MLB notebook: Royals add 1B Duda on 1-year deal

The Kansas City Royals found their replacement at first base, signing Lucas Duda to a one-year contract Wednesday.

Terms were not announced by the team, but the deal reportedly is worth $3.5 million. In a corresponding roster move, outfielder Billy Burns was designated for assignment.

The Royals have been searching for a first baseman after Eric Hosmer recently departed for San Diego via free agency, signing an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres.

Duda, a 32-year-old left-handed hitter, split last season between the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays. He combined to hit 30 home runs, matching his previous career best from 2014.

–The Cleveland Indians officially signed first baseman Mike Napoli to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to the major league spring training camp.

Napoli, 36, owns a career average of .246 with 267 home runs and 744 RBIs across 12 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Indians.

He was an integral part of Cleveland’s 2016 American League championship team, collecting career highs in home runs (34), RBIs (101), games (150), runs (92) and hits (133) while leading the club in homers and RBIs after signing a one-year deal in January 2016.

–Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is set to begin the regular season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery Wednesday to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters that Gurriel is expected to be out five to six weeks. Luhnow said the operation addressed a pre-existing condition for Gurriel that had been asymptomatic until recently.

Gurriel was set to begin the season serving a five-game suspension for his offensive gesture toward pitcher Yu Darvish during the World Series. The ban instead will be served when he is activated from the disabled list.

–A virus causing chills, fatigue and other flu-like symptoms struck the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring training home, leading the team to send numerous players home.

The Los Angeles Times reported that at least two dozen players or staff were affected by the malady. The medical staff hoped the symptoms would subside in one to three days.

“I haven’t seen anything like this,” manager Dave Roberts said.

–Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant missed his third consecutive spring training game due to an undisclosed illness.

Bryant was seen playing catch with a trainer on Wednesday morning ahead of the spring game in Mesa, Ariz., against the Oakland Athletics. He has been day-to-day all week reportedly dealing with flu-like symptoms.

Bryant hit .295 with 29 home runs and 73 RBIs last season.

–Field Level Media

MLB Betting Props Roundup: 2018 National League Division Odds, Favorites

MLB Betting Props Roundup: 2018 National League Division Odds, Favorites

Washington Nationals Bryce Harper (34) stands in the on-deck circle before his at-bat in the fourthinning of Game 5 of baseball's National League Division Series, at Nationals Park, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs all won their respective divisions rather easily a year ago, with only the latter failing to finish with more than a 10-game lead. This season is expected to be more of the same according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark, with the Dodgers, Nationals and Cubs each listed as favorites to repeat as division champions following the 2018 season.

The Dodgers ended up with the best record in baseball in 2017 at 104-58 while the Nationals finished at 97-65 and the Cubs went 92-70. Chicago then proceeded to defeat Washington 3-2 in the National League Division Series before losing to Los Angeles 4-1 in the NL Championship Series in a rematch from the same round in 2016.

The Dodgers are minus-150 favorites (bet $150 to win $100) to take home their sixth consecutive NL West title this year ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are the plus-450 second choice (bet $100 to win $450) and were swept by them in the NLDS last season as the Wild Card team.

Meanwhile, the Cubs will be going for their third straight NL Central crown, and they have been to the NLCS the previous three years, going on to win the World Series in seven games over the Cleveland Indians in 2016. Chicago is a minus-130 favorite on the NL Central odds, with the St. Louis Cardinals (+300) and Milwaukee Brewers (+400) also in the mix as the second and third choices after both posted winning records in 2017.

The Nationals will also be trying for their third NL East title in a row and first during that stretch without manager Dusty Baker. Washington did not bring Baker back this season partially because the team has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs. Instead, former Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez replaces Baker and hopes to lead the Nationals to a more successful campaign as minus-160 favorites on the odds to win the NL East.

The New York Mets finished 27 games behind Washington in 2017, just two years removed from making it all the way to the World Series, and they are the plus-275 second choice at online sports betting sites to rebound and win the NL East for the second time in four seasons. The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins each had better records than New York last year, but they are big underdogs to win the division this season at plus-1000 and plus-1400, respectively.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Red Sox Asking City of Boston to Change Name of Yawkey Way to Show Inclusion

Red Sox Asking City of Boston to Change Name of Yawkey Way to Show Inclusion

A banner hangs over Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park before a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays in Boston, Friday, April 13, 2012. The Red Sox will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway's opening when they host the New York Yankees next Friday. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Red Sox would like the city of Boston to get rid of Yawkey Way. 

In a statement released by the team on Wednesday, the Red Sox said they would like to see the city change Yawkey Way to Jersey Street, which was its original name prior to 1977. 

“Restoring the Jersey Street name is intended to reinforce that Fenway Park is inclusive and welcoming to all,” the statement said, via Martin Finucane of the Boston Globe.

Last August, Red Sox owner John Henry told the Boston Globe‘s  in an email he wanted to lead an effort to change the name of Yawkey Way. 

“The Red Sox don’t control the naming or renaming of streets. But for me, personally, the street name has always been a consistent reminder that it is our job to ensure the Red Sox are not just multi-cultural, but stand for as many of the right things in our community as we can — particularly in our African-American community and in the Dominican community that has embraced us so fully.”

The street is named after former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who bought the franchise in 1933 and ran it until his death in 1976. Jackie Robinson told a Chicago newspaper the franchise’s color ban was due to Yawkey, per Michael Stout of the Massachusetts Historical Review. 

The Red Sox were the last MLB team to integrate when they called up Pumpsie Green in 1959, 12 years after Robinson’s big league debut. 

Fenway Park, the Red Sox’s home stadium since 1912, is located at 4 Yawkey Way. 

