Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Cubs claim LHP Riefenhauser off waivers; DFA LHP Olmos

CJR(Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Cubs claimed left-handed pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser off waivers from the Orioles Friday. To make room for Riefenhauser on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Edgar Olmos has been designated for assignment.

Riefenhauser, 26, has spent parts of the last two seasons at the big league level with the Rays, going 1-0 with a 6.30 ERA (14 ER/20.0 IP) in 24 relief appearances. He was acquired by the Mariners as part of a six-player trade on Nov. 5, 2015, and acquired by the Orioles as part of a three-player deal on Dec. 2, 2015. He was designated for assignment on Feb. 4.

With Triple-A Durham last season, Riefenhauser went 4-2 with one save and a 2.86 ERA (11 ER/34.2 IP) in 29 relief appearances. He struck out 34 while walking only seven batters in 34.2 innings pitched, turning in a 0.92 WHIP.

The 6-foot, 195-pound southpaw was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the 20th round of the 2010 Draft.

Cubs announce 2016 television broadcast schedule

The Cubs announced their 2016 regular-season television schedule featuring broadcasts from Comcast SportsNet Chicago, WGN-TV and WLS-TV/ABC 7.

WLS-TV/ABC 7 will televise Opening Night from Anaheim on Monday, April 4 at 9:05 p.m. CDT, the station’s first of 25 games this season. Comcast SportsNet Chicago has its first of as many as 86 games on Tuesday, April 5 at 9:05 p.m. CDT from Anaheim (this game is scheduled for CSN+). WGN-TV’s first of 45 broadcasts will take place on Friday, April 8 at 8:40 p.m. CDT at Arizona. WGN-TV will also televise the Cubs’ home opener on Monday, April 11 vs. Cincinnati at 7:05 p.m. CDT.

Cubs games have been televised by WGN since 1948 (a handful of the 45 WGN-TV produced games will be televised by WPWR My50 Chicago). This will be Comcast SportsNet’s 12th season televising the Cubs and the second for WLS-TV/ABC 7.

Len Kasper returns for his 12th season in the Cubs’ television booth and will be joined by Jim Deshaies for their fourth season together broadcasting Cubs baseball.

