Tagged: Aaron Hicks

How to make the MLB Draft Better

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If you’re like me, you eagerly wait for the MLB draft the same way that a kid would wait for the last day of school. Then again, you’re probably not me, Heck, you probably didn’t realize the MLB Draft was a thing unless you have a subscription to Baseball America, read MLB Pipeline, or read Minor League Madhouse (Yeah, I know, self-plug, haha.) It’s kind of disappointing, really. How is it that everyone knows about the NFL Draft and the NBA Draft, but the MLB Draft is pretty much the equivalent of the chess club? Well maybe it’s because there are a couple issues that prevent the draft from getting the visibility it deserves.

First of all, the MLB Draft is the only draft that takes place during the season as opposed to the offseason. You know why the NFL Draft has so much coverage? Because it is the most exciting event for fans until the season starts. The same thing goes for the NBA Draft. Sure you have free agency, but you also have the NBA draft. The fact that the MLB draft coincides with the season, heck, it even goes on while games are being played, makes it one of the most overlooked drafts in pro sports.

Another problem is that the players that are available to be picked don’t have the same athletic profile as an NFL or an NBA prospect. People know these names because they see them on ESPN or the other sports networks all the time. I can guarantee you Dansby Swanson made it on ESPN about a third of the time that Jameis Winston or Karl Towns did. And it gets even worse if you are a high schooler because of the fact that the majority of high school games are not televised by national networks. If you want to see Jason Groome pitch so you can see the future, check YouTube or make a trip down to Barnegat, New Jersey, because the chances you see him on national TV right now are almost none.

The third problem is that whereas NFL, NBA, and in some cases, NHL talent have a good shot at making the jump to the pros immediately, in baseball, it’s rare to see that happen. Because it can take an average of three years to see a first round pick make the majors, the interest is not there unless the fans are made aware of the hotshot prospect. Sure, JP Crawford is supposed to be the next Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia, but let me ask you, Phillies fans, how many times have you seen Crawford play live? And no, the Futures game does not count. Additionally, there is the chance that a first round pick does not make the majors, making the MLB Draft one of the biggest risks involving amateur talent. In the 50 years the draft has been held, no class has had every first rounder make the majors.

While there is no way to guarantee the success of the draft, there is always a way to drum up more interest in the event itself. So how exactly is that done? Well, here are some ideas that could get the ball rolling.

1. Televise more college and high school games on MLB Network and other channels.

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If you want to get people interested in prospects, the best way to do so is to give the prospects more visibility. Sure, ESPNU will televise a college game every now and again, and the regional networks will do as well, but they play to a niche audience. And when ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN U do cover college baseball regularly, it’s usually after players are drafted, when the NCAA tournament is going on.  By getting more networks involved before the fact, especially the national networks and the sports networks, there should be at least a slight bump in interest. Play it like college football does and have college baseball games on in the morning and afternoon on CBS and ABC. Show highlights on SportsCenter, and not just the occasional Top 10 Play, make sure that baseball fans know the future of baseball. Heck, if possible, drum up interest early by showing summer league games on ESPN 2. The possibilities are endless.

As far as high school, perhaps there should be more games available to stream online. If MLB.com were to offer a service to allow fans to watch games that high level prospects pitch in, then you can guarantee fans will watch it. Reading about high school prospects is the equivalent of hearing a folk legend, people rarely get to see what these players are unless there is video footage. By highlighting the top prep players in each draft class through a stream, fans will be able to see what guys like Riley Pint or Jason Groome or Blake Rutherford actually are.

Come to think of it, if ESPN and MLB Network both decided to air the MLB draft, I’m sure there would be a major viewership spike.

Watching games may be a fun way to see the talent that does come up, but there’s more to evaluating players than seeing them perform, which brings me to my next point…

2. Create an MLB Scouting Combine.

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Believe it or not, this was proposed as an idea last year in the wake of the Brady Aiken saga, and it may be the only time that prep and college players get to be evaluated side by side. The idea that players can have certain measurable categories that can be evaluated against other players in the same vacuum allows for a more open approach to scouting. Additionally, if medical tests are included, teams are not left in the dark about records, and open communication between players, agents, and teams is encouraged. The other fun in it would be seeing who would be the “workout warriors” of the combine, which players would see their stock rise enough to jump them into the first round. Sure, players do see their stock rise during their seasons, but it’s not as fun to watch as seeing Aaron Donald completely defy expectations.

