http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=31066535I was in the Pirates clubhouse yesterday, following the pre-Wild Card game workout. In case you missed, it, I came away with a story on what the Pirates might do to contain speedster Billy Hamilton.
I also contributed to the Pirates notebook, writing up something on hometown kid Neil Walker savoring this return to the postseason.
I don’t wander into big league coverage too often, but it’s often fun for me to think about how I’ve covered some of these established players over the years. Walker is an outstanding example.
It started when he was still in high school. I traveled to Pine-Richland High School in nearby Gibsonia when he was a big-time Draft prospect, hoping to be selected by his hometown team. Best quote from that story is Walker dreaming about playing in Pittsburgh:
“It really is storybook,” said Walker, who idolizes Twins rookie Joe Mauer, the former No. 1 pick who was a high school catcher taken by his hometown team. “They like me a lot, and I like them a lot, and I think they would be a good fit for me.
“Whatever happens, happens. If I don’t make it to [the 11th pick], then I’m going to have the same attitude and mentality toward whatever team I go to, because it’s going to be exciting.”
Walker obviously was taken by the Pirates and came back to PNC Park to play in the 2006 Futures Game (he was still a catcher back then). I talked to him after he was named to the team and he came a day early to do a whirlwind Pittsburgh tour for our very first Futures Game Video Diary. We liked the idea so much, we’ve been doing it every year prior to the Futures Game since then.
Not surprisingly, the stories generated considerable discussion and debate. And, truthfully, we both had a hard time making decisions in some cases.
So we decided we’d come up with a 2nd team, All-Prospect. Mine is below. You can find Jim’s over at Callis’ Corner. We decided only to go for the positional assignments and not the “biggest jump,” or “most to prove” categories.
1B C.J. Cron, Angels – Not a deep position, I decided not to cave to Yankee fans bugging me about Greg Bird (who had a very nice year). Cron had a solid, if unspectacular, season in the Texas League.
2B Rougned Odor, Rangers — Some great choices, even for the 2nd team, from Delino DeShields Jr. to Eddie Rosario. But Odor’s still a teenager, made it to (and raked in) the Double-A Texas League, finishing with a combined .305/.365/.474 line to go along with 32 steals.
SS Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox — Just edges other fine choices like Javier Baez or Carlos Correa. Holding his own in the big leagues is just icing on the cake.
3B Miguel Sano, Twins — I went off the board a bit by taking Maikel Franco for my first team, so there’s no question Sano is the best choice here.
C Austin Hedges, Padres — Yes, Evan Gattis has had a solid offensive year, but is he really a catcher? Hedges was just so-so with the bat, but has the chance to be special defensively.
OF Wil Myers, Rays — It was hard to leave him off the first team. Watching him help the Rays in the Wild Card race has been great fun.
OF Joc Pederson, Dodgers — Twenty-two homers and 31 steals all while playing a good center field in Double-A. Could help in 2014.
OF Gregory Polanco, Pirates — He was my “biggest jump” selection on the 1st team. Tons of speed (38 steals), power is coming (12 HR, 30 doubles). Right field in PNC Park will be calling soon.
RHP Archie Bradley, D-backs — Need to give a shout out to Taijuan Walker of the Mariners, but Bradley finished with a 1.84 ERA, .215 BAA while striking out 9.6 per nine innings across two levels.
LHP Andrew Heaney, Marlins — Jim’s 1st team choice, the 2012 first-rounder only threw 95 1/3 innings, but did reach Double-A and finished with a combined 1.60 ERA and .211 BAA.
And I’m not talking about the fact that he had an excellent year in the Double-A Eastern League, finishing with a 3.30 ERA, .234 batting average against and 129 K’s in 111 2/3 innings pitched (while allowing only 27 walks). He would’ve been fifth in the Eastern League in ERA had he qualified and he still managed to finish ninth in strikeouts despite not making his first start until May 19 (Yes, he was serving a 50-game suspension, but at least Stroman took responsibility for taking over-the-counter supplements without knowing what was in them).
