Tagged: Chicago Cubs

Requiem for Kris Bryant

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To say that Chicago Cubs super prospect Kris Bryant’s spring was impressive is perhaps the understatement of the year. A prospect who batted well above .400 and led all of Major League Baseball in home runs is, in most cases, justification for a spot on the Major League roster.

Note, however, that I said, in most cases, as despite his almost video game like spring, Bryant will be spending the beginning of the season “seasoning” in Iowa. Cubs president Theo Epstein had all but publicly said that Bryant would start the season in the minors. Of course, the reaction to this move is less than satisfactory. Cubs fans are understandably upset, Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras is very angry, and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association has issued a statement on Bryant’s demotion, calling it a “bad day for baseball”. Even I am upset that Kris Bryant will have to waste two weeks in AAA instead of being an immediate contributor.

Having already discussed the reason why top prospects often spend extra time in the minors, it’s clear why Bryant is going down instead of staying up. For those who still need help connecting the dots, it’s more feasible for the Cubs to have a full six years of Kris Bryant production on the cheap, rather than five years for the sake of an early promotion. And that’s understandable. The Cubs are going to be stacked with cheap high ceiling talent until the early 2020s. It’s clear that should all their young bats pan out, they will have to either dole out big contracts early in these players’ careers, pay them in free agency, or risk losing them to big spending franchises like the Yankees and Dodgers.

However, the problem for fans isn’t just delaying Bryant’s debut, it’s also the way they explained why they were going to do it.

Throughout Spring Training, Theo Epstein never admitted why Bryant was going to stay down. Sure, he offered the same excuse, that Bryant “needed more seasoning”, and offered up Dustin Pedroia and his Rookie of the Year 2007 season as a reason for why Bryant deserved to stay down, but these excuses had no foundation to them.

Trying to justify demoting a prospect like Bryant is hard to do, especially for a fanbase that has had very little to cheer about lately, but I believe that Epstein had the opportunity to diffuse some anger by explaining his true motivations.

Had he just said “I am demoting Bryant because it makes sense to keep him an extra year when he will be in his prime rather than lose that year for two weeks of production”, I’m certain that fans would have understood. Would they have accepted the justification? In all likelihood, they wouldn’t take it well, but they would still take it. Honesty, while painful, is a better policy than presenting the same excuse and expecting the fans to take it, no questions asked.

Sure, Scott Boras and the MLBPA would have had justification to file a grievance against Epstein and the Cubs, but it would have allowed for the elephant in the room to be addressed. It’s no secret that the arbitration clock is considered a nuisance, a hinderance which prevents top prospects who are major league ready from contributing when they are ready, but rules are meant to be broken. Had Curt Flood not opted to report to the Phillies after he had been traded from the Cardinals, Major League Baseball likely would still be operating under the reserve clause. Had Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Josh Bell not received a $5 Million signing bonus to keep him from committing to the University of Texas, then the draft slotting system would not have been implemented. Had the Rangers not paid an obscenely expensive posting fee to pry Yu Darvish away from Japan, then the slotting system wouldn’t have been revised.

We could spend the remainder of this post playing the “what if” game, but it’s clear, Kris Bryant is going to spend an extra two weeks in Iowa, and when the Cubs promote him, his clock will tick. He’ll be a free agent by 2021, barring him signing a contract extension. In the meantime, I wouldn’t be surprised if the MLBPA and Major League Baseball decide to discuss ways to eliminate the arbitration clock, with an idea in place by next offseason.

Until then, patience, Cubs fans. Two weeks doesn’t determine a whole season, and when Bryant comes, you’ll probably never have to see him go to the minors again.

2014 MLB Mock Draft 2.0, part 1

With Baseball America releasing their top 200 player list earlier today, it’s time to finally release the second — and final mock draft of the year, especially with two weeks to go before the draft. This mock will just look at the first round and compensatory selections, no competitive balance picks, no second round. Although the general strategy is to go with best player available, let’s assume that the best player available is also a team’s top need. So without further delay, here is the 2014 MLB mock draft.

1. Houston: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State

Carlos Rodon

 

(Original selection: Rodon)

Houston lacks a dominant top ten left-handed pitching prospect in their system, and in the prospect rankings, there are three top arms. However, two of the three, Brady Aiken and Kyle Freeland, are untested against power competition, and generally untested arms are riskier investments than proven college arms. Even though Rodon has struggled this season, I doubt that the Astros, unless they were looking at another prospect all along, are going to deviate from an already-established plan. Despite Jonathan Gray’s rising stock last year, the team opted to go for the consensus top prospect at the beginning of the year, Mark Appel. Rodon has more experience and polish than Freeland and Aiken, and he will undoubtedly fit in what is already seen as a deadly future rotation.

2. Miami: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS, California

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(Original selection: Tyler Kolek)

Alex Jackson may be one of the more power hitters in this class, and the Marlins may be one of those teams who could find themselves in need a high level catcher in the future. Kyle Skipworth, the team’s first round pick in 2008, has just started as a major leaguer, but all signs point to him being a bust. Jackson’s arm and bat will ensure him a shot at a position which requires more athleticism, so if he decides that catching isn’t in the future, then he does have some projectability as an corner infielder or outfielder.

