Tagged: Atlanta Braves

2016 MLB Mock Draft 3.0

As the offseason continues to take shape, so does the 2016 draft order. In the month since I last produced a mock, the Nationals lost their first round pick for signing Daniel Murphy, and the Dodgers gained their pick back after backing out of the Hisashi Iwakuma deal Additionally, the Royals lost their first round pick for Ian Kennedy, and the Detroit Tigers lost yet another draft pick for signing Justin Upton. As of now, if the draft were to start today, there would be 25 first round selections and 9 compensatory selections. Anything can happen, so I will avoid the comp picks for now, and focus on the first round proper, although when the season starts, that will change. Without further delay, here is the third edition of the 2016 mock draft. This mock will simply focus on who goes where, any scouting reports are reserved for new entrants.

Philadelphia Phillies:

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Matt Klentak is a genius.

After taking the position as Philly’s GM, he trades their best asset, closer Ken Giles to Houston in exchange for 2013 first overall pick Mark Appel and starter Tom Eshelman, as well as lefty starter Brett Oberholtzer. For a closer on a bad team, especially one that had only inherited the position after Jon Papelbon was traded, you have to admit that he made out like a bandit.

The Phillies may have added on to their system, but they still could use another dynamic lefty starter, even if Oberholtzer and Matt Harrison are part of the rotation. What may be considered one of the best pitching classes of all time boils down to three lefties and one righty, but in this case, I believe Jason Groome may have already won. The Barnegat HS southpaw has already proven he can step into a big role through pitching at IMG Academy, and although he may be a prep arm, he could be a quick riser through the system.

Previous: Groome

Cincinnati Reds:

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The last time a highly coveted shortstop prospect from Puerto Rico was eligible for the MLB draft, he surprised enough people and rose to the top of the draft board, where he would displace the top consensus draft prospect. Carlos Correa, as I mentioned last time, inspired a generation of young shortstops to make themselves into stars.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Delvin Perez, the International Baseball Academy shortstop. He may not be as good a hitter as Correa was, but his defense makes him one of those slick fielding assets that are almost impossible to ignore. Additionally, his speed makes him a threat when he gets on the base paths. Perez could grow into the hitter that Billy Hamilton never could be, if developed properly.

The Reds have been known to grow their shortstop prospects, and Perez would be the next in a long line of Gold-Glove-caliber defenders to play in the Queen City.

Previous: Corey Ray, OF, Louisville

Atlanta Braves:

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It’s hard to sell a rebuild to a fanbase, but it gets easier as the future pieces come in through trades of incumbent stars. What was Andrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller became Sean Newcomb and Dansby Swanson, as well as a few other assets. The Braves are in a good position to sell off more major league talent for prospects, but even if they don’t, they still have the little matter of whom they will select with the third pick.

I find it hard to believe Ender Inciarte will be a career Brave, and to be completely honest, I’m surprised he hasn’t already been shipped off. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Braves go outfield, considering Corey Ray would likely be on the board.

Not since Jason Heyward have the Braves been in such a position to grab a top positional talent, and if they  do get Ray, there’s a solid chance that he becomes Heyward 2.o. Ray is a 5 tool player, and his game changing ability makes him an almost Major-league ready outfielder. It’s entirely possible that Ray could be the fastest 2016 draftee to the big leagues.

Previous: Buddy Reed, OF, Florida

Colorado Rockies:

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One of my biggest biases is small college prospects and their adjustment to the pros, hence why I’ve never been keen on Kyle Freeland. Still, he does deserve a chance to prove that he can make it through the system, and even if he only grades out as a bullpen pitcher, it will still be a success for a Rockies team that has never been known for developing pitchers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Rockies shouldn’t continue building up a future rotation, and when the consensus top college left-handed pitcher falls into your lap, you take it. AJ Puk is an advanced lefty prospect, and he definitely fits the bill of a tall ace pitcher. Comparisons to Chris Sale have been floated, and his delivery does seem to have a bit of the trademark sidearm action made famous by Sale and Randy Johnson.

Puk, Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray would make a formidable trio in Denver, and it could be possible that the Rockies finally are able to make the leap out of the NL West basement with those three in the rotation.

Previous: Puk

Milwaukee Brewers:

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Whether or not the Brewers are fully committed to a rebuild is entirely up to their new GM, and frankly, considering how the system has been reconstructed after years of lackluster prospects, things could be looking up. The question that remains is who they take with the fifth overall pick.

Considering the consensus top college right-handed pitcher is still available, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers decide to go for him instead of the top high school right-handed pitcher. Alec Hansen is a more complete product, is better tested against competition, and is a lot more imposing and menacing than Riley Pint.

The one cause for concern I have has to do with Hansen’s body language when he pitches, as he always looks like he’s screaming or in pain when he winds up and throws.

Having Hansen join Taylor Jungmann in the Brewer rotation would definitely be something worth watching, especially since both are big battling right handers.

Previous: Riley Pint, RHP: St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Kansas

Oakland Athletics:

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The Oakland A’s are a team in transition, Clearly their roster is screaming rebuild, but the problem there is that a lot of their future pieces are older than your typical prospect. Trading Sonny Gray would net them a king’s ransom of players, and Josh Reddick probably would give them at least one more. The question is whether the GM is willing to pull this off.

In the interim, the team has two big organizational deficiencies in the minors: outfield, and right-handed starter. While it’s entirely possible they could go with Riley Pint, I think I’d rather see them grab Chaminade’s Blake Rutherford. Rutherford is an older high school senior, meaning that if he doesn’t sign, he’ll be a draft-eligible sophomore.

His advanced skill set, even for a high schooler could be good for him and could possibly allow him to move at a faster pace in the minor leagues. Give him three years and he could be part of the future youth movement for the A’s.

Previous: Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma

Miami Marlins:

HOOVER, AL - MAY 20, 2014 - Infielder Nick Senzel #13 of the Tennessee Volunteers shows emotion during the postseason SEC Tournament game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Vanderbilt Commodores at Hoover Met Stadium in Hoover, AL. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Part of me expects the Marlins to make yet another surprising selection after Josh Naylor, the question is how surprising? Considering how rich this year’s class is pitching wise, it almost seems foolish for the Marlins to pass on the opportunity to grab Riley Pint as a complement to Tyler Kolek, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

For me, I feel that the Marlins could revisit third base, especially after dealing away Colin Moran. They could go with Drew Mendoza, the home-state product, but I feel that Nick Senzel would better fit in as a Marlin. While he may be defensively ambiguous, his value as a hitter makes him impossible to ignore, and could prove to be strategic for Don Mattingly.

Senzel’s offensive approach, while not powerful, allows him to make the most of any pitch he gets, and he could really play Marlins Park to his advantage. I could imagine him as a possible table setter in the Miami lineup in about two years.

Previous: Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico

San Diego Padres:

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Usually when a team sells the farm for a shot at winning now, the damage to the farm is bad enough that it’s a multi-year rebuild. The Padres, however, were able to kickstart the farm rebuild thanks to the Craig Kimbrel trade, will get a compensatory pick for Ian Kennedy signing with the Royals, and have a good chance at adding more if Justin Upton signs somewhere before June.

Initially, I believed that the Padres lacked offense, but as the offseason has taken shape, I’ve come to realize the Padres need to rebuild what was once a promising future rotation. That starts with grabbing the consensus top right-handed prep pitcher, Riley Pint. Pint’s plus offerings, height, and deceptiveness on the mound make him the ideal future ace the Padres have been looking to grow since the days of Jake Peavy.

Pint’s biggest concern though is his level of competition. He’s a Kansas boy, and Kansas isn’t exactly what you would call a baseball powerhouse. If Pint doesn’t sign and opts to play at LSU, expect him to beef his resume up to being a top pick by 2019. Otherwise, his potential drafting will boost one of baseball’s worst farm systems.

Previous: Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Arizona

Detroit Tigers:

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The Tigers had a very frustrating sell-off at last year’s deadline. On the one hand, they were able to beef up their future rotation with the additions of Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, but on the other, those were their biggest additions. In the offseason, however, the Tigers went a completely different direction, signing Jordan Zimmermann to boost the rotation. Additionally, they have been mentioned as one of the teams still in on Yoenis Cespedes.

Are they in the middle of a rebuild, or are they planning on starting as a contender again? My guess is that it’s the latter, but that doesn’t mean that they should completely forget about the draft. With pitching set for the foreseeable future, I still believe they could grab the consensus top defensive catcher in the draft: Chris Okey. 

Okey’s been compared to Yadier Molina, and while he isn’t as offensively skilled as Molina, he does seem to look like he’d grow into the type of player the former was, a well-rounded catcher who can be an anchor in any lineup. Okey’s been on the biggest stage before, playing catcher for two Collegiate National Teams. While there is a considerable debate as to how high he could go, it’s possible his stock rises high enough for him to make it into the top ten.