But this isn’t about his on-field performance, which should have him poised to help out in Toronto in 2014 in some capacity. This is about what he did for his mom recently. Stroman was the No. 22 overall pick in the 2012 Draft and received a bonus of $1.8 million as a result. His mother was with him through thick and thin, so Stroman felt it was time to show her how much he appreciated her never-ending support.
By paying off her mortgage. The entire thing. The video is brief, but it’s hard not to get emotional while watching it. April Whitzman from MLBFancave posted it on their blog.
Or you can watch the video right here:
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo7) September 18, 2013
His mom clearly was touched.
— A.Y. Auffant (@aya11763) September 16, 2013
That’s pretty cool stuff. Kudos to Stroman for using those dollars in a very, very good way.
Before I get to my topic o’ the day, I wanted to make sure everyone saw the work that my colleague is doing on his blog, Callis’ Corner. He’s posted twice in the last couple of days, once on the callup and debut of the Royals’ Yordano Ventura and again about former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham getting the call by the Rays. Been quite an interesting few days in terms of big-name callups this late in the year.
Me? Today I want to head overseas briefly. The Dodgers announced on Monday they had signed Takumi Numata, a 19-year-old right-hander from Japan. So I did a little digging. Or tried to, anyway. I can’t say I’m super well-connected in the Far East, but I do know some scouts who work over there. But I had a hard time finding anyone who knew Numata all that well.
Dodger scouts Isao O’Jimi and Pat Kelly signed Numata. Both know what they’re doing, so it will be very interesting to watch Numata, who will be in Arizona to work out with the Dodgers during instructs this fall, develop.
I was about to give up on trying to track down information on Numata, but then Kazuto Yamazaki came to the rescue. Yamazaki writes for a site called ShutDownInning (check out his post about Yu Darvish), and he was able to find some info on Numata, who’d been pitching in the Japanese Industrial League. Here’s what we know about Numata (Yamazaki found the info from this site):
At 6-1, 188 pounds (that’s according to the release), it doesn’t sound like there’s that much physical projection to look for. His fastball sits in the upper 80s to low 90s, according to the report, topping out at 92 mph. He goes right after hitters with it and largely pitches off of his fastball, though he also has a slider. Here’s some brief video:
What made this signing interesting, I think, is that Numata is a teenager. You don’t see that many players that young come from Japan, as most go through the Japanese professional ranks and don’t come over until several years later (like Ichiro did). A year ago, it looked like Shohei Otani was going to try and bypass the professional leagues and come to the United States, becoming the first player to go straight from high school to pro ball here. Instead, he stayed at home and signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters (where he’s pitching AND hitting).
There have been a few teenagers to sign in the past, though: Takuya Tsuchida signed with the Indians in last fall and played in the rookie-level Arizona League this summer. Back in 2004, the Braves signed outfielder Takumi Hamaoka, who played parts of two summers in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2006 and 2007, but that was it. The biggest success story has been Mac Suzuki, signed as a teenager with the Mariners back in 1993. He spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues.
It’s an exciting time around these parts. As you’ve all figured out, Jim Callis (@jimcallismlb) is working with us now at MLB.com and we’re already cranking out some pretty neat content together. If you haven’t seen it, we’ve written the first two in what I hope is a long-running series: Pipeline Perspectives.
We’ve had two entries so far, where Mr. Callis and I have taken sides on two pennant race-related questions.
Pipeline Perspectives is going to be a regular feature, so if you have ideas for issues/questions Jim and I can tackle, send them to email@example.com. That’s also the email address to send in questions for the Pipeline Inbox, a weekly mailbag Jim and I will be doing.
So lots of good content is on its way, with ways for you to participate as well.
Now on to the final showcase of the summer…
Honestly, I thought it was all over. But there’s a new event in town, the Metropolitan Baseball Classic, hosted by the Mets (it was a brainchild of Mets scouting director Tommy Tanous), with the championship game held at Citi Field. The event was a little under-the-radar, with the U.S. Open capturing the attention of most in Queens during that time. But the talent was far from unknown and the event provided a really good last summer look at some top high school prospects for the 2014 Draft before a little time off before the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association Championship in Jupiter, Florida in October.
