February 2010

Link-o-rama

I love Spring Training coverage, especially early. Sure, the talk about position battles and new faces in new places is great, but obviously I think it’s great to see all the prospect coverage out there. It’s a great time for beat writers to do some good work on the players down on the farm.

So I thought I’d take a spin around MLB.com and give everyone some links to some prospecty features, written and some video to boot, from the last couple of days:

Orioles: Brian Matusz talking about his second camp.
Rays: Wade Davis eager for big-league workload
Blue Jays: All eyes on trio from Halladay deal
Braves: Jason Heyward arrives in Braves camp
Reds: Team focused on making Aroldis Chapman comfortable
Rockies: Eric Young Jr. ready for competition
Marlins: Jose Ceda ready to conpete for bullpen spot
Astros: JR Towles knows what Jason Castro is going through
Dodgers: Scott Elbert throws pain-free session
Pirates: Tony Sanchez enjoying first camp
Padres: Prospects headed to minicamp
Giants: Steve Johnson aware of odds as Rule 5 pick

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg impresses in first workout

I’ll be back tomorrow with some Draft-related stuff, maybe even a brief Bryce Harper update, if you ask nicely.

Preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List Announced

I know this technically falls under “amateur baseball,” but it does dovetail nicely with Draft coverage, don’t you think?

USA Baseball announced the initial preseason Watch List for the 2010 Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur baseball player in the country annually. It’s sponsored by MLB and the Award will be presented to the winner for the 33rd time with a live presentation on Tuesday, July 13, at the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest in Anaheim,
Calif. That will be broadcast live on MLB.com. You can read the entire release about the list at GoldenSpikesAward.com.

Some great names, obviously, on this initial list of 50 players. There’s Bryce Harper, who’s the only junior college player on the list. Alex Fernandez actually won the award from a JUCO back in 1990 (Miami Dade). The list gets cut down to 30 on June 1 and once again, fans get to play a part by voting for their favorite nominee over on the Golden Spikes site.

Just to give you an idea of how this ties in so closely with the Draft, take a look at the lists I posed earlier regarding the Top 20 talents in this year’s Draft class. From the 1-10 list:

1. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU
2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Mississippi
4. Bryce Harper, C, College of Southern Nevada
8. Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas

And from the 11-20 set:

12. Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech
15. Brandon Workman, RHP, Texas
17. Micah Gibbs, C, LSU
19. Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton

And there are plenty more interesting names who’ll be sure to figure into first-round consideration as we get moving towards Draft day in June.

Urban Youth Academy Draft Showcase

Yup, it’s that time of year again and I have to say, I’m loving it. Pitchers and catchers are heading to Spring Training facilities and the MLB Draft season is upon us. That means showcases, college seasons starting and, in the near future, the 2010 premier of our Draft Reports. The first set should run in about two weeks and the players in that first edition will be from the group that participated in this past Saturday’s showcase at the Urban Youth Academy. There were a ton of scouts on hand to watch SoCal’s finest among the high school ranks. Plenty of folks have already written about it:

  • There was our story on MLB.com, penned by Ben Platt, which gives a great overview of what the event is all about
  • Baseball America‘s man on the scene (as he tends to be in Southern California), was Dave Perkin. He filed this report on their Draft blog. (Their early Draft preview stuff is up, too.  You have to be a subscriber, but it’s worth it).
  • Keith Law filed a report as well on the ESPN Draft blog (You have to be an insider. Again, a worthy investment). He ran down some of the top performers at the event.

As for me, you’ll have to wait for the details when the first batch of Draft Reports come outWilson.JPG (complete with video et al, as always). For now, though, I’ve cobbled together this list of players scouts told me stood out at the event. This isn’t ranked, so I’m putting it in alphabetical order instead:

Cody Buckel, RHP — showed a really live arm.
Dylan Covey, RHP — top pitching prospect at event was solid.
Jake Hernandez, C — stood out defensively among the catchers there.
Lonni Kauppila, SS — good defense in infield; quality at-bats at plate.
Chad Lewis, 3B — a couple of base hits in game, good approach at plate
Griffin Murphy, LHP — put himself on map with strong outing
Aaron Sanchez, RHP — projectable righty starting to fill into frame
Vincent Velasquez, INF/RHP — two-way player who showed good velocity and sink on
Austin Wilson, OF (in picture) — toolsy outfielder showed off big power in BP, arm in field
Tony Wolters, INF — high energy infielder stood out
Christian Yelich, 1B — great frame, nice left-handed stroke, could be ready to bust out.
 mound.

A couple of things to note when reading this or any of the reports on the event. Pitching tends to do better at these things, since pitchers are only going an inning or four batters in one stint. Also, the old adage of pitchers being ahead of hitters at this time of year translates well to this kind of event. As one scout put it, “It’s a lot like Spring Training, but it gives you a snapshot of where kids are.” That scout wanted to be sure not to be too effusive with his praise,adding “You don’t want kids to think this event will make their season. You want them to continue to go out and play hard. You hope their parents, coaches and advisors help keep that in perspective.”

