Carlos Correa Leaves Game With Back Discomfort

The Astros defeated the Tigers on Monday to improve to 80-46, but the World Series hopefuls didn’t escape unscathed. Star shortstop Carlos Correa left the game with discomfort in his back, the team announced. Manager A.J. Hinch said afterward Correa’s day-to-day, but he admitted: “I don’t like it. It’s not comfortable.” (Twitter links via Mark Berman of Fox 26).

Hinch’s trepidation stems from the fact that back issues have been a past problem for Correa, who missed over a month last summer because of them. With this year’s playoffs just around the corner, a similar absence would be cutting things awfully close for Houston. Plus, the Astros just lost fellow shortstop option Aledmys Diaz to the injured list Sunday, though they’ve passed plenty of tests without him and Correa this season. Both players have spent weeks on the IL to this point, yet the Astros still own what should be an insurmountable eight-game lead in the AL West.

Correa previously suffered a fractured rib in a massage gone wrong May 28, causing him to sit out until July 26. While the Astros managed an impressive 31-19 record during that span, it’s obvious they aren’t at the height of their considerable powers without Correa. The 24-year-old has been brilliant over 310 plate appearances this season, slashing .278/.358/.556 with 19 home runs and 2.9 fWAR.

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Danny Santana, Nomar Mazara Exit With Injuries

Rangers utilityman Danny Santana and outfielder Nomar Mazara left the team’s game Monday with injuries that seem as if they could lead to IL stints. Santana departed with left hamstring tightness, while Mazara succumbed to tightness in his left oblique. Should at least one of those players end up on the shelf, the Rangers are prepared to promote infield/outfield prospect Nick Solak from Triple-A Nashville, TR Sullivan of MLB.com suggests. Nashville pulled Solak from its game Monday.

At 60-64, the Rangers’ once-legitimate postseason hopes are now dead. But Santana has done everything in his power this season to help propel the Rangers back to prominence. The 28-year-old switch-hitter has slashed .305/.333/.576 with 21 home runs and 13 steals (on 19 attempts) over 376 plate appearances. Between Santana’s offensive production and his defensive versatility (he has appeared in double-digit games in the outfield, at first and at second), he undoubtedly looks like one of the best bargain signings of last offseason. Texas inked the former Twin and Brave to a minor league deal after a couple rough seasons, and the Rangers will be able to control him two more times via arbitration.

This season hasn’t been as prosperous for Mazara, who still hasn’t lived up to the considerable hype he garnered coming up through the Rangers’ system. While the fourth-year man has been on a tear of late, his overall .268/.318/.466 line with 17 HRs in 443 is merely mediocre. There have been rumblings about the Rangers possibly trading the 24-year-old Mazara, who has another two seasons of arb control left. That could be a situation to watch over the winter, but for now, the sizzling Mazara will hope to stay off the IL.

In the event that doesn’t happen, Solak, 24, could crack a big league roster for the first time. He’s just over a month into his tenure with the Rangers, who acquired him from the Rays on July 13 in a swap for young righty Peter Fairbanks. It was already the second trade involving Solak – a 2016 second-round pick whom the Yankees sent to the Rays in a three-teamer back in 2018.

Solak may yet emerge as a regular in Texas, with FanGraphs placing him just outside the game’s top 100 prospects and contending he’ll at least turn into “an average everyday second baseman.” Solak has made a strong case for a promotion by raking since he got to Nashville, where he has slashed an eyebrow-raising .357/.390/.670 with 10 home runs in 124 trips to the plate. Even in the offense-driven Pacific Coast League, Solak’s production has been 48 percent above average, according to wRC+.

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Rays Select Hoby Milner’s Contract

The Rays have selected the contract of left-hander Hoby Milner from Triple-A Durham, Juan Toribio of MLB.com tweets. Milner will take the 25-man spot of lefty Brendan McKay, whom the Rays optioned.

The Rays took a 9-3 beating at the hands of the Mariners on Monday, when McKay yielded seven runs (three earned) on three hits and three walks over two innings of work. McKay has regularly shuttled between the majors and minors in what has been a promising but frustrating debut campaign for the touted 23-year-old. While McKay has pitched to a weak 5.55 ERA in 35 2/3 innings, he has logged 10.35 K/9 against 3.03 BB/9 at the same time.

