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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 753

post #22561 of 72976
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

RIP Zim pimp.gif

baseball lost one of its all-time great guys 

roll.gif r.i.p. to Zim tho
post #22562 of 72976
Originally Posted by theJet View Post

here's the link I sent on a .gif 

reaction is priceless.

When it comes to Sanchez, fans here are hyping him up. He's been showing some nasty stuff in AA, but still a little inconsistent. By trading guys like d'Arnaud, Syndergaard and Nicolino, we're really hopeful he develops. Reaaaally hopeful lol
Haven't heard much about DJ Davis yet. Still got a ways away
Love Sanchez's power curve and good movement on his FB. It's going to be fun comparing him and "Thor" moving forward.

I've heard D.J. Davis is Billy Hamilton-lite, but a better hitter and will get on-base more than Hamilton has early on.
post #22563 of 72976
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Love Sanchez's power curve and good movement on his FB. It's going to be fun comparing him and "Thor" moving forward.

I've heard D.J. Davis is Billy Hamilton-lite, but a better hitter and will get on-base more than Hamilton has early on.


I see you have a list of teams you root for on your sig. but I swear, I see you in every team-related thread out there, even in the NYJ thread...


I honestly thought you were a Jays, Jets, Leafs and Raps fan like me... LOL


kudos for having a wide-range of knowledge though 

formerly known as Copp 2 of Em


... From the City of Toronto.


formerly known as Copp 2 of Em


... From the City of Toronto.

post #22564 of 72976
Originally Posted by theJet View Post

I see you have a list of teams you root for on your sig. but I swear, I see you in every team-related thread out there, even in the NYJ thread...

I honestly thought you were a Jays, Jets, Leafs and Raps fan like me... LOL

kudos for having a wide-range of knowledge though 
I pop in a lot of the NFL team threads to drop some Draft tidbits.

The local sports is because of work. Fortunate to have some access to the Mets and Jets. Yankees and Rangers to a lesser extent.
post #22565 of 72976
Just get tanakas pitch count up. The bullpen in the later half will spill away the game.
post #22566 of 72976
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

I pop in a lot of the NFL team threads to drop some Draft tidbits.

The local sports is because of work. Fortunate to have some access to the Mets and Jets. Yankees and Rangers to a lesser extent.
If you don't mind me asking, where do you work?
post #22567 of 72976
39-21 Giants pimp.gif 8.5 up on LA
post #22568 of 72976
Jim Johnson with a shutdown inning. pimp.gif

That deserves it's own thread. laugh.gifmean.gif
post #22569 of 72976
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

39-21 Giants pimp.gif 8.5 up on LA

post #22570 of 72976
A's and now the Tigers pimp.gif
Lakers | Blue Jays
Lakers | Blue Jays
post #22571 of 72976
Yankees got lucky.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #22572 of 72976
post #22573 of 72976
8.5 games up is a lot, but the Dodgers still have time to get it together. If SF goes into the All Star break up this much, or more, then I'd be concerned for LA.
Edited by DsLee559 - 6/5/14 at 4:13pm
Wear, NOT worship.

"...I know I'mma get got, but I'mma get mine more than I get got though..."
Wear, NOT worship.

"...I know I'mma get got, but I'mma get mine more than I get got though..."
post #22574 of 72976
I know nothing about baseball, scouting or much in general, but I am all in on this farm boy moose Kolek
post #22575 of 72976
Welcome to the squad Brady Aiken pimp.gif
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
post #22576 of 72976
NL west is such a bad division.
post #22577 of 72976
Originally Posted by bronconation24 View Post

NL west is such a bad division.

Fine with me pimp.gif
post #22578 of 72976
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Yankees got lucky.

We can call it even for Warren's rare mishap tongue.gif
post #22579 of 72976
If you've had TJ surgery recently or might need it and you're a Scott Boras client, chances are you'll get drafted in the 1st Round by the Washington Nationals.
post #22580 of 72976
post #22581 of 72976

Pitcher from my HS was picked 53rd , crazy how dude  committed to UNC over the past year and now has the chance to go pro

New England Patriots, Michigan Wolverines


WRX Club

Add me on PSN: mwalkernt XB1:iBoostV4 




New England Patriots, Michigan Wolverines


WRX Club

Add me on PSN: mwalkernt XB1:iBoostV4 




post #22582 of 72976
Thread Starter 
Ken Rosenthal reports a mystery team is in the mix for Morales. What kind of ******* reporting is that? laugh.gif stuff like that makes me irate to read sometimes.
post #22583 of 72976
Thread Starter 
MLB Draft: Day 1 winners and questions.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The new slotting system in baseball has made Day 1 analysis more difficult, as many teams approach the draft with a more holistic, top-down approach designed to spread money around to specific picks. With that in mind, here are some preliminary thoughts on eight teams' Day 1 selections: four I really liked, four I didn't really get. You can also find my list of the 10 best players available at the bottom.

I'll have team-by-team reports after Day 2, with AL reports on Saturday and NL reports on Monday.

The approved list: Four teams I thought got good value

The Cleveland Indians had my favorite Day 1 batch of picks, landing four players I had in the top 50. They took Brad Zimmer, one of the best college bats in the draft class, who slid to 21; grabbed and have already signed Justus Sheffield, an advanced prep lefty from Tennessee whom area scouts loved, at 31; and took Mike Papi, one of the most patient, advanced hitters in the college crop and a first baseman with emerging power and the tools to play right field, at 38.

In the second round, they opened up again and went for another prep arm, Grant Hockin, grandson of Harmon Killebrew. Hockin's a right-hander who's been up to 94 with an above-average slider and a good frame to fill out and add more velocity. I think they had the best Day 1 of any team, sporting a solid mix of floor and ceiling, of pitchers and position players.

A lot of teams went crazy for upside, but I think the Arizona Diamondbacks did the best job of that group, landing three Vanderbilt commits. Touki Toussaint, their first-round pick, was among the highest-ceiling prep pitchers in the class, with a very loose, quick arm, fastball in the low to mid-90s, and above-average curveball already. Isan Diaz is a polished middle infielder from western Massachusetts who boasts a high baseball IQ and good feel to hit, and who probably will move to second base in pro ball. Lefty Cody Reed might have gone higher except that he's 6-foot-3 and overweight at uncomfortably north of 250 pounds. But he's been 92-96 this spring and shows a chance for three pitches.

They also took non-Vandy commit Marcus Wilson, a speedy Southern California prep outfielder who has bat speed and a very projectable body; he got a little first-round buzz earlier in the spring.

The Toronto Blue Jays had two first-round picks and made good use of them, taking East Carolina righty Jeff Hoffman and Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost. Hoffman would have been a top-four pick had he stayed healthy, but he blew out his elbow during his best start of the season (one presumes it was no longer his best start once the ligament snapped) and needed Tommy John surgery, which allowed the Jays to take him and bet on the 85 percent success rate of that operation.

They could also save some money by signing Hoffman for under slot, as he has zero leverage, and put it toward signing later picks, including prep righty Sean Reid-Foley, their second-round selection. Reid-Foley has a rough delivery but repeats it well and now shows three average or better pitches.

The Boston Red Sox took one of my favorite hitters in the college crop in Sam Travis, the Indiana first baseman who should be able to handle left field. The second-rounder has a short, direct swing with pull power and needs to work on handling soft stuff away, but he has a good eye and the swing path to be able to adjust.

Their first-rounder, Michael Chavis, was getting consideration in the teens as a polished high school bat who makes a lot of hard contact but doesn't have projection and will have to move off shortstop; it's funny that the Sox took him, as I see some similarities to Dustin Pedroia -– both hitters have great hand-eye coordination with unorthodox swings, and Pedroia also was a shortstop who had no physical projection and had to move to second base in pro ball. In between those picks they took a hard-throwing Texas right-hander in Michael Kopech, who brings mid-90s velocity with a sharp slider but a funky, arm-heavy delivery that the Sox might have to tame to keep him healthy.

The head-scratchers: Four draft classes I didn't quite understand

I reported Wednesday night that the Milwaukee Brewers were set to take Hawaii prep lefty Kodi Medeiros at No. 12 overall, but I didn't understand the pick, as Medeiros is more likely to end up a reliever instead of a starter and doesn't seem like good value there with quality college starters and nearly every good high school arm still on the board.

Then, at pick 41, theny took Jacob Gatewood, the Clovis, California prep shortstop who has huge raw power but a well-below-average hit tool and who'll likely move to third or right. That's decent value, but another high-risk selection. I do think two-sport athlete Monte Harrison is good value at 50, as he had first-round buzz as a very crude hitter who can run and throw and should grow into power.

The Chicago Cubs say they got the No. 2 player on their board (after Brady Aiken) in Indiana catcher/left fielder Kyle Schwarber, a power-hitting left-handed hitter with a sound approach and great makeup. My main concern on Schwarber is where he plays, because he's almost certainly not a catcher in pro ball and will be a project in left.

Schwarber is listed at 6-feet, 240 pounds; only three players 6 feet or shorter and 240 pounds or more have ever played the outfield in the majors (Marlon Byrd, Dayan Viciedo and Byron Gettis), so the historical comps point to Schwarber moving to first base unless he can drop some weight. (The list isn't much better if you drop the weight bar to 230, adding four players, one of whom was nicknamed "Fats.") The Cubs did take the draft's best college senior at No. 45 in Jake Stinnett of Maryland, and I imagine both players will sign under-slot deals, giving the Cubs a dividend to use on Friday on some top prep players who are still on the board. So the net result of the Schwarber pick could end up a big positive.

I've disagreed with the industry consensus on Casey Gillaspie, a switch-hitter from Wichita State whose swing really reminds me of his older brother Conor, who has a career .395 slugging percentage in the majors. The Tampa Bay Rays took Casey with their first pick, even though Brad Zimmer was still on the board, then backed it up with Cameron Varga, a once-promising Ohio right-hander who fell off this spring with reduced velocity and noticeably greater effort required to get back up into the low 90s, grunting on some of his pitches.

They took Brent Honeywell, a junior college arm, at 72, which I assume was an under-slot deal to allow them to buy Varga away from UNC, but Honeywell is a 6-foot right-handed screwballer with an average fastball and poor command.

The St. Louis Cardinals essentially built their Day 1 draft around their sandwich pick, Harvard-Westlake School right-hander Jack Flaherty, a two-way player with a great delivery, above-average command and projection -- a potential first-rounder in three years if he'd gone to college.

I assume their other picks were taken with paying Flaherty in mind, as all three were reaches. First-rounder Luke Weaver was a real stretch for me, a 6-foot right-hander with a quick arm but a fastball trending down to average, a slight build and at the moment no breaking ball to speak of.

Their second-rounder, Ronnie Williams, is a 6-foot prep righty from Florida who's mostly 90-92 and already seems to be getting the most from his lower half, with fringy off-speed stuff. They also took Andrew Morales of Irvine, a college senior, in the second comp round: another -- wait for it -- 6-foot right-hander, a four-pitch guy who sits average and touches 95 mph with above-average control but some violence in the delivery.

Best available (based on their top 100 ranking)

29. Jake Bukauskas, RHP, Stone Bridge (Va.) HS
32. Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP, Lawrence (Kan.) HS
36. Zech Lemond, RHP, Rice
38. Jackson Reetz, C/OF, Hickman (Neb.) HS
47. Mac Marshall, RHP, Parkview (Ga.) HS
48. Dylan Cease, RHP, Milton (Ga.) HS
59. Brett Graves, RHP, Missouri
61. Jeren Kendall, OF, Holmen (Wis.) HS
62. Bobby Bradley, 3B, Harrison Central HS (Gulfport, Miss.)

Bukauskus, Montes de Oca and Kendall are probably all unsignable/massive over-slot guys at this point, although I expect all three will get calls tonight from teams looking to see if $1.5-2 million is enough to buy them out of their college commitment.

Lemond came back from missing time with a sore elbow that resulted directly from misuse at Rice, and teams are afraid to take a Rice pitcher to begin with. But Lemond has shown he's healthy and represents great value at this point. Cease has an elbow injury but opted for platelet-rich plasma treatment rather than surgery, and could still be signable for a team willing to take on the risk that he'll need Tommy John surgery down the road. Graves' stock wasn't helped by playing for a miserable team that missed the SEC tournament, but I think he'll go in the third round as one of the few good college starters left on the board.

Live pick-by-pick analysis.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On the evening of the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, expert Christopher Crawford will provide pick-by-pick analysis in the opening round. Before diving into the analysis, here are some key resources related to the 2014 MLB draft:

Note: We use the 20-80 grading scale for all MLB prospects.

1. Houston Astros: Brady Aiken | LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego

Aiken as the first overall pick shouldn't be a huge surprise, and yet hearing someone other than Carlos Rodon selected after all of the (justified) hype of the past few years is still a bit disarming. With three pitches that flash plus, a clean delivery with deception and outstanding feel for pitching from a frame that still has some projection, Aiken could move quickly, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he were pitching in Houston by late 2016, though 2017 is more likely.

The Astros have two more picks tonight, so if they can sign Aiken for under-slot, they could go high upside with those remaining selections. However, expect a "safety" guy at some point. | Scouting video Video

2. Miami Marlins: Tyler Kolek | RHP, Shepherd (Texas) HS

Well, it didn't take long to get our first surprise of the draft. Kolek has a huge fastball and virtually no physical projection needed, so he could move quickly through the Miami system. Still, passing on a player of Rodon's talent for a prep arm is a major surprise, even for the Marlins, who adore prep talent. They still have two more picks today, even after trading pick No. 39 to the Pirates, so it'll be interesting to see how much bonus demands had to do with this pick. | Scouting video Video

3. Chicago White Sox: Carlos Rodon | LHP, NC State

The presumed No. 1 selection since April of his sophomore year, Rodon's inconsistent season and concerns about his high workload saw him fall from that status -- but not very far. He's still got one of the best sliders I've seen from a southpaw, and he'll touch 97 with his fastball. If the fastball command improves, he could be a member of the White Sox rotation late in 2015, and summer 2016 is very likely. There's as much boom and bust in this lefty as in any we've seen in a long, long time. | Scouting video Video

4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Schwarber | C, Indiana

As surprising as the previous two picks were -- to me, anyway -- this one is more surprising. I'm surprised that Theo Epstein and company would reach for a player such as this with a top-five pick. Schwarber has plus power and an above-average hit tool, but he's almost assuredly going to have to move to first base, where the Cubs appear to be set for a while with Anthony Rizzo. If Schwarber can catch, he could be in Wrigley by summer 2016, but that seems like a long shot.

5. Minnesota Twins: Nick Gordon| SS, Olympia HS, Orlando, Fla.

The brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee and the son of former All-Star pitcher Tom, Gordon saw his stock rise significantly through the spring. He is a shortstop who needs to gain some weight, but he can already play the big-league position, and there's sneaky power in his left-handed bat. He reminds some of Francisco Lindor, and like Lindor he could move quickly through the Twins system. Gordon might be their everyday shortstop by 2017 -- maybe earlier if he shows the same bat he did for most of the spring. | Scouting video Video

6. Seattle Mariners: Alex Jackson | OF, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego

Jackson has long been considered the top offensive prep talent in the draft, with a plus hit tool and a chance for plus power as well. He played catcher for Rancho Bernardo, but he almost assuredly will be moved to the outfield for Seattle. He's definitely a good enough athlete to handle right field, and his cannon for an arm should play well there. I wouldn't call a prep bat a fast-track guy, but the Mariners need a lot of outfield help, and he could be a regular in the middle of their lineup in 2017. | Scouting video Video

7. Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola | RHP, LSU

Nola has been a dominant pitcher over his past two years at LSU, and while I do have some concerns about the arm slot and breaking ball, this could very well be the very first starting pitcher of this draft we see pitch in the big leagues. He throws everything for strikes, and the deception in his change is outstanding. I don't think Philadelphia will -- or should -- rush him, but I would be borderline surprised if he's not pitching for the Phillies in the fall of 2015.

8. Colorado Rockies: Kyle Freeland | LHP, Evansville

The Rockies have been all over Freeland over the past few months, and with good reason. Only Nola has better command of his stuff, and Freeland's slider can be a huge weapon. The only issues with Freeland are that his slot is very low and he has a tendency to fall in love with the slider. If he can make some mechanical adjustments, he could join Jon Gray and Eddie Butler in the Colorado rotation in 2016.