3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS, California

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(Original selection: Alex Jackson)

Brady Aiken was a top 5 pick in my initial draft, and if it weren’t for the stigma that is attached to high school arms, he’s probably hit the top spot, but top three isn’t bad, especially for a team lacking a dynamic pitching prospect like Chicago. Really, it could go either way between him and Tyler Kolek, but Aiken does have the benefit of having actually played the previous season while Kolek was hurt. Having Aiken and possibly Sale in the same rotation will be a boon for the Southsiders.

4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

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(Original selection: Jeff Hoffman)

 

The Cubs have spent that last few drafts upgrading their position players, so now must be the time for a pitching upgrade. Like their crosstown rivals, they are especially deficient when it comes to left-handed pitching. Kyle Freeland’s stock has done nothing but rise this year, and it is a theoretical possibility he could be a top five pick given how the picks may fall. The only knock on him is his propensity to try too hard when he pitches, which could lead to arm injuries, but tweaking his delivery shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

5. Minnesota: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Florida

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(Original selection: Brady Aiken)

Even though the Twins would benefit from grabbing another outfield prospect to take some load off of Byron Buxton, the general consensus among Twins fans is that they need a shortstop given the failure at the position and from their last shortstop draft pick, Levi Michael, and the best outfield prospect available is a reach at 10. I talked about Gordon a lot in my previous mock draft and my Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop article, and since then, he’s risen from the #3 shortstop in the class of 2014 to the #1. Gordon’s best assets are his legs and his arm, and if he can improve his hitting, he’ll definitely be a better shortstop than his brother Dee.

6. Seattle: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas

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(Original selection: Trea Turner)

Here’s the first really big fall of the draft, as Tyler Kolek, who was viewed by many at the beginning of the season as the top high school prospect, could potentially fall to here. Seattle could add him to their growing list of arms, especially if Taijuan Walker or another high level pitching prospect ends up leaving in a trade. Kolek’s fastball is explosive and he has healed fully from his injury, which means that he should be ready for the transition to pro baseball.

7. Philadelphia: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco

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(Original selection: Michael Gettys)

Philadelphia may be one of the few teams that is in a bad situation here, as the fallout from Wetzler-gate has destroyed trust between the team and some major college programs. Still, the Phillies need to develop a true outfielder, and unfortunately the best prep outfielder in the top 100 is at best a top 30 pick. Bradley Zimmer may be a bit of a reach, but he’s still got top ten talent, and would certainly be a solid addition to the Philadelphia outfield. His arm is solid, and he will make it as a low order slap hitter. Part of the reason why he’s so attractive is his pedigree, his brother Kyle was the fifth overall pick in 2012 by Kansas City.

8. Colorado: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU

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(Original selection: Jacob Gatewood)

If there was ever a prospect I would happy to be wrong about, it’s Aaron Nola. Initially, I said that Nola’s dependence on finesse instead of strength was going to affect his stock, potentially triggering a fall to a team like the Indians, but given Nola’s dominant spring, it’s safe to say barring any surprises or Scott Boras-type contract demands, Nola has cemented his position as a top ten arm. Given also the fact that he pitches in the same conference as college baseball’s third best big name arm in Tyler Beede, he’s really accelerated his stock even further, and Colorado could use another big name college arm to draw crowds.

9. Toronto: Trea Turner, SS NC State

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(Original selection: Tyler Beede)

While it may seem odd drafting a college shortstop while there’s a particularly good one playing in the majors, Toronto could afford to upgrade by going for a younger model, especially with Jose Reyes about to turn 31. Turner has Reyes’ speed and glove, but needs to develop his hitting if he wants to be a top of the lineup threat. Having him and top prospect DJ Davis in a future lineup together just screams terror on the base paths, and would usher in an era of inside baseball which would allow Toronto to compete with the other AL East clubs.

10. New York Mets: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

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(Original selection: Touki Toussaint)

Sandy Alderson prides himself on getting at least one good pitching prospect in the team’s farm system, as evidenced by Matt Harvey (2011-12), Zack Wheeler (2012-13) and Noah Syndergaard (2013-14). With Syndergaard likely coming up next month, and Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom already making their impressions, Alderson is in serious need of a new pitcher to develop. Beede, who I honestly think is better than Rodon, if not also Nola, does have the ability to be a number two starter in a major league rotation like the Mets. He will need to fine tune his command, but otherwise, he could be the next big arm that Met fans get excited about.

11. Toronto: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Indiana vs Oregon State

 

(Original Selection: Schwarber)

Like the NFL and running backs, in baseball, it’s always a good idea to keep at least two solid catchers on a team. Catchers are not the most durable players in baseball, and in all likelihood, one will presumably move to an infield position that doesn’t require constant stress on the knees. Schwarber is a big man at 230 pounds, and his presence behind the dish will certainly prevent plenty of runs. He’s a solid hitter as well who projects to be a mid to low level part of a major league lineup. Having him and AJ Jimenez behind the plate will be quite the boon for the Blue Jays, who would greatly benefit from their presence.