Date Opponent Pitch Station
4/4 @Los Angeles (AL) 9:05 ABC7
4/5 @Los Angeles (AL) 9:05 CSN+
4/6 OFF DAY
4/7 @Arizona 8:40 CSN+
4/8 @Arizona 8:40 WGN
4/9 @Arizona 7:10 CSN
4/10 @Arizona 3:10 WGN
4/11 vs. Cincinnati 7:05 WGN
4/12 OFF DAY
4/13 vs. Cincinnati 7:05 CSN+
4/14 vs. Cincinnati 7:05 CSN
4/15 vs. Colorado 1:20 CSN
4/16 vs. Colorado 1:20 CSN
4/17 vs. Colorado 1:20 WGN
4/18 @St. Louis 7:15 WPWR
4/19 @St. Louis 7:15 CSN
4/20 @St. Louis 12:45 CSN
4/21 @Cincinnati 6:10 CSN
4/22 @Cincinnati 6:10 WGN
4/23 @Cincinnati 6:10 CSN
4/24 @Cincinnati 12:10 WGN
4/25 OFF DAY
4/26 vs. Milwaukee 7:05 CSN
4/27 vs. Milwaukee 7:05 WGN
4/28 vs. Milwaukee 1:20 CSN
4/29 vs. Atlanta 1:20 CSN
4/30 vs. Atlanta 1:20 ABC7
5/1 vs. Atlanta 1:20 WGN
5/2 @Pittsburgh 6:05 CSN
5/3 @Pittsburgh 6:05 WGN
5/4 @Pittsburgh 11:35 CSN
5/5 vs. Washington 7:05 CSN+
5/6 vs. Washington 1:20 CSN
5/7 vs. Washington 3:05 CSN
5/8 vs. Washington 1:20 WGN
5/9 vs. San Diego 7:05 CSN
5/10 vs. San Diego 7:05 WPWR
5/11 vs. San Diego 7:05 CSN
5/12 OFF DAY
5/13 vs. Pittsburgh 1:20 WGN
5/14 vs. Pittsburgh 1:20 ABC7
5/15 vs. Pittsburgh 1:20 CSN
5/16 OFF DAY
5/17 @Milwaukee 7:10 CSN
5/18 @Milwaukee 7:10 WGN
5/19 @Milwaukee 12:40 CSN
5/20 @San Francisco 9:15 WGN
5/21 @San Francisco 6:15 FOX
5/22 @San Francisco 7:05 ESPN
5/23 @St. Louis 7:15 CSN
5/24 @St. Louis 7:15 CSN
5/25 @St. Louis 12:45 ABC7
5/26 OFF DAY
5/27 vs. Philadelphia 1:20 CSN
5/28 vs. Philadelphia 1:20 ABC7
5/29 vs. Philadelphia 1:20 WGN
5/30 vs. Los Angeles (NL) 1:20 WGN
5/31 vs. Los Angeles (NL) 7:05 ABC7
6/1 vs. Los Angeles (NL) 7:05 CSN
6/2 vs. Los Angeles (NL) 1:20 CSN
6/3 vs. Arizona 1:20 CSN
6/4 vs. Arizona 1:20 WGN
6/5 vs. Arizona TBD CSN or ESPN
6/6 @Philadelphia 6:05 CSN
6/7 @Philadelphia 6:05 WGN
6/8 @Philadelphia 12:05 CSN
6/9 OFF DAY
6/10 @Atlanta 6:35 CSN
6/11 @Atlanta 3:10 CSN
6/12 @Atlanta 12:35 WGN
6/13 @Washington 6:05 CSN
6/14 @Washington 6:05 ABC7
6/15 @Washington 3:05 WGN
6/16 OFF DAY
6/17 vs. Pittsburgh 1:20 ABC7
6/18 vs. Pittsburgh 7:15 FOX
6/19 vs. Pittsburgh TBD CSN or ESPN
6/20 vs. St. Louis 7:05 CSN
6/21 vs. St. Louis 7:05 ABC7
6/22 vs. St. Louis 1:20 ABC7
6/23 @Miami 6:10 CSN
6/24 @Miami 6:10 CSN
6/25 @Miami 3:10 WGN
6/26 @Miami 12:10 ABC7
6/27 @Cincinnati 6:10 WGN
6/28 @Cincinnati 6:10 CSN
6/29 @Cincinnati 11:35 WGN
6/30 @New York (NL) 6:10 CSN
7/1 @New York (NL) 6:10 WGN
