Tagged: Baltimore Orioles

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.

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2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: Part 4 of 4

It’s time for the last quartile of the second MinorLeagueMadhouse 2015 MLB Mock Draft. Nothing has changed in the draft order since then, making this mock still somewhat relevant, but again, there’s still work to be done, especially with James Shields and Max Scherzer still on the market. Anyway, here comes the next batch of picks.

22. Kansas City Royals

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Everyone loves a good human interest angle, and in sports, when that human interest angle is a good side note for a really good player, then not only are there good results on the field, but the publicity is great as well. The Royals may not need any human interest angles for the foreseeable future, especially after all the stories from their AL championship season, but they could use another injection of youth, especially into their pitching.

After selecting Brandon Finnegan, their quick-to-the-Majors bullpen arm from TCU, they may want to double dip, going after his teammate, Riley Ferrell. And yes, I know I mocked him here last time for precisely the same reason.

Ferrell may have one of the best fastballs in the class, a mid to high 90’s offering with minimal contact. Although he’s been used more out of the bullpen since he started pitching for the Frogs, Ferrell’s fastball and secondary pitch, a slider, have made it impossible for the coaching staff to not move him into the rotation.

Ferrell’s weaknesses as a starter are his strengths as a closer, a developing third pitch, a rough delivery, and a lack of height, and while two of the three can be fixed, unless Ferrell is absolutely dominant as a starter, his ceiling at the major league level is most certainly a closer role in a major league bullpen. For Kansas City, finding the perfect future complement to Greg Holland would further strengthen what is seen as a solid rotation in a tight division.

23. Detroit Tigers

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College seniors are a double edged sword when it comes to Major League Baseball. On the one hand, they have the leadership and the skills that allow them to kickstart their careers in an advanced minor league level, but on the other, their clock ticks faster than a college junior. It isn’t often that a college senior is drafted in the first round; the most recent exception was Mark Appel, the number one pick of the Houston Astros back in 2013. While Appel has taken his collective lumps at the minor league level, he should be ready to pitch in the majors as early as late 2015, especially if he continues to rebound from his disastrous 2014 start.

This little detour was made possible thanks to 2014’s elephant in the room, University of Miami pitcher Andrew Suarez. Considered by many to be one of the more majors-ready pitchers, especially as a starter, Suarez is still a potential first round pick, despite his decision to stay another year in school.

Injury history aside, the former Blue Jays and Nationals pick is advanced enough to have confidence in his pitches. a low to mid 90’s fastball,  and a good arsenal of secondary pitches that are accentuated by above average command.

Suarez may be somewhat of a reach, but should he have a season that justifies a high selection in the draft, I don’t think any team will care that he’s a senior.

24. St. Louis Cardinals

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Back in 2012, when the Cardinals took James Ramsey ahead of such guys as Rickie Shaffer and Victor Roache, I blasted the team for going with a too-safe selection. Two years later, after running through the system faster than Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III, Ramsey was the centerpiece of the Justin Masterson trade. Lesson learned, never underestimate the Cardinals scouting department.

Ramsey wasn’t the only loss for the Cardinals this past year, Oscar Taveras was tragically killed in a car accident, leaving Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk as the future of the Cardinals outfield, if you don’t include Jason Heyward.

I hate using BPA as the reasoning for a selection, but in a class that’s weak in the Cardinals organizational positions of need, BPA may be the best option, in this case, it’s Richland High School outfielder Trent Clark.

Clark isn’t a power hitter, not that he needs to be, rather, he profiles as a 2 or 6 hitter in a lineup. His best weapons are his contact and his speed. In a way, he reminds me of Brandon Nimmo, a guy who had similar tools in his senior year. The difference between Clark and Nimmo is that Clark has more opportunities for visibility, as he actually plays high school ball.

Clark’s biggest weakness is his arm, and while there is some belief that he can play a big league center field, he might provide more value in left.

Clark’s development may be somewhat protracted, but if he is drafted by the Cardinals, he’ll have the opportunity to be the next high level prospect going through their system.

25. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Every sports generation has their defined superstar, and every draft has their fair share of prospects who are supposed to be the next version of said star. This generation will be headlined by such stars as Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw, and while it may be somewhat early to call someone the “Next Stanton” or the “Next Kershaw,” in some cases, it’s justified. Canada, for instance has what many believe is the “Next Giancarlo Stanton”, and I swear, I’ve heard those words attached to this kid before.