Previous: Okey

Chicago White Sox:

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I remember reading an article on MLBTradeRumors a month ago about the White Sox and their 2016 draft strategy, and one of the things that was mentioned was that the Sox would be looking very closely at members of the 2015 USA Collegiate National Team. At what position, we don’t know, but if it were up to me, I’d assume the Sox would pick an outfielder.

Complementing Courtney Hawkins with the speed of Buddy Reed would definitely give the White Sox a very balanced outfield, but from an athleticism standpoint, we could see one of the better young outfields in the game. Reed’s speed would definitely make him a solid candidate for a leadoff position, but if he does develop his other skills, he could be a dangerous middle-of-the-order hitter.

Previous: Nick Banks, OF, Texas A&M

Seattle Mariners:

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Anybody know what’s happened to Danny Hultzen? The former second overall pick, once considered a future integral part of the Mariners rotation capped off a disappointing minor league season by being outrighted to AAA after being pulled off the 40 man roster. Considering the alternatives that the Mariners could have had, like Anthony Rendon and Trevor Bauer, this has to hurt for them. But we aren’t here to dwell on the past but rather the future. The Mariners rotation at the present may be set for a while, but as they grow older, it may be possible that Seattle looks at the pitching-rich 2016 class to draft a future rotation star. While prep pitching will experience a major drop-off from the first to the second tier of hurlers, the college crop is especially strong this year,

I really like Jordan Sheffield. He has a pedigree, he pitches for one of baseball’s best arms factories, and as I’ve mentioned, he’s one of the few players on this mock draft that I have seen pitch live. Without even looking at the Fueled By Sports scouting report, I can tell that he has the makings to be a Marcus Stroman 2.0 (they think so as well), and considering the recent rise in short pitchers, it’s possible his drafting could validate the short pitcher as a viable starting option.

Previous: Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade College Prep, California

Boston Red Sox:

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The NFL, NBA, and NHL all have workout warriors, players that significantly boost their stock en route to being drafted high in the first round. and usually, the aftermath is a mixed bag of success and disappointment. Baseball doesn’t have a combine, but they do have a way for players to gain exposure: summer ball.

It’s been a while since I’ve used this term in my mocks, but it looks like the Cape Cod King will be legitimized. This year’s Cape Cod King is Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, whose summer in Orleans was instrumental in helping raise his draft stock. Lewis profiles as a corner outfielder, another well-built model of athletic outfielder that reminds people of the Heywards and the Uptons of now. Combine Lewis with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, and you have perhaps one of the more athletic outfields in baseball.

Previous: Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia

Tampa Bay Rays:

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In high school, it always seems like the big hitters are asked to play one of two positions: first base, or outfield. Some don’t end up doing much defensively and get relocated to a corner outfield spot, others prove that they can be something and move to first base permanently. This year’s draft isn’t particularly overwhelming on prep hitting talent, but it doesn’t mean the talent cupboard is barren.

Yet another Georgia prep star gets taken here, Westminster Schools’ Will Benson. Benson has the look of a power hitter, think Lucas Duda, but actually plays more like an athletic first baseman, like Freddie Freeman. While Benson has the athleticism and speed atypical of a first baseman, what he needs to do is improve his tendencies, because he’s considered to be a pull hitter.

Having Benson play in Tampa will not only allow the Rays to develop one of the more interesting prospects of this year’s draft, and will allow them to transition from one athletic corner infielder to another.

Previous: Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee

Baltimore Orioles:

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When you play in one of the most homer-friendly parks in baseball, it’s both a blessing and a curse. For one, your offense is going to look like world beaters 81 times a year, but on the other side, your pitching has to be top notch in order to make sure that the offense doesn’t need to go long ball crazy. The Orioles have two dynamic young pitching prospects, even if they are coming off of injury, but could they add another to bolster their rotation for the future?

Matt Krook is the only tier 2 collegiate lefty, and although he will be a year removed from Tommy John surgery, chances are he’s ready to live up to the expectations set for him when he came to Oregon. If he can show that he’s got his low to mid 90’s fastball as well as his secondary offerings, he could boost his stock considerably. If Hunter Harvey and Dylan Bundy can recover from their injuries to possibly join Krook, then the Orioles could finally have a decent homegrown rotation.

Previous: Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer

Cleveland Indians:

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The Indians’ recent gamble on Brady Aiken is either going to turn out to be a boom or a bust for them, depending on how the young lefty progresses through his rehab. Considering the rate of success the Indians have had in rehabilitating young arms, it’s possible that they could make another gamble on a former high end pitching prospect.

At the beginning of the 2015 college campaign, Cal Quantrill‘s name was up there alongside Puk and Hansen as Tier 1 collegiate pitchers.  Tommy John surgery wiped out his sophomore season and put him on the shelf for the summer collegiate season. This year, he has everything to prove. The son of Blue Jays closer Paul Quantrill, Cal is expected to be a much better pitcher than his dad was, and could conceivably anchor an up-and-coming Indians rotation in the future.

Previous: Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt

Minnesota Twins: 

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Let’s be honest, while versatility is always an excellent strategic move in baseball, sometimes there are less than favorable outcomes, case and point, the possibility of Miguel Sano in right field. Sano is definitely a third baseman by trade, and even though he may be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, I highly doubt that converting to the outfield will be a successful endeavor for him.

The Twins would be lucky then to grab Nick Banks, the Collegiate National team’s leader in batting average last summer. Banks fits the profile of a typical Twins outfielder, good speed, at least above average defense, and solid contact. Plus, in regards to his versatility, he could potentially spell Byron Buxton a few games in centerfield. Overall, I feel the Twins are getting massive value here if they make this pick.

Previous: Herbert Iser, C, Osceloa HS, Florida

Los Angeles Angels:

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There are teams that have an embarrassment of riches in the farm system, and then there are teams that have an embarrassing farm system. Ever since Mike Trout graduated and Randal Grichuk was traded to the Cardinals, the Angels have constantly fielded a bottom 5 farm system. Clearly something must be done.

While college prospects provide short term gratification that drastically improves a system, a prep prospect is a long term investment that leads to more long term projects which overall can improve a farm system dramatically in the long run. I like La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak here because he has the potential to be a solid run producer in a non power context. Moniak has the speed to stretch singles into doubles, and his baseball IQ is enviable. Moniak has the outfield defense to play anywhere needed, even center field.

If Moniak does develop at his anticipated rate, he will be an excellent top of the order hitter that could really use Angel Stadium to his advantage offensively.

Previous: Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia

Houston Astros:

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We move from a team with an awful farm system to a team with an amazing farm system. The Astros are an example of a team that has parlayed three embarrassing rebuild years into a wealth of prospect riches that can either be used to improve the team internally or be dealt for external help. It was so good that the Astros felt that they could afford to deal former number 1 pick Mark Appel to Philadelphia for their closer.

Trading Appel and a few other pitching prospects however does have its drawbacks, as the Astros now lack a top 3 pitching prospect. However they need not look far for a dynamic option as former PG Freshman of the Year Logan Shore could fall into their lap. The right-handed punch of the Gators’ power rotation, Shore’s arsenal includes a low to mid 90’s fastball, and a pro-grade changeup that serves as an “out” pitch. His third offering, a slider, will need some professional work, but if he can make it into a pro pitch, it’s possible Shore’s stock as a pitcher could improve greatly. Houston has shown that they can produce pitching prospects at the prep level, now’s the chance to prove it with a college pitcher.

Previous: Matt Krook, LHP, Oregon

New York Yankees:

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The Yankees are like the US Economy, they seem to operate on a 20 year cycle. This year’s cycle seems to place an emphasis on building instead of buying, and justifiably so, considering the potential for many of their big contracts to become albatrosses. With A-Rod limited to DH, Mark Teixeira reaching the point of his contract where he’s more dead weight than anything else, and the rotation starting to age, where do the Yankees go?

I had Zack Collins go to the Yankees last time, and I’m sticking with it unless something happens. Collins by far is the best power hitter in the class, and given Miami’s track record for producing power hitters, it’s not like the Yankees would be going into uncharted territory. Collins can play either catcher or third base, but pro scouts feel that his bat will transition more to a Billy Butler-type DH role. Still, his power can’t be ignored, and I would be hard pressed to see the Yankees not going after him, especially with the influx of youth coming up.

Previous: Collins

Texas Rangers:

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I mentioned before that there was a huge gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 prep pitchers in this draft, and I’m not kidding, as it’s taken 13 picks to get from the second best to the third best, but in the grand scheme of things, it really shouldn’t matter because the draft is a big gamble in the first place. Still, the Rangers could go after a southpaw, and although the best route is to go BPA, it’s possible they could reach for a guy here.

