Wander Franco, the MLB’s Top Prospect, Added to Tampa Bay Ray’s 60-Man Player Pool

There’s a ray(s) of sunshine for Wander Franco

The 19-year-old Dominican professional baseball player’s named has been added tothe Tampa Bay Rays ‘60-man player pool.

wander-franco

Sunday was the deadline for teams to submit player pools, although additions can be made later. Many teams announced pools well below the 60-player limit.

Franco, who plays shortstop, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. He spent last season at Class A, so it would be quite a jump for him to contribute in the majors in the immediate future, but putting him in the player pool makes him an option for the Rays — and could help his development in a year when the coronavirus shut down the minor leagues.

Pitcher Brendan McKay and infielder Vidal Brujan, two other top Tampa Bay prospects, also made the pool.

“They are some of our more advanced prospects,” says Rays general manager Erik Neander. “Certainly on the position player side that’s where things went and why Wander was a leading candidate for a spot.”

Franco signed with the Rays in July 2017. He made his professional debut in 2018 with the Princeton Rays. In 2018, at only 17 years old, Franco was named the 2018 Appalachian League Player of the Year after hitting .374/.445/.636 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs over 245 plate appearances for Princeton .

Prior to the 2019 season, Franco was ranked as the fourth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. He began the season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. He was promoted to the Charlotte Stone Crabs on June 25. He was named to the 2019 All-Star Futures Game.

Nick Gonzales: The Top Latino Pick in This Year’s MLB Draft

Life’s the Pitts for Nick Gonzales

The 21-year-old Latino baseball shortstop and second baseman for the New Mexico State Aggies was the No. 7 pick during the 2020 MLB draft.

Nick Gonzales

Gonzalez, the first Latino pick in this year’s draft, was chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates

“It’s just awesome,” Gonzales said. “I can’t explain it. This is something that I’ve put a lot of work into and I’m super fortunate it came.”

As a freshman at New Mexico State in 2018, Gonzales hit .347/.425/.596 with nine home runs and 36 RBI over 57 games. As a sophomore in 2019, he led the nation with a .432 batting average.He finished the season hitting .432/.532/.773 with 16 home runs and 80 RBI. 

After the season, he played collegiate summer baseball for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League, where was named the MVP of the league.

Gonzales entered his junior year in 2020 as a top prospect for the 2020 Major League Baseball draft.

The 5-foot-11-inch Gonzales, an NCAA batting champion and unanimous All-American, will reportedly earn  $5,432,400.

“Long Gone Summer” Documentary, Highlighting Sammy Sosa’s 1998 Home Run Chase, Headed to ESPN

Sammy Sosa’s summeris heating up…

The 51-year-old Dominican former professional baseball right fielder will be the focus of a special documentary to air on ESPN.

Sammy Sosa

Sosa, who played in the Major League Baseballfor 19 seasons, primarily with the Chicago Cubs, is part of the focus of AJ Schnack’s, Long Gone Summer, an official selection of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

It chronicles Mark McGwire and Sosa’s storied 1998 home run chase. For the first time, both men discuss that summer at length, including its undeniable complications.

The 1998MLB home run chase was between McGwire, a first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Seattle Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr., and Sosa, a right fielder for the Cubs. It resulted in McGwire and Sosa breaking Roger Maris‘ long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 home runs. 

McGwire broke Maris’s record on September 8 against the Cubs and finished with 70 home runs. Sosa finished with 66.

The documentary will air on Sunday, June 14 at 9:00 pm ET.

The film will be made available on ESPN+immediately after its premiere, along with the rest of the 30 for 30 library.

Samy Camacho Rides King Guillermo to Victory at the Tampa Bay Derby

Samy Camacho has a royal weekend…

The Venezuelan jockey raced King Guillermo to victory at the Tampa Bay Derby by 4 3/4 lengths on Saturday for owner Victor Martinez, a five-time All-Star in Major League Baseball. The prize: $351,000.

Samy Camacho

Camacho’s 3-year-old colt earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. However, King Guillermo isn’t nominated to the Triple Crownseries, so Martinez would need to pay $6,000 by March 30 to get him in the Derby.

Martinez races as Victoria’s Ranch, a 2,400-acre cattle operation he founded in Florida after retiring from a 16-year baseball career in 2018. He paid $150,000 for King Guillermo, who won his first stakes race on Saturday.

Sent off at 49-1 odds, King Guillermo paid $100.40, $38.20 and $17.80. He has two wins in four career starts and earnings of $240,350.