9. Toronto Blue Jays: Jeff Hoffman | RHP, ECU

If Hoffman were healthy, he would have been a lock for the top four, as some compared him to a poor man's Adam Wainwright. Taking a pitcher who won't be able to throw for your organization for close to a year is a risk, but the Blue Jays have been known to take chances such as this, as seen in the fact that they didn't sign two of their top three first-round picks. Giving a timetable is nearly impossible, but Hoffman could be a replacement in the aging Blue Jays' rotation in the next few years, assuming he recovers to where he was. | Scouting video Video

10. New York Mets: Michael Conforto | OF, Oregon State

Conforto might be the best pure hitter in the class -- a left-handed outfielder with plus power and an outstanding approach at the plate. He's not going to be among the UZR leaders in the outfield, but he's improved there and should be able to handle left field, at least in the short-to-medium turn. The Mets outfield isn't exactly murderer's row, so he could move quickly through the system, perhaps help New York late in 2015 if things go right.

11. Toronto Blue Jays: Max Pentecost | C, Kennesaw State

Pentecost was rumored to go as high as pick No. 4 to the Cubs, but at the end of the day he went where his value suggested he should. None of his tools are plus, but as a catcher who has average to above-average tools across the board, he could move through the Blue Jays system expeditiously, and Toronto fans are well aware that they are in need of a catcher for the future.

12. Milwaukee Brewers: Kodi Medeiros | LHP, Waiakea HS, Hilo, Hawaii

Medeiros gets compared to Chris Sale as a left-hander with a very low arm slot but a filthy slider and a plus fastball with loads of movement. The issue is his size -- he's probably closer to 6-foot than 6-foot-2 -- and if he can get right-handed hitters out at the professional level. Still, Medeiros does become Milwaukee's top prospect, and there's a chance he's a quality mid-rotation starter, with death to left-handed hitting reliever as a floor.

13. San Diego Padres: Trea Turner | SS, NC State

Turner was once rumored to be a top-five lock as a shortstop with true 80 speed and a plus hit tool. Instead we saw 65-70 speed and a 45 hit tool, so his stock dropped somewhat precipitously. If everything goes right, he can be the shortstop version of Dee Gordon, but there's also a chance that he's a utility infielder. In a draft that's light on bats, I don't blame San Diego for taking the risk.

14. San Francisco Giants: Tyler Beede | RHP, Vanderbilt

There's no question that Beede has some of the best stuff of any starter in the class, but there are serious questions about his command, as the right-hander often struggled to throw strikes over the spring. When he's at his best, he reminds many of right-hander Ervin Santana, but if he can't throw strikes, he could move into the bullpen. The Giants pitching staff is pretty solid right now, so they can be patient and see how the young man develops. | Scouting video Video

15. Los Angeles Angels: Sean Newcomb | LHP, Hartford

Some scouts told me they thought Newcomb was a poor man's Jon Lester. I'm very surprised that he was still on the board, as a left-hander with a plus-plus fastball and a slider that flashes plus with a delivery that has very little effort. He immediately becomes the Angels' best pitching prospect -- if not the best prospect, period -- and I could see the Hartford ace pitching in the Los Angeles rotation at some point late in 2015.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Touki Toussaint | RHP, Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Acad.

Toussaint would have been a top-five pick if the draft were held 18 months ago, as he showed two 70 pitches in his fastball and nasty curveball. The issue is his command: Too often he has no idea where any of those pitches are going. His athleticism and big-time stuff remind some of Taijuan Walker, at least before Walker changed his delivery. He won't be a fast-track arm by any means, but there's a chance he's a No. 2 starter if he can throw enough strikes to sit behind Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley. | Scouting video Video

17. Kansas City Royals: Brandon Finnegan | LHP, TCU

There are two reasons Finnegan was still on the board: He's a TCU pitcher with an injury history, and he's 5-foot-11. If not for those things he would have been a top-12 pick for sure, given his fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and his breaking ball that flashes plus. If he moves to the bullpen, he could be closer, as he can get hitters out at both sides of the plate, but as a starter he could be a mid-rotation guy that helps who Kansas City rotation in a few years -- most likely 2016.

18. Washington Nationals: Erick Fedde | RHP, UNLV

Like Hoffman, Fedde would have been a candidate for the top seven or eight picks if not for Tommy John surgery, and it shouldn't come to anyone's surprise to anyone that the Nationals were the team to take the risk on the right-hander, after they took a similar "risk" on Lucas Giolito in 2012. Also like Hoffman, it's impossible to know what Fedde's timetable is until we see how he responds, but as a right-hander with a plus fastball and slider, he has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Washington can afford to be patient with him.

19. Cincinnati Reds: Nick Howard | RHP, Virginia

There are those who believe that Howard can start, but I have my doubts, based on his arm action and lack of a consistent third pitch. As a reliever, I could see him being a closer in the Jonathan Papelbon mode -- though Papelbon had better velocity at this point -- but as a starter, he'll need to seriously improve his command and show he can throw his change more consistently. Luckily for the Reds, the rotation is in pretty good shape, and they can use the bullpen as a fallback. Not ideal to have a bullpen fallback with the 19th pick, though.

20. Tampa Bay Rays: Casey Gillaspie | 1B, Wichita State

Some see Gillaspie as a switch-hitter who can hit for average and power from those sides of the plate; I'm just not one of them. The approach is great, but I have my doubts as to how the swing will translate at the next level. I don't think he'll need much minor league seasoning, and James Loney is not a long-term answer at first base for the Rays, but those expecting him to be Mark Teixeira are going to come away disappointed. Instead, think of a slightly better version of Justin Smoak.

21. Cleveland Indians: Bradley Zimmer | OF, San Francisco

Until Grant Holmes gets drafted, I think Zimmer going to Cleveland is the steal of the draft. The brother of Royals prospect Kyle, Zimmer has above-average tools across the board, and despite him being 6-foot-5, I think he's got a chance to play center field. His bat will play wherever he ends up, and if everything goes right and the power develops like so many think it will, he's got a chance to be a long-term outfielder. He could be an everyday outfielder in Jacobs Field in late 2015.

22. Los Angeles Dodgers: Grant Holmes | RHP, Conway (S.C.) HS

And there we go: the steal of the first round. It's tough to call a high school pitcher who is 6 feet tall a fast-track guy, but with two plus-plus pitches and outstanding feel for pitching, I think Holmes can move quickly through the system. He reminds me of an earlier version of Bartolo Colon (before he gained all the weight) as a stocky guy with upper echelon stuff. I think he's got a great chance to be the first prep pitcher of this draft to make it to the big leagues -- even Brady Aiken.

23. Detroit Tigers: Derek Hill | OF, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS

There were rumors that the Tigers were going to take a reliever to help their bullpen, but they ended up taking a much more valuable player in Hill. His defensive ability in the outfield is unparalleled, and comparisons to Torii Hunter -- besides the power -- are realistic. This is another prep hitter who could move quickly through the Detroit system, and he could cause the Tigers to move Austin Jackson to a corner in 2017.

24. Pittsburgh Pirates: Cole Tucker| SS, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix

Tucker improved his stock as much as any prep infielder in the draft after performing very well at the NHSI this March, but even still, most thought he was going in the middle of the second round. He's a switch-hitter who can stay at shortstop, but the hit tool doesn't project to be much more than average, and he doesn't have the frame to ever hit for power. The Pirates had a need up the middle, and he does remind some of Asdrubal Cabrera, but after having one of the best drafts in 2013, the Pirates now have have arguably my most puzzling pick of 2014.

25. Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman | 3B, Cal State Fullerton

This is another surprising selection to me, as Chapman struggled with the bat for most of 2014. His defensive skills are impressive, and he can touch the high 90s with his fastball, but the power has never really showed up consistently, and the hit tool is still very much in doubt. With Josh Donaldson in tow for a long time, it's difficult to imagine a guy who reminds so many of Matt Dominguez ever becoming a starter for the A's at the hot corner. I could see Oakland moving him over to the mound if the bat doesn't develop.

26. Boston Red Sox: Michael Chavis | 3B, Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.

Chavis was rumored to go as high as 16th to the Arizona Diamondbacks, so the Red Sox did very well to procure his services this late. He has one of the best hit tools in the draft and doesn't have much physical projection left. He should be able to provide at least above-average power from the right side at the hot corner. He didn't get the attention that Clint Frazier got last year, but in terms of offensive ability they aren't terribly far apart. Boston might have gotten the second best prep bat in the class, behind Alex Jackson.

27. St. Louis Cardinals: Luke Weaver | RHP, Florida State

Weaver gets unfairly compared to Michael Wacha as a right-hander with a quality fastball and change who needs to develop a better breaking ball. However, people need to understand that for every Wacha, there are dozens of pitchers who end up in the bullpen because they couldn't develop a quality third offering. The Cardinals, obviously, have a ton of pitching depth in their system, so they can allow Weaver to work on that breaking ball, but with quality arms sycg as Luis Ortiz still on the board, I'm surprised the Cardinals went in this direction.

28. Kansas City Royals: Foster Griffin | LHP, The First Academy, Orlando, Fla.

Reports are that the Royals were very much hoping Kodi Medeiros would fall to them with this pick, but I actually think they got a better pitcher in Griffin. His stuff reminds me of Mark Mulder as a left-hander who sits at 88 to 92 mph with a quality breaking ball and good feel for pitching. However, expecting him to be as good as Mulder is a mistake, as Griffin is still more projection than finished product. This is the second pitcher the Royals have taken, and it wouldn't surprise me if they took one more before the day is over.

29. Cincinnati Reds: Alex Blandino | 3B, Stanford

Stanford hitters don't have the best reputation, but Austin Wilson is tearing the cover off the ball in the Mariners' system, and I think Blandino has a chance to be a quality starting infielder. The Reds took him as a shortstop, though there's very little chance he sticks there long-term, and I think he's more likely to end up at third base, where he should be a competent fielder. There's not much upside here, but he could move quickly and be a guy who plays more than 100 games for the Reds in 2016. He'll provide average offensive production at the hot corner, if that's where they deploy him.

30. Texas Rangers: Luis Ortiz | RHP, Sanger (Calif.) HS

The only reason Ortiz was still on the board because of his injuries. When he's healthy, only Holmes and Aiken have better pure stuff than he does. He can touch 97 mph with his fastball, and he has underrated feel for pitching. His delivery is somewhat similar to that of Josh Beckett, and he's got similar stuff to a younger, skinnier version of Freddy Garcia. I think the Rangers just got their best pitching prospect with the 30th pick, and he could be in the Texas rotation by late 2016.

31. Cleveland Indians: Justus Sheffield | LHP, Tullahoma (Tenn.) HS

It wasn't a consistent season for Sheffield in terms of stuff, but in terms of command and feel for pitching he's as good as any southpaw that isn't named Aiken. His size concerns many, but with above-average pitches across the board and plus command, he's got a chance to be a quality mid-rotation starter. Putting him in the Cleveland player-development system could do wonders for the southpaw.

32. Atlanta Braves: Braxton Davidson | OF, T.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.

In terms of pure offensive upside, there aren't too many prep hitters who have more than Davidson. He's one of the few left-handed hitters who has a chance to hit for both average and power, and the bat has a chance to play either in the outfield or first base -- with the latter much more likely, although Atlanta obviously has first base taken care of for a while. The Braves haven't developed hitters as well as they have pitchers, but if he shows the same offensive potential he showed over the summer, he could be a middle of the order hitter for the Braves in three to four seasons.

33. Boston Red Sox: Michael Kopech | RHP, Mount Pleasant (Texas) HS

Kopech didn't get the attention that Kolek did in Texas, but he's certainly a quality pitching prospect in his own right. Kopech boasts a fastball that can touch 97 and a breaking ball that has two planes of break. The delivery is a bit on the wonky side with a lot of movement that some deem unnecessary, but it also adds some deception a la Tim Lincecum. Many believe he's a poor man's version of the right-hander. Boston will likely look to simplify things a bit and develop a third pitch, but with two plus pitches, he's got a chance to be a member of the Red Sox rotation in 2017. His floor is as a high-leverage reliever.

34. St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty | RHP, Mount Pleasant (Texas) HS

Flaherty was considered a two-way prospect coming into the season, but his performance on the mound has made third base a distant memory for the right-hander. He's still got some projection left on a fastball that already can touch 93 with movement, and he throws all four of his pitches for strikes. Assuming the Cardinals can buy out his commitment to North Carolina, he's got a chance to be a quality mid-rotation starter. With St. Louis' pitching depth, they can afford to see if that velocity will come.

Round 2 highlights and lowlights.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Day 1 of the MLB draft is behind us, and while most of the attention will go toward the first round, there were plenty of interesting picks that made the second round just as intriguing as those first 34 selections.

Here’s a look at the highlights -- and possible lowlights -- of the picks made after the first round of the 2014 MLB draft.

AL East

Highest upside: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood High School (Jacksonville, Florida) -- Reid-Foley was an arm I thought would go in the first 20 to 25 picks, but for whatever reason, his stock fell over the past few days. The Toronto Blue Jays should feel fortunate to pick up a right-hander with this kind of talent this late, though, as he has two plus pitches in his 90-94 mph fastball and quality slider. His change should be an average offering as well.

Questionable value: Brent Honeywell, Walters State (Tennessee) Community College -- Honeywell was not a name I had heard as a Day 1 pick, with an average fastball (though it will touch 95, and he does have some arm strength) and a below-average breaking ball from a delivery that likely makes him a reliever. The Tampa Bay Rays have found diamonds in the rough like this before, but they could have had this diamond a round or two later.

Quickest to the majors: Jacob Lindgren, LHP, Mississippi State -- Lindgren can get left-handed hitters at the major league level out right now, as his slider is virtually unhittable against hitters from that side and he attacks batters with a 92-94 mph fastball. There’s not much upside here, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a member of the New York Yankees bullpen by the summer of 2015, if not sooner.

AL Central

AP Photo/Stacy Jo Grant
Starter Scott Blewett has major potential thanks to an above-average fastball and breaking ball.
Highest upside: Scott Blewett, RHP, CW Baker HS (Baldwinsville, New York) -- Blewett was considered a lock for the first round before injuring his forearm late in the year. However, his upside is right there with any of the prep pitchers who were drafted on Thursday. He’s got quality size (6-foot-6, 210 pounds) and an above-average fastball and breaking ball. The changeup should be at least an average offering in time. There’s some volatility here, but he’s got a chance to be a No. 2 starter for the Kansas City Royals. Blewett’s floor is as a quality reliever.

Questionable value: Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Alabama -- I don’t think Turnbull is a poor pick in terms of value, ranking 53rd overall on Keith Law’s Top 100, but the issue is that most scouts I’ve talked to believe that he’s not going to be a starter at the next level. This means Detroit selected likely relievers with the majority of their early selections the past two years. If he can start, then this will look foolish, but I have my share of doubts about whether or not he’ll ever be a member of the Detroit Tigers' rotation.

Quickest to the majors: Nick Burdi -- Burdi (Minnesota Twins) has the ability to get big league hitters out right now with a fastball that touches 100 mph and a wipeout slider, as well.

AL West

Highest upside: Ti’Quan Forbes, SS, Columbia (Mississippi) High School -- I thought the Texas Rangers were going to take Forbes with their first selection, but they instead acquired his services in the second round, which was much better value for the infielder. Because of his size, there’s a non-zero chance that he ends up at third base -- which would limit his value considerably -- but with plus speed and improving footwork, he’s got a chance to stick at shortstop and be above average across the board.

Questionable value: Joey Gatto, RHP, St. Augustine (New Jersey) High School -- In terms of stuff, Gatto isn’t a reach, but he wasn’t on Law’s Top 100 for a reason: He has shown zero consistency over his time as a prep pitcher. When he’s at his best, he looks like a quality, midrotation starter. But his inconsistent command and lack of a quality third pitch could lead to him being a reliever. He’s high risk, high reward, but I’m not sure the reward outweighs the risk for the Los Angeles Angels.

Quickest to the majors: A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky -- Reed was one of the best performers in all of college baseball and already has plus-plus power from the left side that will show up in games. He won’t add much value on the bases, and the hit tool is only average, but he could come up and be the Houston Astros' designated hitter relatively quickly, maybe even in 2015.

NL East

Highest upside: Garrett Fulencheck, RHP, Howe (Texas) High School -- If you like right-handers with athleticism and fastballs with loads of sink, then Fulencheck is the pitcher for you. There’s still some projection left in his 6-4,185-pound frame, and his slider will flash plus with quality tilt. Add in that he’ll get to work with one of the best player-development units in baseball (Atlanta Braves), and you get an arm that could be awfully intriguing in the next few years.

Questionable value: Blake Anderson, C, West Lauderdale High School (Collinsville, Mississippi) -- Anderson (Miami Marlins) was the first player off the board who didn’t land in Law’s Top 100, and all I can tell you about the backstop is that he has an above-average arm with average bat speed. When you don’t have enough information for a full scouting report, that’s sort of the definition of questionable value, isn’t it?

