MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Prospect Watch: Top 10 shortstops

Astros' Correa, Indians' Lindor, Cubs' Russell lead strong contingent

Prospect Watch: Top 10 shortstops

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

The top two players from the 2014 list of top shortstop prospects graduated: Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox and the Cubs' Javier Baez. So did the last two on that top 10: Luis Sardinas, then of the Rangers, and Chris Owings of the D-backs.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Teams eager to ink Cuban phenom Moncada

Cuban infield prospect has yet to be cleared by US government

Teams eager to ink Cuban phenom Moncada

Major League Baseball issued a memo to its clubs on Tuesday night that acknowledged new regulations for Cuban players that were published earlier this month by federal officials, and reminded teams that the League's current policies for Cuban players remain intact until further notice.

The one-page memo states the League, its legal counsel and the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control are discussing the changes. For now, Major League Baseball will continue to require an OFAC unblocking license prior to players being allowed to enter a contract. The scouting of Cuban players and travel to the island by club personnel or representatives remain prohibited, the memo states.

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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.

Moore throws off mound for first time since April

Rays lefty continues comeback from Tommy John surgery, hopes to return to rotation by June

Moore throws off mound for first time since April

Rays left-hander Matt Moore has reported no setbacks throughout his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and he's targeting a return to the big league mound in June.

After reportedly throwing off the mound Tuesday for the first time since the operation, nothing's changed. And in this case, no news is good news for Moore and the Rays. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Moore threw 15 times from about halfway up the bullpen mound at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, and he told the Times he felt "pretty good."

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

Finding fantasy value post-Tommy John

Finding fantasy value post-Tommy John

An elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery is among the most serious that a baseball player can suffer. Pitchers can go from fantasy studs to completely off the radar faster than you can say "right forearm strain." Hurlers who take more than a year off due to the lengthy recovery process can disappear from the memories of fantasy owners, but those who want to win their 2015 leagues will need to get reacquainted with the following players.

Matt Harvey (Mets)
Expected return: Opening Day
Expected fantasy production: 10 wins, 190 K's, 3.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

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Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fred Lynn's favorite player: Mike Trout

Fred Lynn's favorite player: Mike Trout

As a former outfielder, Fred Lynn pays extra attention to the players who roam the outfield today. One player stands above the rest: Lynn's favorite current player, Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

Trout, who burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2012 like Lynn did back in 1975, when he won AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, can seemingly do it all. That's why Lynn admires him.

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

My Favorite Player

My Favorite Player

Baseball players are fans, just like the rest of us. Who do they love to watch? Former Major Leaguers weigh in, with new opinions added all the time.

Fred Lynn
Mike Trout
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Panda hits a half-court shot sitting down

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Panda hits a half-court shot sitting down

Pablo Sandoval is an accomplished professional baseball player. He is a two-time All-Star, three-time World Series champion and, this past offseason, a highly coveted free agent who ended up signing a five-year deal with the Red Sox. But that isn't enough. He wants to conquer the world of trick-shot basketball, too.

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MLB.com Columnist

Lindsay Berra

Players, coaches discuss impact of the infield shift

Players, coaches discuss impact of the infield shift

MLB's new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, got people's attention right out of the gate.

In an interview that aired on ESPN on Sunday, his first official day at the helm, Manfred responded to a query by Karl Ravech by saying he was open to the possibility of doing away with defensive shifts. This stirred up immediate chatter in social media, on sports radio and among sportswriters, which was a good thing, according to the game's 10th Commissioner.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Time for hitters to counter defensive shifts

Time for hitters to counter defensive shifts

New Commissioner Rob Manfred certainly wasn't speaking in binding terms when he floated the possibility of eliminating or limiting the defensive shifts that have become so prevalent in baseball. In fact, he was simply replying to a question about any "radical" changes he might consider. That said, the impact of shifting is a topic many executives, coaches and players have bandied about in the office or locker room at a time when offensive production is at its lowest levels in decades.

But as is the case with so many of the game's evolutions in circumstances and strategy, the players themselves will probably dictate the direction taken here. Shifts, after all, are the byproduct of historical data, and they inherently create present and future areas of vulnerability on the field. And so it is incumbent upon the hitters to disrupt the data with revolutionary results.

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Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox reunite with Beckham on one-year deal

Outfielder Viciedo designated for assignment

White Sox reunite with Beckham on one-year deal

CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham has returned to the White Sox … after a very brief absence.

The White Sox announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to terms on a one-year, $2 million contract with the right-handed-hitting infielder, with outfielder Dayan Viciedo designated for assignment. The 40-man roster remains at 40.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cardinals counting on Heyward to fill outfield hole

Acquisition joins Holliday, Jay as starters; Bourjos, Grichuk provide depth

Cardinals counting on Heyward to fill outfield hole

This is the fourth of a seven-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. Previous installments examined the catchers, corner infielders and middle infielders. Up next: outfielders.

