Tagged: Miami Marlins

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.

 

 

 

Why the Marlins and Major League Baseball are wrong to fine Boston

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Spring Training is essentially a lot of nothing: players getting in shape by actually playing baseball against minor leaguers, prospects being highlighted as the potential future without much consequence, the usual golf, fishing, maybe some joking around.

However, no one apparently sent the memo to the Miami Marlins, who after a game against the Boston Red Sox, filed a grievance alleging that the Sox, a champion organization cheated both Miami and its fans by fielding a lineup of minor leaguers, save for Jackie Bradley. The Marlins had hoped for the actual championship team, and had thus inflated ticket prices.

The Red Sox responded with a personal tweet from owner John Henry which read as follows:

Major League Baseball responded by fining the Red Sox a small amount, but that small amount was way too much for an “offense” like not fielding a lineup of regulars during a spring training game. In fact, the logic behind the fine was that the Red Sox needed to put “at least four major leaguers, or players with a good shot at a major league roster spot” in the lineup.

This is stupidity to the nth degree; a team should have every right to field whomever they want in their lineup and shouldn’t have to acquiesce just because another team expects them to. In fact, what would have happened had the Red Sox done it, then gradually substituted the starters out? Would they have called the game?

A year ago, the San Antonio Spurs were fined for opting not to let their starters play in a game against the Miami Heat. Coahc Gregg Popovich defended the action as a means to let his star players, all except for one are above the age of 30, get a well deserved rest. Then-commissioner David Stern fined the team because according to him, the benching was not “In the best interests of basketball”.

Professional sports are a corporation by and large, but star players do deserve rest and should not be forced to play because of marketability. Granted, Popovich should have mentioned that he needed to rest his starters to avoid injury, but still, players are human beings as well.

The Marlins and Major League Baseball should be ashamed too. For one, Miami exploited fans by driving up prices for that one particular game. For another, Major League Baseball sided with the same team that has been viewed as having the worst management, is the prime example of a team entirely dependent on fire sales which gut the team of talent in return for players who may or may not pan out, who swindled the Miami taxpayers into building a stadium with public funds with the promise that a championship team would play there, only to sell off the championship pieces a year later, in short, it’s downright despicable and it shows the darker side of business in baseball.

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.

2014 Top 100 Prospects: NL East

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

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

Atlanta Braves: 

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

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

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

@LSims_

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

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Bethancourt: Signed as an international free agent in 2008.

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

@ChristianBeth27

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

Miami Marlins:

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

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

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

@Heandog8

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

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

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

@CMOran18

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

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

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

@JSMarisnick

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

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

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

@J_Nicolino22

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

New York Mets: 

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

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

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

@Noahsyndergaard

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

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

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

@TdArnaud

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

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Montero: Signed as an international free agent in 2011.

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

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

Philadelphia Phillies:

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

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Franco: Signed as international free agent in 2010

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

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

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

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

@jessebiddle_54

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

Washington Nationals:

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

Lucas-Giolito

 

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

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

@LGio27

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

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

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

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

 

Instant Replay or Incessant Pain? A look at progressivism vs. purism in baseball

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Yesterday, MLB owners approved the expansion of Instant Replay in baseball, meaning that more calls would be reviewable, like fair/foul, safe/out, basically it’s a lot more than the initial home run rulings in 2008. Also included in this overhaul is the manager’s right to challenge, like in the case of NFL head coaches. Managers would get two challenges, which could be used from innings 1-7. with any further calls to be handled at the umpire’s discretion.

Now, depending on who you are, you either find this to be a major improvement, like Bruce Bochy and Max Scherzer, or the equivalent of going to the dentist for a root canal, like many sportswriters had predicted.

 

My guess is if you’re one of those fans who feel that your team is constantly jilted by bad calls, this may just give your team a few extra wins. Maybe also if you’re a technophile, you are intrigued by how the integration of computers will affect such a pastoral game. And to be honest, good for you. You know that the sports world has been changing for years. You saw it in football, then in basketball, then in hockey, and soccer and tennis, and pretty much every sport under the sun, it was about time that baseball adapted to modern times, after all, this is the big four league that has gone the longest without adding an expansion franchise, was the last to add a league-centric network, was the last to adopt interleague play, let alone year long interleague play, and has two teams that play in ballparks that predate World War I. So clearly, this is a victory in your mind.

On the other side are the purists, and to be completely honest, you have to feel for them. I’m talking more about the pre-1970 purists, those who feel that the game has been watered down by the three divisions in each league, the introduction of the Wild card as well as the expanded wild card, the decision to make the All-star game a deciding factor for home field advantage in the World Series. Those who feel that Florida and Arizona were only meant to be Spring Training sites, not homes to major league teams, domed and retractable roof ballparks, and of course, the dreaded designated hitter. They feel that there should be a human element in the game, that umpires have a right to make a mistake once in a while, and that the inclusion of the replay system clearly undermines the umpire’s authority and destroys one of the cultural hallmarks of a pastime, making it more serious than it should be.