Ridden by Camacho, King Guillermo ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.63.

Sole Volantewas second, and Texas Swingtook third.

Wander Franco to Play for Dominican Republic Team for Olympic Qualifing Tournament

Wander Franco is hoping to hit the field at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The 19-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop in the Tampa Bay Raysorganization, the top prospect in Major League Baseball, and longtime star Jose Bautista plan to play for the Dominican Republic as the country tries to qualify for the Olympics later this month, according to ESPN.

Wander Franco

Franco, who turned 19 on Sunday, would strengthen a Dominican team jockeying for one of the remaining two qualifying spots in baseball’s return to the Olympics after a 12-year hiatus. He and Bautista, 39, would round out a roster that faces strong competition at the Americas Qualifying Eventon March 22-26 in Tempe and Surprise, Arizona.

Among the teams vying to win the tournament and its single qualifying spot: The Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. 

The winner will join host nation Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea, who already have qualified, while the second- and third-place teams at the event will have an opportunity to lock up the sixth spot at the final qualifying tournament. 

Originally scheduled to be held in Taiwan from April 1-5, the tournament was postponed Sunday because of coronavirus fears until June 17-21 — barely a month before the Tokyo Games’ opening ceremony.

The additions of Franco and Arizona Diamondbacksinfielder Geraldo Perdomo, 20, to the Dominican roster will give the team perhaps the most dynamic middle infield in the tournament. Franco is a transcendent talent who evaluators believe could play in the major leagues today — a powerful, speedy, contact-oriented switch hitter whose slick glove and strong arm allow him to patrol shortstop with aplomb.

While not as highly touted, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Perdomo is an elite athlete whose eye and bat-to-ball talents were rare for someone who played all of last season at 19. A natural shortstop, he played about half his games during the Arizona Fall League at second base and will return there for the Dominican team.

Bautista is expected to play first base, a position he manned 30 times in more than 1,650 major league games during which he hit 344 home runs and drove in nearly 1,000 runs. He last played in the major leagues in 2018, though he spent this winter working out as a pitcher in hopes of returning as a two-way player, sources said. Bautista, who represented the D.R. in the 2009 and 2017 World Baseball Classic, may not pitch in the qualifier but is expected to play a significant role as the D.R. faces Puerto Rico, the United States and Nicaragua during the tournament’s round-robin first round. The two best teams from each four-team pool will face off in a final round that awards the winner and keeps the second- and third-place teams alive.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed last week to allow players who are on teams’ 40-man rosters but not active in the major leagues to join their countries’ qualifying-event teams. The potential infusion of talent could theoretically help a team like the United States, which suffered an embarrassing loss to Mexico at the Premier12tournament in November that prevented Team USAfrom qualifying.

Alfonso Marquez Makes MLB History with Crew Chief Promotion

Alfonso Marquez is making Major League Baseballhistory…

The 47-year-old Mexican MLB umpire has been elevated to the first Hispanic crew chief born outside the United States, and second overall in MLB history, when the league announced a series of promotions, additions and retirements on Thursday.

Alfonso Marquez

Marquez joins former ump Richie Garcia, who was born in Florida, as Hispanic crew chiefs. Marquez was the first Mexican-born umpire to work in the majors, starting in 1999. He has worked throughout both major leagues since 2000.

He has officiated three World Series, four League Championship Series and nine Division Series, as well as the 2006 All-Star Game and 2018 All-Star Game.

Ramon De Jesus, who worked his first big league game in 2016 as a minor league fill-in, moved up and became the first Dominican-born umpire on the MLB staff.

The 36-year-old ump has been a Minor Leagueumpire since 2009, but started working Major League Spring Trainingsince 2016, according to the MLB.

A chief oversees each four-man crew. Among other things, they often have the last word on disputes with players, make the call for an umpire replay review and decide when to bring out the tarp for a rain delay.

David Ortiz Selling Baseball Mementos & More

David Ortizis cleaning house…

The 44-year-old Dominican former Boston Red Sox slugger, whose nickname is “Big Papi,” is have an estate sale, and he’s selling memorabilia from his illustrious Major League Baseball career. 

David Ortiz

But Ortiz, a 10-time MLB All-Star, is also selling other sundry goods, including a neon Rolls Royce sign, a backyard composter and a stone owl sculpture, at an estate sale scheduled for Saturday at his home in the affluent Boston suburb of Weston.

“In addition to some exceptional sports memorabilia, you’ll find beautiful furniture and decor, women’s designer clothing and accessories, gym equipment, game room tables and more,” the company running the sale said on its website.

