MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Which division winner is most likely to repeat?

Which division winner is most likely to repeat?

In 2015, there were only two Major League teams that repeated as division winners. Don't count on a 6-for-6 performance by the current division champs in 2016, either.

We're completely out of the era in which the Atlanta Braves could win a record 14 division titles in a row, or the Yankees could dominate the American League East in the regular season for nearly a decade. This was a relatively recent era, but it has departed.

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Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Ohtani will be next rising star from Japan

Two-way player for Nippon Ham features 100-mph heater

Ohtani will be next rising star from Japan

PHOENIX -- Shohei Ohtani is the next heralded player coming out of Japan. He's a 6-foot-4 right-hander for the Nippon Ham Fighters with a 100-mph fastball and four other pitches that dance like darts around the plate.

And oh yeah, at 21, Ohtani is so productive with the bat that his Nippon Professional Baseball team utilizes him as a designated hitter in many of the the games he doesn't start on the mound. That's a first in Japan, where pitchers start only once a week. And it's never happened in Major League Baseball, either.

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Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Australia, S. Africa open Qualifiers with routs

Beresford, Wade help Qualifier host invoke mercy rule on Philippines

Australia, S. Africa open Qualifiers with routs

SYDNEY -- Twins Minor Leaguer James Beresford went 4-for-5 with three RBIs from the leadoff spot as Australia cruised by the Philippines, 11-1, prompting the mercy rule after seven innings on Thursday in the second game of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier at Blacktown International Sportspark. Australia will now face South Africa in the winner's bracket, while the Philippines will take on New Zealand in an elimination game.

"He's a great player," Australia manager Jon Deeble said of Beresford. "He's been in professional baseball for 11 years. He hit .300 in Triple-A. We just want him to get a chance in the big leagues because he is such a bloody good player. Hopefully, that is this year."

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Niall Adler is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bell, Guerrero bring MLB pedigrees to showcase

Youngsters with big league ties among 59 prospects working out in D.R.

Bell, Guerrero bring MLB pedigrees to showcase

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Former Major League outfielder George Bell beamed as he perched on the edge of a yellow plastic chair in the stands near the home dugout at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal.

Bell held his head high with his shoulders thrust back, and he patted the sides of his legs in excitement.

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Beloved MLB.com reporter Tom Singer passes away

Beloved MLB.com reporter Tom Singer passes away

With news like this, there is crying in baseball.

Tom Singer, among the first journalists hired at MLB.com, passed away suddenly on Monday at his residence in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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Dinn Mann is Executive Vice President, Content for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Source: O's making progress with Gallardo

Source: O's making progress with Gallardo

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles are moving closer to landing the best free-agent starter still available: Yovani Gallardo.

An industry source confirmed to MLB.com Wednesday afternoon that Gallardo and Baltimore were in serious contract discussions on a three-year deal that would give the O's a key rotation piece. Gallardo -- who has been on the Orioles' radar all offseason -- has reportedly dropped his desired contract length with Spring Training approaching, and the O's have ramped up their efforts.

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Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cuban phenom Lazarito nearing decision

9 teams show strong interest in 16-year-old outfielder

Cuban phenom Lazarito nearing decision

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Lazaro "Lazarito" Armenteros, one of the most dynamic young talents to come out of Cuba in recent memory, is close to deciding on his future.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound outfielder is expected to make a decision on where he will sign soon, about one month after Major League Baseball declared him a free agent.

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New, cooler spring jerseys, caps available

MLB shows off on-field Flex Base designs for all 30 clubs

New, cooler spring jerseys, caps available

It is almost time for Zack Greinke to suit up for the D-backs, Todd Frazier for the White Sox, David Price for the Red Sox, Justin Upton for the Tigers, Johnny Cueto for the Giants, Jason Heyward for the Cubs, and all those other new faces in new places.

Shop now for new Flex Base Spring Training gear

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New Zealand performs traditional Haka dance before World Baseball Classic Qualifier game

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New Zealand performs traditional Haka dance before World Baseball Classic Qualifier game

Baseball players have a bit of a reputation for being a superstitious bunch: Some eat the same pregame meal every day, some go through the same motions every time they step into the batter's box and some won't change their socks during a hit streak. Gross? Sure, but not as gross as jeopardizing that streak by inviting bad juju into the clubhouse by rocking some fresh socks.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Is it time for an offensive comeback in MLB?

Stats show increased success vs. dominant pitching in 2015

Is it time for an offensive comeback in MLB?

The 2015 season was actually something of a bounceback year for offense. But that doesn't mean that the corner has been turned in what has become an era of increasing pitching dominance.

The standard measurements offer clear evidence: 2015 was a better year for hitters than 2014. Runs per game increased from 4.07 to 4.25. Combined ERA increased from 3.74 to 3.96. Home runs increased from 0.86 per game to 1.01.

