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Major Leaguers dish on their best CWS memories

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For the first time, Major League Baseball will play a regular-season game in Omaha, Nebraska — home of the College World Series — when the Kansas City Royals take on the Detroit Tigers on Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).

With the overlap of colleges and the pros, we asked current MLB players who played in Omaha for the College World Series to share their favorite memories from the event.


Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals; South Carolina, 2010:

“Walking it off, being the last team to win it in Rosenblatt, is still, to this day, my baseball highlight. I can remember everything about it. I can remember even into the bottom of the ninth, leading off the inning, missing a fastball down the middle trying to hit a homer, thinking that was it, I wouldn’t get another chance.”

Jump ahead to the 11th inning …

“I stepped in the box. The catcher squatted down. I just got hit by a wave of nerves, butterflies, whatever you call it. National championship on the line. I get a hit, and we win it. First pitch, he yanked a fastball down and away, not really close. Second pitch, same thing. I figure they’re doing the unintentional-intentional-walk thing, trying to get me to chase. It’s 2-0, I’m standing there, I’ve taken a little while, standing there, he’s shaking, shaking. I called time, stepped out. I had that unintentional-intentional thought in my head. I think to myself, ‘One out, national championship-winning run on base. If this ball is anywhere close, I’m gonna swing.’ He threw the same pitch, fastball down and away. It was a little better of a pitch, but not a great 2-0 pitch. Got the barrel on it, hit the line drive to right. As a hitter, there are certain balls you hit and you don’t know exactly where it goes. You hit it and look up. I knew I hit it to the right side, but I sort of panicked because I thought the first baseman might’ve caught it. Then I saw it was high enough and went down the line.

“The next thing I remember is being on the bottom of a dogpile. Honestly, it was awesome, but it got kind of scary. You’ve got probably 1,500 pounds of man on you. We were celebrating, and then I was like, ‘All right. Get up!’ It was a special moment.”

Gordon Beckham, Detroit Tigers; Georgia, 2008:

“The super regional when we were playing against NC State in Athens, we had split the first two games. The third game of the series, we came out and scored a bunch of runs in the first inning. My third at-bat, I believe, I came up and hit a home run. We were well ahead by my next at-bat, which was in the next inning. I got up, and all the sudden there was a standing ovation because this was probably going to be my last at-bat in Athens, in front of the home crowd. I tipped my cap and got back in the box, and the whole stadium started chanting, ‘Let’s go, Gordo.’ I ended up hitting another home run. The whole stadium was going crazy, and the frat house was playing my intro song out in right field — “Your Love” by The Outfield. They played it for the rest of the game on full blast. It was a really cool day.

“So we went to Omaha, and the first game we played against Fresno State, in the best-of-three series in 2008, we were down two or three runs, and I hit a two-run home run to get us within one, and then we scored two more in the bottom of the eighth to go up and win that game. We ended up losing the series, but that first game was a cool moment.”

Kurt Suzuki, Washington Nationals; Cal State Fullerton, 2004:

“Once that last pitch got hit in the air, that pop fly, you’re waiting for it to come down. It feels like forever, and then when it finally comes down, it’s just like pure — I don’t even know how to describe it — it’s just incredible. All the work you put in, and the grinding you do throughout the school season, and to be able to reach that pinnacle is pretty cool. It was a 3-2 game, and I was catching. The pop-up went to right-center, and you never know in Omaha. That was the old stadium, too — Rosenblatt. So, the ball flew there. Whenever it gets hit in the air, you kind of hold your breath a little bit. It was a big boy that hit it, too. I threw my glove and my mask in the air and spun around and dogpiled on the mound. They were all pretty big guys compared to me, and I hate being constricted, so I said I am not going to be on the bottom of the pile. I’m gonna jump around first, wait ’til everybody comes, and then I’m gonna jump on the top. I was kind of in the middle, though, because I just couldn’t help myself to jump in. There were a couple big boys on me, but it was all worth it.”