Now there is a certain timing issue that may lead to the question of when the combine could be scheduled, and with the MLB Draft already competing with the NCAA Tournament and the MLB season. This brings up my next point…

3. Move the draft (and possible combine) to the end of June/early July.

College coaches’ biggest complaint about the MLB draft is that it’s scheduled during the tournament, meaning that players could get distracted by all the hype that comes with being selected. Sure, it’s nice to have a celebration with your teammates like Dansby Swanson and Walker Buehler did last year, but to be honest, wouldn’t it be better to have the draft right after the College World Series? With all the distraction behind them, players can focus on the future, and teams will be able to gather more information on the players as they go through the College World Series.

Of course, one of the main issues with this is that a month of negotiating time for contracts would be cut, and considering the fact that there are over 1200 players chosen in the draft, and teams do try and sign each player, there would have to be some quick negotiations done in order to get all players in a draft class accounted for. Considering teams want to get players in the system as soon as possible, it’s reasonable that they possibly just send their draft picks to extended spring training, and then if they feel they are ready, add them to a low level part of the organization.

Now how about the actual draft? How do we make more people watch it?

1. Give the draft its own day. 

Now when I say the draft, I mean the rounds that are televised. No, we don’t need to do 40 rounds in one sitting.

Part of the problem with the way the draft is scheduled is that nobody really sees it, what with the competition being baseball games. By having there be a day off, you can bet more people would consider tuning in to watch the draft. In fact, encourage people to watch the draft by printing it on team schedules. In fact, promote it heavily, after all, this is the future of baseball that people should be seeing.

2. Invite fans to see it live.

Part of the reason why the NFL, NBA, and NHL drafts are so successful is because they encourage fans to attend the draft in person. And that’s why you see so many hardcore fans dressed up in their team colors, cheering for their team’s picks. The MLB draft, on the other hand, is almost like that exclusive party that very few people are invited to. It’s just the draft attendees and their families, the MLB Network personalities, the team representatives, the Commissioner, and maybe a few special guests. If you want to promote the future, don’t make it a stuffy cocktail party, make it an open experience. I’m sure there are plenty of fans that would give anything to sit in the left field seats at Studio 42 to watch players walk on stage and receive the jersey and handshake from Rob Manfred.

In fact, why restrict the location to Studio 42? Why not move the draft to a ballroom and set it up like Studio 42? Or even better? Have the draft at an actual MLB Ballpark, like Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Wrigley Field or Fenway Park? If the NBA can have their draft at the Barclays Center every year, and the NHL can move their draft to whatever NHL Arena it is in every year, why restrict the MLB Draft to Secaucus, New Jersey? And speaking of invites…

3. Invite more college players.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 6:  (L-R) Clint Frazier, Dominic Smith, Tim Anderson, Nicholas Ciuffo, Billy McKinney, J.P. Crawford, Aaron Judge, and Ian Clarkin pose for a group photo during the 2013 First-Year Player Draft at MLB Network's Studio 42 on June 6, 2013 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Paige Calamari/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

This one is admittedly tricky and relies on a few scenarios to break the right way, but in my opinion, the MLB draft would get even more viewership if more college players were able to attend. Ever since the draft has been televised, very few college players have been able to attend. To prove my point, here are all the players that have attended the MLB draft in person since it started being televised in 2007:

2007: Josh Vitters (HS), Philippe Aumont (HS), Ross Detweiler (HS)

2008: Aaron Hicks (HS)

2009: Mike Trout (HS)

2011: Larry Greene (HS)

2012: Carlos Correa (HS), Andrew Heaney (NCAA), Gavin Cecchini (HS), Courtney Hawkins (HS), Clint Coulter (HS)

2013: Clint Frazier (HS), Dominic Smith (HS), Tim Anderson (JUCO), Nick Ciuffo (HS), Billy McKinney (HS), JP Crawford (HS), Aaron Judge (NCAA), Ian Clarkin (HS), Jon Denney (HS)

2014:  Nick Gordon (HS), Michael Chavis (HS), Jake Gatewood (HS), Monte Harrison (HS), Derek Hill (HS), Grant Holmes (HS), Kodi Medeiros (HS)

2015: Brendan Rodgers (HS), Ashe Russell (HS), Garrett Whitley (HS), Mike Nikorak (HS)

So out of 31 players that have attended, two have come out of college, or a little over six percent. Now of course, there is a logical reason, considering the fact that the draft and the NCAA tournament conflict with each other, and the best chance to be at the draft is if your team does not qualify for the tournament. So going back to those factors that break, in the best case scenario, what could happen is that if the draft is moved, more collegians could be invited. In the worst case, that is, the draft isn’t moved, the collegians from the smaller schools, like Kyle Lewis or Matt Crohan, would get the invite.

