2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 232
at some of these predictions
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Chris Sale is a MONSTER.
Not too shabby from MLBs dead last farm system either
I like Kenny Williams as a GM but I don't understand why they don't work on improving their scouting department. I feel like the Sox don't draft well and when they do the end up trading those players away (Gio Gonzalez...twice).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Day 1 is in the books and we saw one huge surprise in the top 10, a few surprises in the teens, and then all kinds of wackiness from the 20th pick on. Here's a quick look at my favorite picks and drafts from the first day, and a few picks that didn't make sense from where I sit.
Picks I really liked
The picks: Carlos Correa at No. 1, Lance McCullers Jr. at No. 41
Summary: Pre-draft deals are illegal in baseball under Rule 3 -- the team could lose not just the player but the pick, as well as the bonus pool money assigned to it -- but if Correa were to agree now to a deal below the assigned value for the first overall pick ($7.2 million), the Astros could spread the savings over subsequent selections, possibly giving most or all of that to sandwich-round pick Lance McCullers, Jr., a first-round talent with a strong commitment to Florida. It's a risk for Houston, but the payoff could be huge; if you believe McCullers, a 6-foot right-hander who reworked his delivery last winter so he could throw strikes, can be a starter, you could make a credible argument two of the top 10-15 players in this draft are now under the Astros' control.
I'm also hopeful that Correa becoming the highest-drafted player in Puerto Rican history, whether you're counting players born there or just those who went to high school there, will help provide a boost to the sport on an island that was once a fountain of baseball talent but has dried up over the past 20 years. This will be big news in Puerto Rico, and MLB should encourage it.
The pick: Mark Appel at No. 8
Summary: I don't know exactly why Appel fell, as I have no evidence from any source that Appel put out an actual bonus demand at any point. Did teams shy away because they didn't know the signability? Did they anticipate a high demand, but never ascertain it? Regardless of the reason, it's now on the Pirates to find out what the demands are and figure out a way to pay for him, because picking eighth in a weak draft should not land you a clean-delivery college starter who can reach 97 mph and shows feel for a slider and a changeup. By the way, Appel refusing to do the team's conference call after the selection gets my vote for Non-Issue Issue of the Week. He doesn't work for the team. He doesn't have to do their conference call. Hey, sign me, and I'll do two conference calls.
The pick: Luc Giolito at No. 16
Summary: I've said a few times that Giolito would likely have ranked at the top of my draft board had he been healthy all spring, and my outsider's understanding of his injury is that it's not that serious as elbow injuries go. The risk here may be more perceived ("Oh my God, you took a guy with an elbow injury") than real. Good for the Nationals for having the stones to take the best guy on the board, even with these perceptions and the threat of a tough negotiation for a bright kid committed to UCLA. If they sign him, he'll be worth it.
Boston Red Sox
The pick: Deven Marrero at No. 24
Summary: Both the Red Sox and Rays (below) landed solid college position players who had no business dropping that far in the draft. Marrero hit for two springs and two summers at ASU before running into mechanical issues with his swing this year, but never lost his defensive ability and should be able to regain what he lost at the plate.
Tampa Bay Rays
The pick: Richie Shaffer at No. 25
Summary: Shaffer had some of the best bat speed and raw power in the college crop but scuffled the past few weeks, including a poor showing at the ACC, but that shouldn't overshadow what he did prior to that point, and you can count me in the camp that thinks he has a shot to stay at third.
Others I liked: San Diego, Toronto, Philadelphia, Oakland, the Cubs.
Picks I question
The pick: Victor Roache at No. 28
Summary: Roache does have huge raw power, but he showed on the Cape last summer that even mediocre offspeed stuff eats him alive. He's got a big backside collapse that leads to dead-pull power but a lot of swings and misses as well. He's headed for left field. And he missed the spring with a broken wrist. There's a time and place to take a shot on a guy with 30-homer potential but a below-average hit tool; I just wouldn't do it in the first 30 picks.
St. Louis Cardinals
The pick: James Ramsey at No. 23
Summary: I get the appeal of a college senior in this draft system, where saving 30 percent of a pick's bonus can allow you to grab a more expensive player somewhere else. But the Cardinals burned a first-round pick on Ramsay, a low-upside college performer (against players nearly all younger than his age of 22.5) whose ceiling might be fourth outfielder as he lacks the power to profile in a corner. Taking him with better college position players like Marrero and Shaffer still on the board makes no sense to me.
Chicago White Sox
The pick: Keon Barnum at No. 48
Summary: I'm guessing Barnum, a big kid with a terrible habit of swinging and missing, was off a lot of draft boards as unsignable for worth, meaning he wasn't a strong enough prospect to merit buying him out of a commitment to Miami. They got a steal at No. 13 with Courtney Hawkins, but Barnum had me and many scouts scratching our heads.
Best available for Day 2
1. Hunter Virant, lhp, Camarillo HS
2. Carson Kelly, 3b/rhp, Westview HS
3. Tanner Rahier, ss, Palm Desert HS
4. Ty Buttrey, rhp, Providence HS
5. Wyatt Mathiesen, c/ss, Calallen HS
6. Nolan Fontana, ss, Florida
7. Mitch Brown, rhp, Rochester Century HS
8. Kieran Lovegrove, rhp, Mission Viejo HS
9. Anthony Alford, of, Petal HS
10. Duane Underwood, rhp, Pope HS
Virant was essentially unsignable outside of the top 20 picks, and Alford has made it clear he intends to go to Southern Miss to play baseball and football, so don't expect to hear either name early on Day 2. Buttrey has committed to Arkansas and also could be a tough sign here. Some college names to listen for beyond Fontana include shortstop Kenny Diekroeger at Stanford, right-hander Martin Agosta at St. Mary's, right-hander Nolan Sanburn at Arkansas, and right-hander Branden Kline at Virginia.
Live pick-by-pick analysis.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
And now, on to the picks.
Note: For an explanation of the 20-80 scouting scale used in the analysis below, click here.
McDaniel: The Astros kept the lid on this one until the very last second, but word of Correa's impressive workouts for clubs in the top three have been circulating this week. Correa has big bat speed, strength, now hitting ability and plus raw power to go with a live, projectable body that could stick at shortstop but will likely move to third as he fills out. There's a lot of similarities to Orioles prospect Manny Machado and there's undeniable exciting All-Star upside here for new Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.
McDaniel: The Twins take the highest upside in the draft here, a player the vast majority of teams had at the top of their boards in Buxton. He has an astonishing amount of smooth athleticism with an upside that's been compared to guys like Matt Kemp and the Upton brothers. Being from a rural area and not having faced a lot of high-end pitching, there is some risk on his bat, but he has true 80 speed on the 20-80 scale, with a chance for 60 power, 70 defense and a 70 arm that has gotten into the high 90s on the mound. He might take a little time to reach his ceiling but is a truly electrifying talent that could be one of the best in the game.
McDaniel: The Mariners are notoriously quiet under former Brewers scouting director and current GM Jack Zdurencik. The industry had no idea where they were going with this pick, but late rumors had them on eventual No. 1 pick Correa, so they took the player they've been tied to all season, Florida catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino doesn't have any true plus tools but has above-average tools across the board as a low-risk college performer who can be a solid average defender in the big leagues. His bat is good, not great, with a likely upside as a .270-.280 hitter with 15-18 home runs, but that's above average for a catcher. In a weak draft, a low-risk, above-average everyday catcher is a great pick and the Mariners can soon abandon the Jesus Montero-behind-the-plate experiment, as Zunino could come quickly.
McDaniel: With Baltimore under a new regime and having surprising success this season, taking an arm that's close to contributing was a smart choice for the Orioles. Gausman has made strides in his two seasons at Baton Rouge after being considered a raw, projectable prep arm as a Colorado prep hurler. He's a long, lean pitcher with some funk and deception to his delivery that's been up to 100 mph this spring and will sit in the mid-90s. He backs up his plus-plus heater with a knockout plus changeup and solid command. The concern is his breaking ball; he's tried a curve and slider and appears to be making strides with the slider, which has shown above-average potential. Gausman has a non-zero chance of becoming a No. 1 starter but has a good shot to be a second or third starter and can move quickly to help the O's contend in the tough AL East.
Churchill: Zimmer, a converted third baseman, is relatively new to pitching but his stock shot up this spring with a low- to mid-90s fastball and a hard slider that flashed plus-plus at time and projects as a strikeout weapon. He's also shown a promising changeup and has erased most of the questions on his delivery. Zimmer could hit the big leagues fairly quickly, thanks to above-average command and control, and his athleticism should help him maintain consistent mechanics.
McDaniel: The Cubs have been tied strongly to Almora most of the spring in what many thought was the one easy pick to predict in the top 10. I haven't made a secret that Almora was the top player I saw this spring (over higher-picked players such as Zunino, Buxton and Gausman) and word is Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken may have had him atop their board as well. Almora brings four plus tools and solid average speed to the table; good but not great physical ability. The reason scouts love him is the feel, makeup and work ethic. He's done nothing but hit in every conceivable event, his speed plays up in center field and on the bases and he generally maximizes the impact of his tools with a preternatural feel for the game and body control. He has been compared to players like Carlos Beltran and Adam Jones and is considered one of the safer prep hitters in some time but still has All-Star potential.
Law: So ... Appel. I don't actually know why he's falling, but I would guess that Appel put out some kind of signal that he'd want a huge bonus. I do not believe he put out an actual figure, but there are ways to indicate you want a yachtful.
Churchill: Fried, the first prep pitcher off the board, is an athletic southpaw with an above-average fastball that comes easy and is complemented by two promising offspeed pitches, including with a mid-70s curveball and a plus changeup. Fried has No. 1 upside with a great chance to land as a No. 2 starter, thanks to his projectable, 6-foot-4 frame, and his feel for pitching and above-average control and command could get him through the minors relatively quickly. The Padres, who have one of the very best farm systems in baseball, just got better and in the process added something they lacked -- pitching, specifically of the left-handed variety.
Churchill: Appel, rumored to be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick, may have the highest upside among the college arms in this draft. He offers velocity into the upper 90s and brings an average-or-better changeup to nearly every start. Appel has a chance to be a No. 1 starter and can now be added to the Pirates' stable of arms that already includes Jameson Taillon and last year's No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole. Appel could see the big leagues by 2014, but something to think about here is Pittsburgh's draft pool and how much of that Appel will swallow once he signs on the dotted line.
Law: Pirates should just take a below-slot guy (college senior, JC prospect) in the sandwich or second round(s) to give the money to Appel. This was an exceptional opportunity for them.
Churchill: Heaney, the top college left-hander in the class, may be the quickest-to-the-majors arm among his peers, including those selected ahead of him. He works in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball and offers two above-average secondary offerings. He comes from a 3/4 slot, perhaps slightly under, creating deception and aiding the movement on his four-seamer. His slider flashes plus and he has a feel for a changeup that could be grade 50 or better. Heaney pretty much is what he is, as he's not likely to add significant velocity, and he may be limited to No. 3 status at his best. His command, control and consistency should serve him well. The Marlins stepped away from their recent draft trends -- upside plays, usually prep players -- to get a major league arm in Heaney, and it could pay off inside of two years.
McDaniel: The Rockies were rumored to be on prep bats, with Courtney Hawkins and Dahl the two mentioned most often. Dahl is a guy I saw this spring and really believe in his ability to hit, as he also hit very well against good pitching with wood bats on the summer circuit. He's often compared to Colby Rasmus as a left-handed-hitting Alabama prep center fielder with above-average tools. Dahl has a chance for five above average to plus tools with average current raw power and at least plus speed. He also has an advanced feel for the game and some struggles this spring may be the only reason he made it to the 10th pick. A really nice pick by the Rockies here.
McDaniel: Russell has been well known for years, flashing huge power at an up-the-middle position as an underclassman in showcases. He naturally filled out last summer and was moved from SS to 3B on Team USA. He didn't like this, lost 25 pounds over the offseason and his hands and feet got quicker as the spring progressed. Teams now feel he can stick at shortstop and he turned in a plus run time at a pre-draft all-star game with easy plus raw power from the right side. There is legitimate All-Star shortstop upside here, but the risk is on the bat as Russell looked lost at times this spring but looks best with a wood bat in professional environments. Russell is the kind of extraordinary athlete who can make the adjustments necessary to let his tools play at the big league level.
Churchill: The Mets add an athletic performer in Cecchini and get a very good baseball player with plus makeup and bloodlines to go with the skills and tools -- his brother Garin is in the Boston Red Sox organization. Scouts like his chances to stay at shortstop thanks to solid range, plus arm strength and a terrific understanding of what it takes to play the position. He's not likely to hit for much power, but his bat has a chance to play in the big leagues due to hand-eye coordination and good plate discipline. The Mets could be looking at an everyday middle infielder with basement outcome of a very good utility player, but if he sticks at shortstop, there's probably enough bat to warrant a regular role.
Churchill: Hawkins, blessed with plus bat speed and strength and good athleticism, has the upside of a 30-35 homer slugger. But he's rare in that he could also develop into .300 hitter who gets on base, drawing some comparisons to some of the better current outfielders in baseball, including Matt Kemp. He's an average runner, perhaps slightly above average, and he plays a good right field. Hawkins is a different type of player than what the White Sox have been on the past several years, but he may be their No. 1 prospect the second he puts pen to paper on a contract.