Justin Miller, Washington Nationals; Fresno State, 2008

“I wrote a saying on our whiteboard before we left for Omaha. It just said, ‘F— it. Win it all.’ And we wound up doing it. We were in the pool with Rice, North Carolina and LSU. We played Rice the first game and blew them out of the water. Then we played North Carolina, and I started that game. We beat them, and then they came back from the loser’s bracket and beat LSU to come back and play us in the make-or-break game. We beat them, and then we played Georgia in the finals. So it was Bulldog vs. Bulldog. We beat Georgia for the championship, and the next day, we flew back. When we landed, we had a parade that went all through downtown Fresno. Then, we met at our stadium and had a ceremony. When we went into our clubhouse, that’s when I saw the whiteboard again. I was like, ‘Oh, I forgot about that.'”

Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox manager; Miami (Fla.), 1996

“Those three years I went there, it was a great experience. I used to go to Omaha, too, as a kid. I went to two World Series. We actually have friends there. There’s a military base in Omaha, and we stay with some Puerto Rican families. It’s great.

“I already cried in Omaha. What they do now is amazing. I’ll say it. The thing I don’t like anymore is that Saturday game. First of all, it’s not fair for us that we lost that game, but at the same time, two out of three is hard. You’ve got to have a lot of pitching to survive the finals. I get it. That Saturday game was the coolest thing ever. Put CBS on and watch it. Winner takes all. Obviously, I was part of that one. I know how it works. But I thought that championship game was the best. I’m not saying they should go back to it, but they should consider it.

“We got more than close. We’ve turned the page already.

“My last at-bat there. Man on second, two outs, tie game. Eddie Yarnall was warming up. Skip Bertman went to the mound and didn’t bring him in. I remember I took the first pitch. It was a ball. Next pitch, I hit a line drive to left field. We got ahead. And, obviously … the rest is history.”

Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels; Arizona State, 2009

“I think we were the last year when they were playing in Rosenblatt, before they built the (new) stadium. But that was a blast. It was the first time I’d played in front of 25,000-plus. The place was rocking. They loved ASU when we were there. Just a lot of fun, man. I grew up watching the College World Series, and to be playing in it was just a surreal thing for me.

“(The stadium) was awesome. There was just so much history at that stadium, in terms of college baseball. Just that whole city, how it embraced the College World Series, was fantastic. Always packed and people outside the stadium. It was 25,000 people inside, and there were just as many outside. It was almost like I would imagine a college football game. It kind of felt like that, that kind of atmosphere. People tailgating outside, and everybody had their team that they were rooting for. I don’t know, it was just a lot of fun.”

Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox; Indiana, 2013

“It was the atmosphere. The town is just electric. It’s shut down for that event. You want to play in the College World Series your whole life, but to be there exceeds your expectations. Sold-out crowd, the fans very into the game. I remember we played there in the Big Ten tournament the following year. It was sold out with Nebraska fans. That got you prepared for going on the road in the big-league level and having fans on you. It definitely was a similar feel.”

Eddie Matz, Jeff Passan and Alden Gonzalez contributed to this story.

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The next Pedro Martinez? Yankees’ Deivi Garcia inspires visions of the Hall of Famer

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MOOSIC, Pa. — At the mere mention of his Baseball Hall of Fame hero’s name, the 20-year-old melted.

Why do you like Pedro Martinez so much?

A wide, gleeful smile — often a familiar sight on Deivi Garcia’s clean-shaven baby face — had formed as the starting pitcher, deemed by most baseball insiders to currently be the New York Yankees‘ most-prized prospect, answered his favorite question of a recent one-on-one interview session.

“When I was a kid, like 13, 14 years old, a lot of people back home called me, ‘Hey, Little Pedro, Little Pedro,'” the Dominican Republic-born Garcia said to ESPN via a translator last week inside his new home ballpark. “It’s because [like Martinez] I’m not that tall like every other pitcher. I also used to throw a lot of curve balls too, like Pedro did.”

The comparisons don’t stop there. The 5-foot-9, nearly 170-pound Garcia is credited with having a mound presence and pitching bullishness that belies his slight-in-stature frame and is reminiscent of what his countryman Martinez displayed even in the earliest days of his illustrious, eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award-winning career.

And to be clear, these are still very early days for Garcia. After a recent promotion, the right-hander — signed by the Yankees barely a month after his 16th birthday and three weeks before Martinez’s induction into Cooperstown four years ago — is now two starts into his tenure with New York’s Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

It might not be the only promotion he receives this season. The deeper into the second half we get and the more the injury-ravaged Yankees pull further away in the American League East standings, Garcia could be part of their late-season plans.