 

 

 

The Curious Case of Barret Loux and Hayden Simpson

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The 2010 MLB Draft has the chance to go down as one of the best in recent memory. So far, 12 players from the first and comp rounds have made their major league debuts, four of which were named All-Stars. In addition, it’s likely that many of the high schoolers from this year’s first and comp class, including Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon, Phillies pitcher Jesse Biddle, Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez, and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, as well as Angels outfielder Kaleb Cowart, Marlins third baseman Zack Cox, and Angels second baseman Taylor Lindsey may all make their major league debuts this year.

But the one name that sticks out from that class didn’t even sign with his team. And no, he didn’t end up being redrafted, but he did go on a fast track through the minors ending up at AAA last year for the Iowa Cubs. That player is former Texas A&M pitcher Barret Loux.

Two years before Michael Wacha put Texas A&M baseball on the map, Barret Loux was the big name for the Aggies. A big pitcher at 6’5″ and 230 pounds, armed with a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup, Loux put up excellent numbers for the Aggies, including leading the team in strikeouts twice, as well as being a nominee for the Golden Spikes award. He wasn’t as well regarded as his former teammate however, and was envisioned as a late first round pick. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks decided that he was worth the 6th overall draft choice (keep in mind, this was before the hard slot money system was put into place) and picked him ahead of such names as Matt Harvey and Chris Sale.

Arizona did have a deal in place for him, but a failed physical due to a labrum tear derailed it. As a consequence, the Diamondbacks never signed him, and he became a free agent. In November of that year, Loux and the Texas Rangers came to an agreement on a contract. It was Loux’s situation which led to some of the revamping of the draft rules, including mandatory physicals for prospects before the draft, and free agency for those who failed them.

Loux spent two seasons in the Rangers minor league system, playing for A level Myrtle Beach in 2011 and AA Frisco in 2012. In both those seasons, he struck out at least 100 batters, had ERAs under 3.81, and at Frisco, won all but one of his decisions.

However, Loux’s time with Texas came to an end as the Texas Rangers, having made a deal with the Chicago Cubs for Geovany Soto, were forced to give him up when the player originally send in the deal, pitcher Jake Brigham, was found to have an injury history not dissimilar to Loux’s. Loux was traded for Brigham, and started the season at AAA Iowa. While his stats were not as impressive as they were in Texas, he failed to post 100 strikeouts for the first time since his sophomore season at A&M, and he had a sub .500 win-loss record, as well as an ERA over 4, Loux still has managed to somewhat resurrect his prospect status.

While he was not ranked in the top 20 of the Cubs end of 2013 list, the fact that he has managed to jump three levels, without appearing in any of the A sub levels should indicate that he will have a fair shot at making the big league roster.

It may come out that Arizona should have kept him barring the injury concerns, especially if Loux manages to impress this spring and plays as a dark horse rotation candidate. In addition, it could help show that the Cubs didn’t exactly fail in that aspect of the draft.

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In that same draft, the Cubs took a right handed pitcher out of Division II Southern Arkansas University, Hayden Simpson with the 16th overall pick. Simpson who was viewed by many to be a questionable pick from the beginning, struggled in his three years in the Cubs’ system.

Perhaps it was the fact that he never was the same after coming down with a case of Mono, or perhaps it was the hype that was so unjustly heaped upon him, but Simpson, who was known for being an aggressive pitcher, never amounted to what he was pegged to be. He never advanced past High-A Daytona, and as of the end of 2013, was pitching for the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League.

If Barret Loux can prove that he is Major League ready, then in all likelihood, the Cubs will look favorably on the college arms of the 2014 draft class; a commodity that the Cubs are in serious need of. Loux, along with the other major league ready Cubs prospects could help bring Chicago back to dominance.

 

 

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Spring Training Edition, part 1 of 3.

As much as I wanted to wait until all the free agents with draft compensation signed, I feel that it’s time to make the first mock draft of the year for MinorLeagueMadhouse. While picks are usually done as either Best Player Available, Easiest To Sign, or General Manager’s Draft Philosophy, I’ve decided to go by need in the minors. To be more precise, which position in the top 20 is the weakest, or, if there is a clear cut pick, or if the general manager has a philosophy that they have publicly disclosed (like Jeff Luhnow of the Astros or Sandy Alderson of the Mets,) So without further delay, here is the first mock draft of the year for Minor League Madhouse.

1. Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State

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Carlos Rodon is the consensus number 1 pick in the draft right now, and nothing short of a Rick Ankiel-type meltdown will change that. The Astros have a strong enough pitching presence in the minor leagues right now, but Luhnow will be hard pressed to give up on the potential that Rodon has. With a major league caliber slider and fastball, as well as a preference to strike out hitters. Rodon, who helped NC State make the College World Series last year, is definitely going to fit in what could be the best future rotation in the league.

2. Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School, Texas

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The Marlins have reaped the benefits of one high school arm that they drafted, why not go for another that looks Major League ready? Kolek is arguably one of the best prep arms in this year’s class. He has a fastball that is better than some collegiate pitchers, in addition to a well rounded arsenal of secondary pitches. Kolek’s only knock is is command and control, which is common for flame throwing prep arms, not to mention he’s behind on his development thanks to an injury he suffered in his sophomore year, but in showcases, he’s looked like the genuine article, and would be a perfect developmental athlete, as he can only get better.

