Dusty Baker Manages, Fails; Observes, Succeeds
It doesn't get much more painful for the keyboard-toting baseball enthusiast living in Mom's basement than the bottom half of the eighth inning of Monday night's Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game. Down 3-2, the Reds pieced together a walk and a single to start the home half of the inning against the Bucs' Damaso Marte with Joey Votto (.283/.343/.483 in 2008), Edwin Encarnacion (.246/.332/.462) and Jay Bruce (.286/.356/.437) coming up. In 2,985 Minor League plate appearances, Votto lays claim to one (as in, one), sacrifice bunt. He has zero in the Bigs. Here is what unfolded:
Baker supporters might be quick to point to Bruce's .623 MLB OPS against southpaws but he has pounded lefties his whole Minor League career. If one were to think long and hard enough, a basis for Javier Valentin appearing in a baseball game might come to mind, but I know one thing: Jay Bruce's track record in 44 Big League plate appearances against lefties is not one of them.
So now, get this. In the ninth, the Reds would win the game. You know how? Dave Ross doubled and Ken Griffey Jr. homered. Just like that, in two plate appearances and as Dusty Baker watched idly, Cincinnati had won.
Examining Omar Vizquel
When a 41-year-old shortstop goes 1-for-his-last-32, is it not fair to wonder if he has reached the end of the line? Is he just in a slump or is it something bigger than that?
The player in question is Omar Vizquel. To try and answer the above questions, I thought it would be instructive to take a closer look at the stats and survey a handful of prominent sportswriters and analysts.
Through yesterday's action, Vizquel is "hitting" .156 AVG/.234 OBP/.180 SLG. His OPS of .414 ranks second-to-last among players with 100 or more plate appearances. Only Tony Pena has produced a lower OPS in 2008 and over the past 365 days. His three XBH in 141 PA and line drive rate of 10% are pretty damning evidence that he is no longer squaring up the ball like he once did.
Honus Wagner is the only player who has ever played 100 games at shortstop as a 41-year-old since 1900. Luke Appling, who split time between SS and 3B as a 41-year-old in 1948, played 141 games at short as a 42-year-old. NOBODY has ever played 100 games at shortstop as a 43-year-old.
Based on the above, Vizquel, who turns 42 next April, is defying the odds by playing shortstop this year. With 37 games under his belt thus far in 2008, he still needs to play 63 more the rest of the way to become just the second shortstop to reach the triple-digit mark in a single season. *Can* he do it? Sure. *Should* he do it? That's another question.
As shown above, Vizquel is a liability at the plate. However, to his credit, he is still fielding well. Omar has only made one error and has a fielding percentage of .993. Moreover, according to The Hardball Times, the 11-time Gold Glover has made 69 plays on 78 balls hit in his zone. His Revised Zone Rating of .885 would rank first among all shortstops if he qualified. Vizquel has also made 14 plays on balls hit outside of his zone, equal to 4.62% per inning played (which would rank sixth among all qualified shortstops).
Is Vizquel's defensive prowess enough to overcome is offensive woes? Probably not. THT calculates that the 19-year veteran has been one Win Share below bench this year (normally called Win Shares Above Bench). In other words, he has been producing at a replacement level rate.
While Vizquel has had a fantastic career, he is no longer valuable in the here and now. And his team, the San Francisco Giants, are going nowhere fast. Sending Little O out there everyday is doing the club little or no good in the present or the future.
As far as retirement goes, there isn't anything Omar can really achieve by hanging around another season or two. With 2,617 lifetime hits, his chances of reaching 3,000 are slim and none – and slim just left town. Unless Vizquel is traded and makes it to the postseason, there is little that he can do to add to his resumé because it is highly unlikely that voters will reward him with a 12th Gold Glove given the injury that sidelined the defensive wizard in April and part of May.
Although Vizquel has played in two World Series, he has never been on a world championship team. In 11 postseason series covering 56 games, Vizquel has hit .250/.327/.316 over 264 trips to the plate. These rate stats are worse than his regular-season career marks of .273/.339/.355.
Is Vizquel a Hall of Famer? Six of his top ten similar batters have been inducted into Cooperstown. Of the seven shortstops, Vizquel is probably most comparable to Luis Aparicio, Ozzie Smith, Rabbit Maranville, and Dave Concepcion, all of whom were known more for their glovework than offensive value. While the first three are all Hall of Famers, Vizquel falls short of all four when viewed in terms of Win Shares (which considers offensive and defensive contributions).
Using career Win Shares, here is how Vizquel stacks up, position-wise, to his most similar batters:
WS Bill Dahlen 394 Ozzie Smith* 325 Pee Wee Reese* 314 Rabbit Maranville* 302 Luis Aparicio* 293 Bert Campaneris 280 Dave Concepcion 269 Omar Vizquel 260
* Hall of Famer
While Win Shares are not the definitive word, it is unexplainable as to why Bill Dahlen is not in the Hall of Fame. More to the point, it is hard to make an argument on behalf of Vizquel unless one wants to ignore WS or believes Concepcion and Bert Campaneris are worthy of such status. Moreover, there is another shortstop who is currently eligible for the Hall who hasn't even sniffed the 75% of the vote required to gain election. Yes, Alan Trammell, he of 318 Win Shares, is a much stronger candidate than Vizquel, as is Barry Larkin (346 WS), who becomes eligible in two years. The bottom line is that Vizquel needs to get in line behind Larkin and Trammell and arguably Concepcion, who falls off the ballot this year after never gaining more than 16.9% of the vote.
I surveyed four experts, including two Hall of Fame voters, for their opinions on Vizquel. Question No. 1: Should he retire? Question No. 2: Is he a Hall of Famer?
As for me, I believe the time has come for him to hang up his cleats. Whether he does so now or waits until the end of the year is immaterial to me. However, his presence on the Giants makes little or no sense unless one wants to view him more as a coach than a player.
With respect to the Hall of Fame, I would say, "No." He has had a very good career, but it would be a stretch to suggest that he deserves to be enshrined based on his career or peak value, much less the rankings among his peers.
Update: I had also asked Bill James and Joe Posnanski the same questions posed above. Here are their responses, both of which were returned after I had posted this article.
2. I'd have to take a long look, but my gut feeling would be no, I would not vote for him for the Hall. I've always been a big fan of Vizquel, and I've seen him play a lot, and I saw him make enough of those cool barehanded plays to think he was a superior defensive shortstop (though perhaps overrated -- Bill James, you no doubt know, rated him a B- defensive shortstop by Win Shares, and anyway I never put him in that Ozzie, Davey, Belanger class). Still, I think as you look over his career he was not as good a player as, say, Dave Concepcion, certainly not as good as Alan Trammell, there are probably a few other shortstops on this list as well. So unless there are things I'm missing -- which is certainly possible -- he'd be down the line as far as I'm concerned."
Open Chat: Best Players of Each Decade
Who were the best players in each of the decades of so-called modern baseball (1900-present)?
While I hesitate to compartmentalize players by decades, viewing players in this manner helps us identify the most dominant participants in the game. Sure, we could stretch out the time frames to 20 years or even by quarter centuries but certain players will overlap two periods and not fare quite as well under one of the formats. Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt are two players who dominated parts of two decades, yet may not be the best in either of their "clean" 10-year periods.
As food for thought, here are some of the top players in each of the past 11 decades (presented in alphabetical order):
1900-1909. Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson, Rube Waddell, Honus Wagner, and Cy Young.
1910-1919. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Joe Jackson, Walter Johnson, Pop Lloyd, and Tris Speaker.
1920-1929. Alexander, Oscar Charleston, Harry Heilmann, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Turkey Stearnes, and Dazzy Vance.
1930-1939. Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Josh Gibson, Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott, Satchel Paige, and Arky Vaughan.
1940-1949. Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, Buck Leonard, Stan Musial, and Ted Williams.
1950-1959. Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Musial, Robin Roberts, Warren Spahn, and Williams.
1960-1969. Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Mays, and Frank Robinson.
1970-1979. Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer, Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, Mike Schmidt, and Willie Stargell.
1980-1989. Wade Boggs, George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Dale Murphy, Tim Raines, Cal Ripken Jr., Schmidt, and Robin Yount.
1990-1999. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Greg Maddux, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, and Frank Thomas.
2000-2009. Bonds, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Johan Santana.
My choices would be as follows:
Of the above, I believe Wagner, Cobb, Ruth, Williams, and Bonds are no brainers. A case could be made for Gehrig in the 1930s, Aaron in the 1960s, and maybe Schmidt in the 1980s.
How do you see it?
An Ode to Baseball Cards
Twenty observations, anecdotes, half-truths, non-sequiturs, and sweet, sweet memories of a childhood spent with cardboard.
(Or, one item for every penny a pack cost 30 years ago.)
1. Your favorite set is most likely the one from your first year of collecting or following baseball. For me, it’s the simple, elegant 1978 Topps set, though I was later fond of the overproduced and now utterly worthless ’87 Topps set - you know, the ones with the fake wood paneling that were apparently designed with your dad’s old station wagon in mind. I have a good buddy who insists the blindingly gaudy ’76 Topps set was the best ever produced. Then again, it was his first year of collecting, and he happens to be color blind. Looking at those cards too long is probably what did it.
2. A rare card in your collection allows you to dare to dream of untold riches . . . at least temporarily. I could not have been the only 11-year-old in 1981 who discovered he owned the allegedly scarce ‘‘Craig’’ Nettles Fleer card, immediately got dollar signs in his eyes, and began plotting to buy a new 10-speed, cards by the case, a Cheryl Ladd poster, perhaps a red Lamborghini, and whatever else it is that 11-year-olds desire. (FYI: The Nettles wasn’t so rare after all; it now goes for $2 on eBay. I still haven’t got a Lamborghini, or for that matter, a decent bike.)
3. Other than perhaps a photographic archive at Cooperstown, cards serve as the premier visual history of the sport. And we’re not just talking about classics such as Mays in ’52, The Mick in ’56, or Koufax in ’66. Baseball cards also remind you, for instance, that Barry Bonds once had Kenny Lofton’s physique, a
4. In the ’70s, Topps’s graphic artists and air-brushers were hired only after they failed the Tippy the Turtle test for the Art Instruction Institute: Did Greg Minton really look this? Was Mike Paxton actually one-dimensional? And did Andy Etchebarren seriously have a monobrow covering his entire forehead?(Wait . . . he did? That’s not airbrushed? The poor man.)
9. The Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card was never my most cherished from the 1982 Topps Traded set. Why? Because on his lone big-league card, an obscure (47 career at-bats) Mariners outfielder named Steve Stroughter appears to be proudly showing off a lovely lime-green booger in his nostril. That’s why. And no, some of us never do outgrow adolescent humor.
10. Growing up on the mean streets of Bath, Maine, I never saw anyone riding their bicycles with baseball cards in the spokes. And if I did, I’d have shoved the ungrateful little punks off their banana-seated Huffys and rescued all the Garry Templetons, Oscar Zamoras, and Felix Millans as if they were my own cardboard children. Because that’s how I rolled, yo.
11. Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1989 Upper Deck rookie card is a legitimately iconic card, as Darren Rovell explained so well in a Slate.com article last month, but not necessarily for the right reasons. The advent of Upper Deck, with its attractive, high-end cards, signaled the official transition from a hobby to a business, driving away countless collectors such as, well, me. I hate to sound like one of those ‘‘Back in my day . . . ’’ grumpy geezers, but it simply became too much for the mind (and wallet) to keep up with all the complicated and expensive Topps Chrome, SPx, Fleer Flair, and SP Authentics sets the companies relentlessly cranked out. And for the life of me I will never understand why a splinter or a swatch from a game-used bat or jersey is so appealing. I guess I’m just old.
12. It’s always a kick to see current managers the way they were as players, 30 or so years and 30 or so pounds ago: You know, back when Terry Francona had a mane, Lou Piniella didn’t yet have rabies, and Joe Torre looked . . . pretty much the same, actually, albeit with fewer nose hairs.
Chad Finn is a sports copy editor at The Boston Globe and the founder and sole writer of Boston.com’s Touching All The Bases, a blog that takes a passionate but irreverent look at Boston sports. He lives in Wells, Maine, with his wife Jennifer, their children Leah and Alex, and a cat named after Otis Nixon.
Taking Stock of the Newspaper Industry
Baseball Analysts (and its predecessor site) is celebrating its five-year anniversary this week. While not in on the ground floor of blogging, we have been around long enough to witness the gradual and steady shift in readership from newspapers to the Internet.
The mainstream media, slow to adopt the online medium, has been trying to play catch-up the past couple of years. Is it too little, too late? Or can the industry survive by diversifying away from its reliance on print journalism to the growing and "here to stay" Internet?
Well, if the stock prices of four of the largest publicly traded newspaper companies are leading indicators, one would have to be skeptical as to what the future holds for many of these businesses once thought to be "monopolies" in their local markets.
The chart on the upper left is none other than the New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), which owns and operates the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, and 16 other daily newspapers. The Company also runs more than 50 Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com and About.com.
Directly to the right of NYT is Gannett Co. Inc. (NYSE: GCI), a leading international news and information company that publishes 85 daily newspapers, including USA TODAY, the nation’s largest-selling daily newspaper.
Below NYT and GCI are the Washington Post (NYSE: WPO), a diversified media company best known for its flagship Washington Post newspaper; and The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), the third-largest newspaper business in the U.S. McClatchy owns and operates 30 daily newspapers, including The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer, and The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
As you can see, NYT has gone from $45 to $16 over the past five years. GCI has fallen from a high of $90 to the low-$20s. WPO hit a peak of $1,000 and fell to a recent low of $550 before recovering to its current price of $590. MNI has fared the worse of them all, dropping from an all-time high of $75 just three years ago to the single digits.
With subscriber rates and advertising dwindling, newspaper profits are getting squeezed due to the decreasing revenues in a high fixed-cost business. It remains to be seen whether these companies can turn things around fast enough to remain viable longer term. In the meantime, look for more consolidation, layoffs, and plant closures to reduce capital expenditures and costs. Shareholders may face possible dividend cuts if cash flow weakens to the point where it no longer can support the current payouts. I wouldn't rule out bankruptcies or unwanted takeovers from opportunistic suitors, who most likely would finance the majority of such acquisitions with debt. Servicing high-cost bank debt and junk bonds would make it that much more difficult for the old media to survive without major changes to their business models.
If the truth be told, the newspaper behemoths were in the best position to lead, rather than lag, the growth in the online media space. Forward-thinking managements, while perhaps not entrepreneurial enough, could have beaten the Googles, Yahoos, eBays, and Monsters to the punch, ensuring not only their survival but prosperity for years and perhaps decades to come. Instead, newspapers are downsizing while changing their business models to focus on local events and become more like magazines by devoting space to features rather than old news.
Meanwhile, the news for the industry is chilling. Advertising revenues have dropped 12% year-over-year, the third-consecutive annual decline, as readers move online and companies follow them to what is a more measurable and targeted medium for such advertisers. Although the bulk of the downturn is secular, some of the recent problems can be attributed to cyclical issues, including a softening economy that has negatively affected subscription rates, national and local advertising, plus classified ads – heretofore the "bread and butter" of the newspaper business.
Prior to the advent of the Internet, the newspaper business was viewed positively by investors. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has held a large stake in WPO for decades and has owned off and on stakes in several media conglomerates, including a number that have owned and operated newspapers. For the longest time, the vast majority of these businesses had little or no direct competition operating in markets large enough to support only one daily paper, while the larger papers had brand names and loyal readerships that served to reduce the potential threat of newcomers.
But times change and the New York Times and Los Angeles Times (and others) need to change with them. While most of us who have relied on the Internet as our only platform have sought to get the respect previously bestowed on print journalists, the latter have turned to blogging in an ironic twist of fates that, I guess, could be found in the department of "If you can't beat them, join them."
As it relates to the baseball world, I only hope that the Baseball Writers Association of America is paying attention. Otherwise, it may go down the same path as the newspaper business.