If more collegians are invited, there is a possibility that more fans will be willing to watch, as these are the players that have the best chance to be seen. The question is which collegians would be able to come?

4. Let teams trade picks.

The MLB draft is the only draft of the Big 4 sports leagues that doesn’t allow trading of draft picks. Well, technically they do, but the picks that can be traded are only competitive balance lottery picks. The lack of trading means there’s almost no reason to be excited for the draft, especially if a team has no first round pick at all. And in some cases, it can be a real disadvantage. A team with a terrible minor league system who is this close to contention would greatly benefit if they were allowed to trade draft picks, and the draft would be even more interesting if, say, the Yankees were allowed to trade up.

While only a couple trades have been made with CB picks involved, the opportunity to expand that to, say, maybe the first 5 rounds of draft picks would make for a more interesting show. Imagine if a team is willing to offer a major league caliber star prospect in exchange for a high pick, or if teams trade picks in order to move up or down. Instead of just waiting for players to be picked, it would be a lot more fun to watch.

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While these changes aren’t going to come around that quickly, if at all, it still should send a message. The future of baseball is just as important as the past and present. If the draft is given the exposure that it should get, then more fans will be willing to watch it and see what the future holds for their team.

Rookie Leaders: Hitters

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With the first quarter of the season in the books, it’s time to check out which rookies are leading which statistical categories, and how this may impact their Rookie of the Year chances. We start off with the hitters.

Hitters: (NL and AL

Games:

NL: 37 (Pete Kozma, Cardinals, and Jedd Gyorko, Padres)

AL: 35 (Conor Gillaspie, White Sox)

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Kozma and Gyorko are the ironmen of the National League rookie class so far, having played 37 games for the Cardinals and Padres, while Gillaspie is only two games behind. The significance of this stat pertains to service time: In order to have a true rookie season, a baseball player must have played at least 45 games. Kozma, Gyorko, and Gillaspie are on their way to breaking that mark.

Interestingly, Kozma and Gillaspie have service time from previous seasons, as Gillaspie made his Major League debut five years ago for the Giants, a mere three months after being drafted out of Wichita State, while Kozma has been in the majors since 2011. Gyorko is the only rookie of the bunch that has no prior experience in the Majors.

At-Bats:

NL: 137 (Gyorko)

AL: 112 (Aaron Hicks, Twins)

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At-Bats also determine if a rookie’s eligibility is expired. 130 AB’s constitutes a rookie season, so there’s no going back for Gyorko. Hicks, on the other hand, could be sent down to the minors right now, and his eligibility would still be intact. And considering his Triple Crown line, especially his average, he might need all the seasoning he can get.

Runs:

NL: 18 (AJ Pollock, Diamondbacks)

AL: 16 (Hicks)

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These are all the times that the player has crossed the plate. Though Hicks has a low enough batting average to question how on earth he’s managed to score that often, we’ll leave it at that.

Hits:

AL: 36 (Gyorko)

NL: 29 (Gillaspie)

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Gyorko was forced into the offense when Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin went down, and in terms of being a solid hitter, he pretty much has nailed it. Gillaspie, who has been in the Majors before, and who has the added challenge of playing in the somewhat tougher junior circuit, has pulled his weight as well.

Doubles:

NL: 14 (Pollock)

AL: 4 (Robbie Grossman, Astros, and Gillaspie)

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There seems to be a common theme among the hitters: The NL Rookies are superior to the AL Rookies. That being said, AJ Pollock, who is known for his hustle, has more than double the doubles of Gillaspie and newcomer Robbie Grossman. Fun fact: Grossman, originally a Pirates minor leaguer, was dealt in the Wandy Rodriguez deal to the Astros.

Triples:

NL: 4 (Adeiny Hechavarria, Marlins)

AL: 1 (Gillaspie and Hicks)

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Adeiny Hechavarria has already been compared to Hanley Ramirez, by Hanley himself no less. It’s no surprise that he’s actually there as a speedster.

Home Runs:

NL: 7 (Evan Gattis, Braves)

AL: 3 (Gillaspie and Hicks)

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For the record, I’m not a Gillaspie or a Hicks homer, they just happen to lead the American League Rookies in these stats. Gattis, on the other hand, had a remarkable April that culminated in him being named the Rookie of the Month. He has essentially put Brian McCann on borrowed time, so it will be interesting to see how far he can go.

