Sunday Sundries: Milwaukee Brewers Week 10 In Review

A 4-2 week combined with a slumping Cubs’ (swept by the Cards) squad has your Milwaukee Brewers back on top of the uber-competetive NL Central by 1.5 games. As it should be. It wasn’t a clean week. 39 runs scored is nice, but they allowed 35. Jhoulys Chacin was shelled and is now on the IL. Brandon Woodruff was unable to protect a 5-0 lead in the 3rd inning. The Crew committed 7 errors on the week, with 3 by Keston Hiura and 2 catcher’s interference calls on the recently-returned Manny Pina. But clean or not, it was 4-2 on the road against a very good Twins team and recent nemesis Pittsburgh. Good enough.

Some interesting notes — the Brewers lead the NL with 105 homers. That projects to 283 dingers on the season, which would be a major league record. Except that the Twins will probably hit 300. That’s just crazy. Oh yeah — wins aren’t a good stat for evaluating pitchers, but the Zach and Woody show is now 13-1. Just think if Jimmy Nelson can round into form — that would be a nice three-man rotation in the playoffs.TOP HITTING STORY: Orlando Arcia is maintaining his new-found successful approach at the plate, and it seems possible that we may be seeing a solid hitting, good fielding shortstop in Milwaukee for the next decade. Or not. Anyways, Lando slashed .348/.423/.783 – that’s an OPS of 1.206. His three home runs included his first two-homer game, and that included a 13th inning game-winner against the Bucs on Saturday. Arcia scored 8 times on the week and drove in 7. Nicely done.
Honorable Mention: Arcia’s keystone partner, Keston Hiura, looks like he might also be around for at least a decade…except for that new contract thing. He set up Arcia’s game winner by ripping a 9th inning, game tying two run shot off of Pirates’ closer Felipe Vazquez. Vazquez had converted 55 of 56 save opportunities going back to last year. Hiura also had 3 long balls on the week, and also drove in 7. His OPS was 1.090. I will be astounded if the Brewers elect to send him back to AAA to make room for Travis Shaw. That would be a travesty. A miscarriage of justice. Indefensible.BTW, Zach has tied the club record with six straight winning decisions to start the season.

Honorable Mention: When you give up 35 runs in 6 games, there aren’t a lot of shining moments. In a bullpen that is searching for some solid outings, Matt Albers is starting to settle in and look like the guy that excelled in the pen early last season, before he got hurt. Albers worked three scoreless innings in two appearances, and allowed no hits. He did walk two, but there are times he won’t give in when he doesn’t have to. It would be a big help if he could be consistent.

IMHO: Speaking of the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel is going to sign with somebody this week. Probably. I mean, he kinda has to, right? Recent rumors have the Cubs with serious interest.

That would be unfortunate. The Brewers and Cubs could be within a few games of each other the rest of the season. You have to concede the NL’s best record to LA (probably), but Chicago and Milwaukee could very well come down to the last day once again, fighting for a division title vs. a wild card slot. And that difference could be huge.

New season, new approach for Marlins front office on draft day

MLB Draft day could not come any sooner for the Marlins front office. In what is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated and exciting draft years in franchise history, the Marlins are in a position to make a tremendous amount of noise with their 2019 picks. Boasting three top-50 picks compared to last year’s one (Connor Scott, 13th overall), the Marlins enter Monday with the 4th, 35th, and 46th overall picks as ammunition to stockpile elite amateur talent.

Not only is this a potential turning point for the direction of the franchise because of the abundance of early picks; the 2019 draft also represents the second phase of a massive Marlins rebuild. The organization’s farm system is being reinforced to set up a sustainable long-term product of success at the major league level.

Although most of the Marlins’ bonus pool for the 2018 draft was invested in position players, the team devoted the majority of its mid-to-late round picks to addressing pitching depth. After not taking a single pitcher with their first five picks, including their Competitive Balance B pick in which they took catcher Will Banfield, the Fish would ultimately draft 25 pitchers (five of those didn’t sign).