“I know the next level is the major leagues, but I’m still trying to work hard and don’t get [over] confident, and still work and stick to my routines,” Garcia said. “If I reach that level this year, I will still have a lot of the same stuff going on: I have to stick to my plan every time I go out and just do what I can to help the team win.”

Although he didn’t factor in the decision, Garcia allowed just one run in a four-walk, three-inning, 75-pitch outing on Saturday. The RailRiders ultimately got the win, just as they did in his Triple-A debut the week before. Garcia is slated to pitch again at the Louisville Bats on Friday.

“He’ll miss some pitches every once in a while, he hasn’t totally figured out command yet but his stuff is excellent,” RailRiders manager Jay Bell said. “Whenever you see stuff in a guy, you think, ‘Yeah, this guy’s got a chance.’

“You watch him on the mound, and his mound presence is extraordinary for a 20-year-old. He handles himself extremely well. He doesn’t let things affect him very much. He gave up a homer [in his RailRiders debut], and it did not faze him. He got the ball, went back on the mound and held himself very erect, and you knew he had command of that bump out there.”

As Bell, who also briefly managed Garcia last year with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, added, “When you have a guy that has that ability, along with the stuff, now you put that together and it’s pretty special. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

Although he has been with them for only two weeks, a few of Garcia’s teammates at Triple-A are already calling him “the real deal.”

With a whopping 124 strikeouts through a combined 76⅔ innings at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, Garcia this season has made himself into the kind of strikeout machine that other teams are coveting as next week’s trade deadline approaches.

Per a report by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it remains possible for the Yankees to deal Garcia away in a trade for a controllable starting pitcher to shore up their rotation. That is to say, the only way New York would part with Garcia in the next eight days is if they received in return a veteran pitcher who was not scheduled to hit free agency next offseason.

But trade chatter aside, Garcia remains a highly regarded part of the Yankees’ farm system. His rapid ascent this year alone portends a promising future in pinstripes.

“He’s one of those guys that’s been on the radar the last couple of years,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Last year, having a really good year, and then obviously this year, taking it to another level and getting the attention of not only us, but all of the baseball world knowing about him now.”

Following a 2018 season in which he compiled a 2.55 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 74 innings at varying levels of Class A ball and with Double-A Trenton, Garcia rolled through the first half this season, continuing to keep his ERA low and strikeouts high. Earlier this month, while still pitching for the Thunder, he started the Futures Game during MLB’s All-Star Week in Cleveland.

Channeling his idol, Garcia had a clean inning of work in MLB’s premium prospect showcase, striking out the side. Martinez famously struck out the side 1-2-3 in the opening frame of the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park during his second season with the Boston Red Sox.

“I kind of had an idea that something big was coming after that,” Garcia said of his brief, K-filled outing.

By the fifth inning, it came.

Contacted in the middle of the inning by his Double-A manager, Pat Osborn, Garcia ended up getting asked his most memorable question of the year.

“You know you’re going to Triple-A after this game?” Osborn said during the phone call.

He did then.

While Garcia has been pleased with the strides he has made this year, he still doesn’t seem surprised by what has led to his rise thus far: an ability to get a lot of strikeouts. He has had it since becoming a professional player.

“In ’15, I figured out that I can strike out people — and that I love to really make the hitter confused,” Garcia said. “I know that’s a big part of my pitching game. So, I just try to compete against everybody and strike out everybody I can.”

Strikeouts were a key part of Martinez’s game too. He had 3,154 across his 18-year career. He twice put up 300-strikeout seasons, and he led the American League in K’s three times.

“Pedro was a guy with three elite pitches and with 80 command with each of them,” said Boone, referring to the highest number a player can receive on the scouting grade scale. “You’re talking about rare, nasty stuff. He can throw them all and dot them all. That’s the ultimate weapon, when you’ve got command plus pitches. That’s what he was so good at.”

Boone definitely would know. He faced Martinez seven times in his big league career. Boone collected two hits, including a double, while squaring off with Martinez. He also struck out once.

