August 2011

Moore is less?

Matt Moore pitched one game in a doubleheader on Sunday and while it wasn’t his best outing — a no-decision after allowing three runs on six hits and four walks over six innings — he did strike out six.

That, for those of you not paying attention, brought his season total to 200 strikeouts. Not only does that put him third in professional baseball, behind just Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, it also gives the lefty Rays prospect (No. 3 on MLB.com’s current Top 50 list) his second consecutive 200-K season in the Minors. Last year, he became the first Minor Leaguer to top that mark since Francisco Liriano did it back in 2005. This year, he’s been joined by Edwar Cabrera (Rockies) and Trevor May (Phillies), so Moore may not take home his third consecutive Minor League strikeout title.

But still, 200 strikeouts in back-to-back seasons. That’s something that rarely happens. In fact, according to my research, the last time it happened was when Sid Fernandez had 223 K’s in 1982 and 209 in 1983 (that second one was a bit overshadowed by Dwight Gooden’s 300-strikeout season in the Minors).

And yet, I can’t seem to find anything written about the feat. I know it was split over two seasons, but I thought with the proliferation of prospect coverage, it would’ve been a note somewhere? In fairness, I didn’t complete an exhaustive search, but it doesn’t seem to have registered on most radars.

So, then, let me be the first to congratulate Moore on the accomplishment. He won’t have a three-peat because something tells me he’ll be spending a lot of time in Tampa in the near future.

 

Go out and play!

As most of you know, if you’ve ever heard me talk about it, or ever read my stuff, I’m a big fan of guys who sign early out of the Draft and get their careers started. I understand from the players’ (and advisors’) perspectives, waiting and using the deadline to their advantage in terms of getting larger pay days. Anyone who watched deadline day unfold can tell that it’s a very successful strategy.

But nothing beats playing. It’s not that those who signed late won’t be very good down the line. And it’s not like those who signed early are guaranteed success or to be better than those who held out. But getting some Minor League time in before the season ends has often helped speed a player’s ascent to the big leagues. Just ask Nationals closer Drew Storen, who signed immediately out of Stanford and now has 113 Major League appearances under his belt, all while just turning 24 a couple of weeks ago.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of those early signees and how they’re professional careers have begun:

Corey Spangenberg, Padres: No first rounder signed faster than Spangengerg. The No. 10 overall selection came to terms on June 10. As a result, he’s piled up 215 pro at-bats already. He dominated in the short-season Northwest League, hitting .384/.545/.535 with 10 steals over 25 games. That earned him a bump up to the full-season Midwest League. After hitting just .154 in 17 July games, the infielder has hit .375 in 16 August contests. He’s also had the opportunity to play second base full-time for the first time, putting him in good position to jump on the fast track in 2012.

Joe Panik, SS, Giants: He may have been a surprise first-round pick for many, but the No. 29 pick signed just a day after Spangenberg and has been raking in the short-season Northwest League. He leads the circuit with his .346 batting average and is third with his .405 OBP.  He’s even slugging .483 while swiping 12 bags.

Kevin Matthews, LHP, Rangers: All these college guys signing early is great, but when a high school arm gets going quickly, you have to love that. This Georgia prep product joined the Rangers on June 16 and has already gotten a taste of two levels, the rookie-level Arizona League and the more advanced Northwest League. Pitching largely in shorter outings, the 18-year-old No. 33 overall selection has nonetheless been impressive over 24 2/3 IP, allowing just 19 hits (.207 BAA) while striking out 26. He hasn’t been over-matched playing against largely college-age competiton in the NWL. If he breaks with a full-season team next year while other high school arms are staying back in Extended Spring Training, this is why.

Jake Hager, SS: One of the Rays’ 437 picks over the first couple of rounds, the Nevada area high schooler joined the organization on June 23. Taken No. 32 overall, Hager has put up modest numbers with Princeton in the rookie-level Appy League (.247/.287/.392), but he’s 39 games and 158 ABs richer than many of his contemporaries.

Kolten Wong, Cardinals: The No. 22 overall pick has had no trouble adjusting to the Midwest League, going right to Quad Cities after signing on June 25. The second baseman hit .432 in 10  August games before landing on the disabled list with a tweaked hammy. Overall, Wong is hitting .327/.386/.500 over 40 games.

C.J. Cron, Angels: The Utah product signed on June 28 and even though he needs shoulder surgery, he’s been able to get some professional ABs under his belt first. Playing for Orem in the Pioneer League, the first baseman has hit .308/.371/.629 with 13 homers in just 143 at-bats.

