Tag Archive | "Four Seasons"

Chicago Cubs Gain 7 Wins In One Day

Chicago right now is in a frenzy state. The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion. It is their second championship in four seasons. Bears training camp is still a few weeks away. This void in sports can only be filled by two baseball teams unfortunately well under the .500 mark currently. The White Sox and Cubs are both struggling.

CarlosMarmol

However, just hours after the Cup arrived in the Windy City; the Chicago Cubs acquired much needed wins in a single day. How you ask? By finally completing a much needed roster move about two years in the making. The Cubs have designated Carlos Marmol for assignment. What that means is that the Cubs now have ten days to either find another team to make a trade, send him to the minors, or release him. If released, Marmol would then be placed on waives for any team to make an offer or ultimately become a free agent.

Suddenly in Chicago, the cheers of the Stanley Cup are being replaced by cheers of potential wins on the diamond. The Cubs clubhouse has cheers from a starting rotation that may receive a few extra wins and not handed more quality no decisions. The streets around Wrigley Field have cheers that the team now may actually hold onto leads after five innings. The Cubs are near the top in blown saves and games lost when leading after five innings.

Granted, playoff tickets should still not be printed but this is a roster move much long overdue. If you are not familiar with the Carlos Marmol saga it can be summed up by a much to common stat line: 1/3 of an inning pitched, 3 walks, 1 passed ball, 2 hits, and 4 runs scored leading to a blown save or loss.

Carlos Marmol had a special way of driving Cub fans to hair pulling and frustration. When he was called upon there really was no clue of what was going to happen. On the mound, visually it looked like even Marmol had no clue. It is sad, because a few years ago Marmol was at the top of his craft. In 2010, he was an All-Star, untouchable, and arguably one of the best closers in the game. He had a slider that was unhittable and made batters look like they were swinging at wiffle balls. But somewhere along the line he lost it.

He is not the first to fall from having his “A Game” and he will not be the last. Players such as Rick Ankiel, Jose Valverde, and John Axford are just to name a few. It would also not be a complete surprise if on a new club he somehow finds “it” and pitches well for the rest of the season. The Atlanta Braves are one team reportedly interested in Marmol. Cub fans have seen a few former pitchers go to Atlanta and find success in the past. Hello Greg Maddux.

In the current moment, Cub fans will love the move. They will view it as a headache gone. Organizationally however, it is a hard loss. There is a heavy salary still owed to Marmol, and it is hard to think that for the last few seasons Carlos was a prime trade target to gain prospects in return. No deals were made, and now the Cubs have to hope that just the removal of the presence will lead to wins and improvement in chemistry.

The corresponding move was that the team brought up outfielder Brian Bogusevic from the Iowa Cubs. Brian is currently hitting .319 with 14 doubles, 3 triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. He is another young talent that may bring a spark to Clark and Addison.

At the very least, the late innings may now be able to be watched with both eyes and not have them covered with fear.

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Making a case for the young corners

“(He) should hit for power and average because he has a sweet left-handed swing, strength, exceptional strike zone discipline and the ability to make adjustments. He uses the entire field and can drive the ball where it’s pitched.”

That was a scouting report by Baseball America of a Royals’ player before he was drafted.

MooseAndHos

The sweet lefty swing would probably lead you to believe that the player in question is one of the team’s up and coming stars, Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer. Both were first round draft picks, who joined the Royals with plenty of acclaim. Moustakas was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft and Hosmer was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft.

But the player reviewed above is neither Hosmer nor Moustakas, but rather Alex Gordon, the second overall pick of the 2005 draft.

After Gordon was drafted in 2005, he quickly made a name for himself in the minor leagues and Baseball America named Gordon its 2006 Minor League Player of the Year.

All the praise, all the numbers and all the awards for Gordon didn’t immediately translate into success at the big league level. Gordon did have a solid rookie season, hitting .247 with 15 homers, 60 RBI and 14 steals. But after that year (2007), his batting average steadily declined over the next few years until it reached .215 in 2010. Injuries limited Gordon to 164 at-bats in 2009 and 242 at-bats in 2010.