Scouting for books

I love this time of year. And it’s certainly not because of the endless amounts of snow we’re getting these days in Pittsburgh.

A big part of it, of course, is that pitchers and catchers are reporting very soon. Another is that it’s a wonderful time to stock the bookshelves anew with this year’s group of prospect-related volumes. There are some of the usual must-haves, some interesting team-related tomes to consider and even a techno-savvy publication that would have to go on your virtual shelf, rather than the real one.

So, without further ado, here are some literary highlights to consider:

1. Baseball America Prospect Handbook. If you don’t know this one, you shouldn’t bother reading on, really. Top 30 prospects for all 30 organizations, it doesn’t get more in depth than that. Throw in some great rankings and other features and this is a must-have.

2. The Baseball Prospect Book 2010. This annual by John Sickels (check out his blog, Minor League Ball). He always does good work with this publication and once again, it’s chock full o’ information. This year’s edition has 1170 players in it, the most he’s ever covered and he’s starting to wrinkle in some of the new-fangled statistical metrics.

3. Project Prospect’s Digital Prospect Guide.  Going all-electronic, with no printed publication, the folks at Project Prospect have a very cool product on their hands. It’s got lots of analysis with the added benefit of video. You can pre-order it now. If you want to check out what this thing looks like, there’s an overall preview of the guide, as well as some video of some guy named Stephen Strasburg to check out.

4. Minor League Baseball Analyst 2010. From the good folks at Baseball HQ, this book has always been an interesting mix of fantasy baseball, scouting and statistical analysis. Originally written by Deric McKamey, he’s moved on and is now scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals. This year’s edition is brought to you by Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney, with information on more than 1000 minor leaguers in its pages.

And some team-centric works:

1. The Newberg Report. All bloggers/team site operators could very well use this as a 2010c.jpgmodel if they’re interested in writing a book about their team. Jamey Newberg‘s work is always top-notch and this year’s bound edition is no different. Tons of original content, lots of stuff on prospects from arguably the best farm system in baseball and a great package of stuff Jamey wrote over the 2009 season makes TNR a book even non-Ranger fans would enjoy.

2. Minesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook. From Seth Stohs, coer image.jpgauthor of the terrific Twins site, Sethspeaks.net, has his new prospect guide ready for pre-order. This year’s version has over 150 prospect profiles as well as a bunch of original features and tons of photos to peruse. The Twins for years have been top-notch at building from within and I don’t know if there are many people who know more about Minnesota’s farm system than Seth does.

3. Cleveland Indians 2010 Top 100 Prospects. If you don’t know Tony Lastoria’s work at TopProspects2010_frontcopy2.jpgIndians Prospect Insider, you should. He’s got that system covered extermely well and this year’s book has over 165 scouting reports in it, tons of photos, draft reviews, you name it.

Obviously, these aren’t the only prospect-related offerings out there. I love showing a cross-section of “professional” works out there as well as highlighting the fan-site/blogger publications. If there are good ones out there I’m forgetting, be sure to let me know about them in comments. 

 

Draft list, part deux

Going to keep this one brief today, folks. I did, however, promise the 2010 Draft prospects from 11-20 after running 1-10 in my last post. So there’s no confusion, this isn’t a mock draft. It’s way too early, in my opinion, to hazard guesses about who is going to go where. Let’s have some performances first, no? Not to mention things like signability, etc. Anway, we’ll get to that eventually. This list is talent-driven, meaning that it’s a very loose (not scientific at all) look at who the top talent seems to be as we head into Draft season full-steam ahead.

By the way, Bryce Harper was in the Phoenix area for a game against GateWay Community College. Our man on the scene was Tom Singer, so look for a story about it over on MLB.com later on. Harper went 2-for-6 with a pair of singles, for those of you scoring at home. OK, now on to draft talent Nos. 11-20:

11. James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky
12. Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech
13. A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo HS, Fla.
14. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Grandview HS, Col.
15. Brandon Workman, RHP, Texas
16. LeVon Washington, 2B, Chipola JC, Fla.
17. Micah Gibbs, C, LSU
18. Stetson Allie, RHP, Olmstead Falls HS, Ohio
19. Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton
20. Yordy Cabrera, SS, Lakeland HS, Fla.

Getting the Draft ball rolling

That’s right, folks, the 2010 Draft season is upon us. I, for one, am excited.

I am such a geek (and I’m ok with that).

Starting with now and working backward… I wrote a story about wunderkind Bryce Harper and his junior college debut. Take a look if you haven’t had the chance. It’s going to be very interesting watching this unfold. This is going to be a very unique situation, to say the least. The one thing I came away with after talking to some folks who saw him is that we should not assume at all that he’s the obvious choice at No. 1 overall (at the end of this post, I’m going to have a very, very early Top 20 draft prospects list).