ST LOUIS -- When the book closed on the 2014 season, the Cardinals' outfield plans appeared fairly finalized. Matt Holliday and Jon Jay would return in their starting roles, while Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk would provide coverage in right field. Unexpected tragedy, however, soon shattered the well-intentioned plans, leaving the Cardinals to quickly revise their offseason to-do list while also grieving over the loss of 21-year-old Taveras.

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Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blue Jays, Brewers talk potential trade for Papelbon

Blue Jays, Brewers talk potential trade for Papelbon

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are still talking to the Brewers and Blue Jays about a Jonathan Papelbon trade.

Two sources said on Tuesday evening that the talks are alive, although the seriousness of those discussions is unclear. Yahoo! Sports first reported Friday that the Phils and Brewers were in serious negotiations. FOXSports.com mentioned the Blue Jays' interest.

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

In Minors, Russell Wilson tackled tornadoes

Rome Braves GM Dunn saw qualities in quarterback during tragedy

In Minors, Russell Wilson tackled tornadoes

ATLANTA -- As a frightening string of destructive tornadoes ripped through the Southeast on April 27, 2011, Mike Dunn took precautionary measures to protect his Class A Rome Braves players and the visiting Asheville Tourists club that included a young second baseman named Russell Wilson.

Wilson's baseball career was nearing its end, but his leadership abilities were on full display as he helped take control of a potentially dangerous situation.

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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

Richard Justice

Ichiro still a treat to watch in late stage of career

In gifted veteran, Marlins get professional presence to complement young talent

Ichiro still a treat to watch in late stage of career

First, thanks to the Miami Marlins for giving us at least one more season of one of the most remarkable players of our time: Ichiro Suzuki.

Take a good look at Ichiro this season, his 15th in the United States. Even at 41, with skills that have faded a bit, he is still gifted, unique and relentless. In terms of pitch recognition and bat control, he's among the greatest players in baseball history.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lowrie helps grow game with trip to Colombia

Shortstop joins Sports Diplomacy Program to host camps for at-risk kids

Lowrie helps grow game with trip to Colombia

HOUSTON -- When the head of the Sports Diplomacy Program in Washington, D.C., wanted to get in touch with Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie to gauge his interest in serving as a sports envoy, he knew exactly who to call.

Lowrie's wife, Milessa Muchmore Lowrie, is a former Foreign Service Officer who served the Department of State as a diplomat based in Toronto and Mexico City.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners, Baker agree to Minor League deal

Veteran catcher gets invite to Spring Training, provides depth at position

Mariners, Baker agree to Minor League deal

SEATTLE -- Looking to add depth behind starting catcher Mike Zunino, the Mariners have an agreement with veteran John Baker to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League camp.

The Mariners have not confirmed the deal, but shortly after CBSSports.com reported the news on Wednesday, Baker tweeted a photo of himself in front of the Space Needle and said, "Thanks for all the positive vibes being sent my way. Next Chapter begins. @Mariners."

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Commissioner Rob Manfred's letter to fans

Commissioner Rob Manfred's letter to fans

Dear Fans:

On the night of August 14, 2014, I left a Baltimore hotel after being elected Commissioner of Baseball. As I began to reply to the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages coming in, it hit me that I'd just been entrusted to protect the integrity of our National Pastime and to set a course that allows this great game to continue to flourish -- now and in the years to come. Needless to say, I was deeply honored by the trust the owners placed in me.

Today is my first day as Commissioner, and I am incredibly excited to get to work. I am grateful to Commissioner Selig for his expertise and friendship. His leadership set a direction that led to historic success.  

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Source: Janssen, Nats agree to 1-year deal

Source: Janssen, Nats agree to 1-year deal

WASHINGTON -- Two weeks after trading dependable setup man Tyler Clippard, the Nationals filled a hole in their bullpen by agreeing to a one-year contract with free agent Casey Janssen on Wednesday, a source confirmed to MLB.com. The deal, which the club has not confirmed, guarantees Janssen $5 million, including a buyout for a 2016 mutual option, according to FOXSports.com.

The Nats dealt Clippard to the A's for shortstop Yunel Escobar, who is slated to move to second base. They also haven't re-signed free agent Rafael Soriano, their closer for much of the past two seasons, leaving Drew Storen to fill the ninth inning.

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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.

Montgomery returns to Phillies as chairman

Giles becomes chairman emeritus; Gillick staying on as president in the short term

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced Wednesday that David Montgomery will rejoin the organization as team chairman, not as president.

Pat Gillick will remain in the president's role, overseeing baseball operations. Bill Giles will move from chairman to chairman emeritus.

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

Winker aims to continue rise at big league camp

After impressive AFL stint, Reds prospect being groomed for Majors

Winker aims to continue rise at big league camp

CINCINNATI -- When he was in Minor League camp during Spring Training last year, Reds outfield prospect Jesse Winker greatly appreciated the three times he was summoned to the big league side for Cactus League games. After all, it was a taste of what might be ahead if his career stayed on track.