It is easy to knock the San Francisco Giants organization for being unable to produce a productive, everyday position player in... well, let's just say years. But a quick glance at the minor league system shows that there are some very impressive numbers being put up by some intriguing pitching prospects. And the scouting reports even back up some of those numbers, while also raising some question marks for others.
Prospects or Suspects?
Madison Bumgarner, Left-hander
Only 18 years of age, Madison Bumgarner is arguably the Giants most promising pitching prospect. The 6-4 left-hander currently sports a 1.77 ERA in 71.1 innings and has allowed just 58 hits. Even more impressive is the walk total: 11, with 84 strikeouts. To find a flaw in this 2007 first round pick (10th overall) would be nitpicking, but it would likely be his almost 1.00 ground out to fly out ratio. Oh, and for those of you who might be thinking the Sally League hitters might catch up to Bumgarner, hitters have scored just four earned runs in his last 10 starts (including three of those in a two-game stretch). It might be time for him to visit San Jose.
On the surface, Tim Alderson's numbers are not as impressive as Bumgarner's, but you have to keep in mind that the prospect is pitching in High-A ball, having skipped over Low A-ball entirely. Alderson was available to the Giants with the 22nd overall pick of the 2007 draft because there were enough teams worried about his mechanics to make him slide. But hey, people were somewhat critical of a guy named Tim Lincecum too. In 79.1 innings this year, Alderson has allowed just 75 hits, along with 25 walks. He has struck out 65 batters. Left-handers are hitting .293 against him, compared to righties at .203. Regardless, the Giants are ridiculously wealthy with young pitching.
You cannot argue with Adam Cowart's success, which includes a career 2.28 ERA in 324.1 innings. He also has allowed just 285 hits. Unfortunately, Cowart has struck out only 184 batters, which underlines concerns about his fringe stuff. The sidearmer has a mid-80s fastball but plus command and control. He could very well have a career in the majors, but it will likely come as a middle reliever. His ERA is reasonable, but Cowart has allowed 100 hits in 81.2 innings (a .306 batting average against).
Joseph Martinez is another right-handed pitcher in the system who has outstanding numbers but average stuff. His high-80s fastball and OK secondary pitches have been good enough to strike out batters at a rate of 7.52 in his career. The 2005 12th round pick is passing the Double-A test with flying colors and could be a No.4 or 5 starter at the Major League level. He currently has an ERA below 2.00 and has allowed just 68 hits in 78 innings and has struck out 51 batters.
The 2006 fourth round pick is your classic lefty... Ben Snyder has a mid- to high-80s fastball with a good change-up and an OK breaking ball. He has done nothing but succeed in pro ball, unlike his brother (and former first round pick Brian Snyder). Snyder won 16 games last year in Low A-ball but should have been promoted mid-season because he was obviously better than the competition. He currently has a 2.00 ERA in 85.2 innings and has allowed just 79 hits. He has allowed 18 walks and 73 strikeouts. Snyder is probably due for another promotion.
Henry Sosa dials his fastball up to the mid- to high-90s and has a power curve ball that has improved over time. He made a name for himself last season when he began the year in Low A-ball and posted an ERA of 0.73 in 13 games and 10 starts. He allowed only 30 hits in more than 60 innings. Sosa moved up to High-A ball for the second half of 2007 and was OK. He had off-season knee surgery and returned to High-A San Jose in 2008. Sosa appeared for the first time on May 25 and has made just six starts. So far, Sosa has a 1.55 ERA and has allowed just 22 hits in 29 innings. He has 32 strikeouts and has walked just seven batters.
Juan Dominican in the Hall
How many players from the Dominican Republic do you think have been enshrined into the Hall of Fame? Five? Ten? Fifteen? What would you say if I told you one? That's right, only one player born in the Dominican Republic has ever been voted into the HoF. And the amazing thing is that this player was inducted in 1983. Yes, 25 years ago.
HIGH-KICKING RIGHT-HANDER FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WON 243 GAMES AND LOST ONLY 142 OVER 16 SEASONS. WON 20 GAMES SIX TIMES AND NO-HIT HOUSTON IN 1963. LED N.L. IN COMPLETE GAMES AND SHUTOUTS TWICE AND IN ERA WITH 2.10 IN 1969. COMPLETED 244 GAMES DURING CAREER, STRIKING OUT 2,303 AND FINISHING WITH 2.89 ERA.
I took the photo on the left when I visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum last month. Without thinking it through, I was astonished to learn that only one native of the Dominican was in the Hall. I mean, if you're like me, it is hard to believe that no Dominican has been elected to the Hall in the past quarter of a century. However, it's not as if players from that country have been slighted. Instead, it just seems as if there would have been more representation given the growing influence and success that Latin players have had over the past few decades.
Of note, there are only two players – Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda – from Puerto Rico in the Hall of Fame. If I'm not mistaken, Luis Aparicio (Venezuela) and Tony Perez (Cuba) are the only other Latin players elected to Cooperstown. All told, that makes five.
I guess these things take time. If you think about it, a candidate has to play at least ten years (and most HoF worthy players usually last over 15 years), then sit out five more, meaning it takes a minimum of 15 years and, more likely, 20. And that's, of course, only if a player is elected in his first year of eligibility.
But what's so strange to me is that Marichal played in the 1960s and 1970s. Sammy Sosa is probably the only hope from the 1980s and he made his Major League debut in 1989. Pedro Martinez (1992) and Manny Ramirez (1993) should be elected five years after they retire. Vladimir Guerrero (1996) and Albert Pujols (2001) should join Marichal, Pedro, and Manny five years after they hang up their jerseys. David Ortiz has an outside shot at the Hall but only if he can string together at least five more seasons comparable to his 2003-2007 production. Possible but unlikely.
According to Wikipedia, there were 750 players on opening day rosters at the start of the 2008 season, comprised of the following nationalities:
Of the latter, 147 (19.6%) are Latin American (76 from Dominican Republic; 44 from Venezuela; 9 from Mexico; 6 from Panama; 3 from Cuba; 4 from Colombia; 2 from the Netherlands Antilles; 3 from Nicaragua) and 19 (2.5%) are Asian (14 from Japan; 3 from South Korea; 2 from Taiwan).
Here's a partial list of players who are eligible for consideration for the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers over the next five years:
I don't know about you, but Rickey Henderson is the only player from the 2009 class worthy of inclusion. I would be in favor of Roberto Alomar and Barry Larkin in 2010 (although I think one or both may find the going difficult) and would be flabbergasted but not necessarily upset if Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff made it. Jeff Bagwell, Kevin Brown, Rafael Palmeiro, and Larry Walker will all get various levels of consideration in 2011. Bags and Raffy should be slam dunks based on the numbers, but I would be surprised if the latter even sniffs the Hall. Bernie Williams is a borderline candidate and will be a tough sell for most voters when his name comes up in 2012. If not for the controversy surrounding steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, the 2013 class, headlined by Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Piazza, could go down as one of the best groups of enshrinees ever.
The latter year should make for all kinds of interesting stories. Bonds and Clemens. Clemens and Piazza. The greatest home run hitter of all time. The greatest pitcher of the post-war era and perhaps ever. The best-hitting catcher in the history of the majors. And, yes, there will be dozens of other storylines when it comes to this class. I can hardly wait. Not.
But, as it relates to Latin players, only Alomar stands a realistic chance of making the Hall over the next five years. There will be several more over the ensuing years (including the Domincans mentioned above, as well as Mariano Rivera) but perhaps not as many as I would have thought before going through this exercise.
Happy 80th Birthday, Dad
My Dad, George Lederer, turns 80 years old today. Had he lived, Dad would have joined the octogenarian club. However, he barely made it to 50. He died nearly 30 years ago of malignant melanoma.
It was truly an unfortunate set of circumstances that caused his death. He was never correctly diagnosed because he had two forms of cancer whose symptoms disguised each other. Surgeons removed a benign brain tumor in the spring but called the lesion on the back of his head a wen, an unimportant blemish. Instead, it killed him just a few months later. He died on August 14, 1978 at the age of 50.
Dad was a remarkable man. He was born Gert Dagelbert on June 19, 1928, in Offenburg, Germany, the son of Irene and Julius Lederer. My grandfather, known later to us as Opa, owned an electrical supplies business and my grandmother, Omi, worked in the store. The family prospered. Until Hitler. They were forced to take new middle names – Israel for men and Sarah for women – so they could be identified as Jews. Dad's childhood memories consisted of anti-Semitic behavior by his schoolmates and random Gestapo visits at home. The open harrassment hit a new peak in November 1938 when all Jewish males over 18 in Offenburg – Opa included – were rounded up and taken to a concentration camp. My grandfather was eventually released but only after he agreed to sell his business.
Determined to leave Nazi Germany, Julius found a sponsor, a distant cousin of Irene's and a resident of Long Beach, California. Three months after submitting an affadavit, the family's number was called and my grandparents and father landed in New York in May 1939. Each person was allowed to take $55 out of the country so they arrived with $165, some jewelry Irene managed to smuggle out, and the clothes on their backs. Julius and Irene arranged for temporary lodging in New York while they cleaned houses of wealthy Jews to earn bus fare to California.
The family re-located to Long Beach later that summer, just in time for Dad – now known as George David – to go to Horace Mann Elementary School. Unable to speak or write a word of English, Dad was placed into a second grade classroom but caught up with his fellow 11-year-olds in fifth grade before the school term was up. The next year, he decided to become a sportswriter. My father never changed his mind. He was the sports editor of the Wilson High School and Long Beach City College newspapers.
Dad met Patricia Donovan, "a strikingly feminine brunette" as she was later described in a newspaper article and an "A" student, at LBCC in 1948. Engaged in February 1949, they got married that August on my mother's 21st birthday. Dad's parents were none too happy that their son had decided to marry a Catholic girl in St. Cyprian's church. They arranged to be out of town on "vacation" to avoid the whole affair but, under the "if you can't beat them, join them" theory, arrived at the reception at the house that Mom's mother had rented in North Long Beach.
Days before the wedding, Dad was offered a full-time job at The Independent, one of Long Beach's two newspapers. With no car and Dad working nights and Mom days at the Yellow Pages and later for the Board of Education, they made ends meet on about $437 a month. In 1951, they bought a TV and had their first child (Tom). Six months later, my maternal grandmother, who lived in Iowa, died of a stroke at the age of 48 with her two youngest daughters in tow on a trip to California. Being the man that he was, Dad agreed to take in Mom's youngest sisters (ages 10 and 12) and raised them until my maternal grandfather was able to move west. In the meantime, my parents had two more babies (Janet in 1954 and me in 1955). They added a fourth (Gary) in 1962.
Life in the Lederer household took a major turn when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Only 29 at the time, Dad was assigned to cover the team even though he had never seen an official major league game. The adjoining photo, taken in February 1958, is one of my favorites. The caption in the local newspaper read: "George Lederer, Independent, Press-Telegram staff reporter, left home office Thursday morning bound for L.A. International Airport and plane that carried him and contingent of Dodgers to the club's spring training home in Vero Beach, Fla. Lederer will give I-PT readers complete coverage of the Dodgers." This article was published a couple of days earlier, inviting readers to "Follow George Lederer" and his exclusive stories in the newspaper.
With Dad on the road half the time, the rest of us followed the Dodgers mostly on the radio. Unable to afford the cost of long-distance phone calls, Dad stayed in touch with us through daily letters that Mom read at dinner time. It was typical for a letter to be postmarked in, say, Cincinnati even though the Dodgers might have proceeded to St. Louis by the time it had arrived via first-class mail. Tom and I attended almost every Sunday game at home and a few night games here and there when we didn't have conflicting ball games of our own. Tom was even fortunate to take a road trip with Dad and the Dodgers.
Dad became President of the Southern California chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America in October 1961 and was named to the BBWAA board of directors in October 1968. As the head of the local chapter of the BBWAA, Dad presented "Miss Dodger" with the winner's trophy after Jimmy Durante crowned her. This photo was on the cover of The Biltmore Hotel magazine during the week of May 19, 1962.
A month earlier, Dad caught the first foul ball in the Dodger Stadium pressbox. The back of the photo is date stamped APR 12 1962. The caption below the Associated Press wirephoto reads, "A 'first' in new Dodger Stadium went to Press-Telegram baseball writer George Lederer, who caught first foul ball hit into press box. He caught it on the fly--barehanded--Wednesday night." Another huge thrill was when Dad traded places with Walt Alston and managed an intra-squad game during spring training.
Under the ownership of Walter O'Malley, the Dodgers were like one big family. The franchise owned an airplane (known as the Kay O' after Mr. O'Malley's wife) and traveled before and after the season to places like Havana, Nassau (1960 and 1963), Jamaica (1961), Puerto Rico (1962), and Japan (1966) with wives included on some of the junkets. St. Patrick's Day always fell during spring training and Mr. O'Malley hosted a big party featuring green beer and poker. Front office executives, manager Walter Alston, coaches, broadcasters, and writers alike wined and dined together, be it in the barracks in Vero Beach or on the road. This photo was taken at the first annual writers' party for the Dodgers at the Golden Ox in Chicago in September 1958. Seated (L to R): Bob Hunter, Walt Alston, Charlie Dressen, Charlie Park, pianist. Standing (L to R): Joe Becker, Frank Finch, George Lederer, Rube Walker, Greg Mulleavy, John B. Old, Alan Roth, Bill Buhler, "Senator" Griffin, Harold (Doc) Wendler. This photo was shot at a dinner event with (L-R) Walt Alston, traveling secretary Lee Scott, Red Patterson, Dad, and Bob Hunter.
As a beat writer for the Dodgers, Dad was one of the four official scorekeepers and served as the team's statistician in the post-Alan Roth days. He was the official scorekeeper when Sandy Koufax threw his perfect game in 1965. Here is his scoresheet. In addition, Dad maintained a "Dodger of the Day" and awarded a trophy to the player with the most Dodger of the Days at the end of the season. At right, he is presenting Sandy Koufax, who was honored in 1963, 1965, and 1966, with the Player of the Year trophy in the dugout before the final home game of the season.
After covering the Dodgers for 11 years, Dad accepted a front office job with the California Angels. Newly appointed general manager Dick Walsh, in one of his first moves, hired him as the club's Director of Public Relations and Promotions in February 1969. He had grown weary of the travel and was ready for a new challenge.
Dad was known as an iron man, someone who never missed a game. In December 1963, Jack Mann of the New York Herald-Tribune made the following comments in prefacing a quote from Dad on Walter Alston: "George Lederer, the best baseball reporter on the West Coast, has covered every inning of the Dodgers for six years."
Hank Hollingworth, Executive Sports Editor of the Independent, Press-Telegram, wrote a column, "George Lederer: He Never Missed."
Nobody has seen more Dodger games since the club transferred to California than George Lederer. He has missed only two contests since 1958 when the club switched to these sunny climes from Brooklyn – and for good reason.
Doug Miles, columnist for the Anaheim Bulletin, wrote the following tribute to Dad when he left the Dodger beat for the Angels front office.
Tonight marks the end of a career for the man whom I consider the finest baseball writer in Southern California, and perhaps it's only one man's personal opinion, but George Lederer, to me, has had no peer in the competitive game of making baseball interesting to the reader.
John Hall wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times about Dad in July 1970 entitled, "Veeck Jr. at Big A":
If any one person is more responsible than any other for the upswing at the gate, though, it is not a ballplayer. It is George Lederer, just a working stiff. He has no pension plan and no Player Assn. to cut his work day to less than five hours. George goes about 18 of every 24.
A year later, Hall devoted another column to Dad.
But above all, it is Lederer who stands out as the most important single force in the Angel pursuit of health and happiness on the attendance meter. He doesn't swing a bat or pitch a ball. Lederer is the Angel public relations and promotion director, a soft-spoken former sportswriter whose quiet manner hardly gives a hint of the electricity constantly bouncing around between his ears.
In the January 8, 1972 issue of The Sporting News, correspondent Dick Miller wrote an article with the following title: "Angels Show Hefty Profit on Lederer's Sharp Promotions."
Lederer may have been California's most valuable player in 1971. As public relations and promotions director, his special nights were directly responsible for putting an additional 206,000 fans into Anaheim Stadium.