7/2 @New York (NL) 6:15 FOX
7/3 @New York (NL) 12:10 CSN
7/4 vs. Cincinnati 1:20 WGN
7/5 vs. Cincinnati 1:20 CSN
7/6 vs. Cincinnati 1:20 CSN
7/7 OFF DAY
7/8 @Pittsburgh 6:05 CSN
7/9 @Pittsburgh 6:15 FOX
7/10 @Pittsburgh 12:35 WGN
7/15 vs. Texas 1:20 CSN
7/16 vs. Texas 1:20 ABC7
7/17 vs. Texas 1:20 ABC7
7/18 vs. New York (NL) 7:05 WPWR
7/19 vs. New York (NL) 7:05 CSN
7/20 vs. New York (NL) 1:20 ABC7
7/21 OFF DAY
7/22 @Milwaukee 7:10 CSN+
7/23 @Milwaukee 6:10 WGN
7/24 @Milwaukee 1:10 ABC7
7/25 @Chicago (AL) 7:10 ABC7
7/26 @Chicago (AL) 7:10 CSN
7/27 vs. Chicago (AL) 7:05 WGN
7/28 vs. Chicago (AL) 7:05 CSN
7/29 vs. Seattle 1:20 CSN
7/30 vs. Seattle 1:20 CSN
7/31 vs. Seattle 1:20 WGN
8/1 vs. Miami 7:05 WGN
8/2 vs. Miami 7:05 CSN+
8/3 vs. Miami 1:20 CSN
8/4 OFF DAY
8/5 @Oakland 9:05 CSN+
8/6 @Oakland 3:05 CSN
8/7 @Oakland 3:05 WGN
8/8 OFF DAY
8/9 vs. Los Angeles (AL) 7:05 WGN
8/10 vs. Los Angeles (AL) 7:05 CSN+
8/11 vs. St. Louis 7:05 CSN
8/12 vs. St. Louis 1:20 ABC7
8/13 vs. St. Louis 1:20 ABC7
8/14 vs. St. Louis TBD CSN or ESPN
8/15 OFF DAY
8/16 vs. Milwaukee 7:05 WPWR
8/17 vs. Milwaukee 7:05 CSN
8/18 vs. Milwaukee 1:20 CSN
8/19 @Colorado 7:40 CSN
8/20 @Colorado 7:10 CSN
8/21 @Colorado 3:10 ABC7
8/22 @San Diego 9:10 CSN
8/23 @San Diego 9:10 CSN
8/24 @San Diego 2:40 WGN
8/25 OFF DAY
8/26 @Los Angeles (NL) 9:10 ABC7
8/27 @Los Angeles (NL) 3:05 WGN
8/28 @Los Angeles (NL) 3:10 CSN
8/29 vs. Pittsburgh 7:05 CSN
8/30 vs. Pittsburgh 7:05 WGN
8/31 vs. Pittsburgh 7:05 CSN
9/1 vs. San Francisco 7:05 CSN+
9/2 vs. San Francisco 1:20 WGN
9/3 vs. San Francisco 1:20 CSN
9/4 vs. San Francisco 1:20 ABC7
9/5 @Milwaukee 12:10 WGN
9/6 @Milwaukee 7:10 CSN+
9/7 @Milwaukee 7:10 CSN
9/8 OFF DAY
9/9 @Houston 7:10 WPWR
9/10 @Houston 12:05 FOX
9/11 @Houston 1:10 CSN
9/12 @St. Louis 7:15 CSN
9/13 @St. Louis 7:15 ABC7
9/14 @St. Louis 12:45 ABC7
9/15 vs. Milwaukee 7:05 CSN
9/16 vs. Milwaukee 1:20 CSN
9/17 vs. Milwaukee 3:05 WGN
9/18 vs. Milwaukee 1:20 ABC7
9/19 vs. Cincinnati 7:05 CSN
9/20 vs. Cincinnati 7:05 CSN
9/21 vs. Cincinnati 7:05 WGN
9/22 OFF DAY
9/23 vs. St. Louis 1:20 PM
9/24 vs. St. Louis TBD CSN or FOX
9/25 vs. St. Louis TBD CSN or ESPN
9/26 @Pittsburgh 6:05 CSN
9/27 @Pittsburgh 6:05 CSN
9/28 @Pittsburgh 6:05 CSN
9/29 @Pittsburgh 6:05 WGN
9/30 @Cincinnati 6:10 CSN
10/1 @Cincinnati 3:10 CSN
10/2 @Cincinnati 2:10 WGN

