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Day Three of AFL Aneurysm Awareness Week

We’re through three days of Brain Aneurysm Awareness Week in the Arizona Fall League …

As a reminder, the Joe Niekro Foundation
and the Arizona Fall League are working together again this year to
raise awareness and funds for research on brain aneurysms. As part of
that, we’re counting strikeouts from the pitchers in each of the seven
organizations Joe Niekro pitched for over the course of his Major League
career. Natalie Niekro, Joe’s daughter and founder of the foundation is
donating $36 per strikeout for all K’s from those organizations this
week. In addition, the Cubs, Tigers, Twins and Yankees have agreed to
make a similar donation for their pitchers’ strikeouts as well. And Linda Inglett (find out about her at BAHELP.com) is chipping in with $10 per K as well.

Here’s the update from Wednesday (it was a very good day):

Twins — 6
Astros — 4
Yankees — 2
Cubs — 2
Total: 14 K

Amount raised for the day: $504 (Niekro donation) + $288 (team donation) + $140 (Linda) = $932

Add that to the first two days and we’ve got a grand total of: $1808

David Bromberg probably wasn’t thrilled with his outing, but he deserves kudos for his 4-K contribution to this cause. The overall standings:

Twins — 9
Astros — 6
Tigers — 4
Cubs — 3
Yankees — 3
Padres — 1

As for Star of the Day, we have to stay on the mound for Wednesday. Eric Hurley was ahurley.JPG first-round pick of the Rangers back in 2004, taken 30th overall. He spent three-plus seasons in the Minors before making his big-league debut in 2008. That would also be the last time he would pitch competitively until now, in the Arizona Fall League, thanks to shoulder surgery (left wrist surgery to his left wrist didn’t help, but didn’t really keep him off the mound so much). Had things gone according to plan, he might be in the Rangers rotation during the World Series. Instead, he’s trying to get some innings under his belt with the Surprise Rafters. On Wednesday, he made them count, firing five shutout innings. The right-hander, now 25, allowed only two hits and walked none while striking out five.as the Rafters shut out the Saguaros, 7-0.

Rule 5 and the World Series

I know, it’s a connection everyone has been dying to talk about. But in my world, it’s fairly interesting.

Everyone always talks about the Rule 5 Draft as being a low-risk endeavor. It tends to be low-reward as the vast majority of players taken, from the Major League phase on down to the two Minor League phases, don’t ever make it. Even the ones taken in the big-league phase, the ones who have to stick on a 25-man roster all season or be returned, they largely do get returned and/or don’t ever stick in the bigs for any length of time. Those who do make it are, then, the exception rather than the rule.

So, to me, the fact there are four players among the 50 on the two World Series rosters is significant. I don’t know what the percentage of Rule 5 players to make it to the big leagues is, but 8% of World Series participants is pretty good, no?

The Rangers are “loaded” with Rule 5 talent, though only one of the three (that’s 12 percent!) was a player they themselves took in the annual December draft. Of course, the big one is Josh Hamilton. The MVP candidate was taken in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft in a bit of a surprise. His story is well-told by now, but he hadn’t played above A ball and he hadn’t played much at all for a variety of reasons. Technically, he was taken by the Cubs, then sold to the Reds on the day of the draft. After that one season in Cincy, he was dealt to the Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Daniel Ray Herrera.

Darren O’Day was plucked from the Angels by the Mets in the Major League phase of the 2008 Rule 5 Draft. After just four appearances and three innings in New York, the Mets tried to slip him through waivers in April 2009. The Rangers swooped in and claimed him and O’Day has rewarded them with a 1.99 ERA over the past two seasons (Think the Mets could’ve used that kind of bullpen help this year?).