Do you think the economics of the game have changed a little bit over the past few decades?
My father's life in baseball was a dream come true. Given his background, one might say an impossible dream come true. But he lived every moment of those years. I like to affectionately call them the Koufax and Ryan years. His timing was perfect. He caught all of Sandy's years in Los Angeles and all but one of Nolan's campaigns in Anaheim. In between, Dad served as a Master of Ceremonies of an event in which he introduced Jackie Robinson and interviewed Roy Campanella. He also received numerous thank you and congratulatory letters from baseball dignitaries and politicians, including Walter O'Malley, Peter O'Malley, and Buzzie Bavasi, as well as President Richard Nixon and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. If it wasn't the Golden Age of Baseball, it was the golden age of his life. He was simply loved by everyone who knew him.
As chronicled last month, my son Joe and I visited Cooperstown. Thanks to Tim Wiles, the Director of Research of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, we were treated to a "behind-the-scenes" tour of the library. We found my Dad's folder directly behind Ricky Ledee's inside one of the filing cabinets in the library of the Hall of Fame. We looked inside, read the clippings, and made copies for my personal use. Man, that was really a special moment for both of us.
The family photo at left is the last one with our Dad. We're all 30 years older now. Can that be? Wow. The clothing, hair, and weight have changed a bit, but that's still my brothers Tom and Gary and my sister Janet standing in the back row, and me with my arm around Mom while she holds hands with the true love of her life (and vice versa). Times change but family and memories last forever. This is a forever moment. It's almost as if it were taken yesterday, a moment frozen in time for all of us to cherish whenever we get the urge.
Happy Birthday, Dad. We miss you. I mean, really miss you. It's been a long time. Too long. But we're all doing well. Mom's still going strong. Tom, Janet, Gary, and I are all happily married with good jobs. Your seven grandchildren are growing up. My little Macy even got married last year. And to a great guy. Great grandchildren (in more ways than one) can't be too far off. As I see it, you're alive and well, Dad. Your legacy lives on through all of us. We're all doing our best to make you proud. It's the least we could do. I mean, we couldn't be prouder of you.
Thanks, Dad. Happy Birthday. You're the best.
A Quick Look at the Rookie Hitters
Yesterday I took a look at the top rookie pitchers in the American and National Leagues so far this season. Today is a perfect opportunity to view some of the young hitters who are terrorizing the pitchers in Major League Baseball. The National League certainly seems to have a slightly more impressive crop of offensive rookies this season, led by the Cubbies' backstop.
Geovany Soto, C, Chicago Cubs
At the age of 25, it has taken Geovany Soto a little bit longer to establish himself in the majors, having been drafted out of Puerto Rico in 2001 (in the 11th round). As soon as he began to take the game - and his conditioning seriously - good things began to happen. Soto plays a premium position for a first-place club and he is an offensive force with 11 homers in 226 at-bats. He also has a nice line-drive rate at 22.5 percent. One downside to his game is that he has struck out at a rate of 26.5 percent.
Joey Votto is looking to join the Dodgers' Russell Martin as one of the most impressive, young Canadian players in the National League. He has played well enough this season to put veteran Scott Hatteberg out of a job in Cincinnati and he has shown good power with 11 homers and 14 doubles. Unfortunately, the converted catcher has struggled at first base and has committed eight errors in 63 games. Votto should be looking over his shoulder as teammate Jay Bruce could very well pass him in the Rookie of the Year race in the second half of the season.
Gregor Blanco has never gotten much love as a prospect but he has put up some solid numbers in the minors, as long as you remember he is not the type of player who is going to be a superstar. Blanco is an excellent example of a solid, supporting cast member. He gets on base, can run and has good range in the outfield. What he doesn't do well is hit for power and he has also struck out a little too much this season (23.6 percent).
By all rights, Blake DeWitt should probably be playing in Double-A right now. But you have to give the kid credit for seizing the opportunity after both of the Dodgers' third base options, Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche, went down with injuries at the beginning of the season. What appeared to be a huge weakness, turned into a massive organizational strength, and LaRoche has even been tried out at a different position in the minors. DeWitt has not hit for the power one would like from the hot corner and he has not walked much (nine percent). On the plus side, he has had a solid average and he has not struck out too much (17.4 percent).
Kosuke Fukudome offers Soto some rookie companionship on the Cubs and the duo goes a long way to explaining the team's 2008 resurgence. Like your typical Japanese player, Fukudome really is not a true (or deserving) rookie, having played eight seasons in the Japanese Central League. A power hitter in Japan, Fukudome has played more like Ichiro Suzuki this season with limited power (five homers) and a high average (.296). Fukudome is perhaps a bit overrated as he does not steal many bases or hit homers, so his value is tied to his ability to get on-base (which he has done very well so far this season).
David Murphy, OF, Texas Rangers
A former first round draft pick of the Red Sox, David Murphy had a less-than-spectacular minor league career. He also came within three at-bats of expiring his rookie eligibility last season after hitting .343/.384/.552 in 46 games. Murphy has carried that momentum over to 2008 and has 10 homers and 48 RBI to go along with another solid average. On the negative side, his rates are not that impressive: 5.8 walk percentage and 18.8 strikeout percentage.
Evan Longoria, like Murphy, is a former first round draft pick but he made noise all the way through the minors and has found the majors to be a little more of a challenge. Everyone expects him to pick up his game in the second half of the year and improve upon his .249 batting average. His BABIP is only .298 so Longoria can expect that to improve and help things along.
Jacoby Ellsbury really made a name for himself in the 2007 playoffs and he has had a solid, albeit unspectacular, 2008 season. The most impressive part of Ellsbury's game this season has been his work on the base paths, as he has stolen 33 bases in 36 attempts which leads Major League Baseball. Ellsbury does not walk a ton (11.2 percent), but he also does not strike out much (13.5 percent).
Daric Barton, a former St. Louis Cardinals' catching prospect, raised the bar last season by hitting .347 in 18 games. He has struggled so far this season but his advanced approach should help him turn things around sooner rather than later. Barton will not hit for a ton of power, but he will improve upon the .338 slugging percentage. The 14.1 walk rate is pretty good, but he needs to tone down the strikeouts with his rate currently at 26.9 percent.
It is obvious (and had been for at least a year) that Ryan Sweeney needed a change in scenery. He received that change with a winter trade from the White Sox to the Athletics. Sweeney, 23, has not hit for a ton of power but he has played good defence and has gotten on base with an on-base percentage at .367. He has also shown good versatility by playing all three outfield positions. He likely will never hit for the power the White Sox expected after taking him in the second round out of high school.
A Quick Look at the Rookie Pitchers
Now that we are at the midway point in June, it is the perfect time to take a look at how the Rookie of the Year races are shaping up in both the American League and the National League. Today we'll take a gander at the pitchers and I'll come back on Wednesday with a look at the hitters.
2008: 84.0 IP | 86 H | 34 BB-62 SO | 118 ERA+
Jair Jurrjens has been solid for Atlanta this season, which has helped to ease the loss of veteran Tom Glavine to injury. Jurrjens has the most impressive won-loss record of the rookie hurlers in the National League at 7-3 (a fact that unfortunately is important to voters at the end of the season). His rates are OK at 6.48 K/9 and 3.77 BB/9 but they do not suggest superstar-in-the-making; instead they appear to be more in line with a No. 3 starter. Major League hitters are batting .266 against Jurrjens, who has similar numbers against both left-handed and right-handed batters.
2008: 76.0 IP | 78 H | 26 BB-46 SO | 123 ERA+
John Lannan has been effective in his brief career so far, which is a little surprising considering he was an 11th round draft pick in 2005 out of a small college. He also doesn't exactly have overwhelming stuff. Regardless, through 76 innings this season, Lannan's ERA stands at 3.43. His rates are OK, but not great at 5.45 K/9 and 3.08 BB/9. Batters are hitting .267 against him. The numbers suggest Lannan could be a pretty solid No. 4 starter but he is probably not going to be a future All-Star or even the Rookie of the Year... although stranger things have happened.
2008: 82.1 IP | 84 H | 27 BB-50 SO | 107 ERA+
It's hardly fair to compare a pitcher with 91 career wins and more than 1,500 innings pitched in Japan's top baseball league to 22- and 23-year-old true-blue rookies, but that's Major League Baseball for you. Despite his success and the press surrounding him, Hiroki Kuroda actually has similar rates to Lannan: 5.47 K/9, 2.95 BB/9 and he has allowed a .266 batting average against in 82.1 innings. Kuroda, 32, also has only three wins in his 14 starts. He has been good, but hardly dominating.
2008: 79.2 IP | 82 H | 31 BB-72 SO | 81 ERA+
Johnny Cueto caught the attention of the baseball world with a sizzling month of April but he has cooled considerably. Regardless, his future remains bright. Cueto needs to cut down on the hits allowed (82 in 79.2 innings) and walks (3.50 BB/9). He also needs to keep the ball in the park (18 homers) but he is pitching in a homer-happy stadium. His strikeout rate of 8.13 K/9 will earn him some votes in the Rookie of the Year balloting, but his ERA will hurt him (5.42).
2008: 31.0 IP | 25 H | 14 BB-33 SO | 154 ERA+
If Max Scherzer returns to the majors soon enough, he could still be in the running for Rookie of the Year in the National League at the end of the season. He was recently demoted to the minors to stretch out his arm for a role reversal from reliever and spot starter to full-time starter. Many scouts believe Scherzer is better-suited to relieving long-term, but he will have an opportunity to prove them wrong. He has had a nice start to his career with a 2.90 ERA in 31 innings, as well as a rate of 9.58 K/9 and only two homers allowed. Batters are hitting only .222 against him. He is walking more than four batters per nine innings, which obviously needs to improve.
2008: 79.2 IP | 68 H | 33 BB-62 SO | 107 ERA+
Greg Smith, an afterthought in the Danny Haren winter trade, was supposed to be an organizational soldier and at best a swing man in the bullpen in 2008. Instead, he has been a savior and one of the Athletics' most valuable players. He is third in innings pitched amongst Major League rookies, second in ERA and second in hits allowed per nine innings (minimum 50 innings). In 79.2 innings pitched, Smith has allowed 68 hits and has held batters to a .232 average. Like most rookies, he is allowing too many walks with a rate of 3.73 BB/9.
2008: 86.0 IP | 106 H | 15 BB-46 SO | 103 ERA+
Nick Blackburn, like Smith, has been an unexpected savior for his pitching staff, compensating for the ineffectiveness of Francisco Liriano. Blackburn is tops amongst rookie hurlers with 86 innings pitched but he has also allowed 106 hits. His control though (only 15 walks) helps to make up for that, and keeps his WHIP from getting out of hand. Like many of the rookie pitchers, Blackburn is not blowing anyone away and he has struck out fewer than five batters per nine innings.
2008: 42.1 IP | 49 H | 20 BB-43 SO | 79 ERA+
Despite making a name for himself last season with his heroics, including a no-hitter, Clay Buchholz has had an up-and-down year, complete with injuries and demotions. Regardless, the 22-year-old has some of the most impressive "stuff" amongst the rookies and a strong second half could help him significantly in the Rookie of the Year voting. Buchholz has the greatest chance of having an All-Star career out of all the American League hurlers but it remains to be seen how big of an impact he will have in his rookie season. He currently has a 5.53 ERA in 42.1 innings with more than one hit allowed per inning pitched.
2008: 65.1 IP | 40 H | 27 BB-44 SO | 127 ERA+
Claimed off the scrap heap from Texas (gee, could they use a pitcher or five?), Armando Galarraga has been a solid performer since being promoted from the minors. He has a 3.31 ERA and a 6-2 record on the season. He has pitched 65.1 innings so far and allowed just 40 hits. He has also posted rates of 6.06 K/9 and 3.72 BB/9. Do Ranger fans dare to dream about what a rotation would look like with Galarraga and Edinson Volquez in it?
2008: 57.1 IP | 53 H | 13 BB-28 SO | 150 ERA+
Aaron Laffey has been laughing at American League batters so far this season with a 4-3 record and 2.83 ERA. In 57.1 innings, he has allowed 53 hits and only 2.04 BB/9. Unfortunately, he has also struck out only 4.40 batters per nine innings. Cleveland fans can only hope he does not implode like Jeremy Sowers.
State of Major League Baseball
Maury Brown, the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network (including the Biz of Baseball), asked a number of baseball executives, writers, and analysts to comment on the state of Major League Baseball in 2008.
I was honored to serve as a participant, along with Peter Abraham (The Journal News and LoHud Yankees Blog), Chuck Armstrong (President, Seattle Mariners), Kurt Badenhausen (Forbes), Alex Belth (Bronx Banter), Tyler Bleszinski (Athletics Nation), John Brattain (THT, MSN Canada, Baseball Digest Daily), Craig Calcaterra (Shysterball), David Chalk (Bugs and Cranks), Fred Claire (Former Executive VP and GM, Los Angeles Dodgers), Jerry Crasnick (ESPN.com), Ken Davidoff (Newsday), Jeff Erickson (RotoWire), Brent Gambill (MLB Home Plate, XM Satellite Radio), Kurt Hunzeker (Active Marketing Group), Kevin Kaduk (Big League Stew), Jonah Keri (ESPN.com, YESNetwork.com, New York Sun), Jordan Kobritz (Professor Sports Management, Former Minor League Team Owner), Tim Lemke (Washington Times), Tim Marchman (New York Sun), Michael A. Neuman (Amplify Sports and Entertainment), Jeff Passan (Yahoo! Sports), Dayn Perry (FOXSports.com, Baseball Prospectus), David Pinto (Baseball Musings, The Sporting News), Todd Radom (Todd Radom Design), Ken Rosenthal (FOX Sports), Joe Siegler (Ranger Fans), Charlie Weigert (CDM Fantasy Sports Corp.), and Andrew Zimbalist (Sports Economist and Author).
My contribution was as follows:
Despite major differences in revenues, the competitive balance in baseball has improved of late and is likely to tighten up even further over the next several years. This is great news for Major League Baseball.
In addition to the above, I believe the willingness of teams to select players in the Rule IV Draft based on ability rather than signability (as demonstrated earlier this month) should also favorably impact the competitiveness of MLB. The combination should narrow the talent gap between the haves and have nots over time. The situation is far from perfect, but it appears to be moving in the right direction.
How do you see the state of Major League Baseball?
Familiar Names at the College World Series
With the College World Series beginning this weekend, 58 players will be on display for interested fans of Major League Baseball teams. Those 58 players were drafted in the recent Major League Baseball Amateur Draft (June 5-6) and can begin negotiating with their respective club as soon as their school is eliminated from the tournament or has been crowned champion of the College World Series. Rice University leads the clubs with 11 players selected during the 2008 draft.
First Round (10th overall)
Many felt Castro was a bit of an over-draft, although if you believe Paul DePodesta there is no such thing. Regardless, Castro is among the best college catchers, and certainly Top Three amongst the draft-eligible college catchers. He should do a nice job of handling Stanford's pitchers and controlling opponents' running games.
First Round Supplemental (44th overall)
A bit of a surprise first round supplemental pick by the Yankees, Bleich nonetheless has outstanding college statistics, even if his stuff is a little short by Major League standards.
Other names to know:
First Round (fifth overall)
Posey was in the running for the first overall pick in the draft but eventually fell to the Giants with the fifth overall pick. That goes to show just how valuable Posey is, especially to Florida State's title hopes. Despite his relative inexperience behind the plate, Posey is an above-average defender and a key offensive force.
Other names to know:
First Round (eighth overall)
Beckham is the offensive leader for Georgia and possesses power to all fields. He has also improved his ability to make contact and is a solid guy to have up with runners in scoring position. Not bad for a kid who went undrafted out of high school.
First Round (20th overall)
A college senior, Fields brings his experience to the back of Georgia's bullpen. He has above-average stuff but can struggle with his command. Fields could potentially go straight from the College World Series to Seattle.
Other names to know:
First Round (seventh overall)
The first baseman is an offensive monster who should be the key cog in the Miami offence, with a patient approach. It will be interesting to see how Cincinnati eventually works him into a lineup that already has Joey Votto.