Cubs place six among top 100 MLB prospects, according to ESPN’s Law

Contreras,-Willson-5.11_Blog(Photo by Roger Hoover)

Spring baseball is just one week away, with pitchers and catchers slated to report next week. This also kicks off one of the best times of the year for prospect watching. On Thursday, ESPN senior writer Keith Law unveiled his Top 100 prospects list, which includes six Cubs. Though the team graduated one of the greatest crops of young talent in organizational history to the majors last year, the quantity of players still on Law’s list demonstrates the waves of talent in the system.

Here is a small portion of what Law had to say on each Cubs prospect:

15. Gleyber Torres, SS

Torres looked much older than 18 in terms of his plate skills during the 2015 season; he stayed behind the ball really well, with great hand-eye coordination and the ability to shoot a ball to the outfield the way Derek Jeter would do with two strikes. It’s a very easy swing, and Torres keeps his head steady throughout in a way many major league hitters couldn’t emulate. He’s very smooth at shortstop already, with plus hands and a plus arm, showing me in Myrtle Beach’s playoff series against Wilmington that he could come across the bag well on a difficult double play. He needs to continue to get stronger, as well as work on some of his reads in the field and on the bases, where his physical tools have exceeded his acumen. He has a good chance to jump into the top 5 by next year.

Torres burst onto the scene in the Low-A Midwest League in 2015, hitting .293/.353/.386 with 24 doubles for South Bend. Despite his age, he was named the league’s prospect of the year for both his offense and his smooth defense at shortstop.

27. Willson Contreras, C

Contreras is a strong, coordinated, athletic kid with great body control, but none of that had manifested in his performances prior to 2015, except in his generally good contact rates. His bat speed seemed to pick up in ’15, and with a clean, direct path to the ball, he’s going to make a lot of hard contact, though mostly singles and doubles. There isn’t big loft in the swing, although he’s physically strong enough to hit for power, especially if he had a little more rotation in his path. Behind the plate, he has an easy 70 arm and good energy and actions but needs work on the mechanics of receiving and framing, as well as the finer points, like calling a game.

Contreras’ eye-opening 2015 season,  during which he won the batting title in the Double-A Southern League, earned him organizational player of the year honors. He finished with eight home runs, 46 extra-base hits and a .413 on-base percentage in 521 plate appearances.

47. Ian Happ, 2B

Happ is a switch-hitter, smoother and shorter from the left side, less consistent and longer right-handed, although the latter could improve with coaching help and more reps. He has 15-20 homer potential, driven more by his contact rate than any need to get stronger or change a swing.

A 2015 first-round pick, Happ spent all of his debut season in the outfield, where he played a large portion of his college career. Offensively, the 21-year-old demonstrated both his power and on-base abilities, hitting nine homers and reaching base via walk in 13.5 percent of his 295 plate appearances between Short-Season Eugene and South Bend.

69. Billy McKinney, OF

McKinney has a beautiful, fluid, left-handed swing, very easy to repeat, geared toward line-drive contact but without a ton of leverage in it, so he projects as a high-OBP, high-doubles guy, but his ultimate power ceiling might be south of 20 homers as a result. McKinney played center in the lower minors, but that was a pipe dream, especially since he’s a below-average runner. He should settle in as an average defender in left, which will be fine given his offensive profile but limits his potential to be a star unless he starts hitting .320, which isn’t out of the question given his swing and eye.

In 2015, McKinney continued to do what he does best: hit. Between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee, the Athletics’ 2013 first-round pick hit .300/.371/.454 with 31 doubles. This season could be a big one for the outfielder, who is one of the toughest outs in the Cubs’ system.

88. Albert Almora, OF

Almora is a 70 defender in center with outstanding reads on balls off the bat, which makes up for his below-average running speed, and the defense will get him to the big leagues even if he doesn’t hit. He boosted his stat line with a huge August at Double-A, but the real difference was that he started making better quality contact as the season went on, squaring up the ball more frequently and thus improving his BABIP and hitting for more power, mostly doubles power.

Though he may be known for his defensive prowess, Almora’s offense in 2015 was strong as well. As mentioned above, the 2012 first-round pick started making better contact and improved his plate discipline, drawing 32 walks—that’s more than his previous two campaigns combined. He spent the entire season in Double-A, hitting .272/.327/.400 with six homers and 26 doubles.

91. Dylan Cease, RHP

Cease was a potential top-10 pick in 2014 after his fastball hit 99 mph and he showed a plus curveball that spring, but he suffered a partial tear of his elbow ligament that didn’t respond to treatment, requiring Tommy John surgery after he signed an overslot deal as a sixth-round pick of the Cubs that June. Cease returned this summer and was back up to 99, easier than ever with a cleaner delivery.

The sample size is limited (24 innings pitched), but the Cubs front office raves about Cease’s potential whenever there’s an opportunity. During Theo Eptstein’s postseason recap, he mentioned the right-hander as a player who could really break out in 2016.

Cubs launch updated course for the annual Race to Wrigley 5K

The Chicago Cubs will host the 11th Annual Race to Wrigley Charity Run presented by ATI Physical Therapy Saturday, April 23. This year’s Race to Wrigley 5K route will feature an updated course, allowing runners to race through historic Wrigley Field. Registration for the race is open now through Friday, April 22, at 2 p.m. CDT. Participants can register at racetowrigley.com.

The Race to Wrigley 5K begins at 8 a.m. Race participants will again see and experience the Lakeview neighborhood along the course route before entering the concourse through the Budweiser Bleacher Gate on Sheffield Avenue and crossing the finish line steps away from the Wrigley Field Marquee. The ballpark route will feature Wrigley Field tribute statues, newly painted murals and the opportunity to run through the Friendly Confines.