However, the draft wasn’t their only means of pitcher acquisition. With new ownership in place, the Marlins have acquired RHPs Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger from the Dee Gordon trade, RHPs Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen and LHP Daniel Castano for Marcell Ozuna, RHP Jorge Guzman for Giancarlo Stanton, RHP Jordan Yamamoto for Christian Yelich, and RHP Sixto Sánchez and LHP Will Stewart for J.T. RealmutoAmong their Top 30 prospects, MLB Pipeline includes 15 pitchers with Sánchez as their No. 1 overall prospect and a consensus Top 50 prospect in baseball. The hard-throwing right-hander is just 20 years old.In spite of all the recent high-profile moves, the Marlins were ranked 25th overall by Bleacher Report coming into the 2019 season with only two Top 100 prospects (Sánchez and OF Victor Victor Mesa, who was signed by Miami in October as the top international prospect on the market). On the other hand, Baseball America was far more bullish about the present talent, placing the Marlins 13th in their version of those rankings. Regardless, with talent and depth in pitching expansively covering all levels of the minor leagues, they are looking to make a splash in big ways at the draft, and their positioning in the draft renders them perfectly equipped to do so.

Heading into the 2019 draft, expect a shift towards impactful, talented, and championship-caliber position players. Currently, the Marlins do have some talented bats in the minors with Monte Harrison and Isan Díaz rising to stardom for Triple-A New Orleans, their big league debuts drawing ever closer. The Mesa brothers also figure to be focal points of the Marlins team of the future as well. Beyond that, though, the system is lacking in surefire MLB regulars.

Marlins executives have assured the public that they will draft the best overall player available on the draft when they get their turn to draft the 4th overall pick. Last month, President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill stated that “the biggest thing we’ve seen in the top part of the draft is there seems to be a lot more college bats available, and not as much college, right-handed pitching.”

To the Miami Marlins, ‘every pick is important’ in the 2019 MLB Draft

The Miami Marlins’ scouting department has traveled the country over the past year in preparation for this moment. Hundreds of high school seniors and college baseball players have been reviewed, graded and placed on a list.

All of their work will come down to these next three days.

The three-day 2019 MLB Draft begins at 7 p.m. Monday, and for a rebuilding Marlins organization, making the right selections in the wildly uncertain draft will be critical for them to get back to a competitive level with the rest of MLB.

The Marlins have the No. 4 overall pick and three of the top 46 picks overall — pick No. 35 in the first competitive balance round and pick No. 46 in the second round.

RAnd while success in the early portion of the draft is key, finding diamonds in the rough later on is just as valuable.

“It’s our expectation to reshape part of our organization,” Marlins amateur scouting director DJ Svihlik said. “Every draft is important. Every pick is important. Not just the first round. We want to win the whole thing. Expectations are high every year regardless of where we pick.”

Nevertheless, the Marlins are in a prime spot to pick up a quality player at No. 4. Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday and Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn are the top college position players likely to be available at No. 4 with Arizona State outfielder Hunter Bishop also an option if the Marlins want to take a player they could potentially sign for a lower signing bonus. Georgia-based shortstop CJ Abrams, Oviedo outfielder Riley Greene and Seattle-based outfielder Corbin Carroll are the likely contenders among prep players.

“Usually the guys you start talking about in any draft, the collegiate players that move toward the top of the draft, they’re usually guys that you consider to be pretty fast movers,” Svihilik said, “but that’s not to short change the high schoolers. You look at some of the best high school players in the game and they move just as fast a lot of times.”

From there, the Marlins plan to take a “best player available” approach for the remainder of the draft. Rounds 1 and 2 are on Monday, with Rounds 3-10 taking place on Tuesday and Rounds 11-40 closing out the draft on Wednesday.

“We put in a lot of thought, time and effort into it with the guys that are here. A lot of work. A lot of detail,” Marlins part owner and CEO Derek Jeter said. “When you talk about the draft, that’s your opportunity to infuse the organization with a lot of talent, so with a lot of these decisions, we have to make sure we get them right. There are mistakes along the way. Every organization makes mistakes, but you want to have as much information as possible to limit those mistakes.”

And with more than a year of work going into setting up this draft, the Marlins are hoping for more hits than misses.

“DJ and his staff have done a tremendous job and scouted the entire country,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “We have a pretty good idea of what we like, but as you know there are three clubs that pick in front of us. When our time is ready to select, we’ll be ready to add our next Marlin.”

 

Heroics from Hill, Freese secure Dodgers sweep

LOS ANGELES — On a team full of impressive young talent, it was a pair of veterans that led the way for the Dodgers on Sunday, one on the mound and one in the batter’s box.

Rich Hill was masterful in holding the Phillies scoreless for seven innings, and David Freese, who entered the game as defensive replacement in the fifth, homered and drove in a pair of runs in an 8-0, sweep-securing victory.

• Box score

Hill struck out nine Phillies batters while limiting them to six baserunners on three hits and three walks, two of which were intentional. He crossed the 100-pitch threshold for the second consecutive start with 103 (75 strikes). He also lowered his ERA on the season to 2.25.