Braxton Garrett was left off my mock last time, so I do believe he deserves a scouting report. Considered one of the more pro-ready prep pitchers, Garrett’s pitches seem to be more in line to develop rather than peak as he goes through the minors. His fastball tops out in the low 90’s, and he has a curveball that, when managed effectively, could make him a threat. If he can use his changeup more, it’s possible he’ll be ahead of the development curve. The one caveat is that he, like Groome, is a Vanderbilt commit, so teams will exercise caution when signing him. Still, having him complement the speed of Dillon Tate and Mike Matuella, and the ability of Luis Ortiz, the Rangers could have a complete rotation in the future.

Previous: Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS, California

New York Mets

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Much like the Yankees, the Mets are in the building phase of a cycle, with the only exception that their cycles last about 5-10 years. The Mets have managed to turn one of their biggest weaknesses in previous years into a strength, and were able to parlay some of their pieces into players that played a key role in the 2015 NL championship team.

The Mets’ most glaring organizational deficiency right now is at third base, and with David Wright having to manage spinal stenosis, I highly doubt he’s going to be able to play past the end of his extension. That being said, there’s really nobody behind him. David Thompson may or may not develop into a major leaguer, and unless Gavin Cecchini can learn how to handle the hot corner, I highly doubt he’s the answer.

Bobby Dalbec may not be the defensive answer for Wright, but offensively, he could be a threat. He’s your classic all-or-nothing power hitter, he can mash, but he also can strike out. While there is definite room for improvement in his game, as-is, he still has value, and could provide future protection for Michael Conforto. Incidentally, Dalbec could take a few pointers from Conforto on improving defense and contact.

Previous: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville

Los Angeles Dodgers:

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We all remember when Yasiel Puig took baseball by storm, when the fans and ESPN almost led a successful campaign to get the Cuban star to start in the All-Star game. Oh how those days have gone, and now we have yet another underperforming international import. Additionally, Joc Pederson has shown his flashes, he’s either a power hitting outfielder who inexplicably has low contact, or he’s just looking lost in the batters box. And don’t even get me started on Andre Ethier. The point is, the average shelf life of a Dodgers outfielder these days is about the same as an organic salad at a Los Angeles health food store.

Last year, the Dodgers drafted 2014 College World Series hero Walker Buehler, but this year, they could grab his teammate and possible runner up for College World Series Most Outstanding Player Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds is considered one of the more raw players in this years class as he doesn’t have a particular stand out skill, however he is able to slow down the game to his speed and ability to poke balls into the gaps. Reynolds is not a standout defender either, but he can man left field and not be a liability.

On a personal note, I almost had the chance to see Reynolds play in the NECBL for the Plymouth Pilgrims in 2014, but his performance in the CWS earned him a spot on the collegiate national team that summer.

*Note: At the time of the release of Mock Draft 2.0, the Dodgers had agreed to a contract with Hisashi Iwakuma. As a result, I had not given them a selection. Since Iwakuma did not sign with the Dodgers, they have their first round pick back unless they sign one of the QO free agents. 

Toronto Blue Jays:

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Toronto is definitely one of the more challenging places to play in, especially if you’re an infielder. Consider the fact that you’re on field turf, which is going to do a number on your body as the years go by. Additionally, the culture is different, and travel is most likely a nightmare. However, the Blue Jays have managed to stay competitive by becoming buyers and parlaying that into an appearance in the 2015 ALCS. The question is whether they will be able to retain the same level of performance from the talent they reaped.

Before Delvin Perez came to our collective attention, I was prepared to put the H.A.P.S (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop, for the unenlightened) label on Drew Mendoza. Mendoza is perhaps one of the more gifted players in terms of his defense, but that mainly has to do with his arm strength. Mendoza also can hit, and while his frame is more suited for hitting doubles, he could bulk up and add some power to his swing in the future.

Mendoza almost certainly will move to the corner at the pro level, and as a result, could easily become the heir apparent to Josh Donaldson when he decides to make the move to DH.

Previous: Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford

Pittsburgh Pirates:

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Much like the Baltimore Orioles, the Pirates have two dynamic pitchers that are considered to be the future of the staff. Righties Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon’s debuts however have been delayed due to injury and development issues. Still, they project to be a major part of the rotation in the future, and when they graduate, the Pirates will probably look to develop their next pitcher.

A peculiar idea came to me long before I decided on Pittsburgh’s draft pick: Can Ray Searage help develop a UVA pitcher? Considering the struggles of the past UVA starters as they acclimated to the pro game, is it possible that Connor Jones, given the right coaching, can break the trend? Jones has ranged in mock drafts from being a top 10 pick to being a low first round draft choice, and part of it has to do with the reputation of those who preceded him. Still, that shouldn’t detract from Jones, who in my opinion, could be the next Aaron Nola, depending on how he develops, especially if he builds on his already advanced, if not outstanding tools.

Previous: Matt Crohan, LHP, Winthrop

St. Louis Cardinals: 

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When it comes to drafting, I’m fairly conservative in terms of rankings, and my reach picks usually are within 10 spots. However, every so often, I’m inclined to make a huge gamble. Last year, for instance I dogged hard for David Thompson as a first round pick, and looked silly as he ended up going in the fourth round. This year, I’m sticking to my guns on a personal favorite prospect.

Herbert Iser is nothing special offensively, in fact, scouts will be the first to tell you he’s going to become an average hitter when he goes pro with some pop in his game. However, defensively, Iser is one of the best. He has an arm that will get runners out, and you be hard pressed to find a better prep defender. If the Cardinals do draft Iser, he could definitely be ready in time to take over the position from Yadier Molina. Overall, I feel that Iser could end up being the next Tyler Stevenson, an overlooked prep prospect that will shoot up the draft boards and make a convincing case to be taken on Day 1.

Previous: Brad Debo, C, Orange HS, North Carolina

And that’s it for Mock Draft 3.0. Stay tuned for Version 4.0, which is likely to be released towards the end of February. Until then, let’s hope this is a short winter.

 

 

 

2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: BONUS Compensatory Picks

I have decided to add on the last ten picks for the compensatory picks, mainly because I’m on track to break my monthly views record set back in June of 2013. So as a bit of a “thank you” to those of you who have taken the time to read this site, here are the last ten picks of the 2015 mock draft. A side note: Although James Shields has not been signed yet, the mock draft will be done based on the assumption that he will be signed before June.

28. Colorado Rockies

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(First Selection: Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy)

You can’t teach pitching to established major league arms, which presents a problem for the Colorado Rockies. In their atmospheric conditions, humidor or no humidor, the best plan for success is to develop starters and teach them how to pitch in Denver. The Rockies seem to have this figured out as they have a trio of impressive future starters coming through the ranks: Jon Gray, who projects to be an ace, Eddie Butler, a solid second arm, and Kyle Freeland, a pitcher who, as a Colorado native, may already have figured out the nuances of pitching in thin air.

Alex Young of TCU would be an interesting fourth arm. While he doesn’t have teammate Riley Ferrell’s fastball, or Brandon Finnegan’s tools, he does have the feel that allows him to be a more versatile pitcher. Like Ferrell, Young has more experience in the bullpen, but he also has worked in the rotation, and could make a seamless transition during his junior year.

Young’s best asset is his pitch movement, his curve and slider are considered his best weapons, and while he’s reticent to use his changeup, proper development of said pitch, which already has some movement, will allow him to become a four pitch starter.

29. Atlanta Braves

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(First Selection: DJ Stewart, OF, Florida State)

And you thought the Miami Marlins were the king of fire sales.

The Atlanta Braves have all but openly stated that they are building their future after the 2014 fiasco. Having unloaded much of their hitting corps, including their top power source in Evan Gattis, the Braves may want to look at developing another power bat at another position, And while previous selection DJ Stewart looks like a power hitter, he still needs to learn how to be one.

The selection I have in mind for the Braves here is smaller than Gattis, but certainly could match him in terms of power. Chris Shaw an outfielder for Boston College, is likely going to play first base professionally, as that’s his original position.

Much like Florida’s Richie Martin, Shaw needed a year to figure out how to hit collegiately, and when he finally did, he made an impression. After going deep 6 times last season, Shaw feasted on Cape Cod pitching, adding another 9 blasts, good for the league lead. He’s a left handed power hitter, a valuable commodity to have in a major league lineup, and he makes a conscious effort to correct his swing if he gets aggressive.

Shaw’s not a fast runner, and there’s still a question as to why he was in the outfield during his sophomore season, but these concerns can be covered up by his defensive ability as a first baseman. He’d be a solid part of the Braves future lineup, and someone who could help fans forget Gattis in the future.