McDaniel: Travieso transitioned from the bullpen for a Miami-area powerhouse program to the rotation this season and won his third straight state title as their ace. He had a velocity spike this spring, working 92-95 and hitting 98 mph at times. He'll flash a plus slider and average curveball but will lose feel for both pitches at times, as the pitches bleed together. He's not incredibly athletic and has a maxed-out body with no projection, so his troubles repeating his delivery and breaking pitches have some scouts projecting him as a reliever. Travieso could take off with a good pitching coach and has No. 3 starter or closer upside.
Churchill: Naquin is an athletic outfielder who played a corner for Texas A&M but may profile in center in pro ball. He runs well -- certainly plus speed -- and he has a 70 arm. Where Naquin struggles is with the bat. He can be tied up inside and will chase breaking balls out of the zone. His swing is lengthy, as if he's loading up for power he doesn't have, and his contact rates suffer as a result. His bat speed is average, and his lack of power projection suggests he has to play up the middle to play every day. He does have some on-base skills, however, and could fit at or near the top of the batting order.
Churchill: Giolito was projected as a top-five pick -- and potential No. 1 overall -- until his throwing elbow came up lame early in his season. He hit triple digits on the gun prior to being shut down and sits at 93-97. His curveball shows two-plane break in the mid-80s. His changeup is a work in progress. Despite his size, the right-hander uses his length well in his delivery, which bodes well for his long-term health. The Nationals were linked to college arms all spring, but there were hints they had their eye on upside, and that's what they get here in Giolito, who has an ace-level ceiling and could cover 230 innings per season. Clearly, there are no concerns about the medicals, despite Giolito not throwing off a mound in several weeks. Great upside pick here.
Churchill: Davis' best tool is his 80-grade speed, and he does possess adequate range in center field that could improve with experience. The more important tools -- hitting, hitting for power -- are question marks, but Davis could be a table setter if he maxes out the hit tool. There's enough bat speed to suggest he can reach the gaps and use his speed. The Blue Jays may be setting themselves up to spend well over slot on a few later picks.
McDaniel: The Dodgers pop Corey Seager here, the brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, but Corey is bigger and more physical than his brother. Corey could be a tough sign here with a strong commitment to South Carolina, but you have to think the Dodgers are confident they can get him signed. Seager is a very projectable athlete that plays shortstop now but projects to move to third base, where his above-average hands, smooth feet and plus arm will make him an above-average defender. He shows an advanced feel for hitting with a sweet swing from the left side and average present raw power that could be plus as he fills out his broad shoulders, giving him All-Star upside if he develops as scouts project.
Churchill: Wacha's calling card is a fastball-changeup-command combination that could push him through to the big leagues rather quickly. He's 6-foot-6 and has good arm speed and a consistent delivery. He uses both a curveball and slider, but both are below average. The Cardinals could slide Wacha into their rotation in a few years behind their young stable of Shelby Miller (2009 first-round pick) and Carlos Martinez.
McDaniel: Stratton really took a step forward this spring with his velocity and secondary stuff sharpening, and he still has some projection left in his long-limbed frame. At times, he will flash three plus pitches with a fastball that's been up to 96, sharp three-quarters slider and late-diving, hard changeup. There are a few issues with Stratton, as he more often will show above-average stuff with a low-90s fastball and wavering feel for his secondary pitches despite solid command. His arm action isn't the cleanest and he's nearly 22, so he has less time to make these adjustments than other pitchers. The Giants have a great track record of developing homegrown arms and they have a lot of talent to work with here.
McDaniel: Sims is a well-known, battle-tested prep hurler with a very quick arm and good feel for a curveball. He has a slight build and limited projection on his 6-foot-2 frame, but will sit 92-94 and hit 96 mph for most of his starts with a hard curveball that will flash plus at times. Given his smaller frame and lack of projection, there is some concern that Sims won't get much bigger and his habit of losing his velocity later in starts can't be remedied. Sims has solid feel and shows a solid-average changeup with a track record of success versus good competition, so the Braves are getting a local kid with a chance to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Toronto Blue Jays
Churchill: Stroman's raw stuff is top-pick worthy, starting with a fastball sitting 91-95 mph -- and up to 97 -- and a knee-buckling slider with two-plane break. He has improved his changeup and had a dominant season. The stature concern -- he's 5-foot-9 -- may redirect him to the bullpen, but he could be the first player in the class to see the big leagues as a late-inning relief option. The Jays could attempt to teach Stroman a two-seamer to create more sink on his heater and use him as a starter.
St. Louis Cardinals
McDaniel: Ramsey is a performer that's short on tools, but there's enough here to be a low-end everyday player. He has good bat speed and bat head awareness in a line-drive stroke. Ramsey has been a performer everywhere he has gone, including the Cape Cod League, and has average raw power that could hit 15-18 homers in the big leagues. He has a thick frame but is an above-average runner with great instincts that play up in the field and on the bases. Some teams think he could stick in center while others think he fits in right field, where his solid-average arm will play. He's already 22 as a college senior but could go straight to High-A and move quickly.
Churchill: Marrero entered the season as a potential top-10 pick, but struggled at the plate this spring. He can really play shortstop, however, and makes good contact with enough strength and bat speed to expect enough offense or him to profile at the big-league level. The Red Sox, who have Jose Iglesias on the brink of big-league readiness, add another middle defender to their system, continuing their trend that landed them Jacoby Ellsbury and Reymond Fuentes in years past.
Churchill: Shaffer moved up as much as any college bat this season, showing improved defense and a patient approach at the plate. He makes good contact and has above-average power and, if he stays at the hot corner, could be a David Freese-style addition for the Rays. Considering the presence of Evan Longoria, however, the Rays may have other plans for Shaffer, who could hit the majors by the end of 2014.
Churchill: Trahan was among the very best players at the Area Code Games last summer, and despite some struggles at the plate this spring has landed in the first round. Much of that is due to his strength, great feet and athleticism, and the projection in the bat that could play at other positions if he has to move out from behind the plate. He has the arm strength to handle it, however, and the D-backs could grow him as an eventual replacement for the recently extended Miguel Montero. Big upside in Trahan, so it's difficult not to like this pick.
Churchill: Coulter has big power due to plus bat speed and a simple, effective swing path. Despite some occasional recoil, it's a consistent swing and approach, and he makes good contact. He's not likely to stick behind the dish, but he does have big arm strength and could end up at first base, perhaps in right field, though he's not fleet afoot. Coulter may be the Brewers' next regular first baseman, though he's likely 3-5 years away.
Churchill: Roache may own the best raw power of any college bat in the class, but missed almost the entire season after suffering a wrist injury. Prior to the season, Roache was getting mentioned as a potential first-round pick, despite scouts' concerns of a massive collapse in the backside of his swing that creates a poor swing path and leads to strikeouts. Those concerns have to remain since he was unable to play this spring. Roache will have to hit for some average to allow the power to play, and his bat is his only real tool since he's a fringe defender in the outfield and may have to move to first down the line. The Brewers now have selected two power bats in the same round of the same draft. That's something new.
McDaniel: The Rangers got what may be the second-highest upside in the draft in Brinson. He will flash 70 speed, 70 glove, 60 arm and average raw power that you could turn into a 60. Due to his ultra-projectable 6-foot-4 frame, some have compared him to Cameron Maybin. The question on Brinson is his ability to hit, as he didn't set the world on fire this summer and really struggled in the spring. There are some correctable mechanical flaws, and he's still growing into his body and learning how to use his extremely long arms. Brinson has some trouble with good breaking stuff and may never hit for a high average but won't have to win batting titles to have big league value. If Brinson's amazing physical gifts take over, scouts rave about his makeup and work ethic, so he could turn into a perennial All-Star.
Churchill: Hensley looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds and two pitches that grade out as above average now with a chance to be plus. He doesn't command the fastball well, yet, but blows up radar guns into the mid-90s and up to 98. His curveball is a true 12-6 offering into the low-80s. Hensley creates some plane by staying tall, though there are some delivery issues he'll need to clean up, in addition to adding a changeup, to remain an option for the rotation.
Boston Red Sox
McDaniel: Johnson is a lower-ceiling, higher-probability college starter who doesn't get scouts excited with his upside but has a very good chance to reach his ceiling of a No. 3/4 starter. Johnson works with a four-pitch mix, including an average fastball with two-seam life that he commands well at 88-92 mph. He backs it up with a curveball that's consistently above-average and is plus at times, along with an above-average slider and changeup. His command is also solid, with some scouts calling it above-average as well. He's a pitchability lefty with above-average stuff and command along the lines of Mark Buehrle and also has average raw power from the left side as a solid 1B prospect. Johnson isn't the greatest athlete and is a little stiff, but he makes his delivery work for him and could help the Red Sox as a quick-moving savvy lefty.
Analyzing the compensation picks.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
32. Minnesota Twins: Jose Orlando Berrios, RHP, Papa Juan XXIII (Puerto Rico) H.S.
Berrios is a thin-bodied righty from Puerto Rico whose crazy work ethic paid off this spring with a velocity spike into the mid-90s and feel for a curve and change that could allow him to start. -- McDaniel
33. San Diego Padres: Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty (Fla.) H.S.
Eflin is a 6-foot-5, 205-pound righty who had a velocity spike this spring and is projectable enough to have another one. He's been up to 95 with a plus changeup and will show an above-average slider with solid command and potential to be a No. 2/3 starter. -- McDaniel
34. Oakland Athletics: Daniel Robertson, SS, Upland (Calif.) H.S.
Robertson, likely to move to third base in pro ball, may be a tough sign, as he's committed to UCLA. He has 20-25 homer power and should hit. -- Churchill
36. St. Louis Cardinals: Stephen Piscotty, 3B, Stanford
Piscotty is the rare bat who appears unfazed by Stanford's teachings in the batter's box. He has power and an above-average hit tool and recently moved to left field, which could be his position for the future. -- Churchill
39. Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo, 3B, Bishop Gorman (Nev.) H.S.
Gallo has big raw power and a huge arm -- mid- to upper 90s from the mound -- and got his bat going after struggling at the invitational earlier in the season. If he can't stick at third, right field might be an idea rather than wasting his arm at first base. -- Churchill
40. Philadelphia Phillies: Shane Watson, RHP, Lakewood (Calif.) H.S.
Watson is a strong, projectable prep arm with a fastball that reaches the 93-96 mph range. He's committed to USC, so this may not be a sure-thing signing. -- Churchill
41. Houston Astros: Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit (Fla.) H.S.
McCullers is a top 10-15 talent who will hit 98 mph late in games and show a plus curveball and occasionally a potentially plus changeup. He has improved a ton this spring after being called a sure-fire reliever, to the point where many teams think he can start. He has a strong commitment to Florida, where he would play both ways and will be a tough sign, but he has No. 2 starter upside. -- McDaniel
42. Minnesota Twins: Luke Bard, RHP, Georgia Tech
Bard, whose brother, Daniel, is in the rotation for the Red Sox, will have to develop the breaking ball to have any shot at starting. He sits in the low 90s with his fastball. -- Churchill
43. Chicago Cubs: Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State
Johnson was gaining steam until a minor injury put him on the sideline in the middle of his season, but he returned and pitched well. He offers 91-93 mph heat that grazes the mid-90s, and complements with a good changeup and breaking ball. This could be a real steal. -- Churchill
44. San Diego Padres: Travis Jankowski, CF, Stony Brook
Jankowski plays at a small school and scouts complain that he doesn't face good competition, but he shined as the MVP of the Cape Cod League and looked great at the Coral Gables regional this weekend. He's a long, lean athlete with plus-plus speed who plays in center and on the bases with an above-average arm and advanced approach at the plate. He hit a big home run this weekend, and there may be average power down the road that would make him an above-average regular. A great value here for San Diego. -- McDaniel
45. Pittsburgh Pirates: Barret Barnes, OF, Texas Tech
Barnes has plus power from the right side, and while he has merely a chance to play center field as a pro, he'll be plus in a corner. He has a sturdy build with a thicker lower half but has plus in-line speed. -- Churchill
46. Colorado Rockies: Eddie Butler, RHP, Radford
Butler hits the mid-90s at times but needs to develop his slider and changeup, as well as shore up his command, or he'll head to the bullpen. -- Churchill
47. Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson, 1B, Parkview (Ga.) H.S.
Matt Olson is committed to Vanderbilt as a two-way player, but his future is as a power-hitting first baseman. He could play right field for a few years, but as his frame fills out, he'll be a first baseman long-term. He has as sweet lefty swing with above-average raw power that will be plus. Olson's swing will break down some in games, but there's potential here for above-average hit and power tools with solid defense. -- McDaniel
48. Chicago White Sox: Keon Barnum, 1B, King (Fla.) H.S.
Barnum is a power-hitting first baseman who has had some trouble making contact this spring. He's been better over the summer and as a junior, so teams with history on him may believe they can help him make adjustments to unlock his plus power. Barnum has a good arm, and while many compare him to Ryan Howard, he has reasonable athleticism to where a team could try him in the outfield, but the power is the carrying tool here. -- McDaniel
49. Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker, OF, Olympia (Fla.) H.S.