St. Matthew’s (Ontario) High School outfielder Demi Orimoloye may not have a name like an athlete, but he does have the body and the athletic attributes which have made him incredibly attractive to teams. Late to baseball on account of a switch from football, the Nigerian born Orimoloye has a frame similar to Minnesota Twins prospect Miguel Sano. Orimoloye has undeniable power, there’s footage of him hitting a 400 foot home run in a showcase game on Youtube, not to mention solid speed and a strong arm.

Orimoloye may have the tools, but his late start means his abilities are raw. Should he continue to impress the way he did for Team Canada and the showcase circuit, there’s no doubt he will be a highly sought after commodity.

26. Baltimore Orioles

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JJ Hardy will go down as one of the more underrated shortstops of all time, and when his career is finished, the Orioles will have him to thank for building a strong defensive foundation on the left side of their infield. Having just signed a five year deal at the age of 32, it wouldn’t surprise me if midway through that contract, he begins to decline. So who would the Orioles groom as Hardy’s successor?

Richie Martin, the University of Florida shortstop, is a late bloomer in the hitting department, but defensively, he’s a college version of Hardy, provided he doesn’t try too hard. Having spent the first two years of his college career learning to regain his hitting stroke, he finally found it in the Cape, playing for Bourne this past summer.

Martin’s high defense and low hitting reminds me of 2012 draft pick Deven Marrero, a similar product at the time, who since then has somewhat regained his hitting stroke as he’s progressed through the Red Sox system.

The key to Martin’s stock rising is how he can handle SEC pitching in his junior year. Should he be able to hit the way he did up in Bourne, then there’s a good possibility he could actually go higher than Baltimore.

27. Washington Nationals

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In baseball, teams don’t usually draft pitchers high for them to be relievers, unless they have the stuff that justifies a future in the big league bullpen. Granted, there are exceptions, see Gregg Olsen and Nick Burdi as examples. Drafting and developing a future closer is often viewed as unnecessary and a waste of resources, especially in the age of the free agent closer. Then again, if there’s a lively left handed college arm that projects to the bullpen, sometimes the best thing to do is to grab it.

Illinois southpaw Tyler Jay may be from nearly uncharted territory, but that hasn’t stopped him from impressing at the collegiate level. During the summer, while pitching for Team USA, Jay managed to allow no runs in almost 17 innings of work.Jay’s best pitch is his fastball, an offering that ranges from low to mid 90’s, with an occasional touch at 97. He also uses a solid curve and is developing a changeup. Jay isn’t an effort pitcher, he uses his athleticism to throw.

While Jay does have the ability to pitch in a rotation, he’ll likely succeed more as a relief pitcher.

Update: Washington is expected to sign Max Scherzer, effectively forfeiting this pick and putting Tyler Jay back in the draft pool. 

27. Los Angeles Angels

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In today’s successful major league system, it’s almost a requirement that teams carry two catchers. One catcher is a defensive presence, usually a bottom of the order bat but an outstanding glove. He’s not going to win a game with an impressive hitting display, but he’ll keep the pitcher in check. The other catcher is a more offensive presence. He may have good defense, but it’s not Gold Glove material. He’s a middle of the order presence, usually there to provide key hits and keep the inning alive.

The Angels have set the groundwork for their future catching corps by acquiring their defensive presence, Carlos Perez from the Astros. Perez will have a good four or five years to work with current catcher Chris Iannetta before this year’s top catcher rises through the ranks.

Wilson High School’s Chris Betts may not be as defensively strong as Perez, and he may be one of the slowest hitters in this year’s class, but he makes up for his deficiencies with a solid power stroke and good arm strength.

Betts may be a slow runner, but he has had the capability to stretch singles into doubles with his power. This was especially evident during the summer.

Betts is also a local product, being half an hour away from Anaheim, so the Angels probably have gotten a good look at him through the past year. It’ll be interesting to see if they opt for the local product.

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And so there is the first round of the second mock draft.   Stay tuned for updates, especially with the last two QO free agents looking to sign.

 

 

Who Is This Year’s Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop?

 

For the past four years, there has been one common occurrence in the MLB draft: That occurrence is the Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop (or HAPS, for short). The common characteristics is that the shortstop in question is (obviously) a high schooler, has the potential to make the majors in three years instead of the traditional four or five years, is a top prospect usually by the end of his first year or the middle of his second, and garners a lot of praise from opposing scouts.

