For the past four years, there has been one common occurrence in the MLB draft: That occurrence is the Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop (or HAPS, for short). The common characteristics is that the shortstop in question is (obviously) a high schooler, has the potential to make the majors in three years instead of the traditional four or five years, is a top prospect usually by the end of his first year or the middle of his second, and garners a lot of praise from opposing scouts.
The past four years of HAPS are as follows:
2013: JP Crawford, Phillies
While it’s still too early to be determined, Crawford had been highly visible throughout his high school career, and when he was drafted, it was to a team that was looking to replace a legendary shortstop with a newer model. Crawford’s first minor league season saw him completely own the Gulf Coast League and skip entirely over short ball in favor of the more advanced Low A. Crawford also ended the season as the #4 prospect in Philly’s system, behind only Roman Quinn, a fellow prep shortstop drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, as well as 3B Maikel Franco and P Jesse Biddle, who have made the 2014 top 100 list on MLB.com. Even though Crawford effectively was a HAPS by default, as last year’s middle infield class was very weak, Crawford has at least proven that he is still a very solid lock to follow the progression that fellow HAPS have gone through.
2012: Carlos Correa, Astros, and Addison Russell, Athletics.
Thanks to what could have been regarded as one of the best prep shortstop draft classes in baseball history, 2012 had not one, but two HAPS propects. Carlos Correa, who was the first overall pick, drew some attention at the end of his debut year, but in his second year, he justified why he was a first overall pick. After having a monster season for the Quad Cities River Bandits, Correa was rewarded by being voted in to the 2013 Futures game World Roster, as well as being named the Astros’ top prospect by the end of the season. At the start of the 2014 season Correa was named the top prospect in the Astros’ system again, ahead of such players as Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, and Lance McCullers, and was also named the #8 prospect in all of baseball.
Russell, who I’ve consistently noted was the catalyst for the death of Moneyball drafting in Oakland, has done nothing but impress in his first two years. Named the best prospect in Oakland’s system immediately after the 2012 season, Russell again went on a tear at Single-A Stockton, and was also selected for the Futures game as a member of Team USA. Russell ended the season in AAA Sacramento, completely jumping over AA, and although he obviously had issues handling the rapid increase in competition level, the prevailing theory is that Russell could be in the majors by the end of the 2014 season.
2011: Francisco Lindor, Indians
The Indians have repeatedly stated that they do not intend to rush Lindor to the major leagues, to which I call bull. Lindor has been nothing short of amazing ever since he stepped on the field. At the end of the 2012 season, his first full season in minor league ball, Lindor had established himself as a #1 shortstop prospect, the #1 Indians prospect, and the #13 prospect in baseball. This included an invite to the Futures game in Kansas City, where he played for the World Team. Lindor followed up his great 2012 with an even better 2013 where he went through two levels of ball, topping out in Double-A, and once again being invited to the Futures Game in New York. He once again ended the season as the top shortstop prospect, the top Indians prospect, but increased his overall prospect ranking to #5. At the beginning of this season, Lindor has already established himself as a top ten prospect yet again, however, he dropped his shortstop ranking to #4, perfectly reasonable given his competition was Xander Bogaerts, Correa, and Javier Baez, who has started to put himself in the HAPS conversation, especially after showing a dominant power swing in Spring Training. The reason why Baez isn’t in it right now is that while he’s advanced at the same rate as Lindor, he hasn’t had Lindor’s wow factor. Still, if Baez can be as consistently impressive as Lindor has been, he could put himself in the HAPS conversation.
2010: Manny Machado, Orioles
The man who started it all, Machado blazed through the minors, made his major league debut a mere two years after being drafted, and made his first All-star team in 2013. While Machado’s best season ended on a sour note after he broke his leg, he has definitely entered his name into the elite infielder category. I know that Machado technically is a third baseman now, but in truth I’m grading him as a shortstop because of his A-Rod like conversion to third. And to continue, Machado was a shortstop when he was drafted, and only played a few games at third base in the minors, in Double-A Bowie, which incidentally was his last minor league stop before he made his debut. Will Machado ever move back to shortstop? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, Machado is still one of the best young players right now.
The 2014 draft isn’t until June, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for early speculation. In what is considered yet another meh prep middle infield class, there are only two definitive first round prep shortstop talents, one of which has equal value as a pitcher. The two shortstops in question are Clovis High School’s Jacob Gatewood, and Olympia High School’s Nick Gordon.
