Spring Training is essentially a lot of nothing: players getting in shape by actually playing baseball against minor leaguers, prospects being highlighted as the potential future without much consequence, the usual golf, fishing, maybe some joking around.
However, no one apparently sent the memo to the Miami Marlins, who after a game against the Boston Red Sox, filed a grievance alleging that the Sox, a champion organization cheated both Miami and its fans by fielding a lineup of minor leaguers, save for Jackie Bradley. The Marlins had hoped for the actual championship team, and had thus inflated ticket prices.
The Red Sox responded with a personal tweet from owner John Henry which read as follows:
They should apologize for their regular season lineup.—
John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) March 08, 2014
Major League Baseball responded by fining the Red Sox a small amount, but that small amount was way too much for an “offense” like not fielding a lineup of regulars during a spring training game. In fact, the logic behind the fine was that the Red Sox needed to put “at least four major leaguers, or players with a good shot at a major league roster spot” in the lineup.
This is stupidity to the nth degree; a team should have every right to field whomever they want in their lineup and shouldn’t have to acquiesce just because another team expects them to. In fact, what would have happened had the Red Sox done it, then gradually substituted the starters out? Would they have called the game?
A year ago, the San Antonio Spurs were fined for opting not to let their starters play in a game against the Miami Heat. Coahc Gregg Popovich defended the action as a means to let his star players, all except for one are above the age of 30, get a well deserved rest. Then-commissioner David Stern fined the team because according to him, the benching was not “In the best interests of basketball”.
Professional sports are a corporation by and large, but star players do deserve rest and should not be forced to play because of marketability. Granted, Popovich should have mentioned that he needed to rest his starters to avoid injury, but still, players are human beings as well.
The Marlins and Major League Baseball should be ashamed too. For one, Miami exploited fans by driving up prices for that one particular game. For another, Major League Baseball sided with the same team that has been viewed as having the worst management, is the prime example of a team entirely dependent on fire sales which gut the team of talent in return for players who may or may not pan out, who swindled the Miami taxpayers into building a stadium with public funds with the promise that a championship team would play there, only to sell off the championship pieces a year later, in short, it’s downright despicable and it shows the darker side of business in baseball.
By Steven Inman
Most naysayers believe the Mets are making a mistake by trying to build their franchise back up with young pitching. They refer to Generation K, a trio of young pitchers who never made it in New York. Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson all came up through the Mets system as top prospects with blazing fastballs. Although it sounds very similar to the trio of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard it doesn’t appear that history is due to repeat itself.
Isringhausen was the only pitcher of the trio to make it in the big leagues, and he did it for the most part as a closer in Oakland and St. Louis. Harvey and Wheeler have already had more success in their young careers than the trio from the 90’s did with the Mets.
The difference that I see between the three pitchers of 2014 and Generation K is Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard all seem to throw much more free and easy than most young pitchers. Harvey and Syndergaard seem to throw 97mph without putting much stress on their arms. Wheeler when his mechanics are right, has the easiest delivery of the three.
Also in the past 20 years due to video, scouting has gotten much more accurate. A much higher percent of top prospects are making it to the big leagues and establishing themselves as the cream of the crop in Major League Baseball. When Generation K came out, for the most part scouts really didn’t have the technology to look at a kid’s delivery and say “he’s not going to hold up for 200 innings” Now we do and those kids are quickly switched to the bullpen for the most part.
Also 20 years ago guys were throwing 130-135 pitches in the minor leagues regularly. In 2014 pretty much every pitching prospect is on some kind of pitch limit per game, and innings limit for a season.
Teams have learned from the Generation K’s of the world and have put some work in to protect their young pitchers to give themselves a better chance of holding up long-term.
Two of the three pitchers from Generation K blowing out their arms within the span of a year is just unlikely and not likely to happen again this time. Harvey undergoing Tommy John surgery is a pretty simple process and he should come back just as good as before as long as he doesn’t rush his rehab.
Wheeler and Harvey already look like the real deal and Mets coaches in spring training can’t stop raving about Noah Syndergaard. Mets fans, fear not Sandy Alderson is building this team the right way and the Mets have a very bright future.
University of Miami senior Javi Salas became only the 23rd pitcher to throw a perfect game in college baseball history. Salas went the full nine innings in a 17-0 drubbing of Villanova. The game had a human interest element as his brother Jorge Salas was in the broadcast booth and had the honor of calling his brother’s perfecto.
Salas joins a rare company of Division One pitchers who have thrown a perfect game in college; only 22 others have done so, the exact same amount of perfect games thrown in Major League baseball. Salas’ perfect game was the first one since UVA’s Will Roberts tossed one against George Washington almost two years prior. Part of the difficulty in throwing a perfect game in college (prior to Roberts’ perfect game, the last one was thrown in 2003 by Ohio State alum Greg Prenger. against Oakland (Michigan)), may be attributed to the increased offense that came with the introduction of supercharged metal bats. While the metal bat was introduced in 1974 to NCAA baseball, the estimation was 1988 when the supercharged metal bat era began. Incidentally it was the year prior that two perfect games, thrown by Memphis’ Mark Bowlan and Miami’s Kevin Sheary were thrown. Post Bowlan, a total of 8 perfect games were thrown, with the closest time between games being 381 days.