“I kind of enjoyed facing him, just in the sense that, it’s kind of fun facing the best,” Boone said. “You kind of know you got to be on it, and he could command it, although you know he also wasn’t afraid to let it rip inside too. So it was a challenge, but it was a fun one.”

At-bats like those Boone toughed through show up all over a YouTube video that Garcia credits with energizing him before he makes any start.

So here’s how deep Garcia’s admiration for Martinez goes: Minutes before he leaves to loosen up for a game he is pitching in, the righty plops down at his locker, grabs his phone, pops on a pair of headphones and pulls up YouTube, scrolling to a video that is four years old.

Titled “Video musical ‘Hall of Fame’: Homenaje a Pedro Martinez,” it is a 3-minute, 14-second montage of Martinez clips set to the song “Hall of Fame,” performed by the group The Script. Created to help celebrate Martinez’s 2015 Hall of Fame induction, the video has more than 87,000 views. Garcia, who still has yet to meet his hero, has a large chunk of them.

“It’s like a ritual,” Garcia said. “It gets me pumped up.”

There are moments in the video when fans wave the Dominican Republic’s flag as Martinez pitches. Combine them with the song’s varying crescendos and beat changes and there’s plenty in the highlights to engender pride in Garcia.

Of course, parts of the video wouldn’t excite most Yankees fans: There are two scenes in which Martinez strikes out Derek Jeter; another in which he gets Alex Rodriguez looking; one more when he threw up near Karim Garcia’s head in the 2003 American League Championship Series; and yet another in which the lyrics “You can walk straight through hell with a smile” are sung as an aerial shot of a packed Yankee Stadium is shown before transitioning to a grinning Martinez.

“He could do so many things on the mound,” Boone said of Martinez. “He could pitch up with the fastball. He could really make the fastball move and sink and do different things. As good a breaking ball as there was in the league, and then the changeup is the famous pitch. Pedro’s as good a right-handed pitcher as there’s been, certainly in my lifetime.”

While no one within the Yankees organization is willing to make a comparison between Garcia and Martinez, there is still a belief that the young hurler with a mid-90s fastball and sharp breaking pitches could fully blossom in the coming seasons.

Part of getting Garcia to that point includes expanding his repertoire. During spring training, he started tinkering with a slider, adding it to his arsenal of fastball-curveball-changeup. For the past two months, he has used the slider in games. He even used it as the out pitch on two of his six strikeouts in his first game at Triple-A.

“I love that pitch. I love to throw it,” Garcia said. “The slider has been great, because now people got more pitches to think about. I’ve used it a couple of times, and the hitters don’t know if it’s the curve ball or the fastball, and then it could be a slider coming. So that really helps.”

It appears the organization already is seeing favorable depth and break to Garcia’s slider, as well.

“Not only is it an extra pitch, it’s a quality extra pitch,” Bell said. “It gives that nice little separation, short lead break; it’s not just that overhand curve ball that’s just going to go down, it’s going to away from hitters, also.”

For now, Garcia’s goal is to be patient with his overall development. As quickly as he has progressed this year, he is well aware that his next promotion could take some time. Then again, it might not.

“When it happens, I’m just going to be like, ‘Wow,'” Garcia said. “If I’m smiling all the time here now, just imagine when I get called up. I’ll be all smiles.”

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MLB trade deadline tiers — 31 players who could be dealt

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There are many big decisions left to be made with only eight shopping days left until the 2019 MLB trade deadline. As your team tries to figure out if it is a buyer, seller or somewhere in between, we break down which stars could be on the move before July 31. Whether a starter, bullpen arm, position player or even just some general help is on the wish lift, these are the players who could fill a need for any interested party.

Jump to … Starting pitchers | Bullpen help| Hitters for hire| The long shots

More deadline coverage: Rumors, tracker & more | Passan’s preview | One player each team should trade for or deal away | What it’s like to get traded

The starting pitcher market

1. Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians: This may be the biggest “What will they do?” situation this deadline. The Indians were 11 games back of the Twins in mid-June, but they have clawed back into the race despite the absences of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Bauer hasn’t been as dominant as last season, but he might still rank as the best starting pitcher available due to his ability to chew up innings and put batters away. He’s under team control through next season, making him more attractive than a one-year rental.