There was a good amount of talent at the event. The list below isn’t ranked — it’s alphabetical — but it’s a pretty good representation of the top performers in New York last week, with the team they played with at the tournament listed (and home state in parentheses):
Spencer Adams- 6’5, 190, RHP; Team Elite (Georgia). Tall and strong, three pitch mix (fastball, slider, changeup) should allow him to start long term. Pitched very well in the championship game and should have more in the tank velocity-wise (he was 90-91 mph in the title game)
Seth Beer 6’3, 185, OF; Marucci Elite. (2016 grad; Georgia) Yes, he’s a couple of years away, but evidently he kind of came out of nowhere to put on a show. Will only get stronger and already has good line drive power to both sides of the field.
Blake Bivens 6’2, 200, RHP; EvoShield Canes (Virginia). Strong and sturdy right-hander. Fastball was up to 91 mph with good movement. Good feel for big curve ball and facing changeup.
Isan Diaz- 5’10, 175, SS; Northeast Mets (Massachusetts). Interesting middle infielder who has the chance to hit and might add some power. Reminded one scout a bit of Robinson Cano in terms of his set-up at the plate.
Elijah Dilday- 6’2, 190, OF; St. Louis Mets (Missouri). Surprising power, good, quick stroke, squared the ball up often. Has good frame to add strength.
Joseph Gatto- 6’5, 215, RHP; Northeast Mets (New Jersey). Fastball was 88-92 mph here, but has been very busy this summer. May have been a bit tired, but still showed why he’s one of the better high school pitching prospects for next year. Good frame, with room to fill out.
Michael Gettys 6’1, 200, OF; Team Elite (Georgia). Great tools across the board. Great bat speed, plus runner. Was a catalyst for Team Elite, which won the tournament.
Grant Hockin 6’3, 195, RHP; EvoShield Canes (California). Athletic and strong with good three-pitch mix. Was up to 92 mph, good plane and easy arm action. Breaking ball could be plus down the road and has good feel for changeup.
Alex Lange 6’3, 215, RHP; Marucci Elite (Missouri). Big arm strrength, strong body. Was throwing in the low 90s with an outstanding slider.
Jesse Lapore 6’4, 185, RHP; Orlando Scorpions (Florida). Projectable, now up to 91 mph with fastball, can throw downhill. Shows some ability to spin a curve. Was around the strike zone with most of his pitches.
Jon Littell 6’4, 190, OF; St. Louis Mets (Oklahoma). Big and strong, physical frame. Runs well for his size. He has some strength in his swing, but also some length.
Drew Lugbauer 6’3, 210, C; Northeast Mets (New York). Left-handed hitting catcher with power. Big and strong, good arm strength, other parts of his defense are developing.
Troy Stokes Jr 5’10, 185, CF; EvoShield Canes (Maryland). Top of the order type with good speed. Should be able to stay in center. Quick swing with some gap power. Hit tool needs to develop, but could be good table-setter.
Zach Sullivan 6’2, 175, CF; Northeast Mets (New York). Lean athlete with room to add strength. Gotten better over the summer. Excellent speed, can cover a lot of ground in the outfield. There’s strength and bat speed to work with. Tools are there, but they’re a bit raw.
I feel like my relationship with the fine people of Kansas City hasn’t gone so well lately.
Let me explain.
It started with the Draft, when the Royals surprised everyone by taking Hunter Dozier with the No. 8 pick overall. I was told, afterwards, that my critique of the pick had been a bit harsh. Maybe that’s true, though in watching it again, I have to say that I think I gave it the proper context. Watch below and tell me what you think.
See? I said would reserve judgement until I saw what they did with their extra picks, right? They were able to draft and sign Sean Manaea as a result and that could end up being a win-win for them. Yes, I did say that Dozier didn’t belong in the top 10, but I did mean it solely based on talent evaluations on who was still available. Maybe the Royals had Dozier atop their board at the time, but I’m pretty certain they’d be the only team in baseball who did after the first seven selectoins had been made.
