Astros pitching prospect Mark Appel is expected to return to Grapefruit League action Monday against the Nationals, per a report from MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. The right-hander had been dealing with a strained right forearm following his March 5 stint against the Phillies, in which he allowed a run on three hits with no walks and two strikeouts.
Appel, taken by the Astros first overall in the 2013 draft, will start the season in the minor leagues. He spent last season between Single-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi, posting an aggregate 6.91 ERA in 83 1/3 innings. However, most of the damage was done prior to his promotion to Double-A, as he compiled a 3.69 ERA with a 38/13 K/BB ratio in 39 innings with Lancaster.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said last November that he could see a situation in which Appel makes his major league debut at some point in 2015. He could get a call-up when rosters expand in September, but he could also come up earlier if the Astros suffer injuries in their starting rotation and if Appel performs well in the minors.
Appel has been rated between #30-35 among baseball’s top prospects entering the 2015 season according to MLB.com (30), Baseball America (31), and Baseball Prospectus (35). The Astros, who improved by 19 wins between 2013 and ’14, are close to being competitive again, though it likely won’t happen in 2015.
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Andrew McCutchen won’t return “until I’m 100 percent”
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen sat out again on Sunday with a self-described “lower body” injury. He went 1-for-1 with a walk and an RBI against the Red Sox on Thursday but hasn’t played since. The outfielder says he’ll continue to sit out “until I’m 100 percent,” as MLB.com’s Tom Singer reports.
Manager Clint Hurdle isn’t worried, saying “I think we’re in a good place with him.” The Pirates are off Monday, which will give the outfielder an extra day to deal with his injury.
McCutchen has only come to the plate 12 times as we near the midpoint of spring training, but he should have plenty of time to get ready before the regular season begins. It doesn’t seem like much of a problem for the Pirates.
McCutchen led the league with a .410 on-base percentage and a .952 OPS last season, finishing third in NL MVP balloting a season after going home with the hardware.
Daniel Hudson will make D-Backs’ 25-man roster
On Sunday, Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said that pitcher Daniel Hudson will indeed make the team’s 25-man roster, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reports. The only remaining question is whether Hudson will pitch out of the rotation or out of the bullpen.
The Diamondbacks went into spring training planning to use Hudson as a starter in exhibition games before moving him to the bullpen for the regular season in an effort to build up his durability. Hudson has undergone two Tommy John surgeries, with the most recent occurring in June 2013. He returned for three appearances in September before the Diamondbacks shut him down for precautionary reasons.
In his only full season in 2011, Hudson posted a 3.49 ERA with a 169/50 K/BB ratio in 222 innings. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy since.
The D-Backs are currently auditioning a handful of pitchers for spots at the back of their starting rotation. The combatants include Trevor Cahill and Chase Anderson. Hudson could also find himself in that mix. Trevor Cahill threw four innings in a B-game on Sunday and looked good. Hale said if Cahill keeps it up, he’s in a good position for a rotation spot, per AZcentral.com’s Nick Piecoro.
As the D-Backs have a surplus of starting pitching and a dearth of catching, they could trade Cahill to address that need. Cahill will earn $12 million this season, what is likely the last year of a five-year deal originally signed with the Athletics in April 2011. GM Dave Stewart, though, said the club won’t acquire any new catchers.
Miggy, V-Mart could return this week
Cabrera underwent surgery on his right ankle in October to remove bone spurs and repair a stress fracture to the navicular bone. The 2012 and ’13 AL MVP was bothered by the injuries in the final two months of the season, particularly in August when he posted a .691 OPS with one home run. He still managed to post a .313 average with 25 home runs and 109 RBI.
Martinez had a meniscectomy in February after tearing the medial meniscus in his left knee during offseason workouts. He’s coming off of a career-best season in which he led the league with a .409 on-base percentage and a .974 OPS while hitting 32 home runs with 103 RBI.
Both hitters ranked among the ten best hitters in baseball according to FanGraphs. It goes without saying that having both Cabrera and Martinez healthy and ready to start the regular season is crucial to the Tigers competing in an improved AL Central.
Wandy Rodriguez having a strong spring
Wandy Rodriguez tossed four scoreless innings against the Astros in Grapefruit League action on Saturday. He was coming off of three scoreless innings five days prior. His early results have put him in a good position to claim one of the two open rotation spots for the Braves, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports.
Rodriguez made only six starts for the Pirates last season before going on the disabled list. He eventually underwent surgery on his right knee at the end of June and became a free agent after the season. The 36-year-old originally signed with the Phillies on a minor league deal, but it fell through when he failed a physical. The Braves took that opportunity to snap him up. If Rodriguez makes the major league roster, he’ll earn a salary of $2 million.
The Braves know where they stand one through three in their rotation with Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, and Alex Wood. Beyond that is a question mark, though Eric Stults figures to get one of the two remaining spots. Mike Minor is dealing with tightness in his left shoulder. Mike Foltynewicz has allowed six runs in 2 1/3 spring innings. Rodriguez’s fiercest competition so far has been Cody Martin, who has allowed one hit and three walks while striking out six in five innings.
Torii Hunter could play in 2016
Twins outfielder Torii Hunter told MLB Network Radio that he would return to play in 2016 if he has a strong 2015 season. Hunter even considered retiring shortly after his Tigers were kicked out of the ALDS by the Orioles in October. Instead, he returned to the Twins – who drafted him in the first round in 1993 – on a one-year, $10.5 million contract.
Hunter still appears to have plenty left in the tank. He hit .286/.319/.446 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI for the Tigers last year, which was quite comparable to his .304/.334/.465, 17 HR, 84 RBI production in 2013. The Twins’ and Tigers’ stadiums played about the same according to ESPN’s park factors, so it’s reasonable to expect Hunter to post similar numbers this season.
Hunter has declined significantly defensively according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, however. A nine-time Gold Glove winner, Hunter would best serve his 2016 team, whoever it may be, as a designated hitter.