Quickest to the majors: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Miami (Florida) -- After taking a risk in the first round on Erick Fedde, the Washington Nationals went the safe route with Suarez. He could be a fast-track arm in the system. His command is already above average with three average to above-average secondary offerings, and while he’s unlikely to be more than a backend starter, he could help the Nationals rotation as soon as early 2016.

NL Central

Jacob Gatewood
Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
Shortstop Jacob Gatewood could be a potential star for Milwaukee down the road.
Highest upside: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School (California); Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit High School (Missouri) -- I’m cheating here, because both of these guys have huge upside and were outstanding value for the Milwaukee Brewers. If forced to pick one, I’d go with Gatewood because of his positional value, but you’re looking at two prep bats who have a chance to hit for big-time power if the hit tool allows them to play every day. Their first pick might have been a huge reach, but Milwaukee did very well with its next two picks.

Questionable value: Ronnie Williams, RHP, American Senior High School (Hialeah, Florida) -- Williams has improved dramatically over the spring and shows athleticism that draws comparison to Taijuan Walker, but neither of his secondary pitches flashes plus. There’s also a lot of effort to his delivery despite his athleticism. The St. Louis Cardinals have developed kids like this into quality pitchers before, but in terms of value, this was at least a round too early to me.

Quickest to the majors: Jake Stinnett, RHP, Maryland -- Stinnett was the first collegiate senior to come off the board, but don’t let that fool you. He has two pitches that flash plus in his mid-90s fastball and a slider with quality bite. If the Chicago Cubs decide to move him to the bullpen, he could help them next year, but even as a starter he shouldn’t need too much time in a minor league system because of his stuff and above-average feel for pitching.

NL West

Highest upside: Marcus Wilson, OF, J Serra High School (California) -- I had heard that Wilson would go in the first 40 picks, so I was very surprised when he fell to the last pick of the second round to the Arizona Diamondbacks. There are above-average to plus tools across the board in the right-handed-hitting outfielder, and he’s already an average center fielder defensively. Like the other bats mentioned in this piece, he won’t move quickly. However, Wilson has a chance to be an above-average regular if given the chance to develop.

Questionable value: Ryan Castellani, RHP, Brophy Lake High School (Phoenix) -- Castellani has plenty of arm strength and a projectable frame, but what he does not have is an average breaking ball or changeup, nor the ability to throw any of his three pitches for strikes. The Colorado Rockies will give him every chance to start, but you shouldn’t be surprised if the right-hander ends up a reliever long term.

Quickest to the majors: Aramis Garcia, C, FIU -- Being drafted by the San Francisco Giants complicates this a little bit, as San Francisco has Buster Posey behind the plate and Andrew Susac as his presumed heir apparent if they move him to first base. That being said, Garcia already has an average big league hit tool and close to an average glove behind the plate, though his framing and footwork still need a bit of work. Since everyone else in the NL West took prep players in the second round, though, Garcia sort of earns this honor by default.

Nats need to be dealing.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Each season, a number of teams end up stuck in the middle. The teams that can clearly navigate themselves out of that middle are often rewarded, but the teams that do nothing (looking at you, Philadelphia Phillies) often just remain trapped in their mediocrity. As the July 31 trading deadline begins to appear at the horizon of our road trip through the season, there are four teams that should be looking to be buyers. Here they are, plus lists of the players each should be targeting.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals are in one of the most difficult positions a team can find itself in. They are a team without obvious holes that hasn't performed up to expectations, and they don't have the kind of farm system that looks to cure any wounds, either. Certainly, the Nationals didn't expect to be in third place this deep into the season, and perhaps they wouldn't be if Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper had been healthy.

Zimmerman returns this week, although the plan for him doesn't make a lick of sense. In recent years, Zimmerman has lacked the range for third base. Now, coming off a broken thumb, the team wants him to play some left field. That's a bad plan to start. It's even worse because Danny Espinosa has not been that much better than Nate McLouth, so there is really no reason to play Zimmerman -- a valuable asset -- out of position to accommodate Espinosa. Finally, it's a short-term move, as Harper should be back around the All-Star break. If you're going to put that much time and energy into a position switch, it would be nice if it lasted for longer than six weeks or so.

The Zimmerman shenanigans aside, the team does have other spots it can upgrade. Bench play is never a sexy topic, but when Kevin Frandsen and his .236/.299/.315 slash line is one of your primary backups, it's clear that it's a situation that needs to be addressed. The team's catchers are also not hitting. Wilson Ramos has been and should be better, but it might be something worth looking into. The team's starters on both sides of the ball are fine for the most part, but in Espinosa, McLouth, Frandsen, Jose Lobaton, Greg Dobbs and Tyler Moore, the Nats have a whole mess of non-full-time players who just aren't hitting. The team still has a chance to reach the postseason, but that doesn't change the fact that it's stuck in third place. The big move might be hard to make, but the Nats need to find a way to get better.

Targets: Seth Smith, Bobby Abreu, Conor Gillaspie, John Mayberry, Carlos Ruiz

Cleveland Indians

This isn't the start the Indians expected. Danny Salazar blew up, for starters. Jason Kipnis missed a chunk of time. Carlos Santana has been a huge disappointment, and Nick Swisher and Ryan Raburn haven't been any better. The team has been an abomination on the road, and the Indians are looking up at the rebuilding White Sox in the standings.

And yet, hope isn't lost. Corey Kluber has been a beast, and Michael Brantley is in the midst of a career year. Lonnie Chisenhall is rebounding, as are David Murphy and Trevor Bauer. Despite Kipnis' absence and the struggles of the others, the Indians have not had any trouble scoring runs. Their wRC+ ranks eighth in all of baseball for the season, and it ranked third in May. If Santana can rebound when he returns from the concussion disabled list, the team might have the luxury of playing him and Chisenhall at the same time on the infield corners and moving Swisher into a bench role.

But the pitching needs some help. Kluber is an emerging ace, and Justin Masterson and Bauer should hold down the second and third spots in the rotation. After that, it's a whole lot of mediocre. The team's prognosis would improve greatly if guys such as Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin were responsible for only one of the two final rotation spots rather than both of them. The bullpen isn't much better. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen have stabilized things a bit, and Scott Atchison just keeps doing work, and Marc Rzepczynski still gets out lefties aplenty, but it gets ugly after that.

A return to form from Salazar -- no matter the role -- would be a big help, but that's not something Cleveland can bank on at this point, and, with no other top pitching prospects expected to graduate, Cleveland should explore the trade market. The Indians might lose Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera to free agency, and, with many of the team's long-term position players in their 30s, their time is now.

Targets: Jeff Samardzija, James Shields, Jose Quintana, Jason Hammel, Ian Kennedy, Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley, Bartolo Colon

Colorado Rockies

Come out of the gate strong, peter out in May. Rockies fans have seen this story before. But the team's play overall is still encouraging. On Friday, Dave Cameron noted that the Rockies have been the fourth-best team in baseball by expected run differential. Their troubles have mirrored Cleveland's, in that they have hit the ball well but have not necessarily pitched it with aplomb. Unlike the Indians, though, they do have a big hole in the lineup: second base. It isn't an isolated event. A look at the annals of the Rockies' second basemen reads basically as Eric Young and a hot pile of garbage. Since the Rockies came into existence, they are the only team to not accumulate 10 WAR at second base.

This year's second baseman, DJ LeMahieu, just isn't good enough. He can't hit, and, although he can field well, he doesn't field so well that it makes up for his limp noodle of a bat. Josh Rutledge has not been a solution, either, and the team should look externally. As mentioned, the pitching should be better, but Jon Gray and Eddie Butler might be ready to make like Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales did in 2007 and help rescue a struggling/injured starting rotation in the dog days of summer. Until the team makes a firm decision on whether it is going to push them to The Show this year, they should hold off on acquiring a more seasoned starting pitcher and focus instead on the keystone.

Targets: Daniel Murphy, Nick Franklin, Aaron Hill, Luis Valbuena, Chase Utley

Cincinnati Reds

When Mat Latos was acquired, it was because the team was ready for a playoff run. The Reds made the postseason in each of his first two seasons but managed just a 2-4 record, and it would be hard to label either experience "satisfying." And with Latos set to flee for greener-backed pastures after the season, 2014 might be the last season definitively in Cincy's window. And that window is slipping quickly from view. The team middled its way to just-below-.500 finishes in each of the season's two months, and its playoff odds stand at a distant 11 percent as of this writing. With a healthy Joey Votto, Cincinnati still wasn't hitting very well. With Votto on the shelf, this team can't punch its way out of a wet paper bag.

For the season, the team ranks ahead of only the Padres, Mariners, Cubs and Royals in terms of wRC+, and in May even the lowly Cubs hit better than did Cincinnati. In Votto's absence, the team has given the bulk of first-base at-bats to a backup catcher with a career .261/.295/.367 slash line. That would be unacceptable for catcher; for first base, it's downright criminal. It's also time to let go of the idea of "Zack Cozart, starting shortstop." Only seven qualified hitters have posted a worst ISO (isolated power) than Cozart's. As with LeMahieu in Colorado, Cozart's glove doesn't make up for his inept hitting.

At least Cozart does something well, though. The same cannot be said for Ryan Ludwick. Lost in all the hand-wringing about Billy Hamilton's offense has been the fact that there are precious few good hitters on this team in general. The Reds need more of them, and fast.

Targets: Seth Smith, Chase Headley, Jimmy Rollins, Adam Dunn, Marlon Byrd, Dayan Viciedo, Dexter Fowler, Asdrubal Cabrera

Time for Dodgers to shake things up.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has seen this star-driven strategy play out before, back in the 1980s with the New York Yankees. His boss, George Steinbrenner, would collect a bunch of big names on a roster without thorough consideration on whether they could all fit, and then expect his manager to stitch it together.

This is how, in 1988, they wound up with a 33-year-old Claudell Washington playing center field, flanked by Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson, with Jack Clark serving as the DH. Rafael Santana was at shortstop, and a young outfielder named Jay Buhner was swapped in a deal for 33-year-old Ken Phelps. The veterans were all good players -- Winfield and Henderson were future Hall of Famers -- but they didn't have a true center fielder and really weren't a good match, as their defensive abilities was merely a secondary consideration. The Yankees went 85-76 and finished fifth in the AL East.

Mattingly's current Dodgers team should be better than that because they have much better pitching, with Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Josh Beckett, etc., etc. They also have one of the best young players in the sport in the ever-improving Yasiel Puig.

But they don't fit. They don't have a true center fielder on their major league roster now that they've determined Matt Kemp cannot play that position adequately. (Scott Van Slyke probably never dreamed he would start in center field in the big leagues, as he did the other day.) Andre Ethier could get a lot of starts at the spot, as he did last year, but he's a corner outfielder. And they really don't have a shortstop, either; Hanley Ramirez ranks as the worst middle infielder in baseball in some defensive metrics, numbers that match the eye test of a number of rival evaluators, many of whom believe that Ramirez is not good enough to hold down the position unless he's killing the ball at the plate. So far, he's not.

So the Dodgers, just like some of Steinbrenner's 1980s teams, have the highest payroll and a whole lot of stars but little to no glove help at shortstop and center field. It's really hard to win without a defensive backbone.

And now Mattingly is really concerned about the team's chemistry, about the players pulling together, and after Wednesday's loss, he told reporters that he was sick of talking about the team's failures and suggested they go ask the players.

The Dodgers didn't play Thursday, and yet they managed to lose more ground in the standings because the Giants never seem to lose. As of this morning, the Dodgers are 8 1/2 games out of first in the NL West and their situation is reaching a critical mass, as it did last June. What happened a year ago is that GM Ned Colletti met with the staff on a road trip and encouraged Mattingly to simply stop worrying about the feelings of individuals and play the best players.

Mattingly did this, and the Dodgers proceeded to go on a 42-8 run and reached the National League Championship Series.

Might they head down the same path?

The Dodgers certainly have the options to try. They have a legitimate center fielder at Triple-A who is killing the ball in Joc Pederson (1.071 OPS). They could call him up, start him in center and move Ethier to left field. But there would be fallout: Matt Kemp would have even less opportunity for playing time, at a time when the Dodgers owe him almost $130 million, and he, Ethier, Carl Crawford and Van Slyke would be left to battle over at-bats. The "Intrigue Meter" would climb, again.

The Dodgers also have an outstanding defensive shortstop already on their major league roster in Erisbel Arruebarrena, who has greatly impressed the staff with how he moves, with his range and athleticism. There is no indication the Dodgers are thinking about moving Ramirez to third base, in the summer before he becomes a free agent, and they might be concerned with how he would react to such a suggestion.

Dee Gordon's offense has been slipping of late, Arruebarrena is not regarded as a good offensive player, and Pederson would probably go through the inevitable rookie slump as the league makes its adjustments to him, attacking him with lefty pitchers, his kryptonite last year.

But the point is, given its strong rotation, the Dodgers might be better off focusing on fielding the best possible defensive group, and given how they're performing now, what do they have to lose?

As such, Dylan Hernandez wonders this: Will the Dodgers respond to Mattingly?

Around the league

• Keith Law discussed the Dodgers' situation on Thursday's podcast, and Paul Hoynes talked about the Indians' recent surge. On Wednesday's podcast, Dodgers legend Don Newcombe recalled his experiences from his playing days, including an incredibly brave and progressive decision by Walter Alston in 1946 involving Roy Campanella. Also on that podcast: We talk to the Mariners' Kyle Seager.

• That's 10 losses in a row for the Rays, as Marc Topkin writes. From his story:
The 10-game streak matches the fourth worst in franchise history, second longest since shedding their Devil Rays past to a 2009 11-gamer. The 23-38 record, and accompanying features, such as games under .500 and games back, also take them back to their dark (green) days.

"It's frustrating, it's shocking, there's a long list of words that can describe it," [Matt] Joyce said. "At the end of the day, we're stuck in the middle of it, and we're the only ones that can pull ourselves out."

And a bit deeper into Topkin's story:
Maddon remains resolute that they can and will turn it around.

"I still believe there's a really good finish to the season for us," he said. "I still believe the playoffs are a possibility. I'm not just saying that, I believe that."

But he also admitted, what's gone on is hard to believe.

"It's very difficult," he said. "There's teams you could bet on that you could almost understand it, that it could happen. … This team is too good for that. There is too much talent out there to go through this particular moment."

• Two of the more interesting stories in the MLB draft Thursday were those of Jeff Hoffman, who was picked by the Jays at No. 9 overall despite having Tommy John surgery recently, and Tyler Beede, who bet on himself a few years ago by passing up a $2.1 million offer from the Jays to go to college. Now Beede will make a little more, in all likelihood, after being picked by the Giants at No. 14 overall.

With the Giants' choice of Beede, we can look forward to him someday facing former Vanderbilt teammate Sonny Gray.

• The Mets want Matt Harvey to slow down in his rehab program, writes Kristie Ackert. Meanwhile, Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard hurt his left (non-pitching) shoulder.

• Major League Baseball's fine of David Price makes no sense. If MLB officials have determined that Price acted with intent when he drilled David Ortiz and/or Mike Carp, then he should be suspended for at least six games -- and probably more, because if they found intent, then that would mean the act of drilling Ortiz in the first inning of the first game of the series was premeditated. If they have not determined there is intent, then he shouldn't get any penalty. There is no middle ground on this one.

• Teams can now sign Kendrys Morales without surrendering a first-round pick as compensation, and the Mariners still make the most sense of any team, given their recent performance (24-15 since April 22) and need for offense.

Texas has money to spend, given some of the insurance money recouped because of all the injuries they've had, but they have been using the designated hitter spot to rest players such as Shin-Soo Choo.

• Yordano Ventura returned to the rotation and helped the Royals to their third win in four games over the Cardinals. It has been a good -- and important -- week for Kansas City.

• The Giants are 39-21 after taking two of three from the Reds this week, meaning they're on a 105-win pace.

• The Nationals completed a sweep behind Doug Fister, and they continue to gather momentum.

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper wants to play center field when he returns. That spot is currently manned by Denard Span.

• The Blue Jays lit into Justin Verlander. Juan Francisco has 16 extra-base hits (eight doubles, eight homers) in his past 88 at-bats.

• The Yankees are 10-2 in games started by Masahiro Tanaka, and 20-27 in all other games. He is almost singlehandedly propping up the team's playoff hopes right now.

Tanaka had just four strikeouts against the Oakland A's on Thursday, a season low, as hitters were able to lay off his splitter. From ESPN Stats & Info on how Tanaka won:

A) The A's whiffed on just 26 percent of swings against the splitter and chased only 41 percent of splitters out of the strike zone (both numbers were the lowest in Tanaka's career).
B) It was the first time in his career he didn't record a strikeout with his splitter.
C) But hitters had trouble with his slider. All 20 of the sliders he threw were strikes (13 swings, 7 called strikes). It was the most pitches of one kind thrown by a pitcher all for strikes in a game this season.
D) Of those 13 swings, seven of 'em were out of the strike zone.
E) His slider got him seven outs (most in a start in his career).