First Round (12th overall)
Weeks to Oakland was a bit of a surprise but he has good bloodlines and a solid bat. He should provide a spark for Miami. His plus speed should distract a pitcher or two.
First Round (27th overall)
The surprise of the first round has stuff that is a little short for starting at the major league level but he is a proven winner at the college level. When his sinker is on, he's hard to hit in the air.
Other names to know:
First Round Supplemental (45th overall)
Price is a nice name to have at the end of the game for Rice, but he will likely head to the starting rotation when he begins his pro career.
Other names to know:
Second Round (48th overall)
The Pirates shocked baseball by being the team that took a flyer on Scheppers, who is currently dealing with a stress fracture in his shoulder. The injury is a shame for both Scheppers and Fresno State's World Series hopes.
Other names to know:
Seventh Round (232nd overall)
Federowicz is the biggest draft name on the UNC roster and even he lasted until the seventh round. He's a clutch hitter and has a winning attitude so he's a great player to have behind the dish in an important series like this.
Other names to know:
Ninth Round (267st overall)
Verdugo's competitive nature is more powerful than his arsenal, but he knows how to change speeds and keep batters off balance.
Other names to know:
Now that we know the players... Let the games begin!
Top College Draft Picks Splitsville for the Pros
Thanks to College Baseball Splits, we can analyze the statistics of college hitters and pitchers better than ever before. Powered by play-by-play logs, founders Kent Bonham and Jeff Sackmann have sliced and diced the data to develop extensive splits and situational statistics (through draft day) for 350 NCAA teams.
Using the links provided for college players selected on the first day of the 2008 amateur draft, I have cut and pasted the overall rate stats, as well as those vs. RHP/LHP, Home/Road, and on Fridays (which is generally against the ace of the opposing team), for all of the hitters chosen in the first and supplemental rounds last week. I have also added comments about the player to each entry.
Please note that the information offered below is intended to be instructive rather than conclusive. There are a number of caveats to consider, including the small sample sizes and the fact that the stats are unadjusted for ballpark effects and level of competition, both of which can play huge roles at any level but particularly in amateur baseball. For those of you who would like to make mental adjustments, be sure to check out the park factors and strength of schedules at Boyd's World.
While statistics tell us a great deal about the past, they rarely tell the complete story when it comes to projecting how amateur baseball talent will perform at the next level. Although our eyes can fool us at times – especially among the untrained – we should pay close attention to scouting reports, which rate players for their five tools (ability to hit for average and power, speed, fielding, and throwing arm), as well as makeup and other intangible factors. Like many others, I would also add a sixth tool that is as important as the others: the ability to control the strike zone (which basically comes down to plate discipline and pitch recognition).
Strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances and as a ratio tell a pretty good picture as far as plate discipline goes but seeing is believing when it comes to evaluating pitch recognition. Some players have it and others don't. A hitter may be able to rip 90-mph fastballs all over the park, but if he is unable to distinguish a slider from a fastball (or a strike from a ball), he is going to have a tough time adjusting to more advanced pitchers.
Lastly, it is important to note that college baseball hitters use aluminum bats whereas professional hitters use wood bats. In a nutshell, aluminum bats outperform wood bats. The sweet spot is larger and the balls come off the metal bats faster. Moreover, the barrel of an aluminum bat is hollow and the distribution of weight is substantially different than it is for a solid wood bat. The bottom line is that some players who hit well with an aluminum bat don't always transfer that skill set to the wood bat. As a result, talent evaluators like to see how amateur hitters perform with Team USA or in the Cape Cod League and other circuits and showcases where wood bats are required.
Here are the splits of hitters drafted in the first round:
Pedro Alvarez | 3B | Vanderbilt | Pittsburgh Pirates | #2
AVG OBP SLG TOT .319 .425 .595 RHP .337 .437 .624 LHP .290 .405 .548 HOME .313 .421 .521 ROAD .354 .455 .631 FRI .250 .372 .417
Pedro Alvarez suffered a hamate bone injury to his right hand early in the season and may not have returned to full strength until last month. After missing all but one game in February and all of March, his numbers improved over the course of the spring (April: .309/.404/.519; May: .333/.438/.693). Alvarez's Friday stats were less than inspiring, but we're only talking about 43 plate appearances here. His full body of work, including playing on the USA National Team twice during his collegiate career, is impressive. Importantly, he has always hit well with the wood bat, leading Team USA in batting average (.315), slugging percentage (.551), and home runs (7) last summer.
Buster Posey | C | Florida State | San Francisco Giants | #5
AVG OBP SLG TOT .460 .566 .866 RHP .463 .575 .878 LHP .450 .542 .833 HOME .472 .573 .896 ROAD .451 .557 .805 FRI .467 .567 1.022
Buster Posey hit everybody and everywhere all season long. He led the nation in AVG, OBP, and SLG while catching almost every inning, making him a virtual shoo-in to capture the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser awards as the college player of the year. Posey climbed draft boards throughout the spring and was among a handful of players considered by the Rays for the #1 pick. His Cape Cod League stats (.281/.361/.375 with 3 HR in 128 AB) suggest that he may not be the power hitter with a wood bat in the pros that he was with an aluminum bat at the college level. We called Posey a "solid and safe high first-round pick" when Live Blogging the MLB Draft but Matt Wieters he's not.
Yonder Alonso | 1B | Miami | Cincinnati Reds | #7
AVG OBP SLG TOT .358 .532 .746 RHP .441 .602 .924 LHP .227 .410 .467 HOME .377 .558 .781 ROAD .362 .538 .759 FRI .410 .593 .949
Yonder Alonso was the first in a long line of highly regarded college first basemen taken in this year's draft. As evidenced by his 74 BB (which led the country) and 32 SO, Alonso's approach at the plate is outstanding. A lefthanded swinger, the only question is whether he can hit southpaws well enough to become a star at the highest level. However, his low BABIP of .236 may suggest he was a victim of bad luck, especially given the small sample size of 100 plate appearances. There is no doubt that he can swing the wood stick based on his .338/.468/.497 line in the Cape Cod League last year. Alonso topped all battters in OBP and was third in AVG.
Gordon Beckham | SS | Georgia | Chicago White Sox | #8
AVG OBP SLG TOT .403 .512 .798 RHP .408 .514 .846 LHP .350 .487 .600 HOME .408 .516 .808 ROAD .378 .515 .770 FRI .354 .500 .646
Gordon Beckham was, by far, the premier batsman among all college baseball middle infielders in this year's draft. There is little not to like, particularly when one considers the fact that the University of Georgia home field played to a park factor of 79 from 2004-2007, meaning it suppressed runs by 21% during this period. Including Regional and Super Regional action, Beckham is tied for the most home runs in the country with 26 in only 252 AB. He also led the Cape in homers with nine and was third in slugging average when he hit .284/.370/.529 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a team that also featured fellow first rounders Buster Posey and Juan Castro.
Jason Castro | C | Stanford | Houston Astros | #10
AVG OBP SLG TOT .364 .418 .587 RHP .348 .422 .630 LHP .386 .414 .535 HOME .351 .409 .641 ROAD .378 .429 .510 FRI .200 .310 .380
Although the Astros surprised many by selecting Jason Castro with the 10th pick in the draft, the lefthanded-hitting catcher is coming off a superb Cape Cod season (.341/.434/.488) and junior year (.379/.431/.617 through the Super Regionals). Of note, Stanford played the toughest schedule in the country and its home ballpark is much more friendly toward pitchers than hitters. The only fly in the ointment was his performance on Fridays, yet his low BABIP (.216) may indicate that he was simply unlucky. As for the draft pick itself, I don't believe there is such a thing as a reach in the first round, provided that the prospect in question is a first-round talent (which Castro certainly qualifies as). If you like a player, you have to take him right then and there as league rules prohibit trading picks.
Justin Smoak | 1B | South Carolina | Texas Rangers | #2
AVG OBP SLG TOT .380 .505 .751 RHP .413 .551 .819 LHP .317 .404 .622 HOME .406 .539 .836 ROAD .365 .465 .635 FRI .408 .483 .633
Justin Smoak is coming off a terrific season in which he slugged 23 HR for the Gamecocks. A switch-hitter, Smoak has been compared to Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones by Peter Gammons and others. His performance with the wood bat has been mixed as he led the Cape Cod League in HR (11), XBH (21), and slugging average (.565) after his freshman season in 2006, then slumped to .223/.291/.380 for Team USA last summer, producing only 20 hits and no HR in his last 102 at-bats.
Jemile Weeks | 2B | Miami | Oakland A's | #12
AVG OBP SLG TOT .359 .445 .627 RHP .336 .424 .550 LHP .414 .494 .800 HOME .353 .442 .647 ROAD .368 .434 .574 FRI .333 .379 .667
Jemile Weeks was the A's highest draft pick since 1999. The switch-hitting second baseman has had pretty consistent splits across the board and will be on display this week when the Miami Hurricanes play in the College World Series. Look for Weeks to become a prototypical first or second hitter in the pros with his on-base skills and speed.
Brett Wallace | 3B | Arizona State | St. Louis Cardinals | #13
AVG OBP SLG TOT .412 .529 .759 RHP .452 .558 .793 LHP .364 .495 .739 HOME .403 .505 .792 ROAD .443 .575 .754 FRI .383 .526 .667
The Cardinals chose Brett Wallace as a third baseman even though his body and lack of mobility suggest he would be a better fit on the other side of the diamond. A two-time Pac-10 triple crown winner, Wallace can flat out hit. Although he may have benefited by playing his home games in a hitter-friendly ballpark (118 PF), Wallace's road numbers were outstanding in their own right. He hit .312/.345/.404 in the Cape last summer. One baseball executive told me that Wallace reminded him of Sean Casey.
David Cooper | 1B | Cal | Toronto Blue Jays | #17
AVG OBP SLG TOT .350 .442 .677 RHP .376 .448 .752 LHP .303 .432 .539 HOME .391 .489 .809 ROAD .293 .376 .467 FRI .321 .381 .607
David Cooper was selected by the Blue Jays after playing two seasons at Cal and his freshman year at Cal State Fullerton. The lefthanded-hitter's value rests with the bat as he is not known for his baserunning or fielding. Cooper and Yonder Alonso played for the Brewster White Caps in the Cape last summer with the former hitting .284/.415/.463 while mostly serving as the club's DH. On Tuesday, Cooper became the first player drafted in the top round to agree to a contract, signing for a $1.5 million bonus. He will report to Auburn of the New York-Penn League but is expected to move up to High-A Dunedin by the end of July.
Ike Davis | 1B | Arizona State | New York Mets | #18
AVG OBP SLG TOT .378 .459 .756 RHP .397 .475 .777 LHP .347 .430 .733 HOME .379 .456 .743 ROAD .340 .421 .760 FRI .305 .406 .441
Another first baseman, Ike Davis was taken by the Mets with the next pick at #18. While his overall stats speak for themselves, Davis pumped up his numbers by pounding Saturday and Sunday pitchers (42-for-91 with 15 2B and 10 HR). He "hit" only .246/.308/.298 in a shortened performance in the Cape last summer after struggling in the Alaskan Baseball League in 2006. It seems prudent to view Davis with a healthy dose of skepticism until the son of former major league reliever Ron proves he can handle a wood bat.
Reese Havens | SS | South Carolina | New York Mets | #22
AVG OBP SLG TOT .349 .479 .627 RHP .402 .524 .692 LHP .238 .384 .488 HOME .372 .497 .679 ROAD .310 .444 .529 FRI .231 .333 .385
The Mets made Reese Havens the club's second first-round draftee when they chose him with the 22nd overall pick. The shortstop teamed up with fellow infielders Justin Smoak and James Darnell at South Carolina. Although his splits were a bit more uneven than other first rounders, Havens clinched his draft standing last summer when he hit .314/.371/.487 in the Cape. He reportedly has agreed to a $1.4 signing bonus with the Mets.
Allan Dykstra | 1B | Wake Forest | San Diego Padres | #23
AVG OBP SLG TOT .323 .519 .645 RHP .310 .515 .578 LHP .343 .526 .757 HOME .359 .541 .769 ROAD .310 .496 .575 FRI .182 .413 .364
Excluding Brett Wallace from the mix, the Padres made Allan Dykstra the fifth first baseman selected in last week's draft. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefthanded hitter combines raw power with the ability to take a walk. He slugged 16 HR and ranked second in the country with 62 BB in only 56 games. Dykstra struggled on Friday nights (although in a much smaller sample size than normal), going 6-for-33 with 2 HR. He was named as an All-Star in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .308/.444/.481 while ranking third in OBP. Dykstra was a teammate at Wake Forest with second baseman Matt Antonelli, who was SD's first-round pick (17th overall) in 2006.
Here are the splits of hitters drafted in the supplemental round:
Conor Gillaspie | 3B | Wichita State | San Francisco Giants | #37
AVG OBP SLG TOT .424 .508 .710 RHP .432 .509 .696 LHP .406 .506 .703 HOME .438 .510 .652 ROAD .391 .481 .783 FRI .444 .510 .800
Until Conor Gillaspie was selected by the Giants, no college position player had been drafted with the previous 13 picks. The lefthanded-hitting third baseman is a pure hitter with an advanced approach at the plate. This combination is likely to produce a high batting average with lots of doubles and a fair share of walks in the pros. Gillaspie was the MVP in the Cape Cod League last summer when he hit .345/.448/.673 while ranking first in AVG and SLG and second in OBP.
Ryan Flaherty | 2B | Vanderbilt | Chicago Cubs | #41
AVG OBP SLG TOT .324 .413 .545 RHP .366 .457 .640 LHP .250 .333 .380 HOME .299 .399 .488 ROAD .329 .427 .632 FRI .368 .393 .526
A shortstop at Vanderbilt, Ryan Flaherty was drafted as a second baseman by the Cubs. His college numbers were more solid than spectacular. A lefthanded hitter, Flaherty didn't fare too well against southpaws. Tall and lanky, Ryan isn't particularly strong and never really showed much power until this season when he went yard 14 times. He hit .270/.309/.383 for Team USA while fading after the team's opening six games in New England. If Flaherty's tools are found wanting at the big league level, look for him to stick around as a utility player. He signed a contract with the Cubs this week.
Logan Forsythe | 3B | Arkansas | San Diego Padres | #46
AVG OBP SLG TOT .353 .479 .533 RHP .374 .509 .504 LHP .305 .394 .593 HOME .350 .442 .530 ROAD .356 .515 .548 FRI .432 .561 .750
Drafted by the Padres, Logan Forsythe was the last player selected in the supplemental round. A third baseman, he can also help out at second, short, and outfield if need be. Forsythe played for Team USA last summer on a broken foot and hit .309/.463/.404, ranking second in walks and striking out fewer times than any other starter. He underwent surgery in November, then suffered a hamstring pull in the spring, and the injury affected his stroke during non-conference play, leading to a 12-for-49 mark with 2 XBH, 0 HR, 6 BB, and 11 SO on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Forsythe has signed with San Diego.
As I write this, the Seattle Mariners have the worst record in baseball at 24-42. They stand 16 1/2 games behind the first place Angels and, worse, they stand a staggering nine games behind the third place Texas Rangers. The team will have to play inspired baseball for the rest of the season to just avoid finishing in last place, and suffice it to say, this isn't how the front office saw the 2008 season going.
"It's a completely demoralizing position we're in right now, based on the completely legitimate (preseason) expectations" was the line recently offered up by General Manager Bill Bavasi after last week's sweep at the hand of an Angels roster missing Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins in a series where John Lackey didn't take the mound. Even with the reality of lousiness staring them in the face, the executives in charge of compiling this roster are unwilling to admit that this team was assembled poorly. It wasn't just a bad move here or an underperforming player there, but a long series of poor decisions that have led to this abysmal season. In fact, the foundations for this failure were laid years ago. Let's look at where this disaster started.