Jesse Winker is a known quantity for scouts who has a long history of hitting with wood bats versus good pitching in a variety of events. The Florida commit will also show a plus arm in right field and above-average power from the left side along with a baseball rat work ethic that scouts love. The questions are if Winker can shorten his swing, get to his power in game situations and, if he gets big enough, eventually have to move to first base. -- McDaniel
50. Toronto Blue Jays: Matt Smoral, LHP, Salon (Ohio) H.S.
Smoral has big upside thanks to a mid-90s fastball and plus slider from a low arm slot. He fell a bit, presumably due to the broken foot bone and potentially due to his commitment to North Carolina. -- Churchill
51. Los Angeles Dodgers: Jesmuel Valentin-Diaz, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Valentine-Diaz has quick hands and feet and a good arm, profiling well up the middle. He makes good contact and should for some average with gap power, and do it from both sides of the plate. -- Churchill
52. St. Louis Cardinals: Patrick Wisdom, 3B, St. Mary's
Wisdom struggled this spring but has power and profiles well at third long-term. The hit tool is the big question. -- Churchill
53. Texas Rangers: Collin Wiles, RHP, Blue Valley West (Kan.) H.S.
Wiles, a commit to Vanderbilt, which almost always keeps its signees, is projectable and should be able to add velocity as he matures physically. Considering he was taken this early, the Rangers must believe they have a good shot to get him under contract. -- Churchill
54. Philadelphia Phillies: Mitch Gueller, RHP, WF West (Wash.) H.S.
Gueller is a two-way player who popped this spring due to a fastball that reached the mid-90s and improved mechanics and consistency. He's committed to Washington State but is not considered a difficult sign at this spot. -- Churchill
55. San Diego Padres: Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia (Fla.), H.S.
Weickel is teammates with Jesse Winker on a loaded high school team and also is a showcase circuit veteran with very consistent performances this spring. The 6-foot-6 righty has projection remaining and good plane on his 90-92 mph fastball that will hit 95. The Miami commit backs up his heater with a curveball that will flash plus and a changeup that's above average at times. There's a mid-rotation-starter upside with a chance for more as the Padres continue collecting projectable prep arms in an impressive haul. -- McDaniel
56. Chicago Cubs: Paul Blackburn, RHP, Heritage (Calif.) H.S.
Blackburn, who may be leaning toward ASU rather than signing a pro contract, sits in the low 90s and showed some polish and poise this spring to move into this range. -- Churchill
57. Cincinnati Reds: Jeff Gelalich, OF, UCLA
Gelalich has a quick bat thanks to a short swing and strong wrists, and he has above-average power as a result. He plays a good right field and has a plus arm, too. -- Churchill
58. Toronto Blue Jays: Mitch Nay, OF/3B, Hamilton (Az.) H.S.
Nay, among the better power hitters in the prep class, struggled this spring, raising questions about the hit tool. There were signs late that he was figuring it out, however, and he's a high makeup player. He's not likely to stick at third, showing on draft boards as a future corner outfielder. -- Churchill
59. St. Louis Cardinals: Steve Bean, C, Rockwall (Texas) H.S.
Bean, a Texas commit, has risen up draft boards this spring -- enough so that he may have a shot to stick at catcher, where his plus arm is put to good use and his left-handed bat is very intriguing. -- Churchill
60. Toronto Blue Jays: Tyler Gonzales, RHP, James Madison (Texas) H.S.
Gonzales owns a solid fastball at 90-94 mph and he's hit the mid-90s late in games, setting up perhaps the best slider in the prep class. There isn't a lot of projection in his 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame, but certainly enough to deliver a big league starter who fits in the middle of the rotation, perhaps even better. -- Churchill
Are the White Sox for real?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Chicago White Sox spent the first two weeks of the season ranked in the 20s in the ESPN Power Rankings, and with just cause. The only significant move the club made during the offseason -- other than hiring new manager Robin Ventura -- was to trade Jason Frasor, Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos for minor leaguers. The team's Opening Day payroll fell by more than $30 million, landing just under the $100 million mark.
As such, this season seemed like it was going to be a rebuilding one for the South Siders. But then games started, and Chicago has consistently churned out the wins. And on the strength of a banner week that included sweeps of the Indians and Rays and has helped run their record to 13-2 in their past 15 games, they have moved up to fourth in this week's rankings. Is this just a hot streak, or are the Sox for real?
There are a lot of positive indicators working in Chicago's favor. They have a plus-40 run differential that is third-best in baseball, trailing the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. The runs haven't just come in isolated blowouts, either. The White Sox have scored four or more runs in 65 percent of their games, a rate exceeded only by the Cardinals, Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. The offense has been spread around as well, as Paul Konerko, Alejandro De Aza, A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Dayan Viciedo and Alex Rios have all posted wRC+ marks better than league average.
Only the left side of the infield has been a problem. Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson have formed a horrific third-base combo, and Alexei Ramirez hasn't been much better. Ramirez is known as a slow starter -- his career wRC+ in March/April of 45 is more than 40 points worse than any other month in his career -- but he has usually picked up the pace by this point in the season.
Still, the offensive output from multiple sources stands in sharp contrast to last season, as the only regulars who were above league average in 2011 were Konerko and Quentin (De Aza and Brent Lillibridge were also above average, though in limited action). The rebounds for Dunn and Rios, and to a lesser extent Gordon Beckham, have given the White Sox an imposing lineup. And while Ventura doesn't have much choice but to keep playing the Cuban shortstop, he has at least moved Ramirez to the bottom of the batting order.
On the other side of the ball, the pitching hasn't been quite as good as last season, when the staff's FIP was sixth-best in the game. This year's version entered Sunday with a 4.04 FIP that ranked in the middle of the pack, but there have been rays of light and there is room for improvement. For the rays of light, one need not look any further than Chris Sale. Sale earned American League pitcher of the month honors in May after posting a 2.08 FIP and kept the good times rolling on Sunday, posting the first complete game of his career in a win over the Seattle Mariners. Sale has been so good that the two-run complete game actually raised his FIP for the season.
Also turning in stellar work out of the Chicago rotation has been Jake Peavy. Entering Sunday, Peavy's 1.76 walks per nine innings ratio was tied with Dan Haren for the 14th-best mark in the game, and Peavy is throwing his four-seam and two-seam fastballs slightly harder than he did last season. Since he hasn't thrown 170 innings in a season since '08, people will remain wary of Peavy's durability, but he has been effective when on the mound.
Far too frequently, though, the story for Chicago has been "Peavy and Sale and then it's beyond the pale," as the duo owns half the club's 32 quality starts on the season. Still, there is reason to think the rotation will get better as we inch closer to the second half of the season. John Danks has posted a FIP of 3.82 or better in three of the past four seasons, so assuming he is completely healthy when he comes off of the disabled list, it's a good bet that his 4.95 FIP will improve. The same is true of Gavin Floyd, who has upped his strikeouts-to-walks ratio to a career-high 3.41 this season but has suffered some devastating home run luck. His 1.64 home runs per nine innings number was the 12th-worst mark in the game entering Sunday, and if it stands would easily be the worst full-season mark of Floyd's career. It should flatten out as the season progresses, as seven of the 12 homers he has allowed this year have come in two of his 11 starts.
Entering the season, it was easy to write off the White Sox. But between the rejuvenated offense and the stellar work of Sale and Peavy -- not to mention solid defense and baserunning -- the team has put itself in the thick of a wide-open AL Central race. It will need improved play from Danks and Floyd if it wants to remain in contention all summer, but a solid foundation is there. Against all odds, the Chicago White Sox are once again demanding our attention.
Is Konerko Hall of Fame worthy?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A few years ago, it looked plainly clear that White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was entering the closing stages of a solid career, but one that only briefly touched stardom. Finishing with 400 home runs and playing for 15 years isn't the stuff of legend and it doesn't result in becoming the namesake of many awards, but it's a better career than the vast majority of players have in them. Even for a former first-rounder and top prospect, it certainly would be grossly unfair to deem a disappointment.
After a fairly normal career and what appeared to be a fairly typical decline cycle, Paul Konerko instead spent his mid-30s trashing the aging curve. It's hard enough to shake a label that you earn in your mid-20s, so changing it a whole decade later is a tough challenge. Jose Bautista managed it a few years ago, but he was still in his 20s. Barry Bonds had a marvelous run in his late 30s -- putting the issue of chemicals aside for another time -- but he was already a superstar and an easy Hall of Famer, so it didn't fundamentally change what we thought of him as a player.
Konerko's late-career renaissance hasn't stopped at simply bringing back his prime years of his late 20s, but actually pushed him to a level he never achieved as a younger player. Since entering 2010 with a career .277/.352/.491 mark, Konerko's hit .315/.398/.560, an improvement easily clearing 100 points of OPS. Even more impressive, he's played this much better in a league in which offense has dropped in recent years, almost as if he's singlehandedly trying to preserve baseball's high octane 1993-2009 years.
So, just how unusual is Konerko's improvement? And does it make him Hall of Fame worthy?
To get an idea, I went back through baseball history and tried to find a group of players similar in ability to Konerko, choosing all first basemen and corner outfielders with five points of OPS+ (baseball-reference.com's measure of park-neutral OBP and SLG relative to league-average) and within 100 homers through age 33. Twenty seven players popped up, all of whom shared similar characteristics to Konerko in that they were all good sluggers who played for a long time and generally didn't come within shouting distance of a plaque in Cooperstown.
As you would expect from a group of players entering their mid-30s, the Konerko comps generally declined from their career numbers and quite precipitously. Of the 25 players listed who have retired (Carlos Lee and Aubrey Huff are still active), 15 of the group (60 percent) were completely out of baseball by what would have been their age-37 season. A few didn't even make it to their age-34 seasons as major leaguers. In all, just three players in the group, Chili Davis, Harold Baines, and Don Baylor, hit better in their mid-30s than they did earlier in their careers. Only Davis' improvement was even in the same time zone as Konerko's improvement so far, a 21-point of OPS+ improvement compared to Konerko's 39-point surge.
For 2012, Konerko stands at .366/.445/.617, numbers that if maintained, would easily be the best of his career and enough to win an MVP award, if not for you-know-who playing in the Texas Rangers outfield. It's probably unrealistic to expect that level over the rest of the season, but even if he hits at a more typical, 2011-esque level as the ZiPS projection system projects, that still leaves him with a .322/.403/.557 final line, every bit as good as his then-shocking 2010 season (.312/.393/.584).
Thanks to the last few years, you have now started to hear some rumblings about Konerko making the Hall of Fame, something that would have frankly sounded a little ridiculous in the past. To see just how much that career trajectory has changed, I projected Konerko's final career line twice using the ZiPS projection system, once with his performance through now and once with only his performance through 2009. Through 2009, ZiPS projected Konerko to finish with 460 homers, 1,503 RBIs, and a .268/.341/.467 line (.808 OPS). In a world in which the voters have not even deigned to let Jeff Bagwell in, that line clearly falls short.
As of Tuesday morning, Konerko's ZiPS career projection has improved to a .281/.356/.494 line (.850 OPS), with 502 homers and 1,628 RBIs. Suddenly, his case looks a little more interesting. It's enough to get Konerko into the top 30 all-time in homers and just a hair lower in RBIs. What's more is voters have tended to be kinder to players whose stardom is fresher in their minds -- Tim Raines might be closer to the Hall if the memories of his 1980s superstardom hadn't given away to the memories of him being merely an excellent part-timer in the '90s. Konerko has also not failed a drug test to date nor been the subject of enhancement-related whispers and innuendo.
Will Konerko make the Hall of Fame? Probably not. There are simply too many great players ahead of him and with the coming ballot crunch, it's hard to imagine 75 percent of the electorate finding room for Konerko on their ballots. Still, the fact that he's even gotten to the point of being in the conversation has been an impressive tale. Who doesn't love a good story of man trying to thwart fate?
Cards improved without Pujols.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Albert Pujols' decision to leave the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason shocked the baseball world. In 11 years with the franchise, Pujols defined the St. Louis offense. As a Cardinal, he smashed 455 home runs while posting a batting line of .328/.420/.617. A player of that caliber is always difficult to replace, and the Cardinals' offense was expected to struggle without their superstar.
But that hasn't been the case. After losing the best offensive player in baseball, the Cardinals' offense has been even better.
In order to determine whether a team performed better after losing its offensive stud, we can use wRC+, which measures how a team has performed offensively against the league average. League average will always be 100, so if a team's wRC+ is 120, it means that team has been 20 percent better than an average offensive team. This stat also adjusts for park and league, making it incredibly useful when comparing players from different years.
In order to determine how teams perform after losing their offensive stars, we looked at the largest contracts handed out to players who have switched teams. We ended up with 12 players, from Alex Rodriguez and his $252 million contract, to Torii Hunter, who received $90 million. In those 12 instances, the team that lost its superstar managed to improve its offensive performance during the following season five times. Some of the improvements were small. The Indians and the Mariners improved their offense by just 1 percent after losing Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey Jr., respectively. The other teams that improved have experienced a more significant jump in production.