It appears that I put my foot in my mouth again, at least according to Kansas Citians, in a recent story about potential September callups. The “controversy” centered around this sentence:
Other Top 100 players who could make September interesting for teams out of the race include Yordano Ventura of the Royals, Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays and Archie Bradley of the Diamondbacks.
Honestly, I didn’t even think about this as potentially anger-inducing when I wrote it. But there was this comment with the story:
So I guess Royals are officially out of the race. Thanks for letting us know Jonathan. (corrected typos)
Who said I was the official word? But… hey, maybe they’ll prove me wrong
There was some good back and forth in comments, and I figured that’d be the end of it. But then I got this comment on a blog post from “Shannon”:
Jonathan, how is it exactly that the Royals are ‘out of it’ as referenced in your article today regarding 40 man rosters and a Royals up and coming pitcher. Its hard to understand how someone in the know would be so attached to their coast bias that they would ignore a yearlong story of a team that IS and HAS BEEN in contention all season.
So I’m the official word and I’m in the know. Not bad for a prospect guy who doesn’t cover the big leagues at all.
I’m not using that as an excuse, mind you. I will say that at the time of the story, the Royals were 9 1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central and 6 1/2 games behind the second wild card, with three other teams ahead of them behind Tampa. They’re now 4 1/2 back, though still with those three teams to leapfrog. Not insurmountable — and maybe “out of the race” wasn’t the right terminology. But keep in mind the story was really about potential callups and not about the postseason race. So if I offended anyone, I apologize. There was no malice intended.
Kansas City, can we be friends again?
OK, glad I got that off my chest. I think I’ll head to the beach. You know, take advantage of that coast bias Shannon spoke of. Now, if only you could tell me which coast I’m biased toward — the Ohio, Monongahela or the Allegheny?
In case you missed it, the Arizona Fall League released preliminary rosters on Tuesday. There are still plenty of holes to fill, but it gives you a good sense of the talent heading to Arizona this fall, headlined by 25 members of MLB.com’s Top 100 list. But which team (so far) seems the most stacked?
Let’s take a look at Prospect Points to see. What are Prospect Points, you ask? Let me tell you. It’s something we’ve used (courtesy of MLBPipeline behind-the-scenes guru Jason Ratliff) in coming up with a weighted system to measure which teams have the most impact talent based on who they have in the Top 100. We give 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and on down.
For the AFL, obviously, not all 100 prospects are going, but the system stays the same — Byron Buxton is the No. 1 prospect and he’ll be playing for Glendale, so Glendale gets 100 points. Get it? So here are the AFL Prospect Points Standings (we’ll update as more players get added):
Mesa 424 PP
Glendale 375 PP
Scottsdale 212 PP
Peoria 176 PP
Salt River 86 PP
Surprise 74 PP
Curious about the breakdown? Mr. Ratliff (see, told you he was a guru) was kind enough to supply this handy little chart, where you can see Glendale and Mesa both with six Top 100 guys:
|Aaron Sanchez||Blue Jays||Salt River||
|Marcus Stroman||Blue Jays||Salt River||
|Garin Cecchini||Red Sox||Surprise||
As the calendar moves ever so closer to September, the summer showcase season has now come to an end. The top high school talent for the 2014 Draft will go back home, by and large, and prepare for fall seasons (or football, if they play it), perhaps with an eye towards Perfect Game’s huge event in Jupiter, Florida, in October.
It was, for players and the scouts who wanted to see these prospects against good competition, a very long summer that took many kids from Minneapolis to Cary, North Carolina, to Syracuse, NY, to Long Beach, Calif., to San Diego and, finally, to Chicago.
Only one player made all six stops: Infielder Greg Deichmann from Brother Martin High School in Louisiana. But don’t think Deichmann is worn out. He told me this is just fueling him.