3. White Sox: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo High School, California

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Last year, I pointed out that Chicago’s weakest position in the minors was catcher. And they did have the opportunity to grab a catcher early with Nick Ciuffo and Jon Denney on the board. However, they whiffed on both. Now, they have a golden goose in Alex Jackson, who comes from the same high school as Cole Hamels. Jackson is a well rounded high school catcher, although he does need improvement in commanding a game. He has plus power, decent speed, basically, he has the chance to be one of the better prep catchers in the last few draft classes. If Jackson fails behind the plate though, he could make it as an outfielder, where his arm would be his best strength.

4. Cubs, Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina

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The Cubs have bolstered their position player ranks in the past few drafts, now it’s time to go back to pitching. Hoffman, who pitches for a smaller school in East Carolina, is tall and gangly, but pitches like he’s in prime athletic shape. Hoffman’s fastball is something to behold, and his curveball is almost at the same level. He controls the ball well, but he will need to work on his finesse if he wants to be a high end starter.

5. Twins: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School, California

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You can never have enough pitching, especially when it comes to lefties. Brady Aiken is a bit of a reach for the Twins, but given that they don’t have a top ten left handed pitching prospect at the time of this writing, it may be a good idea, both position wise and money wise, to go after him. This isn’t to diminish Aiken’s skill set, the young Southern California hurler is definitely even and well rounded in his skill set. He’s a jack of all trades pitcher, with no set primary pitch, which is good, as it serves as a reminder to the better days of Johan Santana. Aiken’s athleticism is also a plus, although now that his future has been set as a pitcher, he should focus primarily on that. Still, Aiken and 2013 pick Kohl Stewart would headline a young, and powerful pitching class should the Twins decided to pick him.

6. Mariners: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State

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The Mariners don’t seem to have a problem with a specific position, what they need, however, is speed. NC State shortstop Trea Turner is the answer to that problem. Turner has major league legs, and while his hitting is developmental right now, he is somewhat respectable in that category. Turner is still fully transitioning from third base to shortstop, which is fine, but if he wants to advance a few levels, he will need to improve on his fielding. Still, Turner profiles as a #1 or #9 hitter in an American League lineup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for him.

7. Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville High School, Georgia

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Byron Buxton was the star of the 2012 draft class and Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier were the stars of the 2013 prep class, now, Michael Gettys becomes the next high level hitter from the state of Georgia. Gettys’ game is focused now on his legs and his arm, but his hitting, when properly developed, could make him into the next prep hitting star. Given Ryan Howard likely will retire when Gettys comes around, and there really isn’t a power presence to back him up yet, it would be a good idea for the Phillies to capitalize on the Georgia Prep slugger trend.

8. Rockies: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School, California

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We got an early peek at Jacob Gatewood last year at Citi Field’s high school home run derby, and he certainly put on a show, but besides that, Gatewood is a well polished athlete who despite his body, has the potential to be one of the better hitting shortstops in history. Tall and lanky, he does have the potential to lead the league in home runs, especially in the thin air of Denver. Given the injury history and likelihood that Troy Tulowitzki may not finish his mega contract extension, taking Gatewood would be a wise insurance policy for the Rockies. He and 2012 first rounder David Dahl could make a lethal power combination for years to come.

9. Blue Jays: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

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Surprised that Toronto would try again? You shouldn’t be. Beede was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school as a first rounder in 2011, but he turned down the money to honor his college commitment. Three years later, Beede has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the SEC and after a historic campaign with the Commodores, brought himself into the Golden Spikes conversation. Beede’s offerings, particularly his fastball, are devastating to hitters, but what he needs improvement on is his control. Beede has the chance to continue the legacy of excellent Vandebilt pitchers started with David Price and continued with Sonny Gray this past year. If he can improve his control, he should be in the majors by late 2015-early 2016.

10. Mets: Touki Toussaint, Pitcher, Coral Springs High School, Florida

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If what Keith Law speculates from his interview with Sandy Alderson is true, then Alderson must be talking about Touki Toussaint. Here’s a guy who has come out of nowhere, established himself as a truly different pitcher who, with some help, can control and even expand the strike zone with his fastball and major league curve. Touki has the potential to make an impact in any rotation, and his curve should allow him to strike out plenty of batters, provide catchers are able to handle it. The only knock on him is his lack of experience; Toussaint did only start playing his sophomore year of high school, and his international background; while he is from the Caribbean, Haiti isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. Still, his arm is very loose and worth looking at, and having it in the same rotation as Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey would be scary.

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So this is part one. Stay tuned part 2, which is due to come out some time next week.

If Irony Were Made Of Strawberries…

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…Then I’d be eating a lot of smoothies right now. Yesterday’s post about first round picks who had yet to sign made casual mention that Kris Bryant would probably by one of the last first rounders to sign. Well, surprise surprise, Bryant has just signed a deal, and not just any deal. Thanks to Scott Boras, Bryant got the $6.7 Million he asked for. Bryant will likely report to either the Short-A Boise Hawks or the Low-A Kane County Cougars where he will begin his professional career. Bryant became the 30th of the 33 first rounders to sign, leaving only Miami’s Colin Moran, Toronto’s Phil Bickford, and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge as the remaining unsigned picks.

Bryant, who led the NCAA in home runs this year with 31, helped bring the University of San Diego into the Fullerton Regional of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to eventual champion UCLA.

