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Latest from Ray Flowers' MLB Draft Guide

Howard Bender
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Kennys Vargas Headshot

Vargas enters spring training as the leading candidate to win the starting DH job, ESPN 1500 am Twin Cities reports.

Minnesota's DH spot is an open competition as Byungho Park and Robbie Grossman could also figure into the mix. Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano also figure to get time at DH as the Twins may regularly use the DH spot to give them days off from being in the field. Vargas had 10 home runs in 47 games last season, along with a .833 OPS and 13.6 percent walk rate. However, he'll need to make better contact (63 percent contact rate). It's also possible the switch hitter could platoon against lefties since he's shown sharp platoon splits (a MLB career 1.262 OPS vs. lefties, .654 OPS vs. righties).
1:12 am (EST)
Joe Mauer Headshot

Twins manager Paul Molitor would like to reduce Mauer's workload this season to keep him healthier. "I think I overplayed Joe the first half," Molitor told ESPN 1500 am Twin Cities. "I think it resulted in maybe leading to a potential injury as well as maybe the downslide of performance near the end of the season."

Mauer started the season hot last year by hitting .323 with a .890 OPS in the first month. But he wore down later in the year and struggled with leg issues that led to a .499 OPS over his last 22 games. With a new GM and Mauer in the second to last year of his contract, it's possible he could have a much reduced role if he struggles early in the season.
1:01 am (EST)
Elias Diaz Headshot

Diaz has recovered from the cellulitis which ended his 2016 campaign early and is taking part in spring training activities.

The 26-year-old missed a golden opportunity to see his first significant action at the big league level in 2016 due to a host of ailments. He enters 2017 with a chance to eventually get that playing time he missed last year, essentially because of the fragile nature of the two catchers ahead of him, Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. Diaz's prospect status dimmed a bit last year but it seems as though he's finally set to show what he can do in the majors.
12:56 am (EST)
Chris Stewart Headshot

Stewart (knee) is healthy entering spring training after undergoing knee surgery in September, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

The Pirates are purposely giving Stewart a light workload during camp in an effort to preserve the 34-year-old for the regular season. At this point in his career, he offers little in the way of offense. Stewart slashed .214/.319/.286 in 113 plate appearances in 2016.
12:28 am (EST)
Kendall Graveman Headshot

Graveman, who slots in as the A's' No. 3 starter going into spring training, has impressed manager Bob Melvin with his command thus far, Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area reports.

The 26-year-old righty, who brought his BB/9 down from 2015's 2.96 to 2.27 last season, is working on tightening up his control even further in the coming season. Graveman has been successful in that quest so far by all accounts, and is also focused on improving his changeup in an effort to keep right-handed hitters off balance. Gravemen looked impressive in what was his first time facing hitters Monday, and will engage in another round of batting practice later in the week.
Yesterday 11:44 pm (EST)
Jedd Gyorko Headshot

Gyorko produced mixed results in Monday's batting practice session, struggling against Carlos Martinez but hitting a monstrous homer off Trevor Rosenthal, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The slugging infielder, who smacked 30 homers in his first Cardinals season in 2016, made waves in the morning session with a blast to right field off Rosenthal, who is trying to make the transition from closer to middle reliever or starter this spring. As encouraging as his round-tripper off Rosenthal was, Gyorko had also been humbled in an earlier round of at-bats against Martinez, who stymied him with his trademark changeup. "He's got good stuff. He's the guy that we leaned on last year, and we're going to lean on him again this year to be quality and go out and give us good innings."
Yesterday 11:31 pm (EST)
Randal Grichuk Headshot

Grichuk, who is moving to left field in 2017 with the arrival of Dexter Fowler, is looking forward to his new position and the coming season in general, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. "Last year, I tried to feel for the ball a little too much - trying to be a hitter that I'm not. This year, I'm going to let it fly and have some fun, like I did the last month or month-and-a-half of the year," said Grichuk, who had 12 of his 24 homers in August and September.

Grichuk tallied a career-high 24 homers and 68 RBI in 2016, despite struggling with a left knee that ended up requiring cartilage repair surgery in November. However, the 25-year-od did concede that the knee bothered him "a good amount" throughout the campaign, which likely played a part in his .240 average and .289 OBP. Now fully healthy, Grichuk and the Cardinals feel his speed, strong throwing arm and previous experience playing left field will help him make a seamless transition to his new position. At the plate, Grichuk also will aim to make much more consistent contact, considering he's posted 31.4-and-29.5-percent strikeout rates, respectively, over his last two major league seasons.
Yesterday 11:18 pm (EST)
John Tavares Headshot

Tavares scored the game-winner in Sunday's 6-4 win over the Devils.

The former first-round pick went the past eight games without scoring a goal until Sunday. Still, that goal gives Tavares five points in the past five games. In addition, no offensive players on the Islanders see more ice time than Tavares, averaging 20:15 minutes per game. Heading into the thick of the playoff hunt, the 26-year-old will have the chance to be a valuable fantasy weapon.
Yesterday 10:58 pm (EST)
Alex Cobb Headshot

Cobb threw live batting practice Monday and was happy with the session, Bill Chastain of reports. "There weren't too many hitters, I had a lot of injured guys in my group who were kind of just tracking," Cobb said. "I had Brad Miller, who was swinging, and he swung often, thankfully [which allowed Cobb to see how a hitter reacted to his pitches]. But it was good."

The 29-year-old righty struggled and in five starts at the big league level last season after missing the entirety of the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery. Cobb was 1-2 with a mammoth 8.59 ERA and 1.77 WHIP over 22 innings in five starts at the tail end of the season, and enters spring training looking to solidify a spot in the Rays starting rotation. Considering his difficult stretch in 2016, Cobb is looking forward to getting a fresh start this spring and getting some live game action in. "You go from flat-ground work in mid-January, progress up to the bullpens, and live BP. The games. Just another step in that direction. I was happy to get that under my belt."
Yesterday 10:55 pm (EST)
Brett Anderson Headshot

Anderson feels that he is fully recovered from a bulging disk in his lower back that cost him most of the 2016 season, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The back injury limited Anderson to just four games last season, and he acknowledged that another serious back injury could end his career. For the moment, Anderson is healthy and competing with Mike Montgomery for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. The talent has always been there for Anderson, but he's only reached 100 innings once in the last six seasons due to a variety of injuries.
Yesterday 10:50 pm (EST)
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