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Tigers may have to make a decision at shortstop.

2. Ned Yost explained why Eric Hosmer is still batting third, as Andy McCullough writes.

3. Kirk Gibson needs a dramatic moment to save his job, writes Dan Bickley.

Dings and dents

1. Kolten Wong has an injured left shoulder.

2. Miguel Gonzalez is feeling better.

3. Mat Latos left his rehab start with a calf cramp.

4. The Twins' hottest hitter turned his ankle, as Phil Miller writes.

5. Mark Appel has tendinitis in his thumb. On Thursday's podcast, Keith Law addressed the perception of some in baseball that Appel has a toughness issue.

6. Alexi Ogando has been shut down for three weeks.

7. Mike Trout was back in the Angels' lineup, as Jim Peltz writes.

8. Jedd Gyorko is dealing with a foot problem.

Thursday's games

1. The Mets were swept by the Cubs. Fred Mitchell looks at how they won Thursday.

2. The Orioles made mistakes Thursday.

3. The Tigers lost again. This slide is the first true test for manager Brad Ausmus, writes Drew Sharp.

4. The Brewers hit their way past Wily Peralta's mistakes.

5. The Marlins pounded the free-falling Rays.

6. The Astros won another series, this time against the Angels.

7. The Diamondbacks continue to win, and have now surged back to within 10 games of .500.

8. Colorado's losing streak has reached seven games.

9. It's a shocking event when Oakland doesn't win.

NL East

• The Phillies selected a kid who is on a fast track to the big leagues, writes Bob Brookover. He can command his fastball, says Marti Wolever.

• The Nationals grabbed a pitcher from UNLV.

• The Mets grabbed a home run hitter.

• The Braves drafted a power bat, writes Carroll Rogers.

NL Central

• The Pirates took a high school shortstop.

• St. Louis grabbed four pitchers in the draft.

• Cincinnati snaked an infielder in the first round.

• The Cubs took an outfielder who may be destined to move to another position. They also selected a pitcher in the second round.

• Milwaukee snagged a left-handed pitcher in the first round.

NL West

• This was pretty cool: Tyler Beede's Vanderbilt teammates reacting after he was taken in the draft.

• Arizona loaded up on young arms.

• Colorado took a pitcher in the first round.

• The Dodgers' No. 1 pick is being compared to Chad Billingsley.

• San Diego selected a college shortstop.

AL East

• The Red Sox took some high school kids.

AL Central

• I've heard over and over from folks who've seen Carlos Rodon that he throws a high percentage of sliders, and they view him as a tremendous risk. The fact that the White Sox, who have an excellent track record when it comes to evaluating pitchers for injury risk (see: Chris Sale), took Rodon is really interesting.

• The Royals grabbed a pitcher from TCU.

• The Tigers' first-round pick fought through doubts.

• The Indians took an outfielder, as Paul Hoynes writes. Cleveland selected four players on the first day.

• The Twins went for an infielder from a fantastic baseball bloodline.

AL West

• Evan Grant wrote about the 2004 draft, which changed the Rangers forever.

• The Mariners went for raw power, as /larrystone/2023779323_stone06xml.html">Larry Stone writes.

• With the No. 1 overall pick, the Astros took a high school lefty.

• Texas went for a high school pitcher.

• The Angels' first pick could provide immediate help in their bullpen.


• I wrote this piece about Don Zimmer's life in baseball, from Christmas cards to bridge, in the spring of 1999, after he took over for the then-cancer-stricken Joe Torre as manager of the Yankees.

Don Zimmer stayed the course, writes Bob Klapisch. Baseball lost a true friend in Zimmer, writes Steve Buckley. The Rays will honor Zimmer on Saturday.

• Boston prospect Mookie Betts is succeeding at every level.

• Something is wrong with Matt Holliday, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Steve Delabar is making mechanical adjustments, writes John Lott.

• The Marlins' shortstop is showing growth.

• Ron Washington discussed George W. Bush's book.

• Vanderbilt's Super Regional starts at 1 p.m. ET today on ESPN2, against Stanford.

And today will be better than yesterday.

No short-term fix for Philadelphia.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays are in free fall, and they could face the same question in the weeks ahead: Should they conduct a sell-off of marketable assets or hang on and hope for a turnaround?

But the quandary faced by these two teams is not really the same.

If Tampa Bay decides to take players into the market, they could dangle David Price, a former Cy Young winner who has another 1.5 seasons before becoming eligible for free agency. Price might not have as much trade value as a casual fan might think, but he’s got value, and there would be serious interest.

Whatever they get for Price, whether they deal him in July or in the offseason, the Rays will add those young players to Alex Cobb and Chris Archer and Wil Myers. They will reload and move ahead.

A Phillies sell-off, on the other hand, might actually be bleaker than how they're playing now, because they don't really have movable pieces, and there really isn't a core they'd be adding to.

Jimmy Rollins is 35 years old and having a good season, but he's about 200 plate appearances from having an $11 million vesting option kick in for 2015, which greatly diminishes whatever trade value he has. Carlos Ruiz, 35, could interest some team looking for catching, but he's owed about $20 million. Ryan Howard is owed about $75 million and is hitting .226 and is unmovable; like a lot of others on the Phillies' roster, he's got a staggering option buyout, of $10 million. Marlon Byrd is hitting fine but is owed $8 million for 2015 and a vesting option for 2016.

Cliff Lee is on the disabled list with elbow trouble and hasn't been able to start a throwing program. Chase Utley is playing great, but he has become the Cal Ripken Jr. of this organization, something to offer a fan base that is staying away in increasing numbers, and given the sentimentality that has infected a lot of the team's decision-making in recent years, it's hard to imagine the Phillies ever moving him.

Some in the organization recommended that the Phillies trade Domonic Brown last fall, long before his early 2014 slide -- and Brown might have some trade value. But Larry Bowa was blunt in his criticism of the outfielder Tuesday. From Matt Gelb’s story:

The vibe after Monday's 11-2 loss was "bad," Bowa said. The team took a train to Washington afterward.

"It was pretty quiet," Bowa said. "It should be. You have players here in the big leagues who aren't playing like big-leaguers. I understand; it's a long season and there are periods of time when I played and things went bad. But we're going into June. And there are some players right now who need to pick it up. There's no question about that."

Brown is one. His .576 OPS ranked 171st out of 175 qualified hitters before Tuesday's games. Bowa wondered how Brown arrives at the ballpark with an "upbeat" attitude.

"I don't know how he does that, because if it were me, I'd be going nuts right now," Bowa said. "The big thing you have to be concerned about is if you take away a six-week period from the equation [in Brown's career], the numbers aren't very good."

The players are dedicated to extra work, Bowa said, but he wondered whether many of the roster's shortcomings cannot be cured.

"A lot of this has to do with instinct," Bowa said. "If you don't have good baseball instincts, you can't teach instincts. If you don't have it by the time you get to the big leagues, you're not going to get it. I don't care how much you practice. And there are some people right now showing they don't have the baseball instincts that maybe we thought they had."

• The Phillies had no response Tuesday, writes Ryan Lawrence; they were shut down by the Nationals.

Every team operates with contingency plans. The Rays certainly do, and they could be moving to Plan B soon. But the Phillies may not really be able to start moving onto a different path until the winter, until more money is made available for another round of fixes.

Tampa Bay was shut out by the Marlins Tuesday, the Rays' eighth straight loss. Myers will miss the next couple of months, at least.

Around the league

• Mike Trout: Uh-oh. He got back in the lineup and immediately aggravated his back injury.

• Josh Hamilton returned and hit a home run.

• Nelson Cruz mashed his 21st homer in his return to Texas, and he is on pace to club 61 homers among 99 extra-base hits and drive in 159 runs.

To repeat: 99 extra-base hits. 61 homers. 159 RBIs.

• Cruz leads the DH All-Star balloting, and Melky Cabrera -- another player suspended in the past for PED use -- is among the top three outfielders in the AL voting. Jayson Stark and I talked about that on the Tuesday podcast, and Brewers GM Doug Melvin joined to talk about the upcoming draft and his team.

• Jose Abreu mashed his 17th home run.

Jonathan Singleton
Andrew Woolley/Four Seam Images/AP Images
Jonathan Singleton hit a home run in his MLB debut on Tuesday night in Houston.
• Jonathan Singleton’s contract guarantees him $10 million over the next five years, and the deal has engendered much criticism -- including from his former teammate Bud Norris, who took aim from Twitter.

Here's the bottom line: $10 million means different things to different people. This spring, Max Scherzer -- with some $30 million and a Cy Young Award banked -- turned down $144 million and bet on himself that he can make more as a free agent this fall.

Singleton, on the other hand, hadn't played in a game in the big leagues before last night, and he has talked about the addiction issues he has battled. Maybe the guarantee of $10 million looks a little different from his perspective.

Years ago, Tony Gwynn eschewed the counsel from the players' association and made below-market deals with the Padres because he wanted to stay in San Diego; he didn't want to play anyplace else, and wasn't interested in pushing the market.

Hey, to each his own. Singleton made what he feels is the best decision for him, just as Norris and Scherzer and Gwynn have.

• Singleton had a memorable debut, clubbing a home run. Here’s the video.

• Brendan Ryan has made four appearances at first base this season, which is really silly. Look, Ryan has been a subpar offensive player in his career, but he is among the best fielding shortstops in the game and unless he’s playing on the same team as Andrelton Simmons, it makes no sense that he moves.

The elephant in the room is the fact that future Derek Jeter has never played an inning of his career at a position other than shortstop. If this is the reason that Joe Girardi hasn’t asked Jeter to move to first base in certain situations -- such as when he's in the lineup at the same time as Ryan, who is clearly the better defender -- then Girardi isn't doing right by all the other players or the organization. As Girardi himself said, he's not being paid to run a farewell tour, and he cannot say with a straight face that he's putting his best team on the field if he's simultaneously playing Ryan at first base and Jeter at shortstop -- particularly in light of the fact that he has pulled Jeter for defense late in the games when the Yankees have a lead and replaced him with Ryan. (Such as in this game.)

Carlos Beltran volunteered to play some innings at first this year, in an emergency. Brian McCann has played first. Francisco Cervelli played first. Jeter could play first.

And it's not as if a position or lineup change is unusual for superstars. Hank Aaron, who became the greatest home run hitter of all time in 1974, was moved to the No. 5 spot in the lineup at times in his last season, 1976. Willie Mays, arguably the greatest center fielder in major league history, started at first base in each of his last two seasons. Babe Ruth occasionally played first base for the Yankees. Ernie Banks moved, and so did Cal Ripken, Johnny Bench and Stan Musial. Ty Cobb shifted from center field to right field late in his career.

Honus Wagner, who is regarded as the greatest shortstop of all time, played 74 games in his final season of 1917 -- and only one of them was at shortstop. He played first base for most of that season.

There is this, too: Jeter currently ranks 22nd of 26 in OPS among all players who have at least 100 plate appearances in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

Ryan started at shortstop with Jeter at DH in the Yankees' loss Tuesday, and he couldn’t get down a bunt. The Yankees' bullpen is suddenly hurting.

• Brandon Moss continued Oakland’s onslaught of homers.

• Ryan Zimmerman returned and got a couple of hits, and Jordan Zimmermann shut down the Phillies, as Adam Kilgore writes.

• The Royals won the first two games of the I-70 series, and they came back to beat St. Louis Tuesday.

• Frustration is mounting for the Cardinals, writes Derrick Goold.

• Joe Nathan is really struggling, and he was beaten by the Jays on Tuesday.

• Nathan has brought little relief to the Tigers.

• The Jays took flight in the ninth inning, writes Richard Griffin. Drew Hutchison threw a gem.

• Lloyd McClendon made a nice managerial move in the Mariners' comeback victory.

Draft stuff

• The Pirates are unfazed by their lower spot.

• Bob Elliott writes about Canada's top draft prospect.

• The Padres have had some really bad drafts, writes Nick Canepa.

After talking with multiple executives, I think Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede is going to go someplace in the first 20 picks. The prevailing feeling is that he's far too talented to drop very far.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Rockies called up Eddie Butler and shifted Franklin Morales to the bullpen, as Nick Groke writes.

Stephen Drew
Brian Westerholt/AP Photo
The Red Sox may look to trade shortstop Stephen Drew by June 15.
2. The Orioles could go with a six-man rotation when Johan Santana joins the team.

3. Brandon Workman got six games in his suspension, and David Price got nothing.

4. The Red Sox should trade Stephen Drew, writes Gerry Callahan.

5. Norichika Aoki is hanging on to the leadoff spot.

6. Jose Veras was cut, perhaps a sign of things to come, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

7. The Twins might be looking for a way to get Aaron Hicks to Triple-A.

8. The Angels summoned Cam Bedrosian.

9. Nick Franklin was sent to the minors.

Dings and dents

1. Joey Votto is getting closer to coming back. The Votto mystery continues, writes Hal McCoy.

2. Josh Reddick has a knee injury that could keep him out of action for a while.

3. Cliff Pennington landed on the DL, and Didi Gregorius replaced him.

4. Carlos Gonzalez was hurt again.

5. Chad Billingsley is making progress.

Tuesday’s games

1. Pedro Alvarez and the Pirates had another good day. That's 10 wins in the past 14 games.

2. The Mets lost in a walk-off, as Marc Carig writes.

3. Cincinnati's winning streak has reached four.

4. Michael Bourn was "the man" for the Indians, who won again.

AL East

• On Monday’s podcast, Marc Topkin and Alex Speier explored the history of tension between the Rays and Red Sox.

• The Blue Jays beat the Tigers 5-3 in nine innings in a game that was scoreless after eight innings. From the Elias Sports Bureau: The eight combined runs are tied for the most ever in the ninth inning of a game that was scoreless through eight innings (Pirates-Braves, July 23, 1993).

• The Red Sox lost in Cleveland again.

• Nick Cafardo wonders: Where will the Red Sox turn to for outfield help?

AL Central

• Brian Dozier showed more power.

AL West

• Alexi Ogando struggled again.

• Jurickson Profar knows this season is likely a lost cause.

NL East

• The Marlins' Henderson Alvarez completely shut down the Rays, throwing an 88-pitch complete game. From ESPN Stats & Information, how he did this:

A. Limited damage: The Rays were 1-for-7 with men on base.

B. He induced three double plays on the first pitch of at-bats. The last pitcher to do that was Trevor Cahill, who did so two years ago to the day against the Padres.

C. He threw 21 changeups, netting six outs and yielding no baserunners with the pitch.

Alvarez set a record, as Manny Navarro writes.

• The Braves blew a big early lead.

• Tim Hudson says he's not bitter.

NL Central

• Jordy Mercer gained strength from adversity, writes Rob Biertempfel.

• Kris Bryant clubbed another homer.

• Yovani Gallardo is struggling.

NL West

• Paul Goldschmidt got a day off.

• Tim Lincecum had all kinds of problems with Billy Hamilton.


• Jason Lane was called up from the minors to pitch and was needed immediately.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Lane, who played in the major leagues from 2002 through 2007, mainly as an outfielder, made it back to the majors Tuesday with the Padres, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless and hitless innings of relief in his first major league game as a pitcher.

The last man to play in the major leagues as a position player, have a hiatus of at least six seasons and then return to the majors as a pitcher was Danny Murphy for the Cubs and White Sox in the 1960s. Murphy debuted with the Cubs in 1960 as a 17-year-old outfielder and stayed with them through 1962. He then resurfaced across town with the White Sox as a pitcher, appearing in 68 games in 1969 and 1970.

• Max Scherzer had trouble with a crossword clue about himself.

• The Cubs may announce this week that they are parting with WGN Radio.

And today will be better than yesterday.
post #22584 of 72976
As usual, great work Pro. smokin.gif
post #22585 of 72976
Thread Starter 
I got another update coming but thanks bud pimp.gif
post #22586 of 72976
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

If you don't mind me asking, where do you work?
Got you, PM.
Originally Posted by bronconation24 View Post

NL west is such a bad division.
In preseason, I had it Dodgers, D-Backs, Giants, Rockies, Padres. How wrong was I about Arizona.
Originally Posted by CP1708 View Post

As usual, great work Pro. smokin.gif
You're the man, Pro.
post #22587 of 72976
Thread Starter 
Prospect Watch: May Flames.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
NOTE: In no way are the three players presented in this article meant to represent the three singular top performers of last month in the minor leagues. They are merely players who had clearly dominant Mays about whom I have especially relevant and novel information to add.