30. Toronto Blue Jays

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Toronto is often at a disadvantage when it comes to the draft, as their home stadium is less then ideal when it comes to position players. The turf has been known to be a deal breaker for many an athlete, and the Jays have lost many talented players because no one wants to play there. Last season, they lucked out when they nabbed Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost, two high level players from college. Hoffman was coming off Tommy John surgery, and Pentecost was coming off an outstanding summer ball and junior season.

The Jays are going to look for a homegrown post-Jose Reyes plan, as two seasons on turf have worn him down, and I estimate he’s good for maybe five more seasons before there are more obvious problems. In this case, the best option is the defensively versatile John Aiello from Germantown Academy.

Aiello is a third baseman primarily, but he’s also capable as a shortstop. His power swing is better utilized when he’s hitting right-handed. Aiello also has the benefit of playing in a northern high school, which allows him to adapt to the cold of Toronto.

If developed as a shortstop properly, Aiello figures to be a 5 hitter in the Jays lineup. Again, the turf issue may cut his career by a couple years, but he may be one of the more underrated prep stars in the draft.

31. New York Yankees

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(First Selection: Phil Bickford, RHP, College of Southern Nevada)

The Yankees need to realize that the perfect balance for a winning team is a mix of developed and bought talent, and while they certainly have the bought part down, they do need to develop another few bats for when their high profile acquisitions do finally wear down. Brett Gardner has been a solid start, but there needs to be more.

Sometimes, when it comes to scouting players, especially for teams like the Yankees, there’s some value in looking in their own backyard. Look at the crosstown rival Mets and their developing prospect Steven Matz, or the Toronto Blue Jays and their prospect Dalton Pompey.

It would be a pretty expansive backyard for the Yankees, as Niskayuna High School outfielder Garrett Whitley is almost 3 hours away from Yankee Stadium, but his talent is undeniable, and with the potential to be the first MLB draft pick in the school’s history, he’s really making a solid case for a first round pick. 

In a way, Whitley is like Gardner, but with more pop. He’s got value in the 9 or 2 spot of a lineup based on his speed, and he has the defensive capability and the arm that allows him to play centerfield for a major league team. The fact that he’s used to playing in the cold weather that comes with the territory of upstate New York makes him even more attractive.

32. San Francisco Giants

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(First Selection: David Thompson, 3B, Miami)

I’d be remiss to not point out the state of the Giants outfield in the future, as both Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence will be 32 by the end of the 2015 season. While Gary Brown may be part of the future of the Giants outfield, am I supposed to believe that Nori Aoki and Juan Perez will be part of the long term future?

The Giants have many outfield options, both prep and collegiate in the compensatory round, but none offer quite the ceiling like North Carolina’s Skye Bolt. Similar in story to LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, Bolt started his college career quite nicely, showing signs of both power and speed, a rare combination. He slashed ACC pitching, hit 6 home runs, and showed solid patience at the plate.

Bolt regressed slightly this past season, but he still has the potential to be a big time hitter in a major league lineup. The fact that he is a switch hitter will help his value even further. Should he play like he did his freshman year, he could be considered a dark horse top 15 pick.

33. Pittsburgh Pirates

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(First Selection: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School)

Gerrit Cole is certainly going to be a solid right-handed rotation arm for years to come, and while the rest of the Pirates homegrown arms, Glasnow, Taillon, and Kingham will come in due time, they will also all be right-handed, and there’s a certain predictability about that which makes drafting a left-handed pitcher that much more important.

Tyler Jay, the Illinois southpaw, was originally mocked to the Nationals, but it’s become all but official that Max Scherzer will sign with the team, forcing them to lose their first round pick, which puts Jay back in the draft pool. I put him here for the exact same reasons. You can find them, albeit with strikethrough text, in my previous post.

34. Kansas City Royals

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(First Selection: Riley Ferrell, LHP, TCU)

Note: Keep in mind, this pick isn’t official yet, but in all likelihood, will happen. Whether or not the team who signs James Shields is one of the ten worst teams or one of the 19 other teams who stand to lose a draft pick, is yet to be seen.

One of the major proponents of the build, not buy, philosophy, the Royals finally saw their long term plan come to fruition by becoming the 2014 AL champions Thanks to a nucleus of well-developed talent, Kansas City could be a legitimate dark horse threat in the AL for years. And to continue that sustained success, the Royals should look to develop more parts. Losing Nori Aoki and Billy Butler, both a key hitter and a key runner, is going to be difficult, and the Royals would love to have a guy who can at least try to replicate both.

Gulf Coast High School outfielder Kyle Tucker may not be as fast as Aoki, and he may not be as powerful as Butler, but if developed properly, he could be an adequate replacement for both of them in about four or five years. The brother of Preston Tucker, an Astros farmhand, Tucker is one of the more gifted hitters in his class. Although he’s somewhat lanky, he still is an excellent hitter, his swing is one of the best, if more unorthodox, in prep ball. Tucker is defensively capable, but while he is a centerfielder now, expect him to move to right field when he turns pro, as he has an arm more suited for the corner positions.

35. Detroit Tigers

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(First Selection: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Miami)

We all knew that Max Scherzer was never going to stay in Detroit, and in all likelihood, neither will David Price. A contingency plan had been in place with Jonathan Crawford and Kevin Ziomek, but Crawford left by way of the Alfredo Simon trade. I know it sounds like I’m talking about replacing Scherzer and Price immediately, but I could not be any further from that sentiment. Rather. it may be time to develop another set of arms for Detroit for the future.

I still think the Tigers should opt for Andrew Suarez, but maybe I should flip him and their hypothetical second selection, Stroudsburg right-hander Mike Nikorak. A classic case of value in a northern prep arm, Nikorak has excellent tools, including a fastball which ranges from low to high 90’s.  Well built, Nikorak really brought attention to himself during the showcase season, when scouts gushed on his pure stuff.

Nikorak is an athlete, having played quarterback in high school, but his focus is strictly on baseball now. Development of his secondary pitches is key for him to establish a reputation as a solid starter, and given Detroit’s handling of pitching these days, Nikorak wouldn’t have much to worry about.

36. Los Angeles Dodgers

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(First Selection: Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Matthew’s School)

It can’t be expressed how important a bullpen is in Major League baseball. There’s a difference between letting a starter sit because the manager is confident that a reliever can keep the momentum, and forcing said starter to pitch longer because the particular relief corps is weak. And while the Dodgers have one of the best rotations in baseball, not to mention some decent relief pitching from Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen, it wouldn’t hurt to add another solid arm to that mix.

Like AJ Reed (who ended up being drafted as a hitter), Alex Meyer and James Paxton before him, Kentucky pitcher Kyle Cody is considered a high talent. Cody has the ideal pitcher’s body at 6’7″ and 245 pounds, and he uses it as an emphasizer for his mid 90’s fastball. Cody has the potential to work his fastball into the triple digits, should he be used exclusively out of the bullpen, but there will be teams who want to try him in the back end of a major league rotation. Should the Dodgers take him, I see him more of a former than a latter.

37. Baltimore Orioles

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(First Selection: Richie Martin, SS, Florida)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards isn’t exactly the most ideal place for a speedster, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be one in the Orioles future lineup. While it’s ideal to have a fast slugger in a lineup, sometimes a guy whose primary weapons are his legs may be the perfect solution to adding a degree of dimension to a lineup that’s more power oriented.

Clemson speedster Steven Duggar is considered the fastest collegian, perhaps even the fastest first round prospect this year, depending on if you’re in Kyler Murray’s boat. Duggar’s primary weapon may be speed, but he is fleshed out enough that he can be more than a singles hitter, even if he has shown limited potential on the power front.

Duggar is also a decent defensive player. While situated in a corner spot right now, scouts believe he has the potential to play center field. However, in a park like Camden Yards, perhaps the corner would be the best spot for him.

Duggar would be the perfect future complement to Chris Davis and Adam Jones, and his speed will ad another dimension to the Orioles offense and  will allow them to continue their stronghold of the AL East for years .

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And that is the final part of the 2015 Mock Draft. Stay tuned, as the next one will likely be released in time for MLB.com’s top 100 prospects and team top 20 prospects lists.

2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: Part 3 of 4

The first 14 picks have been revealed for MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2015 MLB Mock Draft; what happens with the next seven?

15. Atlanta Braves

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The Braves dismantled their outfield, with the exception of BJ Upton, this winter, sending Justin Upton to the Padres and Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. When a team decides to take apart an area that could be considered well-established, it’s clear that something has gone wrong. Even the current Braves outfield leaves a lot to be desired, which brings me to whom they should draft.