The focus however of this article is what happens to the pitchers who throw these perfect games. Did any go on to become all-stars? Major Leaguers? Drafted?
Here is the list of Division One Collegians that have thrown a perfect game as well as the year they did it. Note that all pictures are of players in college uniforms:
* indicates a 7 inning perfect game, ** indicates a 5 inning perfect game
2014: Javi Salas (University of Miami)
2011: Will Roberts (University of Virginia)
2003: Greg Prenger (Ohio State University)*
2002: Eric Brandon (Auburn University)
2000: Chad Blackwell (University of Iowa) *
1997: John Stewart (Western Michigan University) *
1996: Chris McConnell (St. Francis University)
1991: Jason Johnson (Auburn University) *
1987: Mark Bowlan (University of Memphis)
1987: Kevin Sheary (University of Miami)
1980: Cliff Faust (University of Nebraska) *
1980: Joe Housey (University of New Orleans) *
1973: Joe McIntosh (Washington State University) *
1972: Jim Jacobsen (Oklahoma State University) **
1971: Bill Balfoort (SUNY Buffalo) *
1971: Larry Angell (Washington State University) *
1968: Rick Austin (Washington State University) *
1967: Bruce Baudier (Louisiana State University) *
1967: Larry Gonsalves (Fresno State University)
1965: Bob Schauenberg (University of Iowa)
1965: George Dugan (Murray State University)
1963: Don Woeltjen (University of Georgia)
1959: Dick Reitz (University of Maryland)
If you had no idea who any of these pitchers were, don’t be disappointed. Out of the 23, only one went on to pitch in the Majors: Washington State’s Rick Austin. And if you think Austin had a long and prosperous career as a major leaguer, think again. Austin spent parts of four seasons pitching for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers. His best season was his rookie season in 1971 when he went 2-5 with a 4.79 ERA, three saves and 53 strikeouts.
It’s not to say that none of the following didn’t go on to play baseball, in fact all but 6 were drafted to play. However, only one is currently playing professionally, Roberts, who’s in the Indians’ system and finished the previous season in Double-A. Roberts in all likelihood will be pitching for the Indians Triple-A team after spring training, and with his 24th birthday not until August, He does have a chance to pitch for the big league club at the rate he’s going, but in no way is Roberts an elite prospect, and in all likelihood, he’ll be a solid long reliever/spot starter.
Going back to the most recent perfect game pitcher, Salas, it’s likely he will be drafted, but not in a high round. Perhaps he’ll labor through the minor leagues, but unless he absolutely dominates, I see no reason that he makes a major league roster. College seniors come with an accelerated clock, meaning their window of opportunity closes a lot faster than a college junior. Unless the collegian is a reliever or a really bona fide early round draft pick, like Mark Appel, there is almost no reason to put stock in them.
So to answer the question, what becomes of NCAA perfect game pitchers, it’s quite simple: almost nothing. Sure, they get a weekly award from their conference, are enshrined in their school’s athletic hall of fame, maybe if they’re lucky, also the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and they most likely get drafted, but unless they’re really good, that college no-hitter is probably going to be the high point in their athletic career.
For the past four years, there has been one common occurrence in the MLB draft: That occurrence is the Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop (or HAPS, for short). The common characteristics is that the shortstop in question is (obviously) a high schooler, has the potential to make the majors in three years instead of the traditional four or five years, is a top prospect usually by the end of his first year or the middle of his second, and garners a lot of praise from opposing scouts.
The past four years of HAPS are as follows:
2013: JP Crawford, Phillies
While it’s still too early to be determined, Crawford had been highly visible throughout his high school career, and when he was drafted, it was to a team that was looking to replace a legendary shortstop with a newer model. Crawford’s first minor league season saw him completely own the Gulf Coast League and skip entirely over short ball in favor of the more advanced Low A. Crawford also ended the season as the #4 prospect in Philly’s system, behind only Roman Quinn, a fellow prep shortstop drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, as well as 3B Maikel Franco and P Jesse Biddle, who have made the 2014 top 100 list on MLB.com. Even though Crawford effectively was a HAPS by default, as last year’s middle infield class was very weak, Crawford has at least proven that he is still a very solid lock to follow the progression that fellow HAPS have gone through.
2012: Carlos Correa, Astros, and Addison Russell, Athletics.
Thanks to what could have been regarded as one of the best prep shortstop draft classes in baseball history, 2012 had not one, but two HAPS propects. Carlos Correa, who was the first overall pick, drew some attention at the end of his debut year, but in his second year, he justified why he was a first overall pick. After having a monster season for the Quad Cities River Bandits, Correa was rewarded by being voted in to the 2013 Futures game World Roster, as well as being named the Astros’ top prospect by the end of the season. At the start of the 2014 season Correa was named the top prospect in the Astros’ system again, ahead of such players as Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, and Lance McCullers, and was also named the #8 prospect in all of baseball.
Russell, who I’ve consistently noted was the catalyst for the death of Moneyball drafting in Oakland, has done nothing but impress in his first two years. Named the best prospect in Oakland’s system immediately after the 2012 season, Russell again went on a tear at Single-A Stockton, and was also selected for the Futures game as a member of Team USA. Russell ended the season in AAA Sacramento, completely jumping over AA, and although he obviously had issues handling the rapid increase in competition level, the prevailing theory is that Russell could be in the majors by the end of the 2014 season.
2011: Francisco Lindor, Indians
The Indians have repeatedly stated that they do not intend to rush Lindor to the major leagues, to which I call bull. Lindor has been nothing short of amazing ever since he stepped on the field. At the end of the 2012 season, his first full season in minor league ball, Lindor had established himself as a #1 shortstop prospect, the #1 Indians prospect, and the #13 prospect in baseball. This included an invite to the Futures game in Kansas City, where he played for the World Team. Lindor followed up his great 2012 with an even better 2013 where he went through two levels of ball, topping out in Double-A, and once again being invited to the Futures Game in New York. He once again ended the season as the top shortstop prospect, the top Indians prospect, but increased his overall prospect ranking to #5. At the beginning of this season, Lindor has already established himself as a top ten prospect yet again, however, he dropped his shortstop ranking to #4, perfectly reasonable given his competition was Xander Bogaerts, Correa, and Javier Baez, who has started to put himself in the HAPS conversation, especially after showing a dominant power swing in Spring Training. The reason why Baez isn’t in it right now is that while he’s advanced at the same rate as Lindor, he hasn’t had Lindor’s wow factor. Still, if Baez can be as consistently impressive as Lindor has been, he could put himself in the HAPS conversation.
2010: Manny Machado, Orioles
The man who started it all, Machado blazed through the minors, made his major league debut a mere two years after being drafted, and made his first All-star team in 2013. While Machado’s best season ended on a sour note after he broke his leg, he has definitely entered his name into the elite infielder category. I know that Machado technically is a third baseman now, but in truth I’m grading him as a shortstop because of his A-Rod like conversion to third. And to continue, Machado was a shortstop when he was drafted, and only played a few games at third base in the minors, in Double-A Bowie, which incidentally was his last minor league stop before he made his debut. Will Machado ever move back to shortstop? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, Machado is still one of the best young players right now.
The 2014 draft isn’t until June, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for early speculation. In what is considered yet another meh prep middle infield class, there are only two definitive first round prep shortstop talents, one of which has equal value as a pitcher. The two shortstops in question are Clovis High School’s Jacob Gatewood, and Olympia High School’s Nick Gordon.
Gatewood, like Crawford before him, has had eyes on him since last year. A well rounded guy with an emphasis on power who draws comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro, Gatewood, barring a bad senior season has the projectability to be a top ten pick, and could raise his stock to top five, maybe even top three if he continues to play at the level he has. In my initial mock, I had him going to Colorado as a potential replacement for Troy Tulowitzski, whom I feel will leave Colorado before 2020. In the thin air of Colorado, Gatewood would thrive despite the humidor baseballs, and he would have the potential to be a Machado-like talent.
Gordon has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father and brother, Tom and Dee. He has project ability as both a pitcher and a shortstop, but scouts have said that Gordon will stick to shortstop. While not as dominant at Gatewood, Gordon is still a top 20 prospect who could actually outperform his brother. I had Gordon going to San Diego. In theory, if Everth Cabrera can’t get back to his pre-Biogenesis self, it’s a possibility that the Padres will try and look for a replacement in the coming years. Gordon would benefit from the expansive park in San Diego, as he thrives on being a slap hitter with speed, much like Cabrera was.
Between Gatewood and Gordon, my belief is that the former makes the best case for the HAPS of 2014. He certainly has made a name for himself starting last year, and he has a legitimate shot to become one of the best shortstops in the post-Jeter and Rollins shortstop era. His power is not to be ignored, and if he signs early and tears it up in rookie or short ball, he could find himself in the top 100, maybe even top 25 very early in his career.
Gay athletes came to the forefront of the sports world this past week when basketball player Jason Collins signed a ten day contract with the Brooklyn Nets and played in his first game since he publicly came out. In another sport, University of Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who also publicly came out, participated in the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. While both were greeted by a warm reception by the media and the fans, both had different endings to their storyline. Collins had a good game despite scoring no points against the Lakers, while Sam had a disastrous NFL Combine which in all likelihood affected his draft stock.
This comes down to the question, how do we tell if a gay athlete is ready to handle the spotlight?
Personally I’m okay with a gay athlete playing a team sport. It’s not exactly a new thing, before the NBA and NFL had their gay athletes, the WNBA was the place for a gay athlete to play. Stars like Brittney Griner, Cheryl Swoopes, and countless others were well publicised gay athletes, and no one cared. But now, we enter the question of how a gay athlete in the Big Four is accepted, and how he handles the additional media scrutiny.
The NBA and the NFL are two completely different leagues. If they were on a political spectrum, the NBA would be more liberal, while the NFL would be conservative. The NBA is more receptive to change, while the NFL is more hesitant. Jason Collins was accepted immediately by the league, new commissioner Adam Silver, and the fans. And here’s the best part. Collins decided once he came out, he’d stop piggybacking on it. It took him months to find a job after coming out, but when asked, he didn’t complain about being discriminated.In addition, he also played it off as normal on his return. His teammates also didn’t make a big show of it either, indicating that while the occasion was memorable, it wasn’t supposed to be treated like the President coming to town. For that I applaud Collins. In my mind, I think being a gay athlete is fine, so long as you don’t use it to get along. If you want to play a sport, play a sport, but don’t use something like your sexual orientation to advance your cause. Also, timing is everything. Had Collins done this at a more inopportune time, it would have put more pressure on teams to sign him, more controversy on him, and all in all, it would have been an ugly mess. Collins choosing now to come out was probably the best thing for him, the NBA, and everybody associated with basketball.
This brings me to Michael Sam.
Before I begin, let me preface this by saying that I mean no malice when I analyze Sam. I am in no way homophobic, in fact I have friends who are gay who would probably agree with what I’m saying. I am just pointing out the difference between him and Collins. I am saying this because I don’t want to hear any vitriolic comments from people on Reddit or Facebook or Twitter or any other sports site saying that I’m a a homophobic nutjob, that I’m an unprintable word, that I should be banned from writing. etc. If you’re going to be offended, that’s fine, but don’t blackball me for presenting an analysis and having an opinion.
When Michael Sam came out, I knew that he had chosen the wrong time to do so. By coming out before the combine and the workouts, before the Draft even, he was going to be subject to a firestorm of media coverage. I knew that maybe Sam would be able to handle the media, after all, Missouri had come off an excellent year, Sam had been named SEC defensive player of the year, and looked like a decent mid round pick, he probably had some media exposure before, not a lot. Still, the choice to come out before being auditioned to the NFL put unnessecary attention and overwhelming pressure on him.
When Sam came to Indianapolis to audition, he was projected as a mid round pick. When he left, after an unimpressive combine, his draft stock had taken a tumble. He maybe was an early to mid day 3 now, at the worst, an undrafted free agent. But yet, the media still was on him.
I’m not trying to imply that Sam tried to improve his visibility in order for him to assure himself a job in the NFL, but again, I would point out that coming out before the combine, before the pro day, it was an incredibly risky move that while it looked like a good idea, is starting to blow up in his face.
Remember the big media story last year involving Manti Te’o? About the dead girlfriend hoax? This was at about the same media scrutiny level. What happened after the story came out? Te’o went to the combine, proceeded to fail to impress, and what was once viewed as a first round lock fell to the second round. A guy who was viewed as a potential defensive rookie of the year lock was practically invisible in his first year in San Diego. He was distracted. The fake dead girlfriend story dogged him the entire year, and Te’o had every opportunity to not let it be a distraction, but ultimately, he failed in that regard and made himself out to be a fool.
The NFL is not a fan of distraction. Te’o was a distraction last year, and despite what the NFL wants you to think, Sam is this year. Players that do come with off the field baggage that distracts from football are not in the NFL for long, look at Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez if you need reference. If Sam wants a career in the NFL, if he wants to be more than a media target, he’s going to have to deflect the questions on homosexuality. In all likelihood, any interview that Sam has will include questions that pertain to his homosexuality. What he needs to do is brush them off, or if it’s unavoidable, give a generic answer. It will save him the scrutiny, and it will send a message to the media that he doesn’t want this to be as much of a distraction as it has become.
Now, earlier, I posed the point that Sam had picked the worst time to come out, but I never said when I felt Sam would have best chosen his moment. For those who do want to know when the best time would have been, I would have said that he should have waited until his first season in the league. Sam could have spent the season notifying his coaching staff that he was gay, followed by his teammates, then when the season ended, he could have come out publicly. While still a distraction, the resulting media coverage wouldn’t have been so disruptive as it is now. Sam would have been applauded either way, he still would answer questions, but it would have been better for him and for everyone else involved right now if he had waited a little longer.
Instead, there’s almost an added pressure on teams to pick him. While the team that picks him will be given the unfortunate task of dealing with the issue, the other teams will be blasted for not taking a chance on him. And in truth, that’s unfair. Teams may have reasonable excuses to not draft him, “He’s not a scheme fit”, “We felt that there were better prospects at that position”, “We don’t want the media attention”, etc. To provide an example: If a team like the Jets drafted him, it would be a media circus all over again. Jets GM John Idzik wanted the team to get away from the circus label, not to mention the team is already strong enough in regards to its linebacker corps, so despite an endorsement for Sam from coach Rex Ryan, taking him would serve only as a distraction. If Sam is to be drafted, it’s because he’s a football player, not a gay football player.
In conclusion, the way that Jason Collins and Michael Sam have dealt with coming out has been handled differently. While the media has certainly heaped its praise on the situation and the leagues have welcomed them, it is truly up to them to handle their coming out the appropriate way.
Normally, exhibition games between Major League teams and college teams is often regarded in the same vein as a private cocktail party reserved for only the extremely interested baseball fans. However, Tuesday’s game between the New york Yankees and the Florida State Seminoles was clearly more than that.
Boasting the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston, who serves as both the team’s closer and an outfielder, the Seminoles made this game something more of a huge attention grab, which is entirely up to the fan’s perspective as positive or negative.
Winston was probably the most scrutinized player on George Steinbrenner Field, even more than Derek Jeter, who is playing his last spring training, and Masahiro Tanaka, who’s playing his first. For Winston, the game was nothing to write home about; he entered the game as a defensive substitute, grounded out, and then struck out. Still, Winston’s mere presence was more than enough; the only thing that could have made the day better for him would have been if he had been allowed to pitch to the players as well.
Still, Winston clearly enjoyed the opportunity to meet his favorite players and said that it was almost as great as winning the National Championship.
Now that the excitement has likely died down and college baseball can go back to its regular pace, the question is if Jameis Winston can add more exposure to college baseball. We already saw how negative attention from college baseball has been covered, with the Ben Wetzler case, but how about a positive story, even if it’s on par with a Tim Tebow-esque gimmick?
Winston is by every definition of the word, an athlete. While there are probably people, diehard Seminole football fans and NFL scouts in particular, who cringe at the thought of Winston becoming a two sport professional athlete, there is no denying that Winston, if he can prove that he can manage both sports and find what he works best at, in this case as the Seminoles closer.
And to be honest, a Heisman winning football star, even a football star alone playing baseball is actually a fun thing to watch. Look at Bo Jackson. Jackson was a star at Auburn in football and baseball. He would have been one of the greatest athletes of all time had he not gotten hurt in football and limited his strikeout numbers in baseball.
If Jeff Samardzjia had chosen to play both football and baseball at the same time, instead of strictly staying as a pitcher, in all likelihood, he would have been an exceptionally popular athlete.
Winston is, however, a very raw baseball player. Despite being named a preseason All American, he needs to figure out where he wants to play if he is serious about playing two sports. As a hitter, he’s below average. He has high strikeout numbers, and while he does have some value as a switch hitter, having him in a daily lineup would be more of a liability. As a pitcher, Winston is actually very good. His season has started reasonably well with a save, only one hit allowed, and an 0.00 ERA, but the concern here is that pitchers are high maintenance. Winston would not be able to play both baseball and football if he was a starting pitcher. As a reliever, maybe a closer or a set up man, there wouldn’t be as much stress on his throwing arm.
The other thing that needs to be noted is how Winston plans to balance the training for baseball and football. Does Winston join a summer league? Does he use the summer to do football drills? Winston has the projectability and the hype to play in a big summer league, like the Cape Cod League or the New England Collegiate League.
He even had the hype to be a first round talent out of high school; had he not been so insistent on his Florida State commitment, scouts theorized he would have been a low first round draft choice, and rightfully so, as his fastball reaches the high 90′s.
While most football people wouldn’t want Winston to be a two sport athlete, he has gotten an endorsement from perhaps the most important person he knows right now: Head Coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher, who was out to throw the first pitch, and probably monitor his quarterback, said “I think he definitely has ability, but it has to be the right situation.” Now, if your coach is that honest and isn’t sugarcoating, you know that he really believes that Winston may have a future as a two sport star.
In a spring training which will see the Super Bowl Champion quarterback suiting up for the Texas Rangers, the first trials of the new home plate collision law, as well as a preview of instant replay, nothing’s out of the realm of possibility. Perhaps Winston does end up showing that he is serious about being a two sport athlete. Perhaps also he improves his stock to the point where next year, he could be a first round pick in both baseball and football in the same year (It is entirely possible if he either leaves in 2015 or stays until 2016).
Still Winston could be the best thing for college baseball in terms of publicity right now. Time will tell if he is serious about being a two sport star and how good he could be.
The 2010 MLB Draft has the chance to go down as one of the best in recent memory. So far, 12 players from the first and comp rounds have made their major league debuts, four of which were named All-Stars. In addition, it’s likely that many of the high schoolers from this year’s first and comp class, including Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon, Phillies pitcher Jesse Biddle, Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez, and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, as well as Angels outfielder Kaleb Cowart, Marlins third baseman Zack Cox, and Angels second baseman Taylor Lindsey may all make their major league debuts this year.
But the one name that sticks out from that class didn’t even sign with his team. And no, he didn’t end up being redrafted, but he did go on a fast track through the minors ending up at AAA last year for the Iowa Cubs. That player is former Texas A&M pitcher Barret Loux.
Two years before Michael Wacha put Texas A&M baseball on the map, Barret Loux was the big name for the Aggies. A big pitcher at 6’5″ and 230 pounds, armed with a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup, Loux put up excellent numbers for the Aggies, including leading the team in strikeouts twice, as well as being a nominee for the Golden Spikes award. He wasn’t as well regarded as his former teammate however, and was envisioned as a late first round pick. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks decided that he was worth the 6th overall draft choice (keep in mind, this was before the hard slot money system was put into place) and picked him ahead of such names as Matt Harvey and Chris Sale.
Arizona did have a deal in place for him, but a failed physical due to a labrum tear derailed it. As a consequence, the Diamondbacks never signed him, and he became a free agent. In November of that year, Loux and the Texas Rangers came to an agreement on a contract. It was Loux’s situation which led to some of the revamping of the draft rules, including mandatory physicals for prospects before the draft, and free agency for those who failed them.
Loux spent two seasons in the Rangers minor league system, playing for A level Myrtle Beach in 2011 and AA Frisco in 2012. In both those seasons, he struck out at least 100 batters, had ERAs under 3.81, and at Frisco, won all but one of his decisions.
However, Loux’s time with Texas came to an end as the Texas Rangers, having made a deal with the Chicago Cubs for Geovany Soto, were forced to give him up when the player originally send in the deal, pitcher Jake Brigham, was found to have an injury history not dissimilar to Loux’s. Loux was traded for Brigham, and started the season at AAA Iowa. While his stats were not as impressive as they were in Texas, he failed to post 100 strikeouts for the first time since his sophomore season at A&M, and he had a sub .500 win-loss record, as well as an ERA over 4, Loux still has managed to somewhat resurrect his prospect status.
While he was not ranked in the top 20 of the Cubs end of 2013 list, the fact that he has managed to jump three levels, without appearing in any of the A sub levels should indicate that he will have a fair shot at making the big league roster.
It may come out that Arizona should have kept him barring the injury concerns, especially if Loux manages to impress this spring and plays as a dark horse rotation candidate. In addition, it could help show that the Cubs didn’t exactly fail in that aspect of the draft.
In that same draft, the Cubs took a right handed pitcher out of Division II Southern Arkansas University, Hayden Simpson with the 16th overall pick. Simpson who was viewed by many to be a questionable pick from the beginning, struggled in his three years in the Cubs’ system.
Perhaps it was the fact that he never was the same after coming down with a case of Mono, or perhaps it was the hype that was so unjustly heaped upon him, but Simpson, who was known for being an aggressive pitcher, never amounted to what he was pegged to be. He never advanced past High-A Daytona, and as of the end of 2013, was pitching for the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League.
If Barret Loux can prove that he is Major League ready, then in all likelihood, the Cubs will look favorably on the college arms of the 2014 draft class; a commodity that the Cubs are in serious need of. Loux, along with the other major league ready Cubs prospects could help bring Chicago back to dominance.
The NCAA is often criticized for its Draconian measures against student athletes who try and prepare for a professional career, as well as its nonstandard punishments for apparent rules violations, see University of Oklahoma’s “Pastagate” as an example of such ludicrousness. But the case of Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler, who was turned in by the Philadelphia Phillies for hiring a financial advisor and ultimately electing to return for his senior season at Oregon State University, this has to be one of the most absurd, if not the most absurd case of the NCAA going on its “As you go” rules policy.
For those who are uninformed, Wetzler was a 5th round draft choice of the Phillies. Had he signed with them, he would have earned a $400,000 signing bonus. Obviously, Wetzler felt that he wasn’t ready, and wanted to be sure he was making the right choice, so he hired a financial advisor. When it became apparent that it would be better if he stayed in school, he did. In a plot that draws loose similarities to the 2006 Academy Award winning foreign film Das Leben Der Anderen, the Phillies, likely upset at having been jilted by the young starter, reported that Wetzler had hired an agent for the negotiations. The NCAA came down on this, and suspended Wetzler “indefinitely”. Incidentally, Wetzler wasn’t the only player that the Phillies tried to blackball, as Washington State outfielder and first baseman Jason Monda was also reported, yet was cleared by the Cougars and the NCAA to play this year.
What’s even more remarkable is that this is the first time that this has happened. Never before has a player been reported by a major league team. Granted, a player has been suspended and his eligibility has been revoked before, see Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and James Paxton, but the teams that drafted them, the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays never did report them.
This is undoubtedly low on Philadelphia’s part. A player should not be stabbed behind the back like that just because they chose to return to school, money or otherwise. It unfairly disqualifies a player, and ruins a team’s reputation. Agents who represent collegiate talent are now likely going to advise their clients to avoid signing with Philadelphia because of this. Similarly, the NCAA should be ashamed. There have been far worse examples of the same thing happening. Mark Appel for instance.
Appel, who had been chosen by the Pirates with the 8th overall pick out of Stanford, elected to return to school under the advice of Scott Boras, who wanted first overall pick money for his client. Incidentally, Appel also wanted to return because he wasn’t a first overall pick. A year later, Appel, who wasn’t suspended by the NCAA because the Pirates didn’t rat him out despite his being a more blatant transgression of the rules, was drafted first overall by the Astros. It amazes me that something this blatant wasn’t addressed, yet a fifth round pick deciding to return to school was. It’s hypocritical.
It’s likely that the Phillies will have a very severely damaged reputation now that Wetzler has decided to hire an attorney. This attorney is the same attorney that dealt with Houston based college football booster Willie Lyles. in the case of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. The fallout likely could mean that the Phillies would be banned from drafting Oregon State, or by extension, Pac-12 baseball players. This would be a big loss, especially considering one of Philadelphia’s alleged biggest targets could be Oregon State star Michael Conforto.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a team was banned from recruiting certain players. The Baltimore Orioles cannot attend Korea Baseball Association* sponsored baseball camps in South Korea after signing then-high-school pitcher Kim-Seong Min before he graduated.
*Recently signed Orioles pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is a product of the Korea Baseball Organization, which governs the professional leagues in South Korea. The Orioles are allowed to attend KBO games and sign KBO players.
Could Wetzler have a legitimate case against the NCAA and the Phillies by extension? It’s possible. This is the first time that such an incident has happened, and usually the ruling in the first case will set a precent. If the Appel case can be cited, it is likely that Wetzler could have his suspension overturned, thus allowing him the opportunity to pitch his senior season. For now, we will wait and see what happens.
Every once in a while, I’ll ask for reader participation. Whether it’s verification over something I missed, a poll, or something else, I’ll step out of my ivory tower and address the masses of those who learn about the future.
But as I perceive myself to be the master of my domain, sometimes I will need to concede my position and admit I’m human. And no, I don’t have a God complex, so don’t jump on me for talking like a snob.
Anyway, I need help.
MinorLeagueMadhouse.com has gone through a minor facelift since January. A retooling of the top 100 prospect profiles, more podcast interviews on The Final Out, the new name, natch, the Facebook and Twitter feeds, etc. etc.
But the retool isn’t totally over yet.
I’m looking for a new slogan for the site’s banner page. Since February 2013, the slogan has been “The Blog That’s Obsessively Devoted To Baseball Prospects”. Whoop de do. Boring. Meh, lame, whatever you want to say about it, please, I’ll take, but it sure isn’t creative.
I need a new slogan, and I need it before the start of the regular season.
Readers are encouraged to submit a slogan by March 1st. That slogan can be submitted via the comments section of this post, the comments section of the Reddit link, Twitter post through @MinorLeagueMadhouse or @AlexGiobbi, or Minor League Madhouse’s Facebook page
I will pick the top 8-16 slogans on March first and run it through a bracket style post. The winner will be announced by the end of Spring Training and will be acknowledged in a future post.
Here are the rules:
Nothing inappropriate. This includes innuendo, blatant references to sexuality, politics, body parts ,etc.
No team-specific slogans. MinorLeagueMadhouse is all-inclusive. It doesn’t focus on one team.
Slogans must be related to MinorLeagueMadhouse’s content.
Realize that once you submit your slogan, you are forfeiting your right to it as your intellectual property. Although I doubt I will make any money off of it, I’m just giving you a fair warning because I don’t feel comfortable with being sued.
Anyway, good luck, and may the best slogan win.
Ubaldo Jimenez became the next player with draft compensation to leave free agent purgatory, signing a multiyear deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Jimenez, who rejected a qualifying offer from his old team, the Cleveland Indians, cost the Orioles not only the money, but also the 17th overall pick in the draft.
Ever since the new free agent draft compensation rules have come into effect last year, it seems as if teams are intentionally lowballing these players so that they can get the draft pick. We saw how bad it was last year with Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, who waited until the middle of Spring Training to sign with teams. And ultimately, those teams forfeited draft picks.
Bourn went from Atlanta to Cleveland, who used the pick that they obtained in the deal to draft Oklahoma State starter Jason Hursh, Cleveland, however, didn’t lose their first round pick, as they had a top ten draft pick. Incidentally, the Bourn case drew a lot of controversy, as the New York Mets who had the 11th pick, which wasn’t protected, wanted to sign him, but felt that they would be unfairly losing a draft pick because the Pittsburgh Pirates had gotten a top ten pick for allowing Mark Appel to return to Stanford for his senior season, pushing the Mets one spot out of the top ten. Cleveland ended up signing Bourn, but instead of losing a first rounder to the Braves, they lost a second rounder.
Lohse was signed by the Brewers, who forfeited their first round draft choice. The Cardinals used that pick to select Rob Kaminsky, a New Jersey prep pitcher.
Going back to Jimenez and the free agents that remain, the common theme for these remaining free agents is the draft pick. Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales haven’t gotten offers because teams are afraid to lose a pick for them. It’s essentially a simpler form of restricted free agency.
There is no doubt that these players do deserve deals. Santana resurrected his career in Kansas City, Cruz, pre-Biogenesis was viewed as a deadly middle-of-the-order bat. Drew could hit and adequately defend, and helped Boston win a championship, and Morales resurrected his career in Seattle after a couple years of injury trouble in Anaheim.
But herein lies the problem, it’s not just the draft pick, it’s the money and the risky investment too.
Santana is demanding ace money after reestablishing himself in KANSAS CITY. Kansas City is in no way a place to brag about reestablishing yourself, even if the Royals did manage to get out of the cellar thanks in part to a bizarro season by the White Sox and another really bad season by the Twins.
The problem with Cruz is that nobody knows if he’ll be as good after being caught in the Biogenesis probe. Maybe he’ll be another Ryan Braun, maybe he becomes Melky Cabrera. Either way, it’s a big risk for a PED user.
The problem with Drew is that 2013 could have been a fluke year for him. Drew was protected by a lineup that seemed to envelop his deficiencies, couple that with the fact that he’s getting into the “wrong side of 30″ territory. While this is okay for maybe an outfielder or a first baseman, a “wrong side of 30″ middle infielder is a bit of a problem, especially on the defensive side of things.
And of course, there’s Morales. While he did have a respectable offensive season, there are still concerns about his health and defensive ability. People are more inclined to take a look at him as a designated hitter than as a first baseman. Had Morales not gotten hurt, in all likelihood, he would be one of the first players off the board instead of the last.
But going back to Ubaldo. Was the deal worth it?
Jimenez is certainly long removed from his days of dominance in Denver. In Cleveland, he really was just a mid rotation starter, nothing special, basically the baseball equivalent of a one hit wonder. Baltimore however knew that in order to compete in the AL East again, which once again was strengthened by yet another Yankee spending spree, as well as the continuing growth of the other four teams in the division, they needed to add pitching. Getting Jimenez meant the forfeiture of a draft pick, but they went through with it anyway.
Was it worth it though?
From a money perspective, no. Jimenez was not worth that type of money or amount of years. From the pick perspective, certainly.
17th overall picks in the MLB Draft haven’t traditionally fared well. To provide an example of how they fared in the past ten years:
2013-2010: Tim Anderson, White Sox, DJ Davis, Blue Jays, CJ Cron, Angels, and Josh Sale, Rays. While Anderson and Davis are a long way from determining if they’re good or not, Cron may or may not need another year in the minors, and Sale has been nothing short of a bust.
2009: AJ Pollock of the Diamondbacks has managed to put himself in the Arizona lineup. A leadoff hitter, Pollock may stand as the best bet to break the bad 17th overall pick
2008: David Cooper, who was projected to be the next big slugging first baseman/DH, was a major disappointment in Toronto. Basically a AAAA player, he recently signed a deal with the Indians.
2007: Blake Beaven is another one of those forgettable rotation pieces. His biggest claim to fame was being included in the Cliff Lee deal which sent the former ace to the Texas Rangers for their 2011 World Series run.
2006: Matt Antonelli was supposed to be one of the big middle infield talents for the Padres, almost what Stephen Drew would have been had he not been injured. However failure to be consistent coupled with lack of opportunity led his only major league experience to be a September call up. Afterwards, he bounced around other teams’ minor league systems, but failed to latch on and retired last summer.
2005: CJ Henry was the first of Derek Jeter’s potential successors, but he just couldn’t hit. He was packaged in a deal for the late Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu for the Yankees’ 2006 postseason run, but failed further to establish himself in Philadelphia. He quit baseball and played basketball for the University of Kansas with his more famous brother, Xavier, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Henry’s back to playing baseball now, albeit it’s independent ball in Evansville, Illinois.
2004: Scott Elbert was drafted by the Dodgers as a pitcher. Injuries derailed his effectiveness and turned him into a two pitch reliever. While he’s not the best reliever on the Dodgers, he is an okay option out of the bullpen.
So in a sense it probably was a somewhat good idea. Losing the pick means that another team, the Royals, will be saddled with the bad pick, while the Orioles will maybe get immediate contribution from Jimenez.