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Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fenway goes Xtreme with 140-foot ski ramp

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Fenway goes Xtreme with 140-foot ski ramp

You have entered an alternate dimension, one where soda sprays from drinking fountains and parkour has replaced the car as humanity's preferred means of travel. It is a more Xtreme dimension.

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Mariners' Unsworth leads RSA past New Zealand

Mariners' Unsworth leads RSA past New Zealand

SYDNEY -- Mariners prospect Dylan Unsworth pitched eight shutout innings, scattering two hits, to put South Africa into the winner's bracket on the first day of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier with a 7-1 win over New Zealand at Blacktown International Sportspark on Thursday.

"I think everything [was working]. Just commanding the fastball, changeup, curveball, everything," said Unsworth, a 23-year-old right-hander who reached Double-A last season. "When you have a three-run cushion, you feel confident, you feel good. Honestly, all you have to do is throw strikes and everything will happen after that."

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Niall Adler is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

10 crucial spring battles for fantasy owners

10 crucial spring battles for fantasy owners

Major League teams take Spring Training position battles seriously, understanding that a correct call in March could lead to participation in October. Similarly, wise fantasy owners will keep tabs on battles across the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League, looking for an edge to fill their roto and head-to-head rosters. Let's take a look at 10 competitions to monitor over the next month-plus.

1. Astros first baseman
After non-tendering all-or-nothing slugger Chris Carter, Houston may be left with Carter clone Jon Singleton as its Opening Day first baseman. The native Californian can rip roundtrippers, but his strikeout-prone ways may not be the best fit in a lineup that already whiffs at a great rate. As a result, prospect A.J. Reed could push Singleton during Spring Training. After hitting .340 with 34 homers and 127 RBIs in the Minors last season, Reed will be an attractive mixed-league option as soon as he reaches the Majors.

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Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

International showcase draws VIP crowd

A's GM Forst among execs scouting prospects in D.R.

International showcase draws VIP crowd

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Oakland general manager David Forst was among the crowd of 300 scouts and executives on the first day of MLB's International Showcase at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal on Wednesday.

"There are only a couple of ways to bring players into your system: obviously, in the amateur Draft, and internationally, we've seen a lot of organizations make a significant impact in their Minor League system and the big leagues through their July 2nd signings," Forst said. "It's really important for us."

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braves say statue's future should be left to Aaron

Braves say statue's future should be left to Aaron

ATLANTA -- It seemingly should go without saying that a Hank Aaron statue will sit outside of SunTrust Park when the Braves open the new stadium in 2017.

But it's unclear whether the statue will be the same one that has long rested outside of Turner Field and the site of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where Aaron played for the Braves from 1966-74.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rapada grateful to go out with Classic experience

Former big league reliever pitched perhaps his final game Thursday

Rapada grateful to go out with Classic experience

SYDNEY -- It may have been the last pitch of former Major League reliever Clay Rapada's career: a double off the bat of Australian former big leaguer Trent Oeltjen and into the gap that plated two and made it 4-1 in the fifth inning of an eventual 11-1 loss for the Philippines at the World Baseball Classic Qualifier on Thursday night.

"It was nice to come out here for the experience. To me, it is priceless," said Rapada. "I gave them what I got tonight. It was tough to train for this as quick as I can when I got the email [to join the team]. I gave it everything I got. I have to tip my caps to these guys, they've got a good squad."

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Niall Adler is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Singer will be missed by many

Singer will be missed by many

Tom Singer was special.

Unfortunately that is in the past tense. Life seems to come in reverse.

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Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Champs load up truck for trip to spring home

Royals open Cactus League schedule March 2

Champs load up truck for trip to spring home

KANSAS CITY -- Yet another sign that Spring Training is almost here: It was Royals Truck Day at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday.

Royals clubhouse personnel packed almost 60,000 pounds worth of bats, balls, luggage, video equipment, medical supplies, strength and training equipment, jackets, pine tar, bubble gum, sunflower seeds and much more into an 18-wheeler headed for Surprise, Ariz., in preparation for the beginning of Spring Training next week.

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Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Josh Donaldson topped an already excellent offseason by hanging out with Justin Timberlake

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Josh Donaldson topped an already excellent offseason by hanging out with Justin Timberlake

A lot of really great things have happened to Josh Donaldson since the Blue Jays' season ended. He won the American League MVP Award. He filmed a cameo on "Vikings" and got a sweet hairdo in the process. He signed a new two-year deal. But all of that was just building to Wednesday afternoon, when his offseason peaked.