Kevin Plawecki, C, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: 6 Top-100: N/A
Line: 177 PA, .335/.367/.524, 6 HR, 8 BB, 21 K
An excellent all-around catching prospect.

I’ve been attempting to drive the Kevin Plawecki hype train ever since I saw the 2012 supplemental first-rounder in Low-A last May. After all, it’s tough not to like a legitimate two-way catcher. Now two levels higher and one year later, he’s showed no signs of slowing down.

After getting off to a fairly slow start in April (.250/.300/.304), Plawecki exploded in May, hitting .359/.378/.602 with fifteen extra-base hits in 26 games. After a .305/.390/.448 performance split between the A levels in 2013, he’s continuing to cement himself as one of the premier offensive catcher prospects in the game. His walk rate has taken a dive this year (4.5%), but he’s still rarely striking out (11.9%); his plate judgment is actually quite sound, but his contact skills are good enough that he rarely gets through a plate appearance without making contact. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and a short swing that has just enough leverage to make him dangerous.

On that note, he’s already launched six homers this season after hitting just eight last year. At 6’2″ and 225 pounds, Plawecki has a strapping catcher’s body and looks the part of a power hitter, though he typically has received merely fringe-average grades on his power tool in the past, largely because he has a gap-to-gap approach and doesn’t look to hit the ball out of the park (38 doubles last year, 13 this year). However, the early returns on his 2014 season seem to show he might be tapping more into his raw strength, which could make him a good source of both doubles and homers (by catcher standards, at least) down the line.

Moreover, Plawecki is a polished defensive catcher who will definitely stick behind the plate. He has extremely soft hands and has committed just 14 passed balls in 184 games caught in his career, a very advanced rate for a catcher in his early twenties. While his arm typically gets fringe-average grades, it’s another tool that seems to play above its scouting level, as he’s caught 32% of basestealers this year.

Travis d’Arnaud still appears to be the catcher of the future for the Mets, but with his career line standing at .195/.284/.276 after 251 MLB plate appearances, now might be the time where Plawecki starts to become something more than just an afterthought in the Mets’ plans. There’s still a chance he could serve as a valuable trade chip, but in any case, as a catcher with no real weaknesses (except for the speed deficiency common to the position), he should be a very valuable player for a major league team. Given how he’s producing at the minors’ second-highest level, he might be ready to start making MLB contributions in September.


Luis Ysla, LHP, San Francisco Giants (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 22 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 47 IP, 38 H, 17 R, 37/19 K/BB, 2.49 ERA, 3.75 FIP

Everyone loves a power lefty, right?

I was at Luis Ysla‘s start against Hickory on May 13. A lot of things about that start were memorable. He threw eight innings and allowed just two hits, one run, and no walks while striking out seven. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, hit 96 mph in the seventh inning, and showed an intriguing slider.

All of those facts are indeed quite impressive, but the one I simply can’t shake from my head is this: Luis Ysla was signed for $7,500.

That’s $7,500 well spent, because Ysla has easily the best fastball I’ve ever seen from a lefthanded starter. He worked anywhere from 90-96 mph in my viewing, but could reach back for 94-96 whenever he wanted–as mentioned, he hit 96 in the seventh inning and 95 in the eighth. The pitch comes in with late sink and run from his slingshot delivery and is absolutely too much for Low-A batters:

You can see there that Ysla tends to dramatically vary the effort in his delivery. When he’s low effort, he’s still in the low 90s, but it’s when he ramps it up that the ball climbs into the mid 90s. Regardless of this quirk, it’s still a fastball that averages 93 mph with plus life, an extremely rare beast for a southpaw starter.

As you might expect, Ysla tends to rely heavily on the fastball–I’d estimate he threw it 75% of the time or so in my viewing. He does, however, have a very interesting second pitch that he’ll turn to for strikeouts at times:

The slider comes in at 78-83 mph with big, sweeping bite. It’s not particularly consistent at this stage, but it plays up because he uses it judiciously and because hitters have to worry so much about the fastball. It’s at least an average pitch already even without that and has the chance to be a 6 pitch in the future with additional tightening.

Ysla threw exactly three changeups in my viewing: the pitch is 85-87 mph with some sink and a touch of run, and frankly, he could have used it more without embarrassing himself. It’s a playable offering that could get into the average range with consistent reps.

Ysla is 22 years old already–he signed at age 20, which is a big part of why a southpaw this talented was signed so cheaply. But his dominant May–batters hit .189/.235/.253 off him and he put up a 1.29 ERA in 28 innings–backs up his stuff. It’s easy to see him turning into a Sean Doolittle sort of pitcher out of the bullpen, coming in and just throwing a ton of mid-90s heaters, but his offspeed arsenal is promising enough to not discount his chances at starting. Given his age, though, he’ll need a whole lot more reps on the changeup to make a rotation gig his long-term home. Regardless of his eventual role, Ysla should be a valuable big-league arm, one of many intriguing young pitchers the Giants are cultivating.


Mitch Horacek, LHP, Baltimore Orioles (Profile)
Level: High-A Age: 22 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 58 IP, 56 H, 25 R, 55/15 K/BB, 2.64 ERA, 3.62 FIP

Horacek has premium size, three solid pitches, and a good idea of what he’s doing on the mound.

From afar, it might seem that Mitch Horacek is an organizational arm–the sort of guy every organization has a few of. You know the type–ninth-round college pick, big guy, a bit old for his levels but not egregiously so, producing well, okay stuff but nothing exceptional. When I went to see him throw (the day after I saw Ysla), that’s the type of guy I was expecting.

In a lot of ways, Mitch Horacek is that guy. He’s a big fastball-slider-change lefty with good control, the sort of combination that works wonders against Low-A hitters, allowing him to post a 1.60 ERA and 36/10 K/BB in 33.1 innings at the level in May. Including his first start in June, he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last three outings, spanning 18 frames.

Taken by itself, his stuff isn’t anything altogether special. Horacek throws an 89-92 mph fastball with some running action, a solid 79-83 mph slider with bite, and a 79-82 mph fading changeup; he also flashed a show-me curveball at 76. It’s quite the boiler-plate repertoire–nothing about it impresses, really, but it’s not so boring as to immediately cause one to discard Horacek’s MLB prospects.

So after seeing him throw a couple of innings, I had Horacek labeled as an org guy–maybe a good innings-eater in the upper minors. But as I kept watching him throw, what struck me was the big southpaw’s lack of flaws. None of his pitches (other than the curve, which isn’t important) projected at lower than 5-grade offerings, he gets good plane to the plate from his big frame, he held his velocity through six innings, he has a bit of deception in his slightly herky-jerky motion, he hits his spots, and, as one might expect from a Dartmouth product, he possesses excellent pitchability, moving the ball around to all four quadrants of the zone to both lefties and righties and mixing all three of his pitches very well. He does like to turn to the slider with two strikes:

The breaking pitch has allowed Horacek to dominate lefthanded batters this year (.141/.187/.239 with a 30/3 K/BB in 75 PA), so at the worst, he can take it to the bullpen and become a lefty specialist. Against righties, he’s allowing a more problematic .301/.353/.434 line and his strikeout rate drops from 40% to 16.8%. This trend bears watching in the long run, though Horacek still has a reasonable 31/12 K/BB against righties, and his changeup should be good enough to give him a chance against them. Given what I saw from him, I’m inclined to say that a lot of the ugly triple-slash here is likely bad BABIP luck; righties have a .343 mark off him while lefties are at .244. While I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a real true-talent split there given the strikeout rate split, I find it highly unlikely that it’s that dramatic.

In any case, Horacek struck me as perhaps a cut above the typical organizational profile his background might suggest. Most guys of this type have one big undoing–one pitch isn’t as good as the others, or the fastball’s too straight or too slow, or there’s not enough stamina, or the mechanics aren’t good. But Horacek is solid all the way around, and that leads be to believe he has a real chance at evolving into a quality back-of-the-rotation starter.

The Giants And High-Leverage Dominance.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The San Francisco Giants entered play Thursday with the best record in baseball at 38-21, a game ahead of their cross-bay rivals in Oakland and a full 3.5 games better than any other National League team. Given their recent history of World Series success, maybe this doesn’t stand out to you. If you know the team and have been following along, however, this seems more than a little surprising, because the Giants certainly don’t seem like the best team in baseball.

That’s not to disparage them – they’re a good team, to be sure, and their Pythagorean win-loss record of 36-23 doesn’t indicate that they’ve been benefitted too much from run distribution.

But that’s just based on run differential, and there’s certainly a lot of variance and good fortune that can go into how teams produce runs. For the Giants, well, being the clutchiest bunch of clutches who ever clutched is certainly helping.

The Colorado Rockies blog Purple Row wrote a bit about how the Giants have over-performed in high-leverage situations in the early parts of the season, a team-wide “skill” that doesn’t appear to be very repeatable outside of St. Louis. Chalking high-leverage performance up strictly to luck probably isn’t the best approach, but the degree to which San Francisco has outperformed every other National League team in high leverage situations at the dish is striking:

Orioles 252 0.364 129 0.362 9.9% 19.4% 0.838
Indians 287 0.361 137 0.330 8.4% 16.0% 0.834
Mariners 199 0.358 127 0.354 8.0% 22.6% 0.834
Athletics 289 0.347 123 0.296 10.7% 16.3% 0.804
Blue Jays 148 0.344 119 0.333 8.1% 20.9% 0.789
Giants 269 0.344 121 0.325 10.8% 20.1% 0.821
Tigers 179 0.343 117 0.300 10.1% 18.4% 0.796
White Sox 262 0.342 115 0.314 9.9% 26.0% 0.799
Marlins 275 0.341 117 0.337 12.7% 20.7% 0.781
Rockies 225 0.332 93 0.254 9.8% 20.4% 0.770
Reds 253 0.323 96 0.271 8.7% 19.8% 0.747
Twins 254 0.321 104 0.253 13.4% 22.4% 0.744
Pirates 312 0.321 106 0.302 8.7% 20.2% 0.725
Brewers 243 0.321 98 0.318 8.6% 23.0% 0.744
Royals 258 0.318 96 0.307 7.8% 20.5% 0.730
Rangers 207 0.313 88 0.299 11.1% 16.4% 0.730
Phillies 282 0.308 91 0.314 8.9% 20.6% 0.717
Diamondbacks 234 0.307 89 0.300 6.4% 19.7% 0.714
Yankees 217 0.305 89 0.322 9.2% 15.7% 0.695
Padres 222 0.301 92 0.228 11.3% 21.2% 0.683
Red Sox 340 0.297 84 0.286 13.5% 23.5% 0.675
Rays 280 0.295 89 0.271 10.4% 15.0% 0.669
Braves 243 0.295 84 0.312 7.4% 24.3% 0.680
Cardinals 276 0.278 77 0.250 9.1% 19.9% 0.629
Astros 200 0.271 68 0.266 7.0% 25.5% 0.601
Mets 317 0.265 67 0.262 11.4% 25.9% 0.606
Nationals 274 0.262 61 0.262 10.9% 23.7% 0.596
Dodgers 237 0.256 61 0.236 8.9% 21.5% 0.585
Cubs 257 0.246 48 0.226 10.9% 23.3% 0.553
Angels 223 0.239 50 0.220 9.9% 18.8% 0.545
While they rank tied for fifth overall in high leverage wOBA, they’re the top NL team and rank as above-average in terms of the number of high leverage plate appearances they’ve had. That is, not only have they been really good, they’ve done it over more situations than most.

The reason this stands out isn’t just that they’ve been good, though, but rather that on the whole they’re a completely average offense, ranking 16th in wOBA and sixth on the senior circuit. They’ve “saved” their best performance for when it matters, in so much as any team could possibly control that. Have a look at how their high leverage wOBA compares to their wOBA in other situations:

Team HighLev PA HighLev wOBA MedLev PA MedLev wOBA LowLev PA LowLev wOBA
Orioles 252 0.364 981 0.307 971 0.327
Indians 287 0.361 973 0.338 1042 0.292
Mariners 199 0.358 939 0.279 1044 0.303
Athletics 289 0.347 879 0.342 1177 0.330
Blue Jays 148 0.344 889 0.343 1264 0.346
Giants 269 0.344 876 0.340 1086 0.282
Tigers 179 0.343 845 0.321 1054 0.323
White Sox 262 0.342 977 0.328 1070 0.300
Marlins 275 0.341 844 0.310 1117 0.330
Rockies 225 0.332 921 0.372 1092 0.329
Reds 253 0.323 925 0.291 955 0.304
Brewers 243 0.321 922 0.325 1101 0.313
Pirates 312 0.321 986 0.320 980 0.306
Twins 254 0.321 899 0.304 1061 0.312
Royals 258 0.318 907 0.291 1069 0.288
Rangers 207 0.313 865 0.315 1150 0.320
Phillies 282 0.308 969 0.294 965 0.305
Diamondbacks 234 0.307 904 0.293 1186 0.326
Yankees 217 0.305 880 0.321 1134 0.305
Padres 222 0.301 927 0.274 1030 0.286
Red Sox 340 0.297 996 0.299 981 0.329
Braves 243 0.295 961 0.314 939 0.291
Rays 280 0.295 906 0.275 1126 0.326
Cardinals 276 0.278 934 0.322 1100 0.295
Astros 200 0.271 877 0.317 1167 0.309
Mets 317 0.265 998 0.309 1018 0.292
Nationals 274 0.262 847 0.340 1070 0.307
Dodgers 237 0.256 954 0.321 1164 0.332
Cubs 257 0.246 863 0.306 1010 0.295
Angels 223 0.239 847 0.337 1195 0.332
That’s a lot to sort through, so what we can do for a rough gauge is compare high leverage performance with low and medium leverage performance, simply looking at the percentage change when the heat gets turned up:

Team % of PA hiLev HiLev/LowLev HighLev/MedLev HighLev/Other
Mariners 9.1% 118.2% 128.3% 122.8%
Indians 12.5% 123.6% 106.8% 114.9%
Orioles 11.4% 111.3% 118.6% 114.9%
Giants 12.1% 122.0% 101.2% 111.7%
Royals 11.5% 110.4% 109.3% 109.9%
White Sox 11.3% 114.0% 104.3% 109.1%
Reds 11.9% 106.3% 111.0% 108.5%
Padres 10.2% 105.2% 109.9% 107.4%
Tigers 8.6% 106.2% 106.9% 106.5%
Marlins 12.3% 103.3% 110.0% 106.1%
Twins 11.5% 102.9% 105.6% 104.1%
Athletics 12.3% 105.2% 101.5% 103.5%
Phillies 12.7% 101.0% 104.8% 102.8%
Pirates 13.7% 104.9% 100.3% 102.6%
Brewers 10.7% 102.6% 98.8% 100.8%
Blue Jays 6.4% 99.4% 100.3% 99.8%
Diamondbacks 10.1% 94.2% 104.8% 98.5%
Rangers 9.3% 97.8% 99.4% 98.5%
Yankees 9.7% 100.0% 95.0% 97.8%
Braves 11.3% 101.4% 93.9% 97.5%
Rays 12.1% 90.5% 107.3% 97.3%
Rockies 10.1% 100.9% 89.2% 95.2%
Red Sox 14.7% 90.3% 99.3% 94.6%
Cardinals 11.9% 94.2% 86.3% 90.4%
Mets 13.6% 90.8% 85.8% 88.2%
Astros 8.9% 87.7% 85.5% 86.7%
Cubs 12.1% 83.4% 80.4% 82.0%
Nationals 12.5% 85.3% 77.1% 81.5%
Dodgers 10.1% 77.1% 79.8% 78.3%
Angels 9.8% 72.0% 70.9% 71.5%
The Giants are performing 11.7 percent better when the leverage is turned up, the biggest gain of any National League team. What’s more, they’ve saved their worst performances for when the leverage is the lowest, ranking only behind Cleveland in the gap between high and low leverage performance at 22 percent.

There are a few ways someone could classify that as “luck,” especially considering the largest “high versus low” gain over a full season in 2013 was just 16.4 percent (Kansas City), and they were the only team to top a 7.1 percent high leverage gain. Again in 2012, an 11.5 percent mark (Cincinnati) topped the list, and in 2011, two teams managed a double-digit percentage gain but none topped 13.9 percent (Milwaukee). In short, recent history suggests a team can’t sustain being 20 percent better in high leverage situations than low leverage ones, so the Giants are surely due to regress some.

How much has this benefited San Francisco on the offensive end? Well, that wOBA in high leverage situations has been worth 5.6 weighted runs above average, and their offense in other situations has been 9.7 runs below average. Inputting their wOBA in medium and low leverage situations in place of their .344 mark in high leverage spots, they would lose 6.7 weighted runs, enough to drop their Pythagorean win-loss record another half-win. That’s some rough back of the envelope math, but needless to say this unexpected performance in the clutch has probably added a win or so to their total based on math alone, but may have manifested itself in specific situations to help lead to more real wins. The fact that their projected winning percentage moving forward is just .524 rather than the .644 they’ve amassed so far gives reason to be skeptical they can keep this up.