The past four years of HAPS are as follows:

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2013: JP Crawford, Phillies

While it’s still too early to be determined, Crawford had been highly visible throughout his high school career, and when he was drafted, it was to a team that was looking to replace a legendary shortstop with a newer model. Crawford’s first minor league season saw him completely own the Gulf Coast League and skip entirely over short ball in favor of the more advanced Low A. Crawford also ended the season as the #4 prospect in Philly’s system, behind only Roman Quinn, a fellow prep shortstop drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, as well as 3B Maikel Franco and P Jesse Biddle, who have made the 2014 top 100 list on MLB.com. Even though Crawford effectively was a HAPS by default, as last year’s middle infield class was very weak, Crawford has at least proven that he is still a very solid lock to follow the progression that fellow HAPS have gone through.

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2012: Carlos Correa, Astros, and Addison Russell, Athletics.

Thanks to what could have been regarded as one of the best prep shortstop draft classes in baseball history, 2012 had not one, but two HAPS propects. Carlos Correa, who was the first overall pick, drew some attention at the end of his debut year, but in his second year, he justified why he was a first overall pick. After having a monster season for the Quad Cities River Bandits, Correa was rewarded by being voted in to the 2013 Futures game World Roster, as well as being named the Astros’ top prospect by the end of the season. At the start of the 2014 season Correa was named the top prospect in the Astros’ system again, ahead of such players as Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, and Lance McCullers, and was also named the #8 prospect in all of baseball.

Russell, who I’ve consistently noted was the catalyst for the death of Moneyball drafting in Oakland, has done nothing but impress in his first two years. Named the best prospect in Oakland’s system immediately after the 2012 season, Russell again went on a tear at Single-A Stockton, and was also selected for the Futures game as a member of Team USA. Russell ended the season in AAA Sacramento, completely jumping over AA, and although he obviously had issues handling the rapid increase in competition level, the prevailing theory is that Russell could be in the majors by the end of the 2014 season.

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2011: Francisco Lindor, Indians

The Indians have repeatedly stated that they do not intend to rush Lindor to the major leagues, to which I call bull. Lindor has been nothing short of amazing ever since he stepped on the field. At the end of the 2012 season, his first full season in minor league ball, Lindor had established himself as a #1 shortstop prospect, the #1 Indians prospect, and the #13 prospect in baseball. This included an invite to the Futures game in Kansas City, where he played for the World Team. Lindor followed up his great 2012 with an even better 2013 where he went through two levels of ball, topping out in Double-A, and once again being invited to the Futures Game in New York. He once again ended the season as the top shortstop prospect, the top Indians prospect, but increased his overall prospect ranking to #5. At the beginning of this season, Lindor has already established himself as a top ten prospect yet again, however, he dropped his shortstop ranking to #4, perfectly reasonable given his competition was Xander Bogaerts, Correa, and Javier Baez, who has started to put himself in the HAPS conversation, especially after showing a dominant power swing in Spring Training. The reason why Baez isn’t in it right now is that while he’s advanced at the same rate as Lindor, he hasn’t had Lindor’s wow factor. Still, if Baez can be as consistently impressive as Lindor has been, he could put himself in the HAPS conversation.

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2010: Manny Machado, Orioles

The man who started it all, Machado blazed through the minors, made his major league debut a mere two years after being drafted, and made his first All-star team in 2013. While Machado’s best season ended on a sour note after he broke his leg, he has definitely entered his name into the elite infielder category. I know that Machado technically is a third baseman now, but in truth I’m grading him as a shortstop because of his A-Rod like conversion to third. And to continue, Machado was a shortstop when he was drafted, and only played a few games at third base in the minors, in Double-A Bowie, which incidentally was his last minor league stop before he made his debut. Will Machado ever move back to shortstop? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, Machado is still one of the best young players right now.

The 2014 draft isn’t until June, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for early speculation. In what is considered yet another meh prep middle infield class, there are only two definitive first round prep shortstop talents, one of which has equal value as a pitcher. The two shortstops in question are Clovis High School’s Jacob Gatewood, and Olympia High School’s Nick Gordon.

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Gatewood, like Crawford before him, has had eyes on him since last year. A well rounded guy with an emphasis on power who draws comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro, Gatewood, barring a bad senior season has the projectability to be a top ten pick, and could raise his stock to top five, maybe even top three if he continues to play at the level he has. In my initial mock, I had him going to Colorado as a potential replacement for Troy Tulowitzski, whom I feel will leave Colorado before 2020. In the thin air of Colorado, Gatewood would thrive despite the humidor baseballs, and he would have the potential to be a Machado-like talent.

