Tagged: Cleveland Indians

2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: Part 3 of 4

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

15. Atlanta Braves

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

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

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

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

16. Milwaukee Brewers

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

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

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

17. New York Yankees

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

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

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

18. Cleveland Indians

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

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

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

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

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

19. San Francisco Giants

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

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

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

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

20. Pittsburgh Pirates

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

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

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

21. Oakland Athletics

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

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

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

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

 

What becomes of NCAA Perfect Game Pitchers?

University of Miami senior Javi Salas became only the 23rd pitcher to throw a perfect game in college baseball history. Salas went the full nine innings in a 17-0 drubbing of Villanova. The game had a human interest element as his brother Jorge Salas was in the broadcast booth and had the honor of calling his brother’s perfecto.

Salas joins a rare company of Division One pitchers who have thrown a perfect game in college; only 22 others have done so, the exact same amount of perfect games thrown in Major League baseball. Salas’ perfect game was the first one since UVA’s Will Roberts tossed one against George Washington almost two years prior. Part of the difficulty in throwing a perfect game in college (prior to Roberts’ perfect game, the last one was thrown in 2003 by Ohio State alum Greg Prenger. against Oakland (Michigan)), may be attributed to the increased offense that came with the introduction of supercharged metal bats. While the metal bat was introduced in 1974 to NCAA baseball, the estimation was 1988 when the supercharged metal bat era began. Incidentally it was the year prior that two perfect games, thrown by Memphis’ Mark Bowlan and Miami’s Kevin Sheary were thrown. Post Bowlan, a total of 8 perfect games were thrown, with the closest time between games being 381 days.

The focus however of this article is what happens to the pitchers who throw these perfect games. Did any go on to become all-stars? Major Leaguers? Drafted?

Here is the list of Division One Collegians that have thrown a perfect game as well as the year they did it. Note that all pictures are of players in college uniforms:

* indicates a 7 inning perfect game, ** indicates a 5 inning perfect game

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2014: Javi Salas (University of Miami)

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2011: Will Roberts (University of Virginia)

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2003: Greg Prenger (Ohio State University)*

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2002: Eric Brandon (Auburn University)

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2000: Chad Blackwell (University of Iowa) *

1997: John Stewart (Western Michigan University) *

1996: Chris McConnell (St. Francis University)

1991: Jason Johnson (Auburn University) *

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1987: Mark Bowlan (University of Memphis)

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1987: Kevin Sheary (University of Miami)

1980: Cliff Faust (University of Nebraska) *

1980: Joe Housey (University of New Orleans) *

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1973: Joe McIntosh (Washington State University) *

1972: Jim Jacobsen (Oklahoma State University) **

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Photo Courtesy of William Balfoort. I kid you not.

1971: Bill Balfoort (SUNY Buffalo) *

1971: Larry Angell (Washington State University) *

1968: Rick Austin (Washington State University) *

1967: Bruce Baudier (Louisiana State University) *

1967: Larry Gonsalves (Fresno State University)

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1965: Bob Schauenberg (University of Iowa)

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1965: George Dugan (Murray State University)

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1963: Don Woeltjen (University of Georgia)

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1959: Dick Reitz (University of Maryland)

If you had no idea who any of these pitchers were, don’t be disappointed. Out of the 23, only one went on to pitch in the Majors: Washington State’s Rick Austin. And if you think Austin had a long and prosperous career as a major leaguer, think again. Austin spent parts of four seasons pitching for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers. His best season was his rookie season in 1971 when he went 2-5 with a 4.79 ERA, three saves and 53 strikeouts.

It’s not to say that none of the following didn’t go on to play baseball, in fact all but 6 were drafted to play. However, only one is currently playing professionally, Roberts, who’s in the Indians’ system and finished the previous season in Double-A. Roberts in all likelihood will be pitching for the Indians Triple-A team after spring training, and with his 24th birthday not until August, He does have a chance to pitch for the big league club at the rate he’s going, but in no way is Roberts an elite prospect, and in all likelihood, he’ll be a solid long reliever/spot starter.

Going back to the most recent perfect game pitcher, Salas, it’s likely he will be drafted, but not in a high round. Perhaps he’ll labor through the minor leagues, but unless he absolutely dominates, I see no reason that he makes a major league roster. College seniors come with an accelerated clock, meaning their window of opportunity closes a lot faster than a college junior. Unless the collegian is a reliever or a really bona fide early round draft pick, like Mark Appel, there is almost no reason to put stock in them.

So to answer the question, what becomes of NCAA perfect game pitchers, it’s quite simple: almost nothing. Sure, they get a weekly award from their conference, are enshrined in their school’s athletic hall of fame, maybe if they’re lucky, also the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and they most likely get drafted, but unless they’re really good, that college no-hitter is probably going to be the high point in their athletic career.

Was Ubaldo Jimenez worth forfeiting the 17th overall pick?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was it worth it though?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. Indians: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU

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

23. Dodgers: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State

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

24. Tigers: Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville

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

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

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

26. Athletics: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

2013 MLB Draft: Looking at the top returning picks

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Prospects2Pros has made it very clear that one of the highlights of this blog will be the MLB draft. But with the draft a couple months away, and with college baseball heading into the midpoint of the season, I have decided to take the first of many looks at the draft. To start, I will focus on three players who were already drafted in the first round, but elected to stay in school. 

Today, I began by following a bunch of prospects and draft experts on twitter, among them, former 2nd overall pick Jameson Taillon, and the official MLB draft twitter feed, as well as MLB.com prospect writer Jonathan Mayo, whose rankings serve as the basis of my top 100 prospect mini-profiles. Mayo had sent out a tweet saying that he would be answering questions about the draft, so being the nut that I am, I felt compelled to ask the following question:

Mayo responded rather quickly with this:

Now, unless you are a draft nut like I am, you will have no idea who those two players are, so I will provide some exposition. 

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Karsten Whitson and Dylan Covey are two former first round picks. Whitson was a highly touted arm out of high school, who was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft by the San Diego Padres, while Covey also was a highly touted arm who was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers who was drafted in the same year. 

Whitson elected to go to the University of Florida, where he spent the next two years contributing to the continued success of the program, while also contributing to the team’s 2011 College World Series Final appearance, the first one to be held in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, which had replaced the old Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. Whitson unfortunately missed the entire 2013 season with shoulder surgery, and, as Mayo stated, is unlikely to be another first round pick. 

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Covey, on the other hand, decided to go to college because of a recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. He then spent the next three years pitching for the University of San Diego Toreros, the same school that former first rounder Brian Matusz attended. As Mayo said, it is uncertain if Covey will be a first round pick. 

Covey and Whitson would cross paths once again, this time pitching in the Cape Cod League for the Orleans Firebirds in 2012, and they would contribute to the team that made the semifinals of the Cape Cod League playoffs. 

The other player who is a former first round draft choice is Stanford ace Mark Appel. Appel famously turned down a lucrative offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates under the advice of his agent, Scott Boras. He is projected to be the first overall pick in the 2013 draft. You may also recall that Appel’s actions caused the Mets to lose out of Michael Bourn, allowing him to sign with the Cleveland Indians 

My general feelings about these three players are that Appel will be taken with the first pick in the draft, and Covey may go as high as the sandwich round, while Whitson decides to wait another year and attempt to challenge NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon and Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede for the top pick in the draft. We will see how things go until then.