May 2009

Taking the plunge

That’s right, folks, I did it. I’ve joined the throng on Twitter.

As if you haven’t gotten enough of me here, you can now get pithy (I hope) updates, particularly leading up to the Draft, over there. So be sure to follow me @JonathanMayoB3.

I’ll try to update everywhere about regional play, about the Florida HS All-Star thing in Sebring, etc. after the live chat which starts up in about a half-hour. Thanks all.

Top 20 and much, much more

Hey all…

Be sure to check out my latest draft projection covering the Top 20 picks. Also up today: A breakdown of both college and high school pitching in this draft class. Oh, and the final batch of Draft Reports has been posted as well. Needless to say, I’ve been busy.

I got some good questions in comments from old friend jfish the other day and I wanted to get to those. If you have draft questions, come on over to my Draft Chat on Friday, 1 p.m. ET. I’ll try to cram in as much as I can into that one and we’ll probably do one more  right before the Draft as well.

So most people seem to think Oliver has fallen out of 1st round
consideration. Do you agree? If so, is there anything he could do in
the tournament to change that?

I don’t know if Oliver has completely fallen out of the first round. Yes, his results haven’t been good, but if he has a dominant start in regional play, that could lift him back up. College lefties with that kind of fastball command don’t come around all the time.

What sort of odds do you give Josh Phegley sticking at C at the next
level? I know of a least one site that has absolute confidence in him
as a hitter and feels the odds of him sticking at C are good enough to
consider him a 1st round talent.

I think he’ll be given every opportunity to stick at catcher. There are certain things he gets, like calling his own game. He’s just not so good with guys that have a lot of movement, like Arnett. If he doesn’t have the ability, he doesn’t have it, you know? It won’t be from lack of effort. With the bat, he’s probably a supp first guy if you think he might be able to catch.

I think I read somewhere that Rich Poythress could maybe handle 3B at
the next level. Is that true? How does he compare to Brett Wallace if
that were to be the case?

Don’t believe everything you read. He’s played some third, but I haven’t talked to anyone who feels he can play there. Of course, all you need is one team to think he can (like the Cardinals and Wallace). Wallace is a much better all-around hitter with better bat speed than Poythress. Poythress is more of a strength guy, leading some to wonder how much power he’ll have as a pro. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll hit some out, but when the game speeds up, it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up quite as much.

Aaron Miller from Baylor was someone I heard about out of HS, what is
his draft stock like? Would he be more of a positional player or a
pitcher in your eyes? How does he stock up to the other OFers or LHPs?

You answered your own question in that the report I had on Miller was as an OF because the scout I talked to liked his bat. But it seems that most teams like his arm more right now and are looking at him as a pitcher.

I’m curious, why is NOBODY talking about Kentrail Davis? I understand he
had a down year and hasn’t developed like most thought he would but he
seems to still be considered an early 1st round type talent.

I combined a couple of questions here. Davis didn’t just have a down year, it was pretty much bad. Combine that with the fact he’s a draft-eligible sophomore (having leverage to return for a junior year scares some teams off) and is advised by Scott Boras and he’s slid off the charts. Yes, he does have some talent, but I have to think that unless someone takes a shot late and pays him, he’s heading back to Tennessee for his junior year.

Fort Worth is the place to be

Today, anyway. How’s this for a potential double-header?

Right now, Aaron Crow is pitching for the Fort Worth Cats against the Sioux City Explorers in the indy American Association. When that’s over, you can head over to TCU’s campus for the Mountain West Conference tournament, where at 3 p.m. local time you can watch Stephen Strasburg and San Diego State.

I love this time of year.

Conference Tourney Time!

I know I’ve been college heavy of late, but that’s just the way it is. I promise to have more in the way of high school stuff later in the week, particularly in my next Draft Notebook.

But today is a great day for draft — and college baseball — fans. While some may have started yesterday (though rain interrupted the Big East), most of the big college tournaments start in earnest today. Here are some highlights:

SEC

5 p.m. CT: Vanderbilt vs. LSU
You get lefty Mike Minor against top-seeded LSU (Jared Mitchell, DJ LeMahieu, etc) right off the bat.