If I were to put myself onto any side, I’d probably label myself as a progressive baseball fan with a few purist leanings. By the time I became a fan in 2002, the three division per league concept had been the norm for almost a decade, interleague play was in its fifth year, the wild card had started to gain a certain degree of relevancy, thanks in part to the Florida Marlins 1997 title as well as the Wild World Series of 2002. A year prior, the Diamondbacks had proven that being an expansion team was not an excuse to get high draft picks, and the retractable roof ballpark was a great way for fans to enjoy baseball without the pain of a rain delay. I love the World Baseball Classic, and the idea of globalizing the National Pastime. Every time I see a player who comes from a new country, I’m impressed that he’s managed to make it out of his country’s culture into ours. It’s fascinating.

However, for all of the progressive things that I liked, there were things that I disliked. When the All-Star game format was changed in 2003, I saw it as stupid, even if I had only had seen the dreaded 2002 game which ended in a tie. I found that steroid testing was ridiculous, and instant replay as a way of saying that umpires were too stupid to make the right call. I find that a lot of contracts these days are starting to get out of hand and teams are paying dearly for last year’s statistical output. I find mascots to be cheap and stupid ways to entertain kids who clearly shouldn’t be at games if their attention can’t be held for more than five minutes (this is sad, as our generation seems to gravitate towards that trend more and more each passing day). I dislike teams trying to go back to minimalist looks with generic roundel logos instead of carving their own identities (I’m referring to the Indians, Pirates, Padres, Nationals, you get the point). I hate how people are starting to mix politics with sports, like the Chief Wahoo debate, and I really can’t talk to anyone who forces the newfangled sabrmetric inventions like UZR and WAR on me Just leave me with my old fashioned stats and scouting reports, and I’ll be fine.

But that doesn’t answer the question fully, What about this new form of Instant Replay?

First of all, I did make a legitimate gripe against instant replay in my purist rant. I feel that it demeans the umpire. The umpire is a human being after all, and is bound to make mistakes. Granted, some of those mistakes are bound to get him blacklisted by a certain team’s fans, see Don Denkinger and the Cardinals, Jim Joyce and the Tigers, Jerry Meals and the Pirates, but if you really feel that you need to kill an umpire or do him bodily harm for making a mistake, then you are a sad excuse for a human being. Nobody’s perfect, mind you, and life isn’t fair. If you feel that the only way to get rid of that disappointment is to exact Hammurabi’s Code on that person who screwed you over, then you really have issues. I’ll admit that I’m a technophile. I like jumbotrons in stadiae, sue me. I’m inclined to check my fantasy team once every three innings during a game. I’ll tweet during a game or post a Facebook status. But in regards to the instant replay, I feel that that’s going too far. What about those teams that do benefit from the miscalls? Would the Marlins have won the Series in 1997 if Livan Hernandez didn’t have the strike zone he did? Would the Royals have managed to claw back in 1985 if Denkinger hadn’t made that call? And for the teams that feel that they were screwed by bad calls. Would Armando Galarraga have had a great major league career if Jim Joyce had called Jason Donald out? Would the Orioles have gone on to become a dynasty if Jeffery Maier hadn’t stuck his glove over the Yankee Stadium fence?

There are bad calls, and then there are egregiously bad calls. We saw this in 2012 in football, when the replacement referees screwed the Green Bay Packers and unintentionally made Russell Wilson into a star and the Seahawks into America’s favorite team. Would Russell Wilson won Rookie of the Year and led Seattle to the playoffs if Ed Hochuli’s crew had refereed that game?

The point is, there is a time for progressivism in sport, and there’s a time to criticize referees and umpires for making a mistake, but to undermine their authority by letting a soulless robot do the judging is clearly overstepping a boundary. It’s a big mistake, and it’s going to hurt baseball, not because it will be time consuming but it erodes at the pastoral aspect of the game.

 

Draft Grades: NL East

We continue our post-draft coverage by grading each team’s draft, going division by division, starting off with the NL East. Each team’s first pick will be highlighted, as well as four other prospects that have caught my eye. I will analyze, then offer a final statement and grade on each team’s draft.

Atlanta Braves: 

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First Pick: Jason Hursh, Pitcher, Oklahoma State (pick 31)

Other Notable Picks:

Victor Caratini, Catcher, Miami Dade CC (65)

Kyle Wren, CF, Georgia Tech (253)

Stephen Wrenn, OF, Walton High School, Georgia (853)

Jacob Heyward, RF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy, Georgia (1153)

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Atlanta’s decision to add a collegiate pitcher in Jason Hursh is a make-or-break pick here. While Hursh is armed with a mid 90’s fastball, he did come off of Tommy John surgery, which is common among this batch of Atlanta Braves hurlers. Still, Oklahoma State is starting to shy away from its hitter image in favor of becoming a pitching farm.