Proceeds from the race will benefit Cubs Charities, which provides increased access to sports opportunities and targets improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Cubs Charities will donate proceeds from all personal fundraising to support Advocate Children’s Hospital. The top fundraising team and top overall fundraiser will receive tickets to the April 27 game against the Brewers, as well as be recognized during a pregame ceremony on the field. The first 100 fundraisers to raise a minimum of $500 will receive a Kyle Schwarber autographed baseball.

ATI Physical Therapy will provide post-race massages and lead the group in a pre-race stretch.

“We are excited to introduce an updated Race to Wrigley 5K course, which will allow participants to gain more access to the ballpark than ever before,” said Cubs Charities Vice President of Development Connie Falcone. “We look forward to continuing the tradition of our race by celebrating 11 years of promoting fitness and raising money for deserving causes in our community.”

The registration fee for the 5K fun run is $40 and the chip-timed 5K is $45. Packet pick-up will be available at local Sports Authority locations. Registrants will receive details closer to the event.

Participants will receive a Cubs performance race shirt, an ATI Physical Therapy drawstring bag and one beverage (Budweiser, Bud Light or Pepsi product) courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi at the post-race celebration. Runners also will have the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to the April 27 game at Wrigley Field.

Cubs invite 18 non-roster players to major league Spring Training

The Cubs have invited 18 non-roster players to major league Spring Training, which begins Feb. 19 when pitchers and catchers are invited to report in advance of their first formal workout on Feb. 20 at the club’s Under Armour Performance Center in Mesa, Arizona.

Position players are invited to report to camp Feb. 23 with the team’s first full-squad workout Feb. 24.

The following 10 pitchers have been invited to major league camp: right-handed pitchers Stephen Fife, Brandon Gomes, Jean Machi, Felix Pena, Jonathan Pettibone, Armando Rivero, Drew Rucinski and Duane Underwood, as well as left-handed pitchers Luis Cruz and Jack Leathersich.

The list also includes three infielders (Jesus Guzman, Munenori Kawasaki and Kristopher Negron); three outfielders (Albert Almora, John Andreoli and Juan Perez); and two catchers (Taylor Davis and Tim Federowicz).

Gleyber Torres ranked a top 10 shortstop talent

Torres2(Photo courtesy Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

With Javier Baez now in more of a utility role, Starlin Castro wearing a different shade of blue pinstripes, and Addison Russell settled in as the club’s regular shortstop, the organizational middle-infield morass seems to have sorted itself out. But it might pop up again in the not-too-distant future. On Wednesday, MLB.com unveiled its top 10 shortstop prospects, with 2013 international signee Gleyber Torres coming in at No. 9. Here’s what they had to say:

Chicago’s logjam of talented infielders is only going to get worse when Torres is ready in a couple of years. He has solid-or-better tools across the board, and he ranked as the Class A Midwest League’s top prospect and helped Myrtle Beach win the Class A Advanced Carolina League championship last year as an 18-year-old.

The Venezuela native hit .287/.346/.376 last year between Low-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach. In 487 at-bats, he recorded 24 doubles and swiped 22 bases while playing solid defense. His age likely means he’s farther away from the major leagues than many of the other players on the list, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With a majority of the Cubs’ former high-upside farmhands now at the big league level, Torres could spearhead another wave of players set to arrive in a few years.

Cubs announce 2016 Spring Training broadcast schedule

The Cubs announced their 2016 Spring Training broadcast schedule on Wednesday, and nearly every game will be available to fans via television, radio or internet radio broadcast.

The schedule features nine games televised by Cubs broadcast partners (six by Comcast SportsNet Chicago and three by WGN-TV), nine on the 670 The Score Cubs Radio Network and 21 via internet radio broadcast on cubs.com. There are also two games scheduled to be nationally televised on ESPN. Fans will be able to access the Cubs Webcasts on cubs.com and MLB.com for free by registering for a log-in account with the website.