Big 12

4 p.m. CT: Missouri vs. Texas A&M
I was hoping for a Kyle Gibson  vs. Brooks Raley game, but you’ll have to deal with just Gibson. Raley will pitch for A&M on Friday.

Big 10

3:35 p.m. ET: Indiana vs. Purdue
Eric Arnett
should get the ball for the Hoosiers. There was some concern when he didn’t pitch over the weekend, their last regular-season series. From what I’ve been told, there’s nothing to worry about. Arnett had thrown a LOT of pitches in his previous few starts and while college coaches don’t worry too much about abusing arms to get wins, when the Big 10 regular season title wasn’t up for grabs when Arnett’s usual turn came up, they decided to let him rest to put all of the proverbial eggs in the conference tourney basket. It should be interesting to see how he does with the extra rest, and if he’ll pitch more than once in the tourney should the Hoosiers get that far.

Atlantic Sun
3 p.m. ET: Lipscomb vs. Mercer
Lipscomb is the No. 2 seed and will send Rex Brothers to the mound in the opener against the fifth-seeded Mercer. His last start was washed out by rain in the early going. Could be the last look at him and he’s the type teams are probably still trying to figure out a bit.


Mountain West

3 p.m. CT: San Diego State vs. New Mexico
You didn’t think I could get through a post about college baseball and not mention Stephen Strasburg, did you? SDSU won their first game yesterday to move into the winner’s bracket. The 4th-seeded Aztecs take on No. 2 seed New Mexico and give the ball to Strasburg. The Lobos have the best offense in the conference and have five .400 hitters in the lineup. That didn’t seem to bother Strasburg when he faced them in Albuquerque during the regular season. He tossed a seven-hit shutout with 14 K’s.

Ewwww!

I’m always so positive, focusing on good performances and guys really stepping up. Today, I feel like being negative.

It’s not that I’m in a bad mood or anything — I sure could give Mike Leake and his complete-game shutout or fast riser Chad Jenkins’ complete-game victory over the weekend some love — but come on, we all know negativity sells. Besides, at this point in the amateur season, a bad performance can be magnified. It was the last week of regular-season games in the college ranks and here are some performances that made me say, simply, “Ewww!”

Kendal Volz, Baylor: I already labeled him as a “Lead Balloon” player in Friday’s Draft Notebook, and he didn’t do anything over the weekend to have it removed. Against Nebraska on Friday, he gave up seven earned runs on 12 hits over 3 2/3 IP, striking out just one. He’s now 3-6 with a 4.62 ERA.

Mike Minor, Vanderbilt: Not as big of an “Ewww,” but considering I had Minor in the “Something to Prove” category of that notebook, he didn’t exactly go out and prove it. Against Tennessee, he did pitch into the eighth and didn’t get a decision, so he gets some kudos for going deep and keeping his team in the game, but he also gave up five runs on 10 hits, not exactly the stuff you want to see down the stretch for a potential first half of first round guy.

Andy Oliver, Oklahoma State: He wasn’t going to be the first college lefty to go and he might not even be the second, but most had him pegged as a first rounder. Again, it’s just one start, but after giving up eight earned runs on seven hits and three walks (only one strikeout) in 2 1/3 IP,. how many will reconsider?

Brooks Raley, Texas A&M: Raley gave up six runs on nine hits over six innings  for the loss against Oklahoma. Raley had kind of passed up Alex Wilson in the A&M draft prospect pecking order, but didn’t pitch very well this past weekend. Wilson, meanwhile, has been pitching out of the pen and went twice in the series against the Sooners, allowing one unearned run over four total innings.

James Paxton, Kentucky: The lefty had been moving up charts and there’s a lot to like about his arm, but the peformances haven’t always been there. He’s now got a 5.86 ERA following his last start that saw him produce the following line: 5 1/3 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 6 K.

