July 2009

All-Star recap and more first-round info

Back from the All-Star festivities in St. Louis and I have to say, they did a great job as hosts. It’s hard not to like a town that loves baseball that much. From our standpoint (our meaning writers/media types), having the game in a more manageable city makes life a lot easier. You can walk everywhere and I like when the event takes over the city — everything stops for the All-Star Game in places like St. Louis. I love New York, but last year, the ASG was just one of many things going on in the City at that time.

The Futures Game, as always, was outstanding, even with the four-hour rain delay. I think I would’ve given Jason Castro the MVP for his three-run homer and throwing a base-runner out, but that’s just me. Kudos to the organizers of that game. Obviously, I’m biased, but I think it’s the best part of the All-Star festivities.

There’s not a whole lot to report on the first-round signing front since last we spoke. No. 4 pick Matt Hobgood made his debut over the weekend, tossing an inning for the Bluefield Orioles in the rookie-level Appy League. No. 10 pick Drew Storen was promoted to Class A Advanced Potomac. He hasn’t given up a run or a hit since July 5, a stretch spanning five outings and 6 2/3 IP. Overall, he had racked up 26 K’s and zero walks in 14 2/3 IP for Hagerstown. Other performers from the first round:

No. 5 pick Tony Sanchez (Pirates) is hitting a combined .333 in 16 total games with a .920 OPS. He’s hit .340 in 12 games with West Virginia since joining the SAL team.

No. 17 A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks) is off to a 20-for-78 start (.256) with South Bend in the Midwest League. He’s got a pari of homers and three steals.

No. 21 Jio Mier (Astros) is hitting .300 for Greeneville in the Appy League. The shortstop has a .400 OBP and has gone 24-for-80 overall with one homer and 14 RBIs in 21 games. He’s got three stolen bases as well.

No. 23 Jared Mitchell (White Sox) had his debut delayed a bit, but he’s hit the ground running with Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League. The LSU standout has gone 4-for-9 with a pair of doubles in his first three games.

No. 24 Randal Grichuk (Angels) is diong just what he said he hoped he would. He took a bit to adjust, hitting .120 over his first six games. He’s hit .391 since over 15 games in July and is at .319 overall in 94 rookie-level Arizona Leauge ABs. He’s got 21 RBIs in 21 games with 10 extra-base hits and three streals.

No. 25 Mike Trout (Angels) has been keeping up with Grichuk, though he missed a week earlier this month. He’s gone 15-for-33 (.455) to start his pro career, with five extra-base hits (three doubles, two triples) and five steals in nine games.

No. 26 Eric Arnett (Brewers) doesn’t seem to like the shorter stints he’s not used to. In five total games with Helena in the Pioneer Legue, the Indiana right-hander has a 8.31 ERA. He’s allowed eight runs on 10 hits while walking five. He does have 9 K’s in 8 2/3 IP.

No. 28 Reymond Fuentes (Red Sox) has played 12 games in the Gulf Coast League and his hitting .333 (13-for-39). He’s got a .400 OBP and has two steals (to go along with three caught stealing).

No. 31 Brett Jackson (Cubs) made a brief stop in the Arizona League to shake off some rust, then went to Boise in the Northwest League. Combined, the Cal outfielder has hit .333 (21-for-63) in 19 games, with a pair of triples, a homer and 16 RBIs.

No. 32 Tim Wheeler (Rockies) is also in the Northwest League, with Tri-City. He’s hit .299 (29-for-97) in 24 games. He’s hit six doubles and a homer while driving in 13 runs and stealing 4 bases.

I’m efforting to get stories done on the first-rounders I’ve yet to talk to (that would be Pollock, Trout, Fuentes, Jackson and Wheeler). I’ll be sure to let you know if/when those get done.

That’s about it in terms of news of that nature. There have been no new signings and it’s looking like there’s a lot of waiting to see what the other guy is doing. I expect that deadline day — Aug. 17 — is going to be very, very busy and interesting. Here’s what I’m hearing:

  • It would seem like Mike Minor and Mike Leake, at 7 and 8, wouldn’t be tough signs, but things are taking a little longer. My guess is Leake’s camp is waiting to see what Minor signs for and perhaps neither wants to set the “college arm” bar.
  • Tyler Matzek (No. 11, Rockies) is sticking with his bonus demand, which is north of $7 million. Good luck with that.
  • Matt Purke (No. 14, Rangers), the next HS lefty with crazy demands, has supposedly come down some. That being said, he’s still around $5 million, which is on the steep side, no?
  • The other top picks — Strasburg, Ackley, Tate, Turner, to name some — aren’t going to get done until close to or at the Aug. 17 deadline. So buckle your seat belts.