Bryant projects as a decent hitter with excellent power, Defensively, Bryant’s arm is major league ready. Expect Bryant to make the major leagues by early 2015, with a possibly fall cameo next year.

Draft Grades: NL Central

After taking a two post break from draft grading, it’s time to grade the next division in terms of the draft picks. Remember, the top pick will be highlighted, along with four other intriguing prospects. Let’s get going.

Chicago Cubs: 

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First Pick: Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego (2)

Other Notable Picks:

Rob Zastryzny, Pitcher, Missouri (41)

Jacob Hennemann, OF, Brigham Young (75)

Tyler Skulina, Pitcher, Kent State (108)

Jeremy Martinez, Catcher, Mater Dei High School, California (1098)

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Chicago surprised a lot of people when they bypassed possibly the best college pitcher in an age in favor of the top hitter, Kris Bryant. Bryant, who led several NCAA hitting categories, helped transform the Toreros from an also-known, to a powerhouse. Bryant profiles as a corner infielder, and given the hitters that the Cubs have taken recently, like Javier Baez and Albert Almora, we could be seeing a bright future for the Cubs, at least offensively.

The Cubs nabbed two potential rotation pieces in Rob Zastryzny and Tyler SkulinaZastryzny is the latest in a long line of Missouri pitchers who have starting potential, while Skulina, who was instrumental in bringing Kent State to the College World Series, has ace or at least second starter potential. Skulina is actually the second Kent State ace to be drafted in three years, following the example of Andrew Chafin, who was chosen by Arizona in the 2011 draft.

You’ve heard of draft eligible sophomores? Say hello to one of the rare draft eligible freshmen. Jacob Hennemann is a Brigham Young outfielder who spent two years on a LDS mission. Henneman is an athlete, having also played on the Cougar football team. He’ll be an interesting project prospect if he signs, and could find himself as a solid fourth outfielder at the very least.

Jeremy Martinez  was an original first round (Or Competitive Balance) pick for me, but he dropped all the way to Day 3. Nonetheless, Martinez, who models his game after Albert Pujols, may be a tough sign, as he has a strong commitment to USC. If he is somehow convinced, Martinez could become one of the better hitting catchers that baseball has to offer, but if he commits, expect him to be a first rounder by 2016.

Chicago’s draft was interesting in the fact that not only did they grab the best college bat, but they picked up some solid pitching help. If the Cubs are planning on building from the ground, up, their past three drafts have shown that there is potential for this team to break the Curse.

Grade: A

Cincinnati Reds

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First Pick: Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford (27)

Other Notable Picks

Michael Lorenzen, OF/P, Cal State Fullerton (38)

Mark Armstrong, Pitcher, Clarence High School, New York (104)

Cory Thompson, SS/P, Mauldin High School, South Carolina (165)

Willie Abreu, OF, Mater Academy, Florida (435)

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Cincinnati must be planning on going back to playing old-school baseball, because Phil Ervin’s greatest asset, like top prospect Billy Hamilton, is his speed. Ervin profiles as a corner guy, but is a legitimate base stealing threat, and a potential complement to Hamilton in a still potent Reds lineup. The only question mark with Ervin is his size, as he’s smaller than the average outfielder.

Though he was announced as a pitcher, Cal State Fullerton’s Michael Lorenzen is more of an outfielder. He has the speed and the range to play center field, and has drawn comparisons to one Ryan Braun. Lorenzen can pitch, but as a reliever, as he served as the closer for the Titans. With Aroldis Chapman staying as the closer and Jonathan Broxton setting him up, it’s highly likely that Lorenzen will be joining Ervin and Hamilton in the outfield.

Stigmas in the MLB draft are common, in fact, one of the bigger ones is against baseball players from the Northeast. Cincy must have deliberately chosen to buck that trend, as their choice of Buffalo prep pitcher Mark Armstrong  hints at a potential bright spot. Thompson, who is an impressive athlete, has a basic array of pitches which he crafts to his advantage. Playing in the frigid Buffalo Climate may also give him an advantage especially in the earlier months.

Cory Thompson draws comparisons to Casey Kelly and 2013 draftee Trey Ball because of the unique situation that he’s in. He has no set position, yet he is equally strong as a pitcher and a shortstop. Given the Reds depth at the middle infield, Thompson may have his choice cut out for him as a pitcher.

One of the late round prospects that intrigues me the most is Mater Academy outfielder Willie Abreu. A former teammate of 2012 first round pick Albert Almora, Abreu has Almora’s power hitting capability. Abreu may be one of those late round gems who defies the odds and makes the majors, but if he does, considering the state of the Reds’ outfield, now and in the future, he may have to star on another team.

Overall, Cincinnati upgraded areas that they didn’t really need to upgrade, but the people they chose certainly have big name potential. It will be interesting to see how the team handles Lorenzen, and it will also be interesting to see how they adjust their lineup with two speedsters coming in the future.