So the fact that the Cardinals' offense has been better without Pujols isn't necessarily surprising, but the rate at which their offense has improved sets them apart more than any other team involved in the sample.
The Cardinals have managed to improve their wRC+ by 6 percent so far this season, which rates as the third-best performance after losing a key offensive contributor. But a closer look reveals that the Cardinals' performance is much more impressive than the teams ahead of them. The 2008 Twins managed to improve their offense by 7 percent after losing Hunter. But with Hunter, the team's wRC+ was just 92, 8 percent worse than the average offense that season. The following season, the Twins' offense had nowhere to go but up, even without Hunter.
The only team that experienced a bigger jump in wRC+ was the '01 Mariners, who managed to go from 107 to 117 after losing Rodriguez. But even though the Mariners' improvement was larger, the Cardinals' offense was better in both seasons. Last year, the Cardinals' wRC+ was 111, which ranked fourth in the league. St. Louis has put up a 117 this season, tying the Mariners' mark.
What the Cardinals' offense has done without Pujols is bordering on historic. They are on pace to have the seventh-best offensive season in the past 50 years -- though it's worth noting that eight other teams are tied for that slot, including the '01 Mariners. Still, the Cardinals' performance is surprising, considering they didn't do much in free agency after Pujols left.
It does help, however, that their premier signing of the offseason, Carlos Beltran, is on pace for the best offensive performance of his career at age 35. He's already stolen more bases than last season, and he currently leads all National Leaguers with 15 home runs.
But most of St. Louis' improvement has come from players already on the team. After hitting just .231/.298/.348 last season, it looked like Rafael Furcal was nearing the end as a starter. But the 34-year-old has bounced back in a big way, posting a .327/.386/.449 batting line. Yadier Molina continues to grow into one of the best all-around catchers in the game, and Matt Holliday continues to remain an effective option at age 32.
Losing Lance Berkman to injury, who was tremendous in 49 plate appearances, hasn't negatively affected the team. That's because Allen Craig has been even better since returning from injury. Though he's received only 63 plate appearances, Craig's wRC+ of 194 currently leads the team. While he might not end up as the best hitter on the team at season's end, he's proved to be a dangerous threat when healthy.
When Pujols left, the Cardinals were expected to go through some offensive growing pains. Instead, they've improved in impressive fashion. Even though most of the team's improvement has come internally, signing Beltran looks like one of the smartest decisions of the offseason.
If the Cardinals can keep up this performance, they will have posted one of the most prolific offensive performances in recent history. Seeing Pujols in another team's jersey may still upset Cardinals fans, but the team hasn't skipped a beat without its former star.
Hitters to use shifts against.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Despite the fact that he hits second in the New York Yankees' lineup, Curtis Granderson does not fit the stereotype. With a high number of strikeouts, relatively low batting average, tremendous power and the willingness to draw walks, Granderson profiles more as a middle-of-the-order power threat than a top-of-the-order table-setter, though he still steals a handful of bases each year. In fact, you could make an argument that Granderson has emerged as the best hitter in the Yankees' lineup.
What opposing teams seem to be overlooking, however, is the fact that Granderson has become an extreme pull hitter. Since the start of the 2011 season, Granderson has pulled 86 percent of grounders and short line drives, well above the league average of 72 percent. In fact, Granderson pulls more grounders and liners than the frequently shifted Brian McCann, Adam Dunn, Travis Hafner, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Gonzalez.
A small handful of teams, most notably the division-rival Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, have picked up on this and have started shifting against Granderson -- and it's paying off. The Yankees center fielder is just 1-for-25 on grounders and short liners against the shift, according to numbers from Baseball Info Solutions. He has also yet to lay down a single bunt against a shifted defense.
Given the tremendous increase in the use of the shift defense this season, we're likely to see more teams implement shifts against Granderson. As he faces the shift more often, Granderson will be forced to try to adapt his hitting style to beat the shift or potentially lose a handful of base hits per season.
Here are four other heavy pull hitters who deserve the shift treatment:
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
Cabrera is another player whose offensive profile gets overlooked because of the position he plays. While the Indians shortstop isn't on pace to match his 25 home runs of last season, he's driving even more doubles in the gaps and is actually above last season's slugging percentage. Add in his newfound willingness to draw a walk, and he starts to look like a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Since the start of last season, Cabrera has also become a much bigger pull hitter from both sides of the plate. From the left side, he has pulled 87 percent of grounders and short liners, compared to 85 percent from the right side.
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
Batting right-handed, Beltran has hit 57 grounders and short liners since the start of 2011. An amazing 96 percent (55 out of 57) have been to the left side of the infield, and other two were also hit up the middle. This is no small sample fluke, either -- since 2002, Beltran has hit 90 percent of grounders and short liners to the left side while batting right-handed, compared to 78 percent as a lefty.
Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks
Though you wouldn't expect it from these two players' defensive abilities, at the plate Chris Young acts like a right-handed version of Adam Dunn. He hits for a low average, strikes out often, drives the ball a long way in the air and pulls the ball on the ground far more often than just about anyone else.
Since the start of last year, 89 percent of Young's grounders and short liners have been to the left side of the infield, yet only the Brewers have shown any willingness to shift against him. While it used to be taboo to shift against right-handed hitters, there's a growing number of shifted righties in the American League. When National League teams build up the courage to try it themselves, Young will be first on their list.
Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
The "Greek God of Walks" could also be known as the "Greek God of Pulled Grounders." Out of his last 196 grounders and short liners, Youkilis has pulled 172 of them (88 percent). The Rays and Brewers are the only teams to even try the shift against the Red Sox third baseman, and only sporadically at that.
Three guys who should not be shifted
Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
An interesting note about Fielder and his right-handed Detroit counterpart is that neither slugger is a heavy pull hitter. Miguel Cabrera has pulled the league average 72 percent of grounders and short liners, while Fielder has pulled just 64 percent since the start of 2012. Their ability to go the other way helps them maintain relatively high career batting averages for sluggers of their ilk. However, Fielder remains one of the most frequently shifted hitters in baseball.
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
The Twins' face of the franchise has at times seemed like the left-handed power threat that typically merits a shift. However, Mauer manages to use the whole field better than most, which is part of what makes him such an effective pure hitter. Since the start of 2011, Mauer has pulled just 62 percent of grounders and short liners. That's a lower pull rate than Darwin Barney, Carl Crawford and Ronny Cedeno. To top it off, Mauer hits the ball on the ground as often as anyone, so the shift comes into play more often than with a fly-ball hitter.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
As a slugging, left-handed first baseman, Hosmer fits the profile of a stereotypical shift candidate in all ways except one, the most important one: He doesn't pull the ball. Only 70 percent of the grounders and short liners he's hit since reaching the major leagues have been hit to the right side, below the league average of 72 percent. Despite Hosmer's slow start to 2012, the Indians and Rangers have already begun shifting against the young slugger. Perhaps Hosmer will evolve into more of an extreme pull hitter at some point in the future, but it appears that the shift treatment is currently unwarranted.
How Mets will handle Johan Santana.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
NEW YORK -- Pitchers play catch almost every day, casually tossing the ball back and forth with a partner in the outfield, and nobody really notices. But when Johan Santana played catch late Sunday afternoon here at Citi Field, it was a big deal.
Santana went under cover for his throwing session, into the bullpen and generally out of sight of reporters, and he was watched by pitching coach Dan Warthen and his manager, Terry Collins. Not long before Santana began, Collins promised that he would be hovering over Santana when he throws in the days ahead, because he intends to do everything he can to keep the left-hander healthy, in the aftermath of his 134-pitch no-hitter Friday -- the most pitches Santana has ever thrown in a game.
"When he throws today," Collins said, "he's going to feel like a freight train hit him."
Santana said afterward that he felt fine, and that the throwing session went well, but the Mets will continue to handle him with great care. Chris Young has been summoned to pitch Tuesday night, which buys an extra day of rest for Santana. Now, the current plan is for Santana to start Thursday, on five days' rest.
Collins' intention is to apply hard ceilings to Santana's pitch count in the starts to come, at about 90 pitches.
A longtime major league pitcher emailed Sunday and noted that the possible impact on Santana from the no-hitter may not be felt for another two to four starts. Collins is aware of this, and fully understands how important Santana is to the Mets, who wake up today in a virtual tie for first place in the NL East. If the Mets are going to stay in the race, Collins said, Santana will be a big part of how this happens.
"If Johan's out," Collins said, "I'm going to be pretty upset."
• There is one team with a winning percentage of over .600 -- the Los Angeles Dodgers -- and there are 18 more teams at .500 or better, with only 57 days remaining before the deadline. Twenty-five of the 30 teams are within 6.5 games of the wild-card leaders, and what that means, of course, is that relatively few teams will declare themselves as sellers in the weeks ahead.
Sitting him down wouldn't be a bad idea, writes John Tomase.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information
6: Highest number of total bases recorded by any hitter Sunday, the lowest max this year over a full 15-game slate.
24: Career home runs by Carlos Zambrano, more than twice as many as any other active pitcher (Livan Hernandez has 10).
26: Consecutive innings the Cardinals went without scoring a run before scoring in the eighth inning Sunday.
484: Distance of Nelson Cruz's home run Sunday, the longest at any ballpark this year.
Moves, deals and decisions
3. Bill Maher has bought into the Mets, literally.
5. Ron Roenicke has been forced to come up with some creative lineups.
Dings and dents
A. Continued nasty slider: In the past two games, opposing hitters have gone 2-for-27 with 18 strikeouts on PAs ending in a slider.
B. Damage control: Four of seven baserunners were to lead off innings; with men on base, Sale went to the slider 48 percent of the time (22 percent with bases empty). The Mariners promptly went 1-for-11 including 5 K's with runners on base.
C. Recorded 11 fly-ball outs, tying a career high.
D. Four 1-2-3 innings, plus four others in which he faced four batters. Threw just 13 pitches between the seventh and eighth innings combined.
5. The Rangers flexed their muscles in the series finale against the Angels.
Matt Adams' long-awaited reward.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For Matt Adams, baseball's amateur draft was going to be about confirmation of effort, about reward, for years of work that he had put in amid the hills of Philipsburg, Pa.
Adams assumed that he would not get picked in the first three rounds of the 2009 draft, but after working out for several teams, scouts had left him with the impression that he would go somewhere in the range of Rounds 9 to 12. Nobody chosen in those rounds is flown into New York and ushered on-stage. He sat at home and hit the refresh button, like a Twitter prisoner.
Round 9 came and went, and he didn't see his name listed on the computer screen. Round 12 ended, and Adams still wasn't picked.
"After the 15th round," he recalled, "I turned off the computer."
Adams went to his grandmother's house, and eventually, a phone call did come from the St. Louis Cardinals, who had selected him in the 23rd round. Adams is as understated as a customs agent, and Jeff Messer, his coach at Division II Slippery Rock, remembers how Adams took the whole thing in stride, in keeping with his personality. But Messer felt differently.
"I was a little bit angry that he didn't go earlier," Messer recalled. He knew Adams could hit, and he had the perfect mental approach for baseball, as he always had. Messer knew the reason Adams wasn't chosen higher was because his burly 6-foot-3, 230-pound body didn't fit the scouts' prototype. You see Adams and you think: Steve Balboni.
"I had some scouts say to me, 'We don't have anybody that big in our organization," Messer recalled.
Three years later, Adams is in the big leagues with the Cardinals, who face the New York Mets on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), and he is among the latest examples of how inexact the draft can be.
Being picked in the 23rd round meant that Adams started his professional career on the ledge. In college, he led the nation in hitting with a .495 average in 2009, but if he had struggled in his first summer, or early in his second season, he may have been cut quickly.
But as Messer expected, Adams hit right away, batting .355 with a .400 on-base percentage in his first summer, and while playing in Double- A last year, Adams mashed 32 homers, drove in 101 RBIs and posted a .923 OPS. He had a .978 OPS in Triple-A when Lance Berkman got hurt a couple of weeks ago, and since being called up, Adams is batting .289 with five doubles and a home run.
He is hitting well; he has always hit, after spending years on his mechanics and approach with Justin Hazelton, who played five seasons in the minors. When Messer first saw Adams in high school, he couldn't believe that no Division I school had signed him, or that Adams was so quick to accept his offer to play at Slippery Rock.
"As a hitter, he was able to slow everything down," Messer said. "Everything came easy for him. He was a very patient and mature hitter. The ball just jumped off his bat."
In the summer of his sophomore year, Adams played in a summer league, and one of the coaches was Dan Duquette, now the GM of the Baltimore Orioles. Duquette watched Adams mash an opposite-field homer and told Messer: "Your kid's got a chance."
But Duquette wasn't affiliated with any team at that time. During Adams' last season at Slippery Rock, Messer argued on his behalf to scouts about how he had such a short, compact swing and understood hitting. Messer, like Adams, hoped for a relatively early selection.
"He deserved a little bit better than what he got," said Messer.
But now Adams is getting it, as the first player from Slippery Rock to play in the big leagues. "It's incredible to think that now he's working with Mark McGwire as his hitting coach," said Messer. "I saw where Mark said, 'Matt's where he belongs.'"
• Aroldis Chapman has registered 84 outs this year, allowing no earned runs and seven hits with 50 strikeouts. Mull over those numbers.