DJ Stewart is Florida State’s top outfielder, a tank of a man, who, although he saw his stock drop somewhat due to a poor summer, scouts feel that it’s nothing to worry about.

Though he looks the part of a slugger, Stewart needs some fine tuning to actually be a true power hitter, as his stance and swing prevents him from making powerful contact.Although it looks like a reach now, Stewart’s potential, plus the opportunity in his junior year, will definitely springboard him into the top 15, especially in a weak collegiate hitter’s market.

Not only that, but Chipper Jones would potentially endorse the move, especially given the fact that Stewart went to Jones’ prep alma mater.

16. Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers are probably the last place you’d look these days for a homegrown pitcher, but the emergence of Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson as potential All-Star starters has allowed the team to stop being averse to drafting high pitching. Heck, they took a chance on Devin Williams and Kodi Medeiros the past two years, maybe it’s time to go for a bigger fish after having slow success with the once thought to be deadly combination of Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. In this year’s strong collegiate pitching class, the Brewers have plenty of options, even if they’re mainly right-handed starters.

Take Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer for instance. The latest in a long line of intriguing Vanderbilt prospects, Fulmer can throw mid 90’s heat with regularity, and has solid secondary and tertiary offerings to give him dimension. What Fulmer needs work on is his control, and his delivery needs to be less… severe.

Although scouts will constantly knock pitchers who lack height, Fulmer’s experience with the Commodores and Team USA, both premier levels of competition, have shown that it is just a number, and given Marcus Stroman’s successful debut this season, Fulmer can only help that opinion change further.

17. New York Yankees

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When it comes to the Yankees, especially in the draft, they usually go for players that either have major name recognition or are just plain good. Need proof? In 2008, the team drafted Gerrit Cole, who three years later would become the top pick in the 2011 draft, and another two years later, the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff. In 2011, they drafted Dante Bichette Jr, the former little league star and son of Rockies legend Dante Bichette. In 2012, they drafted Rob Refsnyder, that year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and in 2013, they took Ian Clarkin, who has emerged as one of the best young starters of the 2013 class.

2015 might as well be known as the year of the famous retreads, as both Brady Aiken and Phil Bickford, a former CSU Fullerton Titan, now a member of the College of Southern Nevada, highlight this year’s class. Bickford’s got the fame, as the only member of the 2013 first round draft class not to sign, he’s since dominated the summer league circuit after a meh freshman year at Fullerton. After being voted the Cape’s best prospect, Bickford left Fullerton, deciding that 2016 was too long of a wait for him.

Bickford’s fastball is the main reason why he’s such an appealing project, a mid 90’s offering with plenty of life, he can play the strike zone to his advantage. His slider has also become a solid pitch, and while he does need development on his third, a change, he could become a solid 3 pitch starter. Bickford is definitely more than a name though, and he’ll be worth watching when he plays his final season in college, or to be more precise, junior college.

18. Cleveland Indians

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I find it incredibly hard to believe that the Cleveland Indians are that bad at developing starting pitchers, especially out of college. What are they, anti-moneyball? While they have had success with developing pitchers that they have gotten elsewhere, see Corey Kluber as the major example, the fact that the Indians have failed to make a homegrown pitcher blossom since CC Sabathia is baffling. Maybe there is hope that Kyle Crockett will buck the trend, but that’s another story.

There’s a caveat to developing small school pitchers, that the athlete will be on a major learning curve, that  they haven’t exactly faced prime competition, but really, if it’s that hard, then why draft small school pitchers in the first place? Of course, pitchers like Division II star and Cal Poly Pomona ace Cody Ponce would really be at a major disadvantage.

Ponce worked his way through two seasons of California Collegiate Athletic Association baseball to make it to the Cape League this past summer, and while there, scouts got a taste of why Ponce is special.

While he is a work in progress, Ponce does offer more pitches than your average hurler, and a strong fastball can be improved even more if Ponce can give it more life. Ponce’s appeal though is his ability to keep the ball in the park, and while Progressive Field is no Yankee Stadium, and the CCAA is no SEC, the ability to keep the ball in the park is going to help Ponce more than hurt him regardless of competition or home stadium.

Ponce will be a work in progress, but if the Indians pitching coaches can somehow turn a Stetson product into a Cy Young winner, it wouldn’t hurt to see what they could do with a Division II star.

19. San Francisco Giants

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I am of the belief that a team often needs to stretch out of their comfort zone when it comes to drafting and developing prospects. And while I did catch a little flak for saying the Giants should go for a prep outfielder when there were plenty of pitchers, which is their forté, my belief is that the Giants will need to build in other areas in order to stay competitive.

A third baseman can be replaced by the next man up, in this case, Matt Duffy, but when you lose two big power guys in one offseason, in a weak free agent class, then maybe it’s time to start looking at future homegrowns.

I’ve been pretty high on Miami 1B/3B David Thompson for a while. He’s a prodigy, the first Hurricane hitter to ever make his debut as a cleanup man, and a constant All-America threat. While his sophomore campaign was cut short due to life saving surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he showed that he hadn’t lost a step when he played in the Cape that summer. Thompson is a student of the game, he was able to reinvent his swing after his injury, and he really adjusted to the learning curve in summer ball.

Health will be an issue, but if Thompson is able to get back to his freshman potential, then he’ll definitely be a late first round pick.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates

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Every so often, there’s a team that has such a dearth of talent in their system that you wish they would just not have a first round pick. In this case, it’s the Pirates. The Pirates are strong in this year’s draft’s areas of strength, outfield, and right-handed pitcher, which means that BPA is the best way to go.

The BPA for the Pirates would be Brother Rice High School outfielder Nick Plummer, A lefty, Plummer is valuable because he has advanced power for his age. Plummer also has a good baseball IQ, taking “reach” pitches and aiming for the gaps.

Plummer is no Andrew McCutchen, nor is he Austin Meadows, but he could find value in a lineup as a 6 hitter. It’ll be interesting to see if he can improve his stock in the coming season.

21. Oakland Athletics

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I could use the refrain from Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler as my intro for the Oakland A’s, as they pretty much gambled their bright future, that is, Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, etc. for a shot at the World Series which ultimately failed, leading to a Marlins type fire sale for prospects whom I wouldn’t even recognize.

It was clear that when the A’s ditched Moneyball, they really got some major talent, but sometimes, familiarity with an old system may be the best option. In fact, familiarity as a whole is often the best way of going at things during a rebuild.

Meet University of the Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa. In perhaps the weakest hitting class of any draft, Brusa stands out by being a switch hitting slugger. Although he’s only recently reclaimed his hitting ability in summer ball that led to a failed 5 round courtship by Boston in 2012, Brusa’s potential could lead to him hitting 3rd in a major league lineup.

Brusa is a more well-rounded athlete as he has solid running and fielding ability to complement his hitting. He also has the added appeal of being an in state and somewhat local product; University of the Pacific is based in Stockton, home of the Ports, the A’s California League club.

 

Was Ubaldo Jimenez worth forfeiting the 17th overall pick?

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Ubaldo Jimenez became the next player with draft compensation to leave free agent purgatory, signing a multiyear deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Jimenez, who rejected a qualifying offer from his old team, the Cleveland Indians, cost the Orioles not only the money, but also the 17th overall pick in the draft.

Ever since the new free agent draft compensation rules have come into effect last year, it seems as if teams are intentionally lowballing these players so that they can get the draft pick. We saw how bad it was last year with Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, who waited until the middle of Spring Training to sign with teams. And ultimately, those teams forfeited draft picks.

Bourn went from Atlanta to Cleveland, who used the pick that they obtained in the deal to draft Oklahoma State starter Jason Hursh, Cleveland, however, didn’t lose their first round pick, as they had a top ten draft pick. Incidentally, the Bourn case drew a lot of controversy, as the New York Mets who had the 11th pick, which wasn’t protected, wanted to sign him, but felt that they would be unfairly losing a draft pick because the Pittsburgh Pirates had gotten a top ten pick for allowing Mark Appel to return to Stanford for his senior season, pushing the Mets one spot out of the top ten. Cleveland ended up signing Bourn, but instead of losing a first rounder to the Braves, they lost a second rounder.

Lohse was signed by the Brewers, who forfeited their first round draft choice. The Cardinals used that pick to select Rob Kaminsky, a New Jersey prep pitcher.

Going back to Jimenez and the free agents that remain, the common theme for these remaining free agents is the draft pick. Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales haven’t gotten offers because teams are afraid to lose a pick for them. It’s essentially a simpler form of restricted free agency.

There is no doubt that these players do deserve deals. Santana resurrected his career in Kansas City, Cruz, pre-Biogenesis was viewed as a deadly middle-of-the-order bat. Drew could hit and adequately defend, and helped Boston win a championship, and Morales resurrected his career in Seattle after a couple years of injury trouble in Anaheim.

