Raul MondesiLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesYoung shortstop prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. could use a little different approach at the plate.
Some notes from a pair of Class A games I attended in the past week, beginning with a matchup between the Royals' and White Sox's high-A affiliates:

• The Wilmington Blue Rocks' lineup is down two bats of note following last month's promotion of Hunter Dozier. Shortstop Raul Mondesi Jr., who turned just 19 on Sunday, is struggling at the plate, which is not surprising given how young he is for the level. But he's making it worse with his incessant attempts to bunt for hits. He's doing it early in counts, so he's not able to work on pitch recognition or timing or just swinging the bat like you want a prospect to do. He's a plus runner, so bunting for hits would add value, but it shouldn't come at the expense of him learning to hit. I'd put a moratorium on him trying to bunt for any reason the rest of the year, forcing him to work on improving his approach and gaining consistency with his left-handed swing.

• Wilmington lefty Sean Manaea looked better than he did when I saw him in April, showing a more fluid delivery, better use of his legs and a little more velocity.
PeavyAP Photo/Nathan DenetteJake Peavy has gone 13 straight starts without walking more than three batters in an outing.
The San Francisco Giants get a huge boost to their rotation, shoring up a surprising weakness in their club, while the Boston Red Sox clear some funds and acquire a fringy starter prospect and a solid relief arm that has had trouble staying healthy.

Jake Peavy gives the Giants exactly what they needed: a starter to provide what they thought they'd be getting from Tim Lincecum and who keeps Yusmeiro Petit out of the rotation.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The Seattle Mariners need the 2013 version of Kendrys Morales -- they really needed him all year, but their need now remains acute -- and it's not clear if that player

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Joakim Soria Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsJoakim Soria fills a need for the Tigers, but they paid a steep price to get him.
The price for Joakim Soria is steep, as you'd expect for a pitcher of his pedigree and present performance, but he fills the Detroit Tigers' most critical need and is likely to help them in the postseason as well.

The Tigers needed late-game relief help, and they have always placed a high value (higher than I would) on experience in the closer role. Soria was the best Proven Closer™ available in trade this year -- perhaps a little underrated because he's toiled for non-contenders his whole career -- and he pitches like a starter, with a full assortment of pitches, rather than like a traditional reliever who throws hard and then harder.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The biggest criticism of the Josh Byrnes era in San Diego has to be the move he never made. The former Padres general manager held on to Chase Headley even after Headley had a career year in 2012, and we're now into a second successively worse season after a bad 2013. An awful 2014 has seen Headley's offense drop well below average around an early-season DL stint.

That poor decision came home to roost on Tuesday, as the Padres traded Headley for two players who

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Midseason top five farm systems 

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
11:22
AM ET
Theo EpsteinGetty ImagesTheo Epstein has stocked the Cubs' farm system with elite prospects such as Addison Russell.
Ranking all 30 organizations based on their minor league talent is a major undertaking each winter, which is why I always decline to do a re-ranking during the season. There's simply no way I could do it justice given the amount of work it requires.

We've had a couple of major news events that affected two of the teams near the top of last offseason's rankings, however, and a slew of questions from readers about which system is now at the top of the heap. So here's a revised look at the top five, considering only what's in the systems right now and excluding anyone on major league rosters.

1. Chicago Cubs

I know Cubs fans have heard this before, but just wait 'til next year, because this club is going to get good in a hurry, at least on the run-scoring side of the ledger.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Huston StreetStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesHuston Street fills a need for the Angels, but they paid a hefty price for his services.
The Los Angeles Angels were desperate for a closer in the best year they've had since acquiring Albert Pujols and the San Diego Padres had a spare closer lying around whom they didn't need, but the amount of talent heading to San Diego in exchange for Huston Street is baffling.

The Angels seem to have paid for name value or the Proven Closer™ tag rather than for production; Street hasn't been worth more than 1.0 fWAR -- a metric that derives a pitcher's WAR using FIP -- in any season since 2009, coincidentally the last time he reached 60 innings in one year.

Street is a good fit for the Angels' park -- a fly-ball pitcher who throws a ton of strikes -- and wasn't just a Petco Park fabrication, but he's also not going to strand every runner he lets reach base indefinitely. There are only a few right-handed relievers in the American League working with a below-average fastball, like Street has, and only one of them, Koji Uehara, is a successful closer. Street is probably worth half a win on paper to the Angels, more than that in the standings because of the high-leverage work he'll get and who he's replacing, but I don't foresee him adding enough W's in the standings to justify all they gave up to get him.