Before I get to that list, though, we’re starting to get into early spring showcase time. There’s a big one coming up at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., on Feb. 13, and I’ll try to report from there. But a couple weeks back, there was a good event in Tucson, courtesy of Under Armour and Baseball Factory (called the Under Armour Preseason All-America Event). Here are some names that you should store in the back of your mind.  There were underclassman at this event as well, but I’m going to hone in on the 2010 guys now.

Alex Facundus – RHP/OF – Hit 91 mph with an average breaking ball now.

Kevin Koziol – 3B –  Can swing the bat, makes consistent contact. Stood out at  the UnderArmour All-American game at Wrigley Field last summer.

Brett Winger – RHP/1B – Threw well, 89 mph with plus changeup, deceptin in delivery

Alex Ramsay – C –  Solid behind the plate, good left-handed swing, hits to all fields

Brad Markey – RHP/SS – 89 mph on mound with sink, good competitior. Solid, if unspectacular as position player.

Joseph Drum – OF — Sleeper alert. Surprised in Tucson, swung bat well, power potential as a corner OF type

Finally, as threatened, a very early peek at a Top 10 Draft list. Note that Mr. Harper is not in the top spot. I’ll come back with 11-20 tomorrow:

1. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU
2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss
3. James Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands (HS),  TX
4. Bryce Harper, C, College of Southern Nevada
5. Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS, Calif.
6. Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University
7. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech
8.  Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas
9. Manny Machado, SS, Miami Brito HS, FLA
10. Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Cook County HS, Ga.

Responding to the responses

Hey there everyone —

I just wanted to take a few minutes and get to some of the great comments people left over the past few days on various posts.

First and foremost, thanks for the kind words of support. They are truly appreciated. For the record, though, I am not the one who does the weekly roundup of Minors promotions. That is done extremely well by my colleague Ben Hill. Be sure to check his blog out at Ben’s Biz Blog. It’s a good read, I promise.

There were some interesting comments about Mike Stanton left by a couple of people. mike_stanton.JPGBothvoiced concerns about Stanton’s strikeout rate. There seems to be a worry about Stanton being a power-only guy, a guy who can’t hit for average at all, but is all-or-nothing. Yes, he strikes out quite a bit, though his K rate did go down a touch in 2009. But I think people are getting too worried about his inability to hit. Not that batting average is a great barometer, but he did hit .293 in 2008 and was hitting .294 in Jupiter before he got promoted to Double-A as a teenager. Are you really going to use that to judge whether he can hit, the fact that he hit .231 in the Southern League at age 19? I wouldn’t.

Take a look at some other indexes before you decide he can’t hit. How about the fact that his line-drive rate was almost identical between Class A Advanced Jupiter (18.4 pct) and Double-A Jacksonville (18.7). According to Fangraphs.com, Stanton had isolated power numbers that really set him apart: .318 in 2008, .283 in Jupiter and even his .224 while he “struggled” in Double-A was not bad. ISO, in a nutshell, measures a player’s ability to hit for extra bases.

I, for one, think he’s going to hit for enough average. That being said, I don’t really care what his average is if he’s making enough contact to tap into that power and he’s hitting 40+ homers and well over 100 RBIs annually. I’ll give you an example of another player, now in the big leagues, and how he performed in the minors:

First-full season: .280 AVG, 145 K
Second full season: .304 AVG, 151 K
Third full season: .291, 166 K

Yes, the average is a touch higher than what Stanton has done, but not by that much, considering all the variables that go into batting average. And there were great concerns about this hitter’s ability to make enough contact at the big-league level to get to his prodigous power. There was so much worry that he got stuck for a bit in the Minors before finally getting a shot.

By now, you may have guessed that the player in question is Ryan Howard, who’s gone on to win the Rookie of the Year, an MVP Award (he’s finished in the top 5 three times) and been chosen to go to the All-Star Game twice. Not bad for a guy who can’t hit.

Now, add in the fact that Stanton can flat out play the outfield, can run, has a strong arm, the whole nine yards, and you can see why people think he’s so special. Maybe he’s not as advanced right now as Jason Heyward. Maybe he won’t ever hit for that kind of average. I’m saying it’s not going to matter.

And don’t get me wrong. I like Logan Morrison a lot (one commenter was making a comparison of their stat lines in Jacksonville together), but keep in mind he’s two years older than Stanton. Trust me, Logan doesn’t need to hit the weight room more than he does already — he’s plenty strong enough and has great bat speed. He might be the better pure hitter. But i we’re looking at everything, from tools to upside, it’s no real contest. Both will be big leaguers — and both could be in Florida together in the near future — but it’s Stanton who has the more exciting ceiling.

Got some good stuff to talk about in the coming days. Later today or tonight (I hope), I’m going to preview some exciting books/guides on prospects that can be found all over the place. If you know of some, email me info and I’ll try to give them a plug.

I’ve got some 2010 Draft stuff to catch up on. That will probably come on Tuesday, with an update on a great Under Armour/Baseball Factory showcase from a couple weeks back to Bryce Harper’s first game to an early look at a top 20 draft prospects. So stay tuned.

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