To this point, the Giants haven’t been all that fortunate in terms of every player outperforming expectations in high leverage spots, but rather that their best bats have tended to come up in high leverage situations. Hunter Pence has been incredibly “clutch” with a .458 high leverage wOBA, and he leads the team with 32 such plate appearances. Pablo Sandoval has struggled and Brandon Belt hasn’t had nearly as many important appearances as you’d expect, but otherwise the distribution of these appearances has been favorable.

Name HighLev PA HighLev wOBA Overall wOBA
Hunter Pence 32 0.458 0.367
Pablo Sandoval 30 0.178 0.305
Brandon Crawford 28 0.279 0.313
Angel Pagan 24 0.307 0.349
Buster Posey 23 0.403 0.319
Michael Morse 23 0.399 0.393
Hector Sanchez 19 0.356 0.266
Brandon Belt 19 0.262 0.356
Brandon Hicks 18 0.541 0.297
Gregor Blanco 14 0.521 0.297
Joaquin Arias 9 0.111 0.163
Tyler Colvin 7 0.415 0.359
Juan Perez 7 0.145 0.193
Ehire Adrianza 6 0.178 0.169
Madison Bumgarner 4 0.529 0.299
Tim Lincecum 2 0.000 0.077
Matt Cain 1 0.892 0.275
Tim Hudson 1 0.000 0.096
Ryan Vogelsong 1 0.000 0.181
Jean Machi 1 0.000 0.000
In part as a result of this, Pence and Morse both rank in the top-10 in win probability added this season despite ranking 32nd and 18th, respectively, in wOBA.

It’s been more of the same on the pitching side, too, with the Giants locking things down when the leverage is cranked up:

Team HighLev ERA HighLev TBF HighLev BABIP HighLev FIP MedLev FIP LowLev FIP High/Low FIP
Red Sox 6.71 241 0.272 3.01 3.62 3.62 83.1%
Tigers 8.38 229 0.277 3.37 3.55 3.80 88.7%
Dodgers 6.97 287 0.280 3.53 3.61 3.87 91.2%
White Sox 9.41 247 0.293 3.92 4.17 4.24 92.5%
Phillies 7.53 303 0.263 3.93 3.91 4.23 92.9%
Giants 4.92 251 0.231 3.26 3.58 3.43 95.0%
Reds 8.11 234 0.208 3.64 4.28 3.77 96.6%
Braves 6.48 273 0.297 2.58 3.76 2.64 97.7%
Rockies 9.78 236 0.280 4.65 4.42 4.68 99.4%
Orioles 8.43 281 0.285 4.22 4.35 4.18 101.0%
Royals 8.28 225 0.307 4.06 4.03 3.95 102.8%
Athletics 7.52 250 0.264 3.62 3.50 3.51 103.1%
Yankees 7.01 250 0.253 4.13 3.35 3.98 103.8%
Astros 9.62 219 0.347 4.32 3.59 4.07 106.1%
Twins 10.83 228 0.320 3.99 3.91 3.75 106.4%
Nationals 8.41 186 0.365 3.39 3.29 3.17 106.9%
Rangers 10.67 212 0.286 4.36 4.09 3.90 111.8%
Rays 8.76 281 0.317 3.75 4.36 3.32 113.0%
Padres 5.84 229 0.211 3.40 4.16 2.99 113.7%
Pirates 7.71 326 0.273 4.90 3.81 4.26 115.0%
Angels 12.50 203 0.321 4.53 3.68 3.87 117.1%
Cardinals 8.55 319 0.305 3.63 3.33 3.08 117.9%
Blue Jays 10.05 255 0.263 4.88 3.62 4.11 118.7%
Mets 7.00 323 0.263 4.46 3.88 3.75 118.9%
Marlins 7.73 254 0.309 4.03 3.85 3.36 119.9%
Cubs 8.82 218 0.292 4.10 3.35 3.22 127.3%
Mariners 8.02 221 0.231 4.57 3.96 3.54 129.1%
Brewers 9.21 224 0.245 5.02 3.77 3.86 130.1%
Diamondbacks 9.89 226 0.282 5.11 4.37 3.61 141.6%
Indians 9.44 283 0.267 4.71 3.71 3.31 142.3%
Here, the Giants have the lowest high leverage ERA by nearly a full run, trimming their FIP by five percent from low leverage spots. This is a case where “luck” is harder to use as an explanation, because a manager’s bullpen usage plays a key role. Consider how starters and relievers differ, first:

Pitcher FIP pLI
Starter 3.86 0.98
Reliever 3.66 1.13
Relievers have lower FIPs than starters and tend to pitch in higher leverage situations, on average, which both make perfect sense, but the previous table clearly shows that pitchers struggle when the leverage is high. What we see with the Giants in particular is that Bruce Bochy has done well to get his best arms into the game when the situation calls for it:

Pitcher FIP gmLI HighLev TBF HighLev FIP
Sergio Romo 4.65 1.99 40 3.23
Santiago Casilla 3.29 1.74 44 3.81
Javier Lopez 4.56 1.41 7 0.66
Jeremy Affeldt 2.46 1.37 13 1.40
Jean Machi 2.05 1.33 26 2.10
Jake Dunning 7.56 0.82 n/a
Yusmeiro Petit 2.42 0.81 12 8.31
Juan Gutierrez 3.45 0.79 6 0.06
David Huff 4.31 0.62 6 3.66
George Kontos 1.51 0.52 n/a
You can quibble with Romo’s usage some but he also has a multi-year track record to suggest he’s beter than he’s performed so far this season. And despite Casilla’s struggles with FIP in the clutch, he’s posted a 2.25 ERA in those spots. Like on the hitting side, the result is several Giants among the leaders in win probability added, with Machi, Casilla and Romo ranking 10th, 17th and 20th, respectively despite none of them ranking in the top-30 for FIP overall.

For the season so far, the Giants have been involved in the single game with the highest average leverage index, three of the top-50, eight of the top-100 and 17 of the 276 games that have had an average leveraged index of 1.5 or greater, not a disproportionate share at any cutoff.

In those games, however, they’re respectively 1-0, 2-1, 4-4 and 9-8, and they’re 13-14 in games with an above-average leverage index over the course of the game. That is to say, while their aggregate numbers in high-leverage spots are extreme, they haven’t made a difference in the highest-leverage games (they’re also 12-9 in one-run games, only 10th in the league). Instead, you get early-inning dominance when the leverage remains high (they have four first-inning home runs when the leverage is above 1.5 and are 17-2 when leading after one) and a bullpen that locks things down if the leverage ratchets up later (they’re 31-0 when leading entering the ninth).

None of this is to say they won’t be regressing over the last two-thirds of the season, because they almost surely will. Players and teams can’t just turn things up when their adrenaline rises, otherwise Brett Lawrie would be batting 1.000. Luckily for the Giants, the wins they’ve already achieved are in the bank, and regression can’t change their record to date. Even with some regression factored in, they remain the NL West favorites by roughly four games. And, of course, should the race come down to a high leverage final week, the Giants would be untouchable.

2014 Draft Chat with Chris Crawford.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Chris Crawford: Opened things up early so everyone can get there questions in. Should be fun.
Chris Crawford: Alright, starting a few minutes early, but I got impatient. This is like Christmas for me, which I know is sad.
Comment From Jacks
Is it a mistake to not take Rodon at 1.1?
Chris Crawford: Three months ago, I would have said yes. Now, I don’t think so. The fastball command, the inconsistent third pitch and the high pitch counts all trouble me, and now come word that he’s asking for $6 million. I’d rather have Aiken.
Comment From Dave
What do you think the Diamondbacks do? Seems like they’re all over the place.
Chris Crawford: They are all over the place. They’re in on Tyler Beede; but I think they’d prefer a bat like Michael Chavis or Bradley Zimmer. Whomever they take, he’ll be gritty.
Comment From Derek
Do you think Braxton Davidson could fall to the Brewers at 41 overall? Do you he’s sign for slot or would they have to go over? Thanks.
Chris Crawford: I think you’d probably have to go over-slot at that point, but ya, I do think there’s a chance he gets there because of his inconsistent spring. Would be a quality addition.
Comment From Hunter
I realize you should never draft for need, but with how thin their pitching is, how many pitchers could the Indians take today?
Chris Crawford: I think you see at least one, possibly two. Hearing more prep bats on them though like Michael Chavis and Monte Harrison.
Comment From Matthew
Why are you so low on Kodi Medeiros? Guy’s stuff is sick.
Comment From Derek
What is you impression of Kodi Medeiros’ ceiling. I’ve seen one comment giving him the best upside among HS arms after Toussaint, with the acknowledgement that he may end up in the bullpen.
Chris Crawford: Lots of questions on Medeiros. I have two concerns: 1. He’s 6’0 tall 2. He throws side arm. I think he could be death to left-handed hitters, but I have real doubts about whether he can start.
Comment From Ross
Don?t think Hoffman drops to SF?
Chris Crawford: There’s a chance, but it’ll depend on the Blue Jays. I think they take him, though.
Comment From Ruben Amaro, Jr.
Am I the worst drafting GM in baseball?
Chris Crawford: Sadly, no, you are not.
Comment From Bill
The Mariners tend to go with high floor prospects with their early picks (Peterson, Zunino, Hultzen, etc.) yet they’ve been linked to Alex Jackson who seems more volatile. Do you think Jackson has a high floor as a high schooler? Is such a thing possible with HS players?
Chris Crawford: Depends on your definition of “high floor” but both Jackson and Nick Gordon have relatively high floors for prep hitters. I think they’d prefer a college bat, but, there just isn’t a lot there.
Comment From Mark
If Kolek falls to the Phillies at 7, how do they pass that up?
Chris Crawford: I think they’d consider him — and to be fair I haven’t had a chance to talk to many with the Phillies about him because the assumption was he’d be long gone — but I think they prefer the collegiate route this year. I think he’d be a relative steal in that range.
Comment From Pez
picking at the end is tough to gauge, but what is the best case scenario for the red sox tonight
Chris Crawford: I think the best case scenario is one of the Tommy John arms like Fedde or Hoffman fall to them and they take an upside bat at 33 like a Harrison or Marcus Wilson. Worst case would be if they reach for Casey Gillaspie or AJ Reed.
Comment From Matt
Who do you think the Mets end up getting? Could Conforto fall to them?
Chris Crawford: I think they would love Sean Newcomb to fall to them but I don’t think that’s happening. If Chicago passes on Conforto, then I think he’s in play and the likely pick.
Comment From David
why is Gatewood falling down the board?
Chris Crawford: I’m higher on Gatewood than the industry is. There’s plus-plus power in his right handed bat. Teams have two big concerns though: is the hit tool good enough? And can he stick at shortstop. A lot of teams think the answer to both is no, which is why he may not get drafted at all today.
Comment From John Quincy Adams
Did last years draft have better overall 1st round talent?
Chris Crawford: The pitching is better in 2014, the hitting — sadly (again) — is much better in 2013. I give a slight edge to 2013, which is really disappointing.
Comment From Bren
Where would a kid like Amed Rosario fit in this draft?
Chris Crawford: I think he’d be a first-round pick. Not sure how high, but he’d go today.
Comment From Mike
What’s the best evidence that skill rather than luck plays a larger role in drafting future MLB starters (outside of the top 5 annual picks)?
Chris Crawford: Luck plays a huge part in it. Always has, always will. Luck is also about opportunity meeting preparation, and teams that use the process correctly usually end up pretty darn good.
Comment From Mike B
First prep arm to reach the majors?
Chris Crawford: I think Grant Holmes might be, just because there’s so little projection left. Could be Aiken though, easily.
Comment From Todd
Easiest skills for pitchers to improve? Can it be generalized?
Chris Crawford: Great question, and I don’t think it can be. In terms of individual pitches, I think it’s easier to teach a change than a breaking-ball. Obviously command is a hard thing to teach, though you get a kid in your system young enough you can fix some things. That’s a really good question.
Comment From Darth Stout
Where can I (we) find the total draft pool money available to each team?
Chris Crawford: http://www.baseballamerica….
Comment From Jazz Hands
Touki Toussaint, reliever or star? Have to chose one.
Chris Crawford: Ugh, just one? I’ll go reliever. But I think he ends up in between. Lots of talent, but lots of volatility.
Comment From Mark
How much does IQ effect draft position, especially with pitchers? Do you think a higher IQ makes minor league players more “coachable”?
Chris Crawford: Absolutely. These kids have some bad, bad habits to break, so if they’re willing to work/understand coaching, it can move the process exponentially quicker. You can’t teach talent, though.
Comment From Steve
Would Davidson be a good pick for Boston at the end of round 1 (or the supplemental round)?
Chris Crawford: I think he’d be a fantastic pick in that range, and someone they’d consider if he’s still on the board.
Comment From Doc
http://image.cdnllnwnl.xosn… Did Nola fix this?
Chris Crawford: If we’re talking about the arm slot, then no. But the command is so good and his arm is so quick that I’m not sure it’s as big a deal as for someone like Medeiros.
Comment From RIGHT?
There is no way Rodon gets past the Cubs (assuming he somehow makes it past Lor… the Marlins) right? Even if they offer him a few 100,000 overslot and only go to ~5 million, he’s not going back to school over $1 million… right?
Chris Crawford: Would be very surprised if he’s still on the board after the Cubs pick. Very, very surprised.
Comment From green goldfish
When the White Sox drafted Chris Sale, he threw less than 20 innings in the minors.. If they wanted to be aggressive with one of Nola or Rodon, do you think either player is capable of handling that?
Chris Crawford: I think Nola has a real chance to move quickly through the system because of the command. Rodon, not so much.
Comment From Steve
What MLB projection do you have on Feede? Thanks
Chris Crawford: I think Fedde has the stuff to be a No. 2, but there’s a chance he’s a reliever with his arm action. I wouldn’t take him in the first round this year, personally, not after Tommy John.
Comment From Guest
Name one or two value bats that fans should be excited about towards the end of round 1.
Chris Crawford: I have long been a fan of Derek Fisher (no, not the point guard), and think he could have a plus power and hit tool. I also think if Derek Hill falls past 20 he becomes a steal; there are four real tools there and he can be a quality defender in center right now.
Comment From Guest
åny chance Alex Jackson falls into the clutches of my Phightless Phillies?
Chris Crawford: If I had to give a percentage, I’d say there’s about a 33 percent chance he’s still on the board.
Comment From James
Lohse and Hudson and Buehrle are all finesse “control artists.” Is the reason we don’t see these types of pitchers being drafted is b/c amateurs don’t have these skills?
Chris Crawford: Correct, you just don’t see amateurs show plus-plus command very option. Aiken doesn’t have that YET, but he’s on his way, which is why he’s such a special prospect.
Comment From John Stamos
Who is likely to be quickest to the majors this year?
Chris Crawford: I don’t think anyone reaches this year, but if someone was going to, it’d be Nick Burdi. 80 fastball, 60 slider, good enough command to get hitters out right now.
Comment From Brian
IF Rodon falls to the Whote Sox at 3, do they take him? Or is Boras still an issue with them?
Chris Crawford: Not sure if it’s entirely Boras, but they don’t appear to be in on him at this point.
Comment From Vslyke
Isn’t it obvious that teams undervalue the value of the sandwich picks? The Marlins made a terrible deal with theirs.
Chris Crawford: Cheap organizations do.
Comment From Tanner
Craziest thing you think could happen, such as a team picking someone really out of the blue
Chris Crawford: Tough to say because it really isn’t out of the blue. Something tells me the Phillies might do something nutty though.
Comment From Slow Mobius
Pieces that I have read are saying that the Indians could look at one of the pitchers who fell because of TJ surgery at 21. How concerned should one be about them returning to form or having future elbow problems?
Chris Crawford: Pretty darn concerned. Tommy John is not perfect, and the injury has a nasty habit of rearing its ugly head again. In a deeper draft, I don’t think there’s anyway they go in the first round.
Comment From Travis (Chicago)
Any reason to be excited about Conforto at 1.4? Doesn’t seem like he’s the BPA there.
Chris Crawford: I think it’d be a mistake. Below-average defender, not a ton of upside. Nice player, but not not the fourth pick in a draft.
Comment From Mike
How high can Wall go? Chances he is available at 28?
Chris Crawford: I’ve heard him in play with the Mets at 10, the Royals at 17 and the Cardinals at 27. There’s a chance he makes it through that gauntlet though, absolutely.
Comment From Ryan
Will Freeland or Fedde drop to the Red Sox at #26?
Chris Crawford: Doesn’t sound like it. Fedde has a better chance than Freeland, but the Nationals seem to like him a ton.
Comment From Nick
If Gordon is off the board, who do you see the Twins selecting?
Chris Crawford: I think they take Kolek if he’s off the board. The rich get richer, either way. In the farm system, anyway.
Comment From Travis (Chicago)
Would Bryant and Gray have gone ahead of anyone in this class?
Chris Crawford: Absolutely they would have.
Comment From Derek
I’ve seen some places comment that Mac Marshall could have #2 upside, but even there I see him ranked in the 45-55 range on the big board. Do you agree with that upside, and what’s holding him back?
Chris Crawford: I think it’s closer to a No. 3. Stuff was extremely inconsistent this year. Should go today, but riskier than teams thought he was this summer.
Comment From Bob
I’ve heard people say the Royals are definitely taking a pitcher, and other saying they will definitely take a hitter. Any feel for who’s right?
Chris Crawford: America. America is right.
Chris Crawford: No, I’ve heard more bats attached than arms, but I think if someone like Touki fell to them, they’d go that route.
Comment From Guest
If I told you Conforto would make multiple All Star appearances, would that surprise you, or not a shocking outcome for ceiling?
Chris Crawford: Yeah, that’d surprise me.
Comment From Travis (Chicago)
Best name in the draft?
Chris Crawford: Handsome Monica and it’s NOT CLOSE.
Comment From Mike B
Where in the world did the Schwarber hype come from? He’s probably stuck at 1B
Chris Crawford: I really don’t know. He’s an interesting prospect, but this top 10 talk is pretty bizarre to me.
Comment From Moneyball
What skill(s) do you find personally most important when evaluating the potential of a player at this stage?
Chris Crawford: For pitchers: Velocity, ability to repeat delivery, feel for pitching
For hitters; bat speed is huge, as is the ability to hit the other way.
Comment From Will
What are you looking forward to the most in this year’s draft?
Chris Crawford: I’m really excited to see if a certain someone who will be covering the draft will like every pick. My guess: yes.
Comment From Steven
I heard quite a few people earlier in the year say that Rodon would have been 1-1 in the 2013 Draft. Now that his stock has fallen where would you have put him?
Chris Crawford: He’s No. 2 on my board. And he absolutely would have been the top pick in the 2013 draft. A shame that he wasn’t eligible.
Comment From dose17
Is the hit tool the biggest question mark on Nick Gordon’s scouting report?
Chris Crawford: I think the overall offensive upside is his biggest question. I think he’s got a plus hit tool, and he has deceptive power, but industry doesn’t completely agree.
Comment From Daniel
What is the earliest you could see Burdi going?
Chris Crawford: 15 to the Angels. Which would be so unbelievably bad that it hurts my head thinking about it.
Comment From Guest
How long until teams can trade picks for mlb players?
Chris Crawford: Should have been years and years ago.
Chris Crawford: Lots of people asking about my top three-five. My mock is available on
Comment From Mike
Seems like plate discipline is hard to teach, but seems to me that teams don’t prioritize it? Do they, or is it hard to scout?
Chris Crawford: It’s very hard to teach, and bad teams don’t prioritize it at all. The good ones see it though. Really with prep kids you’re looking at pitch recognition, which can lead to plate discipline, hopefully.
Comment From SB
Does Beede get to the Pirates? If he does, do they gladly take him?
Chris Crawford: I think he might, and I think they’d take him. I don’t think he’s a huge steal though. That command is so inconsistent.
Comment From Noah
What are the reasons for Kolek’s supposed fall? Have the top 5 teams learned anything new (like demand, injury) or have they simply soured on him?
Chris Crawford: I think it has to do with concern about upside, kind of like Gordon. There’s no physical projection left at all.
Comment From John
Do you know of any prospects that have refused to deal with the phillies because of the NCAA reporting last year?
Chris Crawford: Nope, it doesn’t appear to have had the huge effect many (me) thought it would. Still early in the process though. And boy should they be ashamed of themselves.
Comment From Steven
I knew Monte Harrison was a great athlete, but John Manuel said he was about the same level as Bubba Starling coming out of high school. Would you put him on that level?
Chris Crawford: With all due respect, no I would not.
Comment From Alex
If Jackson is not the pick at No. 6, is it another collegiate arm for Seattle?
Chris Crawford: I think so, with Newcomb being the most likely.
Comment From Ruki
Would teams value the sandwich picks more if they got an actual sandwich on draft day with the pick?
Chris Crawford: I needed that. Thank you.
Comment From Raul
Prospect that, in five years, you’ll say to your friends “I told you so.”
Chris Crawford: My friends hate baseball, but I really feel like I’ll be telling some scouts “I told you!” on Holmes. If he’s not the third prep pitcher taken, it’s a mistake.
Comment From Grant
Fenway Parks is my favorite name in the draft.…
Chris Crawford: How great would it be if that guy gets drafted by the Yankees?
Comment From John
Where would Mike Matuella go if eligible? #1? top 5, top 10? undrafted?
Chris Crawford: I think he’d go top five, possibly 1.1. I haven’t seen him in person yet? But reports are very, very good.
Comment From Alex
What are Orioles fans thinking during this draft?
Chris Crawford: Heat 104, Spurs 98.
Comment From Guest
What’s your opinion on drafting for need rather than taking best available?
Chris Crawford: It’s how bad organizations stay bad. You just can’t draft for need. You can fill organizational depth later — and if it fills a need, great — but you have to take the best player on your board.
Comment From Guest
Does the compensation pick attached to Morales go away immediately as the draft starts or after?
Chris Crawford: Boy that’s a good question. I think it starts as soon as the draft starts, but, I don’t think we have anything to worry about.
Comment From Steve
If it were possible to trade picks, who would be trying everything they could to trade down?
Chris Crawford: As good as Aiken is, I think the Astros. The White Sox probably, too.
Comment From Slow Mobius
Any top players that could slide due to contract demands, like Appel 2 years ago?
Chris Crawford: I don’t think so, kind of a weird year in terms of that. It’s kind of nice to see, really.
Comment From Matt
When all is said and done who from this draft do you think will have the highest career WAR?
Chris Crawford: WAR? Ew. Nerds.
Chris Crawford: Had to be done. I think it’ll actually be Gordon, just because of the defensive value. Could be Aiken though, for certain.
Comment From Ian
Where would Lewis Thorpe (18 year old Australian in MN system) go in this draft?
Chris Crawford: Probably not today, but probably not around for very long on Friday.
Comment From Matt
Any skills you feel are being currently undervalued in the draft?
Chris Crawford: Plate discipline is one, particularly on the college side. Defense has and always will be undervalued as well.
Comment From Matt
Do you think there are any legitimate ace upside arms?
Chris Crawford: I think both Rodon and Aiken can be there. Kolek a non-zero chance.
Comment From Kyle
I like Nola more than Rodon, am I nuts?
Chris Crawford: Nope, not nuts. I get it. I’ll still take Rodon’s chance to be special, though. Nola at his very best is a quality No. 3. Rodon could be a true ace, assuming his college coach didn’t ruin him with work and the fastball command is where it was as a sophomore.
Comment From Alex
In terms of talent, where would you say the big drop off is in this draft?
Chris Crawford: I think the biggest drop is after the “big four” of Aiken, Rodon, Gordon and Kolek.
Comment From casey
What future grade would you give Gordon’s defense!
Chris Crawford: 60, maybe 65. He can really pick it.
Comment From Ruki
As someone who does not often pay attention to the MLB Draft, what should I be looking for?
Chris Crawford: All the pretty colors and cliches.
Comment From Alex
Would you rather have the 9 & 11 picks in this years draft like the jays, or the #1 pick like the Astros?
Chris Crawford: The 1. In a good draft the 9 and 11. But this year I’d rather have Aiken over say…Turner and Toussaint.
Comment From Tom
We’ve seen how sabermetrics has changed MLB rosters, how has it changed the draft?
Chris Crawford: I think it’s changed it to a lesser extent. Here’s how I view sabermetrics from a scouting standpoint. I think advance statistics are fantastic, but our job as scouts (consider me a scout for a second) is to figure out WHY these statistics are happening, and whether or not what they’re doing on the field is sustainable.
Chris Crawford: Well guys, I gotta get going, I have some responsibilities for ESPN that I have to take care of. Thank you so much for chatting with me. I’ll be doing live pick-by-pick analysis of the first round over on, and I’ll be live chatting through day one as well. Happy draft day!

