Cubs collection of young talent may be their best

Dark-horse candidate: The Braves' Kris Medlen and Dan Uggla were among those lamenting that teammate Freddie Freeman had no chance to beat Puig in the Final Vote. But the Braves scored their first major victory since Andruw Jones' bases-loaded walk beat the Mets in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS, thanks to a team marketing campaign and enthusiasm from an energized fan base.

"It's incredible," said Freeman, who entered the weekend hitting .313 with nine home runs and 60 RBIs. "I didn't know people knew about me. To have people jump on my side and start voting for me, it's incredible.''

Medlen had said Puig would win even if Freeman had six home runs and 20 RBIs in last week's series at Miami, conducted during the voting. Yet the Braves came together around Freeman. The process was invigorating for a team that mostly has treaded water atop the NL East since its 12-1 start.

Ready and slugging: Some hitters shy away from the Home Run Derby because of fear that something will happen in the adrenaline-fueled showcase that will take them out of their groove. But not Chris Davis.

The Orioles' first baseman is pumped to get a chance to swing for the fences Monday night at Citi Field.

"I think as a power hitter growing up, it's one of the things that you look at as kind of your own special thing about the All-Star Game," Davis said.

He is not worried about it messing up his swing.

"I play home run derby every day in BP," he said.

Davis entered the weekend with 34 home runs, on pace for 59. Don't expect him to do a Roger Maris and lose his hair as he chases 60. He has the right wiring for the job ahead.

Different directions: Carlos Gomez was a poor fit with the buttoned-down Twins, who threw him away for next to nothing (one year of J.J. Hardy, whom they then traded to Baltimore with third baseman Brendan Harris for pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson) when he was only 24. His full skills have been on display during an All-Star season for the Brewers as his old boss, Ron Gardenhire, fights for his job with the Twins.

Gardenhire has carried the Twins to six AL Central titles, but they entered the weekend on pace to lose 95-plus games for the third year in a row. General manager Terry Ryan says the front office deserves the blame, not the manager, but Star Tribune columnist Pat Reusse, the most respected baseball voice in Minnesota, points out Gardenhire isn't meeting Ryan's previously stated standard in providing "improvement, hope, direction and leadership'' this season.

Reusse proposes a midseason managerial change, just because it's kinder than letting Gardenhire oversee another "death march'' before not renewing his contract after the season. Giving up on Gomez might have marked the beginning of the end.

Gomez entered the weekend hitting .302 and on pace for 25 home runs and 37 stolen bases. He also is deserving of Gold Glove consideration as a center fielder and has emerged as a true five-tool player.

Gomez has robbed hitters of four home runs this season and made one of the year's most memorable catches with a rumbling, stumbling grab on Tal's Hill in Houston to stun Jason Castro.

"He can accelerate as fast as anybody I've ever seen,'' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He's really explosive. That type of speed, it makes up for a lot. He would have been a nice running back, wouldn't he?"

Tribune reporter Phil Rogers is a freelance contributor to Baseball America.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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