Grade: B-

Milwaukee Brewers: 

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First Pick: Devin Williams: Pitcher, Hazelwood West High School, Missouri (54)

Other Notable Picks:

Tucker Neuhaus, Shortstop, Wharton High School, Florida (72)

Taylor Williams, Pitcher, Kent State (122)

Josh Uhen, Pitcher, Wisconsin-Milwaukee (152)

David Denson. 1B, South Hills High School, California (452)

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The Brewers used their first pick on prep pitcher Devin WilliamsWilliams, a pitcher from Hazelwood West High School, Williams used his upside to merit being taken in the second round, and outside of good speed on a fastball, he is a developmental pitcher at best right now. Williams has a toolbox, but the tools in it need fine tuning if he wants to be a potential Brewers starter. Expect him to be in the minors a good long time before he is ready.

Tucker Neuhaus had a rough year, with a burst eardrum, and a death in the family, but apparently that didn’t pull him down too far, as he managed to get plenty of attention. Neuhaus is a toolsy hitter with a good amount of contact and power. Though he is a shortstop now, expect him to move to third as he should fit better at that position. Neuhaus could be another well-developed starter who could impress a good amount of people.

The Brewers managed to get a good handful of high ceiling college relievers in the early portion of the draft, but none stand out like Kent State’s Taylor Williams and Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Josh Uhen. Williams, who like Tyler Skulina pitched for the 2012 College World Series team, may not be cut out to be a starter considering the fact that he’s less than six feet. Williams has a delivery that could serve him well coming out of a bullpen. Uhen, on the other hand, came off of Tommy John surgery and showed no signs of adaptational struggling. Uhen can throw in the high 90’s, and could be a future closer for the Brewers if he impresses in the minors.

Prince Fielder may be long gone, but the Brewers may just have the cheap(er) replacement they need for him a fear years down the road. David Denson has the power to be a cleanup hitter, after all, he did hit a 500 foot home run in Miami in a power showcase, so one can possibly guess that Denson may find himself at the heart of any lineup in the future. I say that it may be cheaper to sign Denson, but he may still require a decent sum of money for him to avoid going to the University of Hawaii.

Normally, if a team does not have a first round pick, you can’t find a lot of good reasons to praise their draft, but the Brewers did manage to pull together a string of decent picks. Nonetheless, losing your first round pick to sign Kyle Lohse is inexcusable, and drops the Brewers a few points.

Grade: C+

Pittsburgh Pirates:

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First Picks: Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School, Georgia, and Reese McGuire, Catcher, Kentwood High School (9, 13)

Other Notable Picks:

Blake Taylor, Pitcher, Dana Hills High School, California (51)

JaCoby Jones, OF, LSU (87)

Buddy Borden, Pitcher, UNLV (209)

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The Pirates are no stranger to picking big names in the draft. While history has shown that they favor collegians, the occasional big name high schooler can be too important to pass up, and in this case, the Pirates snatched two of the biggest names. Austin Meadows was considered the first of the two big Georgia prep stars, along with close friend Clint Frazier. He’s a high ceiling outfielder with raw country power, and he is a rare high school 5 tool guy. Meadows may be one of the best prep outfielders in any draft class, and in such a weak draft like this one, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to be considered the best bat this draft. As for Reese McGuire, he came from what was considered a deep catching class which included the likes of Nick Ciuffo, Victor Caratini, and Andrew Knapp. McGuire gained a lot of national exposure playing for Team USA’s U18 squad. McGuire has decent hitting ability, but it his defense that had scouts crooning for him. McGuire is a special catcher who could be the long term answer a few years down the road.

The Pirates didn’t waste time in getting a solid prep arm in the second round. Blake Taylor, a California lefty, had generated some interest. Armed with a low 90’s fastball that can hit a mid 90’s tick at times, as well as a basic curve, Taylor could be a good developmental prospect. The only knock on him is the fact that his tertiary pitch, a change up, has barely been used and is underdeveloped. Taylor will be a developmental prospect, who, in all likelihood, could find himself at the back end of the Pirates rotation by 2018.

In a draft class that was generally weak in terms of middle infield talent, the Pirates may have pulled off a steal in taking LSU’s JaCoby Jones. Jones, who also is an outfielder, is a jack-of-all-trades type player. He flashes some speed a certain degree of hitting ability, and has no real position. In some ways, he could be considered another Jack Wilson, a lunch pail infielder who held the fort down at Pittsburgh for many years. Jones could find himself doing this if a position, any position at all, opens up.

Arizona Diamondbacks first rounder Braden Shipley may have gotten all the attention this collegiate season, but thanks to an equally impressive performance by rival Buddy Borden, he had to share the Mountain West Pitcher of the Year award. Borden may have not gotten the same degree of recognition, but the fact that he played his home games in Las Vegas, which is a deathbed for pitchers, shows that he could have some flashes of greatness. He has a low to mid 90’s fastball, as well as solid curveball-changeup combo. Borden may be the first Pirates draftee from the 2013 class to make the majors, and if he does, he’ll be a solid long reliever/spot starter.

I liked what the Pirates did in the first half of the draft. They took high profile names, and drafted solid filler talent. This could be one of Pittsburgh’s better drafts, and Neal Huntington clearly deserves a round of applause.