But herein lies the problem, it’s not just the draft pick, it’s the money and the risky investment too.

Santana is demanding ace money after reestablishing himself in KANSAS CITY. Kansas City is in no way a place to brag about reestablishing yourself, even if the Royals did manage to get out of the cellar thanks in part to a bizarro season by the White Sox and another really bad season by the Twins.

The problem with Cruz is that nobody knows if he’ll be as good after being caught in the Biogenesis probe. Maybe he’ll be another Ryan Braun, maybe he becomes Melky Cabrera. Either way, it’s a big risk for a PED user.

The problem with Drew is that 2013 could have been a fluke year for him. Drew was protected by a lineup that seemed to envelop his deficiencies, couple that with the fact that he’s getting into the “wrong side of 30” territory. While this is okay for maybe an outfielder or a first baseman, a “wrong side of 30” middle infielder is a bit of a problem, especially on the defensive side of things.

And of course, there’s Morales. While he did have a respectable offensive season, there are still concerns about his health and defensive ability. People are more inclined to take a look at him as a designated hitter than as a first baseman. Had Morales not gotten hurt, in all likelihood, he would be one of the first players off the board instead of the last.

But going back to Ubaldo. Was the deal worth it?

Jimenez is certainly long removed from his days of dominance in Denver. In Cleveland, he really was just a mid rotation starter, nothing special, basically the baseball equivalent of a one hit wonder. Baltimore however knew that in order to compete in the AL East again, which once again was strengthened by yet another Yankee spending spree, as well as the continuing growth of the other four teams in the division, they needed to add pitching. Getting Jimenez meant the forfeiture of a draft pick, but they went through with it anyway.

Was it worth it though?

From a money perspective, no. Jimenez was not worth that type of money or amount of years. From the pick perspective, certainly.

17th overall picks in the MLB Draft haven’t traditionally fared well. To provide an example of how they fared in the past ten years:

2013-2010: Tim Anderson, White Sox, DJ Davis, Blue Jays, CJ Cron, Angels, and Josh Sale, Rays. While Anderson and Davis are a long way from determining if they’re good or not, Cron may or may not need another year in the minors, and Sale has been nothing short of a bust.

2009: AJ Pollock of the Diamondbacks has managed to put himself in the Arizona lineup. A leadoff hitter, Pollock may stand as the best bet to break the bad 17th overall pick

2008: David Cooper, who was projected to be the next big slugging first baseman/DH, was a major disappointment in Toronto. Basically a AAAA player, he recently signed a deal with the Indians.

2007: Blake Beaven is another one of those forgettable rotation pieces. His biggest claim to fame was being included in the Cliff Lee deal which sent the former ace to the Texas Rangers for their 2011 World Series run.

2006: Matt Antonelli was supposed to be one of the big middle infield talents for the Padres, almost what Stephen Drew would have been had he not been injured. However failure to be consistent coupled with lack of opportunity led his only major league experience to be a September call up. Afterwards, he bounced around other teams’ minor league systems, but failed to latch on and retired last summer.

2005: CJ Henry was the first of Derek Jeter’s potential successors, but he just couldn’t hit. He was packaged in a deal for the late Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu for the Yankees’ 2006 postseason run, but failed further to establish himself in Philadelphia. He quit baseball and played basketball for the University of Kansas with his more famous brother, Xavier, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Henry’s back to playing baseball now, albeit it’s independent ball in Evansville, Illinois.

2004: Scott Elbert was drafted by the Dodgers as a pitcher. Injuries derailed his effectiveness and turned him into a two pitch reliever. While he’s not the best reliever on the Dodgers, he is an okay option out of the bullpen.

So in a sense it probably was a somewhat good idea. Losing the pick means that another team, the Royals, will be saddled with the bad pick, while the Orioles will maybe get immediate contribution from Jimenez.

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Spring Training Edition (Part 3 of 3)

And now for the final part of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2014 mock draft.

21. Rays: Dylan Cease, LHP, Milton High School, Georgia

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The Rays do not have a shortage of prep arms, that’s for certain, but given the weak corner infield talent in the draft, which is something the Rays system could use, it’d be better for them to stick to something they know how to develop. Dylan Cease is a fastball pitcher with other options, but they need to be smoothed out. For instance, his curveball is clocked at 70 MPH, which is a couple ticks faster than an average curveball. Cease is deceptive, his body doesn’t look like it can take the rigors of pitching, so Cease has a sort of natural deception when he throws. However, like TCU’s Brandon Finnegan, he is conscious of his delivery, but because he’s young, he does have time to determine if he’ll be a better starter or reliever.

22. Indians: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU

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Every year, a highly rated college pitcher takes a tumble. Two years ago, it was Mark Appel, last year, Arkansas’ Ryne Stanek and Indiana State’s Sean Manaea, and this year, it could be Aaron Nola. Avoiding the possible reasons why he could fall, Nola’s game isn’t reliant on strength, but rather, craft. His command is superb, and his pitching arsenal is very effective. However, his big knock is that he doesn’t really have a standout pitch. Now, in the high school ranks, that would work, as the development of a high school pitcher allows for the selection of a dominant pitch, but in Nola’s case, because of his potential accelerated development, he doesn’t have as much time. Still in comparison to Indians top young pitcher Trevor Bauer, who does rely on strength, Nola does seem to have durability on his side.

23. Dodgers: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State

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The Dodgers system is stronger than you think, despite the big free agency and trade splurges over the past two years. But there’s still the question of who will take over for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier when they go? Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig are good bets, but the third outfield spot remains unclear. Enter Michael Conforto. Conforto may not have Pederson’s baseball pedigree, or Puig’s range, but he does have the athletic pedigree. Conforto’s father was a linebacker for Penn State, and his mother was a gold medalist in synchronized swimming in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Conforto does have power that matches Matt Kemp’s pre-injury potential, and he could fit in the 3 or 4 spot in the Dodger lineup. Conforto does have a natural swing as well, which is good for a power hitter. If Conforto can improve his defense, expect his stock to rise, as Sporting News feels that he could be the top college hitter in 2014.

24. Tigers: Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville

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Detroit has an affinity for flame throwing relievers, see Joel Zumaya, Jose Valverde and Bruce Rondon for reference), but they still can’t seem to get a quality closer. Nick Burdi may be the answer. Consistently clocked in the high 90’s with the potential to reach triple digits, Burdi’s ceiling is as a closer. What Burdi does lack, however, is a good tertiary pitch behind his fastball/slider combination. Sure, he’s working on a change up, but it’s still in the development stages as of the beginning of the college baseball season. Still, Burdi has the potential to be an Aroldis Chapman-type closer if he can hone the lesser parts of his game.

25. Pirates: Matt Chapman, 3B/RHP, Cal State Fullerton

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There are two ways that this pick can go. If Chapman isn’t used on the mound at all this year, he’ll make a solid infield prospect, however, if he is used on the mound more, scouts may see him the same way they saw former Fullerton teammate Michael Lorenzen. Matt Chapman has been used his entire college career as an infielder, but in summer leagues, especially Team USA, he was tried on the mound as a closer, and surprised people with his fastball. Chapman does have a strong arm and is a top defender, which should give him a few gold gloves, but his hitting needs to improve if he wants to succeed at the Major League level.

26. Athletics: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

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The A’s are weak in terms of southpaw prospects. Although Billy Beane has shifted away from the moneyball philosophy of drafting collegiate talent in the past two years, Kyle Freeland may have enough upside for Beane to take a look at him. Like Sean Manaea last year, Freeland started getting attention while pitching for Hyannis of the Cape Cod League. His fastball does have movement on it which causes batters to overcompensate, and his slider often takes on the personality of a cutter. His body does have an effect on his mechanics, and scouts are wary of him being in the rotation, but in all likelihood, his effort to compensate could provide him with some leeway on certain evaluators. Freeland’s stock can only rise more if he can figure out how to pitch to win at Evansville.

27. Braves: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit West High School, Missouri

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If there were any prospect that could be judged as a hard sign, it would be Missouri prep product Monte Harrison. Harrison has plenty of tools, he’s a great hitter, an even better fielder, not to mention he has a strong commitment to the University of Nebraska for baseball and football (as a wide receiver). Given Atlanta’s track record with high school outfielders, (see Jeff Francoueur and Jason Heyward), they could be one of the teams that would be willing to incur penalties and future pick forfeiture so that they can get this young man signed. The big flaw in his game, however, is his patience. If he can curb his strikeout numbers, he could rise to a top 15 pick riding on his athleticism alone.