RBI

NL: 20 (Gattis)

AL: 15 (Hicks)

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Gattis is no surprise, considering he blew away the competition last month en route to his Award-winning month. Hicks is the surprise, although his experience plays a definite role here.

Walks:

AL: 15 (Hicks)

NL: 13 (Gyorko)

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Strikeouts:

AL: 36 (Hicks)

NL: 34 (Gyorko)

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Patience is a virtue, and a harsh mistress, as evidenced by the leaders of the previous two stats.

Stolen Bases:

NL: 5 (Pollock)

AL: 3 (Hicks)

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It’s a little early to judge, but my guess is that these two could find themselves as leadoff men sometime in the future.

Caught Stealing:

AL: 4 (Grossman)

NL: 2 (Pollock)

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Tells you something about Grossman, Pollock, on the other hand, can be waved off.

Batting Average (More than 50 At-Bats)

NL: .348 (Didi Gregorius, Diamondbacks)

AL: .293 (Gillaspie)

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If Gregorius hadn’t gotten hurt to start the year, we’d be seeing more of him in this post.

On Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, and OPS:

NL: .392/594/.986 (Gregorius)

AL: .355/.444/.799 (Gillaspie)

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Based on these quarterly marks, we can guess that in the NL, it’s a pretty open field in terms of the top hitting rookie, while in the AL, it’s Gillaspie or bust.

Stay tuned for the rookie pitching leaders, coming soon.

The Arbitration Clock and its Negative impact on Top Prospects

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One of the biggest things in baseball that fans don’t give a damn about is arbitration. They know it’s there, but they couldn’t care less about considerations for service time, monies to be payed to player X, and all the complicated legal jargon that is the underbelly of baseball business. Granted, even P2P did try and read about salary arbitration, but fell asleep before getting past the second sentence. Basically, to put it in a nutshell, arbitration is when a player has reached a certain amount of service time and is a free agent, the team that owned him can offer him a salary for that year. The player can accept that salary or counter, by which point, a judge, colloquially referred to as an “arbitrator” will determine if the player’s price is fair or if the team’s price is fair.

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Fans are not generally enthusiastic about arbitration, especially for those players who haven’t even made the big league club yet. Prospects are often at the butt end of the arbitration process, because teams want an extra year of control on their prospects. This is why such players as Zack Wheeler, Dylan Bundy, Jurickson Profar, and Travis d’Arnaud are languishing in the minors while less than talented incumbents continue to lumber around with what limited time they have left, like Shaun Marcum and Anthony Recker, among others. P2P cannot speak for players, but is pretty sure Travis d’Arnaud has had enough of Sin City, especially since that’s where he suffered his season-ending injury that has continuously delayed his big league debut. That, and Zack Wheeler was one of the top performers this spring, and with the rash of injuries that has plagued the Mets, many have called for his call-up.

Bud Selig, Aaron Hicks

Some teams however, have no qualms about losing the extra year of team control that they would normally get with stashing their top prospect in the minors. This is apparently the case with Minnesota Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks and Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who will be making his big league debut at the age of 20 against the Mets. Given that the Marlins are inclined to jumpstart their prospects, the move should not be surprising, but with Fernandez having never pitched above A ball, the results can be disastrous. The same goes for Hicks, who has yet to play a game of Triple-A ball, and looked like the struggling minor leaguer he was after he got drafted in his first game. The thing is, the Marlins and Twins acknowledged that they both are top 25 talents on the team who clearly deserve their roster spots sooner rather than later. On the other hand, Mets fasn will have to wait a month while Wheeler faces “command issues” and d’Arnaud “gets back up to fielding strength”.

Many writers agree with P2P and say that the arbitration system preventing the top prospects from making their debuts sooner rather than later is stupid. While nothing can be done now, the owners and the MLBPA, as well as commissioner Bud Selig should really consider looking over the Collective Bargaining Agreement and smooth over the rough spots.

Top 100 Prospects for 100 page views: 100-95

Prospects2pros broke the first of (hopefully) many milestones on Sunday when the 100th view was recorded by the view tracker. In celebration of this, I will be doing a twenty part series on the top 100 prospects in baseball right now. This series will go by fives, from Giants prospect outfielder Gary Brown all the way to Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar. Without further delay, we start profiling the top 100 baseball prospects for 2013. 