October 27, 2003
Coming off a 93 win season that saw the team fade down the stretch and fail to make the playoffs, Pat Gillick resigned as GM and was replaced by Bill Bavasi, but the basic plan for that offseason was laid before Gillick ever stepped aside. Central to that plan was the decision to decline an offer of arbitration to Mike Cameron, who badly wanted to stay in Seattle. Cameron was vastly underappreciated by the organization due to his contact problems and their failure to understand just how valuable his glove was in center field. Two weeks later, they announced the signing of Raul Ibanez to play left field, shifting Randy Winn to cover center in Cameron's absence. At the time, they noted the defensive downgrade but explained that it would be more than offset by the offensive improvement. Ibanez has hit well since returning to Seattle, but his defense in left field can only be described as atrocious and is one of the most glaring issues that has sunk the 2008 team to the bottom of the A.L. West. The seeds of the Ibanez-as-LF disaster were planted on the day that the team decided to jettison Cameron and make a conscious decision to sacrifice defense while chasing minor offensive improvements.
January 8, 2004
The Mariners organization has long been infatuated with player personalities and their effects on team chemistry, often making headscratching decisions based not on on-field ability but instead on thier preconceived notions of leadership and how the game is supposed to be played. That move is typified in the decision to literally give Carlos Guillen to the Tigers, as the organization had grown weary of his late-night drinking and his perceived negative influence on Freddy Garcia. They decided that they would rather go with Rich Aurilia as their shortstop - a guy who more fit their mold of how players should approach the game than Guillen. Aurilia was a gigantic bust and was released four months later, while Guillen has gone on to become one of the American League's best infielders ever since. It was impossible to see Guillen's breakout coming at the time, but the logic used - choosing to field a worse baseball team in order to have better people on it - has haunted the organization repeatedly over the years.
December 15, 2004
After a disastrous 2003 season, the organization was determined to make a big splash and find some new offensive stars to build around, using their financial advantage over the rest of the division to rebuild through free agency. They coveted Carlos Delgado's left-handed power, but after a long dance with him over contract terms, they got tired of waiting and threw $52 million at Plan B - Richie Sexson. Heading into his age 30 season and coming off a major injury while possessing classic old player skills, making a long term commitment to a player with Sexson's profile looked remarkably foolish at the time, and the concerns we raised about guaranteeing an aging Sexson big money have proven true with time. He's simply aged very poorly and is not a major league quality starting first baseman anymore, but the Mariners owe him $15.5 million for the 2008 season. Instead of looking at an aging veteran heading for decline and finding a younger, cheaper alternative, the organization focused on intangibles such as Sexson's intimidating power and ability to be an RBI man. Unwilling to admit that they had missed the boat on how he was going to age, Mariners fans instead got to watch his career end mercilessly during both the '07 and '08 seasons, while Sexson became the embodiment of everything wrong with this team.
December 22, 2005
If there's one glaring flaw the front office of the Mariners has, it's a total inability to evaluate pitching talent. They come from a bent that is entirely seduced by results and cares nothing about the process or the context that those results were produced in. Nowhere is this more obvious than when the Mariners gave Jarrod Washburn a 4-year, $37.5 million deal to leave the Angels and join their starting rotation. Washburn was coming off a 2005 season where he posted an obviously flukey 3.20 ERA, built entirely on a house of runner-stranding cards. His league high left-on-base percentage predictably regressed to the mean, and he went right back to being the #5 starter that he's been for years. Instead of being a solidifying force in the rotation, Washburn has given the M's 445 innings with a 4.72 ERA in a terrific pitcher's park since signing. Despite having to watch him implode in 2008, the M's are on the hook for another $10 million in salary in 2009, and they'd be lucky to give Washburn away at this point. Thanks to a pitching analysis based on results, the organization continues to just wildly misunderstand how to predict future run prevention, and this is most obvious with the Washburn contract. By the way, the next best offer Washburn had on the table was 2 years at a total of $14 million.
January 4, 2006
Faced with a strong desire for some "left handed sock," the M's focused on a list of low-cost, one-year options to fill the hole at Designated Hitter. Completely ignoring the entire concept of replacement level, the M's disregarded every player on the planet that wasn't a proven veteran with a long track record of success, essentially ensuring they were going to get a washed-up old timer on his last legs. That guy turned out to be Carl Everett, and his could-see-it-coming-a-mile-away failure both doomed the offense and led to an even more heinous transaction, when the Mariners shipped Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo to Cleveland in separate deals to acquire the DH platoon of Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez. Neither of the new acquisitions did much to help an offense that was in disrepair, and the careless giving away of talented youngsters in search of proven veterans depleted the farm system of guys who could have helped the team down the line. When asked directly why the team chose Everett over free talent guys such as Carlos Pena, Bavasi replied that "we know Everett can hit 5th or 6th in the line-up, and Pena just hasn't proven that he can do that yet". Good call, Bill.
December 7, 2006
In another transaction that was bad enough on its own and unbelievably horrible based on the future events it led to, we have the inexplicable Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez trade. The M's were tired of Soriano's lack of durability and believed that his elbow was a ticking time bomb, so they set out to trade him at the winter meetings that year. They settled on a left-handed National Leaguer with a NL fastball because "he'd won some games before" and the Braves were willing to make him available. Ramirez was a complete disaster, giving the Mariners 100 innings of below replacement level performance before getting released. To replace Soriano, the Mariners then converted 2006 #1 draft pick Brandon Morrow into a relief pitcher, believing that they needed a new power arm to replace the one they just lost. Two years later and Morrow is still stuck in the bullpen, losing precious development time and not being able to be viewed as a potential option for the rotation. Because Morrow wasn't considered starter material, the Mariners blew $48 million on tub-of-goo Carlos Silva and then spent a first round pick on Josh Fields in the 2008 draft in order to have a new power reliever in the organization to allow them to move Morrow back to the rotation eventually. By trading Soriano, the M's not only got back a horrible pitcher, but they also opened several holes on the roster that they then spent precious valuable resources trying to fill.
December 18, 2006
Finally, the cherry on top of this amazing series of bad roster moves. Determined to not let Everett go down as the worst designated hitter in organizational history, the M's made the decision to fill their DH role for 2007 with a broken down middle infielder who had the power of an eight-year-old girl. The Nationals simply wanted to move Jose Vidro, who didn't fit in a league where defense was required, and somehow convinced the Mariners to pick up $12 million of the remaining $18 million left on Vidro's contract. The rationale given was that a move to DH would somehow restore the 32-year-old's power and, besides, they really needed a #2 hitter who didn't strike out, despite the fact that they had a team full of guys whose best skill was contact and lacked power. Not surprisingly, Vidro's power never returned, and he's posted a .289/.350/.376 line since coming over in the trade from Washington. Only in Seattle would that be acceptable as a performance from a designated hitter completely incapable of playing the field or running the bases, but somehow, that's what the organization decided they wanted. Vidro's presence on the roster not only kept the remains of Ibanez comically chasing fly balls in the outfield, but it also has forced them to keep top prospect Jeff Clement languishing in Tacoma while he destroys Pacific Coast League pitching. Hilariously, Vidro's 2008 performance has been so terrible (.215/.260/.323) that most fans are amazed he hasn't been released yet, but John McLaren's lineup construction veers so far from reality that he's spent the last two weeks alternating between the 3rd and 4th spots in the batting order. Seriously, Vidro, he of the .583 OPS, spent several games hitting cleanup for the Mariners recently. I wish I was kidding.
Through it all, the Mariners front office has demonstrated a staggering lack of ability to evaluate and project major league talent. They have repeatedly misunderstood what makes a winning team and made brutally bad choices that are compounded by even worse decisions trying to fix the problems created by the first act of ignorance. Through it all, they've doggedly maintained that their ways are effective and will work despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Team President Chuck Armstrong, talking about the season and the job status of the front office on May 25th, uttered the following quotes:
"In my 23 years, I have never ever seen anything like this," Armstrong said "We saw it the other way in 2001. I mean, you have to ask yourself, 'How did the Mariners win 116 games that season with that roster, compared to this roster?' This is just as inexplicable the other way."
"Their positions are secure," Armstrong said "They are not to be blamed for what's going on."
"We have given no thought to making any changes in managerial personnel," Armstrong said. "Same for the GM. Listen, he's part of the solution, not the problem."
What's worse than abject failure? How about rooting for an organization that can't even recognize the problem from the solution? The Mariners executives are so rooted in their ways, so dogmatic in their wrongheadedness, that there is seemingly no light at the end of this long tunnel that we call being a Mariner fan. $117 million dollars in payroll has bought them a roster on pace to lose 104 games, and through it all, they won't admit responsibility. It's inexplicable, after all. What else is there to be said?
David Cameron, along with Derek Zumsteg, authors the ussmariner.com blog that covers the Seattle organization in more depth than they care to admit. He also writes daily for fangraphs.com as he looks to remember what it's like to enjoy watching baseball again.
Shadowing the 2008 Draft
Much like draft guru Jim Callis over at Baseball America, I conduct a shadow draft of the MLB Amateur Draft every season and have been doing so for more than five years now. This season’s draft was no different, so let’s take a look at how I did through eight rounds after allowing myself the 16th spot in the draft (Milwaukee’s actual spot), as well as a supplemental first round pick just for fun (the 38th overall selection, which belonged to Houston and, hey, we all know they weren’t going to use it correctly):
Actually selected by the Milwaukee Brewers (16th overall)
I had the opportunity to interview Lawrie before the draft, as well as speak to his father and two coaches, so I had a pretty good feel for him. After hearing about his domination of professional pitchers in the Dominican Republic, I am not worried about his bat at all. As for his lack of position, I think the bat will play just about anywhere and will play him at third base. I would have seriously considered Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso and Ethan Martin if they had fallen to me, but I am pretty happy.
If you missed it, here is what we posted about Lawrie on draft day:
Lawrie saw his value skyrocket as the draft approached, going from a second round or supplemental first round pick to a likely first rounder – possibly as high as 12th or 13th overall. The athletic Canadian’s stock was hurt by a lack of position but he convinced more and more scouts that he could stick behind the dish. Lawrie has a rocket for an arm as well as good hands and feet but his overall catching skills are raw. He is a little pull conscious right now but he has excellent bat speed, which helps created plus-plus raw power. Lawrie has international experience, having played for Team Canada, and is committed to Arizona State University. He recently played with Team Canada's junior team against MLB Dominican Summer League teams and dominated, hitting five homers in one day during a doubleheader.
Others considered: Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Christian Friedrich
Actually selected by the San Diego Padres (46th overall)
He is a ballplayer. You have to love that he played through a broken foot and his numbers have been quite good in college. I’m sure they would have been even better if he had been healthy and I consider him a first-round talent. The only worry I have is that he’ll hit for enough power at third base.
Here is what we said about Forsythe on draft day:
A stress fracture in his foot has slowed Forsythe this season and he may end up as one of the steals of the draft. He has good line-drive power and could develop more home run power as he matures. As evidenced by his BB/SO totals, he has tremendous control of the strike zone. Forsythe is known for his great intangibles and has been likened to Mike Lowell by Baseball America. He is a good athlete and has an above-average arm, so he could also play at second base or in the outfield.
Others considered: Brett DeVall, Jaff Decker and Kyle Ladendorf
Actually selected by the Atlanta Braves (70th overall)
I considered Spruill with my supplemental first round pick and was happy to get him in the second round. He’s a competitor with clean actions and good command for a high school pitcher. I am also big on pitchers with good fastball velocity that has sink (love those groundball outs).
Here are our draft day thoughts on Spruill:
Spruill can touch 93 mph but works more in the 88-92 mph range with his sinking fastball. He also has a breaking ball and a change-up. His command is good, as is his delivery. Spruill does, though, tend to lose velocity as the game wears on. An athlete with above average makeup and competitiveness, Spruill is committed to the University of Georgia.
Others considered: Tim Melville, Tyle Stovall and Tyler Chatwood
Actually selected by the Houston Astros (109th overall)
Why haven’t the Astros selected this kid already? Oh well, their loss is my gain. You don’t find many pitchers in the third round with a fastball that can touch 95 mph, with good control and two secondary pitches with plus potential.
Here are our draft day thoughts on Seaton:
Seaton can touch 94 mph with his fastball and has some good sink. His slider is plus at times and can hit 85 mph. Seaton commands both pitches well. He doesn’t use his change-up much. Seaton uses his smarts to succeed on the mound and he is athletic, which allows him to be a pretty good hitter as well. He may be tough to sign away from Tulane University where he could be a two-way player (Similar to Arizona’s Micah Owings).
Others considered: Tim Melville and Chris Carpenter
Actually selected by the Detroit Tigers (133rd overall)
OK, I am still looking for the best player available but I am feeling a little nervous about all these raw high school players so I am happy to see Jacobson available. He has a good, strong body and throws in the mid-90s when he pitches out of the pen. I am going to start him out in the rotation, though, and see how he does. I am hoping the extra work will help improve his curve ball and change-up.
Others considered: Jason Christian and Ryan Westmoreland
Actually selected by the Philadelphia Phillies (166th overall)
Hamilton may not have the greatest power but there is no doubt the kid can rake. I would be very happy to find Sean Casey or Mark Grace in the fifth round. Hamilton is one of the best pure hitters in the draft, has excellent gap power and is a potential Gold Glover.
Others considered: Ryan Westmoreland, Joe Duran and Kenny Williams Jr. (Soooo just kidding)
Actually selected by the San Diego Padres (195th overall)
I almost took Figueroa in my 2006 draft, but declined due to signability concerns and regretted it. He is a draft-eligible sophomore but I’ll do what is needed to get him to sign on the dotted line. When I interviewed Figueroa’s college teammate Matt LaPorta last year before the draft, the slugging first baseman said Figueroa was one of the most talented players on the club and would surprise a lot of people in the future (and he was a freshman at the time). His numbers are solid and he comes from a baseball family.
Others considered: Colby Shreve, Kiel Roling, Cole St. Clair and Justin Parker
Actually selected by the Toronto Blue Jays (219th overall)
For some reason I just got a nasty phone call from the Toronto organization after making this pick… But Thames, like Forsythe, is another player with considerable talent who inexplicably dropped due to an injury that is not a long-term concern. He had an amazing offensive season this year at Pepperdine, although I always worry a little bit about players who improve significantly in their junior year over their previous two seasons. I feel a bit better knowing he has hit OK with wood bats in the past.
Others considered: Tim Federowicz, Jeremy Farrell and Jeremy Barfield
Actually selected by the Philadelphia Phillies (256th overall)
I have secured four solid college players in a row so I feel comfortable taking another (very) raw high school player in Rodriguez. He had his fastball up to 92 mph as the spring wore on and I think there is more to be found in his 6-4, 200 pound frame. If the secondary pitches don’t come along, he could be a solid late-game reliever.
Others considered: Antonio Jimenez and Ryan O’Sullivan
MLB Draft News and Notes
It's still amateur
Today's entry is a smorgasbord of news and notes resulting from last week's draft.
First baseman/corner outfielder Shane Peterson (STL, #59) was chosen in round two, shortstop Danny Espinosa (WAS, #87)) and righthanded starters Andrew Liebel (TOR, #95) and Vance Worley (PHI, #102) were selected in the third round, righthanded reliever David Roberts (CLE, #141) was taken in the fourth round, and righthanded starter Brett Lorin (SEA, #162) was plucked in the fifth round. All five players are expected to sign although Lorin, a draft-eligible sophomore, could return to Long Beach in an attempt to improve his draft status after a season in which he could be the Dirtbags' Friday Night Starter.
Long Beach nearly made it eight players when outfielder Jason Corder (TB, #203, 7th round) was nabbed with the first pick when the draft resumed on Friday. Travis Howell (SEA, #552), Nick Vincent (SD, #555), and Jason Tweedy (TB, #593) were also selected on the second day, giving the 49ers a total of 11 players chosen overall.
The five players drafted in the top three rounds and the seven taken in the first five are both school records. Led by Jered Weaver (LAA, #12), the 2004 team had three players chosen in the top three rounds and four in the first five. Troy Tulowitzki (COL, #7) and Cesar Ramos (SD, #35) both went in the opening round of the 2005 draft while three others were taken in the sixth round.
