The Week That Was
News and notes from around the college, minor league, and mysterious world of baseball cards:
Congratulations to LSU on winning the College World Series last week. The Tigers beat the Texas Longhorns 11-4 in the third and decisive game for the school's sixth national championship since 1991. Paul Mainieri, who took over the program in 2006, was named Baseball America's Coach of the Year for returning the baseball powerhouse back to prominence.
Anthony Ranaudo, Chad Jones, and Louis Coleman combined to hold the powerful Texas offense to nine hits and four runs while Jared Mitchell, the CWS Most Outstanding Player, slugged a three-run home run in the first inning and worked an eight-pitch, lead-off walk in the sixth to spark a five-run rally after the Longhorns had tied the score 4-4 in the fifth. Mitchell, a first-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox, hit .348 with two homers and seven RBI in Omaha. He and Jones also starred on the LSU football team coached by Les Miles.
Although LSU will lose Mitchell, Coleman (5th round, KC), D.J. LeMahieu (2nd, CHC), Ryan Schimpf (5th, TOR), Blake Dean (10th, MIN), and Sean Ochinko (11th, TOR), the Tigers will return Ranaudo, who enters his junior season as perhaps the most highly regarded college pitcher in the nation; plus closer Matty Ott, a first-team All-Freshman; Austin Ross, the No. 3 starter as a sophomore; infielders Tyler Hanover and Austin Nola, a defensive whiz at shortstop; athletic outfielders Leon Landry and Mikie Mahtook; one of the top catchers in Micah Gibbs; and perhaps Jones, who could double as a pitcher/outfielder, if he decides to play baseball next spring.
The rosters for the 2009 Futures Game, which will be held in St. Louis on July 12, were released. Players are selected by Baseball America, the MLB Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, and all 30 teams. Each club must have at least one player on the roster and no more than two.
I'm looking forward to seeing Josh Vitters, whom I interviewed two years ago as part of our 2007 draft coverage. Vitters (.316/.351/.535) has cooled down considerably after going on a tear for a couple of weeks last month. Vitters will turn 20 in August and is toiling at Low-A Peoria in the Midwest League, which is one of the toughest minor leagues for hitters. However, Mike Stanton, another Futures Game participant from Southern California, won't turn 20 until November, yet is playing Double-A for Jacksonville in the Southern League. A former tight end who turned down a football scholarship to USC, the young Marlins outfielder is off to a less than auspicious start competing mainly against players 2-4 years older than him but is on the short list of who just may be the best prospect in baseball on the heels of David Price, Matt Wieters, and Tommy Hanson ascending to the big leagues.
In an excellent piece on whether pitch recognition and plate discipline can be taught in the minor leagues, ESPN's Peter Gammons wrote the following glowing report on Stanton earlier this month:
A great case study is that of 19-year-old Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton, one of the most physically gifted prospects in the game. He is a 6-foot-6, 235-pound speedster who was a second-round pick in 2007, turned his back on a tight end scholarship to USC and hit 39 homers in Single-A last season at the age of 18.
Stanton had a .968 OPS and a .390 on-base percentage with 12 homers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League before being sent to Double-A this week, now at the ripe age of 19. But what is most remarkable about Stanton -- and he would be a natural to be thrown into the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game -- is that every month beginning in April 2008, his strikeout rates have declined and his walk rates have increased. His strikeout rate was 33.7 percent in April 2008; last month, it was 17.3 percent. His walk rate was 7.1 percent in April 2008; last month, it was 13.6 percent.
Stanton is a student of the game and works very hard at his craft. "Still," says one scout, "he has instincts for the sport that no one can teach. That, and the fact that he can hit balls 500 feet."
There are a number of other top prospects that will be performing in the Futures Game. Be sure to set your DVR if you are unable to watch it live.
Tom Ruane announced that Retrosheet has added the box scores (without play-by-play) for the 1930 National League season, which means the site now has box scores for all games played in the major leagues from 1920 to 1930. Thank you, Tom and David Smith, the founder, as well as a number of volunteers who worked diligently to bring all of us this information online at no charge.
I received a George Scott 1979 Topps baseball card in the mail on Saturday. It had no note inside nor any return address. My name and address was typed on a label on the envelope, which had a canceled USA 44c stamp on it and a New York, NY postmark dated June 25. I thought my friend Alex Belth, a native New Yorker and the proprietor of the Bronx Banter, may have been the prankster but he told me this morning that he discovered a Bucky Dent 1978 Topps card in his work mail over the weekend. I would be curious if anybody else has received a similar baseball card from an unknown sender in the hopes of trying to unravel this mystery.
Update: Tom Meagher in the comments section is correct. Shysterball's Craig Calcaterra has resolved the mystery, confirming via email that Josh Wilker's publisher sent the baseball cards. Wilker is the founder and operator of Cardboard Gods, a fantastic blog focused on none other than baseball cards, complete with photos and stories but lacking the bubble gum sticks that were such a part of the world of collecting cards before the advent of price guides and plastic protectors.