First look at Futures Game starting lineups

Here they are. Look for my full preview on MLB.com soon.
US

1.  Eric Young Jr., 2b

2.  Desmond Jennings, CF

3.  Brett Wallace, 3B

4.  Chris Carter, 1B

5.  Pedro Alvarez, DH

6.  Chris Heisey, LF

7.  Tyler Flowers, C

8.  Jason Heyward, RF

9.  Danny Espinosa, SS

SP: Chris Tillman

WORLD

1.  Alcides Escobar, SS

2.  Tyson Gillies, RF

3.  Alex Liddi, 3B

4.  Barbaro Canizares, 1B

5.  Miguel Montero, C

6.  Nick Weglarz, LF

7.  Brett Lawrie, DH

8.  Wilmer Flores, 2B

9.  Luis Durango, CF

SP: Junichi Tazawa

First round update

With the White Sox officially signing No. 23 pick Jared Mitchell, that brings the total of first-rounders who have signed to an even dozen. Here’s the latest info, with links to the stories that have been written about their pro debuts, of course (reported bonus figures are included):

1. Stephen Strasburg, Washington — unsigned
2. Dustin Ackley, Seattle — unsigned
3. Donavan Tate, San Diego — unsigned
4. Tony Sanchez, Pittsburgh — $2.5 million
(Hitting .333 over 10 total games — 12-for-36, now with Class A West Virginia)
5. Matt Hobgood, Baltimore — $2.42 million
6. Zack Wheeler, San Francisco — unsigned
7. Mike Minor, Atlanta — unsigned
8. Mike Leake, Cincinnati — unsigned (though apparently he’s close)
9. Jacob Turner, Detroit — unsigned
10. Drew Storen, Washington — $1.6 million
(5.59 ERA in 7 games — 3.86 in three July outings — 14 K, 0 BB in 9.2 IP)
11. Tyler Matzek, Colorado — unsigned
12. Aaron Crow, Kansas City — unsigned
13. Grant Green, Oakland — unsigned
14. Matt Purke, Texas — unsigned
15. Alex White, Cleveland — unsigned
16. Bobby Borchering, Arizona — unsigned
17. A.J. Pollock, Arizona — $1.4 million
(.351 in 9 games — 13-for-37, 2 steals)
18. Chad James, Florida — unsigned
19. Shelby Miller, St. Louis — unsigned
20. Chad Jenkins, Toronto — unsigned
21. Jiovanni Mier, Houston — $1.358 million
22. Kyle Gibson, Minnesota — unsigned
23. Jared Mitchell, Chicago (AL) — $1.2 million
(Should be making his debut today)
24. Randal Grichuk, Los Angeles (AL) —
(.283 in 12 games — 15-for-53, 3 2B, 2 3B)
25. Mike Trout, Los Angeles (AL) — $1.215 million
(.571 in 4 games — 8-for-14, 1 2B, 2 3B, 2 SB)
26. Eric Arnett, Milwaukee — $1.2 million
(4.1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K)
27. Nick Franklin, Seattle — unsigned
28. Reymond Fuentes, Boston — $1.13 million
(6-for-10 in three games)
29. Slade Heathcott, New York (AL) — unsigned
30. LeVon Washingotn, Tampa — unsigned
31. Brett Jackson, Chicago (NL) — $972,000
(.400 in 8 games — 12-for-30, 2 3B, 8 RBIs)
32. Tim Wheeler, Colorado — $900,000
(.276 in 14 games — 16-for-58, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 SB)

I think if and when Leake signs, assuming he’s the first of the college arms to go, that will lead to a domino effect with a bunch of the other college pitchers who are still unsigned.

Once we get past the Futures Game, I’ll try to get back to track down the first rounders and talk to them about their debuts. I owe you stories on Pollock, Mitchell (assuming he plays today),Trout, Fuentes, Jackson and Wheeler.  Hobgood, too, if/when he pitches for the first time.
 