Alexi Ogando is an interesting case, and the one player actually taken by the Rangers in a Rule 5 Draft.  At the time Texas took Ogando from the A’s in the Triple-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5, he was a strong-armed outfielder who hadn’t played above short-season ball. He was caught up in a visa scam and that forced him to remain in the Dominican Republic for a number of years. When the Rangers took him in the Rule 5, they immediately converted him into a pitcher and he worked in relief for three different summers in the Dominican Summer League (he didn’t pitch in 2008) as the Rangers tried to figure out a way to get him to the United States. He was finally reinstated and allowed to return to the U.S. this year, making the jump from the DSL to Double-A. After a 2.05 ERA in 18 games between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City, Ogando got called up and he’s been there since.

The one Rule 5 alum on the Giants roster is Javier Lopez, who has proven to be an invaluable cog in the San Francisco bullpen since he joined the team in a deadline deal with the Pirates. The lefty was taken back in the 2002 Rule 5 Draft, selected from the Diamondbacks by the Red Sox. When Boston realized there was no room for Lopez, they dealt him to the Rockies and he went on to have a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season.

The point of all this? Maybe it’s just that you never know where contributors are going to come from. That, and maybe everyone should pay a little more attention to the Rule 5 Draft when it comes this December.

Day Two of AFL Aneurysm Awareness Week

First off, I have to give a big shout out to Linda Inglett (check out her story on BAHELP.com). If you didn’t see it on yesterday’s post, Linda announced that she would donate $10 for every strikeout for the week!!!

As a reminder, the Joe Niekro Foundation
and the Arizona Fall League are working together again this year to
raise awareness and funds for research on brain aneurysms. As part of
that, we’re counting strikeouts from the pitchers in each of the seven
organizations Joe Niekro pitched for over the course of his Major League
career. Natalie Niekro, Joe’s daughter and founder of the foundation is
donating $36 per strikeout for all K’s from those organizations this
week. In addition, the Cubs, Tigers, Twins and Yankees have agreed to
make a similar donation for their pitchers’ strikeouts as well.

And now we have Linda to add to the mix. So lets see how things went on Tuesday:

Twins — 2
Yankees — 1
Tigers — 1
Padres — 1
Total: 5 Ks

Total amount raised for the day: $180 (Niekro donation) + $144 (team donation) + $50 (Linda donation) = $374 for Tuesday

Add that to Monday’s total of $432, along with the $70 from Linda for Monday’s K’s and we’re up to $876. Not too bad… anyone else out there want to step up and make a per K donation? And remember, you can always text STRIKEOUT to 20222 to donate $10 to the Joe Niekro Foundation  any time you want.

The overall team standings:

Tigers — 4
Twins — 3
Astros — 2
Cubs — 1
Yankees — 1
Padres — 1

For Star of the Day, as tempting as it is to go with Mariners pitcher Maikel Cleto for hisThumbnail image for Harrison.JPG threeinnings of one-hit, four-strikeout ball, it’s hard to look past the offensive achievements of the folks in that 18-9 Mesa win. Mesa had 22 hits in that one, with the top two in the lineup with four hits apiece (Josh Harrison and Jeremy Moore). Two others had three hits and the Pirates’ Andrew Lambo had four RBIs to go along with his three knocks. Both Harrison and Moore homered and drove in three. But the edge goes to the Pirates’ Harrison, for also doubling twice and scoring five runs from the leadoff spot

Day One of AFL Aneurysm Awareness Week

Well, it wasn’t exactly a rip-roaring start to Brain Aneurysm Awareness Week in the Arizona Fall League on Monday, but every little bit helps.

As a reminder, the Joe Niekro Foundation and the Arizona Fall League are working together again this year to raise awareness and funds for research on brain aneurysms. As part of that, we’re counting strikeouts from the pitchers in each of the seven organizations Joe Niekro pitched for over the course of his Major League career. Natalie Niekro, Joe’s daughter and founder of the foundation is donating $36 per strikeout for all K’s from those organizations this week. In addition, the Cubs, Tigers, Twins and Yankees have agreed to make a similar donation for their pitchers’ strikeouts as well.