The club’s new radio rights-holder, 670 The Score, will air its first game on March 5 when the Cubs host the Reds. Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer return as the radio voices of the Cubs. Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s first game will air on March 16 when the Cubs play at the Royals. WGN-TV has its first game on March 20 when the Cubs host the Royals. Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies return to call all Cubs TV games.

Kasper will again join Mick Gillispie, radio broadcaster for Chicago’s Double-A Tennessee affiliate, for most of the cubs.com internet radio broadcasts.

All games start at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time unless otherwise noted. Chicago is one hour ahead of Arizona through Saturday, March 12 before moving to two hours ahead on Sunday, March 13.

STSchedule

Candelario ranks among top 10 third base prospects

Candelario_MB1(Photo courtesy Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

The 2014 season was not a great one for high-upside infielder Jeimer Candelario. But after some positive reinforcement from the front office and an altered mindset, Candelario drastically improved his performance in 2015. Among those to take notice was MLB.com, which on Tuesday rated the Cubs farmhand the seventh-best third base prospect in baseball. Here’s some of what they had to say:

Signed for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Candelario more than held his own last season in his first taste of the Double-A level and then opened eyes in the Arizona Fall League, where he ranked among the league leaders in several offensive categories. The 22-year-old switch-hitter makes consistent contact from both sides of the plate, leading scouts to project him to hit for average and power. He has all the necessary tools to stick at third base, including soft hands and above-average arm strength.

In 525 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A, Candelario hit .277/.339/.431 with 49 extra-base hits. His batting average was a 54-point improvement over his 2014 numbers. The third baseman had such a productive season in 2015, he was invited to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .329 in 89 plate appearances against some of the top prospects in all of baseball. It will be interesting to see which level Candelario starts at in 2016, but it appears he’ll stick at third base for the time being.

Cubs Happ ranked one of MLB’s top second base prospects

Happ-2(Photo courtesy Eugene Emeralds)

The Cubs have demonstrated a unique ability to find young hitting talent, even if it doesn’t come from one of the top few picks in the amateur draft. On Tuesday, MLB.com unveiled its top 10 second base prospects, and recent first-round pick Ian Happ came in at No. 3 on the list. Here’s some of what MLB Pipeline had to say about the 2015 draftee:

There isn’t much that Happ can’t do offensively. A switch-hitter, he exhibits a quick stroke and good balance from both sides of the plate, and he owns deceptive strength and solid speed. Happ should post high batting averages and on-base percentages, and he has the upside of a 20-20 player.

Undrafted out of high school, Happ played all over the diamond in his three seasons at the University of Cincinnati. The ninth-overall selection in the 2015 draft played exclusively in the outfield during his time in Short-Season Eugene and Low-A South Bend, but the Cubs front office worked him primarily at second base this offseason, a position at which he feels most comfortable, according to his draft day press conference. Regardless of where he plays in the field, the 21-year-old provides a lot offensively. Though he only hit .259 in his first pro stint, he managed an .822 OPS with nine homers and 17 doubles to go along with 40 walks in 295 plate appearances.

Cubs Contreras tops among catching prospects

Contreras(Photo by Jeff Waymire)

Out with one catching prospect, in with another. A year after backstop prospect Kyle Schwarber shot up the charts—and into the major leagues—after being selected in the 2014 draft, the Cubs have another young player rising in prospect polls. According to MLB.com, Cubs farmhand Willson Contreras is the top catching prospect in all of baseball, which is a quick ascent for a player largely unknown as recently as a season ago. Here’s some of what MLB.com had to say:

Contreras has a good chance of sticking at catcher. Signed for $850,000 out of Venezuela as a third baseman in 2009, he moved behind the plate in 2012. Contreras is quicker and more athletic than most backstops, and he owns a strong arm and has made progress with his receiving.

The 23-year-old organizational Minor League Player of the Year led the Double-A Southern League in hitting last year with a .333 average and reached base at an impressive .413 clip. He hit eight homers and drove in 75 runs in 454 at-bats while playing solid defense behind the plate. Contreras backed up his strong 2015 campaign with a solid stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .283/.361/.547 in 53 at-bats, with three homers and eight doubles. Though the Cubs are mostly set at catcher for 2o15, some believe the third baseman-turned-catcher could be ready for major league action as soon as this year.

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