I love Kansas City. No, really.

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)

I responded:

 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?

Prospects in the AFL

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:

Rank Player Org AFL team

1

Byron Buxton Twins Glendale

100

33

Alex Meyer Twins Glendale

68

49

Corey Seager Dodgers Glendale

52

50

Andrew Heaney Marlins Glendale

51

64

Eddie Rosario Twins Glendale

37

74

Colin Moran Marlins Glendale

27

9

Javier Baez Cubs Mesa

92

19

Addison Russell A’s Mesa

82

23

Albert Almora Cubs Mesa

78

27

Jorge Soler Cubs Mesa

74

37

Kris Bryant Cubs Mesa

64

67

Brian Goodwin Nationals Mesa

34

25

Danny Hultzen Mariners Peoria

76

35

Austin Hedges Padres Peoria

66

76

Delino DeShields Astros Peoria

25

92

Jorge Bonifacio Royals Peoria

9

22

Aaron Sanchez Blue Jays Salt River

79

94

Marcus Stroman Blue Jays Salt River

7

38

Mason Williams Yankees Scottsdale

63

41

Alen Hanson Pirates Scottsdale

60

44

Kyle Crick Giants Scottsdale

57

69

Tyler Austin Yankees Scottsdale

32

57

Jorge Alfaro Rangers Surprise

44

85

Garin Cecchini Red Sox Surprise

16

87

Eduardo Rodriguez Orioles Surprise

14

The summer (showcase season) comes to an end

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
Gregory Deichmann Metairie LA 6
Stone Garrett Sugar Land TX 5
Joe Gatto Hammonton NJ 5
Foster Griffin Orlando FL 5
Monte’ Harrison Lee’s Summit MO 5
Michael Kopech Mount Pleasant TX 5
David Peterson Denver CO 5
Touki Toussaint Coral Springs FL 5
Chase Vallot Youngsville LA 5
Marcus Wilson Los Angeles CA 5
Dylan Cease Milton GA 4
Darius Day Chicago IL 4
Luke Dykstra Thousand Oaks CA 4
Jacob Gatewood Visalia CA 4
Michael Gettys Gainesville GA 4
Nicholas Gordon Windermere FL 4
Grant Hockin Pomona CA 4
Grant Holmes Conway SC 4
Alex Jackson Escondido CA 4
Alex Lange Lee’s Summit MO 4
Micah Miniard Danville KY 4
Willie Rios Waterford CT 4
Carson Sands Tallahassee FL 4
Cameron Varga Loveland OH 4
Alex Verdugo Tucson AZ 4

Day 3 at the East Coast Pro Showcase

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:

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.

Day 2 at the East Coast Pro Showcase

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.

Want to see what else is being written? Check out David Rawnsley at Perfect Game and Clint Longenecker over at Baseball America.

A ton of good arms going today, starting this morning with Cobi Johnson. Dylan Cease will throw later for the Braves club. Stay tuned…

Catching up on East Coast Showcase action

After a busy day of non-waiver Trade Deadline coverage, I made it up to Syracuse late last night, ready to hit the ground running for Day 2 of the East Coast Pro Showcase. Rain is keeping the action from starting, with the hopes of the first game starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.

I wasn’t here for Day 1 action, but talked to some scouts who were and have some highlights, as well as the top times in the 60, which players ran yesterday. If you want more details on the day’s action, I encourage you to read David Rawnsley’s blow-by-blow in his blog over on Perfect Game (subscription required, I believe) and Clint Longenecker’s take over at Baseball America.

After just one day of action, it’s certainly too early to draw any conclusions. But a few players and pitchers stood out, according to scouts I spoke with. A quick smattering of highlights, sorted by team (twitter handles of players in parentheses). Top 60 times for each team are at the end of each team section:

Rockies

Nick Gordon (@NickyG_Dsquad) is the biggest name. Flash’s kid, Dee’s brother. He’s a two-way player, but he wants to play shortstop. And scouts think he can.