The above is a testament to coach Mike Weathers' ability to recruit and develop players, but this year's purge in talent is likely to leave the 2009 club thin in both pitching and hitting.
While the scouting reports sound convincing, Martin's dominance over high school hitters should be discounted as he turned 19 the day after the Dodgers selected him with the 15th overall pick. If anybody would like to pursue such a study as a guest columnist for Baseball Analysts to confirm or deny my suspicions, please drop me a note at the email address linked to my name in the sidebar on the left.
While some analysts expected that the Angels might go for a first-round talent who was passed over due to concerns over signability, director of scouting Eddie Bane opted for the smallish righthander with the 74th overall pick in the draft. Chatwood went 9-1 with a 1.05 ERA as a pitcher and 49-for-94 (.521) as a hitter, playing shortstop and center field when not on the mound. However, with a fastball that – according to Bane – ranges from 92-97 mph, Chatwood's pitching career didn't end when he was saddled with the loss in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 2 championship game at Dodger Stadium a week ago.
Hicks, the only draftee who showed up in Orlando, was interviewed by ESPN2 moments after he was selected by the Twins. Urban Youth Academy program senior director Darrell Miller, the brother of all-time women's basketball great Cheryl and a former catcher with the California Angels (1984-88), was part of Hicks' travel party in Florida. He told David Felton of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, "We've had a little bit of fun today. I'm pleased that he went to a team like the Twins," adding that Minnesota had been very supportive of the Academy. "(Hicks and Gose) are wonderful young men you want to have other kids see and emulate. For (the Urban Youth Academy), it's just great. It's going to really galvanize the kids."
Meanwhile, Gose was one of a trio of toolsy players selected by the Phillies with the club's first three picks. Shortstop Anthony Hewitt (#24) of Salisbury School (NY) and outfielder Zach Collier (#34) of Chino Hills HS (CA) are also talented athletes with projectable bodies and huge ceilings. While raw, Hewitt may have the most upside of any player taken in last week's draft. Overlooked on the showcase circuit last summer, Collier had been climbing draft boards ever since he slammed a home run off a 93-mph fastball from Hicks in a tournament game in Fullerton this spring.
While college players are generally much closer to the majors at the time of the draft, elite high school prospects like Bruce can make it to the bigs at a younger age than their more experienced counterparts.
Check back later in the week as we drill deeper into the stats (including various splits) of first-round picks plucked from the college ranks.
The Road to Omaha is Easier for Some Than Others
The top-eight seeds in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship all won their Regionals last weekend and automatically earned the right to host Super Regionals this weekend. However, it is important to note that no national seed has won the College Baseball World Series since Rice in 2003.
The Super Regional pairings are as follows:
Three of the four national seeds lost in the opening game on Friday. Miami, Florida State, and Cal State Fullerton were all defeated yesterday and are playing today to avoid elimination. In the meantime, Georgia, the only victorious team, lost the second game of its series to North Carolina State earlier today. The rubber match will be held on Sunday. The other four matchups kick off on Saturday, continue on Sunday, and, if need be, will conclude on Monday.
The winners of the Super Regionals will comprise the eight spots in the College World Series, which starts Friday, June 14 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt has created excellent previews, broken down by the Friday and Saturday start dates. The articles include schedules, TV times, starting lineups, stats, and scouting reports written by college coaches.
Despite being treated harshly by the NCAA selection committee, teams from the West dominated schools from outside the area in last week's Regionals. Bob Keisser, sports columnist and college beat writer for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, broke down the grave injustices yesterday.
There were 14 regional games matching West Coast teams against colleges East of Tempe, and the West outdid itself. They were 14-0.
Keisser suggests that "the NCAA needs to consider seeding the baseball tournament 1-to-64 like they do in basketball and stop lumping teams together automatically by geography." Using RPIs, Keisser seeded the entire field of 64 teams and determined that the 12 West Coast teams would have been "spread across nine regionals as opposed to six, and there would have been no more than two West Coast teams in any one regional." His conclusion? "There's no guarantee that any would have had more success in these brackets, but based on the numbers and avoiding neighbors, one would like their chances."
The four finalists for the 22nd annual Dick Howser Trophy to college baseball's player of the year were named this week. Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham, Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow, Florida State catcher Buster Posey, or Arizona State third baseman Brett Wallace will be presented with this prestigious award in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 14, the first day of the College World Series. All four players were also selected as finalists for the Golden Spikes award, which also goes to the best college player. University of San Diego pitcher Brian Matusz is also a finalist for the latter honor. These five players were among the top 13 picks in the MLB draft on Thursday. All but Crow and Matusz are still playing in the Super Regionals this weekend.
Reflections on Day One of the Draft
The first day of the MLB draft covered six rounds (plus compensation rounds between the first and second as well as the third and fourth) and produced 202 picks, starting with Tim Beckham (Tampa Bay) at No. 1 and ending with Ryan Lavarnway (Boston) at No. 202.
Beckham was the fifth high school shortstop in the past 20 years to be taken at the top of the draft. The other four? Justin Upton (Arizona, 2005), Matt Bush (San Diego, 2004), Alex Rodriguez (Seattle, 1993), and Chipper Jones (Atlanta, 1990). A-Rod and Chipper are headed to the Hall of Fame, Upton is at the beginning of what could be a highly promising career, and Bush has yet to play a game above Single-A. Interestingly, all five players have been moved off the shortstop position with Rodriguez and Jones manning third base, Upton right field, and Bush attempting a transformation to pitcher. If nothing else, it speaks to Bill James' Defensive Spectrum, which suggests that players can more easily switch from difficult positions such as shortstop to less demanding corner infield and outfield positions. Where Beckham winds up in five or ten years is anyone's guess, but there is no doubt that the Rays drafted the highly talented prep with the intention that he will be their shortstop of the future.
Of note, 21 college players (including one juco) – tying the previous record set in 1992 – were selected in the opening round. Thirteen of the collegians are position players (with five being first basemen, excluding Brett Wallace who St. Louis chose as a third baseman) and eight are pitchers (with four taken as relievers, excluding Carlos Gutierrez who Minnesota apparently believes can succeed as a starter).
Seven of the nine high school draftees are position players (including Aaron Hicks and Casey Kelly, two-way players who were chosen to hit and field rather than pitch) and only two (Ethan Martin and Gerrit Cole) are pitchers. By comparison, there were seven high school arms taken in the first round last year.
As we enter the second day of the draft, there are several highly ranked prospects who have yet to hear their names called. Alex Meyer (RHP, Greensburg HS, IN), ranked 25th by Baseball America, is reportedly asking for a ton of money and will be heading to the University of Kentucky in the fall unless a team steps up in a big way. Brett Hunter (RHP, Pepperdine University), ranked 51st, has had arm problems all spring and is a major health risk, yet is a top two-round talent. The 36th-ranked Isaac Galloway (OF, Los Osos HS, CA) and 48th-ranked Daniel Webb (RHP, Heath HS, KY) are raw talents who priced themselves out of the first day of the draft.
Jordan Danks (CF, Texas), the younger brother of Chicago White Sox LHP John, is someone who would have gone in the first round in 2005 had he not told teams he was set on attending college. A power bat as a high schooler, the lefthanded-hitting Danks won the home run derby at the 2004 Aflac All-American Classic, beating (among others) Cameron Maybin by hitting several balls completely out of the park. Four years later and his power has all but disappeared, having hit just 12 HR in three college seasons. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Danks has the size and athleticism that will attract a team on day two of the draft.
Lastly, to the credit of our good friends at Baseball America, the leading source for information on amateurs and minor league prospects, Jim Callis dialed the first four picks of the draft, then Matt Blood reported from Orlando before the proceedings began that Buster Posey would go at five, and John Manuel had Cole falling to the New York Yankees at No. 28 long before the selection took place. Nice job once again, guys.
- Posted by Rich Lederer
Well, that was fun. After an entire day of being glued to the computer, we can now look back and start to analyze exactly what happened on Day 1. As a lot of people have already mentioned, it's great to see teams actually taking the best players available to them in their slot. The New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers did not walk away with some of the better players in the draft.
Fans in Kansas City, Minnesota and even Pittsburgh should be pretty gosh darn excited with the first day results, which is something most of the fans have not been able to say for a number of years (especially in Pittsburgh).
The Pirates nabbed possibly the No. 1 player in the nation with the club's first pick (second overall). Third baseman Pedro Alvarez won't come cheap but he could very well develop into the Face of the Franchise, which is something Pittsburgh has sorely lacked since... well, help me out here Pittsburgh fans... Alvarez has a potent bat and has been one of the most feared hitters in the college ranks for the past three seasons. His numbers were down a little bit due to a broken hamate bone. The Pirates also nabbed prep outfielder Robbie Grossman with the club's sixth round pick. Grossman will have to be signed away from the University of Texas after a poor senior year of high school dropped him out of first round consideration and slid him to the sixth round due to signability concerns.
Not only did the Royals get a beast with the third overall pick in prep first baseman Eric Hosmer, the club picked up two players in later rounds (third and fourth rounds) that could have been first rounders, if not for signability concerns. We even had profiles prepared for both players, in case they were chosen in the first or supplemental first rounds:
Tyler Sample, Mullen high school (Colorado)
2008 Pick: Tim Melville, RHP, Holt HS (Missouri)
The Twins grabbed (surprise, surprise) a raw, toolsy prep player with Aaron Hicks and then balanced that out (I guess) with a "safe" pick of college reliever Carlos Gutierrez, a player the club probably could have gotten with its supplemental first round pick (or even its second round pick). A lot of analysts were baffled by that pick. Even so, Twins fans should be ecstatic with the club's next two selections in Shooter Hunt and Tyler Ladendorf. Hunt has a poor finish to his season, which slid him out of mid-first round consideration. Ladendorf is a junior college shortstop that can absolutely hit - something the organization could really use, if the kid can stick at shortstop... which is up in the air. A year after taking Angel Morales in the third round, the club took another top-rated Puerto Rican with its fourth round pick with outfielder Danny Ortiz.
- Posted by Marc Hulet
The Padres organization did dip into the high school pool for its second pick (supplemental first round), but Jaff Decker (yes it's with an 'A') has a "now bat" and is a short, squat power hitter in the Matt Stairs mold... or perhaps Brian Giles. Decker, though, has limited upside due to his size.
With its next two picks, the Padres took two college third basemen with Logan Forsythe and James Darnell, two players that were high on my personal draft board. Forsythe could surprise a lot of people as he was slowed this season by a stress fracture in his foot. Darnell was overshadowed a bit by his teammates at South Carolina but he has the potential to be a four or five tool player with a little more consistency.
2008 Pick: James Darnell, 3B, University of South Carolina
College center fielder Blake Tekotte is a spark plug type player with above-average speed and he has shown an aptitude for hitting with wood bats. Both first baseman Sawyer Carroll and outfielder Jason Kipnis are interesting players but have been described by scouts as "tweeners" because they lack the necessary power to play everyday at first base and the corner outfield.
Cole Figueroa, who was a draft-eligible sophomore out of Florida, is an interesting player and was drafted by the Jays out of high school. When I interviewed Matt LaPorta before last June's draft, he mentioned Figueroa as the one player on his club that would go on to have a great pro career. LaPorta said the Jays would regret not signing him, and the Padres certainly hope so.
- Posted by Marc Hulet
Live Blogging the 2008 MLB Draft
As detailed in the Ins and Outs of the MLB Draft, today's proceedings will get underway at 2:00 p.m. ET. Baseball Analysts will bring you all the picks from the first and supplemental rounds right here as they happen (with detailed information on the teams and draft picks below).
Breaking News: According to MLB.com: The Rays, holding the first overall selection in today's First-Year Player Draft, will select Tim Beckham, the talented high school shortstop from Griffin, Ga., according to officials with knowledge of the team's decision.
The draft order is as follows:
1. Tampa Bay Rays
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Catcher, Second baseman, Relievers
2008 Pick: Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS (GA)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Pitchers, Catcher
2008 Pick: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt University
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: First baseman, Catcher, Shortstop, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS (FL)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: First baseman, Pitchers, Shortstop
2008 Pick: Brian Matusz, LHP, University of San Diego
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Anything related to offence
2008 Pick: Buster Posey, C, Florida State University
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Catcher, Third baseman, Outfielder
2008 Pick: Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS (CA)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Catcher, Shortstop, Relievers
2008 Pick: Yonder Alonso, 1B, University of Miami
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Pitchers, Shortstop, Outfielder, Pitchers, Catcher
2008 Pick: Gordon Beckham, SS, University of Georgia
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Pitchers, First baseman, Catcher, Outfielder, Second baseman
2008 Pick: Aaron Crow, RHP, University of Missouri
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Infielders, Outfielders, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Jason Castro, C, Stanford University
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Pitchers, Shortstop, Outfielder
2008 Pick: Justin Smoak, 1B, University of South Carolina
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Second baseman, Shortstop, Outfielder
2008 Pick: Jemile Weeks, 2B, University of Miami
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Second baseman, Third baseman, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Brett Wallace, 3B/1B, Arizona State University
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Third baseman, Shortstop, Outfielder
2008 Pick: Aaron Hicks, CF-RHP, Long Beach Wilson HS (CA)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Second base, Relievers
2008 Pick: Ethan Martin, RHP/3B, Stephens County HS (GA)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Second baseman, Center fielder, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Brett Lawrie, C/IF/OF, Brookswood HS (British Columbia, Canada)
Baseball America Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Shortstop, Outfielders, Pitchers
2008 Pick: David Cooper, 1B, University of California
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Starting Pitchers, Second baseman, First baseman, Catcher
2008 Pick: Ike Davis, 1B/OF, Arizona State University
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Second baseman, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian University
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: First baseman, Third baseman, Outfielder, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Josh Fields, RHP, University of Georgia
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Third baseman, Outfielder, Pitchers, Catcher
2008 Pick: Ryan Perry, RHP, University of Arizona
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Starting Pitchers, Second baseman, First baseman, Catcher
2008 Pick: Reese Havens, SS, University of South Carolina
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Second baseman, Shortstop, Outfielders
2008 Pick: Allan Dykstra, 1B, Wake Forest University
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Pitchers, Third baseman, Outfielders
2008 Pick: Anthony Hewitt, SS, Salisbury HS (CT)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Pitchers, Catcher, First baseman
2008 Pick: Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Second baseman, Catcher, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Daniel Schlereth, LHP, University of Arizona
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Third baseman, Shortstop, Outfielder
2008 Pick: Carlos Gutierrez, RHP, University of Miami
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Catcher, First baseman, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Gerrit Cole, RHP, Lutheran HS (CA)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Shortstop, Third baseman, Second baseman, Pitchers
2008 Pick: Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Pitt CC (NC)
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Third baseman, Shortstop, First baseman, Catcher
2008 Pick: Casey Kelly, SS/RHP, Sarasota HS (FL)
Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane University
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Highland HS (IL)
Brad Holt, RHP, UNC Wilmington
Zach Collier, OF, Chino Hills HS (CA)
Evan Frederickson, LHP, University of San Francisco
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Hart HS (CA)
Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Wichita State University
Jordan Lyles, RHP, Hartsville HS (SC)
Lance Lynn, RHP, University of Mississippi
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Brett DeVall, LHP, Niceville HS (FL)
Ryan Flaherty, SS, Vanderbilt University
Jaff Decker, OF, Sunrise Mountain HS (AZ)
Wade Miley, LHP, Southeastern Louisiana University
Jeremy Bleich, LHP, Stanford University
Bryan Price, RHP, Rice University
Logan Forsythe, 3B, University of Arkansas
74. Los Angeles Angels
Baseball America’s Top 5 Prospects:
Needs: Outfielder, Third baseman
Tyler Chatwood, RHP, Redlands high school (California)
The Ins and Outs of the MLB Draft
The Major League Baseball Draft will get underway at 2:00 p.m. ET and Baseball Analysts will be here bringing you all the picks as they happen with capsules on every player selected in the first and supplemental rounds. Be sure to refresh your browser or check back throughout the day to stay abreast of the latest news as we live blog the draft.