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Work begins on dirt infield at Rogers Centre

Work begins on dirt infield at Rogers Centre

TORONTO -- Construction has begun, and the Blue Jays are well on their way to having an all-dirt infield installed at Rogers Centre in time for the start of the 2016 season.

The work began Monday morning and will continue until the end of March. That will give the grounds crew a full week to groom, treat and monitor the conditions in preparation for the home opener against Boston on April 8.

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Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Potential Gallardo deal could open OF market to O's

Club appears interested in free agents Fowler, Jackson

Potential Gallardo deal could open OF market to O's

BALTIMORE -- If the Orioles do land free-agent starter Yovani Gallardo, with the two sides in serious negotiations on Wednesday, Baltimore may not be done making moves.

The O's, who have tried all winter to add an outfielder to go alongside center fielder Adam Jones, would forfeit their No. 14 overall pick to sign Gallardo. If they lose that, they would perhaps be more inclined to also give up their second pick (No. 29 overall as compensation for losing Wei-Yin Chen), and foray into the top-tier outfield market.

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Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Peerless Posey is best fantasy bet behind plate

Giants star is in league of his own, but there are several solid C draft options

Peerless Posey is best fantasy bet behind plate

Catcher is arguably the most grueling position on the diamond. Backstops spend half the game in a squat, and they routinely take baseballs off the finger, mask and other places that are too delicate to mention. They're also tasked with calling the game and throwing out would-be basestealers. As a result, offense is often a secondary concern. Due to the lack of offensive difference-makers at the position, the following catchers can be valuable fantasy assets.

Tier One: Buster Posey

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Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

The clubs that will dictate the int'l market

Padres, Braves, Nationals, Brewers, Cards, Phils, Rangers most aggressive

The clubs that will dictate the int'l market

The start of the international signing period is months away, but teams have been hard at work scouting prospects across Latin America and the Caribbean since last summer in search of future stars.

The Padres, Braves and Nationals have been very aggressive on the international market, and each team expects to have a solid class of prospects for the next international signing period that starts July 2. Milwaukee, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Texas have also been very busy and expect to sign a good crop of teenagers.

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reds host 'Black Businesses Matter' forum

Club continues to keep light on issues affecting community

Reds host 'Black Businesses Matter' forum

CINCINNATI -- Back in July amid All-Star Game festivities, the Reds and Major League Baseball brought together Cincinnati's African-American community, business leaders and the Black Lives Matter movement for a diversity summit. It was viewed as a way to avoid the threat of divisive protests about criminal justice problems for minorities and instead have a real conversation about the issues.

Several months after the All-Star spotlight has dimmed, the conversation has not stopped and it continues to shine a light on issues affecting the African-American community. On Wednesday at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the focus was on economics. The African American Chamber of Commerce, Cincinnati Reds, Major League Baseball and DeFuze It partnered for a Black History Month community forum called "Black Businesses Matter: Pathway to Prosperity."

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braves add reliever Torres on Minors deal

Righty posted 3.59 ERA over past 3 seasons with Mets

Braves add reliever Torres on Minors deal

ATLANTA -- Add Carlos Torres to the list of veteran relievers who will come to Spring Training as non-roster invitees aiming to earn a spot in the Braves bullpen.

Torres signed a Minor League contract and received an invitation to be a part of the Braves' big league camp. The 33-year-old right-hander could find a spot in Atlanta bullpen as a long reliever.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Fantasy's top pick: Harper, Trout, Goldy or others?

Fantasy's top pick: Harper, Trout, Goldy or others?

The collective efforts of your rabbit's foot, horseshoe and four-leaf clover have paid off -- you have been tabbed to pick first in your upcoming fantasy draft. But now the real fun begins. Because three players -- Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt -- each present a compelling case to anchor your 2016 squad, the dilemma at the top of the draft is unusually difficult this year. Making the best choice could be the difference between a narrow victory and an agonizing defeat.

Reasons to choose Harper

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Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

In Padres outfield, only Kemp a lock

Jay, Upton Jr., Blash should make for interesting spring drama

In Padres outfield, only Kemp a lock

SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres open the season on April 4 against the Dodgers, Matt Kemp will be the lone returning outfielder from the Opening Day lineup a year ago.

Justin Upton, who started in left field in 2015, left for free agency and landed a six-year deal with the Tigers. Wil Myers, who started in center field, is still with the team, only he'll likely be a first baseman moving forward.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Homers' odyssey: Statcast explains epic blasts

These balls managed to leave the yard despite having a high or low launch angle

Homers' odyssey: Statcast explains epic blasts

To hit a home run, a batter must accomplish two main goals.

First, he has to hit the ball hard. Or, in the parlance of Statcast™, he has to generate a high exit velocity. The second piece of the puzzle is perhaps less sexy but, as we have learned, no less important. The batter also must strike the pitch at the proper angle.

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Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.