Gatewood, like Crawford before him, has had eyes on him since last year. A well rounded guy with an emphasis on power who draws comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro, Gatewood, barring a bad senior season has the projectability to be a top ten pick, and could raise his stock to top five, maybe even top three if he continues to play at the level he has. In my initial mock, I had him going to Colorado as a potential replacement for Troy Tulowitzski, whom I feel will leave Colorado before 2020. In the thin air of Colorado, Gatewood would thrive despite the humidor baseballs, and he would have the potential to be a Machado-like talent.
Gordon has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father and brother, Tom and Dee. He has project ability as both a pitcher and a shortstop, but scouts have said that Gordon will stick to shortstop. While not as dominant at Gatewood, Gordon is still a top 20 prospect who could actually outperform his brother. I had Gordon going to San Diego. In theory, if Everth Cabrera can’t get back to his pre-Biogenesis self, it’s a possibility that the Padres will try and look for a replacement in the coming years. Gordon would benefit from the expansive park in San Diego, as he thrives on being a slap hitter with speed, much like Cabrera was.
Between Gatewood and Gordon, my belief is that the former makes the best case for the HAPS of 2014. He certainly has made a name for himself starting last year, and he has a legitimate shot to become one of the best shortstops in the post-Jeter and Rollins shortstop era. His power is not to be ignored, and if he signs early and tears it up in rookie or short ball, he could find himself in the top 100, maybe even top 25 very early in his career.
Yesterday, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I finally made the trek over to Citi Field to attend All-Star Sunday. I had planned this weeks in advance with my dad, and two of my cousins.
We bought tickets out in right field, in section 106 in the 23rd row: the seats were pretty close to the field. It was agreed that my dad and I would meet our cousins at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Due to unforeseen complications, however, one cousin had to back out, as he had been “roped” into meeting his girlfriend’s friend from Miami. And that, my friends, is the true definition of being “whipped”. He gave his ticket to my uncle, so there wasn’t that much issue there.
We had a late start however, as the car needed gas, thanks in part to me sharing the car with my sister, who needed the car for delivering flowers. So when we finally made it to the ballpark, it was about 1:20, and because nobody had thought to get a parking pass, we had to park in the satellite lot across from the park. Incidentally, it cost $35 to park. Yes, $35. Highway robbery? Yes. Fortunately, those prices are for the All-star festivities only, and will revert back to the normal $15 by the time the festivities end, because if that was the actual price, you can bet that going to a ballgame is going to be more of a challenge than before.
We made it to the stadium by 1:30, and after finding out that my cousin (the non-whipped one,) was still waiting for the 7 train to arrive, and my uncle had mistakenly driven all the way to Coney Island thinking the game was there, and would predictably be late, we ended up trekking to our seats, but not before purchasing the official program for the game, and getting a free All-star Sunday handout.
Interestingly enough, Citi Field was selling both this program, which was the special edition one, and the regular program for the same price. Guess which one I took?
It didn’t take long to reach the seats, to which I then took some photos. I apologize in advance for the quality, these were taken on an old Iphone 4.
This was a picture of the outfielders for Team USA.
This is Noah Syndergaard, the Mets pitching prospect acquired this past offseason for R.A Dickey.
This is Padres catcher Austin Hedges
This is the All-star Game Apple.
I stopped taking pictures for a while, and enjoyed the flag ceremony as well as the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) ceremony. After that was done, the Futures gamers were announced. Predictably, the Mets, especially Brandon Nimmo, who had been voted into the game, were cheered, and all Yankees players were booed.
The first inning was pretty quick. Noah Syndergaard set down Padres outfielder Reymond Fuentes, probably best known for being included in the Adrian Gonzalez trade two offseasons ago, then future Cub Arismendy Alcantara before giving up a single to Red Sox Super Prospect Xander Bogaerts. This was followed by an impressive strikeout of Twins prospect Miguel Sano.
The bottom half of the inning saw Mets fast riser Rafael Montero pitching for the World Team. He was untouchable, as he set down Billy Hamilton, Delino DeShields, and George Springer without batting an eyelash.
I then took another photo of Taijuan Walker and Matt Davidson in the second inning. Again, pardon the blurriness.
It’s kind of hard to see, but Walker was wearing stirrups while pitching, a nice touch.
Here’s a better look.