Milner, whom the Rays acquired from the Phillies in July 2018, threw just 7 1/3 major league innings last year and hasn’t pitched in the bigs yet this season. The 28-year-old has, however, thrived at Durham, where he has put up a 3.32 ERA/3.09 FIP and 13.11 K/9 against 2.05 BB/9 across 57 frames.

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Mariners Will Reportedly Promote Jake Fraley

The Mariners plan to promote outfielder Jake Fraley from Triple-A Tacoma before their game against the Rays on Tuesday, Daniel Kramer of MLB.com reports. Fraley isn’t on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, but the team currently has three openings.

Fraley is in his first year with the Seattle organization, which acquired him from the club he’ll debut against – Tampa Bay – in a November trade centering on Mallex Smith and Mike Zunino. The addition of Fraley came amid an aggressive offseason in which Seattle greatly improved a once-barren farm system. Fraley, whom the Rays chose in the second round of the 2016 draft, was one of the Mariners’ prize pickups during an action-packed winter. The former LSU Tiger now ranks among the M’s 20 best prospects at MLB.com (No. 8), Baseball America (12) and FanGraphs (16).

The prevailing belief is that the 24-year-old Fraley is more likely to top out as a role player than a high-impact one in the majors. While Fraley pulverized High-A pitching a year ago, he was old for the level. Fraley then opened this season by manhandling Double-A hurlers, whom he teed off on for a .313/.386/.539 line (156 wRC+) with 11 home runs in 240 plate appearances, but he hasn’t been as successful since earning a promotion to Tacoma. In his first action in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Fraley has batted .276/.333/.553 (103 wRC+) and swatted eight homers over 168 PA.

When the Mariners officially call up Fraley, he’ll join an outfield which has underwhelmed this season because of subpar performances and injuries. Smith has taken steps backward in his first year in the organization; Domingo Santana has been sitting of late because of a weeks-long slump; Mitch Haniger and Braden Bishop have been out with injuries for multiple months; and the league slapped Tim Beckham with an 80-game PED suspension Aug. 6.

Thanks to their myriad issues, the Mariners have largely deployed the unspectacular group of Smith, Tim Lopes, Keon Broxton and Dylan Moore in the outfield in recent days. No one in that foursome has posted anything close to above-average offensive production this season, which could leave room for Fraley to grab a spot if he impresses from the get-go.

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Athletics Outright Dustin Garneau

The Athletics outrighted catcher Dustin Garneau to Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday after he cleared waivers, the team announced. Garneau has been outrighted in the past, meaning he could have turned down the assignment in favor of free agency. However, he’ll stay in the organization, Martin Gallegos of MLB.com tweets.

The well-traveled Garneau was a member of the A’s organization back in 2017, but he has spent just a couple weeks with the franchise this season. The A’s claimed Garneau off waivers from the division-rival Angels on Aug. 3, only to designate the 32-year-old for assignment last Friday when fellow catcher Josh Phegley returned from the injured list.

Garneau was plenty effective with Oakland before it booted him from its roster, hitting .294/.368/.588, though he posted those numbers over a mere 19 plate appearances. While Garneau previously slashed a playable .232/.346/.362 in 82 PA with the Halos, the lifetime .207/.290/.343 mark he has logged over 381 attempts since his MLB career began in 2015 with the Rockies pales in comparison. Garneau has been a respectable hitter at the Triple-A level, though, having batted .259/.334/498 and totaled 60 homers in 1,198 trips to the plate.

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Braves Place Jacob Webb On 60-Day IL

The Braves recalled right-handed reliever Jacob Webb from Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday and placed him on the 60-day injured list with an elbow impingement, David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets. The move opened up 40-man space for outfielder Billy Hamilton, whom the Braves claimed off waivers from the Royals.

This will be a season-ending development for Webb, whose elbow problems have helped prevent him from pitching in the majors since July 12. He had been in the minors over the past couple weeks after coming off the 10-day IL on Aug. 4. The 26-year-old will wrap up his rookie campaign having pitched to a measly 1.39 ERA over 32 1/3 innings. Of course, ERA indicators FIP (4.31), xFIP (5.14) and SIERA (4.54) weren’t nearly as bullish on Webb’s work, while his strikeout, walk and groundball rates (7.79 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 38.2 GB%) also suggest he’d have had a difficult time upholding his great ERA had he stayed healthy.