For those of you at home or with a TV at the office, you can also catch the first round of the draft plus the compensation round on ESPN2. The draft will be conducted live from The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (outside Orlando). Each MLB team will have at least one special guest at its table to announce and welcome that club's newest addition. Representatives will include Hall of Famers Al Kaline (Tigers), Billy Williams (Cubs), and Dave Winfield (Padres). General managers, assistant GMs, scouting directors, national cross checkers, and other front office personnel will operate out of a large conference (or draft) room in each organization's home city. The appropriate area scout will generally contact the drafted player by telephone immediately after the selection.
With a five-minute maximum for each of the top 30 picks, the first round is expected to take about 2 1/2 hours. Following a 15-minute break, the draft will continue with the supplemental round and the picks will move in rapid succession until approximately 9:00 p.m. ET. We would expect that the draft will cover approximately five or six rounds on Thursday. It will resume on Friday morning at 11:30 a.m. ET and end after every team has either passed or made a selection in the 50th round.
Teams must submit a written minor league contract within 15 days of selection and all draft picks must be signed by August 15 or they will go back into the pool for 2009. As such, there are no more draft and follows as was the case prior to the rule change last year. Should a club fail to sign a first or second round draft choice, it will receive a like compensation pick next June. Unsigned third-round picks will result in a supplemental pick between the third and fourth rounds next year.
Eligible players include residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and other territories of the U.S. Categories include high school players who have graduated and not yet attended college or junior college; junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed; and college players from four-year schools who have either finished their junior or senior years or have turned – or will turn within 45 days of the draft date – 21 years of age. A player who is eligible for the draft but not taken becomes a free agent and may sign with any club until one week before the next draft or until the player enters or returns to a junior or four-year college.
The top 200 draft prospects were required to take drug tests for the first time this year. Clubs are notified of players who test positive for performance-enhancing or illegal drugs, although the positive test results in no punishment. Players refusing to take a test will be ruled ineligible for the draft.
According to Baseball America, the commissioner's office has recommended a 10% increase in signing bonuses for first rounders, restoring them to their 2006 levels. Second through fifth rounders have been slotted to receive a 7% increase. Baseball America estimates that "the ceiling for bonuses after the fifth round has risen from $123,300 in 2007 to roughly $150,000" in 2008.
Tampa Bay owns the top pick in the draft. The Rays are the first team in history to have the opening pick in back-to-back years. Prior to a recent rule change, the top draft slot alternated between the team with the worst record in each league.
According to MLB.com, the Rays are being "tight-lipped" as to who will go No. 1 but have narrowed their choice to Florida State catcher Buster Posey, Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham, San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz and California high school catcher Kyle Skipworth. We profiled and interviewed Skipworth on Tuesday.
In 2007, Tampa Bay used its first pick on Vanderbilt lefthander David Price. Should the Rays opt for Vandy's Alvarez this year, it would be the first time that the same college would have the top pick in consecutive years.
Tampa Bay is on the clock . . .
MLB Draft Preview
In anticipation of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, it is our intention to discuss several topics today in a blog-type format.
There are a number of talented two-way prospects from the high school ranks that could be selected as position players or pitchers in the first few rounds of the draft, including a handful likely to be taken among the top 30. Some players and clubs lean toward one or the other position but the fact that these youngsters could fall back on a second position is not only an indication of their athleticism but it reduces the risk somewhat for teams willing to remain open minded as to where a prospect might fit.
Here is an alphabetical list of ten two-way players for consideration:
Smallish righthander throws a low- to mid-90s fastball and also plays shortstop, center field, and even catcher. Could be a two-way player at UCLA if the price is not right.
Decker is what he is, a short, stocky, strong kid who can hit and throw but the fact that he is only 5-10 leaves little upside as a pitcher. As such, look for Decker to be drafted outside the first round as one of the better hitting talents from the high school ranks.
Scouts like him as a lefthanded power pitcher although Gose reportedly wants to use his plus-plus speed and strong arm in center field. Either way, he is more of a project than a polished player.
Hicks would be drafted no later than the middle of the first round as a toolsy outfielder or a power righthanded pitcher. The fact that he is equally good at both makes him one of the most intriguing picks in the entire draft.
Although Hosmer can dial it up to 95 (or higher as has been rumored) in short relief outings, no team is planning on drafting the sweet-swinging first baseman as a pitcher. Unless teams shy away from the high seven-digit signing bonus that the Boras Corporation has floated out there, he will be gone by the middle of the first round. He is one of a number of highly regarded prospects who could wind up playing for Arizona State if things don't pan out as hoped.
Kelly has indicated that he would like to play everyday – most likely as a shortstop initially and perhaps at third base longer term – yet many scouts envision him as a power pitcher with one of the best fastball/curveball combinations in the high school class of 2008. Signability is an issue for Kelly, who has committed to play quarterback and shortstop for the University of Tennessee.
Like Kelly, Martin is a top-notch QB on the football field and a pitcher-infielder on the baseball diamond. However, he has signed to play baseball only at Clemson. Could be drafted as a righthanded power arm or as a tough, power-hitting third baseman.
Scouts like the athletic Melville as a pitcher even though he was named MVP of the 2007 WWBA 18-and-under as a hitter. He has committed to North Carolina but signability isn't expected to be an issue.
A legitimate two-way player, Odorizzi is likely to be taken as a pitcher. However, his combination of size, speed, and power have left some teams scratching their heads wondering if he wouldn't be an outstanding shortstop in the pros.
Another in a long line of hard-throwing Texans, Seaton will focus on pitching only as a pro but the big, lefthanded-hitting outfielder is likely to be a two-way player if he attends Tulane.
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 9:45 a.m. PT
As you probably already know by now, the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft is absolutely stacked with powerful college first basemen. Let’s take a closer look at some of their numbers:
Stats: AVG/OBP/SLG | AB | HR | RBI | BB-K
Justin Smoak, University of South Carolina
Yonder Alonso, University of Miami
Brett Wallace, Arizona State University
Allan Dykstra, Wake Forest University
David Cooper, University of California
Ike Davis, Arizona State University
I’d be pretty happy to snag just about any one of those guys with a mid-to-late first round pick. I am going to go out on a limb and say that Allan Dykstra is the most underrated of the six players and surprise a lot of people with his immediate success. I am also going to say that Ike Davis will be the biggest disappointment of the six. Of the "Big Three," I'll take Yonder Alonso over Brett Wallace and Justin Smoak. How about you? Who do you like the best from a statistical standpoint?
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 1:35 p.m. EST
Personally I am not a fan of drafting college relievers in the first round of the draft. At least if you draft a starting pitcher and he stinks the place up you can make him a reliever and hope for the best. If a reliever tanks… well, that’s pretty much all she wrote. That said, there are some cases where teams have been successful at converting relievers with deep repertoires to starters. In recent memory, the Toronto Blue Jays have had excellent success with that and converted college closers: Shaun Marcum (Southwest Missouri State University), who leads the majors with 5.95 H/9 and 0.94 WHIP, David Bush (Wake Forest University), and top pitching prospect Brett Cecil (University of Maryland).
There is certainly depth when it comes to college relievers in the 2008 amateur draft. Some of the more interesting names include senior Joshua Fields (Georgia), Andrew Cashner (Texas Christian), Ryan Perry (Arizona), Zach Stewart (Texas Tech) and Bryan Price (Rice).
Fields should remain in the bullpen as a pro, with two plus pitches, and could be the first 2008 draft pick to make it to the majors, although Craig Hansen and Joey Devine might tell you that is not such a good thing. Cashner has a little broader repertoire and has done some starting in college in the past, but his fastball loses some zip, as does his plus slider.
Perry has a slider that has been compared to Brad Lidge's and a plus-plus fastball. He also has a promising change-up, which fuels the discussion to make him a starter. Unfortunately, Perry lacks deception, which can make it easy for hitters to pick up the ball, especially over the course of three or four at-bats.
Stewart’s fastball jumps four to six miles per hour when he works as a reliever. That’s a big difference. The collection of a nasty, 92-96 mph sinker, plus-plus slider and average change-up will tempt some team to give Stewart a try as a starter but his fastball would be just average.
Price barely pitched in his first two seasons because his secondary pitches were lacking, as was his command. He has improved, but his three-pitch repertoire probably isn’t enough for him to be a dominating starter. But Price has a chance to be a lights-out reliever.
That begs the question: In this day and age where pitching is so valuable, is it better to have a lights-out reliever or an average (No. 3 or 4) starter?
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 4:20 p.m. EST
2008 Draft Day Spotlight: Kyle Skipworth
On the heels of yesterday's Q&A with Brett Lawrie, we have the good fortune to spotlight another high school catcher who is projected to be taken among the top ten picks in the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday. Kyle Skipworth of Patriot High School (Riverside, Calif.) was named as the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year and is currently ranked as the top high school senior in the country by Perfect Game Cross Checker and the ninth best prospect overall by Baseball America.
Skipworth, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound lefthanded-hitting catcher, produced a rate line of .543/.627/1.117 while leading his Warriors to a 27-3 record and the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division IV state postseason tournament semifinals. He went 51-for-94 and produced 11 doubles, 2 triples, and 13 home runs while walking or getting hit by a pitch 23 times, scoring 51 runs, and driving home 47. Kyle also set a California state record this spring when he put together a streak of 18 consecutive hits in 18 official at-bats, reaching base safely in 25 straight plate appearances during this span.
A member of the USA Junior and Youth National Baseball teams, Skipworth is a veteran of the showcase circuit. Baseball America has called him "the best high school catcher in the nation" and concedes that he could be "the best prep prospect at that position since Joe Mauer was the first pick in the 2001 draft." A four-tool catcher, Skipworth hits for average and power and fields his position and throws well. Kyle has a plus arm and a release time of 1.90-1.93 on throws to second base. Skipworth, in fact, was rated the No. 1 throwing arm at last summer's 17-and-Under World Wood Bat Association Championships in Georgia. He has gunned down more than 70-percent of would-be base-stealers in his career.
According to Baseball America, Skipworth's hitting and power both grade out in the 65-70 range on the 20-80 scouting scale. The only tool he lacks is foot speed. Kyle is unaware of his home-to-first base times but told me he has run a 7.07 in the 60-yard dash. However, as reported by Baseball America, "Skip" has plenty of bat speed, quick reflexes, superior hand-eye coordination, and athleticism (as suggested by his 31-inch vertical leap at one of the showcases).
Rich: How does it feel to be named the Gatorade High School Baseball Player of the Year?
Kyle: It's an incredible honor. To put my name on the trophy with all the past winners like Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, it's almost like living in a dream now. Looking at the trophy in a couple of years and seeing my name next to theirs . . .
Rich: . . . is quite an honor indeed. Well, there is no doubt that this is an exciting week for you. After winning the award last night, you can now turn your attention to the Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday where you're projected to be selected among the top ten players overall. Where will you be on draft day?
Kyle: I'll be at home with a small group of family and friends just watching it from the couch.
Rich: I'll bet everyone is excited for you.
Kyle: Everyone is really excited. We're going to have the whole chips and dip and everything like that. It's going to be a nice all day long kind of thing.
Rich: I don't think you'll have to wait too long before your name is called.
Kyle: I'm hoping for that, too. [laughs from both ends]
Rich: Do you have a preference as to which team drafts you?
Kyle: No. Whichever teams drafts me I'm going to be an immediate fan, and I'm just going to go out and play with them.
Rich: Which teams have shown the most interest in you?
Kyle: Really, from about five through ten, I've gotten a lot of interest.
Rich: Well, I imagine you will be picked somewhere in that area.
Kyle: That's what it looks like right now and what I'm hoping for, but I know things can change. I'm just going in with an open mind. Whatever happens, I'm going to be happy regardless.
Rich: How many teams have asked you to work out for them?
Kyle: I've had contact from ten to fifteen clubs to come work out, and I've had questionnaires and interviews from everyone.
Rich: Do you have any private workouts scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday?
Kyle: Not today or Wednesday. This past weekend I flew to Washington D.C. and worked out for the Nationals at their field.
Rich: What are you planning on doing between now and the draft?
Kyle: Tonight, I have a Senior All-Star Game. Tomorrow, I start my first half of senior finals. Thursday morning, I have my last half of senior finals before the draft . . . and I'll just be at home.
Rich: You signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Arizona State this fall. How many colleges recruited you, which ones did you narrow the choice down to, and why did you decide on ASU?
Kyle: I actually decided on ASU before my junior year even started. It was always my dream school. It was just a perfect fit for me and my family. It was far enough away from home, and I love everything about the school and the way they play baseball. As far as being recruited, I received letters from every school in the Pac-10. I probably have two or three shoe boxes full of letters, including Miami, Florida, Fullerton State . . . any school you could really imagine I got at least something from them or talked to a coach.
Rich: Is your first choice to become a Sun Devil or play pro ball?
Kyle: My first choice is I want to play pro ball. I mean, I'm in a win-win situation. The worst case scenario is I get a free tuition for four years of my life.
Rich: Are you hopeful of signing and playing at the professional level this summer?
Kyle: Yes, that's my number one goal.
Rich: Who is your adviser?
Kyle: Joe Longo and Andy Shaw from The Gersh Agency in Beverly Hills.
Rich: Are you going to leave the negotiations up to them or will you and your parents be actively involved?
Kyle: It will definitely be a full circle. I will get input from my parents and I will go through my advisers because that's what they are there to help me do. But, for the most part, it's going to be myself and my family. The absolute final say will be me.
Rich: OK, let's step back for a minute. When did you become a catcher?
Kyle: My junior year. Prior to that I had played third base and the outfield.
Rich: When did you learn to bat left handed?
Kyle: Ever since I can remember hitting. My brother and sister were both righthanded. When I was a kid, I would just grab it lefthanded to be on the opposite side of the batter's box from them.
Rich: Sounds like what the golfer Phil Mickelson did as a kid except he was the mirror image of his righthanded-swinging dad in their garage.
Kyle: Yeah, that's what I've heard.
Rich: Do you pattern your game after anyone?
Kyle: I sort of pattern it after Joe Mauer.
Rich: Ahh, another tall, lefthanded-hitting catcher.
Rich: You wear No. 9 on your jersey. Is there a story behind that?
Kyle: My brother wore it, and I've just always worn it.
Rich: Oh, I was wondering if perhaps you were a fan of Ted Williams or somebody?
Kyle: No, no . . . They've always told me that Ted Williams wore it, but I've always worn it since the very beginning.
Rich: Who has had the most influence on your baseball career?
Kyle: My dad, without a doubt.
Rich: What are your greatest strengths as a player?
Kyle: I'd probably say my hitting and my arm. I can hit for a high average if I need to or, if I get the good pitch, I can definitely take it out of the park. For the most part, I think I hit righties and lefties pretty good. I personally don't feel I have any weaknesses but there are always things you can work on. I think I am pretty solid in the hitting category.
Rich: In what areas can you improve your skills the most?
Kyle: I can improve on striking out a little less. Sometimes when I do get in a home run mode, it seems like I tend to swing the bat as hard as I can on every pitch. But every now and then, with two strikes, maybe I should shorten it up a hair and go for a line drive in the gap rather than one that goes over the fence.
Rich: What is the biggest difference between hitting with an aluminum bat and a wood bat?
Kyle: I would say bat control. With an aluminum bat, you can get jammed and still hit a double in the gap or a blooper. With a wooden bat, you have to square it up every time. You have to have bat control with the barrel, and you have to put the barrel on it at all times; otherwise, you're hands are going to be hurting.
Rich: Do you look for certain pitches or locations when you are ahead in the count?
Kyle: Definitely. When I'm ahead in the count, I look for anything straight or up whether it be a fastball or a changeup . . . something that would be easy for me to elevate and drive in the gap.
Rich: Do you change your approach at the plate when behind in the count?
Kyle: Behind in the count? Not so much. I really concentrate more on covering the outside pitch and not pull off anything. You have to fight off anything that comes close.
