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Diamondbacks extend contract of GM Hazen

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The Arizona Diamondbacks have reached an agreement on a contract extension with general manager Mike Hazen, the team announced on Friday. Length and terms of the deal were not made available.

Hazen’s name had been tied to the Boston Red Sox — who are looking to replace recently fired president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

Hazen, 43, was part of Boston’s front office for 11 years before he took over as the Diamondbacks’ GM after the 2016 season.

Arizona won 93 games and made the National League Division Series in 2017, and it finished with 82 wins in 2018. Heading into Friday’s games, the Diamondbacks were four games back in the race for the second wild card.

At the beginning of Hazen’s tenure, the D-backs ranked last in ESPN’s Keith Law’s prospect rankings in January 2017. They moved up to eighth in Law’s last update in February 2019 and likely will be higher in the next update, following the trade-deadline deal that garnered four minor-leaguers from the Astros — Corbin Martin, J.B. Bukauskas, Seth Beer and Josh Rojas — in exchange for Zack Greinke.

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Giancarlo Stanton sounds off on Astros’ 2017 scheme

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TAMPA Fla. — New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Wednesday called out Houston Astros owner Jim Crane for saying that his club’s illegal sign-stealing system “may or may not have” had an impact on the competition on the field.

Stanton, acquired by the Yankees before the start of the 2018 season, led the majors with 59 home runs in 2017 as a member of the Miami Marlins, the most home runs by a major league player since 2001.

“If I knew what was coming in ’17, I probably would have hit 80 plus home runs,” said Stanton, who quipped, “He knew. He knew,” when told of Crane’s ambivalence in addressing the impact of sign stealing.

“It would have been better if there was an apology or explanation on their side,” he added. “We know that (the Astros) don’t really care to give an apology or explain their side, and it showed by their response. As players, we know that. You know the repercussions of doing something like that, and you’re only really sorry because you got caught.”

Stanton also agreed with teammate Aaron Judge, who stated that Astros players should not have only being directly punished by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, but should also vacate their 2017 championship.

“They did their investigation and it was clean cut that they cheated that year, which means it should be taken away. I mean, if i if you cheat in another way during the season you can’t even be in the playoffs, so therefore would be eliminated. So it’s pretty much the same, same difference,” Stanton said. “I don’t think the penalties were harsh enough player-wise. I think that, at the end of the day it gives more incentive to do that, if you’re not going to punish the players that took part in it.”

Mike Fiers, the former Astros pitcher who was the whistleblower that spurred the investigation led by MLB that confirmed the club had cheated by using a camera-based, sign-stealing system during their 2017 World Series-winning regular season and playoffs, and during part of the 2018 regular season, has a long history with Stanton.

In September 2014, Fiers was pitching when he hit Stanton in the face with a fastball, causing severe injuries to the then-Marlins star and effectively ending his season. Fiers’ pitch struck Stanton on the left side of the jaw and he had to be carted off the field. Since that incident, there has been no love lost between Fiers and Stanton.

When asked whether he had gained respect for Fiers for speaking out, Stanton said it didn’t change anything between the two.

“No, not really,” he said. “This isn’t about me and him. This information would have come to light eventually; maybe not as soon, but it has nothing to do with me and him.”

After struggling with biceps, shoulder, calf and knee injuries throughout the season, Stanton said that 2019 was without question the most frustrating year of his career. After playing in only 18 regular-season games, and being limited during the 2019 postseason due to a quad strain, Stanton claims he has fully rehabbed his injuries.

“I didn’t have much time off. I got my rest, but I had to rehab the moment the season was over and then by the time I was done rehabbing, I had my normal offseason training. Just getting my knee and quad to full strength,” he said. “I did everything I needed to do. (This spring) I have no limitations; just have to be smart with the workload, getting back into it. But no limitations.”

Manager Aaron Boone said the 30-year-old’s role, whether he’ll start primarily in left field or as designated hitter, remains “fluid.”

“Whatever works best for the team. That’s kind of like we did my first season here. It’s just like, here’s a plan for the next three days. What do you think? How can we make it better?” said Stanton when addressing whether there was an ideal balance between playing the field and DH’ing. “Just go with the flow. Whatever works.”