My cousin finally made it by that time, so that was good. He told me that the wait for the train was so long that he bought a sandwich and snacks while he was waiting.
Team USA drew first blood by the way, thanks to Christian Yelich’s base hit in the second. Yelich went 2 for 2, and likely would have been named MVP if Anthony Ranaudo had not coughed up the lead later in the game.
After that came a generally quiet third inning which was used more to showcase Arizona’s Archie Bradley more than anything else. Bradley got a hold, probably the only hold he will ever get in what will likely be a long career.
The real damage done by the World team happened in the fourth inning. With Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo on the mound, Alcantara ripped a right field home run that tied the game. Yes, this is a .gif, I’m not cheap after all. This was followed by Xander Bogaerts scoring on a single in which he beat Austin Hedges on a tag. Unfortunately, I missed the live play, as I was in the concession line getting an early dinner of two Nathan’s hot dogs with ketchup braised onions and an Aquafina water. (MLB likes to hear their sponsors names, so don’t call me a sellout.)
My uncle finally arrived in the middle of the fifth inning. Better late than never, I suppose. How he came to believe that the game was in Brooklyn is still beyond me.
Fortunately, he didn’t miss Joc Pederson reaching on a double, then Matt Davidson crushing a Michael Ynoa pitch into the left-center field seats for the go-ahead home run.
The game was fairly uneventful after that. Jesse Biddle came into the game to a chorus of boos, obviously because he’s a Phillies product, and earned the win.
Brandon Nimmo, who I had hoped would play today, finally made his way into the game, along with Byron Buxton.
As a prospect writer, I try to follow a lot of prospects on twitter, and friend the occasional ones on Facebook. Yes, I sent them links to my futures game articles, and yes, I told them that I would be there, and yes, they “liked” it. I love my hobby.
I sent a tweet to Nimmo for him to read later, saying that I was glad that he had made it into the game.
Eventually, the heat, which I neglect to mention, got too unbearable, so we beat a hasty retreat to the air conditioned confines of the Caesar’s club, where we watched the rest of the game in comfort. Garin Cecchini, top Red Sox prospect and brother to Mets prospect Gavin, scored an insurance run, and AJ Cole of the Nationals earned the save.
Did I mention that during the game, the mascots for most of the teams came out during the t-shirt launch, and seventh inning stretch? While my favorite mascots are Mr. and Mrs. Met, seeing mascots like Dinger of the Rockies, (the purple triceratops) Orbit of the Astros (the alien, and a major improvement over Junction Jack, the previous mascot) and Sluggerrrrr of the Royals (the lion) was pretty cool, especially since I had never seen them in person before. What was funny about it was seeing Dinger really get into the “Lazy Mary” number.
Because the tickets were for both events on All-star Sunday, we stayed for the Taco Bell All-star legends and celebrities softball game. Having moved from the Caesars club to a covered part of the stadium, we had a bird’s eye view of everything.
My favorite celebrities at the game were Kevin James, Brian Kilmeade, (boy were they ribbing on him during the game)
Jennie Finch (although I wanted Kate Upton to be there)
and finally, the wounded warrior, Josh Wege, who won MVP honors with James.
It was also interesting to see Frank Thomas pitch, and Mike Piazza back behind the plate, as well as Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden both playing.
All in all, it was a fun day, and certainly one heck of a way to promote the All-star game. Sure it was slightly expensive, but beyond that, the games were enjoyable, the prospects were fun to watch, and all in all, it was worth the hour and a half long drive.
This is the second part of my two part series on the Futures game, which is the minor league equivalent of the All-Star game. Having already covered Team USA, I now go to the World Team.
I forgot to mention that both Team USA and the World Team are managed by Mets alums. Team USA is managed by Mookie Wilson, while Edgardo Alfonzo will take the reigns as manager of the World team.
Now, let’s go onto the roster. Again, here’s the list, from CBS.
A little disappointing to note that 2012 Futures gamer Jameson Taillon, who hails from Canada, will not be pitching for the team. Still, the pitching is… interesting to say the least. The three most notable names that stick out to me are Yordano Ventura of the Royals, who likely could be called up sometime in the future, Rafael De Paula, who is the Yankees’ best international pitcher, and Rafael Montero, who has come out of nowhere and made himself a topic of conversation, as he seems to be a favorite to make next year’s Mets rotation. Montero will likely start the game this year for the World Team. It’s interesting to also note that the World team has more pitchers in AAA (4) than Team USA (1).