Jeff Schwarz, a catcher from Palm Beach Gardens HS in Florida, and Anff Seymour, an outfielder from American Heritage, showed some ability on Day 1.

On the pitching end, Cle Fincock was 90-92 mph from the mound. Alex Faedo and Cobi Johnson (@Cobi_Johnson) threw well. Johnson is the son of Dane Johnson, the former big league reliever who’s been the Blue Jays’ roving pitching instructor.

60s

Anff Seymour: 6.36
Carl Chester: 6.56
Forrest Wall: 6.58

Phillies

New Jersey area right-hander Joseph Gatto was the biggest standout from this team on Day 1. Longenecker reported that the 6-foot-5 hurler touched 94 mph during his stint on the mound. A scout I spoke with said he liked Isan Diaz, a shortstop  from Massachusetts a little bit as well.

60s

Zach Sullivan: 6.73
Tristan Rojas: 6.78
Liam Sabino: 6.95

Mets

Bobby Bradley is the biggest name on the team and there’s a lot to like with his swing (from the left side) and strength. He’s pretty quick to the ball and has the chance to hit. Whether he can play third is still to be determined. Scouts also like outfielder J-mal Howard and catcher Chase Vallot after one look.

60s

Dilton Filotei:  6.47
Chandler Avent:  6.57
Wesley Roberson: 6.60

Cubs

Zach Shannon, a two-way player from Ohio, created some buzz on the mound, throwing 90-93 mph with his fastball and showing a 78-79 mph breaking ball. Justus Sheffield (@Topsheff42) was a “known guy” coming in (his brother, Jordan, was a top high school prospect in 2013, but Tommy John surgery ended his senior year before it started and he went on to Vanderbilt rather than sign with the Red Sox). Justus is a lefty who didn’t hurt himself at all on Wednesday, touching 94 mph. His breaking ball will need to be tighter, but there’s a lot to like.

60s

Jack Schaaf:  6.50
Thomas Lane: 6.63
Caleb Potter: 6.70

Braves

Dylan Cease is the guy to watch on this team. He’s a two-way player, but his future should be on the mound.

60s

Michael Gettys: 6.58
Raphy Ramirez: 6.60
Trey Harris/Reese Cooley: 6.70

Blue Jays

Grant Holmes started against Sheffield in a terrific matchup on Wednesday and the right-hander from South Carolina more than held his own. Rawnsley reported that he touched 94 mph.

60s

Andrew Deatherage: 6.52
Troy Stokes: 6.56
KJ Bryant: 6.58

My time with Homer Bailey

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating with Homer Bailey’s second career no-hitter tonight: One of the best things about my job covering the Minors and the Draft is seeing guys that I’ve covered from high school on up accomplish things at the big league level.

My coverage of Homer Bailey started during our live video coverage of the 2004 Draft. That’s right, long before the Draft was on television, we here at MLB.com did live video coverage of the event. We paved the way to what you see on MLB Network these days. But I digress…

On our broadcast, it was myself, Fred Claire and Darryl Hamilton. And I have to say, we did a solid job providing coverage of the Draft that year. But if you watch the first round (I’ll save you some time… move ahead to about the five-minute mark after you click on the Round 1 link on that Draft landing page), you’ll see the less than stellar work on announcing the No. 7 overall pick of the Draft.

I had done a good amount of research before the Draft, knew all the top names. But I was thrown for a loop when I was told that David Bailey had been taken by the Cincinnati Reds. I eventually was able to put it together and realize it was Homer Bailey, but it wasn’t exactly a stellar start.

I was able to make amends the following season. I drove to Dayton, Ohio in early 2005. I wanted to see the stadium they had in Dayton, sure, but I really wanted to spend time talking with Bailey, who had just made his 2005 debut. It was an interesting interview, not your typical one with a high schooler. Bailey was confident and opinionated, and showed no fear in voicing those opinions. He butted heads early on with the Reds about his workout regimen, though he surprisingly didn’t protest the tandem pitching system the organization had set up at the lower levels. You can read the story that came out of that interview right here.