After four seasons in the big leagues, many Royals fans and baseball experts wondered if Gordon would live up to the promise he showed in college at Nebraska and in the minor leagues.

The situation was very similar to what Moustakas and Hosmer are facing right now. Plenty of hype, but limited results early on.

Here are some early scouting reports on Hosmer and Moustakas from Baseball America.

“Hosmer’s approach is very advanced for his age, and one scout likened it to Joey Votto‘s. He already likes to use the opposite field and has the strength to drive the ball out of the park while going the other way.”

“With his (Moustakas’) excellent bat speed, he can drive the ball out of the park to any field. He may never walk a lot, but he also has an uncanny ability to make contact.”

Gordon’s early reviews as well as his numbers from his first two seasons, closely resemble those of Hosmer and Moustakas.

These are two young lefty’s career stats with the Royals compared to Gordon’s first two seasons:

Moustakas: 1040 AB, 107 runs, 29 HR, 114 RBI, 8 SB, .240/.294/.384.
Hosmer: 1202 AB, 149 runs, 34 HR, 150 RBI, 30 SB, .263/.321/.403
Gordon: 1036 AB, 132 runs, 31 HR, 119 RBI, 23 SB, .253/.332/.421

Gordon switched from third base to left field in 2011 and his numbers quickly transformed. For the 2011 season, Gordon scored 101 runs, hit 23 homers, drove in 87 runs, stole 17 bases and boasted a .303 batting average. After a solid 2012 season, Gordon has great numbers early in the 2013 season.

While Gordon is flourishing, Hosmer and Moustakas are struggling out of the gate in 2013.

Moustakas is hitting just .176 this year with an OPS of .550 and Hosmer only has one home run on the year and has .264 batting average. To his credit, Hosmer had a good rookie year, with 19 homers and a .293 batting average in 523 at-bats. But he took a step back in his second year (2012), with his average dropping all the way down to .232.

Because they were praised and looked upon so highly by scouts and analysts, many Royals fans expected the early numbers would be better. But not every player progresses the same way. Not every young player is Mike Trout or Bryce Harper or even Manny Machado. Struggles at the highest level are not uncommon.

While Royals fans may be frustrated with the progress that Hosmer and Moustakas have made, they have to look no further than left field for an example of what the talented duo can become.

Gordon is proof that talent can take time to develop. So if Royals fans can take a patient approach while critiquing Hosmer and Moustakas, in a few years the results may match the hype. And that could be scary for Royals’ opponents.

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Cardinals/Brewers: Three thing to walk with

The Cardinals completed their most dominant weekend in recent years over the weekend, completing the rare four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers. The potential of the team has never been in doubt, yet the reality of it had been. The team put that to rest for the moment, as the offense woke up in a major way, cranking out 48 hits across the series, while surrendering only 12 runs across the series. These runs surrendered actually came from the starting rotation mostly, as the bullpen, propelled by some new additions, became a strength for the team, holding the lead in a way that has been uncharacteristic far too often this season.

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All in all, the team leaves for the next stop on its current NL Central road spin, firmly ahead in the division and tied with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in baseball. The current six-game win streak the club is on is its second longest in the last four seasons, and also gives them four more road wins than any team in the National League. Here are three of the major factors that have played into the series that was.

1. Heart of lineup wakes up: Many of the struggles of the offense getting started this year has come at the heart of it. Matt Holliday has hit at a rate much lower than his average career output, and Allen Craig was a cleanup hitter than couldn’t hit the ball over the fence…or do much else of anything unless there was already somebody in place. And quite often, Holliday’s issue spilled into Craig’s, and it was just as frustrating to get them started as watching somebody try to bite their own ear.

Well, the power source of the club got to their job over the weekend, and it was no coincidence at all that the team had its best production of the year thus far as well. Holliday stepped into his usual role as a hammer, rocking the Brewers to the tone of a .333 average, 5 RBI and two home runs, including a monstrous 460 foot shot on Friday. Cardinal left fielder also scored seven runs in 3 games, and Craig is the cause of several of those. Craig had a prolific series, driving in seven runs on eight hits, including a double, triple and his first home run of the season. Overall, he hit .470 for the series, and got his clutch-hitting stats up to 22 RBI and a .412 average with runners in scoring position.