Doing a good deed

So often in sports, we pay too much attention to the negative, the positive tests, the police blotter. Today, I thought I’d accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. I’m not trying to get up on a soapbox here, but thought a ray of sunshine here and there could do all of us some good.

A while back, I wrote a story about former Marlins draft pick Garrett Berger and while he was no longer playing, he had found an interesting way to stay connected to the game by running a new company called iFungo.com, an online venture to bring professional-level equipment to players who didn’t previously have access to it.

I’m not mentioning him now just to bring up his business venture. I love it when someone uses his business and his contacts in the game to make a difference. Berger has done that on two occasions. First, and quietly, he sent a message to the various companies he works with about donating merchandise and equipment for the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Tournament (the folks at Akadema Pro, Old Hickory Bats and Fatheadz, Inc. have stepped up in a big way on that front). Read my post about the Tournament here — there’s still plenty of time to sign up and/or donate.

Had that been it, it would have been plenty. But back on June 19, Berger and iFungo announced they were teaming up with USA Cares, a charity for military families in need. They are selling iFungo Ordinance Bats, which feature a stars and stripes logo and you can have the bat personalized to honor someone close to you who’s serving this country in the military. The best part? Fifty percent of the profits go right to USA Cares.

OK, I’ll get back to my usual stuff on draft signings and the like shortly, but I really felt Berger’s efforts needed a little more of a spotlight. Thanks.

Answering your questions

It’s time for another exciting edition. Got a few of them to get to, so let’s not waste too much more time. If you’ve got a question you’d like to see answered here, email them to me or leave them in comments. Also, if you didn’t see it, the latest of my series on first-rounders making their debuts went up yesterday, this one on Astros’ top pick Jiovanni Mier. OK, enough self-promotion, on to your questions:

What’s up with Gaby Sanchez? I mean, 5 games- 3 for 8, 2008 MVP of
the Year while at Carolina?? Awesome kid. Just wondering what’s going on with
him. — Michael

Sanchez is doing just fine.The Marlins’ 4th-round pick in the 2005 draft is playing in New Orleans, Florida’s Triple-A affiliate. He missed some time in May with a knee injury, which is too bad becuase he was off to a really good start. Overall, he’s been hovering right around .300 (.298 as we speak) with 7 HR and 28 RBIs over 44 games. Perhaps more interesting is the fact he’s been playing a lot of third base since he came back, leading some to wonder what Emilio Bonifacio’s future looks like. Give Gaby some time to get back in a rhythm and I think you could see him back in the bigs in the second half at some point.

I would love to hear any feedback on who has the higher upside in the future,
Brett Wallace or Mat Gamel?    Also, who will “stick” at third? — Neven

Obviously, Gamel is already up and Wallace, at Triple-A, isn’t too far away. Not sure either are really upside guys, in the usual sense, though I guess I’ll give Gamel the slight nod there because Wallace more or less is who he is. Of course, that’s a pretty freaking good hitter, you know? I think Gamel will stick at third — the Brewers felt comfortable enough to let him play there in the bigs now. Of course, they did that with Ryan Braun when he first came up, too, so time will tell. And while most people didn’t think it possible, I’m beginning to think maybe Wallace stays there, too, at least for a little while. He’s made eight errors in total this year. It’s hard to know what that means exactly, but it’s certainly not awful.

I was wondering if there is a current pitcher that the Phillies top pitching
prospect Kyle Drabek has drawn comparisons to? Also, is he a future ace and No.1
starter?    I would appreciate it if you could write me back. — Joe


The easy thing would be to say his dad, Doug, and be done with it. I’m not a scout and I’m not so good at this game — the MLB comp game — but with his size and stuff, I guess you could say a Roy Oswalt or maybe a Ben Sheets? As for the second part of your question, it’s always dangerous to hang a “future ace” label around a guy’s neck. There are so few true aces in the game, .so I tend to not say he’s a No. 1 starter down the line. Does he have the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation guy (see how I skirt around it?)? Sure he does. Maybe that means he tops a rotation one day, but it certainly wouldn’t be a disappointment if he’s a strong No. 2 or even an outstanding No. 3 pitcher in a deep rotation. If you’re a Phillies fan, thinking about Hamels-Carrasco-Drabek down the line sure is fun.

That’s it for this installment. Send in some more questions if you’ve got ‘em…

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