So why would the Indians trade him? They need offense and may get Kluber and Carrasco back to join Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger in what would still be a formidable rotation. Bauer will also likely get close to $20 million in arbitration next season — a price tag that is too steep for the Indians (and could scare some teams from wanting him). Plus, there is the need for the Indians to keep churning talent to remain competitive into the future.

“I also think we’re at a different point organizationally, like we were in the offseason, where a lot more of our guys are maturing on their contracts and so, regardless of our competitive position, you explore different things than you otherwise would have,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff told Zack Meisel of The Athletic last week. In other words: The Indians may look to be creative and that may mean trading Bauer.

2. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants: You know the story. The Giants were stumbling along in last place all season, and a Bumgarner trade seemed like a foregone conclusion. But they’ve been red hot in July and climbed into the back end of the wild-card race, so now a trade is less likely. Remember, the Giants can just keep Bumgarner and ride this season out and still receive draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere as a free agent.

Making Farhan Zaidi’s decision even more difficult is that Bumgarner has been pitching so well that his trade value is much higher than it was a couple months ago. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.84 compared to 2.53 in 2018 and he has a 1.55 ERA over his past five starts. Any team would love to have Bumgarner and his big-game reputation on the mound in October.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported last week that the Astros, Twins, Phillies and Brewers are the most likely trade partners in a Bumgarner deal.

3. Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays: Like Bauer, Stroman is an enticing trade target because he’s not a free agent until after the 2020 season. Passan recently reported that “multiple GMs expect Stroman to be dealt.” Stroman is also attractive because he keeps the ball on the ground — he has the second-highest ground ball rate among qualified starters — which has helped him limit home runs. With the Blue Jays spinning in the mud for the foreseeable, they’ll look to continue to add more young talent.

4. Mike Minor, Texas Rangers: Minor signed a three-year, $28 million contract that goes through next season, but Minor is unhappy with all the trade rumors. “I feel like ever since I signed it’s been a topic,” he told reporters last week. “It’s almost like I signed just so they could trade me.” The 2019 All-Star is having the best season of his career and owns a 5.9 WAR that already ranks as one of the five best seasons by a Rangers starter in franchise history. GM Jon Daniels has said the Rangers “probably” won’t trade Minor, but also added that “we’re not going to rule anything out.”

5. Tanner Roark, Cincinnati Reds: Roark has been pretty solid in a tough park to pitch in, and he’s a pending free agent. He’s not a front-of-the-line starter and wouldn’t bring back a top prospect, so the Reds may decide to just ride things out unless they completely tank in the final week before the deadline.

6. Zack Wheeler, New York Mets: Another free agent-to-be, Wheeler looked like a lock to be traded until landing on the IL with shoulder fatigue. Passan wrote that the IL stint “more or less destroys his trade value.” An MRI revealed no structural damage and he might even make it back for a start before July 31. Wheeler has the stuff to pull out Eovaldi-like results — if he’s healthy — so somebody may still take a chance on him.

7. Mike Leake, Seattle Mariners: He’s strictly a back-end innings eater who throws strikes, but he has alternated some very good outings with some awful ones much of the season. Getting away from the terrible Seattle defense could help, and the Mariners would have to eat a big chunk of his salary to get even a Grade C prospect in return.

8. Trevor Richards, Miami Marlins: Of the 136 pitchers who have thrown 60 innings, Richards is basically middle of the pack in wOBA, in line with starters such as Zach Davies and Miles Mikolas. So he’s better than you probably think. He’s also easy on the payroll since this is his first full season in the majors. That’s valuable to the Marlins, but they need some young hitters, so they might be willing to trade one of the young pitchers.

Looking for bullpen help?

9. Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres: If the Padres decide to trade Yates, they’ll be able to extract maximum value for a pitcher they claimed on waivers from the Angels back in 2017. (To be fair, the Yankees also cut Yates and the Yankees purchased him from the Indians and the Indians purchased him from the Rays, so four organizations gave up on Yates.) He has been the best closer in baseball with an ERA barely above 1.00 thanks to a wipeout splitter, he doesn’t give up home runs, and he’s controlled through next season.