2. Baby Birds Hatched: The two most shocking moves of the season were both the comings and goings from the bullpen. In mercifully moving the struggling Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski to Memphis to work out their issues, the club brought up two of its best minor league starters to boost the pen. Seth Maness and, more shockingly, Carlos Martinez came up and immediately showcased why they have the billing they brought with them.

Maness, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, made two appearances, and quickly earned his stripes. He induced a bases-loaded double play in the eighth inning in his second appearance to hold off the Brewers and set up the club’s third win of the series. Martinez made a stunning impact, showcasing the high-90’s fastball that made him a Top 25 prospect in all of baseball a year ago. Both showed that the potential of the much-hyped Cardinal system is living up to the eye test standard as well.

3. Thawing Out: After entering the series in the worst stretch of his career, David Freese joined the break out party as well. He had three multi-hit games to start the series, and looked much more comfortable than he had all season. It was an encouraging effort from the laboring Freese to come to life and beginning to bring the much needed balance to the lower half of the Cardinal lineup.

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Who Is Number Two In KC Rotation?

The Kansas City Royals took huge measures this offseason to fix their number one on-field issue, the rotation.  The addition of James Shields gave them a legitimate ace pitcher at the front of their rotation.  The rebuilt rotation looks stronger but leaves the question open: Who’s number two?

Rotation

Throughout 2012 the opinion around the Royals fanbase was very similar.  Many people felt that the team was full of pitchers that projected as the fourth or fifth best pitcher in a rotation.  There was no clear cut “ace” nor was there anyone that the fans felt confident in taking the mound to stop a losing streak.  The team had major league quality pitching, it just was not elite.

Dayton Moore seemingly set out to fix that during the end of 2012 and into the offseason.  A three year contract was reached with Jeremy Guthrie, who had pitched very well after joining the Royals during the second half of 2012, and trades were made for Shields, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana.  The fifth spot is up for grabs this spring and eventually Danny Duffy will join these four to round out the starting five.

Shields obviously will head line the starting rotation for the Royals and is the type of pitcher that would headline most rotations across baseball.  Last year was a team full of rotation guys that projected as four and five starters, this year, it appears that the rotation may be full of guys that are top-three style pitchers.

Looking at the four starters that are set into the rotation this season, where will they rank at the end of 2013?

Wade Davis: Number Four
WadeDavis
Davis has been a solid Major League pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In four seasons he has proven to be a durable starter and a reliable relief pitcher.  The Royals brought him in as insurance and an upgrade over the pitchers they currently had, but he was never projected to be near the top of the rotation.  Davis will provide some inning-eating starts throughout the summer and be serviceable in his role, but ultimately will remain as a lower-rotation starter that may end up back in the bullpen before long if other pitchers are pitching well when Duffy returns.

Ervin Santana: Number Three
MARINEROS-ANGELINOS
Santana is the pitcher that the Royals most hope can realize his potential.  In eight seasons of starting pitching for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Santana has won 16 or more games three times in his career.  He has also lost 12 or more games three times as well.  An up-and-down career has seen moments of brilliance and frustration for Santana.  The Royals will hope that Dave Eiland can work with Santana on mechanical flaws in his delivery and help him regain his top-of-the-rotation form.  Santana should be able to be the number three starter when the smoke clears, though Kansas City may be hoping he is better than that.

Jeremy Guthrie: Number Two
JeremyGuthrie
Looking at past performance of all three starters would rank Guthrie much lower in this conversation.  However, in recent interviews Guthrie has talked very openly about a renewed confidence, a satisfaction with management and coaching and overcoming a mental block that he felt kept him for being a better pitcher in Colorado.  He has spoken to the fact that Kauffman Stadium is a pitcher friendly environment and that he feels that he has one of the best defenses in the league behind him.  The confidence shows in his statistics from last season, with nearly all of his stats showing best in his career type numbers.  He is pitching to contact, keeping the ball in the park, and letting his defense do the work.

