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Basketball Notebook: Defense keys hot start for Woburn girls

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Basketball Notebook: Defense keys hot start for Woburn girls

Steve Sullivan‘s group in Woburn appears to be built for the long haul.

Buoyed by terrific defense and strong leadership highlighted by captains Jenna Taylor and twin sisters Carley and Casey Dangora, the Tanners are off to a 9-0 start.

So far, the Tanners are yet to let up more than 47 points in a game. On five of nine occasions. opponents have been able to reach the 40-point mark. In Woburn’s toughest test of the year against Middlesex Liberty Division foe Winchester, the Tanners came up with a commanding 64-47 win.

“For each of my 13 seasons I have been coaching, defense has always been first,” said Sullivan, who holds a 214-52 career record as Woburn head coach. “We have both excellent individual defenders but we have also been playing great help defense as well which has translated to offense.”

Woburn has no shortage of scorers. Carley Dangora starts the attack as a facilitator and ball-handler. Dangora is averaging six points, eight rebounds, and six assists per game. Inside, Taylor is one of the premier threats in Div. 2 averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds a night. Cyndea Labisierre has stepped up as Woburn’s third threat as she leads the team with 12 points, six rebounds and six assists per game.

“We are a team where the sum of the parts is better than the individual pieces,” Sullivan said. “We have to limit our turnovers going forward. A big thing for us is just taking care of the ball and we’ll be in a much better position to compete down the line.”

Woburn hosts Burlington on Tuesday before taking a trip to highly touted Reading (8-3) on Friday.

Beverly living up to hype

Coming into the season, Beverly was a source of conversation as a potential contender in Div. 1. So far those notions have proven accurate. The Panthers have won their first nine games with all but one coming by double figures. In addition to having a commanding lead in the Northeastern Conference, the Panthers have also showcased their prowess outside the league with a 20-point road win over Lowell.

Junior guard Gabe Copeland is highly regarded and is averaging 14 points and six rebounds. It’s the emergence of sophomore Ryder Foster, however, that makes Beverly a team to watch come March. Foster is putting up 17 points a night and has splashed home 22 three-pointers on the season. Surrounding Copeland and Foster are Dylan Crowley and Rook Landman who are both averaging double figures.

Beverly has notable non-league tests against TechBoston (Jan. 23), Catholic Memorial (Feb. 6 and Feb. 24), and Malden Catholic (Feb. 19) on the docket. …

Next Sunday, the Andrew James Lawson Foundation Invitational returns to the TD Garden. Lawson, a 2008 graduate of Norwell High School, died in 2017 at the age of 27 after battling for cancer for two years.

Nine MIAA games are set to be played throughout the course of the day with the highlights being Scituate versus Marshfield at 2:30 p.m. and Andover taking on Newton North at 4 p.m. Hingham and Weymouth’s unified teams will square off to begin the day at 7:15 a.m. It’s the first time the invitational has included a unified game.

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What are the Orioles getting in Adley Rutschsman? Recent top MLB prospects offer a clue.

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What are the Orioles getting in Adley Rutschsman? Recent top MLB prospects offer a clue.

A little less than three years after being selected No. 1 overall by the Orioles in the 2019 Major League Baseball draft, catcher Adley Rutschman is heading to the big leagues.

Rutschman will make his highly anticipated major league debut Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards, giving the Orioles the young star they’ve been waiting for ever since executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias promised an “elite talent pipeline” at the beginning of 2019.

While nothing is guaranteed, Rutschman’s status as the top prospect in baseball means the Orioles are getting a potential franchise-changing player. Here’s a look back at some other recent top prospects, their journeys to the big leagues and how they’ve fared:

Kansas City Royals third baseman-shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.

Draft/international status: No. 2 overall pick in 2019 MLB draft

MLB debut: April 7, 2022, age 21

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus

Taken one spot after Rutschman in the 2019 draft, Witt beat the Orioles catcher to the majors by more than a month.

A highly touted prospect out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, the son of the former 16-year major league veteran rose quickly through the minors, recording 35 home runs and 29 steals across three levels in his first full professional season in 2021. In 61 games at Triple-A, he batted .295/.369/.570 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs before earning a spot on the Royals’ opening day roster for the 2022 season.

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco

Draft/international status: Signed as amateur free agent in 2017 out of Dominican Republic

MLB debut: June 22, 2021, age 20

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America

After dominating at Low-A and High-A in 2019, Franco and the rest of baseball’s top prospects lost a valuable season of development in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. He made the jump to Triple-A in 2021 anyway and thrived, batting .313/.372/.583 in 40 games before receiving a late-season call-up to the playoff-bound Rays.