The baseball-related items for sale include framed jerseys, Ortiz bobbleheads, Big Papi commemorative Coca-Colabottles, signed Red Sox photographs and a Boston Bruinsjersey with the name Ortiz and his No. 34 on the back.

The three-time World Serieschampion and his wife put their six-bedroom, 8,100-square-foot home on the market last year for $6.3 million, but it’s not currently listed.

Ortiz retired in 1997, after 20 seasons with the MLB. Among designated hitters, he’s the all-time leader in MLB history for home runs (485), RBIs (1,569), and hits (2,192). Regarded as one of the best clutch hitters of all time, Ortiz had 11 career walk-off home runs during the regular season and two during the postseason.

Anthony Rendon Begins Los Angeles Angels Career with 1.000 Batting Average

Anthony Rendon has started his MLBrun with a new team with a bang…

The 29-year-old Mexican American professional baseball player, who helped the Washington Nationals win the World Series last year, left his first game in a new uniform with a 1.000 batting average.

Anthony Rendon

Rendon went 2-for-2 in his spring training debut with the Los Angeles Angels, driving in a run and scoring one Tuesday during a 7-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Back from spending time with his wife and newborn child, the MLB All-Starthird baseman played three innings on the field.

“It’s inevitable. You’ve got to get out there every day to get comfortable,” Rendon said. “So day one, you take in stride and take it slow, too. Not try to get too crazy.”

Rendon, who signed a $245 million, seven-year contract as a free agent in December, was just one of the big-name Angels players to play for the first time this February. He batted third, between AL MVP Mike Troutand designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, the two-way star from Japan who also pitches.

Outfielder Justin Uptonand first baseman Albert Pujolsalso were in the lineup for the first time.

“Definitely exciting. Just trying to see how it’s going to pan out throughout the year,” Rendon said. “Kind of getting used to each other and getting in the dugout and seeing what guys’ routines are, and you don’t want to get in anybody’s way at all.”

The major league leader in RBI last season, Rendon has hit .301 or better the past three seasons, with two 100-RBI campaigns. He has totaled 83 home runs in that span, including a career-high 34 last season.

Last October, his home run off Zack Greinkebegan Washington’s late rally in Game 7 at Houston for the championship.

“Right now he’s one of the better clutch hitters in the game. He almost 100 percent of the time works a great at-bat,” Angels manager Joe Maddonsaid. “He is one of those dudes that can handle good pitching well and you can’t say that about everybody.”

Rendon heard the cheers from the small crowd at Tempe Diablo Stadiumas he walked up for his first at-bat as an Angel in the bottom of the first inning. He worked the count to 3-and-2 before lining a single to left field, moving Trout to second base.

Rendon scored easily from second base on Pujols’ two-out, bases-loaded single.

In the second, Rendon picked up his first RBI wearing Angels red when he sliced a two-out, opposite-field single to right field to drive in David Fletcher.

Bartolo Colon Signs with Mexico’s Monclova Acereros

Bartolo Colonis headed south of the border.

The 46-year-old Dominicanprofessional baseball right-handed pitcher has signed with the Monclova Acereros of the Mexican Baseball League.

Bartolo Colon

The Acereros, defending champions of the Triple-Acircuit, announced the signing of Colon on Friday. The team didn’t provide details of the contract.

“Bartolo Colon would be an important piece of the pitching staff of the current champions, becoming one of the bigger signings in our baseball history,” the team said in a press release. “The ‘Big Sexy‘ show would be something the Monclova fans will be able to enjoy.”

Colon hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018 with the Texas Rangers. He became the top winning pitcher born in Latin America, getting his 246th career victory on August 7, 2018, against the Seattle Mariners.

Colon is 247-188 in 565 games — 552 as a starter — since his MLBdebut with the Cleveland Indians in 1997. He also was the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner while with the Los Angeles Angels.

Francisco Liriano Signs Minor League Contract with the Philadelphia Phillies

Francisco Liriano isn’t leaving The Keystone State… 

The Philadelphia Phillies have signed the 36-year-old Dominican professional baseball left-handed pitcher to a minor league contracts with invitations to attend major league spring training.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano was 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 69 relief appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirateslast season. Liriano is 112-114 with a 4.15 ERA and has averaged 9.01 strikeouts per nine innings over 419 career games.

During his career, he has played for the Minnesota TwinsChicago White Sox, the PiratesToronto Blue JaysHouston Astrosand Detroit Tigers.

Liriano was an MLB All-Star in 2006, and is a two-time winner of the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award.