“I love to play baseball,” he told me recently, adding that he probably had gotten around 100 at-bats just travelling the circuit. “It can be tiring, but it’s been great.”
While Deichmann is the only one to go six-for-six, a number of future draftees went to five events. Some were West Coasters, who weren’t eligible for the East Coast Pro Showcase, for instance. But here are the guys who were among the busiest this summer:
|First||Last||City||State||# of events|
The final day of East Coast Pro Showcase has started (Florida has some kids who can hit!), but I wanted to take a few minutes to recap Friday’s action.
First, the required reading:
- David Rawnsley had start-to-finish coverage of Day 3 coverage — three games, all nine innings.
- Clint Longenecker wrote about Cobi Johnson in his Day 3 coverage.
Some highlights from Friday’s games:
It was definitely a day of arms. Dylan Cease may have been the “biggest” name and he didn’t disappoint in his first inning, throwing 95-96 mph fastballs. He wasn’t as sharp after that, with rain clearly playing a part, struggling particularly with command of his breaking stuff at times.
Cobi Johnson, son of former big leaguer and pitching coach Dane, was very effecient in his three innings. He was 88-91 mph with his fastball and had a good curveball. He was very efficient, throwing just 28 pitches.
Austin DeCarr was up to 93 mph and kept it up for most of his outing. Facing him in that game was Jesse McCord, who sat at 91 mph throughout his outing.
Josh Pennington was 90-92 mph and looked very sharp in the final game of Day 3.
On the position player front…
Catcher JJ Schwarz was impressive on both sides of the ball. He picked two runners off at second in two innings, then doubled to left later in the game to drive in a run.
Logan Sowers took Cease deep, with an opposite field homer in the rain.
Max Ponzurick hit a three-run, opposite-field (right field has been popular for the long ball, with it being 385 feet to left-center) homer.
Considering that rain interrupted and forced changes in plans, we’re all feeling pretty fortunate to have gotten three games in on Thursday during Day 2 of the East Coast Pro Showcase. There were, as usual, some strong performances, particularly on the mound.
The highlight was the pitching matchup in the third and final game of the evening. Touki Toussaint (@_YoSoy_Touki) against Sean Reid-Foley (@SReidFoley21). Toussaint, from Coral Springs Christian Academy in Florida, was regularly in the 92-94 mph range. He showed some good breaking stuff as well. Reid-Foley came out throwing 94-95 mph fastballs in the first inning. He whiffed Nick Gordon (@NickyG_Dsquad) on three heaters, none of which were under 94 mph. Both he and Toussaint maintained their velocity through all three innings. Reid-Foley didn’t allow a hit. Toussaint allowed one, but really improved his location and efficiency over his next two innings and one scout felt he had better projection than Reid-Foley.
That wasn’t it in terms of arms from that game. The stacked Rockies staff also sent Andrew Karp and Foster Griffin out and both impressed. Karp touched 93 mph during his stint and Griffin was up to 92 mph, with Griffin showing more overall pitchability.
Local product Scott Blewett (@sblewett7) had thrown earlier and was up to 93 mph fairly consistently. Jake Godfrey, from Providence Catholic HS in Illinois, was 91-93 mph for the Cubs.
While the arms impressed, there were some bats that also stood out. One scouting director singled out Bobby Bradley and his approach at the plate. Pavin Smith (Palm Beach Gardens HS, Fla.) and Forrest Wall (Orangewood Christian HS, Fla.) both got mentioned for their hit tools.
Luke Bonfield (Immaculata HS, hometown of Skillman, NY) hit a long double to left center in the Phillies’ game. Fellow Phillie Josh Ockimey (STS John Neuman & Marie Goretti, Pa.) has shown some raw power one scout liked. Catcher Scott Manea threw out two would-be basestealers.
Of all the position players, though, Braxton Davidson (@B_Davidson06) may have impressed the most. The TC Roberson HS (NC) product was hitting everything hard for the Blue Jays.
A ton of good arms going today, starting this morning with Cobi Johnson. Dylan Cease will throw later for the Braves club. Stay tuned…