After recording a .288/.347/.463 slash line with seven homers and 39 RBIs in 70 games with Tampa Bay, he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind teammate Randy Arozarena and Houston Astros right-hander Luis Garcia.

In November, Franco signed a $182 million, 11-year contract that includes a club option for the 2033 season.

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman-designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Draft/international status: Signed as amateur free agent in 2015 out of Montreal, Canada

MLB debut: April 26, 2019, age 20

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America

Thanks to a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Blue Jays secured enough bonus pool money to sign the teenage son of the Hall of Famer to a deal that included a $3.9 million signing bonus.

Buoyed by his father’s success and his own prestigious power, Guerrero was one of the most anticipated prospects in years, and he more than lived up to the billing in the pros. After batting .331/.414/.531 in 239 minor league games, he became an immediate star in the majors, slashing .272/.339/.433 with 15 homers and 39 RBIs in his rookie season.

In 2021, he led the majors with 48 home runs to finish second in AL Most Valuable Player voting behind Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher-designated hitter Shohei Ohtani

Draft/international status: Signed with the Angels in 2017 out of Japan

MLB debut: March 19, 2018, age 23

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs

Ohtani’s time as a prospect was brief, but his talent was undeniable.

Choosing to begin his pro career in his native Japan, he became a five-time All-Star in Nippon Professional Baseball, excelling as both a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed slugger. After being posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters at the end of the 2017 season, he was courted by the best teams in MLB before signing with the Angels.

Although he could have earned a megadeal had he waited two years for unrestricted free agency, he was subject to international signing rules, which capped his potential signing bonus at $3.557 million.

It didn’t take long for Ohtani to become one of the biggest stars in baseball, as he batted .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs while posting a 3.31 ERA with 11 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018 to earn AL Rookie of the Year honors. Three years later, he put together one of the best seasons in baseball history, slashing .257/.372/.592 with 46 home runs and 100 RBIs while going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA to be named AL MVP.

Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr.

Draft/international status: Signed as amateur free agent in 2014 out of Venezuela

MLB debut: April 25, 2018, age 20

Ranked No. 1 by: Baseball America

Signed as a teenager out of Venezuela, Acuña quickly established himself as a top prospect, climbing to Triple-A in his third minor league season. In 83 games at that level, he hit .309/.375/.464 with 10 home runs, 37 RBIs and 19 steals. Even though Acuña hit .432 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 16 spring training games in 2018, the Braves waited until after April 14 to call up their top prospect to retain a full season of service time.

It wasn’t long before Acuña became one of the best players in all of baseball, winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2018 and making the All-Star Game two of the next three seasons. He missed the Braves’ run to a World Series title last season after tearing his ACL in July, but he still earned an All-Star nod with a torrid first half that included a .283/.394/.596 slash line with 24 homers and 52 RBIs.

In April 2019, he signed an eight-year, $100 million deal with the Braves.

Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi

Draft/international status: No. 7 overall pick in 2015 MLB draft

Debut date: Aug. 2, 2016, age 22

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, Baseball America

After making a strong first impression at the end of the 2016 season, in which he hit .295/.359/.476 in 34 games with the Red Sox, Benintendi rose to the top of prospect rankings. He didn’t disappoint in his first full major league season, batting .271/.352/.424 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs to finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Yankees star Aaron Judge. The next season, he played a key role in helping Boston win its second World Series title in five years.

But after struggling in 2019 and playing just 14 games in the shortened 2020 season because of injury, the Red Sox traded Benintendi to the Royals in a three-team deal with the Mets that landed Boston five players. He rebounded after the trade, posting a 2.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and winning Gold Glove honors in left field in 2021.

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager

Draft/international status: No. 18 overall pick in 2012 MLB draft

Debut date: Sept. 3, 2015, age 21

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, Baseball America

Drafted out of Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, North Carolina, Seager became an immediate star in the minors before earning his major league promotion at the end of the 2015 season. He left no doubt he was ready in his first 27 games with the Dodgers, batting .337/.425/.561 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.

In his first full major league campaign, Seager delivered, slashing .308/.365/.512 with 26 home runs and 72 RBIs to earn NL Rookie of the Year honors and finish third in NL MVP voting. He then became the star of the 2020 Dodgers’ run to their first championship since 1988, winning MVP honors in both the NLCS and World Series.

When he reached free agency at the end of the 2021 season as a two-time All-Star, he secured a franchise-record 10-year, $325 million deal with the Texas Rangers.