Gordon has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father and brother, Tom and Dee. He has project ability as both a pitcher and a shortstop, but scouts have said that Gordon will stick to shortstop. While not as dominant at Gatewood, Gordon is still a top 20 prospect who could actually outperform his brother. I had Gordon going to San Diego. In theory, if Everth Cabrera can’t get back to his pre-Biogenesis self, it’s a possibility that the Padres will try and look for a replacement in the coming years. Gordon would benefit from the expansive park in San Diego, as he thrives on being a slap hitter with speed, much like Cabrera was.

Between Gatewood and Gordon, my belief  is that the former makes the best case for the HAPS of 2014. He certainly has made a name for himself starting last year, and he has a legitimate shot to become one of the best shortstops in the post-Jeter and Rollins shortstop era. His power is not to be ignored, and if he signs early and tears it up in rookie or short ball, he could find himself in the top 100, maybe even top 25 very early in his career.

The Case of Ben Wetzler vs. the Phillies and the NCAA

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The NCAA is often criticized for its Draconian measures against student athletes who try and prepare for a professional career, as well as its nonstandard punishments for apparent rules violations, see University of Oklahoma’s “Pastagate” as an example of such ludicrousness. But the case of Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler, who was turned in by the Philadelphia Phillies for hiring a financial advisor and ultimately electing to return for his senior season at Oregon State University, this has to be one of the most absurd, if not the most absurd case of the NCAA going on its “As you go” rules policy.

For those who are uninformed, Wetzler was a 5th round draft choice of the Phillies. Had he signed with them, he would have earned a $400,000 signing bonus. Obviously, Wetzler felt that he wasn’t ready, and wanted to be sure he was making the right choice, so he hired a financial advisor. When it became apparent that it would be better if he stayed in school, he did. In a plot that draws loose similarities to the 2006 Academy Award winning foreign film Das Leben Der Anderen, the Phillies, likely upset at having been jilted by the young starter, reported that Wetzler had hired an agent for the negotiations. The NCAA came down on this, and suspended Wetzler “indefinitely”. Incidentally, Wetzler wasn’t the only player that the Phillies tried to blackball, as Washington State outfielder and first baseman Jason Monda  was also reported, yet was cleared by the Cougars and the NCAA to play this year.

What’s even more remarkable is that this is the first time that this has happened. Never before has a player been reported by a major league team. Granted, a player has been suspended and his eligibility has been revoked before, see Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and James Paxton, but the teams that drafted them, the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays never did report them.

This is undoubtedly low on Philadelphia’s part. A player should not be stabbed behind the back like that just because they chose to return to school, money or otherwise. It unfairly disqualifies a player, and ruins a team’s reputation. Agents who represent collegiate talent are now likely going to advise their clients to avoid signing with Philadelphia because of this. Similarly, the NCAA should be ashamed. There have been far worse examples of the same thing happening. Mark Appel for instance.

Appel, who had been chosen by the Pirates with the 8th overall pick out of Stanford, elected to return to school under the advice of Scott Boras, who wanted first overall pick money for his client. Incidentally, Appel also wanted to return because he wasn’t a first overall pick. A year later, Appel, who wasn’t suspended by the NCAA because the Pirates didn’t rat him out despite his being a more blatant transgression of the rules, was drafted first overall by the Astros. It amazes me that something this blatant wasn’t addressed, yet a fifth round pick deciding to return to school was. It’s hypocritical.

It’s likely that the Phillies will have a very severely damaged reputation now that Wetzler has decided to hire an attorney. This attorney is the same attorney that dealt with Houston based college football booster Willie Lyles. in the case of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. The fallout likely could mean that the Phillies would be banned from drafting Oregon State, or by extension, Pac-12 baseball players. This would be a big loss, especially considering one of Philadelphia’s alleged biggest targets could be Oregon State star Michael Conforto.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a team was banned from recruiting certain players. The Baltimore Orioles cannot attend Korea Baseball Association* sponsored baseball camps in South Korea after signing then-high-school pitcher Kim-Seong Min before he graduated.

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*Recently signed Orioles pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is a product of the Korea Baseball Organization, which governs the professional leagues in South Korea. The Orioles are allowed to attend KBO games and sign KBO players.

Could Wetzler have a legitimate case against the NCAA and the Phillies by extension? It’s possible. This is the first time that such an incident has happened, and usually the ruling in the first case will set a precent. If the Appel case can be cited, it is likely that Wetzler could have his suspension overturned, thus allowing him the opportunity to pitch his senior season.  For now, we will wait and see what happens.