Victor Caratini, the JuCo catcher, could be a solid defensive asset who can play many positions. While his primary position is catcher, he can play third base, a position that is being temporarily held by Chris Johnson.

The Braves did find an intriguing trio of outfielders from Georgia, in Kyle Wren, who is GM Frank Wren’s son, Stephen Wrenn, who came from the same Georgia prep system as Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, and Jacob Heyward, the brother of current Braves star Jason Heyward. While it is unlikely that Wrenn and Heyward will sign, Wren could find himself as a solid backup in the Braves organization.

Overall, Atlanta’s draft wasn’t exactly littered with high profile talent, and with the team giving up their first round pick to sign the slumbering giant that is BJ Upton, it doesn’t look like this draft will pay off for them. Hursh may find himself on the Braves’ pitching staff as early as 2015, but aside from that, nothing special

Grade: C-

Miami Marlins:

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First Pick: Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina (6)

Other Notable Picks:

Matt Krook, Pitcher, St. Ignatius College Prep, California (35)

Trevor Williams, Pitcher, Arizona State (44)

Colby Suggs, Pitcher, Arkansas (73)

Chad Wallach, Catcher, Cal State Fullerton (142)

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Nobody expected Colin Moran to go to Miami at #6, especially with New Mexico first baseman DJ Peterson on the board, but Miami pulled it off. Moran, the nephew of BJ Surhoff, a former first overall pick, has the bat and the glove to be a solid contributor, if not a superstar, for the Marlins once they reach pinnacle mode again.

Matt Krook is an intriguing high school arm. A lefty with low to mid 90’s speed, he’s not exactly a big stamina guy, but his size and arm slot have drawn favorable reviews from scouts. Krook will take years to develop, provided he signs, but if he makes it through the system, he could be the next big Marlins pitcher, after Josh Beckett, Josh Johnson, and Jose Fernandez.

The Marlins grabbed some relief pitching that could contribute early in Trevor Williams and Colby Suggs. Williams profiles as a contact pitcher who will miss a few bats occasionally, while Suggs, who served as Arkansas’ closer, could do some major damage in terms of his pitches. Suggs could end up as a September call-up, while waiting maybe three years to become the permanent closer.

Tim Wallach, a former All-American, first round pick, Gold Glove winner, and Silver Slugger, must have been proud when his son Chad was drafted. The younger Wallach has some hitting ability combined with solid defensive skills. He may not be a starter like his dad, but could find himself as a dependable backup in the future, especially if Rob Brantly goes and Kyle Skipworth still hasn’t panned out.

Miami’s draft was littered with big names and possible contributors. Moran’s ceiling indicates that he could be another Dustin Ackley or David Wright, while his floor indicates he could be like his uncle. Pitching was a must-need in Miami and most of their picks were used to bolster a system that could use a few more good arms. Judging by the talent that is coming in, this could serve to be one of the best drafts the Marlins have in a long time.

Grade: A

New York Mets 

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First Pick: Dominic Smith, 1B, Serra High School, California (11)

Other Notable picks:

Andrew Church, Pitcher, Basic High School, Nevada (48)

Ivan Wilson, OF, Ruston High School, Louisiana (76)

LJ Mazzilli, 2B, Uconn, (116)

Jared King, OF, Kansas State (146)

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In the weeks leading up to the draft, the speculation was that Sandy Alderson was finally going to address the outfield problem with the first pick he had. Turns out that was not it at all, as first baseman Dominic Smith was picked instead. Smith, while not an outfielder, was regarded as one of the best prep hitters in the draft, some would say better than the two Georgia outfielders that were taken before him. Smith, who was drafted because he was the best player available, will not be ready until 2017, but when he is, Ike Davis, who has yet to show that he is over his disastrous 2012 start, will likely be moved.


Alderson pulled another shocker when he took Nevada prepster Andrew Church in the second round. The pick was clearly based on potential, as Church hasn’t played a full season of baseball since his freshman season, and spent his high school career on three different teams, including one where he had an argument with his team’s coach. Church’s potential should be monitored, as he has the tools to be a mid-rotation arm, but he may honor his commitment to the University of San Diego in order to build up his resume and be picked three years later.

The outfield help came in the third round, as the Mets used their compensation pick from the loss of Teddy Stankiewicz to draft Ruston High School outfielder Ivan Wilson. Wilson has projectable power, but is somewhat raw and still needs to develop more if he wants to be part of the Mets outfield in the future.

A familiar name came to the Mets in the fourth round when the team drafted former first rounder Lee Mazzilli’s son, LJ. LJ is a mold of Daniel Murphy, as a hitter with little power but able to spray to all fields. He could probably find himself in a Justin Turner type role as early as 2014, but he won’t get as much playing time as his father, as long as Murphy holds his own at second base.