After Day 1, here’s where we stand:

Tigers — 3
Astros — 2
Cubs — 1
Twins — 1
Total: 7 Ks

Total amount raised: $252 (Niekro donation) + $180 (team donation) =  $432

Pat Urckfitz (Astros) and Brooks Brown (Tigers) are the early individual leaders, each with a pair of punchouts.

And hey, B3 fans… no comments or involvement from my post yesterday? Come on, pick a team to pull for this week. Get in on the act and tell me which team you think will strikeout the most batters and how many  they’ll whiff.
Thumbnail image for cory.JPG
Star of the Day is a slam dunk from Monday and it’s great because I get to plug our AFLbloggers at the same time. Braves prospect (and blogger) Cory Harrilchak went 4-for-4 on Monday for Phoenix in its 8-6 win against Mesa. The outfielder had three RBIs, two coming on a home run in the second inning. He also scored two runs and stole a base. Harrilchak has gone 13-for-28 (.464) in seven games so far. He’s third in batting average, third in OBP, fourth in SLG and third in OPS. Not a bad start. 

Aneurysm Awareness Week in the AFL

For the second straight year, the Arizona Fall League is teaming up with Natalie Niekro and the Joe Niekro Foundation for Brain Aneurysm Awareness Week in the AFL. Joe Niekro, the great knuckleballer (and Natalie’s father) died in October 2006 from an aneurysm and Natalie started the Foundation to raise funds and awareness about brain aneurysms.

All this week, there will be appearances and announcements and information regarding aneurysms at AFL ballparks all week long. In addition, pitchers for the seven organizations Niekro pitched for will be raising funds simply by striking out the opposition. For every strikeout recorded during the week, Natalie Niekro will donate $36 to her foundation (36 was her dad’s number).

But that’s not all. Four of the seven teams (so far) have committed to giving similar donations of $36 per strikeout from each of their organization’s pitchers. Last year’s effort raised a lot of awareness and several thousand dollars for a great cause.

You can get into the act in two ways. First, and most quickly, you can text

STRIKEOUT to 20222 to donate $10 to the Joe Niekro Foundation and its fight against brain aneurysms. Secondly, I’m listing each organization and the pitchers involved. Pick a team and tell me who you’re pulling for (or predicting will have the most) in comments below. Guess how many strikeouts your team will have (I believe the high for last year was 15). The winner will be the person who picks the leading team and is closest to the correct amount of strikeouts. You gotta be in it to win it.

Here’s the roster of pitchers. By the way, it’s the Yankees, Cubs, Tigers and Twins who have committed to making a donation based on the K totals:

Cubs: David Cales, Chris Carpenter, Jake Muyco, Kyle Smit
Padres: Brad Brach, Erik Davis, Colt Hynes, Alexis Lara
Tigers: Brooks Brown, Matt Hoffman, Chance Ruffin, Brendan Wise
Braves: Michael Broadway, Kyle Cofield, Erik Cordier, Cory Gearrin
Astros: David Carpenter, Kyle Greenwalt, Matt Nevarez, Pat Urckfitz
Yankees: Manuel Banuelos, Craig Heyer, George Kontos, Ryan Pope
Twins:   David Bromberg, Carlos Gutierrez, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop

Some are pitching today (Monday). Jake Muyco (Cubs) was starting for Mesa and he had one strikeout in his first two innings of work. Brooks Brown (Tigers) is starting tonight for Surprise. I’ll be updating daily on the strikeout totals, so stay tuned to keep up on your picks!

  .

An early, early look at the Class of 2011

Sorry, folks, I meant to get this up here on Friday and just didn’t get it done. But here it is, a very early look at the top names at the Draft class of 2011. I thought it would be a nice respite from all the World Series talk (really, who can get tired of that?). But seriously, all 30 teams are working behind the scenes on next year’s Draft, so why not me? OK, so maybe right now there’s not a ton to do — some fall workouts are about it — but especially for the 28 teams no longer competing in 2010, thoughts of the future are important.

So I polled some scouts to get a sense of what the industry thought of the class after all the summer leagues and showcases were over. This is by no means scientific (what about the Draft is, after all?) and this list could very well look completely different once we get into the spring and Draft season. So I’ll try to update it as the year goes on, especially once the 2011 season is set to begin.