High School Arms and the #1 Pick.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The MLB draft kicks off tonight, and for the third year in a row, the Houston Astros will have the top selection. For the third year in a row, no one really knows what they’re going to do. Two years ago, they went for an under-slot high school shortstop, taking Carlos Correa ahead of Byron Buxton and Mark Appel, though Correa certainly looks like a terrific prospect in his own right. Last year, they went with the consensus, taking Appel and paying closer to the slot value of the pick.

This year, however, there’s a wrinkle; the consensus top prospect is high school left-hander Brady Aiken. No high school pitcher has been take with the #1 overall pick since 1991, when the Yankees picked Brien Taylor. He was a bust, as was the only high school arm who had been taken at 1-1 before him; David Clyde in 1973. In 49 years, teams have picked a high school arm just twice, and both of them failed.

However, as I noted in a piece for the Wall Street Journal today, as long as teams keep using those two failures as a warning to avoid high school arms at the top of the draft, the warning will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Until someone takes another 18 year old pitcher with the top selection, no one will be able to disprove the truism that high school arms are too risky for the top spot.

But it isn’t like there aren’t examples of years where, with the benefit of hindsight, taking a high school pitcher at 1-1 wouldn’t have worked out. Perhaps we would regard the risks surrounding high school arms at #1 overall differently if the Pirates had taken Zack Greinke in 2002, or Josh Beckett went to the Rays in 1999, or Dwight Gooden was selected by the Cubs in 1982. Should we really suggest to the Astros that they shouldn’t take Brady Aiken with the top pick because no team has been willing to take that risk in the last two decades? Based on a sample of two failures?

What if we expand the pool beyond just the top pick? How much better have college pitchers performed than high school arms if we look at just the top 10 picks?

Thanks to Baseball-Reference’s draft database, we can do just that. So here the some career WAR numbers for pitchers selected in various buckets of the top 10 of the draft since 1965.

Top 10 Pick High School College
Number Selected 103 114
Average WAR 8.7 9.0
Median WAR 2.3 3.5
—– —– —–
Top 5 Pick High School College
Number Selected 47 65
Average WAR 10.1 10.9
Median WAR 2.2 4.7
—– —– —–
Top 3 Pick High School College
Number Selected 21 37
Average WAR 8.0 11.9
Median WAR 2.2 10.1
Keep in mind that these numbers are just total WAR (Baseball-Reference version) accumulated by players selected in those spots divided by total number of picks, so you don’t want to interpret those numbers as the expected value a team will get from a given selection. After all, guys like Gerrit Cole and Madison Bumgarner are included in the sample, as well as guys who are still in the minors but have very bright futures ahead of themselves. This is absolutely the most basic way of looking at production per pick, and plenty of more thorough studies have been done previously, but they basically draw the same conclusion as the super simple method above; top college arms get to the big leagues at a much higher rate than high school pitchers — thus the higher med, but the overall differences in total value for players who do make it isn’t that much higher.

Basically, college arms have a much higher floor, and you’re much less likely to get a nothing return on a pitcher who is closer to the Major Leagues than on one that requires several more years of development; this is why the median WAR is much higher for college pitchers than it is for high school arms. But look at much smaller differences in average WAR totals; there’s hardly any difference at all for the top 10 and top 5 buckets. HS arms taken in the top 3 haven’t fared particularly well relative to ones from college, so the truism that high-end college pitchers are generally better picks than high school pitchers holds up, but it’s still not so extreme that the “never draft a high school arm at 1-1″ theory should hold up.

Talent is cyclical, and the best college arm in one draft is not always going to be better than the best high school arm. According to most of the guys who cover draft prospects for a living, this is one of those years where the upside of the best high schooler may outweigh the extra risk that comes with taking a guy further from the majors.

A decade ago, the sabermetric community roundly mocked the idea of using top draft picks to select high school pitchers. Today, there’s a decent chance that perhaps the organization that is most aggressive with their use of data is going to draft a high school pitcher with the #1 overall pick. Whether Brady Aiken is going to be more Josh Beckett or Brien Taylor is basically unknowable, but if we’re going to invoke the names of Taylor and Clyde, we should acknowledge that plenty of high school arms have turned out just fine, and would have been quality #1 picks had teams not been scared off by the risks.

I certainly don’t know enough to say whether taking Aiken at 1-1 is a good strategy. History tells us that it probably comes with more risk than taking a college arm, but not every draft class is the same, and perhaps Carlos Rodon is a higher risk college arm than most, or maybe Aiken is a lower risk high school arm, and maybe even both of those things are true. We just don’t really know. I think, in an ideal world, a team with the #1 pick would get to take an impact hitter, but those seem to be in short supply this year.

Brady Aiken’s career is going to turn out however it is going to turn out, and it won’t really matter much if he goes #1, #2, or even #10. Let’s not doom him to failure just because David Clyde and Brien Taylor didn’t make it. And let’s be thankful that the sabermetric community has moved beyond the idea of “high school pitcher = bad pick.”

When does it make sense to 'trade down' in MLB Draft?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When the Marlins traded the 39th overall pick in Thursday's amateur draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates for reliever Bryan Morris, the most common reaction was not that the cheapest organization in baseball was pinching pennies again; it was "wait, MLB teams can trade draft picks?" Unlike in the other major professional sports, MLB has historically not allowed teams to swap draft selections, and only a special subset of draft choices — the ones MLB gives out as Competitive Balance selections, between the first and second rounds — are able to be included in deals now. When the draft begins on Thursday, there will be no drama as to which team will be making the first overall pick, as the Astros are required to keep that selection for themselves.

However, because of the way that MLB's suggested signing bonus system works, there actually is a way for teams at the top of the draft to "trade down." Here's how it works.

Each team is assigned a total bonus allocation based on where their selections in the first 10 rounds are placed — teams with higher picks get more money to sign those theoretically better talents — and the total signing bonuses for selections in those first 10 rounds have to be within five percent of that pool allocation if a team wants to avoid some pretty stiff penalties. However, teams are allowed to distribute their pool allocation however they would like, and they can vary a great deal from the recommended bonus for each particular player.

If a team is able to sign a player for significantly less than their slot bonus with a high draft choice, they can then use the money they saved on that pick to take a player who wouldn't sign for the bonus recommended with a later choice. A team that saves money on its top pick can be aggressive in selecting a player who fell through the cracks in the first round, and potentially land a second or even third top talent with their following picks.

Two years ago, the Astros did exactly that, selecting high school shortstop Carlos Correa with the No. 1 overall pick partly due to the fact that he agreed to sign for $4.8 million; $2.4 million shy of the $7.2 million slot recommendation for that pick.

The Astros then turned around and gave an extra $1.25 million to the 41st overall pick — right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers — and an extra $1.5 million to the player they took with the 129th overall pick, infielder Rio Ruiz. Correa was certainly a quality prospect, but in effect, the Astros traded the No. 1 overall pick for the No. 3 or No. 4 overall pick, with the value of upgrading their second- and fourth-round picks into late first-round talents as the reward.

Is this a good strategy, though? Should a team with the best chance to land a superstar really take a lesser talent in order to bolster their secondary selections?

Coming up with a definitive answer is essentially impossible, because the reality is that the best overall player in each draft is not necessarily equivalent in every year.

Some years, there's a Bryce Harper or a Stephen Strasburg to be taken No. 1 overall, but in other years, the top talents are guys like Luke Hochevar or Bryan Bullington. To create a hard-and-fast rule that every team should follow in every type of draft would be foolish, but we can look at historical information about the average returns for the top few picks and draw some general conclusions.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference's handy draft data, we can chart the average career WAR of each of the top 10 selections in modern draft history. Here's that average career WAR for picks 1-10, since 1965.

No. 1: 18.5 WAR
No. 2: 12.1 WAR
No. 3: 10.1 WAR
No. 4: 11.2 WAR
No. 5: 7.3 WAR
No. 6: 10.2 WAR
No. 7: 6.0 WAR
No. 8: 4.9 WAR
No. 9: 5.3 WAR
No. 10: 9.0 WAR

As we can see, there's a huge gap in return from just moving down just from No. 1 to No. 2, and the back half of the top 10 has produced about 1/3 of the total value of the top overall pick.

Scouting amateur talent is difficult, but some special players make themselves known well in advance, and only the team with the No. 1 pick gets a shot at those generational players. If a team is going to effectively trade out of the top spot, they either need to believe that there is no such premium player in their respective draft, or they have to get a dramatic upgrade with the later picks.