28. Red Sox: JD Davis, 1B/RHP, Cal State Fullerton

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NC State isn’t the only school with two potential first round talents. JD Davis’ right handed power as a first baseman and fastball as a pitcher could intrigue Boston to go after a second straight two way player after Trey Ball. Davis is kind of like Mike Napoli, but he’s young and doesn’t have the durability issues the former has. He has an excellent fielding arm, and already has a feel for wood bats, as evidenced by his second place finish in the Cape Cod League Home Run Derby. Davis could rise through the minors quickly and when Napoli is eventually named a designated hitter, could take his spot.

29. Cardinals: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waikeka High School, Hawaii

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Kodi Medeiros is an enigma. His small stature, lack of control on his secondary pitches, and windup, not to mention he’s in uncharted territory as a prep player from Hawaii should have teams backing away, but the Cardinals could actually use a prep lefty like him for their rotation down the road. Medeiros’ biggest redeeming quality is his fastball, which while normally a low 90’s offering, can go up to the mid 90’s on occasion. Although his command is an issue, the movement on his secondary pitches has led to him acquiring the strikeout pitcher label. Medeiros would have some familiarity if he was drafted by the Cardinals, as he was teammates with second baseman Kolten Wong’s brother Kean, an infielder in the Rays organization.

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The order of the compensatory picks has not been released, and until they are, this will serve as the conclusion of the 2014 mock draft. Stay tuned for version two, which will be released by the start of the College World Series.

2014 Top 100 Prospects: NL East

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MLB prospect expert Jonathan Mayo released his top 100 prospect list on January 23rd and for the most part, it seems as if there are no real surprises. There are plenty of newcomers, some of which impressed enough that they warranted top consideration, plenty of prospects also graduated from the list and are replaced by those who have similar caliber.

While last year’s profiling counted down from 100-1 (and did not finish), this year, Minor League Madhouse will be profiling the top prospects by division. How is that going to work? Quite simply, I will be going over each team’s top 100 prospects. I will look at their movement from last year’s list, when they were drafted/signed, what their strengths are, and how they fit into their future team. Twitter handles will also be provided for prospects. We start off with the NL East.

Atlanta Braves: 

Prospects: Lucas Sims, RHP (60) and Christian Bethancourt, C (82)

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Sims: Drafted in the first round out out Brookwood High School in Georgia with the 21st pick in the 2012 draft.

2013: Pitched for Rome in South Atlantic League, Went 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA and 136 K’s.

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The Braves have a knack for developing young pitchers out of high school, just ask Tom Glavine. Sims, a local product, has been nothing short of impressive since being drafted. He has a decent pitchers toolbox with the fastball, curveball, changeup combo, but does need to improve mechanics in his delivery. Sims takes over as the Braves’ top pitching prospect after Sean Gilmartin was traded to Minnesota for Ryan Doumit. He clearly has a ways to go before he’ll settle in the Atlanta rotation, but should he develop the way that he has, he could be an ace for the Braves staff.

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Bethancourt: Signed as an international free agent in 2008.

2013: Played for Mississippi in Southern League and Major League club. Hit .277 with 12 HR’s and 47 RBIs in AA, had one appearance in MLB. Played in Futures Game.

@ChristianBeth27

Barring a major setback or the team wanting him to develop in AAA, Christian Bethancourt is pretty much set to take over as the catcher for the Braves in 2014. And why not? Bethancourt is a defensive star, with a solid arm, and decent plate skills. He is scrappy, and profiles as a 5-7 hitter in any lineup. Having seen Bethancourt play in the Futures game, albeit for a pinch hit appearance, I can honestly say that he’ll be a decent catcher.

Miami Marlins:

Prospects: Andrew Heaney, LHP (29), Colin Moran, 3B (51) Jake Marisnick, OF (65), Justin Nicolino, LHP (81)

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Heaney: Drafted in the first round out of Oklahoma State University with the 9th pick in the 2012 draft.

2013: Pitched for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League and Jacksonville of the AA Southern League. Combined for a 9-3 record, 1.60 ERA and 95 K’s.

@Heandog8

Heaney’s first full season of baseball was certainly one of the more dominant ones. Although he started out with an injury which kept him out for a month, he managed to dominate the Florida State League, earning him a quick promotion to the Southern League where he continued to flourish. Heaney has a weird delivery which baffles hitters on both sides of the plate. He has pinpoint control, and he knows the strike zone. Heaney could find himself competing for a starting rotation spot this year in a rotation that already has one of the best young arms (Jose Fernandez) in the game.

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Moran: Drafted in the first round out of the University of North Carolina with the 6th pick in the 2013 draft.

2013: Played for the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the NCAA, and the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the Low A South Atlantic League. Won ACC Player of the Year, named consensus NCAA All American, and was a finalist for Golden Spikes Award. Hit .299 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI for Greensboro.

@CMOran18

Colin Moran was one of the better prospects in the 2013 MLB draft, in fact, some had him as the number one pick. Although he fell 5 spots, he’s still regarded as a high level prospect. Despite taking a while to sign, Moran did show promise in his short stint at Greensboro. While he’s no Giancarlo Stanton, he certainly has decent hitting ability and solid defense, reminding me of a collegiate David Wright. Moran projects as a 5-7 hitter in the Marlins lineup, but could move to a 2-5 hitter, perhaps a 3 hitter, if he continues to show his ability.

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Marisnick: Drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Riverside Poly High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Miami Marlins with Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Yunel Escobar, and Anthony DeScalfini for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mark Buehrle.

2013: Played for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League, Jacksonville of the AA Southern League, and the Major League Club. Hit a combined .289 with 12 HR and 46 RBI in the minors, and .183 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in the majors.

@JSMarisnick

I honestly didn’t like the Marlins rushing Jake Marisnick to the majors so quickly, mainly because he missed out on AAA. That being said, I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake again. Marisnick, when developed properly, has a great arm and fast legs. He and Christian Yelich should make up the other two outfield spots for Miami in the future. Marisnick’s one knock however is his plate patience, which can be fixed if he’s allowed the time to mature.

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Nicolino: Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft out of University High School in Orlando by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Marlins in the Marisnick deal.

2013: Pitched for Jupiter and Jacksonville, Posted a combined 8-4 record with a 3.11 ERA and 95 K’s.

@J_Nicolino22

Nicolino was part of the famed Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Arms Class which included Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. Two years later, he was dealt to the Miami Marlins and proceeded to have a generally solid year. After having success in single A Jupiter, Nicolino was promoted to Jacksonville where he put up pedestrian numbers due to the class shift. Nicolino, whose fastball is decent and whose control is generally solid,  would benefit from an extended stay in Jacksonville, but could find himself in the majors by late 2014-mid 2015. With him, Fernandez, and Heaney, as well as the other arms obtained in the fire sale trades, the Marlins could have a very scary rotation set for the future.

New York Mets: 

Prospects in top 100: Noah Syndergaard, RHP (11), Travis d’Arnaud, C (22) Rafael Montero, RHP, (85)

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Syndergaard: Drafted in the first supplemental round of the 2010 draft out of Mansfield Legacy High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the New York Mets with John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra for R.A Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas.

2013: Pitched for St. Lucie of the Florida State League and Binghamton of the Eastern League, went a combined 9-4 with a  3.06 ERA and 133 K’s, Pitched in the 2013 Futures Game.

@Noahsyndergaard

Syndergaard is a special talent, but in order to show it, he needed to get out of a system which had two other promising arms from his draft class. After the Mets acquired him in the Dickey deal, Syndergaard showed how special he was, excelling in the Florida State League, before being promoted to the Eastern league, where he put up similar numbers. Syndergaard was so hyped that he was given the start for Team USA in the Futures game, a high honor. His fastball is a high 90’s pitch and his other pitches are generally solid. He does have good control and command. The Mets will be promoting him, but probably not until mid may or early June. He’ll probably be spending time in Las Vegas, a.k.a Pitchers Hell, but regardless of what happens, he’ll be up.

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d’Arnaud: Drafted in the first supplemental round in the 2007 draft out of Lakewood High School in California by the Philadelphia Phillies. Traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 in the Roy Halladay deal, then to the New York Mets in 2012 in the R.A Dickey Deal.

2013: Played for the GCL Mets, Binghamton, and Las Vegas, before joining the Major League club. Hit a combined .286/3/20 in the minors and .202/1/5 in the majors.

@TdArnaud

2013 was an aberration for d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in baseball for the second year in a row. He missed most of the year thanks to a freak foul ball related foot fracture, and had to go through four levels of competition. That being said, d’Arnaud, despite his weak major league debut, is still a prime candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, as his eligibility is still intact. d’Arnaud’s best asset is hitting, and his fielding is definitely a work in progress, in short, he could be another Paul Lo Duca.

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Montero: Signed as an international free agent in 2011.