Chicago Cubs third baseman-left fielder Kris Bryant

Draft/international status: No. 2 overall pick in 2013 MLB draft

MLB debut: April 17, 2015, age 23

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, Baseball America

Like many top prospects before and after him, Bryant was kept in the minors for the first two weeks of the 2015 season so the Cubs could gain another year of club control with the budding star. When he finally did debut, he proved he was more than ready, batting .275/.369/.488 with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs to be named an All-Star and NL Rookie of the Year.

He followed that up with a truly dominant season, posting a slash line of .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs and 102 RBIs to win NL MVP honors and help the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908, breaking one of the longest championship droughts in sports history. He even recorded the final out on a grounder to third, flashing a smile during the play.

He remained one of the league’s best hitters over the next four seasons, but he and the Cubs couldn’t come to an agreement on a long-term extension. With his contract set to expire at the end of 2021, Chicago sent Bryant to the San Francisco Giants at the midseason trade deadline in exchange for two minor leaguers. After the Giants lost in the NLDS to the Dodgers, Bryant signed a seven-year, $182 million deal with the Colorado Rockies to be their starting left fielder.

Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton

Draft/international status: No. 2 overall pick in 2012 MLB draft

MLB debut: June 14, 2015, age 21

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, Baseball America

It took awhile for Buxton to deliver on his immense promise, but it wasn’t for a lack of talent. His status as a five-tool player coming out of Appling County High School in Georgia captivated scouts, and he remained near the top of most prospect lists before making his debut in 2015.

After a modest start to his big league career, he broke out in 2017, batting .253/.314/.413 with 16 home runs, 51 RBIs and 29 stolen bases while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field.

Injuries kept him off the field for most of the next three years, but Buxton showed enough when he was healthy to earn a seven-year, $100 million extension with the Twins ahead of the 2021 season. He opened 2022 on fire to put himself in the early MVP discussion, but has since cooled off.

Texas Rangers infielder-outfielder Jurickson Profar

Draft/international status: Signed as amateur free agent in 2009 out of Curacao

MLB debut: Sept. 2, 2012, age 19

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, Baseball America

Profar is the most disappointing of these recent top prospects, perhaps serving as a cautionary tale of promoting a player too early. Profar was just 19 when he played his first major league game in 2012, and he struggled the following season to live up to the hype. He then spent two years in the minors, only to return to the big leagues and struggle again.

It wasn’t until he received regular playing time at second base in 2018 that his talent started to show, as he hit .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs and 77 RBIs while posting a 1.7 WAR. The Rangers then traded him to the Athletics as part of a three-team deal with the Rays, and he spent just one season in Oakland before being dealt once again to the Padres.

He put together a strong 2020 season to earn a three-year, $21 million contract from the Padres and has since established himself as an everyday outfielder.

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper

Draft/international status: No. 1 overall pick in 2010 MLB draft

MLB debut: April 28, 2012, age 19

Ranked No. 1 by: Baseball America

Perhaps no prospect over the past decade has received more hype than Harper, an electric talent from Las Vegas who graduated early from high school to attend Southern Nevada. There, he hit .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in just 66 games to earn the 2010 Golden Spikes Award, given to the best amateur baseball player in the country.

Harper quickly rose through the minors, reaching Double-A by the end of his first professional season. After 21 games at Triple-A, he was called up to the majors and became an instant star, batting .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs to earn NL Rookie of the Year honors and his first All-Star Game appearance.

An All-Star in six of his seven seasons in Washington and the 2015 NL MVP, Harper became a free agent in 2018 and signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, the largest in MLB history at the time. While the Nationals went on to win the World Series in 2019, postseason success has eluded Harper, who has yet to reach the playoffs in Philadelphia.

He remains one of the biggest stars in the sport, winning MVP honors for the second time in 2021.

Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward

Draft/international status: No. 14 overall pick in 2007 MLB draft

MLB debut: April 5, 2010, age 20

Ranked No. 1 by: MLB Pipeline, Baseball America

It doesn’t get more memorable than Heyward’s debut. In his first major league at-bat, he turned on a 3-0 fastball from Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano and sent it 433 feet into the right field seats at a sold-out Turner Field. He finished that season slashing .277/.393/.456 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs, earning his first and only All-Star nod while finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Giants catcher Buster Posey.

Heyward was an above-average hitter and one of the league’s best defenders during his time in Atlanta, but he never became the superstar many expected him to be after that memorable first at-bat. He was traded to the Cardinals after the 2014 season and put up big numbers in St. Louis before reaching free agency and signing an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense to help the team end its 108-year title drought.

But after posting a 6.9 WAR season in his lone year in St. Louis, he’s never produced above a 2.4 WAR in Chicago, slipping to sub-replacement level in 2022.