The difference between latter selections is much smaller than the gap between the highest picks, however. For instance, let's look at the second and third picks owned by the Astros this year; No. 37 and No. 42 overall.

Those picks returned 3.6 WAR and 1.5 WAR per draft choice respectively, as even the early second round can be something of a dart-throwing contest for major-lague teams. But as we see from the huge dropoff after the top four, the average first-round pick still only results in something in the 5 to 10 WAR range, and once you get out of the top 10, you're closer to the 5 WAR range for the rest of the first round.

Let's say, hypothetically, that two mid-first round talents were going to fall, each coming from a selection with an average of 5 WAR per pick.

Being able to select those two players, instead of the talents generally available at 37 and 42, would bring the average WAR for the Astros second and third picks up from 5 WAR to 10 WAR. But that gap is smaller than the one we see between the No. 1 pick and even the No. 2 selection, as the talent gaps at the very top end of the draft are much larger than the ones even just a few picks later.

This isn't to say that taking a supposedly worse prospect is always the wrong decision. This year, there is no Harper or Ken Griffey Jr, and the gap between the best players might be smaller than it is in most years.

Additionally, looking only at the average career totals skews things towards the picks that have produced a few great players with long careers, even if those careers didn't all come with the team that originally drafted them.

Diversification lowers a team's risk of getting nothing, so there could be value in selecting multiple players just because it increases a team's chances of landing a quality player, even if it takes away some upside in the process.

This is a complicated calculation, and we cannot say that there is definitively one best way in each draft. But history does show that if a team is going to "trade down" from the top overall pick, they had better be convinced that it's a flatter draft pool than usual, because historically, you're probably not going to get enough value with your second or third selections to make up for the cost of giving up the top spot.

What Happens in the Draft Room.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Today, one of the key events on the baseball calendar takes place: the annual Rule 4 draft. Yup, that’s what it’s technically called, but it’s better known as the amateur draft, with 1,200 high school, college and junior college players hearing their names called over the three days of proceedings. Unlike the football and basketball drafts, the baseball version takes place a bit under the radar, with all but the most hardcore fans unfamiliar with the vast majority of the draftable players.

This is understandable, as all but the rarest of exceptions among players are not seen at the major league level for a while, unlike the instant gratification of the football and basketball drafts. This isn’t to say that the events of later this week aren’t vital to the short, intermediate and long-term future of all 30 clubs. On the contrary; the draft remains the cheapest way to turn a club around, though it does take time. There is a lot of player-specific draft content around this week, so let’s take a different tack and look at the process, the people involved – the who’s, what’s and where’s surrounding the baseball draft. Last time, we looked at the process from the very beginning through the end of the spring season. This time, we pick it up as the clubs enter their respective draft rooms.
Sometime in the second half of May, the hub of draft-related activity shifts from playing fields across the country into 30 draft rooms in the clubs’ home cities. Most are within the confines of the clubs’ stadia, but some clubs may rent out conference rooms in hotels in their home city. Selection of the appropriate venue is crucial. It must be a comfortable space, as key club personnel will be spending up to 18-20 hours per day there. It must be a secure, private space, for obvious reasons. There must be nearly round-the-clock access to food and drink, as the fuel to get through these grueling days and nights has to come from somewhere. Just as crucially, it must be wired – or wireless-ed, if that’s a word – to the hilt, as the video and computer needs required to get through this period are beyond significant.

Club support personnel has been planning for this stretch for weeks. When the scouts, crosscheckers and scouting director arrive, all should be in place. White boards are stationed all around the room. Up to a thousand magnets with the names of the prospects submitted for draft consideration have been prepared. Each magnet contains a bevy of basic information. The player’s name, eventual major league position, handedness, and his all-important age as of draft day all stand out in bold script. The information is color-coded – in the draft rooms in which I have been present, college players are in black, high schoolers in red, and junior college players in green. There may also be special notations to identify seniors, draft-eligible sophomores, or other key defining characteristics. Draft numbers have been obtained from the commissioner’s office for all players submitted; basically the go-ahead that the player is eligible to be drafted.

The analytical work for college players has been prepared. For the very best prospects, it is very detailed, spanning three spring seasons and two summers with wood bats, with examinations of batted-ball and split data prepared, with a greater focus placed on performance against high-quality opponents. For second-tier prospects, the analytical data is in more of a summary form, more of a search for both positive indicators and red flags that scream “don’t draft me”. A representative of the club’s medical department is usually present. Medical information has been collected on virtually every prospect under consideration, and each player is given a medical “grade”. In most cases, that grade simply serves as a risk assessment that must be thrown into the pudding with all of the other data when making a draft selection, but in the cases of a number of prospects per year, a “don’t draft” grade can be given, which can be quite controversial when placed on a prominent prospect. Psychological and – for hitters – vision information is also a key component of the process. As long as players score in a broad, average range, such data may not be examined in detail, but outliers on both ends can move up or down a draft board as a result.

The draft room process begins with the arrival of the area scouts. They usually are grouped by region — East, Central and West — with a breakdown into four regions also a possibility. This is the area scout’s opportunity to talk about – and sell – his players. The process begins at the top of the scout’s preference list, and goes all the way to the very bottom. Obviously, a greater amount of time and effort is spent at the top of the list, with accompanying video of the player shown on one of many video screens in the draft room. This video is often shot by the scout himself and then submitted to the office. It is supplemented by video shot by the Major League Scouting Bureau and shared with all 30 clubs.

This is the time when an area scout can shine. A good area scout has submitted all the medical, psychological and vision data well before the draft meetings – he does not arrive with a huge folder of data that he hands to one of the support personnel, who will be wholly oversubscribed over the next two-three weeks. The prepared area scout might have index cards with all of the key data on all of his prospects handy, instead of poring through his computer for the information. The prepared area scout conveys the key non-baseball data regarding his players – regarding makeup, signability, the decision-maker in the family, the advisor – coolly and directly. A scout will often be asked which players on his list that he really, really wants – his gut-feel guys – and quite often they will include players farther down the pref list. Drafts are often lost in the early rounds, but they can often be won with solid late-round pickups.

The regional crosschecker will often serve as moderator/questioner when their area scouts are in town. The scouting director and other high-ranking club personnel will typically let the area scouts have their day and ask questions sparingly. The more direct questioning will be saved for the days afterward, when the area scouts have returned to their home base.

After the area scouts have had their say, the regional crosscheckers will put the best players from their respective areas into a preferential order. The area scouts will usually be assigned college regional coverage, and the assembly of the main overall draft board will begin to take place. At some point around this time, a team might hold its annual draft workout, inviting players from around the country to work out and perhaps scrimmage in front of club brass. This is often a great way to assess a player’s intangibles as well as his tools, to see how he handles the daunting task of performing on the big stage. A club must be careful not to get too excited or too deflated about what they see – it’s just one of many data points on the way to draft day.

You will notice that there has been very little mention of the General Manager to this point. While the scouting director has kept him in the loop regularly regarding the ongoing proceedings, the GM obviously has lots of fish to fry, and need not be a regular occupant of the draft room. He will receive too much credit and too much blame for the decisions that take place there, but the role of the GM in the draft process is often overblown.

The GM will most certainly be in the room, however, when the top few tiers of prospects are discussed and placed in the top 15-20 spots on the draft board. He will likely have seen a few of them in person, and will have pointed questions to ask about many of the ones he has not seen. A great deal of time, energy and effort will be taken into getting the top of the draft board right. Virtually every year, there will be two magnets who get flip-flopped a dozen times as arguments go back and forth. You could have a great process, but one too many flip-flops may yield a bad result. While players are typically ranked by upside, the likelihood of reaching that upside must be taken into consideration. It is much like assembling a portfolio – you can’t have 100% growth stock high schoolers or 100% blue-chip collegians. You need to diversify.

The main draft board, when complete, might contain anywhere from 100-150 names. Now, you might think that such a number would get you through five, maybe six rounds of the draft. Not even close. The 30 clubs’ draft boards actually begin to diverge quite quickly. As early as the sandwich or second rounds, names will begin to be called that other clubs don’t have ranked nearly as high on their respective boards. If a board has been assembled correctly, with signability appropriately accounted for – more on that later – a team can get as many of three of their top 30 rated prospects in the first three rounds, and can draft as many as six of their top 60 rated players, and anywhere from 15 to 20 players off of their entire “big board”.

I always liked to take a step back from the big board to see if there was enough “red” on its back half. To me, this is the greatest challenge of a scouting staff – its ability to find and evaluate signable under-the-radar high school talent. Everyone knows who the blue-chippers are, and they’re sitting on the left side of the big board. If there’s no “red” on the right side, your scouts aren’t doing their jobs. I can still vividly see Michael Brantley‘s red magnet sitting on the right side of the Brewer draft board. He wasn’t a blue-chipper, but he was an extremely gifted hitter with big league bloodlines, and he wanted to play professional baseball. Every club needs to strive to find their Michael Brantleys.

The draft goes well beyond the big board, however. There will be positional boards – teams will draft “best player available” for quite a few rounds, but there comes a point in time when minor league roster requirements must be considered. There will be a medical board, containing players with fairly significant medical concerns, but who might be worth a risk in the right spot. There may be a “special” board, a kind of catch all for players with unique situations. And with the advent of the “draft cap” – the bonus pool assigned to each club for its Round 1-10 picks – a board of the most talented college seniors, who possess very little financial leverage, might be utilized.

Back to signability. Once you have completed your first iteration of the big board, it really needs to be inspected for signability. If you have a player sitting in, say, the 63rd spot on your big board, and he’s only willing to sign in the top two rounds, he’s basically unsignable for your club. At best, the 63rd player is a fifth round pick, and he’s not getting that kind of money there. A team may create an “unsignable” board for players who are completely, 100% unsignable, and perhaps a second, “overpay” board, where they can keep players “alive”. If they are able to save some money on an early-round pick, they might then be able to utilize those savings by plucking one of them in a later round.

Possibly the most time-consuming portion of the process is the assembly of the positional boards, after the big board is in place. It is also a process rife with the potential for error. The crosscheckers are gassed, they are now dealing with lesser talents than the ones they have been discussing previously, and there is a temptation to cut corners and get it over with. This is how you might miss, say, Paul Goldschmidt or even Albert Pujols. The position players are actually easier to work through, utilizing a combination of first-person observation, notes from the area scout presentations, and performance data.

It’s the pitchers where it really gets tiresome, specifically the righthanded pitchers. If there 1000 player magnets, as many as 500 of them could be for righthanded pitchers. There needs to be an organized process to get them into some semblance of a legitimate order. One approach might be to move the potential MLB starters — of whom there aren’t many after you’ve assembled the big board — to the head of the line. The ones with multiple MLB average pitches, who can handle the opposite hand. Follow them up with pitchers with a “plus”; a big fastball or a hammer curve, for instance. Then slot in your “performers”; the guys who get the most from what they have.

Some form of a final draft board should be in place a few days before the big day, with the knowledge that information is continuously being gathered, and that tweaks here and there need to be made. Meetings will be held between the scouting director, GM and their bosses, perhaps including ownership representatives, to keep them apprised of developments. Some baseball lifers tell horror stories about owners basically laying waste to all of their work and dictating a first-round pick. Thankfully, that’s never happened in my history. The night before the draft, everyone should get a good night’s sleep, and then get ready to strap in for three days of fun.

The first night of the draft is likely the easiest, you make your one or two picks, slightly readjust your board, keep abreast of ongoing signability developments, and then get ready for the next two days, which are marathons. The draft cap must be continuously monitored, as opportunities might appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. Every time you begin to get fatigued, you simply remind yourself that there are still big leaguers on those boards – let’s go and get them.

The scouting director will typically trust his draft board. So much of so many people’s energy was consumed in its construction, and there comes a point where you just sit back and respect it. There are times, however, when a scouting director needs to go with his gut, and jump a player over others. Quite often, the deciding factor will be the comfort the scouting director has with a player, or even with a particular scout.

You simply never know which piece of information is the key, the one that transforms a prospect from a magnet into a living, breathing draft selection. When your scouting director calls out 40 names this week, not all will turn out to be the right selection. Please, however, avoid the temptation to say that the draft is a “crapshoot”. That undermines the hard work of so many that contribute to the process that they trust will yield a good result.

Prospect Watch: Shark Hunting.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Rebuilding organizations frequently shop their short-term assets to support the cause. Major League Baseball’s worst team, the Chicago Cubs, are proud employers of Jeff Samardzija and less than proud owners of a .370 winning average. The Shark’s contract will expire at the conclusion of the 2015 season, which should predate the club’s success. While Chicago has the financial ability to extend him, it’s likely he’s traded at the July deadline.

Based on Marc Hulet’s pre-season Top 100, the Cubs’ farm system is stacked. Their 7 prospects were the most of any team (tied with Boston) and 5 of their Cubs’ hitters were ranked within the Top 52. Rumors suggest the Cubs would like to add an arm to their cadre of budding stars.

1. The Toronto Blue Jays
Why: The Jays have been linked to Samardzija for weeks and they could use the his help. The Blue Jays rank 19th in RA/G and could use a replacement for J.A. Happ and/or Dustin McGowan. The combination of desperation and a difficult division makes than a likely front-runner.

Aaron Sanchez (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: 1st Top-100: 22nd
Line: 54.1 IP, 4.65 FIP, 7.12 K/9, 6.14 BB/9, 0.33 HR/9 (.270 BABIP)

Untouchable during the R.A. Dickey trade, his 2014 performance no longer justifies that tag. Sanchez’s primary issue has always been his inability to consistently throw strikes. Sanchez suffers from a common ailment; many top starters battle control issues in the minor leagues, but Sanchez has shown little improvement over the years. The competition for Samardzija, who is relatively inexpensive at $5.35M, may be so tough that Sanchez may not satisfy the Cubs as their keystone piece.

2. The Colorado Rockies
Why: The Rockies’ run prevention has been better than predicted but still ranks near the bottom in baseball, projections aren’t favorable, either. They are nearly 10 games behind the Giants, but the NL Wild Card is wide-open. A half-season trade would be unwise, but with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in their primes, acquiring Samardzija wouldn’t be crazy.

Eddie Butler (Profile)
Level: MLB Age: 23 Top-15: 1st Top-100: 15th
Line: (Triple-A) 68.1 IP, 3.31 FIP, 5.24 K/9, 2.49 BB/9, 0.39 HR/9 (.269 BABIP)

Butler had a meteoric rise up the prospect charts before finishing 15th on Hulet’s pre-season rankings. 2014 has been successful enough to earn his Major League debut on Friday, but it isn’t without blemishes. While Butler’s ERA is a sterling 2.49, it’s the product of an unsustainable home run rate. The major cause for concern is how his strikeout rate has plummeted nearly 3 full points. The spectrum of pitching prospects’ initial success is vast. If Butler joins those who have had a poor initial start and can’t fill the Rockies’ need himself, he could be the perfect piece for the Cubs.

3. The Baltimore Orioles
Why: The Orioles trail the Jays by 3 games in the loss column and, like everyone else, are in the thick of the wildcard hunt. Their rotation is filled with league average or starters, so the Shark would easily become their ace.

Dylan Bundy (Profile)
Level: Disabled List (Tommy John) Age: 20 Top-15: 2nd Top-100: 25th
Line: (N/A)

Kevin Gausman (Profile)
Level: MLB/Triple-A Age: 23 Top-15: 2nd Top-100: 25th
Line: (Triple-A) 41.1 IP, 3.48 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 3.70 BB/9, 0.65 HR/9 (.290 BABIP)

Hunter Harvey (Profile)
Level: Single-A Age: 19 Top-15: 5th Top-100: 82nd
Line: 53.2 IP, 3.42 FIP, 10.73 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, 0.34 HR/9 (.244 BABIP)

When Hulet’s mid-season list is published, these three will could feature among the top 10 arms in the minor leagues. Currently, Harvey is receiving the most ink because Bundy is recovering from Tommy John surgery and Gausman’s 2014 MLB spot-start was as poor as his debut. That isn’t to imply Harvey is undeserving of the press, his present poise and command are rare for recent draftee with electric stuff. If the Orioles want Samardzija, they need to deal one of the three. With Bundy recoving and Gausman the most likely to help their 2014 playoff push, my money would on Harvey.
post #22588 of 72976
Archie and Touki.

Edit: Daniels nabbed Ti Forbes. Ultimate developmental selection. Raw athleticism and bat speed. Has as high a potential ceiling as any hitter in the class. Similar to the way I feel about Touki's room for growth compared to pitching prospects selected before him.
post #22589 of 72976
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Kyle Blanks resurrecting his career in Oakland. pimp.gif

At least you got his name right this time.


Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)



post #22590 of 72976
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