There is more on Chapman's dominance within this John Fay notebook.
• Eduardo Perez was with the Cardinals in the first years of Albert Pujols' career, and he remembers how Pujols would predict how at-bats would play out -- what the opposing pitcher would throw in a certain count and how he would react. Teammates were skeptical, but only for awhile.
Perez, now the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins, has come to believe that Giancarlo Stanton carries a plan through his at-bats, as Pujols did; the only difference is that Stanton doesn't verbalize his thoughts in the way that a young Albert did.
"He's doing what every big leaguer should do -- he's adjusting in the way that they're pitching to him," Perez said.
Early in the year, Stanton struggled against inside pitches, and pitchers pounded him inside. But now Stanton has learned what all good hitters need to do: prepare for pitches on the outer half of the strike zone, and react to pitches on the inner half.
"If you worry about the inner half," said Perez, "there's no way you can cover the outer half."
Through that adjustment, Perez believes, Stanton has evolved. Pitchers will still try to work him inside, because he's tall and has long arms. "But if they miss," Perez said, "he will do some serious damage. He's learned quick. He's a student of the game. He sees patterns."
He prepares, too, by watching replays of how opposing pitchers work against right-handed sluggers, like himself. "He has his routine," said Perez, "and he's faithful to it."
Ozzie Guillen is thinking about better protection for Stanton.
Stanton and the Marlins pulled out their 21st comeback win of the year Saturday, writes Joe Capozzi.
• A conversation with general manager Sandy Alderson helped Terry Collins after Johan Santana's 134-pitch no-hitter; Alderson told him he had done the right thing by leaving him in the game. Jeff Wilpon, another of Collins' bosses, called Friday night and again on Saturday morning, and that made Collins feel a little better, as well. So did the call from Tony La Russa.
But nothing reassured the New York Mets manager about whether he did the right thing by leaving the pitcher in the game as much as a Saturday morning conversation with Santana. "He told me, 'I'm fine, and I'm going to be fine.'"
While Collins recalled his feelings, however, there were pieces of regret attached to his words. He acknowledged that he had sort of hoped, in the middle innings, that the Cardinals would get a hit to end the no-hitter. During the eighth and ninth innings, he thought to himself, "Is my job worth this moment?"
At the moment the game ended and Santana celebrated with teammates on the field, the manager felt he had made the wrong choice; he had allowed a pitcher less than two years removed from significant shoulder surgery to throw more pitches than he ever intended.
"I'm not sure who had less sleep -- Johan or me," Collins said.
Santana's mentor watched the no-hitter with pride. He basked in the afterglow, John Harper writes. The Mets are mulling how to properly rest Santana, writes Mark Hale. It was a magical night, writes Joel Sherman.
From ESPN Stats and Information, how Dickey shut out the Cardinals:
A. Dickey did not go to a three-ball count until the final batter of the game. He went to only one 2-0 count all game.
B. No plate appearance against Dickey lasted more than five pitches. He's the first pitcher since the start of 2009 to do that in a shutout.
C. Dickey got 21 swing-and-misses, his most since the start of 2009.
D. Cardinals hitters were 0-for-16 in two-strike at-bats.
• After 32 games in the big leagues this year, Mike Trout has 16 extra-base hits and 23 runs scored -- and he beat a throw with a great slide Saturday to maintain the Angels' momentum. Ron Washington called a team meeting after Saturday's loss in Anaheim.
• The Brewers' draft focus will likely be on prep hitters, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• The Twins' medical staff will likely play a larger role in this year's draft.
• Experts think the Orioles are going to take a pitcher.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Heard this: Some rival officials believe that the Chicago Cubs will trade Starlin Castro sometime before the start of spring training next year. "It's the right play for them to make, because they need a lot of prospects," one official said.
The Cubs could get at least two very good prospects for the shortstop, but as Theo Epstein said this week, Chicago is not shopping Castro; the Cubs can wait for other teams to come to them with proposals -- perhaps in the offseason, which might be the best time for the Cubs to deal a player such as Castro. More teams would be prepared to make well-rounded offers.
3. Jorge Soler can sign anywhere, and the Cubs are interested.
Dings and dents
By The Numbers
From ESPN's Stats and Info
13: Major league record for consecutive appearances without allowing a hit to start his career, set by the Angels' Ernesto Frieri; he allowed his first hit with the team Saturday.
97.3: Stephen Strasburg's average fastball velocity Saturday, his highest since 2010.
466: Distance (in feet) of Miguel Cabrera's first home run, tied for the longest home run at Comerica Park since tracking began in 2006.
1. Omir Santos gave the Tigers a nice moment. As Santos hit the fly ball that would end the game, Cabrera immediately began saying out loud, "Water! Water! Water!" Cabrera grabbed a couple of cups of the stuff and then, during the walk-off celebration, he dumped them over Santos' head.
2. The Cardinals had no answer for Dickey's knuckler.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how he won:
A. Strasburg's fastball averaged 97.3 mph, his highest in a start since before his injury in 2010. Five of Strasburg's nine strikeouts were with his fastball.
B. Braves hitters were 1-for-11 in at-bats ending with Strasburg's off-speed pitches. Thirty of Strasburg's 36 off-speed pitches (83.3 percent) were down in the zone or below it, the highest percentage of his career by more than six percentage points.
C. Strasburg got ahead 0-1 on 11 of 23 hitters, just about as many as in an average start for him. Strasburg retired all 11 hitters he started 0-1, striking out seven.
The development of Kevin Gausman.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It was the summer after Kevin Gausman's senior year in high school, long before he became arguably the best pitching prospect in this year's draft, and the right-hander decided to pitch in a California summer league.
Almost all of the hitters he would face were already collegians, and Gausman walked the first hitter he faced.
The second batter singled.
The third batter singled.
The fourth batter mashed a grand slam.
"I was like, 'Welcome to college baseball,'" Gausman recalled, chuckling over the phone on Friday.
But from that and other experiences, Gausman felt like he has learned what he needed to know, and the pitcher -- from LSU -- will hear his name called Monday, in the first moments of the draft. Maybe the Astros will pick him with the No. 1 pick overall, or maybe he'll go second or third or fourth or fifth. "We didn't bother watching him much this year," said an evaluator with a team that picks in the second half of the first round, "because we know he won't get to us."
Gausman has progressed dramatically, from a raw pitcher from Colorado into a dominant force in the Southeastern Conference. "I just kind of threw [in high school]," Gausman said. "I didn't know how to pitch. I didn't know what pitching was."
His lessons have been comprehensive. Gausman, understanding that his hand doesn't pronate in a way that allows him to throw a circle change in the best possible fashion, developed a split-change -- with a grip similar to that thrown by Tim Lincecum. He ditched the flat slider he threw in high school, and with help from LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn, he has developed a hard curveball. He picked up a new slider -- sharper, harder.
He put on 30 pounds as his 6-foot-4 frame filled out. His arm slot got higher as he refined his split-change, and Gausman worked on throwing each of his pitches from the same release point. Over time, he has learned to command both sides of the plate, against right-handed and left-handed hitters.
"I came here with an open mind," he said.
His ability and willingness to make changes has helped, according to one highly ranked baseball official. "Going into his senior season in high school, he was projected to be a high pick. He threw well in the summer before his senior year and the industry had high hopes for him," the official said. "I think basketball took a toll on him, and his draft year did not go great as his stuff did not approach the previous summer's viewings.
"I think he needed the mental and physical maturity time he got at LSU."
• Johan Santana began to labor with his delivery at the end of the eighth inning Friday night, and Mets manager Terry Collins jogged to the mound to check on him. By that moment, Santana already had thrown about 120 pitches. If Collins was concerned then, he must've been wrestling with all the circumstances in play, as he mulled over his decision on whether to allow Santana to start the ninth inning.
Santana is less than two years removed from significant shoulder surgery, and he's the highest-paid player in the organization; the Mets have generally handled him with great care this year.
But when Santana came off the mound, going to the opposite end of the dugout from Collins, the manager left him alone; Collins allowed him to continue.
After the no-hitter, Collins acknowledged all of the conflicting feelings. From Tim Rohan's story:
Santana's response: I'm not coming out of the game.
"In five days, if his arm's bothering him, I'm not going to feel very good," said Collins, who teared up at the beginning of his postgame news conference. Later, he admitted, "I just couldn't take him out, just couldn't do it."
Collins had said before the game that Santana's pitch limit would be 115, and it seemed reasonable for a pitcher who, in spring training, did not know if he would be with the team on opening day, did not know if he'd be the same pitcher.
"I didn't know and I still don't know," Santana said.
Collins prays that leaving Santana in the game was the right move, as Mike Vaccaro writes.
It was fitting that Santana got the first no-hitter, writes Ian O'Connor.
A Queens native helped Santana along the way, as Tyler Kepner writes.
From Elias: Santana, who missed all of last season following shoulder surgery, is only the second pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter in his 10th season or later, after having missed all of the previous season. Mets fans may be familiar with the other fellow: Dwight Gooden threw a no-hitter in 1996 for the Yankees, who had signed him after he had been suspended for the entire 1995 season. Santana, at 33 years, 81 days, is the oldest major leaguer to toss a no-no since Randy Johnson threw a perfect game at age 40 in 2004.
The Mets had the longest streak of consecutive regular-season games (8,019) before throwing their first no-hitter. Second place belongs to the San Diego Padres' active streak, which currently stands at 6,895 games.
• Before Santana's no-hitter, David Wright did an interview with WFAN's Ed Coleman in which he said he would not talk about his contract situation during the season. Earlier this week, Mets officials had indicated to reporters that they would make an offer to Wright this summer -- but they hadn't talked about that to Wright, incredibly.
The bottom line to all of this? These negotiations may well be far more complicated, and problematic, than anticipated. Wright wants to win and the Mets may be a few years away from winning, and Wright's version of a fair offer may be different than that of the organization, which wants to invest in power hitting.
• Scouts love to tell draft stories about what could have been, because the evaluations can be so inexact. Here's one from the 2009 draft: As the picks came off the board early in the first round, the Yankees waited for a New Jersey high school outfielder to be selected. But 15 picks went by, and no one had taken him.
Then 20 picks went by; still no one had taken him. The Yankees, sitting at No. 29, began to wonder if they had a shot.
After 22 picks, he was still there. After 24 picks, he was still on the board.
At No. 25, however, the Angels selected the outfielder: Mike Trout. The Yankees had gotten much closer to having a shot at him than they expected.
• Vladimir Guerrero is doing what he needs to do to put himself into position for promotion to the big leagues. Assigned to Class A Dunedin, Guerrero had four homers among nine hits in his first 20 at-bats -- including two homers Thursday -- and he was promoted to Triple-A on Friday. The Jays could use him at DH, with Edwin Encarnacion playing first base, and it makes sense for them to take a serious look at him by June 11, when their interleague play in NL cities, without the DH, will come to an end.
But Vladimir could join the Jays in a few days, too.
• Boston isn't aggressively marketing Kevin Youkilis right now because he has been hitting well, and because the Red Sox really don't know when Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury will be back. Trainers believe they could be back sometime around the All-Star break, but Crawford has had setbacks before, and Ellsbury is coming back from a touchy shoulder injury.
If Crawford and Ellsbury return, then the Red Sox will have a logjam they would have to address, and Youkilis -- eligible for free agency this fall -- continues to be the most likely to be moved among the veterans on the team.
• A rival evaluator believes that catching instructor Gary Tuck, who has been on leave from the Red Sox, has made an enormous difference in the career of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "Tuck-er is hands-on, and that's what [Saltalamacchia] needed," said the evaluator, who believes Saltalamacchia has greatly improved defensively.
And that's what it feels like?
"If I say no, I'm lying. When you're doing good, everybody loves you. When you're doing bad, everybody hates you.
"You hear stuff. When the Medlen stuff happened, people around here, my teammates, were like, 'Wow, they didn't even think to call you back up?' People were asking me, 'Did they say anything to you?' It just shows me what I mean to them. It doesn't feel good, but that's OK. It's business."
In the Braves' perfect world -- what all of them want, from club ownership to Frank Wren to the players -- Jurrjens would be dominant, for the $5.5 million he is being paid this season. He would be spectacular. He would shut down lineups.
But he was bad in the second half of last season. He pitched badly in spring training. He was bad in his initial Triple-A outings.
He's in the minors, but not because the Braves don't want him; he's there because he stopped getting hitters out. The sooner this reality embeds itself within him, the better off he'll be. There is no blame to pass around.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. David Murphy believes that Cole Hamels could get a six-year, $138 million deal. His price tag probably has gone up by 40 percent since last winter, as he has moved closer to free agency, and the Matt Cain deal manifested itself in the marketplace.
3. The Padres promoted a top catching prospect.
4. Henderson Alvarez's learning curve is a concern. The Cubs are prepared to trade Matt Garza for the right offer, and in many respects, the Jays are the best possible fit: They've got the right prospects, they have the right need, and Garza is a proven commodity in the AL East.
Dings and dents
6. A slide aggravated Ryan Braun's Achilles injury, writes Todd Rosiak.
By the Numbers (Santana edition): From ESPN Stats & Info
17: Outs generated in at-bats ending with a pitch down, tied for the most in a start by any pitcher this season.