 

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 2 of 3)

Here’s part 2 of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s Mock Draft.

11. Blue Jays: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana

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Before the 2013 season started, Toronto had two really good catching prospects and a somewhat decent veteran. Now, they have… Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, and one prospect whose value has taken a tumble. Kyle Schwarber, who helped Indiana make the College World Series last year, is like Toronto’s former big prize catcher, JP Arencibia, except he’s not just a power guy who strikes out a lot. Schwarber’s game is more balanced on the offensive side. However, for his hitting ability, he’s not a plus defender. If he’s to stay behind the plate, his defense will need some fine tuning, or he’ll become another Piazza.

12. Brewers: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford

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Every once in a while, the state of Connecticut produces a quality collegiate talent. Two years ago, it was George Springer and Matt Barnes, this year, it’s Sean Newcomb. Coming out of the same school that produced Jeff Bagwell will do wonders for his reputation, but as for himself, what endears him to scouts is his fastball and his ability as a strikeout pitcher. Newcomb has other pitches which he can get batters out with, but what he needs is a consistent delivery. Still, in a system that’s starved for southpaws, Newcomb may be Milwaukee’s next big lefty hurler.

13. Padres: Nick Gordon, SS/RHP, Olympia High School, Florida

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One of the benefits of drafting a two way player out of high school is that there’s more time for that player to develop, so if in one area they fail, they will develop in another. Gordon, who has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father, former reliever Tom Gordon, and brother, Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, has his brother’s speed and arm, and his father’s fastball and curveball. Still, scouts see his value as a shortstop more. Although the Padres have tried to stay away from prep hitters as of late thanks to the failures of Donavan Tate and Matt Bush, Gordon’s pedigree and adaptability may be too good to pass up.

14. Giants: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco

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The Giants already have one home state product waiting in the wings to take his spot in the outfield, why not go for another one that’s right in their backyard? Zimmer, the brother of Royals pitcher Kyle Zimmer, can hit and throw, and while he’s not as fast as Gary Brown is, he has the ability to play as a 3 or 5 hitter in the Giants lineup. Although the Giants have locked up Hunter Pence for five years, my gut tells me that they are going to regret it, and will want a younger guy patrolling the vast outfield of AT&T Park.

15. Angels: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger High School, California

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The Angels system is arguably the biggest joke in baseball right now. With no one in the top 100 and the top prospect in their system likely making the majors soon, it’s time to restock once again. While there are so many options for the Angels to pick, if they want to strengthen their system, they’ll opt for a high school talent. Luis Ortiz is a NorCal product who has a fastball that he can throw with ease. When he’s not using his fastball, his slider also works as a Major League offering. Ortiz has a body fit for pitching, so development isn’t that much of an issue, but what does need improvement is his control. Still, if the Angels want a bona fide prospect to rebuild their system, Ortiz is that guy.

16. Diamondbacks: Braxton Davidson, OF, TC Roberson High School, North Carolina

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Braxton Davidson is probably one of the better all around prep players in this year’s draft. His offensive game is definitely the most polished, and his arm and fielding ability make him an asset for teams that play in bigger parks. While he doesn’t have the speed to play center, his arm makes him a near lock to play one of the corner spots, left field especially comes to mind. Davidson’s power isn’t as big as Paul Goldschmidt’s, but in the Arizona lineup, he definitely looks to be a #3 hitter at best.

17. Orioles: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State

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“But the Orioles already have a catcher locked up for the long term!” Yes, but given the life expectancy of a catcher’s knees, in all likelihood, if they do draft Pentecost and he rises through the system at the normal rate, Matt Wieters will probably be a designated hitter. Moving along from that, Pentecost isn’t as flashy as draft mate Kyle Schwarber, but his game is balanced in areas. He was once a highly touted prospect three years ago, and would have been a Texas Ranger, but an injury and a strong commitment to Kennesaw State kept him from going pro. In a draft class that is ripe with small school talent. Pentecost is a hot commodity. He’ll certainly be worth the pick for a team looking for a future catcher.

18. Royals: Derek Fisher, OF Virginia

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The Royals are the model of developing prospects, but the prospects that have been highlighted over the past few years are starting to graduate to the Majors. In developing the next crop of quality prospects. Kansas City should go after a good Alex Gordon-type hitter. Derek Fisher is one of the bigger names from a bigger school. The Cavaliers outfielder may have started show in Charlottesville, but a strong summer league has propelled him to the top of a lot of preseason watch lists. Fisher’s biggest weakness, however, is his fielding ability, and if he can’t improve it, he may end up being what Billy Butler became: a young Designated Hitter.