Draft Aft: Early series starts

It’s the week before college conference tournaments and, as a result, many of the weekend series are Thursday-Saturday, rather than the usual Friday-Sunday. As a result, there were some pretty good matchups yesterday that probably had good heat (meaning: a lot of scouting types) at them. For example:

Boston College 3, North Carolina 1
The key draws were Tar Heels starter Alex White and 1B Dustin Ackley to along with BC catcher Tony Sanchez. White was solid, going 7 innings, allowing two earned runs (three total). He allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six, but got the loss. Ackley went 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts. Sanchez went 0-for-3, driving in a run with a sacrifice fly. A bonus was BC lefty reliever Mike Belfiorie, who tossed three shutout innings, striking out four, for his 8th save. He struck out Ackley looking with two runners on and one out in the ninth, then getting Kyle Seager to fly out to end the game.

Florida 10, Kentucky 3
Ooof! Kentucky ace, and first-round hopeful, James Paxton, did not throw well. The lefty went 5 1/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and nine runs (eight earned). He didn’t walk anyone, at least, and he racked up six strikeouts. Not exactly the kind of outing against a good team you want to see this late. As good as his stuff is, he’s got a 5.86 ERA now.

South Carolina 7, Georgia 2
Unlike Paxton, South Carolina ace Sam Dyson, had an outstanding start against a good Bulldogs team. The right-hander pitched a complete game, giving up two earned runs on four hits, while walking one and striking out 13. Big Georgia 1B Rich Poythress went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Kenesaw State 6, North Florida 5, 11 innings
Kyle Heckathorn
went nine innings for Kenesaw State, but didn’t get a decision. The big right-hander allowed four runs and “scattered” 11 hits, but he also struck out 15 while walking only one. You try to put that in context.

Lipscomb at East Tennessee State, suspended
Unfortunately, you can’t control the weather and that’s a shame for scouts who went to this game to see Lipscomb lefty Rex Brothers throw. The first-round potential starter did get in four innings of work, where he allowed three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five.

Finally (you didn’t think I forgot, did you?):

San Diego State 11, Utah 2
Stephen Strasburg
didn’t let any suspense build, giving up two runs in the first inning after throwing a no-hitter in his last start. He gave up a total of six hits in seven innings of work, walked just one and struck out 10 for the win. He’s now 12-0 with a 1.34 ERA. In 94 1/3 innings of work, the right-hander has allowed 54 hits (.167 BAA) and 18 walks while striking out 174.

My first weekly Draft Notebook is up on the site now, so go check that out.

I’m working on my first projections — top 10 comes out on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in on who you think will go where in comments. The things I’m struggling with right now are:

1. Who will take the gamble on Tanner Scheppers and his shoulder? The Mariners seem interested, but is that too big of a risk at No. 2?

2. I keep hearing over and over that the San Diego Padres really like toolsy high school outfielder Donavan Tate at No. 3. Why can’t I believe it? Maybe it’s the organization’s draft history, maybe it’s Tate’s potential price tag, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I need some convincing.

I’m hoping maybe some of the college guys, particularly the arms in top 10 contention, separate themselves in conference tournament play next week.

Be back soon…  

Heart of the Game

I interrupt this draft-focused blog to switch back to something Minor League-related. Well, I guess it’s more book-related and, truthfully, life-related.

S.L. Price’s new book, “Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor Leaguecoolbaugh_book.jpg America”was officially released yesterday. You can order it here and I strongly recommend you do so immediately. It’s one of the best baseball books I’ve read in a long time. As I wrote in my story on MLB.com, it tells the story of Mike Coolbaugh, the longtime Minor League veteran
and new coach who was tragically killed by a foul ball in July 2007. But it goes much deeper than that, into the families, both Coolbaugh’s and Tino Sanchez’s (the one who hit the foul ball) and the hard life of a career in the Minor Leagues.

Over the past couple of years, Mike’s cousin, Cheryl, has run a golf tournament in the San Antonio area — the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Tournament — to help raise money for Mike’s wife, Mandy, and the three Coolbaugh children. You get to play golf and you can bid on some great sports-related items in an auction they have.