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Heat’s Bam Adebayo says he has more ‘stuff to get mad at’ after All-Defensive vote

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Heat’s Bam Adebayo says he has more ‘stuff to get mad at’ after All-Defensive vote

Another file has been added to Bam Adebayo’s motivation folder.

And, yes, the Miami Heat center is keeping score, while also appreciating that the most important scores are the ones at the ends of each game in these Eastern Conference finals.

Hours after being relegated to the NBA All-Defensive second team, Adebayo spoke ahead of Saturday night’s Game 3 against the Boston Celtics about a different type of one-point decision.

“I appreciated it,” he said, “but like I’ve said, I always feel like I deserve to be first-team. So that’s what it is.”

After consecutive years of being second-team All-Defense, Friday night’s release of the balloting for the 2022 All-Defensive teams showed Adebayo one vote from the 100-member media panel from being part of the first team.

In the weighted system, Adebayo would have tied the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. for the final first-team spot with one additional second-team vote, and would have supplanted him with an additional first-team vote. As it is, Adebayo received 57 first-place votes to 55 for Jackson in the balloting that was completed before the start of the playoffs.

“Doesn’t matter,” Adebayo said of being on the cusp of the first first-team selection of his five-year career, “because I’m still second team. I’ve got to live with that.”

What it will do, he said, was continue to fuel his fire, noting that he has learned from Heat captain Udonis Haslem to turn slights into success.

“I mean, I’ve tried everything,” he said. “I’m like UD. We find stuff to get mad at. So that’s basically what it is.”

But, Adebayo said, the three consecutive second-team nods means he is a constant in the conversation.

“I mean, I guess the body of work speaks for itself,” he said.

And if it doesn’t, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke up for Adebayo after Saturday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden.

“I feel for him,” Spoelstra said, “because I think he did everything this year to anchor a great defense. And what we do is really unique, being able to switch out a five on all different kinds of players but then also being able to play different schemes.

“Without him, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of these things. And the most important thing is we had a great defense. So we just have to keep on doing it.”

The Heat closed the regular season with the NBA’s No. 4 defensive net rating.

“I think it’s one of those awards,” Spoelstra said, “I think it’s great for players to strive for that. Even though it’s an individual award, you have to have an effect on your team and winning. Like if we were a 25th-ranked defense, I would tell him you don’t have a shot on being on All-Defense.”

Lessons learned

Celtics forward Grant Williams said Saturday that among players that Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told him to try to emulate in the NBA was Heat power forward P.J. Tucker, who was coached by Barnes at Texas.

“Coach Barnes used to say a lot of times I reminded him of guys like that,” Williams said. “He said [former Heat forward] Jae Crowder, P.J., those are the roles you’ve got to find a way to fit in. And so an honor to be able to compete against him, and not only because he’s playing in the league for as long as he has, but the amount of guys he competed with, and the amount of tenacity and energy that he brings every single night.

“So I guess it’s that Rick Barnes connection that brings the best out of both of us, I guess.”

A bit late

It turns out the Celtics guard Derrick White, who left the series ahead of Thursday night’s Game 2, did not make it back in time for the birth of his son.

White’s family sent him videos of the moment as he traveled, landing in time to watch Game 2 with his expanded family.

“He’s already changed our lives, so it’s been crazy, just sitting with him watching the game, cheering us on from home,” White said of Hendrix James White. “It was cool, and just one of those moments I’ll have forever.”

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Orioles reach two-year agreement with left-hander John Means to avoid arbitration

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Orioles reach two-year agreement with left-hander John Means to avoid arbitration

The Orioles agreed Saturday to a two-year, $5.925 million contract with left-hander John Means to avoid arbitration, an industry source with direct knowledge of the agreement confirmed.

Means, 29, was in his first year of arbitration eligibility and was due to go to a hearing with the Orioles to determine his 2022 salary, deciding between the team’s $2.7 million figure and his suggested $3.1 million. The per-year average of Means’ deal, first reported by The Athletic, is slightly above the midpoint of those values.

Means was the Orioles’ opening day starter this season but made only two starts before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery. He is expected to return sometime in 2023. He will have one year of arbitration eligibility remaining after this contract.

In addition to calling up top prospect Adley Rutschman, the Orioles on Saturday also reinstated first baseman Ryan Mountcastle from the 10-day injured list, recalled right-hander Mike Baumann and optioned right-hander Logan Gillaspie and left-hander Nick Vespi to Triple-A. Gillaspie and Vespi did not allow a run across their collective first three major league appearances.

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