By the time the smoke clears on the 2013 season, the Royals will be looking at a rotation that will feature top-tier players at most of the slots.  Jeremy Guthrie has every opportunity to become a great part of that rotation for the next three years.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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St. Louis Cardinals never got to fully enjoy Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright era

The St. Louis Cardinals have been blessed to have two of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball throughout the past seven years. Unfortunately, they rarely got to see that blessing in full effect.

Carp Waino

The Cardinals announced Tuesday that Chris Carpenter won’t pitch in 2013, which likely ends his career as a player for the Cardinals. It also ends a very successful era that still could have been exponentially better without injuries to Carpenter and his co-ace Adam Wainwright.

The Cardinals won two World Series titles and made the playoffs in four of the seven seasons Carpenter and Wainwright were both on the roster. That is arguably the most success any franchise has had during that time.

The San Francisco Giants won just as many championships, but they only made the playoffs those two seasons. The New York Yankees made the playoffs in six of those seven seasons, but they won just one World Series.

Still, the Cardinals had all of that success while rarely having Carpenter and Wainwright healthy at the same time. The only years both pitchers were able to be on the mound regularly during the same season were 2006 (although Wainwright was in the bullpen as a rookie), 2009 and 2010. One of the two pitchers was on the disabled list for an extended period of time in those other four seasons.

Most of the injuries happened to Carpenter. He led the Cardinals onto the field on Opening Day 2007 against the New York Mets and gave up five runs in six innings as the Cardinals lost 6-1. They would go on to finish 78-84, good for third place in the NL Central.

Wainwright moved into the starting rotation in 2007 and compiled a 25-15 record over the course of the next two seasons. But Carpenter didn’t return until 2009, which also happened to be the next time the Cardinals returned to the playoffs.

Carpenter and Wainwright combined for a 72-32 record in 2009 and 2010, the first time since 2006 the two pitchers were both healthy at the same time. The Cardinals won 91 games in 2009 and 86 in 2010, but then injuries destroyed the dynamic duo once again.

Wainwright blew out his elbow in the opening days of spring training in 2011 and missed the entire year after having Tommy John surgery. Carpenter picked up the slack that season with an 11-9 record that betrays his 3.45 earned-run average and his leadership that led the Cardinals to the World Series. He won the playoff-clinching game on the final day of the season in Houston, Game Five of the division series in Philadelphia and Game Seven of the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

Coming off the championship season, the Cardinals hopes were high that they could repeat because Wainwright would be back, and the team would have its two best pitchers healthy again.

Then Carpenter started to feel discomfort in his next during spring training workouts. He wouldn’t make his first start of the season until Sept. 21.

The Cardinals still did well last year and came within one win of reaching the World Series again, but Carpenter struggled against the Giants in the National League Championship Series. He didn’t make it beyond the fourth inning in either of his starts, and his arm wasn’t fully healed.

So while the Cardinals’ announcement that Carpenter wouldn’t be able to pitch this season wasn’t terribly shocking, it still closes the book on one of the most successful eras in franchise history.

But despite that success, the franchise and its fans will close that book wondering how great those teams could’ve been if their two best pitchers hadn’t so often fallen victim to injuries.

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They are who we thought they were, but oh, who they could be

Listen, I’m as guilty of this as anyone…probably even more so. But the 2012 Kansas City Royals are who we thought they were, almost exactly. They’re three wins away from the team’s best record in four seasons, and seven away from their best in ten. They are young, volatile, and improving. Their offense is developing into a potent force, their bullpen is the strength of the team, and their starting rotation is every bit as hodge podge as we anticipated. While I certainly hoped for, and predicted, much more from this club, they are pretty much exactly where we should have expected them to be. Sure, a 12 game losing streak in April squashed all hope, and a terrible July brought us back to earth, but at the end of the year this club is going to be in the mid-70s in wins. Not bad considering the injuries to starting pitching, Eric Hosmer’s regression, and the abomination that has been Ned Yost as an in-game manager.

I, as my name suggests, drank too much of the Kool Aid in the preseason, and I’m not apologizing for it. For the past 25 years, Royals fans have had little more than the Kool Aid, and we shouldn’t swear it off just because our dreams didn’t come true once again. Instead, I’m taking it a step farther. Instead of telling you what I hope happens this offseason heading into next, I’m going to outline what would be, in my mind, the best ten things that could happen to the Royals this offseason.