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Giancarlo Stanton sounds off on Astros’ 2017 scheme

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TAMPA Fla. — New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Wednesday called out Houston Astros owner Jim Crane for saying that his club’s illegal sign-stealing system “may or may not have” had an impact on the competition on the field.

Stanton, acquired by the Yankees before the start of the 2018 season, led the majors with 59 home runs in 2017 as a member of the Miami Marlins, the most home runs by a major league player since 2001.

“If I knew what was coming in ’17, I probably would have hit 80 plus home runs,” said Stanton, who quipped, “He knew. He knew,” when told of Crane’s ambivalence in addressing the impact of sign stealing.

“It would have been better if there was an apology or explanation on their side,” he added. “We know that (the Astros) don’t really care to give an apology or explain their side, and it showed by their response. As players, we know that. You know the repercussions of doing something like that, and you’re only really sorry because you got caught.”

Stanton also agreed with teammate Aaron Judge, who stated that Astros players should not have only being directly punished by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, but should also vacate their 2017 championship.

“They did their investigation and it was clean cut that they cheated that year, which means it should be taken away. I mean, if i if you cheat in another way during the season you can’t even be in the playoffs, so therefore would be eliminated. So it’s pretty much the same, same difference,” Stanton said. “I don’t think the penalties were harsh enough player-wise. I think that, at the end of the day it gives more incentive to do that, if you’re not going to punish the players that took part in it.”

Mike Fiers, the former Astros pitcher who was the whistleblower that spurred the investigation led by MLB that confirmed the club had cheated by using a camera-based, sign-stealing system during their 2017 World Series-winning regular season and playoffs, and during part of the 2018 regular season, has a long history with Stanton.

In September 2014, Fiers was pitching when he hit Stanton in the face with a fastball, causing severe injuries to the then-Marlins star and effectively ending his season. Fiers’ pitch struck Stanton on the left side of the jaw and he had to be carted off the field. Since that incident, there has been no love lost between Fiers and Stanton.

When asked whether he had gained respect for Fiers for speaking out, Stanton said it didn’t change anything between the two.

“No, not really,” he said. “This isn’t about me and him. This information would have come to light eventually; maybe not as soon, but it has nothing to do with me and him.”

After struggling with biceps, shoulder, calf and knee injuries throughout the season, Stanton said that 2019 was without question the most frustrating year of his career. After playing in only 18 regular-season games, and being limited during the 2019 postseason due to a quad strain, Stanton claims he has fully rehabbed his injuries.

“I didn’t have much time off. I got my rest, but I had to rehab the moment the season was over and then by the time I was done rehabbing, I had my normal offseason training. Just getting my knee and quad to full strength,” he said. “I did everything I needed to do. (This spring) I have no limitations; just have to be smart with the workload, getting back into it. But no limitations.”

Manager Aaron Boone said the 30-year-old’s role, whether he’ll start primarily in left field or as designated hitter, remains “fluid.”

“Whatever works best for the team. That’s kind of like we did my first season here. It’s just like, here’s a plan for the next three days. What do you think? How can we make it better?” said Stanton when addressing whether there was an ideal balance between playing the field and DH’ing. “Just go with the flow. Whatever works.”

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Dynasty fantasy baseball – Future stars you should reach for early in drafts

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Back in early 2018, everyone was talking about a young, talented outfielder in the Washington farm system who was on the verge of becoming a superstar at the MLB level. He became a solid sleeper pick in many a fantasy draft and it seemed like only a matter of time before he would be paying huge dividends at the big league level. Unfortunately, Victor Robles ended up suffering a severe elbow injury at Triple-A and any realistic chance at 2018 fantasy value went by the wayside.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Juan Soto spent his spring rising up through several levels of minor-league ball and up to Double-A, getting the call when the Nationals needed some assistance in the wake of multiple outfielders succumbing to wear and tear. Had any fantasy managers showed the foresight to select the youngster in the first few rounds of their 2018 drafts, they would likely have been met with resounding laughter. However, they also would have been rewarded with a .292 batting average, 22 HRs and 70 RBIs in 116 games during a season when few believed Soto would get even as high as Harrisburg. In 2019, he followed up his strong start with 150 games played, 34 HRs and 110 runs scored and RBIs.