Without further ado, then, an early look at the top 10 in the Draft class of 2011:

  1. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice Universityrendon_anthony_2.JPG
  2. Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
  3. Matthew Purke, LHP, TCU
  4. George Springer, OF, University of Connecticut
  5. Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt University
  6. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS, Oklahoma
  7. Taylor Jungmann, RHP, University of Texas
  8. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, University of South Carolina
  9. Matt Barnes, RHP, University of Connecticut
  10. Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow Senior HS, Oklahoma

Others to watch (in alphabetical order):

Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA; Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech; Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy HS, Ark.; Danny Hultzen, LHP, U of Virginia; Michael Kelly, SS/RHP, West Boca HS, Fla.; Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde HS, Fla.; Alex Meyer, RHP, U of Kentucky; Daniel Norris, LHP, Science Hill HS, Tenn.; Joseph Ross, RHP, Bishop O’Dowd HS, Calif.; John Smith, OF, McIntosh HS, Ga.;  Derek Starling, OF/RHP, Gardner Edgerton HS, Kansas; Robert Stephenson, RHP, Alhambra HS, Calif.; Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland HS, Texas; Kolten Wong, 2B, U of Hawaii; Tony Zych, RHP U of Louisville

As you can see, the top of the list is college heavy and there are some very good college arms for the taking. The two Oklahoma high school right-handers will create a buzz all spring. The next 10-20 names are a little more high-school dominant and it’s quite possible many of those prep players will move up the ranks as 2011 gets going.

So, there you have it. I’ll be back a little later today with some stuff to watch from the Arizona Fall League.

AFL tidbits

Looks like Dustin Ackley’s finger is ok, huh? He returned to action yesterday and picked up three hits, including a double.

Freddie Freeman has what is being called a sprained thumb after diving into third with a triple recently. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Braves’ first baseman of the future (or now) had an MRI on Wednesday and it came back saying that there was not too much damage to the left thumb. Looks like he’ll be out at least a week as they wait for the swelling to go down.

For those of you only focusing on the big leagues, Bryce Harper made his unofficial pro debut yesterday and went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.

Star of the Day has to go to Tony Cruz of the Cardinals after his two-homer, four-RBI game.tony_cruz.jpg The 26th-rounder from the 2007 Draft. Cruz has played all over the place, starting out as a third baseman, then moving behind the plate.

He’s also played some first base, a spot he’s played in the AFL in five out of his six games (he caught the other). This was Cruz’s first multi-hit game and he also scored three times.

Stay tuned… tomorrow, I’ll post my very first Top 10 prospects for the Draft Class of 2011.

Star of the Day for Tuesday, Oct. 19

Gonna be very brief today. First, new blog posts from:

Josh Zeid, on being nominated for Class A Reliever of the Year

Thumbnail image for dejesus.jpg

Jason Kipnis, on meeting what he calls the “Baseball Gods”

Second day in a row for a shortstop to win Star of the Day honors here on B3. This time, it goes

to the Dodgers’ Ivan DeJesus.
DeJesus missed all but four games of the 2009 season, then came back
fairly strong in 2010 in Triple-A Albuquerque, showing an ability to
play shortstop and second. He’s had hits in all three games in the AFL
so far, playing one at DH, one at third and on Tuesday, at second. In
that game, he had three base hits, including his first homer, to go
along with three RBIs.

AFL Star of the Day for Thursday, Oct. 14

Hey all —

Be sure to check out the AFL Interactive page to see who’s been blogging. Jordan Swagerty, Josh Zeid and Cory Harrilchak all have new posts within the past day.

Now on to the Star of the Day for Thursday.

There were a number of strong performances from around the league. Yankees prospect

revere.jpg

Austin
Romine went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs, a double and even a stolen base. A
pair of Pirates prospects, Jordy Mercer and Tony Sanchez went a combined
6-for-9 with 5 RBIs (Mercer had 4). The Brewers’ Caleb Gindl went
3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Ryan Lavarnway had a pair of hits,
including a homer, and three RBIs.

