The title for the next Star Wars movie has been released and it’s painfully teasing:

Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi

I love everything about that title, and can’t wait for the next movie. “Rogue One” was a nice distraction – and that ending, my god – but I’m ready to return to the original storyline (or whatever I’m supposed to officially call it).

But it’s time to check back in on some news from around the league, and unfortunatly, that news begins with something very sad.

  • As we noted Sunday, Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura (as well as former big leaguer Andy Marte) passed away after a car accident in the Dominican Republic. At Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan provides his (and others that knew him) take on the fearless life of Ventura. It’s a good read on yet another tragedy for MLB, and a dedication to the young man who died.
  • Joe Posnanski (MLB.com) also writes about Ventura and his unexpectedly fast fastball, and ascent into the Major Leagues. I’d love to offer more – to even provide some comfort for my own mind – but I’m just not sure what to say in these moments that hasn’t already been said. This is a devastating story, and the type we’ve experienced too many times in the recent years. All we can do is remember Ventura fondly and continue to distract ourselves from the craziness of the world the same way he did: baseball.
  • There is no smooth segue here. So, then … the Pittsburgh Pirates’ ZiPS projections have been released by FanGraphs. Among the biggest stories is the expected bounce back for the five-time All-star, and one-time MVP Andrew McCutchen. In fact, he receives the highest wins projection on the team. After posting a .329 wOBA in 2016, McCutchen is projected to slash .276/.370/.474 (.361 wOBA) en route to a 4-win season. Starling Marte (.351 wOBA) and Jung Ho Kang (.350 wOBA) are the next best two offensive performs and then it drops off fairly significantly thereafter.
  • On the pitching side, however, a rotation of Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, James Taillon and Ivan Nova all project to be above average, although the rotation’s combined projected 10 fWAR falls a little short when compared to the Chicago Cubs (16 fWAR), mostly because none of the Pirates’ pitchers are project to throw a lot of innings. It’s difficult to tell what kind of season lays in store for the Pirates, but they do have a solid core already at the Major League level and as much talent bubbling in the Minors as anyone.
  • Also at FanGraphs, Travis Sawchik examines the disappearing middle class in baseball (i.e. players earning less than three times the average player salary (upper class) and more than 10% of the league minimum (lower class)). In 1995, 68% of players constituted the middle class, where as in 2016 that number shrunk all the way down to 52%. A big cause seems to be the increasing resistance towards paying mid-tier veterans for the type of production they can get out of younger, pre-arbitration players, but the gap is pretty shocking. While this may not seem like much of an issue on the surface, Sawchik is moderately concerned that the Players Union is focusing too much with the upper 10% of its constituency which could “set the stage for a larger labor fight,” in the future. Identifying these sorts of issues at their infancy is critical to crushing problems before they become too big to crush.
  • Wouldn’t this be something:

  • Back at the beginning of the 2015 season, Starlin Castro’s future with the Cubs was difficult to discern. He was still very young, but intermittently struggled – on both offense and defense – for an organization with multiple top infield prospects on the way. Ultimately, as Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez rose to prominence, the team shipped Castro off to the Yankees in exchange for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan. Now, unfortunately, a similar situation may be brewing in the Bronx, including a push from yet another (former) Cubs middle-infield prospect, Gleyber Torres.
  • At Newsday.com, Steven Marcus writes about this familiar situation for Castro, who appears to be very aware of the momentum a youth movement can carry, telling Marcus: “That’s the second time it happened to me. That happened my last year in the Cubs. All the younger guys coming to the team. Here, the same thing.” Hopefully – that is, if Castro is as happy in New York as he seems to be – he can play up to his potential and carve out a permanent role at second base.
  • If you missed it last evening, the Dodgers finally got their second baseman, pulling off a trade for Logan Forsythe.
  • At Baseball is Fun, Luis continues our new Worst of the Best series wherein we examine the worst seasons of some of the best (get it?) Major Leaguers of all time. We’ve already tried our hand at Ted Williams, although even his worst season wasn’t half-bad, and now Luis tackles Randy Johnson, who once had an ERA over 5.00.
  • Also at Baseball is Fun, a lucky baseball fan recently came upon a 1952 New York Yankees program and shared the wacky contents of its many pages on the internet. Alongside lineups consisting of Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle, you can find ads for everything from whiskey, to cigarettes, to bubble gum. Very cool.
  • And finally, at Cut4, Chris Landers sets aside some much needed time to celebrate the most outrageous cheese-based concoctions from various Major League parks. The Cubs Deep Dish Hot Dog Pizza, naturally, makes the cut.


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