July 25 was a good day for a couple of college pitchers who bucked the typical trend. No. 3 pick Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks) and No. 18 Sonny Gray both signed early (I have no problem with college pitchers who threw a ton of innings taking a break before signing). Gray has had two scoreless outings in the Double-A Texas League. He’s not piling up innings, but just the taste — and the fact he’s in Double-A now — shows how quickly he can move. Bauer, of course, is the best example. Guys in the top five, unless they are signability picks, don’t sign early. He’s now made two Double-A starts, totalling 10 innings, where he’s struck out 16, walked only four while allowing just eight hits. Look for him in Arizona’s bullpen come September.

Those are just the first rounders. I’ll be back soon to talk about the supplemental guys on down who have made a strong first impression.

The unsigned Top 50 draftees

We’re about 33 hours from the Draft signing deadline and all signs point to Monday being an extremely busy day. Most everyone I talked to has said that things with the top picks will more than likely wait until tomorrow and that things are extremely quiet… almost too quiet. That should make for a ton of news to cover, with 23 unsigned first-rounders to follow up on.

I will update when I can, but for now, here’s a look at the initial Draft Top 50, listing all from that list that are still unsigned. The number listed is each player’s Top 50 rank:

1. RHP Gerrit Cole (Pirates)
2. 3B Anthony Rendon (Nationals)
3. LHP Danny Hultzen (Mariners)
4. RHP Dylan Bundy (Orioles)
5. OF Bubba Starling (Royals)
7. RHP Taylor Jungmann (Brewers)
8. LHP Jed Bradley (Brewers)
9. SS Francisco Lindor (Indians)
11. OF George Springer (Astros)
12. RHP Archie Bradley (D-backs)
13. RHP Taylor Guerreri (Rays)
14. RHP Matthew Barnes (Red Sox)
15. LHP Daniel Norris (Blue Jays)
16. SS Javier Baez (Cubs)
17. RHP Jose Fernandez (Marlins)
18. RHP Dillon Howard (Indians)
19. C Blake Swihart (Red Sox)
20. RHP Alex Meyer (Nationals)
22. OF Mike Mahtook (Rays)
23. OF Josh Bell (Pirates)
24. LHP Tyler Anderson (Rockies)
27. LHP Matthew Purke (Nationals)
28. OF Jackie Bradley (Red Sox)
29. OF Brandon Nimmo (Mets)
30. RHP Robert Stephenson (Reds)
31. C Austin Hedges (Padres)
33. SS Levi Michael (Twins)
35. C Andrew Susac (Giants)
36. OF Brian Goodwin (Nationals)
38. LHP Andrew Chafin (Diamondbacks)
39. C Peter O’Brien (Rockies)
40 3B Jason Esposito (Orioles)
41. OF Derek Fisher (Rangers)
42. C Nick Delmonico (Orioles)
44. OF Charlie Tilson (Cardinals)
46. 3B/1B Ricky Oropesa (Giants)
47. RHP Joe Ross (Padres)
48. RHP Michael Kelly (Padres)
49. RHP Tyler Beede (Blue Jays)
50. LHP Josh Osich (Giants)

If it seems like a lot of of names, it is. 40 in total. Colleague Jim Callis at Baseball America was reporting that Andrew Chafin had signed with the Diamondbacks, so that brings it down to 39. Needless to say, there’s a lot of work to be done tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Blue Jays, Beede agree to disagree

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, it seems nearly certain that Blue Jays top pick (No. 21 overall) Tyler Beede will not join the organization and will honor his commitment to Vanderbilt University.

The right-hander from Massachusetts was thought to be a tough sign heading into the Draft, with commitments to Vanderbilt particularly hard to talk a high schooler out of honoring. The Jays, in an early sign they would be very aggressive in the Draft, took Beede with their first selection. It turned out to be the first of several intriguing picks for Toronto. The Blue Jays still have several unsigned picks among the several they had early in the Draft.

If, indeed, Beede does head to Vanderbilt and negotiations are done, perhaps Toronto can focus attention on second-round pick Daniel Norris, another high schooler believed to be a tough sign.

Beede would continue a trend of New England talent heading to Tennessee to join Vanderbilt’s program. Beede would be eligible for the Draft again in 2014.