Grade: A

St. Louis Cardinals:

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First Picks: Marco Gonzales, Pitcher, Gonzaga, and Rob Kaminsky, Pitcher, St, Joseph Regional High School, New Jersey (19, 28)

Other Notable Picks:

Oscar Mercado, Shortstop, Vivian Gaither High School, Florida (57)

Mason Katz, 2B, LSU (125)

Chris Rivera, Shortstop, El Dorado High School, California (215)

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The Cardinals continued their draft strategy of taking college pitchers, only this time, they went with southpaws. Gonzaga’s Marco Gonzales is a nasty lefthander from a mid major conference. Armed with a four pitch repertoire, as well as a solid bat, Gonzales has the ability to pitch deep into games, and if the game is going tough, win them by himself. As for Rob Kaminsky, he certainly can pitch, as his stuff is well developed for high school, and his command is there, but it’s durability that serves as the big question mark. If Kaminsky can develop the ability to stay late into games, the Cardinals might have another Shelby Miller-type prep star on their hands.

The Cardinals concluded their notable picks with three middle infielders: Oscar Mercado, who has almost no hitting ability but can play shortstop like Omar Vizquel in his prime, Mason Katz, who can hit, but has been moved around the diamond a lot, and really has no true position, and Chris Rivera, who garnered national attention as a tween baseball player, and is known best for his power. Given that the Cardinals middle infield is set for the duration, if anyone were to really make a difference in fighting for a Cardinals roster spot, it probably would be Mercado, who some thought was a first round talent. Katz probably is your typical utility bench bat, someone who can score late in the game, and if Rivera is going anywhere, it’s probably college, so that he can improve his draft stock three years down the line.

I liked the Cardinals picks in the first round, and the middle infielders that they chose had been whispered, but all in all, it really wasn’t one of the best drafts for the team. Gonzales will likely be one of the earliest first rounders to reach the majors, but other than that, this class has a long way to go before it can be considered a true success or failure.

Grade: C

Next up, the NL West.

2013 MLB Mock Draft: Top Thirteen (Part 1 of 3)

The MLB Draft is less than two months away. With that in mind, it’s time to put on my Draft Cap, act like Mel Kiper Jr. and make my predictions as to which prospects are going where. But rather than doing an entire mock draft, I’m splitting it into three posts. The first round, which includes the new compensation round and competitive balance lottery picks, is 39 picks long. It begins with the Houston Astros and ends with the Detroit Tigers. It has been said that this year’s class is considered weak compared to previous ones as aside from Stanford ace and former Pirates pick Mark Appel, nobody stands out as a consensus number one selection. Regardless, I relish the challenge and will take a shot at determining who goes where. The general idea here is that the picks will be either best player available or by weakest position in farm system. Here we go.

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1. Houston Astros: Mark Appel, Pitcher, Stanford

Mark Appel and first overall draft choice are two phrases that have been used in the same sentence before. Last year, it was almost certain that the Astros were going for the big Stanford ace, but they ultimately decided that prep shortstop Carlos Correa would be a better investment as a top pick. That being said, Appel did not sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that did draft him, and ultimately returned to Stanford. In a relatively weak class like this one, Appel is a certainty. He has top pick written all over him, especially with the mid 90’s fastball that scouts have continually gushed over. Appel seems to also be a top candidate for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to college baseball’s best player as well. If the Astros are willing to give Appel the money that he asks for, expect him to be an anchor in an up-and-coming rotation.

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2. Chicago Cubs: Sean Manaea, Pitcher, Indiana State

The NFL Draft has Workout Warriors, the NBA Draft has Tournament Stars, and Major League Baseball has Cape Cod Kings. This is the name given to baseball players who play in summer leagues and excel, raising their draft stock for that sole reason. Sean Manaea became the latest CCK when he registered a 5-1 record and a 1.22 ERA. The Indiana State product had previously not garnered much attention, but with the Summer league and a high-90’s velocity on his fastball, the Cubs will likely abandon their latest draft tradition of drafting high ceiling high school position players in favor of Manaea, who draws a comparison to a left handed Matt Harvey.

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3. Colorado Rockies: Austin Meadows, Outfield/First Baseman, Grayson High School, Georgia

Last year, the Rockies selected one of the biggest sleeper picks in Oak Mountain High School outfielder David Dahl. Expect them to do something similar this year with Grayson High School’s Austin Meadows. While Meadows’ primary position is outfield, Colorado could move him to first base and have him develop as an infielder throughout his minor league career. Meadows, like Dahl is a plus hitter with some speed. Whereas the humid Georgia air had a dampening effect on Meadows’ power, if drafted by the Rockies, Meadows could become one of the best hitters in baseball.

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4. Minnesota Twins: Jon Denney, Catcher, Yukon High School, Oklahoma

The last time the Twins selected a high profile prep catcher in the first round, his name was Joe Mauer, and he soon became one of the best catchers in baseball. Minnesota’s catching depth behind Drew Butera is suspect, and unless the Twins are content with having him or Ryan Doumit serve as Mauer’s successor when he retires or moves to another position, Oklahoma’s Jon Denney will likely be the best choice for the Twins. Denney is like Mauer in a lot of ways. He has power in his bat, and is a defensive asset. He certainly will fit in with Minnesota’s recent philosophy of drafting high ceiling prep products, as evidenced by last year’s selections of Byron Buxton and J.O Berrios.