10. Ned Yost resigns. Yost loves his hunting and his hunting buddies; maybe just maybe he decides trying to win with both hands tied behind his back isn’t worth it.

9. Jeff Francoeur pulls a Gil Meche. Meche walked away at the age of 32 because he didn’t want to have surgery. Maybe notorious good-guy Frenchy will retire because he can no longer bare the pain he is causing those who cheer for him.

8. Zack Greinke announces he’ll give the Royals a hometown discount, but only if they sign one additional free agent starter. Dayton Moore signs the hurler to a 5 year $95 million contract shortly after…

7. Jeremy Guthrie signs a two year deal worth $12 million. Yes, I’m drinking the Guthrie Kool Aid. The guy loves it here, and Kauffman Stadium is the perfect place for a fly ball pitcher like Guthrie.

6. Ned Yost is fired. No, this isn’t the same as #10, this is much better. This would involve Dayton Moore admitting a mistake and cutting a loss.

5. Terry Francona is hired as the new manager of the Kansas City Royals. Yeah, I’m dreaming…and yeah, they’d have to sign Greinke and Guthrie first.

4. Joakim Soria re-signs with the club and returns to his old self. I’m not sure Soria would even be our closer at this point, but if we’re going to have the bullpen be our strength, let’s go all out.

3. Jeff Francoeur is cut. See 6, only this time in all caps.

2. Oklahoma Joe’s expands to Detroit. While Fielder didn’t experience quite the drop off I expected, he did see his power numbers dip. Give him one taste of Oklahoma Joe’s and he’ll weigh 400 lbs by spring training.

1. David Glass sells the team to the owners of Sporting KC. Yeah, I know Glass said he won’t sell the team. He also said he only wants the team to break even, and he cares about winning. Let’s just hope this was one more lie.

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Here they go again

The kings of irrelevant success are at it early in 2012. After putting together winning Septembers in three of the last four seasons, your 2012 Kansas City Royals have started the month of August at 10-6, perhaps starting their annual trek up the standings one month ahead of time. Still trailing their division leader by 13 games, this recent hot streak means little even if it’s continued at its current pace for the next 45 days, so what does matter as we head down the stretch? Here are five numbers that I think are far more important than how many games the Royals win in the next 6 weeks.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

  1. Johnny Giavotella’s fielding percentage. Technically it may actually be more important what his defense looks like to Ned Yost. We all know the Royals aren’t the most interested team in advanced defensive metrics, so it definitely doesn’t matter what his UZR looks like. Regardless, second base is the one place the Royals could most significantly improve their offense in 2013(besides right field, and Jeff Francoeur is going nowhere), assuming Giavotella can prove to management that his glove will play.
  2. Jeremy Guthrie’s contract. Guthrie has clearly earned himself a two year deal from Dayton Moore at the minimum. There is nothing more that Moore loves than featuring a player that makes him look smart, and getting anything at all for Jonathan Sanchez looks brilliant. If it’s a two year deal for $14 million, I’m good with it…and it may signal the end of the Luke Hochevar era. If it’s a three year deal for $30 million and Guthrie is starting on Opening Day next year, I’ll be furious.
  3. Billy Butler’s home run total. Should this matter? Not really,  but it’s been a sore spot for fans for far too long and could be the only thing to drive fans to the park the couple of weeks of the season. Butler needs twelve home runs over his last 44 games to break the most embarrassing franchise record in baseball. He hit 11 in 44 games earlier in the year, so it’s certainly possible.
  4. Wil Myers’ games played. The only thing that would make any sense at all would be if the Royals bring Myers up in September and let him play nearly every day. If they don’t I’m really going to have some questions about their plans for him. The only reasonable explanation to me would be that they plan on trading him this winter and don’t want him exposed at the big league level.
  5. Alex Gordon’s batting average. I am shocked that Ned Yost chose to mess with Gordon’s place in the order yet again. Let me rephrase that, I would be shocked if a competent manager chose to jerk a player around as much as Yost has with Gordon. Gordon is clearly most comfortable in the lead off role. Yost is clearly uncomfortable with someone batting lead off with that high of an on base percentage.