2013: Played for Binghamton and Las Vegas, combined for 12-7 record, 2.78 ERA, and 150 K’s. Played in 2013 Futures Game

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Rafael Montero has always been a late prospect, being signed at age 20, a full four years behind the optimum international free agency age, developing slowly until his meteoric rise last season which included an unusually strong showing at the pitchers’ Siberia in Las Vegas. Regardless, Montero may not be with the Mets by the end of the year, as his name has constantly been mentioned in trade rumors. He will be fighting for a rotation spot in Spring Training, but barring an outstanding showing, will be in AAA in order to delay his arbitration clock. Montero does have a solid offering at fastball, and his control is certainly up there. If he stays, he could help ease the long term loss of Matt Harvey and help establish a strong young rotation.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Prospects: Maikel Franco, 3B (26), Jesse Biddle, LHP (53)

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Franco: Signed as international free agent in 2010

2013: Played for Lakewood and Reading, combined for a .320 batting average, 31 home runs and 103 RBI. Appeared in 2013 Futures Game

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Maikel Franco could join Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard as the next big homegrown Phillies infield star. Blessed with an amazing stick and good fielding capability, Franco absolutely tore through two levels of competition. If Franco continues to play at the level that he has been and incumbent option Cody Asche continues to struggle, Franco could be in the majors by June.

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Biddle: Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, PA.

2013: Played for Reading of the Eastern League, went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA and 154 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures game.

@jessebiddle_54

Since being drafted out of high school, the Phillies have had nothing but praise for their local boy, Jesse Biddle. And rightfully so. While his record doesn’t look like that of a top prospect, he actually had a halfway decent year. and capped it off with a Futures game selection. Biddle’s fastball and control are destined to be basic, but his curveball is quite nasty to behold. He’ll likely be spending the bulk of 2014 in Lehigh Valley, but could make it up to Philly by August.

Washington Nationals:

Prospects: Lucas Giolito, RHP (44) AJ Cole RHP, (69)

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Giolito: Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Harvard Westlake School in Studio City, CA.

2013: Pitched for the GCL Nationals and the Auburn Doubledays. Went a combined 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 39 K’s.

@LGio27

Before Giolito had to spend a year recovering from a sprained UCL and the majority of his debut season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, there was debate as to the possibility of him being the first overall pick in the draft. While that never happened, the Nationals once again (Anthony Rendon ’11) used their philosophy of drafting high profile names with falling stocks. Giolito showed no long term problems after the surgery, as his triple digit fastball remained intact, but he did play on an abbreviated schedule. Still, in the short time he played, Giolito dazzled, blazing through the Gulf Coast League, then the New York Penn League. Giolito will likely see the full year in short A, but if he continues to develop the way that he has, he could be up in the majors by early 2016. 

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Cole: Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Oveido High School in Oveido, Florida. Traded to Oakland with Derek Norris, Brad Peacock, and Tommy Milone for Gio Gonzalez and Rob Gilliam, Traded to Washington in three team deal for Michael Morse and John Jaso.

2013: Played for Potomac Nationals and Harrisburg Senators. Combined for a 10-5 record with a 3.60 ERA and 151 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures Game.

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Cole is an interesting story, having been drafted by the Nationals organization out of high school, only to be traded a year later to Oakland, then back to the Nationals two years later. While Cole looked somewhat lost on the West Coast, his return to the DC farm system certainly helped, as he made it over the Single-A hump and had a great Double-A debut. He was rewarded with a Futures game invite and effectively served as Team USA’s closer, helping preserve the 4-2 win. Cole has been a starter in the minors, but his fastball speed could lead to a role in the bullpen, specifically as the team’s eventual closer. Expect Cole to start the season in AAA, but possibly could be in the majors by August if he continues the way he has been.

 

In Defense of a Name. Why the Redskin controversy is stupid

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For the past few months, I’ve been dealing with something more annoying than seeing our current president smirking on my television, more annoying than the Royal Baby drama that happened over the summer, more annoying than the straggling trolls who still believe that my favorite football team, the New York Jets, are still a circus.

That annoying thing is this continuous debate, or rather, force feeding by the liberal media, that the Washington Redskins name is inappropriate and needs to be changed.

Every morning, as part of my daily routine, I turn on my smartphone, go to Uni Watch, and read about sports uniforms. No, seriously, that’s what I read, in addition to the sports pages and the personal journal in the Wall Street Journal. After skimming through the headline story, something that I’ll either take a second look at later, and the Ticker, which highlights bits and bobs from the uni-verse, I often find myself reading the latest “Skins watch”, a crusade by site webmaster Paul Lukas to highlight people’s negative reactions to the Washington Redskins name. Very often, he points out the latest journalists who have decided to protest the Washington Redskins name, and barely covers those who say that the name is fine as it is. On average, in the Daily Skins watch, if there are ten items related to the controversy, nine out of ten of those items are anti-Skins.

Journalistic integrity mandates that there should be no bias in reporting, and while Uni Watch isn’t exactly ESPN, Lukas is still a freelancer for the sports media behemoth. In some of his more recent ESPN columns, mainly the most recent Uni Watch Power Rankings, he voiced his displeasure with not only the Redskins, but also similarly named teams, like the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians, by having them finish low in the rankings. Naturally, this angered plenty of fans, who correctly assumed that Lukas was venting his political correctness through a sports ranking, two things which really should not mix.

As a sports fan, I agree that politics and sports do not mix. Sure, you can have a president throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening day, that’s fine, but to impose your ideology on people who couldn’t care less about whether or not the team name is offensive or not is stupid. It makes you look immature. In addition, journalists who protest the name by not using it or referring to the team as something else aren’t being noble, they’re acting like children covering their ears and saying “Nyah Nyah, I’m not listening.” Again, I point out, that’s something a five year old does on a schoolyard, not a fully grown journalist. In addition, what type of message are the journalists trying to convey? Are they saying that in order to rise above the name, they won’t use it? Yeah, that may work for characters in fiction like Beetlejuice or Lord Voldemort, but for a sports team, that’s just plain stupid.

Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins,  has said that he will never change the name as long as he owns the team, despite commissioner Roger Goodell saying that “if one person is offended, then something needs to change”. I applaud Snyder for this. While Goodell may be the commissioner of the NFL, the league that the Redskins are a part of, he has no right to force Snyder to change just because some PC liberal white people, and yes, the majority of those offended are PC liberal whites, say the name is offensive. Even if Goodell did threaten action against the Redskins, he would have to realize that they are a popular franchise, and if he offends the fans of the franchise, the NFL will take a large money hit, something they really cannot afford in light of the big concussion settlement.

One of the questions that has been asked is “What do Native Americans think about it?” In truth, most Native Americans don’t seem to care. The only tribe that seems to be really taking offense to it is the Oneida tribe in upstate New York. While the Oneidas are gaining ground in their offense against the name, their backers are…surprise surprise… members of Congress, particularly those in the Democratic party, which… surprise surprise… is already against the name. Even if Congress did support changing the name, forcing the team to change their name would be a violation of the First Amendment, which is the protection of speech. The Oneidas may feel that they are doing many people a favor by launching this campaign, but in truth, they are wasting people’s time.

Another question that needs to be asked, “If the name is so offensive, why wasn’t it changed before?” And that is a good question. If the name was so offensive, it should have been changed, and not now, but back then. But in truth, can you imagine a revisionist history in which the team name was changed? Could you see the name being changed in the NFL record book, the Super Bowl champion Washington (changed from Redskins)? Ask any fan who was there when the Redskins won a Super Bowl, if the name was changed, their likely response would be to the question, who won the Super Bowl between Washington and Buffalo would be The Redskins. No amount of white out would change what the fans would say. They were born into the Redskins culture, and even to this day would refer to them by their old name.

No matter what happens, the fans will continually support the Redskins. Forcing a name change on a team only works with an unpopular franchise, not one who has a large fanbase. Even if you appease the PC liberal whites, you realize that you are offending those who actually care. Nobody cares about the stuffed shirt journalists who may talk until they’re blue in the face. For every one that cries foul, you can bet that there are hundreds. if not thousands, who say “Go Redskins”. Teams weren’t made to appease the media, they were made to appease the fans, and even then they weren’t meant to appease all fans. If that was the case, then what point would there be in having a league, or 31 other teams for that manner? Would there even be sports if one team could appease everyone?

That being said, I think that Paul Lukas, and all the people who are offended by a name really need to take a good long hard look at themselves. Your cause may be noble in your mind, but in truth, you are being nothing more than immature spoiled children. Everyone is going to be offended by something once in a while, and not everything is going to go your way. Lukas and the Anti-skins crusade is fighting a losing battle. The Redskins will never change their name, and a small group of butthurt PC liberal white journalists isn’t going to change anything about the situation.