10-11. Will Smith and Sam Dyson, Giants: Smith has been one of the best lefty relievers the past couple of seasons, pitching better than ever after missing all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery. He gets righties and lefties out, so he fits in as either a closer or set-up guy. He’ll be a free agent, so he’s just a rental piece.

Dyson’s career appeared in jeopardy back in early 2017 when he started the season with the Rangers with six losses and a 10.80 ERA in 17 appearances. They traded him to the Giants, and now he’s having his best season as he’s back to throwing more strikes with a high ground ball rate. He’s arbitration-eligible for another year.

If the Giants stay hot until the deadline, they could also keep Bumgarner and deal from their bullpen depth (Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Reyes Moronta are also potential trade chips) for immediate help rather than prospects. “This entire season for us has never been a throwaway season or rebuilding season,” Zaidi said last week on KNBR-680. “Not every trade that’s made leading up to the trade deadline is a pure buy-or-sell deal. Sometimes it’s a need-for-need deal. That might be the direction that we go.”

12. Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers: With so many teams in need of bullpen help, it makes sense for the rebuilding Tigers to trade Greene now with his value so high. He is under team control for another season, but if you can get a couple decent prospects based on the best 35 innings of Greene’s career, you need to cash in.

13. Ken Giles, Blue Jays: The last you might remember of Giles is the 2017 playoffs, when he suddenly couldn’t throw his slider for strikes, gave up 10 runs in 7⅔ innings and lost his job as the Astros’ closer midway through the postseason. Well, the slider is back and Giles has been terrific with the second-highest strikeout rate among relievers (behind only Josh Hader). Of course, closing for a bad Blue Jays team isn’t the same thing as pitching in October. Would you trust him in a big situation?

14. Alex Colomé, Chicago White Sox: Yet another closer who might be available. A lot of contenders could use one. Colomé isn’t flashy, but he has a 2.71 ERA since 2016. He’s not an elite strikeout guy, and his actual wOBA allowed is about 100 points below his expected wOBA based on contact allowed, so there may be some buyer-beware issues here.

15. Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals: After a decade as a starter, Kennedy has been a revelation in his first year in the bullpen. The advanced metrics in particular are big on the way he’s pitched, as he ranks high in exit velocity allowed and expected wOBA.

16. Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles: Have we mentioned that many teams are desperate for bullpen help? Givens has allowed too many home runs, but six of the eight he has served up have come in Camden Yards. A change of scenery could help in that area as otherwise he has been good, riding his mid-90s fastball/slider combo to the best strikeout rate of his career. “He’s pitching like he wants out of there,” a scout told ESPN’s Eddie Matz. Can you blame him?

17. Roenis Elias, Mariners: He’s a lefty with a big reverse platoon split and some recent home run issues, but you know Jerry Dipoto won’t be sitting around knitting and doing the New York Times crossword on deadline day.

If you need a bat …

18-19. David Peralta and Adam Jones, Arizona Diamondbacks: Both veteran outfielders have been mentioned in trade rumors. Peralta is better and under team control through 2020, but he’s also currently on the injured list with right shoulder soreness. Jones got off to a hot start with 11 home runs through May, but he has struggled of late and is more of a bench bat for a contender.

20. Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers: He leads the American League in doubles and crushes lefties, but his best position is DH so that will limit interest in him. The Tigers tried to trade him in the offseason without any success, and even Castellanos admitted he wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not traded.

21. Eric Sogard, Blue Jays: Here’s an under-the-radar trade candidate who could make a big impact in October, similar to Marco Scutaro of the Giants in 2012 or Steve Pearce last season with the Red Sox. Sogard has hit very well with a 128 OPS+ while starting games at five different positions. He’s best at second base, but his ability to play shortstop or fill in in the outfield makes him a valuable trade piece.

22. Pablo Sandoval, Giants: Another guy who seemed dead in the water a couple years ago, but Sandoval is slugging over .500, no easy feat in Oracle Park. He’s a platoon bat, but he can play third and first and his .344 career average in the postseason could draw some interest if the Giants decide to bail on 2019.