“He was really good today,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And actually, I thought he was getting better as the game went on. The fastball continued to have that life that we like, and he was just on the attack all day. Kept those guys guessing, and just that feel of his breaking ball today and the fastball played really well.

“To see the consistency of his conviction every time he takes the mound, there’s a lot of confidence right now.”

Part of what made Hill so dominant on Sunday was a season-high 18 swinging strikes, repeatedly fooling batters with his fastball, which reached 90 mph or more multiple times. It’s the most swinging strikes for Hill in a single game since he was with Cleveland in 2013. Only two of Hill’s 61 fastballs thrown were put in play, and neither had an exit velocity of higher than 92.1 mph, according to Statcast. In his 15th Major League season, the 39-year-old seems to keep finding ways to impress.“You continue to keep working, keep yourself in shape and put the time in,” said Hill of the key to continued success. “Age is really not as big of a factor as everyone thinks it should be.”

Hill exited with the score knotted at zero, but that changed quickly as Freese led off the bottom of the seventh with his sixth home run of the season and second in as many games. Will Smith’s walk-off home run stole the show in Saturday’s 4-3 Dodgers victory, but Freese’s homer was important in setting up that opportunity.

“With David, the way he’s been able to swing the bat has been great,” said Hill. “His defense was tremendous [today] as well.”

Freese, 36, has been mostly relegated to a platoon player/bench role for the Dodgers this year, serving as the club’s primary first baseman against left-handed pitching. When Freese has been called upon, though, he’s gotten the job done. After Sunday’s game, he was batting .294/.423/.576 on the season, with a weighted runs created plus of 166. As a pinch-hitter, Freese is 6-for-14 with three doubles. He has shown commendable flexibility in filling in as needed, sometimes unexpectedly, as on Sunday when subbing in for Matt Beaty who left the game with mild left hip tightness.

“The staff, the Dodgers, they just put me in a really good position,” said Freese. “They understand my age and my body, and they just give you good opportunities to succeed. You can’t thank them enough for that, it’s great.”

Freese has provided the Dodgers with quality production ever since he came to L.A. via trade at the Aug. 31 waiver deadline last season. In 19 regular-season games for the Dodgers in 2018, he batted .385/.489/.641. His hot bat carried into the postseason, when he hit .364/.423/.773 with two homers and six RBIs across 14 games.

“The main thing is that he embraces his role,” Roberts said prior to Sunday’s game. “Every player probably wants more at-bats, but when you accept or embrace it, he’s got clarity, and when he’s called upon, he’s ready to perform.”

Among Dodgers players acquired at the age of 35 or older with a minimum of 60 games played, Freese’s 164 OPS+ with Los Angeles entering play Sunday is topped only by Manny Ramirez, who posted a 171 OPS+ in his age 36-38 seasons with the team. In the later stages of his career, Freese is happy to do what he can for his team.

“I’m 36, I’m about done,” said Freese. “I’m just here for the ride, I’m trying to help out.”

As if Freese’s bat wasn’t enough, he also made a nice play to snag a line drive and rob Bryce Harper of a hit to close the top of the eighth. Freese spent the majority of his 11-season career as a third baseman, but has almost exclusively played first for the Dodgers, and the transition has been pretty seamless.

“It’s cool. It’s fun,” said Freese. “I like mixing it up. I’m chilling over at first. My first-base talk is brutal, but other than that, I’m having a good time over there.”

The Dodgers closed out their 6-1 homestand with an overall record of 41-19. No other team in the National League has more than 34 wins, and the Twins are the only other team to have reached the 40-win mark. This season, the Dodgers got to 41 wins in 60 games; it took them 16 additional games to reach that mark last season.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Southpaw relievers to consider trading for

he one humanizing part about the Los Angeles Dodgers this year has been the bullpen, which could desperately use an upgrade on the left side of things.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have far and away been the best team in the National League thus far this year and are arguably the best team in the MLB. While the Minnesota Twins have a better winning percentage, the Dodgers are so talented that they should be regarded as the best in the league, at least right now.

Nearly everything has been going right for the Dodgers. The offense is not experiencing the same home run or bust struggle as it did last season and the bad nights are few and far between. This is very promising because even the best offenses have a lot of bad nights. The Dodgers have limited those.

The starting pitching has been absolutely remarkable as well. Hyun-Jin Ryu is the best pitcher in the league right now, Clayton Kershaw has been as consistent as they come and the Walker Buehler, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda have all had more good nights than bad.