This year’s event is set for Saturday, November 7 at the Tapatio Springs Golf Resort in Boerne, Texas. I’m writing about this now because they are offering a special book release discount. If you register by May 31, your team (4 golfers) will save $200 from last year’s price. It’s only $500 for a team until May 31, so if you want to play golf, have dinner with some great folks (including a bunch of baseball people) and participate in the auction, all while helping a wonderful family, now’s the time to act. So just click on the link above for the tournament to sign up. If you have other questions, or are interested in sponsorship, you can contact Cheryl Coolbaugh directly via email.  

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Sorry if I sounded like a salesman there, but this was too important not to get out there.–
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Draft Aft: Strasburg is good

With our draft section officially launching today, I wanted to let you know that B3 is going to be very draft focused from now until after the June 9 Draft. I’ll try to do some Minors stuff here and there, but don’t count on it.

So, I was in San Diego on Friday. As luck would have it, Stephen Strasburg was pitching for San Diego State, so I figured I’d go have a look-see. He was kind enough to throw a no-hitter against Air Force, striking out 17 and never really being challenged. Now, with all due respect to Air Force, they are not a good baseball team. But tossing a no-no against metal bats is still pretty impressive in my book. If you don’t want to take my word for it, Toby Wachter over at Upper Deck was live blogging throughout the game. Not that there was any question about the Nats taking the guy, but most of the braintrust was in attendance, including acting GM Mike Rizzo and scouting director Dana Brown. Against a bad team, they’re going to be looking at things like command and location, and Strasburg was pretty locked in. He probably had his best stuff in the ninth and was still throwing 97 mph in that final inning. That’s the kind of thing an MLB team would look at. No triple-digits, but who cares, really?

Other things of note:

The Indy Leaguers:  Both Tanner Scheppers and Aaron Crow threw on Sunday for their respective independent league teams. Scheppers had been generating a ton of buzz this spring with how he’s thrown, but while he was lighting up the radar gun for the St. Paul Saints, he was giving up five runs on five hits over five innings. Guess how many he struck out — that’s right, five. Crow, pitching for the Ft. Worth Cats, tossed four scoreless frames, allowing two hits and striking out two. Both could figure prominently in the top of the first round.

Best performance by a non-Strasburg college righty: A lot of the top arms were only so-so, but here’s one that really stood out. One is ASU’s Mike Leake, who continued his outstanding junior season by tossing seven shutout innings against Winthrop on Friday.  He walked none and struck out eight. For the season,  he’s 12-1 with a 1.47 ERA. He’s got 104 K’s (vs. only 18 BB) in 97 2/3 IP while hitters have managed just a .179 batting average against him.

Bounce-back start?: Vandy’s Mike Minor has had an up-and-down year. He didn’t start on Friday this weekend, and even with his most recent start, he’s just 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA on the season. One start does not a hot streak make — he was pretty bad a week ago at South Carolina — but against a very good Georgia team on Saturday, the lefty went the distance, allowing two runs and striking out 12.  He’s got one more regular-season start, against Tennessee. If he can pitch well there and then put together a strong peformance in front of a lot of eyes at the SEC tournament, he could climb further up draft boards.

Much more to come…

Draft aft: Indy time

No, not Indiana Jones. Nope, not talking independent film, either.

I’m talking Independent Leagues, which are playing a very big part in the draft this year.

Normally, we don’t do much on the indy leagues in these parts, but a pair of pitchers who will generate a lot of interests come draft day made their debuts in different leagues on Monday night. I haven’t talked to scouts yet who were at either outing, but I will eventually.

First, there was Aaron Crow, the 2008 first-round pick of the Washington Nationals who didn’t sign (that’s why the Nats pick at No. 10 as well). He threw for the Fort Worth Cats in the South Division of the American Association in their Spring Training opener. The right-hander went 1 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out three. The Grand Prairie Air Hogs hung the loss on the University of Missouri product.

Scheppers, numbers-wise, was more impressive pitching for the St. Paul Saints, members of the North Division of the American Association. Pitching in Fargo, North Dakota, against the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawk, the Fresno State product tossed four hitless innings. Last year, Scheppers slid to the second round (to the Pirates) and wasn’t signed largely because of a shoulder injury that shut him down during his junior season. So far, he’s pitched well, first out at Golden West community College in intrasquad games and now in his indy league debut. Scheppers did walk four, but he struck out six.