In fairness to Webb, he doesn’t simply look like a case of smoke and mirrors. The hard thrower logged a strong 17.5 percent infield fly rate before hitting the IL last month and also emerged as a Statcast favorite. Webb’s fastball velocity (95.1 mph; 81st percentile) and spin rate (88th percentile) have been among the most impressive in the game in 2019, which is also true of his expected weighted on-base average (.287) and real wOBA against (.281).

It’s debatable how much good fortune factored into Webb’s success this year, but what’s clear is that he has been one of the few Atlanta relievers to post overwhelmingly positive results in the run prevention category. Webb is far and away No. 1 in ERA among all regular Braves bullpen arms, so it’s a letdown for the NL East leaders to lose a promising young hurler in what has been a trying season for their relief corps.

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Orioles Release Matt Wotherspoon, Josh Lucas

The Orioles have released righties Matt Wotherspoon and Josh Lucas, per an announcement from the club’s top affiliate. Neither presently held a 40-man roster spot.

The Baltimore organization has continued to cycle through arms at the MLB level, with an obvious need for depth. But the churn has also created a roster squeeze in the upper minors, which perhaps explains these moves.

Wotherspoon, 27, got his first MLB look earlier this year but failed to impress in a brief showing. He’s sporting a 5.54 ERA in 65 innings of Triple-A ball, with 9.3 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9.

As for Lucas, he has seen big-league time in two prior big-league seasons in addition to two stints this year with the O’s. The former 21st rounder twice accepted outright assignments but wasn’t on tap for a return to the MLB roster after managing only a 6.85 ERA in 23 2/3 frames with Norfolk.

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Latest On Tyler Glasnow

With the Rays seeking to hang on to a Wild Card spot, they will need whatever contributions they can get from several injured players — among them, righty Tyler Glasnow. Today’s update on the situation delivers a bit of a mixed bag of news on the exciting young hurler, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (Twitter links).

Most importantly, Glasnow was able to make it through a 15-pitch bullpen session without incident. Indeed, he indicated that he’s feeling great about his chances of making it back to the majors after that session. The odds are “very high” that he’ll be ready to roll down the stretch, the hurler says just days from his 26th birthday.

It’ll still be some time before Glasnow has built up a pitch count and crossed a few other barriers (including reintroducing his full repertoire). But that process will be eased by the other major facet of today’s news on Glasnow. He indicated that he will not try to build fully back up to work as a starter. That’ll obviously be the long-term goal, but for the time being Glasnow will target a return in a short-relief capacity.

While that’s obviously disappointing to an extent, it reflects the simple realities of the situation. The Rays will surely be wary of taking too much risk with a major long-term piece, even in a season in which they’re in good position to crack the postseason. And there simply isn’t enough time (especially given the forthcoming end of the minor-league campaign) to stretch Glasnow out on anything less than an aggressive timeline. Bringing him back as a reliever — even an opener, Topkin notes — likely offers the best route to getting some impact and balancing the competing demands. If all goes well, perhaps it’s possible that Glasnow will be able to work more than one frame in key situations late in the year and/or in the postseason.

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Rafael Devers’ Star Turn

Considering his age, contract status and performance, there is no question that Boston’s Rafael Devers is on the short list of most valuable third basemen in the game. That Devers has reached this point isn’t something which would’ve shocked many observers back when the Red Sox promoted the then-touted prospect to the majors in July 2017. However, his production was closer to average than excellent over his first season-plus in the majors. That’s not a knock on Devers, who was – and still is – incredibly young for the level. This season, though, the 22-year-old has overcome his age to perform like one of the absolute best players in baseball.

Devers went off on the Orioles on Sunday, collecting four hits in five trips to the plate, including a home run and a pair of doubles. Just a few days earlier, he victimized Cleveland for six hits in as many attempts, notching a ridiculous four doubles. The left-hander now owns a .332/.380/.596 line with 27 home runs across 546 PA this season. We seldom cite RBI here at MLBTR, but the fact that Devers has piled up 101 is mighty impressive, too.

Among all position players, Devers ranks fifth in fWAR (5.5) – tied with multiple players, including Astros third base superstar Alex Bregman – and ninth in wRC+ (147). That’s the output of an elite player, not to mention a far cry from the 1.0 fWAR and 90 wRC+ Devers recorded over 490 trips to the plate just a year ago.