Rich: Tell me about the home run you hit off Quenton Miller last summer at the Aflac High School All American Baseball Classic in San Diego on national TV that catapulted you into the spotlight.
Kyle: If you can describe the ultimate adrenaline rush, that would have to be it.
Rich: You also hit another home run in the Urban Youth Academy that garnered a lot of attention from scouts.
Kyle: I hit a pretty mammoth home run to the opposite field. Everybody knew I had power from center to right but, when I hit that one to dead left field, that was kinda like 'This kid can really hit.'
Rich: You were the quarterback of your high school football team as a sophomore and junior but chose not to play last fall. Was that due to the broken hand you suffered last summer or did you just decide to concentrate on baseball during your senior year?
Kyle: No, I decided to just strictly concentrate on baseball my senior year.
Rich: Was that a difficult decision to make?
Kyle: Well, to be honest, we have a below-average football team so it was really an easy choice for me. I have a chance to make a very good living and have a very good senior year. This type of opportunity comes once in a lifetime, and I'm just gonna take it and run with it.
Rich: Good for you. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Kyle: As far as my spare time, I'm with my baseball friends all the time. Music, go out with girls, just normal things like that.
Rich: It was reported on the Aflac website that you don't have a driver's license by "personal preference." Please explain.
Kyle: Oh, no, no, no, no. I have a license. I have a '79 Corvette.
Rich: [laughing] That's a nice car to have.
Kyle: Yeah, yeah. [with excitement] Oh, it's awesome. You turn that thing on, you just want to take that car out to drive just because.
Rich: [more laughs] That sounds like a car you're dad would have driven one time.
Kyle: He's told me the stories about all the cars he got to drive in his day but, unfortunately, he never got the chance to drive the '79.
Rich: You have two older siblings, one of whom served in the Army in Iraq. Is he home now?
Kyle: He actually just left this morning. He was here for a week. He's going home for about two days, then he's heading off for his second tour.
Rich: Was he with you last night when you received your award?
Kyle: Yes, that was awesome. I was under the assumption that we were going out for a family dinner for his going away dinner. And then they surprised me with it.
Rich: Very nice. When do you graduate?
Kyle: I graduate this Friday and then I walk June 11th.
Rich: What do you plan on doing between the time you graduate and the time you sign?
Kyle: Stay in shape. Start working out again. Hit in the cage, stuff like that. Maybe get in a couple of pick-up games that I know my buddies are playing with teams . . . just anything to stay in shape.
Rich: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. All of us at Baseball Analysts wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
Kyle: Thank you very much and you're definitely welcome.
Photo credits: Gatorader/Zach Cordner (top left), Heather Skipworth (above), and Gatorade/Susan Goldman (linked in opening paragraph).
2008 Draft Day Spotlight: Brett Lawrie
Canadian high school hitter Brett Lawrie has been on fire as the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft approaches on June 5. He recently hit .486 (17-for-35) on Team Canada's national junior team's spring tour in the Dominican Republic, while playing against Major League Baseball Dominican Summer League teams. Lawrie had eight homers and 24 RBIs in total and was the talk of the baseball draft world after hitting five home runs in one day during a doubleheader last week. He sprayed the homers from foul pole to foul pole.
Thanks to the timely hitting, Lawrie may be selected within the first 15 picks of the draft, and is easily considered the top draft-eligible amateur in Canada. According to Baseball America, Lawrie possesses one of the most pro-ready bats amongst the prep ranks in North America.
Lawrie returned to North America from the Dominican Republic on Friday night. He took time out of his increasingly busy schedule to speak with Baseball Analysts from a hotel suite in Minnesota.
MH: You just got back from the Dominican, where you were playing with Team Canada’s national junior team, didn’t you?
Lawrie: Yes, we did. Yesterday.
MH: And how long were you down there?
Lawrie: We were down there for nine days.
MH: Was that your first time in the Dominican?
Lawrie: Nope, it was my third time, actually.
MH: And you’ve done a similar thing each time with the club?
Lawrie: Yeah, but I haven’t hit eight home runs like that before.
MH: And how was the trip?
Lawrie: It was fun. It was good to get some at-bats and get together with the guys again. We’re coming up to a world championship pretty quick… It was a fun trip and I think we bonded well as a team. We played unreal and we should have been 8-0 down there, but we were 7-1; so it was a good trip. We played real well as a team and we did what we needed to do for a win. No one was selfish - we just played hard.
MH: Were you happy with your own personal results?
Lawrie: I couldn’t be more happy. I was seeing the ball really well. I wasn’t going out there looking to hit home runs. I was just going up there trying to hit the ball squarely and the results happened. It worked out for the best.
MH: Were you surprised by the success that you had?
Lawrie: I wasn’t overly surprised, because I know I can do that. I do it in my batting practices and stuff. It was just a matter of doing it in a game situation. I was really just seeing the ball well; I didn’t have to adjust to anything. I just played and it worked out for the best. It was a fun time.
MH: Did you notice a difference in the quality of pitching, compared to what you had been seeing? I mean, these were professional pitchers.
Lawrie: Yeah, they’re professional pitchers… but I’ve seen them for a while now. They’re just other pitchers to me. I’m not overwhelmed by them. Maybe for some guys who are seeing them for the first time it’s like, “Oh God, I’ve never seen this before.” But I’ve seen it since I was 15, so while I was down in the DR it wasn’t overwhelming at all. It was just another day.
MH: Have you been surprised by the increased interest from scouts? Your name is starting to come up a lot in the media now.
Lawrie: A little bit, but I don’t really focus on that aspect, you know, hearing my name and seeing it in the papers, or on the computers or at Baseball America and stuff. I’m just working towards June 5 and I’m just going out and playing. I can’t control what people are saying and doing, so I’m just doing what I can; I’m on the field and playing my game.
MH: What do you have planned for the rest of the week leading up to the draft?
Lawrie: I have some workouts that I’m doing right now and hopefully I should be home [in British Columbia] on the fourth [of June].
MH: What do you plan to do on Draft Day?
Lawrie: If everything goes as planned I’ll be at home... with my family. But I’m not too sure yet.
MH: So you think you’ll be watching the draft on TV or online?
Lawrie: Yeah, I’ll be watching it on TV.
MH: Now, you’re committed to Arizona State, right?
MH: What attracted you to that college program?
Lawrie: Well, I’ve been to Arizona a number of times with my Langley Blaze team that I play with back home. I’ve had a chance to see the campus and I’ve gotten a tour. I’ve been all around and seen the campus, the field and the facilities. I’ve trained there in the off-season. It just felt right; you get that sort of feeling in your stomach that it’s right. In my mind, and in my family’s... we made a decision that it worked for me. So I signed the [letter of intent] and away we go.
MH: Do you have a preference right now, whether to go pro or go to college?
Lawrie: Yeah, my preference right now, obviously, is to go in the draft… but if something doesn’t go right college is a good back-up plan. But as of right now, I am 100 percent on the draft.
MH: What is the most attractive reason, for you, to go pro now?
Lawrie: I know I can hit over .400 against those guys when I’m 15, so who says I’m not going to do it when I’m 20, you know? I can play with those guys; I know I can. On almost every trip I’ve hit over .400 against them. Not much is going to change. I’m just playing and trying not to do too much… I’m just having fun.
MH: Do you have a preference where you get drafted? Is that something you’re worrying about?
Lawrie: It’s not a huge thing. Right now I’m not focusing on that sort of thing. I can’t control what people do. Whatever happens on the day, happens… I’m just ready to rock and roll. I’m ready to do what I want to do: I’m ready to play pro ball.
MH: Do you have any specific teams that you hope to play for?
Lawrie: Not really. I respect all the teams and I’m just looking forward to playing pro ball and I’m ready to go.
MH: Are there specific teams that are showing a lot of interest in you?
Lawrie: Yup, there have been. Obviously there have been a few, so hopefully they come forward and some other teams will probably come out of the hole at the end but we’ll just see on the day.
MH: Did you have a team that you followed while growing up in B.C.?
Lawrie: Not really. I’d rather play the sport than watch it, you know… If a game was on I’d just watch it. I wasn’t thinking about who was playing; I’d just watch the game.
MH: I’ve read a lot of scouts' opinions about your ability. Everyone is enamored with your bat, obviously. But there are questions about your defensive abilities and lack of a position. Do you have a preference where you would like to play?
Lawrie: Yeah, I can play the infield… I’ve played it with Team Canada. I can play second base, I can play the outfield; I can play anywhere and I’m really versatile. I can play third base real well. I’ve challenged myself in the last little bit with catching. As of right now I’m a catcher and I want to always have the ball in my hand. It’s been great. I’ve been able to control the pitchers and have a good relationship with them on Team Canada. I’m having fun and I want to catch.
MH: Do you have any specific career goals at this point, aside from playing professional baseball?
Lawrie: I really don’t. All I want to do is play in the big leagues and I want to get there as quick as I can. I don’t plan on staying in the minors for five years. I plan on doing it in a year-and-a-half.
MH: You mentioned you really didn’t have any favorite teams, but did you have any favorite players while growing up?
Lawrie: Everyone always has their favorite players. You have Alex Rodriguez… One of the guys I really like to watch is Russell Martin, a Canadian guy [with the Los Angeles Dodgers]. He’s a catcher. He played on the national team, the national junior team. I spent some time with him in the off-season and I trained with him. The national team coach loves him as well. He didn’t start catching until he came out of junior college, so I’m kind of doing the same thing that he did. I got a chance to see the way he lives and it’s a pretty cool life. I’m ready to go.
MH: Did you learn anything specific from Russell?
Lawrie: Yeah, we had lots of talks about stuff like conducting yourself on and off the field. From a catching standpoint we worked on blocking, and a whole bunch of stuff. I also hung out with Dustin Pedroia from the Boston Red Sox. I went over to his house for dinner and I saw how those guys conduct themselves. It’s a real treat and a pleasure to be in the presence of those guys. They took the time out of their lives to have an 18-year-old kid live with them. It was a fun time; it was cool. They’re just guys. They’re not people who are trying to be billionaires. They just like to have fun and do the things that guys do.
MH: Have you had a chance to talk to people about what to expect with life in the minor leagues?
Lawrie: Yeah, I’ve heard numerous things. Everyone says it’s a grind. There’s no doubt about it, but I’m ready to play. You have other guys battling for your position… and that’s where my competitiveness comes in. If I can do what I can do with Team Canada, there is no reason why I can’t do it with a minor league team.
MH: Let’s write a scouting report on Brett Lawrie. What do you think are your strengths as a baseball player?
Lawrie: I have the ability to be the spark on a team, whether it’s a line drive into the gap, a home run or something like that. I think I have a really good feel for the clubhouse and I like to mess around with the guys… I’m a good teammate and I can pick guys up when they’re down. I know when it’s time to get serious. My bat, though, is obviously going to carry me.
MH: What part of your game needs the most work to get to that next level and to make it to the major leagues?
Lawrie: I guess consistency. It’s important to have the right mind set and attitude day-in-and-day-out…
MH: How long have you been playing baseball?
Lawrie: I’ve played baseball all my life… I’ve played a number of different sports. I played basketball - I was a big basketball player from Grade 8 all the way up to Grade 11. I can also play golf. Baseball is the big thing, though, I’ve played since I was six or seven. But I’ve never played with my own age group. I’ve always played with guys that are older and I think it’s helped with playing against professional guys.
MH: What made baseball win out over the other sports you’ve played, like basketball?
Lawrie: Well, for basketball, you look at the guys in the NBA and then me and I’m only 6-0, 200 pounds. Those guys are 6-8. I guess, though, I just really didn’t have the same love for other sports and with baseball you have a guy like Dustin Pedroia who’s 5-8 and 160 pounds competing out there. There is no reason why this 6-0, 200 pound guy can’t get it done either.
MH: Has your family been supportive in all this?
Lawrie: Oh yeah, I could never have done it without them. My mom, my dad, my sister… Everyone is behind me and everyone is in my corner. We’ve had fun as a group and we’re all ready to go. My adviser has been there every step of the way as well.
MH: When you’re not on a ball diamond, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Lawrie: I’m just like any other kid and I’m still in high school. I’ve got my graduation coming up and I’m looking forward to that. I just like to hang out with friends and I like to watch TV and play a few video games here and there. I like to hang out with the family and just have fun.
MH: Do your friends get on you about all this attention you’re getting?
Lawrie: Oh yeah, sometimes they do. It’s fun for them as well because they get to hear all this stuff. It’s a fun time and you only go through it once in your life. It’s been a real treat, all this stuff that’s gone on. My friends have been behind me as well and we have fun talking about it and we joke around.
MH: If you were not looking at a career as a baseball player, what profession do you think you’d go into?
Lawrie: I haven’t really thought about that, because I’ve always wanted to be a baseball player. I haven’t looked into other fields.
MH: I have one more question for you… and it might be a tough one so take your time. Why should a Major League Baseball club use its No. 1 pick on Brett Lawrie?
Lawrie: A team should use its No. 1 pick on me because I think I have that spark. I look at Dustin Pedroia as an example. He is the clubhouse. From what I’ve heard from all the other big league guys, he’s the spark in that clubhouse. I can see myself being that guy too. I know I can get it done and I have the tools, the abilities and the right mindset. I have a good head on my shoulders and I think I can help a ball team win. In the end it is about winning and good team chemistry helps you win a ring.
MH: Well, that’s all my questions. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Lawrie: Nope. I’d just like to thank you for taking the time.
MH: No problem. It’s been a real pleasure to speak with you and I look forward to seeing how Draft Day plays out for you.
Team Canada’s national junior head coach Greg Hamilton spoke briefly with Baseball Analysts:
MH: What are Brett's strengths as a ballplayer?
GH: He has tremendous athletic confidence and total belief in his ability to excel at the highest levels of the game. [He has] no fear in any situation, and plus bat speed, which produces power to all parts of the ballpark. [Brett has] excellent hands to hit and the ability to square the ball up at the point of contact.
MH: What does he need to work on to take his game to that 'next level?'
GH: Brett needs to define himself defensively. He has the potential to catch, play second, third or left in the professional game.
MH: Do you think he can be a catcher at the pro level and what do you think his best defensive position would be?
GH: Brett has caught for less than one year and at present catches the ball consistently and displays balance in receiving. He has enough arm strength to catch and once he polishes his footwork and blocking skills, he will be an average defender with an above-average bat. Having said this, I truly believe he can play professionally at any position… Again, he has no fear of a challenge and has plenty of athletic ability to develop necessary defensive skills at all listed positions.
MH: What impressed you most about Brett's performance in the Dominican Republic?
GH: He is a high school player hitting with a wood bat and dominating professional pitching. I have never seen a player hit five home runs in a doubleheader from foul pole to foul pole. He is an exceptional hitter with an athletic confidence that is rarely displayed at such a young age.
Another baseball man that has seen Lawrie play and develop is Doug Mathieson, the head coach of the Langley Blaze of British Columbia’s Premier Baseball League, which is one of the top 18-and-under premier baseball programs in all of Canada. The club has already produced a number of professional baseball players, including Cincinnati’s Kyle Lotzkar (a 2007 supplemental first round draft pick) and Philadelphia’s Scott Mathieson.
He also was kind enough to speak with Baseball Analysts regarding Lawrie’s potential.
MH: What are the biggest improvements that Brett has made in recent months?
DM: Brett has always been a standout player. His biggest improvement is being more consistent and working hard in the off-season on his strength. Brett has an above-average arm, is an above average runner, has power and bat speed and is very athletic.
MH: What improvements does he need to make?
DM: Brett will need to hone his defensive skills at whatever position he is given. His biggest strength is that he can hit.
MH: How does he compare talent-wise to some of the other former Blaze that you coached, who are now playing in pro ball or college?
DM: Brett is the best hitter we have had on the Blaze in our history. His bat could play at a high level now.
MH: Are you surprised that he is now being considered as an early to mid first round draft talent?
DM: No, he has really risen since our spring training trip in March, where he hit .550 against nine college teams and three pro teams and he has continued to pick up the pace, hitting a double and a homer at our scout day in front of 80 scouts, including cross checkers and a few directors.