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5. Cleveland Indians: Kris Bryant, Third Baseman, San Diego

College baseball players take less time to develop, and Cleveland has opted to go that route before, especially with last year’s pick of Tyler Naquin. In Bryant, the team not only gets a dependable third baseman but also a legitimate power threat, perfect for Progressive Field’s dimensions. While the team does already have a third baseman in Lonnie Chisenhall and a power threat in Mark Reynolds, Bryant is a better hitter than Chisenhall and doesn’t strike out as much as Reynolds. In addition, Chisenhall would be more valuable as a trade chip anyway. Bryant should be at the top of Cleveland’s board, especially since he is the fourth best player available.

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6. Miami Marlins: DJ Peterson, First Baseman, New Mexico

Miami’s biggest weakness in their minor league system is first base, and the draft is relatively weak in that position. Fortunately, there is at least one college first baseman who could fit in the Marlin future. DJ Peterson may be a reach right now, but if he can repeat what he did in the summer leagues and Team USA, his stock should rise exponentially. Peterson also has power, as he was Team USA’s best hitter over the summer. That could translate well in the cavernous Marlins Park. It will certainly be interesting to see him, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton in the same lineup.

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7. Boston Red Sox: Ryne Stanek, Pitcher, Arkansas

The MLB Draft has its fair share of tumblers, players that are projected to go high but fall down. Usually, its money, sometimes its injury related, sometimes it’s both. Ryne Stanek is a tumbler because of injuries and possible demands of a high contract. Stanek is projected as the top pitcher in some drafts, and in some cases, he could go as high as first overall. While he does have the talent, the teams that do pick before Boston are usually not at a luxury to spend high on draft picks. Boston is an ideal destination as the Red Sox have a top rotation in the making with Matt Barnes and Henry Owens coming up. Expect Stanek to be a solid second or third starter in Boston’s rotation.

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8. Kansas City Royals: Jonathan Gray, Pitcher, Oklahoma

Like Sean Manaea, Jonathan Gray has risen quickly up draft boards. Kansas City should take a look at him because of his ability to throw 100+ miles per hour. While the Royals do have a solid cache of pitchers in their arsenal already, Gray could be used in any aspect. Prospects2pros envisions Gray as a closer for the Royals, especially with his speed and his pitch arsenal. In addition, with the Wil Myers trade taking away two of the Royals’ top pitching prospects, Gray could become Kansas City’s first big pitching star since Zach Greinke.

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9. Pittsburgh Pirates (Compensation for inability to sign Mark Appel): Chris Anderson, Pitcher, Jacksonville University

The Pirates are not big on selecting small school prospects, (see Alvarez, Pedro, Cole, Gerrit, Appel, Mark, Taillon, Jameson) but in Chris Anderson, the team may just have to go around that bias and take a hard look. Anderson compares to fellow draftmate Jonathon Crawford in size, pitch speed, and athletic ability, but unlike the University of Florida ace, Anderson has a lot more to gain, especially after facing stiffer competition. Considering the last small-school Florida college star (Chris Sale) has done a lot for himself since being drafted, getting a guy like Anderson could catapult the Pirates pitching rotation to the top.

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10: Toronto Blue Jays: Clint Frazier, Outfield, Loganville High School, Georgia

If Austin Meadows were to lose two inches and ten pounds, curl his hair and dye it orange, learn to bat and throw righthanded, and transfer to Loganville High School, then people would probably say that the two were separated at birth. Frazier is a bit undersized for an outfielder, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in ability. As previously mentioned, Frazier and Meadows are similar talents, and in a hitters park like the Rogers Centre, Frazier could make the most out of Toronto.

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11. New York Mets: Phillip Ervin, Outfield, Samford

Even if the Mets’ outfield is performing better than expected, Sandy Alderson should seriously use the 11th pick on a college outfielder with a high ceiling, especially since the team still lacks a true leadoff man. In Phillip Ervin, the Mets are getting some of the fastest legs in the draft, as well as a bat that can hit ten to fifteen home runs in a good year. Like Clint Frazier, however, he is undersized, and like Chris Anderson, he hasn’t had the benefit of playing for a major college program, but in a place like Citi Field, Ervin will certainly thrive for years to come.

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12. Seattle Mariners: Colin Moran, Third Baseman, North Carolina

Seattle has made plenty of investments in SEC and ACC players in the past few years, like Josh Fields, Dustin Ackley, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and most recently, Mike Zunino. Don’t expect them to buck the trend this year, especially if Colin Moran is still on the board. Moran, the nephew of former first overall pick BJ Surhoff, has the ability to spray hits around the park and his defensive capability make him an ideal candidate to play in Seattle’s infield with fellow Tar Heels alum Ackley. His power would be ideal for the newly shifted Safeco Field, and he would be a solid fast track developer.

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13. San Diego Padres: JP Crawford, Shortstop, Lakewood High School, California

San Diego’s recent trend of drafting long term projects could suit them here, especially with a premier talent like JP Crawford still on the board. Crawford is similar to current shortstop Everth Cabrera, but he has more offensive capability. Crawford garnered nation attention in the Under Armour Showcases during the summer, and scouts feel that he will develop into a Jeter-like shortstop. If the Padres get Crawford and he matures correctly, they could have one of the top left infields in baseball by the end of the decade.