There is one more layer to that story. Back then, I was doing a regular Around the Minors show on MLB Radio, our internet-only station. I was just getting in the habit of taking my mini-disc player and recording interviews to use for those shows. I got through the entire interview with Bailey that day, only to realize at the end that it hadn’t recorded. And here’s the amazing thing. Bailey allowed a re-do. That’s right, without complaint or even a grumble, we did the entire interview over again, and this time I made sure we were recording.

I’ve covered Bailey on several other occasions, from the 2006 Reds organization preview to the 2006 Futures Game when Bailey came in and hit triple-digits to a stretch when I filled in for Mark Sheldon covering the Reds for a few weeks in Spring Training 2009. He’s always been a slightly different kind of guy. And I mean that in a good way.

He’s also always had absolutely ridiculous pure stuff. The fact that he was still throwing 97 mph in the ninth inning of his second no-no should surprise no one. It was always a question of him putting it together. He really started to last year, particularly in the second half of the season (when his first no-hitter came). He’s been a little up and down this year, but is still very capable of completely throttling an opponent. Just like he did with the Giants. And he’s only 27. So those of you waiting for those high school draftees to pan out in your organization, have some faith. And some patience.

Let the summer commence!

As 2013 Draft picks are signing left and right, it’s time to start looking at the Draft class of 2014. And there are plenty of places to look. As I mentioned in my story about the Class of ’14 and the summer schedule, it’s already beginning. The Perfect Game National Showcase starts today in Minneapolis and scouts are flocking to the Twin Cities to check out the annual kickoff event of the summer for the high schoolers.

At the same time (well, yesterday), the college summer season is underway, with the Cape Cod League starting on Wednesday. I’ll try to update regularly here on how the summer is looking. In Wednesday’s openers, it appeared the pitching was ahead of the hitting on the Cape. Some highlights:

  • Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV: 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
  • Kyle Kubat, LHP, Nebraska: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 3 BB, 3 K
  • Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
  • Andrew McGee, LHP, Monmouth: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
  • Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K

That’s just a smattering, obviously. But it was a good day for lefties. Much, much more to come.

The Draft wild card that is Sean Manaea

We’re winding down here, with less than a week before the Draft. As always, I’m efforting to figure out who goes where. Some may call it a fool’s errand, but so be it.

Perhaps the one player making it the most difficult to figure out the first round is Sean Manaea. Once thought to be a potential No. 1 pick, the big, hard-throwing lefty struggled for much of this season, a hip flexor the biggest issue. Given his health issues, he has a big question mark around his name right now, making figuring out a mock draft really tough. You’ll see I put him 19th (Cardinals), but that’s not based on any solid information. I just felt someone would roll the dice on Manaea and St. Louis hasn’t shied away from taking college pitching that slides to them later in the round.

It’s all going to depend on the medical reports. There was a little talk of shoulder stiffness coming from when Manaea was supposed to start in his conference tournament, but was scratched after three warmup pitches. I don’t know if the medical report will have information on the shoulder — it’s extremely possible that whatever shoulder discomfort he felt was because of trying to overcompensate for the hip.

See? A lot of questions to be answered. One thing I can tell you is that whoever takes Manaea should not expect a discount. I’m guessing that the Manaea camp will feel it’s a temporary issue and teams should plan accordingly. Manaea was a guy who was a top of the Draft arm before the hip got in the way, that feeling goes.

Teams will take a look at the medical report, once they get it (if they haven’t done so already). If they see that it’s a non-permanent hip thing, and there are no issues with the elbow or shoulder, then they might be willing to roll the dice and take the big lefty. When healthy, stuff-wise, he belonged in conversations at the top of the Draft.

Buyer beware? Or at least buyer, be aware. Just because Sean Manaea drops does not mean he’s going to sign for that pick value (Pick No. 19, by the way, is $2,055,800).

I’m hoping to get a better sense of what might happen with the lefty as teams get a look at that all-important medical report.

High school hitters in context

As you all know, we’re running full-tilt on 2013 Draft content — just check out our 2013 section to see what I mean — currently going through our postional breakdown stories. Today’s breakdown is on high school pitchers, with a spotlight feature on Hunter Harvey (yep, that’s Bryan’s kid).

But I wanted to hop on here quickly because someone asked me a good question on Twitter (I know, shocking, right?). It comes from “The Minor League Guy” (@TMLGSports). The question basically was: Where would you put Clint Frazier on a list of high school prospects from the last five years?

I couldn’t answer that one in 140 characters so, with his permission, I wanted to tackle it here. Took me a few days longer than I had hoped, but here goes.

For the sake of this exercise, I’m sticking to high school hitters. I’d rather not try to contextualize Frazier with, say, Dylan Bundy. The biggest issue I’m finding is one of hindsight. A guy who’s been playing in the Minors and has had success — it’s had to go back to thoughts of him as an amateur, but I did my best. First, lets look at the high school hitters taken in the first round since 2009 (2009-2013 being the five-year period).

2009 (9 total)

Donavan Tate (No. 3, Padres)
Bobby Borchering (No. 16, D-backs)
Jio Mier (No. 21, Astros)
Randal Grichuk (No. 24, Angels)
Mike Trout (No. 25, Angels)
Nick Franklin (No. 27, Mariners)
Reymond Fuentes (No. 28, Red Sox)
Slade Heathcott (No. 29, Yankees)
LeVon Washington (No. 30, Rays)

2010 (9)

Manny Machado (No. 3 pick, Orioles)
Delno DeShields (No. 8, Astros)
Jake Skoke (No. 15, Rangers)
Josh Sale (No. 17, Rays)
Kaleb Cowart (No. 18, Angels)
Kellin Deglan (No. 22, Rangers)
Christian Yelich (No. 23, Marlins)
Chevy Clarke (No. 30, Angels)
Justin O’Connor (No. 31, Rays)

2011 (6)

Bubba Starling (No. 5, Royals)
Francisco Lindor (No. 8, Indians)
Javier Baez (No. 9, Cubs)
Brandon Nimm0 (No. 13, Mets)
Blake Swihart (No. 26, Red Sox)
Jake Hager (No. 32, Rays)

2012 (12)

Carlos Correa (No. 1, Astros)
Byron Buxton (No. 2, Twins)
Albert Almora (No. 6, Cubs)
David Dahl (No. 10, Rockies)
Addison Russell (No. 11, A’s)
Gavin Cecchini (No. 12, Mets)
Courtney Hakwins (No. 13, White Sox)
D.J. Davis (No. 17, Blue Jays)
Corey Seager (No. 18, Dodgers)
Stryker Trahan (No. 26, D-backs)
Clint Coulter (No. 27, Brewers)
Lewis Brinson (No. 29, Rangers)

Before I try to make heads or tails of this, a couple of things stand out:

  1. The 2012 Draft was a good year to be a high school hitter (12 first rounders)
  2. Boy, the Angels and Rays like prep bats.

OK, so, now to the question. How do they rank, and how does Clint Frazier, the highest ranked high school hitter in the 2013 Draft class, figure into the mix? Here’s my best crack at ranking the top 10, openly admitting that that ol’ hindsight is playing a part:

1. Mike Trout

2. Manny Machado

3.  Byron Buxton

4. Christian Yelich

5. Francisco Lindor

6. Carlos Correa

7. Javier Baez

8. Clint Frazier

9. Addison Russell

10. Bubba Starling

 

This leaves off some very, very good names — Franklin, Almora, Dahl — come to mind, with some others right behind them. Highly unscientific, completely subjective and, admittedly, done without consulting scouts on the matter. But perhaps fun for debate. I think you could make an argument that Frazier doesn’t belong in the top 10, perhaps a testament to the overall strength (or lack thereof) of this Draft class. I also think, with his bat speed and power and overall tools, you could argue he belongs up a touch or two higher.

What does everyone think?

 

 

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