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100: Gary Brown, Outfielder, San Francisco Giants 

School: Cal State Fullerton

Draft: First Round, 24th overall, 2010

2012 Teams:  Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA Eastern League)

Assets: Speed

Twitter: @garybrown909

My Take: Brown is a speedy specimen and will fit in the top of any National League Lineup. He cannot hit for power, but he does compensate with a decent on base percentage. If Brown were to stay in San Francisco (not be dealt), then there is a possibility that he can use the ballpark’s build to his advantage, and possibly win a stolen base title. He currently is blocked by Angel Pagan and Andres Torres, but if the latter cannot get back to his 2010 form, expect Brown to be up by September at the latest. 

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99: Trevor Story, Shortstop, Colorado Rockies

School: Irving High School (Irving,Texas)

Draft: First Round (Comp.) 45th overall, 2011

2012 Teams: Asheville Tourists (A South Atlantic League)

Assets: Opposite field power, solid contact

Twitter: @Tstory2

My Take: Story is another in a long line of potentially successful hitting prospects that populate the Colorado Rockies system. As mentioned, he can develop into a solid hitter, with a power potential, especially with the thin air of Denver. Story’s biggest problem though, is his competition at shortstop. While he has years to go before he can stay in the bigs for good, he is behind Troy Tulowitzki, who despite the injuries that he has suffered this year, is still locked up in Denver for the long run. There are some, however, who believe that Story’s potential lies beyond shortstop, and that he could move to a weaker position in order to have a better chance at a roster spot. If Story is going to stay in Colorado long term, like his superior, he has the potential to be a mainstay in the 5th or 6th spot in the Rockies’ lineup. 

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98: Aaron Hicks, Outfield, Minnesota Twins

School: Woodrow Wilson High School (Long Beach, California)

Draft: First Round, 14th overall, 2008

2012 Teams: New Britain Rock Cats (AA Eastern League)

Assets: Switch Hitter, Strong Arm, Patience

Twitter: @AaronHicks31

My Take: I’ll let you in on a secret: The 2008 draft class is one of my favorite draft classes of all time, right behind the 2011 and 2005 classes. Hicks came from that draft class amid plenty of fanfare, but in his first few seasons, he looked a little lost, and seemed to be destined for the “bust” label. It wasn’t until this past year that Hicks finally got himself back on track and managed to bring his stock back up. Hicks’ ability as a switch hitter will certainly help him, as he had decent power numbers in New Britain last year. Right now, with the trades of Ben Revere and Denard Span depleting Minnesota’s outfield, Hicks, as well as Darin Mastroianni, have every opportunity to patrol Target Field, as it has been stated that arbitration status will not play a role in Hicks’ placement for this year. When Hicks does make the leap to the Show, expect him to fulfill Span’s role as a speed-power hybrid. 

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97: Adam Eaton, Outfield, Arizona Diamondbacks

School: Miami University (Ohio)

Draft: 19th Round, 2010, 571st Overall

2012 Teams: Mobile Baybears (AA Southern League), Reno Aces (AAA International League) Arizona Diamondbacks

Assets: Consistently high OBP, Speed, Range, Arm

My Take: Adam Eaton is a late round gem, which are harder to find these days in position players. A former Mid American Conference outfielder, Eaton has already shot through Arizona’s minor league system, and figures to fight for a job in Spring Training. Eaton can be compared to Gary Brown, but he does have more power in his swing, and the benefit of playing in a more hitter-friendly park. The one issue that Eaton has to deal with is an outfield logjam. With Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, and others all vying for spots, Eaton will either have to seriously impress Arizona management or pray for a trade if he wants the starting time that he would get in any other system. 

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96: Jose Iglesias, Shortstop, Boston Red Sox

Country: Cuba

Signed: 9/30/2009

2012 Teams: Lowell Spinners (A New York-Penn League), Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA International League), Boston Red Sox

Assets: Glove, Arm, Speed

Twitter: @JoseIglesias_SS

My Take: Jose Iglesias is your typical more glove than bat shortstop, which is a bit of a throwback, considering the emergence of the hitting shortstop in the past 20 years. In a way, he could be compared to a faster Rey Ordoñez with a little more hitting. Iglesias did get a customary cup of coffee this past season, but with the Red Sox signing Stephen Drew to a one year deal, he will have to have an excellent spring to draw consideration for the major league roster. It is entirely possible that he could be up earlier than expected though, provided Drew continues to have injury issues. If Iglesias can get past his health issues, then he has every opportunity to be a permanent fixture in the Sox infield. 

Stay tuned for prospects 95-91, Martin Perez, Henry Owens, Oswaldo Arcia, Bruce Rondon, and AJ Cole.