How did Devers go from there to here in such a short period of time? It starts with his strikeout rate. After fanning in roughly 24 percent of plate appearances in each of his first two campaigns, Devers has slashed the number to 16.1 this year. He’s only walking in the 7 percent range, which was the case from 2017-18, but drawing free passes at a below-average rate stings a lot less when you seldom strike out.

Devers’ downtick in K’s has come in spite of a more aggressive approach, believe it or not, as he has swung at a higher number of pitchers in general while making far more contact outside the zone. He put the bat on the ball in the neighborhood of 63 percent between 2017-18, but he’s all the way up to 70.9 in ’19. Furthermore, Devers has held his own against every pitch hurlers have thrown at him, evidenced by his production versus fastballs (.422 weighted on-base average/.405 expected wOBA), breaking balls (.357/.302) and offspeed offerings (.437/.411). Devers’ success against offspeed pitches has helped him get past his woes against lefties, who held him to a ghastly 63 wRC+ a year ago. He’s up to a much more respectable 109 in that department versus southpaws this season.

Meanwhile, after sitting in the low .190s in previous years, Devers’ ISO (.264) has gone through the roof this season. Considering pitchers can’t seem to get anything past him anymore, that’s no surprise. While Devers has hit fewer fly balls this season, he has also amassed fewer grounders at the expense of more line drives. That’s a recipe for success, especially when you rank 17th in baseball in average exit velocity on liners and flies (96.9 mph). Similarly, Devers sits 18th in percentage of balls hit at 95 mph-plus (49.2). As you’d expect, then, he’s a Statcast darling overall, also ranking near the pinnacle of the sport in expected weighted on-base average (89th), expected slugging percentage (92nd), expected batting average (96th), hard-hit rate (96th). The “weakest” figure of the bunch is Devers’ xwOBA, but his .376 (compared to a .405 real wOBA) is still fantastic and a 71-point increase over last year’s .305.

To be sure, a likely unsustainable .359 batting average on balls in play has nudged Devers’ numbers upward this year. But a high BABIP isn’t anything new for Devers – who, aside from last year, has regularly logged marks well over .300 since his professional career began in 2014. Even if Devers’ BABIP does drop going forward, the Red Sox should still have one of the most coveted players in baseball on their hands. In a season that hasn’t gone the defending champions’ way, Devers has clearly been a bright light, and with one more pre-arbitration campaign remaining and four more years of team control left, he could be a Boston standout for a while longer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Corey Kluber Will Be Shut Down For Two Weeks

This season has already tested the Indians’ vaunted pitching depth, and the latest development regarding venerable righty Corey Kluber will do so further. He’s now slated for at least a two-week shutdown after leaving his most recent rehab start with an abdominal issue, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports.

It had seemed that Kluber was finally nearing a return after a lengthy layoff owing to a forearm fracture. He’s closing in on three months away from the MLB roster. While it’s good that he hasn’t suffered another elbow ailment, the new malady is worrisome in its own right.

The trouble now is with the calendar. Kluber will need to ramp back up a bit once his rest period is over, all while the team keeps a close eye on his arm health and tries to ensure he does not make things worse in his core. While there’s an obvious desire to take things slowly, the opportunities for minor-league rehab work will expire in early September — though there could be some innings to work with if the division-leading Columbus Clippers can mount a Triple-A postseason run. Beyond that practical concern, there’s simply not much time remaining to build up a pitch count before the season ends.

It’ll be interesting to see how things progress. The Indians will be able to work with an expanded roster once Kluber is ready for action. But they’ll also need to feel good about inserting him into a postseason race in order to get him much-needed work.

The entire situation is loaded with risk and upside for the Cleveland organization. At his best, Kluber is one of the game’s preeminent starters. Even if he’s not capable of working as a full starter in the postseason, he might be a key piece of the roster. It’s stunning just how effective the Indians rotation has been despite the huge in-season changes it has undergone, but it’s not as laden with aces as was expected entering the year. In the background is Kluber’s contract, which includes a pair of options — $13.5MM and $14MM, each with $1MM buyouts — that could be a major organizational asset if he’s able to regain his form.

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