Blue Jays GM not worried about Seung-Hwan Ho, why Rangers backed off deal

Blue Jays GM not worried about Seung-Hwan Ho, why Rangers backed off deal

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The medicals staffs with the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays have a difference of opinion on reliever Seung-Hwan Ho.

A red flag arose during Ho’s physical with the Rangers, and they did not sign him after agreeing to contract terms. Ho passed his physical with Toronto and officially signed a one-year deal.

“We feel really good about our process and about the information that we had prior to Texas and after Texas coming out,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins told reporters. “Our due diligence suggests that with his emphasis on strength and conditioning, his emphasis on how he takes care of himself, that he should be able to help us.”

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Drafting boring players can payoff in Fantasy Baseball

Drafting boring players can payoff in Fantasy Baseball

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray had a breakout 2017 and should provide solid numbers despite not being in the elite class. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Does it pay to be boring in Fantasy Baseball? Sometimes. A good team will typically have a foundation of players that are like what the stock is to a stew. It’s not about pizzaz here. A good team has a mix of ingredients with at least half the roster being easily projectable, most of the rest being somewhat volatile (where the hope is smaller profit and risk) and just a sprinkle of highly volatile players that you hope are big hits.

If you’re too safe, you’ll likely be sorry. But swing for the fences on too many picks and you’re far more likely to finish closer to the bottom of the standings than the top.

So let’s look at the most boring players in the early draft season. This can be very subjective so I’ve tried to put some objectivity into the process by looking at the players with an overall average draft position (ADP) of 60-plus whose ADP has the smallest differential compared with their highest pick. Data is courtesy of FantasyPros

But there is one hitter on the list who seems more like a highly volatile player. Byron Buxton averages about overall pick 68 but no one believes enough to take him higher than 43. This is very low variance of opinion for a player in this ADP range. Buxton has never had an OPS+ of over 94 (100 is exactly a league-average hitter). He was 29-for-30 in steals last year but had a .314 OBP and it’s under .300 for his career (his career batting average is .237 but .253 last year). 

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Here are the outfielders age 21-23 who are most similar to Buxton in plate appearances and career OPS (and again Buxton’s was only 94 last year): Adam Jones, Lastings Milledge, Gregory Polanco, Carlos Beltran, Dave Martinez, Corey Patterson, B.J. Surhoff. Something for everyone, believers and skeptics alike. Beltran broke out at age 24 (.306, 100+ runs and RBI, 31-for-32 steals and 24 bombs). Polanco had a smaller breakout in 2016 at age 24. Adam Jones was actually slightly better than league average (105 OPS+ at age 23). But again, you could be getting Milledge or Patterson (who were also top prospects). 

That is volatility but no league has no believers and no league has even one super believer, since Buxton owners have been mostly chastened for two years. How on earth does he make this list? Buxton’s CF defense gives him a 30-ish stolen base floor and that takes away most risk, but few still believe he’s going to become the elite hitter once forecasted by scouts.

For pitchers, as my Yahoo colleague Scott Pianowski is fond of saying, being boring is a feature and not a bug. The most boring pitchers after Round 5 are Gerrit Cole (89.6 ADP, 73 highest pick), Jose Quintana (80.5, 59), Jon Lester (108.5, 87) and Robbie Ray (66.3, 43). 

But Ray actually isn’t boring as people mostly believe his 2017 breakout but just not enough to put him in the elite class. According to our friends at Inside Edge, Ray gets A-pluses for both Ks in four-pitches or less and swing and miss rate. But he’s a C-minus in working ahead of hitters. That’s the rub — he’ll miss bats but also miss the plate. Let him come to you near ADP.

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Cole usually underperforms his peripherals and now goes to a park that actually suppresses runs better, but of course into a tougher league, too. Inside Edge stats analysis from 2017 rates Cole better than Lester but significantly worse than Ray, so ADP is spot-on. Quintana precipitously declined overall in Inside Edge grading and I never advise trying to catch a falling knife in the single-digit rounds. 

The boring hitters, according to the draft data: Xander Bogaerts (ADP 70.2, highest 47), Andrew McCutchen (70.3, 44), Jonathan Schoop (67.6, 41), Kyle Seager (103.5, 76) and Yoenis Cespedes (70, 41).

Cespedes isn’t projectable really. But drafters aren’t going crazy either discounting his injury risk or pricing it. It seems every league is betting on about 130 games and never 100 or 155. I think it can easily be 100 though. 

The true boring hitters are McCutchen and Seager. No one is excited about taking them. You’ll never hear a “good pick.” But they’re solid break-even propositions. McCutchen had a well-hit rate of .225, which is A-plus relative to the league average of .155. He was an A-minus overall hitter but goes into a terrible park/run environment. 

Seager has a slightly better run environment in Seattle but grades only as a B as a hitter and had a well-hit of .185. Seager is the better value at ADP though. But McCutchen would be my pick over Cespedes unless I was already reaching for power (not an advisable draft strategy). 

Bogaerts and Schoop are somewhat pricey middle-infield options that go right around the same price. Bogaerts is a B-minus hitter, according to Inside Edge. He really struggles with outside pitches and slugging generally. Bogaerts is in a great lineup and park. But his well-hit rate is a snoozy .142.

Schoop is just much better at the plate, earning an A-minus overall and generating a well-hit rate of .199. Schoop’s major weakness is chasing bad pitches (below average early and on non-competitive offerings). That limits Schoop’s ceiling even in his age 26 season. But Schoop nonetheless is more capable of being a foundational player in the sixth round, making him a solid if unspectacular value.

More Fantasy Baseball draft advice from Yahoo Sports