23. Todd Frazier, Mets: Not much trade value here, but he can hit lefties and he’s still solid at third base. With J.D. Davis, there’s no reason for the Mets to keep Frazier so he can be had for a low-grade prospect by a team in need of a righty bat off the bench.

24. Scooter Gennett, Reds: The 2018 All-Star has missed most of the season due to a groin injury suffered in spring training and hasn’t hit since returning in late June. He hit .310 with 23 home runs last season. Most of the contenders appear set at second base, but maybe the A’s or Giants take a chance.

Long shots

25. Noah Syndergaard, Mets: Passan reports that the Mets are taking calls on Syndergaard, but it still feels unlikely that Brodie Van Wagenen will trade Thor, who is still under team control through 2021. Trading Syndergaard would essentially mean committing to a rebuild. Are the Mets willing to do that? Plus, Syndergaard’s trade value right now isn’t sky high given his 4.55 ERA, and the Mets are one hot stretch away from being back in the wild-card race.

26. Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks: Greinke eats up 28% of the Diamondbacks’ payroll, which is why he has been in trade rumors for a couple years now. But he’s also owed about $83 million in salary through 2021, which limits his trade value (unless the Diamondbacks eat salary). He also has a no-trade clause with 15 teams — including the Phillies, one of the teams most interested in Greinke.

27. Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks: If not Greinke, maybe the Diamondbacks trade Ray. The hard-throwing lefty is always on the brink of stardom, if he could just cut down on the walks. He racks up the K’s, but he’s so inefficient that he has gone more than six innings just once all season. Still, power lefties like this are hard to find. He’s under control for another season, and it would be interesting to see if a different team could extract better results out of him — such as the Yankees, who reportedly have interest.

28. Matthew Boyd, Tigers: Boyd’s breakout season has him fourth in the majors in strikeout rate among starting pitchers — behind Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer, thank you very much — and the Tigers are rightfully asking for a ransom in return, as they should, since he’s under control through 2022.

29. Felipe Vazquez, Pirates: The two-time All-Star closer is one of the best in the business and will make just $33.5 million from 2020 through 2023. That makes his trade value enormously high as the Pirates will demand at least a couple premium prospects in return. Would the Dodgers be willing to pay that price to solve some of their bullpen issues?

30-31. Franmil Reyes or Hunter Renfroe, Padres: The Padres have a logjam in the corner outfield positions with these two sluggers, plus Wil Myers and Josh Naylor. Except Myers hasn’t really been good, and Naylor is really a first baseman. The farm system is loaded, but the top two outfield prospects are hitting .201 and .229 this season. Reyes and Renfroe are also low OBP sluggers and Reyes has limited range in the field. The Padres would like to add a controllable starting pitcher — think Bauer or Syndergaard — but the Mets don’t need a corner outfielder and they’ll need to offer more than Reyes or Renfroe to land Bauer.

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Robo umps continue in Atlantic League

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The independent Atlantic League is so happy with “robot umpires” that it will continue using the system for the rest of the season, a source told ESPN’s Buster Olney Tuesday.

The league became the first American professional baseball league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its all-star game earlier this month. Plate umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

He crouched in his normal position behind the catcher and signaled balls and strikes.

After the successful test at the all-star game, the league started rolling out the technology to stadiums throughout the league.

The umpires have the ability to override the computer, which considers a pitch a strike when the ball bounces and then crosses the zone. TrackMan also does not evaluate check swings.

The experiment with radar-tracking technology to call balls and strikes was originally expected to begin at the start of the season but experienced some delays.

Atlantic League President Rick White said at the all-star break that he feels his organization is on the cutting edge of a movement.

“We’re very excited about what this portends not only for our league but for the future of baseball,” he said. “What we know is technology can help umpires be more accurate, and we’re committed to that. We think the Atlantic League is being a pioneer for all of the sport.”

The Atlantic League has an agreement with Major League Baseball to test rules changes.

Other rules changes being tested:

Batters can try to steal first base on any pitch that was not caught in flight. It expands the traditional dropped third strike rule to all pitches, and batters can be thrown out if they try to run. Also, one foul bunt is allowed with two strikes before it becomes a strikeout. Pitchers are required to step off the rubber to try a pickoff. And there is a relaxation on check swings to be more batter-friendly.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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