Onto the catchers and infielders. The World Team’s infield looks almost as good as it did last year, when Jurickson Profar was playing on the World team. While Profar is no longer eligible, 2012 Futures gamer Francisco Lindor is. Also playing is Red Sox super prospect Xander Bogaerts, whom people got a good look at in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and Miguel Sano, who, along with Byron Buxton, looks to provide the Minnesota Twins with a very promising future.
On a name basis, the outfield at least looked promising, but injuries to the two best players, Jorge Soler of the Cubs, and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, likely indicate that there will be some shuffling done before All-star Sunday.
The Final vote has five interesting candidates up for selection, although given the outfield situation, it might be cut down to three.
Javier Baez, Outfield, Cubs
Baez, who hit four home runs in a game this year, is part of the Cubs future outfield which will likely consist of him, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora. He’s a 2011 first round draft pick.
Ji-Man Choi, infielder, Mariners
Choi garnered some attention last year when he won the Arizona League MVP. He’s a contact hitter with barely any power, but is defensively strong.
Carlos Correa, shortstop, Astros
Correa was the first overall pick of the 2012 draft by the Astros. A slick fielder with some hitting ability, he’s made it as high as the Midwest League.
Renato Nunez, third baseman, Athletics
Nunez has jumped on the map this year by destroying Midwest league pitching; he’s hit 13 home runs already. He and Addison Russell may share the A’s left side of the infield by 2018.
Rougned Odor, second baseman, Rangers
Odor is a defensive asset who flashes some hitting ability. Given the state of the Rangers infield for the forseeable future, Odor may find himself as trade bait sometime in the future.
And now, another poll. Who do you want to see in the futures game?
Sadly, I could not find any updates on the World team voting.
This is a series that will profile the World Baseball Classic, or to be more specific, the teams. The first team that will be covered is The Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a country in Europe, northwest of Germany, northeast of France, southeast of Great Britain, and southwest of Denmark. It has or has had territory in the Carribean, in fact, that is where most of the Dutch baseball talent comes from, in particular, the Netherlands Antilles.
Major League baseball players, current, former, and future, on the 2013 team include Boston Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts, a shortstop, Washington Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, Atlanta Braves second baseman Andrelton Simmons, Minnesota Twins pitcher Shairon Martis, Baltimore Orioles infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, and former Major Leaguers Andruw Jones, Wladimir Balentien, Bert Blyleven, and Hensley Meulens; the last two of whom serve on the Dutch coaching staff.
The Dutch baseball team was one of the original sixteen nations that participated in the first World Baseball Classic. They played in Pool C at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, Panama, and host Puerto Rico. In their first tournament, the Dutch were easily dispatched by Puerto Rico and Cuba, but pulled a save-face 10-0 win over the inexperienced Panama team to save them from finishing at the bottom of the pool.
Three years later, the Dutch, who were in Pool D with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Panama, surprised many by pulling off a 3-2 upset win over a heavily favored Dominican Republic team. They then went to the winner’s bracket where they lost to Puerto Rico in another close game, then shocked the world again by beating the Dominican Republic a second time, 2-1, giving them a rematch against Puerto Rico in the Group final. Again, they lost, but moved on to the second pool, where they competed against the United States, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the Netherlands could not kill anymore giants, as they bowed out quickly after losses to both the US and Venezuela.
On Saturday, the Netherlands started their third tournament, in a group that contains Australia, Chinese Taipei, and 2009 Classic runner up South Korea, which is arguably the weakest of the four groups.
The Netherlands started off with another giant-killing, as Diegomar Markwell headed a four-hit shutout of Korea, while Bernadina led the offensive charge with two RBI in a 4-0 win.
On Sunday, the Netherlands will play Chinese Taipei, who, thanks to a strong pitching effort from Chien-Ming Wang, beat Australia in the first game of the Classic. They will finish on March 5th against Australia.
The Netherlands look to be a dark horse in the Classic again. With a convincing win against the 2009 runners up, there is every possibility that the Dutch will come out of this pool as winners. However, it would take a favorable draw for them to get past the second round, and by that , they would have to hope for, at the best, another upstart nation to finish second in their pool, or maybe even Japan, who is considerably weaker than in the previous tournaments, as evidenced by their wild win against upstart Brazil. If the Netherlands however, can live up to the giant killer moniker once again, expect this team to go far in the tournament, possibly even to the quarterfinal.