28: Pitches chased by the Cardinals against Santana, the most in a Santana start since April 2009, when he had 29 against the Nationals.
134: Pitches thrown by Santana, the most ever for him in a start (previous high was 125).
A) Leake was able to keep the ball down, throwing 57 percent of his pitches at the knees or lower. The Astros went 1-for-11 with six strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch down.
B) When Leake got to two-strike counts, he was able to finish off hitters. In both of his wins, Leake did not allow a hit in a two-strike count (0-for-20, 0-for-10 Friday). In his non-wins, opponents are hitting .284 (21-for-74).
C) Leake worked the ball to his glove side (in to lefties, away to righties) with success, throwing 60 of 108 pitches to those locations. The Astros went 1-for-10 with two strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch to Leake's glove side.
3. The Orioles dropped out of first place.
5. The Royals continue to play well. That's five wins in their last six games, and 19 wins in their last 33 games.
10. The D-backs had a bench-clearing misunderstanding on their way to a loss, as Nick Piecoro writes.
11. It was a Coors Field kind of day for the Rockies.
14. Trout continues to do what Trout does.
15. The Dodgers' losing streak has reached five.
16. The Pirates won in what used to be their house of horrors, as Michael Sanserino writes.
17. A Marlins comeback fell short.
18. A Padres pinch-hitter had a big moment.
19. A crucial error really hurt the Mariners.
21. The Rangers lost more ground in the AL West race.
Trade options for the Dodgers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesKevin Youkilis could play third or first for the Dodgers, who get little production out of either spot.
His teammates felt the same way. "It sucked the air out of a lot of us in the dugout," said catcher A.J. Ellis, on Thursday afternoon.
After Kemp was hurt the first time, Ellis explained, the other Dodgers had figured that they could just grind through a couple of weeks and then get their centerpiece star back.
But now Kemp is gone and by all indications he's going to be out longer than before -- at least a month, as it turns out -- and the challenge for the other Dodgers seems different today. L.A. has the best record in the National League, at 32-19, but with Kemp down, their five-game lead may be more fragile than it appears.
At the outset of spring training, manager Don Mattingly told the players flatly that it would take more than 25 players for L.A. to win this year; this injury reinforces that reality. Through Kemp's first injury, Mattingly maintained the same demeanor; it is Mattingly, Ellis said, who has been so crucial to keeping the Dodgers focused on each day's game, and not preoccupied by what the team doesn't have. "Give all the credit for that," said Ellis, "to Donnie."
But even Mattingly acknowledged, before a game against the Cardinals on May 20, that the Dodgers would eventually struggle after losing a player like Kemp. His excellence in the first five weeks of the season helped to make up for other problems the team has had. Shortstop Dee Gordon is hitting .226, with a .268 on-base percentage. With almost a third of the season complete, first baseman James Loney is hitting .250, with two homers and 16 RBIs. Jerry Hairston has done a nice job filling in at third when he's been healthy, but with Juan Uribe having been such a disappointment, the Dodgers' third basemen rank 22nd in the majors in OPS.
Even before Kemp reinjured his hamstring, the Dodgers had started calling around to check on players available in the trade market and found the pickings very slim. Few teams have actually decided to be sellers, and there aren't matches yet for L.A., which needs offensive production.
The Dodgers don't have a high volume of prospects to deal. What they do have, under their new ownership, is money. They are better fits in deals in which they take on salary while giving up second- or third-line minor leaguers.
Following are some of the players who theoretically could be a possible trade fit for the Dodgers (and this is speculation, at this point):
Kevin Youkilis, Boston: He is in the last year of his current deal, and since coming off the disabled list, Youkilis is hitting .310, with a .371 on-base percentage; opposing general managers wanted to see Youkilis demonstrate that he can be productive, and he is doing that so far.
Youkilis is making $13 million, and the Red Sox could be motivated to move him for a couple of reasons: First, to create more payroll flexibility to deal with their own midseason trade needs, and second, to solve the logjam they have with third baseman Will Middlebrooks and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez; Gonzalez, of course, has been repeatedly asked to play right field.
Youkilis could play third for the Dodgers, or first base, if the team looks for an upgrade over Loney.
Carlos Lee, Houston: He is in the last year of his six-year, $100 million deal, and he would have to approve any trade proposal. The perception of Lee has been that he is reluctant to leave the Houston area because he prefers to be closer to his ranch -- but perhaps he'll be more flexible about this under the right circumstance, as he prepares for free agency.
Lee would make sense for the Dodgers only if the Astros ate a lot of the $12.5 million owed to him for the rest of this year, and if L.A. went after him as a first baseman. Lee is hitting .298 with four homers and 23 RBIs.
Nick Swisher, Yankees: He is a free agent at the end of this season and is currently hitting .244, with a .299 on-base percentage and eight homers. The Dodgers do have some depth in their bullpen to offer the Yankees, who may look to bolster that part of their roster this summer, and Swisher probably doesn't fit into New York's long-term plans. Swisher could play first, or right field, or left. (To repeat: This is speculation.) Swisher is making $10.25 million this season.
Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Cubs. Both are role players and could be good intermediate acquisitions for the Dodgers. Johnson is hitting .260, with a .321 on-base percentage -- and the Cubs are one of the few teams willing to talk trade right now.
After the Dodgers were swept Thursday night, June gloom had hit them early, writes Jim Peltz.
• After the Royals lost to the Orioles last Friday, Kansas City manager Ned Yost spoke angrily to his players in a way that he hadn't before, saying, in so many words, that it was time for them to step up and start playing better.
Coincidence or not, K.C. has won four of its last five games, and dating back to late May, the Royals have won 18 of their last 32 games and have crept back to within seven games of the top of the division.
Three things worth remembering:
1. Catcher Salvy Perez is making rapid progress in his rehabilitation from knee surgery, and is likely to return to the Kansas City lineup sometime later this month.
2. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain isn't far behind Perez; he could be back from a hip flexor tear in the middle of July.
3. Royals general manager Dayton Moore has been given the green light by club ownership to add before the trade deadline, under the right circumstances -- and if Kansas City makes up some more ground over the next five or six weeks, maybe that time will arrive.
K.C.'s area of need, of course, is in its rotation. If the Brewers become sellers at any point, one player who might fit the Royals perfectly is Shaun Marcum -- a veteran starter who could stabilize the K.C. rotation. Marcum is a Missouri native, by the way.
• The Madoff settlement of the Mets' owners has been approved, writes Richard Sandomir.
• Johnny Damon wants to get to 3,000 hits. But so far, he's given the Indians little production in his first month with the team, posting a .261 on-base percentage in his first 92 plate appearances, with four extra-base hits. Damon has 14 hits for Cleveland, and 2,737 for his career.
• We wrote here Thursday about the concern that some unexpected loopholes in the new draft rules will be found by some teams -- and here's an example. This week, a memo was sent by the commissioner's office to all teams warning them against the practice of submitting the names of potential draftees who aren't really legitimate prospects.
Why would anyone want to do this? Well, a team could sign a player for a few thousand bucks early in the draft, and then spend more money on a pick -- say, a highly touted high schooler who is deciding whether to go to college or sign to play pro baseball -- in a subsequent round.
The Nationals aren't in a rush to make their pick this year, writes Amanda Comak. The Orioles' new scouting director is ready to make his first pick, writes Dan Connolly. The Royals are gearing up for the draft.
The Red Sox could be affected by the new draft rules, writes Nick Cafardo.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Diamondbacks' deal with Miguel Montero comes with certain risks. Generally speaking, most of the officials I've talked with this week believe this contract was not a good deal for Arizona, partly because of their level of payroll and partly because of concern over Montero's light performance this season.
4. The Cardinals made moves to bolster their bullpen.
5. The Indians could have the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona back by the All-Star break, writes Paul Hoynes.
Dings and dents
1. Nick Markakis is going to have surgery today.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information
4: Consecutive plate appearances with home runs by Carlos Gonzalez, the third player since 2003 to homer in four consecutive plate appearances.
18: Earned runs allowed by Astros starters in the last two games, including nine by Bud Norris on Thursday.
21: Wins by the Marlins in May, the most of any team this month.
1993: The last time the Dodgers were swept at home in a four-game series prior to Thursday.
1. Milwaukee finished off its sweep of the Dodgers. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Brewers starter Zack Greinke beat the Dodgers:
A. He threw 31 off-speed pitches out of 118 (26.3 percent), and Dodgers hitters were 2-for-8 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with an off-speed pitch.
B. He threw 14 changeups, twice as many as in any of his other starts this season, and Dodgers hitters were 0-for-3 in at-bats ending with the pitch.
C. He threw all 12 of his sliders in two-strike counts, recording three strikeouts with the pitch.
D. He went to a 2-0 count to just one hitter, and did not go to a 3-0 or 3-1 count all game.
A. Scherzer threw 82 fastballs out of 117 pitches (70.1 percent), his highest percentage in a start since June 26, 2010. Red Sox hitters were 2-for-12 in at-bats ending with Scherzer's fastball, including all six of his strikeouts.
B. He threw 39 of the 82 fastballs (47.6 percent) to the outside part of the zone or further away. Red Sox hitters were 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending with a fastball in that location.
C. Scherzer improved as the game went on. Red Sox hitters were 7-for-16 the first two times through the order, and 0-for-8 with a walk the third time through. Twenty-nine of Scherzer's 40 pitches (72.5 percent) the third time through the order were fastballs.
Elias: Scherzer, who struck out six batters in six innings in his win at Boston on Thursday, was 4-0 with 51 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings in six games in May. It's only the fourth time that a Tigers pitcher has posted an unbeaten record with at least four wins and 50 strikeouts in a calendar month. Jack Morris was the first Detroit pitcher to do that (August 1983, 6
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Here are my breakdowns of each American League team's draft class, again focusing on the players most likely to have some kind of big league role or impact. I don't grade drafts, but the three I liked best, based on players I've scouted and what I've heard from scouts I trust, are Toronto's, Oakland's and Cleveland's. The number in parentheses refers to the round in which the player was selected. The round "1A" refers to the sandwich round.
Summary: This is a very solid draft up top with Kevin Gausman (1), who for me was neck and neck with Mark Appel for the title of best college pitcher in the draft, and Branden Kline (2), a sometime closer at UVa who has the pitches and delivery to start in pro ball. Adrian Marin (3) is a 70 runner who will stay at shortstop and has good bat speed, with power his major weakness. Christian Walker (4) is a disciplined, power-hitting first baseman who murders left-handed pitching and at least has value as a bench bat. Colin Poche (5) is a projectable lefty but a bit of a lottery ticket. Lex Rutledge (6) and Matt Price (7) are both future relievers. You might know Price from the past two College World Series; he is a competitor who has nothing plus but does throw four pitches for strikes. Torsten Boss ( works the count well with a little pull power, but I don't think he will stay in the infield and won't hit enough for an outfield corner.
Boston Red Sox
Summary: Deven Marrero (1) came into the year as a probable top-five pick, a true shortstop who had hit everywhere he'd played, with metal and with wood. Getting him at No. 24 is a steal, especially since his down year might be due to some fixable mechanical issues in his swing. Brian Johnson (1) is a safe college starter with No. 3 ceiling but probably No. 4-5 floor because he commands his off-speed stuff. Pat Light (1A) has a power arm and plus slider but might profile better in the bullpen, although I'd let him start first. Jamie Callahan (2) was one of the top prep arms in a down South Carolina class, topping out in the low 90s with feel for a curveball. Austin Maddox (3) is a power reliever (and sometime third baseman) with plus-plus control, walking just four of 196 batters he faced this year (excluding intentionals), although he did show a modest platoon split this year as a two-pitch guy. Ty Buttrey (4) had first-round potential when he was hitting 92-95 mph early but saw his velocity slide as his season went on. He remained popular with scouts for being one of the fastest workers in the draft this year; he'll be Boston's toughest sign. The Red Sox went heavy on college seniors after that but did take Vanderbilt commit Carson Fulmer (15) late on Day 2; he's up to 94 with good secondary and a violent delivery.
Chicago White Sox
Summary: They capitalized when Courtney Hawkins (1), expected to go right ahead of them, fell into their laps, grabbing the kind of high-upside position player prospect their system has lacked over the past few years. His backflips probably made him a fan favorite already but his performance should cement that soon. Keon Barnum (1A) had no business going on Day 1, not after a poor performance this spring that had him struggling with contact even though he's already 19 years old. Right-hander Chris Beck (2) worked in the low 90s as a starter this year with an above-average curveball; his stuff could play up substantially in the bullpen, perhaps a la Addison Reed. Joey DeMichele (3) is a capable defensive second baseman who squares up a lot of good pitching and could turn into an average regular at that position; he'll get the "scrappy" tag but he can actually hit. Kyle Hansen (6) reminds me a lot of his brother Craig, in both good and bad ways.