I said on Twitter that I wouldn't have dealt shortstop prospect Jose Rondon straight-up for two-plus months of Street's services, so I certainly don't like the total price for the Angels in this trade -- and love it for San Diego.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
In the story of the Houston Astros' failure to sign two of their top draft picks on Friday, there are neither villains nor victors, only victims left holding empty bags. The first overall pick in the draft, Brady Aiken, declined to sign with the Astros, marking just the third time in the June draft's history that the top player did not sign and the first since 1984.

The greatest victim of all in this fiasco is Jacob Nix, the Astros' fifth-round pick, a high school pitcher from Southern California who agreed to a $1.5 million bonus and passed his physical but was not allowed to sign his contract because of a medical issue involving Aiken. While, practically speaking, everyone involved knew that Nix's deal was contingent on Aiken's, that's not permissible under MLB rules and couldn't be made explicit or put in writing, which will likely be the basis of any grievance filed by Nix against the Astros -- or potential litigation seeking to enforce the verbal contract between the parties.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Josh BellHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesPirates prospect (and Futures Game player) Josh Bell is hitting .333 at high Class A this season.
Here are a some stray notes and observations from Sunday's 16th annual MLB Futures Game. If you missed my first batch, here they are.

• Pirates outfield prospect Josh Bell, the team's second-round pick in 2011 and the recipient of a $5 million bonus that year, earned the "best hit tool" nod in my Futures Game preview, and it was evident in batting practice, where his bat speed was improved and he looked better swinging right-handed than he had in the past. He's still stronger from the left side, setting up more consistently by his rear shoulder with a more pronounced pause when he loads, but right-handed, it's just a question of getting the bat to the zone at a consistent time. He had just one at-bat in the game -- he was left in the hole with James Ramsey on deck for the (winning) USA team in the bottom of the eighth -- and, hitting right-handed, he grounded out to shortstop on a 95 mph fastball leading off the bottom of the seventh.

• Toronto southpaw Daniel Norris has had a breakout year in the Blue Jays' system, which team execs credit to Norris and his coaches working with him in the offseason and this spring to get his delivery more online to the plate and his arm swing more consistent. His delivery isn't perfect, but it's better.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Standouts from MLB Futures Game 

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
9:11
PM ET
Joey GalloAP Photo/Paul SancyaJoey Gallo, a Rangers prospect, hit a towering home run during the MLB Futures Game.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The 2014 MLB Futures Game might someday be remembered as the baseball world's formal introduction to Texas third baseman Joey Gallo, as his grade-80 raw power was on display both during BP and during the game. Gallo still has things to work on as a hitter, but his power is absurd -- he put baseballs into the top deck and onto the right field concourse during batting practice, then hit a mammoth homer off a fastball right down the chute from Astros prospect Michael Feliz. It was a blast that gave the U.S. team a 3-2 lead it never relinquished.

Gallo's bomb followed strikeouts on sliders in his first two at bats -- one swinging on a pitch down and in at his back foot, the other looking on one from Yankees prospect Luis Severino. Gallo wasn't challenged inside like you'd expect, as his power comes when he can get his arms extended on pitches middle to away, but he's already succeeded in improving his coverage from the past season to this spring. If you can live with the strikeouts, he's one of the highest-impact bats in the minors.

Here are more notes from the game.
[+] EnlargeBaez
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsCubs prospect Javier Baez showed off what might be the quickest hands in the minors with an opposite field blast.

• Speaking of power

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Joey GalloAP Photo/Brian WesterholtTexas prospect Joey Gallo isn't just blessed with plus-plus power; he has a huge arm at third base.

The 16th annual MLB Futures Game will take place Sunday at Target Field in Minneapolis, and yes, I'll be there, my ninth Futures Game. It's an event that brings some of the best prospects from around the minors together on one field for a nine-inning exhibition that is far more interesting than the actual All-Star Game on Tuesday. The first one I attended featured Joey Votto, Alex Gordon, Homer Bailey and Hunter Pence; the 2007 game included a 19-year-old lefty named Clayton Kershaw. Here's a quick guide to some of the 2014 players, focusing on which players grade out the best in the five hitting tools or in some of the major scouting categories for pitchers.

Best hit tool

Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh: Bell missed just about all of 2012 because of a bad knee injury and spent much of 2013 shaking off the rust from losing his entire first pro season. This year, however, Bell's promise in high school is showing up on the field, as he's making a ton of contact, much of it hard, with a .380 average since the start of June, and nearly equal triple-slash lines from the left and right sides. Sean Coyle, Corey Seager, D.J. Peterson and Francisco Lindor also have above-average to plus hit tools.