Overall, it has been great, aside from the bullpen. While the bullpen woes are a bit overblown since the rest of the team is so solid, the bullpen still is the worst area of the team.

In particular, the Dodgers need help in left-handed pitching out of the bullpen. Scott Alexander has been inconsistent this year, Caleb Ferguson has not looked good since hitting the IL and Julio Urias could be punished by the league for his domestic violence arrest if found guilty.While the farm has produced southpaw relievers before, the Dodgers are likely going to turn to the trade market to try and bolster the ‘pen. Luckily for them, as is the case every year, there are going to be options.

Football: Clayton Thorson picked 167th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in NFL Draft

Northwestern’s all-time winningest quarterback is taking his talents to Philly.

Clayton Thorson was drafted No. 167 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 5th round of this weekend’s NFL Draft. Thorson was the ninth quarterback chosen in the Draft.

The Wheaton, Ill. native finished his career with the Wildcats as the program leader in passing yards (10,731), completions (991) and touchdowns (61). He started 53 straight games in four seasons, setting a record for the most games started by a Big Ten quarterback, and led NU to three straight bowl victories and the program’s first-ever Big Ten divisional title.

Before Saturday, many projections saw Thorson going to a team in the fourth or fifth round, and he was linked to the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers. Thorson’s wait grew longer when both of those teams chose quarterbacks in the third and fourth rounds — Will Grier of West Virginia to the Panthers with the 100th pick and Jarrett Stidham of Aubum to the Patriots at No. 133 overall — until the Eagles made their selection.

The Eagles’ projected 2019 starter under center is Carson Wentz, who led the team to a Super Bowl in 2017 and threw for 3,074 yards in 11 games last season. Luis Perez and former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld are the other signal-callers currently on Philadelphia’s roster. The Eagles finished 9-7 and second in the NFC East last season, losing in the divisional playoffs to the New Orleans Saints.

This marks the fifth consecutive year that a former Cat has been chosen in the draft, the program’s longest stretch since a seven-year streak from 1997 to 2003. Thorson is also the fifth NU quarterback to be ever selected in the draft, and the third since 2010. At the time of Thorson’s selection, no other former NU players had been drafted.

Oakland Raiders draft review

Oakland Raiders draft review

1 (4). Clelin Ferrell, DE: 6-4, 264, Clemson

1 (24). Josh Jacobs, RB: 5-10, 220, Alabama

1 (27). Johnathan Abram, S: 5-11, 205, Mississippi St.

2 (40). Trayvon Mullen, CB: 6-2, 199, Clemson

4 (106). Maxx Crosby, DE: 6-5, 255, Eastern Michigan

4 (129). Isaiah Johnson, CB: 6-2, 208, Houston

4 (137). Foster Moreau, TE: 6-4, 253, LSU

5 (149). Hunter Renfrow, WR: 5-10, 184, Clemson

7 (230). Quinton Bell, DE: 6-4, 219, Prairie View

Grade: C

Nobody knew what to expect from Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock, and it got off to a questionable start. Ferrell is a fine player but was pegged to go much lower than No. 4, and Jacobs might also be a reach given the fungibility of running backs. The Raiders did add three quality pieces to the secondary, but you’d hope for more value from three first-round picks.

Best pick

Player: He’s not quite as gifted, but Abram shares several qualities with Derwin James, who starred for the Chargers as a rookie in 2018. Abram will immediately inject toughness and swagger into a defense that needs it, bringing what the Raiders hoped to get from 2016 first-rounder Karl Joseph.

Upside pick: Mullen wasn’t tested much in 2018 and then shined on the biggest of stages in the national title game. He certainly has the tools, so if he shows the consistency to hold up against NFL competition, he could quickly become a star.

Former Walk-On Blake Cashman Fulfills a Dream with Jets

 

Blake Cashman has always had to earn everything that has come his way. A former preferred walk-on at Minnesota, Cashman worked his way up the depth chart for the Gophers and became a defensive regular last season. And on Saturday, he became a member of the New York Jets when he was selected in the fifth round, No 157 overall.

“It’s everything I’ve dreamed of and it’s something I’ve always had my eyes set on,” Cashman told Olivia Landis after his selection. “Ever since I walked on, I told myself two things and that was I was going to be a starter and team captain at Minnesota and then have an opportunity at the NFL.”

Cashman, whose father played football at St. Thomas University, was part of four state championship teams at Eden Prairie HS while playing cornerback and linebacker. He was a special teams regular as a freshman at Minnesota before racking up 7.5 sacks his sophomore campaign. He concluded that second collegiate season with a Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP award after tallying 12 stops and a sack in a 17-12 takedown of Washington State.