Summary: This started somewhat poorly with the overdraft of Tyler Naquin (1), a plus runner who should hit (albeit without power) but does have to prove he can play center field, since Texas A&M was busy with the 80-run, 20-hit Krey Bratsen out there. However, Cleveland rolled the dice on more ceiling with their next three picks, high school arms Mitch Brown (2) and personal favorite Kieran Lovegrove (3) as well as raw high school athlete 'Vone McClure (3). Dylan Baker (4) came out of nowhere this year when he started hitting 97 and showing an above-average breaking ball while starting for Western Nevada, although most scouts project him as a power reliever. Josh McAdams (6) has a smooth, balanced swing with good extension, but needs to find a permanent position, most likely in right field.
Summary: The Tigers didn't pick until the second round, and outside of their first two picks, there's not much ceiling here. They led off with Texas prep righty/TCU commit Jake Thompson (2), a big, mature-bodied kid who'll sit 88-92 right now, touching 94, with good riding life, but he needs to get more consistency on the present-average slider. Austin Schotts (3) is an above-average runner who has the feet for shortstop but whose arm probably slides him to second or center; he doesn't have great bat speed. Drew VerHagen (4) has shown a decent breaking ball in the past but was mostly fastballs this year without command, although he looks the part of a starter physically. Lefty Joe Rogers (5) is 90-93 with life and a hard curveball; he could move quickly as a middle reliever who's more than a specialist. Hudson Randall (7) is a command-and-control right-hander who had been sitting 88-89 the previous two years but was sitting a lot more 85-87 this year. If he is healthy and can pitch at 88-89, I can see him carving out a role as a Josh Towers type. Jake Stewart (9) is a good athlete who has never figured out how to make consistent contact, although he's not quite as severely uphill as he was in high school.
Kansas City Royals
Summary: Kyle Zimmer (1) didn't finish strongly due to a hamstring strain, but he was 92-98 early with a plus curveball, and he's very athletic with a smooth, easy delivery. If healthy, he's a potential No. 2 starter, although he might not move as fast as the other first-round college arms. Sam Selman (2) was awful early in the spring, better late, up to 95 and flashing an above-average breaking ball, but he doesn't command either pitch and I saw a real lack of competitiveness when I saw him in March. I pegged him as a reliever, maybe a specialist. I'm much more intrigued by Kenny Diekroeger (4), a good athlete whose decision to go to Stanford cost him more than $1 million (short term) and at least delayed his shot at pro ball. But if the Royals can get him back to his high school swing, they could get a top-50 talent here. I'm generally very high on the Royals' drafts, but I like this one less than usual.
Los Angeles Angels
Summary: I tried to convince the Angels' front office to acknowledge their lack of a Day 1 pick by sending their mascot to the MLB draft show and having him fall asleep at the team's table, but it didn't work. They didn't select until the third round, pick No. 114, and began with hard-throwing three-pitch reliever R.J. Alvarez (3), who can hit 95 just about every time out but is short and works with effort, limiting him to a 'pen role. Alex Yarbrough (4) was one of the best pure hitters in Division I this year; he is fringy at second base but should stay there, and I like his chance to hit for average and get on base. Mark Sappington (5) out of Division III Rockhurst has hit 94 as a starter and looks the part at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, but he needs to improve his off-speed and his fastball command. Michael Roth (9) has been the ace for two-time CWS winner South Carolina the past few years, but he is 85-87 and succeeds by changing arm angles and throwing a lot of changeups, which sounds more like a specialist reliever in pro ball.
Summary: Byron Buxton (1) was the top guy on my board, an explosive runner with bat speed and a young Eric Davis-type body; several scouts told me the future grades on their reports on him were all 70s and 80s. Jose Berrios (1A) has three pitches and can sit 92-94, touching 97, although his size, lack of fastball plane and delivery are all obstacles to his remaining a starter. Luke Bard (1A) also hit 97 this spring as a starter and has a future-plus slider, although he's got a low slot similar to his brother Daniel and might also profile in relief. Mason Melotakis (2) and J.T. Chargois (2) are both hard-throwing relievers; Chargois' delivery is ugly but the stuff that comes out is electric. Adam Brett Walker (3) has power before hit, showing well in BP but struggling with contact against decent off-speed stuff. He is slightly young for a college junior, turning 21 in October, but is old enough that the swing-and-miss is concerning. Jorge Fernandez (7) can run and throw, and has some power for his slight build; the body is projectable but he's not that advanced as a hitter yet. D.J. Baxendale (10) can pitch with a fringe-average to average fastball and an average changeup, with good control and feel. If he'll sign, it's good value for this far down in the draft.
New York Yankees
Summary: Ty Hensley (1) has size and two above-average to plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, needing to develop his changeup and improve his command, the latter held back by trouble repeating his delivery. Austin Aune (2) is a star quarterback who'll play center or right field in pro ball. I have heard from scouts that he runs above-average to plus but saw only average myself. He has bat speed and good hand-eye coordination but doesn't use his lower half much so his power is below-average. Senior Pete O'Brien (3) has plus raw power and a below-average hit tool; he can throw but, despite improvements this year, doesn't project as a catcher, likely moving to first base. He turns 22 next month. Nate Mikolas (4) is a strong, well-built corner outfielder from Wisconsin with big power upside but is understandably raw at the plate. Corey Black (5) has a chance to move quickly as a power reliever. Taylor Dugas (9) is only 5-foot-8 -- if that -- but he squares up all kinds of pitching and I would be very surprised if he didn't hit his way to some kind of major league role, maybe even as the heavy side of a platoon (pun intended).
Summary: The A's really broke with tradition and had one of my favorite drafts of any team's crop in 2012. Addison Russell (1) is a high-upside infielder, maybe at short, probably at third, with incredible hands and an outstanding work ethic that saw him change his body last winter to prove to scouts he could stay at shortstop. Daniel Robertson (1A) is an advanced high school hitter who will move to second or third but should move quickly for his age. Matt Olson (1A) probably has to play first base, and has raw power and some feel for hitting, although I didn't see him as a Day 1 draft pick because the bat speed was only fair. Bruce Maxwell (2), out of Birmingham Southern, generated a broad range of opinions but scouts who liked him saw a beautiful left-handed swing with plus power; the concern is that he hasn't faced much quality pitching. Nolan Sanburn (3) has one of the best curveballs in the draft this year and will pitch comfortably at 92-94 in relief, if not better. Kyle Twomey (4) is very projectable with an upper-80s fastball and good feel for a changeup. B.J. Boyd (5) is a left fielder who can run and has great bat speed, although I don't foresee power. Max Muncy (6) is a polished college bat but doesn't profile as an everyday guy at first.
Summary: After all the smoke screens, they took Mike Zunino (1) with their first pick, getting a solid everyday catcher with power who doesn't have superstar upside but should be an above-average regular. Joe DeCarlo (2) was a bit of a reach for me here, although other clubs were on him in the second round, too; he's a shortstop who will move to third base and has plus raw power, with a swing that can get long and an approach at the plate that needs work. Edwin Diaz (3) has tremendous arm strength and no idea how to utilize it, throwing rather than pitching, but as raw material for a pitching coach goes, it's pretty good across the board. Tyler Pike (4) is just 17 and sits 87-88, touching 91, with a plus (or better) changeup and the ability to spin a curveball; he's an excellent value here. Pat Kivlehan (5) is a great story, as he didn't play baseball in either of his first two years out of high school but returned to the diamond this year and hit .392 BA/.480 OBP/.693 SLG, albeit with 40 punchouts in a weak conference. He's athletic and an average runner who should be able to play either outfield corner. Chris Taylor (6) is an above-average to plus defender at short but the bat is not enough to make him a regular. And for a sleeper, Isaiah Yates (17) won't turn 18 until the end of August, with a good swing and surprising power for his size, as well as an above-average arm that has reached 94 off the mound.
Tampa Bay Rays
Summary: The Rays caught a huge break when Richie Shaffer (1), 11th on my board and once in consideration in the top 10-12 picks, reached their pick at No. 25, and they were smart enough to take the guy with one of the fastest bats in the draft. Spencer Edwards (2), who turned 19 in April, is a plus runner who'll likely move from short to center field. He has a quick bat but nearly bars his lead arm with a very deep load. Andrew Toles (3) was once a fourth-rounder taken by the Marlins out of high school; he's a plus runner with a short swing that produces contact but no power. He was dismissed from the University of Tennessee's baseball team in October and transferred to Chipola Junior College. Nolan Gannon (4) has a great pitcher's frame and some projection left at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds. He gets good downhill plane on an upper 80s fastball but it's not a great delivery. Bralin Jackson (5) has a pretty explosive swing and above-average raw power and can run, but he is very crude at the plate and is committed to Missouri. Luke Maile ( would have gone in the top three rounds if anyone thought he could catch at the next level, while Joey Rikard (9) is a slap-hitting center fielder who needs to get on base more to have a chance to play every day.
Summary: Lewis Brinson (1) was one of the most tooled-up athletes in the draft and did show progress with his ability to hit this spring, although it's the power/speed combo that got him in the first round. Joey Gallo (1A) has 80 raw power and an 80 arm off the mound and at third base, with a lot of swing and miss that he will have to work to lessen so that huge power can come into play. Collin Wiles (1A), a Vanderbilt commit, is a command right-hander who was 87-90 most of the year but spiked to 90-93 right before the draft. Jamie Jarmon (2) is so raw he makes Brinson look well-done, but he has similar upside as a highly athletic kid with limited baseball experience. Nick Williams (3) has regressed badly since his junior year of high school; he has some tools, but his pull-everything-and-hope-for-the-best approach exposed how limited his hit tool is right now. The Rangers went conservative/college after that but did take Sam Stafford (14), a potential lefty reliever whom the Yankees took last year but didn't sign due to concerns about his medicals, and Jameis Winston (16), who is committed to Florida State to play quarterback.
Toronto Blue Jays
Summary: The Blue Jays pounded high-ceiling guys early, then went after a slew of college seniors through the 10th round to create room under the bonus pool cap so they can go over slot to sign those earlier picks. .J. Davis (1) is a raw, high-risk outfielder, an 80 runner who did do a lot of work to clean up his swing and improve his contact rates this spring. Marcus Stroman (1) shouldn't have gotten that far in the draft; he is 5-foot-9 but has everything else you want in a starter, including three pitches (one plus), fastball command and great competitiveness on the mound. As a reliever, he's big league ready. Matt Smoral (1A), who is close to signing with the Jays for about $2 million, would have gone in the top 10-15 overall had he not broken his foot in March. He's a power lefty with a low 3/4 slot who has hit 96 and shows a plus slider. Mitch Nay (1A) is a third baseman now but will play right field or first base in pro ball; he has plus-plus raw power but was getting out front all spring and popping a lot of pitches up. He should sign very soon. Tyler Gonzales (1A) is up to 98 and flashes a plus slider, but it's a violent delivery and his command is poor. Chase DeJong (2) is a projectable right-hander up to 92 with four pitches, none of them plus, and is aggressive with the fastball. Anthony Alford (3) would have been a first-rounder but told teams to stop scouting him because he was fully committed to going to Southern Miss to play football, regardless of the financial offers. We'll see how serious he was about it. The Blue Jays took a few backup tough-sign options after the 10th round, such as left-hander/Oregon commit Cole Irvin (29) and shortstop/Miami commit Brandon Lopez (33), in case they don't get any of the top seven signed. I thought this was the most obvious strategy to employ in the current system if you had extra picks, and the Jays executed it extremely well.
How Tigers must turn it around.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Detroit Tigers are now six games below .500 after a muffed fly ball led to a loss to the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night. Detroit is six games behind the the Chicago White Sox and a half game ahead of the Kansas City Royals.
If anybody told you they saw this coming, well, attach a lie-detector test to them and aim a bright light into their eyes. The Tigers ran away with the AL Central last year, they looked great in spring training, and they were viewed as the most prohibitive favorite of any team in the majors after spending $214 million to sign Prince Fielder.
That's worth repeating: The Tigers -- with Miguel Cabrera and Fielder and Alex Avila and the rest of what was expected to be a very deep lineup -- have scored exactly the same number of runs as the Phillies.
But now the Tigers are faced with the challenge of digging themselves out of this early-season hole, and the question that manager Jim Leyland must be asking himself is: How?
There are no simple answers because of the team's horrific defense.
When you talk to rival evaluators about Cabrera, they'll tell you he's been OK at third base and certainly not as bad as they expected him to be. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta catches everything that's hit at him. Fielder is functional at first base. Corner outfielders Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young (or Andy Dirks) are workable.
The problem for the Tigers is that outside of center fielder Austin Jackson, there is not a single plus defender on the field. Almost all of them are subpar defenders, so there isn't anyone who consistently turns would-be hits into outs, no one who can rescue the pitcher with an inning-changing play. You could win with Cabrera at third base; you can't win with six Cabreras, essentially, around the diamond.
Peralta: Ranks among the bottom half of shortstops in FanGraphs' defensive metrics.
Cabrera: Ranks last among third basemen.
Fielder: Next-to-last among first basemen.
Tigers' second basemen: They are rated -- in a cluster -- among the worst in the majors with more than 100 innings defensively.
Boesch: Ranks third from last among outfielders.
Left fielders Young and Dirks: They are rated among the bottom half of players at their position.
Jackson is among the best center fielders, but he is on the disabled list; his rehabilitation assignment should start today.
The pitching can get a little better, but because of the defense, it's probably not going to get a lot better.