But the day’s star goes to Twins outfielder Ben Revere.
The speedy center fielder, the 2007 first-rounder who made his Major
League debut in September, went 4-for-6 with a pair of runs scored, an
RBI and two stolen bases while leading off for the Peoria Saguaros.

Off and running in the AFL

Gotta love this time of year, with the start of winter leagues, especially the Arizona Fall League. They are two games in — looks like Scottsdale’s running away with it, huh? — and high time I start blogging about what’s going on there. (The big news, of course, is that Bryce Harper will be there on Scottsdale’s taxi squad)

Every fall, I make the claim that I’m going to try and pick a Star of the Day each day (at least weekdas) of the AFL. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s worth at least giving it a shot, right?

Since two days have passed, we’ll just do one for the two games. While many hitters have

Michael_Taylor.JPG

gotten off to good starts — Ryan Adams went 3-for-3 yesterday to improve to 4-for-7 with a homer and five RBIs, as an example — but the first Star of the Day(s) has to go to Michael Taylor in the A’s organization. The outfielder who went from the Phillies to the Blue Jays to the A’s during the whole Roy Halladay trade extravaganza has shown the power he was known for, but was missing during the 2010 season, so far. He’s homered in both games and gone a combined 5-for-8 with the two homers, four RBIs and 12 total bases (for a 1.500 SLG). He’s even swiped a base.

Pitchers, obviously, have only gone one game, at best, but several have started out well in a league that is notoriously hitting-friendly. Casey Kelly (you can follow him on Twitter @caseykelly23) is the only one to go four innings, allowing just two unearned runs. Brad Holt, Carlos Hernandez, Alex Cobb and Josh Collmenter all went three scoreless in their debuts.

In case you haven’t checked them all out yet, we’ve got a number of prospects blogging from the AFL this year. Here’s the menu for your perusal (all have been pretty active, so check early and often for updates!):

Please read them and leave them comments. Interactivity is the name of the game!

Finally, before I go, there’s something important I want to promote. I did it last year, so for those of you who come to B3 often, they’ll know all about the Joe Niekro Foundation. Natalie Niekro, Joe’s daughter, started it to raise funds for research and to raise awareness about brain aneurysms. Part of that effort will be the second annual Aneurysm Awareness Week in the Arizona Fall League, Oct. 26-30. In addition to having lots of information and appearances in parks during the week to let AFL fans know about aneurysms and the work the foundation is trying to do, a number of pitchers will be doing their part to raise some funds. Here’s how it works:

Joe Niekro played for seven teams over the course of his illustrious career. For the week of Oct. 26, the strikeouts for the pitchers in the AFL from each of those seven organizations will be tallied. Not only has the foundation found a donor to donate $36 per strikeout for the week, but most (I’m working on getting them all) of the teams have committed to making similar donations (You can donate to the foundation by clicking here.).

I’ll be pushing this a lot, especially as we get closer, but if you want to have a rooting interest, here’s a list of the pitchers from each organization who’ll be helping to strikeout aneurysms. And I tell you what, lets get some fan interest going here — the organization who gets the most votes — leave your rooting interest in comments — will get a donation in their name by yours truly. So get behind your team and help raise funds for this worthy cause:

Cubs: David Cales, Chris Carpenter, Jake Muyco, Kyle Smit
Padres: Brad Brach, Erik Davis, Colt Hynes, Alexis Lara
Tigers: Brooks Brown, Matt Hoffman, Chance Ruffin, Brendan Wise
Braves: Michael Broadway, Kyle Cofield, Erik Cordier, Cory Gearrin
Astros: David Carpenter, Kyle Greenwalt, Matt Nevarez, Pat Urckfitz
Yankees: Manuel Banuelos, Craig Heyer, George Kontos, Ryan Pope
Twins:   David Bromberg, Carlos Gutierrez, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop

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