Is a Rebuild Ever Over?

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When Sandy Alderson, one of the prime proponents of building a team instead of buying, opted to sign outfielder Michael Cuddyer, a 36 year old outfielder who had receiver a qualifying offer from the Colorado Rockies, he not only forfeited his team’s right to select a first round draft pick in the 2015 draft, but he indicated that his four year rebuilding project known as the New York Mets was finally done. No more drafting high ceiling high school or collegiate bats, no more high ceiling pitchers, nope, that phase of the rebuild is over.

Anderson gave up a hefty price on a gamble. Cuddyer is coming off a season in which he missed 3/4 of the year due to injury. He’s also leaving a city which is known for being exceptionally friendly to hitters. And of course, there is the big one, he’s about to turn 36 years old.

Granted, Alderson has seemed to strike some metaphorical gold with older players, Bartolo Colon has served as a decent stopgap to hold Matt Harvey’s rotation spot while he recovered, not to mention his enjoyable trips to the batters box.

Similarly, Curtis Granderson, while still not exactly what he was in Detroit, rebounded somewhat in his first year in Queens, hitting 20 home runs.

The point here is that Alderson’s strategy may finally be coming to fruition.

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For the first two years of the strategy, it was unclear what his motive was. Was he treading water while the Wilpon family twiddled their thumbs on dwindling finances due to the repercussions of the Madoff Scandal? Was he looking to rebuild a farm system that had been the repeated victim of bad trades during the previous regime?

The most obvious theory goes into Alderson’s draft strategy ever since he took over the team.

Think about his past four years at the MLB Draft. He started out by drafting high schoolers. Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, and Dominic Smith are all guys who are decent position players but aren’t expected in the majors until 4 or 5 years later. Then all of a sudden, he pulls a shocker and drafts the consensus top collegiate hitter in baseball in Michael Conforto. Conforto, if developed properly, could be up as early as late 2015 or even by the start of the 2016 season. Coincidence that he became Alderson’s first collegiate first round draft choice after 3 years of prep talent?

Not only that but his trades all seemed to be more geared for 2015 as well. Zach Wheeler, while he was ready by mid-2013, is expected to be a solid #2 by the start of the season, complementing arguably the best contributions, if the last ones, of the Minaya era in Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. Travis d’Arnaud, while struggle and injury prone, is looking like one of the top young catchers in baseball, and while he’s no Mike Piazza, he does bring to mind the Mets’ earlier days of getting results out of young catchers. Not to mention, Alderson inadvertently developed the happy problem of catcher depth when he drafted Kevin Plawecki, but I digress here.

In addition to Wheeler and d’Arnaud, there is Noah Syndergaard to consider. Granted, 2014 was a struggle for him, as he adjusted to playing in Las Vegas, otherwise known as Hell for pitchers. Syndergaard’s struggles don’t necessarily indicate that he isn’t ready, rather they indicate that he is a byproduct of the Vegas environment. Assuming he’s ready to pitch in 2015 for the Mets, he should be in a more hospitable setting, despite the ever changing shape of Citi Field.

Lastly of course is the Marlon Byrd trade that brought over a perfectly capable reliever in Vic Black and a future infield piece in Dilson Herrera. Vic Black has proven himself to be a solid anchor in the bullpen as a right-handed batter. Injuries and struggles aside, he could prove to be a long term part of a bullpen that is long removed from the days of Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and Jon Rauch.

Herrera progressed through the system at an advanced pace, and at 20 years old, made his major league debut. He filled in quite admirably as the team’s second baseman while Daniel Murphy was injured, and showed promise as a potential replacement should Murphy be moved. Obviously he is still rough around the edges, but if you make news for being the first player to go from A-ball to the majors for the Mets, there’s obviously something special.

This, however is only one part of Alderson’s idea. We still haven’t figured out why he felt the need to sacrifice his draft pick for Cuddyer.

This is actually probably one of the more simple questions to answer, at least from a hypothetical perspective.

If you look at the team that Alderson has developed, you’d see that pitching wise, the Mets actually have one of the better up-and-coming staffs in baseball. Think Detroit, but younger and without the mega contracts. The rotation is built mostly out of homegrown pieces. Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and possibly Syndergaard all make up a young and dynamic staff that could be together for years. The bullpen is also homegrown for the most part. Jenrry Mejia, Josh Edgin, Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia, Rafael Montero as well as the players they acquired through bargain deals and shrewd trades (Black) make up a staff that could run with the big boys of the National League.

Going off of that diatribe, does Alderson really need another pitcher in the draft? Would it make sense to draft a guy like Kyle Funkhouser from Louisville or Brett Lilek from Arizona State when the staff is already in place? Maybe, but in the future, it would create an overload, and while the adage is that there’s never too much pitching, there is too little money to lock up these pitchers long term.

Which moves me to the hitters. Now hitters are somewhat easier to develop, at least the college ones are. Assuming Alderson is done drafting high schoolers until the old team is disbanded through free agency and trades, who would he draft now? In the first mock draft, which was done way before Cuddyer signed with the Mets, I said that Dansby Swanson would be a solid fit. Now granted, the draft is all about BPA or GM tendencies, and while the idea here is that Alderson is a hitter guy, he’s already drafted a shortstop out of high school, and signed a promising young pelotero in Amed Rosario, who was considered a potential major superstar. Assuming Alderson had drafted Swanson, it would have sent a message to Cecchini and Rosario that they were pretty much dead weight or trade bait, and frankly, while there is potential with those two, it’s gonna be a long while before we see it, much like Nimmo and his breakout season this year, a full three seasons after he got drafted. So what happens? An outfielder is unnecessary. You have Juan Lagares in centerfield, Cuddyer in right field, and Granderson in left field, not to mention Nimmo almost ready for the Majors and Conforto soon to come after him. It makes no sense to go after another high school or college outfielder. DJ Stewart or Jahmai Jones would just serve as depth or trade bait as well. So with the outfield and middle infield situations in full capacity, we go to the corners and catching position. At third base, we have David Wright, who while he may be on the decline, is still a good five years away from being Derek Jeter-in-2013 levels of useless. And even then, there’s a solid backup for him in Matt Reynolds, the 2012 second rounder who has caught fire the past season. We’ve already covered catcher, so the next item is first base. Lucas Duda will be 29 when 2015 rolls around, giving him another 4 years of prime productivity. And even if he does decline, there’s still Dominic Smith. Granted Smith hit a bit of a second year wall, but he still was considered one of the top prep bats in the 2013 draft. And his arrival time likely coincides with the year that Duda would likely begin to decline. as he’s expected to be in the majors by late 2017 or early 2018. Getting a guy like Chris Shaw would be a waste, and a potential Ike Davis situation all over again.

So really, if there’s no needs to draft in 2015, then Alderson picked the right time to lose his pick. Assuming he has further plans to patch up holes with big league players, we can assume that the rebuild is finally over for the Mets. Cuddyer is the perfect temporary solution to hold the fort in the outfield while Nimmo finishes his minor league time, and whomever is at shortstop will likely leave an impression for whomever is next in line. The point here is that the Alderson rebuild may finally be over, allowing the Mets to be the top team in New York while the Yankees look into a rebuild.

 

Early 2015 MLB Mock Draft, part 2.

Before we start the second half of the draft, I would like to observe a moment of mourning for Cardinals outfielder and former top prospect Oscar Taveras, who tragically passed away in an auto accident in his hometown on Sunday. I was writing this post when I heard the news, and felt it fitting to offer a tribute to one of the best that could have been.

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Thank you.

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We now move on to the second half of the draft. Same parameters apply for each selection.

Here’s a recap of the first half of the mock draft:

1. ARZ: Daz Cameron

2. HOU: Phil Bickford

3. COL: Michael Matuella

4. TEX: Brady Aiken

5. HOU: Brendan Rodgers

6. MIN: Nathan Kirby

7. BOS: Walker Buehler

8. CWS: Ian Happ

9. CHC: Justin Hooper

10. PHI: Alex Bregman

11. CIN: DJ Stewart

12. MIA: Chris Betts

13. SD: Carson Fulmer

14. TB: Mike Nikorak

15. NYM: Dansby Swanson

And now, the second half.

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16. Atlanta Braves: Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente High School, California

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A good farm system has an excellent balance of left and right-handed pitchers. Atlanta does not have that balance. Since trading Sean Gilmartin to the Twins for Ryan Doumit, the Braves have been left with two lefties in their top 20. One is on the cusp of permanently pitching in the majors, the other went in for Tommy John surgery and while he is only 20 years old, he is stuck in rookie ball.

But enough about what’s concrete, let’s focus on a pipe dream. Kolby Allard is one of the better prep pitchers in his class, and his summer on the showcase circuit, where he won PG All America game MVP honors, has definitely brought attention. He’s a very advanced pitcher for his age, and his body fits the typical pitcher mold. Teams shouldn’t be overly scared of his UCLA commitment, and assuming he does sign with whomever drafts him, he’ll be a very interesting prospect to observe.

17. Milwaukee Brewers: Jahmai Jones, 2B/OF Wesleyan High School, Georgia

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Jahmai Jones may be one of the most intriguing prospects in next year’s draft. Born into an athletic family, his father, the late Andre Jones played football for the 1988 Notre Dame football team, and his brother TJ is a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Jones is a natural athlete. Although projected more to be an outfielder, don’t be surprised if he dabbles in infield this spring, especially given the fact that this year’s prep infield draft class is weak outside of Brendan Rodgers.

Jahmai continues the trend of potential Georgia prep products who could go in the first round, following Michael Chavis (2014) Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows (2013), and Byron Buxton (2012). Idiosyncrasies in his swing and stance will taper some of his power, but his bat speed and his wrists, not to mention his legs will allow him to play in either the 2 or 5 spot in any lineup. If anyone can tailor his swing so that he can play to his full strengths, Jones could end up being a potential steal at his present value.

I loved the Brewers draft last year, as they managed to turn three selections into a potential big league closer (Kodi Medeiros), a true potential major league shortstop (Jacob Gatewood), and an athletically gifted outfielder (Monte Harrison). Adding in the potential for a promising development of 2012 and 2013 draft picks Clint Coulter and Devin Williams, and the possibility that Jahmai gets drafted, and the Brewers could potentially wreak havoc in the highly competitive NL Central in the coming years.

18. Toronto Blue Jays: Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College

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I have a soft spot for NECBL alumni, I did mention that I worked with the Danbury Westerners this summer, so hearing that a guy like Chris Shaw, (2013 New Bedford Bay Sox) is a potential first rounder, along with former Keene Swamp Bat Nathan Kirby is actually pretty great.

Shaw is a masher. He had an exceptional summer in Chatham this year, and before that, an exceptional summer with the Bay Sox. The fact that he is a left handed hitter is definitely going to boost his value even further, given this year’s hitting class is very weak. Looking at his swing, it’s one of the more balanced one’s I’ve seen. Shaw’s power potential is great, and the fact that he’s played his ball in the unforgiving New England climate his entire life is a testament that he could play for any team.

Toronto’s draft strategy changed dramatically last year after the Phil Bickford fiasco. Taking East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman (who was also a standout Cape League prospect and who fell from potential #2 pick to #9, was a major coup for a team that had lost a lot of their pitching talent in the previous two years. Max Pentecost was arguably the best catcher in the draft, assuming that Kyle Schwarber moves to the outfield and Alex Jackson does the same. Toronto would greatly benefit in going for collegiate talent for the next couple of years, and a guy like Chris Shaw could potentially prove to be the jewel of a rebuilding system like Toronto’s.

19. New York Yankees: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville

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Give the Yankees some credit for trying to develop a homegrown product again. Jacob Lindgren may just end up being one of the best non first round picks in last year’s draft, Ian Clarkin has the potential to be the next Andy Pettite, Aaron Judge could be the next Adam Dunn, minus the high strikeout numbers, Eric Jagielo could be the next Yankee infield star, and Gosuke Katoh, should he be able to learn the shortstop position, may be able to help ease the loss of Derek Jeter in the coming years.

But enough about what has already happened, let’s talk about why Kyle Funkhouser would look good in pinstripes. I’ll begin by saying that the American Athletic Conference is starting to become one of the premier power conferences for baseball. Yes, I said it. This Gigli in football may become a Godfather in baseball. Funkhouser is turning this conference into his own personal playground, having trimmed his ERA to a sub 2.00 mark. He also played exceptionally well for Team USA this summer.

Funkhouser’s scouting report indicates that he is a bit of a project, as while he has the offerings to be a potential rotation piece, he does need to work on his command.  Given the fact that the Yankees will be moving on from CC Sabathia in the coming years, with Hiroki Kuroda in tow, Funkhouser (and Clarkin and Lindgren) may usher in a new era of homegrown (Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t count here) Yankee pitching dominance. All he needs is to fix his command issues, and he could be a solid draft pick.

20. Cleveland Indians: Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral High School, Indiana

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Eric Jagielo, Sean Manaea, Trey Ball and Kyle Schwarber  deserve credit for turning Indiana from a strictly basketball state into a basketball and baseball state. It’s because of them that Ashe Russell has gotten the attention that he deserves. All joking aside, Russell could turn out to be a better prep product than Ball.

He has a pitchers’ body. a major plus for prep scouts, and a solid arsenal of pitches. Russell also has a solid fastball offering that with development could be great.

Russell’s already had major exposure thanks to the showcase circuit; he played for the Evoshield Canes, as well as the Under Armour and PG All-America teams.

The Indians would greatly benefit from a guy like Ashe, as he, along with Corey Kluber and a more mature Trevor Bauer would make for one of the best future rotations.

21. Seattle Mariners: Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona

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You’re probably wondering the same thing as I was: Who is Cody Ponce and what is Cal Poly Pomona? I’ll start off with the what, since the who will be easier to explain later. Cal Poly Pomona is a Division II school out in California. It is in no way affiliated with the much better known Cal Poly, despite the similar names.

As for Cody Ponce, he’s the big product that’s expected to be a first round pick. A junior, Ponce was impressive enough to score an invite to play in the Cape Cod League, where he wowed scouts.

Ponce is the ultimate in top potential prospects with room for improvement, is the right size for a pitcher, and can throw in the high 90’s.

Small school pitchers have flourished in recent years, see Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg and Jacob deGrom for reference. While their level of competition is completely different than a big time college pitcher, their ability to adapt has been well noted.

Ponce would flourish, and possibly move quickly in the Mariners’ system, given the fact that the team is looking for someone to distract from the eyesore that is Danny Hultzen and his protracted development. He could advance through the system quickly and be in the Majors by late 2016 at the earliest.

22. San Francisco Giants: Ryan Johnson, OF, College Station High School, Texas

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Oh Gary Brown, what happened to you?

All joking aside, the Giants can’t keep the outfield they have now for forever, so it may be time to draft outfielders, albeit at the prep level.

I like Ryan Johnson here because he reminds me of current Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, except with plenty of room to improve.  Johnson can hit for some power, possibly more if developed properly, and he does have the speed to run the expansive outfield of AT&T Park. Like Pence, however, especially in his earlier days, his defense does need work. The added benefit of having Johnson on the Giants roster is that he is a left handed hitter, and his power would allow him to play the field in his own way.

While his potential is great, he is going to need some time to develop, so I wouldn’t expect him in the majors until 2019-2020. Regardless of that, Giants fans should be excited, especially if the team finally addresses the elephant in the room of a weak future outfield.

23. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mac Marshall, LHP Chipola College

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Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of what Marshall (and by extension, Brady Aiken and Phil Bickford) did in order to speed up their eligibility, particularly in the case of Marshall, who ended up slighting LSU in favor of reentering the draft a year later by pitching at Chipola, a launchpad for premier young pitchers. Whether or not Marshall actually intended on signing with LSU in the first place, however, does not concern me, because if ethics ruled draft position, then Bryce Harper likely would have been forced to wait until his senior year of high school.

Diatribe on ethics aside, Marshall must have known what he was doing, because this is arguably one of the weakest LHP classes in recent years, particularly at the juco/college level. Sure, Brady Aiken and Nathan Kirby have potential as top ten picks, but again, a lot of things happen between October and June.

Marshall does have the stuff to be a first round pick, with a low 90’s fastball, and powerful secondary options including a 70 MPH changeup. He’s got adequate height to pitch, and relies on power to strike batters out.

Marshall’s history (He was the #66 prospect on Jon Mayo’s board before the draft) and his ability should entice teams to take a long, hard look at him, don’t be surprised if a team that lacks a sufficient LHP prospect goes after him.

24. Oakland A’s: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School, Michigan

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I really liked Billy McKinney as a potential outfielder in Oakland, and was sad to see him leave by way of the Jeff Samardzjia trade, especially since he’s found his stroke in Daytona, but I realize that in terms of prep outfield prospects, the A’s aren’t going to miss him that much if they get Nick Plummer.

Plummer is one of those rare northern prospects, much like Mike Nikorak and Ashe Russell. A jack of all trades athlete, Plummer does have the potential to be a 5-tool player with the ability to anchor the top of a lineup.

Plummer is committed to the University of Michigan, which doesn’t seem to indicate any issues of signability, something Oakland is very good at doing. Drafting a guy like Plummer would be the final nail in the coffin for moneyball drafting in the Beane era, as the A’s haven’t drafted a college pitcher in the first round since Sonny Gray in ’11.

25. Kansas City Royals: Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU

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I’d honestly be surprised if Ferrell falls this far, but stranger things have happened. Look at Sean Manaea and Ryne Stanek from two years ago, everyone thought they’d be #2 and #3, and they both ended up nabbed in the compensatory round.

I’ll admit that part of me wants Riley Ferrell and Brandon Finnegan on the same team, as the chemistry between those two could potentially reap many rewards for the Royals pitching staff.

From a scouting standpoint, Ferrell is much more than Brandon Finnegan’s teammate. Armed with a high 90’s fastball and developing secondary pitches, Ferrell has done his best work out of the bullpen. He’s a rare fast pitcher with command, which will be an added bonus. If Ferrell can ease himself into a starting spot for the Frogs this year, expect his stock to rise considerably.

The Royals are particularly strong right now in their rotation, but change could be on the horizon, especially when pitchers like Kyle Zimmer and Finnegan are deemed rotation-ready. If and when they are, new prospects will find their way in through the bullpen. Ferrell’s floor is a Major League bullpen, but his ceiling could be as high as future closer, or should he pitch well as a starter, 3rd starter in a rotation.

26. Detroit Tigers: David Thompson, 1B/3B, Miami

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Thoracic Outlet Surgery may have knocked the now-junior third baseman out for the majority of the last college season, but a resurgent summer in Orleans was more than enough to get his draft stock back up. Thompson is your prototypical big league slugger who can play the corners, although listed primarily as a third baseman, I see Thompson sliding over to first, allowing Miguel Cabrera to DH in his final years.

I first heard about Thompson through his Cape league highlights, as he posted a very detailed video journal. Thompson did extremely well for himself this summer, A well-regarded athlete who, once upon a time, was considered a legit first round prospect out of high school, Thompson exploded as a freshman and would have continued as a sophomore, but a medical issue forced him to have potentially life-saving surgery.

Thompson does have the potential to go far in baseball, as he is the only player in Miami history to start his first game as a cleanup hitter. Given the players that have played at Mark Light Field, that comes as a major surprise. Don’t be surprised if Thompson ends up bringing his stock up enough for him to be a top-10 pick.

27. St. Louis Cardinals: John Aiello, SS/3B Germantown Academy, Pennsylvania

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It isn’t very often that high school position players up north are noticed, but John Aiello may be the exception to the rule, much like Brother Rice’s Nick Plummer.

Aiello has a power stroke that is best utilized when he’s hitting righthanded. He has an arm that allows him to play on the left side of the infield, Aiello is an athlete in every definition of the word, and his ability to hit allows him the opportunity to succeed in a major league lineup.

The Cardinals would greatly benefit from a long term project like Aiello, and should he be drafted, he’d be on the same development track as Oscar Mercado, the highly talented shortstop taken last year, as well as Rob Kaminsky, another northern prep product who has developed into one of the more intriguing prospects in the Cardinals organization.

28. Los Angeles Dodgers: Kyle Tucker, OF Plant High School, Florida

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If anyone can get me a non-copyrighted picture of Tucker in uniform, I’d appreciate it.

We’ve seen what happens when the Dodgers develop prep outfielders, and it’s a beautiful thing. Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson are testaments to that.

The Dodgers would greatly benefit from developing an outfielder with major power potential, like Kyle Tucker. The brother of Astros prospect Preston Tucker, a former College World Series star, the younger Tucker has the power potential and the defensive capability to play in the majors. Tucker’s build is ideally suited for the outfield, especially in centerfield.

Tucker’s downside is his inconsistency, but his upside as a power bat, plus the added allure of being a left-handed hitter should have teams falling over each other to try and grab him. Tucker would greatly benefit from playing in an outfield alongside Pederson, and the two could potentially help the Dodgers hold the NL West for a long time.

29. Baltimore Orioles: Kyler Murray, SS, Allen High School, Texas

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If guys like Archie Bradley, Dylan Bundy, and Monte Harrison can be swayed from exceptionally strong football commitments, then a guy like Kyler Murray can certainly be swayed as well.

Murray is arguably the best prep athlete of the group, which will allow him to command a high bonus should he be taken in the first round. He has a bat that has scorched Texas prep pitching, and defense that allows him to play wherever he wants in the middle infield.

Murray, who has major league bloodlines thanks to his uncle Calvin, and college football bloodlines thanks to his father Kevin, will have a difficult choice to make, as it is generally discouraged to be a two sport professional athlete. As a football player, he is undersized, plus he would be battling incumbent starter Kenny Hill for the position at Texas A&M. As a baseball player, he is the right size, and has the potential to be a #2 hitter in a major league lineup.

The Orioles aren’t averse to spending freely to get what they want, and a guy like Murray would certainly be worth sacrificing bonus money to get. Having Murray and Manny Machado be the future of the right side of the infield would be more than worth it for the Orioles.

Don’t be surprised however, if Murray ends up not being on the second mock draft, especially if he leans towards playing football in college.

30. Washington Nationals: Brendan Davis, 3B/SS Lakewood High School, California

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Brendan Davis just screams potential, at least in terms of development. Davis has the ability to play the left side of the infield, allowing him to potentially succeed either Ryan Zimmerman or Asdrubal Cabrera at their positions.

Davis comes from the same high school as 2013 HAPS (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop) JP Crawford, and current New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

If Davis can continue to utilize his power swing, and bulk up during the offseason, he’ll be a major threat in the 4 spot of any lineup.

31. Los Angeles Angels: Brett Lilek, LHP, Arizona State

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Sure, the Angels drafted a lefty last year in Sean Newcomb, but the philosophy is that you can never have enough left-handed pitching, especially if your farm system is the worst in baseball.

Lilek’s delivery, as well as his speeds, are more in line of a finesse pitcher, Despite this, he does have the ideal pitcher’s body, and, having pitched in the Arizona heat, wouldn’t have much of a problem with the Southern California sun.

I like the idea of Lilek and Newcomb forming the nucleus of an up and coming rotation for the Angels, mainly because both are entirely different animals. Newcomb’s power allows him to be the direct attack, while Lilek’s finesse allows him to work as a strategic planner. Having those two anchor a future rotation would be the best thing the Angels could do for themselves.

 

 

 

 

Early 2015 MLB Mock Draft: Part 1

Like Michael Jordan 20 years ago, like Mario Lemieux 15 years ago, I’m back. This summer, I worked with a collegiate summer league team in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. You can read about that in my season long project blog here.

Now that I’m officially back, I’m going to start off by doing a very very early mock draft. While in real life, the parameters of a selection are based on best player available or signability, the parameters behind my choices are based on three factors: Organizational need (That is, in the top 20 prospects list) general manager tendencies, and, if those two fail to yield a top selection, best player available. So, without further delay, here is the 2015 MLB mock draft.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Daz Cameron, OF, Eagle’s Landing High School, Georgia

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Ten years ago, the Diamondbacks were in the exact same situation they are now. With the first pick that year, they took Justin Upton, who spent six productive years with the team, with two All-Star appearances and a Silver Slugger. Could it be possible the D-Backs do the same thing ten years later?

Daz, who is the son of former MLB outfielder Mike Cameron, is an exceptional athlete. His stroke is smooth and professional, allowing him to hit to all fields. He clocked in a 6.61 60 yard dash, giving him the speed to justify himself as a top of the order threat, as well as be able to contribute defensively. While Daz doesn’t have the body for the big leagues yet, with some bulking up, he could become a very powerful athlete.

There are concerns that an average junior season could drop his stock, but he does have one more year of high school to go. He’s been compared to Derek Hill, who many thought was one of the better outfielders in last year’s prep class.

If Cameron develops at the speed that Upton developed, he could be in the Majors by 2017, allowing him and Paul Goldschmidt to establish one of the premier 3-4 combos in the NL West.

2. Houston Astros: Phil Bickford, Pitcher, College of Southern Nevada

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The longstanding pillar of high school players waiting three years to become draft eligible is starting to show cracks, as evidenced by three top level prospects electing to leave Division 1 baseball for junior college. Three of those players are top level talent: Brady Aiken, formerly (if ever) of UCLA, Mac Marshall, formerly, (if ever) of LSU and Phil Bickford, formerly of Cal State Fullerton.

Bickford has been here before, back in 2013, he was the tenth pick in the 2013 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and elected not to sign. He spent a year playing for the Titans, then proceeded to dominate the Cape Cod League, bringing the YD Red Sox a championship. Perhaps it was being named a top five prospect in the Cape that encouraged him to alter his eligibility.

Exposition aside, Bickford has clearly shown major improvement from when he was drafted back in 2013. His fastball has more life in it, going from a low to mid 90’s pitch and he’s more of an athlete than he was at Oaks Christian. The question is whether or not he made the right choice in his college, as he opted for the unfamiliarity of the College of Southern Nevada as opposed to the familiarity of Cypress Junior College, where his summer league coach works.

While the Astros have an impressive arsenal of pitchers waiting in the wings with Mark Appel, Lance McCullers, and Mike Foltynewicz, losing Brady Aiken last year should have the Astros scrambling to find his replacement. Even though Aiken is eligible for this draft, the Astros would rather not deal with the headache again, and would go for Bickford, who has not shown any issues with his arm.

3. Colorado Rockies: Michael Matuella, P, Duke

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So it’s finally happened, the other Duke sports are catching up to lacrosse and basketball. All joking aside, the Blue Devils have done an excellent job in developing pitchers for two of the past four drafts. Marcus Stroman has exceeded expectations and become a viable starter in the Blue Jays rotation, while Matuella has become one of the bigger surprises in terms of smaller college pitchers.

Matuella is much bigger than Stroman was, with a 6’6″ frame, and he has a good variety of pitches, even if he uses his fastball almost exclusively. This isn’t a problem, as Matuella’s fastball does have plenty of life in it, allowing him to get batters out. The one issue that Matuella has is his health, as he was forced to miss summer ball with a back issue, although he has since then resumed throwing.

The Rockies would greatly benefit from a homegrown rotation that features the likes of Jon Gray, who is considered one of the fastest pitchers in the minor leagues, and Kyle Freeland, who has proven he could handle big competition in summer back in 2013. Having Matuella in that rotation will provide the Rockies with plenty of rotational stability and. should Troy Tulowitzki still be here by next June, convince him to stay, allowing the Rockies to determine their eventual successor.

4. Texas Rangers: Brady Aiken, P Yavapai (AZ) Junior College

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It’s not a matter of whether or not Brady Aiken can pitch, rather it’s a matter of whether or not he is making the smart choice in going to junior college. Aiken was talented enough to be the number one pick this past June, but a physical revealed a UCL that was almost gone, leading to the Houston Astros purposefully lowballing him, as well as high level draft picks Jacob Nix and Mac Marshall.

History aside, Aiken does have the opportunity to jump back in, and there are 29 teams that don’t know anything about the lefty outside of his potential and the UCL issue.  He has stuff that most college pitchers would envy, and his health has been good.

The Rangers would love to make their in-state rival pay dearly, and drafting Aiken and dealing with his camp the correct way would certainly serve as an indicator that the Rangers are serious about rebuilding a rotation that hasn’t looked good since 2012.

5. Houston Astros: Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS/OF Lake Mary High School, Florida

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Given the Astros’ ability to stack up big name, almost immediate non-first round contributors in the past three drafts, see Tony Kemp, AJ Reed, Derek Fisher, as well as their current projects, (Carlos Correa, Colin Moran, Delino DeShields) and of course, their top pitching prospects (Mark Appel, Lance McCullers), it’s almost impossible to tell what they should use their other pick. Having already given them a top left handed pitcher in Phil Bickford, I decided to have them pick Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers is a versatile player, having played the middle infield, as well as some outfield.

It’s almost a given, however, that a high school shortstop is going to move to another position. We saw it with Manny Machado, Gavin Cecchini of the Mets has been moving around a bit, etc.

Rodgers does have a bat on him. as he hit .397 with 8 long balls this past season. He’ll be an interesting player to watch this year, as some scouting websites have him ranked as the top player in this year’s draft.

6. Minnesota Twins: Nathan Kirby, LHP Virginia

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Nathan Kirby had an interesting year, being a part of the 2014 College World Series runner up, and then pitching, albeit briefly, in the Cape Cod League. Kirby is the latest in a line of Virginia aces who have potential to be reliable big league rotation options. His offerings have some room for improvement, and his mechanics are easy to figure out, thanks to his college pitching coach. Still, as far as left handed college pitchers go, Kirby stands a chance to be the best in this year’s class.

Minnesota’s first round draft history has been exclusively prep for the past three seasons, with Byron Buxton, Kohl Stewart and Nick Gordon representing the future of the Twins. Assuming the competitive target date for the team is 2017, now might be the perfect time to invest in a college pitcher.

7. Boston Red Sox: Walker Buehler, RHP Vanderbilt

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To say that the Red Sox have plenty of top heavy talent ready to replace the old guard is a pretty accurate assessment. However, with the new talent that comes up or is traded, there must be an adequate replacement.

Walker Buehler may not have the ideal pitcher’s body, nor may he be as celebrated as his former teammate Tyler Beede, but as far as workman starters go, he’s a valuable asset. Buehler has been big game tested, he helped the Commodores win their first College World Series last season, and he has the composure to last long in games. His toolbox contains a low to mid 90’s fastball that does have movement, especially at the end.

Buehler does deserve a shot as a mid to end rotation starter, and while Boston may be crowded in terms of pitchers now, don’t be surprised if a few key moves allows Buehler to be a potential hotshot prospect.

8. Chicago White Sox: Ian Happ, 2B/OF Cincinnati

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Chicago’s system may have gotten a boost in Carlos Rodon, but odds are that the NC State hurler is going to be in the Majors by the end of 2015 Spring Training. While the Sox would love to develop another top caliber starter, for me, it would be a good idea for them to consider developing some hitting prospects.

Ian Happ is like a taller poor man’s Jose Altuve. He’s undersized for his position, but he does have the tools to be considered a legitimate prospect. He is versatile, although most scouts think that he’ll fit in the outfield professionally. He knows how to hit, and most of his hits are clear cut.

Happ greatly benefited in summer ball, earning an All-Star selection, and he will definitely be a star in what is considered an average baseball conference. WhIle I would love to see him and 2013 first round pick Tim Anderson form a longtime double play combo, even if Happ does end up in the outfield, he will be a good fit in Chi-town.

9. Chicago Cubs: Justin Hooper, LHP De La Salle High School, California

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When the Cubs took Kyle Schwarber 4th overall back in June, people’s heads exploded. When they took Jake Stinnett in the second round, the sound that came from Studio 42 was a big “Huh?” Fortunately the Cubs finally drafted a high ceiling prospect in Carson Sands in the third round.

While the Cubs’ cost effective draft strategy has (mostly) paid off (Stinnett was rarely used and could not be judged quite yet) it’s time for the Cubs to get with the times and add a rotation that could supplement what many believe is going to be one of the scariest homegrown offenses in baseball.

Justin Hooper is a left handed California prep hurler with stuff that could put him on an SEC pitching staff. He does have the size and the tools to succeed, what he needs is work. Should Hooper develop properly, he and Sands could actually anchor the Cubs rotation a few years down the line.

10. Philadelphia Phillies: Alex Bregman, SS/2B LSU

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While it’s pretty obvious that JP Crawford is the heir apparent for when Jimmy Rollins does eventually retire, (my over/under is 2016), the question remains how long his double play partner, Chase Utley will be around. While Utley did bounce back a bit this year, it’s time for the Phillies to start developing another infield talent.

Alex Bregman has been one of the more celebrated collegians, especially since he was an All American pick in his freshman year. Bregman may not have been as good in his sophomore year, dropping his draft stock from top 5 to top 10, but given his potential, there is bound to be at least one team interested in nabbing him at a slot discount.

Bregman is a reliable producer who will be a solid offensive contributor if used well, and the Phillies would greatly benefit adding him to a roster that would include his Tigers teammate, Aaron Nola.

11. Cincinnati Reds: DJ Stewart, OF Florida State

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When I was looking for a suitable picture for DJ Stewart, one of the first things I noticed was his build, and I’ll be honest, he looks like he could be catching passes from Jameis Winston on Saturdays. That being said, Stewart is a tank. He’s atypical for a power hitter, drawing more walks than strikeouts, and he’s actually got the pedigree that could get him far, as his dad played in the San Diego Padres’ system.

While the Reds have a solid outfield now, keep in mind that you don’t draft for need. That being said, chances are that Jay Bruce may be gone in a couple years, and Ryan Ludwick isn’t getting any younger, leaving Billy Hamilton, Phil Ervin, and Jesse Winker as the future of the Reds’ outfield, which to be fair, isn’t a bad thing, but again, power wise, these guys won’t scare many people. Assuming Joey Votto will be hitting his decline, it may be a good idea to get Stewart as power insurance and let him develop as the Reds’ future source of power.

12. Miami Marlins: Chris Betts, C/1B, Wilson High School, California

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It’s safe to say that the Kyle Skipworth experiment was a colossal failure, and while JT Realmuto may be the future of the position, the jury is still out after an 11 game sample in which he struck out 8 times in 29 at-bats. There may be a stigma around high school catchers, that is, you don’t see many of them playing Major League Baseball as catchers, see the recent position changes for 2012 picks Stryker Trahan and Clint Coulter.

Betts, whose high school does have a reputation for producing top talent (Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, former first overall pick Jeff Burroughs and his son Sean, as well as 2008 Twins first rounder Aaron Hicks come to mind,) while still a bit of a project, does have the projectability to remain behind the plate, with the option to move to first base if it gets crowded. Betts can hit, however, a plus for any catching prospect, and that will help him advance through the system.

13. San Diego Padres: Carson Fulmer, RHP Vanderbilt

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Marcus Stroman has essentially blown the stigma that short pitchers can’t succeed out of the water. That being said, Carson Fulmer is close to Stroman in both body and ability. He can throw a fastball as fast as 97 MPH, and he has enjoyed a high strikeout rate throughout his college career. Fulmer’s also an interesting mound presence, utilizing a very physical delivery that draws parallels to a tennis player.

Delivery and height aside, Fulmer is battle tested, having been a part of the 2014 College World Series run as well as being a key part of Team USA. If the Padres draft him and develop him properly, he could prove to be a better alternative to Casey Kelly, and form a talented pitching trio with Odrisamer Despaigne and Max Fried.

14. Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Nikorak, Stroudsburg High School, Pennsylvania

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Tampa Bay may have left their Devil Rays struggles behind long ago, but they are in the midst of a rebuild, and in rebuilding, they need to figure out who will be their staff leader down the road.

While prep pitchers from the North are rarely, if ever heard of in the first round, if they are effective, they can be solid rotational options. Nikorak, a Pennsylvania product with a commitment to Alabama, may be a tough sign, though, as he is committed to the Crimson Tide as a quarterback. Nonetheless, his size (6’5″) and fastball speed (97) will definitely entice any team, even the small market Rays, to sign him. He’d be an excellent fit in a rotation that could feature up-and-comers like Taylor Guerrieri and Alex Colome.

15. New York Mets: Dansby Swanson, SS/2B, Vanderbilt

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I think it’s clear that so long as the person in the New York Mets’ GM chair is Sandy Alderson, you can forget about the possibility of the Mets drafting a pitcher in the first round. There are traceable assets that the Mets have that can get top of the line pitchers. Just look at the trades Alderson has made the past three seasons.

Moving on, however, the thing that Alderson needs is a shortstop. Even if Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario are developing nicely, one or both likely could be packaged in a deal for a playoff piece, should the Mets be in contention. And even if they aren’t traded, Wilmer Flores or Dan Murphy could, and that leaves a gaping hole at shortstop, given the unreliability of Ruben Tejada.

Swanson has made headlines in college already, and Alderson likes positive news from college players. Already proven as a big game guy, he’s got the fielding ability to play shortstop and stay. Swanson also has the speed and bat to be, at best, a 2 hitter. Given the fact that most of the Mets’ talent from the past few drafts should be in the majors by 2015-16, expect a guy like Swanson to work hard to be a part of that team.

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Part two will be coming along shortly.

Why John Idzik deliberately sabotaged the Jets

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Nobody likes to be wrong about anything. It damages credibility, and it effectively makes critics and detractors of an opinion look like geniuses, no matter how stupid they sound.

In an earlier post this year, I wrote that John Idzik’s wait and see approach needs to be put into motion before it’s judged. I also said that Jets fans are impatient and want results now through splurging heavily on free agents. Clearly, I was wrong

It’s been ten weeks, and clearly the strategy has failed. The highly vaunted 12 man draft class is a joke, with only first and second rounders Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro contributing. Three players are barely contributing, two players are on injured reserve, one is on the practice squad, but could be cut because of a legal situation, two are on different teams, and one is out of the NFL.

If the draft class isn’t any indication of abject failure, the free agency moves are pretty close. Eric Decker is pretty much answering many detractors’ opinions that he is not a number 1 wide receiver and he was a product of Peyton Manning’s system. Breno Giacomini, the former Super Bowl champion guard, while not dealing with the injury issues that plagued him last year, is still dealing with the penalty issues that have plagued him. Chris Johnson has also shown that his 1000 yard days are behind him, leading Chris Ivory to be the top ballcarrier in what was once a dangerous backfield. Michael Vick, while thought to be a safety valve should Geno Smith falter, has failed to jump-start the offense when it was needed most. And last, but in no way least, is Idzik’s handling of the secondary.

Idzik felt that he could game the system by lowballing the cornerbacks, using their deficiencies and a weak market to save money. Unfortunately, in football, there is no such thing as a bargain. Idzik watched as the top cornerbacks, first Vontae Davis, then Darrelle Revis, then Alterraun Verner, then Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, then Carlos Rogers all get the money that they felt they deserved. And it’s not like they’ve failed in their new settings, they’ve made Idzik pay. Idzik was left with his proverbial dick in his hand, forced to finally show his hand by signing an injury prone journeyman named Dmitri Patterson. Patterson was, at most, a band-aid. He was a second string cornerback forced into a first string role, and even when he was presented the opportunity, he failed miserably. Even when the situation got especially dire, that was, when 2013 first round pick Dee Milliner suffered a high ankle sprain and 2014 third round pick Dexter McDougle suffered a torn ACL, Idzik refused to address the situation, forcing coach Rex Ryan to convert safety Antonio Allen into a cornerback and play him against arguably one of the league’s best receivers in AJ Green. Things got even worse when Patterson went AWOL in the third preseason game, and then was released because of his disappearance, leaving Ryan to work with a backup cornerback and the converted safety in week one. Four weeks later, the Jets are 1-4 in a very winnable AFC East, and there is pressure from the fans to fire Ryan, tank the rest of the season, and grab either another quarterback like Marcus Mariota or another wide receiver like Amari Cooper. The media is also on the Jets’ back, with the New York Daily News putting a “Bring Back Tebow” on their Monday Morning sports page.

I am not a conspiracy theorist in any way, but the signs seem, née point to Idzik deliberately doing this to get his way. Think about it. Idzik did bare minimum. Decker was the big signing that was supposed to satisfy both his boss and his underlings, not to mention the fan base. So was Johnson. In a very good analogy, it’s like he remodeled a house, but forgot to put in a security system.

So why is Idzik doing this? We saw him at the end of the season hugging Ryan, looking pleased. Certainly there is some compatibility between the football equivalent to the Odd Couple, the conservative Idzik and the loud and boisterous Ryan?

You could not be any more wrong.

In football, when a general manager comes in, he is usually allowed to pick his guy to coach. Idzik, and pretty much every other applicant for the Jets GM position last year, was not given that freedom. They were told they had to stick with Ryan for at least one year. This is what scared off many general managers for the Jets, but Idzik signed. Last year, Idzik had an excuse to make no moved and rely on the draft, as his predecessor had driven the team to a precarious perch on the Salary Cap cliff.

This year, Idzik has no excuse. Despite all the moves he has made, the team is still $21 million under the cap. Their best player, Muhammad Wilkerson, a product of the Mike Tannenbaum regime, is in line for a new contract, and Idzik has made no effort to sign him, despite having the opportunity to avoid a positional benchmark when JJ Watt resigned with the Houston Texans. In addition, he does have time to at least slightly rectify the situation by acquiring a cornerback or wide receiver by trade. Unsurprisingly, no moves have been made.

Idzik knows that nothing short of a train wreck of a season will give him any excuse to cut Ryan loose, and like a Rube Goldberg machine set in motion, Idzik’s strategy is paying off. Unfortunately for him, that plan became too obvious this past Sunday against the Chargers.

If you think about it, before yesterday, Idzik’s hypothetical plan was stealthy and deliberate. Here’s how it hypothetically could have played out:

1. Play out the 2013 season with Ryan. If he failed spectacularly, then Idzik would get what he wanted: his own coach, and complete autonomy on personnel decisions. If he succeeded, roll the plan to the following season. Woody gives Ryan a short term extension, allowing the clock to run for Idzik’s full plan.

2. Play the market. Appease the fan base, the media, and ownership by making the big splashes, but deliberately whiff on the talent that the Jets really need in order to compete. Because Idzik is a draft man, he knows that the NFL experts will give him a pass on his first real try. When the media and the fans catch on, pretend to rectify the situation by signing a cornerback.

3. Play the draft. Distract Ryan by getting him a secondary player he didn’t need (Pryor) despite there being both a top flight WR (Brandin Cooks) and cornerback (Darqueze Dennard) available. Add yet another offensive player to make it look like he’s finding value low, then a cornerback in the third round. Pretend that there was a deal in place in order to get another Wide Receiver (Marquise Lee) but Jacksonville wouldn’t budge. Use the fourth round to get patchwork Wide Receivers, that way the fan base and the media can be put somewhat at ease.

4. Let the draft picks fail, let the free agents fail, and handcuff Ryan into using Geno Smith despite Smith showing regression. Hope that the Jets continue to lose by a touchdown or less, that way Ryan has the excuse to keep Smith in. Even if the better solution is Vick. The plan becomes obvious when the Jets get blown out by the Chargers, opening the eyes of NFL analysts, media personalities, and fans to realize what’s going on, but too late. Nobody will be taken seriously. Idzik could just casually brush them away and not fear consequence.

5. The Jets crash and burn, like Idzik wants. Ryan, despite at least trying to work with an empty talent cupboard is clearly the scapegoat, and is fired. Idzik gets Seahawks DC Dan Quinn in as coach, kicks out the old regime, and builds the Jets in his own image, a sort of “Seahawks East” if you will.

As insane as it sounds, it seems that based on what has gone on, Idzik is playing this game. Nobody’s luck is that bad, and Idzik is not a stupid man. He wants something done, and he’s getting it done.

If this is true, then Woody Johnson needs to address the situation immediately. He needs to force Idzik and Ryan to work together again, or fire Idzik and find a general manager who is more compatible with his coach and who wants to win now.

Who should the Mets take first in the 2014 MLB Draft?

*Publisher’s note: You can also find this article on my blogging colleague Steven Inman’s Mets-centric blog www.Brokemets.com. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you are a Mets fan. My heartiest congratulations to Steven for graduating from St. John’s University.

What name will Bud Selig call for the Mets on June 5th?

c What name will Bud Selig call for the Mets on June 5th?

With a week remaining before the 2014 MLB Draft kicks off, the Mets have a very big decision to make. Armed with the tenth pick, which was protected from being lost to a team that let go of a big money free agent, the Mets have myriad options for their next big prospect.

Before going into who the Mets should take, let’s take a look at the first round strategy of GM Sandy Alderson.

Ever since Alderson took over as the Mets’ GM, he’s opted to take high ceiling talent out of high school; in fact, of the five first round picks he’s had (this includes the compensatory picks he’s gotten from losing Pedro Feliciano and Jose Reyes), only one, catcher Kevin Plawecki of Purdue University, came out of college. The players he’s taken in the first (and compensatory) rounds are as follows:

2013: Dominic Smith, first baseman, Serra High School, Los Angeles, CA.

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Smith, who was viewed as one of the top hitters in his class, was valued for his stroke as well as his fielding ability. He’s been compared to Adrian Gonzalez, and in a particularly weak year for first base prospects in MLB, he’s ranked second, although he’s made strides to justify that ranking after a slow start in Low-A Savannah. Given the team’s unsurprising trade of former top pick Ike Davis and commitment to Lucas Duda (who will be 31 or 32 by the time Smith makes his MLB debut) it’s almost a certainty that Smith will be playing first base at Citi Field in the latter half of the 2010’s.

2012: Gavin Cecchini, Shortstop, Alfred M. Barbe High School, Lake Charles, LA

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Cecchini is a big time hit or miss prospect who was taken for his value as a defensive star. Although he’s had a slow start to his career due to injury, the fact that he’s only 20 years old serves as a reminder that high school talent often takes more time to develop, meaning he could conceivably be held in the minors until 2017, much like Smith. Cecchini seems to be destined to make up half of a double play combo with one of two top international prospects: Dilson Herrera, who was acquired in the Marlon Byrd trade, or Amed Rosario. Whomever is the odd man out in that group is either going to be traded or coerced into playing third base. Should Cecchini lose out on the shortstop battle, he could be tried out as a third baseman, in fact, his older brother Garin is a top third base prospect for the Boston Red Sox.

Kevin Plawecki, Catcher, Purdue University

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When Kevin Plawecki was drafted, one of the big things that stood out about him was the fact that he’s a guy who constantly gets on base. A guy who also rarely strikes out, Plawecki reminds some Mets people of Daniel Murphy, except he’s slower and plays a more challenging position. As I’ve made mention before, teams are starting to understand the importance of carrying two starting level catchers on the big league club, and Plawecki with Travis d’Arnaud could actually prove to be a solid combination. Should the Mets opt to deal him, he may have some value for a team that could use a starting catcher, as evidenced by the Mets’ discussions during the offseason between the Diamondbacks.

2011: Brandon Nimmo: Outfield, Cheyenne East High School, Cheyenne, WY

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Alderson’s first pick as a Mets GM is either going to be one of the biggest gem finds or a major novelty gone bad. Nimmo, who gained fame for not playing high school ball (Wyoming doesn’t sanction baseball as a sport in interscholastic competition), was valued for his athletic upside. Nimmo has overcome a predictably slow start in the minors and is currently tearing the cover off the ball in High A St. Lucie, enough to land him in the top 100 prospect list at the final spot. Should he continue that pace, expect him to make a return appearance to the Futures Game in Minnesota.

Michael Fulmer, Pitcher, Deer Creek High School, Deer Creek, OK

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Fulmer is the only pitcher that Alderson has drafted in the first round, and for good reason. 2011 was a great year for Oklahoma prep pitchers, and Fulmer has followed Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley’s success pattern. Although he suffered a setback from his development after injuring his leg, he should be with the major league club by 2017, likely as a long reliever/spot starter.

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Sandy Alderson’s strategy deviated from his predecessor, Omar Minaya, who drafted low ceiling/high floor talent. Although most of Minaya’s choices were destined to be average (or in the case of 2007 and 2008 first rounders Nate Vineyard, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, marred with injury and unfulfilled promise) Minaya does have the claim to fame that his final first round pick, Matt Harvey, is one of the best young pitchers in baseball.

Moving on, the question remains: Who should Alderson select with the tenth overall pick?

Generally, given the amount of time prospects take to develop, coupled with the choice between high school, JUCO and college talent, general managers go with the Best Player Available. Although Alderson didn’t necessarily need a first baseman, and many experts thought he would have gone after a college outfielder like Fresno State’s Aaron Judge, Smith was the best player available.

If we went by the best player available based on Baseball America and MLB.com’s top 200 and 100 prospect lists, then the Mets would have two different choices: Baseball America’s #10 player in their top 200 is LSU ace Aaron Nola, who’s bounced up and down the draft board, going as low as the 20’s and as high as top ten. MLB.com has University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer as their ten pick. Zimmer has stayed pretty consistent, getting picked in the top 15 in most mocks.

Looking at the Mets’ top 20 prospects, which is what I use as a basis for my mock drafts, it’s clear that once Noah Syndergaard makes his big league debut, the Mets will not have a legitimate top ten right handed pitching prospect. With Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom likely up for good, and Syndergaard coming up, Alderson, unless he invests his pick in a bona fide arm, will not have a top pitching prospect to advance through the system and excite and distract the fan base. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options that Alderson has:

First, let’s get one thing abundantly clear: Carlos Rodon will not fall out of the top three. Despite his struggles this year at NC State, Rodon’s still got an impressive resumé, as well as covetable attributes that will make him a top pick. The same goes for Brady Aiken, the prep star from Cathedral Catholic. His stock has risen to the point where he’s in the conversation to be the top pick as well. That, and they are also left-handed pitchers. Tyler Kolek, the consensus top right handed pitching prospect, will also not fall out of the top five.

Let’s take a look at the pitchers that are in range, and that’s 5th best player to 15th best player on Baseball America’s and MLB.com’s lists:

BA:

Jeff Hoffman, East Carolina (6)

Erick Fedde, UNLV (8)

Aaron Nola, LSU (10)

Touki Toussaint, Coral Springs Christian High School, Florida (13)

Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt (15)

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And now MLB.com’s list:

Nola, (5)

Beede (7)

Hoffman (8)

Grant Holmes, Conway High School, South Carolina (12)

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In my two mock drafts, I had the Mets taking a right handed pitcher for the reason stated above: They will need to add a right handed pitching stud in order to balance out their top ten prospects. In the first mock, I picked Touki Toussaint: a high school arm whose raw talent, coupled with his loose arm could make him a deadly young pitcher with #2 starter potential. However, given Alderson’s Moneyball background, which actively discourages the drafting of prep arms in the first round, the chances of Toussaint wearing a Mets jersey seem slim.

In the second mock, I had the Mets taking Tyler Beede. Beede is a familiar name, as he was a first round pick three years ago by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Beede decided against going pro and went to play for Vanderbilt. Beede’s game is great, but some mechanical fine tuning could make it better. He’s been consistently challenging both Nola and Rodon as the top college pitcher this year, and his Golden Spikes nomination last year indicates he has high level pro potential.

If I were Alderson, I’d want a battle tested pitcher, a pitcher that has faced top flight competition. Right off the bat, that eliminates Toussaint and Grant Holmes, a big pitcher from Conway High School. Because high school baseball talent is relative to the state that it’s played in, even if Toussaint and Holmes were among the best talents that year, keep in mind they were facing typical prep talent. Not every South Carolina and Florida prepster is going to play division one ball in college, and even if they did, they wouldn’t all play in the power conferences like the SEC or the ACC.

The second aspect of a battle tested pitcher is the college conference they play in. The Mountain West and Conference USA, once upon a time, were college hotbeds, but now they’re essentially a tick below the real power conferences. Sure, pitchers like Hoffman and Fedde may get the opportunity to play a power conference team here and there, but ultimately, unless it was consistent, it’s a waste of time for Alderson to even think about Fedde and Hoffman.

This leaves it to two pitchers: Nola, and Beede.

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Nola, the ace at LSU, is a pitcher who, while he isn’t going to blow you away with any special pitch, has great command and control of his offerings. He won’t be an ace at the major league level, but his dependability will be an asset to any team that needs a pitcher who can go deep into innings.

Beede, on the other hand, is an anti-Nola. His fastball is his best major league offering, going from the low to mid 90’s, and his ceiling is a front-end starter, possibly as high as #2. What Beede lacks in his game is pitch consistency. While Beede does have devastating offerings, like his fastball, curve and change up, they are only effective if he can consistently locate the strike zone.

So who should Sandy pick if it comes down to Nola and Beede?

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In a perfect world, Nola will fall to the tenth spot where Alderson can nab him. His consistency and even strength in his offerings mean that either he’s going to be an above average hurler with little to no need to tinker, or, if there is room for improvement, establish a dominant pitch or make each pitch better. Nola’s mechanics are excellent and he is battle tested against the highest possible level of competition in college baseball. It seems that Nola is one of the very few high ceiling/high floor talents, and although Alderson isn’t the type of general manager who goes for safe picks, getting that combination will pay off rather quickly.

 

 

2014 MLB Mock Draft 2.0, part 1

With Baseball America releasing their top 200 player list earlier today, it’s time to finally release the second — and final mock draft of the year, especially with two weeks to go before the draft. This mock will just look at the first round and compensatory selections, no competitive balance picks, no second round. Although the general strategy is to go with best player available, let’s assume that the best player available is also a team’s top need. So without further delay, here is the 2014 MLB mock draft.

1. Houston: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State

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(Original selection: Rodon)

Houston lacks a dominant top ten left-handed pitching prospect in their system, and in the prospect rankings, there are three top arms. However, two of the three, Brady Aiken and Kyle Freeland, are untested against power competition, and generally untested arms are riskier investments than proven college arms. Even though Rodon has struggled this season, I doubt that the Astros, unless they were looking at another prospect all along, are going to deviate from an already-established plan. Despite Jonathan Gray’s rising stock last year, the team opted to go for the consensus top prospect at the beginning of the year, Mark Appel. Rodon has more experience and polish than Freeland and Aiken, and he will undoubtedly fit in what is already seen as a deadly future rotation.

2. Miami: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS, California

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(Original selection: Tyler Kolek)

Alex Jackson may be one of the more power hitters in this class, and the Marlins may be one of those teams who could find themselves in need a high level catcher in the future. Kyle Skipworth, the team’s first round pick in 2008, has just started as a major leaguer, but all signs point to him being a bust. Jackson’s arm and bat will ensure him a shot at a position which requires more athleticism, so if he decides that catching isn’t in the future, then he does have some projectability as an corner infielder or outfielder.

3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS, California

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(Original selection: Alex Jackson)

Brady Aiken was a top 5 pick in my initial draft, and if it weren’t for the stigma that is attached to high school arms, he’s probably hit the top spot, but top three isn’t bad, especially for a team lacking a dynamic pitching prospect like Chicago. Really, it could go either way between him and Tyler Kolek, but Aiken does have the benefit of having actually played the previous season while Kolek was hurt. Having Aiken and possibly Sale in the same rotation will be a boon for the Southsiders.

4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

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(Original selection: Jeff Hoffman)

 

The Cubs have spent that last few drafts upgrading their position players, so now must be the time for a pitching upgrade. Like their crosstown rivals, they are especially deficient when it comes to left-handed pitching. Kyle Freeland’s stock has done nothing but rise this year, and it is a theoretical possibility he could be a top five pick given how the picks may fall. The only knock on him is his propensity to try too hard when he pitches, which could lead to arm injuries, but tweaking his delivery shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

5. Minnesota: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Florida

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(Original selection: Brady Aiken)

Even though the Twins would benefit from grabbing another outfield prospect to take some load off of Byron Buxton, the general consensus among Twins fans is that they need a shortstop given the failure at the position and from their last shortstop draft pick, Levi Michael, and the best outfield prospect available is a reach at 10. I talked about Gordon a lot in my previous mock draft and my Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop article, and since then, he’s risen from the #3 shortstop in the class of 2014 to the #1. Gordon’s best assets are his legs and his arm, and if he can improve his hitting, he’ll definitely be a better shortstop than his brother Dee.

6. Seattle: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas

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(Original selection: Trea Turner)

Here’s the first really big fall of the draft, as Tyler Kolek, who was viewed by many at the beginning of the season as the top high school prospect, could potentially fall to here. Seattle could add him to their growing list of arms, especially if Taijuan Walker or another high level pitching prospect ends up leaving in a trade. Kolek’s fastball is explosive and he has healed fully from his injury, which means that he should be ready for the transition to pro baseball.

7. Philadelphia: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco

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(Original selection: Michael Gettys)

Philadelphia may be one of the few teams that is in a bad situation here, as the fallout from Wetzler-gate has destroyed trust between the team and some major college programs. Still, the Phillies need to develop a true outfielder, and unfortunately the best prep outfielder in the top 100 is at best a top 30 pick. Bradley Zimmer may be a bit of a reach, but he’s still got top ten talent, and would certainly be a solid addition to the Philadelphia outfield. His arm is solid, and he will make it as a low order slap hitter. Part of the reason why he’s so attractive is his pedigree, his brother Kyle was the fifth overall pick in 2012 by Kansas City.

8. Colorado: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU

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(Original selection: Jacob Gatewood)

If there was ever a prospect I would happy to be wrong about, it’s Aaron Nola. Initially, I said that Nola’s dependence on finesse instead of strength was going to affect his stock, potentially triggering a fall to a team like the Indians, but given Nola’s dominant spring, it’s safe to say barring any surprises or Scott Boras-type contract demands, Nola has cemented his position as a top ten arm. Given also the fact that he pitches in the same conference as college baseball’s third best big name arm in Tyler Beede, he’s really accelerated his stock even further, and Colorado could use another big name college arm to draw crowds.

9. Toronto: Trea Turner, SS NC State

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(Original selection: Tyler Beede)

While it may seem odd drafting a college shortstop while there’s a particularly good one playing in the majors, Toronto could afford to upgrade by going for a younger model, especially with Jose Reyes about to turn 31. Turner has Reyes’ speed and glove, but needs to develop his hitting if he wants to be a top of the lineup threat. Having him and top prospect DJ Davis in a future lineup together just screams terror on the base paths, and would usher in an era of inside baseball which would allow Toronto to compete with the other AL East clubs.

10. New York Mets: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

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(Original selection: Touki Toussaint)

Sandy Alderson prides himself on getting at least one good pitching prospect in the team’s farm system, as evidenced by Matt Harvey (2011-12), Zack Wheeler (2012-13) and Noah Syndergaard (2013-14). With Syndergaard likely coming up next month, and Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom already making their impressions, Alderson is in serious need of a new pitcher to develop. Beede, who I honestly think is better than Rodon, if not also Nola, does have the ability to be a number two starter in a major league rotation like the Mets. He will need to fine tune his command, but otherwise, he could be the next big arm that Met fans get excited about.

11. Toronto: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana

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(Original Selection: Schwarber)

Like the NFL and running backs, in baseball, it’s always a good idea to keep at least two solid catchers on a team. Catchers are not the most durable players in baseball, and in all likelihood, one will presumably move to an infield position that doesn’t require constant stress on the knees. Schwarber is a big man at 230 pounds, and his presence behind the dish will certainly prevent plenty of runs. He’s a solid hitter as well who projects to be a mid to low level part of a major league lineup. Having him and AJ Jimenez behind the plate will be quite the boon for the Blue Jays, who would greatly benefit from their presence.

 

 

 

Journalism and Society in the Microcosm that is Michael Sam

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It’s been exactly a week since the NFL Draft ended, and yet still people are talking about it. However, it isn’t for the reasons you think it is. Ever since the draft ended, there have been two prospects whose names have been highlighted. One is a polarizing athlete who is expected to be the next big star for the hapless Cleveland Browns, the other is a 7th round draft pick who’s being admired for his courage for being the first openly homosexual football player.

Days after days on end, football fans have been told that Michael Sam is a hero, and that the St. Louis Rams did the right thing in using one of their picks to get him. Also, footage of his reaction to being drafted has somehow made it on TV every day this week, of him kissing his boyfriend. ESPN, NFL Network, plenty of news networks, President Obama, all of them have admired Sam for his courage. Sam is the ultimate human interest story, despite being milked to the point where there is nothing to milk, his kiss is still being shown, his courage and heroism is still being lauded, and so on.

The question that we must ask ourselves is whether or not this is actual courage, and whether or not he is a hero.

First off, let’s start off with the dictionary definitions of courage and hero.

Courage is defined as strength in the face of pain or grief. while hero is defined as a person who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Let me be the first to ask the question, how is Michael Sam courageous?

When he admitted his homosexuality, first to his football team, then to the media, he was embraced. lauded, and touted as courageous. People said that he overcame adversity through strength. How exactly did he do that? Unless the Missouri football team treated him poorly after he came out, unless the media bashed him for being homosexual in possibly the most testosterone injected sport in the world, I don’t see any adversity. Sure, there obviously were people against him, the Westboro Baptist Church, plenty of fundamentalist groups, and such, but those represent the lunatic fringe, not society in general. We get that his father wasn’t exactly supportive of his sexuality, and probably still isn’t, but again, this is the smallest minority. In fact, plenty of people, homosexual or not, were praising him for coming out. Even when he did his workouts prior to the draft and bombed them, there still was a great majority of people behind him, people who wanted him in the NFL. The NFL wanted him in the NFL. And when he did get drafted, people cheered, and there was talk of progress, and a great step forward in society.

I’m sorry, where’s the courage? Where’s the adversity?

Sam was practically carried to the point where he was drafted. He’d be more courageous if he was a prospect during the years that homosexuality was ridiculed. If he had been a college football player eligible for the 1998 draft and had come out sometime between the draft and the Matthew Shepard murder, then he would be courageous. The only real adversity he has endured during the period between coming out and getting drafted was the uncertainty of whether or not he was going to be drafted. However, there were those who believed that him not being drafted would have caused a backlash in the LGBT community. Former football player Wade Davis, who came out after retiring from football, said that it would have been seen as homophobic if he wasn’t drafted. Exactly who is struggling through adversity now? You have 32 teams, with 256 selections divided among them. The options are clear cut. Either draft him, be constantly praised by society for “doing what’s right” and have the media converge on your practice facility just to watch Sam to the point where it is a Tebow-like media circus, or let him become an undrafted free agent, have everyone who doesn’t know about football cry discrimination and deal with the impending PR fiasco. It comes to the point that there was a slippery slope here.

Frankly, I’m not bothered as much by that, but rather by the constant showing of Michael Sam’s kiss. Before accusing me however, at least hear me out though.

Sam has every right to kiss whom he wants, He could have kissed his mother, he could have hugged his father, he could have done whatever he wanted to do, and he did want he wanted to do by kissing his boyfriend. We saw it. Plenty of people loved it, some obviously hated it, others have no reaction. However, instead of leaving it at the one kiss, we have to see it again and again on TV  for the first few days after the draft. It’s almost as if the media is forcing us to accept something that we can clearly formulate our own opinion on.

I was fine with the kiss. I saw it exactly for what it was, a kiss. However, like an english major writing a term paper on a book and rereading a passage, looking for symbolism where it shouldn’t be, the news networks felt the need to play it over and over and over to the point where it became more ingrained in my head than that annoying ear worm of a song they played during ESPN’s coverage of the draft. I had to change the channel a few times to stop seeing something I already had an opinion on.

This unfortunately is what’s wrong with media and journalism today. What was once objective and based on fact has devolved into fluff and an overabundance of human interest. It’s someone saying “People are too stupid to form their own opinion, let’s force it down their throats and make them join our side, and if they don’t like it we can label them as anti-gay.” Exactly what is being accomplished here? Are you trying to ferret out those who really don’t like the kiss by pulling a Clockwork Orange-like Ludovico technique, waiting for them to jump on social media and say “stop showing the kiss, it’s been way overplayed” so that people can accuse that person of homophobia? Is it not enough that two athletes who watched that same clip the first time voiced their displeasure and are now being ostracized for their opinion?

Moving into that, we saw the negative reactions from ordinary people, but it was the sports world that saw two really bad examples of negative reaction. Miami Dolphins cornerback Don Jones tweeted “OMG” and “horrible” after watching the kiss, and has now been slapped with a fine, been forced to undergo education training in order to be reinstated, and has had to apologize to Sam for what he tweeted. I’m not supporting Jones, but I’m fairly certain he had a right to his own opinion and if he didn’t like what he saw, he had every right to voice his displeasure. Sure, he played for the same team that last season underwent major media scrutiny because of a massive bullying scandal, but really, was Jones going to do anything after voicing his displeasure? And of course it’s a miracle that GLAAD, the anti-defamation alliance for homosexuals, hasn’t called for his head like they did with Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson after he made public his opinions on homosexual marriage.

Similarly, Mississippi basketball player Marshall Henderson posted a series of tweets condemning the Sam kiss, but cited being a subject in a psychology experiment done by his friend. Here’s the problem with Henderson, however. He was a top basketball prospect, but unfortunately his tweets incriminate him as a homophobe, psychology study or not. His draft stock has definitely taken a gigantic fall, probably to the point where he wouldn’t even be offered a tryout with an NBA team. While we will never really know if Henderson’s tweets were his own personal opinion or those for a study, it’s clear that his actions have made him a pariah.

So really, the question is whether Sam is really showing courage, or if people are laying out the red carpet for him. Here’s the thing. If Sam really was facing adversity, we’d know it. The lunatic fringe is not the majority, rather, it represents a microcosm of society. Almost widespread acceptance and adulation from the public is not adversity, and Sam is not showing courage by walking down a red carpet. People are calling Sam a role model, and he is, most definitely for LGBT people, maybe for those who support gay rights. But Sam shouldn’t have to be a role model to everyone, nor should people be forced to accept him as a role model. If there are people who want to view him as just another football player, fine, let them. If there are people who don’t want him as a role model, then they have every right to say no, and nobody should force them to say otherwise. The media should stop forcing the “openly gay football player” epithet down our throats, and let us decide whether we want to refer to him as such, or refer to him the way we want. We have a right to our own opinion, and if we want to say that Michael Sam isn’t special, then we have every right to that opinion.

Lastly, we have to ask ourselves, what about Michael Sam? If he saw what was coming forth, the reactions, the positive, the negative, the witch hunts for the homophobes, what would he say?

While I can’t speak personally for Sam, I can probably say that Sam didn’t want this type of media frenzy. At the end of the day, he’s just another football player trying to make the team. As a seventh round draft pick, he has less of a shot at making the team’s 53 man roster than a higher round pick. His homosexuality is not going to be used as a means to advance his career. I can’t possibly imagine coach Jeff Fisher going over a roster and saying, “Michael’s going to make the team because he’s gay”. If Fisher wants Sam on his team, he’s going to award the spot to him because of his ability and his performance in training camp, not because of Sam’s sexual preference. And if Sam is cut, it isn’t because he’s gay, it’s because he didn’t do well in training camp. This is obviously going to present the biggest problem, because Sam is literally a moneymaker right now. He already is going to be doing a series on his experience as a football player, produced by Oprah, no less, and his jersey is currently the second best selling jersey among rookies on NFL.com’s shop. Cutting him will send the wrong message, not only to those who view him as a barrier breaker, but those who were impulsive enough to by the jersey before figuring out if Sam made the team. Again, I point out. if he doesn’t make it, it’s nothing on his sexual preferences, the team isn’t discriminating against him and Fisher isn’t a homophobe, and honestly, the consumers are the real idiots because they felt the need to show their solidarity by putting an investment into a 7th round draft pick’s jersey.

So in conclusion, Michael Sam is a human interest story, but in no way did he overcome adversity, or is courageous. It is the media, and society who has made him to be a hero when in truth, he is another football player looking to make an impression through his play. Let Michael be who he is, but don’t put him on a pedestal quite yet. Being gay doesn’t necessarily qualify you as a hero, and to be completely honest, nobody should be a hero simply by stating their sexual preference.  I wish Sam the best of luck as a football player, but I hope that he knows that his sexual preference does not serve as an advancer on his career.

 

Small School Football Prospect Prepares for NFL Draft Opportunity

I wrote this article for my school newspaper about our star running back prospect, Octavias McKoy, who you may remember as the guy who broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s single game NCAA rushing record. With less than three weeks before the draft, I think it would be an interesting read for draft nuts to see how small school prospects prepare for the possibility of standing out.

When Western Connecticut State running back Octavias McKoy put himself among college football’s elite after breaking the NCAA single game rushing record, he set off a domino effect that would lead to good publicity for his school, his team, and possibly the opportunity to achieve what so few can dream of, a career as a professional football player in the prestigious NFL. With the NFL Draft coming next month, there is a possibility that McKoy may hear his name called that weekend. According to McKoy, the interest in him actually started before the record day. “The Indianapolis Colts scout came in the summer time, they were the first team to show interest.”
After the record day, in which he ran for 455 yards against Worcester State, the interest grew exponentially. According to him, “Up until this point [we] probably spoke to 12-15 teams and that interest has grown since then”. McKoy also appeared on television, for networks like ESPN, YES, local news outlets, even high profile sports websites like Bleacher Report and SportsEdge covered his game. This is impressive, since very little attention is given to football at the Division III level, the lowest level of NCAA athletics, and very few Division III stars go on to star, let alone have careers in the NFL.
However, a big game and a big season for McKoy wasn’t enough. In order to prove that he could be a pro football player, he had to sell himself to teams further. This meant participating in workouts where he would show off what he could do to more NFL scouts. McKoy attended Yale University’s Pro Day, a showcase for top college football players from the New England area.
McKoy, however prides himself on his performance at a regional scouting event in Atlanta. As he rattled off his measurables, there seemed to be a gleam in his eye. “I ran my fastest 40 [yard dash] at my regional combine out in at Atlanta. That was a 4.6 [second] electric. I jumped a 10’ broad [jump], I had a 37.5” vertical leap. Some of my numbers got better, some didn’t improve, but as far as field drills, I didn’t drop one pass and I nailed every field drill.” His 40 yard dash would have placed him 20th among running backs, his broad jump would have placed him 17th, and his vertical leap would have placed him 7th had he participated in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, according to CBSSports.com.
It was also through that event that more teams communicated with him. “On a one on one level, it was actually very cool because when I was in Atlanta I talked to the Dallas Cowboys, I talked to the [New Orleans] Saints and I talked to the [Atlanta] Falcons so they’re showing some more interest.” he recounted.
McKoy admits that preparation for the Draft is difficult at times. “Day-to-day, you can’t do a lot of things. You gotta kind of be in the shadows, keep a low profile, can’t really go out, but it’s only for a period of time.” However, he’s not concerned about teams judging his character or his football IQ. “My stock has definitely risen because I’m a high character guy… I’m a true student of the game. I’m not just a player, coaches will want a student of the game so I study the game”. He also said that in preparing for the draft, he has a great support system. “My family, my coaches, my agents back me, my friends… as far as your family and your team of people, they pretty much keep you in line, keep you focused.”

McKoy’s humility could play a factor into his future with a team, as he already knows what to expect should he be on a team’s roster. When asked about what he thinks about his future role should he be drafted or signed, he acknowledged the fact that he’d have to start small. “As a rookie going into the league, you got to play special teams, especially if you come from a small school… Basically you got to go and play wherever the coach asks you to play, you go out there and give it your best, and hopefully, you’re good enough to earn a job… I feel like whatever team I go to, I feel like I’ll be a part of it and I’ll contribute. I’m just patiently waiting, and we’ll see.” However, he knows that even with the lower expectations, he’ll still try and make sure he works hard. “I’ll be myself, go out there, work hard, stay dedicated to my craft, try to be my best, and we’ll see what the future holds”, he said.
McKoy gives all credit to Western, going so far as to say that the school changed his life. Reflecting on it as if he had already left, he gushed, “The opportunities I got at Western changed my life so I could never really truly thank them enough. I think about it all the time.” He showed an incredible amount of maturity in realizing that he has become one of the faces of Western, not just their athletics, but also the school as a whole. “I look forward to just staying positive and becoming a role model for my school, my community and try to be at my very best… I want to see our school succeed, I want to see our sports succeed, definitely football succeed, and anything that could come from me breaking records or me getting notoriety for getting our school benefit, I’m all for it.”
If McKoy is given the chance to play in the NFL, not only will he give Western athletics the notoriety he knows will come of him playing, he will also help further blur the stigma that comes with the disconnect between playing at a lower level college program, possibly paving the way for more outstanding Division III football players to make their mark in the NFL.

 

Daniel Murphy, Fatherhood, and the Abhorrence of Radio Hosts

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New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy became a first time father the day before the 2014 regular season began, and like most responsible husbands and fathers, decided to be by his wife’s side when the baby was delivered. He then stayed by his wife and child’s side an extra two days on paternity leave, missing both Opening Day and the second game of the Mets-Nationals series. Before coming back into the lineup in an 8-2 loss against the Nationals, Murphy’s actions were criticized by sports radio hosts Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa.

Esiason made a controversial comment about how Murphy should have asked his wife to undergo an emergency C-Section so that he wouldn’t miss any time during the regular season. The quote is as follows:

“Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”

Esiason wasn’t the only WFAN radio host to echo the job before family sentiment. Mike Francesa also made negative comments about Murphy’s situation:

“One day I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help,”

To address the abhorrence that is Esiason and Francesa’s comments, let’s begin by addressing the C-Section comments that Esiason made. I’ll start off by saying that as someone who was delivered by emergency C-section, I am absolutely appalled by what Esiason is saying. It’s almost as if he’s saying that a c-section is more convenient, and less of a burden. And while I’m trying to wrap my head around Esiason’s talk of the long term, may I point out that the baby was literally born three days ago. Yes, the baby will be set in the long term because of what Murphy does for a living, we get that, but really, sometimes you do have to focus on the now, and the now is that Murphy became a father and actually acted like a father, staying by his wife’s side. And while his wife did have the C-section and Murphy ended up taking only three days, he could have taken more. Still, you have to applaud Murphy for his priorities. Look at Mariners catcher John Buck. Last year, he was granted paternity leave so that he could be by his wife’s side while their baby was born. Did you hear Esiason say that Buck’s wife should have made it easy and he should have immediately gone back? It’s also a good time to point out that Esiason, a former athlete himself, was still active when his son Gunnar was born.

Now, let’s look at Francesa’s comments. Probably the most offensive thing that he said in that quote was the “Hire a nurse”. Knowing that Francesa is the father of three children, let’s imagine that he did take paternity leave when his children were born. Would you have a bunch of listeners clamoring and saying that he should “hire a nurse” so that he could get back to his job immediately? Francesa is often viewed as poison for the other New York Sports teams. Listeners would recall back in 2011 when he tried to interview Darrelle Revis after he picked off a pass and ran it 100 yards for a touchdown, he continually badgered Revis about possible pass interference until Revis hung up on him. Francesa is also a Yankee fan who loves to bash the Mets on a continuing basis. However, WFAN somehow puts up with him. It’s a miracle he’s lasted this long as a Yankee guy on a Mets station.

Moving on from the character analysis, it’s clear that both analysts are so far removed from first time fatherhood that they feel that athletes aren’t human and shouldn’t have the right to spend time with their children. The thing about baseball though is that there are 162 games to play, and missing two just because of childbirth shouldn’t be considered as bad. It’s the beginning of the season; Mets fans would probably agree that given the choice between seeing one of 162 games and being at their wife’s side when their first child was born, they’d probably pick the child 99 times out of 100. You can see a game anytime between April and September, but the birth of your first child, you’ll only have a chance to witness in person once. If you can’t handle that responsibility, then perhaps you are unfit to be a father.

Nonetheless, I applaud Murphy for what he did, and I’m glad the Mets were completely behind him. On the emotional side, Murphy acted like a good father, and went the extra mile by staying by his wife’s side, On the professional side, it’s not like he left a gaping hole at second base. Eric Young is more than capable as a defensive replacement, plus his speed makes him a dangerous leadoff hitter.

I’m not going to call for Francesa and Esiason’s heads, but I feel that they need to understand the sensitivity of the situation before they make comments like that. There’s a fine line between professionalism and stupidity, and both of them clearly danced across that line.

You Don’t Have to Like Michael Vick, But Don’t Let His Past Cloud Your Team Allegiance.

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When it’s come to writing about touchy and/or controversial points in my editorial style posts, I come in with an open mind, and generally play devil’s advocate. You saw it when I defended John Rocker’s steroid comments, defended Geno Smith and EJ Manuel, when I voiced my support for the Redskin name, when I ran a big risk by voicing my opinion on gay athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam, and most recently, my defense of Jets general manager John Idzik’s offseason strategy. Now, I step into yet another touchy subject: Michael Vick.

We all know the story, gifted athletic quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, had a couple minor incidents early in his career, then in 2007, it was discovered that Vick had financed a dogfighting operation out of a Virginia property he owned, as well as personally killing dogs. Long story short, he was arrested, incarcerated for 18 months, let go, found himself back in the NFL, resurrected his career, and on March 21st, signed a contract with the Jets.

The feeling that I get among Jets fans is that it’s a mix of support and outright disgust. Some people like the idea of Vick stepping in as either a mentor to Geno Smith, or an insurance policy should he get hurt or have another meltdown. Then of course there are those who feel that the signing of Vick prevents them from being Jets fans, period. There have been plenty of comments on Facebook, Twitter, any social media site or comment board has a good amount of fans saying that they will “boycott the team unless the Jets cut that ——–” and that “I love dogs, I loved the Jets”. Pretty much, the idea here is that Vick is a bad idea because of something he did in his past which was off-the-field.

As a pet owner, although it’s cats, not dogs, that I like, when I heard what Vick had done in 2007, I was appalled, disgusted, and disturbed. Animals do not deserve to be treated that way, and for people to finance an operation and also personally kill animals for sport is vile. I was glad that he was going to prison. So what if he had game changing speed or a good throwing arm? The man let his off field actions speak louder than his on field actions, and unfortunately those off field actions involved killing animals.

When Vick was released from prison in 2009, I was slightly apprehensive. 18 months for killing multiple animals was a slap on the wrist, but apparently it changed him. A man who was once viewed as a moneymaker, a marketing boon was now a pariah, broke and abandoned.

When Vick signed with Philadelphia, I had no opinion. Yes, he had found a team that was perfectly willing to let the past be the past and see what he still had in the tank. Granted, it was Philadelphia, the same city known for booing Santa Claus, throwing batteries, booing and cheering injured players, having the most unruly fans (I can attest to that, having nearly gotten crushed by a throng of rabid Phillies fans who wanted Jim Thome’s autograph), and essentially being the cesspool of North American sports, but still, if he could make it back in Philadelphia, then he could make it anywhere. What ended up happening showed that Vick still had his athletic traits in him. He brought Philadelphia to the playoffs in 2010, and completely torched the Washington Redskins along the way on Sunday Night Football, just in case people forgot, and served as an effective replacement for Donovan McNabb and failed franchise savior Kevin Kolb.

Off the field, Vick rehabilitated his image, becoming an advocate against animal cruelty, returning to his former status, essentially the protests that Vick was an animal killer were pretty much silent, save for one game in Oakland, and a few bad-taste jokes, as well as the infamous “Hide your Beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” from opposing fans.

Vick also matured on the field. When he got hurt in 2013, and Nick Foles took his stead, he showed his support for the move. Now, to be displaced by a young quarterback is obviously not fun, but for Vick, who had been viewed somewhat as a character concern, the fact that he took it in stride really showed growth.

I find it particularly odd now that Vick has signed with a new team, that people are bringing back the past, and that people are so upset. Then again, signing with a team in the largest media market is obviously going to have its share of polarizing opinion. Detractors and so-called fans are now ripping the team to shreds, dropping their allegiance because they still can’t cope with what he did a long time ago. Is it that hard to move on? Has he permanently earned the epithet Dog-killer despite the fact that he’s paid his debt to society?

Let me give you my feelings on the situation. I forgave him a long time ago. However, I’m not going to forget what he did. Some people have told me that there are two things that are unforgivable: killing children and killing animals. And rightfully so. However, as a Catholic, one of the biggest things you learn is to forgive, to hate the sin, not the sinner. You forgive people because what is the hatred going to accomplish? Is calling for Vick’s head going to bring back every dog he killed? Is it going to get the Jets to void his contract and put him behind bars on a life sentence? Obviously not.

Furthermore, to drop your allegiance with your football team because of the actions of one player is outright foolishness. Is associating with Vick going to make Eric Decker, Geno Smith, Mo Wilkerson or Rex Ryan an advocate for dogfighting? How about Woody Johnson, John Idzik, or even Roger Goodell, for that matter?

Jets fans should know that there is at least one positive result of Vick’s signing; Mark Sanchez getting cut, saving the team an additional $8 million in cap room, which $5 million was used for Vick’s one-year deal. Plus, Geno Smith is essentially a younger, more malleable version of Vick. Having a mentor whose prime is essentially your ceiling is going to be a huge benefit for Smith.

Back to the fans though. You don’t necessarily have to forgive Vick for what he did, Obviously what he did was outright despicable. Heck, you don’t even have to like Vick for his football skills now. He’s not what he was back in 2004, or 2010. But still, think rationally, not emotionally. Emotion driven decisions rarely succeed and make people look bad, but thinking with a clear mind does increase the success of your decisions. What happens if Vick does end up helping Geno, or in the worst case, comes out in relief and brings the Jets to the playoffs? What now? If you’ve decided to boycott the team and/or drop you allegiance because of your moralism, what do you do? Do you admit that you were wrong? Do you miss out just because of the past actions of one man?

While it personally disgusts me that fans can’t let the past be the past and are letting emotion get the best of them, I realize that my words serve little purpose other than to highlight what’s going on. I’m not going to call anyone out for their opinion. They have a right to it. However, I will call people out on their stupidity. And if you’re going to make that rash of an emotionally charged decision, then I personally think you are stupid. You don’t have to forget what Vick did, but you can at least support your team.

 

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