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2nd Half Key: Keep the “Fragile” Players Rested

No matter what you thought of Tony La Russa, one had to respect his ability to keep an entire roster sharp and ready to compete. There were no “Ripkens” on La Russa’s teams.

Manager Mike Matheny has done a terrific job of continuing that philosophy of starting players off the bench on a regular basis and getting the veterans and surgically-repaired players regular rest.

The baseball season is a grind, and games in 100-degree heat do not help matters.

The benefits are obvious, of course: yesterday’s starter is today’s pinch-hitter. Anywhere from one to three players play multiple positions in each contest, and getting the veterans out of blowouts (of which the Cards have had more than their fair share) will keep them fresh throughout the season.

While the Cardinals would be excited to see Jaime Garcia, Kyle McClellan and Lance Berkman back on the field, the club must do everything to keep their somewhat fragile stars, who have put them in this position to begin with, healthy as well.

Berkman is coming off minor knee surgery and seems ready to go after the break. Rafael Furcal is poised to have his best season in six years and is already just four games shy of his entire total last season. Carlos Beltran is on pace to surpass 600 at-bats for the first time in four seasons.

In addition, David Freese and Allen Craig are both on pace to obliterate their season-high number of plate appearances, and they are both as crucial to the Cardinals’ prospects of making the postseason as the veterans.

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Royals Naturals Extend Agreement

ROYALS EXTEND PLAYER DEVELOPMENT CONTRACT WITH NORTHWEST ARKANSAS THROUGH 2016

KANSAS CITY, MO (April 11, 2012) – The Kansas City Royals announced today that the club has extended its Player Development Contract (PDC) with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals through the 2016 season.

“We are very fortunate to have such a great facility for our Double-A team so close to our Major League home,” Royals Director of Minor League Operations Scott Sharp said.  “We attempt to put our players in big league atmospheres before they arrive in Kansas City and Northwest Arkansas allows us to do that every night.  Our partnership has been tremendous and the only reason the extension is not for longer is because of minor league baseball restrictions limiting deals of this kind to a maximum of four years.”

“We are extremely proud to continue our player development contract with the Kansas City Royals,” said Eric Edelstein, Naturals General Manager. “We have seen the Royals commitment to a world class player development system which extends beyond the field into the front office and the communities we both serve.”

Double-A Northwest Arkansas, an affiliate since 2008, has made the playoffs in each of its first four seasons, including capturing the Texas League championship in 2010.  A member of the Texas League North Division, the Naturals play their home games at Arvest Park (capacity 6,500) in Springdale, Ark.

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Royals Acquire Pounders And Goris

ROYALS ACQUIRE MINOR LEAGUERS POUNDERS AND GORIS FROM PIRATES FOR NAVARRO

DALLAS, TX (December 7, 2011) – The Kansas City Royals announced tonight that the club has acquired minor league right-handed pitcher Brooks Pounders and infielder Diego Goris from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for infielderYamaico Navarro. Pounders has been assigned to the Wilmington (A Advanced) roster while Goris was assigned to Burlington (R). Following the trade, the Royals 40-man Major League roster stands at 39.

Pounders, 21, posted a 5-5 record with a 3.68 ERA in 36 games (one start) for Class A West Virginia in 2011. In 66.0 innings, the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder allowed 61 hits while striking out 72 against just 14 walks. The Pirates’ second round selection (53rd overall) in the 2009 Draft is a native of Temecula, Calif.

The 20-year-old Goris, who turns 21 tomorrow, hit .350 with 20 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 46 RBI and 53 runs scored for the Pirates’ Dominican Summer League club in 2011. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound right-handed hitter also stole 15 bases in 18 attempts. Goris, a native of Santiago in the Dominican Republic, is a career .302 hitter over four seasons in the Pittsburgh system, having been named an All-Star in the Dominican in both 2010 and 2011.

Navarro, 24, was acquired by the Royals from the Boston Red Sox on July 30 in exchange for infielder Mike Aviles. He hit .304 in six games for the Royals and is a career .206 batter at the Major League level in 42 contests.

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