Robles — who did manage to make it back on the field for a nondescript September cup of coffee in 2018 — was also a Washington lineup mainstay in 2019. However, his .255 batting average, 17 HRs and 65 RBIs simply didn’t shine as brightly as Soto’s season, even though Robles did add 28 steals to the mix (compared to just a dozen from Soto).

That’s the thing about dynasty leagues. We all know that a large number of “can’t-miss phenoms” ultimately can and do miss to varying levels of disappointment. While far from a bust, Robles is likely to be drafted only around pick 75 this season, while Soto is a clear first-rounder in startup dynasty campaigns.

That’s the trick behind winning in dynasty leagues. You can’t focus only on building for tomorrow, because doing so almost guarantees you’re definitely not going to win today. However, if you can manage to select that rare player who has yet to make a huge name for himself but is on the verge of becoming a perennial top-10 fantasy factor — and if you can select him before your fellow managers have even begun considering him as an option — then you’ve pulled off an amazing coup.

There are plenty of hitters in their age-25 season or younger of note in 2020 fantasy drafts, including the likes of Cody Bellinger, Ozzie Albies, Keston Hiura, Fernando Tatis Jr., Rafael Devers, Ronald Acuna Jr. and our good friend Juan Soto. Every single one of these players is likely to be off the board by the time Round 5 is over in your 12-team league — and with good reason.

For me, though, there are three players currently sporting an ADP closer to Rounds 8-12, who, if you’re willing to face a little bit of potential ridicule, could well put you in the driver’s seat for years to come if you decide to grab them toward the tail end of the first 60 selections off the board. Could one member of this trio become “the next Juan Soto”? Even if none of them does and they all simply end up being the “next Victor Robles,” you’ll probably be just fine. Let them laugh!

Cavan Biggio, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays: An awful lot of attention landed in Canada last season as a trio of youngsters with major-league pedigrees landed in the Toronto lineup over the course of the season. Much of the fantasy world was drooling at the arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Bo Bichette. Yet, when all is said and done — especially in a 2B field that seems a bit sparse right now — Biggio might well have the greatest fantasy impact of the three.

In just 100 games, it was Biggio who displayed the most power (16 HRs, one more than Guerrero), as well as the most speed (14 SBs, 27.5% of the Blue Jays’ team total) of the new arrivals. Sure, the batting average (.234) looks a bit scary, but that could merely be an artifact of an expected adjustment to the majors. After all, that .300/.424/.563 in 22 September games is definitely proof that there’s a very high ceiling in place here.

Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox: Service time issues are not going to be what holds Robert back in Chicago, as the team signed the 22-year-old to a $50 million, six-year contract extension in January. That guaranteed rate of pay should make sure that Robert will be an everyday fixture for the White Sox, starting with Opening Day, without any “keeping him in the minors” shenanigans entering the equation.

As for what the Cuban import has done in the minors? Last season, he started in the Carolina league and rose all the way to Triple-A, combining for a .328 BA, 32 HRs, 92 RBIs and 36 SBs across all those levels. The best news is that, even with lofty expectations, he’ll be in a lineup that also has Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Eloy Jimenez. He could hit 30 HRs and still be fifth on the White Sox. As such, there’s not nearly as much pressure on Robert to carry his team, as is often the case with newcomers as highly touted as he.

Mike Soroka, SP, Atlanta Braves: When you look to starting pitchers in fantasy, it’s natural for your attention to turn to the dominant strikeout artists, especially since those punch-outs account for 25% of a SP’s value in many rotisserie formats. So, I get why a lot of people might take one look at Soroka’s 7.32 K/9 rate from last season and roll their eyes when I suggest he can be a top-10 starter in 2020.

That said, Soroka’s 2.68 ERA was fueled by his ability to keep the ball on the ground (51.2% GB rate, sixth highest in baseball among qualified pitchers) and in the park on those occasions when sluggers sent those pitches skyward (11.1% HR/FB, tied for ninth lowest).

He’s only 22 and plans to improve his fastball so that his sinker and changeup will become even more impactful. Even if that translates to only an extra strikeout per outing, how far off from Clayton Kershaw‘s final numbers (given his injury risk) will Soroka be? I’d argue it’s not much.

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