Probably the fastest player in the Mets 2013 draft class to make the majors could be Kansas State outfielder Jared King. King won’t be joining the team until Kansas State is finished with their season, and with the Wildcats on the verge of making the journey to Omaha, that will be a while. Still, King was drafted as a hitter as his ability as a contact and power hitter have shown, and given the team’s horrendous outfield situation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he makes the Mets as early as 2014.

In conclusion, the Mets made some curious choices in Smith and Church, but afterwards, the team started making choices that made some degree of sense. Smith may become another Darryl Strawberry, and King may be a name to be considered in the future. Sandy used his draft to remedy some situations that needed to be fixed. Hopefully it will turn out that he once again has made solid picks.

Grade: B

Philadelphia Phillies: 

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First Pick: JP Crawford, Shortstop, Lakewood High School, California (16)

Other Notable Picks:

Andrew Knapp, Catcher, California (53)

Cord Sandberg OF, Manatee High School, Florida (89)

Trey Williams, 3B, College Of the Canyons (211)

Cavan Biggio, Utility, St. Thomas High School, Texas (871)

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It’s about time the Phillies took a shortstop to replace Jimmy Rollins. The second oldest starting shortstop in the big leagues, (oldest if you don’t count Jeter on the disabled list) will be 35 in November. Thankfully, JP Crawford stood out in a weak middle infield class and should take the reigns as soon as Rollins retires. Crawford is a defensive standout who has some hitting ability and speed. His athleticism was constantly dissected, even months before the draft. Crawford has the chance to continue the tradition of all-star caliber Phillies infielders.

Though there were several other options in terms of prep catchers, Andrew Knapp, the California backstop intrigued Philly the most. While Carlos Ruiz still has plenty of time, Knapp  is a solid hitter, but an excellent defender. It will be interesting to see if he could find himself fighting for the backup, and then possibly the starting role in the future.

Trey Williams stands out as a highly touted infielder who had first round potential.While not drafted as high as he wanted, the CotC third baseman still has talent that could land him in the big leagues in the future, namely his hitting ability.

One of the biggest day 3 surprises in the draft was seeing Cavan Biggio, son of Craig, not go to Houston, like his father did, but rather to Philadelphia. Biggio, who has no set position, yet can hit and run like his father, however, will not sign with the Phillies, instead going to Notre Dame. He could be a future first round pick if it turns out that he finds his position.

The Phillies had their share of surprises, but what I liked about their draft the most was their addressing of a potential future weakness at shortstop. This could help restart the farm system that was once considered the worst in baseball.

Grade: B

Washington Nationals: 

Jake Johansen, Cal Towey

 

First Pick: Jake Johansen, Pitcher, Dallas Baptist (68)

Other Notable Picks:

Austin Voth, Pitcher, Washington (166)

Andrew Dunlap, Pitcher, No school, (1006)

Lukas Schiraldi, Pitcher, Navarro College (1066)

Karsten Whitson, Pitcher, Florida (1126)

Jake Johansen comes from the ever present Underdog university that is Dallas Baptist, most famously known for its 2011 Super Regional loss against California, a team that had just been saved from budget cuts. Johansen has the build to be a good pitcher, but still needs a lot of development in order to justify his second round pick label.

Austin Voth may be the best pick the Nationals have made this year, as he carved out a decent resume in the Pac 12. Finishing behind first overall pick Mark Appel in strikeouts, he has a possibly future in Washington’s staff, especially if certain free agent acquisitions fail to work out.

Andrew Dunlap is an anomaly. He did not pitch high school ball last year despite needing the eligibility in order to get a college scholarship, so he spent the season pitching at the same academy that Trevor Bauer used. He has a mid to high 90’s fastball, but if anything, he probably should consider going to college instead of signing with the team.

Lukas Schiraldi is the son of former Mets and Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi. The younger Schiraldi spent two seasons as a JuCo pitcher where he developed an arsenal of pitches, many of which still need development. It is unlikely that he signs, considering he can improve his draft position at his dad’s alma mater, the University of Texas.

Karsten Whitson’s name is familiar because he was a former first round pick of the San Diego Padres. Whitson has had an up-and -down career at Florida, where he pitched in the College World Series, but this year, he was sidelined due to injury. I doubt that Whitson will accept being drafted this low, so we should see him reenter the draft for the final time, in hopes that he can be a first round pick again.

Washington’s draft was unimpressive from the beginning.  First the team gave up their first round pick for Rafael Soriano, a terrible move in and of itself. Second, tabbing a collegiate project in the second round is a major no-no. Third, there were other big names out there who could contribute. Ultimately, this draft is a failure.

Grade: F

 

Coming up, the NL Central.