest in shortstop Eduardo Nunez, catcher Kurt Suzuki, right-hander Brandon Kintzler and Abad,

** Twins upper management told Terry Ryan a month ago that he wouldn’t be retained beyond the present season, and allowed him to choose his own method of departure, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN reports (links to Twitter).

White Sox

**GM Rick Hahn acknowledged that his club will not be pursuing short-term upgrades to the MLB roster, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago was among those to tweet. He added that the Sox will be willing to consider all other transactions.

** The Rangers have acquired minor league righty Scott Carroll from the White Sox in exchange for cash considerations, according to an announcement from both clubs.

** The Sox are getting quite a few calls on outfielder Adam Eaton,

 

Player of the Week

After striking out four times in a game for the first time in his career, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo hit two homers and drove in three runs on Wednesday. He has now hit in 37 of his last 44 games and has 13 homers and 36 RBIs in that stretch. That makes him the MDR Player of the Week.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Lucroy, who continues to excel at the plate and behind it amidst all the trade talk; the Twins’ Max Kepler, who hit his 10th homer of the season in a clutch situation; the White Sox’s Jose Quintana, who stranded the go-ahead runner in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings until the White Sox eventually broke out for a 6-1 victory over Seattle to snap a five-game losing streak.

What’s Ahead

After playing at Miller Park this weekend, the Cubs will return home to Wrigley Field to host the Sox next week in another MDR Rivalry series.

The next meeting of the Ken Keltner Badger State Chapter of SABR will take place on Saturday, July 23, at J&B’s Blue Ribbon Pub located at 5230 West Bluemound Road. The featured speaker will be Brewers radio announcer, Jeff Levering.

Next week’s MDR Blog actually won’t run until Aug. to include any deals that are made before the trade deadline by MDR teams.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page:

** https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midwest-Diamond-Report/156235634532321
**
https://www.facebook.com/gregg.hoffmann.3
**
http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
**
http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog

Midwest Diamond Report Blog – 7/16

MDRlogobanner
Jonathan Lucroy has heard the trade rumors for months.
At one point during the off-season, the Brewers’ catcher even told the Journal Sentinel that he thought a trade might be a good idea for the team and him.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to compete for the playoffs this year,” Lucroy told the newspaper in a telephone interview. “If I did that, you’d call me a liar. I’d lose credibility and respect. I want to win, and I don’t see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That’s what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy.”
But, as of this writing, Lucroy was still with the Brewers, and playing very well, behind and at the plate. He was the team’s All Star selection and singled in the ASG. He has made it clear he will play hard for the club as long as he is in Milwaukee.
“I want to compete. I want to win,” Lucroy said. “That’s all I was saying. I am committed to playing the best baseball I can, whether I’m here or elsewhere. If I can help the Brewers win, I am ready to do so. That’s all I really have control over.”
Lucroy, also an All Star in 2014, has been more committed to coming back from an injury-riddled season in 2015, and has managed to do so. He got off to a bad start at the plate last season before fracturing the big toe on his left foot in late April. He returned before the end of May and put up decent numbers before sustaining a concussion on Sept. 8 in Miami that kept him from catching the rest of the way.
“It was a frustrating year,” Lucroy admitted. “All I could do was work hard during the off-season to get in the best shape I could and be ready.”
He worked out with college friend Eugene Kwarteng, who played football at Lucroy’s alma mater, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and later in the Canadian Football League. Lucroy’s brother, David, who Milwaukee’s 20th-round Draft pick last June, also joined in.
The results have been evident. Lucroy has been consistent at the plate this season. In May, he hit nine home runs. In one series against the Reds in late May, Lucroy drove in nine runs.
Lucroy became the first Brewers player to drive in three runs in three straight games since Robin Yount in 1987 in that series.
Of course, Lucroy has batted fourth in many games this season, so he feels he should be driving in runs.
“It’s an approach thing, a mental approach,” Lucroy said. “Whenever my mental approach is correct and my mechanics are correct in my swing, I feel like I should do it more times than not. It’s a matter of pride. I take it personally when I don’t get a guy in with less than two outs.”
As this blog is being written, rumors are circulating that Lucroy could be traded to the Rangers, who reportedly were interested in him last winter. If a deal is made, look for an update to the Facebook version of this blog.
Updated Notes
(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)
Brewers
** LHP Will Smith also has been included in rumors about a deal with Texas and others.
** RHP Corey Knebel rejoined the team after a DL rehab and outfielder Domingo Santanta could be ready soon to go on a rehab. Michael Blazek was sent to the minors to make room for Knebel.
** The Brewers have announced that they’ve claimed righty reliever Rob Scahill from the Pirates and optioned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Cubs
** Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the his club will be flexible in the build-up to the deadline, as Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. “I don’t think its productive to pigeonhole yourself into thinking you have needs in just one specific role as the key to improving this club,” Epstein said.
** Cubs outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez is getting trade attention but the Cubs aren’t eager to part with the talented 19-year-old, CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan tweets.
** The Cubs have been heavily connected to bullpen trade rumors, though they could potentially receive help from within if veteran Joe Nathan is able to regain any of his old form, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney writes.
Twins
** The last-place Twins, who have the worst record in the American League, have had surprising success against the Indians and Texas Rangers, the two best teams in the AL. They are the only team to have a winning record against the Indians, despite a loss Friday.
** Longtime center fielder Torii Hunter will be inducted into the Twins’ Hall of Fame in a pregame ceremony. The five-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove Award winner retired after the 2015 season, spending 12 of his 19 Major League seasons in Minneapolis.
** RHP Tyler Duffey went 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last three starts before the All-Star break
White Sox
** The White Sox have activated first baseman/designated hitter Justin Morneau from the disabled list and optioned outfielder Jason Coats to Triple-A in a corresponding move.
** The Sox are promoting right-hander Carson Fulmer to work out of their bullpen, according to Dave Williams of Barstool Sports (links to Twitter).
** Right-hander Scott Carroll has been outrighted off the White Sox’ 40-man roster, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link).
Player of the Week
Give the honor to Lucroy, who had a hit in the All Star Game and a key RBI on Friday night as the regular schedule resumed. It might be the last time he can get the honor if he is traded.
Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, who hit over .600 in the short week of action and started at first base for the NL in the All Star Game; the Twins’ Brian Dozier, who represented the Twins in the ASG and homered Friday night; the White Sox’s RHP Miguel Gonzales, who pitched six solid innings on Friday night.
What’s Ahead
The Mets and Cubs will play the highlight series for the week ahead. Also, look for the trade rumor mill to heat up as the July 31 date comes closer.
The next meeting of the Ken Keltner Badger State Chapter of SABR will take place on Saturday, July 23, at J&B’s Blue Ribbon Pub located at 5230 West Bluemound Road. The featured speaker will be Brewers radio announcer, Jeff Levering.
There will be two research presentations: Tom Rathkamp’s is titled; “Happy Felsch: Banished Black Sox Center Fielder.” Tom also has a book with the same title. Dennis Degenhardt’s presentation is; “When Chicago Came to Milwaukee in the ’60’s.”
##
You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below. Updates to the Blog are periodically made on the blog’s Facebook page: