I’m not one for putting together a mock draft, the time and effort it takes to legitmately watch video of over 100 potential first or second round picks is plain and simple a luxury I do not have. That said, however, I do follow the amateur game as closely as anyone else, but the process of knowing where and when a player fits into a particular organization is daunting enough. Combine those factors with the draft changes initiated by the new CBA and the task becomes almost life altering, albeit temporarily.
Putting the draft changes aside, this year’s event will be different than in recent years in the sense there is no consensus number one choice. Even Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow shares that opinion, stating on Friday the team has not reached a final decision on who they will select, and likely won’t until they’re on the clock.
In looking through a mock draft database, Stanford righthander Mark Appel is the odds on favorite to go number one overall, with 39 of 55 guesses. Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton comes in a distant second with 14 votes.
Other consensus top five choices are LSU righthander Kevin Gausman, University of San Francisco righty Kyle Zimmer, University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino and high school shortstop Carlos Correa.
The Astros, obviously, are a team with needs across the diamond, last year’s trading of All Star Hunter Pence has left them without a marquee player and middle of the order presence. Drafting a close to ML ready pitcher like Appel, Gausman or Zimmer would give them a boost at the box office, but there wouldn’t necessarily be an immediate reflection in the standings.
One consideration for Houston in this draft which I think is being drastically underplayed is they must approach the process with the mindset this is their first major undertaking as an American League team. Going from the National League Central to the American League West is such a monumental change it’s hard to quantify in words. Personally, and this is my belief for every team, you can be somewhat competitive with a patchwork pitching rotation acquired through free agency, waivers and two or three player trades. I’m not talking Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia here, more like R.A. Dickey.
So, considering everything, if I’m the guy in charge for Houston, we’re taking Byron Buxton. I could be convinced to take Correa as well, but a potential middle of the order, Gold Glove caliber centerfielder is a safer bet than a top of the order, Gold Glove caliber shortstop with question marks on his bat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s question marks with Buxton’s offense too, but if Correa has to move off short at some point, his hit tool becomes more of an issue, and with sticking to a budget more of a concern nowadays, it’s not a risk worth taking.
For me, anyway.
In advance of next Monday’s draft, which will once again be televised live on MLBNetwork (6pm EST), one should remember some of the changes initiated during the negotiations for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement take place starting this year.
It’s going to be interesting to see how teams adjust to the new rules, especially with some more restrictive penalties coming in 2013. It’s almost like this year is a dress rehearsal for the big show coming later on. Among the changes on tap for 2013 and beyond is a reduced number of compensation picks for free agents and a “competitive-balance” lottery which provides additional choices for disadvantaged teams, which, for the first time, can be traded.
Some of the changes which start this year are the banning of major league contracts to draftees, the adding of compensation picks from one round to three for the failure to sign a pick, and a mandatory forty percent offer to a player who fails a physical. Additionally the draft length will be reduced from fifty rounds to forty and a further shortening of the post-draft signing period, from August 15th to six weeks after the draft, which this year is July 13th.
In an attempt to control bonuses, teams are assigned “bonus pools”, which is based loosely on the sum of values of each team’s picks in the first ten rounds, which are assigned jointly by MLB and the MLBPA. With a more punitive luxury tax and the possibility of losing picks in upcoming drafts, even the big-money teams are expected to hold firm to their pool allotment.
Obviously, this system favors the teams picking at the top of the draft, the first pick of the round (Houston) is valued at $5.625 million more than Boston’s thirty-first and final pick of the first round. As it stands now, the cumulative dollar value on a per pick basis is roughly $27 million less this year than last.
The Twins have the largest bonus pool at just over twelve and a quarter million, covering thirteen picks, the Angels have the smallest, with just over one and a half million to spread amongst eight picks.
Teams have the flexibility to spend their pool in any way they choose, as long as they remain under their pool budget. If a team signs a player for less than the slot amount, they in turn could use that money on another pick, however, if they fail to sign a pick, the dollar value is subtracted from their total. Additionally, while the budget amount doesn’t cover rounds eleven through forty, penalties will still be assessed if the player signs for an amount $100,000 or more over the assigned slot amount.
Under the old CBA, the only enforceable penalty would be a fine for not having a player’s contract offer approved by MLB prior to the signing deadline. Now, the penalties begin at one dollar over each team’s respective bonus total and escalates for each additional five percent up to fifteen.
Exceeding the bonus pool by up to 5 percent results in a 75 percent penalty tax on the overage, from 5 to 10 percent results in the same 75 percent penalty and the loss of a first round pick, from 10 to 15 percent the penalty is 100% of the overage and the loss of a first and second rounder, and after 15 percent it’s a 100 percent penalty and the loss of two first rounders.
The best part of the penalties, IMO, is the fact the money isn’t paid directly to MLB, it’s disbursed (along with the forfeited picks) to those teams which didn’t exceed their budget. So, in effect, the Yankees could essentially pay for Tampa to sign additional picks and give another team and extra selection in an upcoming draft.
With their second of two first round picks in 2007, the Oakland Athletics selected Sean Doolittle, a lefty first baseman/outfielder/pitcher from the University of Virginia. Signing as a position player, Doolittle’s pro career began quickly, playing sixty-eight games between two Class A stops during the second half of the season.
Doolittle again made two stops in 2008, between Low Class A and AA, hitting a combined .286/22/91, mostly at first base but making twenty-five appearances in the outfield along the way. Following the season, Oakland sent Doolittle, as an outfielder, to the prestigious Arizona Fall League, where he would finish among the league leaders in most offensive categories and being named to the All-Prospect Team.
Heading into 2009, Baseball America ranked Doolittle the eleventh best prospect in the Oakland organization as a first baseman. Promoted to Triple A Sacramento, Doolittle started the season well despite experience pain in both knees. Diagnosed with tendinitis, Doolittle’s season came to an end in May after just twenty-eight games when he underwent surgery on his left knee.
Going in to 2010, BA thought enough of Doolittle to keep him on Oakland’s prospect list, this time as an outfielder. However, continued problems with his knees required additional surgeries to both, and he missed the season entirely.
While at Virginia, Doolittle was not only a top offensive player, but the ace of the pitching staff. In 2006, he was named ACC Player of the Year while picking up Second Team All-American honors at two different positions.
During spring training 2011, Doolittle approached Oakland staff about the possibility of resuming his career as a pitcher. Still unable to play because of his knees, it was decided his rehab schedule and routine would change to accommodate the switch. Eventually, Doolittle was healthy enough to make one appearance on the mound during a Rookie League game and showed enough promise that Oakland added him to the 40 man roster after the season, despite no true game action for over two years.
The move has paid off so far.
So far in 2012, pitching exclusively in relief, Doolittle has made eleven appearances between Class A Stockton and Double A Midland, throwing just over sixteen innings and allowing just six hits. He’s walked five hitters and struck out a ridiculous thirty-one and has yet to allow a homerun.
Scouting reports on Doolittle as a pitcher have him throwing in the 93-95 range with his fastball, with just enough of a breaking ball to keep Class A hitters off-balance. Obviously, at the next level the breaking stuff will need to improve or he’ll have to come up with a third offering, then again as a reliever it may not be necessary because he won’t face more than a half dozen hitters or so in an outing.
It’s hard to call a product of a six year old draft a prospect, especially one who was a college pick. Doolittle is 25 now and has certainly dealt with his share of adversity as a pro. Healthy, he drew comparisons to Wally Joyner, and there were few questions on his being Oakland’s first baseman of the future.
Maybe now, he’s their closer of the future.
I’m rooting for him.
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My day this past Sunday started out the same as pretty much every Sunday has for the past couple of years, get up early, make a pot of coffee, run to the grocery store and the post office and then back home. Usually my wife and daughter are still sleeping, so I turn on the laptop while I’m putting the groceries away and check email and the day’s MiLB.TV schedule.
I noticed almost right away an email from a friend who I get something from once every couple of weeks or so, so I bypassed it and went on checking other stuff and went back, and was pretty surprised at what I read from him.
After five years of blood, sweat, money and time, he was shutting down a website he had built from scratch into one of the more respected blogs in a market where there are more websites than cigarette butts on the sidewalk.
I’m talking about Mike Silva and NY Baseball Digest.
There’s one big, important point here that everyone needs to understand…Mike isn’t media. Whatever he knows is self-taught, through either the school of hard knocks or from not being afraid to knock on someone’s door. Mike excelled at something that stops most people before they get off the ground.
Even the most formally trained journalist has to pay his dues; respect from professional players, coaches, and front office personnel isn’t given just because you have a website or write for the Post. Not only did Mike gain that respect, he kept it by being true to his word and maintaining a trait which seems to be lost amongst today’s “media”, integrity.
We first met in late 2006 when both were writing for a startup site called Dugout Central, which was founded and operated by former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo. Mike left shortly thereafter to start his own site, and through the subsequent years we had stayed in touch, either through my writing contributions to his site or as a guest on NYBD’s sister radio show. As a transplanted native of the Tri-State area living in the Southwest and a fan of the local teams, it was a mutual win for both of us as I kept up with the happenings of what was going on in the world of New York sports, outside of what ESPN’s spin city provided.
Mike, by birth I guess, is a Mets’ fan, and while his site touched on the Yankees and the other sports teams in New York and even the local talk show scene, it was the trust that he built with the Mets’ organization that led Mike to being respected enough to receive credentials and invitations to events which left some big-name “mainstream” media outlets outside on the sidewalk.
Finding a start-up site which has reached this level of respect in such a short period of time is like finding quality acting on “Jersey Shore”. Major League Baseball doesn’t arbitrarily hand out media credentials, I can tell you from my own personal experiences that your first born child and being written into your will isn’t good enough, it’s a sometimes never ending process for the vast majority.
This isn’t the end, however, as Mike is moving on to a new venture called Instream Sports, where he will be a featured writer and will maintain the radio show. The launch for his writing career will be effective June first, while you can still listen t his weekly Sunday radio shows on blogtalk radio.
For those who know Mike, he will be posting occassional updates on mikesilvamedia.com leading up to the launch, and will be making a formal announcement once his start date is officlal.
So, on behalf of those who care, and even some who don’t, thanks to Mike for five solid years of NY Baseball Digest, and good luck with the new opportunity.
Author’s Note, this article first appeared on mlbprospectpulse.com
CBS’ Jon Heyman (via Twitter) reports Harper is the roster move made necessary by Washington placing Ryan Zimmerman on the 15 day DL with a left shoulder strain. Washington General Manager Mike Rizzo (also via Twitter) paints a different picture, saying, “we thought we needed to bring in an impactful left-handed bat”, which could point to Harper hanging around for longer than fifteen days.
Is this the right move?
For me, it’s not, I don’t think Harper should have been in Triple A, but I’m not the one paying him nine million dollars either.
On paper, Rizzo may be onto something, as the Nationals have only one regular lefty hitter in their lineup, first baseman Adam LaRoche, who’s actually playing well, putting up a .324/2/14 split. Outfielders Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina have struggled, however, especially Bernadina; both players combined are hitting .213/1/5.
Harper himself has struggled in his first test of “real” baseball, hitting .250/1/3 with Syracuse in twenty games. His biggest struggles have come against lefthanded pitching (4-21/.190) and in night games, where he’s hitting just .175 through 43 plate appearances. He’s also had some problems defensively, making four errors already, mostly on throws.
It is what it is, although if there is a silver lining to Harper’s debut, unlike fellow top pick Stephen Strasburg, it will be on the road.
And speaking of Strasburg, he’s Washington’s starting pitcher on Saturday as well, as if there won’t be enough of a media circus.
Like I said, I’m not a fan of the move, but like everyone else, I won’t miss it either.
Chuck Johnson is the founder of mlbprospectpulse.com, you can follow on Twitter @prospect_pulse.
If I’m either Mark Newman or Brian Cashman, I’m really starting to get concerned about my two “Killer B’s”, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. Both made their Triple A debuts last year, finally, with Betances eventually making two late season appearances in the Show with the Yankees.
As has been their norm in recent years, the Yankees have been overly cautious with their young pitchers, almost to the point where their development has stagnated, or even regressed.
With as long as they’ve been in the organization (five years Banuelos, seven years Betances), you’d think they would both be established in the major leagues by now, whether or not in a Yankee uniform. And, yet, here we are with both not only being barely AAA established, they’ve both struggled big-time while there.
Take Banuelos, who is currently on the minor league seven day disabled list with a strained back muscle suffered, apparently, during his last start, a start in which he walked six batters in two plus innings.
Go back to mid-season 2010 when the Yankees promoted Banuelos from Tampa to AA Trenton. Since then, he’s made 32 starts between AA and AAA, pitching 151 innings, allowing 159 hits and 86 walks and has pitched to a 4.59 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP.
Even if you’re willing to give Banuelos the benefit of the doubt, and subtract his AAA numbers, he’s still a below .500 pitcher in AA, with an ERA of 3.53 and a WHIP of 1.53.
Are those the numbers of a top pitching prospect?
And before anyone asks the inevitable question, as a former scout, Banuelos’ age is irrelevant. If he was a high school draftee and signed late, and didn’t make his pro debut until the year after he signed, then making it to AAA in the same year is relevant. But to be in your fifth year as a pro, and only having nine starts above AA is a negative, whether that’s the Yankees’ fault for over-protecting him isn’t the point. Because if you were 18-4 in 23 AA starts with a 1.05 WHIP and a 2.10 ERA, there would be no justifiable reason for him not to be in the Yankees’ rotation, kid gloves approach notwithstanding.
And the Yankees wouldn’t feel the need to bring back Andy Pettitte or sign journeyman like Nelson Figueroa.
Betances is even more of an enigma, unlike the just turned 21 year old Banuelos, Betances is 24 and the shine is fading much faster off his star.
On paper, his numbers between AA and AAA are similar to Banuelos’, but considering the difference in age and experience and Betances’ having the better stuff, one could easily argue he’s been less successful than his counterpart.
In 31 starts, Betances is 4-11 in 154 innings, allowing 130 hits and 84 walks while pitching to a 4.26 ERA and a WHIP of 1.39. His AA numbers are similar to Banuelos, 4-6 with a 3.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.23.
Again, not numbers posted by a top prospect, especially with so much respective experience under their belts.
This was a big year for both pitchers, obviously, especially considering the nomadic schedule Scranton (“Empire State”) would play this year due to the remodeling of their home park. Both pitchers needed to show they have the strength and stamina to pitch deeper into games, to show their stuff is just as effective in the seventh inning as it is in the first, and to of course remain healthy.
They’ve only made five starts between them thus far (Betances was scheduled to pitch today, but Scranton’s game was rained out), and Banuelos is on the DL, so neither is off to the starts to the season expected. The sample size is small, and there’s a lot of season left, but the Yankees’ hierarchy has to be at least somewhat concerned.
With the new CBA forcing even the rich teams like the Yankees into being more selective with free agents and even their own arbitration eligible players, the days of throwing money at the likes of Carl Pavano, A.J. Burnett and even Hiroki Kuroda are out the window.
For the Yankees to remain competitive going forward, they’re going to have to figure out a way to develop players (not just pitchers) in the system, and figuring out a way to turn around Banuelos and Betances would be a good place to start.
In case you missed the Newsfeed yesterday, the Washington Nationals placed 2011 first round pick Anthony Rendon on the 7-day minor league disabled list with what has been described as a “partial fracture” in his left ankle.
Those of us who follow prospects and minor leaguers know this isn’t the first time Rendon has dealt with an injury.
Unfortunately for him, It’s not the second or third time, either. As a freshman at Rice University, Rendon suffered an injury to his right ankle during the NCAA Super Regionals game that ended up requiring surgery. He suffered a much more severe injury to the same ankle after his sophomore season while playing for Team USA in a World Cup game against South Korea, and spent much of his final college season as the designated hitter after suffering a non-structural injury to his right shoulder during an early season workout.
Thankfully, this injury is to his “good” ankle, and, according to Nats’ General Manager Mike Rizzo, “The doctors tell me that his season in not in jeopardy. The slight fracture probably heals quicker and cleaner than a bad sprain.”
As someone who suffered several ankle injuries during his own playing career, I can tell you that statement is true. A sprain actually is a tearing of the ligaments in the ankle, and if you’re not careful you can end up doing some pretty significant damage, whereas once a bone is broken, that’s it. As long as you immobolize it and at least give it a few days for the healing process to start, you really can’t do any more damage to the area.
Rendon suffered the injury last Saturday rounding third base, trying to score on a single by teammate Justin Bloxom, and was immediately helped off the field by the P-Nats’ training staff. After allowing the swelling to subside for a few days, X-Rays taken on Wednesday revealed a small fracture to one of the small bones in the ankle. Rendon was placed in a walking boot, and according to Rizzo, “will see a foot specialist on Friday to determine the next step.”
As news of the injury started to come out, social media sites and various blog posts were in the “I told you so” vein, believing Rendon’s history of injuries to his feet are of the chronic nature and that he will never be completely healthy.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
Sure, on the surface it may seem unusual to have this type of injury history, but when looking at the circumstances, they all occured while running the bases, when you’re simultaneously moving at full speed and changing directions. From here, all it takes would be to hit the bag wrong on the turn, or catch a spike mark or soft spot in the dirt to end up wearing a boot.
The kid’s played thirteen innings as a pro, and is learning a new position on top of everything else. He’s a legitimate prospect wherever he plays, and while he doesn’t come with the hype of fellow number one Bryce Harper, I believe when it’s all said and done Rendon will have had the better major league career.
Harper missed three weeks at the end of last season after straining a hamstring..running the bases, and it barely registered within the media.
Hamstring, ankle, apples, oranges.
In the long run, Rendon might end up missing a week or two, it doesn’t mean he’s the next Steve Chilcott.
I don’t think anything surprised me more when perusing through the various Top 100 Prospect rankings for 2012 to see Grant Green ranked in the bottom half of the majority, or in some cases, not at all. I actually came across a list of one of the so-called “experts” that didn’t rank him in his Top 145!
Drafted as a shortstop in the first round of the 2009 draft out of the University of California, Green is a .304 lifetime hitter in two full minor league seasons. An offense minded player, Green projects as a plus hitter with above average power and speed who should post 20/20 seasons in the major leagues.
Defense is where the problems lie for Green, or at least they did. Sixty-one errors and a .930 fielding percentage isn’t going to guarantee you a major league career, especially as a shortstop.
So, in an effort to speed his path (read: bat) to the majors, Oakland decided to make Green an outfielder, right in the middle of last season.
Following his MVP performance in last year’s Future’s Game in Phoenix (as a second baseman), Green returned to Double A Midland and immediately took over as the club’s regular centerfielder.
Green played the final 47 games of the season for Midland in the outfield, handling 101 chances and making three errors. He then was called up to AAA Sacramento after Oakland recalled Michael Taylor and played right field for the RiverCats during the PCL playoffs.
Green’s learning curve continued in the Arizona Fall League, where I had a chance to see him on several occasions.
His issues in the outfield were noticeable but not necessarily unexpected, I saw him misplay a flyball after apparently forgetting he needed to flip down his sunglasses.
Ryan Braun had the same issues moving to the outfield, and so has Bryce Harper. It’s a learning curve everyone has to deal with, the footwork is different, the throwing motion is different, even the excitement level. When asked during the AFL about the change, Green said the outfield was “boring” and he was finding it difficult to stay focused on the situations.
Here’s the thing about the prospect rankings, moving him to the outfield should move him UP the list, not down. Taking a plus offensive player with questionable defensive skills as an infielder and making him an outfielder enhances his status, right?
I mean, look at Braun. He made 26 errors in 112 games his rookie year as a third baseman, and has made just six in over six hundred games as an outfielder.
Green’s a good athlete, and despite the presence of Taylor and Yeonis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, not to mention a couple of other top minor leaguers, it’s clear by the change Oakland wants Green in their everyday lineup sooner rather than later.
Keep an eye on him, go to MiLB.com and add him to your watch list, you won’t be disappointed.