19. Nationals: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU

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Although the Nationals have been building up on pitchers as of late, another one, particularly a lefty, wouldn’t hurt. Brandon Finnegan had a rough year last year, but as Gerrit Cole could probably tell you, a poor record isn’t usually indicative of one’s draft position. Finnegan has a fastball that’s worth a second look, as well as a solid slider. He’s short for a starter, but as a bullpen guy, particularly a closer, Finnegan may be one of the best options out there. What he needs to improve upon is his consciousness of his delivery, which could be used as a tell, which may have caused him to have a bad year. Still, the Nationals would be smart to look at him.

20. Reds: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway High School, South Carolina

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There’s a stigma that seems to go against heavy pitchers, maybe because of health concerns, but for whatever reason, they still manage to carve out solid careers. Case and point, C.C. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon. Grant Holmes is nothing different. A big pitcher (6’2″ and 190 pounds, although those numbers are supposedly more generous than indicated), Holmes gets people out with a zippy fastball. He does have a couple of secondary pitches, including a curveball with an identity crisis (fast like a slider, but moves like a curve), and a developmental change up. Holmes’ baseball pedigree is not as well known as Nick Gordon’s, but it’s there, as his brother was a two time national champion at South Carolina. Holmes could join the two prep prospects that the Reds already have drafted in Robert Stephenson and Nick Travieso, and they’d make a solid portion of a typical big league rotation.

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There’s part two. Stay tuned for Part three, coming sometime this week.

World Baseball Classic Team Profile: The Netherlands

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This is a series that will profile the World Baseball Classic, or to be more specific, the teams. The first team that will be covered is The Netherlands. 

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The Netherlands is a country in Europe, northwest of Germany, northeast of France, southeast of Great Britain, and southwest of Denmark. It has or has had territory in the Carribean, in fact, that is where most of the Dutch baseball talent comes from, in particular, the Netherlands Antilles. 

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Major League baseball players, current, former, and future, on the 2013 team include Boston Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts, a shortstop, Washington Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, Atlanta Braves second baseman Andrelton Simmons, Minnesota Twins pitcher Shairon Martis, Baltimore Orioles infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, and former Major Leaguers Andruw Jones, Wladimir Balentien, Bert Blyleven, and Hensley Meulens; the last two of whom serve on the Dutch coaching staff. 

The Dutch baseball team was one of the original sixteen nations that participated in the first World Baseball Classic. They played in Pool C at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, Panama, and host Puerto Rico. In their first tournament, the Dutch were easily dispatched by Puerto Rico and Cuba, but pulled a save-face 10-0 win over the inexperienced Panama team to save them from finishing at the bottom of the pool. 

Three years later, the Dutch, who were in Pool D with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Panama, surprised many by pulling off a 3-2 upset win over a heavily favored Dominican Republic team.  They then went to the winner’s bracket where they lost to Puerto Rico in another close game, then shocked the world again by beating the Dominican Republic a second time, 2-1, giving them a rematch against Puerto Rico in the Group final. Again, they lost, but moved on to the second pool, where they competed against the United States, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the Netherlands could not kill anymore giants, as they bowed out quickly after losses to both the US and Venezuela. 

On Saturday, the Netherlands started their third tournament, in a group that contains Australia, Chinese Taipei, and 2009 Classic runner up South Korea, which is arguably the weakest of the four groups. 

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The Netherlands started off with another giant-killing, as Diegomar Markwell headed a four-hit shutout of Korea, while Bernadina led the offensive charge with two RBI in a 4-0 win. 

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On Sunday, the Netherlands will play Chinese Taipei, who, thanks to a strong pitching effort from Chien-Ming Wang, beat Australia in the first game of the Classic. They will finish on March 5th against Australia. 

The Netherlands look to be a dark horse in the Classic again. With a convincing win against the 2009 runners up, there is every possibility that the Dutch will come out of this pool as winners. However, it would take a favorable draw for them to get past the second round, and by that , they would have to hope for, at the best, another upstart nation to finish second in their pool, or maybe even Japan, who is considerably weaker than in the previous tournaments, as evidenced by their wild win against upstart Brazil. If the Netherlands however, can live up to the giant killer moniker once again, expect this team to go far in the tournament, possibly even to the quarterfinal.