The deadline for signings is on Aug. 15 at midnight (technically, Aug. 16), so there remains a small glimmer of hope that the two sides could resume discussions and Beede could become a Blue Jay. That certainly has happened in the past, with plenty of movement occurring with the pressure of the deadline looming, but according to the source, there are no more talks scheduled. That makes it sounds as if Toronto would go without their top pick. If that holds true, they would receive compensation in the 2012 Draft at pick 21A, the 22nd pick in the first round as of right now.

Plenty more Draft news to come…

Top performers at East Coast Showcase

Now that the East Coast Pro Showcase has come and gone and focus has turned to the Area Code Games and then to the pair of All-American Games this weekend (UnderArmour All-American Game is Saturday in Chicago and Perfect Game All-American Classic is Sunday in San Diego), I thought it would be a good time to look at the top performers from this year’s East Coast event in Lakeland.

First, feel free to check out this video interview/feature with Giants scout John Castleberry, who helps organize and run the event every year.

In general, it seemed like the position player crop was a little deeper than the arms, though there were a few really high-level pitchers on display in Lakeland. You’ll also see a good amount of tools on the hitter side and a lack of lefties on the pitching side. With that in mind — and knowing a huge amount can and will change between now and next June, here’s a list of the top hitters and pitchers at the East Coast Showcase.

Eventually, this will evolve into a 2012 Draft Top 50 in the near future. Many of these guys will be on that list with more detailed information about all of them.

Hitters:

1. Bryon Buxton, OF (Appling County HS, Ga.)

2. David Dahl, OF (Oak Mountain HS, Ala.)

3. Jamie Jarmon, OF (Indianriver HS, DE)

4. Albert Almora, OF (Mater Academy Charter School, Fla.)

5. Lewis Brinson, OF (Coral Springs HS, Fla.)

6. Gavin Cecchini, SS (Barbe HS, La.)

7. D’Vone McClure, OF (Jacksonville HS, Ark.)

8. DJ Davis, OF (Stone HS, Miss.)

9. Danny Rosenbaum, INF (Chestnut Hill Academy, Pa.)

10. Rhett Wiseman, OF (Buckingham Browne & Nichols HS, Mass.)

11. J.T. Phillips, SS (Columbus HS, Ga.)

12. Corey Seager, 3B (NOrthwest Cabarrus HS, NC)

13. Zack Bowers, C (Harrison HS, Ga.)

Others: Keon Barnum; Skye Bolt; Carlos Correa; Addison Russell; Chris Shaw; Xavier Turner; Jesse Winker

Pitchers:

Lucas Sims, RHP (Brookwood HS, Ga.)

Lance McCullers, RHP (Jesuit HS, Fla.)

Walker Weickel, RHP (Olympia HS, Fla.)

Duane Underwood. RHP (Alan C. Pope HS, Ga.)

Ty Buttrey, RHP (Providence HS, NC)

Matthew Crownover, LHP (Rongold HS, Ga.)

Nick Travieso, RHP (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fla.)

Clate Schmidt, RHP (Allatoona HS, Ga.)

Carson Fulmer, RHP (All Saints’ Academy, Fla.)

Justin Alleman, RHP (Holt HS, Mich.)

Others: Mitch Greer; Karl Keglovits; Nathan Kirby; Sean McLaughlin; Tucker Simpson; Robert Whalen;

Day Two at the East Coast Pro Showcase

The second day of the East Coast Showcase here in Lakeland was very much like the first, minus the 60-yard dashes and main-field batting practice. But there was plenty of baseball to watch — three games in total — and the rain stayed away this time around.

Day 2, however, didn’t really live up to the bar set on Day 1. The action could be best described as “blah” by most and there was a fair amount of sloppy play. The general consensus was that the player of the day was outfielder Byron Buxton. And he might not just be the player of the day — he could very well be the top prospect at this event. Other hitters who at least showed glimpses were Georgia catcher Zack Bowers, who missed a home run by inches and has generally looked solid at and behind the plate here, toolsy Delaware OF Jamie Jarmon, who’s shown good hit and run tools and Georgia infielder J.T. Phillips, who’s had some solid at-bats and had an RBI single on Tuesday.

Pitching-wise, it was just so-so, with no one really lighting up the radar gun and no one really impressing with secondary stuff. David Gonzalez (Georgia) was up to 91 mph and popped a 92 in his second inning. Justin Alleman (Michigan) was also up to 91 mph and out of any of the pitchers on Day 2, seemed to have a decent feel for pitching and mixed things up fairly well. If there was a pitcher of the day, it might have been Robert Whalen (Florida), who was up to 92-93 mph, but that was about it. One scout described his outing as “fair,” and that might have been the best there was on Tuesday.