This spring, Winker will get an even bigger bite. The 21-year-old left fielder will be in Reds Major League camp as a non-roster invitee. It's sure to mean valuable experience being among players at the highest level and facing more competitive pitching.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Top needs remaining as Hot Stove season winds down

Top needs remaining as Hot Stove season winds down

Now that we know Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette isn't going anywhere, it's time to find out something else about the guy who earned multiple Executive of the Year Awards for his work in 2014.

Is he also a miracle worker?

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

Prospect Watch: Top 10 third basemen

Bryant, Gallo, Sano bring plenty of power to the hot corner

Prospect Watch: Top 10 third basemen

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday, Jan. 30, on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

If chicks dig the long ball, then there's no doubt third base is the sexiest position among prospects. It's home to the three best power prospects in the game in Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Joey Gallo (Rangers) -- the last two Minor League home run champions -- and Miguel Sano (Twins). It will be interesting to see how many of these guys remain at the hot corner in the long term, because position changes have been hinted at for at least eight of them, and only Jake Lamb (D-backs) projects as a quality defender.

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Banks statue in Daley Plaza for fans to pay tribute

Cubs will keep public memorial of Hall of Famer on display until Saturday

Banks statue in Daley Plaza for fans to pay tribute

CHICAGO -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ernie Banks' wife, Liz, placed a red, white and blue wreath Wednesday at the base of a bronze statue for Mr. Cub, relocated to Daley Plaza for a public memorial.

"We all know Ernie was Mr. Cub and you don't become Mr. Cub because you play a lot of baseball games or hit a lot of home runs," said Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, who attended the brief ceremony. "You become Mr. Cub because you love the team, you love the fans, you love the ballpark more than anyone else.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rangers acquire Ranaudo from Red Sox for Ross

Right-hander gives Texas another option for back end of rotation

Rangers acquire Ranaudo from Red Sox for Ross

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers added another strong candidate to their rotation competition by acquiring rookie right-handed pitcher Anthony Ranaudo from the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Texas did so by dealing from the one area of its pitching staff it was most concerned about by sending left-handed reliever Robbie Ross Jr. to the Red Sox. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said they weren't looking to trade Ross, but they couldn't pass up the opportunity to acquire another quality starting pitching prospect.

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T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Backstops shine with defensive prowess behind plate

Backstops shine with defensive prowess behind plate

We are witnessing a major shift in Major League Baseball having nothing to do with loading up the infield on one side of the field. It involves a deeper appreciation of the value of defense, a critical phase of the game obscured for decades by the power and glory of offense.

For this, we can at least partially thank the reigning American League champion Royals and, specifically, their astonishingly great outfield. The Angels, who won more regular-season games (98) than any team in the Majors, were beaten last October by those gloved Kansas City greyhounds, who kept stealing doubles and triples to forge a stunning AL Division Series sweep against the AL West champs.

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

Smoltz recalls bellhop joke he played on teammates

Smoltz recalls bellhop joke he played on teammates

John Smoltz, one of the new electees to the Baseball Hall of Fame, once spent time as a bellhop. Well, not exactly. But he pretended to be one once for about 30 minutes to pull off a joke on his teammates after they arrived at a hotel late one morning on a road trip.

Smoltz told his "Glory Story" on Tuesday on MLB Network, and it had nothing to do with any of his many accomplishments on the baseball field.

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

Former Red Sox bullpen coach Bryant passes away

Former Red Sox bullpen coach Don "Bear" Bryant passed away on Jan. 22 in Gainesville, Fla. He was 73 years old.

Bryant was the bullpen coach for the Red Sox from 1974-76, which included the American League pennant-winning '75 squad. He was also a coach in the '76 All-Star Game.

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

Rizzo's triumph over cancer takes stage on Network special

Rizzo's triumph over cancer takes stage on Network special

From the moment he was drafted by the Red Sox in 2007, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo began racking up the personal achievements. He mashed 32 home runs last season and earned his first All-Star selection.

But those accomplishments pale in comparison to Rizzo's biggest victory yet -- a victory in his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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

Crushing can in face has Blackmon in shape

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Crushing can in face has Blackmon in shape

There are a lot of great ways to stay in shape during the offseason. You can get into winter sports. You can work out while wearing terrifying oxygen masks. Or, if you're Charlie Blackmon, you can pump up those face muscles by smashing a beer can with them. 

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Astros legend Bagwell to rejoin organization

Former first baseman will aid players as guest Spring Training instructor

Astros legend Bagwell to rejoin organization

HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell, who has been largely out of baseball since he decided not to remain as hitting coach of the Astros following the 2010 season, will return to the organization after accepting an offer from the team Tuesday to become a guest instructor at Spring Training.

Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said Bagwell will be in Kissimmee, Fla., for a few days in March, marking his first appearance in spring camp in five years. Ryan and manager A.J. Hinch had worked for weeks trying to get Bagwell back in the fold, and Bagwell told Ryan on Tuesday he would lend his knowledge to the Astros.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.