It's not an easy lineup to change because of the amount of money invested and the long-term commitments. You can't move Cabrera or Fielder; remember, Victor Martinez will likely return to the lineup sometime in late August or September as the DH, locking in Cabrera and Fielder at third and first, respectively.
Quite simply, the Tigers will have to slug their way back toward .500. They're going to have to hit better and win the 9-6 and 10-7 games.
It'll be interesting to see if, along the way, the Tigers look for opportunity to upgrade their middle infield. The Tigers have short-term investments in their second basemen, and Peralta is signed for $5.5 million for this season. They could try to pry away someone like Brendan Ryan of the Seattle Mariners, who is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the majors. They could consider someone like the Rockies' Marco Scutaro as a possibility at second; Scutaro has been a little bit better than the Tigers' second baseman in his defensive play.
There was more bad news for the Tigers Wednesday, when Avila was placed on the disabled list.
The Tigers' mental blunders are becoming all too common, writes Bob Wojnowski.
• A week into June, and Aroldis Chapman still hasn't allowed an earned run.
To review: Chapman has registered 87 outs, and 52 have come with strikeouts. In his last three innings, he has struck out eight. He hasn't allowed a hit in his last eight outings.
And consider the helplessness that hitters must feel when they reach two-strike counts. Here are the results against Chapman when an at-bat reaches a two-strike count:
0-2: 2-for-13, nine strikeouts.
1-2: 1-for-23, 20 strikeouts.
2-2: 1-for-18, 11 strikeouts.
3-2: 1-for-17, 12 strikeouts.
In all two-strike counts then, hitters are 5-for-71 -- all singles -- with 52 strikeouts.
He's all three Nasty Boys rolled into one, writes Hal McCoy.
From ESPN Stats and Info: In Chapman's last eight games, he has throw 8 2/3 innings without allowing a hit or a run, struck out 16, walked two and registered six saves.
Since 1900, only one starting pitcher has thrown a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts and two or fewer walks: Nolan Ryan against the Blue Jays in 1991 (16 K, 2 BB).
Chapman is one appearance shy of matching Billy McCool, who had a strikeout in his first 25 relief appearances of 1965.
• The Royals are close to signing their No. 1 pick.
• The Reds' No. 1 pick brings back bad memories for Paul Daugherty.
• The Indians went for a lot of right-handed pitching.
Moves, deals and decisions
Dings and dents
1. There is word within this notebook that the Royals' Salvy Perez is about to begin a rehabilitation assignment in Triple-A.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
2: Runs allowed by Yankee starting pitchers in their last three starts (0.74 ERA).
3: Shutouts by Brandon Morrow in his last seven starts; he had one in his first 76 career starts.
7: Strikeouts Zack Greinke had on his fastball Wednesday against the Cubs, tied for his most since 2009.
1. The Royals let opportunities slip away.
4. The Indians are beating the Tigers like they're little brothers.
6. Zack Greinke dominated.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Greinke won:
A) Greinke's fastball was dominant. Cubs hitters were 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending with a fastball. It's only Greinke's third start since 2009 in which he didn't allow a hit on his fastball. His seven fastball strikeouts also tie his most during that time.
B) Only four of the Cubs' 24 swings against Greinke's fastball were put in play, tied for the fewest against Greinke since 2009. Three of those four resulted in ground-ball outs.
C) Only three batted balls against Greinke made it out of the infield. Eighteen of the 21 outs he recorded were via strikeout or ground ball.
From Elias Sports Bureau: Greinke hurled seven shutout innings to lead the Brewers to an 8-0 win against the Cubs in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Greinke is now 15-0 in home games since he joined the Brewers prior to the start of the 2011 season. That is tied for the longest home winning streak by a starting pitcher to begin his career with a team since 1900. Kenny Rogers won all 15 of his home decisions for the Oakland A's in 1998 and 1999.
Greinke ran down the reasons for his home success once again on Wednesday night: The comfort of sleeping in a familiar bed, the routine ride to the ballpark and the spacious home clubhouse with room to prepare for a start in peace. This time, though, Greinke came up with a new reason: Coffee control. "Sometimes in the hotels, they have bad coffee," he said (according to MLB.com).
7. The Twins won their third consecutive series.
8. The Orioles ensured themselves of a season-series win at Fenway Park for the first time since 2005, as Dan Connolly writes. This is a good barometer of improvement for Baltimore, because the Red Sox and Yankees have beaten their brains in during the last 14 seaons.
13. The Rockies were shut down.
16. Brandon Morrow bounced back with a win, as Richard Griffin writes.
17. The Rangers were shut out for the first time, as Jeff Wilson writes.
21. The Angels gave the Mariners too many chances.
Fast-track MLB draft prospects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Perhaps the main reason why the baseball draft is gaining so much steam with fans is that clubs are not missing on high draft picks, and those players are getting to the big leagues in a relatively quick manner. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals serve as two obvious examples.
The class of 2012 is not without its potential quick studies, although it's unlikely any of the top picks race through the minors as fast as the aforementioned teammates -- with one possible exception.
Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (No. 22 overall)
Stroman could be the first player in the class to see the major leagues, but if that occurs, it's likely in a relief role. The Blue Jays are in contention right now, and if that continues, getting Stroman signed and into their bullpen for the stretch run this season is not out of the question.
Stroman's long-term role may or may not be as a setup man or closer -- I imagine the Jays give him a chance to start, but he could also be their closer from Day 1 and perhaps never see the minor leagues. If he's going to be developed as a rotation candidate, he'll need some time to develop the changeup to give him a weapon versus left-handed batters, but that doesn't preclude the club from taking advantage of his abilities this season.
But he's the only one with a chance to see the big leagues in 2012. Other candidates who could be on an accelerated track:
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins (No. 9 overall)
Heaney lacks the upside of the college arms selected ahead of him, but could beat all three of them to the big leagues. He throws strikes with three above-average pitches including a good sinker and changeup, which are generally attributes that breeze through the lower levels of the minors and into Triple-A for better testing.
The Marlins could ultimately call on Heaney sometime next season, likely after the cutoff date for arbitration eligibility (which could be late June or early July in the new CBA).
Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (No. 19 overall)
Wacha could probably handle himself well at the back of a big-league rotation right now due to solid control and command and a plus fastball and plus changeup.
His upside may be limited unless he can find a better breaking ball, but that doesn't necessarily mean his trek to the majors is a lengthy one.
Mark Appel, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 8 overall)
One can argue which of the top three college arms -- Appel, Baltimore's Kevin Gausman or Kansas City's Kyle Zimmer -- reaches the big leagues first, but if each of the trio signs, I'll take Appel, despite Zimmer possessing the best present breaking ball and comparable control and command. Gausman misses the most bats and did so in the best conference in the country.
Appel, however, has the best fastball of the group and projects up to plus control and command thanks to a repeatable delivery and athleticism.
Honorable mention: Prep pitcher
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals (No. 16 overall)
If Giolito's elbow is healthy, and stays that way, he's not likely to be held back by the low minors thanks to his raw stuff and solid control. We're not likely talking about a pace like that of Baltimore Orioles prospect and last June's No. 4 pick Dylan Bundy, but the 6-foot-6 right-hander could dominate his way to the show inside of four pro seasons.
Giolito's high school teammate, left-hander Max Fried who went No. 7 to San Diego, offers polish, command and athleticism and also could reach the majors relatively quickly.
Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners (No. 3 overall)
Zunino is the top college bat in the class, and he's likely to get through the minors fast enough. But as a catcher he's very unlikely to pull a John Olerud, who skipped the minors entirely, or anything remotely close. Zunino could, however, see the major leagues in 2014 -- anything sooner would be a pleasant and welcomed surprise for the Mariners' brass -- which is a similar timetable taken by 2009 No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley, who owned a better hit tool on draft day than does Zunino but also went through a position change.
Richie Shaffer, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays (No. 25 overall)
Shaffer, a natural third baseman, could start his pro career at the hot corner, but he's not likely to play the position in the big leagues in Tampa with Evan Longoria in town. The Rays could eventually experiment with Shaffer in the outfield, and if Shaffer's advanced approach and above-average power play through, he could get the nod within two full seasons, very much like the pace of Rays' first-round pick from a year ago, center fielder Mikie Mahtook.
Honorable mention: Prep hitter
Albert Almora, CF, Chicago Cubs (No. 6 overall)
Almora's work ethic, feel for the game and advanced hitting skills should help him make quick work of below-average pitching, which may mean he reaches Class A-Advanced ball and Double-A in his third pro season.
Such an ascent could get him in a Cubs uniform at Wrigley sometime in 2016.
I'll let you know if I see any around. I don't remember if they usually do it or not TBH.
i think tey do it once the pick sign.
Cool, I'll keep an eye out. Got this for now.
Where top picks rank as prospects.
The coda to our 2012 draft coverage is a new exercise -- a rough placement for the top prospect drafted by each of the 30 clubs in their organizational prospect rankings. I used the top-ranked prospect on my top 100 draft prospects ranking that each club took, and have adjusted my top tens to reflect promotions and any major changes in player outlooks, although it's not as rigorous as what I do every January for the pro rankings package. I've also tried to take the aggressive view on these prospects -- the shine isn't off any of them yet.
So, to be clear: this is where each team's top pick in the draft would rank among their best current prospects.
Easy call here, as Arizona's top four prospects are all still in the minors and living up to their billing, putting Trahan fifth.
Almora immediately becomes the Cubs' best prospect, even over Anthony Rizzo.
The Reds' fourth-round pick was actually two spots higher on my rankings than their first-round pick; he'd rank fifth in their system, with first-rounder Nick Travieso sixth.
I'd slot Dahl in between their top prospect, Nolan Arenado, and shortstop prospect Trevor Story.
Correa becomes the Astros' top prospect when he signs that contract ... any minute now. Those negotiations sure were fast!
I'd put Seager just behind Zach Lee, who has thrown well so far in the hitter-friendly Cal League, with the numbers starting to match the scouting reports.
Miami has seen two 2011 draft picks, Jose Fernandez and Andrew Conley, get off to very strong starts in the Sally League (although Conley is old/experienced for the level), and I'd plug Heaney in between those two, third overall in their system.
Clearly behind Taylor Jungmann, and even with Wily Peralta's disappointing start in AAA, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I'd probably have Coulter fourth, behind Jimmy Nelson and ahead of Tyler Thornburg.
Matt Harvey's been good-not-great in AAA, and Zack Wheeler's clearly still No. 1 in the system; I'd rank Cecchini third, over last year's first-rounder Brandon Nimmo as well as Jeurys Familia, who I still think ends up a reliever in the majors.
Third, behind Trevor May and Jesse Biddle. There's a big drop off after these three guys at the moment, although I am looking forward to seeing what Larry Green, their top pick last year, does in live games later this month.
If he signs -- and I think he will, although I expect it to come down to the final day, and I do not believe the Pirates will go so far as to give up their first-rounder next year -- he'd be third in the system behind Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, but fairly close to both.
Fifth; even though he's so polished he could probably come right to the big leagues, I can't put him over the higher-upside Tyrell Jenkins, even though the latter is in low Class A.
Sixth, which is more a reflection of the depth of their system (and the holding patterns on Casey Kelly and Joe Ross, both out with arm injuries that are not serious) than it is any kind of criticism of Fried.
Right now, I'd have Stratton as the best prospect in San Francisco's system, but see two or three guys in the organization already who could end up ahead of him by the end of the season.
Because I tend to downgrade players, even hitters, who seem to have trouble staying healthy, I'd push Rendon down to two and put Giolito in the top spot. And if you want to comment on the irony of that argument, feel free to do so in the Conversation.
Easy call. He's not better than Bundy or Machado, and he's better than everybody else in the system.
Fourth, behind the killer B's on Salem's roster.
Jared Mitchell's return to form this year has been a great, if not that widely noticed, story, but I'd still take Hawkins as their best prospect.
Second, behind Lindor. Their top ten will be full of 2012 draft picks; Mitch Brown would be third in their organization.
Detroit Tigers: Jake Thompson
The Tigers were the only team that didn't end up with a player off my top 100; their best prospect from this draft is their first pick, right-hander Jake Thompson, who'd rank no higher than third in their organization, most likely fourth or fifth.
I'd probably push him to fourth; he has more upside than Jake Odorizzi, but the latter still has some growth potential and he's close to major-league ready.
Probably sixth, assuming Nick Maronde's strained lat is just that and doesn't turn out to be something more serious.
I'd take him over their current top prospect, Miguel Sano, and that's saying something. The separator for me is that Buxton almost certainly stays in the middle of the field and adds value there, while Sano is already on a corner and may keep moving down the defensive spectrum even as he mashes his way up to Minneapolis.
Likely sixth, behind half of the Charleston roster.
With A.J. Cole struggling -- his arm slot was lower when I saw him in March and his velocity was down a little as well -- and Jarrod Parker flirting with no-hitters in the big leagues, I'd put Russell first in the system.
Fourth, behind Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and Nick Franklin, but ahead of James Paxton.
Third, behind Hak-Ju Lee and Enny Romero, with a good chance to end up first.
Fifth, with Cody Buckel jumping into the top four as Neil Ramirez slides out of it.
Fourth, after Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick and Aaron Sanchez.