Wednesday should be different, especially with the evening game (Rockies vs. Astros). It’s the game most are talking about with most of the top pitchers here going. The Rockies will throw Lance McCullers, Walker Weickel and Carson Fulmer. The Astros will counter with their own trio of great arms: Lucas Sims, Duane Underwood and Clate Schmidt. Suffice it to say the radar guns will be humming, with all of these guys able to crank it up into the mid-90s at least.

Last thing from here for now. I got the chance to talk to slugging first baseman Keon Barnum (and his dad) here. Here’s the story (and video interview) to go along with it.

First day at the East Coast Pro Showcase

It’s been a long couple of days, what with the trade deadine, the trip down to Lakeland, the heat (not complaining, just saying) and a whole lot of hours spent at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Why cover the East Coast Showcase, you ask? You’re not alone. Here’s really all you need to know: In the 2011 Draft, 19 players taken in the top two rounds played in last year’s East Coast Showcase. And that’s not an aberration, that’s be the norm. Make sense now? OK, let’s move on.

I covered this event for one day last year; I’m here for three this time around, allowing me tog et a better feel for the top players in the high school class (alas, I will not be making it to the Area Code Games), which come right after this. Having covered the USA Baseball Prospect Classic last month, though, I felt I was a lot more familiar with many of the players here than I was a year ago.

A quick primer: There are six teams here, arranged geographically (the team from Florida, by the way, is ridiculously stacked). For each of the four days, every team plays one game. Today, before each of the three games, all players ran 60-yard dashes before heading to batting practice and then their game.

Here are some early thoughts.

Best 60s (the players who clocked in with the fastest 60-yd times):

D.J. Davis, OF, Stone HS, Mass. — 6.38

Fernelys Sanchez, OF, George Washington HS, NY — 6.47

Rhett Wiseman, OF, Buckingham Browne & Nichols, Mass — 6.51

Edward Sappelt, Southern Alliance HS. NC — 6.58

Lewis  Brinson, OF, Coral  Springs HS, Fla. — 6.60

Richie Martin, SS, Bloomingdale HS, Fla. — 6.64

Adrian Marin, SS, Gulliver Prep — 6.65

Sam Gillikin, Hoover HS, Ala. — 6.65

David Dahl, Oak Mountain HS, Ala. — 6.67

Matthew Goodson, OF, Oxford HS — Ala. — 6.67

After that, it was BP and game-time. No one had a better first day than Albert Almora (perhaps you’ll remember him from the feature I did on him from USA Baseball land?). He homered on the first pitch he saw, then added a second homer to give the Rockies (that’s the aforementioned Florida team).

One of the best things about this event is that inevitably, players are “found” here. Obviously, these are known players in their respective regions, but players will often get on the national map with a strong performance. Lewis Brinson could be a guy like that, from that very deep Florida class. First, he ran a 6.6-60, impressive for a 6-foot-4 player. Then he put on an absolute show during BP, depositing several blasts on the berm beyond the left-field wall. One scout mentioned that he might be more of a workout player right now, but the raw tools are undeniable and worth watching over the next few days and beyond.

1B Matt Olson (Parkview HS, Ga.) also put on a BP display, then showed he can handle serious velocity by hitting some serious fastballs for a pair of doubles.

Other hitters who made a good early impression: Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS, Ga.; Vincent Jackson, OF, Luella HS, Ga.; Rock Rucker, OF, Redan HS, Ga.; Cam Gibson (Kirk’s son), Grosse Pointe South HS, Mich.; Brett Sunde, C, Madison Heights Bishop Foley, Mich.; Justin Alleman, 3B, Holt HS, Mich. (he’s also 88-92 mph off the mound); Jamie Jarmon, OF, Indianriver HS, DE; Corey Seager, INF, Northwest Cabarrus HS, NC; Addison Russell, SS/3B, Pace HS, Fla..

Many of the top-notch arms are going later (Wednesday is a particularly exciting day to come) in the event, but just like with the hitters, there were a couple of guys who really impressed. Ty Buttrey, out of Providence HS in North Carolina, was lights out, up to 94 mph and sitting comfortably in the 91-92 mph range. He broke a few bats as well. Sean McLaughlin (Northview HS, Ga.) popped a 96 on the gun and was 92-94 in his one inning. And Nick Travieso on that Rockies club touched 95 mph during his outing as well.

Obviously, this is far from complete, being that it was just one day and I didn’t get the chance to talk over every player with scouts. I hope to have more over the next couple.

 

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