Best power

Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas: There's a ton of power in this year's Futures Game, with Gallo leading the way. He has enormous left-handed pull power, comparable to Giancarlo Stanton's, producing 93 homers already in 254 professional games, 31 this year. The U.S. team alone has at least four players with grade-70 power or more:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Chris SaleAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhFor reasons unclear to many, White Sox ace Chris Sale was left off the All-Star roster.
The MLB All-Star Game rosters always spur controversy for who's out and who's in, but also because there aren't clear rules on what makes an All-Star in the first place. I've never bought the maxim that it should just be the players who are having the best current seasons, because that's the ideal way to leave out a few legitimate stars while including a bunch of guys who had two fluky hot months.

But that philosophy also ignores the original purpose of the game, one that still matters today: This is Major League Baseball's one night to get all of its best players on one field in front of a worldwide audience. The focus should be on getting as many of the game's current and emerging stars into the game, and if that means a one-hit wonder gets left off the roster, so be it.

With that in mind, here are my main guidelines when critiquing the All-Star rosters: No player should go to the game for a first half that might easily be a fluke, but the sport does have a vested interest in getting a few rising stars into the game so they can play before a national audience. Of course, you don't need those guidelines to realize there's an enormous mistake on the AL roster. …

American League

Scott Kazmir or Mark Buehrle over Chris Sale: These two player selections are the dumbest of anything this year, and there's a fair amount of ridiculousness going on for both rosters, so the bar is high. Sale would be second in the league in ERA if he qualified, just .05 behind leader Felix Hernandez. He's sixth in the league in WAR and tenth in rWAR, despite having 20 fewer innings pitched than any of the pitchers ahead of him. He's 8-1 if you actually care about something as useless as a pitcher's won-lost record. And Sale was a top five pitcher in the league last year, too.

Did the players just look at the ERA rankings and forget Sale because he doesn't have enough innings to qualify (he's one inning short) for the chart?

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Brandon McCarthyNorm Hall/Getty ImagesThe Yankees upgraded their rotation with the acquisition of Brandon McCarthy.
The New York Yankees' acquisition of Brandon McCarthy upgrades a beleaguered rotation that's not getting any help from the farm system, while the Arizona Diamondbacks don't capitalize on one of their most valuable trade assets and get nothing in return but some financial savings.

McCarthy turned out to be a poor fit for Arizona's hitter-friendly ballpark and almost as hitter-friendly defense, but he fared well in the three things a pitcher can do to help himself most: miss bats, avoid walks and keep the ball on the ground. While some things out of McCarthy's control have gone against him, he's also had trouble keeping his sinker -- his best pitch -- from drifting up in the zone. He has given up 15 homers -- that's one out of every five fly balls he's allowed -- and all but two came on sinkers or cutters, pitches designed to generate ground balls or at least weaker contact. All 13 homers off sinkers or cutters were pitches left at or above the midpoint of the strike zone.

Although Yankee Stadium isn't a pitcher's paradise, McCarthy has never been this homer-prone before, and there almost has to be some element of misfortune in there, even if there has been a true drop in his ability to avoid home runs. That's a long way of saying I think McCarthy will be better for the Yanks than he was in Arizona and will likely post an ERA around 4, rather than 5.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Addison RussellMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesThe Cubs have added one of the top prospects in baseball in Addison Russell.
The A's have added a huge injection of both quality and depth into their rotation, but it does come at a cost -- their last two first-round picks, both excellent prospects right now, who will boost a Cubs system that was already among the top five in baseball. In a significant deal, both sides add impact, with different timelines in mind.

Jeff Samardzija has gone from DFA candidate after 2011 to mid-rotation starter in 2012. Now, he's throwing

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SALISBURY, Md. -- Baltimore Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey threw for the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds on Monday night, and it was another outstanding effort from the 19-year-old who learned on Tuesday that he'll represent the Orioles in this year's MLB Futures Game. This was my second time seeing Harvey this year, and he had a better fastball Monday than he did when I saw him in April on a 46-degree day, and had better results, too.

Harvey started the game working from 93 and 96 mph with 70-grade life on his fastball, getting tremendous bore on the pitch; he broke at least three right-handed hitters' bats over the course of the outing. He located the fastball well to both corners and in the lower third of the zone, especially working inside to righties. By the fifth and sixth innings, he was down to 90-94, but he still had the same command and life to the pitch. His curveball, which was plus when I've seen him in the past, was just average Monday night, although he did punch out four hitters with it (with three others striking out on fastballs). The breaking ball was 77-80 mph with good rotation but less depth than before, and he left a few of 'em up over the course of the game, including one that led to a single, plating West Virginia's only run of the game. Harvey threw only one changeup, a good one at 84 mph. He'll have to use that pitch more often, though Sally League hitters aren't going to make him do that.

Harvey is ready to move up, at least to high-A but possibly all the way to Double-A, because he has the fastball velocity, life and command to eviscerate low-A hitters without needing to work on developing his changeup or tightening his curveball.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES