Around the Net
While still preparing my top five (all detailed reports) for Monday, I wanted to use the weekend to drop-in a few articles that I missed linking to over the past two weeks or so. But before that, here are the individual links to all the prospect lists thus far:
I hope you all have enjoyed the lists so far, and if a question of yours did not get answered, I?m trying to piece together a mailbag for next week.
Just nine days after teammate and third overall selection Phillip Humber signed a deal with the New York Mets, fourth pick Jeff Niemann agreed Thursday to a deal with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Worth $5.2 million over five years, the contract includes a $3.2 million signing bonus for the Rice University star. Undoubtedly the top sophomore in the country in 2003, Niemann struggled as a junior because of offseason elbow surgery and a groin problem that kept him from pitching for nearly a month last year.
According to the Herald Tribune, Niemann has ?hired a trainer and has been working out at Rice nearly every day.? Hopefully this will allow Jeff to pitch at full strength, when Baseball America says he has this arsenal:
?he has a fastball that reaches 97 mph, and he does an excellent job of staying tall in his delivery and using his height to drive the ball down through the strike zone. He also throws a nasty slider that scouts considered the best available in the 2004 draft class, and he added a spike curveball that he picked up from his former roommate and Rice teammate Wade Townsend?
Jeff will likely start next season in either high-A or AA, depending on how his Spring Training goes. A September start, or even earlier, should not be ruled out should Niemann return to his old self. This will take breaking a rotation that Lou Piniella named on Tuesday, containing Rob Bell, Mark Hendrickson, Dewon Brazelton, Scott Kazmir and Doug Waechter.
Still unsigned from the 2004 first-round are who most people slot as the top two players: Jered Weaver (Angels) and Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks). Weaver is asking for a Mark Prior-type deal, which A-B?s own Rich Lederer argued for less than two weeks ago. Drew, who has been rumored to be everything from signed to back in school, is looking for the type of contract Mark Teixeira received. Both are expected to sign, as Scott Boras? other obligations are dwindling.
Staying in the Tampa organization, here?s an unfortunate story coming from the St. Petersburg Times (scroll down):
Outfield prospect Elijah Dukes was arrested early Tuesday on a first-degree misdemeanor charge of battery (domestic violence). Dukes is to remain in jail until this morning, when he is expected to have bail set by a Hillsborough County judge. According to police, Dukes was having an argument with his sister then grabbed her by the throat and punched her in the left arm.
This is extremely bad news for Dukes, who has previously been arrested two other times within the last two years. The Devil Rays tried to recognize Dukes? off-the-field problems by allowing him to miss part of last season to attend anger management classes. The organization cited improvements in his behavior upon a dominant performance in the California League in the second half of last season.
I still do not believe that Dukes? anger problems should greatly effect his status as a top prospect, and as a reader pointed out, the issues only make him more comparable to Milton Bradley. Both switch-hitters with a bit of speed and power, Bradley also went through low-A and high-A as a 20-year-old, and not even as dominantly as Dukes did. Still, the two have similar discipline stats, power numbers (once adjusted for park), and like builds. I should note that in his 21-year-old season, Bradley hit .329 in AA over the course of 346 at-bats.
At this point, it?s hard to tell whether the future is bleak or bright.
And in what I promise will be the last Devil Ray story linked to, here?s a piece from the Ventura County Star on the evolution of Delmon Young, and the help that Dmitri has had on him. My favorite was when Delmon asked his older brother how to hit a good split-finger, Dmitri responded with, ?'That's easy, Del. You don't. You get him to throw you something above the belt.? It?s nice to see that selectivity is not just being preached to him within the organization, but at the dinner table as well.
Another top prospect recently profiled in the news was Mr. 101, Adam Miller. The nickname derives from the Carolina League playoffs last year, when two radar guns had the teenager in triple-digits. From the piece, found in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (hat tip, Rich Lederer):
"I definitely wasn't trying to throw that hard," Miller said. "It just happened."
A power pitcher since high school, Miller figured he would continue to throw in the low-90s during the 2004 season. However, as he dominated for the lower-Class A Lake County Captains, his radar readings climbed into the mid-90s. At the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, Miller had five pitches clocked at 98 to 100.
He understands that repeating delivery, leveraging downhill and achieving maximum extension through release translate to velocity - not raring back and firing.
As valuable as it is, velocity alone has not made Miller an elite prospect. To succeed in the majors, most starters employ at least a three-pitch mix. Miller complements the fastball with a slider that Tribe brass has declared close to major-league ready. His third pitch, the change-up, remains the wild card.
The circle change paved the way for dominance at Kinston?Miller further honed the change at the instructional league last fall. When Miller debuts for Class AA Akron in the spring, it could be a part of the repertoire.
Not a lot to pick on there, my friends. If you live anywhere near Akron, do yourself a favor this year, and go see an Aeros game. Just make sure to pick the right day, because on every fifth, a future ace will be pitching.
A little more than a week ago, Major League Baseball signed a ten-year extension with the NAPBL, the organization that runs the minor leagues. My favorite is this little biscuit at the bottom:
Additional highlights of the agreement include access to all Minor League content for a baseball-only television channel, owned and operated by Major League Baseball, and joint marketing initiatives between MLB and the Minor Leagues.
I can?t think of anything I would want more than if MLB TV featured a minor league game of the week, carefully pitching the game that will match together the best group of prospects. Who knows, maybe one day a scouting report will only be a video away.