Long way to go on these two, but Crow was a top 10 pick a year ago and can show he’s just as good, could go just as high. With Scheppers, it’s all about showing he’s healthy. He’s generating some serious buzz now, and that’s without knowing what people thought of his outing in Fargo (I wonder if the Coen brothers were there).

More to come…

Monday mayhem: Promotions aplenty

Hope everyone had a good weekend. Me and Mrs. B3 caught Duplicity over the weekend. Fun flick, nothing earth-shattering, but entertaining…

On to the task at hand, today’s Game of the Day:

West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx at Birmingham Barons, 6 p.m. ET
Pitching Matchup: Steven Hensley vs. Aaron Poreda
Gameday Audio: West Tenn |Birmingham

This is the first game of a doubleheader between the Southern League teams, so we’re talking a seven-inning affair here, but this could be a dandy. Both of these pitchers have been highlighted here in my recent Game of the Day efforts. Last time I mentioned Poreda, it was to preview a great matchup in which the 2007 first-rounder beat Bryan Augenstein in a 2-0 pitchers duel. Hensley came up in my discussion about guys who had yet to give up an earned run.  (Don’t you love bloggers who link to their own previous posts?).

Hensley was the Mariners’ fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Elon University in North Carolina. He made his first four outings this year with Clinton in the Midwest League, where he threw 17 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run (he’s given up four unearned runs). Tonight’s start is a double-jump for the right-hander, going from A ball up to Double-A without a stop in the California League. We’ll see how he fares in his Double-A debut.

It got me thinking about other guys who have been promoted thus far in the 2009 season. I know it’s early, but there have been some interesting prospects who have already been bumped up. Here’s a selection and, as always, feel free to chime in with other candidates:

Jarrod Parker, RHP, Diamondbacks: Our No. 18 prospect made the California League look easy, allowing just two earned runs over 19 innings, so the D-backs moved him up. His first Double-A start on Saturday in Jacksonville, was a little rougher as the 20-year-old gave up 8 hits and three earned runs (four total) over 4 1/3 IP. He did only walk one while striking out five.

Lance Lynn, RHP, Cardinals: The Cardinals’ supplemental first-round pick out of University of Mississippi last June has kind of flown under the radar, but maybe he shouldn’t. After five outings in the Florida State League, the right-hander just made his Double-A debut on Monday morning and the Texas League didn’t seem to bother him, as he fired five shutout innings.

Adrian Cardenas, SS/2B, A’s:
  After hitting .372 over 19 games with Double-A Midland, the infielder who came to the A’s late last year in the Joe Blanton trade with the Phillies got bumped up to Triple-A Sacramento as the A’s made a number of roster moves across a few levels. He made his PCL debut on Friday and has played in two games. While he’s gone just 1-for-7 thus far, he has driven in three runs. He’s playing both middle infield positions, so he’s ready whenever there’s a need in either spot in Oakland.

Peter Kozma, SS, Cardinals: Kozma was the Cards’ top pick in the 2007 draft and he had a solid, but unspectalar, first full season. He broke out of the gates well in the pitching-friendly FSL this year, hitting .315 over 18 games, to earn a bump up to Double-A Springfield with Lynn. He’s gone 1-for-6 over his first two games.

Hector Ambriz, RHP, Diamondbacks: Arizona’s fifth-rounder in 2006 out of UCLA, Ambriz had an up-and-down 2008 with Double-A Mobile. But he pitched well, in a relief role, in the Arizona Fall League (he even blogged for us) and it’s carried over so far this season. He went back to Mobile and quickly showed he was ready for a new challenge, with a 2.17 ERA over five starts. In 29 IP, he gave up just 18 hits (.180 BAA) and struck out 32 vs. only 6 walks. He got the promotion to Triple-A Reno after his Friday start (seven innings of shutout ball), so he should make his PCL debut some time later this week.


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