“I feel like I can be someone that impacts the team day one, whether it be on special teams or defense, or both. I really see myself as somebody in maybe nickel or dime packages, getting after the quarterback or having to dart guys in man coverage, whether that be the quick backs out of the backfield or more athletic tight ends,” he said. “I do feel like I have good athleticism and I have good speed, so just the way the game is going now, it’s kind of a lot of speed on the field. Offenses like to spread defenses out so I think they can plug me in many different areas to wreak havoc a little bit.”

Known as an all-effort performer, Cashman captured the Gary Tinsley Award after both his sophomore and junior campaigns. The honor goes to the Minnesota player who “best embodied the underdog spirit” of the late Gopher.

“I felt like I really dedicated myself to improving each year to set myself up for this opportunity right now,” he said. “It’s amazing, I’m speechless to finally see it all come together. With that being said, I know there’s still so much work to be done and so much more I have to develop as a player. I’m someone that loves to get to work and I cannot wait.”

Last season, the 6’2”, 235-pound Cashman started 11 games and paced Minnesota with 104 tackles in addition to 2.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.

Then at the NFL Combine in February, Cashman bolstered his draft stock by posting a 4.50 40-yard dash and recording a broad jump of 124 inches. He should provide depth on the inside behind Mike ‘backer C.J. Mosley and also would figure to carve out a prominent roles on special teams under Brant Boyer.

“We spoke once through this,” Cashman said of Boyer. “I mainly spoke with the Jets scouts. They stayed in touch with me from the combine through the draft process and then until now. But I know he (Boyer) has a great plan for me and he’s told me that my film is great and he has a lot of fun things he can do with me just based off of my versatility as a player.”

New York Giants get future QB and start rebuilding defense in draft

 

After making three picks on the opening day of the NFL draft, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was quick to say how great it is when need and value match.

It ended up being the story of all three days of the draft for the Giants, who are in a serious rebuilding mode after winning eight games over the past two seasons.

Much had to be replaced with the trades of star receiver Odell Beckham Jr and top sacker Olivier Vernon to Cleveland, the loss of Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins to Washington in free agency, and a roster that had holes and a lack of depth.

Gettleman got top-quality players with three first-round picks, but he also put his job on the line taking Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick overall.

The Giants aren’t going to shove Jones into the starting lineup. He is going to learn for a year or so behind two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who is 38 years old and entering the final year of an $84 million contract.

However, that’s a big sacrifice. The Giants need a quarterback for the future. Their fans also want them to win now, especially after missing the playoffs six of the past seven seasons and finishing 5-11 last season.

The problem is there is no guarantee Jones is going to be a sure thing. He was rated by some as the fourth-best quarterback prospect in the draft. Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur believe he can be a franchise player.

“I have to think short term and I have to think long term,” Gettleman said of using a No. 6 for a player who probably won’t see much action in 2019.

“That’s the box I am in. Coaches have to win now and I ask myself a million times, ‘Have I given Pat and the guys enough players to win?’ It’s tough.”

Gettleman said he knew two teams would have taken Jones had he not done so at No. 6, adding it was not easy to pass on Kentucky edge player Josh Allen, who was taken at No. 7 by Jacksonville.

2019 NFL Draft: Notre Dame TE Alizé Mack chosen by the New Orleans Saints

Another talented former Notre Dame Fighting Irish player comes off the board on the last day of the NFL draft. With the 17th pick of the 7th round, going at 231 overall, the New Orleans Saints have chosen TE Alizé Mack. That’s the 6th Notre Dame Tight End to be drafted during the Brian Kelly era.

Mack is the first Notre Dame player to be drafted by the Saints in the Sean Payton era. Mack had an interesting but fruitful career at Notre Dame; he sustained a few injuries after coming in as a highly-touted recruit, and ended up flourishing as a vital part of Brian Kelly’s offense in his senior year:

he had 36 catches for 360 yards and 3 touchdowns. Scouts note that he was incredibly versatile, as well:Alizé is also the first Fighting Irish player to be selected by the New Orleans Saints since Courtney Watson, who heard his name called by the organization in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft. Mack joins a roster with veteran tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill, hoping to compete for a spot with new guys like Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffin.

That’s six TE’s to be drafted to the NFL from Notre Dame in the Brian Kelly era. We hope Alizé will be immensely successful when he arrives in New Orleans. Here’s what Alizé himself had to say about the news, as well as some insider info on the fruit of Alizé’s labor from OFD’s own Jude Seymour: